Category: Three Star


I’m not super pleased with this one, but I also don’t know that I could have written it any better than I have. It sort of makes me wish I had younger family members to bounce this sort of book off of, to get their opinion. Throwing books at children is bad. This one is thanks to the awesome folks at First Second, here is Marcus Sedgwick’s Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter. Enjoy!

Scarlett Hart Monster Hunter cover

The orphaned child of famed monster hunters, Scarlett Hart wants desperately to follow in their footsteps. She has their gadgets and their butler. She has the will to face down everything from grim hounds to dragons. The most dangerous challenge she faces though might be her parents’ old rival, Count Stankovic. His focus switched to her, the Count constantly rats her out to the watch and, worse yet, steals the credit for her kills. He’s up to something more than that though, something that threatens the entire city. It’ll be up to Scarlett to figure out what the Count is planning and save the day.

Marcus Sedgwick’s Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter is, in many ways, a good start that needs more room to be developed. It’s actually a little hard for me to dig into because I am very aware that I am not the target audience for this book. I have issues with this book that I know aren’t entirely fair to the book for what it is. That said, I could see this being enjoyable for the kids it’s written for.

Mostly I find myself curious about the world itself. The monsters seem to be a natural part of it, but then also somewhat separate from it. It’s considered strange when more start showing up. The only protection against them seems to be the hunters, but then we don’t get a lot of how that works beyond Scarlett being too young and that being part of how the Count keeps tripping her up.

The Count himself is also a bit of a sticking point for me. He had history with Scarlett’s parents and is taking it out on her. That’s a little cartoony but I can roll with it. That his nemesis is a literal child and the lengths he’s willing to go makes me wonder how he functions within the setting’s world. It’s a thing that would honestly probably roll past the target audience. Count Stankovic is the bad guy, so of course he’s going to be a problem for our heroine, it doesn’t need to go deeper than that.

The story itself is simple and largely serves to set up the next book. No real complements or complaints there. Though, again, I would like to learn more about the setting. Presumably that would be in later installments. Again, it doesn’t need to go super deep, and the monster designs are cool enough to carry some of the places where the plot it thin.

Thomas Taylor’s art here is interesting. It can be quite expressive and a lot of the back ground elements are really cool. While it’s cartoony that fits the book really well. The faces occasionally feel a little off in places where I’m not sure they’re meant to, but then are really off in the places I’m certain they’re meant to be. It works.

Ultimately, I’m left with this book being functional. It isn’t for me and I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of it as I feel someone pre-middle school might. So, I’m giving Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter a three out of five. It introduces the main character and her story and, while I wish there was more to it, I’m sure that later books with fill in details as they go.

Advertisements

After a pause over the weekend I’m ready to get back into it. This one is thanks to the awesome folks at First Second, here’s Antoine Revoy’s Animus. Enjoy!

Animus cover

There’s a strange playground tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. The swings see into dreams and the concrete animals hear all within the park. When they accidentally stay past sundown, friends Hisao and Sayuri meet the park’s resident ghost. He knows all about the magic of the playground but can’t remember his own fate. When their friend is injured finding out what happened to Toothless might be the only way to save him. They’ll have to bring Toothless’ story and remains to light with nothing to go on but a handful of vague memories.

I find Antoine Revoy’s Animus frustrating. The concept is fantastic and I am, repeatedly admittedly, a sucker for a good ghost story. The idea of a playground haunted by a dead child, his trapped spirit anchoring magic to the playground itself, is fantastic. The protagonists needing to break his curse to save their friend is great. But then the end falls apart and everything feels like lead up to skipped side plots.

There is a lot going on in Animus, and it all feels like it should add up to something. The police superintendent is shown talking about the missing kids a couple of times. There’s whatever connection is between Toothless and the playground. And there’s the maybe saving their friend by saving Toothless. But then it feels very much like our friendly ghost is up to something nefarious. Like he isn’t on the up and up where the hurt friend is concerned. But the connective tissue isn’t there.

There are hints at maybe things and a second or third read paying close attention will offer some connections, but it isn’t anything solid. Things never tie up neatly or otherwise and I found myself with more questions at the end of the book than I had to start with. Not in a fun way that leaves me hoping for a sequel either. I felt like Revoy forgot to include half of his story or got bored part way through writing it and spun up an ending so that he could get to the art.

The art is pretty fantastic though, especially the backgrounds. There is a section with a bridge and the forest around it that is absolutely gorgeous. The art for the human characters isn’t as great, but I feel like that is more for effect than an issue with Revoy’s skill. The faces are a sort of cartoony but in a way that feels like an exaggeration of life rather than a simplification of it. That lends itself really well to moments of uncanny creepiness.

My issue with Animus comes entirely from how rushed the ending feels. There are things that happen that aren’t adequately set up or that are only hinted at in such a way that the payoff for them feels really weak. Again, I’m left with more questions than answers on this one, which is unfortunate because if more time had been taken to work things into the story everything that bothered me about the end could have been awesome pay offs for character work. This could have been a really cool first book in a series with side plots digging into the characters and what makes them tick, but instead it winds up being a lot of build up to a nothing ending.

I keep coming back to that, like a missing tooth or a scab, Animus could have been really good with a little more work put into it. It could have been but, as it stands, it’s a five star start with a one star follow up. I would check out something else by Antoine Revoy, but it would definitely be a library borrow. That lands Animus with a three out of five.

Down to Oath

This is totally Thursday, right? Yeah, trip to get my car fixed was a lot less productive blogging wise than I’d intended, but I have working AC again and my brakes are fixed! I digress. This one is from Curiosity Quill Press, here’s Tyrolin Puxty’s Down to Oath. Enjoy!

Down to Oath cover

Oath is boring. Scheduled to the second, everyone likes all the same things, nothing changes. Boring. But not Codi, she’s different, she goes against the flow. She’s the only one to use the library at the edge of town. More than that, she’s certain that she’s the only one to have met a child, much less a child that claims to be her somehow. The child says she has to find her other selves in other worlds but won’t say why. How much can this child Codi be trusted? Are the other Codis any more trustworthy?

Tyrolin Puxty’s Down to Oath is a super weird book. Multiple worlds layer together, each with reflected versions of the same people. But each world is vastly different, ruled by different emotions and different ideals. It’s sort of an adventure unto itself to try and figure out where the story is headed and what various things mean. That said though, there is a minor spoiler for the whole thing in the blurb itself. It’s a weird oversight given how well the plot works as a sort of mystery about itself aside from that.

The worlds themselves fascinate me. Each is the size of a small town and each is a reflection of the others with the same buildings and people, just different versions of them. Oath is boring and quiet and unchanging. Bond is full of children, left to play and explore and do as they will. Pledge burns with passion and conflict, each citizen a warrior scholar and deeply serious. Then there’s Word, the realm of unbound creativity where everyone is an artist of some stripe. Each world has or had a version of the same people and they’re all notably different from Codi’s view point. I would have loved to have seen more of the worlds and how they compare. I would have really liked to have seen more of how the various core parts of the worlds come together to balance each other out.

While the worlds fascinate me the characters, Codi aside, fall a bit flat. I do think that that ties into the worlds being so different, it winds up meaning that characters who are meant to be different iterations of the same person often wind up not really resembling each other. That winds up being part of where the book falls apart for me. Puxty has a number of really cool ideas both for her world and for how her characters work, unfortunately the book is both short enough and focused in enough on Codi that other characters don’t get the chance to shine.

This shows up pretty heavily with the antagonist and Codi’s love interest, which is pretty jarring. The story proper doesn’t really hit its stride until a fair way in so we spend a good amount of time with Codi and her Bond and Pledge versions. But then other characters bounce between being basically sketches, unrecognizable from one world to another. After Codi herself, the next two most developed characters are rather one note, a joyous love interest and a raging antagonist. There’s a lot with both characters that the reader and Codi are told, but it leads to the whole thing feeling rushed and incomplete.

I feel like that is an issue that sort of eats at the end of the book. There’s a sense to the first parts of the book of adventure as Codi is introduced to all these new things and places. But then the end feels like there was a bigger story planned, a wider arc to the story, but not enough page space for it. There wasn’t a lot of lead up to it either so, again, it feels cramped against itself with all this exposition just coming out of nowhere. It’s frustrating in a lot of ways, I really enjoyed the first part of the book but then the end didn’t live up to it.

This is one of those books that I feel could have been really awesome if it had been given another draft or a go around with a beta reader. The bones of it are solid, but the finished novel winds up feeling very like a first book. That informs a lot on my final feelings here. I think that Tyrolin Puxty has the makings of a good writer and that if she works on her pacing and character focus she could do some fantastic stuff. Down to Oath gets a three out of five, but I would give one of Puxty’s other novels a shot.

 

I’m really going to need to learn not to announce things before they’re ready to roll. My computer messed up and wouldn’t work, I think I’ve got it working mostly right again but it took a while to get it going again. In any case, this one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quill Press. Here’s Anne Stinnett’s Creature of the Night. Enjoy!

Creature of the Night cover

It’s TV’s most scandelous phenomenon. Fantastic vampire judges. Roaring crowds jumping at the bit to see contestants fail. Blood and glamour in equal measure.  It’s a chance at eternity for one lucky contestant, and the risk of death for the other eleven, the new season of Creature of the Night promises to be a bloody good time for the viewing public.

Anne Stinnett’s Creature of the Night is a book that I really wanted to like just based on its concept. The whole vampire game show thing where the winner becomes a vampire is kind of awesome and something I’m a little surprised I haven’t found in other urban fantasy novels. Supernatural beings using their being supernatural to grab a wide and adoring audience, or being used to do that, seems like it would be more of a thing. The idea that people not only go wild over this but blood thirsty, mocking failed competitors and camping out wild is interesting and feels like it could say a lot about the culture surrounding celebrity culture. The problem comes when it didn’t seem interested enough in the characters or world to really pull that off.

Let’s talk about that potential though, because I really do think that something like Creature of the Night could do a lot of interesting things with urban fantasy. The ingredients are all there.  The masquerade was broken, so people know that vampires are real. More than that, the television viewing public not only loves them but loves seeing people risk their lives to become vampires. It almost seems like they have the world enthralled. But there’s a limit to how many people can be turned legally, which leads to the show being billed as a sort of way to find “worthy” people to be turned. This makes me wish that we could have seen more of the world beyond the show, possibly through more time in the mansion or more time with the viewers at home. Just something more away from the show challenges themselves so that we get more of the back ground.

That’s sort of a running thing in Creature of the Night, that sort of need for more details outside of the competition itself. The back story for the world is mentioned and teased, but in a way that becomes distracting rather than informative. It’s the same with the protests over certain aspects of vampires interacting with humans, they’re mentioned and it is part of a couple of characters back stories, but they don’t really do anything for the story. It would almost be better, if we were looking to keep the length of the book about the same, to drop the world building hints entirely and allow the reader to make their own assumptions about how this all came about, then use the space from dropping that to develop the characters more.

It’s sort of a thing I think I can see what Stinnett was doing with the characters, this being a horror comedy and all, but she left her characters really flat. They were sort of horror movie cliché sketches of characters rather than being full on developed, which made it really difficult to care what happened to any of them. This ties heavily into my thing about wanting more page time away from the show challenges. While the challenges are largely interesting they also feel big and sensationalistic. They show the characters as competitors but not as people. The between challenge chapters do some character interactions, but they’re also taken up with the in book show’s confessional sequences where the characters talk about the challenges and other competitors and whatnot. What makes this a little strange, is that it’s clear that changes are happening with some of the characters but we don’t see much of them as they change, possibly because the show lasts at most a week. Plus the confessional bits often have characters returning to type, rather than reflecting any sort of development.

At the end of it, Creature of the Night feels very like the novelization of a B movie that doesn’t exist. The characters have little to no presence. It’s often violent or gross for the sake of shock factor for a fictional audience. Cutaways to the audience at home or the judges can be interesting, but usually feel like padding. All in all, it would work a lot better on film than page. I wasn’t a fan of this book and I think I would wait to check out the reviews on any other books Anne Stinnett writes, but I would be willing to read her again. It’s mostly because of that that Creature of the Night gets a three out of five.

I’m going to get back to schedule at some point. It might be the point where I’ve caught up with my to read list, but someday it’s going to happen. This one was a wish granted by netGalley. Here’s Jeff Noon’s The Body Library. Enjoy!

The Body Library cover

In a city where everything is stories and stories are everything, what happens when the plot shifts a little? When an infection of ideas has the potential to overturn the balance of fictional how strange can a murder case be? How strange can anything be when words flow just under the skin? It a city where stories are everything and everything is stories, what do a dead man’s whispers mean? Once upon a time a man called Nyquist followed a job right into trouble.

The Body Library is, in more ways than anything else, a story about stories. Yes, it’s still a detective story and there is still a case to be solved, but neither of those feel like the core of the book. I’m not sure that Jeff Noon meant for the mystery bits  to be as overshadowed by the story about a story bits, I haven’t read the previous Nyquist novel so this may just be part of his writing style. The nature of the book also makes it somewhat hard to dig into without spoiling it, so this one might be a little thin on details.

A big part of the story here is focused in on Melville 5, an abandoned apartment building and home to all manner of strange folk. More importantly, it’s something of a flux zone where the strangeness of Storyville is eclipsed by something more, by pages with shifting words and trees with ink flowing through their leaves. This is fascinating to me, this sort of space where reality is kind of separated from itself, just slightly tilted.

There’s a lot of slightly tilted reality to go around here. Storyville itself is a town built on tales where each person’s individual story is quite important and monitored to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s story. There’s a great feel to it when Nyquist is going through the city chasing a lead, just being shown the various areas of this sprawling city of words. Different parts of the city are known for different kinds of stories which feels interesting and I would like to see more of it. The city is probably my favorite part of The Body Library.

The flipside to my enjoyment of the city is the characters. There’s a flatness to the characters, I’m not sure if it’s something of the writing style or if it’s something of Nyquist as a focus character but it felt off.  Tied up in all the story elements of the book, the characters can feel less like characters and more like character sketches. Things don’t ring right emotionally. This is especially noticeably when it comes to Zelda. Nyquist has this whole thing towards her, this significance for her that doesn’t really get built up in any satisfying way but that is a driving force throughout the run of the book. The thing is, of course, that it’s a driving force I have a hard time buying into and so it feels forced.

There were some definite issues with the flow of the story. It’s worse towards the end than early on, but I think that sort of ties into the characters issue. Things feel like they could have been set up more solidly. Ideas crop up here and there, but the frame work can feel like it’s missing in places. The connections aren’t there.

Ultimately, I think I like the background elements and workings of The Body Library more than I like the actual story. There is a lot there that’s already solid, that would have been really well done, if it had been better set up. Would I read Jeff Noon again? Probably. While I had issues with some parts of the book I quite enjoyed others and would like to see what the background work in his previous Nyquist book is like. Because of that, I’m giving the body library a three out of five with the note that it only loses out on a four because of the flow issues towards the end.

I am cutting it so, so close here. As it turns out I might not be as over being sick as I’d thought and I’ve been more than kind of exhausted all day. It’s all good though. I really want to talk about spoiler-y bits for this one, but this isn’t the place for it. So, here’s Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones. Enjoy!

FNaF The Twisted Ones cover

It’s been a year since they went back to Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. It’s been a year since a serial killer in a rabbit suit nearly killed them all. Time has passed and Charlie’s friends have moved on with their lives. Her friends have, but recently a body has been found with disturbingly familiar injuries. Sometimes the past doesn’t want to stay buried. The restaurant has been closed for years but evil is open for business.

Starting out a year after The Silver Eyes, Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones gives us a lot of possibilities but has a tendency towards not following through on them. There’s some really cool set up for character study with Charlie taking robotics courses and working towards building what seems like a learning artificial intelligence. There were threads that could have easily taken that to showing our heroine as a mirror to both her father and also William Afton, the villain.  Or more could have been done with the connection she felt with her long lost, most likely long dead, twin Sammy. The murder plot could have done with more focus as long as the authors focused in on one thread for any length of time.

The Twisted Ones did a number of things that I had wanted from the first book. It maintains the cheesy horror movie feel of the first book while also feeling much less anchored to the games, both good things. The cast not knowing just what is causing these new animatronics to hunt people and needing to figure that out was a cool concept.  The cast is a lot smaller, so everyone gets more screen time. It’s a lot of possibilities that were improvements but could have been more.

More page time doesn’t necessarily mean more development. That might have actually taken a slide. We still focus mostly on Charlie and what’s going on with her now that she’s been back to Freddy’s and remembered her twin. She’s into robotics, which worries her friend and roommate Jessica, because she doesn’t want Charlie to fall down the same rabbit hole her father or Afton did. She might be into returning love interest John, but there’s also a missing twin and killer robots, so maybe not. John is definitely into her, but also there’s killer robots and she might be more interested in what’s going on with them than dating. Or class. Or really anything else at the moment. What I’m saying is that Charlie wound up a bit flat and, as a consequence, so did a lot of The Twisted Ones’ run time. I did appreciate the other characters’ reactions to Charlie’s actions throughout, those rang a lot more true.

The thing is, I didn’t dislike The Twisted Ones. It wasn’t the best book I’ve read recently and it was really easy to get tired of due to feeling really padded and monotonous. But the cheese was so real, it was like a B-movie when it’s all over. I’m left more interested in the third book in the series due to having ideas about how Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley are going to make it work. Plus, it had a really excellent final line.

So, all told, this isn’t a good book, but it was also entertaining enough that I’m interested in the next one. The characters are a little flat, particularly our heroine, but I’m invested enough to want to see what happens to them. So I’m giving Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Twisted Ones a three out of five.

Brimstone

I am sorry to be late with this one, I had a tremendous headache yesterday and was just completely out for most of the day. Today was better, but busy. This one actually came out last year, it’s provided by the awesome folks at Ace. This is Cherie Priest’s Brimstone. Enjoy!

Brimstone cover

Tomas Cordero’s life is burning down. From his time in the trenches operating the truly devastating flame projector, to the fever that took his wife while he was gone, to the fires cropping up around him everything seems to be going up in flames. If this continues, no one around him will be safe. Meanwhile, Alice Dartle dreams of a man who sprays flames like some kind of reverse fireman, a sad man weighed down by his past and personal tragedies. A man haunted by something hungry and hateful.

Cherie Priest’s Brimstone is somewhat different than what I usually read. It’s sort of a historical urban fantasy novel, which is an interesting concept and makes for some fantastic flavor to the background of the story. That same somewhat different is probably part of why I’ve had so much trouble with this one.

There was a lot of build up here, lots of character building and setting development, and it was well written but it served to slow the book to a crawl. There are all these bits of character work for both Tomas and Alice but they don’t feel terribly like they’re building to anything. It takes until past the half way point for our protagonists to meet and then it just sort of hovers until the climax happens. It made the book very easy to put down and very hard to care about.

That difficulty is unfortunate, because the writing is solid enough and I’m interested in the town of Cassadaga and its inhabitants. I want to know more about the villain and Tomas’ time during the war and about the various seminars offered in Cassadaga. But that’s not where the story went and it wasn’t really paced to allow for any of that. The world could feel solid and like someplace that could be visited. The background characters were solidly written and could have been so much more.

It feels like a lot of my problem here could have been solved by starting the book later in its story and casting all the bits leading up to Tomas leaving for Cassadaga into background details or things he has to share with Alice on their way to figuring out what the cause of all the fires is and how to stop it. Doing more with the side characters, particularly from Alice’s side of things, sooner would have also been a solid thing. There were a lot more characters in Cassadaga itself so spending more time seeing those folks would have helped build up the community and informed more about Alice’s habits with her classes and seminars rather than having her tell us about it.

This one has been somewhat difficult to write about. This mostly comes from a balance of the Brimstone being technically well written but also very slow. It isn’t something that’s going to stop me from reading Priest again, not by a long shot. But it does make me if her other novels balance closer to this or to The Family Plot. I’m giving this one a three out of five. It was slow but it also looks like there might be more story to this world and that has me curious.

I had this written last week I was ahead, and then I opened the file and wasn’t really happy with what I’d written. I did a rewrite and still feel like I could do better if only I’d ever seen the original Ghostbusters movie, but that’s a thing for later. Anyway, here’s the trade paperback of Ghostbusters 101: Everyone Answers the Call. Enjoy!

Ghostbusters 101 Everyone Answers the Call cover

The Ghostbusters are kicking off an internship program and, in addition to that, a day camp program. Why not, it’ll help them make a little money and find promising new recruits? It seems like a perfectly reasonable plan until their interns cause an accident that starts merging their New York with the New York of another universe. With another universe come more Ghostbusters ready to answer the call and help prevent reality from collapsing in on itself.

In concept I really like Ghostbusters 101: Everyone Answers the Call. I like the idea of the Answer the Call Ghostbusters and the classic Ghostbusters meeting up and working together. I like the idea of the contrast between the teams and seeing how their tech compares. This mini-series wasn’t exactly that though. While there was some fun interactions and nifty ideas this felt more interested in the classic Ghostbusters and setting up later comics in the shared universe than in the Answer the Call Ghostbusters. I don’t think this was something the team planned on so much as they were more used to and comfortable with the classic Ghostbusters and so tended to use them more out of habit. That isn’t a knock against the comic in and of itself, I just have no attachment to the classic Ghostbusters and that effected my enjoyment of the comic.

The stage is set when an intern sticks his hand through a dimension door and gets grabbed by a ghost leading to that ghost trying and pull itself back together, thus merging the dimensions. The effects of that dimensional merge aren’t really felt until the third chapter/issue and then the cast gets to know each other. In a longer graphic novel this approach could have worked well and built to the teams working together and learning from each other. This was six issues though, so we get some bits of the teams working together but fast tracked. Classic Ghostbusters have been at this longer and so have more of a grasp on busting ghosts, Answer the Call Ghostbusters are by turns interested in this and bothered by it.

This is where the thing I mentioned earlier comes in. I feel like the team on Ghostbusters 101 wasn’t much interested in the Answer the Call Ghostbusters or didn’t know much about them while writing this. So the Answer the Call Ghostbusters have a tendency towards feeling really flat, kind of like the writer was given a two sentence description of each and just went with that. I know that isn’t entirely fair to Erik Burnam, since he was juggling a pretty huge cast and these are fairly new characters. It still stands that the Answer the Call Ghostbusters can feel like parodies of themselves while the classic Ghostbusters feel a lot more rounded. Holtzmann, I think, probably gets it the worst with teasing from the movie having become a tendency towards out right rudeness and needling people until they’re desperate to get rid of her. Conversely, Patty had her historian aspect ramped up and gets a couple of nice moments related to knowing about the places they visit, so that was pretty cool.

The art here is interesting, it’s very stylized. There’s a level of cartoony-ness here that works in some places, like with the more monstrous ghosts, but then not in others, a lot of the expression work is strange. The character design as a whole is a little odd. There’s a fantastic array of different body types even in crowd clusters, but then there’s something about the faces that I can’t quite put my finger on. The backgrounds tend to be pretty awesome, with really cool detail work. The backgrounds add a lot to the feel of a scene, which is something I’m not entirely used to but appreciate.

There was a bit at the end that was pretty great, showing different possible worlds and iterations of events. I would have liked more stuff like that. Over all though, I’m a little cool on Ghostbusters 101: Everyone Answers the Call as a finished series. It isn’t bad, just not what I was looking for. It gets a three out of five, mostly for being one of those things that I would have probably enjoyed more if I had just happened across it rather than having spent a few months looking forward to it.

One Was Lost

So, this turned out better than I’d hoped. This was one I’d picked up because it sounded interesting and a co-worker had mentioned enjoying it. I figured, “thriller, cool” and ran with it. So this is One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards. Enjoy!

One Was Lost cover

Sera’s school requires its students to complete a Senior Life Experience Mission before they graduate. A big field trip that takes them some place new and away from their comfort zones. No problem, it’s a camping trip in the rain. Until it isn’t. Sera finds herself trapped with three other students and their very drugged teacher, a killer stalking the woods after them, and mysterious words lovingly written on their arms. The words are clues, maybe, maybe keys to their escape or a judgment. They’ll have to figure out what it all means if they want to survive.

Natalie D. Richards’ One Was Lost is a solid thriller in many ways. In many ways it also falls into standard teen novel pitfalls that damage the flow of the story. This leaves the book in a strange place writing wise, which is interesting for me. It has fantastic bones and a lot of ideas that I would love to see more of, but then tends to side track away from those ideas where it counts.

The biggest pull for a thriller is the characters. Who are they? How does the situation affect them and how they view each other? So, character is important. There is a fair amount of good character work here. Unfortunately that character work gets overshadowed by the romance fairly often. I got really tired of Sera’s whole circular deal with how attracted she is to Lucas and how she doesn’t want to become her mother. It took up a lot of page space compared to Emily and Jude, the other half of the group being hunted.

I wanted to see so much more of Emily and Jude. To find out more about what made them Damaged and Deceptive respectively, and see how they started working better with our lead pair. I feel like that and the killer threat should have been the core of the story. Here are these kids, they’ve each been labeled by the killer in the woods, why? What’s the game here? How is the killer making this work, leading them through the woods and sneaking around so much? More build on any or all of those would have been great and done a lot for the plot.

Because the plot is sort of scattered, the killer seems to both have a specific timeline for their plot and is totally willing to just let the kids do whatever. It almost feels a bit like a Joker plot, everything the kids do plays into the killer’s plans somehow, but there shouldn’t have been a way for everything to work without the killer getting caught. This leads to a point where the red herring makes a lot more sense throughout the book than the actual killer. And that feels like a missed mark in the writing, where I feel like removing the red herring and letting the killer be this dangerous unknown could have been fantastic, especially if we had gotten more about some of the scary stories told on one of the earlier nights. Have more work put into the foreshadowing for the big reveal.

That’s where I land with a lot of One Was Lost, more work would have made the book so much better. It has good bones, solid ideas, and the potential for good characters. Then there are also points where it seems determined not to live up to any of its potential, the romance is an example of this. It’s frustrating like that. I did like the book and I would read more of Richards’ stuff in the future, but I would probably see what other people said first. I’m giving One Was Lost a three out of five.

So, this was meant to go up yesterday, unfortunately I was dead and did not manage to be up for much longer than it took to drink some tea. On happier notes, I do have the review. This one’s thanks to the nice folks at First Second here’s Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869. Enjoy!

Castle in the Stars The Space Race of 1869 cover

In search of the fifth element, aether, Claire Dulac flew to the very edge of the stratosphere. She promised her son and her husband that she would return.  But she never did, her hot air balloon disappeared leaving no trace of her behind. A year passed. Her husband, Archibald, was certain she was lost forever, going on with his life as an engineer as best he could. Her son though, Seraphin is certain that there’s still hope. A letter summoning them to Bavaria offers hope, someone’s found her logbook, a king who wants to fly. But with hope comes danger, someone else in the castle is after the secret of aether powered flight.

I’m not a hundred percent sure of how I feel about Alex Alice’s Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869. It is beautifully illustrated and the story has a lot of potential, but then that potential feels a bit mishandled in a lot of spots. It really needed to be slowed down and expanded on to let things feel less rushed.

That’s actually my big issue with the story. There’s a lot of ground to cover here and not enough space for it to be covered in. We get the introduction, Claire takes off on her fateful voyage, Seraphim hasn’t moved past it and is obsessed with aether a year later, then the letter arrives. We get introduced to the main plot and the other two young characters, Hans and Sophie, and the villain. But then the villain’s plot is revealed and we sort of zip from that to the climax of the story and the lead in for the next book.

I feel like that’s definitely to the book’s detriment. The story was interesting and I would have liked to have seen more of pretty well everything from it. This applies especially to the intrigue plot and the parts with Seraphin and the other kids regarding the aether ship. I liked the characters and would have liked to see more of them, but they’re left as mostly sketches instead of being fully realized.

Again though, I feel like the hands down best part of the book is the art. It’s got a soft almost watercolor feel to it. What’s interesting to me is that the art can be either very emotive or super cartoony without either feeling out of place. This is fantastic and not something I’m entirely used to, but I like it and would like to see more art like this in the future.

So, I’m left a bit cool on the actual plot of the story but like the ideas and really like the art. This leaves me in an interesting place where I’m interested in knowing what happens in the next book, but if I miss it then I wouldn’t be too terribly bothered. I want to know the rest, but I’m also a bit concerned that it would feel rushed again. That’s leading me to give this one a three out of five. The story is alright, the ideas are interesting, the art is good, but Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 needs a little more.