Juliette has been locked away for over 200 days because of a lethal incident she couldn’t control. An incident involving what happens to people when they touch her skin. When a male
roommmate cellmate moves into her confined space, it’s only the beginning of a new chapter of her life. Not only does she have to relearn how to interact with another human being, his presence heralds a time of change; The Reestablishment, who have taken over the outside world, want to offer Juliette a place on their side. But Juliette, with her roommate’s help, will finally find it in herself to fight to live her own life.
Whew! <– That was my first reaction when I first picked up this book. I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews and hype surrounding this book, and let me tell you–this one deserves it all. This book was so fantastic that when I was stalled on my own thesis novel, I picked it up and suddenly, it was as if the world was made new. All of the changes that had been suggested in my most recent workshop, I saw come alive in Ms. Mafi’s writing. It was as if this book were a manual on how good writing gets done. Like it was speaking to me as a writer. (My classmates and friends will tell you–I recommended the darn thing to every single person who would listen.)
That said, I have to talk about the quality of writing. The story was compelling from the first page–I immediately wanted to know about Juliette, her world, how she would change by the end of the story. And she kept me in suspense the whole time. I’m still in suspense, but it’s even worse now because I want to read book two! (Argh!) I thought the backstory was dispersed evenly throughout the first half. I never felt as if there were info-dumps, or that the story got bogged down in description or history. There was an even pacing and flow to the narrative, as if the story was always moving, and I never felt bored. (I even read the book faster than my usual snail’s pace!) And, of course, it’s told in first-person, and the language itself is very distinctive. Ms. Mafi’s descriptions play with hyperbolic metaphor, but not in a bad way. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, but these moments are overshadowed by moments when I feel the narrative is painting a picture in strokes of vivid, exquisite language. Sometimes I just wanted to hug my book, sigh, and sit back in my chair to savor those poetic lines.
The story itself is pretty cool. Juliette is a bit like Rogue from The X-Men, and the fact that someone wants to use her to hurt people is a very good motivation for her to finally take a stand against people trying to control or confine her. Warner is a twisted guy, and I pretty much was expecting the little “twist” near the end, but I think it was meant to be all-but-stated. Kenji is funny, but doesn’t show up until late in the story. As for Adam, he’s a pretty good male lead. I don’t really see anything very distinctive about him, but I actually love him for the way he treats other people. Just your typical, upstanding good guy. Who wouldn’t want to curl up against him?
And, yes, there is romance! And I didn’t mind it at all! Actually, I barely noticed it for at least the first half of the book. It got more prominent in the second half, but I think it emerged seamlessly so that I wasn’t all “what the–why are they??” as I sometimes am. Ms. Mafi did a good job of keeping the story grounded in the immediacy of the situations and events so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the romantic elements. And that’s just how I like my romance. And the couple’s backstory breaks my heart and warms it at the same time. Lots of “awwwww” from me, imagining them as sad little kids.
I’m pretty new to the dystopian genre, so I can’t really comment on how well it hits the dystopic button. But I can say that I felt like there was a good amount of worldbuilding. There are things wrong with the world, and there’s an explanation to why things are wrong with the world, and it all seems logical to me now that I’ve read to the end. However, I don’t really quite understand the structure of the institution where Juliette is locked up in the beginning. But I’m hoping this gets addressed in later books.
Something I loved about this book was the relationship portrayed between self-perception and power. Juliette is on the verge of insanity at the start, and she is afraid of herself, and how she can hurt other people because people deem her worthy of being locked up. Warner treats her like a pet tiger, Kenji refers to her as the “psycho chick.” Adam treats her like a human being. It isn’t until Juliette believes she can be on the same level as human beings that she finds the inspiration to fight against the system. It isn’t until a person values her or himself that one can see true worth. It’s very well-threaded throughout the story.
Well, I think I’ve rambled on quite a bit. Bottom line: Good book. Very good book. It will hook into you, then make you hungry for a sequel. And it’s a fast read. What’s not to like?
Review copy acquired from the publisher at San Diego Comic Con.
Former Grim Reaper Palequus and discharged cherub Peter are back! While on a fairly innocuous personal mission at a comic convention, troublemakers–inspired by the setting and influenced by a clever baddie named Supremo–rear their heads.
I am so pleased that Mr. Ortiz is writing more ebooks featuring this pair. When I finished this story, I felt like I came away with more cool worldbuilding, especially in regards to Palequus and what he can do. I have a thing for angels, but Palequus is pretty badass. The narrative does feel a little unbalanced because of this focus on him though, as I feel Peter is more along for the ride. But I like both of the protagonists, so it’s not really a problem for me.
The way Mr. Ortiz writes Supremo is interesting. At first he feels like that generic bad guy who is really powerful and has no real motivations but power and destruction. But then he proves himself to be very smart and have specific weaknesses. And by the end, there is a twist on his character that is really intriguing. I do wish that more hints of this end twist could be present earlier in the story. Considering Palequus and Supremo seem to have a past together, I think there are opportunities to mine that history and use it explore the characters more.
Overall, this story is fun. There are twists where I don’t expect them, and spots of humor that hit the mark. (Like the Facebook thing. Oh, SO TRUE.) I obviously enjoy the cool fantasy elements. I do wish there were more to the ending. Right now it feels a little too quick, like I don’t have enough time to process the revelations and what’s happening. Don’t get me wrong, I like the actual plot ending, I just think more narrative time could be spent on it.
When comparing this short to the first Infinity, Ltd story, Unnatural Time, the two feel quite different. Where Unnatural Time was about a mission in a setting that was brimming with the fantastic, 1963! has fantastic elements based in realistic settings. Unnatural Time also, through plot points, spent more time with both Palequus and Peter as characters. In 1963! there is less of that internal gaze and more focus on external action. I think I enjoyed Unnatural Time more because of the above, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time in 1963!
Thanks to Mr. Ortiz for providing the review copy of this story.
You can find the ebook at Smashwords here for 99 hot cents!
All right, time for some short story reviews! Haven’t done one of these in a while. These are two stories you fantasy lovers don’t want to miss.
The story follows a hitman’s job that is more complicated and surprising than one would expect. To say much more, I’m afraid, would spoil the read so I’ll hold back.
This is a story that played with my expectations right from the start, and from the first twist I fell in love. If you happen upon a summary of the story, I’d suggest not reading that summary and allowing yourself the full experience if you like good fantasy. Just know that there is an assassin and there is a guy who has lived a really, REALLY long time.
As good writers do, Pratt treats the fantastical elements with a weight that makes them real and believable. It helps so much that his characters are so unique and filled out, even in the limited page space. They seem so human, even if some are physically barely that.
It isn’t just craft that impresses me here, though. Pratt has taken a great what-if scenario (think: very long life) and worked out the real-life (though fantastical) consequences of the scenario. It’s a fairly common what-if, if I think about it, but I’ve never seen it treated this way before. Great world-building and thoughtfulness involved that really sank into me.
Apparently there is more of this hitman in Pratt’s Marla Mason series?… I’m gonna have to get onto reading those books!
This story is available as an ebook from Barnes & Noble and Amazon for 99 hot cents! I’d suggest buying the whole Hart & Boot & Other Stories collection for just $3, which includes this story. I haven’t gotten through the whole thing, but just from what I’ve read, the collection is so worth it!
A retried Grim Reaper and a discharged cherub investigate a very odd traveling carnival run by the mysterious Mr. Kite. Kind of like The X-Files, but stranger… in a cool way.
Yes, we’re back with Mr. Ortiz! I don’t know if you remember my reviews of his other stories, but the more I read his work, the more I love it. My particular affection for this story might have to do with the fact that the angel has wings and is self-conscious of them. And that’s at the beginning of the story.
Ortiz wastes no time introducing the odd pair of investigators. The story starts in a scene and lets the details of the scene slowly build up and organically inform the reader. There isn’t much introduction necessary, anyway, the real story is the secret behind Mr. Kite’s odd shows, such as the “Seven-Second Empires.”
As the story goes on, I am really drawn into the strangeness of the whole situation–a Grim Reaper, a cherub, really weird carnival shows. I love that Ortiz has imagined a world where the various oddities can exist on the same plane. The writing is fantastic, really doing justice to bringing the fantasy to an imaginable life.
My only gripe, and it is a small one, is that the ending doesn’t have as much oomph as I want it to. I don’t think this is exactly a negative aspect of the story. Rather, I feel as if I want to read more about these characters so I know how they manage to do what they do. I feel like I’m missing part of their story in a larger sense… But there could be more stories in the future, so that’s a good sign!
Well, I’m sure we’re all tired of seeing giveaway posts… (Are… are those crickets I hear?) I’ve decided to start a new feature on the blog, which you can see is called “Flashback Review.” Basically, I’m going to give brief reviews of (more memorable) books I read before I started the blog. These reviews are going to be different because the books aren’t as fresh in my memory (we’re talking from last year to as long as a decade ago… maybe even further back). I’ve decided to do this because there are a lot of books out there just waiting to be read, and I think they deserve hype once in a while, too. Consider these glorified book recommendations, of a sort. I’ll do my best to recall the reading experience, but you’ll have to bear with me.
First up is a favorite book. Not just because I plowed through all 600 pages (I had the mass market paperback) in one weekend, but because it really helped shape me as a writer. Here goes…
Blurb from Goodreads:
The year is 1896, the place, New York City. On a cold March night New York Times reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned to the East River by his friend and former Harvard classmate Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a psychologist, or “alienist.” On the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, they view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy, a prostitute from one of Manhattan’s infamous brothels.
The newly appointed police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, in a highly unorthodox move, enlists the two men in the murder investigation, counting on the reserved Kreizler’s intellect and Moore’s knowledge of New York’s vast criminal underworld. They are joined by Sara Howard, a brave and determined woman who works as a secretary in the police department. Laboring in secret (for alienists, and the emerging discipline of psychology, are viewed by the public with skepticism at best), the unlikely team embarks on what is a revolutionary effort in criminology– amassing a psychological profile of the man they’re looking for based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who has killed before, and will kill again before the hunt is over.
Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian’s exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society’s belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.
Okay now I’m kind of embarrassed because my thoughts are gonna be waaaay shorter…
I think I own two copies of this book. One is the mass market paperback I bought when I was in high school, on a friend’s recommendation. The other is a hardcover I bought years later at a library’s used book sale because I wanted a “nice” version of the book. I don’t usually go around buying two versions of a book, so that’s one sign that it’s pretty darn good.
This book is one of The Books for me. I loved it from the moment I finished the first chapter. John Schuyler Moore’s voice as a narrator is so strong and distinct and alive that this was actually the first time I really, truly noticed Voice in writing. It was by emulating this voice that I learned how to create characters from the mere detail of what a character sounds like. (It’s probably thanks to this book that most of my stories and novels are in first person.) Not only is this good writing, but the voice is totally appropriate for the story it tells. The lush worldbuilding, especially of the seamy underbelly of New York, really put me at a time when yes, people talked like that and people probably did those things.
The characters are really cool, too. For some reason, I remember the side characters more strongly than Dr. Kriezler, which is actually a testament to Carr’s characterization. Sara Howard is a cool cat in more ways than one. There’s Stevie, a badass street urchin under Kriezler’s wing, who actually gets to tell his own story in the sequel. And, of course, there’s good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt. Come on! Teddy Roosevelt is in this book! And I love every page he’s on, even if he’s not on many of them.
The story itself is pretty dark. Like, really dark. I was pretty immune to it because that’s the way I am, but for those with weak stomachs or delicate sensibilities, even if you love mysteries or historical books or really good writing… this may not be the book for you. It is about the dark psychology behind really gruesome murders, and Carr does not hold back on the gritty, gory details. Don’t worry too much about the actual psychology, though, I don’t remember getting bogged down in science. (It wasn’t too much of a science back then, so…) There are heartbreaking revelations and twists, too.
I don’t remember much about the weekend I sat down to read this book maybe ten years ago. I just remember that reading this book was pretty much all I did during those two days. (You all know how slow I am!) I was a totally different person when I finished it. I got a step closer to being a Writer after I closed the covers. I couldn’t ask for anything better from a book.