Thursday, January 28, 2016

Reading Challenge: Reviews on A Love Like Blood, Persona, The Darkest Part of the Forest and Crimson Bound

Here we go again with playing catch up with my reviews!

First up, A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick.

I've tried over and over again to read books by Marcus Sedgwick after seeing how many readers love his work. I tried reading White Crow and I thought it was just okay. I only read the first story of The Ghosts of Heaven before returning it to the library but I did read Midwinterblood and I thought it was a good book. So when I heard about A Love Like Blood, Sedgwick's first book meant for adults and not young adults, I thought maybe that was the book I would be most impressed with, the one I waiting to love.

I'm sure it's a good book to other readers. It just wasn't a good book for me.

A Love Like Blood follows a man named Charles Jackson, who in 1944 Paris witnesses a man drinking the blood of an apparently murdered woman. Jackson does nothing to stop the villain and when he returns later to the scene of the crime, he finds no evidence to support what he saw. The memory remains with him and when Jackson returns to Paris several years later, he is surprised to find the villain again and becomes obsessed with discovering who or what the man is before he hurts someone else.

The book seemed to have all the makings of a good thriller and it really seemed like it would be just the kind of book to creep me out. Except I didn't find the book even the slightest bit scary. Sure, it had a lot of blood, I mean cripes, there was a lot of blood in this book, but it wasn't frightening. It just all seemed tiresome. I didn't like Charles Jackson and how his obsession led him to risk not only his own life but the lives of others close to him as well. When there tends to be more collateral damage than usual because of a lead character, I end up more frustrated than not with the story. It ended the way I knew it would go once Jackson's true colors showed themselves. The start of the book was good but once the obsession takes hold of Jackson, I didn't care enough to enjoy the book anymore.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Now a review on Persona by Genevieve Valentine.

Initially, I wanted to read The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Valentine which is a fairy tale retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses set in the 1920s. Unfortunately, my library cancelled their order for the book and I was strapped for cash so I didn't get a copy of that book until only a few months ago. Instead, I eventually got a hold of Persona, Valentine's next release. The book is about Suyana Sapaki, a celebrity ambassador and "Face" for the United Amazonian Rainforest Confederation, who at the start of the book sets out for a date with a man that should be able to help the UARC, only to end up with someone trying to assassinate her. Suyana manages to escape with her life thanks to Daniel Park, a paparazzi that was following her around and got the attempt on her life on film. Now it's a quest to find allies that will keep them safe and stop the assassin from reaching its target and goal.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that once I got through the first few chapters, I was determined to find out what happened to Suyana and Daniel. I thought Suyana was smart and resourceful and realistic. There are people that she can't trust and others she's on the fence about, a background that explains where she comes from and where she's going and I was delighted with her story. I found Daniel with his loyalty to be charming. The book goes back and forth with their point of views as they work together to stay alive and figure out who put the hit out on Suyana and why she's such a threat.

My only real quibble, the sticking point that I kept waiting to learn more about, is the why behind this world. Why have things changed to the point where there are celebrity ambassadors called Faces that represent separate parts of the world? Why are they so important? Why do they have so much power? The book's central focus is on the assassination plot so very few details are given as to that particular background. I wanted to find out those answers so here's hoping that Icon, set to be released in June 2016, will shed some light on the answers I'm looking for.

Rating: 7.5 Stars

Next, a review of The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.

There seems to be a pattern with me and Holly Black's books. I tried reading White Cat, the first book in her Curse Workers series, and I didn't care for it all even though my sister pretty much adored it. I've always meant to read her Modern Faerie Tales series, which I'm fairly certain I have all of them hidden away in my personal library somewhere, but I haven't sat down and done that. I did borrow my sister's copy of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and I actually kind of liked it, which led me to go forth and give The Darkest Part of the Forest a shot. I'm disappointed to say that I was left wanting more in terms of characters and feelings in this book.

The plot is fantastic. I was really impressed with the idea of a young girl named Hazel and her brother Ben who live in a town where they are constantly surrounded by magic and the Folk in the forest. One of their closest friends is a changeling and there's a coffin in the woods with a sleeping horned boy inside. When the horned boy wakes up and trouble starts happening all over town, Hazel discovers there are more ties between her and the Folk than she ever realized and she has to work with her brother to save the town. It had all these threads that I truly thought I'd fall in love with but all it did was make me feel, well.....nothing.

I didn't get through to the end of this book thinking that Hazel was strong or feeling sympathy for her childhood and her regrets and the secrets she kept from her brother Ben. I didn't care about Hazel at all, in fact, I thought she was rather selfish. It was almost as if the character was trying so hard to be different and strong that she fell short with everything that happened in this book. There was too much distance between me as the reader and the events in the book. I knew what was happening and who the characters were, but I didn't feel anything for them, they were just kind of there. I didn't even get the sense that the characters cared for each other, they were just performing their part without any real emotion to convince me that the story was worthwhile.

I may try more of Holly Black's books in the future but I'll wait for my sister to show interest before I try reading it.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Finally, a review on Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge.

I've stated over and over, like a horrible broken record, that I love the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast and will read anything that takes inspiration from it. Back in 2014, I caught wind of a book called Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge that took bits of my favorite fairy tale and twisted them into something unsettling and beautiful. I loved that book so much that I keep my hardcover copy with all my other favorites on a separate bookshelf for my best of the best books and I have an e-book copy that goes with me everywhere because I can access it on my phone (hooray for modern technology!).

So when I heard that Hodge was continuing to twist fairy tales around into unique creations, I made sure to get copies of them. She has a short story called Gilded Ashes which is a re-working of the classic Cinderella. Her latest book took inspirations from Red Riding Hood and a lesser know tale, The Girl Without Hands, and made a unique and mesmerizing tale about a girl named Rachelle who trained to be a woodwife to protect people from the monsters in the forest. When she stupidly decides to enter the forest to talk to a creature in the trees, she's tricked into becoming bound to the creature, the evidence of which is a single crimson thread that ties them together, no matter the distance between them. The thread gives her supernatural talents and the story picks up three years later with Rachelle working for the King. She learns that a threat is coming, something that her training as a woodwife could help her stop, and she tries to find the means of defeating the threat and saving those she cares most about.

The writing was crisp and engaging, the characters were flawed but not without their merits, and the world was wonderful. The story was incredibly well-developed and I loved it for the most part. My only problem was that Rachelle inevitably ends up with a particular story development that felt a little rushed. Not enough to detract from the story but I almost wish that Hodge said to hell with it, and cranked out at least another 100 pages to develop that plot point a little more. Who cares if the book ended up over 500 pages long? I would have read all of it in one sitting.

It goes without saying that having read and loved everything that Rosamund Hodge has released, I'm looking forward to her next book, currently listed as Bright Smoke, Cold Fire and tentatively listed as a September 2016 release. I'll be the one waiting at the doors before the store opens to get my copy.

Rating: 9.5 Stars

Be back soon with more reviews!

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