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...more 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. (less)
Though the author was a sweetheart when I met her this past conference, I'm sad to report that I couldn't make it through her book. The prose is insip...more Though the author was a sweetheart when I met her this past conference, I'm sad to report that I couldn't make it through her book. The prose is insipid and childish, the plot obvious, and the characters seemingly one-dimensional. I'm glad she has a strong following, but I wasn't able to push myself to finish it.(less)
Complex, dark, and evocative tale – Gratton’s best book yet, 4.5 stars
Tessa Gratton has penned her best book yet with Book 2 of her United States of...more Complex, dark, and evocative tale – Gratton’s best book yet, 4.5 stars
Tessa Gratton has penned her best book yet with Book 2 of her United States of Asgard series: The Strange Maid. I stayed up late into the night, with goosebumps raised on my arms, to finish this book. The story, the writing, and the characterization are all beautiful, deep, and complex. I love a book like this that prioritizes character development over plot, but The Strange Maid still manages to combine the two well. Most of all, though, I love the risks that this book takes with characterization, theme, and source material.
Signy Valborn is a girl on the verge of Odinist glory as a Valkyrie, and she embraces the dark things she believes that should include – blood and death and violence and chaotic, passionate things stirring inside her soul. I love that Gratton was willing to create a wild, out-of-control, and fearsome female character; in doing so, she affirms that madness, desire, and a longing for revenge can be felt by all, not just males. Signy, however, is not a one-note character; she also experiences fear, doubt, and love. The other characters who flank and support Signy are also well-developed, from Soren Bearstar of the first book to Ned the truth-teller who hides behind his poetry to the gods and other Valkyries themselves. I also so appreciated the themes conveyed in the story about loss and revenge, the balance between chaos and control, choice versus destiny, and the types of relationships that matter in our lives.
In addition, Gratton skillfully plays with and updates Norse mythology to create a modern tale that pays homage to the violence, strength, and madness that was celebrated in Old English works like Beowulf. Because of this and the adept way the characters are portrayed, this book felt more mature than most other YA titles I’ve read. This is a complex and evocative tale that will be best appreciated by readers who aren’t afraid to feel uncomfortable from time to time while reading. Reading the first book in the series or having a background in Norse tales isn’t necessary to understand and appreciate the story, but it will likely help.
I have always been a fan of Gratton’s work, but my appreciation for her craft and the intentionality of her writing has been taken to a new level after my reading of The Strange Maid. I can’t wait to see what the next book in the series brings, and I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends and older students alike.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
Fun & engaging third installment keeps the action & intrigue coming
Marissa Meyer’s third installment in her Lunar Chronicles, Cress, picks up...more Fun & engaging third installment keeps the action & intrigue coming
Marissa Meyer’s third installment in her Lunar Chronicles, Cress, picks up right where the second book left off. Cinder, Thorne, Scarlet, and Wolf have escaped Earth and are now hiding in space. Their greatest chance for eluding Queen Levana and her dangerous companions lies with Cress, a gifted hacker who’s lived alone in a satellite for the past seven years. Soon, a rescue plan goes amiss, people are captured, and satellites start crashing to earth. Old characters and new ones must work to find a way back to one another in order to bring the evil Queen down.
As with her previous installments, Meyer has created a fun and engaging story in this book. CRESS is full of action and intrigue, and the author does a wonderful job of interweaving the storylines of the two previous books with the one. It was exciting to see how hints from as far back as the first book were linked to major plot points or character reveals in this novel. All of the characters that readers have come to love (or loathe) make appearances again, and some characters, especially Cinder, begin to grapple with real issues of how to use power and how one’s personal decisions can affect others, including whole cities or nations. Though not practical like Cinder or strong like Scarlet, Cress comes across as an endearingly naïve but earnest character who mixes well with the existing cast.
While a fast and enjoyable read overall, I did sometimes wish for a bit more: more swoon, more character and relationship development, and more gravity regarding the issues being experienced by the characters. This series is a refreshingly upbeat collection when compared to many other young adult novels, but the issues it addresses (war, torture, sacrifice for others, lost identities) often felt like they were passed over too quickly. Similarly, some characters accepted certain big reveals too easily.
Even with these quibbles, I had a great time reading CRESS, and I can’t wait for the final installment to come out next year (Winter). Not only will the final book provide a conclusion (and hopefully some happy endings for the characters), but it will feature quite possibly the most intriguing heroine of the series. The few glimpses given of Winter in this book had me simultaneously riveted and unsettled. The Lunar Chronicles is a series I will be recommending to my students and adult friends alike.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
If I rated this on my reading experience alone, it would get 1 star. If I rated this, however, based on how it fares and compares to other novels in t...more If I rated this on my reading experience alone, it would get 1 star. If I rated this, however, based on how it fares and compares to other novels in the romance genre, it would get 2 stars. Therefore, I'm going with 1.5 stars overall.(less)
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...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 for YA readers who like older, college-aged protagonists and also a great choice for male readers. (less)
After narrowly escaping a suspicious forest fire that threatened to destroy their island home, Maya, Daniel,...more 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.(less)
In Brenna Yovanoff's sophomore novel, The Space Between, Daphne has spent an apathetic life within the me...more 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.(less)
One story gives good bite while others only nibble
As a follow-up to her first young adult anthology, editor P.C. Cast brings together six more short s...moreOne story gives good bite while others only nibble
As a follow-up to her first young adult anthology, editor P.C. Cast brings together six more short stories of vampire romance in Eternal: More Love Stories with Bite from some of the most popular young adult paranormal authors today, including Claudia Gray, Lili St. Crow, Nancy Holder, Heather Brewer, Rachel Caine, and Jeri Smith-Ready.
"Bloodshed" by Claudia Gray - Like her contribution in the first anthology, Gray uses her tale to provide back story about the trials of love and vampirism that Patrice (of her Evernight series) has endured before the present day. I liked the war theme and the return of Patrice but it wasn't overwhelming. 3/5
"Say Yes" by Lili St. Crow - This story employs a gritty and vulgar style reminiscent of Holly Black to examine what can go terribly wrong at a drunken teen party where darker forces lurk. Though chilling, the tale lacked any romance or love, though the anthology's name suggests that readers should expect otherwise. 3/5
"Letters to Romeo" by Nancy Holder - In an interesting reconception of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo has been pining away for his lost love for 700 years and thinks he has found her in a modern girl. While the potential was there, a rushed and unexpected ending and a lack of connection with the vampire Romeo left me unmoved. 2/5
"The Other Side" by Heather Brewer - Unrelated to her Vladimir Tod world, this story details what happens to two teen lovers who wake up in a dark cell to find themselves bound and being drained of their blood. The story was set up well to make the twist surprising, but it didn't move it past being merely interesting. 3/5
"Drama Queen's Last Dance" by Rachel Caine - Set in Caine's Morganville Vampires universe, this story details Eve's fight to keep Michael's affection when a sultry vamp shows up in town. Because it was set in an established world, little work was done to build the characters or their relationships, and I didn't like the voice or style. 2/5
"Thief" by Jeri Smith-Ready - By far the best story in the bunch, "Thief" draws readers into a world where Travelers steal to make a living and old-school betrothals still happen, despite the power of real love to insist otherwise. This story created a fascinating world and endearing, sympathetic characters quickly and effectively; I would love to read more set in this universe. 4.5/5
While I enjoy short story anthologies and the opportunity they present to sample multiple authors, ETERNAL: MORE LOVE STORIES WITH BITE didn't have anything to make it stand out from similar books. Only one story ("Thief" by Jeri Smith-Ready) really stuck with me and the rest were interesting but not memorable. In addition, this book had only six stories, two fewer than its predecessor, and it wasted space on another rambling and patronizing introduction from Cast. If you're willing to branch out into other paranormal creatures in search of a good anthology, I would heartily recommend Love Is Hell instead.(less)
Strong writing & creative mythology make for bloody good debut
In Tessa Gratton's debut novel, BLOOD MAGIC, Silla Kennicott has taken to keeping to...moreStrong 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. (less)
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 Van...moreSlow 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.(less)
In Melissa Marr's first adult novel, GRAVEMINDER, the quiet, small town of Claysville is not what it seems. When her...moreCreative 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. (less)
Frustrating mix of problems slows novel down, 2.5 stars
In Cassandra Clare's fourth installment of her Mortal Instruments series, CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS...moreFrustrating 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). (less)