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Serukis

Emy's Book Blog

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Kushiel's Dart
Jacqueline Carey
Into the Closet: Cross-Dressing and the Gendered Body in Childrens Literature and Film (Children's Literature and Culture)
Victoria Flanagan
Absolute Boyfriend (Zettai Kareshi) tom I - Yū Watase Fed up with rejection, heart-broken Riiko signs up for a free trial of the Nightly Lover 'figure'. The next day, a cute naked guy is delievered to her apartment. Riiko finally has a boyfriend - one who will cost her a million dollars if she fails to return him on time.

So, I love Yuu Watase. She's my favourite manga-ka, and this series is no exception. If you're looking for something with the intricacy of Fushigi Yuugi, though, you're looking in the wrong place. The plot of Absolute Boyfriend is ridiculous and fluffy with, admittedly, a few darker moments. It's also pretty predictable. But, you know, it's silly and fun and exactly the sort of thing I felt like reading right now in amongst much more serious text books on gender theory.

Riiko, as a main character, is pretty annoying. She's obsessed with finding a boyfriend, and worried about how big her breasts are and things like that. Which is probably much more annoying to me than it was the first time I read this because of the gender theory text book thing. I love Night, on the other hand; he's sweet, naive and only wants the best for Riiko. I also like Soshi, despite his sharp words. You can tell he really cares about Riiko too.

This volume sets up the rest of the series, so it's not the most interesting story-wise. It has a lot to set up, so it feels a little rushed in places. However, there is a lot of the comic relief which has made Yuu Watase one of my favourites, so it's never dull. I especially liked the thinly veiled sex jokes, especially a couple that I completely missed when I read this before. Night's 'gentle touch', anyone? Plus, there's good-looking guys to ogle! ;)

Overall, this is a solid start to what promises to be a fun, silly manga with a serious edge.
Will You Love Me?: Lucy's Story: The Heartbreaking True Story of My Adopted Daughter and Her Desperate Search for a Loving Home - Cathy Glass Will You Love Me? is the story of Cathy Glass's adopted daughter, Lucy. Lucy herself helped gather the pieces of her life story together to help Cathy write this book so, as you might expect, this is a little different to Cathy's previous novels.

This book is in two parts. Part one is told in third person and follows the story of Lucy's mother, Bonnie, and then, subsequently, Lucy herself in the eleven years before she came to Cathy's home. Whilst it was interesting to learn Lucy's background, I didn't feel that this worked on a narrative level. For one thing, the third person narrative felt a little clumsy, and I often wondered how on earth Cathy knew about specific conversations and things, and how much it was made up to pad out the story. I understand from the end of the book that Cathy is still occasionally in contact with Lucy's mother, so perhaps this explains it, but that is not clear until the very end of the book.

But my biggest problem of that section is this:

Usually, as a reader, we learn alongside Cathy what has happened to a child through the child sharing their own past, and it often marked a turning point in the relationship between Cathy and said child. As we knew most of Lucy's backstory before getting to the point where Cathy took her on, I feel like we missed out on a lot of that. I feel like we lost out on a lot of relationship building, and it seemed a little bit out of the blue when Cathy decided to foster Lucy permanently. In Cathy's other books, I really felt the relationship between Cathy and the children she looks after; in this one, not so much.

I don't know. Perhaps because Lucy was involved in the making of this book and will most likely have read it, I felt that Cathy was rather more guarded than she usually is. There was also a lot of anger in this book, I felt, bubbling away beneath the surface - anger at the way Lucy had been failed by the care system.

I think Lucy's social worker, Stevie, got a bit of a rough treatment in this. Sometimes she felt more like a caricature than a human being, and maybe a lot of that is due to some underlying resentment on Cathy's part (or maybe I'm being unfair, and she really was that awful). Cathy is usually very good at not letting her personal feelings colour the prose, especially when it comes to the people in her writing. I definitely felt some bitter shards of resentment throughout the book, though.

That said, part two was very much a Cathy Glass book. I enjoy her way of writing and find it wonderful how she manages to look after children and get through to them. Like I said, though, I just felt as though something was... lacking.

I had high expectations for this book, which is perhaps why I feel so underwhelmed by it. I've been curious about Lucy and how Cathy and her became mother and daughter for a long time, but this just seemed to be missing a certain intimacy that I'd been expecting.

That said, if you are a Cathy Glass fan, you would be missing out if you didn't read this book. It is a very personal book and, whilst there is something missing, it is still worth the read.

Hannah's Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived

Hannah's Gift - Maria Housden Hannah's Gift is the story of the last year in the life of Hannah Martell, a 3-year-old girl diagnosed with an aggressive, rare cancer, as told by her mother, Maria.

This is actually the second time I've read this book. I read it a long time ago in my pre-Goodreads era and, for some reason, I've been thinking about it a lot recently due to events in my personal life. I finally gave in and began to read it again.

With this kind of book, you know the end going in. You know that Hannah is going to die, you know that you will cry and that it'll break your heart and make you question why on earth this sort of thing happens. It'd be very easy to give a story that touches you in this way five stars, simply because it has touched you. Because it is heartbreaking and the suffering this child has gone through surely deserves five stars. Surely?

As you can see, I gave this book three stars. I liked it (though 'like' is perhaps the wrong word). I cried. It touched me enough that the book nagged at me for days until I picked it up yesterday. Not a lot of books do that.

There is some beautiful use of language throughout the novel, but somehow it seems out of place. It's a very real, very raw story, and I'm not sure that the beautiful language adds to that. I perhaps would have preferred more concise prose, but perhaps veiling the story in lyrical language made it easier for the author to write.

This story is made up of snapshots, really. Memories from the last year of Hannah's life. For that reason, sometimes the chronology can be hard to follow. I don't think a more linear narrative would have worked, perhaps, but some sense of how big the time jumps were between each section would have been nice.

I also didn't care for the strong religious tone of the book, but that's personal preference and undoubtably won't be a problem for everyone. It does get quite preachy in places though, and I don't like that at all.

All in all, this is a heart breaking read; it's just buried in unnecessary lyrical prose and preachiness. I do recommend you read it, though - Hannah's story deserves to be read.
Holden and Yves – The Early Years (The Slave Breakers, mini-prequel) - Maculategiraffe This is a collection of stories set before Bran's Story, chronicling Holden and Yves's relationship. It begins with Holden buying Yves and ends with him making Yves a part of his will.

It's a selection of one shots, so there isn't a great amount of cohesion between the parts. I mean, they're all part of the same story, but, you know, things obviously jump around a lot. This is all right when you understand that from the beginning, but lessened my enjoyment somewhat from the actual series. Perhaps if I'd read it on Livejournal my feelings would be different.

But that's by no means a reason not to read this one.

I loved getting an insight into Yves and Holden's early relationship, and into seeing how much they both have changed over the years. Once again, it's the characters that really make this story.

Definitely should be read after the main series, because, somehow, I don't think it'd be very satisfying otherways!

All in all, a short but sweet read.
Lee's Story (The Slave Breakers, #3) - Maculategiraffe Lee's Story comes three years after the end of Jesse's Story and five years after the end of Bran's Story. Dunaev, Bran's old master, has ruined another slave, and this time has dubbed him 'irreparable'.

Meet Lee. He's terrified, catatonic, and even worse off than Bran was when Holden and Alix bought him from Dunaev. Reminded horribly of Bran, Holden begins to think seriously about the consequences of slavery and makes a decision that could have repercussions for his whole family.

This book is a hell of a lot longer than the other two (like, five hundred and forty-five pages long), but I devoured it just the same. This one switches between Holden and Lee's points of view, which works quite well for the purposes of the story. It was interesting, especially, to read things from Holden's point of view.

Holden has been a bit of a mystery in previous books, so it was really nice to get an insight into his mind. I decided early on in this book that him and Bran are both blind idiots, but I love them anyway.

It was also really interesting to read about Holden trying to help and fix Lee when he wasn't physically attracted to him at all. He felt all paternal towards him, and I liked that these feelings were one of the things that triggered him thinking seriously about abolition.

Valor really came into her own in this book. I mean, she's still an idiot and quite unlikeable, but she did a lot of growing up by the end of this book. I really enjoyed watching her journey, even if poor Holden didn't.

Also, I enjoyed the fact that Jesse made a semi-reappearance, even if I'm still puzzling over his words. "Now we're even"? Jesse, why are you feeling so vindictive? :(

The characters continued to grow and develop in this one, and it was nice to see them all from Lee's fresh point of view. Especially Jer, I think. I have never shipped a couple so hard, and I wish the end was less ambiguous about them. Jer, staaay.

It was intriguing reading what's basically a slave fic focused all around abolition. Especially when it actually made me feel conflicted about the whole argument. I mean, I'm against slavery in real life, but all I could think about was the consequences of abolition on the little family I'd grown to love. Puzzling.

The time skips towards the end annoyed me, but I can see why they're necessary, and probably would have been less annoying in the original Livejournal form.

I was sad to come to the end of this one. A series hasn't grabbed my attention and made me so completely unable to stop thinking about it in a long time. Luckily I have some one shots to read on Maculategiraffe's journal! :)

Highly recommended, but read the other two first! :)
Jesse's Story (The Slave Breakers, #2) - Maculategiraffe This is two years on from Bran's Story, and in this book we meet Jesse, and Jesse is rather fierce and defiant and not at all like Bran.

When the book opens, Jesse has just found out that his lover is dead from his extremely sadistic master and he has lost all hope. Then he is bought by the slave breakers, and everything changes. For one thing, his lover, Quen, is alive.

Because of a variety of things that I don't want to spoil here, Jesse is not really their slave and, as such, is an interesting perspective for this story to be told from. He is a guest in the house, almost, and an outsider, but he is also extremely curious and pokes his nose everywhere it doesn't belong (i.e. Holden and Bran's relationship).

Jesse himself isn't being trained by Holden, so his story is kind of a waiting game. But whilst he's waiting for the promised conclusion to his misery, he makes it his personal mission to work out how Holden feels about Bran and then to get him to confess his love.

Because he's an ass and hasn't done so in the past two years. *frowns*

I really enjoyed the fact we got to see more of Bran and Holden's relationship (the stubborn butt that he is), but, on the other hand, I feel like it kind of came at the expense of Jesse himself sometimes.

I think Bran himself sums it up when he says: "He said... that, he said you were way too damn obnoxious to be merely human, so you had to be some kind of divine messenger, and he figured he'd better do what you said quick so you'd go ahead and disappear." Jesse darts into their lives, throws everything into chaos and fixes things, then darts back out again. He's a good catalyst, in a way.

Jesse's perspective also makes Holden really unlikeable, haha. To be fair, Holden punches him in the face for seemingly no reason at the beginning of the novel, and that... colours Jesse's perception of him a fair bit.

The characters were, like the last book, wonderfully constructed. Characters we knew gained added depth, and the new characters were wonderfully three-dimensional and believable. We started to learn more about the world Slave Breakers is set in as well, which was great.

Once again, there are some editing issues, but nothing too major.

Highly recommended, but definitely read Bran's Story first. :)
Bran's Story (The Slave Breakers, #1) - Maculategiraffe,  Sabrina Deane Firstly, yes, this is slave fic, and yes, it's self-published, but God, I really didn't expect it to be what it was. And what it was was heart-warming, well-written, and one of the first things I've really devoured in a long time.

The main thing about this story is how well the characters are crafted. I fell in love with Bran straight away, and I quickly grew to care about the other characters, and what happened to them. I mean, Holden made me mad a few times, but hey. He's a blind fool, but damn, he's good at what he does.

And it's been a few days since I've read this now, and I cannot get the world and the characters out of my head. And that's high praise, indeed.

(In fact, in the past few days I've devoured the other two novels and am currently devouring all the little one-shots on the Livejournal page).

To be honest, my enjoyment level of this is probably enough to give it five stars. But, technically, I'd give it four, so I'm erring on the side of four. There's editing notes, and a few typos, and a random scene inserted with a note saying it should be somewhere in Chapter 10, but hey. This wouldn't have bothered me on Livejournal, but in a self-published book, it did. But only a little bit.

Also, I wish it was longer (because I did love it), but I think that Maculategiraffe ended it in a good place. I'm not sure what she could have added, but... you know, I just wish it had been longer.

Maculategiraffe does a really good job of making a modern day world where legal slavery (in an English/American type country) seem plausible. Whilst making a bit of a social commentary on the whole idea of slavery too.

Oh, and, for the first time in a while, I didn't find myself skimming the sex scenes, because they were so integral to character development and story. And they were hot. ;)

So, yes, if the idea of slavery in fiction doesn't put you off, I'd highly recommend this. I'm such a sucker for character-driven smut. <3
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1) - Cassandra Clare It's after dark in New York City, and Clary Fray is seeing things. The best looking guy in the nightclub just stabbed a boy to death - but the victim has vanished into thin air. Her mother has disappeared, and a hideous monster is lurking in her apartment. With her life spiralling into darkness, Clary realizes that she has stumbled into an invisible war between ancient demonic forces and the secretive Shadowhunters - a war in which she has a fateful role to play.

I wanted to read this because Tumblr is currently saturated with hype over the upcoming film and, I admit, I've always been a little curious about this series. There's all the controversy over Cassandra Clare and the claims of plagiarism, and the whole Harry Potter fanfiction type thing. Now, I've never read The Draco Trilogy in its original form, so I can't comment on the similarities to that, but the evidence of Clare's plagiarism of other work is pretty convincing, so I didn't want to like this book. Yet, you know, I tried to go into this with an open mind. (For science!)

I'm currently curled up in bed with a chest infection, and I somehow read the whole thing from start to finish in a few hours.

Okay, the good things:

Firstly, the plot wasn't terrible. I genuinely wanted to know what happened next, though I pretty much knew the Big Spoilers already.

Speaking of the Big Spoilers, I'm impressed that Clare had the balls to put incest in her book. I'm also pretty sure that it'll be sorted out because of One True Love and all that by the time the series is over, but I can't actually see how that will happen. I am conflicted about this.

Also, the action scenes were well-written and I could imagine everything that was happening. A big plus, in my eyes. I find action scenes hard to follow sometimes, and then I skim read and end up missing things, and then I'm like 'wait, what just happened?'.

Lastly, I liked Magnus, despite the fact he seems to be one glittery cliché.

The other characters weren't terrible, either, but they all seemed to share the same acerbic wit (that wasn't that acerbic). Seriously, when all the characters are trying to be witty and sarcastic, it gets a bit grating. I mean, I did like them, and Clary wasn't as overly annoying as most heroines of this sort of book, but I don't know. I felt they lacked some depth, some fire. They just could have been better. I'm hoping this improves in later books, particularly considering this is Clare's first published novel.

The bad things:

Okay, the writing wasn't terrible, but oh my god. The similes. Everywhere! Once you start to notice them, you can't stop noticing them. Also, there was a few times when a big word popped up like 'hello, I used a thesaurus!' And, even if she didn't use a thesaurus, she probably shouldn't have used words that made me want to grab a dictionary when a much simpler word could have done. For example, 'evincing'. 'Showing' would have done. Or, 'betraying', or 'letting slip'. There were more examples, too. Like, who uses 'exsanguinating' when they're in a state of panic? Hm.

Luke. Ah! The plot twist was so obvious!! Of course he was a good guy and was only protecting Clary. I knew that the moment she decided to stop trusting him.

Valentine wasn't villainish enough for me either. He didn't frighten me, and I was never actually frightened or worried about the main characters' welfare.

Also, the scene at the climax wasn't believable to me. Jace changed too suddenly from one extreme to the other. I think that it could have been handled a lot better.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It wasn't great and it wasn't terrible, but it has piqued my interest enough that I will probably give the other books in the series a read. :)
Master of the Mountain (Mountain Masters #1) - Cherise Sinclair When Rebecca's boyfriend Matt springs a weekend retreat with a swinging club on her, she goes along with it. After all, their sex life isn't exactly fantastic. She soon discovers that swinging isn't for her, but the sexy master of the lodge, Logan, is a whole other matter.

This is my first non-Shadowlands Cherise Sinclair novel, and I'm not quite sure if I was disappointed in it or if I loved the change. I kind of missed all the characters I had grown to know and love, but that's more my fault than Cherise Sinclair's.

Logan was a great Dom, there was no denying that. At the beginning of the novel, there was a tiiiny bit of dubious consent that made me a little bit uncomfortable (because I wasn't expecting it, I guess), but he did give her a safe word shortly after. I wish I'd got more of his character shining through, though, as a lot of his personality seemed to be overwhelmed by the Dom in him. We did get glimpses of his personality, though, mostly through his interactions with his dog, Thor. I just wish we'd seen more of it. He felt quite distant.

Rebecca, however, was a more fully fleshed out character, with a lot more fire in her than anyone who knows her expects. I enjoyed the awakening of her passion and fire. It was a bit like watching a flower bloom.

It is quite obvious that this is one of Cherise Sinclair's earlier novels, as the dreaded 'womb' word makes an appearance here and the characters are not as strong and nuanced as her later books. The 'womb' annoyed me in Club Shadowland and it annoyed me here.

Another thing that annoyed me was how annoyed Rebecca was with Matt over the whole swinging thing, and then her being quite happy to jump into bed with Logan. She agonised over it a few times, and Matt was okay with it (because of the swinging), but I felt like it was a little hypocritical. Oh well. That's a minor niggle.

I did, however, enjoy the premise of discovering her sexuality during a swinging weekend. This was very different to the Shadowlands series, which was nice.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series, as Cherise Sinclair is quickly becoming an auto-buy author for me. :)
Being Emily - Rachel Gold They say that whoever you are it’s okay, you were born that way. Those words don’t comfort Emily, because she was born Christopher and her insides know that her outsides are all wrong.

Firstly, this is a weird coincidence because my name is Emily, and if I had been born a boy I would have been called Christopher. XD

Secondly, this was a tender, sensitive portrayal of a transgender teen, and a well-written coming out story. I cried a few times, and I smiled. I actually read this in about two and a half hours, not counting the first few pages, if that's any indication of how much I enjoyed the book.

Most of the book is written in first person from Emily/Chris's point of view, with occasional chapters from the third person point of view of Emily's girlfriend, Claire. This was an interesting arrangement, and it wasn't at all confusing. I liked getting insights into how Claire was feeling at what must have been a very confusing time for her. I didn't exactly enjoy all of the religious references and stuff in her sections, but I understand that's part of her character. I also liked how honest it was about the fact she was disgusted and struggling, but also how she worked passed that.

Emily is a believable character. She just felt very real and relatable, especially the way she was struggling with her identity. I think any teenager, transgender or not, could relate to that. I also like how some of the more extreme effects of dysphoria were portrayed too, but not so much that the whole book felt angsty and over-dramatic. I think Rachel Gold hit a good balance, there.

I also like the fact that Emily's father is more supportive than her mother. Usually it seems the be the other way around, so I liked this aspect.

Claire standing with her was a nice surprise too. I was sure at first that they were going to break up when Emily came out.


There were issues with the book, however. Some of the paragraphs, especially towards the beginning of the novel, felt clumsy and info-dumpy. This is also true of the sections where certain aspects of the transgender experience had to be explained (particularly relating to the gender binary). I understand that these things have to be explained, as not everyone will have knowledge about these things, but I think it could have been done in a better way.

Also, the ending of the book was too abrupt. Most of the conflict ended up being resolved with a couple of lines in the epilogue, and I felt a little bit cheated by this. I wanted to know more. This is the primary reason why the book is only getting four stars and not five.

All in all, however, this was a great book. I would recommend it to anyone wanting an honest and touching account of what it's like to be transgender, whether they are questioning their own gender identity or not. :)
This Is Who I Am (Masters of the Shadowlands, #7) - Cherise Sinclair 07/08/13: When Sam was trying to save a woman from slavers, he screwed up. Now Linda wants nothing to do with him, despite the fact that he can see she is a masochist and a submissive. The last thing Linda wants in her life is a Dominant sadist, but she soon finds that she can't keep Sam out of her mind.

Well, I think that this was my favourite book in the Shadowlands series after Dan and Kari's book (and that's only ahead, probably, because I have a major thing for Master Dan *fans self*).

Linda is older than a lot of heroines that you see in romance or erotica, and Sam is older than most heroes. Both have grown up children, and this adds a whole new dimension to their relationship that hasn't really been explored in this series before. (Z has grown up children too, but they weren't really included in Z and Jessica's story.) The children are a big part of both Sam and Linda's life, and it shows.

Sam, for his part, is everything I was hoping him to be. We haven't had a sadist before in this series, and when I heard that he was getting a book to himself, I couldn't wait. There is pain mixed with pleasure in the other books, sure, but Sam is in a whole league of his own. I was curious about how Cherise Sinclair would handle it (sex-wise), and she actually doesn't pull any punches. I mean, she probably could have pushed it a whole lot further, but you have to keep in mind that she might have lost a lot of readers if she'd done that. As it was, it was different from the other Shadowlands books, but not in a way that would alienate her readership.

I also enjoy the fact that the story is continuing along the arc built in previous books (the Harvest Association). I like that it's not just dropped and that it's an on-going issue that's taking a long time to solve. Even though a little part of it is solved during each book. It's just nice to have some continuity, rather than disconnected stories about all the different Doms.

Considering the next book involves Sally and the FBI agents, perhaps this is where that particular story arc will wind up. We shall see, I guess.

Speaking of continuity, I love also that we get little snippets of all the other relationships. Like Z and Jessica's wedding, and little Zane, Dan and Kari's son. It's just a nice reminder that their lives haven't halted just because we've finished their story. That is a mark of a good author.

Like I said, I loved this book to pieces. It made me laugh and cry (a lot of crying), and ultimately made me fall in love with Master Sam.

I can't wait for the next one, and I'm hoping that eventually Holt will get his own book too. *pleading eyes at Cherise Sinclair*

02/08/13: WHY DID I NOT SEE THAT THIS WAS OUT?! /rolls around on the floor
The Oathbreaker's Shadow - Amy McCulloch I received this book as part of a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, and am providing an honest review in exchange. :)

Raim has had an oath around his wrist since before he can remember. He doesn't know what the promise was, or who he swore it to, but when he swears to become his best friend's protector, the oath is broken. Raim becomes a traitor, and exile, all for a promise he can't remember making. His only chance for salvation is to learn the truth, but the truth is darker and more tangled than he could have ever imagined.

When I saw this on a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, I had to enter. I was in love with the concept. Making knots to swear promises, with terrible consequences if that promise is broken? The possibilities seemed endless, and it seemed like the type of book I would fall in love with.

Sadly, my expectations were set a little too high.

This is not a terrible book - not by any stretch of the imagination - but it did have its problems. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I did originally go into this book thinking it was aimed at a much older audience than it actually is, which is probably part of the reason it didn't meet my expectations. I thought it was a young adult fantasy - specifically, the older end of the young adult market - but the back of the book informs me that it's for readers aged 11+.

Ah, so, not as dark and nuanced as I first had hoped for, then.

And it would also explain the villain of the novel, who rambled on about his Evil Plans (AKA conquest with a spirit army and the destruction of anyone who would stand in his way) whilst the hero meekly listens and waits for the opportune moment to escape. Very James Bond.

Not to mention the fact of the identity of the villain itself, which stretched the limits of what I could believe. Sure, Khareh was a bit of an arrogant twat, but he was not evil. What could have been a heart-rending and soul-destroying revelation, therefore, was marred by my brain going 'what, really?'.

The other problem I had with this book was the world-building. It was quite shaky to start with, to be honest. The culture didn't feel nomadic to me, and although I was being told lots of things about their history and about their 'yurts' and the steppe, etc etc, it didn't quite seem real. Like, why would the royal family travel mainly with one tribe just because Raim is best friends with the prince? Surely that's impractical and unrealistic? I'd wonder whether the weak world-building is because the book is aimed at a younger audience, but that would be unfair to the genre. This issue did get better as it went along, particularly when the culture of the desert was explored, so perhaps McCulloch just needed some time to get into her stride. This is her debut novel after all.

And, hey, at least McCulloch strayed away from Generic Medieval Fantasy Land!

Despite the shaky start, the world-building did have a lot of interesting ideas, and I'm keen to know more about the cultures in subsequent books. Especially about promise knots and haunts, because I still want to know a lot more.

I also enjoyed the fact that it was obvious the author had researched into desert survival and the effects of extreme heat on the body. That's the sort of thing that needs to be got right, and Amy McCulloch manages it. :)

I really enjoyed the character building, however, especially Raim. He had prejudices, and he tried to face up to them even though he was repulsed. He admitted he was repulsed, and tried to change his prejudices, but struggled a lot with doing so. I think that this is quite a brave move from an author, to make her main character that way. Having a character have prejudices and admit to them, and have them not be able to suddenly overcome them in a matter of days really shows commitment. Not many novels, especially for a younger audience, seem to tackle this. The hero can normally do no wrong or, if he does, he finds it easy to change his prejudices and no longer be repulsed. This does not happen. It is never easy to fight something ingrained in you like that. So, bravo Amy McCulloch for tackling this issue, and for doing it so well.

I also liked the character of Draikh, though he's still very mysterious to us. I hope that we learn much more about him in subsequent books.

Wadi too was a good character, as she was a strong female character who could kick some serious butt!

But no, I still don't like the villain. :/

All in all, despite the shaky world-building and the choice of bad guy, this book is a reasonable debut to a promising-looking series. There are a lot of questions still left unanswered, so I look forward to subsequent books (And hopefully Khareh will be more believable as a bad guy in future books, too)! If you love fantasy and are intrigued by the premise, give it a shot. You might just enjoy it. :)

08/07/2013 - I've just won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway! I'm looking forward to receiving and reading this. :)
Untitled (Masters of the Shadowlands, #8) - Cherise Sinclair 07/08/13: Oh, hey! The title changed from when I added it five days ago, I swear. God, I am so excited for Sally/Galen/Vance!!! *squeals and rolls around on the floor*
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children - Kirstin Cronn-Mills If you're going to read a young adult book about a transgender teenager, think about making it this one.

This is a beautiful, wonderful book. I found myself crying several times, both from happiness and sadness. It was just that kind of book.

Gabe was born Elizabeth, but that isn't who he is. Liz might be his A-side, the side of him that everyone knows, but Gabe is his B-side, and it's time that B-side got some air time. With a radio show taking off, a radio show where he can be Gabe and no one else, it's time for Gabe to finally come out to the world. In his home town, will people be accepting - or anything but?

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is written in first person, and it's done really well. Gabe has a strong voice from the start, like he's stamping his identity all over the pages of the book. Longer scenes were broken up occasionally with short, one sentence scenes. These were pretty powerful, like punches to the stomach. Especially one towards the end. I think, if you read it, you'll all know what I mean.

This is like a showcase of the amazing acceptance that can come from us as human beings, and the most horrific bigotry. Despite some horrible scenes, it was actually a mostly positive book showing all the good that is in people. In books about LGBT youth, this is actually a rarity, so I loved that is was so positive. Sure, it showed all the confusion and doubt that plagued Gabe, and the dangers of coming out, but in the end it was just so overwhelmingly positive that everything was worth it.

And, you know, I'm glad he didn't win the radio competition. It just made it seem so much more like reality. There were things that were more important to him.

It was also a story about Gabe (who happens to be transgender), not just about his transgenderedness. The story would work almost as well if Gabe was biologically male (I'm sure the bigots in the novel would have found something else to target him about). This made me happy, as, as a rule, I don't enjoy 'issue' novels.

I loved Gabe's friendship with Paige, and his friendship with John. Both of the friendships were very different, yet both were equally as strong. Paige and John were very important characters in the story, as without the support network, I'm not sure Gabe would have become who he was in the end.

Cronn-Mills also portrayed Gabe's family very well. Not as evil, horrible parents (and brother), but as ordinary people coming to terms with the fact that their daughter is now a son. That's got to be hard to come to terms with.

The author's note at the back was also very welcome. Cronn-Mills explains that transgender is an umbrella term, and that many people fit under it that do not match Gabe's experience at all. Gabe is just one story. She also reminds people not to label anyone - some people don't fit into anyone's label, and gender is a very fluid, ever-morphing concept. If you had to put a label on him, Gabe would (probably) be transsexual, as he explicitly mentions surgery and wanting to transition (biologically) from one sex to another.

But the best thing to do is not put a label on him at all. Gabe is just Gabe, and this is his story.
A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold - George R.R. Martin This book is part two of A Storm of Swords and I definitely recommend reading them back to back and treating them as one (admittedly huge) book.

There's not really much I can say in this review for fear of spoilers, and I fear that I'm still a bit in shock over the ending to write anything coherent.

That said, this book shattered my nerves and my heart and my soul, and then every time I was recovered it smashed them again. All my feels. *rolls around on the floor, sobbing*

Martin continues to do what he does best in this book. Character and world-building. That, and the plot moves forward in leaps and bounds and, by the end of the book, up is down and down is up. At least, it feels that way. Also, some long-standing mysteries are actually answered!

As far as characters go, Jaime Lannister and Petyr Baelish make huge strides in characterisation - Jamie seems to be growing more morals with every page, and Petyr... well. Petyr is Petyr, I guess. To be honest, every single character grew in this book, and it was amazing to see. And, as far as Stannis is concerned, I am still unclear as to whether I like him or not.

Also, he made me feel sorry for Cersei. That's certainly a feat and a half.

And I still love Jon and Tyrion. I don't think there's anything they could do to make me not love them, but we'll see.

Dany still seems a bit disconnected from everyone else, but I'm pretty sure that all the storylines Martin is weaving will come together at some point.

Even though no one is safe. And even though Martin has massive balls to kill off characters we've invested so much time in.

The plot seems to be moving in a more fantastical direction now (with the dragons and the Others), especially as the threat of the Others is growing with each passing book. It's almost as though the plot we've all been focused on for the last three books was actually a diversion and the true plot is only just making itself known. We'll see.

And, let me just say, Sansa Stark building a snow model of Winterfell was one of the most touching and heartbreaking moments of the series so far.

Part of me is dreading reading the next book, but another part of me can't wait. Such is the conflict I feel when I read these books. In that, Martin is one of my authorial idols.
A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow - George R.R. Martin This novel is only the first half of the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and it shows. Throughout this book, I felt like a rubber band that was slowly being tightened, and tightened, and I'm still waiting for everything to kick off. This is not Martin's fault, exactly, but it is obvious that this is only half of a full book (despite it's length). That being said, I'm dreading reading part two. With all the tension that's been built up in Steel and Snow, Blood and Gold promises to change everything irrevocably.

We are introduced to two new viewpoints in Steel and Snow: Jaime Lannister and Samwell Tarly. With Jaime, the Kingslayer, we get to see a different side to him and, despite everything he has done in the previous two books, I actually found myself growing to like him. Sure, he was arrogant and horrifically rude to Brienne, but, despite that, I liked him. Damn it, Martin. That's a true mark of talent in an author. Samwell's viewpoint was a surprise, especially as it appeared quite a way into the book, but it was a necessary viewpoint. And I'm fond of Samwell, so I'm really glad we can keep track of him now.

I'm also starting to question my dislike of Melisandre, I want to slap Sansa (I hate that she's treating Tyrion like that, even though it's understandable. But I like Tyrion, damn it!A Song of Ice and Fire.

And where's Theon? ;A;

The thing that makes the books in A Song of Ice and Fire stand out is the exquisitely detailed worldbuilding. The banners, the sigils, the histories of the houses, the other cultures, the legends, the songs. I particularly was interested by Astapor, and the Unsullied. When it comes to worldbuilding, Martin is my idol. Sure, there's some people that say he goes into a bit too much detail when it comes to banners, and histories, and many names and minor characters, but I love every word of it. It feels like a real world and, unlike some books, that world does not revolve around the main characters. It lives around them, and people have their own motivations and goals, and it makes me so happy when I read it.

And don't get me started on the intricacies of the politics and intrigue. <3

I love the writing, as well. Martin definitely has a way with words, and some of the sentences just make me want to hug the book and absorb his talent. For example, that very last sentence. Hnngh. <3

The only thing that bothered me about this book was some of the magic. In essence, this is a very realistic and gritty sort of world, and sometimes the more supernatural elements seemed out of place. I could deal with dragons and Others; these seem to be part of the fabric of the world. The magic of the Lord of the Light, however, seems a step too far, especially in regards to Beric Dondarrion. Perhaps this is because the magic is attached to a religion in a world where, otherwise, the gods seem very distant. The Old Gods and the Seven don't do anything to help out the characters, or anything to suggest they might be more than the faith of men; R'hllor seems more than that, and I'm not sure I like it.

All in all, this is the book that seems to be the calm before the storm. Because of the fact it's only half of a book, and therefore feels slightly unsatisfying (plus my issue with R'hllor (which I hope will change)), this one loses a star from me. I'm very glad I have the next book in the series beside me to read, even though it seems as though I'm in for a very bumpy ride.