I'm finally, finally done with this tome of a novel. Sadly, this was the most disjointed and clearly unplanned novel of the series. Plot lines were br I'm finally, finally done with this tome of a novel. Sadly, this was the most disjointed and clearly unplanned novel of the series. Plot lines were brought up and then dropped; characters were introduced or reintroduced and then ignored; and the entire conflict and resolution felt contrived and anticlimactic. Oh, and our two main characters of Matthew and Diana? Even more perfect and revolutionary and special than anyone before them and anyone to come and all to a nauseating degree of implausibility. ...more
Not as bad as expected when you read the entire thing, but the middle third was full of nothing but romantic angst that almost did me in. This is not Not as bad as expected when you read the entire thing, but the middle third was full of nothing but romantic angst that almost did me in. This is not the strong female story that the blurb claims it to be, but instead it is a romance sandwiched in between typical fantasy/adventure events....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 t 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....more
Though I really enjoyed the first one in this prequel series, I'm now a bit worried about book two. The teaser chapters (available through MTV's HollyThough I really enjoyed the first one in this prequel series, I'm now a bit worried about book two. The teaser chapters (available through MTV's Hollywood Crush site) suggest that this one is going to bring the unnecessary romance and sex drama like WOAH.
(view spoiler)[The first two chapters are about nothing but the scummy boy wanting to have his rape-y way with our heroine and then the heroine trying to have her lovey-sexy way with the hunky, reasonable love interest. In 24 hours, she goes from her first-ever kiss to seeing people battle evil and die to fleeing on horseback under the cover of darkness to talking herbal birth control with her lover in the forest after trying to run her hands up into his man goods. Really? (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>...more
Charming historical-supernatural romance that's slow to start
In Saundra Mitchell's The Springsweet, seventeen-year-old Zora finds herself stuck in Ba Charming historical-supernatural romance that's slow to start
In Saundra Mitchell's The Springsweet, seventeen-year-old Zora finds herself stuck in Baltimore - both emotionally and physically - as she grieves the tragic loss of her fiancé. When a rash choice provides a way out, she takes it and finds her way to the wind-swept prairies of Oklahoma to live with her aunt. Once there, Zora discovers that she has the power to sense water under the ground and that her skill is in much demand in a drought-ridden land. While burdened with the responsibility of locating water (and hope) for others, Zora finds that her own heart may be awakening again.
Overall, The Springsweet was a charming historical romance with a light dash of the supernatural. The novel was short and succinct, and it was easy to sit down and devour it in one sitting. Zora, though a bit selfish, was a sympathetic character given her experiences and loss, and side characters like aunt Birdie and her young daughter helped flesh out the story. One of the love interests was also very likeable, and the romance, though quick and not entirely explainable, had some swoony moments. The greatest strength of the novel, however, lay in its detailed and beautiful descriptions of prairie and frontier life; these vivid mental images provided the story with an excellent sense of place and time.
Despite these positives, the novel was slow to start, and the writing felt a bit awkward in a few places. This novel is also not a good choice as someone's first foray into a historical/period novel, as there were words or descriptions, such as Zora lifting up the "combination" under her dress, that didn't mean anything to me and left me confused. Some of the supernatural elements weren't clearly explained either. The romance also developed too quickly and without much substance. This was one of the few times that I wanted a book to be longer, instead of shorter. It seemed like a lot of my concerns about the romance and the supernatural elements could have been cleared up with a few more pages about each topic. Though it's advertised as a companion novel, not a sequel, there were also times I wished I had read Mitchell's first book, The Vespertine, before this. The story does a good job of filling in the gaps, but I still felt like I was missing something.
Even though I found things I didn't like in The Springsweet, I found a lot that I did, and those strengths are enough to make me want to catch up on the first book The Vespertine and read the next (Aetherborne) when it comes out. In the coming book, I hope Mitchell continues to create a memorable sense of time and place while also providing readers with more insight into the supernatural ways and romances of her characters.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....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 gli 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. ...more
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. ...more
Somewhat predictable and dragging sequel, 2.5 stars
In the second book of Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, Wolfsbane, Calla finds herself imprisoned Somewhat predictable and dragging sequel, 2.5 stars
In the second book of Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, Wolfsbane, Calla finds herself imprisoned by the Searchers, her lifelong enemies. When the Searchers end up being much different than expected, Calla must decide whether it's worth the risk of trusting them in order to save her pack. She must also decide if her allegiance belongs to Shay, the man who escaped with her, or Ren, the one she left behind.
WOLFSBANE was a somewhat predictable and dragging sequel that still left me interested enough to keep reading. In this installment, the reader learns a great deal more about the Searchers, the Keepers, and the Guardians and how they're all connected to one another across centuries of warfare. Certain new characters added to the developing story, and the action scenes really moved the story along in the second half. Cremer also again integrated serious themes into her story about important issues like belongingness, choice, war, and how authority can influence and oppress people.
Though these good things could have combined to make a great book, they frustratingly did not. More than 200 pages were spent awkwardly dumping information on the reader, and the sheer number of new characters and roles became confusing. The new people were then often characterized using clichés. Repeated scenarios to reinforce the idea of a new human "pack" also felt redundant. Because of all this, the book was very slow to start.
Character development also faltered. Calla and Shay both act in unbelievable ways regarding each other and those around them. Their previously egalitarian relationship disappears, and both love interests act in ways that made it difficult to root for either guy, especially Ren. Calla also continues to not act like the alpha we're told she is; she does a lot of telling about her warrior and alpha attributes but she doesn't show them. Instead, there was too much reliance on teeth baring and snarling to make the Guardians seem fierce. Flowery prose also bogged down much of the story, and I noticed a few plot holes. One major plot twist was predicted too easily, and the book then finished with an unsatisfying cliffhanger.
Even though WOLFSBANE was disappointing in many ways, I'm still looking forward to see what happens as the trilogy wraps up in Bloodrose. I'm hoping that Cremer takes some major risks regarding the resolution, especially the love triangle, and that she brings some of the social and political issues to the forefront. ...more
Strong writing & creative mythology make for bloody good debut
In Tessa Gratton's debut novel, BLOOD MAGIC, Silla Kennicott has taken to keeping toStrong writing & creative mythology make for bloody good debut
In Tessa Gratton's debut novel, BLOOD MAGIC, Silla Kennicott has taken to keeping to herself after her parents' apparent murder-suicide. When a mysterious book of magic arrives, Silla decides to see if the spells work...and they do. Soon intoxicated by the power of magic, Silla also finds herself growing increasingly close to the new boy in town, Nick, who has powers and secrets of his own. When it becomes dangerously evident that her parents' deaths were only the beginning of horrible things to come, Silla, her brother, and Nick must work together to stop dark powers from using the magic for horrifying ends.
With its strong writing and creative mythology, BLOOD MAGIC felt different than other young adult paranormal romances. As the title would suggest, the book was bloodier than most, but the violence was never gratuitous and it always served to further the plot or character development. The mystery and plot twists involved kept me surprised and riveted, and I enjoyed how family and the past intertwined to create present-day conflict. The main characters were also well-developed; Nick and Silla's brother, Reese, stood out as especially likable characters who acted and thought like the young males that they were. Another strong point was the touching sibling relationship between Silla and Reese. While many may see the set-up of Silla having dead parents as cliché, this point was used as a major part of the story and therefore avoided being stale or unneeded. The romantic relationship between Nick and Silla also veered away from being trite in that it did show signs of instant attraction but it was never instant love or over the top.
While I wanted to absolutely love this book, I only really liked it though. The story was a bit slow to start, and the romance didn't grab me as much as I had hoped. The alternating points of view were essential to telling the story, but the narrators' voices were not always distinct from one another. Some chapters also shifted narrator mid-chapter, which was a bit jarring. Characters sometimes acted a bit inconsistent and the use of some metaphors, like Silla's masks, were not always clear or didn't add greatly to readers' understanding of the characters.
Even with these few stumbles, BLOOD MAGIC and Tessa Gratton are welcome and bloody additions to the world of YA paranormal romance. I look forward to seeing how the author will hone her writing further in the forthcoming companion novel, THE BLOOD KEEPER.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. ...more
In AWAKENED, Zoey and Stark are recovering on the Isle of Skye after their harrowing return from the Otherworld. NefeLackluster continuation of series
In AWAKENED, Zoey and Stark are recovering on the Isle of Skye after their harrowing return from the Otherworld. Neferet has returned to lead the Tulsa House of Night after being exonerated by the High Council, and she continues to grow stronger with Kalona now under her control. The rogue Red Fledglings are terrorizing the city, and Stevie Rae and Rephaim continue to struggle to define their relationship. With new threats and tragedies occurring in Tulsa, Zoey must decide where her conscience leads her and what she will do.
Despite my concerns with this series, I always come back to the next book with hopes for improvement. Unfortunately, AWAKENED continues the series' downward trend. The use of slang, unrealistic "teen talk," dated references, and racial and homosexual stereotypes continue (even though it's obvious the authors are trying to be inclusive). Like TEMPTED and BURNED, Zoey's perspective is written in first-person, while everyone else is in third-person. This stylistic back-and-forth remains frustrating, especially given the sheer number of characters included. Very limited character growth happens for anyone, especially Zoey. As a character, I'm no longer able to take her seriously. For example, Zoey refers to other characters as being "gross" for "playing kissy-face," and then she's depicted as sexually and emotionally mature a few chapters later, which seemed unbelievable. While things moved forward plot-wise a bit more in this book, the pace still felt stagnant for the first half. The major conflict remains Neferet and Kalona, with little change, and predictable plot outcomes continue. At the end, the book also concludes at a moment in which the authors resurrect a painfully overused plot point.
On the positive side, as mentioned, there is a bit more movement in the plot when compared to the previous two installments. The relationship between Stevie Rae and Rephaim remains interesting, and character development occurs in Rephaim, a bit in Kalona, and even a little bit in Erik. Damien and Jack's relationship also gets some more attention, and it's depicted as healthy, loving, and meaningful. While the switch from first-person point of view to third-person remained bumpy at times, the transitions were smoother and the writing was better in the third-person sections than in previous books.
With four book more books to go in this series, I'm finding it difficult as a reader to motivate myself toward picking up each additional one. If I do, I hope the Casts move beyond the set conflict or kick it up a notch, along with some significant character growth for Zoey and her friends. ...more
Whimsical but slow fairy tale retelling, 2.5 stars
Heather Dixon’s fiction debut, ENTWINED, offers a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale of the TwelvWhimsical but slow fairy tale retelling, 2.5 stars
Heather Dixon’s fiction debut, ENTWINED, offers a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Following the death of their mother, Azalea and her eleven sisters are left nearly abandoned as their father, the King, goes off to war. Though they’re in mourning, the girls long to dance just like their mother had taught them. When the girls discover a magic-filled passage to an otherworldly pavilion, they begin to spend each night dancing to exhaustion under the watchful gaze of the Keeper. Though he appears kindly at first, the Keeper soon becomes a frightening presence that may endanger the girls and the kingdom itself.
Fans of fairy-tale retellings will likely appreciate ENTWINED’s take on the Twelve Dancing Princesses, as Dixon’s version makes use of many elements from the original, including twelve girls, an invisibility cloak, and suitors who have three nights to uncover the princesses’ secret. This story offers its own whimsical touches like a magical tea set with a spunky attitude, girls named alphabetically after different plants, and a focus on the intricacies of dance steps and curtsies. Azalea comes across as a likable protagonist, and the story touches on the complexity of father-daughter relationships and how different people grieve. Even with dark notes, including a villain who is truly creepy at times, the story is also very clean and appropriate for younger readers.
Though ENTWINED had these strengths as a basis for its tale, it never caught me up in its story. Along with slow pacing for the first 400 pages, the book was too long for the story it contained. The plot sagged under the weight of the author’s ambitious attempts to characterize every character, and this led to limited character development overall. The girls’ changing relationship with their father seemed uneven, and the romances didn’t have much development or spark. The attempts to sound historical felt cliché at times, and I don’t think this novel will resonate with many young adult readers because it remains too grounded in the original tale. This book felt much more like a middle-grade read because of the very chaste romances and little in the way of truly scary parts.
Fans of the original Grimms’ tale will likely enjoy this story, even if it takes a while to get through it. Unfortunately, I didn’t experience that enjoyment. In future books, I hope that Dixon provides tighter pacing, more character development, and a bit more passion and danger.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy....more
Left wanting better romance & more resolution again
In BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, Garcia and Stohl return to the world of Gatlin, where magic and mysterioLeft wanting better romance & more resolution again
In BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS, Garcia and Stohl return to the world of Gatlin, where magic and mysterious happenings are afoot in an otherwise idyllic Southern town. Coming off the dramatic supernatural showdown on Lena's 16th birthday, Lena and Ethan are struggling to keep their relationship alive and to move forward, especially since Lena remains grief-stricken over her uncle's death. When Lena starts hanging out with Ridley and a dangerous new guy, Ethan decides to get to the truth about what's happening by traveling through the Caster tunnels underneath Gatlin. What awaits everyone is another dramatic face-off between the forces of Light and Dark, both of whom want Lena on their side.
Earlier this year, I read BEAUTIFUL CREATURES and enjoyed it, but it left me wanting better pacing, more romance, and a less contrived ending. Unfortunately, BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS didn't provide those things. Pacing dragged for the first 250 pages. Once the pacing picked up, the book switched from being about relationships and the past to being more of a heroic quest of self-discovery for Ethan. Though this could have been interesting, it didn't mesh well with the feel of the first half. Like the previous book, I also didn't find Ethan and Lena's relationship very moving, especially given how Ethan is now treated by Lena (though there is a plot reason). Ethan's voice, while sweet, is beginning to feel less and less believable. He seemed too nice and innocent (and I like good guys, not bad boys), and he never got really angry or scared or asked questions, despite what's happening. Continuity errors also drew me out of the story. Most frustratingly, the conclusion obviously set up things for the sequel, and it did so in a way that was terribly similar to the first book. The world building and mythology felt unnecessarily complicated and too convenient this time too; instead of being able to suspend belief and immerse myself in the story, I kept stopping to notice how things were working out too easily to further the plot or to protect certain characters.
On the positive side, this installment featured the introduction of new, likable characters like Liv and the expansion of existing ones like Link, Ridley, and even Ethan's deceased mother, who seemed to come alive as he learned more about her past. The development of the Caster and Otherworld mythology continued, including a lot of big reveals regarding each person's history and that of their families. A gripping back story for one couple in the past also added to the romance of the story.
Though BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS didn't meet my expectations, I'm sure that those who loved the first book will love this too. In the next sequel, I hope that Garcia and Stohl pick up the pacing and move beyond their set conflict to something more dynamic to keep readers interested and engaged. ...more
Andrea Cremer’s debut novel, NIGHTSHADE, explores a world infused with werewolves, magic, treachery, and love. Throughout her life, young alpha femaleAndrea Cremer’s debut novel, NIGHTSHADE, explores a world infused with werewolves, magic, treachery, and love. Throughout her life, young alpha female Calla has known her fate: to marry alpha male Ren on their shared 18th birthday and form a new pack. But when Calla goes against pack code and secretly saves a human boy named Shay, things begin to change. Through Shay, Calla begins to question her role to protect the mysterious Keepers and the history she’s been told all her life. As her birthday and pairing with Ren approaches, Calla must decide whether to follow tradition or her heart.
NIGHTSHADE is full of strong elements like consistent writing and a complex mythology. There’s also a paranormal love triangle, but there’s much more than that. Cremer uses her novel to explore issues like sexism, servitude, the abuse of power, and the value of tradition. Beyond these larger conflicts, the protagonist has to deal with problems that regular teens might face: controlling parents, conflicted feelings for two boys, and the struggle to determine her role and place. Taken together, these components made the story interesting and the characters sympathetic, despite their supernatural origins. Action throughout the book moved things along, and the nuances of pack dynamics were incorporated well into the human interactions.
Despite these strengths, there were also places for improvement. Some climactic scenes lacked oomph and were resolved too quickly, and the major plot twist lacked suspense because of its predictability. In the first third of the book, the mythology was very confusing, and it remained muddled at the end. Calla’s character, while initially strong, became less likeable across the book as she fell to mush around her love interests. The love triangle seemed cliché, and the love/attraction between Calla and Shay was never really explained. Character development was lacking, and while I appreciated the inclusion of real issues within the story, their presentation often came across as teaching moments. Even with its obvious feminist leanings, the book also still romanticized Ren as a forceful lover. The novel concluded with no resolution and an extreme cliffhanger that will require readers to pick up the sequel to see what happens next.
Overall, NIGHTSHADE kicks off Cremer’s planned trilogy with a complex and original mythology that includes some meaningful concepts, and it’s likely to be loved by fans of love triangles and paranormal romance. In the coming books, I hope Cremer brings more clarity to her mythology and her characters’ motivations and a greater deftness to her exploration of issues within the story. Even though I wasn’t overwhelmed with this first installment, I know I’ll pick up the next book to see where the story leads Calla, Shay, and Ren.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy....more
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 intriMore 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....more