I've loved this series, but I've never been happier to see one close. Sometimes, it's just time to say goodbye. I'll mi...moreGlad I read it, glad it's done.
I've loved this series, but I've never been happier to see one close. Sometimes, it's just time to say goodbye. I'll miss Sookie. I'll miss Eric and Bill and Pam and Sam, and the whole Bon Temp crew, but, for the most part, they've been left in a good place.
As Sookie reached her inevitable (and predictable) happily ever after and conclusion, I smiled a warm smile, put her final book down, and you know what? I didn't feel sad. Not even a little melancholy. This is not the book you'll read, finish, and feel instantly bereft that there's no more. It's just a happy goodbye between old friends. I know we'll always be there for each other, and have 13 books to fall back on if the urge so calls.
But for now? Farewell, Sook. It's been fun. (less)
Rating for Night Huntress 6.5: OK, this was superb. Cat and Bones and... IAN? at the top of their game. I haven't seen them this strong, this fun, thi...moreRating for Night Huntress 6.5: OK, this was superb. Cat and Bones and... IAN? at the top of their game. I haven't seen them this strong, this fun, this sexy and clever for a few books now, and it's a joy to witness.
I don't often think novellas are must-reads, but this one can't be missed. It's just too good.(less)
I'm sorry. So sorry. I wanted to love this book, because I LOVE Jordan. And I'm not prepared to say it's the book's fault, because hey. I'm a mood reade...moreI'm sorry. So sorry. I wanted to love this book, because I LOVE Jordan. And I'm not prepared to say it's the book's fault, because hey. I'm a mood reader. I'm self aware enough to know it.
But... this book and I... we have problems. A few of them, and each of them narrators. All... oh... nine of them, if I count correctly.
Rayne seems a fairly typical 'loner girl' type: angry and cagey, alone against the world. She's resilient and determined, possessing all the traits necessary to make a fine heroine, but... she felt forced, to me. She seems the obvious choice for main character, but she shares the book's narrative with a half dozen other characters, so it's kind of hard to say.
There's a terse, matter of fact, quality to Dane's writing, and it gives the book... an adult sensibility, which feels odd to say, as I'm not even sure what I mean by that. When Rayne, Mia and antagonist, O'Dell, narrate, Indigo Awakening reads somewhat like a nineties crime pulp: dark and gritty, a little bit angry. I got a similar tone reading Jim Butcher's Storm Front, but there was a difference: that was funny and clever. When the book's titular Indigo Children take the reins, it becomes something else, preternatural powers, strange connections and over-generous servings of teen angst taking centre stage. I suppose the book feels a little bipolar?
But for all these strange powers and mysteries, Indigo Awakening is not a book with answers. None of its many narrators are forthcoming with them. We discover Gabriel and Lucas' talents as they do. While its constant action, events, situations and stakes that should create suspense, that suspense felt strangely lacking, and I found it difficult to fully invest in the story. While events don't feel contrived, relationships DO. Characters develop instant, unshakeable connections with people they should distrust or fear.
Ah, and on that note: the villans. Where Doctor Fiona could prove a compelling Bad Guy, she become dull, a caricature as her actions are spelled out, as with O'Darby. There is no mystery, and thus no real sense of danger to what would otherwise be a pair of genuinely frightening and morally bankrupt villains. Fiona was the biggest disappointment for me, as she's intriguing. A cold scientific mind, unburdened with ethics or empathy.
It's nearly 60% of the way through the book before we're offered explanation of the book's 'Indigo' and 'Crystal' children jargon, which... you know, fair enough. Create suspense. Questions. This? I was confused. It's worth noting the language isn't unique to the book. A quick search of Indigo Children will bring up a plethora of results in Google discussing pseudoscientific term, topped, of course, by Wikipedia. Yet I don't believe this is a part of the collective cultural psyche enough to pass it off as given, and I felt I was navigating blind through the tale's pages.
Indigo Awakening comes across as cinematic crime thriller -- something between X-men and the Bourne Legacy, but... it doesn't live up to that promise. It's an OK book from a good writer. Just not the book for me.(less)
The Story: The year is 1926. It’s the height of prohibition, the Roaring Twenties are in full swing, and the streets of New York shine with the electri...moreThe Story: The year is 1926. It’s the height of prohibition, the Roaring Twenties are in full swing, and the streets of New York shine with the electric light of promise.
It’s here, sent from her home in Ohio, in a dusty, largely ignored museum we find Evie O’Neill. And she couldn’t be happier. Evie’s a gal with a rather singular talent. One touch of an object and she can see its owner’s past, their secrets. Turns out Evie fits right into New York, and her Uncle Will's ‘Museum of Creepy Crawlies,’ for she’s not the only one with a secret. There are others like her, and there are others who are not.
A series of grisly, ritualistic murders are shaking New York and Evie’s Uncle is called to investigate, as this is no normal case, and no normal murderer – all signs point to the murderer being... a ghost.
The 101: Spectacular, grand and dazzling, The Diviners is a Big Book, and not the kind of ‘big’ which refers to size alone. It’s a bursting with big ideas, grand scope and vision. It carries a sense of a world so much bigger than what is shown in its pages. A world growing, still adapting to industry and what the shining new future has brought, and it’s an interesting ‘future’ indeed.
It’s a future in a world on the cusp of change, a world where, for perhaps the first time, anything truly is possible. It’s this meeting, this transitional place, between old and new that allows Bray to examine a fascinating clash of theological and philosophical ideas. The Diviners’ New York is a place where ancient mysticism and modern logic meet, collide, and form shiny new hybrids and dangerous mutations. Bray examines faith, and the loss of it, theism and its opponents, occultism and Christianity and everything in-between. Bray herself remains a remarkably unobtrusive narrator, the story and its opinions belonging very much to its characters. Oh, and what characters they are.
With a large – and larger than life – cast, each of The Diviners’ (many) characters feel real, authentic, and above all, human – characters I half expected to Google along with Flo Ziegfield and Valentino – the story’s real world celebrities – and bring up hidden histories Bray hasn’t chosen to share.
While it boasts no less than a dozen point-of-view characters, some important, and some very minor, The Diviners is the story of none more than Evie O’Neill. Evie is certainly the tale’s heroine, but she’s not a heroine in the sense readers may expect. Selfish yet kind, impetuous and reckless, she is not a simple composite of the best of humanity with a few token flaws thrown in. She’s human, and her tenacity all the more delightful for it.
Joining her for the journey is her enigmatic Uncle Will, outrageous, cheeky thief, Sam, and staid, sensible Jericho, each of whom have secrets as dark as Evie’s own. In parallel to Evie’s, runs Memphis Johnson’s story, a disadvantaged youth with unique talents not so unlike Evie’s own. His and Evie’s paths dance tantalisingly close to one another, each occasionally brushing the other for the briefest of moments, before whirling off and away, never quite converging in the way I suspected they must. Whilst it never quite transpired in The Diviners, it seems fate is determined to draw these two together, but readers will have to wait ’til tome number two.
The Verdict: As sprawling and majestic as the bygone days of the city it inhabits, The Diviners is a book about the monsters in all of us: the monsters in murderers, certainly, but the monsters, too, in mothers, and in children. Filled with characters each complex, sparkling and erratic, and driven by an eerie – if not straight-up frightening – mystery, The Diviners is a masterpiece of imagination. Dazzling and seductive, just as much about its setting as its characters and secrets, this swinging, hypnotic masterpiece of a book is an extraordinary accomplishment.(less)
You know, I run hot and cold with Becca's books. I love/hate the Hush, Hush books. But it's not really a question, is it? Of COURSE I'm going to read...moreYou know, I run hot and cold with Becca's books. I love/hate the Hush, Hush books. But it's not really a question, is it? Of COURSE I'm going to read this.
And if I wasn't convinced, this is what seals it: "BLACK ICE is gritty and frightening, twisty and sexy. There's a touch of paranormal. The stakes are high and there is a definite case of it's-not-what-it-seems going on..."
What I loved most about Hush, Hush (and missed in Crescendo), was the WTFery. The creepiness, the never quite knowing if Nora was losing it, if it mas magic, or hallucinations.
Alice in Zombieland. The name alone screams Burtonesque-Resident Evil promise. Yet readers approaching Gena Showalter’s latest Young Adult offering wi...moreAlice in Zombieland. The name alone screams Burtonesque-Resident Evil promise. Yet readers approaching Gena Showalter’s latest Young Adult offering with such hopes will find themselves disappointed. Instead, Alice in Zombieland will appeal to fans of the likes of Twilight and Vampire Diaries, those desperate for unrequited romance, dark teen angst and dangerous secrets. Leave your expectations at the door, and climb down the rabbit hole...
The Story: Alice’s father’s always been nuts. He sees monsters—walking corpses, hungry for the living. But that’s the thing: only he sees them—until her entire family, Mum, Dad, and beloved little sister, are killed in a car accident, leaving Alice the lone survivor.
Now Alice sees them, too. And they see her.
The 101: I know, I know, I used the dreaded ‘T’ word up there, but, in truth, Alice in Zombieland is the closest I’ve come to Meyer’s progeny’s cousin. Perhaps this is the point which needs addressing first: Contrary to the promises of its name, Alice in Zombieland is not a fantastical take on the zombie apocalypse. It’s a straight up YA paranormal, heavy with the tropes of its genre: Absent parents, protagonist with previously unknown power, new school, small town? Check. Controlling, untouchable bad boy with a dark secret? And then some. Alice in Zombieland is, in fact, a compulsively readable addition to its category, but in a genre turgid with paranormal tales of angst driven romance, it does little to set itself apart.
While Alice does have much to recommend it—amongst them a fascinating, eminently creepy take on zombie lore, and a wonderful cast of secondary characters (none less than Alice’s fantastic best friend, Kat, and her sweet, funny grandparents)—it’s let down by two its most crucial players: Alice, and her love interest, Cole Holland.
Alice, whilst a fairly engaging protagonist, feels somehow spurious, her voice sounding more like an adult attempting to channel a seventeen-year-old than an authentic teenage narrative. While people seldom speak precisely what they think, there seems a disconnect between Alice’s inner vulnerability and uncertainty, and the brave, ballsy girl she projects when she speaks. Alice’s dialogue is one of the highlights of the book, her tenacity making for fabulous verbal smackdowns. She is never at a loss for the right thing to say, her words as fierce a weapons as her fists—this girl can fight–but everything admirable about Alice crumbles around one boy: Cole Holland.
Condescending, controlling, and a borderline sociopath, Cole Holland screams ‘bad boy,’ and not in a good way. He’s a deeply disturbing YA paranormal archetype, second perhaps only to Patch Cipriano of Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush ‘Saga’. Yet, while even I admit to Patch’s appeal (and the guy is a confessed attempted murderer), Cole left me cold. The connection Alice and he share is disturbingly intense, and the power gradient in their relationship unhealthily balanced. While the Alpha archetype irks me little in adult romance with a female lead who can hold her own, it leaves me profoundly uncomfortable in young adult. Nevertheless, the chemistry between Cole and Alice is palpable, and will hold strong appeal for readers looking for heady, smoking-hot romance—it certainly kept me reading.
The Verdict: Alice in Zombieland is a book with many problems, yet it’s also compulsively readable, with a teen romance boasting unparalled heat and chemistry. Paranormal readers will devour the tome, just don’t look too deep. The reading experience is kind of like making mud pies: Fun at the time, but leaves you feeling dirty.
First Thoughts: Eh. How is it that a book can be this much of a mess, yet so compulsively readable? It's a lot like watching a car wreck - I couldn't look away.
The chemistry is smoking, but I have a big problem with the love interest, Cole Holland--the unholy offspring of a messed up Edward Cullen/Patch Cipriano coupling. Controlling, condescending, and a borderline sociopath. Uh-huh. So hot.
I hate making this comparison (comparing anything to this seems lazy), but Alice in Zombieland really is the closest thing I've ever read to Twilight.
Alice in Zombieland has a LOT of problems... but I couldn't put it down. Kind of like making mud pies. Fun at the time, but leaves you feeling dirty.
Have I mentioned I effing LOVE Brigid Kemmerer? Maybe? Once or twice? And, uh, another novella? Hell YES I am all over that. Nick's my favorite brothe...moreHave I mentioned I effing LOVE Brigid Kemmerer? Maybe? Once or twice? And, uh, another novella? Hell YES I am all over that. Nick's my favorite brother (good name he has there), and a story between Nick and Quinn? Bring the swoon! The excitement! The action!
Aliens: small, green and… sexy? Forget E.T. andClose Encounters, Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian offers extra-terrestrials so hot you may w...more3.5 Stars
Aliens: small, green and… sexy? Forget E.T. and Close Encounters, Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Obsidian offers extra-terrestrials so hot you may want to arm yourself with oven mits before picking it up.
The Story: The last thing Katy Schwartz wants to do is leave sunny Florida behind for some "Podunk town in bumfuck, West Virginia", but if it’s what her mum needs to move on from the death of Katy’s dad and life to start again, she’s not complaining. Much.
Life starts looking up when Katy learns the next door neighbours are twins her age. Gorgeous, sweet and friendly Dee becomes an instant friend, and her twin brother, Daemon, has a body to die for, the face of a god and… then he opens his mouth. ‘Douchebag’ doesn’t quite cut it. Overprotective, rude, and controlling, Katy has no idea what Daemon’s problem is, or why he gets off trying to make her scream… but it quickly becomes clear the Black twins are not normal, and by ‘not normal’, try extra-terrestrial alien beings with light-show superpowers — extra-terrestrial beings hiding from an enemy race that want every last one of them dead.
And Katy’s caught in the crossfire.
The 101: Werewolves, vampires, angels, all are creatures with which paranormal readers are intimately familiar. Aliens? Well, aliens are something new... except when they’re not. There is a familiarity to Obsidian, a sense of having been there before, which is instantly immersive. From the characters, to the mythology — not to mention the electrifying chemistry — Armentrout presents a world easy to lose oneself in. *
Obsidian’s greatest strengths are its two leads, or, more specifically, their chemistry. Katy is a likeable, intelligent, selfless heroine who remains level-headed throughout her adventures, but makes some alarmingly silly choices. At times I longed for Katy to be more assertive, more of an ‘action chick’, and, well, my wishes were granted as the story progressed. There’s an added bonus being that Katy’s a book blogger, and her references to ‘Waiting on Wednesdays’, blog comment highs, and books such as Jus Accardo's ‘Touch’ are amusing, giving her a layer relatability many readers will appreciate, though at times the references feel uncomfortably self-aware. The friendship she develops with Daemon Black’s sister, Dee, is sweet, crucial to the story, but also one of its most charming facets. It’s truly lovely watching a genuine friendship develop in tandem to the expected romantic attraction.
Then there’s Daemon Black. Fiercely protective, gorgeous and a prize-winning asshole, Daemon’s not always likeable — in fact, frequently the opposite — but he is compelling. Daemon and Katy bicker and needle, but what makes their squabbling so entertaining is Katy's ability to hold her own, when she chooses to assert it. The sexual tension is so thick you’d have to cut through it with an angle grinder, and Armentrout draws it out masterfully. However, it’s worth noting that Katy’s cries of "he doesn’t like me," are at turns frustrating, when it’s obvious to the reader the truth is precisely the opposite. Ultimately, Obsidian is all about the truly combustible chemistry Katy and Daemon share, and there are no complaints here. Well, no complaints, but a fair amount of frustrated screaming.
The Verdict: Despite the talk of ‘aliens’ and ‘sci-fi’, Obsidian reads much more supernatural than Star Trek. Sexy, exciting and compulsively readable, Obsidian is a paranormal lover’s dream. With unforgettable characters and a rare level of romantic tension and heat for young adult, Armentrout provides generous serves of action and excitement, making for a thrilling, smoking-hot read.
*Truly, imagine me, at 5:30 in the morning, blinking at the time, and crouching by a power point trying get a few more minutes battery life out of my reader.
Initial Thoughts: Obsidian's left me wanting to simultaneously squeal and scream. I love Katy, but I want to SMACK her. Ditto for Daemon. I've rarely been so frustrated with characters, but I LOVE them. I could. not. put. it. down... but occasionally I wanted to THROW it (no bueno, given it's an ebook on my phone).
But seriously, Obsidian is ALL about the chemistry. You may want to invest in some fireproof gloves, or at least oven mits before reading this book. Phwoar.
Supernatural fan? No, not the TV show—the fuzzy and fanged kind. You’re in for a treat—Deadly Hemlock, or simply 'Hemlock' as Americans will...more4.5 stars
Supernatural fan? No, not the TV show—the fuzzy and fanged kind. You’re in for a treat—Deadly Hemlock, or simply 'Hemlock' as Americans will know it, may just be the best you read this year. Kathleen Peacock offers it all: The paranormal, a spine-chilling murder-mystery and the kind of romance that makes your heart skip a beat. Been there, done that? Yes, but Peacock does it well.
The Story In an America shaken by the discovery that werewolves do, in fact, exist, there is a political war taking place. Those infected with Lupine Syndrome have no civil rights. At the first sign of infection, they are required to register, and are promptly shipped off to government-run concentration camps. Fear and suspicion run just beneath the surface, and when a police-backed neo-Nazi-turned-werewolf-hunter organisation, 'the Trackers', arrive in the town of Hemlock, things turn truly ugly.
It’s the arrival of the Trackers that prove a catalyst for change. Mac has tried to move on since her best friend was murdered by a werewolf, but as the violent werewolf-hunters arrive in town to investigate a new death, Mac’s world falls apart all over again. Innately distrustful of Trackers, and haunted by the ghost of her dead friend—though whether Amy is truly a spirit, or a mental projection is left delightfully ambiguous—Mac decides to takes matters into her own hands and find the killer. What she finds instead is a complicated web of lies, political power-games and secrets.
My Thoughts Determined to uncover the truth of her best friends’ brutal death, and force the Trackers to leave town, our heroine, Mac, is a truly fascinating lead. Peacock achieves a faultless balance between physical limitation and keen intelligence. Mac certainly gets herself in too deep, but she’s not your typical damsel in distress. Able to hotwire a car and jimmy a lock since she was a pre-teen, she’s resilient and resourceful, stubborn and fiercely protective of those she loves. And she does love: It would be amiss of me to continue without touching on the bittersweet, slow-burn romance that develops between Mac and one of her closest friends: There’s earnestness and realism to the relationship and it’s a delight watching something grow from a very real and genuine friendship.
And it’s not just the friendships and romance that are such a delight. There’s a rich world of characters in Hemlock. From friends and family to acquaintances and colleagues, the extensive cast is never confusing, but adds layers of depth to Mac’s world. But where Deadly Hemlock truly shines is its depth of world building and attention to the bigger picture. Using the small town of Hemlock as a paradigm, Peacock presents a country being overtaken by fear, paranoia and hatred. She examines bigotry, human nature and radicalism in a way one would expect to find in a dystopian fantasy, not a sleepy-town paranormal. A government bending to the will of extremist voices, the media spreading fear faster the Lupine virus itself, and knee-jerk political reactions all feel eerily familiar, and add to Deadly Hemlock’s pervasive sense of unrest and unease. There's a bleakness and hopelessness to Mac’s story at times, but it's unsurprising in a story dealing with grief and death, and the loss of young, promising life. What are surprising are the pop-culture references, from music to film, and, as Peacock herself shares, literature, spattering its pages and adding moments of delightful humour.
The wonderful characters, the frightening politics, all lead to the heart of Deadly Hemlock: the puzzle of Amy’s murder. It’s rare to find such a tense, tightly plotted mystery, yet Peacock kept me guessing with ‘whos’ and ‘whys’ never quite falling into place till the breathless, heartbreaking end.
The Verdict Kathleen Peacock’s debut is a remarkable creature indeed. With an extraordinary depth of world building, she brings something exciting and new to her genre. Filled with dangerous secrets and vicious lies, every inch of the town of Hemlock feels real and comes alive, creating a depth that elevates Deadly Hemlock beyond simple supernatural love-story to something richer, vaster and rendering it utterly engrossing. Paranormal fans, rejoice! Chilling, riveting, and beautifully imagined, Deadly Hemlock is an unmissable debut. (less)
A quick, riveting prequel to Brigid Kemmerer's action-packed Elemental series, FEARLESS will do nothing to sate fans hunger for more. It is, however,...moreA quick, riveting prequel to Brigid Kemmerer's action-packed Elemental series, FEARLESS will do nothing to sate fans hunger for more. It is, however, an unmissable addition, offering teasing hints of one of the series most enduring riddles: Hunter Garrity.
Throughout Storm and Spark, Hunter has proven himself a mystery: his actions and motivations are often hard to pin down, and he's a man of many secrets and questions, but no definite answers. If Fearless is a small peek at what readers can expect from his forthcoming story, SPIRIT, there's definitely reason to get excited.
Set approximately a year before the events of Storm, we meet sixteen-year old Hunter. Young, unsettled, and with a certain innocence he's since been robbed of. Hunter's dad and uncle are still alive. His family is whole. And he's still angry.
A sense of inevitability hangs over Fearless, lending it a heartbreaking sense of foreboding. Fans will know what awaits Hunter in his future, but this is not the story of how Hunter's life was torn apart; rather a glimpse at how he was molded into the character we know. Once again, Brigid paints an unflinching picture of the realities of bullying, hatred and abuse, and while we don't see the same depth a full-length novel allows, she accomplishes a great deal in only 44 pages. Brigid possesses an extraordinary gift for characterization, and it shines like a beacon through Hunter and Clare, and Hunter's family.
This quick, electrifying read is best-suited to those who have already read Storm, and will provide much anticipated answers, while creating still more questions. Fast-paced, intense, and surprisingly moving, Fearless is a must-read that will leaves fans desperate for more.(less)
Sweet, flirty, and unashamedly fun, Of Poseidon is bringing back mermaids. Angst? Nope. These teenage supernaturals eat fish, not blood, and no-one he...moreSweet, flirty, and unashamedly fun, Of Poseidon is bringing back mermaids. Angst? Nope. These teenage supernaturals eat fish, not blood, and no-one here is sprouting hair and claws. Fins, though? Well that’s a different story...
The Story: When Galen, a Syrena (read: merman) prince watches a human girl single-handedly fight off a shark, and win, he knows she’s not what she seems. Perhaps not human at all. After all, the Syrena themselves can pass as human—growing legs, breathing air, and walking on land. But this is news to Emma, who thinks she’s as human as you and I. As is why, the albeit gorgeous, Galen, suddenly turns up at her school and won’t leave her alone. As the two fight a growing attraction, they must work together to uncover the mystery of Emma’s heritage, because while Galen cannot have Emma for his own, her rather singular gifts may just be the key to saving his kingdom.
My Thoughts: Though it may seem strange calling a book which opens with the bloody death of a girl 'light', it’s precisely what Of Poseidon is. Jumping from death-by-shark-mauling to fun and playful, Of Poseidon never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously, and it frees Banks up to tell precisely the right story: a fun, effervescent romp offering laughs and romance in generous, decadent serves.
Emma, Galen, and Of Poseidon's cast of friends and family are fun, quirky, and compulsively readable. Emma’s chatty, funny and slightly neurotic first-person is a delight, and there’s a certain amusing naivety to Galen’s third person. His unfamiliarity with the human world and occasional bewilderment at Emma offer countless comic opportunities, and despite Emma’s description of Galen’s classic ‘Type A’ personality, he is not without a sense of humour about himself, allowing for playful, teasing banter between the couple. The split point of views work to excellent effect, not only lending greater depth in the book’s two leads, but to the world, and its delightful array of supporting characters who, rather than simply being ‘supporting’ characters are fleshed out, and as charming and entertaining as its leads.
The mystery of Emma’s Syrena heritage—do not call them mermaids, folks, especially not the guys—plays out over the book, and is the plot’s driving force, but Of Poseidon is all about the romance. And it’s fun. The chemistry between Emma and Galen is electric, sexy and intense, and when they’re not sharing a sweet, heart stopping moment—we’re talking girl meets boy, boy takes girl on date... to the Titanic—they’re bickering, or needling each other with charming, hilarious intensity.
The Verdict: In a world of vampires, werewolves, and things that go bump in the night, Of Poseidon brings something new, fun and funny to the table. Sharing a sensibility far more in common with Disney’s Ariel and Eric than Rose and Dimitri, it proves different doesn’t mean less. There’s a playful quality to Banks’ storytelling, giving Of Poseidon a refreshingly light, fun tone, while never lacking in substance. Banks doesn't miss the opportunity to make pointed barbs at overfishing and and environmental negligence, but she never comes across as preachy. Flirty, teasing, and enormously entertaining, Of Poseidon brings exactly what it promises: good, beachy fun, romance, and delicious deep-sea mysteries. But be prepared: this book will leave you screaming for more.
Yep, that was the sound of my heart cracking. Kemmerer pulls no punches in this VERY unexpected 400-something-page siege on one of her most enigmatic...moreYep, that was the sound of my heart cracking. Kemmerer pulls no punches in this VERY unexpected 400-something-page siege on one of her most enigmatic characters: Hunter Garrity.
You'd be easily forgiven for thinking she hates the poor boy or something. What'd he ever do to her? Does she have something against blonds? Because, *sniff*, I thought we had something special.
Jokes aside, Spirit is brutal. From page the first Hunter is taunted, tormented, hunted, and pushed well passed the brink of any normal human's ability to cope... but it's harder seeing that 'normal' human being Hunter, after all he's suffered, and the fact that he's a seventeen year old boy. In pushing the character to an edge he'd have to be near super-human to handle, she shows just how human he is. And it's kind of heartbreaking.
Kemmerer introduces us to a new heroine, too. Kate. Kate the guide-in-training, and what a brave move she is. A world away from shy, retiring Layne and Becca, Kate has one helluva pair of lady-balls. She's abrasive, bold and, underneath a very tough tough-girl veneer, a little bit broken, and all the more beautiful and intriguing for it.
But what really comes to the fore in Spirit is family. Hunter's family, Kate's lack of one, the Merricks, and Hunter as part of that Merrick family--and his difficulty accepting that love and belonging. Despite Spirit's supernatural elements, and elemental magic, once again, what Kemmerer makes most memorable are the people, and their humanity. It's a fascinating, heartbreaking (there's that word again) character study.
There’s no denying Brigid Kemmerer took the blogosphere by, well, ’storm’ earlier this year with her debut novel, so it comes as little surprise her s...moreThere’s no denying Brigid Kemmerer took the blogosphere by, well, ’storm’ earlier this year with her debut novel, so it comes as little surprise her sophomore release, Spark, is just as incendiary. So, now I’m satisfied it’s not possible to include any additional puns in this paragraph, let’s talk about what makes Spark so damn good.
The Story: It's never been more dangerous to be an Elemental. 'Gifted' with the ability to control fire, Gabriel Merrick is explosive as his element, and after recent attacks on his family by 'Guides'—the body that governs elementals, and executes full-blooded ones like Gabriel and his three brothers—it feels like his ability to hold it together is more tenuous than ever. The fact that he’s failing his classes and has been caught out for cheating is just one more step towards breaking, not to mention the recent spate of torched homes, and that the fire department seems to think he's a suspect.
Then along comes Layne. A quiet, shy, brainiac, Gabriel’s sat next to her in calculus for ages, but it’s only now that he notices her. Well, Layne’s sure noticed him, and as she helps him with his study, the two can’t deny the chemistry they share. While Layne has dark, painful secrets of her own, Gabriel’s may just get them both killed...
My Thoughts: Picking up where Stormleft off, Brigid wastes no time jumping straight into the action. The familiar rhythm of her prose returns, as does her razor sharp dialogue and humour. But rather than Storm’s narrators, Chris Merrick and Becca Chandler, Spark introduces readers to two new protagonists: a shy, brainy woman named Layne, and someone they already know: Gabriel Merrick.
It’s more dangerous than ever to be an Elemental, but Gabriel Merrick has a knack for playing with fire. It’s Gabriel who proves Spark's’s biggest surprise. An easy fan-favourite in Storm, despite his initially callous treatment of its protagonist, Gabriel is very different to the abrasive, cocky jock readers may think they already know. There is a lot more to Gabriel Merrick than meets the eye, and indeed more than he himself may recognise. The jock façade is hiding a raging inferno of pain, self-doubt and loneliness. In many ways, it’s these qualities that connect him with Layne, as well as building a difficult roadblock to what develops between them.
Layne, like Gabriel, hides a past of secrets and hurt, but while she is quiet and shy, she is certainly not meek. Layne has an inner-core of steel and a quiet strength, but she is not perfect—far from it. While she is selfless with those she loves, she is prone to defensiveness, slow to trust and cagey, but it only serves to render her more relateable and sympathetic.
In Storm, Brigid demonstrated an extraordinary talent for building a world and populating it with characters who felt real. From her pitch-perfect Merrick brothers, to the damaged but sweet Becca, there is an authenticity to her characters, and their stories, and it is no less present in Spark. Again, Brigid takes a cold hard look at bullying in its many forms, and at the helpless fury and hopelessness it creates in its victims. She examines pain, grief and isolation, but never in a melodramatic or overwrought fashion. Allowing actions to speak for themselves, Kemmerer presents a world with life how it is: beautiful and ugly, just and unfair, filled with terrible wrongs and rights. Gabriel and Layne are not perfect, nor are those they love, but they are human and eminently likable characters. Even at their darkest moments, they elicit undeniable empathy at the tip of Kemmerer’s pen. And that’s not even mentioning what else they elicit in their thrilling, sizzling-hot scenes together. The chemistry the couple share is electrifying, and readers looking for even more heat from a book filled with fires will be far from dissapointed.
As in Storm, at the heart of Spark are the Merrick brothers. But recent events have left raw nerves and short tempers, and we see a more combustible side to the family, as well as deepening bonds between the growing cast of secondary characters. Readers of Storm would have seen identical twins Nick and Gabriel as two halves of a whole, and there’s a palpable aching as a rift drives them apart in Spark.
While it would be easy for Kemmerer to have written a book purely focused on and driven by the paranormal, she never takes this path, and it’s one of her Elemental series’ greatest strengths: Brigid does not write about the supernatural, she writes about, people. Paranormal abilities do not serve to make her players more magnetic or romantic; rather, they are challenges. She does not romanticise great power, but examines its cost, its responsibilities. Indeed, the Elemental series reads less like teen-vampire dramas, and more like gritty contemporaries.
The Verdict: Readers who fell in love with Storm with be thrilled by this explosive sequel. Spark delivers on all fronts: action, a sizzling-hot romance, and yes, hot boys are all there, but there is more. Spark, like Storm, has heart. It has a human sensibility to its supernatural elements, and it is these, perfectly balanced with riveting story and flawless pacing that combine to make another compulsively readable offering from its talented author. Brigid Kemmerer delivers again: big time.(less)
Four brothers, each a powerful elemental, a community at war, and one girl caught in the middle, Brigid Kemmerer brings her A-game in her electrifying...moreFour brothers, each a powerful elemental, a community at war, and one girl caught in the middle, Brigid Kemmerer brings her A-game in her electrifying debut. Storm should come with a cautionary notice. Something like: “Severe Weather Warning: This book will blow you away.”
The Story: When Becca Chandler saves a boy from a brutal beating in her school’s parking lot, chasing off his attackers, she has no idea what her good Samaritan act is getting her caught up in. The boy is Chris Merrick, who, along with his brothers, is an Elemental, ‘gifted’ with the ability to control water. And that might just be the least of the surprises coming her way. It’s not only Chris’ attackers, or Chris himself, who are interested in Becca. ‘New Kid’ at school, Hunter, has his eyes on Becca, and he’s not so bad to eye back... but who should she trust? Like it or not, Becca finds herself caught up in war not just for the Merricks’ survival, but her own.
Becca and Chris, Chris and Becca... Storm wastes no time jumping straight into the action. We join Becca as she finds Chris being beaten in the school parking lot, and it escalates from there. Told between Becca and Chris’ point of view, we’re give a unique viewpoint into their world: the ‘outsider’ view of Becca, as she tries to discover what she’s been dragged into, and that of Chris, who knows what’s happening around him, but still doesn’t necessarily hold all the cards or information. Both Chris and Becca are eminently likeable, fascinating and engrossing, and both have unique, singular voices.
Becca’s not an ‘action chick’ exactly, but she’s never afraid to take action. She’s brave, curious and compassionate. After saving Chris, who is in her grade, but she hardly knows, her world is irrevocably shaken, and only gets more complicated from there. But Becca’s life is hardly simple to begin with. It becomes clear Becca has secrets of her own, and there’s a meaningful subplot to Storm in the shape of some truly vicious bullying. And this is why it’s so difficult to discuss this book. It’s not a linear love story, a paranormal, or an action-packed thriller. It’s all of these things, and it’s much more. It’s layered and nuanced in a way that renders it not just compulsively readable, but truly memorable.
It’s not only Becca who is the victim of malicious harassment; the ‘bullying’ Chris Merrick endures could cost him his life. The quietest and most reserved of his brothers, Chris is much like element he controls: calm and still on the surface—sometimes—but hiding a tumult of dangers, currents and fathomless depths below. Watching Becca and Chris step around each other is a delight. There’s an almost palpable tension between them. The two are drawn to each other, but neither understands the other, neither knows what it means. Both hide secrets and hurts, and are struggling to fight inner demons as well as the external kind. But Storm isn’t entirely Chris and Becca’s story, there is another boy very much involved, in the way of Hunter, ‘New Kid’ at school. He’s fascinating, mysterious, and he has a story as heartbreaking, intriguing and important as Chris or Becca’s. He plays a large and important role in Storm, and it feels as though his part may only just be becoming clear.
The Brothers Where Storm truly shines is in the authenticity of its characters, in particular the four brothers at its core. There’s been a lot of buzz about how ‘swoon worthy’, hot, and amazing these boys are, and it does bear repeating. But this isn’t what gives the book its compulsively readable quality, or what makes it so utterly gripping. Every one of the four Merrick boys feels real. It’s the brotherly bond they share, the care, the tension, the anger and the banter between them that is so entertaining, and at times heartbreaking, to read. Chris and his brothers are fascinating to say the least. Enormously powerful, the boys are a natural disaster waiting to happen—literally. But they keep their powers constantly tamped down. They live in fear of a power greater than theirs, creating a fascinating dichotomy between their power, and powerlessness to defend themselves without bringing a fate worse than harassment down on their heads.
The Verdict: There’s a surprising complexity to Storm. It’s a story with many dimensions, and one that truly deserves to be singled out amongst an abundance of young adult Paranormals. It’s not one aspect of the story that shines, but a cohesive mix of all its parts, combined to make something layered, something truly unique and special. Storm isn’t about a group of brothers with unbelievable supernatural powers. It’s not about boy meets girl. It’s not about one of the first love triangles I’ve ever read and genuinely enjoyed, nor is it bullying, discrimination, grief or friendship. It’s more. It’s the way in which Kemmerer blends them all together, into a mix of colours more vivid and alluring then any one part could be on its own.
Storm is a remarkable debut. Brigid Kemmerer’s gift for characterisation and pitch-perfect voice combine with gripping story and perfect pacing to make Storm a riveting an utterly addictive read. Action packed from start to finish, Brigid’s nailed a perfect balance between excitement, romance and supernatural to create something magic. A story that is so many things, but most importantly, fun. (less)
It’s no secret I—and every Aussie blogger I know—have a passionate (though perhaps one sided) love affair with Sarah Alderson. Her brilliant Hunting L...moreIt’s no secret I—and every Aussie blogger I know—have a passionate (though perhaps one sided) love affair with Sarah Alderson. Her brilliant Hunting Lila and Fated blend tension and supernatural with pitch-perfect teen romance, and she does it again in Catching Suki—in only twenty short pages.
The Story: A freebie short story, Catching Suki is set immediately before the events of Hunting Lila. Shoe obsessed, boy-crazy Suki Nakamura is a ‘psy’—a human with seriously-cool psychic abilities. What Psys can do varies, but Suki? Suki can read minds. It makes her a little eccentric, and prone to having conversations with people they don’t expect to be having, but it also makes her an ideal spy. On the run from shady special-ops team ‘The Unit’, Suki and her fellow band of misfits need all the intel they can get, so Suki’s mission? Get close to to Unit’s keyplayers: Jack Loveday and Alex Wakeman.
Thoughts: Adding a little extra depth and back-story to the already fabulous Hunting Lila, Catching Suki gives us an insider’s view on the group of Psy’s, and a look into the mind of one its most memorable characters. Unsure of herself, and of anyone around her, when Lila meets this group in Hunting Lila, she's ruled by mistrust, and unsure of what to believe. From Suki’s standpoint, we see them as they are, and it’s a fun and disarming look at a group of people who are just... friends. Not villains. People drawn together by circumstance, trying to survive, with a warm, affable bond.
In Hunting Lila, Suki comes across as eccentric at best, and possibly a pinch crazy. From her point of view, we meet a girl who runs at a hundred miles an hour, and is having a constant conversation with everyone in the room—whether she wants to or not. Hard to seem focused when five different people are thinking at you. And, if she’s not distracted enough by that, she’s mentally undressing (in more ways than one), every hot boy in sight. Goddess of characterising brilliant teen protagonists, Sarah gives Suki a completely unique voice. She’s an utterly distinct character, nothing at all like Lila, or Fated’s Evie, or anyone else for that matter. She’s opinionated and spoiled, but kind and fun. She remains light-hearted despite her genuinely life-or-death situation. She’s an enormously entertaining character to read: pure and simple fun.
In addition to getting to know Suki, we also see another side of Hunting Lila’s story—the moment Jack and Alex find out Lila’s coming to town, how they encounter Suki for the first time, and just WHAT Suki’s doing staring through Jack’s mailbox. Perhaps it’s best read after Hunting Lila for these reasons.
The Verdict: Catching Suki’s a breath of fresh air. Fun, fast-paced, and an utterly delightful protagonist—what more could we ask? Sarah works her magic again, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a cup of tea and a half hour than with this—or any of her characters. Just what’s needed to pass the time between now Losing Lila.(less)
You know the story: girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a vampire, girl/vampire romance ensues and girl’s best friend stops at nothing to split them u...moreYou know the story: girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a vampire, girl/vampire romance ensues and girl’s best friend stops at nothing to split them up... hang on. Team Human is a fun, satirical romp in a world where vampires and humans peacefully co-exist, but not everyone believes inter-species romance is quite so romantic...
The Story: Mel Duan is staunchly Team Human. She doesn’t hate vampires, she just doesn’t understand why anyone would want to be one. Risks of dying in the process—or turning into a mindless, rotting zombie then dying—aside, why would anyone want to live a life without laughter, sunshine, and worst of all, chocolate? Needless to say, she’s horrified when her best friend, Cathy, falls for a one. A stuck up, pasty, humourless relic of a bygone era named Francis. She’s even more upset when Cathy announces she’s planning to become a vampire for the chance to share immortality with him—after less than a month. Mel sets out to change her mind. Which shouldn’t be too hard, because she knows Francis is up to something—why else would a supercentenarian seventeen year old boy start going to high school?
But Mel has other worries. Her friend Anna’s mum—their school principal—has been acting strange. Then again, what’s ‘strange’ when your husband, the vampire counsellor, abandons your family to run off with a client. Mel's drowning in drama, and for the first time in her life, may not have the answer to all her friends problems... but Francis’ human ward, a teenage boy named Kit, might.
The 101: Going into Team Human, I expected a light-hearted, satirical look at the earth-shattering, all-encompassing love we all bemoan—yet still adore—in young adult paranormals. I expected to laugh. I didn't expect to cry. But Team Human has heart: at its core, it’s a story about friendship, what it means to be human, and acceptance. It’s a book very aware of what it is—more on that later—but it’s much like a good mediator: it doesn’t take sides, and is able to see all parties’ points of view.
Mel is a truly terrific heroine. Irrepressibly snarky, and unshakably loyal to her friends, she’s bloody minded, determined, and hilarious. Mel’s also tremendously opinionated, but she has a good heart, and always the best of intentions. Her concern for—and unshakeable resolve to 'help'—her friends is part of what makes her so likable, however misguided her actions are at times. Her terror at losing her closest friend to vampirism—afterall, transitions only have an 80% success rate—is palpable, and while Mel can be intolerant, it’s not difficult to see why.
Think of Cathy as your typical, infatuated, desperately in love vampire novel protagonist... on crack. Within a month of meeting Francis, she’s making preparations to transition. Cathy is, in ways, a romantic, taken to fancy, but before you roll your eyes, remember she's viewed through Mel's (very) opinionated lens, and she’s also intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough.
As Team Human progresses, there’s a gradual shift in roles, towards understanding and acceptance. Behind the story’s sparkling humour and vibrant characters is a much deeper message of acceptance and tolerance, one which Larbalestier and Brennan handle with skillful subtlety. Fear not if this is sounding heavy: Team Human is a very funny novel, and Larbalestier and Brennan poke fun at all parties with irreverent glee. Cathy and Mel serve as wonderful counterweights to each other, and this is why Team Human works: it is not a parody, but a humorous look at both ‘Team Human’ and ‘Team Vampire’ stereotypes.
The Verdict: Irreverent, funny and clever, Team Human is immensely entertaining, with unexpected heart. Its vibrant personalities, the very sweet romance that develops between Mel and Kit, the mystery that runs through it with heartbreaking conclusion—it’s Team Human’s surprising nuances that make it something very special indeed. It doesn’t parody the Stephenie Meyers, Rachel Caines and Claudia Grays of this world—it celebrates them. Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan are a dream-team I truly hope we see more from.