Monthly Archives: April 2012

When The Sea Is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

In Pelimburg-city of storm and sea and spray-magic is power. Both are controlled by an elite class, who inhale scriven dust to enhance their natural talents.

As the only daughter of the city’s founding family, Felicita has a luxurious but narrow life, one that is ruled by a list of traditionally acceptable and appropriate behaviors. When her dearest friend, Ilven, throws herself over the cliffs and into the sea to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own suicide and escapes to the slums, leaving behind everything she’s ever known, including the means to practice magic. Soon she’s living in a squat, working as a scullery girl, and falling hard for charismatic renegade Dash while also becoming fascinated by the strange, thrilling magic of vampire Jannik.

Then translucent corpses begin to wash up onshore. As it becomes clear that Ilven’s death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic that the upper class with their scriven are powerless against, Felicita must decide where her true loyalties lie-with the family she’s abandoned, or with those who would harness this dark power to destroy Pelimburg’s caste system, and the whole city along with it.

Good books sneak up on you, most of the time. There is no predicting which ones will really strike you in just the right way. Half of the time the books I’m really excited about reading don’t meet my expectations. When the Sea is Rising Red was an unexpected pleasure.

In Felicita’s world, there are certain inevitabilities to life. Men have the power. Girls marry who their told. Magic is powerful… and only the elite Houses have magic. Felicita is born into one of those houses and, despite her unhappiness at the way her older brother is able to rule her life, she doesn’t think to question that this is the natural order of things. Until her best friend dies. Ilven throws herself into the sea rather than be married off in a deal that benefits her family. When Felicita is soon after betrothed, she decides to take charge of her life by faking suicide and venturing into a world that’s completely different from her own.

It started off somewhat slowly for me. Up until a certain point I had trouble really being drawn into Felicita’s world. It was like watching events through a window. But once she enters the house on Whelk Street everything sprang to life. The characters are so wonderful! I wished the book was longer so that we could have learned even more about the people Felicita meets.

The world here seemed very well thought out without being spelled out for the reader. I loved that the slang flowed. Unnecessary slang is one of my pet peeves, but the made up words in this book really seemed to fit.

I liked how dark and gritty this world was. Not just the things that happened, but the people and emotions too. Motives and desires totally got twisted up at times in a way that made me shiver because it was just so well written! There’s a lot of drama and beautiful, haunting imagery, but it wasn’t over the top. Always tempered.

Details could get a bit murky at times. The ending felt rushed to me. I could see it coming and then BANG. There it was. I could have used a bit more buildup and explanation. Some of Felicita’s actions in the final scenes don’t entirely make sense to me. While this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book as a whole, it is worth noting. As far as main characters go, she could be quite passive. Normally this would bother me more, but for some reason it didn’t here. Maybe because she didn’t strike me as a weak character, even though her actions didn’t ultimately have much of an impact.

This book had vampires that I actually liked! It wasn’t about vampires, but they did play a role. And they weren’t annoying or overly romanticized, nor overly violent.

In Conclusion: Really good! Cat Hellisen’s writing style felt very fresh and unique to me. I hope to see more from her.


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In The Woods & The Likeness by Tana French

Whoa! Has it really been a month? I have definitely fallen behind on the review process, that much is clear. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading! I’m right on track for my goal of reading 100 books, I just haven’t had enough time to write down my thoughts on all of them. But I want to get back on track with that. And I have a lot of thoughts about The Likeness.

It’s impossible for me to review The Likeness without first talking about In The Woods, so lets see what the summary for that book looks like first.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones.

Oooh, chilling right? I don’t read a lot of mysteries. Not because I don’t like them, but because I got freaked out reading Nancy Drew as a kid. Don’t even get me started on how freaked out I was by reading Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Basically I’m a big wimp. But at the same time I get hooked very easily. Once I start, I HAVE to know who did it. If I hear even the opening Law & Order noise, I have to watch the episode. So once I read the description to In The Woods, I HAD to read it. I needed to know what was up with the blood in his shoes, what had happened to the other kids, how these cases were connected. I was drawn in before I even opened the book.

Here’s the part where I warn you about SPOILERS! NASTY SPOILERS THAT WILL RUIN THE MYSTERY!

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