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)
Oh, wait, I have to make disclaimer number two: This review contains spoilers for the first three books in the series. Especially book three.
Magic Bleeds picks up where most of us wanted it to: with the naked dinner between Kate and Curran. Okay, Curran gave Kate permission to wear a bra and underwear, as long as the latter had bows on them. Unfortunately, we learn pretty quickly that though Kate has come through on her part of the deal, Curran hasn't. All the food has gone cold while she's waited for him to show up. Kate, being Kate, debates whether or not to call and find out what's going on. When she gives in and calls, she gets the worst response possible. A third party stonewalls, telling Kate she can't talk to Curran and that, in the future, she should refer to his head of security.
I was pissed at Curran, right along with Kate. I couldn't think of any reason good enough for him to blow her off. Although...death, maybe, would work. I say this because the novels are entirely first person. Kate's mind is the only one we have privileged access to. All the stuff I've learned about Kate in the last three books makes me want to scream at Curran for standing her up. Kate may be a hard ass--okay, she is a hard ass--but inside, she's a softy. Opening herself up to Curran even a teensy bit was a big risk for her. The girl's got baggage that's fathoms deep. I wanted Curran to understand how much damage he'd done to this already damaged person and I wanted him to grovel, yesterday.
As it turns out--and I don't think I'm spoiling anything here--there is an explanation for Curran's absence. But the message that Kate should refer to Jim in the future was never resolved to my satisfaction. Curran apologizes for it--and refers to it as a misunderstanding--but it was that more than Curran's absence that really cut Kate more than anything. And I wanted Curran to understand that, and to make it better. It's satisfying that Kate gives Curran no quarter when she thinks that he's screwed her over. She said all the things I wanted her to and, ultimately, all the things that he needs to hear, even if it's hard for her. Both Kate and Curran act like adults (though not all the time--with hilarious results). What I mean is, they don't just jump in the sack and voila--they're in love. They communicate. They have dialogue about what both of them would need in order for a relationship to be possible between them. They also talk about the things that they consider nonnegotiable. I can't help thinking that the husband-and-wife writing team made this possible.
Okay, Kate/Curran rant over. I sweah. You want to know about the rest of the book, yeah? Okay, here goes. Magic Bleeds is a important book in terms of the larger story arc of Kate's past and Kate's future. We learn more about her horrific childhood and but also more about what makes her tick. One of Kate's overriding issues is that she believes that friendships make her vulnerable. No, scratch that, Kate worries that being friends with her makes others vulnerable. Yet, she can't stop caring for people. And she's so kick ass, they can't stop caring in return. What I like is that Kate doesn't try to push people away by doing awful things to them--which is the traditional M.O. of people with this complex. She does try to protect them, but she doesn't hurt those she loves to do it. I think that Kate realizes her ability to care for others is her saving grace. She was raised to be a killer and she is that, but she's also a great defender of what she believes in and those she cares for.
For those of you who have been following the series you know about Kate's friend Andrea and Andrea's paramour, Raphael. If you haven't read their short story, you might want to do so before you read Magic Bleeds. They make several appearances in this book, including one scene that had me laughing out loud. Let's just say that the mating period sounds like a roller coaster ride. Raphael is there in all his glory--and we get to see how Curran views the sexy bouda. There's also more of Saiman and our favorite teenage sensate, Julie. Derek makes an appearance, but is apparently exhausted from taking up so much of the story last time. We learn more about the Pack and how it works. Finally, we also meet a member of Kate's family. There are hints pretty early on about this, if you're looking for them. Also, by the end of the novel, Kate's secret isn't so secret.
The ending of this book is about as awesome as I could wish it. I'm excited to see more of Julie and to see the next step in Kate and Curran's relationship. The fifth book, Magic Slays, comes out June 2011. For those of you who haven't yet gotten your hands on a copy of Bayou Moon, here's a reason to get on it: there's a sneak peek of Magic Slays in the back. I can't wait till June. My love for this series--and these characters--started at a slow burn, but now it's a raging inferno. Only, now, to add to the burn, I really, really want to see a book (or series) featuring Derek and Julie. Has anybody heard whether or not I'm having a pipe dream?
I'm curious to know what you guys think, or if you can recommend a series I might love as much as this one. Care to share? (less)
These days, Dystopians are a dime a dozen. Sometimes, when I’m surfing Goodreads, looking for n...moreThis review was first posted on http://rubysreads.com.
These days, Dystopians are a dime a dozen. Sometimes, when I’m surfing Goodreads, looking for new titles, I almost hope to find a zombie story. Er, kidding. Sort of. Anyway, I find Dystopians increasingly difficult to get into. After a while, everything starts to feel samey. When I started Skylark, I thought it was going to be one of those Dystopians. Right off the bat, it reminded me of Enclave, by Ann Aguirre. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the action to spin off in a new direction, to catch me up in its whirlwind and carry me away in its story.
Skylark has a number of familiar Dystopian elements. There is a corrupt government that exploits its people, and lies and misleads them. There are cannibal/zombies. The population goes hungry while the PTB grows plump with their spoils. There’s lots of talk about what’s good for the population at large. What’s a little bit different is the quality of the narration, and the element of Steampunk that she injects into her world-building. As an added bonus, Spooner’s ability to bring the reader into her setting is remarkable. I had clear visual images of Skylark’s ruined world, particularly the Iron Wood.
The heroine–whose name, delightfully, is Lark–was less enjoyable. For the first part of the book, she’s mistrustful, whiny and squeamish. Never mind that I’d probably be the same way. This isfiction, y’all, and I expect my MCs to have more backbone than I will ever possess. I think my frustration with Lark was based on one major thing: She doesn’t trust Oren, the wild boy who saves her from certain death. She gets all judgy and turns up her nose at his attempts to feed her, to help her survive. I (and I say this with my nose thrust firmly in the air) loved Oren from the start. Lark was just a little late to the party, though she arrives in the end. Is it too late? You’ll have to answer that one for yourself.
I mentioned that Skylark has Steampunk elements. Besides the large machines endemic to Steampunk tales, Skylark also has a small shapeshifting machine called a pixie. Originally designed to be spies for the corrupt government, Lark eventually gains one as a follower. This pixie–ultimately named Nix–is maybe good and maybe bad, but all fun. The parts where it tries to resemble a bee tickled me pink. I love small companion creatures–like Gogu fromWildwood Dancing and thePerspicacious Loris from the Leviathan books.
Skylark ends with a couple of surprises–some predictable and some not–but mostly leaves me with a desire to read whatever comes next in this series. I’m excited to be able to see another city in Lark’s ruined world. I like to think about how cities and cultures grow when they’re isolated from one another, so I can’t wait to follow Lark further on her journey. I’ll make it to 2013–but just barely!(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)
I've avoided Holly Black because even though I've heard awesome things about her from authors I love (Cassandra Clare), most of the books she's written have been fairy-based, and I'm just not that into fairies. White Cat came out last year, so it's been on my radar for quite some time. Receiving Red Glove from Simon and Schuster for review gave me the prod I needed to give Cassel Sharpe a go. My time, however, is pulled in a thousand different directions these days, so I decided to go with the audio version, narrated by Jesse Eisenberg. I'll first say that I thought Jesse did a great job. His voice was the right age and timbre for Cassel, and he didn't do any breathy voices meant to indicate girls talking, as I've heard some male narrators attempt. Geh. It helped that the story is told in first person from Cassel's perspective. If a voice isn't feminine, I can pretend that he's relaying the conversation to me. That usually works. I don't read a lot of books written by guys, or with guys as the main characters. I think the last one I read was Going Bovine by Libba Bray. It's an interesting change of pace. I still think I prefer female protagonists, but I got really lucky with White Cat. Cassel--though he's a con artist at heart--is smart, funny and peculiarly vulnerable. I loved him anyway. I'm always a fan of smart heroes and a sense of humor gets through my defenses every time, but I don't usually like a vulnerable hero. I loved the way that Ms. Black played with the idea of an unreliable narrator. In Cassel's case, he doesn't even know that he's unreliable. We do, because Ms. Black is not stingy with the hints. The knowing makes the revelation all the more delicious. More than anything, though, is how heartbreaking the truth turns out to be. There's no shortage of angst in the Curse Workers universe. Things are certainly going to get worse for Cassel before they can get at all better. And this is my first book by this author, so I'm assuming--for sanity's sake--that things are going to get better for him. The end of White Cat certainly doesn't suggest one, but it's only the first book. Poor Cassel--who has been convinced that he killed his best friend, was dumped by his ex, and gets beaten by his brothers at the request of a mob boss--has a whole new set of issues to work with. If he doesn't get a happy ending, then I'll be giving Holly Black up as a lost cause. A quick note on the world building: I'm a big fan of modern-day universes where magic is universally known and accepted. I loved the way the wearing of gloves was woven into the characters' daily lives. I can't see doing everything--including eating french fries--while wearing them, but I very much enjoy the tension that just walks right into the room when someone is ungloved. Awesome. I did have a bit of a problem with all the complications of the different magical abilities, but I can't really go into that without spoiling. I'm on edge about starting Red Glove, especially since White Cat ended on such a negative note. I like to know if I'm going to be rewarded for my angst. I mean, Cassel doesn't have to get married and have 2.5 children--but it would be nice to know that things will work out for him. (less)
It feels like just yesterday that I heard about this book and squealed over the prospect of a "hot neighbor cowboy" and trying to get Small to run away to Texas with me in pursuit of same. Now, here I am, writing my review for it. Life is good. Well, not as good as it could be. Small has thus far elected to stay with her fiance. Ah, well. More hot neighbor cowboys for me. Texas Gothic tells the story of Amy Goodnight and her sister, Phin. Amy and Phin are ranch-sitting for their aunt during the summer after Amy's high school graduation. All Amy wants is to survive until she gets to college, where she hopes to live a normal, non-magical life. You see, Amy's family sees ghosts and makes potions. Amy is the self-appointed "normalizer" of her family. She's the one that tries to control the crazy, and she looks forward to college as a time away from being the one that holds everything together. Unfortunately, the summer at the Goodnight Ranch is going to make that impossible for her. It's also going to force her to realize that she isn't as normal and non-magical as she thought. Even if Amy doesn't actively practice magic, she uses it. And she has powers she's refused to acknowledge for many years. When she meets Ben McCulloch, she finds herself defending the very things she's spent so many years deriding herself. It doesn't help that Ben's got a chip on his shoulder regarding Amy, her family, and ghost stories. You may safely assume that their romance isn't a tale of love at first sight. Amy is a likable heroine. She's both funny and perceptive. Her story is one of my favorites--I like when a heroine makes a journey to self-discovery and thereby develops a sense of self-worth. I don't think that Amy began the story with low self-esteem, but rather that she didn't have the confidence to stand up for what she knew to be true if it meant risking others' opinion of her. I probably like this storyline because it's something I know I'll be working on probably until I die. But I digress. I also really enjoyed Amy's sister, Phin, who reminded me of Merlin from Laura Kinsale's Midsummer Moon. All too cerebral and often failing to understand humans, human interaction and human emotion, but being adorably wonderful and lovable all the same. And, of course, completely frustrating to deal with in reality. Especially for Amy, whose dearest wish is that no one should find out how truly bizarre her family is. Finally, there is the hot cowboy neighbor, Ben. Amy's first meeting with Ben doesn't go well. Neither does her second, third, fourth or fifth. I'm not usually one for best enemies to lovers relationships because they generally become silly in their attempt to maintain the bad blood. Or, at least, the characters come off as silly. And don't even get me started on the whole "I HATE you/But your pecs/abs/beautiful face/I MUST suck your face" phenomenon. Amy, while attracted to Ben, is completely aware of his jerkiness, and calls him on it. Even once she knows the true source of his irritation, she doesn't melt into a puddle of understanding. She knows that whatever frustrations life has thrown at him, that doesn't excuse bad behavior. Clement-Moore did a fantastic job with Ben in that she really made him seem like a nineteen or twenty-year old boy. Unfortunately, she did such a wonderful job that I can't crush on him. He needs another ten years to mature. It happens. Over all, I really enjoyed this book. It's not too heavy on the ghost stuff, but it's there, and I like the idea of all the Goodnight products that "work like magic" because they actually contain magic. That was awesome, and I wish it were true in real life. Amy is a character--and this is a world--I wouldn't mind revisiting. I think there's room for Amy to explore her talents, and for Amy and Ben's relationship to grow and stretch, and for an added bonus, there would be more Phin (and her hot Latin love interest, Marc). So, yeah, highly recommended. Preorder this title, if you haven't already. (less)
Kate Daniels is a heroine in a thousand and I think this might be because she is the brainchild of a husband and wife team. Together, they work to create a tough, likeable, sarcastic strong female protagonist. I was slow to warm up to this series, possibly because the series itself had a slow start. In fact, when first read Magic Bites, I put it down for about three weeks before I picked it up again to finish it. By the time I was halfway through the book, I was hooked. It’s a series with everything—complex, intriguing world building, a kick-ass heroine with a sense of humor, werewolves, a hot Beastlord and layers, layers, layers. Kate Daniels’ Atlanta even has vampires—though not one that you’d care to meet in a dark alley. They’re majorly gross, which makes for a nice change from the tall, dark, handsome and (let’s not forget) brooding vampires that dominate both Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy.
In Magic Bites, the first book, we learned about Kate and some of her background, but mostly we’re introduced to the alternate world of a sometimes-magical Atlanta. In Kate’s world, the magic rises and falls. When the magic is “up”, technology doesn’t work. Nothing—no cars, no TV, no electricity. The opposite is true when the magic is down. Magic Burns finds Kate’s Atlanta during the onset of a flare—a time when the magic rises and falls rapidly. This means more chaos, of course, but it also means that all magic is intensified—both Kate’s magic and the magic of the other creatures she comes into contact with. The flare provides a backdrop for Kate’s Problem of the Book (PoB). Kate has more than the PoB on her plate, though. There’s Curran, The Beastlord attempting to court her. There’s Julie, a young girl who’s mother has gone missing, and who is placed into Kate’s care. There are the amazing, disgusting reeves with their vicious, prehensile (I kid you not) hair attacking at every available moment. There are also the stolen maps that the Pack has asked Kate to retrieve from a man able to appear and disappear at will.
But Kate is not too busy to be a slightly caustic observer of life. She’s realistic about who she is and what she expects from life. Which is pretty bleak. She knows that she has great power—and that has been both a blessing and a curse for most of her life. Kate’s origin is still a mystery—I can tell that we’re going to be learning about it at a glacial pace, just a bit, book by book. Yet, though Andrews teases us with the mystery a wee bit too much, I can’t wait to learn more. Also, the secret that Kate’s carrying plays a large part in her desire to resist Curran’s advances. Not that Kate can forget Curran’s promiscuous past and her firm belief that he’ll stop wanting her as soon as he’s had her. Then there’s the fact that she works for the Order and being involved with Curran would definitely be a complication she didn’t need. As I said—layers.
I think what I like best about Kate is that she’s very no-nonsense. When counseling young Julie, Kate doesn’t hold back. She tells the girl some very important things that she needs to know. They are painful to hear, but Kate doesn’t refrain from saying them, either because she thinks Julie is too young or because she wants to protect her. Kate knows that giving Julie the information is the best way to protect her—which is a refreshing change of pace, and keeps us from the kind of Big Misunderstanding that so often powers a novel. Kate is also a deeply caring person. She hides it easily, and she talks a lot about having only one friend, but it’s clear in this book that Kate has more friends than she knows about, or believes in.
I can’t review this book without touching on the relationship between Kate and Curran. In the first book, it didn’t look like Andrews was ever going to develop anything between the two, then—smack—the ending came and it was all suddenly worth it. I like that Andrews is taking plenty of time to develop the relationship. It reminds me a little of the Mercy Thompson books in that way. Patricia Briggs built Mercy and Adam’s relationship with almost glacial slowness. That’s what’s made the books so good, even after they finally got together—which is generally the death knoll for a series. I’m really looking forward to seeing Kate and Curran’s relationship twist and turn and eventually morph into the thing we all want to see. They’ll be great together. Neither could be with anyone else. If only I could get my hands on the rest of the series. I’d be in hibernation on my couch, cuddled up in a blanket so I could read my way through the first cold snap of the season.(less)
I've been looking forward to this book as far back as the first event I had on my blog (Private School Paranormals Week), at which time I pestered Jennifer Estep to participate even though it was waaay too early for ARCs and such. She offered me some bonus material instead and I've been a fangirl ever since. There's also the fact that Jennifer Estep described the Mythos Academy books as a cross between Veronica Mars and Game of Thrones. I adore Veronica Mars so much that I have seen Kirsten Bell in every Romantic Comedy her agent convinced her to try. This is all just to say that I was born ready to love this book, and love it I did. I'm so very, very thrilled that Kiss of Frost comes out this year. December is only five months away. Woohoo! The first thing I loved about Touch of Frost was the setting. Mythos Academy is home to a group of teenagers possessed of mythical, magical powers. There are Valkyries, Spartans and Amazons--all warriors. Gwen, our heroine, is a bit lost in this atmosphere. She's not a fighter. Her only talent is psychometry--she can touch anything and pull memories and feelings from that object (or person). It's a talent that has its uses, but not necessarily in the Mythos crowd. Or at the last school she went to. The story itself is part Fantasy, part Mystery and all awesomesauce. As the mystery slowly unravels, we learn about Gwen, about Mythos and about the world that Estep has built. In one of my favorite aspects of first person narration, perspective allows the reader to understand things that Gwen can't yet fathom. It also allows us to get to know the supporting cast. In the beginning, Gwen is a solitary character. Our outsider's view makes sure we know that she won't be alone for long. Just as we know that Gwen--and her power--aren't as insignificant as she makes them seem. I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a huge fan of first person narration. Jennifer Estep is particularly talented at making me feel like I'm inside Gwen's head, thinking along with her. The only complaint I have is that a couple of times Gwen refers to her own eyes as violet. As in, "I flicked my violet eyes across the room." This jerked me out of the narrative every time I read it. While I know my eyes are brown, I don't think about the fact unless I'm in front of the mirror. I think someone who wears a hoodie every day of the week would probably feel the same way. While there is a love interest for Gwen (can't wait to see where that's gonna head--love Logan), the primary relationship in this book is that which develops between Gwen and a Valkyrie girl named Daphne. It'll be great fun to see Gwen and Daphne figure out how to be friends. I have a feeling it's gonna be as awkward a beginning as any of its romantic counterparts. It's also nice to see friendships get some play in Teen fiction. Don't get me wrong--I love a romance--but Teen fiction doesn't need another star-crossed lovers/soulmates-at-sixteen story. Touch of Frost was one of my most highly anticipated titles of the summer and reading it has bumped the sequel to the top of my December can't-wait list. If you're looking for a Teen Paranormal that will restore your faith in the genre--look no further. Touch of Frost is a gem.(less)
You may or may not be aware of my great appreciation for Kalayna Price's Haven series--it is my personal favorite between the two she's published. The Alex Craft books, while imaginative and well-written don't appeal to me, character-wise, as much as Kita and Nathaniel do. My old prejudice against the Fae probably pays a part here, too. The Alex Craft books feature a love triangle, and I fear I am firmly entrenched on the losing side--a habit I abhor. As the description says, Grave Dance picks up a month after the events of Grave Witch. We find Alex in a better place financially--work has picked up and she's semi-notorious. Unfortunately, her recently awakened Fae side has been making a nuisance of itself in any number of ways. All of which are about to come back to bite her in the butt. I didn't dislike this book, but my primary enjoyment of it doesn't come from Alex's first person narrative. What I like best is the secondary characters. Roy, the ghost, her friend Holly, her recently rediscovered (and now Changeling) best friend, her landlord Caleb, and the her friend, John, the policemen. I spent a great deal of time speculating on a secondary romance that was either completely in my head, or is going to take some more time to come to fruition. I often felt that I could leave or take Alex, which was a bit odd because she possesses a great many of the attributes I like in a heroine. I also remember liking her better in the first book. In Grave Dance, there was a disconnect. At times, I felt like she was a pale imitation of Merit from the Chicagoland Vampires series. They have plenty in common (familial estrangement, unhealthy eating habits), but Alex can't really live up to the awesomeness that is Merit. Neither, unfortunately, can her love interests live up to swoon-worthy Ethan. I used to think of myself as a person who enjoys love triangles, but the way this book handles the theme is a perfect example of why they are also frustrating--and risky for authors. Keep in mind this is my opinion, okay? Love triangles work when it's clear which party will win out. When a reader becomes invested in one half of a triangle (as they invariably will be), they will only find satisfaction if the series ultimately goes their way. This is why the Merit/Ethan/Morgan triangle worked for me--there was never any question in my mind who Merit would end up with. Ditto Mercy/Sam/Adam. It's a phenomenal thing when an author can maintain the tension of a love triangle while still conveying the outcome. It's a dangerous widow's walk--with too obvious on one side and frustratingly vague on the other. The Alex Craft books lean heavily on the too vague side, which makes me disinclined to become invested in the stories. I think my dissatisfaction with this novel is based on two personal preferences: my feelings about love triangles, and the fact that most of it revolves around the Fae and Faerie. They were definitely a presence in the last book, but Grave Dance takes things up a notch, Faerie-wise. However, I hope you'll still give this series--and the Haven books--a try.(less)
I don't read many books either by male authors or with male protagonists. I don't particularly have to go out of my way to avoid this--I don't think I've ever come across a romance with a male narrator, the Urban Fantasy that I generally enjoy is written by women, and most Teen fiction has the female perspective. That said, I've never gone out of my way to look for a male lead. I tend to find myself highly suspicious of authors who write from the opposite perspective. Not that I think they have some kind of hidden agenda...it's more that I doubt they can create an authentic voice. Having read the Curse Worker books, I'm still unable to come to a conclusion. Cassel seems authentic to me, but I'm a female reading a female's interpretation of the male perspective. How much is my opinion worth? Totally not sure on that point. Regardless of the perspective, Holly Black has created a main character I love. Cassel is a good guy in a bad situation. Considering his family roots--and the things he's apparently done--it makes sense that he is unable to believe it about himself. During the course of Red Glove, he is forced to make the best of the few bad choices that are before him. Cassel's one of my favorite types of characters. Cassel is a con man, believing that he can pretend to be something he's not...a normal teenager. I think he's most afraid that he will be rejected by his peers the way that his brothers rejected him. He sees himself as the unwanted little brother who will do anything to be accepted. In Red Glove, we begin to learn that none of his peers view him that way. Girls like him because he's dangerous, and Cassel's own roommate was afraid of him when they first met. But it's clear that Cassel is that guy everyone wants to know. I think the reason that Holly Black is able to surprise us with this external view of Cassel is because of her use of first person narration. It's also really, really effective as a form of characterization. Cassel is so consumed with the image that he projects and the desire to keep everyone from knowing the real him that his view of others is skewed. And at the same time, Cassel is incredibly observant of others in the way only a con man can be. I'm all amazement at Holly Black's skill at characterization. Because not only is Cassel complex, I have no idea what's going on with his love interest, Lila, or his best friend Sam, or Danica and at the same time, I do. It's just like in real life. We think we know people--and to a certain extent, we do--but we'll never be privy to their inner thoughts. It's something that--no matter how good a con man Cassel is--he'll never be able to do. If there's any character that doesn't feel complex to me, it's Barron. Is he simply ambitious? Is he jealous of Cassel? That last one is my suspicion, and I'm hoping that Black gives us more grist for the mill in Black Heart. The other thing I greatly enjoy in the Curse Workers series is the world-building. The way that Holly Black created this world where it's completely normal for people to wear gloves all the time, where crime families are in charge and worker rights are being threatened. Have I mentioned how much I love the glove bit? I especially enjoy the scenes where Cassel is embarrassed at seeing someone's bare hands. Most of all, I'm pleased at how well this second book in the trilogy came out. Second installments in trilogies are infamous for being place-fillers, but it's clear that book three cannot happen without book two. So much occurs that both needed to, and that helps to move the story along. My only concern is that, well, I really, really want Cassel to have a happy ending. Because this is my first Holly Black, I don't know if she does them. So, I'm worried. Reassurance would be good. Cassel deserves it. (less)