Tag Archive: Ann Aguirre


So, guess who got hit with a fun little dose of anxiety about actually starting her new job back on Wednesday. It’s me. I spent so much time getting up and looking for things to do that I got just about nothing done. All the same though, I’m happy to share this one with you all. The nice folks at Tor Teen sent it to me ages ago and I’m finally talking about it. By an author I’ve reviewed several times before, Ann Aguirre, this is Heartwood Box. Enjoy!

Heartwood Box cover

Araceli Flores Harper’s parents sent her to live with her great aunt Ottillie for her own safety. On paper, the town is safer than nearly anywhere Araceli could possibly be. No crime. No outward threats. But people, her great uncle included, have been disappearing for years with no trace found. That’s concerning enough on its own. But between her new pen pal from World War 1 and the disappearance of her best friend Araceli will need to dig deep into the town’s mysteries for the truth regardless of the danger.

Ann Aguirre’s Heartwood Box does an interesting job of balancing the mystery of what causes the disappearances and Araceli’s attempts to figure them out and the sort of romance across time between Araceli and Oliver.

Aguirre is one of those authors that I adore with major exception to how she writes romance, Heartwood Box is a fascinating exception to that. Something, I think, about how she balances the romance against the plot and Araceli’s feelings about other characters. The plot is allowed to happen without being entirely devoured by the romance. As the plot gets more serious it feels like Araceli leans more heavily on the impossible romance with Oliver. And yet, the only thing that feels lost to the romance was the possible love triangle with the boy next door class clown, Logan, which did not feel like a loss at all given the characters involved.

It actually becomes difficult to talk more about the plot, beyond going over how it balances with the romance, without spoiling the climax. Which is a bit frustrating because the real mystery only kicks in later in the book, the first half or so of the story is introduction and lead up. And yet, it is introduction and lead up that is done well enough that I was almost disappointed when the end started getting closer. I was enjoying seeing Araceli trying to figure out how she was communicating with Oliver, seeing her finding out more about the town, even her interactions with Logan made for good character work and made him feel like more of a character than just the third wheel guy. The character work over all is good actually, I enjoyed reading the interactions between Araceli and her friends. I wanted to see more of them, more of their stories, it made for great side characters because they felt solid and like they had their own stories going on off page.

My problem, if I had a problem at all, with Heartwood Box is the ending. Trying not to go too far into it, it feels way beyond Araceli’s scope. By nature of the narrative and the book to that point, the reader has to stick with Araceli for the ending but then the things that happened seem vastly out of step with what both the reader and Araceli herself know and could expect. It leaves her feeling unmoored in a way that could easily have been the start of a completely different story. This is definitely a matter of necessity, again the reader has to stick with her or it would be way too jarring, but the difference has to be tremendous enough for the reader to get the sheer magnitude of how much changed from the comparatively small scope of Araceli’s life in this small town in New York. It is a trade off that I’m not entirely sure works, but acknowledge had to be made.

Which brings me to this, I liked Heartwood Box a great deal. It falls pretty far from my usual genre preferences but the characters were interesting and the mystery was well constructed enough that I got hooked. It reminded me of the parts of Ann Aguirre’s writing that I really enjoy and made me want to check out more of her YA works. So it earns a four out of five from me. If I felt more confident with the ending it would have gotten a five.

Head ache tonight, took a nap after dinner and woke up past midnight.  Posting review anyway.  Enjoy!

Ellen Connor’s Nightfall is one of those books that I looked forward to because I wanted to see how one of the authors I really like’s style works with that of another author.  I’d never read anything by Carrie Lofty before this, read the book entirely because of Ann Aguirre’s involvement.   I enjoyed it a good deal in some parts, in others I wanted to scream at the main characters to sit down and talk instead of posturing and grousing at each other.  This is the third or so time I’ve started writing this review.  Each previous time I’ve tried to start with a plot summary without spoilers or ruining the ending.  Each time I’ve failed miserably and wound up rambling about Jenna and Mason’s unresolved sexual tension for three paragraphs.  It really wasn’t going anywhere, so I’m skipping the plot summary this week.

Both Jenna and Mason are damaged, though in different ways.  She came from a home where her father was seldom around and expected her mother to drop everything for him when he was there.  He was kid without a supportive family who fell in with, gasp, Jenna’s dad’s survival group and latched onto them.  Both of them crave something approaching normal while the world ends around them, but neither will admit that they need the other.  It got old pretty quickly, especially when Doctor Chris was introduced and Mason got territorial without saying anything about being attracted to Jenna.  The magical demon dogs were a cool idea as well as a great twist on werewolves.  The slow introduction of magic as something other than the demon dogs was interesting.  The minor characters were pretty awesome when they got to be in the scenes.  But never have I wanted so badly to whack the main characters.

I mentioned earlier that I had a tremendously difficult time trying to come up with a plot summary that wouldn’t spoil the ending.  I didn’t lie, even just going off of what the blurb referred to I would have to skip so much that it would seem stiff and confused.  Yes, Mason kidnaps Jenna to save her life and then more survivors show up.  Yes, Jenna and Mason have some kind of passionate bond between them and whatever magic is happening changes Jenna.  It’s more than that though.  Nightfall sets up the next two books, including what I’m pretty sure is the set up for the final in the trilogy.  It’s also a lot of navel gazing regarding why Jenna feels the need to defy Mason, why he’s drawn to her, and the nature of the new world.

So, how do I rate it?  I’m giving Nightfall a three out of five.  There was a bit much exposition for my taste and the explanations about what was going on got kind of repetitive,  but I’m also going to read the next two to see what happens next.

I’ve got to admit right off the bat that I was really excited to read this book.  It’s the third in a series that I adore and I got to read it as one of the un-corrected galley copies.  I’m also stuck for good intros anymore.

Ann Aguirre’s Shady Lady is the third of her Corine Solomon series which has so far covered, among other things, drug cartels out for revenge, magic as a street weapon, demons and small towns, and messed up relationships.  Shady Lady doesn’t really do anything to change that.  Corine finds herself with the Montoya cartel is out for her blood because they can’t attack Min or her son, Chance.  This, unfortunately, pulls her way from the nice normal life she so desperately wants and thrusts her back into the role of not-quite heroine.  Along with Kel Ferguson, the Hand of God, Corine has to prove herself to one dangerous cartel boss in order to get Montoya out of her life permanently.

First off, I love the amount of character development Kel gets and how strong Corine is for most of the book.  Secondly, Corine’s emotional responses tend to ring more true than not.  I like the way that Corine worries about becoming a monster.  I wish she wasn’t quite so much of a broken record about it, but overall it is a good thing.  I like that Shannon responds to Corine’s less heroic decisions with something other than a stoic stiff upper lip, she worries about her friend and how far Corine’s going to go down the slippery slope.  I like that the book was relatively Chance free.  Corine thinks about him a lot sure, but she doesn’t moon over him like she had a tendency to do in the first two books.  She’s made her break from him and started to move on.  That said, Corine also does some really stupid things with little apparent planning or reason.  She gets lost in her own head a couple of times, resulting in the narrative being broken a bit as she slogs through her own emotions.

I’ve also got to admit that I was a bit disappointed in the ending, but that most of my problems with it will probably be tied up in a later novel.  I give Shady Lady a four out of five, and suggest picking up the series if at all possible.

Posting this now because I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance next weekend.  Really looking forward to the next one of these.  As to the contest mentioned as of the edit, over at the Smutketeers’ blog they’re giving away some nifty stuff to celebrate the release of  R.G. Alexander’s final new book of 2010, My Demon Saint.  Based on the blurb and the name of the blog, I’m expecting sex and computer games.  Fun right?

Every year there are a scattering of books that I really look forward to seeing released.  Ann Aguirre’s Killbox, the fourth Sirantha Jax novel, was one of them.  With the Farwan Corporation gone attacks on merchant ships have increased drastically and the Morgut are becoming a larger and larger threat as they strike and devour Federation settlements.  As a result the crew becomes central in the formation of the Federation Armada, which due to lack of funding or training is quickly filled with some of the same pirates that they are fighting.

I really liked the minor characters getting a bit more development in this one.  It was nice to see Dina and Hit become more three dimensional and less defined by their jobs on ship.  One of the most emotional scenes was effective because it was Dina showing vulnerability rather than any other character.  It is also great to see the dynamic between Vel and Jax further developed, though I am a bit worried that Vel’s being set up as the third corner of a romantic triangle.  Seeing Doc humanized felt like a bit of a missed moment, and I’m hoping that Aguirre will do more with him in the next book. I would have like to have seen more trouble with the pirates that were recruited, to all accounts they just fit right in with no problems based on old allegiances or places they had attacked. As a final note on characters, I was glad to see Aguirre bring back characters from the earlier books rather than just adding copies to the cast.

Killbox is a good deal more emotionally self-reflective than the previous three books which can get really old really fast.  Add that the reader is dealing with Jax’s emotions from inside her head and there are times where she feels like a different character from the Jax of Doubleblind.  Jax and March are still mostly worried about each other, but they aren’t allowed to do things their way anymore due to his being the Armada’s Commander.  Many of the plans used throughout the book are strictly regulated as opposed to having a plan but then winging it.  The more structured plans added another level of difference between Killbox and the previous installments in the series.  Even with both characters being irreplaceably important Jax and March still find time to do really idiotic, really heroic things throughout the book which is both irritating and endearing.  My biggest complaint on that has to be Jax’s habit of yo-yoing over her own decisions, especially towards the end.  Since it is from the middle of the series, I’m not going to suggest Killbox on its own.  It is a good read, but not standalone.  It isn’t the best of the Sirantha Jax novels so far, but is still an enjoyable book and I am quite looking forward to the next one.