Monday, November 12, 2012

The Devil You Know by Adrian W. Lilly

Before I get started on the review, I just want to let everyone know that this is going to be my last review. For details on why I've stopped blogging, see here.


Title: The Devil You Know
Author: Adrian W. Lilly
Rating: 3.5 stars
 

The Plot
 

Julie is unhappy that her parents are making her move from her life in Chicago to her father’s home town in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula. She doesn’t want to leave her best friend Marie-Do, and she knows that the lack of swim team at her new school will kill her chances for swimming in college. But when her mother explains that her father is dying, Julie has no choice but to give into her family’s desires. But she only has to spend a few days in the UP before she realizes that something is seriously wrong with this town. The other children in school are Children-of-the-Corn creepy, and she has no way to make contact with the outside world. As time wears on, Julie realizes that her parents may have brought her here for a far more nefarious purpose than she ever could have imagined.
 

The Good
 

The Devil You Know was more horror-y than what I usually read, and it did that effectively. At every turn, I didn’t know what was going to happen to our characters, whether they were going to escape or fall victim to the clutches of the evil. The set-up was quite scary. Julie’s parents were in total control of her life and were able to block off every method of communication with the outside world, including any physical way to leave the town.
 

The Bad
 

I had a hard time finding The Devil You Know as plausible all the time. The story definitely has an atypical setup: parents plotting to kill their children. I wanted there to be a more complicated dynamic going on, like where one of the evil people has a more complex emotion, like regret over killing own children. But it was pretty much straight up horror without the emotional complexity. Which is fine for the genre, I guess.
 

I also found the book to move rather more slowly than I would have liked, especially at the beginning. We go through every day in Julie’s life from September 29th until the sacrifice on October 31st, and important stuff doesn’t happen on all of those days. And then when we get toward the end, she often does very little on these urgent days. And I keep wanting to know why she isn’t spending more time trying to GET THE HELL OUT OF DODGE. But, then, I guess it’s not horror if the heroine doesn’t spend some time running up the staircase when she should be heading out the front door.
 

The Romance
 

Julie meets Paul, the only other normal person in town, and they fell in love in a time frame that can only be described as way too quickly. I do think it was actually more than three days before they were declaring their love for each other, but that doesn’t mean I actually bought it. I did spend much of the book wondering if Paul was going to secretly turn out to be evil, which added a level of interest to the story. And I’m not telling you whether he is or is not. You will just have to read it. Bwahaha.
 

Will I read more?
 

The Devil You Know is, I am pretty sure, a stand-alone novel. But I honestly don’t see myself picking up anything more by this author, at least partly because I’m not a huge fan of horror.
 

See Details for Book on    Amazon

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Matter of Fate by Heather Lyons

Title: A Matter of Fate
Series: Annar
Author: Heather Lyons
Length: 6665 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars
 

The Plot
 

Chloe is not sure she wants her fate. From her birth, she has been destined to be a Creator and a leader of the Magicals on the seven planes. This makes her unique, but it also makes her a target for the Magicals’ enemies. One day Jonah shows up at her school, and she instantly knows him – She has been having dreams about him her entire life. And she’s about to find out that Jonah and his twin brother Kellan have more to do with her destiny than she ever imagined.
 

The Good
 

So I got the review request for this book, and it was like “Girl with supernatural powers has dreams about a cute boy she discovers is real. And he has a twin.” This is, like, my book kryptonite. I cannot turn it away. My friend says that if The Ring featured a YA novel instead of a video, this would be the plot, as that would be the best way to maximize readership. I realize this trope has been done lots of time, but, really, the only thing that could make me want to read it more is if the twin were evil. But not really evil. Just misunderstood.
 

A Matter of Fate did not disappoint, and it actually managed to be a better book than the cliché format implied. Chloe lives in an interesting magical world full of people with all kinds of different powers. Chloe herself is brave and caring. Her parents are not as supportive as she would like them to be, but she forges a family out of the people around her. She is a strong, albeit overemotional, girl who is doing her best to live up to the future that has been mapped out for her.
 

The Bad
 

I find I don’t have too much to say that’s bad about this book. It was on the long side and dragged a bit in parts, but that wasn’t that big a deal. So why, you may ask, have I detracted a star from the total. Well, that was mostly to do with
 

The Romance
 

A Matter of Fate was definitely a book that was heavier on the romance than the plot. I mean, the last plot-relevant thing happened with still a quarter of the book left to go. That’s not a bad thing, though. My bigger sort of issue was that on some levels this book was about how much love sucks, and the overarching feeling I had coming out of it was one of sadness.
 

One of the themes of the book was that you can’t fight your fate. At the beginning of the book, I expected the story to be about a girl trying to choose between her destiny and her desires. But really it was about her realization that accepting the fate that everyone had planned for her was for the best. Chloe has known Jonah in her dreams for her entire life, but because of what seems to be chance, she talks to his twin Kellan first and starts to date him. But she and Jonah have what is called a Connection, which means they are destined to be together.  And thus a love triangle of no good outcome is born.
 

Will I read more?
 

I’m not sure where the next book in the series is going to go. There are a lot of potential directions. I could even see the book being about one of Chloe’s friends rather than Chloe. I think that might make me more willing to read it. It’s not that A Matter of Fate was bad. It’s that I can’t watch Chloe emotionally abuse poor Kellan anymore. I know she doesn’t mean to be cruel, and he lets her do it. But. It was just so sad.
 

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Orphanage of Doom by Isabella Fontaine & Ken Brosky

Title: The Orphanage of Doom
Series: The Grimm Chronicles
Author: Isabella Fontaine & Ken Brosky
Previous Books in Series: Prince Charming Must Die!, Happily Never After, Revenge of the Castle Cats
Rating: 4 stars
Length: 3640 Kindle units (includes fairy tales)
 

Refresher: Alice must save the world from corrupted fairy tale creatures with the aid of a magical pen and an invisible rabbit named Briar.
 

I thoroughly enjoyed this most recent installment of The Grimm Chronicles. In it, Alice faces some of the less well known characters from fairy tales, namely the fiddler from The Miser in the Bush and stepmother and stepsister from The Juniper Tree.
 

Other new developments worth of mention? Alice goes back to school for her senior year of high school, which introduces use to some new characters – including possibly a new boy. Of course, it is hard to think of romance when you’re fighting for your life, and when your last boyfriend turned out to be a homicidal maniac. Alice’s friend Seth is still happy to help out with the creature killing, and we continue to wonder why he is still dating party girl Tricia. Briar has developed an extremely entertaining fear of becoming visible. And it seems that Alice’s parents aren’t going to let her keep her unpredictable demon-killing hours forever.
 

Other than that, not much to say. It was a good addition to the saga, and I’m looking forward to the next one coming out at the end of December.
 

See Details for Book on    Amazon    

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Spirited Inheritance by Betty Mermelstein

Title:  A Spirited Inheritance
Author: Betty Mermelstein
Rating: 3 stars
 

The Plot
 

Karen is not looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with what family she has left – her mother, aunt and cousin. But she definitely isn’t expecting two additions to the holiday – her long-dead, multiple-great-grandparents Margaret and Thomas. But after she stares at their pictures for longer than usual, they appear with not only stories about family secrets but also a hidden treasure buried underneath the bathroom tiles – if Karen can figure out how to get it out.
 

The Good
 

The premise of A Spirited Inheritance was really interesting. Karen was having a hard time getting along with her mother and relatives, and it was nice to see her be able to connect with some of her family. The way Margaret and Thomas interact with the modern world is often comical, like the way they insist on hanging out in the bathroom because it used to be a sunroom, and how they insist on interacting normally with Karen, even when she is around other people who can't see them.
 

The story had a good theme that centered on what it means to be a family. Even though Karen’s ancestors were dead did not mean that they stopped wanting to help. And even though Karen and her mother did not always get along did not mean that they did not care about one another.
 

The Bad
 

I first need to put in the note that A Spirited Inheritance was definitely one of those works that could have been well-served by having professional editing done. Especially at the beginning, much of the punctuation and word choice was suboptimal.
 

Other than that, a lot of the story felt forced. Like, why did the hardware store show up in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner to award a prize? At first I thought it was to artificially make everything happen over Thanksgiving weekend, but as the timeline of the story stretched, I didn’t understand why that had been rushed.
 

I also found most of the characters in the story difficult to like. Karen and her mother seemed to be in a kind of pattern where they didn’t try to understand each other and repeatedly did things just to upset the other. Karen’s cousin was a little brat. The only people I liked were Margaret and Thomas, and they were dead.
 

The Romance
 

Sadly, Karen’s only non-familial relationship in the book was with her 8-year-old neighbor the Bug Boy. And he was more the villain of the piece.
 

Will I read more?
 

I’m not sure whether A Spirited Inheritance was a stand-alone novella or whether there will be more books in the series, but I think I am unlikely to pick them up either way.
 

See Details for Book on    Amazon 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Arcadia's Gift by Jesi Lea Ryan

Title: Arcadia’s Gift
Series: Arcadia
Author: Jesi Lea Ryan
Length: 3601 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars
 

The Plot
 

Arcadia “Cady” Day has a fairly normal high school life. She’s disappointed that her parents are separating, but excited that a cute new boy interested in her. Then her twin sister Lony is hit by a train and killed, and suddenly everything changes. Not only does she have to deal with her own grief and that of her family, but she has developed the power to feel the emotions of people around her. Can she cope with all the changes in her life?
 

The Good
 

Arcadia’s Gift was quite well-written. I enjoyed the realistic depictions of Cady’s friends and family, particularly as they related to Lony. We saw how Cady didn’t always get along with her twin, and how her friend thought being assigned Lony as a long-time lab partner was the worst thing that could happen to him. But of course no one wanted her to die. The story also convincingly portrays the grief of a family losing a child. Cady has her ups and downs accepting Lony’s death, and she also has to literally experience the emotions of her emotionally distant father and brother and her mother, who turns to drugs and alcohol to solve her problems.
 

The Bad
 

It’s not so much that there’s anything really bad about Arcadia’s Gift. It’s more that nothing happens. I mean, Cady’s sister dies, and it’s sad. She meets a boy, and there is a tiny bit of contrived difficulty. She has a power, and it has mechanics. But there’s no plot. There’s no rising action that leads to a climax. There’s no major conflict that demands resolution. It’s like we got the world-building architecture but none of the story that takes place in the world Which, to be honest, is not that inspiring and kind of boring.
 

Also, open casket funeral for someone who was hit by a train? That doesn’t sound like something I would want to see.
 

The Romance
 

I have a friend who reads the books that I strongly recommend on my blog, and sometimes he comes back that he doesn’t like them because they are what he describes as “too high school.” I have asked him to better explain what he means by this, and it seems to be that the characters have too many melodramatic highs and lows, where the slightest thing sets them off into an emotional tailspin. Using this definition, I think that I found the romance of Arcadia’s Gift a little too high school.
 

Cady meets Bryan before her sister dies, and he becomes a source of support for her because he has also lost a sibling. They are just friends at first, and then they admit they like each other as more than friends. And then a few days later he admits that he is going to Homecoming with someone else, and Cady goes psycho and won’t let him explain. And I’m like, “There are a ton of possible totally reasonable explanations for this.” But Cady locks herself in the bathroom sobbing. And I pretty much think this is an overreaction.
 

Will I read more?
 

Eh. I didn’t really dislike reading Arcadia’s Gift, but I was also not super drawn in. I’m not really feeling like there was enough there to bring me back for a second installment.
 

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ever My Merlin by Priya Ardis

Title: Ever My Merlin
Series: My Merlin
Author: Priya Ardis
Previous Books in Series: My Boyfriend Merlin, My Merlin Awakening
Rating: 5 stars
Length: 4589 Kindle units


Refresher: Ryan must work with teenage Merlin and his brother Vane to pull Excalibur from the stone and save humanity from the forces of evil.
 

As I get down to the last days of my blog, I must carefully select which sequels I want to review. When Priya Ardis left a note on my blog the other day, giving me an awesome fangirl moment, I decided that the least I could do was review her most recent book, even though I haven’t reviewed the second one in the series first.
 

As readers, I think we all periodically run into a book that touches us in some special way, for reasons that we may not be able to explain. The My Merlin books are like that for me. From the beginning of the series to the end, I was absolutely sucked in. As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to go back and read my favorite parts again, and then just go ahead and reread the whole thing.
 

Signs that I’m a little too obsessed with the series? Well, I considered adding a section to my blog where I indicated whether I would rather read the selected book or just reread the My Merlin books again. But I decided against it because I realized this would not come out in most books’ favor. When I found out that Ever My Merlin was out, I actually felt bad for my friend on a European vacation because she wouldn’t be able to read it until she got back. (Don’t worry. I talked to her on-line, and she was able to get it on her Nook from Greece.)
 

As for the book itself, rather than some ridiculous hyperbole of how much I like it. The story was very exciting with death and danger and saving the world from a surprisingly sci-fi danger. Seeing everything from Ryan’s point of view is interesting because she is a key player in events, but she doesn’t know a lot of what is going on. After the events of My Merlin Awakening, Matt and Vane aren’t even pretending to work together. And though they’re both willing to work with Ryan, neither one trusts her completely because they know she’s working with the other one. This allows plot points to be given out sporadically, and people to dramatically misinterpret the actions of others.
 

And, of course, the big question is Which boy does Ryan pick? Now, on some level, the correct answer to this is “She should pick neither the physically abusive boy nor the one who ranks her value somewhere below that of a sword. She should find a boy who respects and values her.” But that would be a very unsatisfying ending. So I spent a long time in between the second and third books considering whether I wanted her to end up with Matt or Vane. And I was fully prepared to have things go the opposite of the way I wanted. But I think that regardless of which boy you like better (And, let’s face it, it’s pretty hard to pick), the ending is satisfying.
 

So really the only downside is that the series is over. But I am greatly enjoying rereading the whole thing from the beginning. And hopefully Priya Ardis will come out with more books that are just as entertaining.
 

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Haunted by K.M. Spires

Title: Haunted
Author: K.M. Spires
Rating: 3 stars
 

The Plot
 

Anne believes that ghosts are real and that Bennett Manor is haunted. Her best friend Athena is more skeptical, so the two of them, along with Anne’s fiancé Ray decide to break in and investigate. But as the night wears on, they discover more about the people who last lived in the house and about each other.
 

The Good
 

As Anne and her friends explore Bennett Manor, they learn about the last days of Mary and Charles Bennett and their servant Elizabeth. As it starts, they know that Charles and Mary both died under mysterious circumstances and that Elizabeth was executed for their murder. As the story opens, both Anne and I expect a horror story-like experience with bleeding walls and walking corpses. What we actually get is much more interesting, as we find out that Anne’s life parallels Mary Bennett’s in unexpected ways. And we must discover whether Anne can prevent the same tragedy that befell the Bennett’s from repeating.
 

The Bad
 

I spent a lot of Haunted wondering when we were going to get to the supernatural stuff. The first half of the story consists of artificial circumstances set up so that Anne could talk to each of her friends on their own. In between this, they find things around the house, like an old diary, which mostly had me wondering why no one had seen them before. Didn’t the people who boarded up the house also go through and remove things? I guess the plot can be grateful that no one bothered to read Mary’s diary, even after someone was put on trial for her murder.
 

My biggest issue with Haunted, though, was the end, which means that I can’t tell you what it is without giving away spoilers. But I shall couch it in general terms and say that there is a difference between being a good person and being an idiotic doormat. Anne apparently cannot distinguish between these two and consequently comes off as an unsympathetic character that no young girl should see as a role model.
 

The Romance
 

As the story opens, Ray and Anne have been going out for two years and are planning to get married before they go off to college in the fall. Neither Athena nor Anne’s family is super-happy about this, but Anne is certain she is making the right choice for the rest of her life. But as the story wears on, Anne learns things about Ray that she didn’t know, things that could make all the difference in their relationship.
 

Will I read more?
 

I was extremely frustrated when I got to the end of Haunted. I was actually yelling at my ipad, saying things to Anne like “Why would you ever do that?” I try not to dislike on any kind of value scale, and I wouldn’t describe my reaction as “offended.” But I definitely feel as though the story and I have a fundamental disagreement about what constitutes acceptable behavior. Consequently, I have little desire to read more from the author.
 

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Puppet Parade by Zeinab Alayan

Title: Puppet Parade
Author: Zeinab Alayan
Length: 8039 Kindle units
Rating: 4.5 stars
 

The Plot
 

Sophie and Oliver each makes a wish on the same star on the same night and is entirely unprepared for the consequences. Sophie, who has spent her life locked in her room by an evil stepmother, wishes to be free. Oliver, a solitary puppeteer whose wooden creations are his only friends, wishes that his puppets would come to life. He didn’t realize, though, that his puppets would immediately abandon him. So he runs off into the night to chase them and on the way meets Sophie, who is only too happy join him on his quest to find his friends. But the path to the puppets is not the one that either of them was expecting.
 

The Good
 

I feel the best way to present this is give a chronological history of my experience with the book.
 

When I first got the review request, I was on the fence about whether I wanted to read it. I decided on yes mostly because of information in the request indicating that the book had received positive reviews. When I got the file and saw how long the book was, I instantly regretted my decision to read it. But I persevered and made sure I cleared up a few extra days to read it.
 

So I start reading it, and it gets off to an interesting start, talking about Sophie being locked in her room. The writing is good and clear. Then we go to Oliver and discover that his only friends are wooden puppets. This struck me as odd-in-a-bad-way, and I am someone who has regular telephone calls with a stuffed tiger (Don’t ask). Then the puppets run away, and Oliver and Sophie run to catch them on the train, and the first place they end up is a town where everyone is religious. At this point, I accepted that the book was just going to be a bizarre farce that I didn’t get. Then they go to another town, where everyone is an entertainer, and I realized that the themed towns were part of the plot.
 

That was about the point that I realized that Puppet Parade was AWESOME. And I continued to feel that way for the rest of the book. The book was interesting and original. I loved the plot. I loved the progression. I loved the puppets. (Monte the Meek Monster was my fav.)
 

The Bad
 

As you can probably tell from the above, Puppet Parade was very odd. This is not bad in and of itself, but if you like your books well inside the norm, this one might be a bit too far out there, even for a fantasy novel. And it definitely takes some time to get into.
 

The story is very episodic, as Sophie and Oliver travel to different towns searching for different puppets. I think that I would have done some of the scenes in a different order. Some of them toward the end felt like they weren’t telling us anything we didn’t already know but that would have been very effective earlier in the story.
 

The Romance
 

The story is about two otherwise unattached young people of opposite sexes going on a trip together, so it is inevitable that a romance will spring up between them. But, really, the romance is tertiary to everything else going on in the story. Which is actually good, because a strong romance would have been problematic for reasons that are discussed as each of the characters considers the other.
 

Will I read more?
 

I am pretty certain that this is a stand-alone novel, as I can’t imagine where it would go from here. And I have some fear that this is a single work of genius that can never be repeated by the author. But if I hear of the author putting out another book, I will probably pick it up and give it a try.
 

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Susan's Summer by Maddy Edwards

Title: Susan’s Summer
Series: One Black Rose
Author: Maddy Edwards
Previous Books in Series: One Black Rose, August, Autumn
Rating: 4 stars
Length: 5326 Kindle units
 

Refresher: Series about fairies where the princes choose their mates by giving them black roses. But most of what happened in the first three books isn’t all that important for this book. Except that Holt died, and Susan is REALLY sad.
 

Susan’s Summer opens with Susan and her friend Mae going on a quest to find Susan’s betrothed. She has a letter that indicates that her parents engaged her to someone before they died, but she has no idea who this is. So she plans a summer road trip where she will visit fairy courts and try to find out who made this deal with her parents. If you are thus expecting a book in which we visit different fairy courts and meet a variety of interesting people, as I was, you are going to be disappointed. After an embarrassing confrontation at a bar early in the road trip, Susan and Mae are rescued by the mysterious and reclusive Arsenal fairies and are persuaded to stay for increasingly long periods of time while scary and mysterious things go on.
 

My biggest problem with Susan’s Summer was that not too much happened in it. By the time I was a quarter of the way through the novel, I had to make myself pick it up because I felt like I was just being told that Susan was sad over and over again. As the book went on, things started to pick up, but I was really hoping for some killer twist that never happened. All in all I felt like this book was a stopgap in between the first three books and the next one, where I suspect Susan will be looking for Logan.
 

At the end of Autumn, I was pretty sure it was going to be the last one in the One Black Rose series, which worked for me, because I liked the end. But then Maddy Edwards announced she was doing a spin-off about Susan, and I thought that was cool. I actually like it when series branch out and explore the other characters. And now there are going to be more books about Susan and Autumn, which continues to be exciting because they are both likable characters. So I’m looking forward to the next books. Provided it is understood that we LIKED the ending to Autumn and don’t want it messed up.

See Details for Book on    Amazon    

Monday, October 22, 2012

Firebrand by R.M. Prioleau

Title: Firebrand
Series: Pyromancer
Author:  R.M. Prioleau
Rating: 3.5 stars
 

The Plot
 

More than anything else in the world, Kaijin likes gaining knowledge. As a five year old, he peruses the book tents when his father takes him to the market. And when he is older, he and his brother Rorick are sent to live with the wizard Jariel to learn magic. But Kaijin is no ordinary student. He has a relationship with fire unlike any his master has ever seen, one that could prove to be quite dangerous.
 

The Good
 

Firebrand is the first in a trilogy, so it tells the story of how Kaijin gains his powers. (Presumably the next two books will talk about how these powers grow and develop, but I haven’t read them, so I promise nothing.) Kaijin is interested in fire from a young age, to the point that his father and master need to repeatedly tell him to stop burning himself. As he gets older he learns more about the fire god Ignis and makes spells related to fire. But there is something untoward about Kaijin’s interest in fire. Sometimes he hears a voice in his head encouraging him to be destructive. Jarial discourages him from listening to this voice in the same way that he discourages his friend Xavorin from using necromancy. In both cases, there seems to be some kind of outside power striving to control the mage. I have a suspicion that the ultimate evil that Kaijin will be called to fight is inside himself.
 

The Bad
 

So, writing-wise, there was nothing wrong with Firebrand. Nonetheless, I still can’t say I enjoyed reading it because nothing happened. Seriously, most of the book was taken up by Kaijin being trained at Jarial’s house. And most of this consisted of him reading lots of books and spending a long time writing spells wrong. For a while, Kaijin’s brother Rorick was there, but he and Kaijin were doing different things and not really allowed to interact.
 

The overarching plot of the novel consisted of a fellow wizard coming to visit Jarial a few time and having them trade words. Then in the last third of the novel or so, this blossomed into a rampant undead attack. And I think it was supposed to be tragic, but mostly I was thinking, “Wait, if Kaijin has lived this close to his parents all these years, why has he never gone to visit them?” I suppose it was because his father, like Jarial, was temperamental and irrational. My other main thought at this point was “Hey, good think you’ve got a fire mage. Fire is killer against undead!”
 

The Romance
 

Sadly, the only girl in the novel at all was Kaijin’s mother, and there were also no attractive male characters anywhere near his age who did not share substantial amounts of genetic material with him. Really, there were hardly any characters at all. So, you know, no romance.
 

Will I read more?
 

I spent most of the first book bored and uninterested in what was (or really wasn't) going on, so I don’t think I’ll be investing the time in another.
 

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halfway by Stephanie Void

Title: Halfway
Series: Wizards and Faeries
Author: Stephanie Void
Length: 1938 Kindle units
Rating: 3 stars
 

The Plot
 

Cemagna and Temet grew up with their mother Nessy in a house on a cliff, never interacting with others. But then one day Temet develops the ability to do magic and is taken away to live with the wizards. Desperate to keep her child, Nessy races to reclaim him but dies in the process, leaving Cemanga alone. Ten years later, Cemanga finally has the opportunity to seek out her brother, but she doesn’t realize that the magic in her blood can attract nefarious enemies.
 

The Good
 

Halfway had some interesting mythology in it. Cemanga and Temet are half human and half faerie, which means that they have the potential for greater magic powers than pure humans. The children grow up naïve of not only the value of their magic but also their own background and human society as a whole, so they cannot fathom all the things that unscrupulous men will want to use them for. These lessons are hard learned for them as they come to find out that, even when they cannot locate one another, the only people they can trust are each other.
 

The Bad
 

Halfway was very short. Short is not bad in and of itself, if the story can be adequately captured in such a space. Unfortunately, I feel that Halfway needed to be a lot more fleshed out than it was. I felt like the beginning of the book was going along all right, with Cemagna and Temet’s childhood. But then suddenly we skipped ahead 10 years, during which time nothing happened to Cemanga and a whole lot happened to Temet. Consequently, I was uninterested in Cemanga's boring life and didn’t know enough to be interested in Temet’s. So when a few exciting and climactic things happen to each of them, I haven’t had quite the proper build up to appreciate them. I feel like I read the beginning of a book and the end of a book but completely skipped the middle.
 

The Romance
 

So I have this joke that in my reviews, a rating of 3 stars means “At no point did the book make me want to kill myself.” This is clearly an exaggeration, as I have read a number of truly awful books without any suicidal tendencies. A more accurate description would be that 3 stars means “At no point did the book make me want to cry into my pillow.” And though I give Halfway 3 stars, I confess that the romance did have me pretty close to tears.
 

Cemagna doesn’t meet her love interest until over halfway through the book. She spends about two days with him, and then suddenly they are risking everything for the sake of their love. I of course have a rule that couples should not be doing over-the-top things for each other after only knowing each other three days, and Halfway is another demonstration of why that doesn’t work.
 

Will I read more?
 

Halfway didn’t really inspire any particular interest in me, so I most likely will not be picking up the next book in the series.
 

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Stitch by Samantha Durante

Title: Stitch
Series: Stitch
Author: Samantha Durante
Length: 4135 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars
 

The Plot
 

Alessa feels alone at college, unable to connect with most of the people after the accident that killed her parents. But she does feel a connection to one person – the ghost in old-fashioned clothes that she sees occasionally around her house. She becomes obsessed with finding out more about him – who he is, when he lived there, and how he died. But as she gets closer to learning the truth about Isaac, the more she discovers that the world she thinks she belongs in is not her own.
 

The Good
 

Stitch was a very well written and/or well-edited novel. Based on the writing quality, I never would have guessed that this was an indie novel. The character of Alessa was very likable an sympathetic throughout the novel, both when she is at college recovering from the loss of her parents and… later, when other things are happening. And despite the fact that there are three interwoven realities in the novel  - Alessa’s, Isaac’s, and the real one – I never got confused about which reality we were in and what was going on, which really was an achievement.
 

The Bad
 

Writing-wise, the only problem I had with Stitch was that the author would occasionally go on long descriptive passages about things like what Alessa was wearing to the party and how she decided. At several points I was like, “Okay, let’s get the story moving along.”
 

The bigger issue with Stitch is that the first half of the book has one plot, and I started reading through fairly typical YA paranormal romance and was okay with it. Then suddenly I got railroaded into a totally different plot in a dystopic world, and nothing I’d read to this point was real. This was hinted at in the description, so I wasn’t totally shocked. But, really, who likes to invest a couple of hours reading a novel only to be told that the first half was completely irrelevant? Both versions of the story were fine, but I had a hard time accepting them both in one book.
 

The Romance
 

Alessa begins seeing what she thinks the ghost of Isaac in her sorority house. He appears only for a minute at a time and doesn’t seem to see her, but she feels a connection to him anyway. She begins researching the house, trying to figure out who he could be, and eventually finds out that he died in a barn fire in 1917. She thus becomes obsessed with finding a way to communicate with him to save his life. But then she discovers that nothing about her world is what it seems, including her relationship with Isaac. And… if I told you more, it would be spoilers, so you shall just have to read it to find out whether Alessa and Isaac achieve happily ever after. And probably the two books after that, since it’s a trilogy.
 

Will I read more?
 

Stitch was pretty good and did both dystopian and YA paranormal romances well. The problem is, for me at least, is that I think the other two books in the trilogy are going to be largely dystopian, and I’m not a huge fan of the genre. Yes, it is a sad fact that I prefer romantic stories about ghosts and time travel to stories about oppressive government regimes who torment the people under their care. I know, crazy isn’t it? But if you like dystopian stuff, I recommend picking it up.
 

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Entangled by Nikki Jefford

Title: Entangled
Series: Spellbound
Author: Nikki Jefford
Length: 4167 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars
 

The Plot
 

Identical twins Graylee and Charlene don’t always get along, but they’ve managed to coexist pretty well - at least until they have to coexist in the same body. When Graylee dies, her mother performs a spell to bring her back to life, but she accidentally brings her back in Charlene’s body. Now each twin only has possession of the body every other day, and Graylee has to find a way back into her own body before whatever killed her strikes again.
 

The Good
 

Overall, Entangled was a well-written and engaging novel. The premise was certainly unique, and it was interesting to watch Graylee and Charlene fight over their single body. The notes they leave and the tricks they play on each other are quite entertaining. I don’t know what I would do if I suddenly occupied one of my sisters’ bodies every other day, but I suspect the result would be similarly chaotic.
 

Sigh. This is yet another time when I am having a hard time turning what I liked about the book into many words. But, really, I did love the whole part where they were trying to get along and share the body, which was about half the book. It was very amusing.
 

The Bad
 

I had two major problems with Entangled: the beginning and the end. I agree to review books about 2 months before I actually read them, so by the time I picked up Entangled, I had long forgotten what the premise of the novel was. So I’m reading along about Graylee’s life and her problems with Charlene and how she doesn’t know Raj likes her. Then, about a third of the way through the novel, she wakes up, and it’s two months later, and she’s been dead all this time. I felt like this shift was too sudden and that it rendered most of the book up to that point completely irrelevant. I mean, your sister blocking your witch powers pales in comparison to being dead, so I think the book could have lost at least half of the stuff before that point and been better off.
 

I don’t want to say too much about the end because of my eternal desire not to give spoilers. (That’s a lie. I love giving spoilers, but I realize this is déclassé.) But the ending was unsatisfying. The villains in the piece do some extremely atrocious things, and I really don’t feel like they get the proper comeuppance. I also don’t think that the heroes take things as seriously as the events seem to warrant.
 

The Romance
 

We establish fairly early on that warlock Raj is in love with Graylee, but she is mostly just scared of him because he got kicked out of the coven years ago for setting his house on fire. Even his mother abandoned him. Now, of course any reader is going to be wondering whether he is really that bad or if he’s just misunderstood. Unfortunately, we don’t really get any feedback from Raj in this regard. Like, he doesn’t do anything horrible, but he doesn’t make any attempt to cast off his reputation. I really don’t have a feel for who Raj is.
 

But, then, I really don’t have a feel for who Graylee is either. We get a lot of information about who Charlene is, but Graylee seems to define herself as not-Charlene. Which could say a lot about her emotional state, but also makes me unable to predict her actions in any way. She could basically do anything from devoting her life to service to homicide, and I would have no means of saying, “Wait, that’s just not something Graylee would do.”
 

Will I read more?
 

I was actually surprised at the end to find out that there is a second (and third) book in the series. I didn’t love the ending, but it seemed self-contained. But there are a few loose ends left open at the end of the first book, maybe even the comeuppance that some of the characters so rightfully deserve. But I think that I am most likely going to skip them.
 

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Borne by K.A. Tomasovich

Title: Borne
Series: Fireborne
Author: K.A. Tomasovich
Length: 2734 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars


The Plot
 

After the deaths of her parents, Marija and her brother Matt go to live in New Jersey with a grandmother they’ve never met and a strange cousin Jakov they’ve never heard of. As she adjusts to living under “The Dragon’s” rules, Marija notices strange things happening around the house: Jakov disappearing in the night, the howling of strange animals, and news of a dead aunt she never knew existed. And through it all she has strangely realistic dreams of flying over the land at night…
 

The Good
 

Overall, Borne was a well-written story that kept my attention throughout. Marija’s story as she deals with the deaths of her parents and adjusting to a new living environment are compelling. She remains a likable heroine as she struggles with her grandmother’s strict rules and the cruelty of the girls at school. I found myself interested in the strange things that were going on in her home and wondering how they all fit together, and her relationship with her only friend Cayne was interesting and compelling.
 

The Bad
 

It’s kind of a given with teenagers in stories, but sometimes Marija seemed very unreasonable. She seemed determined to focus on her grandmother’s bad qualities and was uninterested in giving her credit for the good things. When mysterious things began happening around her, instead of asking her grandmother about them, she complained that her grandmother was keeping secrets. In most of these cases, someone did point out to her that she was jumping to conclusions, but she didn’t take this to heart as well as she might have.
 

I also felt that the ending to the book was kind of rushed. Borne was quite short, and I felt like we got the mystery part in great detail but that the part where we got the answers was very short. The big reveal of who the villain was seemed to come out of nowhere, particularly because I wasn’t that aware that there was a villain to be looking for. I imagine that we will get more details regarding the mythology in the second and third books, but I would have liked to have it made a bit clearer here.
 

The Romance
 

As in so many young adult books, when Marija arrives in her new town, she immediately meets the most striking boy she has ever seen. As is uncommon in YA books, Cayne is the ugliest and scariest person Marija has ever met. She nonetheless manages to get over her fear of him, and they become friends, to the point that she no longer notices how unattractive he is and finds features like his eyes pretty. This is, of course, reminiscent of Kelley Armstrong, where all leading males are ugly or sociopaths or both! Nonetheless, it is nice to see characters who defy the stereotype of “most beautiful boy in world” and “girl who does not know she is beautiful.”
 

That said, there isn’t actually any romance between Marija and Cayne in Borne. So it’s entirely possible she’s going to meet the most perfect boy in the world in the second book. And he will insist that she is beautiful, and they will leave Cayne behind. But that would make me kind of sad.
 

Will I read more?
 

I don’t have any strong feelings about whether I read any more of the series. Borne was interesting enough, and it read smoothly. However, at no point did I find myself getting totally drawn into the story. I felt like it could have been any other young adult book with mysterious family secrets. This isn’t necessarily bad, because I like young adult books, but there was nothing about it that stood out as remarkable about it. I didn’t find myself thinking about it when I was away or anxious to get back to it, and when I picked it up each night, it was a brief struggle to remind myself of what I had already read. So Borne was good, well-written, and compelling enough, but I don’t think there would be any skin off my back were I not to read any more.
 

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Antichrist 16: The Becoming by C.J. Graves

Title: Antichrist 16: The Becoming
Series: Antichrist 16
Author: C.J. Graves
Length: 3449 Kindle units
Rating: 4.5 stars
 

The Plot
 

Nathan thinks the biggest thing he has to worry about is whether he can talk his way out of a suspension for fighting at school. Until the principal has a heart attack right in front of him, and Nathan’s ability to detect auras suddenly blossoms into something even more bizarre. Now he’s got people telling him that he’s the Antichrist, but that this is really a good thing because he’s going to unite people under the auspices of no religion. Except that the religious people of the world aren’t too happy about this and want to kill him. And his friends. And he’s not sure that he can trust all the people who claim to be on his side.
 

The Good
 

Antichrist 16 was a good book, and Nathan was a likable hero. He was neither too perfect nor too flawed, just a basic, easygoing, somewhat lazy teen boy. Who occasionally held great powers over the universe. His friends were also likable – Shayla was a strong biracial character, and Cheesman… knew a lot about cheese.
 

With the news that he is the Antichrist/Uniter of all people come a lot of new figures in Nathan’s life. Some of them want to kill him, and some of them want to help him succeed, and it is at times difficult for him to determine which is which. Especially since they keep lying about it. And through it all, Nathan really just wants to be normal. His journey through the initiation to being the most important and powerful person in the world is a captivating story worth reading.
 

The Bad
 

So there are basically two factions in the story: Keepers, who want to help Nathan live and bring peace and harmony to the world through the power of atheism, and Takers, who believe he is evil incarnate and needs to die. These people, especially the Takers, seem to have their Antichrist-killing penchants buried, like they are all religion’s Manchurian candidates. This whole thing is a little odd, and I don’t really understand what makes someone a Keeper or a Taker if they don’t make a conscious decision.
 

At the end of the novel, we find out that things are not nearly as clear-cut as we believed them to be, though I don’t want to give any spoilers. Suffice it to say I found the ending a little confusing, and I wasn’t really sure who was on which side anymore. And I think the outcome at the very end was a little extreme and also makes me suspect that the coming books are going to be kind of dark.
 

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but Becoming? Overdone as a title. Right up there with Awakening. We really need some new words for coming of age.
 

The Romance
 

Nathan is a teenage boy, so he’s pretty much interested in any attractive female who looks his way, But he has a very close relationship with his best friend Shayla, who seems perfectly happy to join the Keeper team, even when Nathan engages in behaviors that seem morally dubious. Could they be soulmates? And does the Antichrist even have a soul? You will just have to read the book to find out.
 

Will I read more?
 

Here’s the thing. I’m not sure. Basically, it depends how the story ends. I don’t want to give anything away, but it seems like the story could go in some different directions. I have had this horrible dread from the beginning that it was going to turn out to be an atheist allegory a la The Golden Compass. It hasn’t gotten bad yet, but it still could. Or it could go in several interesting directions with deep contemplation of good vs. evil, nurture vs. nature, fate vs. controlling one’s own destiny. Or it could just go on in a ploddy story manner with some action scenes and a climactic resolution. If it’s the middle one, I have some interest in reading more. Otherwise I would probably pass. But the problem is that I can’t know how the story ends without reading it. It is the eternal paradox of being obsessed with good endings.
 

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Announcement



Dear All of My Readers/Fans,

I have some good news and some bad news.

We’ll start with the good news, which is that my urban fantasy novel Oracle of Philadelphia is going to be published. I know, I know. It’s not young adult. It’s also not indie, but it is indie-friendly. My publishing company, Red Adept Publishing, also does professional editing for self-published authors. I don’t have a publication date yet, and I still have a lot of editing to do, but I’m very excited about the entire process.

The down side of this is that I am no longer going to review books on my blog. I have a lot of respect for all the authors whose books I review (even when it doesn’t seem that way), and I feel it would be inappropriate of me as an author to direct negative attention toward others’ works.

I plan to review all the books that I have already agreed to review, so I will still be posting on Mondays and Thursdays through mid-November. I also will review the occasional sequel on Tuesdays before then.  (Demons Forever by Sarra Cannon is out this month!)

Thanks to all my friends and readers who have been so supportive over the past year that I have been blogging.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Myth Weaver by David J. Normoyle

Title: Myth Weaver
Author: David J. Normoyle
Length: 2744 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars
 

The Plot
 

Jagger is on the verge of being kicked out of university for failure to participate in any of his classes, but he can’t really bring himself to care. All he really wants to do is spend time in his dream world, where he coaches a soccer team. But then one night, he finds himself not on the field with his players but on the Norse plain of Vigrid. There the Greek and Norse gods battle each other for supremacy, but since the fighters cannot die, neither side can be victorious. The gods thus set the decision to Jagger, who asks that they tell him the stories of their myths, so that he might judge. But as he learns more about the mythological heroes, he starts to realize how his own life could be improved if he modeled himself after these men of legends.
 

The Good
 

The layout of Myth Weaver was very interesting. The story alternated between Jagger’s life and is dream world in Vigrid, which in turn had stories from the Norse and Greek myths. Jagger saw the stories from different points of view, inhabiting the head of whoever could best tell the story at any given time. This made the retelling of the traditional stories seem more original because instead of just recounting the epic tales, the accounts considered what the people experiencing the events must be feeling. 
 

Experiencing the myths also made Jagger more aware of what was going on around him in the real world. He notices the people around him, how their lives were like the myths and how the myths could help him better understand reality. Listening to the tales of heroes made him realize how afraid he was to do anything and gave him the courage to do something truly brave.
 

The Bad
 

The biggest problem with Myth Weaver is that it’s really hard to find Jagger sympathetic. In the beginning of the book, he reminds me of nothing so much as Bartleby the Scrivener. For those of you who were not subjected to the Melville story in high school, it is about a man who refuses to do anything and whose employer doesn’t want to fire him and leave him with no resources but also cannot continue to employ someone who does nothing. Jagger is very similar. He goes to university but doesn’t participate in anything. He wants to spend all his time in his dream world where he coaches a soccer team. (And where he lives that he goes to university and not college but plays soccer and not football is one of the great mysteries of the world.)
 

Jagger’s lack of willingness to engage with reality at all is compounded by signs that he might at times be hallucinating. At the beginning of the novel, he imagines his aunt as a magpie, and it’s hard to tell whether she’s a shapechanger or if Jagger has an overactive imagination. Later, in some of the few cases where he does interact with the real world, he believes that Loki or Prometheus have taken over his body and is speaking for him. These lead me to think that Jagger might not just be unwilling to interact with reality but might actually be schizophrenic. And that makes me want him to seek medical help.
 

The Romance
 

As Jagger starts to interact more with the world, he develops a crush on a girl named Tina. Unfortunately, one of the few times he talks to her, he lets Loki take over. And let that be a lesson to all of us: Do not let Loki navigate your love life for you.
 

The myths also had many tales of romance in them, but they pretty much all end in blood and death.
 

Will I read more?
 

I’m pretty sure that Myth Weaver is a stand-alone novel, and I am not sure how I would feel about reading more. Reading about the different myths was cool. Usually when I read mythology, I read the parts about the gods and skip the parts about the heroes. This book definitely made all those stories interesting. But on the other hand, Jagger was really hard to life, as were most of the people in his life. So I think, mostly, Myth Weaver made me want to read more myths rather than more books by the author.
 

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