Despite the easy read that this book was, I can't seem to muster the interest or heart to care about the characters, their "new" conflict, or the outc Despite the easy read that this book was, I can't seem to muster the interest or heart to care about the characters, their "new" conflict, or the outcomes to follow.
After having read all seven of Cremer's books set in the Nightshade universe (original trilogy, prequel duology, adult erotica under pen name, and now this), I think I'm done. The conflict in this new series seems to simply be a resurrection of the one that the author resolved in her first trilogy. Because of that, I don't feel any real tension or interest in what unfolds next.
On the positive side, Cremer has streamlined her writing significantly, with far less info-dumping and fewer purple turns of phrase. She has also done a good job linking all of the books in her different series together so that they complement one another. I worry, though, that the books to come in this series will take on the distinct feel of historical romance. Without giving too much away, this installment closes on a cliffhanger with characters on their way to the Scottish Highlands, and someone has been declared as in need of a "champion" to help save her. My brow...it furrows in concern....more
My first complete audiobook "read." Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was a humor-filled urban fantasy romp with touching moments mixed in. A great choice f My first complete audiobook "read." Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was a humor-filled urban fantasy romp with touching moments mixed in. A great choice for YA readers who like older, college-aged protagonists and also a great choice for male readers. ...more
A disappointing end to Stolarz's TOUCH series in which the exact same storyline is recycled yet again, the love triangle is resolved in an unbelievabl A disappointing end to Stolarz's TOUCH series in which the exact same storyline is recycled yet again, the love triangle is resolved in an unbelievable and quick fashion, and the characters remain shallow and too-inwardly focused overall. ...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 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. ...more
Lackluster mash-up of vampires & post-apocalyptic elements, 2.5 stars
In Julie Kagawa’s new BLOOD OF EDEN series, the future is a place of loss and Lackluster mash-up of vampires & post-apocalyptic elements, 2.5 stars
In Julie Kagawa’s new BLOOD OF EDEN series, the future is a place of loss and fear: most humans have died due to a world-wide plague and those who remain are controlled by vampire lords in guarded cities. Allie scrapes out a life on the edge of society as one of the humans beyond notice of the vampires. But after she is attacked, she must make a decision: die or become that which she despises? In her new form, Allie must battle between blood lust and humanity, especially as her journey takes her outside the city walls and joins her with a ragtag group of humans searching for a promised land free from vampires.
Though I went into The Immortal Rules with high hopes, I was left disappointed. Kagawa’s writing or style wasn’t bad, but neither ever grabbed me. The book also seemed too long for the tale it tells, and the premise didn’t feel very inspired. The book simply felt like a mash-up of what’s “hot” right now (vampires + pseudo-zombies + post-apocalyptic/dystopian). When the vampire or post-apocalyptic elements did appear, they felt predicable. For example, Allie’s vampire sire seemed straight out of other vampire tales (the cool, collected one who is patrician and guarded), and Allie seemed too much like the generic “tough girl” character so often seen in dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels. Because she was supposed to be so strong and hardened, some of the characterization used to describe her also didn’t feel right, like Allie’s concern for a needy, demanding refugee and her soft, reticent feelings about being kissed. The action, when it did occur, was often brutal and harrowing, but it wasn’t enough to keep me reading quickly for nearly 500 pages. The main character and those she cared about (or those who moved the plot forward) escaped true damage too easily and too often for me to be able to suspend disbelief.
On the positive side, this book might be great for Kagawa fans who are looking for her to do something darker than her Iron Fey series. The story is gritty and dark, and it doesn’t flinch at depicting gruesomely violent or harsh circumstances. The plot also includes some interesting ideas about vampirism as a disease, and the mix of that with an element of religious fanaticism among the surviving humans drew me in more during the latter half of the book.
On the whole, though, The Immortal Rules didn’t have enough positive points to make me ignore the predictability or slow pace. Despite that, I hope this book finds a warmer reception with those who like her writing or are looking for a tale that combines elements from some of today’s most popular genres.
Note: Though I didn’t take this into account in my review, I have to mention the white-washing of the cover. The main character, Allison Sekemoto, is repeatedly described as Asian, but the cover model is not.
**This review refers to an advance review copy....more
After narrowly escaping a suspicious forest fire that threatened to destroy their island home, Maya, Daniel, Second disappointing installment in series
After narrowly escaping a suspicious forest fire that threatened to destroy their island home, Maya, Daniel, and their friends find themselves in even more danger as their rescue helicopter crashes and they’re left to survive and outwit their pursuers in a remote wilderness. As their potential captors get closer, Maya must struggle to decide whom to trust and what to believe about herself and her friends. Strange rumblings start to surface as others in the group begin to learn about their own special powers and as Maya learns more about what may have really happened when her best friend drowned a year before.
I went into reading The Calling with some anxiety because I didn’t enjoy the first book in this series, The Gathering. Sadly, my unease was warranted. Unlike Armstrong’s first young adult series (Darkest Powers), I just can't get into this trilogy or feel attached to any of the characters, even now after reading the second book. Most notably, this book (and this trilogy in general) feels like a rehashing of the author’s previous books. With the repetition of the same plot points (run, be captured, escape, then repeat) and the same world of the St. Clouds and the Cabals, I’m just not intrigued anymore. The idea of genetically-modified supernaturals and a conspiracy-laced research firm was exciting in her first few books, but it now feels overused and uninspired.
Because so much of the book is action-focused, little character development also occurs, and when it does, it seems superficial. I was also bothered by the author’s clumsy attempt to include a gay/lesbian character; though it seemed well-intentioned, the characterization only served to reinforce stereotypes. The story doesn’t take any real risks with the plot, the characters, or any of the potential (and likely) bad outcomes that would result in a situation like this. When villains appear, they are too easily foiled or appear from nowhere for the purpose of simply creating another action scene. Finally, as the book closes, it ends on a cliffhanger with little resolution. Armstrong has explained that her trilogies are meant as one plot line across three books, but it still makes each book feel abrupt and unfinished to me.
On the plus side, if you like Armstrong’s formula and her world, then this book will be a good fit. Also, like her other books, this installment is a quick, easy read and very action-based. I also appreciate that the superpowers that these teens possess vary from what’s seen in her previous books.
These things, however, weren’t enough to make this book an enjoyable read for me. I’m sure I’ll read the final installment (The Rising) to see how things end, but I’m already feeling apprehensive about it because I fear it too will be too similar to her other stories. Even with this gloomy outlook, I hope I’m proved wrong and that Armstrong brings unexpected plot twists and well-rounded character development to the final book.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
In Brenna Yovanoff's sophomore novel, The Space Between, Daphne has spent an apathetic life within the me Disappointing but unique take on demon mythos
In Brenna Yovanoff's sophomore novel, The Space Between, Daphne has spent an apathetic life within the metal city of Pandemonium. As the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lilith and Lucifer, she lives in a space where little changes and love doesn't matter. When her brother Obie goes missing, Daphne realizes she must travel to Earth in an attempt to save him. Putting her own demon nature to the test and relying on Truman, a human boy with problems of his own, Daphne risks her life to find out what love really means.
Though I really wanted to enjoy THE SPACE BETWEEN, I had a hard time connecting with its characters and its world. Daphne and Truman were sympathetic characters, but their problems were resolved too easily and too quickly for me to find it believable. For example, Daphne never really seemed to struggle with her humanity. She was too good for my liking, as were all of the other demons. World building flaws also pulled me out of the story. Much was made about how Pandemonium was a world without time, but many things were mentioned that denoted the passing of time. There were also confusing points regarding parentage and who/what made someone a demon. If these had been small things, instead of integral parts of the story, I could have let them slip, but they weren't.
Other things that tripped me up while reading included the change in point-of-view from first-person to third-person between chapters and the quick pace of the romance. While I liked that this was a stand-alone novel, the conclusion left things wrapped up too neatly for my taste, especially given the harrowing events that happen shortly before the end. I was also put off by the nature of some of the things that happen in the second half of the book. It's a personal aversion, but it unsettles me whenever religion gets mixed with with creepy stuff like torture.
Even with these problems, I can appreciate that Yovanoff is a good writer, and it showed in many places. Her descriptions of Pandemonium were detailed and vivid, and her unique spin on the tale of Lilith and Lilith's children pulled me in during the prologue. I also appreciated the story's focus on the sibling bond between Daphne and Obie. Even when the relationship between Daphne and Truman took over the latter part of the story, most of Daphne's actions were still motivated by her love and concern for her brother.
Though I haven't enjoyed Yovanoff's writing as much as I had hoped (either in this book or in her debut, The Replacement), I'm still willing to keep reading her work in the future. I hope I can find that spark that so many of my friends see in her work.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Beautiful and evocative writing creates satisfying tale
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races takes readers to the small island of Thisby, a place wherBeautiful and evocative writing creates satisfying tale
Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races takes readers to the small island of Thisby, a place where nothing is earned easily, whether it be money or respect. Sean Kendrick has found that out himself, scraping by as a stable worker. He’s no ordinary stable hand, however, since he is the only one able to truly control the fearsome capaill uisce, the carnivorous water horses that emerge from the sea. Each year, Sean races his beloved water horse, Corr, in the potentially deadly Scorpio Races. Despite the odds in his favor, there’s much more at stake in this year’s race. Puck Connolly, on the other hand, never meant to go near the Scorpio Races, but her own hard luck has changed that. As the two navigate the difficult paths given to them, they must decide which risks are worth taking.
THE SCORPIO RACES stands out as Stiefvater’s most well-written book to date. Her writing remains beautiful and evocative, and it does so this time without ever feeling overdone. She constructs a palpable sense of mood and place using her words, and the characters have authentic personalities and motivations based on what’s shared about their pasts. Certain emotional and haunting scenes have stayed with me long after I finished, and I got goosebumps while reading more times than I could count. As a standalone novel, the story was satisfying and complete in itself, and the aching closing scene had me thinking about it for days. Other strong points of the novel included its unique water horse mythology (which was explained well without too much telling) and the focus on the strengths of Sean and Puck and the meaningful relationship each had with his or her horse. When a romance did surface, it was reflective of the characters involved and based on mutual respect and admiration.
Despite these strengths, I wasn’t able to give the book five stars due to a few weak points. The story was very slow in the beginning and didn’t pick up until about page 160. Told in alternating first-person perspectives, the voices also felt too similar at times. Though this is the best book overall that I’ve read from Stiefvater, I didn’t get caught up in the characters and their emotions like I did in her faerie books (Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception and Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie). I expect that this story will appeal to a smaller audience than her Shiver novels due to its focus on the human-horse relationships and its slow pacing and quiet romance.
Even with these few small qualms, I greatly enjoyed THE SCORPIO RACES because of its gorgeous writing, tangible sense of place, and strong, resilient characters. After reading this, I can’t wait to see what Stiefvater’s two forthcoming standalone novels will bring. It feels like her work will continue to get better and better.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. ...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 Fal 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....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
Slow and underdeveloped start to new trilogy, 2.5 stars
In Kelley Armstrong's THE GATHERING, Maya Delaney lives in a small medical research town on VanSlow and underdeveloped start to new trilogy, 2.5 stars
In Kelley Armstrong's THE GATHERING, Maya Delaney lives in a small medical research town on Vancouver Island. A year after her best friend's death, Maya and her friend Daniel still don't have answers about how Serena died. When other people start to show up dead in the woods and Maya begins to have strange moments of connection with animals, she decides to start looking for answers. All the while, things are heating up between Maya and bad boy Rafe who may have secrets of his own. Maya and her friends soon start to discover that things may not be as safe on the island as they once thought.
After really enjoying Kelley Armstrong's first YA trilogy (Darkest Powers), I was excited to delve into this new series. Similar to her prior books, Armstrong's easy writing style and engaging setting kept me reading. Likable characters such as Daniel, Rafe, Annie, and Maya's parents drew me into the story as did the gripping prologue that set up the mystery. Armstrong's descriptions and use of Canadian slang created a firm sense of place, and her respectful representation of Native people and the weaving of myth and culture into the plot also made the setting feel real.
Even with these strong points, this novel fell short for me because of its limited plot development and obvious similarities to her previous trilogy. While parts of the mythology were new, prior readers of her Darkest Powers series will know immediately what's happening to Maya and who the villains will be. Even such, readers learn very little in this book about the possible powers or identities of the different teens except for Maya and Rafe. The plot itself did not move forward much at all, and the book finished with a cliffhanger that didn't even feel like one. Though I can't stand cliffhangers, the one that's provided didn't even make me eager to read the next installment. The book overall feels like an extended prologue leading up to action we haven't seen yet. As the narrator, Maya was likable for her assertive personality and quick wit but it seemed hard to believe that she was so well-liked by most everyone despite being somewhat abrasive. I was also disappointed that the romance looks destined to fall into the requisite pattern of a love triangle.
I'm left feeling cautious about this new series and where it will go. In future books, I hope Armstrong provides a more substantial plot, some unexpected twists about the villains, and a greater sense of self-containment to each novel....more
In Melissa Marr's first adult novel, GRAVEMINDER, the quiet, small town of Claysville is not what it seems. When herCreative world but tedious romance
In Melissa Marr's first adult novel, GRAVEMINDER, the quiet, small town of Claysville is not what it seems. When her beloved but quirky grandmother is found dead, Rebekkah returns to the place and the man, Byron, she's been keeping at arm's length for nearly a decade. Very soon, Bek and Byron learn that secrets have been kept from them and that a shadowy world of the dead exists under their feet. Pulled into centuries-old roles as the Graveminder and the Undertaker - those responsible for keeping the dead from walking - the two must combat growing threats to their community while coming to terms with their rocky past.
Having read Marr's WICKED LOVELY series for young adults, I was eager to see how she would do with her adult debut. Similar to her past work, the author's greatest strength lies in her ability to create an imaginative world and mythos in which to immerse her characters. The responsibilities and roles of the Graveminder and Undertaker were original, and her world of the dead was highly creative. The prologue drew me in with the palpable sense of dread and mystery it created. Those of the dead, like Mr. D., Alicia, and Daisha, were fascinating characters about whom I wanted to read more. The novel also finished in a conclusive place, though it could be expanded into a series.
With this strong opening and unique mythos, I was hoping for a great read. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The most interesting part of the book's created world lies in the land of the dead and its characters, but little time is spent there. Instead, much of the story focuses on the relationship struggles and haunted past between Rebekkah and Bryon. While I love a good romance with some challenges, their story felt tedious and slow due to the constant repetition of plot points about why Bek couldn't let herself be with Byron and about all of the information that has been withheld from the two of them. Both characters acted much less mature than expected for well-travelled adults in their mid to late 20s. Due to this, pacing dragged until the later portions of the book. Some of the characterizations used to develop her characters also felt too similar to Marr's other books, and many small plot threads and side characters were introduced but never explored.
GRAVEMINDER will appeal to those looking for an American Gothic tale with a heavy dose of romantic angst and some action from the undead. If Marr continues writing in this universe, I hope she picks up the pacing and focuses more on the world of the dead she's created and the apparently complicated characters that inhabit it.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. ...more
Frustrating mix of problems slows novel down, 2.5 stars
In Cassandra Clare's fourth installment of her Mortal Instruments series, CITY OF FALLEN ANGELSFrustrating mix of problems slows novel down, 2.5 stars
In Cassandra Clare's fourth installment of her Mortal Instruments series, CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS, the Great War has passed and everyone is left trying to recover. Clary and Jace have the first opportunity to really enjoy their relationship, but Jace starts to pull away. Simon is juggling relationships with two girls while also contending with different factions that want him for his Daylighter abilities. When Shadowhunters start turning up dead in the different Downworlder districts, the group realizes that darker threats are afoot and secrets are being kept that could endanger them all.
Unlike the fun but light reads of the previous books in the series, CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS does not continue that trend. The fast, action-driven pace of the past novels is gone and replaced with character drama that doesn't serve to elicit growth from any of the characters. The storyline focuses heavily on new problems between Jace and Clary, and some of Jace's actions become inexcusable. Because of this focus on the characters' personal problems, pacing is slow for the first 300 pages. The writing remains okay but overwrought with similes and metaphors, and typos appear starting on the third page. Most frustratingly, this installment is filled with plot points similar to those in past books, plot holes, and continuity errors that could not be ignored. Many plot points are dropped after being brought up, and others are handled clumsily with many logic errors. Unclear or unreliable world building permeates the story, especially in regard to new threats, new villains, and Simon's mark. The book also ends on much more of a cliffhanger than previous installments, and the new conflict that's created is an extension of a storyline that readers would have thought had finished with the first trilogy.
On the positive side, this book continues a series that is loved by many. Greater focus on Simon, Isabelle, and some of the other characters provides a nice reprieve from the Jace/Clary drama, and the identity of the villain, while unoriginal, does come as a surprise. In the coming two sequels, I hope that Clare clears up some of the plot misses and moves beyond the set conflicts she's created in order to provide her characters with more opportunities for growth.
Additional note: A new character is introduced, and his character adds some novelty to the story. His previously horrific actions and those of another male in the book, however, are given the unsettling treatment that it's all right if he didn't mean to do it because he was under the influence of something else. While it's a stretch to compare fantasy motives to real-life situations, I'm concerned that this message suggests that an abusive partner's actions are excusable if the action can be "blamed" on something else (e.g., alcohol , drugs). ...more