Thursday, March 29, 2012

Death's Promise by Cheryl Twaddle

Title: Death’s Promise
Author: Cheryl Twaddle
Length: 5324 Kindle units
Rating: 3 stars

The Plot

Annabelle has always been an outcast at her high school. She would rather stay home and read than talk about clothes and boys, so everyone – especially her ex-best friend Rhonda – makes fun of her. Annabelle’s only escape is her dreams, in which she finds herself experiencing some of history’s most notable events. Then one day a boy from her dreams steps into her waking life, and she begins to realize that there might be more to her nightly trips than she ever knew.

The Good

Death’s Promise actually ranked pretty high on my give-a-crap meter, which is to say that I did give a crap about what happened to the characters. Annabelle’s situation – her grief over her father’s death, her dissociation from her friends at school – was sympathetic, and I was interested to see how she grew from being a weak person into a stronger one.

My favorite character in the book was Rainbow, a girl who died of an accidental drug overdose and was destined to haunt Woodstock forever and help people like Annabelle who came her way. I liked how, even though fate had dealt her a pretty tough hand, she still worked to help Orin and Annabelle as much as she could.

The Bad

I have said it before, and I’m sure I will say it again: Third person omniscient narration is NEVER a good idea. Death’s Promise sort of pulled it off in that I didn’t get confused (except when we were suddenly in the head of a character we had never heard of, which happened a few times). But omniscient third person always ends up unbalanced because there is no way you can know what every character is thinking at all times. So in any given scene, you only know what some of the characters are thinking some of the time, and there isn’t a clear explanation of why you know what you do and don’t know what you don’t. Third person narration limited to one character per scene works out a lot better.

I had some issues with the believability of Death’s Promise. I don’t know about the rest of you, but in my high school, a tolerably pretty girl who was not particularly smart or sociable or in any way special would not have been constantly ridiculed; she would have been ignored. So it didn’t really make sense to me that Annabelle’s classmates harassed her. I also couldn’t figure out the physics involved in the mythology. I mean, if Annabelle was traveling back in time in her dreams, but leaving her body behind, how would that work? Does history exist on a different plane or something? Because trying to figure out the physics of how that would work makes my head hurt.

The Romance

I found the romance rather disappointing, primarily because the potential love interests had no depth. We had Orin the goody-good boy, and Jett the baaaad one. It’s not an atypical set up, but usually we see some kind of contradiction, like the good boy doesn’t really understand her or the bad boy truly believes he’s doing the right thing. Yeah, not so much here. Orin is good, and Jett is bad, and neither boy is particularly interesting.

The plot of the novel revolves around Jett having to convince Annabelle to fall in love with him so that he can be freed from his prison realm. In order to achieve his goal, he kidnaps her, drugs her, and tricks her into thinking that he is her savior. Yet if she believed she loved him in this drug-addled state, it would have been enough to set him free. This seems to me a very poorly designed spell that can be broken by a shallow semblance of love.

Will I read more?

I believe that this is a stand-alone book, so I don’t think that there is more to read. But if there were more, or if the author wrote a different book, would I read it? Maybe. I have definitely read worse things in my life. But probably not. The story was not particularly satisfying, and the mythology was rather disjointed. I’m just not really feeling it.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Forever by Lauren Burd

Title: Forever
Series: Immortal
Author: Lauren Burd
Previous Books in Series: Immortal
Rating: 4 stars
Length: 4604 Kindle units

Refresher:  Alina goes off to college where she is immediately sought after by two gorgeous (and immortal) boys for reasons that are not entirely clear.

Much like Immortal, Forever was eminently readable. I got sucked in and read the whole thing in one or two sessions while I was supposed to be doing other things, like sleeping. I liked Forever better than Immortal, I believe, not in the least because things happen in it. There are dramatic escapes and plot twists, and we even find out why Alina is special. Which explains why Duncan is interested in her, but we never do get a reason that Samuel likes her so much. I chalk it up to narrative necessity.

I had some issues with the believability of some of the plot twists. At certain points in the story, Duncan and other characters do things which demonstrate that they are untrustworthy. So the reader gets to thinking that he or she knows who the bad guys are. Then suddenly one of these villains shows up and explains that they had these secret motives for their unspeakable actions and that they are really not evil. Which is great and everything, except that the only thing that supports the new story is the story itself. And, as we have already established, the villains are  untrustworthy. So I’m kind of expecting a triple cross to come, but I’m not sure that the series has that level of depth.

I’m also really unsure what the role of Alina’s mother is. We establish early in the first one that she is a horrible person with no redeeming characteristics, and there is a large portion of Forever dedicated to her issues. It’s not that what happens isn’t plot relevant. It’s just that a lot of the details are extraneous and are unlikely to gain relevance in the third novel.

But, overall, it’s a good story. It’s readable. It’s compelling. It’s a solid four-star novel. So if that works for you, and you liked the first one, go right ahead and read the second. And then join me in awaiting the third.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Random 1

Since I was busy getting older this weekend, I did not have time to write a blog post. Consequently, I have decided to give you a random image from my life instead. I will be back tomorrow with a review of Forever by Lauren Burd.

This is a picture of Rob and Gabriel, stuffed iguana and chameleon. (Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference.) Under no circumstances are they to be called lizards, and may God have mercy on anyone who calls either one "Rainbow." Their favorite pastimes include plotting evil and stealing the will to live of unsuspecting victims.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Last Werewolf Hunter by William Woodall

Title: The Lost Werewolf Hunter: The Complete Series
Series: The Lost Werewolf Hunter
Author: William Woodall
Length: 9931 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars

The Plot

Zach doesn’t want to be a monster, which is a problem since his family seem bound and determined to turn him into a werewolf, whether he likes it or not. To avoid this fate, Zach runs away from home and searches for an uncle that he never met. He thinks that his only choice is to flee, but he slowly discovers that he may be the only person with the power to end the werewolf curse, once and for all.

The Good

At the risk of crossing the line into pretentious critic, I have to say that what I liked best about The Last Werewolf Hunter was the voice. (I know, I know. Next thing you know I will be coming out of movies talking about how amazing the sound editing was.)  I really feel as if I am in the head of a southern teenage boy, and though the phrasing is often colloquial, it is never unclear.

When I was asked to review this book, I was warned that it “had some Christian elements” but not in a bad way. I feel obliged to offer the same warning, though I actually feel that, if anything, it was Christian in a good way. Zach was not preachy or judgmental but tried to live his life according to Christian tenets of looking for good in people and, you know, not killing them, even if they were werewolves who had made some morally dubious choices. I’m not going to say that hardcore atheists would want to read the book, and there is some mythologically irrelevant praying over cursed stones. But if you don’t have a problem with theoretical Christianity’s “love thy neighbor” and such, you probably won’t have a problem with the book either.

The Bad

The Last Werewolf Hunter is really more of a middle grade book than a young adult book. This is not necessarily a bad thing if that’s what you were looking for, but there are reasons that I try to keep my reviews to the YA genre. The first of the three books was basically the story of a boy surviving on his own. (Which gave me unfortunate flashbacks to my 7th grade reading teacher who loved survival books and once mocked me in front of the entire class for not feeling the same way. God, I hated that woman.) The second two books picked up some, but at nearly 10,000 Kindle units, The Last Werewolf Hunter is definitely the longest book I have reviewed yet, and that’s a lot of words to get through if you’re not that into it.

I would say that the biggest issue with the book that does not have to do with personal preference is the emotional distance Zach seems to have from some of the events taking place. In the first book, Zach is reading Robinson Crusoe, and I imagine that the parallel is intentional. The problem is that while Daniel Defoe did a great thing in writing the first ever novel in the English language, what he wrote was largely a list of happenings with none of the emotional depth that modern readers expect. The Last Werewolf Hunter definitely makes vast improvements on this score, but sometimes you want to shake Zach and yell, “Your cousin is in a jar! Show emotion!”

The Romance

Zach does not meet his love interest until the third book in the series, which makes perfect sense, given that he is twelve and fourteen years old in the first two books, respectively. He meets Jolie on the first page of book 3 and then falls in love with her fairly quickly. Their relationship has a few pitfalls – like that she and her family might kill werewolves and loot their stuff or that he needs to break into her family’s secret lab to enact his plan. All in all, though, they seem relatively happy with each other. I do find it a little unlikely that they would be quite so gung-ho about the romance when so many of their relations were quasi-dead. But, you know, teenagers in love, what can you do?

Will I read more?

Since the subtitle for this book is “The Complete Series,” and since the ending is pretty definite, I don’t imagine there will be any more to read. Of course, at the end of both the second and third installment, Zach thought he had achieved his ultimate goal only to discover in the next book that he had more to accomplish. So it would not be outside the realm of possibility for Zach to find out that he had yet another quest, like now needing to rid the world of vampires.

If such a thing were to occur, would I then read the book? Eh, probably not, but more because of personal preference than for any reason to do with the book itself.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Intuition by Amy A. Bartol

Title: Intuition
Series: Premonition
Author: Amy A. Bartol
Previous Books in Series: Inescapable
Rating: 4.5 stars
Length: 7809 Kindle Units (includes preview of book 3)

Refresher:  Evie goes off to college, where paranormal things start happening to her. Like she has to choose between her soulmate Russell and an angel named Reed.

I have mentioned on occasion that I have a friend who reads all the books that I strongly recommend on my blog. He read Inescapable and, like me, thought it was good except for the transcribed accents and rampant sexism. The accents bothered him more, but all they did for me was make me associate Russell with the most stereotypical southerner I ever met in a college setting. Which may account for a lot of why I don’t like Russell. My friend did not have this issue and is firmly on Team Russell, whereas I am on Team Reed. Apparently my friend does not consider angels as legitimate objects of attraction, while I, of course, am all about the hot boys with wings.

Inescapable, like its predecessor, features new avenues in both the transcribed accents and hot boys with wings. We add a large group of undead fairies with Irish accents, and Russell grows wings and consequently gets to start dramatically ripping his shirt off at inopportune moments. Russell also gets a few chapters from his point of view, which both disappoints my preference for narrative continuity and worries me as a Reed fan. The only legitimate reason for including chapters from Russell’s point of view is to say, “Don’t worry, guys. It looks like Reed is going to win, but I’ll be pulling through in the end.” And, honestly, if that were the case, I really think there should have been chapters from Russell’s point of view in the first book as well. So even if I didn’t hate Russell more than is likely warranted, I would still be confused by the change in pov.

I feel a bit as though I am continually saying bad things about the series, but the truth is that it’s really good and eminently readable. After I finished Intuition, I spent about two days quite desperate for more, and my friend who read Inescapable is happy to move onto the sequel. So, though I complain, really, props all around.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

After Eden by Katherine Pine

Title: After Eden
Series: Fallen Angels
Author: Katherine Pine
Length: 5134 Kindle units (includes previews for several other books)
Rating: 4 stars

The Plot

When Devi was little, she loved her brother Kai more than anything in the world. Then one day the most beautiful man Devi had ever seen came and took him away. Ten years later she meets a man named Oz who may be able to tell her what happened to her brother, but she may soon wish that she had never learned the truth.

The Good

I enjoyed most of After Eden a great deal. I like angel and demon storylines, especially ones like this that blur the good-evil divide between them. The particular mythology with the distinction between devils and demons (and no, not in the D&D way) was unique and interesting.

The relationships between characters in the story were never simple, which made them feel more realistic. Devi has difficulty relating to her parents, particularly her father, after she witnesses her brother’s abduction. She has a difficult time making friends, but she loves her best friend Kim, though she wishes that Kim would make better choices in her love life. Oz claims to love everything about the world, but he seems to spend most of his time alone in the used bookstore he recently acquired through unspecified means. The only person he seems to interact with is the devil Forneus, but that relationship has to be described as… Actually, I have no idea how to describe a relationship that encompasses both painful torture and repeated asking for favors. If you come up with one, let me know.

The Bad

It often seems that there are two stories going on in After Eden, one about Devi’s supernatural problems and one about her ordinary life. These two stories operate in parallel, but they don’t have too much to do with each other. Oz is present for both of them, sometimes in bookstore-owner form and sometimes as a teenage girl. And, yes, the switching bodies is kind of creepy. Anyway, the parts about Devi and her friend Kim and their ordinary high school life feel more like filler than part of the story.

And to cover what else is problematic, let’s move onto

The Romance

There is going to be a spoiler in this part. I am going to tell you something that happens about 2/3 of the way through the book, because I honestly cannot talk about the romance in After Eden without mentioning it. So if you don’t want spoilers, stop reading now.

For the beginning of the book, I thought the romance between Devi and Oz was pretty sweet (as in “awww, so cute,” not like another word for awesome). I mean, he’s so excited to be with her, and he takes her out for pancakes, and I like pancakes. But then at one point in the novel, he shoots her. Like, with a gun.

Yes, he does it for plot relevant reasons. But you have to understand that I am the kind of person who won’t give any more money to the Twilight franchise because I think it promotes the idea that it’s okay for a boy to hurt you as long as he doesn’t really mean it. So I don’t even know what to do with a guy who fires projectile weapons at the girl he loves. Especially when we are told that it means he really loves her, because he will do anything that she asks. And all that she can think as she’s lying there with a bullet hole in her chest is that she wishes that she had kissed him once before she died.

Just… just… no. I am not on board with this. If a guy shoots you, that is not okay. There is no reason plot-relevant enough to excuse it.

Will I read more?

I debated about this. I mean, HE SHOOTS HER, FOR GOD’S SAKE. But the mythology and story were interesting. I might even have given it five stars if Oz had found a better way to tell Devi he loved her. Eventually my need to fill Sequel Tuesday won out, so be looking for a review of Beloved Purgatory in a few weeks.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Innocent Hearts by Jess Mountifield

A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail asking me if I reviewed short stories. I had honestly never thought about it before, so I decided that I would agree to review collections of short stories (which I am defining as a publication that contains two or more short stories) so long as it meets my other review criteria (self-published ya paranormal). This is subject to change if I suddenly get inundated with requests to review short stories. Or, you know, if I decide I don’t want to do it anymore. That is the joy of a blog. It is all subject to my whims. Bwahaha.

Anyway, this is a review of a pair of short stories. It’s shorter than my usual reviews primarily because the content material is shorter, and I don’t want to give away the entire story.

Title: Innocent Hearts
Author: Jess Mountifield
Length: 867 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Plot

In “The Path Home,” half-elf Bronwen must find a new home after the death of her overprotective father, so she sets out to find her mother’s people in the elf city to the north.

In “Learning to Fly,” Liza is a Nepharil girl who has never learned to fly like the rest of her winged people. Even though everyone around her has given up on her, she still believes that she can learn.

The Good

Both stories took place in the same world, and they present a similar perspective in that both girls know very little about the world they live in. It is interesting to see the world through their naïve perspectives, as it mirrors the perspective of the reader. What we do see of the world is very interesting. Its population is comprised of elves, humans, and a novel militaristic people known as the Nepharil. There seems to be a sort of war going on between the elves and the Nepharil, and we get glimpses of it from both sides.

The Bad

My biggest complaint about the stories is that I don’t really feel that we get enough information. Bronwen’s story ends just as it’s starting to get interesting; if I were a merciless editor, I would probably have hacked out most of the first half of the story as being uninteresting and irrelevant. Then at the end of the story, many things are left open, sadly not in a “mysterious and edgy short story” kind of way. More in an “I feel like I read the first few chapters of a novel that just stopped” kind of way. I feel like the story would have been really good if it had been lengthened into a novel, or if it had been a longer book of interrelated short stories that gave different glimpses into the world. As it is, the works feels unfinished and is only okay.

The Romance

No romance in these stories. The boy Bronwen meets decides to adopt her as a sister, and though Liza wishes she had a suitor, she spends all her time with her male relatives.

Will I read more?

I would actually like to see more of the world, because it seems to have some interesting twists. I was just starting to get into Bronwen’s story when it ended, and both she and I would like to know more about the Nepharil. I think that I would prefer to wait for a novel-length book, though, should one be forthcoming, or a more extensive series of short stories.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rival Demons by Sarra Cannon

Title: Rival Demons
Series: Peachville High Demons
Author: Sarra Cannon
Rating: 5 stars
Length: 3907 Kindle units

Refresher:  Harper must run away from the (evil) town of Peachville into the realm of the shadow demons or face certain death!

Welcome once more as I pay homage to how much I love Sarra Cannon’s Peachville High Demons series. The next time you hear from me about the topic, it will likely consist of me being both excited and disappointed at the end of the series. (/compulsively checks the word meter on Sarra Cannon’s web page)

Rival Demons was quite different from the previous books in the series in that it took place in the Shadow Demon realm instead of Earth as we know it. But this actually makes the story more interesting, as it adds a (literally!) whole other dimension to the story. A few days after I finished the book, I found myself remembering bits of the story and thinking, “That was a really good scene. I have to read more by that author.” Then I realized it was a series I was already in love with. But I got to be grateful that the series took a new and interesting twist and still managed to stay good, as so many do not.

And I can’t do an entire Peachville High Demons review without mentioning once again how much I love Jackson. He is not at his best in this story, and for a while he loses ALL HIS POINTS. (Don’t worry. He gets most of them back. It’s way too late in the series for a new love interest. Plus, none would be as awesome as Jackson.)  We also find out his real name, although they keep calling him Jackson anyway. I understand that this is because it would be way too confusing to change the name of one of the major characters in the second-to-last book. I just think that someone would say, “Gee, Jackson, would you rather us call you by your real name instead of the name given to you buy the people who have held you hostage for 50 years?” But then, he expects Harper to stay locked up in her room for most of the book, so maybe he doesn’t deserve the courtesy.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I loved Rival Demons as much as all the other books in the series, and as soon as we get a release date, I will be counting the days to Demons Forever.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Kiss of Death by Jayme Morse and Jody Morse

Title: Kiss of Death
Series: The Briar Creek Vampires
Author: Jayme Morse & Jody Morse
Length: 2945 Kindle Units
Rating: 1 star

The Plot
When Lexi’s cousin Austin dies, she and her mother travel to their hometown of Briar Creek for a few days. But when tragedy strikes, Lexi finds herself stuck in the small Pennsylvania town for far longer than she anticipated. And as she starts to investigate her cousin’s death, she finds out that no one in Briar Creek is exactly who they seem.

The Good

The set-up for Kiss of Death was pretty interesting. I always like it better when a girl is involved in the supernatural events rather than just being the love interest of an immortal boy. Shortly after Lexi arrives in Briar Creek, it becomes apparent that her mother is keeping secrets from her about her family and the town. As the novel progresses, we discover that the town has many mysteries and that there may be something special about Lexi that puts her at the center of them.

The Bad

Often when I am reading a less-than-stellar novel, I must stop in the middle of the text and do a kind of book facepalm in order to recover from a ludicrous plot twist, over-cliched romance, or just bad writing in general. I think I facepalmed more times during Kiss of Death more than for any other book that I have ever read. Sometimes I would facepalm for a full minute and then only read for fifteen seconds before having to bury my head against my kindle yet again.

I could list several instances of where the book went astray, but I think I am going to limit myself to the most telling instance. Be aware that this could constitute a spoiler, so if you plan to read the book, either to spite me or out of some form of ritualistic masochism, feel free to stop reading this review now.

About a third of the way through the book, Lexi’s mother dies (of e. coli poisoning from beef even though she is a vegetarian. Dun Dun DUN!), and Lexi moves in with her Aunt Violet and Uncle Tommy. A few days later, Violet forces Lexi to go out on a date with a boy named Dan, and Lexi observes that this is the worst thing that could ever happen to her. Yes, that’s right. Her mother has just died. But the worst thing that could happen to her is having to go out with a boy she does not like. Clearly this is a girl with her priorities in order.

The Romance

Despite the fact that Lexi only plans to be in town for a few days, she decides that her cousin’s funeral is a great place to pick up guys, namely her neighbor Gabriel and her cousin’s best friend Dan. It is worth noting that she meets both boys within five minutes of each other, because the very next day she reacts very differently to each of them. She chastises Dan for coming on to strong when he puts his arm around her, then within ten minutes is making out with Gabriel. We are supposed to understand that Gabriel is obviously her One True Love, which explains all such behavior, but it doesn’t really explain anything, because Lexi is picking up new dates wherever she goes. Throughout the course of the book, the girl has not one, not two, but FIVE love interests of her very own, which would probably not be so bad if she were not coming down on other girls for being slutty.

Will I read more?

Throughout the course of Kiss of Death, it becomes painfully obvious that everyone is keeping secrets from Lexi. If she had the smallest modicum of initiative or perseverance, she would have questioned all interested parties until someone told her wtf was going on. She did not do this, and so I spent most of the book with a variety of burning questions. Why do Violet and Tommy want Lexi to date Dan so badly? Why does everyone hate Gabriel? Who is Lexi’s father? So when I finally get to the end of the book, I am not only happy that the torment is over but also that these blatant plot points will be put to rest.

Except that they aren’t. We get the answer to exactly one question, and, really, that one was pretty much a given, what with title of the series containing the word “vampires.” Then the book ends with a cliffhanger. Now the only way I can find out the reasons for the town’s odd behavior is to buy the next book, and I cannot do so because that would be encouraging the series in a way that would violate the deepest of my principles. (Not that I would ever discourage someone from writing a novel. But I would definitely discourage anyone from publishing one that is as badly in need of revision as Kiss of Death.) Plus, I really don’t have a lot of faith that I would get answers in the second book either. So I will forever be left wondering, which is vaguely uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as sitting through another installment would be.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Transcender: First-Timer by Vicky Savage

Title: Transcender: First Timer
Series: Transcender
Author: Vicky Savage
Length: 6931 Kindle units
Rating: 5 stars

The Plot              

Jaden’s life hasn’t been the same since her mother died, but she never thought that her wish for a new life would be taken so literally. On night she falls over and gets up to find herself in a completely different version of Earth. In her new world, the earth was hit by a comet 300 years ago, and now the only remaining pockets of human life reside in large domes constructed by a beneficent organization called the Inter-Universal Guidance Agency (IUGA).

Jaden is thrilled to find out that her mother is alive in this universe, but she is somewhat surprised to discover that her mother is queen of Domerica, making Jaden the princess and heir to the throne. An agent from IUGA is working to get her home as soon as possible, but until then Jaden must do her best to step into Princess Jaden’s life. She has to be careful, though, because in this world, even her smallest wrong move can lead to devastating consequences for all of humanity.

The Good

I thoroughly enjoyed Transcender. I found the story very relatable, because, really, who doesn’t want to wake up in a world where they are the crown princess of a sizable nation? Sure, it’s a lot of work and responsibility, but you get to be rich AND have the ability to fix the world so that it’s better for everyone. Sure some of the people in the book talk how a monarchy is outdated and they should switch to democracy, but benevolent dictatorship has always been my government of choice. And the leaders in Domerica were good people who were trying to do the best for the world they lived in. I suppose one could argue that this is unrealistic, but if you’re going to create a fantasy world, you might as well create a nice one.

Transcender had an excellent balance between political world plot and interpersonal issues. Jaden must deal not only with the sociopolitical conflicts that Domerica struggles with but also with personal issues, both the cosmic, like being a Transcender away from home, and the personal, like figuring out how to be with her one true love Ryder Blackthorn. I never feel like Jaden’s life and feelings are being trampled over by the global issues, nor do I feel like she’s worried about silly things when the fate of the world is at stake. As a character, Jaden is able to determine what is important and how much energy to focus on it.

The Bad

I have a few trepidations regarding the inter-universal travel mythology. Parallel dimensions seem to co-occur with each other along the same time line. Yet when Jaden leaves, her original universe is frozen in time, which makes me wonder how it can remain on synch with the other universes. Won’t it get behind? And wouldn’t you expect the same thing to have happened to other transcenders in the past, so wouldn’t all the time lines be out of synch? There is also some stuff that is not fully explored regarding whether Jaden can or cannot take her body with her when she travels between universes. This is likely to come up more in the second book, where it will hopefully be more fleshed out. Until then I shall ignore the vague fears of inconsistent mythology and focus on the book being awesome.

Also, Jaden’s talking pet koala-monkeys are seriously creepy.

The Romance

Before we even meet Jaden, we know that she is about to meet her true love, which does take some of the surprise out of the romance, but that’s okay because she and Ryder still have many obstacles to overcome. First off there’s the problem that he and Jaden are not from the same universe, and that she needs to return to hers as quickly as possible. Then there’s the fact that Ryder has kidnapped her Princess self in order to convince the queen to talk about the radiation sickness that’s killing his people, the Unicoi. Holding Jaden for ransom definitely does not endear him to her family, by which I mean he becomes a wanted fugitive in the country that she is supposed to rule. So, the boy she will choose may be a foregone conclusion, but the happily ever after definitely isn’t, so the romance is worth sticking around for.

Will I read more?

Of course I will read more! I must find out how all the threads of the different universes tie into a neat mythology, and I must discover whether Ryder and Jaden can prove that love conquers all. Plus all that other stuff that needs sorting out, like the Unicoi dying out and the domes being on the brink of war. It’s all very exciting, so I hope to be seeing book two soon.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Blood Past by Samantha Young

Title: Blood Past
Series: Warriors of Ankh
Author: Samantha Young
Previous Books in Series: Blood Will Tell
Rating: 5 stars
Length: 5678 Kindle units

Refresher:  Eden is a soul-eater trying desperately to refrain from eating souls (mmm nummy souls). Her friend Noah might have a way to help her, if she proves herself worthy.

I am profoundly grateful to have found the works of Samantha Young. She has so far published 8 novels and has another one coming out March 16. I have purchased 6 of these and read 3, and thus far they are all of excellent quality and significant-but-not-unnecessary length. This means that I have a refuge to go to when I need to read a book that I know will not be terrible. This is not to say that all, or even most, of the self-published YA paranormal books I read are terrible, but the process of sifting through them all IS a bit of a crap shoot. Consequently, there are days when I feel that I have read so many less-than-mediocre books that I need to find something with a guarantee of readability, and Samantha Young provides that.

I read Blood Past almost as soon as I finished Blood Will Tell, and I was not disappointed in any way. In fact, the things that bothered me in the first book (no romance, the Ankh holding out on Eden for no good reason, descriptions of Eden’s family’s unspeakable crimes) were largely absent in this second installment.

The book takes place primarily in Scotland, and I really enjoy the dialect differences between the Scottish and American characters. I always find it a bit irritating in books when the European characters sound the same as the American characters. But the Scottish Neith have distinctly different speech patterns from the Americans, and sometimes even mock their pronunciation of local cities. Samantha Young does have an advantage in her dialects, being from and residing in Scotland, but then, there is a reason they say “Write what you know.”

I haven’t read book 3 yet, but it is definitely on my list.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Wizard Dawning by C.M. Lance

Title: Wizard Dawning
Series: The Battle Wizard Saga
Author: C.M. Lance
Length: 5912 Kindle Units
Rating: 4 stars

The Plot

Sig has always been interested in the magic that has grown in prominence since the climate changes in the late 21st century, but he never thought he had magic of his own. Then one day his great-grandfather Thorval comes to visit with some surprising news: Sig is actually the last in a long line of battle wizards with the power to increase in size at will. But the news is not all good, for it seems that Sig and Grampa Thor have an enemy who will stop at nothing to rid the world of battle wizards. And when an attack from such an enemy leaves Grampa Thor in a coma, Sig must go to Northwestern university to learn as much as he can as fast as he can, if he wants to stand any chance of saving Grampa Thor or himself.

The Good

I really liked the mythology concept behind Wizard Dawning. Sure, it’s pretty unlikely that global warming will cause an increase in magic, but if it did, I have no doubt there would be a slew of academics who became super-excited about the whole new world of physics they could now explore. And those few scientists out there who believe in the paranormal now would so be saying, “I told you so!” There was some very interesting world-building surrounding Sig and his fellow supernatural beings, who included werewolves, trolls, and witches.

Also, I have to give points to any book that features attacking zombie farmhands.

The Bad

There wasn’t so much anything wrong with Wizard Dawning so much as it was kind of boring. Sig was a little bit too perfect – talented and also hard-working, intelligent and willing to learn, basically a hero on all domains. Instead of making him appealing, it made him seem kind of wooden. His quest was very straightforward, and he seemed to have no problem taking time off from it to engage in side tasks that only served to add some rather obvious world-building opportunities.

I think part of the other reason I was somewhat uninterested in the book was that… well, I’m a girl. To some extent there exists a divide between the genders in terms of fantasy. Boys like to see an unlikely hero triumph over a villain in a painstakingly envisioned world, while the girls want to read about flawed characters overcoming internal and external obstacles and finding the right person to spend the rest of their lives with. Yes, this is an extreme over-simplification, and lots of fantasy novels appeal to people of both genders. I’m just not sure that this is one of them.

Alternately, it might just be a boring book. It’s kind of hard to tell. I was going to have one of my friends try it out, but he the book is sadly not yet available on Nook. Boys, if any of you decide to read it, feel free to let me know. Or, you know, rant about my horrible gender-biased-ness in the comments. I'm open to feedback from all directions.

The Romance

For such a simple, straightforward boy, Sig’s lack of a love life can get very complicated. Most of the women he encounters are Amazons, members of an all-female warrior race who focus on becoming the best fighters that they can be. Sig is eager to train with them, and though he is slightly better than their best fighter in his age group, they are close enough in skill that they can all learn much from each other, which is all Sig is really interested in. (Feel free to insert an eye roll.)

Unfortunately, Sig is unlikely to have a successful relationship with an Amazon, because the entire culture sees men as a means to having more (female) offspring.  Since Sig does seem to have the kinds of genes one would want to pass onto a fighter, he does have many Amazons throwing themselves at him, but the mild-mannered farm boy is far too honorable to take advantage of this.

He does begin to have a closer relationship with one of the girls, Giselle, but her mother quickly steps in and forbids any continuance of the relationship. At this point, I am not sure how to feel. I mean, I find it hard to cheer for a woman breaking away from her female-empowering culture so that she can find a man to settle down with. But I also don’t want to be pro-oppressive society that disallows love and choices. But I don’t really see a happy ending where Giselle defies her entire culture. I have to wonder whether Sig should maybe find another girl altogether.

Will I read more?

I’m not really interested in reading more of the series. It’s a fairly straightforward scenario in which a hero confronts a not-particularly-complicated-and-pure-evil enemy, and I have no doubt that he will triumph in the end. As for what happens in between… I guess I just don’t expect it to be that interesting. But if you like classic good vs. evil fantasy, and would like to see magic in a world much like our own, then you could do worse than to pick up Wizard Dawning.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Betrayal by Mayandree Michel

Title: Betrayal
Series: The Descendants
Author: Mayandree Michel
Length: 9038 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Plot

Cordelia hates living in Nickel City and can’t wait until she goes off to college and escapes the small town. Then one day she is struck by a car and killed, only to be resurrected in Nickel City, over 100 years in the past.

Cordelia’s friends tell her that all her memories before the past few years are constructed and that she was actually raised in the 19th century. She was magically sent to the future for protection after her parents died because she is the most powerful member of a race of demigods known as the Ischeros. But the enemy she fled is still working to destroy her people, and without her memories she doesn’t even know who she can trust, much less how she can fight.

The Good

Betrayal was a good story with an intriguing mythology which managed to combine a variety of fantasy tropes into a single world. (The time travel might have been a bit much, but the plausibility didn’t get too out of hand.) It was particularly interesting to view the world through Cordelia’s point of view, since she was both a newcomer to and an important member of Ischeros society. Her amnesia almost made her into two characters – the Cordelia we saw and the Cordelia whose life she was trying to remember. Her friends wanted to have the old Cordelia back, but as new Cordelia looked back on who she had been, she found that her time in the future influenced her more than she had intended.

The Bad

The first three or four chapters of Betrayal were pretty much a disaster area. We start off with Cordelia being embarrassed that everyone in her small town knows that she takes public transportation to work. As soon as we stop being confused over why a town so small that everyone knows everyone else even has a public transit system, we move onto Cordelia’s best friend Bethany deliberately keeping major plot information from us. Just when we are about to get answers, Cordelia dies, and we spend a very long time witnessing our narrator lament her own demise, which we can only assume is temporary. Finally Cordelia is magically resurrected and transported back in time, where the real story finally begins. Honestly, the whole book would have been better served if the entire time travel aspect of the story were cut. After reading the whole book, I understand the effect the author was going for, but I think a trip to Paris and a case of amnesia could have worked just as well and been much less convoluted.

In my perusal of the literature about publishing a book, I have come across numerous cautions against books that are too long. I have had a hard time understanding this myself, since it’s always a struggle for me to get my books up to some kind of minimum word count.  As I read Betrayal, though, I realized that this is exactly the kind of book we are warned against. There were a large number of scenes that went on too long or did not add anything new to the story. Cordelia had a number of conversations with Bethany in which they tried to iron out their friendship, and the only thing I really learned was that I don’t really like Bethany. I hope she turns out to be a villain in the later books.

The Romance

Cordelia has multiple romance options, all of which are complicated by her amnesia and position as Empress. In the future, she has dreams of a boy named Evan, to whom she is engaged and who has taken a prominent role among the Ischeros in her absence. But apparently I’m not the only one who finds Evan a little boring, because old Cordelia was also having a fling with her next door neighbor Gerald. Amnesiac Cordelia is a little appalled at her former self’s behavior, but she is not above continuing the association in hopes that she can find out more about what is going on with her life. And at the end of the story, a third suitor steps forward to make his bid for Cordelia’s hand. Who will she choose? Is the choice even really hers or will the decision be decided by her position in society? Only time will tell.

Will I read more?

I’m totally going to read more! How else will I find out whether Cordelia ends up with the right boy? Really, once you get past the first few chapters, the book is very readable. The mythology is original, and the story is engaging. Though I definitely would not object if the book came in at about 2/3 of the length of Betrayal.

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