The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Raven Boys book cover

Information

Goodreads: The Raven Boys
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Source: Gift
Published: 2012

Official Summary

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Star Divider

Review

Before picking up The Raven Boys (which someone gifted me), the only thing I’d read by Maggie Stiefvater was Shiver around its release, and I was not impressed. I’ve been studiously avoiding Stiefvater’s other books all these years under the assumption they were also, well, flat and not very good, so I am happy to report that The Raven Boys blew away all my negative expectations and left me with a story that was engaging and took me by surprise at several turns. It also kept me up at night because I’d had no idea that it dealt with ghosts and the occult, and people seemed constantly in danger of dying or being possessed or otherwise meeting a creepy end.

I sat on drafting this review for several days after I finished the book because, even though I enjoyed it, it’s hard to pinpoint my exact thoughts on the story. Ultimately, I think that’s a plus. A friend saw me reading the book, skimmed the back cover, and determined it sounded like a “typical” YA book — which is when it struck me that it’s really not. There aren’t a lot of tropes I associate with YA, or the kind of structure or narrative voice I often associate with YA books. The story is just kind of doing its own thing, which I appreciate.

When I’ve seen other people review this series, I always got the impression people were just talking about hot boys, but I think the standout characteristic is actually the sense of mystery about the whole story. It starts with a mystery, why Blue can see a spirit on the corpse road when she never has before, and then just keeps entangling more and more mysteries around that. Not all of them are solved at the end of the book, which honestly seemed a bit abrupt, but I know that’s to make readers buy the sequel.

The boys themselves, then, I can take or leave. Maybe it gets better in the following books, but I actually thought their relationships with each other could have been better defined in this book. They all seem like vaguely interesting people, but I often wasn’t that invested in them as characters (I was more interested in the plot), and I think that might be different if I felt more strongly about their friendship. Things between them often seem hinted at but…I really feel “meh” about them as a whole.

My greatest issue is that I think The Raven Boys is objectively good, original and well-written. I didn’t really connect with it on any level though, so I’m really on the fence about whether I’ll read the rest of the series.

Briana
4 stars

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

Information

Goodreads: Tunnel of Bones
Series: Cassidy Blake #2
Source: Library
Publication Date: 2019

Summary

Cass and Jacob continue their paranormal adventures as they leave Edinburgh and head off to Paris so Cass’s parents can continue filming their new ghost show.  However, a dark spirit haunts the Catacombs and, if Cass cannot figure out a new way to defeat him, all of Paris will soon be in trouble.

Star Divider

Review

Like City of Ghosts before it, Tunnel of Bones proves a largely uninspired middle-grade paranormal adventure, in which a girl befriends a ghost and then finds out it is her purpose to travel beyond the Veil in order to send restless spirits on.  The concept of ghostly friendships has been a staple of middle-grade contemporaries for awhile, and the idea of ghost hunting is obviously very common, as well.  To set her book apart, Victoria Schwab really needs something special–a new twist, an engrossing world, unbelievable characters.  Schwab, however, does not deliver anything special.  Tunnel of Bones is a pleasant, if unmemorable, middle-grade ghost story.

Part of what makes Tunnel of Bones so unmemorable to me is the lack of strong characterization.  Readers have little sense of who Cass’s parents are, except that her dad is a skeptical historian and her mother is a believer.  They exist mainly to take Cass with them around the globe so she can find new ghosts.  Lara, Cass’s expert on paranormal affairs, comes to life a little more since she has an acerbic personality, but she exists largely to forward the plot, as well–she is literally just on speed dial to help Cass find new leads on ghosts.  Secondary characters prove just as lackluster.  In Tunnel of Bones, readers meet Pauline, a woman who says she does not believe, but who seems to fear ghosts nonetheless.  This ought to have made her an interesting characters, but readers never receive her backstory and so never receive an opportunity to dig deeper into who she is and what makes her tick.

The one redeeming feature of the series so far has been the friendship between Cass and Jacob.  Their dynamic is interesting because Cass says she feels strongly about their friendship, and this does seem to be the case.  At the same time, however, she regularly ignores Jacob’s fears, his wants, and his advice because she believes she knows better and must do anything–even risk death–in order to fulfill her “purpose” and send ghosts on.  (One can understand Jacob’s reluctance to accept such a purpose, since it suggests Cass ought to send him on, as well–something Lara repeatedly reminds Cass.)  It is easy for Cass to ignore Jacob since he is a ghost and no one else can see or hear him.  So it is fascinating to see Jacob’s loyalty to Cass regardless and his protectiveness of her.

I had hoped that the ending of Tunnel of Bones would lead into more of the drama surrounding Cass and Jacob’s friendship, and whether Cass should, indeed, send Jacob on.  Instead, readers receive a rather boring set-up for the next book–boring because so vague that I can not be bothered to feel spooked by it.  My only thought is that Schwab does not want to go too deeply into the Jacob issue yet in case there are more books than three to be written for the series.  So, ho hum.  Tunnel of Bones is a nice middle-grade book, but very standard and very uninspired.  Younger readers not familiar with better books with the same concepts may enjoy it more.

3 Stars

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

darkest part of the forestINFORMATION

Goodreads: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Series:  None
Source: Gift
Published: 2015

SUMMARY

Hazel Evans and her brother Ben live in the town of Fairfold, where the locals know that Fae inhabit the forest and that if you are smart you leave out milk to appease them and go indoors after dark.  Tourists come each year to view the prince in the glass coffin, the boy with horns on his head.  And Hazel and Ben dream that he is their prince and they can set him free.  But when he finally awakes, he is  not the prince they were expecting.

Review

The Darkest Part of the Forest achieves that rare feat of making the girl who kisses all the boys not the snotty “popular” girl but the protagonist.  Even when she admits she breaks hearts by making some of the guys think they have a chance, she doesn’t seem like the type of character you want to hate, but the type of character you want to save from herself.  But perhaps it helps that we see very little of her high school life and much more of secret woodland life–the one where she hunts the magical creatures who harm others.

Without making a big deal out of it, Holly Black casts Hazel as the sword-wielding hunter/champion and Hazel’s brother Ben as the cautious one, and the one who possesses a magical gift for music.  We don’t have to read any justifications for this or read any “girl power” manifestos.  This is just the way it is.  A teenage girl can pick up a weapon and her brother can prefer not to fight.  Now let’s jump into the action.

The story itself is perhaps not novel or groundbreaking.  Indeed, as I sit here writing a review, I struggle to remember just what I thought of it.  It was interesting.  It kept me reading through the night.  I liked it.  I just don’t have much to say about it.  If you like fantasy or fairies or paranormal romance, you will probably like this.  It’s not particularly mysterious or romantic or thrilling, but it tells a story and it does it without feeling like it’s using all the YA cliches.  Sometimes that’s enough.

3 starsKrysta 64

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George (ARC Review)

silver in the bloodInformation

Goodreads: Silver in the Blood
Series: None
Source: Netgalley
Publication Date: July 7, 2015

Official Summary

Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate . . . or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

Review

Jessica Day George’s Silver in the Blood indisputably proves that there is something left to be said for books about werewolves and vampires.  Taking a historical bent, the story follows young New York ladies Darcia and Lou as they visit their family’s home in Romania for the first time–and stumble upon a wealth of danger and secrets.

Admittedly, the suspense as to what exactly these secrets are is drawn out so long that it comes close to being boring; readers may find they just resign themselves to the fact they don’t know and may, at the rate the book is progressing, never know, instead of staying on the edge of their seats. Once the secrets are revealed, however, the pace picks up and the drama increases; the second half of the book will definitely keep readers hooked.

Until then, readers are treated with some great character studies of protagonists Darcia and Lou.  The two girls are inseparable, and this literary friendship is sure to please.  Their thoughts and actions are revealed to readers alternately through epistolary and narrative sections.  The form is nice homage to Dracula and to a time period where epistolary novels were more in vague, yet the mix of styles also means the novel is able to feel modern.

Jessica Day George is one of my favorite fairy tale retelling authors.  Her foray into folklore, vampires, and werewolves shows she has great range in writing, and that she can write young adult that is just a touch dark.  A great choice for fans of Shannon Hale, Julie Kagawa, or Cameron Dokey.

Briana

Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith (ARC Review)

return to augie hobbleInformation

Goodreads: Return to Augie Hobble
Series: None
Source: Shelf Awareness giveaway
Published: May 5, 2015

Official Summary

Augie Hobble lives in a fairy tale-or at least Fairy Tale Place, the down-on-its-luck amusement park managed by his father. Yet his life is turning into a nightmare: he’s failed creative arts and has to take summer school, the girl he has a crush on won’t acknowledge him, and Hogg Wills and the school bullies won’t leave him alone. Worse, a succession of mysterious, possibly paranormal, events have him convinced that he’s turning into a werewolf. At least Augie has his notebook and his best friend Britt to confide in-until the unthinkable happens and Augie’s life is turned upside down, and those mysterious, possibly paranormal, events take on a different meaning.

Review

Return to Auggie Hobble is a book that most readers will either love or hate.  It is imaginative, quirky, and a little gritty, but it is also disjointed and, at times, inexplicable.  It is difficult to categorize and difficult to pinpoint what is holding the story together, beyond Augie Hobble himself.  While this will be frustrating for readers who like something resembling order in novels, it may appeal to readers who see in its structure a mirroring of the messiness of life or readers who just like to read about wild and entertaining turns of events.

The jacket of the ARC summarizes the novel in appropriately vague terms, stating that “Augie’s life is turned upside down, and those mysterious, possibly paranormal events take on a different meaning.”  Notably, the summary never barely says anything about what the original meaning of these events is supposed to be or may be imagined to be, which is bewildering, and, frankly, the mark of a poorly-written synopsis.  However, this bewilderment perfectly matches the experience of reading the book itself: a bunch of ill-defined potentially paranormal things happen, and the suggestion is that werewolves are happening (but nothing more concrete than that…just werewolves…around us…as us…maybe), and then suddenly something different paranormal is happening!  No explanation of anything given.

Interspersed with all this sort-of-maybe-probably paranormal stuff, however, are a couple other story lines.  First, Augie has failed creative arts and must make up his final project over the summer.  This, too, is odd since “creative arts” is not a standard school subject and it is not even usual for middle school kids to be able to fail a whole subject due to one bad project (trust me: no teacher wants to see you in summer school).  However, this project does prop up what little structure the novel has.  The second story line is the saga of Augie’s father’s failing amusement park, Fairy Tale Place, which provides an appropriately bizarre setting for such a bizarre story of creativity and paranormalcy.

The book functions as both novel and Augie’s notebook of creative arts project ideas, so the reading experience is of a hybrid novel/graphic novel.  This is doubtlessly one of the book’s major selling points.  The comics, writings, and photos certainly contribute to the book’s quirk and are one of the major ways the author conveys Augie’s personality to the readers.  They also showcase the author’s talent as an illustrator.  However, they do add to the sense that the book is essentially haphazard.

Simply put, Return to Augie Hobble has a lot going on, and it is not always logical, and it does not always mesh.  It will appeal to readers who either like the craziness of it all or who just appreciate its somewhat dark tone.  Yet a lot of readers will undoubtedly be frustrated, baffled, or both.  Although I understand what the book is trying to do, I personally fall in the frustrated camp, and cannot think of a particular reader I would actually recommend the book to.   Either way, the book will incite strong reactions, and is likely to find a dedicated audience somewhere.Briana

The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

The SwallowInformation

Goodreads: The Swallow: A Ghost Story
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: Sept. 2014

Summary

Polly and Rose live next door, but they lead completely different lives.  Polly’s family is large and boisterous, and all she really wants is to be left alone.  Rose’s family, meanwhile, never speak to her and neither do her classmates or her teachers.  Polly wishes she were invisible, but Rose knows just how much that hurts.  Polly, meanwhile, hopes to find adventures like the ones she reads about–maybe she’ll even see a ghost!  Rose sees ghosts all the time and thinks she’s cursed.  When Polly meets Rose, she thinks her adventure has finally begun.  After all, Rose just doesn’t see ghosts–she may actually be one.

Review

I’ll be the first to admit that, despite the old adage “Never judge a book by it’s cover,” I often do–if it’s as gorgeous as the one for The Swallow.  Something that beautiful, combined with a plot summary about female friendship and the sadness of ghosts, promises one of those delicate, haunting reads.  The kind that cover blurbs like to describe as “lyrical.”  Unfortunately, though The Swallow strives mightily to live up to its cover, the execution lacks the necessary subtlety.  What could have been a truly memorable story is, in the end, nothing truly remarkable.

The story has an admittedly rough start, one that could even be called heavy-handed.  In an effort to juxtapose the lives of the two protagonists Polly and Rose, the author tells the story through their two voices.  The perspectives switch after every other page, sometimes sooner, creating a somewhat jarring effect that takes time to become accustomed to.  Worse, the opening pages are nothing more than exposition, the “telling” kind.  Polly starts off by complaining about her large family.  Rose follows complaining about her absent family.  Polly wishes she were invisible. Rose is invisible.  Polly is overweight.   Rose is underweight.  Polly wants to see a ghost.  Rose sees ghosts all the time.  “THESE GIRLS ARE OPPOSITES!” the story yells.  Why that is so important, I never really found out.  The girls, I think, would have been friends regardless.

Unfortunately, I think the story does think that the juxtaposition is important, but it fails to make its point.  Usually one would expect that their differences would teach the girls to appreciate what they have, or maybe give them strategies to help them make their lives better.  For example, Polly might invite lonely Rose over to visit her family or her example might help Rose to communicate with others more.  Rose might give Polly strategies on how to create a space for herself.  However, their friendship does not ultimately drive the changes in the story.  Instead, the malignant entity in Rose’s house does.  It’s unexpected for a story about friendship.

I wanted to love The Swallow, but the constant switching of perspectives, combined with a plot that often seems slow, made it a bit of a struggle for me to get through the book.  I closed the pages feeling disappointed that this one really didn’t live up to its cover, after all.

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper (ARC Review)

Salt and StormInformation

Goodreads: Salt & Storm
Series: None
Source: Netgalley
Publication Date: September 23, 2014

Official Summary

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whale men safe and prosperous at sea. But before she could learn how to control her power, her mother, the first Roe woman in centuries to turn her back on magic, stole Avery away from her grandmother. Avery must escape from her mother before her grandmother dies, taking with her the secrets of the Roes’ power.

When Avery awakens from a dream foretelling her own murder, she realizes time is running short—for her and for the people of her island, who, without the Roes, will lose their ships and the only life they know.

With the help of Tane, a tattooed harpoon boy from the Pacific Islands, Avery plots her escape from her mother and unravels the mysteries of her mother’s and grandmother’s pasts. Becoming a witch may prevent her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers it will also require a sacrifice she never expected—one she might not be able to make.

Review

Kendall Kulper’s Salt & Storm is a masterpiece witch book.  With an elaborately developed system of magic and a rich history of witches and their tenuous relationship with the normal people they help, Salt & Storm approaches the topic of witchcraft with insight and realism.  In Salt & Storm, magic can earn one power and respect—but it also comes with a price.  Protagonist Avery, who has dreamed of becoming the Prince Island witch since her childhood is willing, determined, to pay that price and more.

There are all kinds of witch books in the world, and although I am a fan of the Harry Potter type, where magic is glitzy and fun with an occasionally quirk, I also have a soft spot in my heart for books that portray magic as a little more, well, complicated.  In the real world, witchcraft has been historically stigmatized, and I enjoy seeing characters who have to face a bit of that history, who wrestle with what it means to be a witch surrounded by people who are not.  Salt & Storm is such a book.

Avery has always wanted to be the Prince Island witch, partially because it is a family tradition (or perhaps a destiny), partially because she has seen how magic has enabled her grandmother to fend for herself in a man’s world, and partially because she wants to help the people of Prince Island.  Her family’s witchcraft has kept the Prince Island whalers safe and profitable for generations. Without her family’s aid, men die.

Salt & Storm is the story of Avery’s attempts to fulfill her dreams, and the obstacles she encounters—mainly in the form of her crazy mother.  But it is also the story of how she realizes that becoming the witch could be painful, and how she discovers that people love a witch when things go right but hate her when things go wrong.  Magic is not fun in Salt & Storm.  It is a responsibility, perhaps a curse.  And Avery must decide if it is worth bearing.  Salt & Storm, though entertaining, is also psychologically complex and asks a lot of good questions about how much people owe society and how much they owe themselves.

Avery is a fantastic protagonist to encounter these questions.  She is strong and absolutely determined to take control of her own destiny.  Personally, I do not think that Avery always makes the best decisions; her age occasionally shows in the fact that she thinks she has all the answers when she clearly does not.  However, I can still respect a character who sincerely tries to do her best and to be resilient against adversity.  Her mistakes only make her more realistic.  I think a lot of readers will enjoy her.

Avery’s story is beautifully set on the fictional Prince Island, which bases its economy almost solely on whaling. Kulper paints the island vividly, with an almost tangible atmosphere.  Salt & Storm is a pretty accurate description of the place, in addition to the story.  The island also has a thorough history going back generations.  The occasionally insertion of family lore evoke the stories of L. M. Montgomery writing about Prince Edward Island over a century before.

The romance, unfortunately, is less impressive than the other aspects of the novel.  Despite spending a significant amount of time together and sharing their hopes and fears (usually great ways to build a realistic romantic relationship in novels), Avery and Tane simply seem to be lacking chemistry. They say they care for each other, they act as though they care for each other, and they probably do.  I just don’t feel it.  However, Avery undoubtedly chooses a good man—which can sometimes be a challenge, both in books and in real life.  So if she chooses a nice guy that I personally cannot imagine her spending the rest of her life with, well, she could do worse, especially as a teenager dating for the first time.  I’m willing to let a less than compelling relationship go, especially since I do view Salt & Storm primarily as a witch book and secondarily as a romance.

Salt & Storm is undeniably well-written—a complex story about a complex girl who must find her way in a world that turns out to be less certain than she believed.  Fans of strong heroines, sea stories, or witch books will all find something to love in Salt & Storm.  A very thoughtful, moving, and imaginative book.

Briana

Dangerous Boy by Mandy Hubbard

Dangerous BoyGoodreads: Dangerous Boy
Source: ARC

Official Summary: A modern-day retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a chilling twist.

Harper has never been worried about falling in love, something she is skeptical even exists. But everything changes when Logan moves to town, and to Harper’s shock, the two tumble into an intense romance. It’s everything she never thought she wanted.

Then she meets Logan’s twin brother, Caleb, who was expelled from his last school. True, he’s a bad boy, but Harper can’t shake the feeling that there’s something deeply sinister about him–something dangerous. When Logan starts pulling away, Harper is convinced that Caleb’s shadowy past is the wedge being driven between them. But by the time she uncovers the truth, it may be too late.

ReviewDangerous Boy presents itself as a dark, suspenseful read that will send chills down readers’ spines.  However, the closest it gets to its goal is giving the distinct impression that the author is striving to create a scary atmosphere.  Spooky locations and creepy pranks pop up one after another, but in the end they feel contrived.  I, a person scared by everything, was not particularly moved.

The novel overall felt like something the author had crafted.  It opens with a somewhat standard cliffhanger prologue, then backpedals to the main story. Characters are introduced, necessary background information thrown in, and words used “creatively” (i.e. in contexts that almost make sense, but actually do not).  Hubbard clearly has experience writing, notably Prada & Prejudice, but Dangerous Boy reads as if she has a concrete idea of how a book is supposed to work and then forces it to do so; neither the writing nor the story seem effortless and natural.

The plot, instead of transitioning smoothly, jumps around from location to location. Occasionally there is the impression the author means to achieve some type of dramatic effect by revealing some new information and then cutting to another scene, but the reading experience mostly feels stilted instead of exciting.  The overarching plot does not compensate for these flaws.  From the beginning a reader will see there are two possible outcomes to the book: the one the book heavily foreshadows, or a plot “twist” that is easy to guess.

The characters of Dangerous Boy are not particularly interesting.  Harper is an “almost genius” with a high IQ who cannot think of a smart solution to a problem to save her life.  Literally.  Her attempts to figure out the mystery are absurd; she does not try the obvious and most effective courses of action.  (This is also a book where the entire plot would have been avoided if anyone had done the smart thing and called the police—but of course that never happens in books.)  Her boyfriend will not be overly attractive to readers, especially since there is no build-up to their romance and their relationship appears to be founded primarily on PDA.  My ARC jacket suggests Logan is a bad boy, not just his twin brother, but the official summary seems to have correctly deleted that assertion; I was not impressed with any badass attitude from him.

Dangerous Boy simply is not the book for me.  The writing style seems off, the plot is predictable, and the characters are difficult to connect with.  Even though Harper does find herself in terribly dangerous situations, I was not very scared.  The best takeaway from the book is the hidden sound relationship advice: “Guys screw up.  A lot.  You just have to figure out whether their heart is in the right place.”  Apply this to girls, too, and a lot of relationship problems will be solved.

Published: September 4, 2012

“Goblin Fruit” by Laini Taylor

The first story in the collection Lips Touch: Three Times

Goodreads: Lips Touch: Three Times

Goodreads Summary: In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today’s savvy girls?

Review: “Goblin Fruit” is a beautifully written modern update of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” (1862).  Taylor gracefully references the events of the original story while speculating what might happen to a girl tempted by goblins in today’s world.  Fruit still plays a pivotal role, but temptation is a bit more subtle, and perhaps sublime, than showing a pineapple in someone’s face.

The result is a story that mixes interestingly magic and gritty reality. Kizzy finds her family a bit backwards, as they insist on doing things like killing their own chickens and adhering to the superstitions of the old country.  Kizzy herself, then, has developed an attitude that is a bit rough around the edges, but whether readers find her likeable or not is irrelevant to the story being told.  Focus is mean to stay on the writing and the plot.

Taylor builds up true suspense and then leaves readers with a delightfully ambiguous ending.  The concluding illustration hints at what might have come to pass, but readers can suggest their own interpretations.

A hauntingly beautiful beginning to the collection.

Published: 2009

Chime by Franny Billingsley

Goodreads: Chime

Summary: Briony can see the Old Ones that live in the swamp by her house–and so Briony’s stepmother told her she was a witch.  But witches are not welcome in the village, and Briony must work hard to keep her powers secret.  Even though she believes she deserves death for all the harm she has caused to others.  Even though there is a new boy in town who makes living look very attractive.

ReviewChime could be a very compelling book for the right reader.  The writing and the story were refreshingly new.  The setting was very interesting and vividly described, ranging from the swamp, the dangerous abode of most of the Old Ones, to the parsonage to the rest of the town.  A little more information to pin it down to a precise location would have made it nearly perfect.

Unfortunately, I found much of the book to be rather annoying.  Briony, through whose eyes the story is told, has thought processes and speech patterns that came across as juvenile.  She continuously describes things as her “witchy anger” or her “witchy hand,” which just makes her power sound cutesy instead of dangerous.  She regularly calls the love interest a “boy-man,” which is an apt observation when he first appears, but which becomes old quickly.  Again, it makes him hard to take seriously at times, even though he is a pretty strong love interest—mysterious, protective, loyal, chivalrous, and a “bad boy.”  I could have done without that constant reference, as well, however.  He is a little old to be a “bad boy” or at least to refer to himself as one, along with Briony.

Briony also has the exasperating habit reminding herself how much she hates herself and of assuring the reader that she is a terrible, wicked person.  Yes, readers are supposed to realize these are only her thoughts and see the discrepancies between them and reality and think about how this might have occurred  (ooh, mystery!).   It is still annoying and a little depressing.  And it takes the majority of the book for her to change her mind.

Luckily, her twin sister Rose is a fairly endearing character.  Briony relates how she hit her head when she was seven and how she has not been quite right ever since—hence, Briony’s obsession with caring for her.  Yet Rose is truly interesting and tends to make some of the best observations in the book.  She tends to have strange thoughts and speech, too, but she has a reason.  She comes across as quirky instead of just acting too young for her age.

There are also some very nice, clear clues given as to who the true villains of the story are.  Readers will be able to catch onto them in a timely manner and piece everything together.  Briony does miss most of these clues, being too obsessed with hating herself, but her obliviousness is not particularly frustrating.  Overall, this is a mystery that allows readers to see what is happening without making it overly obvious.

Chime has its charms.  There were times I very much enjoyed it.  Readers will just have to make the call as to how much self-hating, immature characters will detract from their own experience of the plot, romance, and mystery.

Published: 2011