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)
Shadowfever started off with a bang. The thing that I thought was least likely to come about had, in fact, happened. If you’ve already read the book, you know what I’m talking about. You’re probably also familiar with the feeling that I had—disbelief. I knew that whatever seemed to be wasn’t actually so. I doubt few people were surprised by the early-to-mid-book “twist”. It was expected. I don’t even think Moning herself thought she had anyone fooled. I practically gobbled the first fifty or so pages of Shadowfever. It’s hard to tell—I haven’t really gotten the hang of the whole Kindle “page” system. Though I have to admit I haven’t really made that much of an effort. I wonder if I should… Anyway, like I said, this book sucked me in as effectively as Darkfever did. I was sooo glad about this because I wasn’t as enamored of the middle three books as I’d hoped I’d be. Despite that, I was ravenous in my desire to get to the first big reveal that Shadowfever was going to bring. I was fully prepared to revel in its deliciousness. Which is why I am so very, very, sorry to say that, for me, Shadowfever did not live up to my expectations. Moning says in the afterward for Dreamfever that there will be triumphs. This is true. There are triumphs and—I hope I’m not spoiling anything for you—a happy ending. But there aren’t answers. Or, at least, not enough. Every time Mac has gotten an answer in any of the books, it’s only resulted in fifty more questions. I was okay with that—well, it frustrated me, but I was willing to put up with it—because I thought all the angst and the not knowing would be resolved in the last book. I didn’t expect that we would get all the answers because, as you know, I think that at least four of Barrons’ eight will get their own books. I pretty much expected the who and what of what they were/are to be only partially revealed. The operative word here is “partially”, especially if we’re talking about revelations. Remember that niggling worry I had about finding out that Mac could be saved pain and harm by the simple act of giving her some information? Well, it comes to pass. To total fruition. But that isn’t even my major complaint with Shadowfever. Mac not only doesn’t get answers about Barrons, it becomes okay that she doesn’t. Accepting not knowing becomes the hurdle that Mac has to overcome in order to be with him. The message this story tells is that Mac was an idiot to spend so much time and energy trying to figure out what Barrons was. For one thing, (unsurprisingly) he told Mac so little in order to protect her. For another, it doesn’t matter what Barrons is or has done or will do, or could be or is willing to share with Mac. And it’s a judgment on Mac that she took so long to realize this and that was a message that really frustrated and upset me. Barrons tells Mac not to make him into a hero or even an anti-hero because he’s not either, and boy is that the truth. In addition to triumphs, there were also surprises in Shadowfever. I knew there would be. I wasn’t surprised to find out that Barrons was not what Faefever and Dreamfever suggest that he be, especially after the fake character interview KMM did with Barrons. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ignore that last sentence. Some of the surprises I saw coming and some I didn’t. I had my fingers crossed for a happy ending—I’m one of those people who absolutely hates sad ones—but I wasn’t happy even when I got what I wanted. I know that’s kicking a gift horse in the mouth, but I can’t help it. The ending was too perfect, too twee, too domestic. It involves grilling steaks and a dinner party, for heaven’s sake. And we never get to see Mac’s final showdown with her sister’s murder. (I’m not telling, so don’t ask me). That was a scene I desperately wanted to see. I think we still might. I’m sad to have been disappointed in this book. I also have no doubt that I’ll be in the minority. The Fever series has rabidly loyal followers. I’ve been a rabid fan a time or two myself. What I will say is that, whatever I thought of the end to Mac’s story, I’m still looking forward to the next series that takes place in the Fever World. Hope springs eternal, they say. Which is my way of saying that the next series will be even better than this one. (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)
Dude, this book was stupid. I try not to start reviews off with blanket statements, but it just wasn’t gonna happen. I picked up Dark Prince because i...moreDude, this book was stupid. I try not to start reviews off with blanket statements, but it just wasn’t gonna happen. I picked up Dark Prince because it came up on a list of slow-burning Paranormal Romance suggestions. There’s nary a slow-burn in sight, as far as I can tell. It’s an inferno from page one. And I don’t mean that in a good way.
Dark Prince is the first book in Feehan’s Carpathian Series. It was published in 1999, which, surprisingly, was over a decade ago. It was a year after the publication of Devil’s Bride–the book that spawned the Cynster Saga, a long line of Historical Romances featuring frightening similar Alpha heroes. Don’t get me wrong. My copy of Devil’s Bride has seen a few rereads over the years. I just wanted to place Dark Prince in the history of the Romance novel. I’m by no means an expert. In the end, I realized that Devil’s Bride persistently came to mind while I was reading Dark Prince. Not, mind you, that the books are similar, stylistically. Though I think there were certain shared plot point. More important was the difference in each author’s take on the Alpha Hero/Independent Heroine relationship. Having read both novels, I feel that Stephanie Laurens was a lot more successful in her endeavor. Let me see if I can explain why. You’ll have to allow me a little leeway, though. It’s been a while since I last reread Devil’s Bride.
On the surface, the heroes of both books are remarkably similar. They are physically large, powerful, wealthy, and sought after by women. Devil is a duke, and the therefore the head of his (large) family. He is used to being in charge. Mikhail, the hero of Dark Prince, is the leader of the Carpathians. They are his people. He leads them, protects them, and keeps their race going. He is also used to having complete control. Similar, yes. And very, very different.
When Devil meets his heroine (Honoria), their circumstances pretty much decide their future relationship for them. However, what Cynsters have, they hold. It’s their family motto. So, knowing that there is no choice but for them to be married, Devil commits himself to Honoria completely and absolutely. He would have married her in any case–it’s just blind luck that they fall in love eventually. But in the meantime, before the marriage takes place, Devil and Honoria are constantly fighting a battle of wills. Honoria is an independent woman and definitely does not want to be forced into a marriage–especially not to a man. Of course, Honoria is incredibly modern-minded in her thinking. Devil’s Bride is a historical set in the Regency period, during a time when women’s lives were largely prescribed by men–husbands, fathers, brothers. This makes Honoria’s struggle to make choices for herself all the more significant. We all know that Honoria will marry Devil in the end, but as we follow their relationship, we see that they are equals. Devil is alpha, but so is Honoria. They frequently go toe-to-toe as Honoria refuses to let Devil steamroll her. In the end you know that they couldn’t be with anyone but each other.
For Mikhail and Raven, it’s different. Raven is Mikhail’s lifemate, which is kind of like when one of Kresley Cole’s vampires meets his Bride. When Mikhail meets Raven, he can see color and feel emotion. He knows that they are fated to be together and he’s one of those “what I have, I hold” types, too. Lucky for him, he has a much more complacent partner in Raven. Sure, she talks big about being independent and making her own choices, but when push comes to shove, Mikhail always gets his way. Raven argues with Mikhail when he does high-handed things she doesn’t like, but it’s the equivalent of putting the back of her hand to her forehead and saying, “La, I feel faint.” It doesn’t stick because it isn’t real. Here’s a short list of things that Raven lets Mikhail get away with:
* Using compulsion to force to eat and sleep when he wants her to. * Moving her into his house. * Forming a mate bond with her without informing her of all the ins and outs of what she’s getting herself into. * Making her wear skirts instead of pants. * Physically threatening any male who comes within a foot of her (because they all want her and Mikhail’s special powers allow him to sense this.)
I said it was going to be a short list, so I better stop. The long and the short of it is that Mikhail and Raven’s “romance” is basically dressed-up abuse. He isolates Raven and decimates her free will under the guise of knowing what’s best for her. Um, okay. Thanks but no thanks.
But enough about Mikhail and Raven. Let’s talk about language. In fact, let’s talk about repetitive language. I should have counted how many times certain words showed up in this novel. Here are some much-loved words and phrases:
I felt like I was reading the same passages over and and over. Raven was constantly making men lust after her by the “curiously innocent gesture” of pushing her hair off her face. Also, Mikhail and Raven go through the “You will do what I say.”/”I have to make my own decisions”./”I only want what’s best for you.”/”I have to be independent and fly kites if I want to.”/”It’s only that I care for you so much and I don’t want to lose you” blah blah emotional-blackmail-cakes. Yech.
There were also several times when the novel should have ended, only to have a new villain show up. I mean, what? It was like an Agatha Christie novel, where you find out who the killer is a third of the way through the book, only HAH! it wasn’t really Mr. Shortstuff, it was MR. ROUND the WHOLE TIME! Only, you know that Christie was treating you to a boatload of delicious red herrings and you realize how awesome she was. In Dark Prince, you just go WTF?! Can this story end already, pretty please?
In case you have any doubts, I won’t be reading the rest of this series. I have better things to do with my time.
The Vampire Academy books are good, don't get me wrong, but they didn't hold my interest past the third book and even having read Bloodlines, I don't regret my decision not to finish the series. I was, however, very excited about this new, but related series because I thought that a new cast of characters would revive my interest in the world. I was, at first, intrigued by Sydney, the Alchemist forced to work with the Moroi she's been raised to despise. Sydney takes on the job so her younger sister won't have to--an oft used technique in teen fiction. Still, my interest was piqued and read happily until I hit page 81 of my ARC, where I came to a screeching halt. Here's why:
Watching me button a white blouse, Mrs. Delaney tsked, "I think you need a size two."
I froze mid-button. "I wear a size zero."
"Oh, yes, you can fit into them, but look at the arms and the skirt length. I think you'll be more comfortable in a two. Try these." She handed over a new stack, and then laughed. "Don't look so mortified, girl! A two's nothing. You're still a twig." She patted her ample stomach. "We could fit three of you into my clothes!"
Despite my many protests, I was still sent away with the size-two clothing. I rode back to my dorm, dejected, and found Jill lying on her bed and reading. She sat up at my arrival.
"Hey, I wondered what had happened to you."
"Got delayed," I said with a sigh. "Are you feeling better?"
"Yeah. A lot." Jill watched as I put away the uniforms. "They're pretty terrible, right? We didn't have uniforms at St. Vladimir's. It's going to be so boring wearing the same thing every day." I didn't want to tell her that as an Alchemist, I might have worn an outfit like this, anyway.
"What size did you get?" I asked, to change the subject. I was kind of a glutton for punishment.
A twinge of annoyance shot through me as I hung my uniforms in the closet beside hers. I felt huge by comparison. How were all those Moroi so skinny? Genetics? Low-carb blood diet? Maybe it was just because they were all so tall. All I knew was that whenever I spent time around them, I felt frumpy and awkward and wanted to eat less.
This (long--sorry) passage irked me on so many levels, the primary one being a heroine who had image issues because she has to wear a size two instead of a zero. I wouldn't have a problem with this if there was the sense that this was a larger issue. If, perhaps, Sydney wasn't worried about a matter of an inch difference in the waist, bust and hips (yes, I looked it up), her attitude would have made more sense. What I'm trying to say, is, if Richelle Mead is trying to make a point about the pressures that women face regarding their weight, she went the wrong way about it. Creating a main character who wishes she were a size zero instead of a size two makes me want to hurl the book against the wall. It makes me want to demand to know how a size--gasp!--four is supposed to feel. The fact that Sydney is so distressed by it that she begins dieting rang the death knell for the character. My overall opinion of Sydney was colored by this facet of her personality. At least, after it was introduced (and maintained), I kept finding more and more things to irritate me about her. She hangs on to her vampire prejudices until they start to resemble bigotry, her ignorance of male/female interactions isn't "sweet" or "innocent"--it just makes her look stupid, and her long suffering, self-sacrificial air is frankly over the top. She's a character of very little empathy and I think it's too bad the books will all be told from her perspective. Sydney's potential love interest is Adrian. Adrian, who had his heart broken in the first series, has been dragged to Palm Springs to help out with the Jill Dragomir watch. All he does is loaf around and indulge in self-pity. As much as I liked him in the Vampire Academy books--Bloodlines did away with all my affection. Originally, I was pleased to learn that this series would tell his story--now I'm wondering how I'm going to make it through the next book. The characters that I liked best got the least screen time. I like Eddie, and I think Jill's okay, though she's awfully young still, and it shows. Irritatingly, I smell at least two love triangles in the offing, and that just feels like cheating to me. It's an easy way to throw a wrench in the romantic element and I'm tired of it. All in all, I was unimpressed by Bloodlines. Which is why I put it on my Saturday Swap list, I suppose. I realized, in rereading this review, that I put in very little about the plot. I guess you could say that that's how much it affected me, though I do have to say: Sydney's decision to keep quiet about her sister's rape was, frankly, the wrong one. If she'd encouraged her sister to tell, she wouldn't have had to worry that Keith would also rape her younger sister. I also worked out the mystery fairly early on, which never bodes well for my opinion of the MC. I've no doubt that my opinion is going to be in minority regarding this book and maybe I'm wrong. So, let me just say it had flaws that I, at least, couldn't overlook. (less)
I have to start this review with a disclaimer: I'm not much into Time Travel stories. I love historicals and I love contemporaries, but the idea of mixing the two has never appealed to me. My feeling on pirate tales is mixed, though. I read Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer and liked it okay, but didn't feel compelled to keep up with the series. I loved Celia Rees' Pirates! I hoped for a sequel but this point I've given up hope. If you're familiar with these books you'll know that they also feature female pirates. I was willing to give Steel a try because I've been thinking about reading Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series and I thought it would be a good way to give her work a try. A test drive, so to speak. I'm sad to say that Steel wasn't my cup of tea, but my disclaimer is my way of pointing out that I wasn't the book's target audience. I think that fans of YA historical fiction will be able to give this book a fairer assessment than my own. That said, I'm going on with my review. It's your choice whether, after such a disclaimer, you want to read it or not. Steel opens with the main character losing a very important fencing tournament. The loss hits her where it hurts most--her self-confidence. Even when her family takes a vacation to Nassau, she isn't able to separate herself from her disappointment. One day, Jill finds a rusty sword tip in the sand. Because it has special significance for her, Jill picks it up. The sword tip is the catalyst for what happens next: Jill falls overboard during a pleasure cruise and is rescued by a group of pirates. Lucky for her, though the pirates are male, they have a female captain. Even luckier, the pirate captain (Margery Cooper) takes a fancy to her. Though bewildered by what has happened to her, Jill has no choice but to sign up as one of Cooper's pirates. And though Jill expects life as a pirate to be as violent and blood-thirsty as the legends, she finds that it's more a matter of lots of hard work, especially cleaning. Jill also meets Henry, a boy whose mother was brought over from Africa as a slave. He signed on as one of Cooper's pirates when her crew captured the boat he worked on. Henry acts as Jill's pirate mentor. He's also, ultimately, her love interest and erstwhile fencing coach. Carrie Vaughn clearly researched pirate life in the Caribbean in the 1700's. There are lots of interesting details--both historical and piratical. However, one of the things that always comes to my mind when I think of traveling to the past is personal hygiene. In particular, oral hygiene. Every time I read a Time Travel novel (which is, as I've said, not that often), I expect the time traveler to have the same issues. I don't think he/she'd be able to help it. A pirate ship strikes me as the kind of environment where the lack of modern conveniences (and ideas of cleanliness) would be sorely, sorely missed. It would be enough to turn anyone OCD. Jill adjusts to these changes fairly quickly. I suppose if you would have to, if time travel were really possible. I just find it hard to believe that Jill wouldn't have spent more time lamenting her folly in not putting her toothbrush in her pocket before she left the hotel that morning. I'm not saying that she should have spent many pages droning on about it, but a little freaking out seemed in order. The writing of Steel was good, but not particularly special. I also never really connected to Jill as a character. She did and said all the right things and was sympathetic but, again, nothing special. All the characters fell a little flat to me, even the villain. Especially Cooper, whom I wanted to get excited about but couldn't. The biggest disappointment for me was the end, though. With time travel novels, there's rarely a completely happy ending. If the character stays in the past, he or she never sees his or her family again. If he (oh, I give up) stays in the future, he leaves behind the people he met in the past. But it doesn't matter, because the conflict in Steel is primarily man v. self. It has to do with Jill moving past the past. Which is kind of funny when you put it that way. Vaughn goes out of her way to deglamorize the life of the 18th Century pirate. She also doesn't shy away from the issue of slavery. But I think that the thing that was least successful for me was all the fencing stuff. I've never fenced in my life so those scenes bored me stiff. I also got tired of all the cleaning Jill has to do. I get it: being a pirate was lots of hard work, not leaning drunkenly off the mainsail. But if I wanted to read about cleaning...well, I don't. I dragged myself to the finish line with this one, but as I said above, I'm not this book's target audience. And, sadly, I'm not in the least inspired to read the Kitty Norville books, now! (less)
Funny, but Charlie got a little grating after a while. I'm waiting on the rest of the books via interlibrary loan. Don't think I'll be shelling any mo...moreFunny, but Charlie got a little grating after a while. I'm waiting on the rest of the books via interlibrary loan. Don't think I'll be shelling any money out for them any time soon, but if the opportunity makes itself available, I'll be continuing with the series. Hero is undeniably hot. (less)
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)
Okay, first of all, they weren't kidding about the explicit sex. I decided to give this book a go despite the fact that I tend to like my heat rating closer to warm than so-hot-I'm-blushing. After all, it's been on more shifter book lists than I can count. But it was also (no surprise) on the list of books for wallflower heroines. It doesn't really apply, in my opinion, as the heroine was formerly a wallflower but is no longer at the start of the book. The Wallflower moves at a mad pace. It's not a long read. I was disappointed to find that the last 30% of the book was excerpts from other Samhain Publishing books. Actually, the first excerpt was from The Wallflower. Which is one of my biggest pet peeves ever. I wish publishers would take a little time to think that one through. I'm really curious to know how much extra work it would take to leave out an excerpt of a book at the back of the book itself. Or is it just laziness. Somehow, I think it's the latter. Okay, right: The Wallflower moves at a mad pace. Events happen in a slam-bam thank you ma'am sort of way. And yes, I meant that double entendre. Max no sooner hears Emma's voice over the phone than he's meeting her in person than he's realizing she's his mate, turning her into a puma, taking her to bed and teaching her to be a wanton woman. There's hardly time for anyone to take a breath and, in all the mad rushing, important elements are left behind. Like plot and characterization. Max and Emma end the story where they began it. The only difference is that, by the last page, they're together. Bell rushes Max and Emma into the bedroom pretty fast, but then it's revealed that Emma's a virgin. So, she's waited 25 years to have sex only to give it up without a second thought? That's...unusual. Why did Emma have to be a virgin in the first place? I don't mind virgin heroines, when they work for a story, but they mystify me when they don't. Especially novels with a great deal of erotic content. It's unlikely that a woman who has waited so long to go all the way will, after her first sexual encounter, suddenly be an expert in the bedroom. The other thing that happens ultra-fast is the Emma's discovery of Max's werecat (Puma) nature. She accepts it with a minimum of disbelief. Also, we don't ever learn much about what it means to become a Puma, but all it seems to involve is eyes turning gold occasionally, the ability to shapeshift and an adherence to pack hierarchy. That's very much in evidence. Max also decides to make Emma a Puma without even telling her what he is. I didn't like that. At all. My main feeling when I finished this book was that there wasn't enough substance to make it work. This is partly due to the length, but not entirely. Other authors have put a wealth of meaning into fewer words. I don't think I'll be buying the rest of the Halle Puma books, but I'd put free copies on TBR list. And, yes, that was a hint(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)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a title I was initially excited about based solely on its location. I mean--Prague! Top of my list of places I would love to visit. I was pleased to receive a review copy, especially when the positive (dare I say glowing?) reviews started popping up on the blogosphere. Logan, for example, basically told me our friendship would definitely suffer if I didn't like it. You will, therefore, never hear me say such a thing. However, Logan's threat aside, I really did enjoy The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. In fact, I loved it. It has it all--characterization, setting, plot, and romance. Swoon. Karou is a fantastic heroine. She's heroic, but not unbelievably so. She's not out to save the world, but she will fight to save those she loves. And as good as her intentions generally are, she's only 17, which means she has the tendency to be childish and immature. She doesn't always consider the consequences of her actions, but when they prove to be devastating, she doesn't shy from what she considers to be her responsibilities or to try to do what she can to make reparations. Karou's romantic interest is just as alluring. Akiva is an angel, the Romeo to Karou's Juliet. I mean, seriously--talk about tall, dark and tortured. Also a bit stalkery. In the good, non-creepy way. At first, Akiva is genuinely confused about his feelings for Karou. He doesn't understand why he is so drawn to her. His confusion is endearing. But, then, I love heroes who think they have no feelings only to have the heroine show them how very wrong they are. I knew I was going to love the setting of Daughter of Smoke and Bone even before I read it. If I wanted to visit Prague before I read this book, I can only say that the feeling has intensified tenfold. I love the cafe where Karou and her friend Zuzana hang out, and I love the old-world city that Taylor depicts. Other locations--Paris and London included--have sparks of charm, but in the end feel fairly modern. I'll be sad when the story really turns its back on Prague, which it essentially did at the end of the book. Still, I have enough faith in Taylor's world-building to believe that wherever she takes us next will be equally spectacular. To say much about the plot of Daughter of Smoke and Bone would be to give it away. I think I can say that most of it revolves around the mystery of Karou's existence. She was raised by a chimaera named Brimstone, for whom she runs dangerous errands involving the retrieval of teeth. It's a story with lots of mysteries. What are the teeth for? Who were Karou's parents? And what's the deal with all of her tattoos, and the fact that her hair grows blue from the root? When you get the answers to these questions, you'll be shocked, delighted and horrified at the same time. I promise. More than anything, though, you'll be dying to read the next book in the series. Too bad it doesn't come out until September of 2012. Don't worry--together, we'll make it through. 5 Points: I would move in with this book.(less)
This was my first Michele Bardsley and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Never Again caught my eye because it features one of my favorite tropes--and one that you don't see that often. I love the ex-brother-in-law as the hero. Think Jennifer Crusie's Crazy for You, and Clare Cross' Double Trouble. The other attractive element was the small-town setting. I'm a small-town dweller myself, and though I love the armchair traveling books allow me, sometimes I like a little something closer to home. I should say, though, that Nevermore has a population far below my town's. Plus, it's in Texas. I'm pretty sure small-town Texas is different from small-town Southern California. So maybe "closer to home" isn't an accurate description after all. Never Again begins with Gray, the hero, eager to get home to his wife, whom he loves deeply. His homecoming is very different from the one he planned. Instead of connubial bliss, he finds betrayal. Gray learns that Kerren married him so she could sacrifice him to a demon, and therefore gain more power. Kerren has been unfaithful in all ways--and Gray, whose feelings were genuine--discovers that every aspect of their relationship was false. Flash forward to the present, where the story really takes place. Kerren's betrayal hasn't killed Gray (er, obviously), but it turned him into a hermit. He retreated to his hometown of Nevermore to subsist--not to live. In the meantime, the Rackmore family, including Kerren's father, mother and sister, is reviled by the magical community because of Kerren's actions. Lucy, Kerren's younger sister, survived by becoming the mistress of a man she thought she loved, only to discover that she was essentially his slave, and one of many women he "kept." And for defying him, Lucy has had her powerful thaumaturgy bound. She's forced to flee for her life. It's a terrible time to be a Rackmore, though, so that's how Lucy ends up on her ex-brother-in-law's doorstep, pleading for his help. He's her last hope. No one else will help a Rackmore. Lucy's arrival in Nevermore sets off a chain of events that have been brewing for some time, events that have nothing to do with her. Gray, believably scarred by Kerren's betrayal, has retreated from the world. During his absence, Nevermore has deteriorated. He's been about as lax a Guardian as you can get, and the town has suffered as a result. What Gray doesn't know if that he, too, is set to suffer for his laxity. There's someone in the town who thinks they'd make a better Guardian--and the only way to replace Gray is to kill him. I liked Lucy, and I liked Gray, too. My only complaint would be that the events of the novel happen lickety-split, so we have too little time to get to know them. I also wanted Gray to have a bigger Ah ha! moment about the whole Guardianship thing. I kept thinking of the people in the town and feeling for them. Overall, I'd say pace was the biggest problem here. There's interesting stuff going on, and the fast pace works for the plot, but not for the romance. Gray and Lucy have believable tension, but the leap from attraction to Love (yes, it's capitalized on purpose) is too swift. Two such damaged people wouldn't open up to each other so easily. At least, I doubt they would. Actually, pretty much everything happens at a fast and furious pace in Never Again. Lucy decides to clean up Gray's house and a visitor stops by at an opportune moment. Then, one phone tree later, a bunch of people come over to help out. Despite any problems with pacing, I am looking forward to the next installment in the series. I'd like to see the restoration of the town as it happens. In particular, I'm looking forward to Ant and Happy's story which, as I understand it, will be in the third book. I'm also interested in the world-building, in a world where there's a magical elite. To be honest, I'm more interested in how magic fits into national politics, etc, than I am in the magic itself. I will be haunting Michele Bardsley's site for updates on Never Say Never. Nevermore is a town worth revisiting.(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)
Minder is certainly a Private School Paranormal. At least, it doesn’t get much more paranormal than a bun...moreReview first posted on http://rubysreads.com.
Minder is certainly a Private School Paranormal. At least, it doesn’t get much more paranormal than a bunch of teenagers with abilities ranging from telepathy to telekinesis to mind control. The title refers to the main character, Maddie. The story opens with Maddie discovering her telepathic abilities in the worst way possible. When she’s attacked by some schoolmates, her powers manifest, allowing her to protect herself, but resulting in the death of her attackers. Maddie is soon whisked away to Ganzfield Academy, where she learns that she isn’t alone in having special powers.
I started this novel in high spirits. After all, this is a genre I enjoy, or I wouldn’t have dedicated a week’s worth of events to it. And I truly feel awful because the author contacted me personally and offered me a copy for review. I’ve waffled back and forth about this situation and decided that I have to be honest. Minder was not the book for me. My issues with it were threefold: One, Maddie. Two, everything seems too easy. Three, Maddie and Trevor.
I’m going to start with number two, even though it’s out of order. I mentioned that Maddie gets whisked away to Ganzfield, yes? Well, whisked is the right word. No sooner has Maddie learned that she’s telepathic than she’s getting an injection of some drug that will enhance her powers. Yet, conveniently, it doesn’t bother Maddie that she can hear everyone’s thoughts all the time. She can tune them out. Also, at Ganzfield, Maddie discovers that the “charms” rule the school. Charms can convince people to do whatever they want them to do, or believe whatever they want them to believe. When Maddie endeavors to save the rest of the school from the charms, she does. Pretty easily. Without much effort.
Which brings me to reason number one: Maddie. Maddie’s powers in particular irritated me. Due to the injection of the drug that amplified her power, she’s become a very strong telepath. She can read almost anyone’s mind, can suggest thoughts to people and can cause pain through the mind, too. I felt that Maddie was curiously unethical about her powers. Never once does she reflect on how she would feel if someone could read her thoughts. Thoughts are a very private thing and it’s either unrealistic or unlikeable that Maddie fails to understand how uncomfortable being around her would be. The friends that Maddie makes at Ganzfield are the students who don’t have a problem with her listening in on their thoughts. She also uses her telepathic abilities to pull answers from teachers’ heads. As a teacher myself, I see this as wrong and, what’s more, lazy. I can only hope that the later books in the series address the ethical issues of Maddie’s telepathic abilities, from planting thoughts in other peoples’ brains to a person’s right to the privacy of his/her own thoughts.
Issue number three, Maddie and her instantboyfriend, Trevor. My main complaint with Maddie and Trevor’s relationship has to do with that familiar issue of easiness. Maddie and Trevor hardly meet but they’re in love. But, wait, you say. They’re soulmates. Okay. I’ve read and enjoyed soulmate stories before. But the speed with which Maddie and Trevor go from A to Z irritated me. I’ll buy instant attraction, but I guess I just like a relationship that has a bit more up and down. Think Kate Daniels and Curran, not Bella and Edward. I also think the relationship loses a lot because we always know what Trevor is thinking, courtesy of Maddie’s telepathy.
My final issue–and really, I’m going to stop–was that the administration/faculty at Ganzfield sucked. For one thing, Trevor moves objects telekinetically in his sleep. Instead of giving him a cabin on his own like they have the minders, Trevor has been sleeping in an old, unheated, abandoned church. I mean, seriously? And no one cares? And no one notices/cares when Maddie starts sleeping in the church with Trevor? Um, I went to a high school with a boarding program. They’re strict about the opposite-sex thing. They have to be. I don’t buy that that would be different because of the paranormal aspect of Ganzfield. I’d also like to gripe a bit about the issue of the charms doing awful, terrible, no good, very bad things to other students. Like, forcing them to perform certain actions against their will. The faculty should have had a lid on it already. Since they didn’t, they shouldn’t be teaching. End of story. I say that as a teacher myself.
There’s no getting around that this is a harsh review, but I hope it isn’t unreasonable. Readers should know that Minder has gotten good reviews on Goodreads and that this is only one blogger’s opinion. Kate Kaynak is to be commended for the fact that she is a published writer and she has put her work out into the world. I wish her the best of luck with the rest of the series.(less)
When I found out that Mary Jo Putney was joining the ever-growing list of authors writing for the YA adult market, I practically did a song and dance. You see, Thunder and Ashes just about tops my list of favorite romances. I haven't read much Mary Jo lately, but I was one-hundred percent behind her getting into the Teen action. Um...that came out wrong. I meant--aw, forget it. Dark Mirror begins with a group of socially influential men deciding that, while they find magic useful, they'd rather it be the province of the lower classes. The men talk, share bad experiences, and scheme to make all outcasts high-born individuals with magical abilities. I'll be frank with you. I hated this scene. It smacked of exposition. How often do men get together and plan the social ruin of an entire population of people? It reminded me of a thousand bad Regencies I've read over the years, and it was not a good note on which to start the novel. I'd have much rather read a more generalize history of how magic became socially unacceptable than have a group of skeevy old men sit around a table and spoon-feed me the exact details. The story then shifts to about two hundred years later. The heroine, Tory, has manifested her magical powers. They are a great shock to her, and she resolves to hide them so deeply that no one will ever know she has them. When hiding them doesn't work, Tory is rejected by family and friends alike, and sent to Lackland Academy, where society's elite send their children to be "cured" of magic. As a character, Tory was all over the place. Initially she wants only to cured and to return to her old life. But even while she's thinking that, she joins a secret society of students who are embracing their magical talents in the hopes of defending England against Napoleon's invasion. But before Tory even has a chance to address this dichotomy, she's whisked through a magical mirror that sends her forward through time. She ends up in WWII England, where her country is facing a different invasion--the Nazis. This element of the story totally confused me. I didn't really see why Tory and Co. had to travel to the future to learn that magic could be valuable as a tool of defense in a time of war. As I've already mentioned, Tory's England is also on the cusp of war. The time travel aspect felt like a ploy to try to get the characters into a more modern frame of thinking while ensuring that they still retained some Regency-era formality. I also didn't connect to any of the characters in the book. For one thing, there were far, far too many. Some of them were interchangeable. Jack and Nick, come to mind the most easily. Tory was a little too good to be true. She's sweet, thoughtful, giving, but stands up for herself and others. As for Allarde, I don't even particularly want to read his backstory, because he didn't do much for me. Which is a shame, as I'm a sucker for a marquis. Yum. And I totally rolled my eyes whenever he and Tory did non-verbal eye communication. Mac and Barrons did it soooo much better. Before I end this review, I have to talk about the time travel aspect of this book. I'm not a fan of time travel books. They don't tend to work for me. This time, though I was intrigued by the twist--Tory travels into the future and not the past. I wanted to see how that would work out. Only it didn't. Tory and Co. adjusted far too easily to modern life. After very little time they're accustomed to electricity, plumbing, the wireless and automobiles. The girls are wearing knee-high skirts and never speak of embarrassment. Huh, what? They come from a time when it was scandalous to let a man see your ankle. I think that, if I were transported one hundred and thirty odd years into the future, I'd be pretty freaked out. It would be more than a few days for me to adjust to technology I can't even fathom right now. I started this book with high expectations, and I'm sorry to say that it didn't live up to them. I will be honest enough to say that I saw enough of Small Review's review to know that she didn't love it, either. I promptly averted my eyes, I promise, but I want you to know that knowing that probably had some influence on my reading. Generally, I don't like to look at other people's reviews until after I write my own, for this very reason. Teen Regencies aren't exactly thick on the ground. If you like that sort of thing, please go check out Melissa Doyle's Bewitching Season. I adored it. I wasn't crazy about the sequel, but I'm looking forward to book three in the series, Magic in Season. Follow the link to read the description. No book cover yet, here's hoping!(less)
My reaction, upon reaching the last page of this book, was to shout "Noooooooooo!" and immediately wish that it wasn't a hideously long ten months until 2012. So, um, I guess you could say that I loved it. The Gathering was my one of my mostly highly anticipated releases for this year. I read and glommed the entire Darkest Powers books in under a week. I wish the rest of the Darkness Rising books were already out so I could do the same to them. I need to find a hobby, fast, before I start stalking Kelley Armstrong in the vain hope of getting some details on book two. Because I anticipated it so highly, I was also very nervous about The Gathering. I was afraid it would not live up to my expectations. Fortunately, I was so very, very wrong. I'd already read the first chapter online and that back cover blurb got me very excited about bad boy Rafe. Color me surprised to discover that, as I read the book, Daniel would be the one I fell in love with. I don't know if Kelley's creating a love triangle--though I highly suspect it--but I'm already TeamDaniel. I was TeamDerek from book one of the Darkest Powers trilogy, too. So I'm really, really hoping that Kelley's thrown us a red herring (not only with Rafe, but with some obvious ohmygod moments). I love slow burn romances, which is probably why the Chloe and Derek worked for me. In that series, Simon was the obvious choice. He and Chloe had obvious chemistry. Derek and Chloe's barely simmered at all in the first book, but that's why I liked them, and rooted for them. I'm hope-hope-hoping for the same with Maya and Daniel. Of course, though the romantic angle of any book I read is important, it can't replace plot, setting and characterization. The Gathering has all of these in full supply. I was delighted by the self-deprecating humor about being Canadian. Maya and her friends are well aware of the fact that, to most people in the U.S., being Canadian is a joke but they don't let it bother them. I also liked the way that Kelley painted Salmon Falls (I'm pretty sure that's right. I had to send the book on, so I can't double-check. Please let me know if you remember differently.). If you've read the Darkest Powers books, you know that the set up in Salmon Falls is hinky. But you're still able to grasp why it seems so normal to Maya, her friends and her family. The sinister undertone flavors the entire novel and it's delicious. If I had one complaint about this novel, it would be the cliffhanger ending. Honestly, I shouted when I reached the last word on the last page. Everything is left up in the air. Er, no pun intended. The wait for the next book in the series is going to be grueling. My mind is churning its way through the revelations, hints and possibilities brought forward by The Gathering. That, to me, is an indication of its very awesomeness. (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)
Review first posted on http://rubysreads.com.[return][return]I don� t know what held me back from reading this book. It� s gotten a lot of blog attent...moreReview first posted on http://rubysreads.com.[return][return]I don� t know what held me back from reading this book. It� s gotten a lot of blog attention lately, and the cover is really lovely. Also, it� s about werewolves and I think I might have mentioned a time or two that I� m into werewolves. Seems like this would be an auto-buy for me, huh? Well, maybe it was its sheer popularity that turned me off. As much as I can, I search for underdog titles. The problem is, this often wars with my desire to find and read books I think I� ll enjoy. After all, life� s too short to read bad books.[return][return]Nightshade is not a bad book. In fact, I liked it a lot. It tells the story of Calla, werewolf and Guardian. In the beginning of the book, Calla rescues a boy from a grizzly attack. She does more than rescue him, though. She saves his life by giving him some of her blood. She also transforms from her wolf form to her human one where he can see, thereby breaking some of the most important pack rules. Things get yet more murky for Calla when the boy shows up as the new kid at her school. Though Calla tries to avoid the boy� Shay� she isn� t successful. Shay� s insistent about getting answers, and Calla herself is drawn to him.[return][return]When it turns out that, though human, Shay is somehow connected to Calla� s world of witches and werewolves, things get even more complicated. There� s something special about Shay, Calla knows this even before she� s asked to look out for him. Calla� s attraction to Shay is completely forbidden. Not only is Shay human and therefore should know nothing about Calla� s werewolf nature, she� s also promised to someone else. Calla� s father is the alpha of the Nightshade pack and, as the alpha� s daughter, she too has alpha status. While this means she� s high up in the pack hierarchy, it also means that she has been chosen to marry an alpha of the Bane pack, Ren. Ren and Calla� s union will the the formation of a third, new pack, an event which has long been planned for.[return][return]Calla� s story features possibly one of the most interesting triangles I� ve read lately. Calla is genuinely attracted to both boys, but she has reservations about being with each. Shay is forbidden fruit. He� s human and he doesn� t really understand her world. His lack of understanding means that he doesn� t understand the risks she takes just by spending time with him. He leads her down a dangerous path, often refusing to take her fears seriously. Not cool. On the other hand, Shay� s inability to understand pack rules and protocol mean that his perception of them is more clear-sighted. While Calla is an alpha, she� s also been raised in a society that emphasizes obedience. Shay is always quick to point out a time when he thinks that being obedient isn� t necessarily the right thing to do.[return][return]On the other hand, Ren was the more alluring male in the triangle. It� s probably because he� s the one that� s an alpha� and I love alpha heroes. Yum. Calla and Ren have been promised to each other since childhood. They� ve always known they were going to be together eventually. Here� s where things get sticky. Pack rules are pretty strict. As the female half of an alpha pair, Calla� s been expected to remain � pure.� She doesn� t even have her first kiss until 170 pages into the book. Ren, by virtue of the creed of a male alpha being all about the chase, has been, ah, allowed to experiment freely. Uh, yeah. But as the story opens, Calla and Ren� s union is fast approaching and Ren� s decided that it� s time for him and Calla (and their respective packs) to begin spending time together. Basically, he puts the moves on her. And when he does, boy is it hot. Unexpectedly so for a Teen novel. Plus, Ren has a lot more depth than Shay. Shay has mystery� he� s clearly someone important and his origins are hazy, at best. But, as Calla discovers, Ren isn� t the arrogant playboy she� s always thought he was. And he cares for her more deeply than she realizes.[return][return]I don� t want you to think that the love triangle isn� t the only aspect of this novel. The appearance of Shay in Calla� s life signals a shift in her belief system. All her life she� s been taught to believe certain things and Shay� s existence and his curiosity bring up questions about those beliefs that Calla can� t answer. Also, more and more Calla begins to see problems with pack hierarchy and the Guardian/Keeper relationship that she can� t ignore. In the meantime, her union to Ren creeps ever closer. And she� s also beginning to realize that mating with Ren will mean that he� ll be in charge, which isn� t easy for an alpha to accept.[return][return]Cremer� s world is complex and layered, in the best of ways. I have to say, though, that thing I enjoyed the most was the relationships that Calla had with both boys. I� m on tenterhooks as to who she� ll end up with. Even on Amazon, Nightshade was linked to Twilight and, I suppose that comparison, while odious, is inevitable. Only, there was never any question who Bella would end up with in the Twilight books. It was always, always, always (shut up already) Edward. It� s not as clear in Nightshade and I liked that. While I must admit to leaning in Ren� s favor, I� m not totally against Shay, either. That� s pretty awesome, because I tend to take sides early, and immovably. I� m adding myself to the long list of people awaiting Wolfsbane.(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)
I am so very glad I decided to read this book. I am so very glad that it was recommended to me...moreThis review was first published on http://rubysreads.com
I am so very glad I decided to read this book. I am so very glad that it was recommended to me in the first place. In fact, I’m just glad this book exists. I love it when I discover a new series that already has a few volumes under its belt. It means I don’t have to wait for the next book to come out. Or at least, the longest I’ll have to wait is until I can to the nearest bookstore. It’s kind of like compensation for coming late to the party.
Halfway to the Grave tells the story of Cat Crawfield, the twenty-two-year old half-vampire amateur vampire huntress. Cat was conceived as a result of her mother’s rape by a newly-made vampire. She has grown up with the knowledge that she was different from other children. Her mother, moreover, has repeatedly told her that vampires are evil and since Cat is half vampire, she has to be on her guard against that half of herself. So, since the age of sixteen, Cat has been trolling bars, luring vampires and killing them. Until one night, six years after her first kill, Cat meets a vampire unlike any she has ever met before. Yep, you got it: Bones.
Despite some initial misunderstandings, Bones convinces Cat to train with him to become a better vampire huntress. Cat is willing to learn, but she isn’t willing to like her new mentor. He is, after all, a vampire and all vampires are evil. Right? Turns out, not so much. Just like humans, vampires can be both good and bad. Cat is, like many heroines, scarred by her past. She’s scarred by the story of her conception, by the first boyfriend she ever had, by her lonely childhood. Halfway to the Grave tells a love story, a mystery and a coming-of-age tale. And it’s funny to boot.
This book was successful for many reasons, not the least of which was its slow burn. It’s a romance, so you know that Cat and Bones will end up together at some point, but Frost doesn’t make the mistake of having them imagining each other naked from the get-go. Or nearly having sex on page five. In fact, the story is told from Cat’s perspective, so you know about her feelings (and Bones’) way before she even gets a clue. This is something I love; when the author shows us that the hero is into the heroine without letting her know. It’s one of the reasons I like the first-person narrative so much. The truly delicious feeling when the hero says or does something that shows his feelings for the heroine that she doesn’t yet understand, but you do is a surefire hook for me. I fall for it every time. That delicious feeling I get–it’s kind of like a shiver up the spine–is what tells me that I’ve found a book that I’m going to love. And I definitely felt that tingle with Halfway to the Grave.
What are some other things I loved about this book? Well, I love that Cat is impulsive but not stupid. I love that she doesn’t fall into the trap of incompetency, and yet she’s not unbelievably kick-ass, either. She’s young and naive, but she’s also twenty-two, so it’s fitting. I really liked that Cat didn’t just think of Bones as her lover, but also as the best friend she’d ever had. I also really, really liked the way that Frost handled the relationship between Cat and her mother. It’s dysfunctional at the beginning of the novel and it’s dysfunctional at the end, but they still love each other.
Of course, the best part of this novel was Bones. He’s funny and he’s good-looking. He’s also protective and caring at the same time. His protective instincts lead him to do the thing more protective heroes should do: better prepare the heroine to defend herself. Bones knows that Cat’s not going to walk away from killing vampires, so he makes her better at it. He arms her with knowledge and training. He also doesn’t let Cat get away with her sometimes immature perceptions. And, ultimately, he’s the one who commits to Cat first. That’s awesome. Bones is definitely the best fictional vampire boyfriend I’ve run across. Though that may not be saying much.
I can’t end this review without mentioning that the end of the book totally revved me up for the next installment. It’s a cliffhanger of sorts, and I can’t wait to see how things pan out. I just know it’s gonna be great.
Oh, and just for fun, here are some of my favorite quotes from Halfway to the Grave:
“Face it–without me you’re looking for a needle in a fangstack.”
“You’re dead and you’re still an alcoholic. That’s so dysfunctional.”
“We’re, ah, taking a break to evaluate things, and, um, reevaluate our relationship, so…I stuffed him in a closet!” I burst out in shame.
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)
How do you defy a million and one positive reviews? Ruby has spent her entire life trying to find good books. Starcrossed was not one of them. You know how I like to disclose, so I'd better tell you that I knew Logan's opinion of this book before I even started it, so I knew that if she didn't like it, there was a pretty good chance I would find myself in the same position. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps. But I don't think so. I dislike Starcrossed on its own merit. Demerits? Not sure about that one. Let me see if I can explain why. My first problem with this book was Helen. I didn't like her. She was too...perfect. Too self-sacrificing and I-never-knew-how-beautiful-I-was. I don't mind characters that have low self-esteem--as long as the book is, at least in part, about the character's journey to self-acceptance. But Helen was completely unbelievable and, frankly, annoying. She doesn't want to learn how to fight because she doesn't believe in violence even though practically EVERYONE is telling her it's not about violence, it's about SELF-DEFENSE. She "protects" a character who is harassing her by not telling anyone about it despite the fact that the harassment is escalating. Oh, and she doesn't call Lucas on his s%@t. Which brings me to Lucas. What a jackwagon. I still don't understand why he didn't just TELL Helen what was going on. It served him absolutely no purpose not to tell her. I wanted to bang my head against my Kindle (seriously!) every time he pushed her away without explanation. Of course, the head-banging wasn't helped by Helen's sheer refusal to say something like, "Dude, what's up with you?" And, also, what's the use of having a best friend if you can't discuss stuff like this with her, Helen? But, honestly, it was this passage that basically made my case against Lucas ironclad:
“Helen runs because she needs a scholarship for college,” Lucas said, shooting Hector a warning glance. “We play sports because it’s expected of us. It’s annoying, actually, because we have to pretend to be unbearably weak and slow.” “And we spend as much time making sure no one gets hurt as we do playing,” added Jason with a rueful smile. “The truth is we’d much rather be beating each other up than pretending to beat up mortals, but that wouldn’t look normal at all.”
There is so much that is wrong with this passage that it makes me sad. First of all, Lucas? If that's your idea of team spirit, I'd rather you stayed at home and beat up the other members of your family. You've managed to be arrogant, condescending and a braggart all at the same time, and I do not want you around. And Jason--guys beat each other up all the time. It's not normal if you don't. Especially if you're family. When my older brother and his best friends are in the same place at the same time as my younger brother, he knows he's going to receive a noogie and a headlock. It's the way they say hello. It's the guyhug. I confess that I also had a problem with the way that Angelini involved Greek Mythology into her story. For one thing, she named her MC Helen and the resident prophetess Cassandra. She should've just gone ahead and called Lucas, Paris. I realize it's not a great name to give to your male character, but it's really not a secret who Lucas is. If Helen is Helen of Troy (which was obvious from the beginning), then of course that's who Lucas is going to be. Even if we're not sure about that, Cassandra proving to indeed have visions of the future clinches it. I do not by any stretch of the imagination consider myself a scholar of Greek history, but the big reveal wasn't big for me and I found myself wondering why Helen hadn't figured it out along with me. Finally, I felt the writing was pretty clunky. This passage irritated me in particular:
“Damn it, it’s me!” Hector whispered harshly. Helen saw him hiding in the shadows, shaking out his hand like it stung. “What the hell? Hector is that you?”
Loc. 1995-96 Because this part is told from Helen's perspective, we know she already knows that it's Hector. Why restate it? I consider this more an editing problem than a writing problem, but the book if full of stuff like that. Dialog is hard to write, I know, and there was very little in Starcrossed that sounded like it would really come out of someone's mouth. I'm also not too fond of the late change in narration. But then, I rarely like that. I think it messes with the flow of the novel and, furthermore, it kind of feels like cheating. If we spend the majority of the book in Helen's head (which we do), then suddenly we're catapulted into Lucas', it feels wrong, like we've suddenly developed the ability to mindread. I'm going to end this review with one last confession: this was a DNF for me. I got to the last 20% and I just can't make myself read the rest. I find that I'm not sufficiently interested in the characters or the story, despite the fact that I've heard there's a cliffhanger ending. I've been wracking my head to come up with something positive to say, something about this book worked for me, but I can't. The beginning was okay, but as soon as Lucas and the rest of the Delos family entered the scene, things started to fall apart. I've heard that Starcrossed is being compared to Twilight. Well, I'm not a Twilight fan, so that may explain things. I'll leave you with a link to Small's review of Starcrossed, which was decidedly more positive than mine. Small's Starcrossed review(less)
One of the most well-used tropes in Paranormal Romance is the idea of soulmates, of fated partners. Like everything, it's been done well, and it's been done poorly. I'm sorry to say that Visions of Magic falls into the latter category. It tells the story of Shea Jameson, a witch on the cusp of Awakening, and her soulmate and Eternal, Torin. According to Hastings' world, each of the witches in the Awakening has an Eternal, an immortal warrior whose purpose is to protect her. The Eternal is also the witch's fated mate. Hastings falls into the trap that the soulmates idea so temptingly dangles before authors. It's this: if two people are fated for each other, then why should they bother with the getting-to-know you crap? Why bother with the non-sexual side of the relationship at all? It doesn't matter if the hero and heroine like each other. They're soulmates, not friends. Shea and Torin connect on a purely physical plane. They spend most of their time together having sex when they should be running from their pursuers. Some protector Torin is, given his inability to keep it in his pants long enough to get "his witch" to safety. While I admit to being less than thrilled with the romance aspect of the novel (Shea and Torin have so many sex scenes, I started scanning them), I was intrigued by Shea and Torin's world. It takes place in a United States where witches are both real and reviled. Women are sent to internment camps on the merest suspicion of being a witch. I could've really gotten into all that, but the execution of the world-building wasn't entirely successful. There's a scene in the book where a sort of "homegrown" anti-witch group meets to plot the capture of Shea and Torin. There's nothing new or interesting about the group leader's zealotry. What should have been a new spin on an old concept fell flat. There were a few inconsequential villains that felt like filler for Shea and Torin until they finally have their confrontation with the Major Villain. My other quibble with this novel was the attention paid to the mating brands. You can see Shea's on the cover model. It starts in the, er, front and curls around her back. Torin has a matching brand, as do each witch and her Eternal. I'm not opposed to mates have marks that identify them as belonging to each other, but this one went over the top. Especially the part where Awakened witches wear gowns specially made to show the whole brand. As in, the front. To be honest, I prefer a hero who would object to his mate exposing that particular part of her anatomy to all and sundry. Just saying. Though I didn't feel that Visions of Magic was a successful first entry in a series, there were a couple of potential elements that intrigued me. The main one is the issue of Kellyn and her Eternal, Egan. I can't more about it without spoiling, but I admit to curiosity as to how that turns out. And I'm also curious about the motives of the female president in Hastings' world. My guess is that her daughter is going to be one of the Awakened, though I gleefully admit to having no basis for my guess. Sadly, though, I don't think I would be willing to weed through another story like Shea and Torin's. My only hope would be for the next one to be vastly different. (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)
Naked Edge may have wet my appetite for Romantic Suspense, but it hasn't helped me find any new authors. I've spent the time since finishing Naked Edg...moreNaked Edge may have wet my appetite for Romantic Suspense, but it hasn't helped me find any new authors. I've spent the time since finishing Naked Edge researching Romantic Suspense, looking for hot new titles and/authors but I haven't had much success. I should say, rather, that I found plenty of Romantic Suspense, but nothing helpful enough to point me to a starting point. When I was in high school, all I read was Mysteries. More recently, I've gone through an Golden Age of Crime phase--Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and the very talented Mary Stewart. But all of those authors are, well, dead. Plus, I was looking for something that fell a little heavier on the Romantic side but with plenty of Suspense. You don't get much on the Romantic front from authors who grew up in the early 1900s, especially respectable female ones. Thus, I've decided to read the I-Team books in reverse order. It's not as though I didn't know that the heroes and heroines from each installment weren't going to end up married with children anyway. You might call that justification. I call it my wallet, my choice. And since you keep trying to argue with me, we'll just have to get off this subject. Unlawful Contact is pretty good. I knew it would be because it got a lot of buzz when it came out. I'm not going to go into the plot, as it involves and lot of twists and turns. I will say that I thought this was going to be a story that took place on the road. I should have known better. Denver, Colorado is, firmly, Clare's setting for this series. She might venture out a bit, but most of the action takes place close to home. I really like it when authors take the time to inject some of the character of their setting. In my opinion, it's one of the things that makes Nora Roberts so popular. The setting is intrinsic to the plot of each one of her books. Not that I've read them all. I don't know if anyone has. How they could possibly know if they had? They keep being re-released. Sorry. Back on topic. I was going to say that I wish Clare would put a little more effort into giving us the flavor of Denver. It wouldn't take much. There are always, for example, stereotypes about a town, city, or even a state. I don't know enough about Colorado to make a suggestion, but I definitely feel like I miss that in Clare's books. Not that Clare doesn't give us a sense that her characters appreciate their physical surroundings. I just didn't get a feel for the setting and that was disappointing. In my opinion, Clare picked a really hard plot to be successful with. When the heroine is kidnapped by the hero, I usually find the "he's holding me at gunpoint, but OMG, he's so sexy stuff" excruciating. I don't really buy it. Or, if I do, it makes me think the heroine is kinda stupid. Clare made it work for her novel because, as the description tells us, the H/h have a history. It makes sense that Sophie would be more willing to buy the story of a guy she'd slept with, even if it was in the distant past. I also appreciated that Sophie does go through a fair amount of mental anguish before she decides to help Marc. In reality, I think it would take considerably longer, but it works for the kind of timeline that is necessary for a novel. The best thing that Unlawful Contact does is bring light to what I think is a really relevant issue: the ineffectiveness of the correctional system. It's not that I don't believe that incarceration is the right thing for certain criminals--I do--but it's not the only answer. Those who serve time are more likely to become hardened criminals than they are to reform and end up on the streets changed men and women. Clare's story is kind of like hyperbole--she exaggerates the situation for effect. I just hope that people don't dismiss her message because of that. Since finishing Unlawful Contact, my finger's been hovering over the "buy now" button for Hard Evidence. It's a good thing for my wallet that I lent my father my Kindle so he can read the Fever Series. In the meantime, are there any Romantic Suspense authors/books I should be looking into? (less)
I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong about self-published books. And All the Stars is the...moreThis review was first posted on http://rubysreads.com.
I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong about self-published books. And All the Stars is the kind of book I’m always searching for, regardless of who published it. Well-written, tightly plotted and titillatingly characterized, here lies a masterwork. In fact, I’m kind of surprised that this book hasn’t gotten more buzz. I heard about it on The Booksmuggler’s blog (it was featured on their Radar and then Ana reviewed it), but it was sheer happenstance that I saw it on NetGalley. I requested it on a whim–everyone probably knows by now that I’m on a NetGalley ban–and was lost in the story before I even knew it.
And All the Stars tells the story of Madeline Cost (not Maddie, Leina only to her cousin Tyler), and how she survives the apocalypse by shucking her loner status and binding together with a motley crew of teenage survivors. As the story opens, Madeline is in an underground station, at the center of the apocalypse. Unbeknownst to her parents, Madeline snuck away from home to meet her cousin Tyler at his Sydney apartment. Too bad this act of rebellion coincided with the apocalypse. All over the world, in the most populated cities, mysterious spires have erupted from the ground. These spires (which I imagine look like the Swiss Re building in London, left) are like ginormous mushrooms. They’ve sprouted from the ground and emit a thick cloud of dust (to continue the mushroom analogy, I thought of them like spores).
Madeline escapes the underground station and makes it to her cousin’s Sydney apartment only to experience dramatic changes as a result of inhaling the dust. Most of her body turns midnight blue, dusted with sparkling white stars (the cover makes sense now, doesn’t it?). Her metabolism drastically quickens and she discovers that she has new, frightening powers. Maddie’s instinct is to huddle up and wait, but it’s the hunger that drives her out, where she meets a string of teens also affected by the dust.
Among these teens, Madeline discovers the girl who will become her best friend and the boy who just may be first love. Unfortunately, they’re all on the run for their lives. Those spires, it turns out, are the work of an alien race intent on using humans for their survival. Though Madeline (as the one with the most “stain” on her body), is the aliens’ most-wanted human, the bewildered group of teens bands together and forms a close-knit group. This, perhaps more than the apocalyptic storyline, is the heart of And All the Stars.
Before I give anything else away, I better shut up. I couldn’t possibly unveil all the layers of this book in one review. I wouldn’t even want to. Like all good books, it’s a thing best discovered for yourself. There are a few curious elements (cell service and electricity during the apocalypse?!?!) and the epilogue is a bit schmaltzy and baby-studded, but well-deserved. Just trust me when I say that this is the book to cure your apocalyptic ennui. Think you’re over them? Think again!(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)