Occasionally, my husband and I will discuss books that I am reading at the time. It mostly depends on if the cover sparks his curiosity enough to findOccasionally, my husband and I will discuss books that I am reading at the time. It mostly depends on if the cover sparks his curiosity enough to find out what it's about. In this case, he saw me putting together the Elemental Virgins post a few weeks ago (which may or may not have led to a few awkward questions. "So you're a virgin, huh?"), so he knew this was one of the books in the series. One day, I was minding my business, cracking up in my little Reading Corner at some witty banter between the Merrick boys, and hubby and I had an interesting exchange:
"So, what's going on in your book? You liking it?" he said.
"Yeah, it's pretty funny. I like some parts more than others," I said.
"That's good, I guess?" he asked.
"Well, it's just this one character named Gabriel that's being a total douche," I replied.
"Uh oh. That doesn't sound good. Are you going to anger the internet gods and write a scathing review?" he asked.
"What? No. I like this book far too much to do that," I said. I mean, really, hun, is that what you think-- okay, fair point.
"Alright, so tell me what it's about."
"It's about these guys that can each control the elements. See the man-child on the cover? This book is Chris' story. He can control water and his brothers can each control fire, wind and earth," I explained.
*cue laughter from the hubby*
"What? What's so funny?" I asked.
"The fact that you're giving your V-card up to Captain Planet's Planeteers," he says.
*insert my unimpressed face here*
"'We're the Planeteers! You can be one too! 'Cause saving our planet is the thing to do!'" he sung. Badly.
Ha. Ha. Ha. Everyone's a comedian.
But my hubby is totally wrong, it's nothing like Captain Planet, minus the whole element wielding thing, of course. But it does tell the story of four orphaned guys, living in a house together, struggling to stay out of trouble. Well, I should really rephrase that. Sometimes they manage to stay out of trouble. Other times, they welcomed it. But the thing with Storm and I is that we developed this weird love/hate relationship during our courtship. For every one thing I absolutely loved about it, there was always something else that I hated. So here are three things that I loved/hated about Storm.
The Merrick Boys
I'd be lying if I said I didn't love this group of guys. While this book does primarily tell Chris' story and jumps between his and Becca's PoV, the other brothers' personality are not neglected what so ever. Each brother has such a distinct personality that comes through the pages loud and clear (except for Nick. He's kinda quiet). I loved seeing the dynamic between them, which of course came with lots of witty banter like this:
“If you want me to fix your homework, you need to leave me alone.” Then he spotted her. “You’re back.” “Yeah.” She glanced between him and Gabriel. “You do his homework?” “Just the math. It’s a miracle he can count to ten.” “I can count to one.” Gabriel gave him the finger.”
You could also tell how much they cared about each other. Since losing both parents in a tragic accident, the oldest brother Michael forgoes college and any other personal aspirations to stay home and raise his younger brothers. Sometimes he's very over-protective, but that was totally understandable given what they've all gone through. The Merrick boys are virtually outcasts from their own kind and hunted for their powers. Their relationships and fierce protectiveness reminds me of how my siblings and I interacted.
But you want to know who I really thought the Merrick boys reminded me of?
The Mercer boys! Okay, so before you start giving me strange looks, hear me out! I mean, think about it. You have Bobby (Michael) who's the one in charge, keeping the others in line. Angel (Gabriel) who is always getting into it with the leader and he's the most volatile. Jeremiah (Nick) is the calm, responsible one. And finally, Jack (Chris) who is the younger, brooding member of the family. Now just picture Mark Wahlberg threatening someone while saying:
“Good.” Michael wrapped his hand around the hilt. Then he lifted it, cocked the hammer, and put the barrel against Hunter’s forehead. “Now where the fuck are my brothers?”
Guys, tell me this is not a YA version of Four Brothers! And in case that wasn't clear, that's a compliment because that movie was awesome, filled with a lot of action and it has great chemistry between the brothers. Are you seeing my vision here?
So what was the thing that I disliked about the characters? Gabriel. I honestly was not feeling this guy. He came across a bit sexist to me when he kept commenting on Becca's sexual ventures. He'd say things like "she's been around the block" and how she slept with half the soccer team, etc. But I found that to be very unfair considering how he mentioned to her that it wasn't unusual to find different girls in their house on a regular basis. BUT I do think that even though Gabriel felt like he was slut shaming to me, he DOES seem like a redeemable character. From what I hear from my other reviewing peeps, he does just that in his book, Spark.
I really appreciate the creativity that Brigid used in Storm. This could have easily turned into a run of the mile "boy saves girl, boy and girl fall in love, the universe is trying to keep them apart... oh noz!, happily ever after." But it didn't. Instead, the book starts off with the heroine, Becca, saving Chris from getting his ass handed to him on the parking lot. That one interaction causes her to continue to cross paths with the Merrick boys over the course of the book and from that moment on, there is very little downtime for the reader. When people say this is an addictive read, they aren't joking. I stayed up well past my bedtime because I couldn't seem to put it down.
I also loved how the story takes place somewhere that is very familiar to me. Thank you, Brigid! There are not nearly enough books set in this awesome town. ;)
-I found the plot to be fairly predictable in some parts. I had seen the mystery surrounding Hunter and Becca a mile away. The good thing is that it didn't bother me in the slightest. The story is way to engaging for that.
-In the beginning, I felt that the Merrick boys were way too willing to share certain things with Becca even though they were trying not to tell her their secret. For example, Chris would make comments hinting at his powers to the point where it was painfully obvious, but Becca remained oblivious until Chris finally told her. Becca finding out the mystery felt a little too drawn out for my tastes and didn't seem very organic.
-The writing style was a bit of an adjustment for me. I don't think it was bad, I just dislike 3rd person PoV because I am a strange person and it usually takes me a lot longer to connect with characters. This is just a personal pet peeve, so that probably wouldn't bother most people who have a heart and soul. Unlike me... or so Kat tells me.
Becca was a very interesting character and I felt that Brigid took a risk with her. Mostly this was not a bad thing. Becca is sexually harassed throughout most of the book and is labeled the school slut. I think that was a very realistic portrayal of what happens to some girls and overall I did like Becca as a character. She's spunky and does hold her own up against the Merrick boys since they are not the most accepting bunch of people.
-I feel like Becca made a few decisions that were illogical, like say, going to a party thrown by a guy who started the rumors about her and who continued to harass her only to get drunk there. Given what her past was with this guy, that made so little sense to me. Also, in the end where she goes outside of the dance to talk with the guy (Drew) alone, was so not smart on so many levels. Why not have Hunter just stand at a distance while she had the convo and be nearby just in case douchey McDouchey Pants tried to try anything. And you can believe that Drew did intend to try something. It was like watching a character in a horror movie opening That Door and you're yelling at your TV, (as if they can hear you) telling them not to, but they don't listen and they die. That is how I felt with Becca.
-The moment where Becca finally stood up to Gabriel and his snide comments, was awesome for me... right up until he decided to get revenge on Drew by beating him up. It felt like the scene's focus shifted from Becca being the victim and having her moment to Gabriel being the hero. The problem I have is that every time Becca was being sexually harassed, it was one of the Merrick boys that came swooping in for the rescue. Becca wasn't exactly a pushover since she did stand up to the Merricks on countless occasions. I would have liked to see Becca be her own hero when it came to standing up to Drew.
(view spoiler)[-There is an almost rape scene between Becca, Drew and a group of other boys (and it was more graphic that what I thought it'd be). To me, it felt conveniently placed just so Chris and Becca would end up on the field during that lightning storm. One of my pet peeves is when a heroine's gender is used to further the plot. It's like, she's a girl and so the worst possible thing that will happen to her is rape, so let's throw in a rape scene. But more than that, this one didn't seem authentic to me because Drew essentially says, "Everyone thinks I raped you. So even though I didn't and could possibly plead my case, I'm going to commit the crime everyone thought I did... just because." Really, Drew?
And then, of course, that was Chris' cue to step in and save Becca. I wasn't very impressed with that scene. (hide spoiler)]
But despite my issues, I would still recommend this book. It's addictive and a really entertaining read that appears to get better with every book. As for me? Weathering this Storm proved to be very rewarding. How do I feel about losing my Elemental V-card? Well, you know what they say. You never forget your first time. Heh.
Check out the details for the read along here and enter for a chance to win Storm, Spark and Spirit (they are totally signed)!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There are a lot of things I expected from Origin. Mystery, a jungle backdrop and even a bit of romance. But, wow. I did not expect to be grabbing the There are a lot of things I expected from Origin. Mystery, a jungle backdrop and even a bit of romance. But, wow. I did not expect to be grabbing the edge of my seat, turning page after page in anticipation. However, this novel is not for the faint of heart due to a few shocking scenes. But carefully placed gentler moments are woven in with the call of the jungle. Between the bitter-sweet blossom of first love and the nail-biting storyline, I was robbed of precious sleep... I was captivated.
Pia, our main character, is immortal. She was created and raised by a group of scientist with the intent to create a new human race at any cost. Nothing can pierce her skin. She has heightened hearing, sight, smell and speed. At first glance it may seem like she's just going to turn out to be your run of the mill Mary Sue, but Pia has her weakness, normal strength and endurance along with her stubbornness that at times really frustrated me, but I enjoyed seeing her grow. She lives a very sheltered life because she has never left Little Cam and she is curious about the outside world. Unfortunately, the scientist never allow her to know anything about the world. She's never seen a map, TV, Internet, heard music, etc. She's been told that all those things are a distraction from her destiny: To create even more immortals like her for the betterment of the human race. And for a time she believes them until one day an opportunity presents itself, she explores the jungle and meets Eio, who makes her completely question everything she has been taught.
Speaking of Eio, when we are first introduced to him he immediately reminded me of someone. Remember Mimi-Siku, A.K.A. "Cat Piss", from Jungle 2 Jungle?
Eio, the love interest, jungle boy, half Ai'oan. He's honest and kind. And unlike Pia, he sees the danger of Little Cam and urges her to abandon the facility. Even when she resists over and over, determined to remain there, he doesn't abandon her. He shows her things she's never seen, things that don't fit into her perceived perfect, scientific ideals. And while he does make a statement early on that could be seen as misogynistic (telling Pia she needed a big strong man to walk her through the jungle), to me it felt more like him trying to make a good impression and be chivalrous. He's from a culture that is virtually cut off from modern society (Little Cambridge excluded), so the intention of the statement never felt insulting. I could always tell he truly cared about her. Every time Eio spoke to Pia, I could hear Mimi's voice in my head. I could just picture his raw, honest facial expressions behind every sentence. They were so simple, but so much emotion was packed into it.
"I will climb that fence, if you ask it of me, and I will bring you out."
This was an interesting reading journey for me because Origin technically has a big thing that I usually hate in books: Insta-love. I can only remember one other book where it didn't bother me and that was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Tayler, which I LOVED. Books like these really affirm my belief that there isn't necessarily anything *wrong* with a story that features fast building love as long as the relationship is believable to the reader. For me it was. Even though the book does take place in perhaps a little over a week, it felt much longer than that. Pia and Eio meet in a very unique circumstance so it's hard to compare their courtship to, say, Patch and Nora of Hush, Hush. -_- Because unlike other YA couples, I felt that Eio and Pia really loved each other.
I think a big part of me believing in the romance was due to Khoury's prose. The scenes between Pia and Eio were delicately crafted and I'm a sucker for pretty prose. It wasn't the dreaded purple prose. It was simple and its subtlety in the heat of the moment had me feeling some kinda way.
I think of my eternal people. Of brothers and sisters and friends who will never die. An immortal family, untouched by pain and death, knowing only life and love and beauty. I try to imagine it, try to see their faces in my mind... but all I see is a blue-eyed boy sitting by the river, giving me the stars.
It was like watching Mimi-Siku giving Karen the pot. *wipes tear*
The beginning of Origin definitely sets the tone for the rest of the book and if the first scene bothers you, chances are this book will not be for you. There are a few animal testing scenes where animals are harmed. But the general tone of the MC and book was that this was frowned upon so it wasn't endorsed. But since Pia lives in that kind of environment where the scientist are looking for immortality, it makes sense that they would have animal test subjects. Pia hated that they ran those tests on animals and never wanted to be apart of it. Nevertheless, it is there and it is disturbing.
I love when I can tell that an author has done their homework and Khoury did just that. The Amazonian rainforest is well-developed and vivid. You can see the detail used especially when plants and insects are described. At one point I had to google one of the insects mention, the titan beetle (don't click the link if you are squeamish), and then I was like:
*shudders* I'll never look at a beetle the same way again.
By the end of Origin I realized something about myself. I often complain and complain about how standalones are almost non-existent in YA Land, but this time I actually found myself wishing it was a series. The jungle was done with me, but I wasn't done with the jungle. So if you are looking for a Sci-Fi type mystery, I'd say give Origin a try. It just might surprise you.
ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review. Thank you, Razorbill!
I must regrettably inform you that we must do the unthinkable and separate. I really don't know where we went wrong, you and I. After Dearest Unspoken,
I must regrettably inform you that we must do the unthinkable and separate. I really don't know where we went wrong, you and I. After my co-blogger, Kat, set us up on that blind date, urging me to give you a go, I thought for sure we would hit it off nicely. And for a minute we did. Don't you remember? It was love at first sight as I set my eyes on your gorgeous cover and unique premise. But somehow, along the way, something went wrong.
Unspoken, you were true. You had a solid plot and you were different from any of the others I've read before you. But it was clear from the beginning that our cultural differences would be our undoing. With you being so very English and me being a confused American, I just couldn't keep up with your complexity. But darling, to be fair, you weren't easy on me. If only your scene transitions were a little more smoother, perhaps I could have understood how much time had passed or when the character PoV had changed. Or perhaps if only the characters didn't suffer from "just go with it" syndrome, ignoring and dismissing instances where they had the opportunity to learn more about the mystery just for the sake of prolonging the story. Unspoken, let's be honest with one another. That mystery could have been solved halfway through the story if only the characters weren't so wrapped up in concealing their feelings. Honey-bunches, it annoyed me.
Speaking of your characters, darling, they were entirely likable. But that's also the problem because that's all they will ever be for me, just likable. Not once did I feel connected to them in any way and countless times I paused to consider the possibilities of why. Kami is a smart, witty, no-nonsense girl. Just my type, if you can believe it. But her constant detachment from Jared proved to be more of an annoyance than anything else. The more and more she pulled away from him, the more I felt I lost any type connection. Don't get me wrong, Unspoken. I really did enjoy the fact that they could read each other's minds since they were babies. I just don't understand why Jared never could bear to touch Kami. Why did Kami want to rid herself of Jared after she mentions how much she values their special relationship. Because she was afraid of being hurt? So this one hurdle somehow cancels out the relationship they had developed since they were children? I'm sorry, but that logical pathway confuses me.
Even still, through our rough times, you somehow managed to occasionally make me laugh. The dialogue and humor were perfection and timely placed. Unfortunately, not even your wit could save us. I probably should have mentioned all this before. Looking back, I had seen the ghosts of these feelings at the halfway mark and I struggled to stay in our relationship. I now realize that I shouldn't have let other's incessant peer pressure get to me. You see, they told me to just hang in there, that it was all worth it in the end. But by the time you have reached your climax and ending, I remained indifferent. To put it lightly, dearest, your ending is illogical to me. You're telling me a group of people couldn't disarm and defeat one enemy? Even with their special abilities combined? And in turn, it took that group of people forever to get to Kami? And dammit I wish I could go into further detail about that, but I know how you feel about kissing and telling.
No, no. I know what you're doing right now and you shouldn't even think it. Unspoken, you were fabulous in so many ways. It was like you were telling this hilarious joke and I was standing there waiting for the punchline, only to realize everyone else is already laughing. Which is why I must close this break-up letter with the most clichéd expression ever:
With all my love,
P.S. I know that Kat Kennedy will attempt to chivalrously defend your honor tooth and nail in a review war. Please, pass on a message for me: Bring it. :P
Grave Mercy started out very strong for me with its historical roots. I instantly loved Ismae and could empathize with her bleaActual rating 2.5 stars
Grave Mercy started out very strong for me with its historical roots. I instantly loved Ismae and could empathize with her bleak outlook on life. The novel had strong characters, a good plot, and political intrigue. I mean, c'mon! An assassin nun?! A badass premise like that is just begging to be read and loved. So what in heaven's name went wrong for me? Why am I only giving this book 2.5 stars?
Well, I'll start with what I actually liked first. I did like all the characters, especially Ismae. It's a big deal for me to like the heroine since I usually hate them due to their inability to use their brains. But not Ismae, she's a smart cookie. This isn't shocking since I'd wager it does require a certain amount of neurons to assassinate someone. And while she does carry prejudices against men due to her harsh childhood, there is a good amount of character growth for her. So, gold star for her. Duval, the love interest, while initially not appealing to my co-blogger, won me over fairly easily. And for all those wondering, the "His" in "His Fair Assassin" is not referring to Duval. It refers to Ismae's god, Mortain. At least, I'm pretty sure. Lol.
I also really liked the plot and the historic features. I can tell LaFevers did lot of research and it truly does show. Many of the characters in the novel are real people and the events occurring, real events. I felt it was a nice change in pace to the usual YA books I've read.
But the good points just weren't enough for me to love this book. Unfortunately, the negatives outweigh the positives. *sigh* Another book falls short of badassery.
First of all, I probably would never have picked up this book on my own if Kennedy hadn't suggested a read-a-long. I choose to avoid historic fiction for a myriad of reasons, the most important being: It's just not my cup of tea. When I have to sit down and think about the setting, time period, a huge cast of characters I have to keep up with, political talk, yada, yada, yada... it just turns me right off. It's too much. And I don't like having to concentrate while reading for enjoyment. In this case, I liked it, but then, I didn't like it. For the first portion of the novel, I was unsure of *when* in history this book took place. Personally, I cannot sit back and enjoy a novel if it feels like I'm missing a crucial part of the story. And the time period was important for me. European history is just not my forte, so I took to Wikipedia looking for answers. Unfortunately for me, I now knew how the story would eventually end unless Levers decided to deviate from history. But at least I knew the time period is the late 1480s. Yay for me. Boo that I had to work so hard to find the answer.
Anyway, that was the first strike. The second? Boredom. Right around 40% the high from the strong beginning began to fade and along with it, my eyelids closed more often then I'd like them too. Ismae is a trained killer, but there wasn't much killing going on. In fact, there was mostly too much talking about the political plans being made to ward of the French from invasion. Honestly, I couldn't care less about any of that. I WANTED BLOOD. Then it got boring. Ismae spent more time talking about all her cool weapons, than using them. She'd go on and on about her poisons and how she could kill someone with this weapon or that poison. I wanted her to take a page from Nike.
No excuses, Ismae!
*FRUSTRATION* What good is an assassin nun that just wanders the castle?! Do something! Anything. Do the Macarena. Sing a Ke$ha song!
But, I was still interested enough to continue on and I'm glad I did, because it started getting interesting. However, that leads me to my forth point...
This book was entirely too predictable. Could the bad guy be anymore obvious? LaFevers pretty much dangled him in front of us the entire novel like a carrot, so by the time the main characters goes, "It was you!" you're thinking, "It's about time." And that really made me sad because I thought, "There was no way it can be who I think it is. It's just too easy. There has to be one last plot twist." Sadly, there wasn't one and because of that, I think the ending suffered greatly.
Speaking of the ending, it felt incredibly rushed to me. All conflicts came to a more or less, hurried happy ending. As soon as the baddie is caught the book has nothing more to do then fall back on its underdeveloped romance between Ismae and Duval. That's not to say I disliked Duval and Ismae. I actually liked both characters a great deal, but together? Not so much. Grave Mercy spent entirely too much time revolving around the mystery and not much time developing the relationship. I think the book needed to make its mind up: Romance or plot. It couldn't have both believably, in this case.
*mild spoilers* But the part I really disliked about the book was the scene where Ismae had to purge poison from Duval's body by having sex with him. I was relatively enjoying the book up until that point. When I read that scene I rolled my eyes so hard. I mean, really?! REALLY?! She is a nun assassin and the biggest gift Mortain gives her involves her sexuality? She becomes a human bezoar! Would ya look at that? A woman's body really can be objectified in almost any profession! Awesome. \(-_-)/
The next book appears to be about Sybella, who I thought would have had a bigger role in this installment. The mystery surrounding the girl was thrown at the reader several times and we are given no information about her assignment. Same goes for Annith's story. I found that incredibly frustrating. I realize this is supposed to be a series and perhaps their stories will be told in the sequels, but leaving those gaps made Grave Mercy seem incomplete. I can't help to think the book would have been stronger as a stand alone novel instead of stretching their stories out over three books.
So, will I continue on with this series? At this time, probably not. But I would still recommend it to others looking for a change-up in their usual YA readings, especially those who enjoy historic fiction with romance and a pleasant splash of paranormal.