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)
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)
Some poems were funny, others brought me to tears, but they all portrayed God/god in a sympathetic, human way that gives children and young adults a s...moreSome poems were funny, others brought me to tears, but they all portrayed God/god in a sympathetic, human way that gives children and young adults a safe place to think about God and how they perceive Him/Her/It.(less)
3.5 stars. Best one in this three-book series with characters who are actually likable and fun to read about. Repetitive descriptions remained, esp. d...more3.5 stars. Best one in this three-book series with characters who are actually likable and fun to read about. Repetitive descriptions remained, esp. during the sex scenes, but I found myself actually enjoying this one overall and feeling for the characters. (less)
Strong protagonist, action, and romance combine for solid read, 3.5 stars
In Rift, the prequel to Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, readers get a gli...more Strong protagonist, action, and romance combine for solid read, 3.5 stars
In Rift, the prequel to Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, readers get a glimpse into the origins of the Keepers and the Witches War of the 15th century. The daughter of a noble, Ember Morrow must leave her family after her 16th birthday to serve the mysterious order of Conatus. Though most fear the knights, Ember readily embraces the life of battle and purpose the order provides. Once training begins, she finds not only her skills tested, but also her wit and her heart. Dark powers soon start to infiltrate the group, and Ember must decide where and with whom her allegiances lie.
Though I had a rocky relationship with Cremer's other Nightshade books, I really enjoyed Rift once I got past some slow parts in the beginning. Ember was an able and spirited protagonist with a strong sense of self. Though a bit reckless at times, she doesn't complain or expect others to rescue her. Action scenes were well-described and plentiful, and the author's prose painted beautiful images of the Scottish highlands cloaked in gray fog. The slow-building romance was another highlight with its swoon-worthy love interest who was both strong and masculine but also considerate and effusive. Even though it's a prequel, Rift can also be read on its own as the satisfying start to a new series, and the story ends in a place where a reader can look forward to the next installment without being left on a terrible cliffhanger.
As mentioned, Rift was slow to start, however, and I felt bogged down during the first 100 pages by some character interactions and historical information that wasn't always clearly explained. Ember became too adept as a knight too quickly to be believable, and the romance blossomed from little sparks to full devotion in too short of a time near the end to feel truly natural. The story line about the split within Conatus also wasn't nearly as engaging as hoped, and I found myself rushing through those sections to get back to Ember's story. Overall, the story just felt a bit light on content where there could have been more development.
While I might have found a few stumbling points, Rift is the best thing I've read by Andrea Cremer, and I'm already looking forward to the sequel (Rise). In it, I hope Cremer develops the swoony romance even more and provides greater tension to the emerging story about the split that leads to the Witches War.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
Well-paced adventure but could use more worldbuilding, 3.5 stars
Moira Young's debut, Blood Red Road, envisions a desolate post-apocalyptic world where...more Well-paced adventure but could use more worldbuilding, 3.5 stars
Moira Young's debut, Blood Red Road, envisions a desolate post-apocalyptic world where resources are limited and nothing can be taken for granted, even family. Saba has grown up on a dry wasteland, knowing only her own family and a few wayward travelers. When a dust storm blows in four mysterious horsemen, Saba's beloved older brother Lugh is captured and taken away as words about a prophecy swirl in the air. Determined to find Lugh and bring him home, Saba sets out on a dangerous journey across the dustlands. On her quest, Saba finds both enemies and allies and challenges that test her and the very foundation of the corrupt society in which she lives.
BLOOD RED ROAD delivers a fun, well-paced read that's packed with adventure. Different than many other action tales, female characters in this story were never portrayed as less capable than men; in this world, gender seemed a moot point in most cases, as each person battles to survive regardless of sex. Saba knows how to survive because she's lived a hard life, not because she's just discovered a magical power or hidden talent. This realism made me believe more in her character and made me more invested in her struggles. Saba's character was also very believable due to the author's unique writing style that uses dialect-based spelling and missing punctuation. I know some other readers found this style distracting, but I thought it provided a good sense of place and circumstance.
While the action and intrigue kept me reading, the book did suffer from limited world building and character development. The how or why of the post-apocalyptic world was never explained, and there were somewhat unbelievable character changes in Saba by the end. A simple action-adventure tale can be fun, but I wanted there to be a deeper meaning and greater exploration of issues that arose. Problems and challenges that the characters encountered were also too easily resolved. Though the romance thankfully didn't overtake the story, it felt tacked on and sometimes unnecessary or too convenient.
Though these qualms had me wishing for a bit more, BLOOD RED ROAD is a still a rollicking good time that should appeal to fans of The Hunger Games and male and female readers alike. If you're looking for a closer examination of how governments go bad or why citizens resist, you won't find it here, but you probably won't mind because the book doesn't seem to have that as its goal. It wants to entertain, and it does that well. Because of that, I'll be looking forward to reading about Saba and her rag-tag group of comrades in the next installment of the Dustlands series.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
3.5 stars: Some parts shine, some disappoint in bittersweet ending to trilogy
In Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever, the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Fal...more 3.5 stars: Some parts shine, some disappoint in bittersweet ending to trilogy
In Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever, the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, Sam is waiting for Grace to become human again as winter melts into spring. Cole is taking huge risks to try and find a cure, and Isabel continues to struggle with her brother’s death. The stakes are raised when a hunt to kill the wolves is approved, and Sam, Cole, and Isabel must race against time to save Grace and the pack. With no easy solutions in sight, nothing is certain regarding who will live and love into another season.
Like always, Stiefvater’s lyrical prose impressed me with its ability to create distinct imagery and to evoke emotion. Isabel and Cole shined as characters that grow, both by themselves and together, and I found their shared moments to be the most touching. All of the characters, even those whom we’re supposed to love, are shown to have significant flaws, and the story deals openly with the issue of what is forgivable and what is not. Strong themes about selfish versus selfless behavior, self-destruction and suicide, the value and worth of love, and the importance of consent and choice also ran throughout. I appreciated seeing these themes woven into the story, and I appreciated even more seeing Stiefvater note some of them in the dedication, author's note, and acknowledgments. The novel also finished with a somewhat open ending that allows readers to imagine an uncertain but hopeful future for the characters, which I found more believable than a pat ending.
Even with all of these strong points, FOREVER didn’t provide the satisfying conclusion for which I had hoped. Like in Linger, the voices of the different narrators were often not distinct, and I sometimes found myself checking the chapter headings to identify the speaker. The prose in this installment also felt too intentional: I often felt like passages were written for the mere beauty of the words, not because they represented a character’s voice well. While I loved Isabel and Cole, they outshined Sam and Grace in this book, much to the detriment of the two main characters. Despite the hardships their relationship undergoes, the cautious nature in which Sam and Grace treated each other felt artificially strained. Because of this, I never reconnected to their love story. Some parts of the resolution also felt too convenient, and the werewolf pathology remained unclear. Finally, while I did appreciate aspects of the open ending, some things felt just as unresolved as they were at the end of the two previous books.
After falling in love with the author’s writing in her faerie novels (Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie), the Shiver books unfortunately never grabbed me in the same way. Despite this lack of connection with the series, I continue to be very impressed with Stiefvater’s writing and her ability to connect readers to the emotions of her characters. I’m looking forward eagerly to her upcoming stand-alone novel, The Scorpio Races, to see if I can find that connection to her writing again.(less)
Emotionally gripping debut with a few stumbles, 3.5 stars
Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, WITHER, opens with a harrowing scene: young women have been p...moreEmotionally gripping debut with a few stumbles, 3.5 stars
Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, WITHER, opens with a harrowing scene: young women have been plucked off the streets and forced into the back of a van. Some will be killed, and others will be sold into polygamous marriages. Ever since geneticists made a mistake, all women die at age 20 and all men at age 25. Along with two other women, Rhine is sold to a wealthy man as a replacement for his dying wife. Locked away in his mansion, Rhine must decide whether to accept the life of luxury she’s been provided or whether to risk everything to escape back to a world of freedom and her twin brother.
WITHER opens with the best first chapter I’ve read in a while, and the story’s hook will grab readers immediately. The book excels in its chilling depiction of the realities of Rhine’s world, and the writing doesn’t shy away from descriptions about sex and sexuality, the inner workings of the polygamous marriage, and how different people would adapt to the situation. Through its story, the novel also touches on hot issues like assisted reproduction and genetic engineering. Rhine and her two sister-wives, Cecily and Jenna, are sympathetic as characters in their own unique ways. I found their complicated relationships with one another to be the most compelling in the book. The novel also finishes with an ending that can stand on its own, even with the known sequel forthcoming.
Despite the extremely strong opening, storyline, and created world, the book faltered a bit. The mythology and world building regarding the “virus” and the resulting society was not always clear and had some plot holes. Rhine’s romantic relationship with Gabriel, the servant boy, wasn’t very moving, and some of the characters’ actions were unclear in their reasoning or felt manufactured. For example, Rhine’s flip-flopping about whether to stay or leave didn’t always feel genuine. The different relationships depicted between Linden, the husband, and each of his wives also felt out of character for each woman at times.
While I did find a few things that could be improved, DeStefano is obviously a strong new force in the young adult dystopian genre, and I look forward to seeing where book two in her trilogy leads.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. (less)
Earlier this year, I devoured Bree Despain's debut novel, THE DARK DIVINE, in one sitting and loved i...moreGood but not as enjoyable as the first, 3.5 stars
Earlier this year, I devoured Bree Despain's debut novel, THE DARK DIVINE, in one sitting and loved it. While I enjoyed THE LOST SAINT, it didn't quite live up to its predecessor.
Grace made the ultimate sacrifice to save Daniel's soul and lost herself to the werewolf curse. Ten months later, she and Daniel are still together, but Grace's family is falling apart. After Grace receives a cryptic phone call from her brother, she knows what she must do: she must harness her new powers to find Jude and bring him home. When Daniel and her father tell her to pull back, she befriends a newcomer, Talbot, who promises he can help her. As secrets push Grace and Daniel apart, the stakes become higher when an old threat returns and puts everyone at risk.
For those looking for more action and a darker tone than the first novel, THE LOST SAINT will hit the spot. The writing remains clear and quickly readable, and the darker plot touches on issues like what motivates our behavior. The action-based plot moves things along steadily, especially toward the end. Grace grows as a character, even though she faces some significant low points, and the mythology is expanded to show the reader how the wolf "claims" those with the curse. New characters like Talbot and a host of demons mix things up, and previous ones, like Gabriel and April, take on more important roles.
Though many will enjoy the fast pace and action, I missed the previous focus on character development and romance. The plot twists felt too predictable after the author dropped certain hints, such as who would be the villain(s). Portions of the plot also felt like a mishmash of so many other werewolf and paranormal books I've read lately; other than the religion and family aspects, this installment didn't feel nearly as unique as the first. While the religious and moral lessons in the first book didn't come across as preachy, things were more heavy-handed this time, making it feel less like a book for a general audience. The novel also closed on a significant cliffhanger, which was frustrating.
Despite these qualms, I'm still very impressed with Despain's writing, and I'm looking forward to what the next installment in the series will bring for Grace, Daniel, and the people that surround them.(less)
Carrie Jones' ENTICE picks right up where CAPTIVATE left off: Zara has just been pixie-kissed and turned into Astl...moreBest in the series so far, 3.5 stars
Carrie Jones' ENTICE picks right up where CAPTIVATE left off: Zara has just been pixie-kissed and turned into Astley's queen, the town remains ravaged by pixies who are killing teens, and Nick may or may not be alive and accessible in Valhalla. Having given up her humanity in order to save him, Zara must wrestle with how to keep her friends and her town safe while going after Nick. When others begin to get hurt in the process, Zara must also decide if her quest is worth it, especially since Nick may not even want her now that she's a pixie.
While there were flaws in this book, I found ENTICE to be the best in the series so far. Compared to the previous two novels, there's a noticeable reduction in the amount of silly dialogue between Zara and her friends; the writing, and therefore the characters, felt more mature because of it. The expansion of the Norse mythology, combined with the pixie lore, was also unique. The biggest strength of the book, however, was the development of Astley as a character: he is the most interesting and complex character in the series, and he receives a lot of attention in this installment. The layered examination of how some (namely Astley) deal with hurt, pain, and loss was handled well, and there were moments of brilliant and sadly descriptive writing. Again, like in the previous books, this installment also examined significant issues like what it means to be human and the importance of choice.
Even with these improvements, certain aspects remained frustrating. The dialogue and actions of some characters were still often silly or immature, and some repeated descriptive phrases became conspicuous. The most troubling part was the character inconsistency in Zara, in which she kept vacillating between being strong and selfless to being weak and selfish. At the end of the second book, Zara realized that her actions had hurt others, but that awareness doesn't seem to have stuck, as she continues to jeopardize others for her own desires. Even though Zara obviously loves Nick, the series is also moving towards an obvious love triangle that appears as though it will have striking similarities to that in Melissa Marr's WICKED LOVELY series. Secondary characters like Devyn, Issie, and Cassidy were present but of limited importance.
Though I thought this series was a planned trilogy, it's obvious now that Jones plans to expand the story across additional books. Even though I'm not completely smitten, I know I'll be looking forward to see where Zara, Nick, and Astley's stories lead next. In the books to come, I hope that Jones continues to hone her writing and dialogue and that we'll see more consistency in Zara's character.(less)
In Kelly Creagh's debut, NEVERMORE, the reader first meets Isobel: a blonde cheerleader with the quarte...moreOriginal and dark paranormal romance, 3.5 stars
In Kelly Creagh's debut, NEVERMORE, the reader first meets Isobel: a blonde cheerleader with the quarterback boyfriend. Varen Nethers, on the other hand, is everything Isobel isn't: long black hair, kohl around the eyes, and a dismissive attitude. When the two are paired together for an English project, each is irritated, but they soon learn there's more to one another than the stereotype. As Isobel spends more and more time with Varen, she's drawn into the frightening world he's created in the pages of his notebook. Varen's ideas don't just stay on the page, and Isobel must try to save them both from the dream world that threatens them.
NEVERMORE brings a fresh and dark take to the young adult paranormal romance genre. Its original mythology centers on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, and the story is scarier than most, almost bordering on horror. Because of this, the book should appeal to dark fantasy fans. The novel's greatest strength, however, lies in the relationship between Isobel and Varen and its development. Instead of the instant, unexplained attraction seen in other books, their relationship grows over time and for realistic reasons. Character development for Varen is strong; he's more than just an angry goth boy and he becomes an appealing and desirable lead. Isobel was also likeable. Even though a cheerleader, she's depicted as quick, loyal, and not vapid: someone outside of the stereotype. The novel also had consistent pacing that had me turning pages to see what happened next, even with its long length.
Despite these strengths, there were some aspects that could be improved. While the first two-thirds of the book focused on the characters' relationship with only a hint of the paranormal, the last third became solely about the supernatural. There was little transition for this shift, and I wished the two parts had been merged more seamlessly. Parts of the mythology also became confusing in this portion. Secondary characters like Gwen felt too convenient. The writing also sometimes became cumbersome with drawn-out narrative or action sequences. This made the story feel a little long, not because of actual length, but because it could have been told in fewer words with the same effect. The ending, while left at a definitive point, was a cliffhanger that will require reading the sequel to see what happens next.
In all, NEVERMORE was a unique and darkly enjoyable contribution to this genre, with lots of good relationship building and a new and frightening mythology. I hope that Creagh devotes more time to clarifying her dream world in the sequel and that secondary characters are given more depth and purpose as well.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.(less)
More complex, engaging, and emotional ride, 3.5 stars
Though I was disappointed with Sarah Rees Brennan's debut novel, THE DEMON'S LEXICON, I was intri...moreMore complex, engaging, and emotional ride, 3.5 stars
Though I was disappointed with Sarah Rees Brennan's debut novel, THE DEMON'S LEXICON, I was intrigued enough to pick up the sequel from the library, and I'm very glad I did.
In THE DEMON'S COVENANT, siblings Mae and Jamie have tried to return to as normal a life as possible after the harrowing demon and magician attacks of the prior month. When Mae realizes that Jamie is getting mixed up with the new leader of the magicians' circle, she calls the only people she thinks can help: brothers Alan and Nick. Though willing to help, the brothers' presence brings added problems, including the magicians' desire to control Nick and the Goblin Market's rebuke of Alan. Mae also finds herself conflicted about her feelings toward Alan and Nick. With her loyalties stretched between the two and her own brother, Mae must make potentially dangerous decisions to protect those she cares for most.
Compared to the first book, THE DEMON'S COVENANT was a more complex, engaging, and emotional ride. The writing improved overall, and transitions were smoother. Rees Brennan excels in her descriptions of complicated sibling relationships and in her portrayal of how love and concern may be expressed in different ways. Told through Mae's limited third-person point of view, the narration was more accessible than Nick's distant perspective of the first book. Mae's viewpoint also provided the opportunity for more mystery and suspense regarding what would happen with Alan and Nick. The quick and snappy dialogue felt more natural in this installment, and it helped to move the plot and to define characters. Character development advanced for the four main characters, most notably for Nick and Mae in some poignant moments involving his father's journal. The role expansion of secondary characters from the first book and the introduction of new ones also provided for an increasingly detailed mythology. The book then finished with a conclusive, satisfying ending (instead of a cliffhanger) that provided growth for the four main characters with the hint of future challenges.
Even though I enjoyed the book, there were still some weaknesses. Moments of rough transition still existed. Inconsistencies in Nick's character also became confusing and frustrating regarding his ability to understand human interaction and his willingness to be touched. Aspects of the mythology remained unclear at the end, as did parts of the climax and its effects. Finally, some of the secondary characters, like Annabel, Seb, Gerald, and Sin, sometimes felt more convenient than necessary.
As this trilogy concludes, I hope that Rees Brennan continues to expand and clarify her magician and demon mythology and that she maintains her focus on the strength and fragility of the sibling relationships. Though I didn't expect my opinion about this series to change so much, I'm very glad I picked up THE DEMON'S COVENANT and I'll be looking forward to the final installment next year.(less)
This review is from: The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, Book 3) (Hardcover) In her final installment of t...moreGreat series but disappointing ending, 3.5 stars
This review is from: The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, Book 3) (Hardcover) In her final installment of the Darkest Powers trilogy, The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, Book 3), Kelley Armstrong returns us to the safe house where Chloe, Derek, Simon, and Tori are hiding from the Edison Group. Unsure of their new protectors and sometimes uncertain of each other, Chloe and her friends feel trapped and hesitant about what to do next to save themselves and to free Rae and Aunt Lauren. Combined with dangerous new ghosts, increasing romantic feelings, and the impending likelihood of Derek's first full Change, things are tense for all involved.
Like the first two books in the trilogy, I enjoyed Armstrong's strong writing and the world she has created. Pacing was solid, and the plot's twists left me guessing whom to trust and surprised when the answers were revealed. Character development continued with Chloe, Derek, and Tori, though Simon became more of a secondary character. The romantic subplot was done well again, but the romance was stronger and answered the long-awaited question of Simon versus Derek. The reader also got glimpses (though not always clear) into how the Darkest Powers trilogy relates to Armstrong's Otherworld series.
Even with these strengths, I finished feeling disappointed. This book did not provide the satisfying ending to the trilogy that I had wanted. Too many plot threads were left unexplored, unfinished, and unexplained. Nothing felt settled at the end except the romance. I understand why Armstrong may have left things as she did: the ending was just enough to close the series but also enough to leave readers wanting more, either from her adult series or from her new YA trilogy, set in the same universe, to be released next year. Though I understand this, I didn't like it. In this book, characterization also felt uneven sometimes, especially with Derek and his interactions with one character in the second half of the book. Tori's character also changed significantly within a few days' time without explanation. Though necessary to move the plot along (and in ways I liked), it didn't fit with how they had been portrayed before.
Despite these problems, I still enjoyed the book a great deal and plan to read Armstrong's future YA books. However, I will do so knowing to not expect a sense of closure from her books, even when it's the end of a trilogy or series. With her strong writing, likeable characters, and creative worldbuilding, Armstrong has the ability to craft a wonderful series of books and draw the reader in. I just wish she knew when to provide a real ending and let the reader go. (less)
Beautiful Creatures was an enjoyable read, but it left me wanting more Southern atmosphere, more romance, and bett...moreGood read w/room for more, 3.5 stars
Beautiful Creatures was an enjoyable read, but it left me wanting more Southern atmosphere, more romance, and better pacing. Set in rural South Carolina, Ethan has grown up feeling limited by the small town that surrounds him. He longs for the impossible - for things to change. Things do change when Lena Duchannes moves to town, bringing with her suspicion and prejudice on behalf of the townspeople. Ethan feels inexplicably drawn to Lena, and very soon, he finds himself part of a world where the supernatural, history, love, and curses all meet.
On the strong side, the story itself is fascinating and unpredictable, with multiple, intersecting plot lines that reveal themselves over time. The book has a different and developed supernatural premise compared to the typical werewolf or vampire fare. The writing is mostly clear and strong overall. The novel takes a welcome departure from books typical to this genre by featuring a mortal guy (Ethan) as the narrator who's involved with a supernatural girl (Lena). Many secondary characters, like Amma and Macon Ravenwood, are fleshed out and of value to the plot throughout. There's also a strong, consistent theme that one's actions have consequences - even when done in haste, even after generations.
However, I expected this book to grab me and keep me reading into the wee hours; this never happened. The novel felt too long, and the story dragged significantly in the middle. For a story that's centered on the fear of an upcoming date and the potentially devastating changes it will bring, I didn't feel a sense of impending doom and tension until the end. Ethan and Lena had a relationship that developed in a non-rushed, realistic way, but I didn't feel the spark between them as romantic characters as much as I have with other books. Despite the generally good writing, there were also a few notable discrepancies in the narration that pulled me out of the story. While the setting had a small-town, rural feel, it wasn't specifically a Southern one. I wanted more description so I could envision the landscape or environment. Finally, I was disappointed because the book, like so many others, concluded with an obvious unresolved ending to set up a sequel.
Overall, it wasn't a huge gripe on any matter; it was merely that the book didn't grab me as much as I had hoped. I look forward to Garcia and Stohl bringing more clarity, a better sense of place, and more even pacing in the novels to come.(less)
Good second installment (but leaves you hanging again), 3.5 stars
In The Awakening (Darkest Powers, Book 2), the second in Kelley Armstrong's Darkest P...moreGood second installment (but leaves you hanging again), 3.5 stars
In The Awakening (Darkest Powers, Book 2), the second in Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers trilogy, we catch up with Chloe, Derek, Simon, Tori, and Rae. Chloe learns more about the extent of her special powers, the intent of the Edison Group's experiment becomes clear, and the threats to each character's safety becomes more apparent. New alliances are built, old ones are rekindled, and current ones are questioned, all while trying to escape the clutches of the Edison Group.
Like the first book in the series, I enjoyed immersing myself in Armstrong's world. Her writing is strong for a young adult series, and her characters are well-drawn. The roles of some characters are expanded, especially Derek, and relationships are both strengthened and tested between characters. There's more exploration of each character's special skills and how well he/she can master them. Chloe remains a strong teen heroine with a conscience, though she comes off more cliché in this book. Again, the action and the trials the characters experience remain the focus of the novel, not any romantic subplot. There's romantic tension, but it's limited when it appears.
However, also like the first book, the ending leaves the reader without any closure. The series feels like a serialized novel, not a series of books. In this installment, there's no sense of plot other than running from the Edison Group. Though character development and discovery does happen during the journey, the book is almost entirely one flight scene that changes a bit, based on the circumstances. Compared to The Summoning (Darkest Powers, Book 1), it was a lot less satisfying as a stand-alone book.
Despite these misgivings, I'm looking forward to the conclusion of the trilogy this spring with The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, Book 3). Like the first two books, I'm sure it will be a good read and I hope it will provide readers with a satisfying conclusion to the series. (less)
Great way to sample YA paranormal authors, 3.5 stars
LOVE IS HELL is a neat little anthology composed of five paranormal romances from five popular yo...moreGreat way to sample YA paranormal authors, 3.5 stars
LOVE IS HELL is a neat little anthology composed of five paranormal romances from five popular young adult authors: Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfield, Justine Larbalestier, Gabrielle Zevin, and Laurie Faria Stolarz. The stories include a tension-filled romance about a ghost with unfinished business, a futuristic perfect world where hormones and sleep are turned off, and a seal faery's struggle with the two tugs on his heart, the sea and his mortal love. (Plus two more tales.)
Reading this anthology was a great way to sample each author's work, and I enjoyed four of the five stories. Each tale had a distinct beginning, middle and end, even though they were short. I was most impressed with Marr's "Love Struck" and Larbalestier's "Thinner Than Water." Both of these stories featured faeries and strong female protagonists. I could have easily enjoyed a novel-length story about each setting and the characters that were created.
Westerfield's futuristic tale about a world where sleep isn't needed and the ups and downs of teenage hormones are suppressed was interesting with likeable characters. With a short story, though, there wasn't as much time as I would have liked to become comfortable with the brave new world he created for his characters. Stolarz's tale about a romance between girl and ghost was nice but predictable. Zevin's tale about the blur between fantasy and reality was the one story that I did not enjoy. The author tried to make what seemed like an obvious point about the potentially dangerous blur between the two, but I didn't feel that the story was well-executed.
Overall, this book was a great way to check out new authors and a nice way to finish each evening with a complete story each night before bed!(less)
Nancy Werlin's first foray into fantasy, IMPOSSIBLE, is designed around an imaginative premise: the wome...moreImaginative premise w/room for more, 3.5 stars
Nancy Werlin's first foray into fantasy, IMPOSSIBLE, is designed around an imaginative premise: the women of the Scarborough family have been cursed to become pregnant and go mad by age 18 if they do not complete three seemingly impossible tasks before the birth of their child. Seventeen-year-old Lucy discovers she is part of this family curse and must race to save herself and her unborn daughter from repeating this cycle. Unlike the women before her, Lucy has the support of her foster parents and her friend, Zach, and some guidance from her mother's diary and song. Will Lucy will be able to complete the tasks in time, or will she fail like her foremothers before her?
I was very excited to pick up this book. The premise was original, based in song, and filled with complexities that could be expanded into wonderful plot lines. IMPOSSIBLE was a good read with mature themes, but it didn't capture me like I hoped it would.
Mature themes appear in the book, including rape, teen pregnancy, (perceived) mental illness, foster parenting, teen marriage, and the meaning of real love as shown through sacrifice. I appreciated that these themes were explored and presented as real and pertinent to young adults. Even though Lucy and Zach find themselves in an unusual situation, their love is never downplayed or made to seem less genuine because they are young. Their characters demonstrate palpable (if not completely believable) maturity and awareness about their situation. It was also nice to see parents in a YA novel who are supportive and present. The conversations that Lucy had with her friends about rape and sex were real and raw in their honesty.
On the down side, the heavy themes did slow things and make the text and dialogue feel cumbersome and stilted at times. The recovery from rape, both physically and emotionally, seemed too easy for the character affected. Also, while the premise of the book was completely inventive, the fantasy elements were underdeveloped. Lucy's family and friend Zach were too quick to believe in the curse. Other than deciphering the riddle of the song and feeling threat early on from the villain, there wasn't a feeling of danger and the need to rush to action that I would have expected. For a fantasy book, I would have liked more focus on the fantastical elements and more overt conflict at the climax. Things cleaned up much too nicely at the end.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but felt it could have been improved by more emphasis on the fantasy elements and a greater sense of urgency/threat. The serious and considerate nature with which the mature themes were handled was refreshing, and I think this is a good read for all teens, many of whom face similar issues every day (though thankfully not due to the actions of an elfin knight).(less)
Interesting twist on werewolf love w/room for improvement, 3.5 stars
After reading Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Decepti...moreInteresting twist on werewolf love w/room for improvement, 3.5 stars
After reading Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Shiver. Sadly, it didn't grab me in the same way.
Shiver tells the story of Grace, a high-achieving but quiet high school junior, who is engrossed by the pack of wolves that roams outside her Minnesota home each winter. She has a special connection with the wolf with yellow eyes, as this wolf saved her from the pack's attack when she was eleven. We quickly learn that the wolves are actually shape-shifting humans that turn into wolves each fall and winter and then become humans again in the warmer months; as time passes and the cycle repeats, each person gets less and less time as a human until he/she ceases to change back anymore. The yellow-eyed wolf is Sam, an eighteen year old boy who has cared for Grace since he saved her six years prior. Due to some unfortunate events, Sam changes back into a human during cold weather, but he is finally able to meet and be with Grace in his human form. Sam and Grace must fight against the increasingly cold weather and other forces to keep him human and prevent what may be his last change into a permanent wolf.
I liked the author's variation on the werewolf fable, even though there were a few times that the temperature/season argument didn't work. The romance between Sam and Grace is believable in its human form, albeit sometimes boring, as they do regular things that grow a relationship, like watch TV together, go to the book shop and candy store, steal kisses, etc. Their love was sweet and sometimes sexy, with all the trappings of a first real relationship. However, the relationship seemed inauthentic in how easily they got along, with little conflict other than trying to keep Sam warm so he didn't morph back into a wolf. Even though they claimed to have been in love for the six years since the wolf version of Sam saved Grace, it was questionable and a little bit creepy to have that love translated automatically and without hesitation into a human form.
This book is told from both protagonists' POV, as indicated by a name at the top of each chapter. However, the two voices of the characters weren't distinct enough, and I found myself sometimes checking the top of the page to see who was speaking. Sam's voice was also a bit too overdeveloped and wordy to be believable for a boy of eighteen who's spent much of his life as a wolf. Each chapter also shows the current temperature. Other reviewers didn't like the temp being shown, but I thought it provided a heightened sense of urgency regarding the risk to Sam and his impending change that the book would have lacked otherwise. Compared to other YA authors, Stiefvater has a wonderfully lyrical and well-written style of prose, full of description and imagery. However, it went overboard at times as each description was flowery and dramatic. There were also some gaping plot holes in that Grace has completely absent parents, who never noticed that a boy was sleeping in their daughter's room for weeks; the whole "cure" was implausible in how the characters came about obtaining it; and the maturity, sensitivity, and emotional development of Sam seemed unlikely given his past.
Despite these qualms, it was a nice, enjoyable read overall, even if it didn't impress me like Lament did. I look forward to more from Stiefvater in the future, though, and I hope that some of the weaknesses in this book will be resolved in the next two in the trilogy, Linger and Forever. (less)