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.

Dusted Off: Steel by Carrie Vaughn

SteelSteel by Carrie Vaughn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I’m a big, big fan of Carrie Vaughn. Read every book–and can’t imagine stopping. I’ve recommended this book to my sons and am going to loan this to my niece. But, (and you knew one was coming given that opening) man, this could’ve been–should’ve been–a much better book.

Jill, a championship level fencer and potential Olympian, suffers a tough loss, sending her into a losing battle with self-doubt. Soon after, her parents drag her along on a family vacation in the Bahamas (poor girl, right?). Walking along the beach, she stumbles on to a piece of a broken sword–an old, broken sword. First time she’s held anything but a blunt, sport blade. Enchanted with the notion, she tucks it away.

Turns out, not only is her imagination bespelled, she is–before she knows it, Jill finds herself on an actual pirate ship a couple of hundred years in the past. After she figures out what happened to her, she finds herself part of the crew, growing close to a handful of them (a hunky age-appropriate pirate in particular) and learning about the sword’s magic.

While she tries to find a way home, she learns a little about herself and a little about life. (wow, that sounds like a cheesy after school special…which not exactly inaccurate, but Vaughn pulls it off).

Vaughn touches upon some pretty dark stuff here, enough to make it authentic (or authentic-ish, anyway)–but makes sure that it stays a pretty tame PG-13.

And that’s the crux of my problem with the book–she pulls her punches, just about all of them. She did it with Voices of Dragons, too–less so, here, though. Yes, it’s a YA book, and yes, I think she’s right to do it. I just think she shouldn’t pull back as much. Everything here–from character, plot, setting, narrative, action–it’s all perfectly fine, it’s all age appropriate, but she certainly could’ve fleshed it all out more without going over the line.

Still, it’s a good, swashbuckling read.