I'm usually a sucker for "she was right under my nose the whole time" romances, but this was one that did not work for me. I was pretty excited about it when I picked it up, but the disappointments kept on coming. First I discovered Big Bad Wolf wasn't the first in The Others Series. Then I discovered that it wasn't the swoony werewolf romance I was hoping for. It started out pretty bad and kept getting worse.
In the beginning, we meet the hero, Graham at a party. He's that romance standard--the playboy. As the novel opens, he's in a funk because he's been celibate for thirteen days. Although I'm not sure thirteen days qualifies for the word. Anyway, Graham's really bummed that his "different woman every night" philosophy hasn't been as appealing to him as it formerly had been. In fact, as his "beta" (his second in command) points out, there aren't many women at the party he hasn't already slept with. Charming, right?
While Graham and his beta (Logan) are discussing the few women present that Graham hasn't despoiled, the heroine shows up at the party. It's her turn to be "fixed". By which I mean that her friends have been setting her up on excruciating blind dates. Only they're not dates so much as assignations. That night's fix involves conservative Missy dressing up in a skanky, uncomfortable dress and high heels. Thus arrayed, Missy finally gets the attention of the one man she's been drooling after for six months. Only he's not a man, he's a Lupine (werewolf) who is known for his promiscuity and his "I don't date humans" attitude. One look at Missy's scantily clad behind, however, and all of Graham's objections to dating humans disappear. Graham literally carries Missy away from the party and into his lair (er, home).
I think that that all this was supposed to be romantic, but I should tell you that, although Missy and Graham have known each other for six months, Graham does not recognize Missy. At least, not until after they've slept together. Which brings me to another point: what self-respecting woman would sleep with a man who doesn't recognize her after six months of acquaintance? Oh, wait, dumb question. A major factor in this novel is Missy's low self-esteem. One thing that made me hate this book was that it was never resolved. Missy had some bad experiences in college, which lead her to hide herself behind the frumpy personality of a kindergarten teacher. Okay, it's time for me to take a deep breath. And write a HUGE aside.
I am a teacher. I don't teach kindergarten, but I work with kindergarten teachers and as part of my training, I worked in a kindergarten classroom. Warren's characterization of Missy as a stereotypical kindergarten teacher infuriated me. First of all, teaching kindergarten is NOT all about teaching five-year-olds to tie their shoes. It's an insult to kindergarten teachers--and how hard they work--to suggest that it is. Teachers work very, very hard. Working with five year olds is especially difficult and it takes a very special kind of person to do it well. It's not all fun, games and singing songs. And despite the short classroom hours, it's not a nine-to-five job. I don't know any teachers who don't take their work home with them in some way or another. The second thing I take issue with is the image of a frumpy kindergarten teacher. It's true that some teachers dress as though they are still stuck in the 1950s. But there's a lot of difference between dressing appropriately for working with five year olds and dressing in burlap sacks. I don't mind that Missy is a frumpy dresser. It makes sense given her history and her low self-esteem, but for god's sake, there was no reason to correlate it with her profession.
Okay, sorry. I had to get that off my chest. On to more book-related issues. Like, for example, Graham was a total jackwagon. He's the worst kind of alpha hero. He makes all the decisions, he lies to Missy, and conceals important information from her, he's controlling, he isolates her, he makes her participate in a disgusting, archaic tradition. He was a thoroughly repulsive hero. Here's one small thing that set me off: As a Lupine, Graham's body temperature runs warm. This means that he doesn't need things like comforters or blankets on his bed. Missy is a human. Most of the time she's in Graham's bed (I bed your pardon, when she's in bed and they're not, er, otherwise occupied), Missy is naked and cold. At no time does Graham try to make her more comfortable by turning up the heat. All he does is throw her one scratchy, inadequate blanket. Ah, God, that pissed me off.
But, wait, that's the not the worst of Graham's actions. He makes a decision in the novel that is indefensible. This part is spoilery, so beware: Graham has sex with Missy knowing that she will get pregnant. He does this without consulting her or even telling her after the fact. Warren tries to justify this by telling us that Missy desperately wants children. But that's not the point. If Missy's willing to take the risk, great. They can make that decision together. But Graham doesn't give Missy a choice. He makes it for her. And, in case you were wondering, yes, part of his motivation is that a baby will keep her by his side. Then, to compound matters, Graham brags about Missy's pregnancy to his archenemy in front of her. Missy takes Graham to task for this--but has already forgotten the whole "I slept with you knowing it would result in a baby. Sorry I told my archenemy before telling you" thing. Gah.
I don't even want to talk about the matehunt thing. If you read it, you'll see.
Missy, though, needs to be addressed. In the beginning of the novel, we learn that Missy has been hiding herself since a bad experience in college. We're never told what the bad experience was, though there are hints. Basically, whatever happened left Missy with some seriously low self-esteem. I think I mentioned that she sleeps with Graham while knowing that he doesn't recognize her? Yeah. That basically sets the tone for their relationship. It kind of seems like Missy's so amazed and grateful that Graham wants her--like, for life--that she's willing to put up with anything. He's sexy, he's hot, he's a scumbag--but he's all hers! Puh-leeze! Grow a spine already.
I also need to mention the pathetic excuses that Missy has for friends. None of them makes a single on-screen appearance. This may be because Graham is an abusive, controlling boyfriend. Or it may be because they're sucky friends. I mean, who wants to be friends with someone who makes you wear clothes you'd rather be caught dead in and setting you up for assignations you didn't want in the first place. I mean, dates are one thing--but Missy's fixes are meant to be more than that, if you know what I mean. Anyway, once Missy and Graham get together (which happens almost right away), Missy's friends pretty much disappear. That was okay with me--I didn't want to see any more of them anyway.
I feel like I could go on and on but I have to stop. I wish this book had been so bad it was good, but it was just bad. I won't be giving the other books in The Others series a try. At least, not if they're anything like this one.(less)
Originally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]I bought this book because I saw its beautiful cover one night when I was searching Amazon f...moreOriginally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]I bought this book because I saw its beautiful cover one night when I was searching Amazon for books I might like to read. Then I read the description and I thought, � Score!� Romance, snobby private schools and me. It� s a menage-a-trois made in heaven.[return]Sadly, this is one book that does not live up to its cover. It started out okay. The narrator, Renee, was likable enough. But the book� s description pretty much gives away the plot. In fact, it pretty much tells the first third of the book. Could� ve saved myself a hundred or so pages worth of reading and I� d've been spared the winy, complainy, selfish mess that Renee disintegrates into.[return]At the beginning of the book, Renee has it all. She has a best friend, loving parents and a possible boyfriend. All of this changes when her parents die. Admittedly, a sad, sad event, but I never really felt that Renee� s grief was real. I didn� t share in her angst. It was more like she had broken up with them than that they had died.[return]Anyway, after her parents� deaths, Renee� s grandfather shows up as her guardian. Renee doesn� t know her grandfather well because he has been estranged from her parents for a number of years. It� s at this point that Renee begins her transformation from potentially enjoyable character to obnoxious teenager. She sulks and shouts and nobody understands her. Some of this I get. If both of my parents died at the same time, I� d probably act like a brat even if it happened today. But Renee� s brattiness doesn� t read like it comes from the deep well of grief and unhappiness that you would expect. She� s just, well, a brat.[return]And she only gets worse. On the top of my list of Obnoxious Things Renee Does is that she purposely does poorly in Latin so that the Cute Boy of the story (Dante) will have to continue tutoring her. Blech. That still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, yes, we� ve all done something embarrassing in the hope of getting a guy� s attention. But risking your GPA crosses a line into no self-respect. Or maybe that� s just me.[return]So, I didn� t like Renee. What about the other characters? Renee� s best friend, Annie, her almost boyfriend, Wes, and her grandfather, who feature so prominently in the first part of the story? Well, they fade into the background. To be fair, Grandpa does make a reappearance later in the novel for some important exposition. But he� s sort of like the hair tie you keep in the bottom of your gym bag: You only pull it out if you have no other options. However. With Annie, Wes and Grandpa out of the way, that leaves the field free for some new characters: roommate Eleanor, geeky boy Nathaniel, and hot, mysterious boy-with-a-secret, Dante. Eleanor and Renee become good friends and joint conspiracy theorists. Nathaniel is merely a prop and never becomes much more than the geeky boy who serves as a nonthreatening male friend who is also a naysayer.[return]With Eleanor and Nathaniel out of the way, you� ll have guessed who the most important new character is. If you haven� t� wait, seriously, you haven� t? Well, it� s Dante. The introduction of Dante into Dead Beautiful is basically this novel� s downfall. Dante has some suspiciously familiar character traits. He� s a loner. He� s really, really beautiful. He doesn� t talk to anyone� except the heroine. When Dante and Renee are partnered in their � Crude Sciences� lab, I nearly guffawed. That was before the two touched and Dante has an over-the-top negative reaction and stops speaking to Renee for several days. By the time Renee reflected on how cold Dante� s skin is and his remarkable ability to heal instantaneously, I was grimacing in disbelief.[return]Is any of this sounding familiar? Please tell me you� re following my train of thought.[return]If you haven� t caught on yet, maybe you� re one of the two people left in America who hasn� t read Twilight. Or seen the movie. I don� t know if the similarities between Dead Beautiful and Twilight are intentional or if the author meant her book as an homage, or the publisher thought that a story so similar� but with just enough differences� would appeal to the audience that spawned a nation-wide teenage obsession. I don� t really care. I� m just disappointed I fell for it. I mean, I didn� t even like Twilight that much the first time.[return]Let me quickly address the plot. It was predictable. I guessed what Dante� s secret was by process of elimination. I knew he wasn� t a vampire so my options were pretty limited. There are also plenty of hints. I confess I didn� t know all of the details� and you probably won� t unless you read a lot of French philosophy.[return]As for all the deaths, yeah, I figured out what happened there too. I hope you� re not reading this as a brag, because it� s not. I� d rather be kept guessing until the last page. That� s part of the fun of reading a mystery. That doesn� t mean I don� t crow when I guess right� but where� s the fun in knowing too easily? The best right guess is the one you were never 100% certain of.[return]I don� t think I� ve ever said this, but this is one cover that deserved a better book.(less)
Review first posted on http://rubysreads.com.[return][return]I got this book from NetGalley and so I was able to read it for free, so I am determined...moreReview first posted on http://rubysreads.com.[return][return]I got this book from NetGalley and so I was able to read it for free, so I am determined not to complain too much. Steampunk Romance is a subgenre I am happy to get behind, so I jumped at this title when I found it on NetGalley. I hadn� t heard a peep about it on the blogosphere and had no idea what to expect. One thing I found was that Like Clockwork is more novella than book. I read it on my spanking new Kindle so I can� t tell you the page count. Suffice to say, it� s very short.[return][return]Like Clockwork tells the story of Victoria Waters, lady scientist. Victoria was raised to her father� s son and daughter, all at once. This means that she was able to become a successful scientist in a time when ladies were expected to be mothers and wives. It� s a common theme in Victorian fiction, so you can� t be surprised. Victoria� s role in a group of scientists that made automatons in order to replace workers in dangerous jobs (i.e., mining) has resulted in a great deal of job loss and poverty for the poor. More directly, it leads her to be kidnapped by a man who is fighting for the rights of the underclass, a man named Dash.[return][return]Dash� s kidnapping of Victoria doesn� t turn out the way he planned. Unexpectedly, he finds that Victoria is willing to support his cause. In fact, she had planned on speaking to a committee about the very issue of worker� s rights when he kidnapped her. Now, I don� t particularly have a problem with kidnap plotlines, but it doesn� t work in a novella. Victoria is never afraid of the man who chloroformed her and brought her to a bizarre underground world in order to further his cause. She is almost immediately attracted to Dash, and he to her. The swiftness with which both characters succumb to lust had me rolling my eyes. Especially since Victoria was supposed to be at once � sheltered� and a well-educated scientist.[return][return]Dee also fails to capture the flavor of Victorian London. Victoria, for example, never wears gloves. For some reason this really, really bothered me. It stuck out like a red flag. Sure, the characters ride in carriages and Victoria wears her hair in intricate hairstyles and wears fancy dresses, but everything else was lip service. The social mores of the time? Mentioned, but quickly forgotten. The idea of an upper class woman marrying a man who started life as a thief? Quickly resolved and really not much of an obstacle in the end.The short length of the novel means that everything happens too fast, in particular the resolutions. They came too easy for this reader to enjoy.[return][return]The worst offense this novel perpetrated was the ending. It skips ahead five months. Victoria and Dash have their happily ever after and hop into bed together. We miss out on their first time together. After all the tension that was built up in the first part of the book, the next time we see them is after months of marriage. It was kind of like Dee wanted to skip the � Victoria� s first time� scene. In the epilogue, Dash has had an opportunity to teach Victoria all about the delights of the bedchamber. I felt both cheated and bored.[return][return]I didn� t hate this novel. It didn� t offend me in any way. The writing wasn� t great, by far the worst thing the author did was make it so short. On the other hand, it was an ambitious story, and the author wasn� t able to pull it off what she did write, so length might not be the answer. I� ll have to look for my Steampunk Romance somewhere else.(less)
First posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]The first thing I noticed about Matched was that the narrative style reminded me of Carrie Jones'...moreFirst posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return]The first thing I noticed about Matched was that the narrative style reminded me of Carrie Jones' Need (and its sequel, Captivate). It's told in the first person by Cassia Reyes, a seventeen-year-old girl living in a futuristic, Dystopian world. The novel opens on the night of Cassia's Match Banquet. Being "Matched" means obtaining a husband or wife chosen by the Society. The Society is a big brother-type group made up of Officers and Officials. Their main job seems to be collecting data on their citizens--and then using that data to predict how each person will act. For example, the Society knew which dress Cassia would choose for her Match banquet. They also know that she will be the second person to reach the top of the hill in her hiking class.[return][return]On the surface, some of the things that the Society has done sound pretty good. All your meals are prepared for you. All transportation is public. There are summer leisure hours. Most diseases have been eradicated. The Matching system has eliminated all that pesky worry about finding a life partner. If you're anxious, the Society has thoughtfully provided you with some pills--take the green one and all your worries will fade away.[return][return]But Matched isn't a Utopian novel and it's through Cassia's eyes that we learn about the problems inherent in the Society's ways. Chief among them is that the Society doesn't allow room for creative thought. A long time ago, the Society made lists of the hundred best things. The hundred best paintings, the hundred best poems, the hundred best songs. Everything that didn't make the list was destroyed and, making new ones appears to be prohibited. Everyone within the Society has a job that is functional. Poets, musicians and artists are a thing of the past.[return][return]Cassia is very much a part of the world that the Society has built. She has been waiting for her Match Banquet for most of her life. She's a rule-follower and she believes every line she is fed. When her Match is revealed to be her best friend, Xander, Cassia is even more convinced that the system works. Its not until Cassia goes to view Xander's microcard (for fun, not because she needs to know anything about the boy she's known her whole life), that her world is rocked for the first time. On the viewing screen, for a split second, another face besides Xander's appears. It's the face of another boy she knows--a boy named Ky.[return][return]Ky's split second appearance on the screen is the crack in the windshield. Once Cassia has seen Ky's image, she is no longer able to be content with the world she lives in. She is irresistibly drawn to Ky--and he to her. Though Cassia already has her Match, her feelings for the other boy continue to grow. Because of his unique history, Ky also has a lot to teach Cassia about the Society, about the Hundred Poems, about things that she's never even thought of before. He opens her eyes. And in the process, a romance blooms between them. The problem is, it's sort of a flat, lackluster romance. It's one that never made my heart do a happy lurch in anticipation.[return][return]I was fully prepared to like this book. I loved the cover. Props to the design department for putting the girl in a green dress, by the way. And there was plenty to like. The world that Cassia inhabits is an intriguing one. I sort of pictured it like The Truman Show. You know, all clean and sterile and friendly but not really real. The problem was, it felt a little derivative. It took elements from Brave New World, tossed in a dash of The Giver and mixed them up with some George Orwell. It was impossible not to make comparisons. Matched plays on two things: the remarkable human ability to resemble sheep and the assumption that you can predict human nature. Condie's message was unclear to me. I couldn't tell if she was making an argument that it is impossible for any organization to know as much about the people they are trying to control as they think they do, or if the point was that, yes, people are predictable, but they have a right to live their own lives anyway. I just don't know.[return][return]What I do know is that I never really connected to any of the characters. We don't get to see enough of Xander or Ky in order to take sides in the triangle. Cassia's brother could be any ten year old boy. Her parents are slightly more interesting, but I don't understand what really drives the Society Officials that Cassia comes into the most contact with. I don't think they even had names. So I kind of pictured them as blurred faces in shapeless gray jumpsuits.[return][return]Matched is the first book in a trilogy. I liked it enough to be intrigued as to what will happen next. Condie definitely left Cassia in an interesting place. And I do want to see more of Cassia's world, especially the Outer Provinces. I want to see if there are rebel societies doing rogue things like painting pictures and singing non-perfect, off-key songs and writing romance novels. I'm pretty sure none made the Hundred list of books. Matched is the beginning of a promising series--but I need to see some more before I'm converted to the cause.(less)
Originally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return].... This was not my favorite book. For one thing, it was incredibly rushed. Though the book...moreOriginally posted on http://rubysreads.com[return][return].... This was not my favorite book. For one thing, it was incredibly rushed. Though the book clocks in at 244 pages, they are pages with fairly large print, wide margins and double-spacing. It's basically a short story in hardcover, a la Linda Howard's Ice. It's got a pretty cover, though. All red and shiny.[return][return]Low Red Moon tells the story of Avery Hood, a seventeen year-old girl whose parents have just been murdered. Although Avery was found at the crime scene by a deputy, she doesn't remember the events of the night her parents died. Except for a disturbing flash of silver. The flash of silver is both ominous and repetitive. Although I guess it makes sense that Avery would cling to the only memory she has of that night. Still, it's drummed into our heads again and again and again and--okay, I'll stop. Anyway, Avery returns to school immediately after her parents' deaths. That's weird but necessary to the plot: it means she gets to meet the mysterious, hot new boy. Who rocks a really awesome pair of moccasins. No, seriously. Just how are moccasins sexy, exactly? Yeah, I don't know, either.[return][return]The new boy's name is Ben. Avery experiences the inevitable instant attraction to Ben. He feels it too. At first, he tries to push her away. Then he can no longer deny the attraction or the special connection between them. This is a theme that is repeated often these days, especially in Teen fiction. It's one that I can get behind. The special connection angle works for me in Maggie Steifvater's Lament and Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments Series. But Avery and Ben's "connection" alternately bored me and made me want to roll my eyes. It was also, due to the short length, terribly rushed. I don't like Romance novels where the hero and heroine jump into bed together within a few short pages of meeting each other. Avery and Ben do the teenage equivalent. You blink and they're making out. With heavy petting. Hee, that's funny, given this is a werewolf story.[return][return]The major thing that Low Red Moon suffers from is a lack of characterization. We never learn much about Avery, Ben, or Avery's grandmother, Renee. Avery falls into "I read some stuff on the internet and now I understand everything" trap. Not to mention the utter and COMPLETE stupidity she exhibits near end of the novel. If Ben weren't so lame himself, I'd say she didn't deserve him. As it is, I think they'll be very happy together. After all, yearning after Avery seems to be Ben's only skill. I give them a couple of decades, at least. Sadly, even Avery's parents suffer from one dimensionalism. They come off as your standard, every day neo-hippies. Renee is...I'm not even sure. She can build a porch, though. Her past, which is meant to be mysterious, isn't. What is a mystery is what really drives Renee. Why did she make the decisions she did? What, exactly, happened between Renee and Avery's father? I can't help thinking he hated her because she married his father because he was the easy choice. That's simply speculation, though, as motivation is lacking in this novel. Central to the plot of this book is who killed Avery's parents. I figured out who it was mainly by process of elimination and an unsuccessful red herring. What I still don't understand is, why? I mean, Devlin tells us, but I don't buy it. It comes off as lame and unconvincing.[return][return]What I really didn't like, though, was how many things were left unexplained. All we learn about Devlin's werewolves is brought up and dismissed in a few lines. Then there's Avery's sort of friend, Krista, who is so incredibly insignificant that I'm not sure how she made it into the story at all. Ben and Avery's mystical connection is neither fully explored nor explained. Neither is Avery's mother's nervousness on the night she was killed. When I closed Low Red Moon, all I could think was, "Wait--what?"[return][return]I haven't heard anything, but I suppose the unanswered questions could be because the author intends to make this into a series. Too bad that the plot, the writing, and characterization are all so uninspiring, that I definitely won't be buying any potential sequels.(less)
Okay, so you may or may not remember that, at the end of the last book, everything went all to hell. Jenn's dad betrayed her to the vampires in order to save her sister, Heather (and the rest of the family). Unfortunately for him, the plan totally backfired (duh) and Heather was, instead, captured and, ultimately, "converted." Whoops. Heather's "conversion" is a complicated issue on so very many levels. For one thing, it brings up the only question--Why is Antonio different? Why was he able to recover his human modes and morals? It's a sticky issue, especially since Antonio firmly believes that his faith is responsible and Jenn...well, Jenn doesn't really buy into religion. Which begs the question--does it really matter whether Jenn buys into it or not? Shouldn't the issue be whether Heather is at all religious? But, since Heather spends most of the novel in vampiric blood-frenzy, I guess they can't really ask her. More to the point, though, is that, with the addition of Heather to the party, the Salamanca team of vampire hunters is now harboring two of the very creatures they've been training to kill. Naturally this causes conflict. Jamie, in particular, is especially pissed. Boy, I didn't see that one coming. I'm not sure exactly why the authors felt they needed to create yet more conflict amongst a group that was already tenuously assembled...but they did. Just in time for them to add two more members--one of whom is a potential love interest for Jenn. This book felt largely repetitious to me. I'm kind of tired of Jenn's self-confidence issues. I thought they were supposed to be resolved in the first book? Why are we dealing with this again? I mean, I don't expect Jenn to miraculously become a fantastic leader, but the impression I got at the end of Crusade was that she had embraced her leadership role. I will be gravely disappointed--though not terribly surprised--if Jenn fights the exact same internal battle in each book of the series. While I admit to some curiosity about what makes Antonio different, I don't find him to be compelling in either of his guises--good vamp or evil. He's so obnoxiously good that I find myself thinking that he deserves wishy-washy Jenn. Unfortunately, Jenn and Antonio aren't this series' only problems. It hasn't endeared itself to me on behalf of any of the characters. I wasn't stirred by the action and I didn't grieve over the death at the end of the book. The series began with a large cast of characters, and what do the authors do but add more? That pretty much killed it for me. I don't think I'll be continuing with this series.(less)
Ah, fantasy! I love delving into worlds that exist only in authors’ minds, seeing what new rules they com...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Ah, fantasy! I love delving into worlds that exist only in authors’ minds, seeing what new rules they come up with and how the magic works. It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy (as compared to a paranormal, which generally takes place in our world, but with magic), but it’s just like riding a bike. Muscle memory is everything, folks.
I knew pretty early on that Assassin’s Gambit wasn’t written for me. I’m not the target audience, this is not the kind of book I like, and the writing was not good enough to bring me above my preferences. Stacia Kane set a pretty high standard for me in this regard. It takes talent to make a drug addict into one of the best heroines this side of awesome. Amy Raby, unfortunately, isn’t Stacia Kane.
Given such a strong statement, I should probably explain. I didn’t like either of the main characters and the world was constantly reminding me of Ancient Rome–but not–(and Caturanga, of chess–but not). As I read, I remembered that I dislike assassin heroines, in particular ones who sleep with their marks. Call me priggish, puritanical and judgmental–I just can’t identify with that kind of heroine. It’s not in me. Then, there was the hero. He was too beta, too “sensitive.” There is, in fact, a scene in which the hero crawls around on his hands and knees at the mercy of his enemies. That just about killed the story. There really wasn’t any coming back from that.
Once Vitala’s big secret is revealed, and she breaks from the organization that sent her to kill Lucien, things improve a little. Lucien has his chance to shine and Vitala stops sleeping with guys in order to get close enough to kill them. That right there was a major improvement, if too little too late. Some other stuff happens. Then, after Vitala and Lucien are married, she heads off for one last kill. With no reflection on how Lucien might feel about this. Or how she might feel about it now that she’s “fallen in love.” The quotes tell you how much I believed in the romance in Assassin’s Gambit.
In all, Assassin’s Gambit was a novel that tried very hard but fell short of succeeding. I’m interested to see some other reviews, especially some from a much less jaundiced eye than mine.(less)
Many of you are already familiar with my obsession with Private School Paranormals. It was that, as much as a desire to try out the renowned L.A. Banks' writing style, that led me to give this book a try. The weighty description gives you an idea of the way Shadow Walker rolls. It's a meaty tome. There's lots going on in it, though the events of the book occur in a relatively short amount of time. Most of the story is told from Sarah's perspective, although the p.o.v. is not first person. As a narrator, Sarah is believably conflicted. I can't imagine how incredibly hard it must be to be the children of two people who have saved the world. I mean, how are you supposed to improve on that one? How are you supposed to feel like you've ever done anything with your life, even if you join the Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders and The Red Cross? The potential for an inferiority complex is huge here. But Sarah is the heroine so, while she does deal with some feelings of inadequacy, she's destined for her own acts of greatness. In the beginning of the story, Sarah is uncertain of her powers and jealous of her twin, who is already demonstrating the greatness of their parents. The major symbol of this fact is that Sarah has been named a "Blend." Being a blend means that you have no particular talent. Or, that it's yet to be discovered. By the epilogue, Sarah has learned what she needs to know--about herself, and others--that will lead her to be the kind of great leader her mother was. Shadow Walker didn't grab me right off. To be honest, Sarah wasn't my favorite kind of character. She has flaws--like getting an enormous zit the day she starts at the Academy--but she always does the right thing. She stands up to bullies, she defends the weak, and doesn't let her best-friend run her down. Which, okay, should all be positive stuff but, honestly--all that perfection becomes irritating. Sarah's loyal. Sarah's kind. Sarah's attractive to two boys. She doesn't like guys who are jerks. When you find yourself hoping that the main character will just mess something up for once, you know you've got a problem. I also felt a lot lost whenever the book returned to the events that must have taken place in the Vampire Huntress books. I'd thought that Banks would assume that, like me, her YA readers probably haven't read her adult fiction, and fill us in a little. I suspect, however, that the only way to truly be filled in is to have read the books. The description of paranormal creatures, people and family relationships would have been better placed at the front of the book. Still, it only tells a small portion of the story--a great deal more is half-related in the course of Shadow Walker. I was also underwhelmed by Sarah's romantic entanglements. Neither Wil nor Val did much for me. They're both good-looking, but kind of interchangeable. Which doesn't make sense, because Sarah's known Val all her life. And pretty much every guy who wasn't Wil or Val was a jerk. So, that came off as another one of Sarah's perfections: she knows how to pick the good guys. Having finished Shadow Walker, I have a feeling of apathy. I don't really care about the next stage in Sarah's journey. I was unimpressed with the story-telling and the world-building. Banks probably did all that in the Vampire Huntress books, so that's another thing I missed. Half the time I had some sort of image in my head that the Compound was like a space station. The school, too. Whenever they went off campus, I'd be wondering if they didn't need spacesuits or something. This is what happens to me when I read a book that lacks a resonating setting. I don't think I'm going to be reading anything else by Banks.(less)
Review first posted on http://rubysreads.com.[return][return]I had high hopes for this book. I mean, a new YA werewolf series? By an author who alread...moreReview first posted on http://rubysreads.com.[return][return]I had high hopes for this book. I mean, a new YA werewolf series? By an author who already has a pretty big following? I hoped wrong. And I� m going to have to tread lightly here, because there wasn� t much for me to like in Once in a Full Moon and I just talked about not author-bashing in a previous post.[return][return]Let� s start with the writing. It� s a lot of tell and no show. We� re told a lot of things about the heroine, Celeste, and Celeste� s friends, and Celeste� s boyfriends, the town of Legend� s Run and the hot new guy, Brandon. By the time I got to the part where I started reading sentences like, � Another attribute that my friends shared was accusing me of being too nice because I was cordial to everyone� , I began to realize that I was doomed. There� s also the stilted dialog which is often lacking in contractions. This is a pet peeve of mine. I mean, people do not talk the way they write. They� re constantly doing blasphemous things to the English language. I like to see a nice balance between formal language and something that� s readable. If the dialog is too formal I can� t picture actual people saying the words. If it� s too slang-y and missing too many consonants (see dialog written in dialect. Heh.) then I become irritated.[return][return]Okay, sorry, that was a diatribe I didn� t mean to go off on. So, the writing: not great. But what really disappointed me was everything else. The main character, Celeste, is a cardboard cutout of the good girl that runs with the popular crowd. For some reason, she� s accepted by all the rich, born-on-the-right-side-of-the-tracks kids at her high school. Her boyfriend is a good-looking, popular jock. Her friends are steadfast and loyal. She� s � nice� , meaning she sticks up for the poor unfortunates who are born in the Hicksville east side of Legend� s Run. The blue collar side. And, seriously, I� m not joking: she volunteers at a senior center. She is, in essence, a Mary Sue.[return][return]Or she would be, if she didn� t have issues. Like being friends with the kind of � mean girls� who exclude people not of their own socio-economic background. I mean, seriously, her friends suck. They� re rude to everyone. They tell Celeste that she� s too nice and then encourage her to forgive her boyfriend when she finds him flirting with another girl. They make Celeste worse just because she wanted to be friends with them.[return][return]Then there� s Celeste� s boyfriend, Nash. Also a jerk. Basically ignores Celeste and only cares about sports. He likes Celeste because she� s � different� . She� s the one girl he can� t get just by crooking his finger. Can you see me rolling my eyes? I honestly could not figure out why Nash was supposed to be so popular. Maybe you can tell me. Luckily, Nash isn� t the hero in this book. No, that� s the aforementioned new guy in town: Brandon.[return][return]Brandon is hot, but he� s from the wrong side of town. No, seriously. He� s, like, hawt. What I couldn� t figure out was, if he� s so hot, isn� t it pretty unlikely that Celeste would be the only girl who didn� t care what part of town he was from? Apparently, no. He� s reviled. Even though he� s a hero. What, you didn� t know that? Well, Celeste will tell you a few thousand times, just so you get the point. He� s sexy, heroic and thoughtful. Everything Nash is not, apparently. Which is fine. I mean, I� ll buy the story of a girl who is with Guy A, who doesn� t appreciate her or treat her right and she doesn� t realize it until Guy B comes into the picture. The problem is the thing that� s keeping Celeste with Nash isn� t the way he� s treating her. It� s worry over what her friends and family will think if they find out she� s dating an Eastsider like Brandon. So Celeste stays with Nash despite her feelings for another guy. At least, until she finds him flirting with someone else.[return][return]All in all, I don� t feel that I can recommend this book. It didn� t just disappoint me, it frustrated me. When the penultimate werewolf scene finally happens, I actually laughed out loud. I� m only sad that I couldn� t laugh at the rest of it.(less)
Oh, Rune! How do I love thee? Enough to overlook your appalling dress sense, certainly. Ahem. Sorry, this is meant to be a book review, not a hero review. Although... No, never mind. I admit that, when I heard who Rune's heroine was going to be, I was a trifle disappointed. I can't explain why exactly, but it's probably due to the fact that I tend to dislike world-weary been-there-done-that heroines. I should have known better. I should have expected more from the very awesome Thea Harrison. Because not only did she make me like Carling, she made me really like her--and root for her and Rune. I loved this book, but I have a confession to make. I'm still a little bit confused about the plot. It involves time travel, which is basically a big flashing red light that there's going to be something in it to confuse me. Time travel plots always make me go, "Wait...What...?" and "But, didn't...?" I think my brain shuts down in self-defense. I leave the physics to my brother and his Ph.D, and focus on the parts that interest me more. I.e., the hot heroes, the romance and the world-building. It's well-known (I hope) by this point that I'm a huge alpha hero fan. Also well-known? Thea Harrison absolutely knows how to create them. Rune is an alpha hero who Does It Right. He perfectly personifies that sexy-scary hero Thea Harrison describe in her Book Boyfriend post this week. He pushes Carling when he knows she needs it, and need it she does. It's a sort of role reversal. In Serpent's Kiss, Carling is the cold, closed-off half of the couple and Rune is the one that encourages her to feel by not kowtowing to her immense power. He's also the one that encourages her to relax and have fun--he plays the role usually reserved for the quirky, off-beat heroine. Harrison also continues with her fantastic world-building. I'm not going to touch on the time-travel plot (for the reasons mentioned above), but I will say that the trips back in time really worked for me in terms of expanding Rune and Carling's relationship. It happens at lightning speed, which is kind of the formula for Harrison's books. It really needs the extra connecting that happens during the time jumps. I also really dug the vampire lore, and how the concept of the serpent's kiss played into the world's concept of vampirism. The more I learn about Harrison's world, the more eager I am to visit the other demesnes. The last thing I want to touch on is Thea Harrison's talent for introducing new characters. We met Duncan and Khalil in Storm's Heart, but we get to know them better in Serpent's Kiss. I absolutely adore it when authors build up anticipation for characters stories. It's one of the things I love best about Nalini Singh, and I'm giddy with excitement to find an author who can do it with as much success. There's an excerpt for Oracle's Moon at the end of Serpent's Kiss, and it did miraculous things to whet my appetite. Thea Harrison can't write fast enough for me. 5 Points: I would move in with this book. (less)
I have so many issues with this book it's not even funny. I'm also really struggling with a way to start this review. It's not that I thought Frost was a bad book so much as I really, really disliked the narrator. The whole thing is meant to be an examination into psychosis as well as the supernatural, but I was completely distracted by the heroine and her many, many issues. The basic story is that Leena and her friends have scored Frost House for their senior year of high school. Leena has masterminded the whole arrangement; it's particularly important to her because, ever since her parents' divorce, school has been her home. Unfortunately, Leena's idyllic senior year is disrupted by the fact that she's going to have an unexpected roommate. Worse--one that she considers unstable. Moving in together doesn't improve the impression, and soon Leena's home situation is untenable--to say the least. And when bizarre stuff starts happening, Leena starts to think that Celeste isn't just unstable--she might just be psychotic. I never warmed to Leena, which was a problem because she narrated the story. There's an incident in the book that basically symbolizes my feelings for her, so I'll tell you about it: One of the bizarre things that happens in Frost House is that Celeste gets a burn on her back when the water coming out of the bathroom faucet turns boiling hot. Leena tends to Celeste's wound by applying antibiotic ointment and putting a bandage on it. Now, maybe it's because I just took a CPR/First Aid class for work, but this part really bothered me. You're not supposed to put anything on that kind of burn--just run cool water over it. This is one of many signs that Leena, while well-intentioned, is acting without important knowledge. The more I learned about her, the more amazed I became that anyone let her be a peer counselor. I think the readers are supposed to think this, but I don't think it was meant to keep readers from liking/relating to Leena. For me, it did. She came across as that girl who insists that she knows better than you, and that she's right and you're wrong. I wanted to hit her. While there was room in my stone-cold heart to feel for Leena--her parents are neglectful idiots, I fail to understand Dean Shepard's appeal, and her friends drop her cold despite three years of closeness--I mostly just wanted to tell her to stop trying to counsel people. You know the saying--therapy begins at home. Though I suppose fixing others is easier than fixing yourself. If this had been the message of the novel, I think I would have liked Leena more. And I would have been more understanding about her mental health issues. As it was, the end was kind of anti-climactic and the paranormal element took away from the more serious problems of Leena's self-prescribing, the fact that she tried to kill herself when she was thirteen and hasn't, apparently, seen a counselor since, and her isolation from her peers. I would also like to point out that I considered, at several times throughout the novel, that Leena was exhibiting classic warning signs for a depressed/suicidal teen. With her history, it flabbergasted me that no one ever expressed concern in that respect. I suppose it's possible that Leena's friends don't know her history, but I would expect Dean Shepard to. All in all, a flawed book. Too flawed for me to enjoy. (less)
Over and over I’ve mentioned my craving for teen mysteries, so I won’t belabor the point again. Needless...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Over and over I’ve mentioned my craving for teen mysteries, so I won’t belabor the point again. Needless to say, I snapped up A Girl Named Digit the moment I saw it at my favorite local independent bookstore (say that three times fast!). That said, I’ve had the attention span of a gnat lately, so my reading of Digit was slow as molasses. I picked it up and put it down without regard to how much I was enjoying it.
So, what’s the story? Farrah (aka Digit) lives in LA with her actor mom, her professor father and a younger brother. She’s happy living in the traffic capital of the world because it offers plenty of opportunity for her to read her beloved bumper stickers. Farrah’s biggest secret is that her interest in numbers borders on the obsessive (okay, maybe that’s a understatement). The pressure to fit in has led her to conceal her talents. She’s so perfected the guise of a self-absorbed teenager that she runs with some of the most popular girls in her school.
Then she cracks a terrorist cell’s code and attracts the attention of the FBI. Luckily for Farrah, the agent that gets the case is a boy genius, cute and not much older than her. Unluckily for Farrah, her life is danger. A few days kept in close confinement gives Farrah and Special Agent John Bennett time to bond and to get closer to solving the case.
A Girl Named Digit was a fun read. Everything, down to the chapter titles, is infused with the kind of humor I like best. Digit’s internal monologue is a hoot. She sees the world through a unique lens and since the story is told from her perspective, we’re privvy to it. It’s just too bad that, despite all that humor, I never really connected to Farrah. I like characters that use humor to deflect, but only if I’m also allowed glimpses of the deeper emotions behind the humor. Farrah was a little too glib and her arc a little too shallow for me to be invested in her character. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anything unlikeable about Farrah. I’d be happy to while away some time with her, but I won’t be calling her if I’m looking for a more meaningful connection.
So, while I liked Farrah and was interested to see how her romance with John (The Prodigy FBI Agent) would play out, I felt a lack of something while reading Digit. It’s hard to evaluate the books that are a little bit better than good but still not great. A Girl Named Digit was middle of the road, but a decently paved one with those little reflector thingies in the center. I would recommend if someone asked me if I knew of any books about teenage math geniuses, but it won’t be making my Top Teen Mysteries list anytime soon.(less)
Lately, I’ve been really enjoying computer geek stories (maybe it’s all the episodes of The Big Bang...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
Lately, I’ve been really enjoying computer geek stories (maybe it’s all the episodes of The Big Bang Theory that I’ve been watching lately), so The Boyfriend App was one of those books that came along at the right time. But, basically, The Boyfriend App is a romantic comedy in disguise–and who doesn’t love a romantic comedy? Alright–fine! Half the population. Whatever. I’m well-aware that my readership is mostly female, though, so our lesser halves don’t count at the moment. Just kidding. Sort of.
The Boyfriend App is a fizzy bellini of a book. It’s sweet, indulgent and makes you feel giggly and good. They really nailed it with the cover. Sure, there’s a technological twist, but there’s no technospeak to, er, speak of. I’m completely computer illiterate (this is only a small exaggeration), but I understood things as Audrey explained them. Katie Sise does a fabulous job of making the reader believe that Audrey knows what she’s talking about without getting too complicated for the less technically-minded among us. I actually understood an episode of The Big Bang Theory better because of The Boyfriend App. I don’t know if that’s high praise, but it is a fact.
The strength of this novel isn’t in the mystery (it was kind of eye-rolling, to be honest), or the technological twists, but in the characters. There are a lot of them–which I don’t usually like–but each one is interesting and individual. Also, Audrey’s cousin, Lindsey, is a fashion blogger and that gives us a little behind-the-scenes peek into the blogging world we spend so much time inhabiting. That was really fun. The villain is villainous, but not without positive attributes (none that make her actions forgivable, but at least there’s dimension).
The weakest part of the novel was the romance. I liked the love interest, but we didn’t get to spend much time with him. Their breezy courtship fit with the pace and tone of the novel, but failed to add any depth. Surprisingly, that was okay with me because I liked The Boyfriend App for what it was–a light, fun read. Like when a coworker brings in a loaf of zucchini bread to share among the staff. You weren’t expecting it and it is very nice surprise but it’s no chocolate cake.(less)
I love the Kate Daniels books. I love, love, love them. I love them far more than the Edge books. I don't love them as much as the Mercy Thompson books, but they run a close second. Both series have a kick-ass heroine. Though Kate is more kick-ass than Mercy, by far. After all, Kate is the genius with her sword. Speaking of Slayer, I loved this moment:
"Kate, I'm afraid the sword has to stay."
"Weapons are forbidden everywhere but the Pit level. You won't get through the door."
I sighed and put Slayer between the front seats. "Stay here. Guard the car."
Saiman shut the door. "Is the sword sentient?"
"No. But I like to pretend it is."
I could count the number of ways in which I love Kate, but it would take too long. I wish I could be half as kick-ass as she is but frankly, I don't stand a chance. Um, and I wouldn't have wanted her childhood anyway. Yeesh.
Okay, on to Magic Strikes. You may remember that in the last novel in the series, Curran made his intentions clear to Kate. Well, Magic Strikes picks up about four months later. Kate and the Beast Lord haven't really been in contact all that time, but that doesn't mean that she never thinks of him. And it becomes clear during the course of this novel that Curran hasn't stopped thinking about her, either. The slow burn of their romance both takes a back seat in this story and doesn't. It's like one more layer. Andrews doesn't focus on it. Plot isn't a device designed to get Kate and Curran together. Instead, it plays an element in the plot. It's important and whatever is between them colors how nearly all of the characters in this book act.
Magic Strikes begins with Kate being drawn into a pack intrigue--but one that is happening outside of Curran's control. This is a big issue, as Curran is the Alpha of Alphas. Nothing is supposed to happen outside of his control. But Kate stumbles upon something she can't avoid--something that involves Derek, the young werewolf boy that has become her friend. Kate is well aware of the risks of having friends. She lives dangerously and those around her tend to get killed. Furthermore, there is the secret that Kate has been keeping. It concerns her heritage and her destiny. If you have read any of the other novels, you can guess what I'm talking about. In Magic Strikes, we learn a lot of stuff about Kate that we were just itching to learn. The meat of Magic Strikes is Kate's struggle to remain an island--and realizing that she can't, exactly. Without meaning to, she has found people to care about. She's just that kind of person. She can't help it and even as she tries to prevent it from happening, she can't. No one will let her.
The main thrust of the novel surrounds a hellish gladiator-style tournament in which Kate's friend Derek has become involved. Kate agrees to do a favor for Derek, but it nearly gets him killed. Kate, wanting to avenge her friend, becomes involved in the plot to deceive Curran. She knows how angry this will make him--but that's part of the allure. Kate is frightened of her attraction to the Beast Lord. She knows that sleeping with him would destroy her credibility with the Order, but the bigger risk is giving him her heart. She is certain that he would break it as soon as she gave it to him. Going against him serves two purposes for Kate: the possibility of saving Derek and pushing the Beast Lord away and making certain he will no longer want her.
I've enjoyed the first two books in this series so much that I have been afraid that this intallment would disappoint me. It didn't. We learn more about Kate and there is, therefore, more to like. She tries to be hard, but we all know she's a big softy inside. That doesn't mean she isn't willing to fight for her friends--quite the opposite. Kate would go to the ends of the earth for those she cares about. What she doesn't realize is that they would do the same for her.
There's plenty of action in this book. I have to confess that the fight scenes were probably my least favorite part of the book. I like the meaty character-driven stuff. I was pleased to see more of Julie, and of Derek. I am not-so-secretly hoping those two get together when Julie is, you know, old enough. It could happen. More of Julie also means seeing more of Kate's mother/aunt side. She should totally be my aunt. How awesome is the scene where she picks Julie up at her school? We should all be so lucky. There is also the trademark Kate Daniels humor. She's funny even when she's at her lowest. I can envision her at working so hard she can't remember if she ate all the pie in her fridge. I can picture her concern for Slayer and her sword smoking when she thinks of the people who hurt Derek. You should read these books. Seriously. They're awesome. Wait, are you still here? Get thee to a bookstore for heaven's sake.(less)
I have a confession to make. Exotic dancers are usually an automatic turn-off for me. Book-wise I mean (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). However, such is the awesomeness of Sharon and Tom Curtis that I willingly braved the world of male strippery in order to read this book. I wasn't disappointed. I read it in one sitting (well, I was on an airplane, but still...). Unfortunately, it didn't get me through the entire flight. This is a short novel, as it's a reprint of an old Loveswept series romance. The book was over at 56% on my Kindle--the rest being excerpts from other Loveswept rereleases. I'm putting this down on the negative side of the book--through no fault of the authors. I hate when they pad books this way. I'd rather just know it was a short book. Yes, Samhain, I'm looking at you. Sharon and Tom Curtis have written some of the best romances I've ever read. I might be romanticizing (get it--heh), but I never fail to believe that their main characters truly love each other. Lightning That Lingers is no exception. It tells the story of Philip, who has chosen to resolve his land-rich/cash-poor problem by becoming a stripper, and Jennifer the prudish and inexperienced librarian who comes to love him. This is a common theme in romance novels--and regular ones. Yet, Philip isn't concerned about preserving his family's heritage--he cares far more about the land and the creatures that live on it. Philip is a biologist, specializing in birds of prey. He has a pet Screech Owl--who is one of the best supporting characters, ever--and tiny owlets who share his bed. Jennifer, by contrast, is the daughter of an unwed mother. This is where you have to remember that Jennifer must have been born in the Sixties and come of age in the Seventies. I'm not entirely sure that "illegitimacy" has lost its stigma even today, but that's a discussion for another time. Growing up in such "shameful" circumstances led to Jennifer's shyness with men. Philip's sweetness towards Jennifer, and the patience and care he takes with her are touching to behold. He's the only man that could draw a woman whose fear of men is so deeply ingrained out of her shell. As you can imagine, the sticking point in the romance is Philip's profession. He strips to keep himself--and his property--afloat. Philip deplores his job. He hates stripping, and he hates being an object of lust for so many nameless, faceless women. An interesting juxtaposition, right? It's rare to find a male character facing this dilemma and I can only imagine that this was even more the case in 1983. And what about Jennifer? Naturally a stripper boyfriend would be difficult for a woman like her. And when her mother writes that she's planning to go to the strip joint where Philip works...well, that would be difficult for anyone. I'm a little prudish at heart myself, so I have to add this part: I would not be okay with a boyfriend who was a stripper. And I often felt that Jennifer was made to feel bad because she had issues with it. Even though part of Philip's act was kissing other women. Double not okay. Why should Jennifer be made to feel bad because she struggled to accept such a profession for her boyfriend? And while the scene where Jennifer goes to watch Philip's act is heartwrenching, the fall-out is mostly about how Philip feels knowing she's been watching and not Jennifer's, on seeing him be intimate with other women. I can't even begin to imagine how I would react in the same situation--but I do know that I would object to being made to feel bad for whatever emotions I was experiencing. Lightning That Lingers is a sweet little gem of a novel. It's not without its flaws, but I think you'll enjoy reading it all the same. Sharon and Tom Curtis have a knack for timelessness. Though this book takes place almost thirty years ago, most of the themes and the people could easily be transported to the present day. I hope that Random House rereleases some more titles by this pair. I'd love to see what else they can do.(less)
The beautiful cover of What I Saw and How I Lied attracted me way back when it was first published in hardcover, but it took me a long time to pick it up and read it. I would like to add that in addition to being a nice cover, the image of a girl putting on bright red lipstick turns out to be terribly relevant to the story. So, a nice pat on the back for Scholastic. The time period of the 1940s is one of my favorites, so I was looking forward to reading this book. Not many authors write about the post-war period, especially Teen authors, so this book was like a double treat. I expected to fully enjoy this book—after all, it won the National Book Award in 2008—and I’m sorry and, perhaps embarrassed to say that I didn’t. Now comes the hard part: explaining why.
The first reason that I did not like What I Saw is because I was hard pressed to find a character I enjoyed. It wasn’t Evie. It wasn’t her mother or her stepfather. It sure wasn’t Peter. It wasn’t Wally or even Grandma Glad. This, right off the bat, is a terrible way to read a novel. I thought, at first, that Evie was going to improve—this is, after all, a coming-of-age story. It’s the kind of book where you can expect to dislike some aspect of the character’s personality. The problem was, I never moved past my initial dislike. I didn’t like Evie at the end of the book any more than I liked her in the beginning. In fact, I thought she was kind of an idiot. For the next part of my review, I’m issuing a spoiler warning, so beware!
* * * * * SPOILER * * * * *
Judy Bundell paints (or tries to paint) Evie as a young, naïve character. There are things going on all around Evie that she fails to understand. For example, her mother is sleeping with the man that Evie has a crush on. Her stepfather is not as financially secure as he has led Evie to believe. There is Anti-Semitism in the world. Gah! The things that Evie doesn’t know could fill a book—oh, they have already, haven’t they?
Let me give you the general plot line: Evie is a fifteen-year-old girl from Queens. It’s 1947 and her stepfather has return from Europe and the war and started chain of stores that sell household appliances. One day Evie’s stepfather, Joe, decides to take the family to Florida for a late summer vacation. When they get there, Evie, her mother and Joe make friends with the Graysons, a stylish couple that owns a hotel in New York. They also meet young ex-GI Peter Coleridge, on whom Evie immediately develops a crush. Unbeknownst to Evie (who thinks that Peter returns the instant attraction) her mother and Peter begin an affair. Though Evie views her mother as cover for her daily car rides with Peter, she doesn’t realize that she is the one who is the third wheel. There is also the fact that there is some thinly veiled animosity between Peter and Joe. Finally, Evie is struggling with the fact that she has always lived in the shadow of her beautiful, glamorous mother. She is struggling to have the confidence in herself to become the woman she wishes she were.
I was fine with Evie struggling to find herself. I could understand her desire for a man who was a man and not a boy. What I didn’t buy was that she was too naïve to sense that there was something between Peter and her mother. I’m not saying that Evie should have been able to guess exactly what was going on, but there were times when I couldn’t believe that she didn’t sense any underlying currents. I guessed what was going to happen the first time Peter and Evie’s mother met, and I didn’t go out with them every day, day after day. It made me think not that Evie was young and naïve, but that she was as dense and perceptive as a brick.
So not only is Evie completely blind to the situation between her mother and Peter, she is also completely oblivious to the nature of the relationship between Peter and her stepfather. Evie knows that Joe doesn’t like Peter, but even though Peter drops some pretty heavy hints, she never even guesses at the nature of the conflict between the two. This bewildered me. As a teenager I was constantly making up stories. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think of teenagers as being ace at jumping to conclusions. But maybe Evie is the exception to the rule.
I also never felt like I was really immersed in the post-War period. Blundell definitely dropped hints and made chronologically relevant allusions to 1947, but I was never quite able to suspend my disbelief. It just felt like modern day to me, despite Evie’s reflections on Victory Gardens and rationing.
I also want to write about it Peter. I didn’t like him and, frankly, I couldn’t see why Evie did. Sure, he was “movie-star handsome”, but he was also a liar and a thief. Not to mention he was sleeping with her mother. Granted, Evie didn’t know any of this, but that’s partly my point. Evie never questions anything Peter says, even when he slips up. The author’s hints that Peter isn’t who he says he is are blatant enough for the readers to suspect him almost in the beginning. I remember being a teenager, and I remember being gullible, but Evie is more than gullible; she’s slow on the uptake. I also failed to understand her repeated insistence that Peter “was a good man”, even when all was finally revealed about him.
This review is getting pretty long, so I’m going to try to wrap this up. I can’t finish this review without touching on the main thrust of the novel—the lies that Evie tells. I can understand why she told them. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have lied if it meant saving my own parents, no matter what they did. But there was something off about Evie’s decision. The fact is that Evie’s lies drastically changed her relationship with her parents in a significant way. In the beginning of the novel, Evie is controlled by her mother and by Joe. At the end, due to the lies that she tells, she ends the novel as the person who now has the power. Evie seems to revel in this, which, in my opinion, puts a distasteful spin on her actions and makes them not as noble as they appear to be. (less)
Boy, it's just not my week. I set aside Witch Heart so I could start on Big Bad Wolf and I guess I got what I deserved. The only thing is, I didn't like Witch Heart a whole lot more than I liked Big Bad Wolf. It's too bad, really. Enough to turn a girl off Paranormal Romance for a while. Kidding!
I knew going into this book that I wasn't reading the first book in the series. I was prepared for missing puzzle pieces and not being able to connect to certain characters in the novel. Unfortunately, that wasn't Witch Heart's biggest weakness. I think my main struggle with this book was that it suffered from the thing that turns most people away from Romance novels: the hero and the heroine go from zero to sixty in as many pages. I hate that. I like the instant attraction storyline--but I don't like it when the main characters hurry into bed together as though the author is chasing them there with a chainsaw. Sexual tension is at its most delicious when there's time for said tension to build. Bast doesn't give us that with Jack and Claire and that's the major flaw in this book.
Let me tell you a little about the plot. In Bast's world, there are witches, warlocks and demons. There's also a demon world. Occasionally, the two worlds intermix, and not with good results. Demons and warlocks are the bad guys. Witches are the good guys--and in Bast's universe, even males are called witches. I admit that tripped me up every time I ran across it. The hero of Witch Heat is Jack. Jack works as the bodyguard (I think) of Thomas, the leader of his coven. In what I assume was a previous book, Thomas was sent into the demon world, where he met our heroine, Claire. Claire's mother dragged her into the demon world when she was five. After Claire's mother died, Claire was never able to return to Earth--so she has lived the last 25 years of her life as handmaiden to the demon Rue. Claire met Thomas and developed a crush on him in the last book (again, I'm assuming) and helped Thomas escape back to Earth. Then, Rue (who had been tampering with her magick for years), forced something called an elium into Claire and shoved her through a portal that left her stranded on Earth.
The witches of Bast's world have powers that are linked to the elements: air, water, fire and earth. Claire is an earth witch, but because of Rue's tampering, she has access to the powers of the other elements. The elium inside of her is also a dangerous source of power. If extracted from Claire's "seat" of power, the elium could be used as a weapon. This makes Claire the target of some power-hungry demons. The main thrust of the plot is twofold: hiding from the demons trying to find Claire and figuring out how to extract the elium from her.
On Earth, Claire seeks the help of the Coven. Thomas, who is now married, brings Jack to rescue Claire. When the two meet, Claire still hasn't gotten over her infatuation with Thomas--but don't worry. A few more pages will take care of that little detail. It'll be forgotten like it was never there. Claire is supposed to be the outsider in the story. She's lived on another plane for most of her life. Her understanding of modern slang and pop culture comes and goes. She's also lived in an emotional vacuum. She lived among demons who did not much care for her and the only demon she thought did (Rue) forced the elium on her and shoved her, alone, through a portal to Earth. Furthermore, Claire's one and only romantic relationship ended in tragedy. So she begins the novel as a cold, closed off character.
It's the hero's job to "warm" Claire up. Jack is a playboy, or he has been since the death of his wife. Though he's slept around a lot since her death, Jack likes to keep it casual. Which is why his attraction to Claire goes unacted upon for about sixty pages. I personally never bought Jack's grief over his wife's death. He seemed like he felt more guilt than grief. She certainly never gets any personality. Jack professes to miss being married, but we never learn a single personal detail of their life together. Does he miss the way she took all the closet space? The fact that she never rinsed the sink after brushing her teeth? I don't know because Jack never tells us. The same goes for Claire's dearly departed ex. They're both faceless, personality-less and therefore, it's hard to buy into either Claire or Jack's grief. Who would miss two such nondescript people?
The other thing that I didn't like about this book was lack of follow-through and consistency. Characters were constantly contradicting each other and themselves. At first Claire doesn't want to endanger anyone. Then she's suggesting that the most expendable witches come with her. First she's in love with Thomas but then she remembers that he's married and, anyway, here's this hot fire witch who'll do just as well. Sometimes it's best if Claire stays away from the Coven. Then they're driving to get to it. Jack doesn't want to sleep with Claire because it'll feel too much like cheating on his wife. Then, in the next scene, they're doing it and all feelings of betrayal vanish in the afterglow.
Then there's the fact that this book is basically made up of three different kinds of scenes:
Claire insisting that she doesn't want to put anyone in danger. Thomas insisting that his wife, Isabelle, would kill him if he didn't save the woman that saved her husband. Jack insisting that he and the other witches can take care of themselves.
Claire and Jack having sex.
Claire and Jack fighting off demons with things like: the ginormous explosion of the elium, Jack's fire magick, the four threads of elemental magick that Claire the Amazing Anomaly can draw on, thanks to Rue's experimentation.
You could say I got tired of it. Especially toward the end of the novel, when Jack and Claire had sex almost every other page. I couldn't wait to finish this book, just so I could be done with it. I don't mind sex in my books. I wouldn't be able to enjoy Kresley Cole or Nalini Singh if I did. But Anya Bast goes way over the top. It's not the quality of what she writes--although I admit to skimming and rolling my eyes--it's how often she inserts love scenes into this book. I felt like Jack and Claire only ever connected on the physical plane, which doesn't give me much hope for their future. Which makes it a good thing, I guess, that I never became attached to either character. (less)
Trace of Fever was one of those books you come across where you aren't sure why you kept reading it, or why you find yourself wanting to read more by the author, but you do. It's hard to say why I keep picking up Lori Foster's books. Trace of Fever, in particular, falls into some of my least favorite Romance-novel traps. To begin with, the hero is pure evil. He's a scumbag, he's perverted, he kills people and is into human trafficking. Evil is his only dimension which, frankly, makes him uninteresting, and the demonstrations of his evilness gratuitous. If only it were always so easy to identify the bad guy. Also, Trace of Fever jumps right into the sexual tension. I hate that, and it never bodes well for the future of the relationship. There are also some ridiculous scenes that are supposed to be sexy, but strike me as more humiliating than anything else. Trace searches Priss to ensure she doesn't have a weapon. For some reason this includes relieving her of her bra. Then there's the scene where Priscilla is forced to model skimpy underwear for Trace and completely overcoming any embarrassment she might have felt, she decides to torture him at the same time. Um, okay. What? What woman--who has never worn so few clothes in the presence of a man before--has the self-confidence to do so with a man she's barely met? It doesn't jibe with Priss' character at all. Then again, what am I supposed to expect of a twenty-four year old virgin who runs a sex shop? I'll just say that if a guy I was attracted to did these things to me, I'd get over it pretty darn fast. Still, as I said, there's something compelling about these stories. I don't take them seriously. This is escapist fiction. It's a fantasy world populated by the Good and the Bad, both distinctly separate and easily identifiable. The men are rich mercenaries who, despite the fact that they basically get violent in exchange for money, are meant to be honorable. The women are the voluptuous vixens who love them. No, honestly, if it's your opinion that they do something else, please let me know. Sadly, knowing all of this doesn't mean I won't be reading Savor the Danger. I'm definitely inclined to revisit such a simple, fantastical world. Sometimes my eyes need the exercise of a repeated rolling. I don't want them to get fat.(less)
Now that I'm finished with the series, it's impossible for me to review Ascend without keeping the previous two books in mind. Of course, this is how a series works, right? Well, yes and no. In a good series, each volume stands up on its own and builds on the larger story arc. Unfortunately, that's not how many series books are written these days. More often than not, series books function as excuses for authors to write cliffhangers. Writing an ending that manages to complete the conflict in Book A while still compelling the readers to read Book B (and maintaining their interest in the Main Conflict [which arches from books A to D, or whatever]) takes serious talent. I'm not saying that I've never read a successful cliffhanger, or that I haven't enjoyed one, either. It totally have. What I'm trying to say, in my long-winded fashion, is that this isn't just going to be a review of Ascend, but of the Trylle Trilogy as a series. I said in my review of Torn that I felt that the first two books could have been condensed into one volume. What I realized in Ascend was that the love triangle was what made a total of three books necessary. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was true. I suspect that Hocking changed 'ships midstream. I was pretty sure I knew who Wendy was going to end up with by the time I was halfway through Torn. What I didn't know was how Amanda Hocking was going to be able to make it work when she'd entrenched Wendy pretty firmly in relationship with the other guy. Hence the three books. Which brings me to this point: A love triangle will never be enough to make up for plot filler. It just won't. Authors that ignore this fact give love triangles their bad rep. Well, among other things. Even worse, however, is that I'm convinced that Hocking herself knew who she wanted as Wendy's HEA and didn't know how to get rid of the spare. Basically, she wrote herself into a love triangle corner. (Note: As an argument against this theory, however, I've noticed that Hocking's other books also feature love triangles. So, she might just like them). Funnily enough, the greatest outcome of reading the Trylle books was how deeply it made me think about self-published novels versus, er, not. Hocking has a lot of potential, but here's the thing: The Trylle Trilogy read as three good self-published novels. But. I expected more once it got in the hands of a publishing house and, I assume, an editor. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't an editor like a personal trainer? It whips the soft, doughy mass of the first draft into the sculpted magnificence that is eventually published. (Not always, sadly, but that's another post.) That's the issue with a lot of self-pubs--and the benefit of getting published by someone else. The Trylle Trilogy could have greatly benefited from that kind of special attention, and because I read the St. Martin's Griffin print version, I feel justified in holding up the lack against the final product. I can't deny that, whatever problems I had with Amanda Hocking's bewildering plotting, her writing is readable. I can see why she's gained such a wide audience. I read the books and enjoyed them, but in a mild way. I won't be rereading them. This isn't a series I'd recommend to anyone, and I certainly wouldn't have bought the paperback versions for myself. I'm happy to report that the ebook versions are still $0.99, though, and you might be able to get them through the library. I think it will be interesting to see how Watersong turns out, and to see how shifting away from self-publishing will affect her writing.(less)
I will say, right off the bat, that I liked this book a lot better than the first volume in the series (Geist). I suspect this was because I knew the characters a bit better, or because I knew what to expect. There is romance in these books, but it's light and of the variety that makes me nervous about the likelihood of a happy ending. My enjoyment of this book was also due to the fact that I enjoyed the conflict. I'm fascinated by stories where people's religious fanaticism ultimately works against them. This is probably because I was raised by parents who were only fanatic about their fear of organized religion. It's probably akin to watching a car wreck. You can't look away. Spectyr picks up a few months after the end of Geist. Sorcha is trying to end her failed relationship with her former partner and husband Kolya. Unfortunately, Kolya doesn't want the relationship to end and he's hanging around. Therefore, it's almost a relief when a prophetic dream suggests that Raed, the Young Pretender's life could be in danger. Manufacturing an excuse, Sorcha and Merrick take off for the capital of Chioma, a land which appears to be modeled after the Turkish Empire. At least, its prince has a harem and the environment is a desert. Again, I'd've liked a map to help me sort out all these locations. Instead, I kind of just imagined Chioma being on the northern bit of Africa, facing the Mediterranean. Sorcha and Merrick find Raed, who has come to Chioma to rescue his sister. It's this very action, of course, that has put him in danger. A goddess has reawakened and she is determined to destroy the Rossin, whom she holds responsible for her imprisonment. Unfortunately, Raed and the Rossin are indivisible. Killing one means killing the other. Throughout the course of the book, we learn a little more about Merrick, which is nice. The first book focused on the bond that developed between Sorcha, Merrick and Raed. It also provided the conditions for Sorcha and Raed to become romantically involved. In Spectyr, we delve a little deeper into the lives and histories of these characters, but I still can't help wishing Ballantine had revealed more. Sorcha in particular remains a mystery. I'm unclear on how she became so cynical, which in turn makes it hard for me to believe that she was ever able to be married to Kolya at all. She reads as someone who would be as closed off from her husband as he supposedly was to her. In all, though, this is probably a series that I'll stick with. I like the writing, the dirigible, and, in particular, I like Merrick. I'm hoping that Nynnia doesn't absorbed his every romantic thought, though. Especially since there's potential for him in a character I like much better. I'm probably out of luck there.(less)
Since I listened to the audio version of this book, I'm splitting my review into two parts: 1) The Book and 2) The Narration. The Book The Iron Fey opens with Meghan Chase telling the story of her father's inexplicable, unsolved disappearance, and how it led to current life as the stepdaughter of a poor Southern farmer. On the surface, Meghan's life is normal, if a bit dismal. She doesn't have fashionable clothing, the guy she likes doesn't seem to know she exists (nor does anyone else for that matter), she only has one friend, and her mom won't agree to take her to take the test for her driver's license. Little does Meghan know that her problems aren't as mundane as she thought they were. You see, Meghan is half-Fae. And her brother has been kidnapped in order to lure her into Faerie. And it turns out her best friend is Fae. Not just any Fae, but the famous Puck, and all these years he's been watching over her on behalf of his king, Meghan's father. Just when Meghan thinks things can't get any worse, she meets her stepmother, Titania, and witnesses the opening salvo of a war between the Winter and Summer Courts. These are all incidental to Meghan's quest to rescue her brother. Or she thinks they are, anyway. She leaves the Fae Courts to embark on her rescue mission. Along her intermittent way, she's accompanied by Grimalkin, the Caith-Sith, Puck in his Fae form, and Ash, a prince of the Winter Court. Meghan is not my favorite heroine. It would make sense for her to be ignorant of Faerie ways, but Meghan isn't just ignorant, she's thick-skulled. When she encounters things that are different from her expectations, she becomes easily bewildered and, ultimately, doesn't take action. Also, I find it a little unbelievable that she was so entirely ignorant of all things Faerie. It would be nearly impossible for her not to have developed some sort of preconceived notions about Faeries--especially since she's obviously read A Midsummer Night's Dream because she knows who Puck is. What I found most irritating about Meghan was her constant goodness. Kagawa overdoes Meghan's pacifism a wee bit too much. It's like when vegetarians are turned into vampires or werewolves. Okay, I get it. The heroine loves all god's creatures. There were times when I (who hides her face during boxing movies) wished someone would inject her with some bloodthirsty juice already. As for the other characters, I never felt that I got to know them very well. Ash is kind of typical Fae--cold and stand-offish, haughty, but beautiful--and Puck is Puck. Grimalkin was a slightly more interesting character, but not very. Kagawa left these characters largely unexplored, and while that makes sense in Grim's case, it's not so for Puck and Ash. At least, I don't think it is since they're Meghan's romantic interests. Not that I think Puck has a chance. I can even understand a little mystery about Ash, but Meghan's spent most of her childhood with Puck as a friend. Wouldn't she know more quirks of his personality? Or maybe wonder why she was friends with someone who was never, ever serious? There was very little hint of their shared past history, which seemed odd, given that he was her only friend. I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy listening to this book. It's more that there wasn't anything special in it for me. I wasn't particularly attracted to either of the male leads, and Fae just seems like the woods at first and a junkyard later. A few times, Ash does things with his winter magic, but having finished the book, I have very little idea what it means to be fae--or in Meghan's case, half-fae. I don't know if I'll be listening to the next book in the series. The Narrator A good narrator is hard to come by, and I think this is especially true for teen books. The range of voices required is, frankly, exhausting, and I've listened to far too many narrators give characters bizarre quirks of speech (impediments, lisps, etc) in order to illustrate who was speaking. By and large, Kristine Hvram did a good job with Meghan, but many of her male characters sounded alike. I confess that I cringed every time she used the word faerie because she put so much emphasis on the "fae" part. Maybe this is how you pronounce the word, but it annoyed me anyway. (less)
I know that, on at least one occasion, I've mentioned that I don't go for Time Travel/Highlander books, but after reading Shadowfever, I wanted to give KMM another try. Thus, I spent a great deal of time at my local used bookstore (not a rare occurrence) looking through her Highlander series. Since the books are connected, but can be read as stand-alones (though KMM says she thinks your experience will be enriched by reading them in order), I allowed myself to choose the one that most appealed to me. Plus, um, I saw The Dark Highlander on a list of books with alpha heroes. Ahem. After having read it, I suspect all of KMM's heroes are alphas. Which is not something I object to. I also want to add, here and now, that I've decided that I'm a big fan of the well-defined arm with the metal cuff/band/thingy around it. Well-oiled six pack abs and veiny, bulging arms don't really do it for me. But there's something about that arm band thing that I can really get behind. I also appreciate that the model doesn't have waist-length black hair. I tried very, very hard to ignore every passage in the book that mentioned it. This book satisfied me in that it makes it clear that Karen Marie Moning is a talented writer. She knows how to craft heroines that are likable, sweet and innocent without being TSTL. Furthermore, Dageus (the eponymous Dark Highlander) is an infinitely more satisfying hero than Barrons. I know I could be tarred and feathered for saying such a thing but, hey, it's my blog. Though I'm partial to the first person narrative, it occurs to me that Dageus' turns at telling the story do a lot for humanizing a character that is, essentially, very similar to Barrons. Because part of the story is told from his perspective, we know that he has emotions and a conscience. I also really appreciated that, although sex keeps Dageus' demons at bay, he has enough sense to realize that, if he went looking for another woman in order to "save" Chloe from his, er, passions, he would lose her. This was especially satisfying after having read J.R. Ward's Lover Eternal. In Lover Eternal, sex calms Rhage's inner demon, thereby justifying what I consider an infidelity. KMM doesn't let the same thing happen with Dageus. He knows that, inner demons or no, Chloe would see it as unfaithfulness. It's bizarre, but coming across the same scenario, with the hero making an entirely different choice, helped me to put my irritation with Lover Eternal to rest. Thanks KMM! What wasn't satisfying for me was the ending. I've come to the conclusion that KMM doesn't really know how to write them. The Dark Highlander went along swimmingly until the denouement. I can't get into specifics without spoilers (duh), so I'm going to try to be as vague as possible while still making sense. Basically, it was all too easy. I mean, I'm always glad for a happy ending, but this one came waaaaaaaay too conveniently. And simply. After such a complex storyline, it fell flat. And I was enormously irritated at how much took place off-screen. It's all: this happens. Now three weeks have passed. Then this happens. Another three weeks pass. Everyone rides off into the sunset. Gr! I'm still upset about it! I will say that, flaws and all, The Dark Highlander made me want to read some of the other books in the series. I want to go back for Drustan and Gwen's story and I think I'll really enjoy Adam Black's. Mm. I just wish there was less of the long hair. Gee-ross. But at least KMM's heroes don't have mustaches. Note to self: be thankful for small favors. (less)
I was really excited about this book. I thought I had unearthed a heretofore undiscovered (by me) Teen Paranormal Romance Set in a Private Boarding School. And I had. And it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great, either. All in all, this was a pretty average book. There was nothing new or surprising in it and there was nothing in it that got me excited one way or the other. I mean, in either a good way or a bad way. True, I rolled my eyes at certain points, but sometimes I do that when I'm reading a book that is a guilty pleasure. Shadow Hills doesn't qualify as a guilty pleasure book. Whether or not I'm eager to get to the end of a book is one of the benchmarks I use to gauge how much I like what I'm reading. That's probably true for you, so I'll just say that I was eager to finish Shadow Hills. But not because I wanted to see how things turned out at the end--because I wanted to move on to the next book in my TBR pile.
Shadow Hills takes place in one of my favorite settings. Which I've mentioned already, so there's no need for me to tell you what it is for the six thousandth time. The main character and narrator, Persephone "Phe" Archer, has come from LA to go to school at Devenish, your standard East Coast Prep School. It's somewhere in Massachusetts. There's no point in my rehashing all the things the description tells you about this novel, so I won't. But the death of Phe's sister plays a much smaller role in this book than it suggests. Phe's sister (predictably named Athena) died some time ago--six months to a year. I don't know why, exactly, but that surprised me. I think it took some of the immediacy away from the story--but on the other hand, it gave Phe enough time to have moved on and eased up on grieving enough to move on with her life a little.
Phe is fifteen, though she doesn't come off the page as one so young. This could be attributed to the death of her sister, but she seemed a little too, I don't know, adult-minded to be authentically fifteen. Also, I couldn't help feeling that she was a bit Mary Sue-ish. I say this without knowing anything about the author. Except what's on the back cover blurb. But I suspect that Anastasia Hopcus is as much a music snob as Phe. Even if Phe isn't a Mary Sue, she's a wee bit on the perfect side. If she has flaws we don't see them much. She's attractive, of average height, a good swimmer, a decent student, makes friends easily, sticks up for herself and others, and it all kind of got boring after a while. What foibles Phe has are cute. Like snorting when she laughs or blushing easily.
Zach, the hero and designated "hot guy" also suffers from the Perfect Syndrome. He's extremely good-looking, kind to his elders, superpowered and supersmart. He stands up for others and rescues kittens from rooftops. Okay, I made the last part up. But, seriously, when Zach's alter-ego (and enemy and cousin) showed up on the scene, I wanted him to be the hero because, hello? Dark chocolate-y bad guys are infinitely more interesting than vanilla-y boring wonder boys. Yawn. Unfortunately, the bad guys crosses too far into evil jerk territory to be an realistic foil for Zach. In fact, he's so perfect he doesn't really have any competition. You know, I think I was more disappointed in this book than I thought when I first started this review.
The thing that this book suffers from the most is that vanilla thing I mentioned. I don't really have a problem with vanilla, as a flavor, but I'd much rather eat dark chocolate. I didn't really care whether or not Phe and Zach got together. They were too cutesy together and everything was too easy. I was talking to a friend once about how a couple on a TV show I liked was sooo boring and she said that was probably the sign of a good relationship. If that's so, then Phe and Zach will, in all likelihood, spend an eternity together. (less)
Someday, I'm going to read a book where a character that comes from California but isn't from a hippie commune. I'm just saying. Some day it's going to happen.
The Magnolia League--which I keep accidentally calling The Magnolia Legacy--tells the story of Alex. Before her mother died, Alex lived on a commune in Northern California, where her mother was an herbalist and she grew dreadlocks in order to impress a boy. After her mother's death, Alex was uprooted from her happy, hippie, communal life and sent to live with her aristocratic, Southern grandmother. This means that, in addition to grieving for her mother, Alex must also grieve for her home, and her former way of life.
I realize as I write this how often the death of a parent is used to send a teenage heroine hurtling into a strange, new world. Loss of a parent is undeniably a life-changing event (I prefer to believe that my own parents are immortal), but it's also remarkably convenient. By which I mean: insta-angst and automatic lack of adult supervision. Wondering why Mom and Dad have failed to notice that Suzie has been sneaking out at night to fight monsters? Dead parents take care of that particular plot irritation. I don't mean to imply that Katie Crouch was unsuccessful in making Alex believable as a grieving daughter. I bought her grief as genuine. This is merely by way of commenting on a trend in teen fiction.
I didn't realize at first, that this book was going to be paranormal. And, to be honest, I was kind of bummed to find out that it was. This is only natural when a book doesn't match your expectations. I was imagining something in the vein of conspiracy, murder mystery with a side of "If I told you, then I'd have to kill you". Not so. The supernatural angle is the cornerstone to this book. While, for a time, it toys with being a coming-of-age type story, it isn't really. This book is about old Southern superstition. In particular, voodoo.
My overwhelming feeling, after having read this book, was that it was predictable. I knew where things were going with Alex. Nothing about her journey particularly surprised me. She becomes disillusioned with the past she idealized, and with the people she idealized. She finds a new love, and new friends. She uncovers a mystery about her mother and remembers that she wasn't as normal as she once thought she was. I think the author used this book purely as a setup for the rest of the series and that, frankly, doesn't make me like it much. And I haven't even gotten to the heroine, yet.
Alex begins the book as a free-thinker. She's sort of classically "Why can't we all just get along?" And while she has a point about thinking for yourself, about not judging people based on their appearance (although she does a fair amount of that herself), Alex's real personality is that of a scared little girl. She's a master of self-delusion. She deluded herself about life on the commune, and she deludes herself into thinking she can take advantage of the benefits of being a Magnolia without succumbing to its dark side. She also just kind of follows along, never really taking action--which doesn't jibe with her support of individuality. Her actions don't really make sense. I'm going to spoil a bit here, so highlight the next section at your own risk.
It doesn't make sense that Alex decides to do the love spell on Thaddeus. It would have been far more in keeping with her character to work some kind of spell that made certain no one was making him want to be with her. It still would have been breaking her promise never to magic him--but it would have made more sense given her moral code.
Of course, it will come as no surprise to you that I also found the romance to be a disappointment. Not even the attraction rang true for me. I bought that Alex might like Thaddeus because we have access to her internal dialog. What I never bought was that Thaddeus liked Alex. Not because she didn't deserve him, but that there wasn't any real indication that he really liked her. I mean--he says the words and stuff--but there were none of those little details that show when a guy likes a girl. You know what I mean?
With a lackluster romance, confusing characterization, and predictability weighing this book down, I can't say that I really liked it. Which is an excellent way to lead into the giveaway, is it not? Either way, you'll have a chance to read this book for yourself because I have an extra copy of The Magnolia League for giveaway. Here are the contest rules:
1. This contest opens today, May 16, and ends at midnight on May 23. 2. This contest is only open in the U.S. 3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org. 4. To enter: simply leave a comment on this post. Please include your email address so I can contact you if you win. (less)
After gobbling down books one and two, I began The Prophet with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. There are three more books planned for the...moreAfter gobbling down books one and two, I began The Prophet with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. There are three more books planned for the Graveyard Queen books, but they won't be out for a while. I don't even think they have publication dates yet. I knew that The Prophet was going to have to sustain me for a loooong time, and I was a nervous wreck that it would leave me as yearning as I was after reaching the end of The Restorer and The Kingdom. I was both right and wrong on these fronts. The Prophet has some definite resolution--but I can also see that there's plenty of room for more story.
The Prophet brings Amelia Gray back to Savannah. She's been summoned by Detective Devlin, whose message that "he needs her" is more temptation than she can resist. It also brings Amelia back to the graveyard where she witnessed so much horror in The Restorer. Worse, it brings her back into contact with some ghosts who either want to use her for their own purposes or just want to harm her. Amelia's father's rules go so far out the window, Amelia's sure she's doomed.
In the meantime, Amelia and Devlin's reunion isn't exactly what she pictured it. Devlin is more mysterious and enigmatic than ever, and there's a pair of lovely sisters in the mix. The resemblance to the classic Gothic, Rebecca, deepens in this book as mysteries are unraveled. It's not as successful as The Restorer, but I loved it all the same.(less)
While I was eager to pick up this book, it wasn't because the first one was so amazing. It would be more accurate to say that I saw potential, and was curious to see whether book two would deliver on it. Of course, now that I've told you that, I have to actually attempt to answer the question. Here's the thing. I enjoyed reading Torn, but I didn't love it. In a great many ways, this book doesn't take the reader anywhere particularly different from book one. I think books one and two should have been smooshed together, and once smooshed, trimmed of excess fat. Hocking took two books to write what she could have written in one. Yes, Torn introduces new characters not previously seen in Switched but, personally? I think character trimming could also just as easily have been performed. Another thing that bothered me was that I didn't need two books to get to the two major reveals in Torn. I guessed at both of them early in book one, and not "revealing" them until book two was stretching. Familiar plot twists--if used--should be revealed as quickly as possible. I wouldn't have been thrilled to see them at the end of the first volume, but I would have minded them less, knowing that there were more goodies to come in the sequel. Here's the thing, though: I'm looking forward to book three. Hocking's characters aren't thrilling me, and neither is her plotting, but there's still something keeping me reading. Her narrative style makes Switched and Torn easy reads, and I have enough investment in the story to follow through to the end. I don't think this is going to be a series I'll be going back to reread, but it's definitely got enough to keep a (somewhat) jaded YA reader hooked to the bandwagon. (less)
Eerie, awesome and utterly atmospheric, The Restorer is the Southern book I've been waiting for. I listened to the audio version, which means that I h...moreEerie, awesome and utterly atmospheric, The Restorer is the Southern book I've been waiting for. I listened to the audio version, which means that I had the added pleasure of hearing the accents of the characters. Whether Khristine Hvam got them right or not, I don't know (though I noticed that she depended a bit too much on droppin' g's), but it tickled me.
The Restorer tells the story of lonely Amelia Gray, who makes her living as a graveyard restorer. It's not just a profession, though. Amelia can also see ghosts--a talent which comes at her peril. For the most part, though, Amelia has managed to keep herself safe from ghosts--until she meets Detective John Devlin.
The attraction is as immediate as it is unfortunate. Because Devlin is haunted by the ghosts of his dead wife and child. Too bad the dead body that shows up in the cemetery Amelia's been hired to restore means they keep running into each other.
With Gothic shades of Rebecca and a compelling mystery to boot, The Restorer captivated me. I listened to the entire book nonstop until I heard the last word. Then I headed back to Audible to get book two.(less)
I've been in something of a reading slump for a while now, though that hasn't stopped me from acquiring zillions of books at a steady rate. However, the more I acquire, the less I seem to want to read. This is becoming a problem, I daresay, because I have some pretty good books on my shelf. I've come to the conclusion, however, that what I need is a little genre break. For the past year or so, I've been reading mostly Paranormal stuff, with a healthy dose of Dystopian. It's hard to get away from these, as they're all the rage. And don't get me wrong--I love them and I'm not about to give them up--but I also think it would be good for me to try something different for a bit. This theory--which I'm also pairing with a break from reading review books all the gosh-dang time--is based on the fact that I went from starting five books only to put them down again to swallowing The Fine Art of Truth or Dare in less than 24 hours. Truth or Dare is Romantic Comedy fare. It has certain elements of depth, but for me, its greatest appeal is its formulaic nature. The story is familiar--unpopular girl-falls-for-wealthy boy--with very few twists. By way of explaining, I should explain that, mostly, I share the books that I read with my dad. He borrows them and makes fun of himself for reading teen fiction, but we both like paranormal stuff. When I finished The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, I passed it on to my mom. I knew she'd like it because of Ella's family, in particular. She goes crazy for anything with a multicultural spin. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of her favorite movies, and Ella's extended, restaurant-owning Italian family is right up her alley. There was a lot to like in this book. Ella is sweet, shy, and lacks self-confidence because of a disfiguring scar from her childhood. She escapes real-life by delving into art, to the point that she holds imaginary conversations with one of the founders of her school. Ella's friends are also a highlight, and I appreciated that Jensen didn't take her gay friend, Frankie's, dislike of Alex in the obvious direction. On the other hand, I wanted to see more of Frankie's twin, Daniel, and felt that his storyline was truncated to the point that I felt cheated. I wonder, however, if Jensen has a companion novel planned. I wouldn't be surprised. If this book had a downside, it was Alex, and therefore the romance. I never felt like I really got to know him. He reminded me of the hero from Sixteen Candles. His main interest in Ella seemed to come from a boredom with his too-perfect life. He's popular, he's wealthy, his parents are wildly successful, and his girlfriend is the hottest girl in school. I kind of doubted that his attraction to Ella would last once the novelty was over for him. To hear me say that the romance was the weakest part of this book probably makes you wonder what made me like this book so much. I think I enjoyed it for just about everything else. It's definitely made me crave more Contemporary YA. And, on that note, I'd love any suggestions you have! (less)
Okay, I've done it. I've finished a book when I said I would. It was rather like running a marathon. I'm not used to reading on a time schedule which, of course, meant that things I had to do besides reading cropped up right and left. And suddenly, I decided to take a spinning class instead of doing my regular workout. That lost me an hour of my usual reading time.
Although, maybe I would have made all the time in the world to finish Demon's Kiss if I had liked it more. I'll be upfront and say that I got this book at my favorite used bookstore but I only chose it after half an hour of standing in front of the Paranormal section picking titles up only to put them down again. I always try to be optimistic when reading something by a new author. There's nothing better than finding a new someone who writes the kind of books that really work for you--then you often have a whole backlist waiting for you to discover. Then, it's not just a matter of waiting until the next new book comes around--there's plenty of old stuff to keep you occupied!
Eve Silver, however, was not one of those authors for me. I knew that almost right away, due to this exchange between two of the books minor characters (and no doubt, heroes for the later installments in what is clearly a series) and the hero, Ciarran.
He sucked in a slow breath, narrowed his eyes. "So how is it that Asag, a demon of uncommon power walks unbound, unfettered by his summoner?"
"Not just Asag." Darqun leaned in close. "Yesterday I found a minor demon pawing through garbage in a back alley. It had no keeper."
"No frigging way." Javier slapped his palm against the table.
"Way," Darqun grunted.
I rolled my eyes when I read this exchange. Was I being asked to believe that the three guys who talk this way are bad-ass sorcerers who have lived for centuries and continuously work to save the world from demon kind? Really? They don't even use proper swear words, not to mention the high note of melodrama in their speech and a lot of alliterative adjectives. Heh. I mean, unbound was plenty--why clarify with unfettered? Does Ciarran doubt that his friend will understand him if he doesn't use lots of synonyms? If that's the case, then I better put on my happy face for all those demons 'cuz I don't think I'm gonna live all that long. And don't get me started on his use of "T'would" and "T'was". I'll just say my eyes practically rolled right out of their sockets and leave it at that.
Don't think I've forgotten the heroine! Her name is Clea. She takes everything in stride. I mean everything. At the beginning of the book, Clea is nearly attacked by a demon. She's a hot commodity because she is something called a conduit, which, as far as I can tell, means that she can steal Ciarran's power and, also open the portal between the demon and human realms. Ciarran thoughtfully shows up in time to save her life and he basically whips her away from her old life (which includes a job and medical school) but that's okay because her parents died years ago in a car crash and she's literally just buried her grandmother. So, no one misses her, really. I can't say I blame them. Never once does Clea lament the fact that she has been dragged away from the job that allows her to pay the rent, or her third year of medical school, for which she quite clearly states she is paying for through nose. I mean, duh, it's medical school. What boggles me is that, if I had finished three years of medical school and some demons came in and, basically, destroyed my life, I'd be a little pissed. But not Clea. According to Ciarran, she's brave and stupid. Oh, wait, that last one was me talking.
Okay, okay, that all sounds a little harsh. I really hope no one ever shows this review to Eve Silver. Although, I have a hard time imagining that will ever happen. The sad part is that I'm not done nitpicking. Almost as soon as Clea and Ciarran meet (or meet again, rather, since they did [albeit informally] twenty years ago) they have almost instantaneous sexual attraction. I'm not kidding. It's zero to sixty in sixty seconds. Or whatever the phrase is. I don't mind--in fact, I like it--when characters are attracted to each other on the spot. What bothers me is when the characters leap from "he's cute" to purple prose in the space of a heartbeat. It's not that I think such things never happen, it's just that it detracts from the deliciousness that is sexual tension.To be honest, I was bored with Clea and Ciarran's relationship almost from the moment it started. There were no surprises, no interesting elements and by the time they finally gave in to their urges, I was like, okay, already! That's enough!
Other niggling plot points: As I mentioned, Clea and Cirran (more alliteration) meet twenty years before story starts, on a particularly tragic night in the former's life. At one point, when Clea is forced to return to the event of the tragedy, she reflects that she has dreamed about a certain tree at the crash site often in the years since the accident. This makes me wonder: If she so clearly remembers the tree, why doesn't she remember Ciarran's face? If the events are so burned into her memory, then it doesn't ring true to me that she doesn't recognize him when they meet again.
Also, I mentioned that Clea is a medical student, right? Well, when Clea and Ciarran finally, er, do the deed, they have a brief interaction that all responsible couples have. Yes, the one about a condom. Which makes sense. As a medical student, Clea is probably well-informed about the importance of safe sex. But when Ciarran assures Clea that he can't catch any human diseases, she takes him at his word. This is, like, the paranormal version of a guy saying, "I'm totally clean. There's no way I could have anything." And then the girl finds out she's got chlamydia six months later. Not to mention the fact that wearing a condom isn't just about sexually transmitted diseases, it's about pregnancy. I don't know if it's possible for Ciarran to have children--maybe that particular part of his physiology is different--but Silver never brings it up. I thought, at first, Clea would be pregnant at the end of the novel, like it was intentional, but I was wrong. She isn't. And Clea never thinks about the possibility. Which just seems just plain impossible for a person who is supposed to be educated about the human body. But maybe they don't teach that stuff in medical school anymore. Maybe the classes are more along the lines of "Charging Your Patients the Most Amount of Money Possible" and "Making Patients Wait Longer (Advance Studies)". Who knows.
There is one thing that I can say that is positive about this book: the publisher gets props for a relevant book cover. Ciarran has one gloved hand in the book. So does the man on the cover page. Hey, don't knock it. It's not every cover page that bears some relevance to the story. Sometimes I'm convinced publishers put all the cover art in a big hat and let their children pick them out.
Bleh. I'm tuckered out. I didn't know I had so many thoughts about this book until I wrote them all down. I would like to apologize to Eve Silver for panning her book so severely. Maybe someday, a long time from now, I will pick up another one of your books and see how you have improved as a writer. I hope so. (less)
I would imagine that, as a writer, the hardest thing must be to come up with a unique premise. Well,...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
I would imagine that, as a writer, the hardest thing must be to come up with a unique premise. Well, okay, there are probably several hardest things about being a writer. The point is, though, that when your genre is insanely popular--as Dystopians these days--it's hard to make your own stand out. As a reader, I'm at the point where I'm pretty much over totalitarian government Dystopias and this, I think is one of the main places where Traced and I had our greatest problem.
As I see it, Traced had four main issues: One, there was too much telling and not enough showing. Several times I had to remind myself that there were stakes involved. Megan Squires told us that The Hub (Traced's totalitarian government) controlled everything--in fact, there are several conversations about it--but I never felt that she showed it to us. It's difficult to generate fear of a government based solely on character say-so. More crucially, however, there's little-to-no information about why the Dystopia came about. Writers of Dystopians often overlook this and thereby drive me nuts.
Two: The love triangle sucks. Besides feeling that they entirely too dichotomous,I couldn't muster up much enthusiasm about either of the boys vying for Tess' affections. I knew that I definitely hated one of them after he backhanded a chicken across a chicken coup. Not cool. I don't care if the hen hurt the heroine--it's an effing chicken. You do not smack them across rooms. End. Of. Story. Tess' indecision between the two boys did not add up to a compelling dilemma. On the contrary, they made me dislike her intensely. Tess' lack of honesty with herself, with her family and with the two boys was, frankly, detestable. So, I guess issue 2 1/2 is: I hated the main character.
Three: It's not believable. A government that bans watches? Um...yeah, you're going to have to convince me real hard on that one. First you'd have to make me believe that a totalitarian government would do such a thing and then you're going to have to convince me that they'd be able to enforce it. And your argument better be pretty darn convincing.
Four: I've finished the book and I still don't get what tracing is. Or how Joel (one of the love interests) is able to figure out that it's going on with Tess based on a vague childhood memory. Or how she's supposed to understand her "gift." Or use it. Or possibly interpret it. Or...anything except go, "Huh?" Which is what I did upon reaching the last page.
I'm not even going to go into the ending, which made as little sense to me as the rest of the book. Suffice it to say: skip this one.(less)