Black Dog BY RACHEL NEUMEIER AMAZON | GOODREADS Publisher: Strange Chemistry (February 4, 2014)
Print Length: 448 pages
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Series: Not sure?
Completed: February 2014
From Goodreads: Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.
But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.
In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.
Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.
But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.
Rachel Neumeier started writing fiction to relax when she was a graduate student; her first publications appeared in journals such as The American Journal of Botany and and would probably be interesting to a readership in the high dozens. She is confident that her fantasy novels have much greater appeal!
Rachel's first YA fantasy, The City in the Lake, was published in 2008, and was followed by the adult fantasy Griffin Mage trilogy in 2010 and by her second YA, The Floating Islands, in early 2011. She gets her ideas from artwork, from history, from other authors' minor characters, and from just throwing words on the page and seeing what happens.
Rachel now lives in rural Missouri, where, having allowed her hobbies to take over her life, she has a very large garden, a very small orchard, two cats, and many beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
SETTING PACE AND STYLE
The story takes place in the United States, probably in a magical parallel universe. In this world humans, Pures and Black Dogs coexist. Though the story contains plenty of action and blood splattering battles, I still somehow felt it was on the verge of being slow. In the last 25% of the book, I really began to catch on and just started to develop some ties to main characters. The story is told in a third person perspective, from multiple view points. It also has plenty of Spanish phrases and words tossed in, along with some culture, too. My only problem with this is the author didn't always define those words every time. It sometimes wasn't as easy for me to figure them out either by the context alone.
CHARACTERS AND PLOT
The main character is Natividad, a Pure girl, is suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome after witnessing the cruel, violent death of her parents. She doesn't want to remember, so of course she's pushed those painful memories out of her mind. She's a kindhearted girl. When I finally started to get to know her I found her to be brave, smart and resourceful. Her family dedication and love was very evident in her actions, even though some of her decisions weren't well thought out. Alejandro, her Black Dog brother is a born protector of the family. He's vicious and slightly hot-headed. Underneath, I could tell he had a good heart, but internally battled to do the right thing because of the evil instincts being a black dog evokes. The trick is he does learn to control this, mainly thanks to living along side his sister and her twin brother Miguel. I could totally tell he had a deep sense of loyalty and love for his siblings. He would fight to his death to save them or make whatever sacrifices necessary to keep them both safe. Miguel was the brains of the family. I found him the least endearing. I couldn't appreciate his know it all, matter of fact personality, for some reason it bothered me. He was the only human in the family. There are many other characters, in this story, some human and the majority Black Dogs. Rachel creates detestable villains and admirable heroes. Her stories include many small side stories and rich characters.
I'd recommend this book to patient reads who love fantasy, complex world building and creative fresh thoughts and ideas. In addition, plenty of descriptive bloody battles in this one, so if you are squeamish, you might not appreciate this one as much as others.
This is the second book I've read by Rachel Neumier. My first experience, her book House of Shadows, I strongly recommend. In the beginning, I struggled getting hooked on this new book. The premise, unique, creative and quite different from other books, kept me hopeful. Rachel's world building required a great deal of time for me to grasp. In this story, Rachel invents her own style of paranormal creature called a Black Dog, which is most similar to a werewolf, but still VERY different. Black Dogs are humans possessing a dark shadow, drawn out not only by the moon, but also by anger and blood lust. The caveat is humans can learn to control the Black Dog part of their personalities, especially if they live amongst other humans, especially PURES, a special type of human. Pures are special magic wielders possessing certain calming effects on Black Dogs. They are well sought after, valuable to the Black Dog pack, especially for mating purposes, since with them they can breed more Black Dogs. Black dogs mating with other Black Dogs usually only amounts to still births or birth defected pups. To add complication to the storyline and plot, vampires have just recently been eliminated from the world by some type of war and the humans are finally hopeful they will be left alone. This isn't the case. A new type of war is brewing, amidst the Black Dogs. The children of a powerful Black Dog leader and his Pure wife, set out to find refuge with another pack, The Dimilioc wolves, after both their parents are brutally murdered. They flee Mexico and travel all the way to the USA. This was what their parents insisted they do, but danger follows them. Romance definitely played a part in this story. Natividad was only sixteen, so she didn't have to choose yet, but throughout the story the reader is lead to believe when she comes of age she will be required to pick a mate from the Dimilioc wolf pack. She's touted as being a a beautiful young lady and there are many wolves who would make potentially good mates. Its fun to see the males sort of show off, each in his own special way to catch her attention. It took me a while, to really get into this one, but now I'm pretty hooked. It seems really like this story is just getting started, I'm hopeful that Rachel has more books planned and this is just book one of a longer series!
I'd give this one three rings, deductions come from slow start, Spanish phrases not easily defined and complex world building which sometimes felt like telling instead of showing.
3 out of 5 Rings (GOOD KEPT ME FLIPPING PAGES ~ HELD MY INTEREST)
A Breath of Frost BY ALYXANDRA HARVEY AMAZON | GOODREADS Publisher: Walker Children's (January 7, 2014)
Print Length: 492 pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Series: Yes, Book 1 of ?
Completed: February 2014
From Goodreads: In 1814, three cousins—Gretchen, Emma, and Penelope—discover their family lineage of witchcraft when a binding spell is broken, allowing their individual magical powers to manifest. Now, beyond the manicured gardens and ballrooms of Regency London, an alluring underworld available only to those with power is revealed to the cousins. By claiming their power, the three cousins have accidentally opened the gates to the underworld.
Now ghouls, hellhounds—and most terrifying of all, the spirits of dark witches known as the Greymalkin Sisters—are hunting and killing young debutante witches for their powers. And, somehow, Emma is connected to the murders…because she keeps finding the bodies.
Can the cousins seal the gates before another witch is killed…or even worse, before their new gifts are stripped away.
From Goodreads: Alyxandra Harvey lives in a stone Victorian house in Ontario, Canada with a few resident ghosts who are allowed to stay as long they keep company manners. She loves medieval dresses, used to be able to recite all of The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, and has been accused, more than once, of being born in the wrong century. She believes this to be mostly true except for the fact that she really likes running water, women’s rights, and ice cream.
Among her favourite books are 'The Wood Wife' by terri Windling, 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte, and of course, 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennet is her hero because she’s smart and sassy, and Mr. Darcy is, well, yum. Aside from the ghosts, she also lives with three dogs and her husband.
SETTING PACE AND STYLE
Any book hovering around the 500 page mark is intimidating. This book was a little scary for me mainly because of its length. The good news is it never felt long or dull. The book moves along at a nice medium gait. The storyline interested me, I enjoy books about witches and the creative part of this one was it takes place in the past and set in London. This one is told in a third person narrative from multiple character perspectives.
CHARACTERS AND PLOT
The characters in this book were not the easiest to get to know. So many character stories to keep track of. I don't think I've really conquered any of them with the exception of Emma's. By the middle of the book I started to figure her out better. Penelope, Daphne, and others not so much. Moira, though, I think I sort of connected with her story, well more than those others at least. She was quirky, unique and immediately likable. Even after finishing, I feel like the only two I really became close to were Emma and Cormack. Emma is a smart girl, she's determined and spirited. I appreciated how she always kept plunging forward no matter what hurdles were placed in front of her. Cormack was a keeper. I loved how he adored Emma, wanted to protect her, even though he knew deep down they just couldn't be together (forbidden love). He also knew many of her secrets way before she did. Even when everything was revealed he continued to support her and stick by her side. It became very dangerous for him, I admired how he became very selfless towards Emma. He was a great savior and shoulder to lean on, which she really needed. The story starts off at a debutant ball where Emma, the main character accidentally drops and breaks her mother's perfume bottle, in doing so she releases some very powerful magic which continues to wreak havoc and sets up the entire story.
I recommend this book to patient readers who like details and complex plots. Fan of Witch books and those who don't mind third person narratives and lots of characters will find this book quite exciting.
When I get Goodreads and Amazon auto recommendations the book "Haunting Violet" by Alyxandra Harvey ALWAYS shows up! I've never managed to get around to reading it, even though I'd really like to carve out time to read it someday. So, naturally, when I was browsing Netgalley for book titles to request and another book by Harvey pops up I immediately pull the trigger. I was pleasantly surprised when my request was approved.In the beginning I have to admit, I almost gave up. I struggled with all the characters, I couldn't keep them all straight. Plus it didn't help the initial stories were disconnected lacking a lineal plot line. I felt like the metal ball in a pinball machine as the book knocked me from one spot to the next. I stuck it out and I have to say I wasn't disappointed. Harvey does a great job of converging the stories into one plot line. This story is full of interesting and creative concepts, too. There were Keepers, The Order, Evil Warlocks, Good Witches, Goblin Markets and Madcaps, all playing important parts in the bigger story. My favorite aspect of the story was the mystery behind why Emma's mother was driven mad. I love all the twists and turns Emma experienced while she unraveled the complicated secrets her mother hid for her to eventually discover.The romance which grew between the Cormack and Emma was powerful, but sweet. It was much appreciated the romance happened in the background and wasn't the entire basis of the story. The mystery behind who was murdering the girls at Emma's school was totally unpredictable. I never had even a clue who I thought was behind it all. The BIG REVEAL towards the end set up a really exciting finish and quite a lot more story moving forward to additional installments. I'll be very interested to continue on with this series.
I award this one 4 out of 5 rings with a single ring being deducted for sort of a confusing, somewhat slow start to this one. Once it really got going though it was an entertaining read.
4 out of 5 Rings (CAPTIVATING ~ LOOKED FORWARD TO READING - ENGAGING)
FROM GOODREADS: In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches. Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.
FROM AMAZON: Adam Gidwitz grew up in Baltimore. Now he lives in Brooklyn and teaches kids large and slightly less large at Saint Ann's School. Adam only writes about what he's experienced personally. So, while all of the strange, hilarious, and frightening things in A TALE DARK AND GRIMM really did happen to Hansel and Gretel, they also happened to Adam. Of course, if you've ever had a childhood, they've probably happened to you, too.
SETTING PACE AND STYLE
Setting for this book takes place in a fairytale land, where some magic is still alive. Pacing strangely felt slow, despite non-stop action present in every chapter. Writing style felt forced and too set on making light of dark situations. The story was told by an irritating omniscient narrator who really added too much doom and gloom to the story.
CHARACTERS AND PLOT
The main characters in this story are twins: Hansel and Gretel. Sadly, I never connected with either child. Hansel, a witty and brave child seemed to make emotional decisions at times which brought him or his sister harm. He didn't really seem remorseful whenever he killed something or someone.
Gretel leaned on Hansel too much for my tastes. She also seemed pretty whiny and dependent on others. Towards the middle of the story, after learning a valuable lesson on trustworthiness, she does sort of pave her own path. However, shortly thereafter she ends up depressed and considering taking her own life. (Really?) Throughout the story she always seemed to be complaining about bad parenting or dishonest adults.
This story would be a great book for readers who like omniscient narration or lots of doom and gloom. If you don't mind violence and want a story with lots of little stories within it, this would be a good fit. I would probably guess the boys might be more drawn to this one than the gals.
I feel badly when a book just doesn't work for me. I tried to like this one, I really did. I just couldn't get in sync with the characters or storyline. For some reason, the author did not compel me to appreciate much about this book. Let's begin with the narration. This is the second book I've read where an omniscient narrator tells the story. I should have know I was in trouble from the start, since I have previously hated the other books I've read with this same style of narration. For some reason, interjections into the story don't work for me. Instead, I find myself easily irritated by the way the narrator imposes on the story. The hype surrounding having the youngster leave the room because a disturbing scene was about to happen became old - fast. It seemed overdone. I am also not the biggest fan of a third person narration. This fairy tale, not unlike others, was a conglomerate of many stories which related to each other coming together to form one grand tale. Each chapter is like reading a new story, even though it did tie into the overall plot lines. I know this was written as somewhat of a re-telling, so maybe that's why it was set up in this fashion. For me it was just one more aspect not to like. I prefer one big story, not lots of little related ones. Finally, I was less than impressed with the large amount of violence in the story. I guess that's what the entire point was, that kids can take it, but I don't agree. Lots of blood and gore is not something I'd want to stand up and read out loud in a classroom of youngsters. This is one of those books where I found myself bored, despite the non-stop action, which is odd. Plus, I felt like I was rushing through this one just so I could say I finished it. The ending was just like any other fairytale, which surprised me, I really wasn't expecting a happily ever after conclusion to this one.
Three rings deducted for violence, irritating omniscient narration and inability to compel me to care about any of the characters or engage me in the plot or story lines.
2 out of 5 Rings (NOT MY STYLE ~ FAILED TO HOLD MY INTEREST)