The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest
by Holly Black
Release date: January 13, 2015
From Goodreads:

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

My thoughts:

That blurb and I was sold. It makes you think Creepy Delicious Fairy-Tale instantly. So obviously I had to get my hands on it. I didn’t even care about the cover, even though I think it goes perfectly with the blurb etc, but, what I mean is, even if this book had pictures of potatoes on the cover, I’d still have read it, because THE BLURB IS PERFECT.

But, you see, that is also kind of the problem.

The blurb is so good that I obviously trooped in with expectations and the first chapter was even better, so the expectations heightened. And, well. Thing is, even though this was my first Holly Black book, it showed me that she is a really good writer. The language is gorgeous and she builds up the world perfectly. And her narrative style sets the scene appropriately for a book titled The Darkest Part of the Forest and just when you’re all set for the creepiness to crawl up your skin, it, uhm, stops being creepy.

Oh, book, what have you done to me? I don’t quite know what to think of you.

I liked it, okay? It had siblings, it had magic, it had a beautiful horned boy and things that go bump in the..forest. The writing is good and it’s a fairytale. What more can you ask for? But, I don’t know, the siblings didn’t quite have that siblingy thing, the magic wasn’t something I felt part of and the horned boy was less fascinating awake than he was asleep. By the middle of the book I was more huh than wow. Which is kind of sad, because I reallyreallyreally wanted to love it. I wanted to wax eloquent about it and write love letters to the characters and fantasize about Fairfold. I wanted this book to be the book that would make me fall in love with urban fantasy once again. Maybe I had too much expectations. By the end of it I was, hmm, okay, nice.

I think The Darkest Part of the Forest had the potential to be a lot more than it is – go down in YA history as a landmark urban fantasy of sorts or something. I don’t know. It sure laid the most fascinating foundation. It has movie potential, though. It would work really well on screen, I think.

I will read more of Holly Black, though. I shall keep The Coldest Girl in Coldest as the next book of hers on my to-read list. Meanwhile, I would recommend The Darkest Part of the Forest, just not as something that will offer anything new.

What’s the latest fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal/magic realism book you’ve read?

Tempest

Tempest
by Julie Cross
Released: 17th Jan, ’12.

From Goodreads:

The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.
That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.
Desperate to somehow return to 2009 to save Holly but unable to return to his rightful year, Jackson settles into 2007 and learns what he can about his abilities.
But it’s not long before the people who shot Holly in 2009 come looking for Jackson in the past, and these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit this powerful young time-traveler.  Recruit… or kill him.
Piecing together the clues about his father, the Enemies of Time, and himself, Jackson must decide how far he’s willing to go to save Holly… and possibly the entire world.

A word about the cover: I don’t know why but I really like the floaty-ness of it. (Is that weird?) Also, the photo is a little unusual for what has recently flooded the YA market (read: Sad Girls In Pretty Dresses). It makes me want to give it a second look.

My Thoughts:

The whole time-traveling shizz appeals to me a lot. I think that’s the coolest possible super-power to have. I mean, what can you not do if you can travel through time? And lets face it: the premise of Tempest is actually very relatable. How many times have we thought if only I could turn back time when we lost a loved one? Me? Tons.

Tempest was a book I wanted to read, ever since I started following Julie’s blog, right after she got her book deal, even before the book became the talking point across blogosphere.

It was..well, inventive. I was uber curious about what was happening and what was going to happen and if Jackson would really be able to save Holly and all those things that could make this book work. Unfortunately, it was also one of those books that you go through a page-flipping-frenzy mode for then promptly forget about (I didn’t forget because I had to do this review, but you get the hint).

My problem mostly was with the characters – a shallow bunch of jerks with some wrong notions about certain things. Case in point: Holly’s roommate is called a feminist – when she is very clearly a misandrist – and is dismissed as being a bitch along the same lines. And what does that imply? That a feminist is very easily a misandrist or that feminists are bitches? Because that’s EXACTLY how it comes across.
Also, Jackson’s reaction on getting to know that Holly is a virgin? He’s worried about her and then goes –

The idea that she might not enjoy this was turning me in the other direction. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been with a virgin, even just messing around. Maybe never.

I mean, DUDE, seriously? Jackson’s seventeen. And he has slept with so many people he doesn’t even remember the last virgin he slept with? (At the same time we get to hear Holly call him ‘deep’. I mean, SERIOUSLY?) I don’t get moralising over books or anything but what really annoys me is Jackson’s attitude here. So is he implying that being a virgin means you’re all uptight and that it probably puts him off? Or is it that because somebody isn’t a virgin it’s okay to mess around with them?
And at the same time he’s actually worried about Holly, huh? Contradictions, contradictions. Conclusively, Jackson ends up being typecast as the seemingly nice guy who is really a jerk underneath. Sadly, no character development there.
I call these characters jerks because there’s no redemption, nowhere in the book do they regret such thoughts or realise what absolute jackasses they really are. All of it is as easily dismissed as it is brought on. Like this very dignified bit:

“I just met this chick last night at my friend’s party. She’s mega hot and a total airhead.” “Exactly your type right?” “Yeah, but only if the flakiness is genuine. Not that pretend-I’m-stupid shit. You know it’s going to bite you in the ass later. Besides, I love messing with people who just don’t get it.” 

Waaay. To. Go.

I had issues with Tempest throughout my reading experience of it. Maybe if I leave my own personal beliefs aside, maybe it could work. I mean, I loved the bits Jackson had with his sister Courtney. I think I was mostly in that page-flipping-frenzy mode just so I could get to the parts with/about her. But then, such personal beliefs can’t really be pushed aside. I *am* a feminist and I cannot tolerate sexism and coming from a country where woman’s position in society is a matter of argument every-freaking-day, reading about women being dismissed as easily as toilet paper makes me angry.

Yes, there are good things about the book. Like I said, Courtney. And it moves at breakneck speed inspite of the whole ‘time-line’ thing being highly confusing more often than not. And the last quarter of the book makes you feel a little bad for the main characters sometimes. It’s not a bad book.

But, I don’t know. With all those sexist ideas being dismissed as casual fun, it’s not exactly making it to my list of good books.

Reading is subjective, right?
I know Tempest has/will have it’s fair share of fans (heck, a movie’s been optioned, too!). It’s just that I’m not one of them.

Have you read Tempest? What’s your favourite read on time travel?

DARKER STILL: Magic Most Foul #1

The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart’s latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing…
Jonathan Denbury’s soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

I was on the cheering squad for this book even before I’d read it, when only the title, the cover and the summary had been released. I felt a kinship with it. Because –
  • Dorian Gray! That’s the first thing that crossed my mind. And I’m so fascinated with anything and everything to do with/related to Dorian Gray, I HAD to read this. And this clearly had the Dorian Gray concept going for it. Suffice to say, Oscar Wilde (that man I LOVE!) is right on top of the author, Leanna Renne Hieber’s acknowledgment list.
  • I have a thing for the Gothic. So naturally, Gothic romance appeals to me greatly. See that summary above? Perfect Gothic romance fodder for me.
  • Magic Most Foul. That’s the tagline for this new series. What’s not to love? Magic (um, ghosts, too) is the thing I love above all fantastical or paranormal elements. It has my heart. So this book had it, too.
  • Dude, cover love!
I have to say, right from the beginning, I’ve thought this book has a very clever concept. And Leanna Renne Hieber works on that well. The book starts off as very, very intriguing. It’s in epistolary format, and while the majority of it is written as part of Natalie’s diary entries, there are a few excerpts from the New York City Police Record Case Files and letters exchanged between the characters.
A mysterious – and delicious – new portrait of a handsome young Lord moves into town (actually, into the Art Association on Twenty Third street, New York) and catches the fascination of many, including Natalie, thus triggering off a series of unexpected happenings involving magic most foul.
I like Natalie. A trauma at a young age took away her speech, rendering her mute. She is gutsy (remember this is the 19th century we are talking about, so gutsy now is different from gutsy then, but gutsy nevertheless), thoughtful and a heroine to commend.

And Lord Denbury? (I prefer calling him that than by his first name) He is delicious. For some reason, I kept picturing him as Ben Barnes. I’m guessing its the Dorian Gray effect.

Except for the fact, you know, Denbury lives in a portrait. I wasn’t really crushing on him (as much as I was on my fantasy Barnes) but I think the author does a good job of putting across to the reader why Natalie was so taken by him. Fact is Denbury is delicious in his own way.
Darker Still is well-written and the author does a good job of capturing the 19th century suitably. And the added magic bit to it does wonders.
However, while the book got off to an exciting start, it was, well, kinda bland in the middle. Not to say there weren’t things going on. There were. Secrets were being discovered and all that jazz, but for some reason, it left me feeling a little underwhelmed. I’m thinking that while the diary format is an interesting addition, the book could have done with being written in the present tense. It could have added an immediacy to the action. Thing is, the middle made me stall. It almost made me give up reading (although I blame that on the fact that this was on netgalley and I HATE e-reading).
Fortunately, I didn’t. Because hells yeah, the last quarter’s a romping ride of excitement. I really liked how Darker Still ended. It didn’t leave me with a cliffhanger but it left me with the possibility of a lot more exciting and magical stuff to come.
Although it has its ups and downs, Darker Still is intriguing with a magical mystery at its core that will keep you on its pages. I’d say you give this book a chance. It’s the new Dorian Gray on the block. And a pretty cool homage-of-sorts to Wilde.
I’m already looking forward to the next installment 🙂
What classic story would you like to see given a new twist?

Sisters Red

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris–the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls’ bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett’s only friend–but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they’ve worked for?
I do love the idea of fairy tale re-tellings.  There’s this element of nostalgia attached to them + the anticipation of finding something new and exciting in an old, oft-heard tale.
Sisters Red is, you guessed it, Red Riding Hood retold. With kickass heroines and a lot of originality.

      “I am confident, I am capable, and I will not wait to be rescued by a woodsman or a hunter.” 


The Sisters. Scarlett and Rosie’s gruesome ordeal with a werewolf in their childhood shaped their futures. Hardened by their past, they thrive on killing werewolves, eliminating their evil from the world. They fight alongside and find comfort in it. In that, they share one heart. But Jackson Pearce tells their story in dual PoVs. And with that she lays down two individuals, so similar, yet so utterly different from each other. Scarlett, 18, scarred and so tough, who won’t rest until the world is rid of every single Fenris. Rosie, 16, who adores her sister and would follow her till the end of the world, but secretly wishes for a life beyond the continuous hunts. Pearce skillfully digs into the nuances of this sibling bond, while exploring their very different personalities and the underlying insecurities beyond the tough exterior. Oh, the sisters  March are characters to be loved and remembered. I liked reading from both their perspectives. While Scarlett’s held most of the action sequences, Rosie’s were interspersed with romantic musings about their woodcutter friend who is all hot-and-hunky now, of seeing more of life. I loved the juxtaposition of these two perspectives. I think it provided the perfect blend.


The Woodcutter. Silas. Their childhood friend and fellow Fenris fighter. Who had disappeared from the scene to live a different life for two years, and then arrives suddenly, setting off all kinds of thoughts in Rosie (and me). Silas is swoonworthy. Not the body-baring, brawn-flexing, sexual-innuendo-quipping kinda swoonworthy. Silas is hot, yes, but he’s also so very sweet. And grounded. And real. And a woodcutter. Which means he can do things with his hands. All kinds of things. Add to the fact, that he is also able to hold intelligent conversations with his love interest. Yes, swoonworthy.


The Werewolves. They are called Fenris. And they are EVIL. Very, very evil. And yes, some of them are perfectly angelic looking, but the girls don’t go oh-i-don’t-care-how-bad-you-are-you-are-hot-i-love-you. Nah, they aren’t that easily deceived. They have common sense enough to know that behind the face-and-the-flex lie the fangs and the lust and the desire to kill. So they kick ass. And they kick so hard they could give Buffy a run for her money. 


The Magic. I may be tired of the regular paranormal romance, but I love myself a good urban fantasy. I love magic. I love stories with magic. And for me, the paranormal element here, didn’t feel very paranormal-ish. It felt magical. Now, magic can be the good, the bad, the ugly, or perhaps, the gray. Scarlett and Rosie’s world, prowling with Fenris felt somewhat like a magical world, one that is deeply rooted in ours. And it is exactly that what makes this so worthy of being called a ‘fairy tale retelling’, because fairy tales above all, are magical.


The Epilogue. Wow. That is one of the classiest epilogues I’ve ever read. Just the right punch of bittersweet.




When you look at it, it really is a classic good vs evil story – dirty bad guys vs swashbuckling heroines. But what also sets Sisters Red apart is Jackson Pearce‘s willingness to create heroines that break the stereotypical mold. Scarlett is scarred and has only one eye. Which is possibly an anomaly in YA fiction scattered with shy-heroines-not-aware-of-their-extraordinary-beauty-till-a-boy-tells-them. But it’s an anomaly that’s required. Because it tests how much readers can accept a main character who is physically repulsive. And Rosie? Yeah, pretty girl she is and one tough chica, too. That quote way up there? That’s hers.


I absolutely ADORED this book. It suited my mood perfectly. Kickass, fun, and like I said, magical. I have read Jackson Pearce‘s As You Wish, and while I liked it, I didn’t particularly love it. But with Sister Red, you can put a stamp across me as a Jackson Pearce Fan. I’m sold. I cannot wait to read her other Fairy Tale Retellings. She has what it takes to write one with punch.


What’s a fairy tale you want to see retold?

Fairy Tale ~ Cyn Balog

I wanted to read this for a LONG time, and my reaction after I did? Umm..
 
Morgan Sparks and Cam Browne are a match made in heaven. They’ve been best friends since birth, they tell each other everything, and oh yeah- they’re totally hot for each other.
But a week before their joint Sweet Sixteen bash, everything changes. Cam’s awkward cousin Pip comes to stay, and Morgan is stunned when her formerly perfect boyfriend seems to be drifting away.
 
When Morgan demands answers, she’s shocked to discover the source of Cam’s distance isn’t another girl- it’s another world.  Pip claims that Cam is a fairy.  No, seriously.  A fairy. And now his people want Cam to return to their world and take his rightful place as Fairy King.
 
Determined to keep Cam with her, Morgan plots to fool the fairies. But as Cam continues to change, she has to decide once and for all if he really is her destiny, and if their “perfect” love can weather an uncertain future.
                                            
What I liked:
 
–> The quick, fast-paced nature of Fairy Tale which made me keep turning the pages.
–> The humour. Morgan, the MC had a funny bone and it kept the atmosphere light.
–> The occasional witticisms. From Morgan again.
–> Cam and Pip, the love interests. Glaring contrasts against the usual brooding, dark hero with the perpetual unreadable expression in his face who keeps popping into every YA paranormal. Nice guys.
–> The atmosphere. Once again contrasting other paranormals, Fairy Tale was light and funny. For once it wasn’t all life and death dilemmas (even though the book summary makes it sound rather intense), which was refreshing.
–> Morgan’s psychic ability.
–> The cover.
 
What I didn’t like:
 
–> Morgan at the beginning. Unlikable, not because she was flawed, but because she was stereotypical (minus the psychic powers). The voice I’d read so, so many times. Boring.
–> The stereotypical depiction of female friendship. the snide-mockery of your lesser-mortal of a best friend. Morgan getting bored of her best friend’s jabber. Morgan knowing her best friend is a sort of loser. Doesn’t work for me.
–> Nothing enticing about the fairies.
–> Lack of chemistry between Morgan and Cam. No showing, just telling.
–> The intensity of the situation doesn’t strike home (maybe ‘cos there was no intensity as there’s supposed to be?). Didn’t make my heart race. Didn’t make me root for anyone.
–> Zero character development.
–> The ending. Without getting spoiler-ish, it left me unconvinced.
 
If you’re looking for a one-time fast paced read to get you through a delay at the airport terminal, pick this up. Otherwise, it’s up to you.
 
What did you think of this book?