Though I had a rocky experience with Harkness' first novel, A Discovery of Witches, I began reading Shadow of Night with hopes that its setting in the past would add intrigue and excitement to the unfolding story. Unfortunately, it did not, and the story became more plodding and convoluted in this installment.
Shadow of Night suffered most from its almost obsession-like focus on detailing every aspect of the historical period in which it was set. From particulars about the floor coverings to the convenient inclusion of almost every notable figure of the time, I felt bogged down in the details and the name-dropping. Character development also progressed in fits and spurts and ultimately stalled. Though Matthew and Diana have some "breakthrough" moments in their relationship, Diana remains relatively incompetent and reckless and Matthew continues to be controlling and possessive. Slow pacing made the first 80% of the novel drag, and very little time or attention was given to the threats or worries of the present day. When action or plot movement did occur, it provided little tension or excitement. The couple's impetus to be in the past - to hone Diana's magic and to find Ashmole 782 - often got lost among historical notes and unrelated intrigue. The mythology regarding time travel and Diana's magical skills was also unclear and seemed to contradict itself at times.
Even though Shadow of Night didn't work for me, this book might be an enjoyable read for those who love history and detail. The time spent exploring Diana's magic and her special capabilities was interesting, as was the information revealed toward the end of the novel about Ashmole 782 and its related prophecy; I finished the book wanting to know more about each. The story also provided some insight into Matthew's character and how his past and his family had shaped him. Chapters set in the present day that were interspersed between sections also provided glimpses into what was happening in the present-day world and moved things along for the secondary characters. Of all of the different parts in the book, I enjoyed these infrequent additions the most.
While I can appreciate the ambitious nature of Harkness' series, I left this second book of the trilogy feeling unmoved again by the story or its characters. Even such, I will likely read the final installment when it comes out to see what happens to Diana, Matthew, and all those connected by Ashmole 782. As she wraps up her story, I hope that Harkness provides readers with faster pacing, clearer world building, and more character development.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
Poor writing & implausible story made this a non-finisher for me
In an attempt to try out another New Adult title, I downloaded The Coincidence of...more Poor writing & implausible story made this a non-finisher for me
In an attempt to try out another New Adult title, I downloaded The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden. It is currently sitting in the #4 spot on the NYT Best Sellers list for e-books, and it seemed like a deal at only 99 cents. I even picked up the author's second similar title (The Secret of Ella and Micha) on a whim at the same time. Though I should have been more wary due to the low price and the author's self-pubbed status, I was feeling adventurous.
Oh, how wary I should have been! I have never before given up on a title so quickly as I did with this book (at the 7% completion mark). The two chapters that I read were littered with typos, incorrect pronoun usage, and simply pedestrian and awkward writing. As per usual with YA or NA titles, the characters have trials or past abuses to overcome, but this story laid them out entirely too obviously within the first three pages with clunky statements about "hiding the scars on the inside" and the young woman's obvious fear of men. Then, soon after we're told that the main character hasn't touched anyone outside her family in six years and has never told a soul about what trauma has befallen her, the next chapter finds her at college with a new best friend -- the token gay guy -- whom she touches, laughs with, and has shared her darkest secrets with. The quick character changes, and the obviously forthcoming romance with the also-traumatized football jock from her hometown, just seemed too unbelievable. I simply had to stop reading due to the absolute implausibility of the story and the poor writing.
Though I don't hope to diminish anyone else's interest or enthusiasm for this book, I can't understand any of the hype, high sales, or great ratings for this book and the author's other titles, if they are at all similar. Not only did I declare this a DNF title, but it is also the first thing I have ever digitally returned. Read at your own risk. (less)
Don't know if I can muster a full review for this one, but it was sadly as bad as many other reviews have reported. A weak plot combined with little t...moreDon't know if I can muster a full review for this one, but it was sadly as bad as many other reviews have reported. A weak plot combined with little to no dystopian elements (though the jacket claims otherwise), weak dialogue and poor writing, and little creativity did little to wow me. Much of the plot was sourced directly from ABC's The Bachelor show to the point that it felt like a paint-by-Bachelor-numbers book: the dresses, the mansion/palace, the mean girls who aren't there for the "right" reasons, the elimination processes, etc. And then it ended with no resolution and no motivation for me to read further. It felt more like the first third of a book, not a complete novel in a trilogy.
N.B.: Lest anyone think I am insensitive to my GR peeps' ordeals (you lovelies know who you are) re: this book, please know that I read it for my local indie who gives me oodles of ARCs in exchange for purchasing recommendations. I went into this with as unbiased an opinion as I can muster, though that non-bias does not extend to certain authors or agents in question. (less)
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...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 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.(less)
In Insurgent, Veronica Roth’s much anticipated sequel to Divergent, the stakes are even higher. Tris and a small group have escaped after the simulation that killed countless people, but their struggles are far from over. Possible war looms between the factions, and Tris and Tobias are among those most wanted by the different sides. Tris must grapple with grief, guilt, and deception as sides are declared and choices must be made, including ones that threaten her and those she loves.
Though I enjoyed the first book, Insurgent was even better with clearer world building, stronger character development, and more intricate plots twists. Like Divergent, the story reads quickly and easily, but this installment has a much quieter, somber tone. Tris, Tobias (Four), and all of the survivors are dealing with the emotional and political fallout after the simulation, and it shows. All of the characters, including those the reader loves and those who are despised, are fleshed out more and given added layers. Tris’s struggle to move forward while burdened by grief and guilt is portrayed in a way that feels real and poignant. Though she engages in a lot of selfish or thoughtless actions in this book, all of those actions seem like honest attempts to deal with her loss, her choices, and how she should best work to honor those she loves. Tris and Tobias also continue to bring the swoon with simple words and small touches, despite having problems. Their relationship encounters major hurdles in this installment, but they are all reasonable and justified given what’s happening. The relationship they share provides a much-needed counterpoint to show that love and connection is worth fighting for and is possible even in a world that’s falling apart.
In addition to these strengths, the plot was unpredictable and gripping. The novel is full of unexpected alliances, betrayal, action, and rebellion on multiple fronts that keep the story moving. The world building also improved dramatically over that of the first book. I really enjoyed being immersed in the different factions, and the author’s description of each group allowed me to imagine them clearly. I also understand now why some information was withheld in the first book, given some of the significant plot reveals.
Even though this book was great read, I still experienced a few bumps. The story starts immediately after the end of Divergent with little to no recapping of events, so it took me a little while to remember or figure out who certain people were or what had happened previously. A few typos and continuity errors pulled me out of the story, and some betrayals/alliances/connections seemed a little too convenient to allow certain parts of the plot to move forward. The book also suffers a bit from middle-book syndrome in that it can’t stand on its own, and the ending leaves off in a dramatic place right after a big reveal.
Overall, though, Insurgent is an impressive sequel that leaves me eager to see where the author will take the story next. Given what’s revealed at the end of this novel, I can’t imagine how Veronica Roth could wrap up the series with only one more book, but it’s no matter to me, as I plan to keep reading whatever she offers.(less)
Gritty sequel failed to keep my attention like WITHER did
Fever takes readers into an even darker world than did Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, Wither...more Gritty sequel failed to keep my attention like WITHER did
Fever takes readers into an even darker world than did Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, Wither. Having escaped the confines of the mansion, Rhine and Gabriel make the run to freedom only to find that the outside world may offer even less of it. As they struggle to make their way to Manhattan in search of safety and Rhine’s twin brother, the two find that the world is populated by those both cruel and kind and that everyone is looking for a way to survive.
When I read WITHER last year, I was impressed by the author’s writing and her willingness to explore what dire things might happen in a world where all young people die early. Even with this gritty dystopian world laid out, I found the world building to be weak enough that I spent a lot of time questioning how this world came about. Unfortunately, this is the same problem I had while reading FEVER, and it seemed even more prevalent this time. Incomplete or unbelievable world building continued to draw me out of the story too often. Also, while I liked the author’s exploration of sexuality and oppression in the first book, this book’s tone comes across as even more bleak and without as much purpose. Rhine and Gabriel routinely end up in situations that felt like they were there more for shock value than for character or plot development. And when these terrible things happen, they don’t touch the main characters in the way one would expect, again making the world less believable. Because of this, I sometimes felt disconnected from Rhine and Gabriel and their struggles. I also never felt really moved by Rhine and Gabriel’s relationship, despite a few good moments. The book then finishes on a cliffhanger with little resolution. FEVER as a whole felt very much like a “middle book” where things don’t move forward a great deal.
On the positive side, DeStefano continues to show that she can write well, and her pretty prose allows readers to easily visualize the surroundings she describes. FEVER also provides much more information about the world outside the mansion, and sympathetic new characters are introduced. Although I don’t think it was as well done as in the first book, I also continue to appreciate the author’s willingness to examine the harsh realities that could result in a world where women become little more than sexual commodities.
Overall, FEVER failed to keep my attention in the way that WITHER did one year ago, and it didn’t leave me mulling over important issues in the same way. Even such, I am sure that many fans of the first novel will appreciate this sequel and where it sets up things for the final book. I know I’ll be reading it to see where DeStefano takes her characters and her story and whether she leaves readers with a sense of hope or just continued despair.
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)
Whimsical but slow fairy tale retelling, 2.5 stars
Heather Dixon’s fiction debut, ENTWINED, offers a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale of the Twelv...moreWhimsical but slow fairy tale retelling, 2.5 stars
Heather Dixon’s fiction debut, ENTWINED, offers a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Following the death of their mother, Azalea and her eleven sisters are left nearly abandoned as their father, the King, goes off to war. Though they’re in mourning, the girls long to dance just like their mother had taught them. When the girls discover a magic-filled passage to an otherworldly pavilion, they begin to spend each night dancing to exhaustion under the watchful gaze of the Keeper. Though he appears kindly at first, the Keeper soon becomes a frightening presence that may endanger the girls and the kingdom itself.
Fans of fairy-tale retellings will likely appreciate ENTWINED’s take on the Twelve Dancing Princesses, as Dixon’s version makes use of many elements from the original, including twelve girls, an invisibility cloak, and suitors who have three nights to uncover the princesses’ secret. This story offers its own whimsical touches like a magical tea set with a spunky attitude, girls named alphabetically after different plants, and a focus on the intricacies of dance steps and curtsies. Azalea comes across as a likable protagonist, and the story touches on the complexity of father-daughter relationships and how different people grieve. Even with dark notes, including a villain who is truly creepy at times, the story is also very clean and appropriate for younger readers.
Though ENTWINED had these strengths as a basis for its tale, it never caught me up in its story. Along with slow pacing for the first 400 pages, the book was too long for the story it contained. The plot sagged under the weight of the author’s ambitious attempts to characterize every character, and this led to limited character development overall. The girls’ changing relationship with their father seemed uneven, and the romances didn’t have much development or spark. The attempts to sound historical felt cliché at times, and I don’t think this novel will resonate with many young adult readers because it remains too grounded in the original tale. This book felt much more like a middle-grade read because of the very chaste romances and little in the way of truly scary parts.
Fans of the original Grimms’ tale will likely enjoy this story, even if it takes a while to get through it. Unfortunately, I didn’t experience that enjoyment. In future books, I hope that Dixon provides tighter pacing, more character development, and a bit more passion and danger.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.(less)
Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as...more Beautiful & achingly realistic tale of young love & its aftermath
Very rarely does a book impress me, satisfy me, and affect me emotionally as much as Katie Cotugno's debut novel, How to Love, did. This novel is a beautiful and achingly realistic portrayal of one couple's doomed teenage love affair, the aftermath, and their eventual coming to terms with one another.
HOW TO LOVE stands out among the crowd of other YA contemporary novels most notably due to Cotugno's lyrical, evocative writing. The author creates beautiful mental images throughout the novel by including details that add nuance and feeling to the story. Every detail or repeated image seems intentionally placed and well-considered. I would often stop reading to admire a passage and think to myself "THIS is what good writing looks and feels like." Another strength lies in the two main characters, Reena and Sawyer. Both are complex, flawed characters with multifaceted family members and friends surrounding them. While I often didn't like Reena or Sawyer, the writing allowed me to understand them and their actions and motivations.
In addition to her strong character development, Cotugno also does wonders with the plot and the structure of the novel. There is a careful interweaving of plot threads about family pressures, work, alcohol/drugs, religion, school, and friendship to make the characters' lives feel real and palpable. I especially liked the presence and impact of Reena's best friend, Allie, on the relationship between Sawyer and Reena. The plot of HOW TO LOVE never hurries nor dallies; the juxtaposition of the "before" and "after" chapters are perfectly aligned with mirrored events that follow one another naturally. When the book came to a close, the ending left me satisfied, even without answering every plot question directly.
Though this book was a perfect fit for me, there were a few phrases or sentence choices that threw me at times, and other readers may not be able to look past Reena's and Sawyer's flaws in order to find them sympathetic.
In all, though, HOW TO LOVE is the best young adult book that I've read in the past two years. I can't wait to see what moving, realistic, and emotionally arresting stories Cotugno writes in the future. I know that I'll be reading every one of them.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.
Immediate reaction: My first five-star book in two years! I am so incredibly impressed with the quiet but compelling story this novel tells and the style and lyricism with which the author tells it. I can't wait to see what this author writes in the future.(less)
Limited character development & stereotypical romance disappoint
In Myra McEntire's debut novel, Hourglass, seventeen-year-old Emerson has been hau...moreLimited character development & stereotypical romance disappoint
In Myra McEntire's debut novel, Hourglass, seventeen-year-old Emerson has been haunted with apparitions of people from the past since right before her parents' deaths. When her well-meaning older brother brings in yet another "expert," Emerson expects another failed attempt to help her. Instead, she gets Michael, a gorgeous young man who believes her and thinks the visions are real. When Michael proposes that Emerson can harness her powers - and their electric connection - to change the past, she must decide how much to risk in order to save a life that should never have been lost.
While HOURGLASS had the opportunity to shine due to its time-travel aspect, it fell short for me due to its limited character development, stereotypical romance, and incomplete world building. The writing, while adequate, faltered sometimes due to unrealistic dialogue and the use of some silly metaphors. Constant physical descriptions of the characters, such as Emerson's short height or Michael's pouty lips, stood in for character development. Despite being told repeatedly that Emerson is tough, she spent most of the novel swooning over Michael's beauty instead of being strong or making her own decisions. Michael may appeal to many readers due to his brooding and handsome nature, but his character developed little beyond his physical beauty and his condescending and controlling reactions to Emerson. Outside of their physical attraction and an "electricity" between them, the romance between Emerson and Michael was also never explained. As expected, a love triangle was introduced, though it was never fully explored, which was a relief. Talents or abilities of other characters, like best friend Lily, were also left unexplained and unexplored.
Plot-wise, the time-travel facet could have added a lot to the book but the time-travel process came across as too easily accomplished. Emerson accepted the risks involved without any real doubts or fears to save someone she didn't know; likewise, the utter willingness of other people to believe the time-travel explanation was unbelievable. Even though the villains and twists at the end were a surprise, their appearance and motivations didn't draw me into the story because I knew they were merely set-ups to drive the sequels.
On the positive side, I know there are many people who will enjoy this book for the brooding love interest, the time-slip aspect, and the relatively clean language and sexuality (just a few curse words, kissing, and some innuendo). Emerson was sometimes very likable and sympathetic as a character, and family played a big role in Emerson's problems and how she worked through them. In the coming books, I hope McEntire develops her characters, the romance, and the time-travel mechanics further to create a more compelling story.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. (less)
Disappointing addition to young adult paranormal genre
Having never read any of the Dark-Hunter books, I came into Kenyon's INFINITY: CHRONICLES OF NIC...moreDisappointing addition to young adult paranormal genre
Having never read any of the Dark-Hunter books, I came into Kenyon's INFINITY: CHRONICLES OF NICK without expectations. Unfortunately, Kenyon's foray into the young adult genre left me extremely disappointed. As the book opens, we meet Nick, a scrappy but sullen fourteen-year-old boy who lives with his mother in the slums of New Orleans. After being shot during an attempted mugging one night, Nick is saved by a mysterious man who takes him under his wing. As Nick's time with his new mentor continues, he slowly learns about an otherworld he didn't know existed and his potential role in it. Soon, zombies start terrorizing the city, and Nick finds himself at the center of a ragtag group who must try to stop them.
First and foremost, this book should be marketed for middle-grade readers, not young adults. The writing was elementary and simplistic, which is not how a young adult novel should read, even if the characters are young. The writing felt lazy with weak descriptions and an overreliance on supposed "teen speak" like Nick saying "Gah!" all the time. Little to no character development occurred among the main characters, and all of the secondary characters were flat. The plot itself felt silly and contrived, since it was clear there was never any real threat. As a non-Dark-Hunter reader, the mythology was confusing and remained unclear at the end of the book. This muddled mythology contributed to the poor world building, which was so minimal that I was never able to suspend belief and immerse myself in the created world. Completely illogical things happened, even for an urban fantasy, like immortals disclosing secret information to Nick within minutes of meeting him or kissing scenes while zombies were literally trying to eat the characters.
Among the few positives, INFINITY may appeal to young male audiences with its focus on action, instead of romance. Younger readers may enjoy the dialogue and find it humorous, and the story did end with a finished conclusion (no cliffhanger), which I always appreciate. For existing fans of Kenyon's adult Dark-Hunter series, this novel may also provide backstory for characters they've followed in her other books.
Overall, Kenyon's attempt to jump into the young adult market with INFINITY disappointed me with its inability to create a world I would want to visit again. As an adult reader, it also failed to entice me to pick up her adult series. If you're a fan of adult urban fantasy and would like to see a good addition to the young adult world by one of your favorite authors, I highly recommend Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series (THE SUMMONING, Book 1) instead.(less)
Strong protagonist, action, and romance combine for solid read, 3.5 stars
In Rift, the prequel to Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, readers get a gli...more Strong protagonist, action, and romance combine for solid read, 3.5 stars
In Rift, the prequel to Andrea Cremer's Nightshade series, readers get a glimpse into the origins of the Keepers and the Witches War of the 15th century. The daughter of a noble, Ember Morrow must leave her family after her 16th birthday to serve the mysterious order of Conatus. Though most fear the knights, Ember readily embraces the life of battle and purpose the order provides. Once training begins, she finds not only her skills tested, but also her wit and her heart. Dark powers soon start to infiltrate the group, and Ember must decide where and with whom her allegiances lie.
Though I had a rocky relationship with Cremer's other Nightshade books, I really enjoyed Rift once I got past some slow parts in the beginning. Ember was an able and spirited protagonist with a strong sense of self. Though a bit reckless at times, she doesn't complain or expect others to rescue her. Action scenes were well-described and plentiful, and the author's prose painted beautiful images of the Scottish highlands cloaked in gray fog. The slow-building romance was another highlight with its swoon-worthy love interest who was both strong and masculine but also considerate and effusive. Even though it's a prequel, Rift can also be read on its own as the satisfying start to a new series, and the story ends in a place where a reader can look forward to the next installment without being left on a terrible cliffhanger.
As mentioned, Rift was slow to start, however, and I felt bogged down during the first 100 pages by some character interactions and historical information that wasn't always clearly explained. Ember became too adept as a knight too quickly to be believable, and the romance blossomed from little sparks to full devotion in too short of a time near the end to feel truly natural. The story line about the split within Conatus also wasn't nearly as engaging as hoped, and I found myself rushing through those sections to get back to Ember's story. Overall, the story just felt a bit light on content where there could have been more development.
While I might have found a few stumbling points, Rift is the best thing I've read by Andrea Cremer, and I'm already looking forward to the sequel (Rise). In it, I hope Cremer develops the swoony romance even more and provides greater tension to the emerging story about the split that leads to the Witches War.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy. (less)
In AWAKENED, Zoey and Stark are recovering on the Isle of Skye after their harrowing return from the Otherworld. Nefe...moreLackluster continuation of series
In AWAKENED, Zoey and Stark are recovering on the Isle of Skye after their harrowing return from the Otherworld. Neferet has returned to lead the Tulsa House of Night after being exonerated by the High Council, and she continues to grow stronger with Kalona now under her control. The rogue Red Fledglings are terrorizing the city, and Stevie Rae and Rephaim continue to struggle to define their relationship. With new threats and tragedies occurring in Tulsa, Zoey must decide where her conscience leads her and what she will do.
Despite my concerns with this series, I always come back to the next book with hopes for improvement. Unfortunately, AWAKENED continues the series' downward trend. The use of slang, unrealistic "teen talk," dated references, and racial and homosexual stereotypes continue (even though it's obvious the authors are trying to be inclusive). Like TEMPTED and BURNED, Zoey's perspective is written in first-person, while everyone else is in third-person. This stylistic back-and-forth remains frustrating, especially given the sheer number of characters included. Very limited character growth happens for anyone, especially Zoey. As a character, I'm no longer able to take her seriously. For example, Zoey refers to other characters as being "gross" for "playing kissy-face," and then she's depicted as sexually and emotionally mature a few chapters later, which seemed unbelievable. While things moved forward plot-wise a bit more in this book, the pace still felt stagnant for the first half. The major conflict remains Neferet and Kalona, with little change, and predictable plot outcomes continue. At the end, the book also concludes at a moment in which the authors resurrect a painfully overused plot point.
On the positive side, as mentioned, there is a bit more movement in the plot when compared to the previous two installments. The relationship between Stevie Rae and Rephaim remains interesting, and character development occurs in Rephaim, a bit in Kalona, and even a little bit in Erik. Damien and Jack's relationship also gets some more attention, and it's depicted as healthy, loving, and meaningful. While the switch from first-person point of view to third-person remained bumpy at times, the transitions were smoother and the writing was better in the third-person sections than in previous books.
With four book more books to go in this series, I'm finding it difficult as a reader to motivate myself toward picking up each additional one. If I do, I hope the Casts move beyond the set conflict or kick it up a notch, along with some significant character growth for Zoey and her friends. (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)
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)
Despite the publisher's attempt to pique my interest in these ten titles, I was turned off by the poor writing, plotting, or characterization in all but three of them. The only three I would consider ever reading further included Wait for You by J. Lynn, Dinner With a Vampire by Abigail Gibbs, and Foreplay by Sophie Jordan. I am admittedly biased toward WAIT FOR YOU, as I have read it before and it is the best New Adult title I've read (though that's not saying a great deal, as I only gave it 2.5 stars). THE DARK HEROINE had a snappy and harrowing opening and was the one paranormal title among the mix, and FOREPLAY seemed like it could be a fun, mindless romance if someone was in the mood for that.
Otherwise, even THE REGISTRY, which I had high hopes for as a dystopian, held little appeal. The excerpts by Carmack and McAdams were especially egregious in their writing, complete with run-on sentences and comma splices galore, and horribly contrived or cliche plots. I would have hoped that these titles, which were primarily self-pubbed before being picked up by HarperCollins, would have been cleaned up before being promoted, but apparently not. (less)
In Lisa Magnum's debut novel, The Hourglass Door, Abby is in her final year of high school with everything in place...moreDecent debut effort w/room for more
In Lisa Magnum's debut novel, The Hourglass Door, Abby is in her final year of high school with everything in place - a dependable boyfriend, two best friends, and an assistant director position for the school play. Inside, though, she's itching for more. After alluring Italian exchange student Dante walks into her life, things begin to change. Time stops, literally, when Abby is with Dante, and he has many secrets (days-long disappearances, gloves around his wrists all the time) that may put both of them in mortal danger.
Magnum's writing was easily readable, and the story centers on an original concept for a paranormal romance that includes historical and inventive components (no wolves, vampires, zombies, or fallen angels here). The story arc was interesting, and pacing was pretty good. The first half of the book depicts a strong net of family and supportive characters for the main character, Abby, which is often not seen in other books.
However, character development wasn't nearly as strong. The two main characters, Abby and Dante, were likeable, but I didn't love them or their romance. The familiar set-up of a good girl being drawn to a threatening guy was similar to almost all other paranormal romances. Side characters seemed like caricatures after the first half of the book, and character inconsistencies in behavior cropped up. In the writing, some phrases and descriptions became noticeably repetitive. Though the language and actions in the book were very clean, which many people may like, the characters' dialogue sometimes suffered for it by seeming fake. Despite these clean parameters, there's also one action between a student and a teacher that I couldn't believe could happen without repercussions. Some inconsistencies or unexplained portions of the supernatural events and their mythology provided plot holes. The ending was fairly conclusive, but there was an obvious set-up for a sequel, which left things feeling somewhat unfinished.
In all, this was a decent debut novel from Magnum with a unique concept for a typical young adult paranormal romance. Though I didn't think about the book much after I closed the cover, I plan to check out the sequel, The Golden Spiral (Book 2 in the Hourglass Door Trilogy), when it comes to the library. I'd like to see where Magnum takes the mythology and the relationships between Abby, Dante, and the other characters.(less)
Breezy but touching read about family & forgiveness
As a debut novel, Jessi Kirby's Moonglass delivers a breezy but touching read about dealing wit...more Breezy but touching read about family & forgiveness
As a debut novel, Jessi Kirby's Moonglass delivers a breezy but touching read about dealing with the past and moving forward. After years living along the beach where her mother died, Anna is uprooted when her father takes a new job. Despite being angry about the move, Anna soon learns that her new beach home is closer to her mother's memory than she expected. She also finds that new friends and a new perspective might bring her closer to understanding her father and the tragic past that has distanced them.
This short, succinct book has so many things to like about it. Kirby's writing is clean and clear, and the story doesn't dwell too long on anything, resulting in excellent pacing. Great dialogue that always felt real also moves the story forward. Anna is a confident, capable, and self-assured character that I believed could be a real teen. The romance, while present, wasn't the focus and didn't overwhelm the main story about Anna and her father. The author also creates an excellent sense of place and beach culture. Whether the characters were walking on the beach or exploring deserted cottages, I could imagine being there too.
The greatest strength of the novel, however, lies in Anna's relationship with her father and how it's depicted. Their relationship is touching, even with their reservations around each other, and felt very honest. Anna's father is portrayed as a real person, complete with his own emotions, friends, and issues. Despite Anna's frustration with him and their growing silence about her mother, he is there for her. I really enjoyed reading about this type of parent-teen relationship instead of the absent or neglectful parents so often seen in young adult literature.
Though all of these things were great, the story had a few places where improvements could be made. Some plot points were too convenient or predictable, and the characters' problems were often resolved a little too easily. Some descriptions in the first part of the story also made Anna seem a bit shallow and too boy-focused. Tyler, the love interest, came across as too cocky to be really swoon-worthy. Ashley, while a great secondary character, also seemed a bit unrealistic in her immediate connection and friendship with Anna, especially since Ashley could have been friends with many other people due to her combination of beauty, wealth, and personality.
Even with these quibbles, MOONGLASS was just the summer beach read with a bit of substance that I needed now as winter sets in. I look forward to reading what Kirby writes in the future, and I hope that fans of similar authors (Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti) will snap up her work too. (less)
In Malinda Lo’s HUNTRESS, the human world has entered a period of never-ending clouds and rain. With crops dying and people starving, the Kingdom sele...moreIn Malinda Lo’s HUNTRESS, the human world has entered a period of never-ending clouds and rain. With crops dying and people starving, the Kingdom selects two girls to undertake an unprecedented and hazardous journey to find the Fairy Queen in hopes of putting an end to the natural devastation. As the search party travels north and encounters dangerous threats, feelings between the two girls, Kaede and Taisin, begin to grow. With attacks against their party increasing and stakes raised, Kaede and Taisin realize that their new bond may be tested and ultimately destroyed if they are unable to complete their quest.
After reading Lo’s ASH last year and being impressed with her writing, I was eager to read this prequel novel, HUNTRESS. The author’s clear and descriptive writing provides a palpable sense of place and mood throughout the story, especially in the scenes where the characters are travelling through the forest and encountering the Xi. Another strength of the book is its blending of elements from multiple traditions, including the Chinese I CHING and British fairytales. Similar to her first book, HUNTRESS also presents LGBTQ relationships in the context of the story as normal and not worthy of fanfare. The novel also concludes with a finished, complete ending that was unexpected but that showed the depth of understanding and love between the characters involved.
Like my experience with ASH, however, I never found myself invested in the characters of HUNTRESS or their struggles. The relationships were so understated that I never got caught up in them. The prologue also ruined much of the story for me, because I knew from the opening chapter which characters would survive to a certain point and how their relationships would evolve. Because of this, events in the plot lacked immediacy or tension; this was especially true for the relationship between Kaede and Taisin. Due to the significant foreshadowing from the prologue, the pacing also seemed slow, because I was anxious to read ahead to a part where I didn’t know what would happen.
Even though I didn’t overtly enjoy HUNTRESS, I do appreciate the strong LGBTQ and Asian voice that Lo brings to young adult literature through her writing talents. I hope that this book and its predecessor find a warm reception with other readers.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.(less)
Note: Since I posted my review of Insurgent almost a month ago, I figured it well past time to finally finish my review of Divergent. So here ya go, w...moreNote: Since I posted my review of Insurgent almost a month ago, I figured it well past time to finally finish my review of Divergent. So here ya go, world!
Highly readable addition to the dystopian genre
In Veronica Roth’s debut novel, Divergent, Beatrice lives in a futuristic Chicago where society has been divided into factions. Each faction has a singular virtue, and at the age of sixteen, everyone must choose the one to which they will belong for the rest of their lives. After Beatrice makes a choice that shocks even herself, she is thrust into a world of competition and violence. Renaming herself Tris, she struggles through the physical and psychological challenges that come, all the while hiding a part of herself. As she becomes closer to her trainer, Four, and learns about growing unrest between the factions, Tris must decide how to survive, whom to trust, and how to be true to all the parts of herself.
Divergent is a highly readable addition to the growing dystopian genre. With compelling action scenes, quick pacing, and clear writing, I was pulled quickly into this book. Tris is a strong, able protagonist who grapples with real issues, and the story doesn't shy away from showing her as less likable or selfish at times. All of the characters are flawed in their own ways, and this made them more believable. One of the most likeable characters is Four, Tris's trainer and love interest, and the story does a wonderful job of portraying tenderness and concern between strong individuals, instead of the over-the-top mushy stuff often seen in other novels. Another strength of the book lies in its examination of larger issues, including how and why to choose your own path in life, whether all virtues are worth cultivating and to what extent, and how religion plays a role in the type of lives people choose to lead.
Even with these strong points, Divergent wasn't a perfect fit. Tris's character sometimes seemed inconsistent, and she often excelled at new skills too easily to be believable. Unclear world building also pulled me out of the story a few times and left me wondering how society had evolved to the described point. A few noticeable plot holes also jumped out regarding what the leaders did and did not notice about Tris's different abilities. The dramatic ending pulled at the heart, but it mostly felt like a way to clear up some complications and set up specific plot points for future novels. It's obvious that the plot will span the coming books, but the main conflict was revealed too late and made the ending seem rushed and disconnected from the first 400 pages of the book.
If I had judged Divergent on plotting and world building alone, I would have rated it as three stars. However, the tale's ability to sweep me up into the action, drama, and romance made it a quick read that I'll definitely recommend to others, thereby bumping it up a notch. I'm really looking forward to see what Roth does in her coming books, including Insurgent, where I hope she'll expand her world building, close up a few plot misses, and keep the swoon coming.(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)
Quick & easy New Adult read despite formulaic set-up
At first glance, FOREPLAY is just a contemporary college romance with many of the expected cl...more Quick & easy New Adult read despite formulaic set-up
At first glance, FOREPLAY is just a contemporary college romance with many of the expected clichés of the New Adult genre. The heroine, Pepper, is the virginal and naïve college girl with a traumatic past. The hero, Reece, is the rough-on-the-outside bartender who may be hiding secrets of his own. In order to prepare herself to seduce her long-time crush (and her best friend’s brother), Pepper seeks lessons in foreplay from Reece; in the process, she learns more about attraction and love than she ever expected. Despite this formulaic set-up, the story and the romance both work.
One of the novel’s strongest points is its two main characters. Pepper is sweet but also realistic in her classist worries about getting involved with someone who’s not as educated as she is. Reece is a good guy who doesn’t take advantage of Pepper, despite his own obvious gain from their set-up, but he also doesn’t shy away from being clear about his enjoyment of their physical encounters. Even though their sexual hook-ups are a little hard to believe given Pepper’s lack of experience, they’re steamy and often tender at the same time. Jordan’s writing is also leaps and bounds above most of that seen in the New Adult genre, which helped make this a quick, easy, and enjoyable read.
Even with these strengths to recommend it, I couldn’t rate FOREPLAY higher because of the obvious use of clichés, the unbelievable set-up of the situation between the characters, and the dramatic and saccharine ending. Regardless, I did enjoy reading it, and I’m interested in the next two books in the series that will focus on Pepper’s roommates.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.(less)
PROM NIGHTS FROM HELL is an anthology composed of five paranormal romances from five young adult authors: Meg Cab...moreDisappointing stories with no endings
PROM NIGHTS FROM HELL is an anthology composed of five paranormal romances from five young adult authors: Meg Cabot, Kim Harrison, Michele Jaffe, Stephenie Meyer, and Lauren Myracle. I picked this up after reading the sister anthology, Love Is Hell, which I enjoyed a great deal. Unfortunately, as a short story collection about paranormal romance and the prom, this compilation fell short.
Of the stories, only one contained a complete story arc from beginning to end (Myracle's "The Corsage") and only one was set entirely at prom (Meyer's "Hell on Earth"). Most of the stories finished with little to no conclusion. Instead of being self-contained, most felt like the first few chapters of a book. In some cases, it's now obvious this was intended, as is the case with Kim Harrison's story that later become her YA novel, Once Dead, Twice Shy (Madison Avery, Book 1). For a short story collection, though, it was unsatisfying. Also, while it's not necessary that all of the stories be set at prom, a few of the selections were very limited in their relation to the theme. The writing came off as juvenile at times too.
On the plus side, reading this anthology was a great way to sample the work of five popular authors. Without buying a book from each, I was able to get a taste of each author's writing style and characterization skills. Of the writing, Meyer's was the best written and was a bit riskier in content and description than her Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1) series (though there's nothing salacious at all).
If you're looking for quick, enjoyable reads of a similar nature, I would highly recommend checking out Love Is Hell instead.(less)
Wavering between 2.5 and 3 stars on this one. Despite the ridiculous number of typos, misspellings, and poorly written sentences, the story clipped al...moreWavering between 2.5 and 3 stars on this one. Despite the ridiculous number of typos, misspellings, and poorly written sentences, the story clipped along after an initially slow start and there was no instalove to make me roll my eyes. If the author cleaned this up, I think it would be one of the better titles in the New Adult genre...though that's not a ringing endorsement from me.(less)
After discovering Simone Elkeles as a favorite author earlier this year, I was eagerly awaiting the release of RE...moreDisappointed and saddened with sequel
After discovering Simone Elkeles as a favorite author earlier this year, I was eagerly awaiting the release of RETURN TO PARADISE, the sequel to my favorite novel of hers, LEAVING PARADISE. However, after reading it, I'm disappointed to say I wish I hadn't.
In RETURN TO PARADISE, eight months have passed since Caleb left Maggie standing beside a road as he left for an uncertain future. Since then, Maggie has tried to move on and has planned her first year at college as a study-abroad student. Caleb, on the other hand, has been slumming it at odd jobs and living in a drug house. When circumstances throw them together for a month-long road trip to do outreach education to other teens, Caleb and Maggie must determine whether they can have an honest and lasting relationship, especially with the secret about the accident still looming between them.
Sadly, the plot and characterization in RETURN TO PARADISE destroyed the warm feelings I had for the characters in the previous book. The novel opens with a very contrived set-up that forces Maggie and Caleb back together. Following this, horribly slow pacing plagued the novel, as did a lack of definitive action or plot movement. While I fell in love with Caleb's character in the first book, where he was kind, loyal, and upright behind a tough mask, he became cruel, manipulative, and intentionally hurtful to others in this book, including Maggie. The sweet and aching romantic spark between the two is gone and is replaced with an overly sexual Caleb who's no longer gentle or consistent and who is physically unkind at times. In the plot, the constant flip-flop of their hot and cold relationship seemed to occur without reason or purpose. Even in the good parts, their relationship no longer felt genuine or considerate. While Maggie has grown into a stronger person, her character changes and those in Caleb were never explained. The internal dialogue of Maggie and Caleb consisted of manufactured realizations and declarations about each other that seemed to come from nowhere. Also, secondary characters came across as unimportant or underdeveloped. Though most of Elkeles' novels provide a satisfying ending, even if somewhat artificial, the conclusion of this book felt unsatisfying because it didn't ring true for the characters or the preceding plot.
On the positive side, I did enjoy the alternating first-person viewpoints of Maggie and Caleb again. The book also provided resolution to certain plot points left hanging from the first book, and the novel did try to examine some real issues, like trust, family division, and the continued effects of one's actions and the lies that can sprout from that.
These points, however, were not enough to make me enjoy this read. While I finished LEAVING PARADISE with a bittersweet pull in my chest regarding Maggie and Caleb, I'm now left feeling only bitter because I can't enjoy them and their relationship any more after reading this book.(less)
Creative re-telling lures readers back to ancient Greece
Tracy Barrett's Dark of the Moon lures readers back to the time of ancient Greece. On Krete, A...moreCreative re-telling lures readers back to ancient Greece
Tracy Barrett's Dark of the Moon lures readers back to the time of ancient Greece. On Krete, Ariadne has spent her whole life being trained to be she who will be Goddess. Her only true companions are her mother, the current Goddess, and her malformed brother, Asterion, who is imprisoned beneath the palace due to his unintentionally violent ways. When a tribute ship of slaves arrives from Athens and delivers Theseus, the son of a king, Ariadne's life becomes even more complicated as death, family, and duty intertwine.
DARK OF THE MOON delivered on its promise of providing a creative re-telling of the Theseus myth involving Ariadne and the Minotaur. Myth or not, the way in which the story was written made everything believable as having happened in history at some point. Barrett was able to place the tale within the historical context of the time by bringing in fascinating information about politics, religion, and culture, and she did so in a way that kept me intrigued. The author also used a very sympathetic and human approach that I appreciated to explain the characters, their actions, and how they developed into the people described in the original myths. The book's consistent pacing also kept me turning pages, especially as the plot picked up in the second half.
However, as with any re-telling, parts of the story were very predictable, even if the paths to certain outcomes were changed. Because of this, it was sometimes difficult to feel excited about reading forward because I felt like I knew what would happen next. The writing also came off as burdensome sometimes, especially the switch from Ariadne's chapters being told in past tense to Theseus's being told in the present tense. The related jumps in time throughout the story were off-putting as well. With much less romance than the original tale and some heavy violence and implied sexuality, this book will likely appeal to a smaller niche market of older teens who like mythology and who can handle the gory descriptions of violence.
Overall, Barrett provides a creative and very human twist on the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur, but it's likely not enough to appeal to a large audience. I'll be interested to see what Barrett writes next, though I won't necessarily be rushing out to pick it up.
Note: This review refers to an advance review 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)
When I received this ARC, I was extremely excited to begin reading it because I was familiar with and impressed by the author's spoken word/slam poetr...more When I received this ARC, I was extremely excited to begin reading it because I was familiar with and impressed by the author's spoken word/slam poetry work. That, coupled with a ringing endorsement from Sherman Alexie on the cover, made this seem like it would be a real treat for me.
Unfortunately, this novel didn't grab me like I had hoped, and I stopped reading a little before the half-way mark. Though I liked the opening and found some humor in the writing, it felt forced at times and the narrative didn't always flow smoothly. Developments like the new kid, Drake, disclosing his sexual orientation to our protagonist within days of meeting her felt unrealistic and only necessary to push the plot forward. There was much potential here, but I didn't find enough in the story to keep my interest.(less)
Quick review: While the content and storyline of this graphic novel was smart, I wasn't impressed with its execution or the artwork. Transitions betwe...moreQuick review: While the content and storyline of this graphic novel was smart, I wasn't impressed with its execution or the artwork. Transitions between sections seemed jumpy, even within chapters, and elements of the storyline that could have been really meaningful were either touched on too briefly or conflicts were resolved too easily. The artwork never grabbed me and was too simple for my liking, and the images that spanned two pages were often gulped up in the middle by the binding so that the center of the picture could not be seen. Hopefully the final version will alleviate some of this problem by being bound in hardcover.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.
Oh, book, I don't know what to do with you, rating and review-wise. I can see what you were trying to do, but it felt too contrived and contradictory...moreOh, book, I don't know what to do with you, rating and review-wise. I can see what you were trying to do, but it felt too contrived and contradictory in many instances. Let me ruminate further....(less)