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Trying to live a thousand lives...

Reviewer at Fantasy-Faction.com

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Up From the Grave
Jeaniene Frost
Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Laini Taylor

Frost Burned

Frost Burned - Patricia Briggs 4.5 stars

Less dark than some of her earlier books in this series, this one was an excellent read. Still enjoying the dry humor and great writing.

Heart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling, #12)

Heart of Obsidian (Psy-Changeling, #12) - Nalini Singh It's been a long time since I last read from this series. After the first few, I lost interest. This synopsis sounded intriguing enough, and surprise! I was quite impressed with how much the writing style has matured and improved so much. Will definitely keep an eye out for future offerings from this author.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - April Genevieve Tucholke With a beautiful cover and intriguing synopsis, this turned out to be really disappointing. Character and plot development seemed to be scattered and superficial. Unique idea for debut YA novel, but it didn't work for me. Full review at Fantasy-Faction.com.

Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo *** 3.5 stars ***

(Review also posted on Fantasy-Faction.com)

The second novel in a new YA trilogy by debut author Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm picks up soon after where Shadow and Bone leave off. In a world where the Darkling is determined to rule the world with his Grisha army , Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev (Mal) are on the run and working on gaining true freedom from the Darkling and the forces that have been pulling them apart since Alina’s reveal as the Sun Summoner.

First off, let’s look at that cover. Ominous grey clouds with rays of light attempting to shoot out from behind; rolling waves surrounding a palace in a classic Russian design; and then, there is the ice dragon.

Say no more; you have me at “ice dragon.”

In all seriousness, that cover summarizes most of the arc in this book. The Darkling, represented by the grey expanse of clouds, is an insidious presence that overpowers with the cloak of darkness. Being a living amplifier, he controls the Grisha, individuals born with a unique control over different matter. Corporalki can either kill you where you stand or bring you back from the edge of death. Etherealki can manipulate air, water, or fire, and Materialki work with physical matter and poisons. With a horrifying new ability even his followers fear, the Darkling’s grip is tightening and seems to infiltrate every barrier. Already linked to Alina through her stag amplifier, he forces her and Mal to seek a second amplifier, an unheard of thing in the Grisha world.

Enter the ice dragon.

An elusive and mythical creature, the Sea Whip is the magical being from which Alina’s second amplifier must be created. Their pursuit of the ice dragon is led by Mal’s unique ability to track anything and everything. On a ship captained by a privateer willing to sell his services to the highest bidder, they ultimately find and capture their prize, and Alina’s power grows while her relationship with Mal thins even further.

I have to say that I am rather disappointed in the brief encounter with the ice dragon. For being so prominently displayed on the book’s cover and its significance in the plot, the event was over way too soon. So much anticipation was built up to its appearance that I was left feeling like I was missing something when it was done.

However, the author does a very good job keeping you guessing at what could possibly happen next. Almost every twist in the plot surprised me (which is rather hard to do). Unfortunately, in between each shocking event, there was unnecessarily long “down time” where not much was happening. It almost seemed like we were given time to recover from the last surprise, and hence, things had to slow down. I didn’t need the long breaks; I bounce back pretty quickly, thank you.

During these breaks, there were detailed descriptions of the scenery, the food, and the various characters and their waxing and waning relationships. There was too much telling and not enough showing. There was a bright spot in all the character-telling: Sturmhond. His is a very bright spot and is the saving grace to all the lulls in the story.

The take-charge, overconfident, self-built privateer that is Sturmhond is my favorite character by far. He provides the comic relief in an otherwise depressing state of affairs. His motives have all yet to be revealed, but even with the enigma, he is refreshingly bold and frank in his interactions with others. I’m glad there is more of him to come as the layers of his character are being slowly peeled away (read: secret identity).

The relationship between Alina and Mal fit your typical angst-ridden YA love story. Childhood best friends growing into love with one another while fighting to stay together in the midst of all the changes in their circumstance as well as in their evolving characters. Mal is a worthy hero to cheer for, though. He remains loyal with his eyes always on the goal while Alina vacillates under the growing influence of the Darkling.

This trilogy is still worth reading for the adept worldbuilding and the surprises in the plot. I would read it for the character of Sturmhond alone. As he so eloquently puts it, “I have so many good qualities. It can be hard to choose.”

Into the Deep

Into the Deep - Samantha Young I had thought On Dublin Street was a rarity; the unbelievably deep emotions the story consistently generated was impressive. Then comes Into the Deep...

It is not often I gush about a book, but here I am, truly blown away by yet another emotional roller-coaster ride by this author. The writing is so smooth and concise, that you can't help but get sucked into the story as if you are in the middle of it, watching as it all plays out. There is no fluff/filler/internal monologuing that goes on for pages and pages like some other books in the same genre. The unfolding drama and secret reveal is done boldly and doesn't pull any punches yet still builds suspense.

This coming of age story of first love, heartbreak, forgiveness, and hope is really well done. I especially appreciate that it was obviously well-edited, making the reading experience that much more enjoyable. The only quibble I have with it, is that it is part of yet another series. I truly loved the fact that On Dublin Street was such a great stand-alone novel. I only wished it was the case again here. So, 4.5 stars for a great reading experience but disappointed that it cannot stand alone.

Rhyn's Redemption

Rhyn's Redemption  - Lizzy Ford This trilogy was suprisingly addictive. There is nothing specific that I can point to and say, this was what made the difference. It was a fun read and and yet intriguing at times. It kept me turning the pages and sometimes not fast enough. Will definitely look for more books by this author.

Goddess

Goddess - Josephine Angelini ***3.5 stars***

Ever wonder about what the gods of Greek mythology would be up to if they existed in today’s world? Well, Josephine Angelini has decided to put her own spin on it with a YA trilogy that began with “Starcrossed” and has concluded with “Goddess”.

“Goddess” wraps up the story that began with Helen and Lucas, both descendants of the Greek gods. Remember all those trysts with mortals that the gods indulged in? Well, the results are demigods, called Scions. All the Scions belong to one of four houses, and each Scion is born with the face of a well-known Greek figure, such as Paris of Troy, Achilles, Menelaus, Agamemnon, and so forth. It actually becomes difficult to keep track of who is what figure as more and more characters are introduced, since the reincarnated faces do not align themselves with specific houses.

There is a prophecy by the Oracle that when the blood of the houses are mixed, a Tyrant will appear that is capable of bringing complete and utter destruction. This is to be one of the Scions, but it remains a mystery to all, including the Tyrant, as to who it is. Each Scion is born with different powers, e.g. produce lightening, determine truth from lies, descend to the Underworld, fly, etc., and one of the houses is doing everything it can to eliminate the other houses. When that happens, another prophecy will be fulfilled, one that grants immortality and gives rise to Atlantis once again.

Before that happens, a play must pan out with a very specific ending determined by the Fates. Until this ending is achieved, all the major players in that play are reincarnated to try again. The twelve major Greek gods, who were previously imprisoned after the last war, are now unleashed, accidentally by Helen. In an attempt to correct their previous mistake of allowing their offspring to survive, the gods are eliminating all the mortals they have an “encounter” with, in addition to unleashing their wrath on the earth in the form of unprecedented natural disasters.

Compared to the first two books, a lot more character development and plot unveiling takes place in “Goddess.” It almost seemed to me that because this was to be the wrap-up book, all the details that were withheld in the other books were all of a sudden being dumped out. At the same time, still more characters are being introduced while others change into different roles. Trying to keep track of who is what Greek/Trojan character and their part in the Fates’ drama becomes a bit tedious, taking away from what would otherwise be a very fascinating worldbuild.

Then there is the so-called love triangle between Helen, Lucas, and Orion. A key ingredient in YA novels today, this particular love triangle fell rather flat very early on in “Goddess” after it was introduced in the second book. It is very obvious where Helen’s heart lies, and Orion himself doesn’t put up much of a fight. Hardly worth all the hype that was built up around it. I love the complexity of Orion’s character and his triumph despite his past. If his character been written to be more of a close confidante rather than the required third party in the triangle, it would have brought more intricacy to the plot and be a lot more satisfying, in my opinion.

Speaking of complex characters, Helen’s mother, Daphne, was one that really kept surprising me with her consistently selfish motives and actions. I kept expecting her motherly instincts to make some appearance, but no. It was not to be. Even her sacrifice at the end was made out of vengeance. The fact that it happened to benefit Helen while putting herself in a good light, was just a bonus that she even admitted, albeit only to the reader. Helen gladly embraced this ultimate sacrifice by her mother as the revealing of Daphne’s true character. Just goes to show no matter what sins the parents commit, their children still crave their love and acceptance and readily grasp at whatever straw shows itself.

An interesting layer to the worldbuilding was the weaving in of other myths. Camelot and King Arthur became part of Helen’s past as she relived her memories through her dreams. Morgan le Faye was a Scion that created Avalon with her powers, and Atlantis was also another world created by a Scion.

There is a lot going on in this book to bring everything to a close. Even so, it didn’t become a real page-turner until more than halfway through. The world of Scions and their part in the Fates’ machinations was intriguing enough. I rather liked the secondary characters like Orion and Hector so much more than Helen and Lucas. I’m still glad I saw this trilogy to the end and would recommend it to those who want to read an interesting twist on Greek mythology.

Review also posted on Fantasy-Faction.com

Magic Rises

Magic Rises - Ilona Andrews ** 4.5 stars **

Full review posted on Fantasy-Faction.com
ARC provided by publisher for review.

Rising Darkness

Rising Darkness - Thea Harrison After enjoying Dragon Bound and Lord's Fall, this was kind of disappointing. Some reviews did warn about the new direction this series is taking, but it did not work for me. The language was too flowery in the description of ordinary objects and actions ("...fingers quested across her face..." - quested?? Is it really that epic of an undertaking to have fingers brush the face?). It was almost like reading poetry (and I enjoy good poetry) except I am stumbling over the language trying to figure out the story. The basic idea of the plot is interesting enough. A group of aliens have been hiding out on earth trying to chase down one of their own criminals, except the journey here causes them to lose their memories, which they must recover in time to find their soulmate (who is attempting to do the same) and defeat an enemy who has avoided the whole amnesia business.

The supposed chemistry between the two main characters, who are each other's soulmates, falls rather flat. Granted one of them is still in the recovery stage of her amnesia, but she does have this unexplained familiarity and attraction to the guy which still does nothing to build the relationship.

Unfortunately, there is not enough here to warrant reading the next installment in the series.

Ember X (Death Collectors)

Ember X (Death Collectors) - Jessica Sorensen Needs some heavy editing but plot idea is very interesting...Angels of Death, Grim Reapers, and Grim Angels who hold the fate of souls in their hands. Looking forward to see where all this leads in the next installment.

Written in Red

Written in Red - Anne Bishop Excellent world-building, fascinating characters, humorous dialogue, suspenseful plot...a must-read for urban fantasy fans!

Full review on Fantasy-Faction.com

Unravel Me

Unravel Me - Tahereh Mafi Unfortunately, I only got through 57% of the book and decided to call it quits. Taking this long to read a book because I kept putting it down does not bode well. The lack of any semblance of writing style in the name of mental instability (Juliette) has finally worn me down. What with the bleating hearts, self-pity (Juliette), and over-wrought angst (Adam), I can't bring myself to care what happens anymore. Kenji was the book's only saving grace ("Do I LOOK like the kind of guy who's never had a girlfriend? Have you even MET me?”) , possibly Warner too, if what I think will happen to him actually happens. Too bad; the first book had such potential for a great series.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin Fascinating, suspenseful, with a touch of horror...couldn't put it down. I love that I wasn't able to guess the ending. Moving right on to book two!

Hopeless

Hopeless  - Colleen Hoover Sky and Holder are your 17- and 18-year-old main characters who are attracted to each other for reasons they don't quite understand. Sky is emotionally vacant and starts to have feelings just after meeting Holder. Holder has secrets of his own that haunt him and tie him to Sky.

The first 50-60% of the book is rather slowly paced. Very little reveal of anything except to establish that Sky has a past she can't remember and Holder has one that he can't forget. The second half of the book is like a dam that has broken once the secrets come pouring out (which are kind of predictable). It becomes quite intense even knowing what is about to happen. However, Sky and Holder's internal thoughts and dialogue feel rather over wrought at times. These are still 17- and 18-year olds, given that they have been forced to grow up rather quickly. As they seek to comfort each other and affirm their self-worth, the words come sounding a little bit out-of-place for people their age. For example, “You suffered through one of the worst things a child can go through at the hands of your hero...the person you idolized.......The negative connotation you've been associating with physical touch your whole life doesn't apply to me...." It sounds more like the words of a therapist or even a self-help book, not the spontaneous ones of a boyfriend, even if he is mature for his age. I understand the importance of emphasizing certain truths about abuse in order for victims to have closure and move on. However, if the same words were spoken by an older adult, it would have sounded less pretentious, despite them being true.

After a lot of guessing and angst about what each other’s secrets were, there are some surprises revealed at the end about how each of the characters and their families are connected through choices made.

I would rate this book between 3-4 stars for taking the first half of the book to establish the premise, the second half rushing for closure, and the awkward dialogue of the teenagers.

Storm

Storm - Brigid Kemmerer Very interesting premise....everyone is born with an affinity to one of the elements: fire, water, air, earth. Some are stronger than others and can actually manipulate their element. Therefore, they must be eliminated before they become a threat due to their power. Four brothers in the same family are targeted for elimination and must find a way to survive somehow.

The backstory of this family is kind of sad. Brothers growing up without their parents with the oldest just barely of legal age to claim guardianship. We enter the story in their teenage years. Talk about angst. Throw in the teenage hormones plus trying to learn control over their powers while avoiding being killed off. Definitely a page-turner.

Sophie & Carter

Sophie & Carter - Chelsea Fine 3.5 stars

This is a novella, and because it is not a full-length novel, some missing elements can be forgiven. We are basically treated to a glimpse into the lives of Sophie and Carter at a turning point, like looking into a window and watching a scene play out. We don't know all the details, such as how is Carter able to support himself and his mother financially without a job and still help Sophie out with groceries once in a while? We know just enough through recalled memories on both their parts to piece together the big picture.

The family lives of Sophie and Carter are nightmares that no child should have to live through. It is extremely heartbreaking to see the abuse even through their memories. The neat and tidy ending that allows them to be together gives us the HEA (to the extent that is plausible for them) that we feel they deserve.