Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mahalia by Moira Katson

Title: Mahalia
Series: The Yeshuhain Chronicles
Author: Moira Katsen
Rating: 2.5 stars

The Plot

Mahalia did not want to accept her fate as a noble lady. She couldn’t bear to marry the man her parents picked out and allow him to inherit her father’s title of ailahafeeza instead of her. She wanted to lead her people herself and take time to research the practice of magic. But when a tragedy strikes the city, she is forced to take control of the Yeshuhain clan in order to help them recover from the disaster. But even as she provides aid to her wounded family members, something even more sinister is befalling them. A sickness, unique to her clan and most strongly affecting those with magic, runs rampant through the city, and she must act quickly to discover the cause before she no longer has a clan to protect.
 The Good

The world of Mahalia was a very interesting place. The people had their cities around oases in the desert, and the major livelihood of the clans occurred via the trade caravans that traveled between the cities. The people were grouped into clans based on racial characteristics, and each clan had sub-clan families. There was some amount of clan mixing, both geographically and martially, but overall the clans preferred to remain separate. I’ll be honest, I usually find desert faux-Arabic fantasies irritating, and I think that’s largely because of the harems. But Mahalia featured a thriving desert people who managed to let women be scholars and warriors, though maybe not the leader. I wish that I had gotten a clearer picture of how everything worked, as it wasn’t until two-thirds of the way through the story that I got

The Bad

I work with epidemiologists in the field of public health, which means that I actually know a lot about measuring disease spread and evaluating causes and cures. And let me say that Mahalia’s process of determining the cause and treatment for the disease bears absolutely no resemblance to a practice that would actually be effective. For one thing, she does all her research from books that her cousin sneaks out of libraries for her, and she has never had any kind of formal magical schooling. Any experiments she performs have an n of 1, her cousin Faseira, yet she is allegedly one of the foremost scholars on magical theory in the clan/world. This makes zero sense, because some greater authority had to have written the books.  She uses similar processes when actually curing the disease, book research rather than obtaining any kind of empirical evidence from people who were actually sick. Yeah, that didn’t fly with me, and curing the disease was the whole plot of the book.

The Romance

This section contains half a spoiler. Consider yourself warned.

The book opens with Mahalia protesting her betrothal to Rafil, a man who she knows nothing about except than her parents think that he is a good choice to be the next ailahafeeza. (As the novel goes on, I start to wonder why this is the case, since Rafil is younger than 17-year-old Mahalia and doesn’t seem to have any self-confidence, but that is beside the point.) Both before and after her parents’ death, Mahalia wants to be ailahafeeza herself, which means putting off the marriage as much as possible. This turns out to be surprisingly easy since once Mahalia’s mother is dead, weddings aren’t high on anyone’s priority list.

Mahalia still has to work with Rafil, as his mother Isura is the one who has tasked Mahalia with curing the disease, and Isura is less than forthcoming with all the information that Mahalia needs. And if being extra familiar with her quasi-fiancé helps with the cause, at least she can say it’s for the greater good. But will Mahalia find herself falling in love with the boy her parents wanted her to marry? Or will she decide four pages from the end that she’s in love with a totally different character in whom there has been no evidence that she was interested? I’ll give you a hint. I wouldn’t even have thought to ask the second question if it did not accurately reflect the state of affairs.

Will I read more?

I found the book frustrating over all, since the plot revolved around implausible epidemiology methodology. I would like to learn more about how Mahalia’s world works, but since I got very little explanation in the first book, I don’t know that I would expect anything clearer in a second. So, all in all, I will likely be skipping the rest of the books in the series.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Happily Never After by Isabella Fontaine & Ken Brosky

Title: Happily Never After
Series: Grimm Chronicles
Author: Isabella Fontaine & Ken Brosky
Previous Books in Series: Prince Charming Must Die!
Rating: 4 stars

Refresher: Alice must use a magic pen to destroy the corrupted creatures brought to life from the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales

So I am back for the second installment of this series, The Grimm Chronicles, which promises to offer a new title every other month. Which, let’s face it, is reason enough to take a look at it. At least it is for me, who reviews three books a week and still has some time to read on the side. But it’s also worth checking out for anyone who thinks that stories are better when there is an invisible rabbit sidekick doing all the google searches.

I liked Happily Never After somewhat better than Prince Charming Must Die! In the first book, Alice spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether her boyfriend Edward was evil, when there was a lot of evidence that he was and no evidence that he was not. This second one features some more innovative sleuthing, including geocoding and mysterious trips to the aquarium. We also get hints of an uber-plot involving dwarves foreclosing on somewhat innocent people’s homes.

There were still some parts that had me rolling my eyes. I mean, faced with dreams about a woman named Cindy who has power over rats, your average 8-year-old Disney fan could probably figure out who the villain was long before Alice did. And Alice seemed disproportionately embarrassed by her parents in a manner more reminiscent of a younger teen. There’s also a chapter from Briar the rabbit’s point of view in which he directly addressed the audience, and I couldn’t decide whether I thought it was cute or lame.

All in all, though, The Grimm Chronicles is an entertaining series, and I am interested to see where it goes next.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Elsa's Reality by Andrew Bellingham

Title: Elsa’s Reality
Author: Andrew Bellingham
Length: 1041 Kindle units
Rating: 4.5 stars

The Plot

Elsa doesn’t understand why she and her parents are moving to a new place with so many guards. And she doesn’t know why her new teacher is giving her such tiresome lessons, or why he seems to hate her stuffed Bear. But Elsa is starting to learn that she had better do what she is told, because the consequences could be dire for all involved.

The Good

Elsa’s Reality is one of those books that, if I tell you almost anything that happens in it, I’m spoiling it for you, so this is going to be a pretty short review. That said, the story was very good and involving. The naïve narrator is a hard thing to get right, and in this story, I felt like I was inside the head of a small child but at the same time was able to piece together most of what was actually happening to the people around her. Elsa’s Reality was both thought-provoking and emotionally stirring.

The Bad

Elsa’s Reality is not my usual genre, though I’m not entirely sure what genre I would call it. The story is told from the point of view of an eight-year-old, but the story is definitely not intended for people of that age. Given the young age of the main character, the narration focuses on how things seem to a young girl who does not understand her surroundings. Most of the time the reader can use his or her adult brain to fill in the missing pieces of what Elsa does not understand, but there was at least one instance where I got confused about what was going on. I still have no idea when and where the story takes place. On some level, this is irrelevant, but I wish I had more information about the setting. We do get one scene from the point of view of an adult character, which clears up some of the mystery, which was helpful, but which also felt kind of like cheating.

The Romance

Elsa is eight years old and consequently does not have any romantic subplots, though we do get a little bit of information about her parents’ relationship.

Will I read more?

I did enjoy the story, even though it differs from my usual reading material. I am pretty sure that this is a stand-alone story, though I could see there being additional works that give a larger picture of the world that Elsa lives in. Either way, I would not mind reading more of this author’s work.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tiger Lily by K. Bird Lincoln

Title: Tiger Lily
Author: K. Bird Lincoln
Length: 5184 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars

The Plot

Lily was born as a girl in the year of the tiger, so she knows that she is unmarriageable and will never be someone her family can be proud of. But she also has a secret power, left to her by her tiger mother. When she sings songs of the old Shinto ways, she is visited by the kami nature spirits and can perform feats of magic that are forbidden by the emperor’s mandate. One day while she is out in the woods, she discovers the young lord Ashikaga, who has been injured in battle. Using her powers and her wits, Lily is able to save Ashikaga from his would-be captors, but in the process he learns of her powers. Will he use them to help his cause, or will he betray her to the merciless monks?

The Good

I found myself getting very emotionally involved with the characters in Tiger Lily. Lily’s level of shame about her entire existence was very poignant, and I liked how she related to the different members of her family and how she always felt inadequate to them. (This led me to be disappointed two-thirds of the way through the novel when she went off to war, and we didn’t hear any more from her family. Perhaps next book.)

The conflicts also brought up interesting philosophical perspectives. Lily was everything that her society didn’t want her to be – a tiger girl with the ability to perform Shinto magic. Yet she never desired more from her life than to do what was best for her family. Her feelings for Ashikaga were complicated by the fact that he actively sought to endorse the emperor’s edict of Buddhism, but he was willing to use her powers to do this. Instead of making the characters seem hypocritical, these contradictory actions made them seem real and multi-faceted. The whole book was really quite moving.

The Bad

My biggest issue with Tiger Lily was that sometimes it was hard to follow what was going on, especially at the beginning of the book. I think some of this was related to my lack of knowledge of feudal Japanese society, which was compounded by the fact that the author took a lot of liberties with history. (I was glad for the note at the end explaining this because I was confused by the existence of militant fundamentalist Buddhists.) But the whole functionality of the farm was weird, where the girls were only sometimes called to work in the rice fields but sometimes could hide and avoid it. The compensation for labor process was very unclear.

The other bits that were confusing were often about Lily’s magic and/or the combat scenes. (They usually appeared together.) I didn’t really get how the mechanics worked and how what Lily and Ashikaga were doing related to the main battle. They always seemed to have their own sub-battle going on.

The Romance

Early in the book, Lily meets the young lord Ashikaga in the woods and saves him from kitsune soldiers by using her forbidden Shinto magic. After that a sort of romance grows between them, though things between them move slowly and uncertainty because Lily is both a commoner and an unmarriageable tiger girl.

Then, about halfway through the novel, when you think they might work things out, another wrench is thrown into the relationship. I cannot tell you what it is, because that would be a horrible spoiler, but I can tell you it made me say out loud, “Well, I didn’t see THAT coming!” and when I told my friend about it, he said “WTF? Well, at least you can’t say you’ve read this book before.” All I will say to you is that it raises the awkward level of Lily’s relationships to unequaled heights.

Will I read more?

I’m undecided about this. On one level, the book really had me empathizing with the characters. But sometimes I had a hard time following what was going on. And sometimes the lack of historical accuracy made the reading a mite strange. I’m leaning toward the side of no on reading more, but if the author was like “Free copy if you review!” I’d probably be persuaded.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Awry by Chelsea Fine

Title: Awry
Series: Archers of Avalon
Author: Chelsea Fine
Previous Books in Series: Anew
Rating: 5 stars
Length: 8982 Kindle units

Refresher: Scarlet is doomed to die over and over because of a curse she shares with immortal twin brothers Tristan and Gabriel.

I am doing something for the first time today, and that is going back and adding the first book in a series to my quick pick list because I liked the second one so much. I really liked Anew when I read it, but I left it at only four stars because I spent the entire book waiting for Scarlet to remember Tristan, or at least for someone to provide us with the backstory, and it never happened. But Awry has satisfied my need to know about Scarlet’s past and then some. And now if someone reads Anew and says, “Argh, but I still don’t know what the deal with the tattoo is,” all they need to do is pick up the new one and have all their curiosity satisfied.

Of course, since I’m only now encouraging you to read Anew, I have to review Awry without any spoilers for the first book. As I implied in the first paragraph, we get a lot more history than we did in the first book. The story alternates between events that take place in the present time and the events leading up to the curse in 1538. After Anew, I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what had happened in Scarlet’s past lives, but I found out in Awry that I actually knew nothing. If and when Scarlet recovers her memories, she will most likely want to have a conversation with the Archer brothers over what constitutes a sufficient explanation of her past lives. And if you think you knew which brother was right for Scarlet after Anew, you might find yourself changing your mind after Awry. I mean, I didn’t, but the other team did gain more sympathy points.

Other than that… Heather is still irritating. Nate is still awesome. The character that I kept thinking was going to be evil in Anew turned out to be evil. So, really, satisfying all around. I recommend them both and am now heartily anticipating the next one.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

The Other Slipper by Kenechi Ugodu

Title: The Other Slipper
Author: Kenechi Udogu
Length: 4217 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars
The Plot

Jo and her fellow palace servants decide to stay late on the night of the ball so that they can watch all the rich nobles dance the night away. But as she is on her way rushes to see who is inside, but all she finds is a pumpkin and a single glass slipper. Not wanting to be wasteful, she brings the pumpkin home to eat, and, though she tries to leave it behind, the slipper comes along as well.

A few days later, the pumpkin is eaten, and the prince has discovered his bride Ella by means of the other glass slipper she left behind. But Jo’s slipper starts to make a humming noise that only she can hear. When she goes to the new princess to find out where the slippers came from, Jo discovers that they are a magical object, and she must return them to the sorceress that owns them, or the consequences will be dire.

The Good

I like fairy tale retellings, and I think Cinderella is my favorite one for this purpose. Of course, that also means that I have read many iterations of the story, and it’s hard to find something original. I am pleased to say that The Other Slipper manages to add something new to the retelling. Instead of being about the usual characters, this story focuses on the shoes. As the only part of the fairy godmother’s spell that remains after the clock strikes midnight, it only makes sense that they be a special kind of magic item.

The Bad

As the story begins, Jo does not know that she is an heir to a magical problem far greater than she ever could have imagined, and the process by which she slowly learns all that she needs to know is spread out through the course of the novel. Unfortunately, it is not parsed out particularly well. Before she is halfway through the novel, she has met people who could tell her the entirety of what she needs to know, but they don’t tell her because they decide it’s not “their place” or because they “forgot.” I found this rather implausible and irritating.

The Romance

Surprisingly enough, even though this was a fairy tale, there was not any of the typical storybook romance. At the beginning, Jo is out of luck in her own kingdom. Not only is the prince marrying someone else, but she is far taller than everyone there, and no one wants to marry the awkward tall girl. But then she travels into other kingdoms with taller people, so surely she should be able to find a prince of her own. And a quarter of the way through the novel, she meets a tall, handsome fellow named Locke who seems likely to fall into the role of “love interest.” Except that she is horribly rude to him. At first this makes sense, because she needs to protect the magical slippers from someone who might want to steal their power. But after he repeatedly assists her with otherwise insurmountable problems, I expect her to start behaving with some civility, but she does not. So does this relationship turn into an improbable match at the last minute, or are we spared having to believe that Locke is attracted to people who treat him without even a small amount of respect? You will just have to read the book to find out.

Will I read more?

I’m actually not sure whether this book is the first in a series or not. It is left open so that the characters could have more adventures, but Kenechi Udogu’s other books seem to be in separate series. I don’t know that I would want to read any more books in this series, specifically, largely because I find Jo to be a rather off-putting character. I might be willing to try another book by the author, though, even though information unfolded at an implausible pace.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dark Matter Heart by Nathan Wrann

Title: Dark Matter Heart
Series: Dark Matter Heart
Author: Nathan Wrann
Length: 2893 Kindle units
Rating: 2.5 stars

The Plot

Cor and his mother are hoping to get a new start in their new town. He’s making new friends, and he’s met a girl that he really likes, even though she is dating the school bully. But Cor has a dark secret, one he thought he left behind in LA, and he is about to discover his problems are only just beginning.

The Good

There were a lot of things that I liked about Dark Matter Heart, but I don’t know that I can say what any of them are because they would constitute spoilers. I guess I can say that the basic premise of the story is that there is a serial killer following Cor around and killing people tangential to his life, like a homeless man he gave change to and a runner he bumped into. I thought that this was a really cool premise for a mystery novel.

The paranormal elements of the book were arranged so that the reader discovered them as he or she went along. So in the vaguest terms possible, I’m going to say that Cor has something special about him, and the way that he and his friend Taylor research the issue is pretty cool. As a trained behavioral scientist, I always like to see people investigating the natural laws of paranormal phenomena in these kinds of books.

The Bad

I often read books for my blog in thirds or quarters over the course of three or four days so that I can keep up my posting schedule. And sometimes, as happened with Dark Matter Heart, I get through the first day of reading and find that absolutely nothing of interest has happened. I think it was supposed to be set up to have the reader slowly discover things about Cor and what has happened in his life. But, really, it makes very little sense to have the character from whose viewpoint you are seeing the story hide large amounts of information from the reader. I think the whole thing would have actually worked much better if it was from the point of view of Cor’s friend Taylor, who was slowly discovering things as the reader was.

I also found as I was reading the story that I really didn’t like Cor. He seemed to be perpetually cocky for no real reason. His sun allergy/illness and quick friendship with the class nerd made him easy targets for bullies, but he seemed to be totally unconcerned for this, even when they beat the crap out of him. And the arrogance didn’t really fit in with the victimization thing he had going on re: the murders. Of course, it did fit with the idiotic method of tracking the killer, which seemed to be to see the killer, follow him, lose him, and then get upset when someone died. Not that I think it was his fault that this plan did not work; it’s just that after several failures, I would think that he’d try something new.

The Romance

As soon as he gets to school, Cor is drawn to Caitlyn, the smart girl who is inexplicably dating Trace the uber-popular jock. Cor says that he feels a connection to her, but I am unsure whether this was supposed to be one of those meant-to-be-together soulmate kind of things or if Cor is just overly sentimental. Regardless, I’m not sure how I feel about Cor deciding to try to steal someone else’s girlfriend. I mean, her boyfriend is clearly a jerk, so it’s not the worst thing he could ever do, but I’m not sure that Cor is a much better choice. Especially since he keeps saying that he doesn’t want to have any friends because he might put them in danger.

Will I read more?

Dark Matter Heart ended with a revelation that sounds like it could have potential for developments in the next book. However, the combination of disorganized plot and unlikable protagonist in the first book make it unlikely that I’m going to be picking up the second.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Swarm by Dalya Moon

Title: Swarm
Series: Paranormal Poke Chronicles
Author: Dalya Moon
Previous Books in Series: Zan (previously titled Poke)
Rating: 4 stars
Length: 3295 Kindle units
Refresher: Zan can learn girls’ secrets when they put their fingers in his belly button.

Okay, everyone who knows me, stop laughing RIGHT NOW.

For those of you not in on the joke, it helps to know that I am pathologically afraid of bees. Not just like, “Oh, ho-hum, I should avoid that giant wasps nest.” No, it’s full out phobic, raving lunatic fear. So, yes, there were a couple of pages I had to skip in the middle of the book when Zan was attacked by a swarm of bees that he had coughed up. But for the most part the bees were incidental, and I could get past it.

I enjoyed Swarm, as I did Poke/Zan. Zan is a delightfully hapless narrator, and it’s fun to watch him try to figure out what’s going on in his life. His powers are growing, and otherworldly forces have asked him to solve the murder of one of the people who tried to kill him in the previous novel. This is complicated by the fact that his powers are behaving strangely, and it all seems related to this strange bee ring that he found at the scene of the crime.

On some levels, though, I was disappointed in Swarm. In the first book, it’s easy to dismiss a lot of the confusion as Zan drifting cluelessly through events that he doesn’t really understand. This does not work as well when he is trying to do something that requires a lot of logical processing, like solving a murder. He keeps getting distracted, which occasionally leads to tangents like a large segment that did not make much sense to me because I’ve never seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (I know, I know. I just have this weird aversion to Matthew Broderick.)  I figured out who the murderer was long before Zan did, and it wasn’t like I had any information that he didn’t.

I was also hoping that we would get a clearer picture of the mythology in Swarm, but everything still seems really random, to the point that I’m starting to wonder if there IS an underlying mythology. But the second to last chapter gives hints that there is a greater overarching force affecting Zan’s life, so I’ll probably stick around for at least the next novel.

See Details for Book on    Amazon    

Monday, June 11, 2012

Snow, Blood, and Envy by Jean Haus

Title: Snow, Blood, and Envy
Author: Jean Haus
Length: 4381 Kindle units
Rating: 4 stars
The Plot

Nivea thinks that the worst thing that will happen to her when her wealthy father gets remarried is that she will have to have some awkward conversations with a woman trying to replace her mother. But her new stepmother Mali seems to want to control every aspect of her life – where she goes, who she talks to, what she wears, and what she eats. But when her new driver tries to drug her instead of taking her to school, Nivi realizes that Mali wants more than just to turn her into the perfect society daughter – she wants to take her life.

The Good

I enjoy a good retelling of a fairy tale, and Snow, Blood, and Envy is a compelling modern-day version of Snow White. Purely coincidentally, as I write this I have just gotten back from seeing Snow White and the Huntsman, and I have to say that I preferred this book to the movie. The dialogue was much better written, and Nivi has more than one facial expression. The evil stepmothers in the two versions were similar in that they were both obsessed with beauty and youth that they stole from other girls, but other than that they didn’t have much in common.

The book was fast-paced, and it was easy to get caught up in the action. I really felt for Nivi in the parts where she was alone in Chinatown and no one would believe her stories about her stepmother. Her situation was made so much worse by the fact that people dismissed the threats to her person as things she made up or imagined.

The Bad

My biggest problem with Snow, Blood, and Envy was that it got a little repetitive. It went on a cycle: Nivi gets caught, Nivi escapes, Nivi runs and hides, then she gets caught again. Different things happened in these cases, and most of them were interesting, but by the third or fourth iteration, you kind of wanted the story to get on already.

Most of the chapters were labeled “Snow,” meaning they were from Nivi’s point of view. There were also a few chapters labeled “Envy,” which were this odd third person point of view about Mali. She wasn’t referred to by name, presumably to add mystery to the villain, but since it was pretty obvious who the villain was, these mostly just came off as strange. I think the information in them was necessary, but the presentation could have been clearer. Plus, there were “Snow” chapters and “Envy” chapters but no “Blood” chapters, which made my OCD unhappy.

I rarely mention the grammar in my reviews, but I am going to note it here because it actually was one of the main things that took away from my complete love of the book. In what was otherwise a well-written story, the occasional misplaced modifier or missing comma detracted from the flow and had me cringing instead of enjoying the story. (Though I also must comment that I wholeheartedly approve of the serial comma being included in the title, as I am a firm believer in it.)

The Romance

The promotional description of this book includes the line “she learns the hero—though still hot—isn’t always charming.” I confess that this made me nervous that the love interest was going to be a problem in the story. After reading the book, I must admit that I am wrong and that I am adding Jai to my list of best boyfriends of my blog books list.

When we first meet Jai, we establish that he is half Asian and so hot that Nivi is interested in him despite her post-mother’s-death emotionless stupor. Then we go to Chinatown with him, we learn that he is on his own and has taken in some younger kids who have nowhere else to go. Sometimes he has to do ignoble things to help his wards survive, but he tries to live by a code of honor as much as he can. So, really, there is nothing not to like.

Will I read more?

I believe this is a stand-alone novel, which is for the best, since the whole point of a fairy tale is that they end happily ever after. If there’s a sequel, something’s gone wrong there. However, as I look on Amazon, I see that Jean Haus has other books that seem to be retellings of other fairy tales. I found Snow, Blood, and Envy to be an enjoyable enough read that I will probably check out some of the others.

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sprite by Leigh Michael

Title: Sprite
Series: Annabelle’s Story
Author: Leigh Michael
Length: 3547 Kindle units
Rating: 3 stars

The Plot

Annabelle is having a fantastic senior year. She gets to spend lots of time with her family and her boyfriend Blake, and her future looks even brighter, because she’s been accepted to the best pre-med program in the country. Then one night when she is on the way home from a swim meet, she is kidnapped and brought to the underwater city of Tritonis. There she learns that her ancestors were once part of an underwater culture of sprites and that she is destined to fulfill an ancient prophesy and become the next leader of the oceanic world.

The Good

I really loved the energy of Sprite. From the first page, we’re transported into Annabelle’s head, which is a bubbly and buoyant place, even under dire circumstances. She’s cheerful and friendly to everyone she meets, and she’s always ready to try something new, even if it’s totally outside her experience.

The mythology was also creative and unique. I enjoyed learning about the different species of water beings – the titular sprites. There were pockets of different species in various bodies of water all over the globe, but the sprites could travel between them relatively easily via jet streams. The meat of the story was based around some lesser-known Greek myths regarding the descendants of Poseidon and a prophesied leader that the sprites have been waiting for. All of these elements combine to make the world in which Annabelle finds herself interesting and compelling.

The Bad

I have mentioned before my desire to implement a three day rule for relationships, which basically states that if the heroine has only known the boy for three days, she should not be making any major life decisions that involve him. Sprite and a few other books I have read have persuaded me that I might need to expand this rule to include major life changes as well as relationships. Annabelle is given three days to come to terms with being a sprite and train in the mystical ways of water fighting before she must fulfill her prophesied role. Now, if she had been training in water combat for many years prior to this, I might believe she is prepared for such an undertaking. But since I don’t think her swim team practiced fighting each other or wrangling hippocampi, I was not convinced that Annabelle shouldn’t have waited until the next New Year before attempting to save the water world.

Other than that, the story lacked any kind of emotional depth. This was good in that it kept things moving along, but I felt as if Annabelle took being taken away from her family a little bit too much in stride. The side characters also didn’t have that much development, which I think prevented some of the potential emotional impact, especially of the cliffhanger at the end.

The Romance

In the first chapter, we meet Annabelle’s boyfriend Blake and learn that he is super-awesome on every domain, but we don’t get to spend much time with him. All too soon Annabelle is dragged underwater where she spends all her time with a merman named Adrian. Not only is he friendly and attractive, but he is also a prince of the city of Tritonis. Annabelle wants to remain faithful to Blake, but it’s hard to resist someone who is nice, handsome, and royalty, especially when his grandmother the queen hopes that they will get married someday. But, really, Annabelle has a lot to focus on with this prophesy and doesn’t really have time to be worrying too much about romance.

Will I read more?

I really did enjoy Sprite for the most part. There were only a few times that I had to shake my head because of a plot element that really didn’t work. There’s going to be one other book in the series, and the ending of this first book was enough in the middle of everything that I wondered whether it might not have been better as a single story. But there is a sudden revelation at the end of the book that makes me curious to see where the story goes. So while I’m not adding the author’s web page to my list of blogs to stalk, I will probably pick up the next installment at some point in time.

See Details for Book on    Amazon 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Foretold by Raine Thomas

Title: Foretold
Series: Daughters of Saraqael
Author: Raine Thomas
Previous Books in Series: Becoming, Central
Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: 8310 Kindle units

Refresher: A set of half-human, half-Estilorian (read: kind of like angels) triplets transcend to a higher plane where they must teach their Estilorian kin about the importance of emotions

Becoming was the first book I ever reviewed for my blog, and I was iffy about whether I wanted to read more of the series. Eventually I decided that I may as well, mostly because I was desperate for more sequel material. I have to confess, though, that it was really a struggle for me to get through Foretold, not because it was bad so much as it was just implausibly happy all the time.

Meg Cabot is one of my favorite authors, but I hate reading the last books in her series because I know she is going to wrap everything up in an unbelievably happy way where the bad guys realize that they have always been wrong and all the good characters marry their soulmates. Reading the Daughters of Saraqael series is like reading a Meg Cabot ending all the time.  Foretold basically tells the story of how Amber, Olivia, and Skye travel through the Estilorian realm and demonstrate to all the different classes how awesome they are at everything after just a few months training. About a third of the way through the book there was some brief drama involving torture, but then we were right back to weddings and teambuilding softball games. (Until the giant battle at the end.)

My other issue with the book comes from the English major part of me that likes to step back and look at the underlying themes of a book. Lots of people like to play this game with the Twilight series – popular messages there are that you should try to kill yourself if a boy leaves you and that it’s okay if he hurts you so long as he doesn’t really mean it. But Twilight also had at least one good message in it, which is that even if you are obsessively in love with someone, you aren’t going to agree on everything. Several times in the books Bella and Edward have to reach compromises when they both want different things.

That message is totally not present in the Daughters of Saraqael series. Once the girls and their bodyguards decide they are in love with each other, they get married almost immediately and then cease to have any problems whatsoever. I’m probably forgetting a few things, but I can only think of one time in Foretold where the girls disagreed with their husbands at all. For the most part, the six members of the family magically get along with no conflict.

This is not what most disturbs me about the novel, though. By the time we reach the end of the trilogy, the girls have been out of high school somewhere between 6 months and a year. In this time, the three girls have learned they are higher beings and transcended to a higher realm where their new bodies are completely identical. They have also all gotten married – two of them to boys that they met after their high school graduation – and are pregnant. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that married and pregnant a year outside of high school was the ultimate goal of most of the girls in my graduating class. And I’m not thinking that we should be holding them up as role models.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

The Remortal by Ramsey Isler

Title: The Remortal
Author: Ramsey Isler
Rating: 4 stars

The Plot
Telly is just getting by on the streets of Los Angeles when he meets a man named Van who has in intriguing proposition for him. Van claims to be immortal, and he says that he will transfer his immortality – and all his worldly wealth – onto Telly… if Telly can pass all his tests.

The Good

I actually enjoyed The Remortal a great deal more than I thought I would. I confess that sometimes when I pick up a novel that I have agreed to review, I don’t expect very much. And a book about a male protagonist who lives on the street is exactly the kind of gritty “boy” book that I usually have to force myself to read. But in this case, I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

The basic concept surrounding the novel is that there are four immortal beings on the planet. At any point during an immortal’s life, he or she may choose a successor. The immortal’s power then transfers to the successor over the course of approximately 50 days until finally the successor kills the immortal. At that point, the former immortal ascends to a more powerful position in the universe, and the successor becomes the new immortal.

We see this world from the point of view of Telly, who may have the same name as a Muppet from Sesame Street but is actually a teen runaway living on the street of Los Angeles. An immortal named Van chooses Telly as his successor and puts him through the kinds of tests that determine whether Telly is worthy of being an immortal. As the novel progresses, Telly learns how the other immortals have differing perspectives on what immortality entails, and he must decide what he believes. The entire story ends up being a fascinating exploration of what makes someone worthy of true power.

The Bad

There are three parallel subplots going on through the novel that don’t really merge as well as they could. First there is the plot of Van training Telly to be his successor. Then we have the plot of the other immortals trying to prevent Van’s ascension. And finally there is a plot where Telly is trying to help his friend Mattie get off the streets. These different story arcs help present the different viewpoints of the story – Van’s, the other immortals’, and Telly’s, respectively – but I don’t feel like I get any kind of resolution of what the “right” thing is supposed to be.

I think part of the problem is that we get most of the story from Telly’s relatively naïve viewpoint. Throughout the book, he is presented with a variety of different opinions regarding the best way to be an immortal, but he doesn’t have the philosophical mindset necessary to really consider all of them. For the most part, he reacts to what is going on around him and does what seems necessary at the time. I suppose this is a perspective in and of itself, but doesn’t present itself as the unifying theory of immortality that I feel the book is asking for.

We are told relatively early on that Telly and Mattie are supposed to be good and pure characters, but I don’t really feel that we have any evidence of this. I mean, the first thing they do in the book is try to rob a drug dealer. I understand that they are just trying to eat and that their behavior is not nearly as reprehensible as that of, say, the drug dealer himself, but I’m still not sure how they are particularly good or righteous. I actually would have liked some more background about how they ended up on the street, since it’s not the kind of life that most people would enter into voluntarily.

The Romance

One of the immortals is a beautiful woman who apparently likes to sleep with anything that moves, but other than Telly’s brief interludes with her, there isn’t too much going on in the way of romance. Which, I know, makes it even more surprising that I liked the book.

Will I read more?

I think The Remortal is a stand-alone novel. Nonetheless, I think the author has some really interesting philosophical underpinnings to the novel. Some of the ideas in The Remortal were not fully explored or expressed, but there was definitely enough in there to make a reader think.  I would like to read more of Ramsey Isler’s work and watch how he develops as an author.

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