Despite reading my fair share of comics and graphic novels, I usually leave the reviewing of them to Wendy and Tiara. Theirs are always really good, whereas I wouldn't even have any idea where to begin! So, you're going to have to bear with me here. This will be my first ever comic review for the site, but I'm also really excited because it is for none other than Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden's Cemetery Girl from Jo Fletcher books. Come to think of it, it's a first for JFB too. This title is the first ever graphic novel published by them, and I was pretty thrilled when they sent me a copy.
The summary of it is as follows: the body of a young nameless woman, presumed dead, is dumped from the trunk of a car into a cemetery. But oh, actually she was still very much alive! In the rough landing, she hits her head and wakes up with no memory of who she was, or anything about her past. All she knows is that someone tried to kill her. Lost and alone, the girl decides to take shelter in a mausoleum, and as the days pass the place eventually becomes home. Combining the names from different tombstones and from the cemetery itself, the girl comes up with a new identity: Calexa Rose Dunhill.
The main plot of Cemetery Girl really gets going when Calexa witnesses a murder but is unable to go to the police, fearing that it would draw attention to herself, especially since her unknown would-be killer is still somewhere out there. But there's a bigger mystery arc here too, invoking questions like, Who is Calexa, really? Who's out to get her and why? On top of that, she seems to have developed a strange ability to see things, ever since waking up not-dead from her brutal attack. Basically, this volume contains a wonderful self-contained story, but you can also tell that the best has yet to come.
Anyway, you might think, oh what's the big deal, Mogsy! Just review a graphic novel like you would a regular novel! But I don't know. Being presented with a story visually, particularly in sequential art form, really changes things for me, especially since I have had experience penciling comic art in the past. In comics, there's of course the added factor of how well the art meshes with the writing. So when it comes to questions I ask myself while writing a review, I have to reference them to the effectiveness of the illustrations as well. You gotta check this out, though: http://www.jofletcherbooks.com/2013/1...
From this awesome panel alone, you can tell that Kramer's art and Rudoni's colors definitely "click" with the tone of the story. Cemeteries are a tricky setting to pull off in art, since they are places of such emotion. You could say getting the atmosphere just right here is very important, since that's where most of the story takes place. I think the artwork does the setting justice though, and the night time and stormy scenes are especially well done. The art in general is quite easy on the eyes.
As for the story, I felt it fit nicely with the format. With graphic novels, you could arguably get away with rushing the pace a little. Still, even as the days fly by for Calexa (Night one, Night two, Night twenty-six, Night sixty-eight, etc.), the story never loses sight of its goals. Sometimes, just a panel or two and a few lines of dialogue are enough to convey the more complex feelings, not to mention the writing makes use of quite a few silences as well, to good effect. I was most impressed by the way both writers and artists were able to develop the minor characters, like the cemetery caretaker or old Lucinda, and make them stand out for the reader.
Can graphic novels can have a "young adult" feel? If so, then Cemetery Girl definitely has a bit of that. Most likely this is due to the apparent age of the protagonist, not to mention the story also involves a group of trouble-making teens. The plot is relatively straightforward and character development may on the lighter side, but for a first volume this was extremely well done. Quite promising, too. Like I said, there are still many questions that need answering, and I find myself eager for news of the next volume! (less)
Score one to this book for having a protagonist who is a bookseller. And bonus points for her being a vampire too. The title of this novel is actually in reference to the bookstore she runs, a quaint little place on a college campus called Night Owls which is open to 3am every night. Now why can't there be something that awesome around where I live? I'd spend all my insomnia-ridden nights there with a big mug of tea and a good book.
Meet Valerie McTeague, sleeping the sleep of the dead by day, providing the students of Edgewood a study haven by night. No more hunting Jackals for her; she's done with that life and has left it all behind, settling into a quiet routine with the help of her human servant Chaz.
But unfortunately for Val, that life isn't done with her. Trouble lands on her doorstep in the form of Elly Garrett, who has a magical book the Jackals want. However, the book manages to transfer its information into the mind of Justin, a Night Owls employee who gets more than he bargained for when he unwittingly trips the wards on the old tome. The werewolf-like shapeshifting Jackals have already killed Elly's mentor, so you can be sure nothing would stop them from killing Justin too. Val and Chaz have no choice but to seek help from the warlock Cavale, who also happens to be Elly's estranged brother.
Overall, Night Owls has a plot that is both clever and brisk, full of windy twists and turns and yet someone all those story threads manage to come together in the end. That said, the flow felt a bit disjointed until I grew more accustomed to the structure and style of storytelling. We have several perspectives in play here and with Val being a vampire, the book almost has this day-night cycle feel going on as one of our main protagonists always has to sleep away the daylight hours. You won't get a lot of rehashing as the main narrative is always picked up by the next POV right where the last one ends, so if you don't keep up you'll feel like you're missing something.
Happily, the book firmly establishes its rhythm once the characters are united and find their synergy. The story picks up considerably at this point, and the different relationships made it even better. There are clearly some serious issues between foster siblings Elly and Cavale, which causes a lot of tension in spite of the obvious love they have for each other. Something also seems to be brewing between Elly and Justin, a future romance perhaps? And unless my eyes deceive me, Val and Chaz seem to have something to work out too, in their complicated vampire-Renfield relationship.
In the end, I liked this one. Because I read so much urban fantasy though, I can't help but be a bit picky. When it comes to this genre, I don't often find myself blown away by "Book 1s", but a lot of my favorite series have started out by hooking me with the first book and only wowing me later on. This book has that feel, and as such it's definitely one I'll want to stick with.
Admittedly, you're probably not going to find anything too new in Night Owls at this early stage, but if the story description interests you and if you enjoy the genre it should settle quite comfortably. An action-filled plot, a "Scooby Gang" type ensemble cast, and a world full of supernatural creatures and beings should make the UF fan feel right at home. All things considered, it has everything to make it a promising start to a new series -- great world, great characters, and most importantly, a great story with lots of potential for more!(less)
I'm a tough sell when it comes to novellas. Even tougher when it comes to urban fantasy. Don't get me wrong; I love this genre, but the truth is there's also a lot of books and series out there. These days, ideas in urban fantasy have to be special and different enough in order to stand out and hook me.
But as soon as I read the description for this book, which is about a character whose job as a "freelance debugger" involves getting fairies out of computers, I knew it had me. Speaking as someone who is often convinced she has problems way worse than fairies mucking about in her PC, I think I need this John Golden guy in my life.
Django Wexler is also the perfect person to write this. That might come as a surprise if you've only read his epic fantasy, but I've discovered that he's also an amazingly versatile author. And as a former programmer and someone clearly used to being called upon for impromptu IT work, he definitely knows his way around computers and networks. He's taken that knowledge and mashed it up with elements from urban fantasy, creating a world where the land of the fae exists as part of a "Wildernet", and its denizens wreck havoc on our servers and systems by infesting them with their nasty "burrows".
I think the first thing most readers will notice is "Hey, there's a bunch of footnotes in this!" Wexler has decided to do something different here by using footnotes for humorous effect, having John Golden's business partner Sarah fill us in with her commentary in the form of annotations. Sarah is an interesting character, with her being a ... well, I think I'll just leave that little bit out as a surprise for now! In any case, I personally appreciated the footnotes as part of the book's unique flavor, though they did trip me up a little at the beginning. Ultimately though, it's worth your time to read Sarah's snarktastic comments, since they often add to the narrative or give you more details about the world. Not to mention she's downright hilarious.
I would recommend this to everyone. It's the perfect urban fantasy for computer geeks, with its IT jokes and references, but it's also fun for those who are not. Take me, for example. I wouldn't say I'm hopeless with computers, but at the same time what I don't know could fill an Olympic-size pool, and yet I still loved this book! It's quick, it's entertaining, and I have to say I got a real kick out of its geeky pop culture references and humor.
Can't wait for more, especially since Wexler has teased that the next book will have a gamer angle. I know his other fantasy series will likely take precedence, but I really hope he'll keep finding time to write John Golden stories. A premise this amazing simply demands further exploration!(less)
Vampires, werewolves, and even faeries and ghouls populate the urban fantasy genre in abundance, but it's not often that I stumble across a series centered around ghosts. Even rarer still to find a one that's told from the perspective of a ghost, which is why I was initially drawn to this book.
Only the Good Die Young is the first of a brand new series by Chris Marie Green featuring protagonist Jensen Murphy, a twenty-three year old woman who was murdered in Elfin Woods sometime in the 1980s. Her death was so traumatic that not only did she lose all her memories of that night, her spirit was also trapped in a time loop and became an imprint until a psychic medium named Amanda Lee came along and snapped her out of it. Ever since then, Amanda Lee has been helping Jensen get up to speed on all that has happened in the last thirty years (unsurprisingly, our protagonist's mind is totally blown by this whole internet thing).
The psychic has been keeping secrets, however. It turns out that one of the reasons she rescued Jensen was so that she could have access to a ghostly assistant, in the hopes that her spirit abilities could help identify the killer of one of Amanda Lee's dearest friends who was murdered a few years ago. The main suspect was the victim's ex-boyfriend. Convinced that he did it, Amanda Lee now wants Jensen to haunt the guy and scare the bejeezus out of him so badly that he will eventually break down and confess his crime.
Putting it that way, the plot sounds rather goofy, I know. I'm actually still coming down from the surprise of how light this book ended up being, since I was admittedly expecting something a lot darker given the brutal circumstances around Jensen's death (someone in a creepy mask, wielding an axe, alone in the woods, etc.) Not that this book is all sunshine and rainbows either, but it definitely contains a lot less horror and bleakness, and instead a lot more humor and energy than I'd anticipated. For a ghost book, that is.
I have to say this one took its time to grow on me. I was so unimpressed by the main characters at the beginning, turned off by Jensen's yielding nature and especially by Amanda Lee's judgmental and cynical ways. Because someone designed a violent video game, he must be guilty of murder? People only adopt children from third world countries because doing it is a symbol of status? Oh my, get as far away as you can from this woman, Jensen, just get away as soon as you can. The fact that she just kept hanging around this Amanda Lee person made it difficult for me to continue reading.
But then, something happened. As Jensen also noted about herself, she grew a backbone. She stuck up for herself, found some new friends to hang out with. And how fun these new friends are! I loved the "ghost budders" Randy, Twyla, Scott and Louis, who teach Jensen what it is to be a ghost and what she can do. Ghosts in this series have some pretty cool powers, actually. They can induce hallucinations, imitate sounds and throw their voices around. They can enter dreams and sift through your memories. These abilities take a lot out of a ghost though, because they are made up of pure energy. To recharge, they have to draw from a source of electricity in order to juice up again. Some really neat ideas in here, and the imagery of Jensen and her fellow ghosts sitting on a power line is pretty funny!
Amanda Lee also didn't turn out to be so bad after all. Of all the characters, she was probably the most invested in the outcome of the mystery, even more so than Jensen. As her character became more and more defined, it grew easier to see where she's coming from even if I didn't agree with her methods. At the end of this, the identity of her friend's murderer comes to light, and the answer may shock you! I certainly didn't see it coming.
So yes, I liked this book a lot more once it got going; certainly my feelings about it were more positive by the end, and I'm glad the plot ultimately sorted itself out. Still, there's a bigger murder mystery to be solved here, that of Jensen's, of course. Somehow, I have a feeling her story is going to be a part of a much bigger arc. Now that I'm fully on board, I'm looking forward to finding out.
I wish I could say this book just wasn't for me because I'm not into YA paranormal romance, but that wouldn't be true. In fact, I quite enjoy this genre. Nothing beats a good love story for giving me all the warm and fuzzy feels, and the best ones do just that. On the flip side, however, there are books like Sweet Evil that somehow manage to diminish the mood by pushing all the wrong buttons. There were a couple things about it that I found off-putting, though I'm aware it's a matter of personal taste and that others might not feel the same way.
Unfortunately, the characters Anna and Kai too closely resemble a couple of my biggest pet peeves. Pet peeve the first: a weepy, insecure female protagonist. I have no problems with Anna being the living embodiment of goodness (in fact, I admire her all the more for it) but naivete and innocence does not have to translate to neediness, ceaseless pining, crying or completely falling to pieces over a guy. Especially when the guy in question has done so little to deserve such obsession. So many times I just wanted to shake her and ask her where she has misplaced her self-respect.
Which brings me to pet peeve the second: male love interests that are pure scum, just wrapped in a pretty package. Take away Kaidan's good looks and hot accent and all you'll have left is arrogance and patronizing smugness. I'm not even taking into account his (literal!) life's work to sleep with as many women as possible. Seeing as he is the half-human son of the Demon of Lust, I'll just let that one slide as an ingrained part of his nature. Still, regardless of whether he can help it or not, most sane people tend to find that sort of behavior repellent. So what does that say about Anna, who falls head over heels for this guy anyway?
All right, with that out of the way, now I can tell you about the things in the book that DID work for me. Sweet Evil offers an interesting take on angels and demons and how they interact with us mere mortals here on earth. It's a deliciously sordid affair involving the demons of sins/vices taking over the bodies of men in order to have children with human women, resulting in the half-demon sons and daughters called Nephilim. The intricate system and hierarchy of fallen angels described in this book shows that much care and effort was put into world building, proving Sweet Evil is not just about the romance, and that there is actually quite a lot of substance behind the story as well.
In spite of this, the plot flounders in many places for being too convenient and coincidental for my tastes, as in it's very obviously done for the sole purpose of forcing the characters right where the author wants them to be. Otherwise, you know there would be no story. For example, Anna's demon father who has been behind bars for the last sixteen years suddenly has a parole hearing coming up, well-timed to be just right after Anna meets him for the first time. And then, of course, there is Anna's mom Patti. What mother in her right mind would allow her teenage daughter to go on a road trip alone with a seventeen-year-old boy (son of the Demon of Lust, no less), just the two of them driving across the country and staying in hotels by themselves, to visit a total stranger in a penitentiary? That's just a little too hard to swallow.
I will give the story this, though: at no point did I want to stop reading. That I was going to see this whole thing through was always a foregone conclusion, despite the character flaws and the hitches and holes in the plot. I was entertained, even if I felt little sympathy for either Anna or Kaidan. Like I said, I had some pretty idiosyncratic reasons for why this book ultimately didn't work for me, but I can also see how other readers with a penchant for the young adult genre and paranormal romances may find plenty to like. (less)
Luna Masterson is an odd girl who sees demons. Reed Taylor is an odd guy who hangs around with an angel. And when girl meets guy, things get pretty crazy. This is probably THE thing I love best when it comes Mercedes M. Yardley's stories, the fact that when she gets two people together, you know you're not going to get just any old boring relationship!
I must say I learned that lesson well with Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu, Yardley's not-quite-horror-not-quite-romance love story novella that I read last year. What amazed me most about that book was her treatment of her two outcast characters, the way she gave them each a purpose and emotional depth even though as serial killers they are far from deserving of any admiration or sympathy. The characters in Nameless are perhaps not quite so extreme, but I likewise experienced some of those same vibes from Luna and Reed Taylor -- two very unique individuals who find in each other a kindred spirit...so to speak. I had a feeling I was going to be in for something special, and I was right.
So how does a girl deal with being able to see things that nobody else can? Luna's never had many friends, and the only people close to her are her brother Seth and 1-year-old niece Lydia. Perhaps this is why she comes across to me as socially awkward, sometimes doing and saying strange things or acting like she can't make up her mind. At the same time, I had to admire the brave and positive face she puts on. The way she takes the "Luna the Lunatic" comments in stride or shrugs off the weird looks she gets when she's talking with the demons only she can see, all that just makes me want to cheer her on. So as to whether or not you'll form a connection to her character, I think it can go either way.
But if there was one thing that really touched me, it was Luna's devotion and love for her niece. When Lydia is kidnapped by the worst sort of demon, Luna's anger and desperation felt so raw and close to the surface that it was practically palpable. As the mother of a Sweet Baby Girl myself, at times it was almost gut-wrenchingly difficult to read about Luna's distressing search for Lydia, simply because every one of her fears was like a piercing knife to my heart. In my opinion, this part of the book was done very well. Not only did it make Luna feel more real for me, it also made me care about this story and want to see it through.
The overarching plot is quite good too, even if at times it felt a bit rushed. If books had remote controls, imagine that someone has pressed the fast forward button through some of the scenes in this novel. Perhaps the book could have been a little longer, giving me more information and letting some of the major happenings sink in. The way Luna's narration sometimes zipped from one event to the next didn't give me enough time to digest some of the things that went on, especially when it came to her meeting and subsequent relationship with Reed Taylor. Regardless, their love story was an interesting one to say the least! I think the impact of the story would have been even stronger if there had been more time to let those feelings deepen.
But in the end I was very happy with the way things turned out. Well, okay, maybe a little gutted by the ending, but still happy! Yardley's brand of storytelling and writing style is tremendously addictive and her characters are a treat, I'd looked forward to reading more of her work ever since I got my first taste. Nameless left me very impressed, especially as a full-length novel debut for the author and the first installment of a planned trilogy. I can't wait to see what's coming next.(less)
Quirky and energetic, The Grendel Affair is the first book which kicks off the new SPI Files series by Lisa Shearin, featuring a mash-up of police/government agent procedural elements with urban fantasy. Think The X-Files meets Men in Black -- except instead of aliens, Supernatural Protection & Investigations is in charge of tracking paranormal creatures and keeping the public safe from them. Unfortunately, they also don't have those handy flashy neuralyzers thingies to help hide the truth of their existence from the general populace.
The book follows Makenna Fraser, a southern seer who moves to New York City to persue her dreams of becoming a world famous journalist. However, not long after starting her first job as a trashy tabloid reporter, she is recruited by the NY branch of SPI for her special ability to see through any kind of glamour, veil, spell or shield that a supernatural baddie can come up with.
Mac's duties generally don't require her to be on the front lines, but a sudden string of murders by something not human puts SPI on high alert. From then on it's all hands on deck, especially when the murders are linked to a bigger plot to expose supernaturals to the world on the night of the biggest party of the year -- New Year's Eve in Time Square. Thousands more will die if the SPI doesn't stop their adversary in time, and the only person who can see through the disguises of the killer creatures is Mac.
First of all, can I give a big yay for Grendel? Yes, we're talking the Grendel of Beowulf fame. The monsters that SPI goes after in this book are creatures like Grendel, probably even his descendents, and that is just way too cool. In a series that also features the usual fare of urban fantasy creatures like vampires, werewolves, ghouls and goblins, it's a nice as well to see a touch of inspiration from Old English literature and mythology.
Other than that, this book is what you would expect and quite typical of the genre, complete with an action-filled mystery plot, a budding office romance, and clever snappy dialogue but without a lot of the snark. Mac is an interesting character, not being an outwardly kickass or sassy kind of protagonist but she is still very endearing in her reluctant-heroine awkwardness...to say nothing of her cookie-gobbling ways and the fact she carries a fake handgun loaded with tequila. Also, I enjoy the fact that her business partner and fellow SPI agent Ian Byrne is not the kind of arrogant, cheeky-posing-as-charming love interest I generally have the tendency to dislike on sight. These two are both down-to-earth and will be very good together, I can already tell.
It's true that those who read a lot of urban fantasy probably won't find anything too new about the overall premise or story in this book, but The Grendel Affair is still a very solid introduction to the SPI Files as well as a promising beginning to the series. Those looking for a fun read will not be disappointed.(less)
Having wanted to read a book by this author for a while, I initially debated either tackling 7 Wonders or the Empire State series, but then I found out about his upcoming title Hang Wire. After reading the description, I decided right then and there that I wanted it to be my first Adam Christopher novel.
Immortal gods, pagan rites, a serial killer on the loose...is there anything this book doesn't have? And what's this, a circus too? If anything, it was this last one that sold me. Hang Wire looked to me like an unconventional urban fantasy that is also a fusion of paranormal, horror and mystery. There's even some mythology thrown in to stir things up even more, in what is arguably already a quirky mix.
In present day San Francisco, a blogger named Ted goes out to dinner with his group of journalist friends to celebrate his birthday, only to have a fortune cookie blow up in his face. Physically unharmed, Ted nonetheless starts experiencing odd things ever since the incident. Recently, the city has also been held in fear by a killer known as Hang Wire, who brutally strangles his victims before stringing them up in public places.
Meanwhile, the circus is in town with a new high wire act plus a Celtic dance group whose performances have been garnering lots of praise. But tension is mounting behind the scenes, especially with rumors that the carnival is cursed, and the frequent fights breaking out between the creepy circus manager and the workers are putting everyone on edge. There's an ancient evil lurking, and as it turns out, everything has to do with a handful of gods who walk among us. And one of them is a scruffy but devastatingly handsome beach bum named Bob, who gives free ballroom dancing lessons at the aqua park by the sea...
Right, I don't think I need to go further to let you know just how bizarre this book is. But then, I liked it. I didn't think I would at first, simply because of the sheer amount of information the story throws at you right off the bat. As you can see from my brief summary, there's a lot happening in this book, and while trying to figure out what's going on, things can feel a tad overwhelming. Not to mention, the numerous time jumps near the beginning can add to the sense of disjointedness.
I was loaded up with so many questions at first. Most of them involve the circus manager Joel. Who is he and why are we seeing him in all these places across the country, and at these very different times? He's obviously hunting something, but what is this strange power allowing him to know exactly where to be? Where is it coming from? A lot of these questions were answered to my satisfaction at the end, but there were still many points that I felt could have been expanded. I bring this up because for a book with so many threads and topics, the world building is surprisingly on the light side. I enjoyed what I saw, but also felt like there should have been more.
However, I am amazed at Adam Christopher's creativity and the vision for this novel. I especially loved the mysticism and the darkness. Take the Hang Wire killer, for example. This was one of many developments in the overarching story line, but admittedly it was also the horror and mystery of it that eventually grabbed my attention and drew me in. And in fantasy, you usually see circuses depicted as magical places filled with whimsy and wonder, but here the circus is a cursed, creepy place suffused with pure evil where the carnival attractions themselves hunger for blood. I found it all deeply enticing.
So then, my first Adam Christopher novel turned out to be quite the offbeat experience, but I wasn't disappointed. All in all, this was a highly original read packed with all kinds of strange and fantastical elements, and that's how I like it. There may be a lot to take in at first, but everything comes together eventually, once the story gets going and builds momentum. (less)
The fascinating concept behind this book was what first drew me in and made me decide to take a chance on it. Featuring a kickass nineteenth-century female demon hunter on a journey across the globe to track down and kill some very unconventional monsters, Netherworld appeared to have everything I was looking for and sounded very promising.
The book follows Lady Diana Furnaval, a young widow who has inherited much more than her husband's estates after his death. Lord William Furnaval turns out to have been one of the last guardians of the mysterious gateways that lead into Netherworld, the place where demons and other malevolent spirits make their homes. With him gone, it is up to Diana to take up the mantle to secure these portals, though she is determined to take things one step further and close them forever.
Diana's personal mission takes her to gateways located in faraway places. In China, she meets and befriends a young Cantonese sailor named Yi-kin, who accompanies her and her cat on their demon hunting adventures. Retracing her husband's final journey, she also uncovers some disturbing information about his death which leads her to believe there is much more to the story.
After reading this book, my general impression is that Lisa Morton is definitely familiar with the ingredients which make up an effective and compelling tale. And yet, while all the elements were in place, the actual storytelling felt disorganized and inconsistent, with the pacing feeling very rushed in certain places. For instance, I had a hard time getting into this book because the several of the opening chapters felt so disconnected and unfeeling, especially with the quick play-by-play explanation of the circumstances behind Lord William Furnaval's death, as well as the portion taken from his journal.
To its credit, the book falls back into an easier groove after this point, though the ending once again runs into issues with uneven pacing. The climax and conclusion felt glossed over, and overall the story had so many plot points and ideas that it was difficult not to wish for things to slow down a little, just to catch my breath and enjoy the different places and people Diana encounters. The book isn't that long to begin with, and yet we go from Transylvania to India to China to America to England and to Ireland, and in each place we only get to stay long enough for the characters to kill a few demons and close a gateway.
There's just so much more that could have been explored, and given how the author seems quite fond of providing historical details of the different locales Diana visits, I don't know why she didn't seize the opportunity to flesh them out. After all, I love how the story delves into legends and lore outside of the Western tradition. In particular, I enjoyed the inclusion of Chinese vampires or jiangshi (called goong-si in this novel because it uses the Cantonese dialect) and it's clear Lisa Morton did a lot of research into them to ensure her descriptions and translations are as accurate as possible. It's always interesting whenever I see an unconventional take on supernatural monsters, and in this case we're looking at them through the lens of other cultures.
Overall, I think I expected more from this book. The story itself was admittedly quite enjoyable, though the haphazard pacing and execution of ideas took a lot of the fun out of it. Here and there, I have to give it major points for moments of ingenuity, but in the end this just wasn't my cup of tea.(less)
Ragnarok Publications is a publisher newly founded in 2013, but I'd heard of them prior to receiving a copy of Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love. These are the amazing folks behind the Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters anthology Kickstarter, which was successfully funded this fall and quite possibly one of the coolest projects I've ever backed! It was thus an honor and a pleasure to be offered a chance to read and review their inaugural title by Mercedes M. Yardley.
Don't let the quirky title fool you; this is one dark and disturbing tale of supernatural love and horror...because after all, even killers and monsters can fall in love. Montessa Tovar, an exotic dancer who has only known a life of hurt and abuse is abducted one night while walking home by Lu, a serial killer whose unusual power has led him to be labeled a demon. But in time, the victim becomes the accomplice. As the two continue to form the deepest of connections, Lu leads Montessa on a cross-country tour of blood and vengeance.
Have you ever asked yourself if you believe in the concept of soulmates? Of finding that one person out there who completes you? This is the idea explored in the book, though if you find the notion utterly romantic, be sure to brace yourself because the author does not do it in a conventional way. It is far from idyllic; characters are depicted in extreme or frightening situations, and there is blood and violence and killing aplenty. It is, however, still a love story, and everyone knows how much I enjoy those. Most surprising of all is that in the darkness, there is also a heart-wrenching beauty.
Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu is one of the most interesting and deliciously twisted takes on soulmates I've ever read, and I think it perfectly embodies what the publisher is going for. The reader may never truly come to sympathize with the pair of lovers/killers, but I looked at their heinous crimes separately from the depth of feeling which the author has created. It is the storytelling that matters, and Yardley has accomplished something truly impressive by writing about a love that feels convincingly powerful and real at the same time, all in the short span of a novella. One thing's for sure: it will be hard for me to forget this tale between two horribly damaged people, who somehow find that the pieces of their broken souls fit and complete each other.(less)
Last year I read Hell Bent by Devon Monk, not realizing before I started that it is actually the first of a two-book spin-off series set in the world of the author's Allie Beckstrom novels. This book Stone Cold is the second. While the description for this Broken Magic duology says it can be read on its own without reading the Allie books, my own personal experience has shown that unless you have, it can be quite a struggle to keep track of the characters' histories and the series backstory. Don't get me wrong, I still had a great time reading. But I'm positive your experience would be richer and you'd feel a lot less lost if both series are read. Just something to consider.
At least I was more prepared this time around, having done most of the necessary catching up during the last novel. Shamus "Shame" Flynn is back and he is now even more damaged from the events at the end of Hell Bent. The book's main villain, a rogue magic user named Eli Collins is still out there, and Shame is determined to hunt him down and make Eli pay for the deaths of loved ones. Feeling angry and full of guilt, Shame's already unstable control of Death magic is threatening to slip away from him, which could mean great danger to everyone around him, even his friends and allies.
When all's said and done, I'm really glad I decided to read this book, and not just because it's the second half of a two-parter and I always hate to leave things hanging. I'm also glad because I liked Stone Cold much more than I did Hell Bent, and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, this book contains a conclusion that finishes things off with a bang. Secondly, that conclusion not only provides an ending for Shame's story, it provides one for Allie Beckstrom as well. Even though I've never read her character's series, I still could tell that this was a pretty huge deal.
But thirdly and most importantly, I liked Stone Cold because I felt Shame finally stepped up to take the reins to his own series. In the first book, his character was really hard to get into; even though that was my first exposure to Shame and this entire Allie Beckstrom universe, he always felt like a guest in someone else's world, which was why color me totally unsurprised when I eventually discovered that Hell Bent was a spin-off. It also didn't help that Allie and Zayvion made such frequent appearances making it obvious that they were still quite central to the story, and that Shame himself was such a curmudgeony character. However, in losing control of his Death magic in this book, he became a lot more interesting to me by turning into a very different kind of Urban Fantasy anti-hero protagonist.
I actually felt sympathy for Shame. Don't his friends realize just how volatile his powers are? You can't demand help from a person who can't control Death magic and then blame him when horrible things happen, especially when they are exactly what he'd warned them about! Give him a break! Geez, everyone was so hard on poor Shame in this one, I found myself on his side just because it was all so unfair.
Anyway, how sad it is that the series ends just as I was getting into the character. At the same time, I wouldn't have had it any other way. I'm actually glad this is only two books because I don't know if I would've continued if this was an ongoing series. With books, shows, etc. I always much prefer it if the spin-off character actually moves to a new locale and make new friends so we get to start off fresh. He or she deserves a chance to move out of the shadow and shine. That's probably my only beef with Broken Magic. I wanted more Shame, but it was also clear that Devon Monk wanted to hold on to the characters in her other series (the first half dozen or so chapters of this book was about Allie's baby shower, for example). I just don't know if I could take that, but two books is absolutely fine.
If you've kept up with the Allie Beckstrom novels, then picking this series up is probably a no-brainer. You'd have the advantage over me as well, and no doubt enjoy it even more. For readers who are new to the world but don't mind feeling like they've stepped into the middle of an ongoing saga, this is a good opportunity to discover Devon Monk's writing and these two books are actually a pretty decent choice for the urban fantasy enthusiast.(less)
This is going to be a tough review for me to write, mainly because Silence is one of those books I just couldn't get into, but when the time comes to describe the reasons why, I am at a loss. I mean, it's not like there were a bunch of faults I could point to, or even any single factor in the book which I vehemently disliked. At the same time, nothing about it stood out for me either. As a whole, it just left me feeling cold.
The story? I thought it was okay. The book follows Emma, a grief-stricken teen who has taken to visiting the graveyard at nights ever since her boyfriend died in a car accident. One evening during one of these routine walks, she runs into Eric, the new boy at school. There is a mysterious old woman with him, and when Emma experiences the old crone's touch, it awakens a power in her. After the events of that night, Emma realizes that she can see, touch, and speak with the dead.
It turns out that Emma is a Necromancer. And that means Eric now must kill her. As to why he has to do that, it wasn't really explained beyond the fact he belongs to a group of Necromancer hunters, so clearly Emma has to die. Like I said, it's not a terribly deep story; there are lots of moments like this where I just had to tell myself to roll with it. In any case, Eric is obviously very conflicted about having to kill Emma, and as such is hoping that current circumstances will take care of that business for him. For you see, Emma has discovered the trapped ghost of a four-year-old boy and is determined to help save him, but in doing so she will be putting her own life on the line.
Anyway, the characters in this novel? Also just okay. Emma is a person who is completely ruled by her emotions, leaping into situations without ever thinking things through. I came to understand her friends' exasperation with her. And with the exception of Michael, who is a good portrayal of a teen with a neurodevelopmental disability, everyone else feels like a variation of the usual archetypes you'll find in a young adult novel. You have the best friend with a heart of gold, the queen bee whose parents are loaded and throws all the wildest parties, or the smart-alecky guy with the smug and edgy attitude (Chase royally grated on my nerves. He's like that kid you knew in high school, the one who would swear because he thinks it makes him look cool, and whom everyone just wanted to throttle).
The writing? It was okay as well. The storytelling? Maybe a little on the slow side, but otherwise okay too. Like I said, there wasn't anything I really disliked about Silence. I grant you I might not be giving this book the fairest shake here, but I think I've reached the point where "just okay" doesn't quite cut it with me anymore, especially when it comes to a young adult novel. Sometimes, it's the bunch of little minor things that can compound and sour me on the overall experience. Similarly, I think this book is one of those cases where too many "so-so's" managed to build up and wear me down.
You'll definitely see me picking up Ms. Sagara's books again in the future, but they probably won't be from this series. Unfortunately, this book just wasn't for me. I won't deny I've become a lot pickier with my YA lately, and overall Silence simply lacked the "oomph" I was looking for.(less)
While it's true I've never read anything by Devon Monk before this, her name had been on my reading list ever since her Age of Steam books first caught my eye. I wasn't aware that she was working on something else, which explained my surprise when I saw that she had a first book of a new Urban Fantasy series out this month. You know me, I can never pass up a chance to read new UF! The fact that I'll also finally get to check out a book by Devon Monk was also very exciting.
Hell Bent is the book in question, starring the jaded Shamus "Shame" Flynn as the main protagonist and narrator. Being a special kind of magic user called a Breaker, Shame along with his Soul Complement Terric Conley have the ability to "break" magic, channeling it in its full force. Thing is, Shame's magic is Death and Terric's is Life, and both are constantly engaged in a struggle against their power, which can consume them if they're not careful. In Shame's case, he has to remain control of himself at all times, lest his Death magic harms others arround him.
In a world where the power of magic has become so diminished, the Breakers immediately become targets when secrets behind their abilities leak out and become known to the government. A group of Breakers, including Shame and Terric, choose to stay and fight on home ground. But then, people with magic in their pasts start disappearing and dying -- people close to Shame and his friends. Then, beautiful and mysterious Dessa breezes into his life asking for help to find her brother's killer, making Shame realize the extent of the threat if the Breakers' secrets fall into the wrong hands.
Almost right away, I had to do a double-take of the blurb on the cover, to make sure I was indeed reading the first book of a new series. I had that strange feeling of being dropped into the middle of a a situation, much like walking into a theater fifteen minutes after the movie had already started. The world of the book had an "established" feel to it already, as well as a community of characters firmly set in place, described in a way that made me feel I should already know them. I did some research and that was how I ultimately came to discover Devon Monk's other Urban Fantasy series, the Allie Beckstrom books. I don't know how I managed to completely miss the boat on this series, because there are nine books all together and they were pretty popular, but I soon found out that Hell Bent is actually the first book of a spinoff. Which explains a lot!
With that mystery out of the way, I have to say that while those familiar with Allie Beckstrom will probably find a lot more to be excited about in this book, it was nevertheless a pretty fun ride for a newcomer like me too. Yes, I felt a little lost at first, but that was mostly due to my own compulsive desire to find out everything about the world and the relationships between all the members of this tightly-knit group of magic users (that is, nothing all that pertinent to understanding the story). The details that were important, on the other hand, were all there, so readers new to this world need not fear. If you're anything like me, you might even feel the urge to pick up the Allie Beckstrom novels. Indeed, my curiosity led me to add Magic to the Bone to my reading list, because I was just too intrigued by all the mentions and references to people and events in this previous series.
One thing I wasn't too sure of about this book was how I felt about the main character. I can tell Devon Monk is a talented writer from the way she has crafted this indepth and fully fleshed-out personality for Shamus Flynn. The problem is, that personality is a very caustic one. I'm used to reading Urban Fantasy starring snarky characters, but Shame's brand of snark was tinged with a little too much hostility for my tastes. Right from the start, I could tell he has a massive chip on his shoulder. Not that he doesn't have a good excuse, being Death Magic incarnate and all, but at times his angst would reach levels I could barely tolerate. It took me a while to warm up to him, when the story got going and the goodness in him eventually made itself known. He also has an unconventional way of showing that he cares, which actually won him points from me. Plus, I enjoyed his brutal and no-nonsense methods of payback. For a character I downright disliked at the beginning, he certainly has a way of turning things around and making me change my mind.
The final point I want to bring up involves the romance. Devon Monk did a fantastic job building it up and carrying it out, making it emotionally impactful for the reader. But for whatever reason, it just didn't work for me. Shame and Dessa were great together, but the way their relationship was written and presented somehow gave me the feeling like it was shoehorned into the story to make a point. It's definitely not a dealbreaker, but I do prefer it when a romance develops more realistically between two characters, especially in this case when things happen so quickly.
Despite being slightly disappointed at how the story was left wide open for the next book (not all the loose ends were tied up nicely), I did enjoy how this one ended. The climax was action-filled and suspenseful, leaving me excited to find out what will happen next. Hell Bent did its job as a good teaser and gave me a taste of what to expect, and I have a feeling I'll probably like the second Broken Magic book even more. I can definitely see Stone Cold in my future, not to mention the Allie Beckstrom series as well!(less)
Let's face it. Forbidden love is just like any other kind of love in young adult fiction. A good thing like that hardly ever lasts, at least not without being dragged through seven layers of confused teenaged angst and subjected to overused plot devices that involve mix-ups and misunderstandings. That said, I still really enjoyed this book. But the delicious passion and romance, which is what I loved so much about Daughter of Smoke and Bone, is lost and gone in this sequel, replaced by so much anger and bitterness.
Karou has finally awoken to her true origins, remembering the Chimaera she used to be. She also remembers the angel she once loved, in the world before the war and bloodshed. His people have decimated hers and killed those she loved, and so now she sets her sights on two goals: rebuilding the Chimaera army as their new ressurectionist, and hating Akiva. Meanwhile, the angel in question is wracked with guilt and heartbreak over what he has done to Madrigal/Karou, miserable that he'd found her only to drive her away again. Yet the war rages on, and Akiva must continue fighting for his own side, though not without uncertainty and a lot of doubt for his leaders and their orders.
The story has evolved to focusing on the fighting, politics and conspiracies between and within both factions. The seductive, magical aspect of this series has shifted to something darker and more violent, though I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. But like I said, there is now very little of the delicious romance that first drew me in, though I suppose this was something I'd already expected even as I was zipping to the library to snag the second book as soon as I was finished with the first. I understand you have to ramp up the romantic drama somehow to make things interesting, especially in a trilogy. Sadly, it just didn't work for me; the relationship between Karou and Akiva was at once reduced to slow, dull, typical.
On the other hand, there's so much more to this series than just the romance. When I wasn't so busy being a morose sentimentalist, I actually enjoyed this book quite a lot, especially the chapters leading up to the ending. As irked as I was with the comedy of errors that has become of Karou and Akiva's love story, the gripping suspense in the conclusion and its promise of an incredible finale in the third book went a long way to make up for my disappointment. I still like the story, and desperately want to know what happens next.
I also don't want to make it sound like the book is completely devoid of love and lightness. After all, one of my favorite characters is Zuzana, Karou's best friend, who has found happiness with her boyfriend Mik. Their relationship is like a potent concoction of sweetness and humor injected right into the story -- almost like the author realized in advance that she would need to include them somehow to make everything feel less empty and bleak. It worked, for the most part; Zuzana's chapters carried a big part of this book for me. As I grew less interested in Karou and Akiva, my fondness for other characters increased. Besides Zuzana and Mik, I also very much liked Liraz and Hazael, Akiva's angel siblings and loyal companions.
And of course, Laini Taylor's writing is as beautiful as always, bringing her worlds and characters to life. In this area she has not let me down yet. Even though I didn't like this book as much as the first, there's still plenty here to gush about, as you can see. Very much looking forward to the third book to see how the war culminates as well as to discover the fates of Akiva and Karou.(less)
I was initially drawn to The Falconer thanks to that striking cover. Just absolutely gorgeous! And then I read the book's description and saw that the story was no slouch either. A mix of paranormal fantasy and historical fiction, the Fae, and a spirited heroine made this one sound very inviting.
It is Scotland and the year is 1844. A year has passed since Aileana Kameron was found standing over the dead body of her mother, covered in blood. Everyone thinks she has something to do with it, but Aileana knows the truth. It was a faery who killed her mother and ripped out her heart.
Now all Aileana wants is revenge. As a result, she lives a double life, pretending to be interested in frivolous things like dances and dresses when making her appearances in high society, but when the light fades she goes out hunting. Night after night, she tracks and kills Fae, using the skills learned from her mentor, Kiaran MacKay. Kiaran, who is a faery himself, has his own reasons for wanting to see his own kind dead, but Aileana doesn't care, not as long as their goals align...and as long as she doesn't get too close.
Despite bits of historical context hinted here and there, the setting didn't actually feel like historical fiction to me. Or very Scottish, for that matter. Elizabeth May has pretty much created her own world in The Falconer; the place and time period don't matter all that much to the story anyway, but the light flavor of steampunk is a nice touch. The world is filled with all sorts of wonderful contraptions, like tea dispensers and floating lights, and Aileana is something of a tinkerer, designing and creating weapons and even her own flying machine.
Aileana herself is a great character, as fiery and determined as that amazing cover makes her out to be. When it comes to female protagonists in paranormal fiction, she ranks amongst the best I've ever met, mostly because she comes off as able and intelligent rather than irritating in her conviction. However, if I had to pick a favorite character in this book, the honor would go to her pixie sidekick-like companion Derrick. I loved that humorous, honey-guzzling little guy!
I also didn't realize until after I finished reading that The Falconer has been categorized as Young Adult. I suppose in retrospect, the book contains quite a few trappings of the genre, but honestly, they didn't jump out at me at the time. Aileana is 18 years old, but her experiences have made her older than her years, and even the story's love triangle, which I usually dread, was bearable because it wasn't quite like a real love triangle. Even as a YA novel, I feel The Falconer has excellent crossover appeal.
My final thought, and perhaps also a warning, is that this book ends in a cliffhanger, perhaps one of the more infuriating ones I've encountered in recent years. The final scenes with Aileana and Kiaran against the Fae threat were so intense and suspenseful! And when I saw that there were still quite a pages left in the book, I got all anxious and prepared for the conclusion to be revealed...only to find out that the last chapter was actually a Bestiary. Arrrggh!
So bravo, Elizabeth May, you have me hooked. Some might say The Falconer is pretty standard in terms of paranormal fantasy, but so help me, it was a fast read and such good fun. (less)
The Osiris Curse is an interesting novel. I think reading this one has made me develop a new appreciation for Pyr's Young Adult titles, as I've noticed they are typically more offbeat and original. Which is great for me, since I'm always on the lookout for YA books that do things a little differently!
I was also drawn to this book immediately because of its tagline: "Steampunk Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files", with plenty of action-adventure and ancient Egypt to boot. The Osiris Curse is actually the second book of the Tweed and Nightingale Adventures series, but nothing prevents it from being a good starting point even if you are new to these books, like I was.
The story is set in an alternate Victorian England, starring two teenagers who work for the secretive government agency called the Ministry in the Queen's service. Sebastian Tweed, whose history is a conundrum which I won't go into for fear of giving away any revelations from the first book, is dealing with some issues from his past, and his friend Octavia Nightingale is on the trail to find her missing mother.
This case ultimately leads them to something much bigger, when their investigations reveal that the brilliant scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla has been murdered, his blueprints for super weapons stolen. Tweed and Nightingale's hunt for the killers is just the beginning to an adventure of epic proportions, involving secret cults, travel to exotic places, and the discovery of a threat that could change the face of the world.
The plot is actually quite enjoyable in its simplicity and straight-forward nature, making me feel that in some ways The Osiris Curse reads like a middle-grade or early-teens novel. Nevertheless, I had a hard time trying to pin down the perfect target audience. The story itself is pure fun and fantastical adventure, which should appeal to younger readers who will like a fast-paced, action-filled journey across the globe and beyond. But at the same time, I was a little surprised to discover that the main characters are in their late teens, practically considered adults in that particular era, and their dialogue and mannerisms seem skewed towards the older side. Overcoming and resolving this disparity in my mind was perhaps the biggest challenge for me, and I think overall this might make it tougher for the book to "click" with everyone.
Still, Tweed and Nightingale themselves are very charming and likeable, their back-and-forth dialogue witty and fun to follow. There's also a hint of a budding romance forming between them, which is starting off on the right foot, very sweet and cute! The two of them are a good fit, their personalities playing off each other perfectly, creating interesting situations and dynamics.
What's interesting though, is that I didn't find out until after finishing the book that the author Paul Crilley spent a year writing for one of my favorite video games, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Star Wars: The Old Republic, and it made me see a couple aspects of the book in a whole different light. One of the main features in SWTOR involves your character's "light" or "dark" side alignment, determined based on your moral choices in game. These choices in turn add new dimensions to your personal class story, and I have to wonder if Crilley aimed for a similar effect in The Osiris Curse by making Tweed ponder some rather difficult moral questions. Regardless, they should make for some good discussion points for young readers.
If you ask me, this would probably be best enjoyed by children in the ages 10-12 range. Though it may occupy a narrow niche, I really do hope this book finds its audience; it's entertaining and good fun, with the promise of much more excitement to come for our two brave protagonists.(less)
Superhero fiction seems to be full of fresh and fun ideas these days, and Vicious is no exception, taking a familiar idea and going to new places with it. There was a huge surge of interest in this book among my bookworm friends recently, which is admittedly how I decided to give this title another look after having shelved it as a "maybe". What a wonderful thing word-of-mouth is, or else I wouldn't have had the pleasure of reading this great novel, and I hope by adding my praises to the chorus that someone else will be inspired to pick this up too and experience the awesomeness for themselves.
At its heart, Vicious is a fascinating look into the dynamics of an unconventional friendship. Still, you can't throw a couple of intelligent, ambitious and overachieving college students into the same classroom without expecting some jealousy and a bit of friendly competition...that is, unless you're Victor and Eli, a pair of roommates who take this game to a whole other level.
It begins with a senior thesis. Eli, to the surprise of his professor and fellow classmates, chooses to research "EOs", or ExtraOrdinary humans with special abilities. Meanwhile, Victor decides to explore adrenaline responses. The two young men realize their interests mesh, however, when they discover a link between near-death experiences and the process of a person developing superpowers thus becoming an EO. And so, speculation leads to experimentation, experimentation leads to disaster, and ten years later we find Victor breaking out of prison on a mission of revenge to kill his one time roommate and friend.
What ever did happen between them, you ask? The book unravels that mystery slowly, alternating between the present and the past, slowly revealing the events that led to Victor and Eli's falling out and becoming archenemies. Time skips done in this way are notoriously hard to pull off, and at times the jumps between chapters feel somewhat distracting and sporadic, but ultimately the story comes together in a way that ramps up the suspense in the climax and ending. The plot's pacing will keep you constantly wondering, guessing, and chomping through the pages.
It's also been a while since I read a book with such interesting relationships between the characters. I think anyone who has ever known a "frenemy" can understand or relate somewhat; Schwab does an excellent job exploring those emotions and interactions when Victor and Eli are still roommates in college. Yet the relationship between them in ten years' time is something altogether different and even more complex. I've never encountered a story where the lines between "hero" and "villain" are more blurred. You know how they say the bad guy never believes they're bad? Ultimately you might not even decide to root for anyone, but that certainly doesn't make the characters any less compelling.
Finally, I adored Vicious' concept of EOs. What a dark spin on the superhero "origins" tradition. And here we thought radioactive spider bites, random chemical accidents and cosmic disasters were traumatic. What if in order to become a superhero, you had to experience a near-death experience, to actually die and somehow make it back? I would have loved to see more about EOs in the context of the book's greater world; after all, they have to be more than just a myth in the eyes of the populace if even small town police forces dedicate the resources and manpower to maintain EO experts on staff.
Anyway, check this one out. I'm glad it was recommended to me, and I'd like to pay it forward and recommend it to others too. Vicious ranks high among the most unique and addictive books I've ever read. (less)
Wow, what a surprising and fantastic paranormal debut from E.L. Tettensor. With its dark mystery vibes and Victorian era inspired fantasy setting, this book was practically screaming my name when it was first brought to my attention, and even then I ended up with much more than I bargained for. That's definitely one way to make me a happy reader.
Darkwalker is the first book of the new Nicolas Lenoir series, starring the eponymous main character who was once a greatly esteemed and talented police inspector known for his tenacity and respect for justice. But now Lenoir is a shadow of who he once was, a jaded man who has grown dismissive of his work as well as the people around him, much to the annoyance of Sergeant Kody, who had thought being assigned to the legendary inspector would be the opportunity of a lifetime.
No one knows that behind that contemptuous demeanor and the apathy, Nicolas Lenoir is actually hiding a secret past. Something hunts him, a vindictive spirit known as the Darkwalker that will not stop once he has marked someone for death. Now a disturbing new case has brought the Darkwalker to Lenoir's neck of the woods, and the detective has to solve the mystery before the spirit of vengeance catches up to him...and time runs out for a young boy he cares for.
First, looking back at the notes I took for this review, I almost feel like I need to apologize to the book for brushing off its introduction as "slow". Granted, it took me longer than I expected to read the first sixty or so pages, not only because so little happens during this stage of setting up the story but also because I reacted so negatively to the main character's attitude. Simply put, Lenoir is a jerk. The way he treated Kody and looked down his nose on the case in the opening chapter made me want to punch him in the face. At this point, I almost started to dread the idea of reading further. But I shouldn't have doubted! Now that I'm done with the book, I could see that everything happened for a reason. I wouldn't have enjoyed this one so much if not for all the information that was given to me in the introduction, and likewise I would not have appreciated Lenoir for who he is at the end had not acted like such a curmudgeon at the beginning.
On that note, this story definitely includes one of those mystery plots that will have the reader flipping back the pages to a previous spot in the book, just to marvel at how the author had been dropping bits of clues and other details from the very start. I was still genuinely shocked at how things turned out; the answer came as unexpectedly to me as it did to the inspector.
Darkwalker also impresses me on the fantasy side of things. Lenoir works out of a city called Kennian, part of the Five Villages area, described as a rather backwater part of the book's world. The setting reminds me of turn-of-the-19th-century England, home to a population that largely does not acknowledge the existence of the paranormal, making the thing hunting Lenoir all the more creepy and unsettling. In addition, E.L. Tettensor has created a group of people and culture called the Adal, a society of pastoral nomads persecuted for their outsider status as well as the actions of a few bad apples. The subject of Adali magic plays a big role in the case, and Tettensor has also crafted a very thorough and rich history for her fictional race. I am overall very pleased with the amount of world building presented in this book.
Everything in the plot just came together so well. Once you reach the point where the story takes off, it doesn't slow down. After making it through the introductory chapters, I was quickly drawn in by the intrigue and mystery, especially when I was treated to a brief glimpse of the brilliant and passionate detective Lenoir used to be. I found I could not bear to put this book down during the final hundred pages, and stayed up into the wee hours of the night just to finish.
Of course, there is still the big question of Nicolas Lenoir's past, which did not go fully addressed. So I was so glad to see this would be a series, even though this book can certainly be read as a stand alone with no cliffhangers or glaring loose ends to worry about. I would love to see further exploration into his character and this world, or heck, even stories about Lenoir that take place in an earlier time. Regardless of what comes next, I'm really looking forward to book two!(less)
Nightlife takes readers to a New Harbor, Connecticut on Halloween night, where deep within its depths, an ancient breed of predator prepares to rise. The city's outcasts, the forgotten and the homeless are the first victims, but the creatures' hunger only grows. At New Harbor's popular nightclub, Beth Becker arrives for her job as a bartender on one of her busiest days of the year, unaware that her life is about to be changed forever.
After that night, several people go missing, including Beth's best friend Zoe. But when the police ignore her concerns, Beth decides to take things into her own hands. However, her investigations lead her to more questions than answers, to ominous tales about the "Night Angel", and other horrors she never imagined possible. And when she encounters a mysterious stranger named Jack, Beth has to make a choice. New Harbor is about to fall to a new terror; will she run while she can, or stay and fight?
This was a request for a review that I immediately and enthusiastically accepted as soon as I read the description for the book. I think it was the idea of an "urban fantasy-horror" that first hooked me, because while something like that would naturally seem like the perfect combination of genres, I don't think I've actually read anything like it! And as it turned out, I wasn't disappointed at all. Now that I've finished this book, I think it at once delivered everything I expected but also gave me a lot of surprises as well.
But not surprisingly, the highlights for me are the characters. The story itself takes a bit of time to build up in the beginning, but meanwhile I was kept interested by Beth and the other perspectives we're given in this first part of the novel, not to mention the clever and snappy dialogue. I've read books where it takes a long time for me to get a good sense of the protagonist, enough to see them as a real person, but Beth felt like a well-defined character almost from the get go. More importantly, I liked her.
Plus, there's also the nature of the creatures preying upon New Harbor. I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say the author takes a familiar concept in urban fantasy and paranormal, and adds his own twist and flavor of horror. This isn't at all like like the books where humans and supernatural beings coexist in a tentative balance; instead, the Beth and Jack are pitted against something savage, primal and inhuman. I liked some of the theories presented here about them, especially the biological ones, because...let's just say salt and those garlic sprays you can get for your garden make a lot of sense.
And finally, even though overall tone of the novel is quite dark, there are some fun parts as well. There's the aforementioned humor in the dialogue, as well as Jack reminding me a bit of a low-tech Batman with his badass attitude and arsenal of jury-rigged weapons and gadgets he keeps on his person.
I would have liked to learn more about him, seeing as there's a whole other side to this story that's presented but mostly left up in the air, such as the mysterious organization Jack appears to be running from as well as his link to the homeless and self-professed prophet Gil. At times, these sections actually feel disconnected from the overall plot, but they also leave much for the next book to explore. I'm looking forward to it!
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.(less)
Earlier this year I read Angelfall and was very impressed, more than I would've expected to be by a young adult paranormal novel which initially appeared quite typical on the surface. Featuring a teenaged female protagonist in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by invading angels, I figured it would do for an entertaining read, but didn't think it would go beyond covering old ground. I was mistaken, of course! I ended up loving Angelfall for the high quality of the storytelling and fantastic characters, and thank goodness I didn't discover the book until late summer because that meant much less of a wait for World After, this much anticipated sequel.
The story picks up where Angelfall left off, after the rebels' attack on the angel stronghold. Penryn had spent most of the last book trying to find her sister and ultimately succeeded in her quest, though little Paige has suffered much at the hands of the enemy and is no longer the girl she used to be. Driven out by the other human survivors that consider her a monster, Paige takes off, leaving Penryn to try and track her down...again.
Meanwhile, the angel Raffe was left scarred in more ways than one in the aftermath of the explosive assault on the Aerie, still hunting his wings that were severed and taken away from him. Penryn is crushed knowing that he still thinks she's dead, but she has more pressing things on her mind. While working for the resistance and looking for Paige, she discovers a nefarious plot at hand.
After reading World After, I still think Angelfall was a better book, though only by a small margin. The first book was a great debut that set some pretty high standards, and I knew it was going to be tough to beat. Nevertheless, the series continues to impress me with this sequel, which shows no sign of the plot slowing down. That's what I've been loving so much about this story, the fact that there is very little filler and no tedious expounding of the characters' emotional hangups or pointless dragging out of the romance. Less is more sometimes, and we all know a relationship is what's shaping up between Penryn and Raffe after all; I didn't need the extra bells and whistles to still have a great time anticipating the moment when the two of them will be reunited again.
So much of my enjoyment for a book depends on how much I take to the main character, and I think that is the key to why I'm a such fan. In a genre where topics like survival in the post-apocalyptic world (and even angels) have been done six ways to Sunday, Penryn is what makes this series stand out. She is a take-charge leader and a fighter, and the best part is that she is consistent, not switching from a tough girl one moment to a shrinking violet the next. She's also sassy, but not in an over-confident or obnoxious kind of way. Of course, she is not without her problems, but what's important is that she doesn't dwell on them or whine about the things she knows she cannot change.
Basically, Penryn feels like a real person just doing her best to stay alive in a difficult situation, though the events of this book definitely tests her mettle. While she may be resilient, she is not dismissive of her own pain or that of others'. There are some very heart-wrenching moments when Penryn sees what her sister has become and has to struggle to accept her. Indeed, what chance does the human race have, when people are turning on their own, especially on those who have endured the worst? It will also be interesting now to see how Penryn will respond to her deepening feelings towards Raffe. In my experience, nothing changes a YA heroine faster than a burgeoning romance, and here's hoping Penryn remains the strong female protagonist I know and love!(less)
I do so love paranormal stories with plots that incorporate strange and/or mysterious circumstances surrounding real historical events, and this book...moreI do so love paranormal stories with plots that incorporate strange and/or mysterious circumstances surrounding real historical events, and this book certainly fits that description. Considered one of America's oldest and biggest unsolved mysteries, the Lost Colony of Roanoke was an attempt by Queen Elizabeth I to establish a permanent English settlement in what is present-day Dare County, North Carolina. 114 colonists ended up disappearing without a trace, with one of the very few clues being the word "Croatoan" carved into a post of a fence.
Hundreds of years later, Miranda Blackwood, our protagonist who is somewhat of an outsider due to her infamous family name, wakes up one morning in her home on Roanoke Island to find that her father has vanished along with more than a hundred others in town -- 114, to be exact. Together with her once-classmate and juvenile delinquent Phillips Rawling, a boy who can hear the voices of dead people, Miranda knows it's up to them to uncover the secrets of the Lost Colony in order to solve the mystery, and to save the missing.
There was a lot of potential here, and I could have easily pictured this book reaching new heights in supernatural creepiness when it comes to storytelling and atmosphere, but it didn't quite happen.
Don't get me wrong; this was one fine book and I liked it, but I very well could have LOVED it if the execution had been a little stronger and more ambitious. Granted, this book nails it when it comes to having all the trappings of a good paranormal YA novel, but it never quite takes off to become exceptional. On a related note, I've noticed that this seems to be the case for several early Strange Chemistry books I've read so far. Now that I've had a couple more of their recent titles under my belt, though, I definitely feel later books have been showing more flair. It's like it just took the imprint their first year to settle into their groove and start publishing stories that more and more fit their unique flavor and style.(less)