Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Autumn by Maddy Edwards

Title: Autumn
Series: One Black Rose
Author: Maddy Edward
Previous Books in Series: One Black Rose, August
Rating: 4 stars
Length: 3807 Kindle units

Refresher: Girl on summer vacation falls in love with the prince of the Summer Court even though she is supposed to be with the prince of the Winter Court. Melodrama ensues.

I was super-excited when I got an e-mail from Maddy Edwards sending me a copy of her new book Autumn. I wasn’t expecting to hear about a new book from her for at least a few more months, since August just came out in December. Once I got past my initial confusion of having to distinguish between two six-letter words that begin with “Au,” I downloaded it right away. (Seriously, I was staring at my Amazon search results for longer than I care to admit thinking, “Wait, none of these is new” before I realized that August and Autumn are two different words.) I have to give bonus kudos to anyone who can get a book out in three months, especially when the books are of the quality of the One Black Rose series.

I e-mailed Maddy and told her that I would review her book within the next couple of weeks, but by the time I got home from work, I was so excited to read it that I did so right away and wrote a review while it was still fresh in my mind. It’s been awhile since I’ve been this excited to read a new release. I’m not sure exactly why I find Maddy Edwards’s work so readable, but she and a few of the other authors I’ve read since I began my quest to review every self-published YA paranormal novel out there have introduced me to series that I am eager to read more of, which is something the traditional publishing world has not done for me in a while.

As for the book itself, I believe that I liked Autumn the best of the series. I felt like I had a good sense of what all the characters wanted and how they were feeling. Well, except Carley, but I don’t think even she knows what she’s thinking half the time. We even get into Samuel’s head a little, at long last. Autumn is rather petulant for a lot of the book, often in cases where she would be wise to keep her mouth shut, but given what’s going on with her life, I can’t say she’s being all that unreasonable.

I’m pretty sure that Autumn is the last book in the series, and I really liked the ending, though I had no expectation that it would turn out in a satisfactory manner. I went back and reread the last five pages at least five times. The way a series ends is important to me, and even though I’m a little disappointed that there won’t be any more books in the series, I am glad that I have a good feeling of closure around the story. Of course, in the event that I am wrong, I will happily read more.

See Details for Book on    Amazon 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Immortal by Lauren Burd

Title: Immortal
Series: Immortal
Author: Lauren Burd
Length: 4807 Kindle units (includes preview of next book)
Rating: 4 stars

The Plot

Alina figures she will meet new people when she starts college, but she doesn’t expect to meet two incredibly handsome boys who are equally interested in her. Duncan won’t leave her alone and even starts to date Alina’s roommate in order to stay close to her. Samuel, on the other hand, alternates between being interested ignoring her, but she can’t stop thinking about him. But what she doesn’t know that both boys are keeping a supernatural secret that is going to change her life forever.

The Good

Overall, Immortal was a pretty good read. One has to have a special appreciation for a book about college students in which the characters not only go to class, but do plot-relevant things there as well.

I got totally sucked into the book and could not put it down. I was reading it late at night, and I really needed to go to bed, but I just kept telling myself “One more chapter.” Eventually I stopped about halfway through the novel. Then the next day, I thought I would read a chapter or two before I started doing important things like writing my blog post.  Instead, I finished the whole thing. I’m not quite sure what it was about it, but Immortal kept me captivated, and chapter endings always made me want to read more.

The Bad

Immortal loses the most points is the originality scale. For the first half of the book, I kept thinking, “Wait. It’s the story of two immortal boys who are in love with the same girl and who were once in love with the same girl before. I read this book fifteen years ago. It’s The Vampire Diaries.” Then the story began to progress in a different direction – one about how the immortals are trying to stay free of their evil leaders who like to recruit new immortals with special powers. Or, you know, in a similar manner to Twilight. (Technically New Moon, but let’s not split hairs.)

Immortal was also very slow to get started. The only important thing that happens in the first few chapters is that Alina sees Samuel in two places but does not interact with him. I assume this is to give him primacy over Duncan, who is the first one to actually strike up a conversation with her. Nonetheless, I wondered for a good quarter of the book when the actual story was going to get started, and I don’t think anything supernatural happens until nearly halfway through. I realize this rather contradicts what I said about getting sucked into the book. I can only explain my general thought process as “Hm. Nothing in happening, but maybe something will happen in the next chapter, so I shouldn’t put it down.” And then I didn’t put it down and finished this book and the sequel in less than 36 hours.

The Romance

The romance in Immortal is a relatively standard set-up for paranormal romance. Girl of only moderate attractiveness has two extremely attractive men clamoring for her affections. One is quiet and reserved, while the other is outgoing but possibly caddish. What was not sufficiently explained was why both these boys were interested in Alina, who describes her appearance as similar to that of a 12-year-old, despite the fact that she is 18. I kept expecting her to be the reincarnation/spitting image of the girl that both boys were in love with. Unfortunately, this information is not forthcoming. I’ve now read the first two books in the series, and I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a very satisfying answer.

In other strange and unlikely topics, I actually like the good boy better. It’s crazy, cuz I almost always like the bad boy better.

Will I read more?

As I indicated previously, I have already read book 2 in the series, so look for an upcoming appearance for Sequel Tuesday. The third book isn’t out yet, but if it was, I probably would have read at least part of it last night when I should have been sleeping.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wicked Hungry by Teddy Jacobs

Title: Wicked Hungry
Author: Teddy Jacobs
Length: 6112 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Plot
Stanley used to be on the cross country team, but since he hurt his knee, he’s had to accept that his running days are behind him. Then his friend Zach recommends that he take some new all-natural supplements that can solve all of his problems. Zach’s ex-girlfriend Karen warns Stanley not to take them, but when the pills mysteriously show up on his front porch, he decides he’s willing to do anything if it means he can run again. But he soon learns that there is more to these pills than meets the eye, and he is consequently in for a strange time this Halloween.

The Good

The mythology in Wicked Hungry was very interesting. I don’t want to say exactly what it is because the whole first half of the novel consists of Stanley trying to piece it all together. Suffice it to say that I’m okay with any world building that can combine werewolves, fae, vampires, and zombies in a convincing manner.

Some of the bad guys were psycho vegans. I don’t have anything against veganism, per se, but extremists of the ilk make for very entertaining nemeses.

The Bad

It took me awhile to put my finger on what bothered me about Wicked Hungry. At first I thought that maybe the problem was that I couldn’t really follow what was going on, but I was able to repeat back to myself a coherent series of events. Then I thought that maybe what was going on didn’t seem plausible. But, again, I find it perfectly believable that a boy who really wanted to be able to run again would take mysterious pills even though he didn’t know what was in them.

Eventually I decided that I was very uncomfortable with Stanley’s emotional distance from all that was happening to him. I felt like I was in a dream, where totally absurd things can happen, but it all gets taken in stride. Stanley’s inner monologue seems to go something like this: “My friends break up and start having a public fight about the evils of eating meat in the middle of the road? Meh. Someone leaves mysterious pills on my porch? I’ll just start taking them and see what happens. I turn into a werewolf and eat my girlfriend’s pet rabbit? Well, I’ve done weirder things.” Except, no, he probably hasn’t done weirder things. Or at least I hope not.

At least he saves the cat. I was going to be upset if there was horrible kitten torture along with the fluffy-bunny eating.

The Romance

Stanley had a pretty exciting romance life for someone who claimed to have as few friends as he did. First, we meet his friend Karen, who recently broke up with Zach and who may or may not be a vampire. She manages to send some signals that she might be interested in Stanley, but it’s hard to tell, since she always seems to be plotting something during her nocturnal ramblings.

Stanley also discovers that if you wear a Halloween costume that can conceal your identity – like say a mummy – you can go hang out at a party with the popular kids, and no one will mind. And then if you are nice enough to the pretty-but-insecure Meredith, who made the understandable mistake of dressing up like a potato, she might decide she still likes you when she learns who you are. Of course, he is then subjected to the crazy whims of an insecure girl, which can interfere with one’s efforts to save the world.

And thus we are left with the eternal quandary – Who will Stanley choose? And does he even really have a choice, or will fate and/or the girls decide for him? Only time will tell. (Or, you know, reading the whole novel.)

Will I read more?

I don’t see myself reading more in this series, if indeed there are more, as the ending suggests there might be. Wicked Hungry wasn’t bad, per se, but it was very strange. And Stanley’s lack of emotional engagement with what was going on around him led to me having even less emotional attachment to the story

Also, it appears that I am once again reviewing a book only available on Kindle. I don't know what the circumstances are here, but I promise I'm not trying to be biased in the availability of the books. 

See Details for Book on    Amazon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shadow Demons by Sarra Cannon

Title: Shadow Demons
Series: Peachville High Demons
Author: Sarra Cannon
Previous Books in Series: Beautiful Demons, Inner Demons, Bitter Demons
Rating: 5 stars
Length: 3140 Kindle units

Refresher:  Harper moves to orphanage in Peachville, where she joins the cheerleading squad and discovers that they are witches who gain power from the demons they enslave.

Since you are probably getting sick of my endless praise of the Peachville High Demons series, you will appreciate what it means that Shadow Demons is my favorite book so far in the series. (As of this point there are 5 in the series, and I, of course, hope that #6 will be even better, but even if it is average for the series, it will still be awesome.) This is the book where we finally start getting some real answers about what is going on with the Order of the Shadows, both in Peachville and more globally. And I do so like that point in a series where we start to have everything explained, while of course being left with new and more interesting questions.

For most of the series, Harper has been trying to see good even in all the people around her and hoping to find a way to get free of the Order without hurting the people who have been kind to her. But now the lines must be drawn, and she needs to decide which side she’s really on. Fortunately, she gets some hard and fast evidence of who the bad guys are that makes the decision relatively easy.

Another fun thing about this fourth installment is that we get to meet some demons other than Jackson. You know, who aren’t being held captive inside of other witches. Although, as a friend of mine points out, the shadow demons are in serious need of a rebranding. No one is going to believe that they are the heroes of the series with a name like “shadow demons.” Of course, “Order of Shadows” doesn’t scream “morally wholesome” either, but I think if the demons started calling themselves “Beings of Energy,” they might have an easier time convincing people to take their side.

Well, I can’t really say too much more without giving away even more spoilers than I already have. In another couple of weeks, I’ll write a review of Rival Demons, and after that we shall be sadly Jackson-less until Sarra Cannon finishes #6. But we shall wait because we know that more time will only make it more fabulous.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Four Elements: The Fallen Knights by Stephen Gawn

Title: The Four Elements: The Fallen Knights
Author: Stephen Gawn
Length: 5308 Kindle units
Rating: 1 star

The Plot

When Michael was little, his grandfather showed him an old pocket watch and told him that it contained the secret to finding King Arthur’s secret treasure. Now that Michael is sixteen and off to learn to control his elemental powers at a prestigious internship at Embury, he is more determined than ever to solve the riddle of the watch. But as he grows closer to finding the answer, he learns that he is not the only one after the treasure and that the other people looking for it will stop at nothing to get what they want.

The Good

The Kindle version of this book was wonderfully formatted, complete with a table of contents and the ability to flip through chapters.

Some of the elements of the magical mythology were very interesting. I liked the idea that everyone could create fire in a color that manifested their true goals. And there was an interesting variety of chimaera-like animals.


Crap, I got nothing.

The Bad

Some of my readers get very excited when they find out I am reading a horrible book because they really enjoy reading the bad reviews. I must confess that I am not among them. I wish that every book I read was worthy of five stars. Sure, sometimes I get some entertainment out of the bad books, else I would definitely be ill-suited to the task of weeding through self-published e-books. But I mostly prefer to read books with interesting characters and compelling plots.

Unfortunately, every once in a while I come across a book like The Four Elements: The Fallen Knights that is just terrible on every domain. I realized I was going to be in for a problematic read on the second page, when Michael dodged the “attaches” of some bullies. I had to face the horrifying truth that either the author didn’t know how to spell “attacks,” or I was going to have to interpret the deep symbolism of people fighting with soft-shelled briefcases.

Sadly, the book did not improve from there. The characters’ motives were wandering and senseless, and I couldn’t really keep up with what was going on at any given time. Michael was told to be somewhere at 6 o’clock the next morning, but then he would spend the next day doing something completely different. He ended up in the infirmary for weeks after one of several random wild animal attacks, but he didn’t get behind in any of his classes or his sports team. The clues to the treasure hunt that served as the main plot of the novel bore little connection to each other and didn’t really make sense, and yet I could still see who the villain was from a mile away. I’m not entirely sure what happened at the end, but was I ever glad when I got there!

The Romance

Michael meets three girls when he arrives at Embury: Alice, who is described as butch and outspoken, Josephine, who introduces herself to the same people at least twice, and Isabelle, who doesn’t say anything until at least the third scene she’s in.

And now it’s time to play Spot the Love Interest!

We can easily rule out Alice, since she seems to have a personality. Josephine made a convincing play, but in the end she got the runner up prize of being the best friend’s girlfriend. So points to those of you who correctly identified Isabelle the mute as our hero’s one true love. Of course, all this really means is that she follows him around on whatever he’s doing and occasionally has a few sentences told from her point of view. Which I can only assume occurs to rob the book of having even the virtue of a consistent point of view.

Will I read more?

I am fairly certain that there is a special level of hell where the residents are forced to spend eternity reading endless sequels to this book. And unless I am sentenced there upon my death, I will most likely not be reading any further in this series. And, let me tell you, that is a motivation for me to be good.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blood Will Tell by Samantha Young

Title: Blood Will Tell
Series: Warriors of Ankh
Author: Samantha Young
Length: 4913 Kindle units (includes preview of next book in series)
Rating: 5 stars

The Plot

Eden doesn’t want to be an evil soul eater, but she’s starting to think she doesn’t have much of a choice. For her entire life, she has known that she will one day be like the rest of her family, feeding on others’ life essence in order to survive. Her craving for souls grows larger every day, and she knows that soon she will no longer be able to put off the Awakening Ceremony in which she will take her first life.

Eden can’t talk about her problems to anyone outside her family, not even her friend Noah. Little does she know that Noah already knows her secret. For he is a warrior of Ankh, a race of beings put on this earth with one goal: to destroy the soul eaters. But in this case, he is willing to wait and see whether Eden is really a monster or if she can be saved.

The Good

Blood Will Tell is an excellent and engaging novel. The mythology is unique and interesting. It contains psychic vampires, immortals, and Egyptian gods, but these elements are all woven neatly into the origin story.

Eden’s struggle to not become a monster is very poignant and multi-faceted. I particularly like the gradations of good and evil in the novel. Eden’s parents and cousin have no redeeming characteristics, but everyone else is somewhere in between. Eden’s brother Stellan consumes souls to survive, but he loves his sister. Her classmates are often cruel, but they don’t deserve to have their souls eaten. Noah is a warrior on the side of the good, but his entire life as a high school student is a lie.

The Bad

I don’t really have too much bad to say about Blood Will Tell. There are a few points that aren’t entirely pleasant to read. Eden’s family is made of truly despicable people who do unspeakably horrible things that I don’t really want to dwell on, but that’s not so much a negative of the book. Really, it’s a good thing for the book if I have extreme dislike for the bad guys.

The good guys, on the other hand, do not feel entirely good. The book details her inner struggle to resist her desire to devour souls, and we want her to find a way to be free of this curse. Noah and his fellow Ankh seem to have the solution to her problem, but they refrain from offering it to her, insisting that she needs to prove herself. After awhile, it’s pretty obvious that Eden doesn’t want to be like her family, and it seems rather cruel that the Ankh are holding out on her.

As I'm posting this, I see another negative - Blood Will Tell is only available on Kindle. That's def a negative for anyone with a Nook.

And every time Eden’s inner soul-eater voice starts dramatically telling her to feed off of those around her, all I can think is “om nom nom SOULS!”

The Romance

There is not very much romance in Blood Will Tell, largely because the two main characters spend most of the book lying to each other. They’re so focused on their secrets that they keep each other at a distance through the course of the story. But they have enough of a relationship that there is hope for romance in the future.

There is also an indication that being a soul eater supplants the desire for romance. Eden’s parents get their greatest satisfaction from abusing humans and taking their souls. Her brother Stellan brings girls up to his bedroom, but all he does with them is take bits her life essence. Her cousin Teagan physically desires her, but this is do more to a desire to possess and control her than anything related to love. And when Eden looks at Noah, an attractive boy apparently of her age, all she can think about is how much she wants to eat his soul.

Will I read more?

I actually have already read the second book, and I bought the second book, though I have not yet read it. Samantha Young also has a few other series of books out there, and I am looking forward to reading them. I hope they are as good as this one.

See Details for Book on    Amazon     

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cold Blood by Heather Hildenbrand

Title: Cold Blood
Series: Dirty Blood
Author: Heather Hildenbrand
Previous Books in Series: Dirty Blood
Rating: 5 stars
Length: 7155 Kindle units (includes previews for other books)

Refresher:  Tara finds out she is half werewolf and half werewolf hunter – and destined to be a leader who can bring the two races together in harmony

In my review of Dirty Blood, I said that I would recommend it to any fan of YA paranormal, though possibly not my friend who is lukewarm on the genre. In his dedication to my blog, he did read it, and, though he did not love it, he conceded that it was better than “the tiger book.” (This is what he calls Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck, which he currently holds up as the ultimate example of bad YA fiction. I haven’t read it, largely because the idea of a book about a girl who falls in love with a tiger weirds me out, so I can’t offer my own judgment.) Nonetheless, he has decided to read the second book, though as of now he has not finished it, so I cannot tell you what he thinks.

As for me, I liked Dirty Blood enough to read Cold Blood on the very same weekend, and, since that was so long ago that I couldn’t remember the details, I read it again this past weekend and got just as caught up in the story as I did during the first read through. If anything, I think it is better than the first book. It reminded me a little of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series in that it is about a talented fighter who needs to train extra hard to catch up with the rest of her class. But Cold Blood didn’t have any inappropriate student-teacher relationships, so bonus there.

Most of the characters in Dirty Blood are absent for most of Cold Blood, since Tara is off at boarding school with little contact with the external world. While this supports my theory that her alleged soulmate Wes is just not that into her, it allows for a new and interesting cast of characters. Of course, the two new cute boys she meets are named Logan and Alex, which are two of the three most over-used boys’ names in YA paranormal romance. (The third is Gabriel. If you are writing a YA novel, I beg you, name your boys ANYTHING other than those three names.) One of Tara’s new boy friends seems way more into her than Wes is, so I like to think there is hope for him. Of course, I would be foolish to pin my hopes on a boy who isn’t introduced until the second novel, but, hey, I’ve done dumber things in my time.

Another interesting thing about Tara is that she is a girl with anger management issues. Several times throughout the book she wants to punch out someone who upsets her. There is indication that her lack of control may have a supernatural cause, but it’s still nice to see a girl in a counter-stereotypical role, even if it’s a negative stereotype.

Tara’s superpowers also lead to a killer cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to see what happens in book three.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

A Night Below New York by C. Jayee Cohen

Title: A Night Below New York
Author: C. Jayee Cohen
Length: 2647 Kindle units
Rating: 2.5 stars

The Plot

Sahara is starting her first semester at Irving College in New York where she plans to major in Paranormal Studies. This turns out to be more of a challenge than she expected when she is assigned a roommate who likes to have loud parties at all hours, frequently with Rex, the cute basketball player from down the hall. To escape her unbearable living situation, Sahara takes a job as a nanny for a family who live near the campus. But when her charge disappears into a closed subway station, Sahara uncovers a world unlike any she’s ever seen.

The Good

The depiction of college life from the view of naïve and studious Sahara was quite realistic. The story made me have flashbacks of my own college roommate experience. (Her goal in life was to download every 2pac song from the internet. My goal in life was to not have a nervous breakdown. We didn’t really get on.) The situation was somewhat exaggerated, and Sahara could have done more to try to communicate with Esther, but introverted teenage girls out on their own for the first time in their lives are unlikely to have mastered the fine art of communication. (God knows I still haven’t.)

The story itself was pretty interesting as well. It focuses on the concept of fictional realism, or the idea that fictional realities actually exist. After a quick google search, I was surprised (and a little horrified) to discover that some people actually believe that this is true. But even assuming that the existence of fictional realities is, in fact, a fiction for the purpose of this novel, it’s an interesting direction for a story.

The Bad

Before I write blog posts, I often divide a book up over the course of a few days. On my first night reading A Night Below New York, I read a detailed description of Sahara’s journey to college and her problems with her roommate. On the second night, I finally began the plot of the novel, but it was not until the third and final night that anything paranormal happened at all.

As I was reading it, I thought, “Huh, I guess this is really a short story that the author tried to lengthen into a novel, but really most of this could be cut.” But then, when I got to the end of the book, the story hit a cliffhanger point and the ominous words “To be continued.” I would best describe my reaction to this as “perplexed.” Why would an author cram the entire plot into the last third of a very short novel and then stop writing? Would it not make more sense to cut out the extraneous stuff at the beginning and just write one novel? I’m pretty sure that the answer to this is “Yes.”

The book also had the perennially irritating first-to-third-person narration switch. It was especially problematic because the chapters were short enough that the book seemed choppy. Not only did I have to constantly switch whose scene I was in, but the different points of view made the constant transitions even more jarring. The book would have been better served to have been written exclusively from the third person.

The Romance

This is something that you will rarely hear from me, but I think A Night Below New York would have been better if the romance had been cut entirely. Sahara is in love with Rex because he’s cute, even though they have nothing in common, and he’s kind of a jerk to her. This is fine in and of itself except that it causes her to have painfully clichéd despair over how hopeless her crush is. But given the occurrences of the first two-thirds of the novel, it really is not reasonable to expect that Rex will reciprocate her affections any time in the near future.

Of course, I formed a lot of this opinion when I believed that I was reading a short story that had been expanded into a novel. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I will just say that as far as romance was concerned, I believed that the story was going to finish right up until it didn’t. I don’t understand why, if the story was going to continue, that the romance did not progress at a more convincing pace.

Will I read more?

There were a couple of times as I was reading this book that I cringed and thought, “Wow. This is the worst book I have ever read.” This was really not a fair thing for me to think. The narrative was superior to some of the books I’ve given 1 or 1.5 stars to, and I actually enjoyed the last third of the book when I got into the actual plots. Well, minus the romance. But enough of the circumstances evinced negative emotions that I probably will never find out what happens after that last “To be continued.” Alas.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Free Book Giveaway! Car Stuff for Women by Sean Daniel Shortwinter

I have exciting news for everyone! Sean Daniel Shortwinter, who you may remember from the review of Tip of the Spear, has been so kind as to offer his non-fiction book Car Stuff for Women to all the followers of my blog for FREE!

What is Car Stuff for Women? Well, in the words of the author: "Car Stuff for Women has only one purpose... to help that girl out there that may not know anything about her car, but doesn't want to be left on the side of the road by a breakdown or cheated during repairs. And not getting murdered is always nice."

So if you want to learn more about your car so that you too can not be murdered on the side of the road, all you need to do to claim your free copy of Car Stuff for Women is to send me an e-mail at wadingthrougheink@gmail.com and ask for it. Feel free to include any comments you might have about my blog as well, like "Elizabeth, I do not know how I made it through my Thursdays without your reviews. I will never again read a book without your approval."  Or, you know, something else that you're thinking.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you all!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Atlantis by Lisa Graves

Title: Atlantis
Series: Atlantis
Author: Lisa Graves
Length: 4572 Kindle units
Rating: 3 stars

The Plot

Lilly meets Elliot, and she knows there is something special about him. As the two grow closer, Lilly begins to realize that though they share a secret connection, they do not exist on the same plane. As it becomes harder for them to communicate with each other, Lilly must take increasingly desperate steps to be with him, but is she willing to give up everything to be with her true love?

The Good

Atlantis was different than other books in the genre of YA paranormal, and it’s always good to be reading something I haven’t read a hundred times before. Everything to do with Lilly and Elliott’s relationship – the way they communicate, the method of travel, the place where they meet – is unique.

The characters in Atlantis felt very real to me. The people behaved in a consistent manner, feeling the emotions that were appropriate. I didn’t feel like anyone stepped outside their expected behaviors simply for narrative convenience. Lilly and her friends shared speech patterns that made them seem like they had been friends for a long time. Even Lilly’s mother and sister, who were not in the novel very much, had traits behaviors that made them come alive.

Also, Lilly had a large grey cat named Theory. I decided that it looked like my sister’s cat Princess.

The Bad

As I was reading Atlantis, I found myself experiencing a number of negative emotions. First, I was confused. At the beginning of the story, Lilly and Elliott have just met, but it seems as if they have known each other longer than that. Eventually I got into the rhythm of the story, but I remained confused because even after reading the whole thing, I am not sure what the mythology is in this universe. It seems to involve some cross of dreams, time travel, reincarnation, and psychic powers, but I’m really not sure how all these things fit together.

The second emotion that struck me was fear; for about 2/3 of the novel, I was actually afraid for Lilly’s life and sanity. She realizes that she may be hallucinating Elliott, and instead of getting checked out by a licensed mental health professional, she continues to do increasingly dangerous things to try to see him more often. I realize that, as my sister has told me, I do not always adequately control for teenagers doing stupid things when they are in love. But I do know what it’s like to be a teenager who literally feels like she might be going crazy, and it is the most terrifying thing in the world. And since no one in the book seemed sufficiently scared for Lilly, I had to take that burden onto myself.

Finally, as I got toward the end of the book, I started to dislike Lilly. I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of spoilers, but when Lilly starts manipulating people so that she can see Elliott – who may well be a figment of her imagination – I don’t really want to read about her anymore.

The Romance

In Atlantis I found myself in the unfortunate position that all fans of teen paranormal romance will find themselves in on occasion: I was on Team Wrong Boy. Elliott is set up as Lilly’s perfect love from the beginning, but the only things we really know about him are that Lilly feels an “connection” to him and that he is encouraging her to continue doing risky things to see him. Nicholas, on the other hand, has been Lilly’s friend for years, shares interests with her, and is repeatedly supportive of her during what, from the outside, resembles a schizophrenic break. (And, honestly, from the inside, it kind of does too.) So I don’t know how the majority of readers feel, but I’m definitely voting for Nicholas here. And Lilly is clearly on Team Elliott.

Will I read more?

I confess to some curiosity about the world and how everything will fit together, though I don’t think I’m curious enough to read another book. I don’t see enough evidence in Atlantis that the mythology will come together to form a comprehensive whole. It is possible all the pieces will align as the big reveal at the end of the story, but I’m not super-confident that this will be the outcome.

Plus, I’m really only interested in reading more books if the series ends in a particular way. (Endings are super-important to me and can impact how I feel about an entire series.) I can make a compelling case of Atlantis hints at my preferred ending, but it’s still enough of a long shot that I probably won’t pick up the next book.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bitter Demons by Sarra Cannon

Title: Bitter Demons
Series: Peachville High Demons
Author: Sarra Cannon
Previous Books in Series: Beautiful Demons, Inner Demons
Rating: 4.5 stars
Length: 2944 Kindle units

Refresher:  Orphan girl joins small town cheerleading squad only to discover that they are demon-enslaving witches. Also, we loves Jackson best of ALL de boys!

Welcome to the third episode of my attempt to create an obsessive cult following of the Peachville High Demons series! (This is actually going better than one might think. I already know of at least two converts other than myself, and I like to pretend that there are dozens of people reading my blog and purchasing all the books I recommend.)

In Inner Demons, Harper starts to get a picture of the bad side of being part of the Order of the Shadows and begins her rebellion against the system. Unfortunately, such actions do not come without consequences, and the witches in Peachville decide they need to watch her every move. This is actually good news for readers because it gives us the opportunity to see more of the Order outside of Peachville. Which also means new and interesting characters in the form of young witches from other towns who come to visit and guide Harper on her path of becoming the Prima of Peachville’s coven (even though she has no intention of taking up that role).

Meanwhile, Jackson is still being everything one requires of a love interest. He reveals some of his backstory, while still keeping enough secrets to be somewhat mysterious. Plus, the Order of the Shadows has put the kibosh on their relationship, so they have to sneak around to see each other, which adds drama to the romance.

Another great thing about this series is that the plots keep getting better and better. Bitter Demons features mistaken identities, mysterious illness, and shape-shifting witches. And we get to find out what the deal is with Harper’s housemate Mary Anne, who has been lurking suspiciously in the shadows since book 1.

So if you have thus far remained immune to my praises of the Peachville High Demons series, or if you were debating whether to continue onto book 3, I give you the heartiest of recommendations to read the series. You will not regret it.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Inescapable by Amy A. Bartol

Title: Inescapable
Series: Premonition
Author: Amy A. Bartol
Length: 6789 Kindle units
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Plot

Evie is starting her first semester of college, and things seem to be going relatively well. Sure, the cafeteria food sucks, but she’s made friends, joined a field hockey team, and met a boy who just may be her soulmate. The only downside is Reed, a sophomore who hates her on sight. Which is too bad, because he might be the only person who can tell Evie about the strange things that are about to start happening in her life…

The Good

One test I use to determine how much I like a book is how much I think about it when I’m not reading it. Some books I enjoy while I’m reading them, but two days later I can’t even remember what they’re about. Inescapable, on the other hand, stuck with me. While I was at work, I found myself thinking about the characters and wanted to read more. Even now as I look back at a few things to write the review, I get sucked in and want to read more. It’s what I like to call “book crack,” basically because its so addictive that you can’t stop reading it even if it’s bad for you.

The book had a lot of really strong characters, both the stars and the side characters. I think my favorites were Buns and Brownie, the girls from Evie’s dorm who convince her to join the field hockey team and get her involved in campus pranks. They’re just the right level of quirky and are always there for Evie when things don’t go her way, as they so frequently don’t, Buns and Brownie are there with a cheerful “sweetie” and a helping hand.

The Bad

If Jackson of the Peachville High Demons series is my favorite boy I have blogged about, then Russell of the Premonition series is definitely my least favorite. He has a southern accent that is apparently so strong that it needs to be transcribed, which in and of itself isn’t bad. However, it is accompanied by other unpleasant characteristics, like a domineering attitude and the need to “protect” Evie by confronting whoever is mean to her, even if she indicates that she is perfectly capable of handling it.

Now, I admit that I am particularly sensitive to this kind of thing, but the fact that Russell is put up as soulmate material makes me feel like the book encourages traditional gender roles to an unnecessarily strong degree. There is one point where Reed indicates that he could never fall in love with another angel because they are not properly “soft” and womanly, which offended me a little bit. The book isn’t Piers Anthony bad in its sexism, but there is enough of it there to make me vaguely uncomfortable at times.

The Romance

Fortunately for all concerned, Russell being Evie’s soulmate is not quite as dire a prospect as it could be. (Because, seriously, if Russell were my soulmate, I’d be begging God for a do-over.) Were Evie fully human, she would be content to be with Russell forever, but since she isn’t, she is denied such a human happy ending. Which is good in that it allows her some choice, though I suppose that it’s also kind of bad because she ends up even more obsessed with Reed than she would have been with Russell. But, then, Reed is so much more worthy of the attention that I can’t bring myself to be too upset.

Sometimes when I’m bored or when I have it shoved in my face, I like to analyze why boys in novels are shirtless. Like, did they need to take their shirt off to fashion makeshift bandages for our bleeding heroine? Or are they simply engaging in gratuitous shirtlessness? Inescapable provided plenty of opportunity for shirt-presence analysis. At first, it seems completely random that Reed keeps appearing on Evie’s fire escape with no shirt on. But! We then find out that he has wings, and he had been flying up to her window, so the bare-chestedness was functional. Except after we know about the wings, he keeps unfurling them at inopportune times, ripping his shirt off in the process, which is both gratuitous and wasteful. I mean, come on, Reed. We know you’ve got piles of money, but do you need to throw it and your chiseled abs into our face at the same time? I don’t think so.

Will I read more?

I have already purchased the second one and read the end of it. (Yes, I read the ends of books first. Well, not always first but generally before I get there chronologically. Endings are important to me, and knowing what is going to happen enhances my reading experience. No doubt some of you are horribly appalled by this, but all I can say is that reading is a personal experience that we all enjoy in our own way.) I plan to get back to it and read the whole thing within the next couple of weeks. After all, sequel Tuesday does not populate itself.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Creature Kid by Rashad Freeman

Title: Creature Kid Volume 1: The Teenage Chronicles
Series: Creature Kid
Author: Rashad Freeman
Length: 2650 Kindle units
Rating: 2 stars

The Plot

Anthony is looking forward to starting his freshman year of high school. He plans on having a normal year, trying out for the varsity soccer team and maybe getting up the nerve to ask out Nickie Sutherland. Sure, there are a few problems, like getting picked on by bullies and possibly witnessing his neighbor kill her husband, but who doesn’t have stuff like that happen on occasion?

Then one day, without warning, Anthony sprouts wings out of his back – wings that he has no ability to control. He can’t fly with them. He can’t even reliably keep them from popping out. And that is very bad, because he needs to keep the wings a secret. He doesn’t even want to think about what people who do to him if they found out.

The Good

The premise of Creature Kid is interesting – a boy who grows wings out of his back. (Wings that are described as a cross between eagle wings and dragon wings. I can’t really decide how that would look, so I ended up just picturing them as giant bat wings.) Anthony and his friends are both a little freaked but also kind of excited about the additional appendages, which is probably how I would feel too. Flight has always been my superpower of choice.

The book is also relatively well-written. The style and voice were compelling enough that I was convinced for a while that the book was much better than it actually was.

The Bad

Creature Kid detailed a series of events that I can only describe as completely ludicrous. There was at least one point where something so completely random and unbelievable happened that I actually laughed out loud. Unfortunately, this was far enough into the story that describing it would constitute a spoiler, so I shall have to content myself with detailing some of the earlier occurrences.

In the first chapter of the book, Anthony’s friend Mikey claims to have seen his neighbor kill her husband, so the boys decide to sneak into her house and find evidence of this. This might actually be interesting if they did anything with the information, but the entire thing just seems to be an afternoon’s entertainment for them. They promptly forget the entire thing until chapter 7, at which point they sneak back into her house and discover… well, um, nothing. Yeah, this plot line goes absolutely nowhere.

Chapter two describes Anthony’s first day of high school, in which some slightly-but-not-overly-odd things happen. Then, at the end of the chapter, we discover that this entire chapter was a dream, and we must now read chapter 3 to learn the true events of that day, which aren’t any more interesting than the dream. Before we know it, we’re a quarter of the way through the novel, and nothing supernatural has happened at all.

When Anthony finally does grow wings, he tells his friends but keeps it a secret from everyone else. Just in case anyone out there is facing a similar situation and feels that this is the best manner in which to deal with it, I must proffer this piece of advice: If you ever grow wings or a tail or scales or some other extraneous body part, the best course of action is to tell your parents about it. Chances are, if you were not bitten by a radioactive spider or dunked in neon toxic goo or subjected to some other superhero-origin-type event, your new mutation is probably genetic. Which means that the people who share your DNA most likely know about it. And even if they don’t, they’re your parents. They probably aren’t going to sell you to the government for unspeakable experiments. So tell them first. Doing so will not only get you answers; it will prevent me from thinking that you are a complete idiot.

The Romance

Anthony is 13, so his romance is more middle-grade than YA, even though he seems convinced that Nickie is “the one.” She seems to be a sophomore in high school, though she is also described as two years older than him. I guess this makes sense, since Anthony is 13 and consequently young for a high school freshman. I have to confess, though, that I find the idea of a 13-year-old boy dating a 15-year-old girl to be a little on the creepy side. Girls mature faster than boys in their early teens and all that. But, you know, if they like each other, I guess that’s what really matters. Or something.

Will I read more?

Much as I enjoy a good laugh at the expense of other people’s poorly thought-out narratives, I believe I will be skipping the rest of the series. Best of luck to Anthony and his wings, though. I hope he manages to successfully evade the government and become a functioning and flighted member of society.

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