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)
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)
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...more 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.(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)
Entertaining & creative retelling of Little Red Riding Hood hits the spot, 4.5 stars
In Scarlet, Scarlet Benoit, a young woman living in France, i...more Entertaining & creative retelling of Little Red Riding Hood hits the spot, 4.5 stars
In Scarlet, Scarlet Benoit, a young woman living in France, is becoming increasingly worried about her grandmother’s recent disappearance. When a rough stranger named Wolf suggests he might be able to help find her, Scarlet hesitantly trusts him to lead the way in an effort to save her grand’mere. Half a world away, Cinder is coming to terms with her new identity and trying to find a way to escape the deadly clutches of Queen Levana. Soon, Scarlet and Cinder’s paths collide as secrets are revealed and new dangers arise.
Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles is a series that has taken me by surprise. After enjoying but not loving the quirky Cinderella retelling in Cinder, I approached Scarlet with a bit of hesitation. After I started reading, though, that hesitation was quickly gone, and I devoured this novel in two days. The plot, the pacing, and the characters all drew me into the story and had me turning the pages to see what would happen next. At first, I was a bit frustrated by the flip-flopping between the tales of Cinder and Scarlet – a world apart from one another and seemingly unconnected – but Meyer seamlessly combined their stories as the novel progressed with surprising twists and plot reveals I wasn’t expecting.
Scarlet was a great character, a self-sufficient young woman who could take care of herself and who was passionate about saving her grandmother. With the signature cape replaced by a threadbare red hoodie, Scarlet was a perfect modern replacement for the original naïve Little Red. Wolf, the street fighter with a mysterious past, also had great appeal. Though I don’t normally fall for alpha-male characters, Wolf won me over with his combination of unexpected vulnerability and a damaged past. I also appreciated that the story and characters in Scarlet felt older and more mature than those in Cinder. Scarlet was college-aged, and the romance between Scarlet and Wolf was very swoony and intense without ever being inappropriate for younger readers. Familiar characters like Cinder, Iko, and Prince Kai also all return, and the introduction of the cocky but hilarious Captain Thorne added levity to a story where situations for the characters are growing increasingly tense.
Though I loved this book, it didn’t make it into five-star territory for me due to a few small complaints. The book can’t stand alone because it is part of a series; the romance, despite its swoon factor, was predictable; and the story, albeit a fun and romantic romp, didn’t have the long-term emotional impact that I want or expect from a five-star read. As an entertaining and creative futuristic retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, however, this book definitely hit the spot.
With this tale of Scarlet, Wolf, and the increasing unrest between Luna and Earth, Marissa Meyer has made me a fan. I can’t wait to see what happens next in the coming books of the quartet, Cress and Winter.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
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 Holly...moreThough 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"]>(less)
Mystery, politics, and romance combine for easy but slow-to-start read
In Kathleen Peacock's Hemlock, the town of Hemlock has been ravaged by a string...more Mystery, politics, and romance combine for easy but slow-to-start read
In Kathleen Peacock's Hemlock, the town of Hemlock has been ravaged by a string of fatal werewolf attacks. Mackenzie's best friend Amy was among those killed, and ever since she's been trying to come to terms with what happened. When a vigilante group called the Trackers comes to town to investigate the murders, Mac decides she wants to find out the truth for herself. She soon learns that people aren't always who they seem to be, including her good friend, Kyle, and Amy's former boyfriend, Jason, and that danger may be closer than she realizes.
HEMLOCK is yet another addition to the crowded world of werewolf fiction, but it adds some unique elements to the familiar set-up. In this world, everyone knows that werewolves exist and how people are infected. This framing allows the story to be about more interesting topics, like who is one or how the werewolves are being stigmatized by those in power, than about the revelation that werewolves exist. The mystery makes up the most important part of the story, and it includes political scheming, a few unexpected twists, and chilling and sometimes brutal show-downs between the different sides. The story also contains some likable and believable characters, especially Kyle, and Mac's internal conflict about her nightmares of Amy is fascinating. The reader never knows whether Amy's appearances in Mac's dreams are simply her subconscious or something paranormal, and that adds to the intrigue regarding what the dreams might really mean.
On the less positive side, the story didn't grab me for a long time and I didn't find myself actually interested until past the half-way point. The novel also devoted too much time to a love triangle that seemed to come out of nowhere. Neither relationship provided much swoon, and the focus on the potential relationship with each guy often overtook the more interesting plot lines as the story progressed. Descriptions of dialogue sometimes came off as awkward, such as characters who "whisper-muttered" or sentences that were run together as one long word for dramatic effect. Though not a true cliffhanger, the ending also leaves readers in an unfinished place with a new adventure about to start for some of the characters.
Taken together, HEMLOCK was an easy read about a world where werewolves, murder, and friendship all intersect, but it didn't end up being anything truly memorable. In future books of this trilogy, I hope the author continues to develop her focus on the mystery and politics and that she brings more swoon or believable tension to the love triangle.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
Somewhat predictable and dragging sequel, 2.5 stars
In the second book of Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, Wolfsbane, Calla finds herself imprisoned...more 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. (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)
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)
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 Cynthia Leitich Smith’s BLESSED, teen restaurant manager and new vampire Quincie Morris finds herself struggling t...moreConclusive wrap-up for characters
In Cynthia Leitich Smith’s BLESSED, teen restaurant manager and new vampire Quincie Morris finds herself struggling to handle the demands of saving her restaurant, hundreds of souls, and her relationship with werewolf-hybrid Kieren. With help from a beautiful new hire, Zachary, and his friends, Quincie must race to stop Bradley Sanguini’s quest to make himself into a modern Dracula, complete with his own army of fledgling vampire minions. In the process, Quincie also must consider what her vampire soul is worth.
BLESSED combines the casts of TANTALIZE and ETERNAL to provide a conclusive wrap-up to the supernatural story world Smith has created. While the first two books were companion novels, BLESSED is a true sequel that merges the two previous storylines to provide a satisfying ending for each character’s story. Strong themes about faith, redemption, and self-sacrifice run through the novel and are examined in non-preachy ways. Quincie experiences much more character development here than in the first book, and fans of Kieren and Quincie will be delighted to see their relationship developed beyond the first sparks seen at the end of TANTALIZE. The novel also explores the vampire myths of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA and links them in believable ways to a modern setting.
Though I enjoyed seeing Quincie, Kieren, and Zachary’s stories brought to a close, this installment has many of the same weak points as its predecessors. Dialogue comes across as stilted and unbelievable at times, and there are a few abrupt transitions between scenes. Again, like in TANTALIZE, attempts to infuse sensuality into the text felt a bit forced, as though the author was trying noticeably to be edgy. A few items regarding the mythology were left unresolved, and an overreliance on summarizing Stoker’s DRACULA weighed down the middle section of the book. Additionally, while the division of the novel into meal courses felt creative in TANTALIZE, the use of the same structure now felt trite and unnecessary to understand the story.
In all, BLESSED provides a nice final course for the characters Smith created in TANTALIZE and ETERNAL, but the book didn’t offer anything to make it stand out in the word of young adult paranormals other than its darker tone and its reboot of the Dracula myth. Fans of Smith will still undoubtedly eat up this conclusion though.
ETA: I learned after writing this review that the author plans to write one or two additional books in this universe, so this was not the end of the series. Things felt fairly well concluded for all of the characters at the end of this book, so this news surprised me.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.(less)
Andrea Cremer’s debut novel, NIGHTSHADE, explores a world infused with werewolves, magic, treachery, and love. Throughout her life, young alpha female...moreAndrea 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.(less)
In Ivy Devlin's debut, LOW RED MOON, the story starts in a tragic place: seventeen-year-old Avery Hood has recently wi...moreSadly lackluster and predictable
In Ivy Devlin's debut, LOW RED MOON, the story starts in a tragic place: seventeen-year-old Avery Hood has recently witnessed the gruesome murder of her parents, but she can't remember what happened. All she remembers is blood and a repeated flash of silver. Now living with her previously estranged grandmother, Avery tries to go back to school, but the students ignore or reject her, all except the new, mysterious Ben. Avery encounters Ben again and again, and despite their immediate connection, she must decide whether his supernatural origins point to the death of her parents.
Sadly, LOW RED MOON doesn't contribute anything new to this oversaturated genre. The romance, which forms the heart of the novel, felt flat and unbelievable. Like so many other paranormal male leads, Ben had no characteristics other than being beautiful and possibly dangerous. Avery came across as bland and without her own interests. Their relationship happens almost instantly and the intensity was never explained, though there were hints of supernatural bonding. Even with such intensity, the relationship felt empty, since its depiction focused heavily on their sexual chemistry and little else. Touches of character development, like when Avery and Ben talk about their parents' murders, were too brief and far between. Slow pacing and a lack of action also hindered the book in its first half, and the writing throughout felt forced with its repeated use of dashes and trailing sentences. The mythology had hints of originality, like Avery's connection to the forest, but it was never developed enough to make it interesting or convincing. Few side characters existed, and those that did were either ignored or not explored enough. The villain was predictable and none too threatening. Additionally, though I make it a point to not compare books to TWILIGHT, this book contained too many similarities to it to go unmentioned.
On the positive side, LOW RED MOON was a way to explore the voice of a popular contemporary YA author writing under her paranormal pseudonym. Checking in at about 250 pages, the book is shorter and more concise than most. Moments about Avery's grief and her reconciliation with her estranged grandmother were also sometimes stirring. The actual book itself is also beautiful, with splashes of red print and delicate details inside.
However, despite the beautiful layout and the potential for a moving examination of grief and recovery, LOW RED MOON failed to grab me. There are hints in the ending that a sequel will follow, and if so, I hope Devlin develops her characters more, expands her mythology, and provides Ben and Avery with a relationship built on more than instant attraction.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. (less)
In LINGER, Maggie Stiefvater takes the reader back to Mercy Falls and the world of Sam and Grace. A few...moreEmotions and writing linger, but plot does not
In LINGER, Maggie Stiefvater takes the reader back to Mercy Falls and the world of Sam and Grace. A few months into his cure, Sam is starting to embrace his new humanity, albeit skeptically, while Grace seems less and less comfortable in her own skin. Isabel continues to wrestle with the aftermath of her brother’s death, and new pack member Cole surfaces as a cocky and potentially dangerous disruption. As all four grapple with their own doubts and inner demons, they are left to uncover whether love (of oneself, of each other, of humanity) will be enough to allow them to survive.
Compared to SHIVER, this book sat better with me due to its writing, character development, and the absence of any off-putting overtones to the animal-human relationships. As always, Stiefvater draws in the reader with lyrical writing, burning imagery, and an amazing ability to evoke emotion. Due to her talents, there are scenes in this book, namely one with Cole and a deer, that won’t soon leave me. Character development also remains as another one of her strengths; Stiefvater’s ability to show the damage within each character in this novel was superb. As new leads, Cole and Isabel stood out in their exploration of their broken selves and how they related to one another through this filter. The writer’s ability to transport me back to the rawness and immediacy of one’s emotions as a teenager was also remarkable. In addition, this installment expands and complicates the mythology regarding the wolves, their curse, and their cure.
Despite these many strengths, LINGER let me down in some ways, just like SHIVER. Told in first-person, the chapters alternated between four different voices. Though I enjoyed the addition of Isabel and Cole as narrators, each character’s voice was not always distinct, and the frequent switching of voice mid-chapter often felt abrupt. Pacing slowed and dragged in the middle third. The book’s ending was predictable and heavily foreshadowed, even if the path to get there was a mystery. Also, unlike the conclusion of SHIVER, which felt distinct and finished, this book closed with the most cliffhanger-like ending I have encountered from Stiefvater. While things changed for the characters emotionally, the plot didn’t move forward a great deal.
Even with these concerns, I’ll continue to look forward to reading anything Stiefvater writes. I hope that the final installment in the trilogy, FOREVER, provides a satisfying conclusion to the series and a little bit of healing for everyone involved, even if not in expected ways. If you’re looking for something with the same beautiful writing but more action, I highly recommend Stiefvater’s faery books, LAMENT and BALLAD.(less)