Saturday, March 29, 2014

Innocence - Dean Koontz

Innocence - Dean Koontz
Source: Amazon Kindle
Originally Reviewed on Goodreads: March 29, 2014
Rating: ★★★★★

I'm almost ashamed to admit I've never read Dean Koontz before. Almost. After reading Innocence, I've come to believe that was subconsciously intentional.

It sucked me in. Completely. From page one, it gripped me around the heart and hooked my brain. From the second I pick it up until the moment I put it down, there is nothing but the world Koontz has created, the characters and their story woven so expertly I come away from it each time wondering if there are here, too, people hiding in hidden tunnels for legitimate fear of their lives.

It's ethereal, mystical. It's a combination of the real and the fantastical, blended so smoothly one has a hard time figuring if this is meant to be fantasy or something else entirely. Until the end, that is. At the end, the striking potential of reality ripped my heart out of my chest and left my jaw scraping the floor, somehow elated.

Now, to explain all of that? I have a very, VERY difficult time really enjoying books that have no way to hook me emotionally, engage my imagination, or of making me THINK. Sometimes I'll get one, maybe two, but it is the rare gem that manages to capture all 3. Innocence is definitely one of those books that has managed to capture all 3, and it will be read often if only due to that fact alone. The powerful imagery and richly woven story line are the icing on the cake.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor [Daughter of Smoke and Bone]

Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor [Daughter of Smoke and Bone]
Source: Kindle
Originally Reviewed on Goodreads: March 26, 2014
Rating: ★★★★☆

Well, now.

I like to read. A lot. Typically when I read a book by a new author, if I find I enjoy it, I'll set it aside and come back to it later, read it again, and think about whether or not I'll pursue additional works by the same author.

That is NOT the case here. Laini Taylor has captured my imagination with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The end is merely alluded to in the title, not to be understood until you manage to make it all the way through to the end. And what an amazing end it was.

I had my doubts early on. Karou talking about her drawings of Brimstone and the others made me think of something more along the lines of comic book characters. When the narrative went into conversations she had with these creatures, I raised my eyebrow and wondered what I had gotten myself into. And, wishes? Simple, silly wishes based off of a bead?

Then we actually get to MEET Brimstone, and the entire dynamic changes. We hear more about the other kinds of wishes, and his job of collecting teeth, we see the relationship that Karou has with the chimaera inhabiting the shop. We start getting glimpses hear and there into Karou, her life, and her "job". The split life of someone who works for creatures who don't dare show their faces outside the shop on one side, and who attends an arts school who has friends and relationships on the other side.

Of the chimaera who are merely shopkeepers and caregivers in need of teeth to carry out some unknown purpose on one side, and highly valuable members of an entire race of beings on the other side.

The intricacies of these relationships are handled very well. I was pleased with the continuity, the flow of the story and of the writing. It moved at a very good pace to keep me engaged without being overwhelmed or bored.

Then the angel appeared. It was as if from that point on, the entire story became one gigantic whirlwind of "WTF?!" - which was appropriate considering, had this all been real, Karou's life probably would be about there as well.

The ending revelation wasn't as big of a surprise as I'd hoped, and it was there that I started feeling things got a little too drawn out - a little too... cookie-cutter. From that point on until the end, everything pretty much went as expected, which was a sad turn from earlier.

No matter how you look at it, though, Taylor spins a good story. My imagination was thoroughly engaged, visualizing these characters with all these different features, the remarkable dress of Karou's, the whole idea of... well, I won't spoil that for you. It's one of the biggest curiosities of Karou's throughout the book, and now I can certainly understand why. I thought it was pretty brilliant, myself.

If you're looking for the next great thing in fantasy set in modern times, this is a book you definitely need to add to your collection.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Letting Go - Maya Banks [The Surrender Trilogy]

Letting Go - Maya Banks [The Surrender Trilogy]
Source: Barnes & Noble
Originally Reviewed: March 23, 2014
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I've been a fan of Maya Banks for a long time. The "Sweet series" knocked my socks off and left me nearly drooling with every installment. The "Breathless" trilogy was as emotionally gripping as it was physical.

In this first taste of the "Surrender" trilogy, however, she falls far short of the impeccable standard she set with her previous books.

I can't really nitpick about the book, because the things that made me grind my teeth about the book unfortunately took up a good chunk of it. So many different decisions, and thoughts, and statements, were repeated. Again and again. And then, yet again.

It slowed down the story and distracted me from what should have been a delicious undercurrent to the relationship building between Joss and Dash. I actually got more out of the budding relationship between Kylie and Jensen than I did out of the two primary characters, and Jensen only made barely more than a cameo appearance.

This was my eventual reaction to a lot of the prevalent "themes" in the story.

Joss' hesitation due to Dash being dead husbands best friend: GET OVER IT!
Kylie's reaction to what Joss wants to do in her life to make her happy: GET OVER IT!
Chessy's reaction to, well, everything: Yeah, you get it. You understand, got it. No, really, I got it.

As always once the relationship between the two main characters actually gets established (this time with WAY more "filler" in the pages than I'm used to from Maya), I can't complain. The sex is hot, the necessary conflict is interesting, and the reconciliation is a struggle between pride and love.

I see a lot of "tricks" that have been used before in the other books she's written, however, which makes me think perhaps Banks should take a break, spend a few weeks in the sack with the lover of her choice, and then come back with some new, fresh and sexy ideas.

I'll probably pass on the remaining books in this series, but pick up the next one, just to see if there's been any improvement.