Review: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown” by Holly Black

Coldest Girl in ColdtownThe Coldest Girl In Coldtown, by Holly Black

Amazon | Goodreads

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

4 stars

Read this book if: you’re looking for adventure, fantastic worldbuilding, and vampire fiction that thinks outside the box.

Do not read this book if: you’re looking for sweet-and-broody vampire romance, or you don’t like blood.  Seriously.  There’s a lot of it.

I read the short story this book started with a while back, and when I found out she was writing a book off the idea, I was very, very excited.  The short story was an interesting take on the vampire myth, free of stereotypes and surprisingly believable.   The novel absolutely lives up to that, and more.  

In this take on the vampire myth, vampirism is well and truly a disease: once infected, people must either drink human blood and turn into vampires or find someone to lock them up for 88 days while they scream and throw up and try to attack anyone who comes close.  If the government finds out you’re infected, you’ll be quarantined in a Coldtown–a walled vampire city–and never, ever allowed to leave, even if you beat the infection.  Due to the existence of the Internet and TV, the public has a somewhat unhealthy fascination with the goings-on in Coldtowns, and lots of people dream of being infected.  In a way, I think what made this book work so well is that it’s not about vampirism so much as it’s about people’s reactions to vampirism.  Some people dream of being turned, romanticizing the idea; some people fight the idea for all they’re worth, even after being infected.  Some people become vampires and stay exactly the same, and some people turn into bloodthirsty maniacs.  Some families lock infected family members in the basement for 88 days and suffer through the screaming, and others turn them in to the police and ship them off to Coldtown.  There’s a broad range of humanity explored through the idea of vampirism here, and I really love how multidimensional the idea gets.

Tana is a very…appropriate main character for her setting.  She’s got some nastiness in her past and some problems in her present, and she ends up going to Coldtown for not-very-good reasons, with minimal preparation and a vampire chained up in the backseat.  Once she gets there, though, she is no helpless vampire-romance heroine.  She is drugged and locked up with two very bad options to choose from, and instead of playing along she makes a third option.  She is threatened and she doesn’t back down; she’s attacked and she defends herself.  Often writers of vampire fiction play up their human characters’ helplessness in the face of such supernatural strength and give the vampires all the agency, but Tana seems to be at her strongest and most formidable when surrounded by people who think she looks yummy.  She gets involved in big, dangerous events and refuses to be sidelined.  She is not taking any of your bloodsucker BS.

I think one of this book’s biggest strengths is its ability to produce character development and worldbuilding without slowing the action down at all.  The author really does her ensemble cast justice here, and it’s delightful.  Even the jerk ex-boyfriend mentioned in the blurb actually gets some interesting character development and does some good things.

Romance didn’t play a very big part, and I was pretty happy with that.  Gavriel, the obligatory mysterious/hot vampire boy, is a good character, there’s no denying that: he’s driven, he’s angry, and he is insane–legitimately crazy–in ways that make a really weird amount of sense.  He fits right in in the opulent, bloody environment of Coldtown: extravagant, devious, gleefully mad, and dangerous in ways even the other vampires can’t guess at.  Which brings me to a plot element I had to think about a LOT before I decided what I thought of it…

–WARNING: Thoughts on relationships ahead.  Spoilery, but only with plot elements that you probably guessed anyway!–

Gavriel is everything I could ask for out of a character, but NOT someone I would want my friend dating.  He and Tana circle each other throughout the book, which, anyone who’s read any YA at ALL knew from the blurb that there would be romantic tension there, right?  I’m super-happy that it’s mostly just romantic tension–these people are REALLY BUSY, they don’t have TIME for smoldery vampire sex.  And Gavriel is not…safe.  He’s unstable, and a self-acknowledged monster.  But he never shows any violence or cruelty or even abuserish tendencies towards Tana (which is better than I can say of 99% of vampire boyfriends out there), and although any relationship between them is going to be inherently abnormal and a bit twisted…I think that’s more because both parties are really abnormal.  They live in a weird, violent world, and they’re both weird, somewhat violent people (okay, Tana’s only violent out of necessity, but she doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with it).  So although it’s certainly not a normal relationship,  it doesn’t seem inherently damaging, just a product of Coldtown and of the two people involved–and I actually am glad that the weirdness of it is acknowledged.  Gavriel gives me the creeps, but he’s supposed to.  At least the narrative acknowledges that he’s not stable, and Tana is aware of it.  And honestly?  I think she can handle him.

–End Predictable Spoilers–

So, basically: this book is dark and bloody and sometimes twisted.  The world is extravagant and insane and manipulative.  People are desperate.  Some of the vampires are still people, and some of them turned into monsters as soon as their bodies gave them permission.  This book has a lot of desperate people (human ones) in it, and also a lot of blood.

If those are not turn-offs for you, I definitely recommend this book.

ARC Review: “Battle Magic” by Tamora Pierce

Battle Magic Battle Magic, by Tamora Pierce

Goodreads |  Amazon

On their way to the first Circle temple in Gyongxi, mages Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy pay a visit to the emperor’s summer palace. Although treated like royalty when they first arrive, the mages soon discover that the emperor plans to invade Gyongxi, posing a fatal threat to the home temple of the Living Circle religion. Accompanied by one of the emperor’s prize captives, the three mages rush to Gyongxi to warn its citizens of the impending attack. With the imperials hot on their trail, Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy must quickly help the country prepare for battle. But even with the help of new allies, will their combined forces be enough to fight the imperial army and win the war?

Four stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Scholastic for this eARC.  This title will be released September 24th, 2013.

So, you remember how I said I was excited for this book?  Immediately after I posted about it, Gretchen and I got an ARC.  We were both extremely excited.  But because Gretchen has more ARCs to review than I do, I get to be the one talking about it!  (Which in retrospect may have been a bad idea, because I am very sleep-deprived.  Bear with me.)  Before I do that, here’s some quick, spoiler-free context if you haven’t read Tammy’s Circle books:

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Weekly Wrap Up + Stacking the Shelves for 9-14-13

wrapup

Welcome to another two week’s Stacking the Shelves and Wrap Up! Sorry I have to do two again, but last weekend just didn’t have the time to do this! As always, watch the video for all the deets, and the links are below the break!

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ARC Review: “Rose Under Fire” by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire

 Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein

Goodreads |  Amazon

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

Five Stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Disney Hyperion for this eARC.  This title will be released September 10th, 2013.

As of typing this paragraph, I finished Rose Under Fire about five hours ago and I still feel…humbled.  I’m not quite sure how to review this book.  How do you even begin to review something this important?

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ARC Review: “Conjured” by Sarah Beth Durst

ConjuredConjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Goodreads |  Amazon

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she’s in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

Two and a Half Stars

Thanks to Negalley and Walker Childrens for this eARC!  This title will be released on September 3rd, 2013.

Fair warning, guys: I have a serious case of Mixed Feelings about this book.

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BREAKING NEWS: My Life is a Notebook Adds a Co-Blogger!

Hey there all! Here comes the really huge news that I’ve been dying to share with you guys. As you know, college has been a huge timesuckMarina and Gretchen for me away from this blog, and I’ve had trouble keeping up with posting. I’ve been searching for a co-blogger for a while now, and I’m SO happy to announce that I’ve found one in my friend Marina! We’ve been friends for more years then I really believe have passed now (I met Marina FRESHMAN YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL and now I’m a COLLEGE SOPHOMORE, I AM SO OLD). Seriously, she’s one of my bestest best friends. Even though we live on opposite ends of the country. (Yay Skype and texting and Facebook!)

But without further ado, she’ll introduce herself!

Rina-1Hi, everybody!  I actually have no idea what Gretchen’s going to write at the top of this post, but I assume she introduced me and I don’t need to say who I am.  I’m a Classics and Anthropology major at a university in Colorado, where I spend silly amounts of unnecessary time in the library.  I also dance a lot of Argentine tango—not only in official venues, but in places like the university fountain, people’s kitchens, and a bowling alley on a Navy base.  I’ve been chatting about reading and writing with Gretchen since high school, which seems strangely long ago at this point.

But those are not the important things when it comes to this blog!  Here are some bookish things about me:

My tastes run a bit more literary than Gretchen’s a lot of the time, although not always.  I also don’t always stick to YA, but I promise that if (okay, let’s get real, when) I review non-YA books on here I’ll tell you why they’re appealing to me as a reader of YA.

I read extremely fast.  This leads to many rereads.

I love gorgeous prose, amazing characters, and atmosphere.  I like fantasy because I love seeing weird new ideas.  I’m a little tired of dystopian, vampires, etc but I’ll give it a go if it looks good.  I adore complex books that will take me a long time to finish, and my favorite books are always books that make me think long after I’ve put them down.

I think the worst sin a book can commit (beyond being terrible, at least) is being forgettable.  I will also rant at books that do bad gender things, just on principle.

A few books I’m exceedingly fond of at the moment, to give you an idea:

  • The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman (I may review this one if I get a chance, actually, as it’s recent)
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • Deathless by Catherynne M Valente
  • Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore (but not Bitterblue.  Seriously, what happened there?)
  • Sunshine by Robin McKinley

I say a few because this list varies from month to month, and by the time October rolls around I may be in the mood for pirates or something.

Anyway, that’s me!  Hello!  It’s lovely to be here, and I can’t wait to get started!

Review: “The Collector” by Victoria Scott

The CollectorThe Collector (Dante Walker #1) by Victoria Scott

Goodreads | Amazon

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence has made him one of Hell’s best — a soul collector. His job is simple, weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.

Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal opportunity collector and doesn’t want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment: Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within 10 days.

Dante doesn’t know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of Hell. But after Dante meets the quirky, Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect—he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector, and uncover emotions long ago buried.

Thanks to NetGalley And EntangledTeen for this ebook! 

2 1/2 stars

When this book came out in April, I watched the blogosphere explode. Given the premise of this book, I thought that maybe there was something to it, so I tracked down a copy of it on NetGalley. you’d think I’d have learned after the Sweet Evil fiasco that maybe I should avoid books I hype up in my head.

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