Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Published: 2010
Pages: 344
Series: Fairytale Retellings #1
Read: 7th February 2011
Challenge: 1st in a Series (1/20)
Status: Owned book
Reason I Read It: I bought it because I stumbled upon Jackson's blog, I read it because of the reason stated below.

Synopsis: The March sisters, Scarlett and Rosie, have been fighting the Fenris (werewolves) ever since one of them killed their grandmother.  But now the wolves are looking for one boy in all the world to be turned, and the sisters decide to take the fight to them, hoping to wipe out the whole lot before the new one can be bitten.  There is violence, Platonic philosophy, tattoos, bowling, and girls kicking arse.  And it is awesome.

First Line: "Strangers never walk down this road, the sisters thought in unison as the man trudged towards them."

Review: Just to quickly get this out of the way - I bought this book last summer (I think when it came out) but I only started reading it because of the Bitch magazine huha.  I didn't pick it up until I read this article, especially point 6 in which Sisters Red is compared to a Buffy episode I love, and then I knew I had to read it.  So, I am aware of the debate going on around this and the other two books, but I'm not sure that I'm qualified to get involved in the discussion because I haven't been following it from the beginning - all of my information about what happened is based on articles other people have written.  Basically, I'm aware but don't want to get involved; I am employing the survival technique of ostriches everywhere.


I think the Buffy comparison is a good one, because for most of this book I was thinking that the easiest way to describe it was as Buffy-meets-Twilight-with-werewolves-instead-of-vampires*, and my love of Buffy far outweighs my dislike of Twilight so I was happy.  The Twilight element was only really in the main love story, but even that is rational and explained as people's feelings changing after they've known each other for years.  I didn't completely feel it, but I never tend to completely feel romances which are a bit of a sudden boom, we're in love - that's just me, and I'm aware that Buffy/Angel (Bangel?) is pretty much that.  And at least no one was secretly watching anyone else sleep.

However, the romance wasn't the sole focus of the novel; that was reserved for fighting the Fenris.  There was a point at which I wondered if every man in Atlanta was a Fenris, but that was addressed as logical because they're all in the city hunting for the Potential**.  In fact, every time I thought "oh, come on, it's blatantly obvious that it's So-and-So", the book provided clues that it wasn't - until the end in which it turned out that what I'd seen coming was indeed going to happen, but in a twisty way that made sense.  This is me trying very hard not to spoil, but I didn't see the logic behind the solution until it was presented to me (cryptic reviewer is cryptic) and then I was cursing because it was bloody obvious.

For the twistiness of the end, and girls beating up wolves in amazing action scenes - seriously, very good fights - I loved this book.  The beginning creeped me the hell out, as I tweeted, and there was action in pretty much every chapter.  The easiest way to sum it up is: it's one of the few paranormal romances I like.  I can't wait for the second in the series, Sweetly***, even though it doesn't feature the March sisters.  I'm once again glad there was a fuss over a book as it's made me read it (last time was Slaughterhouse-5).

Rating: 7/10

* I know there are werewolves in both of those series, but I'd say the primary focus is on the vampires.
** Who thankfully did not turn out to have a bad fake 'British' accent; yes, Molly, I mean you.
*** Side note: how awesome are the covers for these books?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Review: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Published: 1881
Pages: 266
Series: N/A
Read: 3rd February 2011
Challenge(s): Victorian Literature Challenge & Project Fill in the Gaps
Reason I Read It: It's on my Fill in the Gaps list.

Synopsis: Young Jim Hawkins has to deal with drunkards, mutineers, idiots who are fortunately on the other side, idiots who are unfortunately on his side, treachery, rum, skeletons and rum as he looks for treasure on Treasure Island - and all because his mother refused to be done out of money, even when pirates were trying to break into their home.

First Line: "Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17—, and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof."

Review: I have to admit, most of my pre-reading knowledge of this story comes from the Muppets, which meant that as I read I was a) expecting things from the plot which, obviously, weren't going to happen; and b) imagining Tim Curry as Long John Silver which, having recently watched the end of Criminal Minds series 5, was not necessarily a Good Thing.  Though trying to remember which Muppets were which characters did lend a certain something to the proceedings, especially as Ben Gunn = Miss Piggy adds a whole new level to the novel.

Of Stevenson's other books, I've read Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde, and this is closer to the former.  I think I prefer Kidnapped, though it has been a while since I read it all the way through and half the fun of that book is how utterly crazy Alan Breck Stewart is.  Long John comes close to being as entertaining, but didn't quite get there; the other pirates all fall under the heading of "could you people be any dafter, this is ridiculous, please stop running around like drunken sheep".  None of the characters really drew me in, and Jim was a bit annoying as he was retelling the story from an adult's point of view and justifying some pretty silly moves.  I know that they ultimately helped the good guys and that he's a boy (query: how old is he meant to be?) but there were times when I was shaking my head.  I think that may be my main issue with the novel: people doing silly things even when they've been told not to - like the squire broadcasting that they're off on a treasure hunting cruise to everyone in Bristol, or during a mad dash escape when the heroes decide to stop and check if they've killed an enemy, then stand around congratulating themselves rather than, I don't know, heading for safety.

There were also times when the story dragged a little.  There are some seriously awesome set pieces - especially the fight on the ship during "My Sea Adventure"* - but other times when things are slowed right down when what you really want is more swashbuckling fun.  Some of this might be due to all the nautical speak, although I don't get bored by that in Master and Commander or Antonia Forest.  Of course, this might just be me.  I was in this for a madcap dash round the island, complete with pirates and rum (oh so much rum in this book), and this wasn't entirely what I got.  I kept reading, though, because the fantastically creepy bits - Blind Pew, the pirates coming back to The Admiral Benbow, the skeleton compass - far outweigh the slightly dull bits where I skimmed to get to the next brilliant bit.  And, as I recall, there are bits in Kidnapped when I skimmed (the bit on the island - ah, it's an island thing).

All in all, Treasure Island is fun, and for a Victorian novel it's very readable.  The heroes don't always make easy choices, not everything goes their way despite a lot of luck of overhearing things on Jim's part, and there are pirates.  Also, Dr Livesey has parmesan in his snuff box.

Rating: 6/10

* This would be me not spoiling that bit, because it is amazing.
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