Beneath the Slashings is the third and final installment in the Divided Decade Trilogy, which shows the American Civil War from three different anglesBeneath the Slashings is the third and final installment in the Divided Decade Trilogy, which shows the American Civil War from three different angles. They all feature different characters and plots, united by the Civil War as a backdrop, so each can be read as a stand alone.
First off (even though it's probably quite cheesy), I'm from Michigan, and I myself write books in Michigan. This story is set in Michigan as well, so I enjoyed that. While I've never been particularly interested in the Civil War, this story really brought the time period alive. Ms. Isenhoff has become one of my favorite indie writers for her well-paced plots and vivid, descriptive prose. The latter is what strikes me most about her books--you can practically see the ramshackle camp, smell the forest and taste the food that is prepared in the kitchen.
Beneath the Slashings is not just historical fiction, it also contains a compelling mystery and themes of loss, friendship and change. They are all woven together flawlessly to create a fast-paced, action filled story that never disappoints. Even though the book takes place pretty much exclusively in the logging camp, it is so three-dimensional that it never gets boring. There are also themes of young romance and coming of age, which is especially hard for a girl with no other women around for companionship.
Grace was a great lead character, she is at the age where she doesn't really understand her father's decisions from all angles. Fear has taken over her life, as she's lost friends and family to the Civil War both by death and people being divided and moving away. When she first arrives at the camp, she sequesters hersef in the kitchen, and even her patient twin brother Sam can't get her out of her shell. Yet as time passes and she interacts with the lumberjacks she begins to warm up.
All of the characters are well-fleshed out, and I especially enjoyed the Russian cook Ivan and the teller of tall tales, Fiddlesticks (given that nickname for his talent with a fiddle). Each had their own unique personalities and felt real. I like how their reactions to the end of the war weren't so cut and dried; there were conflicting feelings and opinions, which felt more authentic.
I would definitely recommend this book to readers from fourth grade and up, and any adult who enjoys a solid, entertaining read. I look forward to more books by Ms. Isenhoff in the future.
(Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)...more
Glimpse was a different take on a paranormal series, and I liked the ideas behind it. I enjoyed Zellie as the narr(Crossposted from Bittersweet Books)
Glimpse was a different take on a paranormal series, and I liked the ideas behind it. I enjoyed Zellie as the narrator. She's a preacher's daughter who is finally finding her way in the world and growing up. She had a very original voice, was funny and sarcastic and teenager-esque. She obsessively crushes on handsome schoolmate Avery, but their initial romance seemed very real. I loved how just completely awkward and adorkable they were together. I also enjoyed her friend Claire and her sister Melody, who both showed a lot of growth in the novel. I liked both Zellie and Avery's family dynamics, especially in the first half. Their interactions felt very genuine--sometimes they embarrassed each other, but they always had each other's best interests at heart. Her father is awesome, level-headed and funny. He's one of the most well-rounded characters in the book.
Zellie sees glimpses into the future, but doesn't know how to act on them or what they mean at first. It's a trait that runs in her family. I thought the way the author handled that, and the rest of the supernatural aspects of the book like rewinding time, was really unique and interesting. When Zellie goes and finds out more about her developing powers, she begins to unravel a lot of secrets that have been hiding from not only her but her loved ones as well.
The book is told from Zellie's perspective in first person and alternates with Avery's in third. I thought this was quite original and gave the reader insight into what the love interest's motives were.
I struggled really, really hard whether to rate this book a 3 or a 4. The first half is well-paced, with good vivid writing, believable characters and dialogue, and a plot that seems to be unfolding organically. Then all of a sudden the mid-point hits, and the book suddenly becomes disjointed. Lots of what should be important scenes are rushed. Character development is shallow. The ending seemed very abrupt, and I actually was surprised that we were suddenly there.
With Avery, I never got a consistent sense of his character. At first, he's a really shy, dorky boy who likes Zellie, which as I said, I loved. So many times, a YA hero will be some buff jerk, but he seemed real. However, later on suddenly he does a 180. I hated the way he treated her after that, and I didn't want her to go back to him. There were definitely circumstances that affected him greatly, but it just seemed off. Even though their initial crushes on each other was really cute and realistic, their actual relationship was all about heavy petting and makeout sessions. I would have liked to have seen more conversations between the two to break up said teenage hormone fests, otherwise it just read as flat and rushed.
I did end up rating this as a 4, because I genuinely enjoyed the book and it was a quick read for me despite the flaws. The story held my interest the entire time, even while jumping around. I'll definitely be continuing the series to see what happens next. I enjoyed pretty much all the characters and the storyline, I just wish there had been a more consistent flow....more
Beautiful Demons pulls you in from the first page and never lets down in the pacing. It's a fast and very entertaining read. I've been wanting to read this series for a while, because of the pretty covers and titles. Currently Beautiful Demons is available for free, but I don't know how long that will last.
I really liked the main character, Harper Madison. She gets moved in a group home after bouncing around from foster care homes, due to getting into trouble for things she can't control. Harper is smart and has a solid head on her shoulders, and she makes for an easy-to-like heroine. I loved the house in which she lives--Shadowford Plantation, it was drawn very gothic, with old-fashioned decor and spooky corridors where secrets hide.
Even though I'm long out of high school, one of the reasons I enjoy reading YA still is the high school dynamics. It's just entertaining, there's really no better setting for soap opera drama. (I blame Buffy for this interest.) You could pay me to actually attend a high school again, but I enjoy visiting them via books. Peachville High is enamored with the Demons football team and especially the cheerleaders, who are a tight clique of the most popular girls in school. Harper makes enemies out of Tori, one of the exclusive cheerleaders, on the first day and ostracizes herself, until things turn upside down.
The plot isn't super original, but it's very solid and well-laid out. There is a satisfying conclusion and everything's wrapped up well in the main story while still leaving plenty of interesting questions that will make me read the next book. Currently, there are four more books in the series with a final one due out this year, so there's a lot to continue with!
My only real complaint is the romance in this book. I am not a fan of love triangles; they are EVERYWHERE in romantic books nowadays. Jackson was fairly interesting, but I wanted to slap Drake, and I never fully believed him as anything but a jerk.
I was surprised by how much I liked Beautiful Demons. It was a fun, easy read, and I'll definitely be continuing the series. I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys YA paranormal.
What I Liked: Alone deals with the difficult and harsh reality of a violent marriage. Even though it made me uncomfortable at times, I appreciated the realistic storytelling of domestic violence. Since I've had experience with that myself, it felt realistic. Sometimes it seems melodramatic when Jackson is abusing her, but that kind of situation IS melodramatic when you're living in. I think she captured the thoughts going on in Serenity's head perfectly.
The writing was clear and descriptive. The story moves evenly and Marissa has a knack for pacing. I enjoyed the chapters that switched to Sebastian's point of view. It was a refreshing change, and it was interesting to get his perspective. I liked Sebastian quite a bit, in fact, especially as the story progressed. The dynamic between him and Madeline was entertaining. For being undead, they brought a lot of life to the story. The mythology of vampires was also unique.
Not So Much: For the first half of the book, Serenity struck me as a very unlikeable character. I wanted to like her, but I couldn't. She didn't have much emotional depth, and she was extremely weak, although I can understand why. But I had a hard time understanding her reactions. I was especially thrown when she found out what Sebastian was, and she freaked out about it. With how much she had clung to him during the first part of the story, it didn't jive. If she was a younger girl, a teen, maybe I could understand. But she's supposed to be 28.
I hate Twilight comparisons, but I couldn't help but draw them with this one--the instant "I love you!" relationship between Serenity and Sebastian, the breathless descriptives, even the silver car that Sebastian drives (an Audi, not a Volvo). This is very much an adult Twilight. The fact that Serenity latches onto Sebastian so quickly, and all of her thoughts begin to revolve around him, strikes me as sad. But, as I said, at about the half point she starts to develop herself and the story takes off. It's just at that point I had lost a lot of interest.
Verdict: A decent read for me. I won't be continuing the series, partially because of my own burnout with vampire stories. But I would definitely read something else by Marissa not involving these characters; there's no doubt that she's a good storyteller. If you enjoy Twilight-style vampire romance, this is a solid choice.