Though I had a rocky experience with Harkness' first novel, A Discovery of Witches, I began reading Shadow of Night with hopes that its setting in the past would add intrigue and excitement to the unfolding story. Unfortunately, it did not, and the story became more plodding and convoluted in this installment.
Shadow of Night suffered most from its almost obsession-like focus on detailing every aspect of the historical period in which it was set. From particulars about the floor coverings to the convenient inclusion of almost every notable figure of the time, I felt bogged down in the details and the name-dropping. Character development also progressed in fits and spurts and ultimately stalled. Though Matthew and Diana have some "breakthrough" moments in their relationship, Diana remains relatively incompetent and reckless and Matthew continues to be controlling and possessive. Slow pacing made the first 80% of the novel drag, and very little time or attention was given to the threats or worries of the present day. When action or plot movement did occur, it provided little tension or excitement. The couple's impetus to be in the past - to hone Diana's magic and to find Ashmole 782 - often got lost among historical notes and unrelated intrigue. The mythology regarding time travel and Diana's magical skills was also unclear and seemed to contradict itself at times.
Even though Shadow of Night didn't work for me, this book might be an enjoyable read for those who love history and detail. The time spent exploring Diana's magic and her special capabilities was interesting, as was the information revealed toward the end of the novel about Ashmole 782 and its related prophecy; I finished the book wanting to know more about each. The story also provided some insight into Matthew's character and how his past and his family had shaped him. Chapters set in the present day that were interspersed between sections also provided glimpses into what was happening in the present-day world and moved things along for the secondary characters. Of all of the different parts in the book, I enjoyed these infrequent additions the most.
While I can appreciate the ambitious nature of Harkness' series, I left this second book of the trilogy feeling unmoved again by the story or its characters. Even such, I will likely read the final installment when it comes out to see what happens to Diana, Matthew, and all those connected by Ashmole 782. As she wraps up her story, I hope that Harkness provides readers with faster pacing, clearer world building, and more character development.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
After being disappointed by Delirium but then loving the sequel, Pandemonium, I had high hopes for Oliver’s Requiem, the final book in the trilogy. Un...more After being disappointed by Delirium but then loving the sequel, Pandemonium, I had high hopes for Oliver’s Requiem, the final book in the trilogy. Unfortunately, the pace dragged throughout, and I found myself not connecting to Lena’s character or those around her. Entirely too convenient plot twists in the final quarter of the book made it hard to suspend disbelief, and readers are then left with few answered questions other than an unbelievably easy resolution to the love triangle. Only recommended to those who love the series and want to see how things turn out. (less)
Mystery, politics, and romance combine for easy but slow-to-start read
In Kathleen Peacock's Hemlock, the town of Hemlock has been ravaged by a string...more Mystery, politics, and romance combine for easy but slow-to-start read
In Kathleen Peacock's Hemlock, the town of Hemlock has been ravaged by a string of fatal werewolf attacks. Mackenzie's best friend Amy was among those killed, and ever since she's been trying to come to terms with what happened. When a vigilante group called the Trackers comes to town to investigate the murders, Mac decides she wants to find out the truth for herself. She soon learns that people aren't always who they seem to be, including her good friend, Kyle, and Amy's former boyfriend, Jason, and that danger may be closer than she realizes.
HEMLOCK is yet another addition to the crowded world of werewolf fiction, but it adds some unique elements to the familiar set-up. In this world, everyone knows that werewolves exist and how people are infected. This framing allows the story to be about more interesting topics, like who is one or how the werewolves are being stigmatized by those in power, than about the revelation that werewolves exist. The mystery makes up the most important part of the story, and it includes political scheming, a few unexpected twists, and chilling and sometimes brutal show-downs between the different sides. The story also contains some likable and believable characters, especially Kyle, and Mac's internal conflict about her nightmares of Amy is fascinating. The reader never knows whether Amy's appearances in Mac's dreams are simply her subconscious or something paranormal, and that adds to the intrigue regarding what the dreams might really mean.
On the less positive side, the story didn't grab me for a long time and I didn't find myself actually interested until past the half-way point. The novel also devoted too much time to a love triangle that seemed to come out of nowhere. Neither relationship provided much swoon, and the focus on the potential relationship with each guy often overtook the more interesting plot lines as the story progressed. Descriptions of dialogue sometimes came off as awkward, such as characters who "whisper-muttered" or sentences that were run together as one long word for dramatic effect. Though not a true cliffhanger, the ending also leaves readers in an unfinished place with a new adventure about to start for some of the characters.
Taken together, HEMLOCK was an easy read about a world where werewolves, murder, and friendship all intersect, but it didn't end up being anything truly memorable. In future books of this trilogy, I hope the author continues to develop her focus on the mystery and politics and that she brings more swoon or believable tension to the love triangle.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
Strong relationships & better world building make for solid sequel, 3.5 stars
Through the Ever Night opens just where the first novel left off: Ar...more Strong relationships & better world building make for solid sequel, 3.5 stars
Through the Ever Night opens just where the first novel left off: Aria and Perry are seeking each other through the shadows of the borderlands after months apart. Though their reunion is sweet, the relief is short-lived as they return to a tribe that doesn't trust Dwellers and where Perry's new position as Blood Lord is questioned. When distrust and danger force them apart, Aria and Perry must work separately to save the world and those around them from falling apart.
Though I wasn't impressed with Rossi's debut novel, Under the Never Sky, I picked up the sequel because I was intrigued enough to see where Aria and Perry's journey led next, and I'm very glad that I did. Not only did this novel move along better than the first, but many of the problems I experienced with the debut were absent. Quick, fast-paced plotting had me turning pages to see what happened next, and many of the world building issues were cleared up, even if in convenient ways.
The greatest strength of the novel, however, laid in its depiction of complex and meaningful relationships between the characters, including that between Perry and Roar, Perry and the band of Six, and Perry and Marron. Most notably, the relationship between Roar and Aria was a standout. Except for a few moments of hesitation or questioning from others, Aria and Roar's relationship was never fraught with unnecessary romantic tension; instead, it was portrayed as a supportive and resilient friendship between a man and a woman, something not often seen in a young adult novel. The relationship between Perry and Aria also felt less forced and more real, and talks of scents and senses added to their relationship this time instead of distracting from it.
While I did enjoy reading this, it's not a book that struck me deeply or that stayed with me long after reading - it was simply a fun, action-filled adventure-romance. The novel was very much a middle book, in that there was the expected distancing of the lovers and the fight to come back together. Anyone familiar with this genre can also foresee what lies ahead in the final book in terms of the conflict between the outcasts and those in power. As a character, Perry also seemed too perfect. Despite the described concern of his tribe regarding his ability to lead, readers will not find a single undesirable trait in him. Though I love reading about a `good guy' hero, this portrayal seemed unrealistic, especially given the rough way Perry was portrayed in the first book.
Even with these qualms, I'm glad I took another chance on this author and was able to immerse myself in the world of the Never Sky for a few days. In the final book of the trilogy, Into the Still Blue, I hope that Rossi maintains her focus on the characters' relationships as they forge ahead into an uncertain future.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
Having trouble rating this one. As a standalone, I would give it three stars for its sheer readability, but as a sequel that should be an extension of...moreHaving trouble rating this one. As a standalone, I would give it three stars for its sheer readability, but as a sequel that should be an extension of the first book's theme and tone, it falls flat and would only get two stars.(less)
Dystopian romance that seems to have it all, yet still needs a little more
In C. J. Redwine’s debut novel, Defiance, Rachel Adams doesn’t want to admi...more Dystopian romance that seems to have it all, yet still needs a little more
In C. J. Redwine’s debut novel, Defiance, Rachel Adams doesn’t want to admit the possible truth: that her father, the city’s best tracker and courier, may be dead. Finding herself essentially orphaned, Rachel is appalled to learn that her new Protector will be Logan, her father’s apprentice and the boy who rejected her love two years ago. When she and Logan realize that her father may still be alive and in horrible danger, they concoct a plan to slip past the gated walls of the city to find him. By doing so, they risk death in the Wastelands, the dangerous area outside the wall, or death within the city, where the cruel ruler could kill them for treason.
With its combination of action, romance, and a dystopian setting, Defiance is sure to be a hit. The novel is a very quick, easy read that flows along from beginning to end with excellent pacing throughout. Tension-filled, sometimes harrowing, action scenes move the story along, and Rachel is a feisty, capable heroine who stands up for herself and her loved ones. Redwine’s writing is strong overall and, at times, beautiful in its descriptiveness. Several important themes also underscore the story, including the importance of family (both those we are related to and those we choose) and how violence changes people.
Despite this promising combination of elements, the characters or their struggles never truly resonated with me. I had fun reading the book, but I also had an uncomfortable sense at all times that I should be feeling more strongly about the characters and what was happening to them. Though based on a solid foundation, the romance was too predictable to have much tension, and the voices of the two narrators (Rachel and Logan) felt too similar. Most notably, I was distracted by the novel’s lack of world building. The setting had many hallmarks of a popular dystopian book – a totalitarian government with a cruel leader, no fuel or electricity, tracking devices implanted into each citizen, and a patriarchal system where women are controlled by men – but the reason for this society and its development was never explained. As a reader, I could never grasp where and when this story was supposed to be taking place. When a fantasy element was introduced on top of this, it felt out of place and unnecessary. Overall, the story just felt too much like other underdeveloped dystopian adventure tales.
Even though I was disappointed in the romance and the lack of world building, I enjoyed Defiance enough that I plan to read the coming books in the trilogy to see what Rachel and Logan do next. In future installments, I hope Redwine does more to explore and expand the world she’s created and that she brings some more novel elements to her story.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
Though I had heard many positive things about Hopkins’ gritty verse novels for teens, Collateral was my first experience with her work and it left me...more Though I had heard many positive things about Hopkins’ gritty verse novels for teens, Collateral was my first experience with her work and it left me extremely disappointed. The author’s use of verse never felt poetic; it simply seemed like prose broken awkwardly across a page.
Additionally, while it was clear what message the author was trying to impart about the effects of a military life on both the solider and those around him/her, it came off as heavy-handed and unbelievable; because the reader only meets the characters at the time of enlistment, it’s a big jump to believe that the personality changes described are attributable solely to the stresses of military life, as opposed to some inherent part of their dispositions.
Only recommended to those who enjoy Hopkins’ work and who are willing to read a very depressing tale about military life, abuse, and drug/alcohol use. (less)
Though slow in the middle with an unnecessarily drawn-out love triangle, this tale’s very Gothic mix of mystery, romance, and the grotesque makes it a...more Though slow in the middle with an unnecessarily drawn-out love triangle, this tale’s very Gothic mix of mystery, romance, and the grotesque makes it a winner. Not for the faint of heart, though, as Dr. Moreau’s cruel experiments are described in detail more than once. (less)
Beautifully written fairy tale best suited for younger YA readers
As the book blurb states, Far Far Away is a tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. But...more Beautifully written fairy tale best suited for younger YA readers
As the book blurb states, Far Far Away is a tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. But it is also more than that: it is a beautifully written story about friendship, love, regret, and the evil that can lurk under the most benevolent of façades.
It's infrequent that I read a book and can tell how much time and planning an author put into it by the way the story unfolds, by how the details that seemed initially irrelevant are brought into play. However, this craftsmanship was readily apparent by the time I finished reading FAR FAR AWAY. Tom McNeal uses his words to describe a sleepy, small town called Never Ever where every person, place, and situation has the hint of a fairy tale embedded into it. The ghost, Jacob Grimm of the famous Grimm Brothers, was a wonderfully insightful and sympathetic narrator whose voice sounded genuine, and the other characters, all quirky in one way or another, will delight many readers. The plot points wove together in small, nuanced ways that all coalesced by the conclusion. And when the plot turned dark, it went very dark, and in doing so, the story stayed true to its roots in the original Grimms' tales.
Even with all of these strengths, I felt oddly disconnected from this story. For much of the book, I felt unsure of whom the intended audience was meant to be or how much of the town, its people, and their stories were meant to be taken seriously. The plot develops very slowly and does not pick up until nearly 70% into the text. Though I appreciated how everything came together, it felt as though it took a very long time to get there. When the pacing does change, the tone also shifts abruptly from one of small-town musings to that of a very dark and sinister variety. Most of the characters were described in broad strokes, and some were little more than caricatures. I believe this framing was intentional, as the story is a fairy tale about fairy tales, but I longed for more character depth. The two main characters, Jeremy and Ginger, also spoke and acted much younger than their purported age of fifteen.
If I were to rate this book based solely on my enjoyment of it, I would give it three stars, but McNeal's obvious mastery of his story and the language he uses to tell it make me bump it up to four stars. I would recommend this story most to those between the ages of 11 - 14 or to adult readers who want to immerse themselves in the Grimm-influenced lore. Given the right reader with a patient disposition, FAR FAR AWAY should be a treat of fairy tale proportions.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
When I requested a review copy of Stealing Harper, I didn't realize that it was a companion novella to an already existing book (Taking Chances). Desp...more When I requested a review copy of Stealing Harper, I didn't realize that it was a companion novella to an already existing book (Taking Chances). Despite that, I was still able to read it and understand what was going on, but I unfortunately didn't care about the story or its characters. The writing was repetitive and insipid, and the characters had few distinguishing characteristics other than an unexplainable attraction to each other and a noticeable lack of reasoning. Chase wasn't hot; he was emotionally hurtful, sometimes physically abusive, and downright disgusting in his dealings with and perception of women. Harper, his love interest, had no personality other than being indecisive and easily embarrassed. Their interactions with each other lacked authenticity, and the supposed romance between them never held a hint of romance for me; it was merely empty sexual attraction and a lot of repulsive, possessive inner dialogue from Chase about "his princess."
Only recommended to those readers who enjoyed the first book, TAKING CHANCES, and who want to see things from Chase's perspective.
Nota bene: Only 65% of the e-book contains actual content; the remaining 35% is merely samplers for the author's other works. (less)
Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as...more Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as much as Katie Cotugno's debut novel, How to Love, did. This novel is a beautiful and achingly realistic portrayal of one couple's doomed teenage love affair, the aftermath, and their eventual coming to terms with one another.
HOW TO LOVE stands out among the crowd of other YA contemporary novels most notably due to Cotugno's lyrical, evocative writing. The author creates beautiful mental images throughout the novel by including details that add nuance and feeling to the story. Every detail or repeated image seems intentionally placed and well-considered. I would often stop reading to admire a passage and think to myself "THIS is what good writing looks and feels like." Another strength lies in the two main characters, Reena and Sawyer. Both are complex, flawed characters with multifaceted family members and friends surrounding them. While I often didn't like Reena or Sawyer, the writing allowed me to understand them and their actions and motivations.
In addition to her strong character development, Cotugno also does wonders with the plot and the structure of the novel. There is a careful interweaving of plot threads about family pressures, work, alcohol/drugs, religion, school, and friendship to make the characters' lives feel real and palpable. I especially liked the presence and impact of Reena's best friend, Allie, on the relationship between Sawyer and Reena. The plot of HOW TO LOVE never hurries nor dallies; the juxtaposition of the "before" and "after" chapters are perfectly aligned with mirrored events that follow one another naturally. When the book came to a close, the ending left me satisfied, even without answering every plot question directly.
Though this book was a perfect fit for me, there were a few phrases or sentence choices that threw me at times, and other readers may not be able to look past Reena's and Sawyer's flaws in order to find them sympathetic.
In all, though, HOW TO LOVE is the best young adult book that I've read in the past two years. I can't wait to see what moving, realistic, and emotionally arresting stories Cotugno writes in the future. I know that I'll be reading every one of them.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.
Immediate reaction: My first five-star book in two years! I am so incredibly impressed with the quiet but compelling story this novel tells and the style and lyricism with which the author tells it. I can't wait to see what this author writes in the future.(less)
Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of p...more Quick & easy read for fans of contemporary YA romance
In Dare You To, Beth Risk lives with her drug-addicted mother under the constant threat of poverty and violence. When she's sent to a rural town to live with the uncle that left years ago, Beth struggles to find a way to save her mother and get back to the few close friends who have helped her. Though local golden boy and baseball star Ryan Stone's life appears blissfully easy in comparison, there's more simmering beneath the surface of his family's perfect façade. When Beth and Ryan's lives intersect, sparks fly and each learns that the expected path in life might not always be the best one.
While DARE YOU TO was a bit formulaic, this book was a quick and easy read that will appeal to fans of Simone Elkeles, both in its style of alternating male/female points-of-view and its overall light tone, despite the serious topics involved. One notable strength of the novel was Ryan: he was a great male lead who treated Beth with respect. Though there were some moments when he acted a bit chauvinistic, these instances seemed realistic for his character and the small-town climate in which he grew up. While I always knew where Beth and Ryan's relationship was headed, it was nice to see the progression from attraction and lust to something deeper. In addition, I appreciated how the sex scene was handled; the story featured a virgin hero and did a very good job depicting how sex can be an exercise in trust, not just desire. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Ryan's friends Chris, Logan, and Lacey. The interactions between these friends and their classmates depicted small-town rural/suburban life well without mocking it.
This novel didn't work for me on all levels, though. Some very serious issues were presented in the book (e.g., drug abuse, domestic violence, poverty), but they were glossed over and resolved too easily, even if somewhat sadly. Similarly, significant changes in Beth's character seemed to happen too quickly to be believable, and she felt less developed as a character than Ryan. While I liked Ryan's character, he did some things that seemed to contradict his "nice guy" persona, while also sometimes seeming too idealized to be real.
Even with these misgivings, I enjoyed reading DARE YOU TO and think it will have a wide fan base. This installment was a definite improvement over my experience with McGarry's first book (Pushing the Limits), and I look forward to reading the final book in the trilogy (Crash into You)) when it comes out.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
One of the most poorly-written and poorly plotted things I've ever read. I just can't even begin to describe how lackluster this was. I also don't und...moreOne of the most poorly-written and poorly plotted things I've ever read. I just can't even begin to describe how lackluster this was. I also don't understand why it's being marketed as "new adult," but oh well. (less)
If I rated this on my reading experience alone, it would get 1 star. If I rated this, however, based on how it fares and compares to other novels in t...more If I rated this on my reading experience alone, it would get 1 star. If I rated this, however, based on how it fares and compares to other novels in the romance genre, it would get 2 stars. Therefore, I'm going with 1.5 stars overall.(less)
A surprisingly good romance novella in which the characters are not new lovers navigating a nascent relationship, but rather a married couple who find...more A surprisingly good romance novella in which the characters are not new lovers navigating a nascent relationship, but rather a married couple who finds themselves lost in kids, work, and their roles and responsibilities. The book contains much more depth (and less sex) than the blurb would suggest, as the story is focused primarily on the couple's problems and how they struggle to decide if and how to handle them. I found this novella moving and honest in how it depicted marriage, albeit sometimes depressingly, and it wrapped up with a hopeful ending and a very nice author's note to explain why she wrote this story. Highly recommended to romance fans, especially those who can relate to married life with children.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy received from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review.(less)
In all, this is a pretty standard romance novel with the apparently required New Adult tropes of the main character having some type of sexual abuse i...moreIn all, this is a pretty standard romance novel with the apparently required New Adult tropes of the main character having some type of sexual abuse in her past and a super beautiful, hot guy showing up to help her overcome her emotional difficulties. While I rated this one slightly higher than Carmack's FAKING IT, I do so only for the easy flow of the writing and the beautiful descriptions of place as the main character, Kelsey, backpacks all over Europe.(less)
DNF at 13%. After not being impressed with the first in the series (A Little Too Far), I started this one because it purported to focus on Alessandro,...more DNF at 13%. After not being impressed with the first in the series (A Little Too Far), I started this one because it purported to focus on Alessandro, the most interesting and nuanced character of the initial installment. Unfortunately, the writing remained tedious and uninspired, the main character and narrator (Hilary) wasn't likable or sympathetic, and the regular New Adult cliches were out in too much abundance for me to handle. (less)