Low Midnight by Carrie Vaughn

Low MidnightLow Midnight

by Carrie Vaughn
Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville, #13

Mass Market Paperback, 309 pg.
Tor Books, 2015
Read: January 7 – 8, 2015
Ahh, the fans (some of them, anyway) get what they’ve been wanting — a novel featuring everyone’s favorite retired monster hunter (and the deceased Victorian witch who’s living inside his brain). The thing Vaughn did that makes this stand out is that unlike most authors, rather than give Cormac some side story, she gives his solo adventure a central place in the overall storyline — what happens here will play a big part in what happens in future Kitty novels.

This is honestly not at all what I expected from a Cormac novel. I expected more violence — not necessarily a blood bath, but more guns, more offensive magic — and less discussion of meadows. But he’s grown — moreover, he’s doing what he can to live as a law-abiding ex-con (especially one with Ben looking over his shoulder all the time). So no guns. Brains over brawn, which seems to be stranger for Cormac than it is for readers.

The plot was meager, honestly. The story was mostly just an excuse to see Cormac in his element — get to know him better, get a fuller picture of his past and to watch the way that he and Amelia work together. And as such, the novel succeeded. As a story about Cormac and Amelia investigating a century-old death by magic, it was tolerable.

The strongest part of the book was their relationship, the way they’ve learned to work — and exist — together. There’s genuine affection between the two — a little mistrust (which makes sense, given their unusual situation), but genuine affection. Given how we’re introduced to Cormac, that’s pretty serious growth.

At the end of the day, this was a nice diversion — a good way to get a different look at things, to see the people who aren’t Kitty engaged in her crusade, and to get to know these characters better. I’d probably enjoy another book focused on Cormac and Amelia, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Kitty’s POV.

—–

3.5 Stars

Advertisements

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2)The Infinite Sea

by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave, #2

Hardcover, 300 pg.
Putnam Juvenile, 2014
Read: October 4 – 5, 2014
Man, talk about trepidation. Did I want to pick up this book? Was there any chance it could live up to The 5th Wave? Slim to none. But man, I wanted to find out what happens to the Earth. I wanted to know if we ever figure out what the aliens want with the Earth, why they’re eliminating humanity in the way they are. So, prepared to be disappointed, I cracked the cover.

And Yancey doesn’t try to match — or even try to top — The 5th Wave. He writes a very different book. Not one that grabbed me as thoroughly, but one that works in its own way. Where The 5th Wave was a bullet train that you just tried to hang on to — The Infinite Sea was roller coaster you’re riding while blindfolded — the ride lopping, diving, screaming around a corner with no warning, leaving your stomach behind you.

Yancey can’t even give us a Prologue to reorient ourselves to this world, to get our feet under us so we can say, “Oh yeah, this is what’s going on…” before resuming the action. Sure, it starts to seem like that, but nope. He’s right there to pull the rug out from under us at the first possible moment, in a way that catches the reader just as off-guard as the bits of remaining humanity will be.

I read some criticism lately about The 5th Wave that complained about the lack of motivation given for the aliens to do what they’re doing — it makes no sense, and therefore the reviewer couldn’t buy into the book with a motive-less enemy. But to me, that’s why the book worked. Humanity doesn’t understand what’s going on, so there’s no reason we human readers should either. Try as they might, there’s just no figuring out what’s going on other then their great need to survive.

On the whole, we spend time with the characters we met in the first book, those that survived — and, in flashbacks, some that didn’t, Cassie, Sam, Ben/Zombie, and a few others I won’t name because I can’t be sure I won’t spoil something by doing so. We say good-by to some of them, too. We meet a few other characters, too. Some of which we’ll see again. It’s that kind of series. But we get to know almost all of them better, the last book was all about getting to know a couple of these characters really well. This time, we get backstories on everyone, even if it’s pages/paragraphs before they die. This is important, I feel more grounded in this world the more I get to know characters who aren’t Cassie, Evan or Ringer.

And we get some more mature, experienced — and in some cases, informed — hints at what’s really been going on. Still, not enough to placate that other reviewer, I bet — or, really anyone. At one point, Cassie’s complaining about her interactions since Day 1 with Evan.

Every time I edge too close to something, he deflected by telling me how much he loved me or how I saved him or some other swoony, pseudo-profound observation about the nature of my magnificence.

I chuckled as I read it, because this is pretty much Yancey’s modus operandi — just when you get close to learning something, being told something, a character figuring something out, etc. — something explodes or someone starts shooting. Or both. Not a way to tell a narrative that satisfies everyone or to show off brilliant world-building. But a it’s great way to keep pages turning.

I found this to be a very satisfying read. As I said, I didn’t expect to be as taken with this book as I was its predecessor, and I wasn’t — but in a way, I’m sucked into this series more than before. I really don’t know the last time I said “son of a — “* out loud at a book as much as I did with this one. It’s probably not since Butcher’s Changes that I’ve called a writer so many names as I’ve read. Yancey just keeps throwing me for loops. Not the best book I’ve ever read, not high literature, but edge-of-your-seat thrills, convincing characters, and honestly come by surprises. Really entertaining stuff. That’s all I ask for.

—–

* I seriously don’t finish the sentence, because I’m too busy shaking off whatever trauma is thrown my way and getting back into things to bother.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn

Kitty in the Underworld
Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville, #12


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a little surprised at my rating for this one — not that Vaughn’s not more than capable of writing a four or five-star book — but based on my reactions while reading which were definitely not favorable. But my reactions were strong enough — based on the claustrophobic note frequently struck here, and how much I cared about what Kitty was doing/going through — that I knew Vaughn had delivered. Hadn’t necessarily written the book I wanted/expected, but she got the job done very effectively.

N.B. I get vaguely spoilery beyond here — I don’t think it’s too terrible, nothing I’d really have minded reading before picking up this book.

So the idea behind Kitty Drinks the Kool-Aid in the Underground is that while some vampires, and Kitty herself think the whole Regina Luporum thing is a joke, there are some who take it very seriously. So seriously, that they kidnap Kitty to get her assistance in making a major attack on Roman/Dux Bellorum.

Now, this may strike you as a particularly stupid way to get someone to help you out — as it should, it definitely strikes Kitty that way. But for whatever reason/delusion, her kidnappers don’t see it that way.

Now, over the last 11 books, we’ve seen impetuous Kitty, rash Kitty, leaping-before-she-looks Kitty — and while Ben and Cormac grit their teeth and fret, the reader just smiles, content in our knowledge that this is just Kitty being Kitty. However, in Kitty gets Stockholm Syndrome in the Underground we see Kitty being just stupid.

She gives a magic user (that she doesn’t know) access to her blood. She lets a strange vampire feed off of her. She passes up chances to escape. She lets her guard down with her captors. Now, Kitty’s generally quick to trust — which is part of her charm — but she generally has some sort of basis for that. Not here. Well, at least no rational basis. Here’s she’s just so desperate to take down Dux Bellorum, that she throws reason and caution to the wind.

She spends large amount of time being rational, thinking things through, reacting as she should — and then she seems to shut that down to work with these people. I talked back to the book a lot (this is a behavior I don’t typically engage in at all). My favorite werewolf had taken leave of her senses and was risking it all.

This book should’ve been twice as long (at least). Kitty needed more time in the cave before she acted the way she acted. The reader needed to get a better idea of the rich and colorful characters that were introduced here. It would’ve been nice to see Kitty’s pack at work trying to find and rescue her. So much of what was going on in this book was new, terribly interesting, and worthy of exploration, it’s a shame we didn’t get the chance.

Although, a longer book would’ve likely given me a stroke. So I shouldn’t complain.

For all my gripes, it was a tense, taught adventure that will have interesting (to say the least) ramifications going on. Now I have to start counting down for the next one. Can’t come soon enough.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave, #1

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There were two things that kept running through my mind: Noah Hawley‘s A Conspiracy of Tall Men and Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games (maybe you’ve heard of it). I’m not really suggesting that Yancey’s created some sort of Hawley-Collins hybrid, but this affected me the same way those two did.

I remember very little about Hawley’s book (it was 1999, in my defense) — I remember enjoying it and being really creeped out and feeling paranoid. A feeling that lasted a little longer than the book, as I recall.

I remember Collins better, obviously. And whatever issues and problems the first of Katniss’ adventures had, it grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let me go until well after the runaway freight train of a story had come to it’s adrenaline-fueled conclusion.

I really don’t know how to discuss the story of The 5th Wave without spoiling the heck out of it. But I can tell you that it hit me like those two books did. The various storylines are gripping, and fast-paced and make you wish you could turn the pages faster. And once you get your brain wrapped around the devastation being unleashed on earth, the creepiness and paranoia are the order of the day.

This isn’t one of the better books I’ve read lately — in terms of character, craft, literary value, etc. — but it’s just about the most effective and affecting. Hawley gets under your skin with the skill of a seasoned pro, makes your emotions and reactions dance like a marionette for him, and leaves you hungry for more.

I have to admit, I miss the Yancey of Alfred Knopf and The Highly Effective Detective books — they just felt different. They were fun — as enjoyable as this is, it wasn’t fun. And I liked the characters (most of them), wanted to spend time with them. Not so sure I like these characters as people. But, until Yancey gets around to it (if he does), I’ll gladly take pulse-pounding excitement and mind-bendy plots.

In Medias Res: The 5th Wave

trying something different here . . . as the title implies, I’m in the middle of this book, so not a review, just thoughts mid-way through

—–

The 5th Wave
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Wow. WOW! This is everything it’s been hyped. Spine-tingling. Paranoia-inducing. Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Disturbing. This is messing with my mind, in a very good way. Loving this.

Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld, Veronica Roth — not that any of your works are lacking, mind you — and anyone else looking to write YA action, the bar has been raised.

Dusted Off: The Highly Effective Detective Plays the Fool by Rick Yancey

The Highly Effective Detective Plays the Fool (Highly Effective Detective #3)The Highly Effective Detective Plays the Fool by Rick Yancey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

really enjoyed the first two installments in this series, but Yancey kicked it up a few notches here. The last two pages sealed the deal, I’m with this series for the long haul.

Yancey took care of a couple of dangling plotlines that were starting to get tired in a very effective way, along with his best mystery yet. I’d totally sell out for him if he’d get rid of Teddy’s secretary once and for all–can’t stand this woman.

Dusted Off: A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield/After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

A Bad Day for Sorry: A Crime NovelA Bad Day for Sorry: A Crime Novel by Sophie Littlefield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew that crime fiction would come up with someone to dethrone Lisbeth Salander as reigning Queen Bad*ss, but I never woulda figured it’d be someone like Stella Hardesty. Sure, Lisbeth could take Stella in a steel cage match–but in an extended campaign, that little girl wouldn’t stand a chance, Stella’d kick her Asperger’s all the way back to Sweden.

After years of spousal abuse, Stella finally had enough and killed him. Some years later, Stella augments her income from her sewing supply store by helping women in similar situations by making their spouses, boyfriends, etc. To say that her methods are unorthodox would be an understatement of the highest order.

The case at the center of this book seems pretty straightforward–the jerk in question seems to need (and respond to) some encouragement to stick to the behavior plan that Stella’s lined out for him–like she expected, but lo and behold, he ends up kidnapping his ex’s kid.

Things go out of control from there.

Given the subject matter, this book obviously goes to some pretty dark places. Yet this story is told with a lot of wit and charm–a few laughs, too (particularly as a mutual attraction grows between Stella and the new Sheriff). It doesn’t take long at all to really like Stella and get invested in her crusade, as well as this case.

Just can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel.

After the Golden AgeAfter the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(really 4.5 stars, if that were possible)

This should make up for my less than glowing review of Vaughn’s last book (the fun Steel). This is the best novel Carrie Vaughn has published–and that’s saying something.

Beyond paraphrasing the book description, or spoiling the whole thing, I can’t think of anything else to say.

Just read it.