Saturday, March 26, 2011

Savannah Grey

Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish

It’s incredibly rare that a book manages to vault itself onto my “favorite books ever” list within the first two paragraphs. Only one book comes to mind, at least within recent memory: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman captivated me by the first line. Now I’ve found a second: Cliff McNish’s Savannah Grey, and it did so with incredible force.

What did it? Paragraph number 2: “Reaching number thirty-three, Savannah Grey’s house, the Horror dropped its star-shaped head on one side, knotted its murderous claws behind its back, and tried to work out the most entertaining way to reach Savannah’s bedroom. There were many ways available, but the Horror was young and like all young things, it liked to use its teeth.”

How, I ask, can a book be dull with an opening like that? I was immediately captivated. Not even the change in narrative styles to first person once Savannah awoke diminished the storytelling. I was delighted when I saw that the original voice returned every few chapters to detail more of the Horror and the ancient Ocrassa that controlled it. Neither voice suffered, instead offering a depth to the already compelling story.

While the human characters were well crafted, the monsters came to life with a vibrancy that made me want to see the child-like Horror prance about in a stolen leotard and chasse and leap about while terrorizing humans. The way McNish tells of the Ocrassa’s history is as though he is telling of the Earth itself, incredibly powerful and moving. While explicitly evil, the Ocrassa is rendered in such a way that its actions seemed logical given what it was. I’ve never seen a writer make monsters feel so natural in our world. It’s incredible and not something I can accurately express in a brief review.

In addition to all this, the book ends exactly where and as it should. While there are some flaws (which I’d daresay are minor in comparison to its incredible strengths), I’ve read so few books that seemed nearly perfect in so many ways. This is one you have to read for yourself. Although many of you may disagree with my thoughts, you can’t read this and not wonder at the incredibly rich and original universe McNish created here. It’s astounding.

Thanks to Carolrhoda and NetGalley for the review copy.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton


Or maybe “ordinary” is a better descriptor for this book. I wanted to like it, but there just wasn’t enough that was different or special or extraordinary enough to keep my interest. Honestly, it’s a fine paranormal romance and I’m sure there are legions of teen girls/women who will really enjoy it, but for me, the spark wasn’t there.

I’m realizing that I don’t connect with Angelfire, as well as the reason I don’t feel like finishing it, is that I’m more excited to get back to watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I’m only now watching. If Moulton is not a diehard Joss Whedon fan, I’ll be very surprised because the influence and mirrored tone are obvious.

Sadly, the story never developed its own distinct and distinctive style. It’s too much a watered down Buffy—without the great dialogue and fun but keeping all the teenage romance and angst intact—for me to be interested in the substitute while I’m still discovering the real thing.

So I’m going to finish this review quickly so I can get back to Season 3 Episode 15: Consequences.

Edit: I ended up skimming to see what happened at the end. And still I say, average.

Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the review copy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Search

The Search by Nora Roberts

I wish I could rate this book higher than 3 stars, but as other reviewers have mentioned, Nora Roberts spends way too much time detailing how to train dogs and the step-by-step process of using search-and-rescue dogs. If you cut 90% of that description out, the book would surely drop 100 pages and be much better for it. It's a nice read, and I really like the characterization of Simon. He is a straight-talking, no-nonsense guy who says exactly what he thinks, with most of it unflattering to the heroine. For some reason, it strikes me as honest and authentic, and I adore it.

Unfortunately, Fiona comes off very controlling and boring with the insane tendency to treat the whole world—family and friends included—as dogs to be trained. Normally I wouldn't mind, but the overanalyzing thoughts bog down the narrative and make the character flat, though not quite unlikable.

Otherwise, an enjoyable story. So to be fair, it's more of a 3 1/2-star book, though it still misses out on its full potential.