Like many reviewers, I have had some bad experiences with self-published novels. Bad editing, little or no plot, plot too similar to something already...moreLike many reviewers, I have had some bad experiences with self-published novels. Bad editing, little or no plot, plot too similar to something already published. When I heard about Susan Ee’s ANGELFALL, the first in a projected five book series (and only 99 cents), I was blown away by the amazing reviews this book was getting – even from some very picky readers. After that much hype, I knew I had to read it, especially since it combines two of my favorite things – evil angels and a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I mean, evil angels, people. That is enough to get me to read just about anything.
ANGELFALL is the first book in the Penryn & The End of Days series, focusing on a teenage girl named Penryn and her mother and sister six weeks after the apocalypse – angels descending from Heaven to destroy the Earth. When she saves an angel from death as his wings are cut off, she also loses her sister in the process, and is forced to coerce the angel into helping her find her sister. The story is dark, fast-paced, and moving at times. But above all, this is a story about a girl’s desperation and evolution as a person. From the death and ashes of the world she knows, she is strong, kick butt, and motivated.
Penryn’s skills as a survivalist, martial artist, and self-defense almost-expert are well described and founded. Her mother’s craziness was also grounded in fact, making the story even more hard-hitting. The characters were all well-developed, fleshed out, and evolved as the story progressed, especially with the angel saved by Penryn – the mysterious Raffe. Although I didn’t connect with him fully (the first was completely in first person from Penryn’s POV), I really did enjoy Raffe. He was brash and snarky, but he was also strong and determined to get back what he thought was rightfully his. The connection between Raffe and Penryn cycles from a partnership to contention and back again wonderfully, creating great tension.
Okay, can I just get to the squees and flails now? Just trust me when I say that this book is fabulous. From the characters to the amazing plot, it is just good. In fact, it’s so good that it made me overlook some shaky writing and editing issues and focus solely on how amazing the plot is. Ee’s debut is a wild ride full of creativity, impressive action, and drama that is more than likely going to go down as my favorite book published in 2011. Yes, it was a self-published effort, but this book goes far and beyond the efforts of many (MANY) traditionally published books from the big six publishers.
This book is a heart pounding thrill ride from beginning to end, and I cannot help but highly recommend it to any lover of young adult fiction – and even adults who enjoy action, post-apocalyptic themes, and darker fiction. While not flashy, ANGELFALL is a spectacular book that is definitely one you MUST read.
VERDICT: Although a darker book for older teens, ANGELFALL is a spectacular tour de force in young adult fiction, mixing post-apocalyptic and paranormal themes effortlessly. Spectacular!
Sometimes there are things where you read them or watch them or listen to them and you cannot quite figure out why you liked it as much as you did. Fo...moreSometimes there are things where you read them or watch them or listen to them and you cannot quite figure out why you liked it as much as you did. For me, TOUCH OF FROST is one of those books. Many of my fellow bloggers had issues with this book. Several did not finish it. Meanwhile, I loved it. I know where people are coming from when they cite several issues with the book – an unclear plot, choppy dialogue, cliché characters and settings. For some reason, my love of this book and the fact I find it an ooey gooey fluffy pile of goodness transcended those issues and I came away from reading Jennifer Estep’s first foray into young adult fiction feeling very, very happy.
TOUCH OF FROST follows Gwen Frost, a loner/outcast who has recently come to Mythos Academy in Cypress Mountain, NC (aside: Cypress Mountain = Biltmore Forest, NC, no?), a school for Vikings, Valkyries, Amazons, and Spartans, among other supernatural creatures. They’re training to be warriors and defend the world from Loki and his Reapers, and poor Gwen doesn’t fit in yet again. Gwen’s gift is psychometry, reading the history of an item (or person) with just a touch. When a popular classmate is murdered and an artifact stolen, Gwen is the only one who cares to investigate.
So, what does TOUCH OF FROST have? Superpowers, mythology, an academy for teenagers born to be warriors, an outcast girl with a taste for comic books, and a murder mystery. And it also is not the most thought-provoking or original or anything story on the block. What it does have going for it is a fun story that is quick to read and amusing. And if you know me, you would know I am a big fan of quick and amusing and fun. This won’t be for everyone – if you are looking for something completely serious, you will be disappointed. TOUCH OF FROST is a fun book that you will devour with its wittiness, cute scenes, hot love interest (Logan Quinn is a very interesting bad boy that I can’t wait to get to know better), and great narrator in Gwen.
It isn’t the most original plot ever and does rely on tropes often, so I cannot give it a full 5 stars in actuality. But since I don’t give half stars, I will be rounding this up to five. It’s enjoyable and fun. If you are in the market for a fun read with mystery, romance, and intrigue, you should check out TOUCH OF FROST. It’s probably right up your alley.
VERDICT: While not very original, TOUCH OF FROST makes up for its cliché plot with fun characters, a great bad boy love interest, and a narrator you can’t help but root for. Definitely pick this one up.(less)
EVERY OTHER DAY is the type of book I love – well, at least love the synopsis and the general idea. Action-oriented, kickass pr...moreReviewed for Book Brats
EVERY OTHER DAY is the type of book I love – well, at least love the synopsis and the general idea. Action-oriented, kickass protagonists, girl power. For the most part, Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ latest book did not disappoint. Although I have not read any of her previous books, I found myself enjoying this one with a few minor issues. This is, at the heart of the matter, a story about a girl trying to come to terms with herself with the aid of new friends, new powers, new inhabitants in her body, and lots of new, fun weapons.
Some days, the heroine of the story is human. Every other day, Kali becomes a hunter who instinctively has to hunt down paranormal critters. In her world, things like hellhounds and chupacabras and manticores are perfectly normal. You can see them in zoos. For years, she has lived with her distant science professor father hiding an ugly truth about herself. And then a classmate is infected with a chupacabra and she’s forced to intervene. The story is fun, unique, and intriguing, combining the paranormal with a world of science. As the story progresses, we learn more about Kali and her world. At times, it’s rather convoluted, strange, and confusing, giving the story one of its faults.
The other key fault I noted was choppy writing and several boring parts due to pacing issues. In such a fast-paced book, hitting slow parts immediately caused me to start skimming, which at the same time lead me to miss key points. Barnes’ writing style is also strange, using short, choppy paragraphs way too often. In moderation, these create drama and intensity, but used several times a page was overkill.
The middle 50% of the book for me was somewhat of a letdown. If this had been the entire story, the novel would have gotten 3 hearts (or less). Luckily, a fantastic conclusion is what saves this. Although I am not quite fond of one of the twists the author took, I have to give it to Barnes – the book was for the most part awesomely fast-paced and highlighted just how badass girls can be. Girl power is one of the bases of Book Brats – strong, female role models, both teenage and adult – and I think Kali D’Angelo is a great heroine. She was strong, she was smart, and she tried to do what was best for those around her instead of what was best for her. Along for the ride were a number of other fleshed out, rounded characters who had their own goals, own motivations, and personalities. It was a rag-tag gang, but one I quickly fell in love with.
If you are into slower books, EVERY OTHER DAY might not be for you. If you are like me and LOVE action, though, you MUST check out this book. Barnes’ writing might have flaws, along with the pacing and a few point where I scratched my head in confusion or bewilderment, but I really liked this book. Check it out!
VERDICT: Although it is not without its faults, EVERY OTHER DAY is fast-paced, exciting, and full of girl power. This book is kickass and full of bite that lovers of action-oriented reading will love.(less)
KISS OF FROST is the sequel to the fun and exciting TOUCH OF FROST by Jennifer Estep, which probably was one of my favorite yo...moreReviewed for Book Brats!
KISS OF FROST is the sequel to the fun and exciting TOUCH OF FROST by Jennifer Estep, which probably was one of my favorite young adult books of 2011. I’m a sucker for fun and exciting and girl power, and while KISS OF FROST wasn’t quite as good as its predecessor, it was still a great YA novel that I wholeheartedly recommend. This series is full of action, excitement, romance, and great characters that will make you laugh and cry and fear for. Estep has a winning combination of a fun twist on the old “boarding school for superpowered teens” plot and great characters, which is why I will tell you this. YOU MUST READ THIS SERIES. And spoilers might be mentioned within.
In KISS OF FROST, we’re back to Mythos Academy a few weeks after the events of TOUCH OF FROST. The way the story begins is helpful to people who have not read the first book – in fact, you can actually jump into book two without having read book one due to the amount of rehashing involved – but somewhat off putting if you have read book one. The first 150 pages are chock full of plot recaps, reminders, and basically a retelling of every event from book one. Multiple times. Even as we hit the climax, we are still being told about the events of book one. It slows down the pacing a bit, but as I said, if you haven’t read book one, you can still read book two.
That was really my main issue with KISS OF FROST. We meet a new potential love interest, new enemies, new denizens of Mythos Academy (particularly Logan’s Spartan friends Oliver and Kenzie, who become critical players in the story arc), and new world building that brings a lot of new details to this already well-created world. At the end, we even have a slight guide to the world which brings a lot of the details together, and I can only assume that book three (DARK FROST, out June 2012) will bring more details, especially considering that AWESOME chapter one preview.
As Gwen’s powers develop, so does the enormity of the situation resting on her shoulders. The character development in KISS OF FROST is great – not like some stories where the main character never grows as a person. She’s learning to fight back and stand up for herself, which is what I love to see in young adult fiction – girls that take things into their own hands. Yes, she has a boy that drives her, but Gwen is a great heroine. And Logan is still a great, mysterious bad boy – and not the kind of bad boy that is actually BAD. He cares about Gwen and will do anything to help her. He’s almost like a sweet bad boy, which is the type of bad boy that I love. But don’t expect constant sparks of love and gooey and kissing here.
If you haven’t picked up TOUCH OF FROST, what are you waiting for? Go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or your local Indie and PICK IT UP NOW. This is a series that you cannot miss.
VERDICT: KISS OF FROST might not be as good as TOUCH OF FROST, but it is still a great sequel to one of my favorite current young adult series. A definite must read.(less)
SLIDE promised me a few things in the synopsis. A murder mystery (love those). A romance (love those, too). Catty high school drama (definitely love)....moreSLIDE promised me a few things in the synopsis. A murder mystery (love those). A romance (love those, too). Catty high school drama (definitely love). This was actually the first book I ever requested from HarperCollins for review, and I was super excited for it. Maybe I overhyped the book in my head, or maybe I let the hype on Goodreads mislead me, but this book didn’t live up to all my expectations. I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t all the way there for me. While SLIDE does have an awesome premise and a unique take on the paranormal, I felt that it could have been a lot more than how it ended up.
Vee Bell is a typical high school student in Iowa. Like many young teenage girls, she has gone through a lot in her life at school – backstabbing friends, issues with boys, peer pressure, alcohol, etc. When she was 11, she lost her mother to cancer. But she has a certain secret that she carries with her. Everyone thinks she is narcoleptic, passing out at certain times in reaction to stimuli. In reality, when she passes out, she “slides” into the mind of another and becomes a passenger to their thoughts. If you saw the movie BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, it’s basically like the door to Malkovich’s brain.
This set up presents interesting opportunities, and lots of complications. She’s afraid to tell anyone, including her friends and family, but she can’t control her affliction. Vee is a strong girl who has a lot of stuff to deal with in her life, from a father that is constantly working (and hiding stuff) to a sister who is hard to control. But when her sister’s friends start dropping, and Vee slides into the mind of the killer during one of their murders, things start going bad.
SLIDE is a book on the border between contemporary and paranormal, a standalone by a debut author in a market heavy towards series. And sadly, this story fell flat for me. The writing was fine – smooth, realistic, light on the frilly aspects that I hate. But the plot was what threw me. I have seen other reviewers comment on the predictability of the story, and I have to agree. Vee might not see the clues, but anyone with half a brain will be able to tell who the killer is the moment certain clues are revealed. With this, the conclusion doesn’t seem very exciting, and the climax is dull.
Other than that, I quite enjoyed the novel. Vee was an awesome character and her voice and POV were very clear and interesting. Her best friend Rollins was equally as cool, although I wasn’t as hot for her love interest Zane. The characters were for the most part engaging and realistic. It was just the evolution of the plot and the clues that rubbed me wrong, detracting from what could have been – an awesome, seat-of-your-pants murder mystery. When you can tell who the killer is from 100 pages out, that’s not a good sign.
VERDICT: With a predictable ending, SLIDE could have been a lot more. Nevertheless, it was still an exciting story with an awesome protagonist and signals the arrival of an author to watch in the future.(less)
The back of EYES TO SEE promises a lot. A scary, thrilling, dark urban fantasy novel that will leave you wanting the lights on while you sleep. For me...moreThe back of EYES TO SEE promises a lot. A scary, thrilling, dark urban fantasy novel that will leave you wanting the lights on while you sleep. For me, it didn’t quite reach that level. With 275 pages of buildup to a climax that was extremely convenient, EYES TO SEE doesn’t live up to the aspirations I had for it when going in. It’s a decent beginning to a new urban fantasy series for adults, particularly fans of THE DRESDEN FILES and CSI, but it could have been so much better.
EYES TO SEE is the story of a former Harvard classics professor named Jeremiah Hunt whose daughter is kidnapped without a trace. His wife leaves him, he loses himself in the process, and he finally performs a ritual that allows him to gain the ability to see ghosts, among other supernatural beings that inhabit Boston. The goal is simple – he wants to find his daughter. Five years have passed since she went missing, and a string of murders has given him the break he needs to find the killer. Except now he needs help.
The biggest asset of this novel is great world-building. From ghosts to witches to Norse legends, everything is covered, and it’s covered well. Nassise’s imagination is given a chance to flourish here, combining together myths, legends, and real stories well to create a
For the first 275 pages, the story is fine. It moves along at a nice rate, there is plenty of interesting world-building to keep you enticed, and there is nothing particularly wrong about this. Yes, the narrator can be hard to connect with (his daughter’s disappearance made him almost insane), and the POV changes did throw me off a bit. The story switches between first person past in the now and in the past, in addition to third person POVs from the villain and two other characters. If the story had stayed with Hunt, I think the narrative would have been tighter and less spastic. The way it was, I enjoyed it, but it could have been better.
I think one of the problems I had with it was the fact that the beginning was great, but the story went downhill from there. By the time we reached the climax and the big reveals and the conclusion, it felt too contrived, too convenient. When mixed together with plodding pacing during action scenes, where Hunt stopped in the middle of the narrative to suddenly piece together clues in long monologues, it slowed things down and squandered what could have been an amazing ending. Nassise clearly has the ability to craft a great urban fantasy novel, but somehow EYES TO SEE ended up being nowhere near as amazing as it could have been. Yes, it was a good novel. Yes, I would recommend it to fans of Jim Butcher and procedural urban fantasy novels. But I think it could have been a lot better. It was definitely a four star until the climax took the story down a notch.
VERDICT: Amazing world-building and the author's burgeoning imagination are letdown by little emotional connection and a flat climax that seemed too convenient to be plausible. Still, if you like urban fantasy with a male protagonist, it's worth a look. (less)
SPELLBOUND came recommended to me by a blogging friend– a fun story with the right mix of paranormal and romance. Or something like that, I can’t honestly remember. I’ve had it on my Kindle for months so I decided to open it up and read. To describe my experience in one word, I would have to say “average”. It was nothing special. Not good, not bad, just okay. Mixing the supernatural with a New York City day school for society’s elite children, SPELLBOUND is an interesting mix of catty drama and medieval curses. The problem is that it never uses its interesting bits to its advantage, leading to a story that is neither good nor bad – simply meh.
Cara Lynn Shultz’s debut is the story of Emma, a high school girl who has lost her mother and left with a drunk stepfather. She moves in with her aunt and starts attending Vincent Academy, New York’s most expensive co-ed day school. There she meets Brendan, a boy who falls head over heels in love with her, and where Emma proceeds to make enemies with half the female student body – and with one boy who has it out for her after she turns him down. At the same time, Emma’s friendship with her lab partner (a witch) produces some interesting results – as in the keys to finding out she and Brendan are cursed soul mates destined to die over and over and over again.
The instant attraction leads to instant love in this one. Within a week of their first date, Emma and Brendan are pledging their love for one another. It felt sort of contrived, like the fact that they were destined soul mates led to their romance more than actual chemistry. There was chemistry there, and Brendan was a bad boy who didn’t actually try and kill the main character (bonus points!!!!), but when I read a story, I want to feel like the evolution of love is natural, not guided by some notion that they are supposed to be together and that’s that. With Emma and Brendan, the moment they discovered according to an old book and some family legends that they were the real cursed deal, it was on. And I just didn’t buy it.
SPELLBOUND does get bonus points for a good antagonist, even though he wasn’t used to his full potential. I wanted to know more about why the antagonist was so creepy crazy, and also why every parent at this school was completely oblivious to their children. Even Emma’s aunt was a very forgiving AND giving caretaker – she didn’t care about curfews and would shell out cash for whatever Emma wanted, from cabs to dresses for prom. She was a good motherly influence, something that YA needs more of in my opinion, but she was way too allowing in many cases.
Shultz managed to craft a great idea – cursed love charting the centuries. While not the most original, especially in YA, I loved her twist that kind of mixed it with a family legend. What SPELLBOUND suffered was an overemphasis on high school clichés and not enough on the mechanics of the curse and Emma and Brendan’s future. For a story about magic and witches, there wasn’t that much magic involved – it wasn’t nearly paranormal enough. In addition, I wasn’t invested in the story as much as I had hoped, but I will be reading book two.
VERDICT: A paranormal romance lacking a paranormal punch, SPELLBOUND is an average paranormal tale about girl meets boy meets ancient curse. With a great main character and cute romance, it’s a fast read, but not without flaws.(less)
After all the great reviews of this one, I went in expecting to be amazed. Instead, after 50 pages, I was bored to tears and began skimming like mad....moreAfter all the great reviews of this one, I went in expecting to be amazed. Instead, after 50 pages, I was bored to tears and began skimming like mad. Had to give up on this one. I think it you are more into a slow build, you will enjoy this one, but nothing happened besides 1.) go to work 2.) go home 3.) go back to work. Oh, well...(less)