Monday, April 30, 2012

Prince Charming Must Die! by Isabella Fontaine & Ken Brosky

Title: Prince Charming Must Die!
Series: The Grimm Chronicles
Author: Isabella Fontaine & Ken Brosky
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Plot
Alice was looking forward to a relaxing summer volunteering at the library. Until one day she goes down to the basement and finds a note written to her. With a magic fountain pen. That can kill snakes. And may or may not be related to the talking brown rabbit in a suit who says that it is her destiny to kill corrupted characters from Grimms’ Fairy Tales. Now she only has to decide if she is hallucinating or in possession of a very strange new skill set. But she had better decide fast, because if the rabbit is telling the truth, then Alice’s boyfriend Edward is probably not as charming as he seems…

The Good

I was really excited when I got the e-mail asking me to review Prince Charming Must Die! Fantasy related to fairy tales is one of my favorite genres, and The Grimm Chronicles is sufficiently original to capture my attention. Plus, a new installment of the series is going to be released every two months, which is especially appealing to people like me who devour young adult fantasy novels at a rapacious pace. (And how badly does it date me to say that it brings me back to the days when I was YA age-appropriate and had a new Sweet Valley High book out every month?)

The story is based around Grimms’ Fairy Tales, which are included at the end of the book for people who want to be reminded that the original stories are far more gruesome than their more familiar Disney counterparts. But we also get imagery from other stories as well. Alice going through magic doors and meeting with a talking rabbit is certainly reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s stories, and the rabbit himself is from the traditional southern tales of Br’er Rabbit. Presumably the magic pen that created these creatures has passed through many hands in the last hundred years or so, and we can anticipate that we may see characters from any number of other stories as well.

The Bad

One thing about retellings of fairy tales – you pretty much know what the ending is going to be long before you get there. Apparently that can also be true when you’re dealing with stories about having to kill fairy tale creatures. If you think you know from the title and the first line of the story what the ending is going to be, then, well, you are absolutely right. Sure, there are a few times where it might be implied that the ending is going in a new and novel direction. But mostly that’s just trying to make it even remotely believable that Alice is forestalling the ending. I know that no one wants to accept that her boyfriend is evil, but, seriously, better to just stab him
early on than to wait until he decides to suck out your soul. After all, if he ISN’T evil, stabbing him with a fountain pen will just make him say “wtf?” So, really, foolproof experiment.

The Romance

Alice does not have much in the way of successful romance. I mean, sure, for most of the book, she has “perfect” boyfriend, but we know pretty early on that the relationship is going nowhere good. Like, from the first line. And the title. But I have already harped on the predictability of the story. Regardless, we can hope that Alice meets a better love interest in future stories. Because right now the only other being in the know is Br’er Rabbit, and I’m pretty sure he’s not a love interest. At least, I sincerely hope not. Cuz, yeah, that would be disturbing.

Will I read more?

I was disappointed by the lack of twists and turns in this first story, but that might at least partially be due to the difficulties of introducing a mythology. So I will probably tune in for a few more episodes to see whether it goes somewhere interesting. I’d like to learn more about who has had the pen over the years, and how other fairy tale creatures are hiding in the real world.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Verity by Claire Farrell

Title: Verity
Series: Cursed
Author: Claire Farrell
Length: 3425 Kindle units
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Plot

Perdita finds her life increasingly stressful between the restrictions of her overly protective father and the constant harassment from the mean girls at school. Her only reprieve is her recurring dream about a brown-eyed boy who she knows loves her. Then one day that same boy, Nathan, appears in her class, and she feels an instant connection to both him and his sister Amelia. But real-life Nathan does not seem nearly as interested in her as dream Nathan was, and Perdita slowly comes to accept that their relationship may be entirely one-sided. But when strangers start following her around town, she begins to think that there may be more to Nathan than meets the eye.

The Good

Verity was a well-put-together novel that flowed along nicely for the reader without any weird moments to make me stop and shake my head. The characters had a believable high school existence, though I felt bad that none of them had cars, and they all had to take the bus to school. Though they live in Dublin, so I imagine the buses don’t convey quite the same level of shame that American ones would.

I really liked the way Perdita’s circle of friends was set up and developed. When the novel opens, she spends most of her time with her best friend Tammie and her nerdy cousin Joey. Then she becomes friends with Amelia, and it throws a wrench into the smooth functioning of their group. I think Tammie’s character path is particularly interesting, and I enjoy watching Joey being completely oblivious to the drama in the way that only boys can.

The Bad

If you’ve read much of the YA paranormal genre, Verity is probably sounding a lot like at least one or two books that you’ve already read. I mean, girl on the outskirts of the social frontier who dreams of supernatural boy soulmate before she meets him? Oh, and they might all be destined to fulfill an ancient prophesy that threatens the destinies of all supernatural-kind? Yeah, that’s pretty much straight out of the How to Write a Teen Novel 101 textbook. This is not the worst thing that can be said about a book – after all, the formula became formulaic for a reason – but if you’re looking for high levels of originality, this should not be your top pick.

One thing that was slightly “off” about the novel was the villains. Really, very little of the novel had much to do with the actual plot of the bad werewolves coming after Perdita, Nathan, and the rest of the Evans family. Until near the end, all they did was stand around being creepy. And even when they did act, their motivation was not particularly clear. I suspect this is something we will get more of in the sequel.

The Romance

Actually, what I have to say about the romance mirrors what I had to say in the two previous sections. The romance between Nathan and Perdita follows the traditional YA pattern. She dreams about him and instantly recognizes him when she sees him. He then proceeds to blow hot and cold, so she doesn’t know if he really likes her or if this connection she feels between them is completely artificial. Does he really like her? Will he admit his true feelings? Well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to spoil it for you.

The other, and I think more interesting, romance is the one between Joey and Tammie, which follows a much less traditional pattern. Tammie has an incurable crush on Joey, despite the fact that he is not that attractive and entirely unaware of her feelings toward him. The result is Tammie doing any number of things to try to get his attention without actually telling him how she feels. Hijinks ensue, though they are not all of the hilarious kind.

Will I read more?

I downloaded Clarity almost immediately following the completion of Verity, even though I have some trepidation about this rhyming title scheme. I have not finished reading it yet, but I will almost certainly do so soon. I need to find out the true motivations behind these evil wolves. Also, there’s the recurring and potentially interesting issue that Perdita’s mother walked out on the family, that I’m hoping will play out in upcoming plot twists, though I may be wrong.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ravenstoke by Augusta Blythe

Title: Ravenstoke
Series: Universe Unbound
Author: Augusta Blythe
Previous Books in Series: Winterborne
Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: 3702 Kindle units

Note: This review is going to contain a LOT of spoilers from Winterborne, because there really is no other way to describe it. So if you don’t want Winterborne spoilers, stop reading now.

Refresher & Spoilers: Best friends Loie and Mia anxiously await their shared 17th birthday because Mia will gain supernatural powers. Except in the end we find out that they were switched at birth, and Loie is really the one with the powers. Also, Andreas, the boy they both like, chooses Mia.

I must confess that I was very disappointed in Ravenstoke. I really liked Winterborne; it was so emotionally powerful that it actually made me cry! My friend who read it said that he felt like it wasn’t a complete book, but I saw it as the reader really wanting another one at the end. Either way, the story seemed like it was only the beginning. So, of course, when I finished it, I downloaded Ravenstoke right away!

I think that what the reader definitely wants most from Ravenstoke is a love interest for Loie. Andreas is great and all, but his entire attitude is “No, Loie, I see you as the wonderful person you are, not just as Mia’s shadow. But I love her and not you.” And that, of course, is freaking depressing. So we are happy when Cian shows up and has no interest in Mia. Except the entire relationship between Loie and Cian happens pretty fast without nearly enough explanation of what goes on between “Wow, he’s a cocky jerk” and “OMG, I think I love him.” What happened to the emotional depth I loved so much in Winterborne?

The entire plot of the book is weird too, consisting largely of Loie skipping out on her class trip to England and traveling around with Andreas as they try to achieve something that really isn’t clear. At least, it’s not clear why Loie needs to be there at all, or why Mia can’t be. And when they get back to the states and reach the ultimate climactic moment in the book… Yeah, I had to go back and check if I missed a trigger or something because I still have no idea what sparked it or what, if anything, the resolution meant. Except that Loie has the power to do literally anything she wants, which seems to me like it reflects insufficient consideration of the mythology.

I have definitely read worse books in my time. But while Winterborne had me desperate to read more in the series, Ravenstoke leaves me wondering if I should bother. I might stick around for a third installment, but if the next book is not an improvement on this one, I probably won’t be picking up the fourth.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Point of Return by Erin Ross Hale

Title: Point of Return
Author: Erin Ross Hale
Rating: 4 stars
Length: 1125 Kindle units

The Plot

Sydney and her teen daughter Caitlin have not had the best luck of late… or really ever. Sydney has divorced her second husband for assaulting her, and he has taken everything in the divorce. Caitlin can’t go live with her father because his second wife hates her, and Sydney can’t see any way out of their current predicament. But Caitlin has the power to go back in time and change things, if the need is dire enough, and she’s hoping to find a way to save them both.

The Good

At 25,000 words, Point of Return is definitely a novella rather than a novel, which is neither a good nor bad thing, just something I feel a reader should know going in. It has the same plot as The Butterfly Effect, which is an awesome movie that actually made me like Ashton Kutcher. If you didn’t see it, you probably should (but not the Director’s Cut version. The only thing that’s different is the ending, but…. Yeah, not the Director’s Cut.)

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, the basic idea is that by changing one thing in the past, you end up changing everything about the future. Caitlin keeps going back in time to try to make things better for herself and her parents, but every time she fixes one thing, she ends up making everything so much worse. Though the story concept is not entirely original, the situations in which the characters find themselves are, so it’s definitely worth a read.

The Bad

The story kept alternating in viewpoint between Sydney and Caitlin. This mostly made sense because each of them knew things that the other one didn’t know, so you needed both of their perspectives to understand all of what was going on. The problem with this is that I found Sydney really unsympathetic, so I didn’t want to read about her, and when I was reading about her, I kind of wanted to smack her. Yes, her life was very difficult for a variety of reasons. But a lot of this was because she repeatedly made very poor choices. She practically dropped out of school after her mother died. She got pregnant too young and got married before she was ready. Then for her next marriage she picked a well-off man who she really should have known was a jerk. The story actually opens with her killing herself and Caitlin because she can’t see any other way out of the situation. And the burden of saving them both lies in the hands of her 13-year-old daughter, who fortunately doesn’t know that she is about to become the victim in a murder-suicide. Maybe if she did, she would have reasoned like I did that Sydney didn’t deserve it.

I also was not thrilled with the ending, in terms of both narrative satisfaction and mythological coherence. But I can mostly let that slide.

The Romance

Caitlin is only thirteen, so she doesn’t really have any romance. Some of the story does center around Sydney’s romantic choices, but that really isn’t so much romance as explanations of how she kept screwing up her life. So I’m going to declare this one a romance-free zone and end my review early.

Will I read more?

I’m pretty sure that this is a stand-alone novella, so there is not really more to read. As for whether I would read anything more from this author, I have no strong feelings at this point in time. If she e-mailed me and asked me to review another YA novella, I would have no problem with that. But I probably won't be stalking her blog waiting for new releases.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gifted by Annalise Hulse

Title: Gifted
Series: Evangeline Devine
Author: Annalise Hulse
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Plot

Evie plans to have an ordinary day on the water, but when she nearly drowns, things quickly spiral away from normal. When she wakes up in the hospital, she realizes two astonishing things: First, that Seth, her best friend who saved her, might be more than just a friend, and second, that she can communicate with ghosts.

Just as she’s getting used to the strange path her life has taken, someone close to her is found dead, and because of her gift she knows the truth: that he was murdered. Her investigation brings her to the doors of the wealthy Antoine Du Pont and his teenaged son Piers. But as she grows closer to finding the killer, she cannot always tell who she can trust – the living or the dead?

The Good

Ordinarily when I get review requests, I read the book descriptions and am like, “Meh, that sounds somewhat interesting.” When I read the blurb of Gifted, my response was more akin to, “A girl in England with supernatural powers? And two boys, one of whom is best friend and one of whom may be ebil? Sign me up!” Okay, yes, so I have an undeniable penchant for both the British Isles and love triangles with bad boys. But! The important thing is that in this case, I was not disappointed.

The story was quite exciting, with a lot of danger and high stakes that felt more real than your average paranormal dilemma. Evie is in a very precarious position, trying to solve a murder that no one believes is murder, while also dealing with a supernatural heritage that is more complicated than she knows. The people who she should be able to trust are keeping secrets from her, and the people being nicest to her may well be plotting her downfall. It’s a suspenseful journey, and we don’t know until the very end whom she should be trusting.

The Bad

Gifted read quite smoothly throughout, and for the most part the story kept me captivated. There were, however, a few points where narration wandered away from the plot and stayed in little side stories for long enough that I was like, “Lalala, I don’t care. Can we go back to the main story now?” The first two of these points were related to spirits that Evie was helping. Esther, the ghost in her room, had a tragic tale that probably did not need to be described in as much detail as it was. (And the ending of Esther’s storyline? Yeah, just creepy.)  Evie also helped the newly deceased Dan come to terms with his death, and while that was touching, it also felt kind of irrelevant.

The third thing that seemed out-of-the-blue and not plot-relevant comes later in the book and involves Evie finding out personal information about herself and her family. And I’m not telling you what it is because I do TRY not to put spoilers in my reviews. But the revelation felt very out of left field. Judging by the first chapter of the second book in the series, which is included at the end of the book, I’m guessing that the family secret is going to be a major plot point in the later books. Which I confess has me a little concerned that the story is going to go somewhere bizarre.

The Romance

As I mentioned, earlier, the romantic conflict involves Evie’s changing feelings for her best friend Seth and her new association with Piers. Best-friend-turned-love-interest and boy-who-may-be-murderer are both compelling love interest tropes, and to have both in a single book leaves me at a total loss as to who I should like better.

Well, really, the proper choice makes itself apparent near the beginning of the story. Which is good in the long run. I really hate investing a lot of time in a series hoping beyond hope that she will choose the right boy, only to have her ride off into the sunset with the other guy at the end. But in Gifted, we even have a chapter from the right boy’s point of view. Ordinarily I might be skeptical of such limited changing of viewpoints, but in this case, I think it’s necessary to keep the audience on the right track.

The other non-romance-related chapter from someone else’s point of view? Yeah, that one is less necessary, and I’m less on board with it. But it’s really short, so I let it go. Mostly.

Will I read more?

I really enjoyed Gifted, meandering narrative tangents aside, so I definitely want to tune in for the next installment. I do have some slight qualms that the story might go somewhere inexplicably odd, but I have enough faith in the author to trust that she will bring the tale around to something good. For now.

See Details for Book on    Amazon

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Indulge by Megan Duncan


Title: Indulge
Series: Warm Delicacies
Author: Megan Duncan
Previous Books in Series: Savor
Rating: 3 stars
Length: 2408 Kindle units

Refresher:  Ordinary girl discovers that she has a special blood type that makes her eligible to be a vampire princess. But there are dangers and intrigues in the vampire court that she could never have imagined.

I decided to read Indulge because I liked a lot of what was in Savor and wanted to see where the story would go. Well, that and because the cover art is really pretty. I really don’t think it is possible to emphasize enough how important cover art is. Even I, who theoretically want to read every YA paranormal book out there, and have absolutely zero artistic talent of my own, totally ignore works that don’t have decent cover art. Savor was one of the first books I read for my blog, largely because the cover was so nice, and I like the cover of Indulge even better.

As for the story itself, I would have to say that I really want it to be better than it is. There is so much going on that is interesting – varying levels of court intrigue, an interesting vampire religion, a complex and shifting adversary. And there are times that I get totally sucked into the prose and what is going on. But I really feel like the book was published before a lot of the necessary nuances were ironed out.

One of my biggest issues was the same as I had with Savor: not enough time passed to warrant the major emotional changes. At the beginning of Indulge, Claire wants to remain loyal to her boyfriend Dmitry, even though she is attracted to Arrick. Then a few chapters later, she finds herself succumbing to Arrick’s charms, but it’s only been a day!  She also manages to become a super-warrior after three days of training, which would be very impressive, if it were believable.

Another problem I had is unique to Indulge being a sequel. I read Savor about five months ago, and I remembered the basic elements of the story. I even recited these to myself as I debated whether I should reread the first book before I picked up the second. I seemed to have sufficient recall of the main plot elements, but I found that Indulge picked up right where Savor had left off and didn’t feel the need to remind us of any of the slighter plot elements.

Indulge was superior to Savor on at least one domain. With Savor, I kind of felt like the author got to her word count and just stopped writing. With Indulge, the book had a story arc with rising action and an exciting climax. I think this second book might have been even shorter than the first, but it felt more like a complete novel.

So will I continue to read more of the series? Probably. I’m curious to see where it goes, and I will almost certainly be sucked in by the pretty cover art. But I will try to make sure to reread the prior books in the series first.

See Details for Book on    Amazon 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Light and the Fallen by Anna White

Title: The Light and the Fallen
Series: Chronicles of the Nephilim
Author: Anna White
Length: 3300 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars

The Plot

The angel Lucian has come down to earth for a very important reason. Unfortunately, he has no idea what that is, or why he has been stuck in the body of a high school senior. He is supposed to be drawn toward his purpose, but the only thing that catches his attention is his classmate Samara. He knows that his human body’s attraction to the girl has nothing to do with his mission, but he can’t seem to stop himself from falling in love with her. And when the forces of the Fallen seem interested in her as well, he has to decide what is more important, his mission or his heart?

The Good

The very best thing about The Light and the Fallen is that the proceeds are all going toward funding a well in Africa, which should be reason enough on its own to buy it. I mean, you not only get to support an indie author, but you get to help people in Africa have clean water. And you get to read the book too! It’s a win all around.

Of course, the book is quite readable as well, or I would tell you to just donate money to The Water Project yourself (which is what people tell me when I buy red Apple products, except about helping AIDS victims). The story unites three perspectives of the angel Lucien, the Fallen angel Jack, and the entirely ignorant-of-the-supernatural human Samara. I find Samara’s perspective particularly sympathetic, as her father has been missing and presumed dead for the past three months. Her mother has become totally withdrawn, and Samara has no idea how to communicate with her classmates in the face of such a tragedy.

The Bad

The Light and the Fallen starts off kind of slow. And by slow in this case, I mostly mean really weird. The first few chapters deal with Lucian leaving heaven and going to earth, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is a difficult process to describe. I think I would have skipped most of that and gone straight to him being on earth looking for the key.

In some scenes, the viewpoint switched back and forth between different perspectives, which resulted in a single scene sometimes comprising three or four short chapters. This made reading a bit choppy. At this point, it would be entirely fair of you to say, “But, Elizabeth, if I were to have multiple perspectives next to each other in the same chapter, you would come down on me for using omniscient third person.” I would agree with you and say that this choppy style is preferable to that. However, it would probably be optimal to have each scene from a single perspective. Of course, then the reader would probably lose information, and all I can say to that is that writing a book is hard and there are any number of tradeoffs.

The Romance

Seemingly ordinary human Samara has not one but two angels interested in her. Of course, one of these angels, Jack, is on the side of the Fallen and only wants her because she continually rejects him. Oh, and because his being with her will bother Lucian. I would have liked to see a little more depth to this relationship, like Jack actually coming to like her, but, then, when dealing with demons, we often have to be disappointed that they repeatedly choose the path of evil.

Lucian, on the other hand, has very complicated emotions regarding Samara. He is instantly drawn to her, but he attributes this to the desires of his human body and something to be ignored as much as possible. Thus begins his book-long struggle of trying to focus on his angelic duties when all he really wants is to be with Samara. We have to feel bad for him, but we have to feel even worse for Samara, who has no clue why her quasi-boyfriend is such a basket case.

Will I read more?

There is definitely enough in this book to keep me interested in the story. I had a feeling from the beginning that Samara’s missing-and-presumed-dead father was going to be an important plot point, but that has not played out yet. I would like to see where that goes. Also, I’m feeling bad enough that my free review copy isn’t saving any lives in Africa, so I have to get the next one so I can feel like I’m achieving something.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Interview with Me at The IndieView

Exciting news! I have been interviewed by The IndieView, a great web site that connects Indie authors with reviewers. They also have a list up of recent reviews of Indie books. So if you're interested in finding self-published works but YA really isn't your think, The IndieView is a great place to go to find some more options!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Twin Souls by K.A. Poe

Title: Twin Souls
Series: Nevermore
Author: K.A. Poe
Length: 3336 Kindle units
Rating: 2.5 stars

The Plot

Alexis thought she had a pretty normal life for a teenage girl. Then one morning, she wakes to some astonishing news: her mother is not her mother and has moved out of town with her new boyfriend. A mysterious new boy named Salem approaches her at school and gives her even more surprising information: he is a vampire, and Alex is both his soulmate and a hereditary vampire hunter. Suddenly Alex needs to juggle her relationships with an uncle-turned-father who wants to kill her new boyfriend, said boyfriend and his potential desire to drink from her jugular, and her old friend Jason who may want to be something more. Add to that a new mandatory hobby of staking vampires, and Alex’s life just got a lot more exciting than she ever imagined it could.

The Good

I find the concept of using the works of Edgar Allen Poe as a theme for a paranormal adventure a very interesting one. It’s not completely original – and if you haven’t read Nevermore by Kelly Creagh, you really need to, even if it is traditionally published – but it also hasn’t been really done. Poe wrote a lot of seriously creepy stuff that is sufficiently vague to allow for a mythology to be built up around it. K.A. Poe, who wrote Twin Souls, chose to mix Edgar Allen Poe’s imagery with a more traditional vampire mythology, which certainly opens the door for many interesting happenings.

The Bad

Okay, so, go back and read the first two sentences of my plot description. That is what happens in the first five pages of this novel. I rebel against the system that says a novel must grip you in the first five pages, and I would never review a book without reading the entire thing. But in this case, I was pretty sure that Twin Souls was not going to go anywhere good after that initial impression.

After the initial shock, there actually wasn’t too much going on that had me going “wtf?” after the note from her mother. Other than the fact that she decided she could skip school as much as she wanted once she had a rich boyfriend and became a vampire hunter. I thought we all learned from season 6 of Buffy that slaying the undead does not pay the bills, even if you already own a house. And relying on a man for your income is totally passé. I feel like Alex definitely needed an 80’s public service announcement to tell her to “Be cool. Stay in school.”

The bigger problem with Twin Souls was that it contained every YA vampire story cliché. And I know that I say that I like a somewhat predictable plot, and God help the person who fails to end with a happily ever after. But if you’re telling the same old story over again, it needs to be done well. This book? Not so much.

The Romance

My biggest problem with the romance was again the issue of it being a not-particularly-well-done compilation of everything we expect from a YA romance. Girl meets mysterious boy who has supernatural powers and is also her soulmate. But, of course, her parents do not understand their love, while best-friend-turned-love-interest is also trying to steal her heart. I’ve read it before, and I don’t want to read it again unless you can make me believe it.

It’s actually a common problem I run into among YA paranormal romance where I just don’t believe that two people are really in love. I think anyone trying to write one should implement a three day rule. That is to say, you need to look at your characters and what they are doing on the third day after they meet. If your answer is “They are going out on their second date” or “They are sneaking out of their houses at midnight to kiss and/or save the world from supernatural evil,” then you’re probably on safe ground. If, on the other hand, after three days your characters are moving in together and pledging their eternal love, you probably need to back off and reconsider your time frame.

“But, Elizabeth,” you may say, “My characters are moving in together on the second day after they met, and it’s totally believable.” My first reaction will be to disagree with you, but if you insist that you have a special case, ask yourself what makes it special. If the answer is that they just knew from the moment they met that they were meant to be together, then you’re going to need to back up and give me a better reason. Or at least give me some concrete evidence, like a really good dialogue scene where they have similar interests and tragic backgrounds. If you do these things, you will hopefully prevent readers like me from wanting to shake your character and yell, “You’ve only known each other for THREE DAYS!”

Will I read more?

At the risk of sounding too droll for my own good, I’m going to have to say that I’m taking the name of this series to heart and will be reading it nevermore.

See Details for Book on    Amazon

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Central by Raine Thomas

Title: Central
Series: Daughters of Saraqael
Author: Raine Thomas
Previous Books in Series: Becoming
Rating: 4 stars
Length: 5970 Kindle units (includes preview for next book)

Refresher:  Amber and her newly discovered triplet sisters learn that their father was the member of a race called Estilorians. They must travel to an alternate plane before their uncontrollable otherworldly powers destroy the earth.

Becoming was the first book I ever reviewed, and at the time I was iffy about whether I wanted to read more in the series. But now that I have committed to reviewing a sequel every seven days, I decided I would go back and read Central and Foretold, the other two books in the trilogy. The series focuses on a set of triplets, so you will be unsurprised that the first book was about Amber, the oldest, and Central is about her middle sister Olivia, while Foretold will focus on the youngest, Skye. The book covers and hair of the three girls are even color-coded!

There is a lot that is good in this series, and I liked Central more than I liked Becoming. The first book had to get through a lot of bizarre mythology to do with transitioning between planes, which got kind of creepy with them leaving dead bodies behind. And, really, it’s still best if you don’t think too much about the details of the mythology (I’m still confused as to why Gabriel was able to travel between the planes at all), but on the surface it’s interesting. The Estilorians are a race of “higher” beings who live on another plane, but they have found that they have lost their capacity for emotion. Thus, they are looking to the half-human sisters to reintroduce them to feelings, which seem to spread from the girls like a kind of virus. Meanwhile, there is a subset of bad Estilorians who think they are superior to humans, and they hope Amber, Olivia, and Skye can help them travel back to Earth, where they can live as gods. Clearly defeating them is on our list of priorities. Ooh, or maybe reintegrating them back into society in an unbelievably sappy Lifetime-original-movie-type way.

In terms of bad things, I would say that my biggest complaint is that the love stories are a little bit too sickly sweet to be especially satisfying. There really isn’t any romantic conflict. Olivia’s only romance option is James, and he’s not even anti-love or, like, emotionally scarred or anything. He’s just part of a race that is not used to feeling emotions at all, so he just has to figure out what he’s experiencing. Other than that, the book was a little boring, mostly made up of the sisters training than any kind of plot, and I think quiet, studious Olivia is the least interesting of the sisters. But overall, I have read many worse things in my time.

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Gravity by Abigail Boyd

Title: Gravity
Series: Gravity
Author: Abigail Boyd
Length: 5760 Kindle units (includes preview for After Eden)
Rating: 4 stars
 
The Plot
 
Ariel’s life in the town of Hell has not been easy since her friend Jenna disappeared three months ago. Her parents are overprotective, and she’s begun to realize that she doesn’t have that many other friends. She’s hoping that the new school year will be better as she starts making new friends and even meeting a potential boyfriend.
 
But strange things are happening in Hell. More girls than Jenna are disappearing, and there are hints of a secret society over town. And things may center on Ariel more than she knows because she keeps having seizures and seeing visions of the missing girls with empty black eyes. If she can’t solve the mystery of what is happening, she isn’t sure what will happen to her next.
 
The Good
 
Gravity was a pretty good book. I found myself sucked into it relatively easily, and the prose flowed well enough that I didn’t find myself questioning plot points that might have raised an eyebrow in a less well-written novel.
 
Sigh. I don’t know why I have such a hard time finding good things to say about books that I liked. It’s seriously a major flaw I have. I have a secret suspicion that even authors whose books I liked hate me because I’m always pointing out things that drove me nuts about their novels. Basically, the moral is that whatever else I say, Gravity is a good book. It’s definitely in the upper percentile of four star books, and you will most likely not be sorry if you read it. I will probably even tell my friend who only reads the 4.5 and 5 star books that he should give it a try, once it’s re-available on Nook.
 
The Bad
 
So I am holding out the last star on Gravity for a couple of reasons. The first is that there are a couple of plot threads that don’t seem to go anywhere. Ariel and her friend Theo decide at one point to spy on their principal, who they overhear having a mysterious conversation in a restaurant. They follow him a few times and find some suspicious behavior, but then he spots them, so they back off. I guess I can understand their motivations of not getting kicked out of school, but it doesn’t make for a very compelling story.
 
The other reason I’m holding back is that, by the end of the book, we still don’t really know what’s going on. Which means that it could turn out to be zombie ninja monkeys from outer space. Okay, probably not. But the point remains that as long as I have no idea what the super bad guy is, it could turn out to be something lame and implausible. And then I will be ashamed of giving it my full endorsement. So instead, I give most of an endorsement, with the caveat that I’m taking it away if the girls have been kidnapped and killed by mutant sewer pigs with x-ray vision.
 
In other news, my random research into whether Abigail Boyd has another book out (The answer seems to be no; she just has some listed as “upcoming.”) has led me to discover that Gravity is apparently exclusive to Kindle until June. This appears to be for a special promotion, and I can’t necessarily fault an author for taking the publicity. But, seriously, this proprietary e-reader file thing is starting to get super-annoying, and forced brand loyalty makes me feel rebellious. Anyone else want to join me in getting an ipad so that we can just read whatever we want?  I do miss my collections on Kindle, though. Sigh.
 
The Romance
 
Ariel’s romance involves a super-cute new boy to school named Henry, who is for some reason interested in her despite the fact that she’s rude to him. But we can just pretend that he sees into her soul or something because if there were not a super-cute boy interested in her, we would stop reading. Henry hangs out with all the Ariel-hating popular kids and definitely has a connection to the eeeeevil secret society that hangs oh-so-mysteriously over our heads through the entire book. But Henry is more into reading nerdy fantasy novels and tutoring Ariel in geometry than he is in committing wanton slaughter, so we primarily come down on the side of liking him, though he loses points for obviously keeping secrets.
 
Will I read more?
 
The major reason that you are getting a review on this book now is that, as I was browsing through new YA releases on Smashwords, I noticed that the sequel had come out. After I read Gravity, I remembered that I liked it a great deal, but I couldn’t actually remember most of what it was about. But with my current dearth of material for sequel Tuesday, I figured this was an excellent opportunity to reread it and give my readers another recommended book. And me something new to write about one of these Tuesdays.
 
See Details for Book on    Amazon    

Friday, April 6, 2012

Interview with Maddy Edwards

This week I am pleased to announce a special Friday posting, an interview with Maddy Edwards, author of the One Black Rose series (One Black Rose, August, and Autumn) and Paranormal Public. She also has a new book called Spiral coming out at the end of the month (!!), so keep a look out for it and the review on my site.

Where did you get the idea for the One Black Rose series?

I have no idea! I wanted to do romance and I wanted to do something in Maine, where I grew up, and the result was One Black Rose.

What made you decide to write a young adult novel?

Well, even though there are several genres I read, lately I have mostly been reading young adult, so it made sense to try and write a book in the genre I liked to read.

Who are your favorite authors to read? What authors do you feel have most influenced you work?

Oh dear. Tamora Pierce is a big one. I grew up reading and re-reading everything she wrote. I love the strong female characters and the magic. My mom loves the Lord of the Rings and would read that to my brother and me every year when we were little and I loved the sweeping fantasy. More recent favorites would be Samantha Young and Cassandra Clare. Actually, with Clare I learned a lot about writing detailed description. I was reading her and I realized how many adjectives she was using and that was a big “oh” moment for me. I don’t think I write like her, but it was definitely a good learning experience.

What aspects of your books are based on your own life experiences?

HA. This is going to get me into trouble. *Insert dramatic sigh here.* The part that I can tell you is NOT is having two hot guys fighting over me. I don’t think that’s ever happened. I would have noticed. There are certain relationships, Nick and Carley’s in the One Black Rose series, for example, that are relationships I have seen myself, but I can also say that my brother has read all of my books and he keeps saying, “I can’t figure out which character is based off of me,” and he can’t because there isn’t one. I guess have these sort of invented characters rolling around in my head and they aren’t really people I know. They are more like a mish-mash of people I know. Lisabelle, in Paranormal Public, speaks only in sarcasm. I don’t know anyone like that. I know a couple of people who try to be like that (aaand fail), but my thinking with her wasn’t, “make her like so and so” it was, “make sure she clearly has a sarcastic personality, but is still lovable.”

What do you do when you are not writing about the complicated loves lives of the princes of fairy courts?I like to cook and hang out with friends, or at least talk to them online as a lot live far away these days. I also watch a lot of TV shows. If I was forced to give a list of all the TV shows I keep up with I would have to lowball it or no one would believe I do anything else (I’m not sure how I do manage to do anything else, now that I think of it). I have low standards when it comes to television entertainment, which broadens my horizons, although they are not so broad that I watch reality TV.

What made you decide to self-publish One Black Rose?

I had pretty much decided before I wrote it that that’s the rout I was going to take. I had actually written three books previously (not very good. They are not going to be published, or self-published or seen) and the idea of traditionally publishing sounded so futile that I didn’t bother. Plus, I read JA Konrath’s  and saw that it was possible to self-publish a good book and have people enjoy it and I was sold. I would definitely recommend checking it out and reading as much of it as possible.

I must say, self-publishing has been a wonderful experience. It isn’t always easy, but it’s forced me to do some things that I never would have done otherwise and that’s a good thing and people actually read and like my books, to which my reaction is: *Wow. Amazing.*

What advice would you give to authors looking to self-publish their own work?

Keep your chin up and keep plugging away. Get as much information about the business as possible. I read JA Konrath’s blog. I read Amanda Hocking’s. Samantha Young did a great post a while ago about her own successful journey. I watched the best sellers and read the comments to see what people were reading and thinking. I got bogged down at times, because it’s a lot to take on by yourself, but it’s SO worth it.

Also, write a good book. Have a good cover. Write a good book. Make friends with other people who can give you feedback and act as sounding boards. One Black Rose sold 45 books it’s first month. No one can buy it if they don’t know it’s there, so you need to find ways to gain exposure.

Autumn seems to be the end of the One Black Rose series. Can we look forward
to seeing more of your work after that?


Yes! I have another series, Paranormal Public that I am still working on, which your readers know about :-) Also, I have book that is the start of an entirely new series coming out called Spiral. It’s about a girl named Nat who can heal, but she doesn’t know why. When she meets a boy named Pierce she finds out exactly what her powers are and a whole lot more. I’m really excited about it and it should be out by the end of April. Yay!

If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?

To stop time. So that I would have more time for TV shows... hehe, jokes. Sort of.

What one question do you wish that I had asked you but did not? (Question and answer please.)

Do you have any advice for writers?

I only put that in, because I’ve gotten some questions about offering writing advice. I’m not sure if I’m the best person to ask, but I do know that I have a hard time finishing writing a book. It’s long and it takes a lot concentration. Keeping the story interesting and controlling the plot lines. So, my advice is take it slowly, write about something you love, and keep going at it. It’s going to be hard at times, but that’s okay. It also really helps if you have people, friends, family, anyone that loves you , to read your work and offer feedback.

Well, thank you to Elizabeth for having me. This was lovely and thanks to the readers for reading!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Winterborne by Augusta Blythe

Title: Winterborne
Series: Universe Unbound
Author: Augusta Blythe
Length: 2932 Kindle units
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Plot

Loie Bryce has been best friends with Mia Winterborne since they were born on the same day in the same room nearly seventeen years ago. Mia has always been the special one, and soon she is going to be even more special. Before he disappeared years ago, Mia’s father indicated that the members of his family gained special powers on their seventeenth birthdays. But as the day grows closer, and mysterious figures appear to threaten both Mia and Loie, they have to wonder if being special might not be more trouble than it is worth.

The Good

Winterborne was an excellent book filled with some great characters. I loved the way even the minor characters had depth. I think my favorite character was Mia’s mother Georgia, who, even though her husband had abandoned the family under mysterious circumstances, still managed to keep a career as a lawyer and still find time to make her daughter and her best friend costumes for their parties. Though I must say that naming two characters in the same book George and Georgia was unfortunate planning.

I’m not quite sure whether to put this under the good or the bad, but I’ll go against my usual trend and err on the side of being positive. Some people consider it a good sign when a book or movie makes them cry. My sister rewatches Buffy the Vampire Slayer every few years and looks forward to the end of season five, after which she calls me sobbing to tell me that she would jump off a building to save me too. Me, I prefer not to cry; I don’t really like being sad. But there were parts of Winterborne that had a few tear running down my face because I just felt so bad for Loie. So points for successfully communicating emotional content, but next time I’d like to feel super-happy.

The Bad

Mythologies involving evolution tend to irritate the trained behavioral scientist in me, mostly because I have to suspend my disbelief a little more than I would like. Yes, much as I love the X-Men movies, sometimes they still give me a bit of a nervous tic. So my eyebrows are definitely raised at the concept of certain families of evolved humans with a variety of supernatural powers existing alongside regular humans. And to then find out that a lot of them live in another plane that operates on a different time scale from ours? Oh, and that they are at war with a bunch of ancient fae races? Yeah, my credulity’s stretched a little far at this point. Not enough for me to stop reading, but definitely enough for an occasional “Seriously?”

Also, sometimes I really hate Mia. Though I suspect to some degree I am supposed to.

The Romance
 
The romance in Winterborne centers around Andreas, the new British boy who has moved to their neighborhood and who may or may not have a connection to the spooooky things going on around Mia and Loie. Since Andreas is cute and has an accent and is basically perfect in every way, both Loie and Mia are attracted to him. Beautiful, confident Mia assumes that he is interested in her, and sidekick Loie also expects that Mia will be the one to gain his affections, though that does not stop her fantasizing about him choosing her. The question, then, is which girl will capture Andreas’s heart? But in order to find out, you will have to read the book. (Or just check back in a few weeks to see my review of Ravenstoke, which will definitely be giving away this piece of intel. But you should buy the book anyway, both because it’s good and because I don’t want Augusta Blythe to hate me.)

Will I read more?

I confess that the first time I started to read Winterborne, I was unimpressed and put it aside. But when I picked it up again, I read through the whole thing quickly and bought Ravenstoke as soon as I finished it. And now here I am putting it on my quick pick list and giving it my heartiest of recommendations.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Beloved Purgatory by Katherine Pine


Title: Beloved Purgatory
Series: Fallen Angels
Author: Katherine Pine
Previous Books in Series: After Eden
Rating: 3 stars
Length: 5117 Kindle units (includes preview of another book)

Refresher:  A sweet love story between a girl and a demon, if you can get past him shooting her in chapter 14. 

I have to confess that I was quite disappointed in Beloved Purgatory. Once you got past the near-homicide and the creep factor of Oz occasionally becoming a teenage girl, After Eden was a pretty good book. In Beloved Purgatory, I had a hard time following what was going on most of the time. There was a lot of traveling through planes of existence through the school gym and Forneus’s house, and I couldn’t keep track of all the insufficiently described sides to the angel and demon war.

I read a lot of books about angels and demons. I actually find I prefer them to werewolves and vampires. But there is one very important rule: It is never a good idea to sell your soul to a demon (or devil, if there is a difference in mythology as there is here). In every single case, more bad ends up happening than good. Devi knows this. In fact, from the beginning of After Eden, it’s pretty clear that Forneus wants her soul and that she shouldn’t let him have it. Yet much of the plot focuses upon Forneus creating not-particularly-convincing arguments about why Devi should reconsider. I’m really not even sure why she listens to it; narrative convenience is not a good reason to consider selling your soul.

We also got a continuance of the lame plot from the first book of Devi and teenaged-girl-Oz taking revenge on Devi’s friend Kim’s jerk of an ex-boyfriend. Not only was my credulity again stretched over why a school principal would have any jurisdiction over an act of vandalism committed on private property, but we were also forced to deal with yet another Oz-persona of a four-year-old dressed up as a dinosaur.

Devi does get points for dressing up as a zombie cheerleader for Halloween, but that’s only because of my abiding love for comical zombies. Braaaaaaaains.

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