Friday, March 29, 2013

review: NERD GONE WILD by Vicki Lewis Thompson

NERD GONE WILD
by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Series: Nerds #3
Penguin: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Released: February 1, 2005
Source: Gift from my mother
Page Count: 416

Rating: Liked it

Blockbuster New York TImes bestselling author Vicki Lewis Thompson gave high kicks to high IQs in The Nerd Who Loved Me and Nerd in Shining Armor. Now she's back at her riotiously sexy best in her new novel about an undercover "nerd" who offers a beauty something she can't live without . . .

THE HEIRESS WITH A HOT FORTUNE AND LOOKS TO MATCH . . .

Inheriting a fortune means less to Ally Jarrett than fulfulling her real dream: to take off for the wilds of Alaska and photograph animals. Unfortunately she's also inherited her grandmother's personal assistant - an overprotective nerd who couldn't survive a snowball fight.

THE NERD WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD . . .

As a PI and bodyguard, Mitchell carruthers is the perfect man to protect his late employer's granddaughter. However, keeping his geek-masquerade - and the secret behind his real mission - isn't easy when the freeze between Ally and Mitchell begins to melt.

THEY'RE IN DANGER, OVER THEIR HEADS, AND UNDER THE GUN . . .

Yet all's not well in this sub-zero paradise. Ally's bad seed uncle is staking a claim on the family inheritance with a dangerous masquerade of his own. With Ally's life in danger, it's time for her right-hand nerd to expose the real man undercover, and prove himself to the vulnerable body he's been hired to guard . . .

My Review
I read this book before the first and second books in the series, right around the time it came out. At the time, I considered it one of the best books I've read in the romance genre. However, after reading some of the other books in the Nerd series, I have changed my opinion. While still a strong story filled with fantastic secondary characters, I was struck once again by how condescending the female protagonist is to the male protagonist, just like how Genevieve treated Jack in Nerd in Shining Armor. In Nerd Gone Wild, Ally treats Mitchell like an idiot, not even giving him the chance to decide for himself whether or not he wants to risk getting his heart broken should their relationship not extend beyond the physical. Even if he was a real nerd, not a "nerd in disguise," Ally still should have realized that Mitchell is a big boy and can make these decisions for himself. However, two characters save this book from being a total loss : Ally's uncle Kurt and his lover, Vivian. They are the strangest couple, complete with S&M scenes. Vivian most definitely wears the pants in that relationship. Their scenes make the book worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

review: THE NERD WHO LOVED ME by Vicki Lewis Thompson

THE NERD WHO LOVED ME
by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Series: Nerds #2
Penguin: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Released: August 16, 2004
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 404

Rating: Loved it!

Vicki Lewis Thompson's NERD IN SHINING ARMOR was a blockbuster New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Her next deliciously sexy novel features an irresistible nerd and the woman who discovers she can't get enough of him . . .

She's got the high-kicks . . .

Lainie Terrell is no ordinary single mother. With feathers in all the right places, she's one of the hottest showgirls in Vegas. Aside from a hot-tempered ex-boyfriend on her sequined tail, Lainie's biggest problem is finding a decent babysitter for her son. Lainie's dilemma is solved when she ropes Harry Ambrewster, the casino's shy - but very smart and cute - accountant, into the task.

He's got the low-down . . .

Inheriting his chemist father's high I.Q. and sexy good looks, Harry has always been intrigued by Lainie. He isn't thrilled at the prospect of babysitting, but he'll do anything to get near the gal who fuels his craziest fantasies. Then Lainie's dangerous ex comes knocking . . .

Their option? Run faster than a pair of net stockings . . .

In disguise and on the lam, Lainie's masquerading as the perfect wife. Harry's doubling as the he-man protector. But with a set-up this hot, who's fooling who? When the lights go down, and the masks come off, a nerd like Harry could be just the right ignition to set a woman like Lainie on fire . . .

My Thoughts

This is one of my favorites of the Nerd series, definitely in the Top 3. The main characters are Laine - a Vegas showgirl on the run from Joey, her abusive ex-boyfriend and the father of her little boy - and Harry - an accountant who has been infatuated with Lainie since she started working at the same casino. Lainie's ex is a scary guy with a drinking problem and the monetary means to work around any legal issues in regaining custody of little Dexter. When Joey shows up in Vegas and breaks down Lainie's apartment door while Harry is babysitting Dexter, Lainie and Harry end up on the lam in a resort town in Arizona while Harry's mother gets the grandmother experience with Dexter. Lainie and Harry are a great couple, and it was so fun to see how they worked around the obstacles in their path - especially Dudley. Thompson has quite a knack for creating memorable secondary characters. Come back tomorrow for a review of book 3, Nerd Gone Wild!

Monday, March 25, 2013

review: NERD IN SHINING ARMOR by Vicki Lewis Thompson

NERD IN SHINING ARMOR
by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Series: Nerds #1
Penguin: Dell
Released: January 1, 2003
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 324

Rating: Liked it

Beauty and the Geek

For Genevieve Terrence, it seemed like a dream come true: a weekend alone on Maui with her sexy boss, Nick Brogan. But little did she know that Nick had dreams of his own - a nefarious scheme that nearly got her killed on the flight over the Pacific. Lucky for her, brilliant computer programmer Jack Farley was on board and quick-witted enough to crash-land the plane. Now Jack is her sole companion on a remote desert island with nothing but guava trees and sharks for company. Who'd expect the shy genius - and the least alpha male she knows - to turn out to be the uninhibited stud of her wildest dreams?

Saving Genevieve's life has made Jack a hero in the eyes of the woman he has secretly lusted after for months. Now they're alone together in a tropical eden where they're free to give in to ther every sensual whim. But when some nasty unfinished business puts them at risk again, Gen will learn there's nothing quite as dangerous as a fully aroused ex-nerd who'll move heaven and earth to protect the woman he loves . . .

My Thoughts

This was a re-read for me, although it’s been at least four years since the last time I picked it up. Reading it this time around was a bit of an eye-opener, as I hadn’t noticed the first time just how obnoxious Genevieve really is. Genevieve just assumes that Jack is inexperienced sexually without bothering to test his abilities first and constantly berates his lack of outdoorsy skills. Just because someone doesn’t go on a lot of dates or tell dirty jokes doesn’t mean that they don’t know what to do in bed, and growing up in a civilized area and played video games doesn’t mean that their childhood was completely wasted. This line upset me the most: “The third and best reason for having sex was that she’d be doing him a favor by teaching him how women liked to be treated in bed. He might not know any more about that than he did about making cozy hideaways. Having sex for Jack’s sake instead of her own made the idea seem noble and worthwhile.”

If you can take Genevieve’s attitude out of the equation, though, it’s a cute story of a couple of castaways. As Genevieve and Jack's romance progresses, Gen [slowly] becomes more accepting of him and they begin to truly connect. There is also a "bonus" romance on the side between Genevieve's mother, Annabelle, and Genevieve and Jack's boss, Matt. Sometimes it can be frustrating to suddenly switch to a different storyline in the middle of a scene, as Thompson is wont to do, but in the end it's worth the inconvenience to get the second romance.

Friday, March 22, 2013

review: BLOOD & FLOWERS by Penny Blubaugh

BLOOD & FLOWERS
by Penny Blubaugh
HarperCollins: HarperTeen
Released: March 1, 2011
Source: Star Book Tours
Page Count: 344

Rating: It was okay

A mesmerizing tale of family, faeries, and finding a place to call home.

Three years ago, Persia ran away from her drug-addict parents and found a home with the Outlaws, an underground theater troupe. With time, this motley band of mortals and fey, puppeteers and actors, becomes the loving family Persia never had. And soon Persia discovers a passion for theater and also falls in love with one of the other Outlaws. Life could not be more perfect.

Until an enemy makes an unfair accusation against the group and forces them to flee their world and hide in the neighboring realm of Faerie. But in Faerie, all is not flowers and rainbows. With bloodthirsty trolls, a hostile monarchy, and a dangerous code of magic, the fey world is far from the safe haven the Outlaws had hoped for . . .

My Thoughts

This was an okay read for me. I really liked Persia, the main character, and most of the supporting cast as well, but the story just moved too slowly. It wasn't until partway into Chapter 12 that the Outlaws even escaped into Faerie, whereas the back cover blurb makes it sound like it happens right away. However, the overall concept of Blood & Flowers is a creative one, and readers who are looking for something new in the realm of faeries should enjoy this book.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

review: VESPER by Jeff Sampson

VESPER by Jeff Sampson
Series: Deviants #1
HarperCollins: Balzer + Bray
Released: January 25, 2011
Source: Bookstore
Page Count: 288

Rating: Really liked it!

Emily Webb is a geek. And she's happy that way. Content hiding under hoodies and curling up to watch old horror flicks, she's never been the kind of girl who sneaks out for midnight parties. And she's definitely not the kind of girl who starts fights or flirts with other girls' boyfriends. Until one night Emily finds herself doing exactly that . . . the same night one of her classmates - also named Emily - is found mysteriously murdered.

The thing is, Emily doesn't know why she's doing any of this. By day, she's the same boring Emily, but by night, she turns into a thrill seeker. With every nightfall, Emily gets wilder until it's no longer just her personality that changes. Her body can do things it never could before: Emily is now strong, fast, and utterly fearless. And soon Emily realizes that she's not just coming out of her shell . . . there's something much bigger going on. Is she bewitched by the soul of the other, murdered Emily? Or is Emily Webb becoming something else entirely - something not human?

As Emily hunts for answers, she finds out that she's not the only one this is happening to - some of her classmates are changing as well. Who is turning these teens into monsters - and how many people will they kill to get what they want?

My Thoughts

I've gone back and forth on this book, as I just couldn't get a good reading on what the book was about. But after reading a few positive reviews from book bloggers with great taste, I went ahead and pre-ordered it anyway. That was definitely a worthwhile decision! When Vesper arrived on my doorstep and I saw the backcover blurb from K.A. Applegate (whose Animorphs series I am currently devouring), I moved it to the top of my TBR pile and finished up my current read as fast as I could.

I don't want to include any spoilers, so this will probably end up being pretty short. Vesper is told in two forms: the first is a transcript of an interview between The Vesper Company and Emily, and the second is Emily's flashback version of events. I thought that was ingenious, as it gives a fascinating overarching theme to the story. I hope there is some way to continue it in the next book, though after the way things wrapped up that may not be possible. Anyway, Emily is a great character who doesn't let circumstances overwhelm her, and her story is full of twists and turns that I didn't see coming. It's hard to say too much more without including spoilers - just go pick it up, already! :)

Fun trivia: I looked up "vesper" in the dictionary, as it's not a word I'd come across before, and it definitely relates to the story. For those who've read it, take a peek at the link to see if you can put it together!

Books two and three of the trilogy are slated for winter releases in 2012 and 2013. It's going to be a long and arduous wait!

Monday, March 18, 2013

review: SUBWAY GIRL by P.J. Converse

SUBWAY GIRL by P.J. Converse
HarperCollins: Harper Teen
Released: March 15, 2011
Source: Good Golly Miss Holly ARC Tours
Page Count: 224

Rating: It was okay

When Simon sees Amy on a Hong Kong subway, he wants to talk to her. But when he finally works up the courage, he finds out he can't. Because Amy doesn't speak Chinese, and Simon is failing English.

Somehow, Amy and Simon connect, and they discover that they understand each other. Enough for Simon to admit he is dropping out of school. Enough for Amy to confess that she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend's baby. Lost in a world so much bigger than they are, Amy and Simon realize they can rescue each other when no one else can.

My Thoughts

Subway Girl had great potential, and it's a quick and easy read, but the language made it very difficult to maintain interest. The language issue wasn't just because Simon and Amy couldn't understand each other, but rather from Amy's tendency to ramble, all the while knowing that Simon wouldn't be able to understand her. Sometimes it was also difficult to figure out who was speaking in a group situation, as Converse doesn't always identify speakers. Simon was a great character, but Amy just fell flat for me. She was raised in America and therefore had American attitudes and beliefs, yet kowtowed to her family, friends, schoolmates, etc. Converse tackles some important issues in Subway Girl, including pushy boyfriends, teen pregnancy, cultural differences, and the incredibly intense Chinese education system, using his two years of experience teaching English in Hong Kong as inspiration. For that reason, it's a worthwhile read. Especially important is the message that just because someone looks a certain way, it doesn't mean that they will conform to your beliefs about them. (Amy is Chinese by blood, but was raised in America and speaks very little Chinese.) However, this is not a masterpiece of writing, and that fact is reflected in my rating.

Friday, March 15, 2013

review: KINDRED by Tammar Stein

KINDRED by Tammar Stein
Random House: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released: February 8, 2011
Source: Star Book Tours
Page Count: 272

Rating: DNF

The first time I meet an angel, it is Raphael and I am eighteen.

Miriam is an unassuming college freshman stuck on campus after her plans for spring break fall through. She's not a religious girl - when pressed, she admits reluctantly to believing in a higher power. Truth be told, she's about as comfortable speaking about her faith as she is about her love life - which is to say, not at all. And then the archangel Raphael pays Miriam a visit, and she finds herself on a desperate mission to save two of her contemporaries. To top it all off, her twin brother, Mo, has also had a visitation, but from the opposite end of the good-evil spectrum, which leaves Miriam to wonder - has she been blessed and her brother cursed or vice versa? And what is the real purpose behind her mission?

My Thoughts

Kindred was not quite my cup of tea, though I'm sure there is a readership for it somewhere out there. Stein's writing style is too sparse for my liking, and this is part of why I could not find any empathy for Miriam, the main character. It is incredibly difficult to be sympathetic towards a character when she doesn't engage your emotions. I found her to be one-dimensional and uninteresting.

Kindred was also not quite the type of angel story I was expecting. Angels these days, especially in young adult literature, seem to be somewhat (if not outright) romanticized, but this was definitely not the case with Raphael. It really felt like more of a religious rebirth (i.e. Saul becoming Paul in the New Testament) than something a modern-day college student would experience. And considering the focus of the back cover blurb and the introductory paragraphs centers on Miriam's lack of specific religious beliefs, it was difficult to rationalize just how quickly she came to terms with her angelic encounter and God-given mission.

Lastly, Raphael's visit seems to have played havoc on Miriam's health, and all of her medical issues totaled up to way too much information. There is a reason why we rarely read about characters taking a bathroom break in novels. I just didn't feel that the medical mini-drama was necessary to the storyline.

In the end, I just couldn't get into this book and was unimpressed with a read-through of the last few chapters. That doesn't mean, however, that you won't like it. If you are at all interested in Judiasm, religious fiction, and/or angelic encounters, you may enjoy this novel.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

review: MAD LOVE by Suzanne Selfors

MAD LOVE by Suzanne Selfors
Bloomsbury: Walker & Company
Released: January 4, 2011
Source: Good Golly Miss Holly ARC Tours
Page Count: 363

Rating: Really liked it!

Writing her own love story could drive a girl INSANE!
As the daughter of the bestselling Queen of Romance, life for sixteen-year-old Alice Amorous should be pretty good. But ever since her mother was secretly hospitalized for mental illness, Alice has been forced to maintain a brave front - lying to her new crush, Tony; answering fan letters; forging her mother's signature; telling the publisher that all is well. Now time is running out, and so is their money. The next books is overdue and the Queen can't write it. Alice needs to deliver a new novel for her mother - and she needs to come up with one fast.

That's when she meets Errol, a strange guy claiming to be Cupid, who insists that Alice must write about his tragic romance with Psyche - the greatest love story of all time. Only, Alice doesn't believe in Cupid . . .

My Thoughts

Mad Love was an even better book than expected. I was worried, at first, about how the serious nature of bipolar disorder would affect the story, but, though a few moments were sad, the entire plot was not bogged down in misery, making Mad Love quite an enjoyable read. I wasn't a huge fan of the secondary characters, though, and those interactions are what brought my final grade for the book down to a B+.

Alice Amorous is the daughter of Belinda Amorous – the Queen of Romance. But her life isn’t as glamorous as her mother’s publicity shots would make you think. Instead of living the high life, Alice is stuck in a tiny apartment building, going to high school online, and trying her damndest to hide the fact that her mother has been committed to a private psychiatric hospital – not overseas researching her next book, as almost everyone else believes.

One day, as she is filling in for her mother at a book discussion and signing, Alice meets Errol, a seemingly crazy boy who wants her to write his book. She eventually discovers that he is Cupid. Yes, that Cupid – just without the chubby cheeks and sagging diaper. As Alice tries desperately to juggle writing a book, a new crush, and dealing with her neighbor’s pesky granddaughter with her already unstable life, she realizes that something has got to give. The question is: How long can she last before her house of cards comes crashing down?

Reading this book made me think of my aunt, who had bipolar disorder and died three years ago almost to the day I read the book due to alcohol addiction. She self-medicated with alcohol instead of trusting doctors to help her, and she paid the price with an early grave. Her oldest daughter, on the other hand, is taking a stand against the disorder and is trying to get help she needs. She is so brave, and I so admire her courage and fortitude.

If you or a loved one have bipolar disorder, remember: You are not alone. Seek help and support at through organizations such as www.DBSAlliance.org, and don’t be afraid to talk to a doctor about your symptoms.

Monday, March 11, 2013

review: A TOUCH MORTAL by Leah Clifford

A TOUCH MORTAL by Leah Clifford
HarperCollins: Greenwillow Books
Released: February 22, 2011
Source: Princess Bookie ARC Tours
Page Count: 419

Rating: Really liked it!

Eden first meets him on the beach. His opening line is unbelievably spectacular, really. But then so are his powers. Only she doesn't know that, in the beginning, and she falls in love. It wil take what seems like a lifetime and a journey into death and back for her to discover that her own powers are considerable and unimaginable. He hasn't fallen yet. Will he? Will she? This is a deeply satisfying, dark, and inventive paranormal romance by debut novelist Leah Clifford.

My Thoughts

I just finished this book and all I can say is WOW! A Touch Mortal really blew me away. Great books like this are the hardest to review, though, so please bear with me!

One of my favorite things about A Touch Mortal is that Clifford either completely avoids the clichés associated with angel books or twists them beyond recognition as she works them into the book's mythology. Fantastic.

Considering the dark topics covered in this book, especially suicide, the characters in A Touch Mortal maintain witty banter throughout the story. This is especially true for Eden and Az, who are just hilarious together as they are falling in love. (Note: There is also a fair amount of strong language - it didn't bother me, but it will bother more sensitive readers.)

The details of the world are a little fuzzy at first, as we are learning about Siders, Touch, the Fallen, and the Bound along with Eden. The book was a little frustrating in that sense, and I sort of wanted to yell at the characters who had information to just tell us already! Alas, that never works in books, though one can always hope. Most of the pertinent information is eventually revealed, though, which was a huge relief. Also a relief was finding out that this is the first in a planned trilogy. Woohoo! I can't wait to read more of Eden and company. If you are a fan of YA paranormal, then this is definitely a book that should be read sooner rather than later.

Friday, March 08, 2013

review: THE DEMON TRAPPER'S DAUGHTER by Jana Oliver

THE DEMON TRAPPER'S DAUGHTER
by Jana Oliver
Macmillan: St. Martin's Griffin
Released: February 1, 2011 (US)
Source: FirstReads
Page Count: 340

Rating: Liked it

Rebellious teen Demon Trapper Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself – and that’s exactly what Lucifer is counting on.

It’s the year 2018, and with human society seriously disrupted by the economic upheavals of the previous decade, Lucifer has increased the number of demons in all major cities. Fortunately, humans are protected by trappers, who work to keep homes and streets safe from the things that go bump in the night.

Riley has always dreamed of following in her father’s demon-trapper footsteps. But when tragedy strikes and a top-level demon murders her dad, Riley finds herself in for a much more dangerous future than she ever could have imagined.

My Thoughts

It has been very difficult trying to pin down how I feel about The Demon Trapper's Daughter. One one hand, the storyline is highly original and fast-paced, with a strong [but not overly independent] heroine. These are all characteristics of my favorite books. On the other hand, it seems like the author rushed through explaining the series mythology and ended up leaving a lot of things unexplained. For example, we get a decent history of how the city devolved into its current state or disrepair and poverty. However, there is no reason given for why demons are so prevalent in the city, or even if their existence has been an accepted part of society for a long time or only sprang up recently. These are details that the reader is expected to simply accept on blind faith.

Riley is an easy character to like, and I nearly cried along with her when life as she knew it ended with her father's death. There are a couple of reviews out there that decry Riley as a "typical female character," but that makes me wonder if they even bothered to read the book. Riley is clearly a badass. She's just not invincible. She's a newbie trapper drowning in grief, so of course she's going to make mistakes. There is nothing wrong with accepting help, especially when not doing so could get you killed.

With very few exceptions, all of the other main and secondary characters are men. Part of this is because demon trapping is a male-dominated profession, but it also says something about Riley's character and how uncomfortable she is around women, especially those outside of the demon trapping community. The three main male characters are Beck, Simon, and Peter - Beck and Simon are both demon trappers, and Peter is Riley's best friend from school. All three of them seem to have feelings for Riley, and the love square (rectangle? trapazoid? parallelogram?) was a little frustrating. Of course, these things are always frustrating when they're not going the way we want them to go... The reader only gets Riley and Beck's points of view, so maybe that is why I am more sympathetic to him than Simon.

With the way this book ended, it will be very interesting to see where Oliver takes this series. She has left herself a lot of room to expand the series mythology, and I hope she takes the opportunity to delve even deeper into the mystery in book two.

To clear up any confusion over the title, Demon Trappers: Forsaken is the title of the UK version and was released on January 7th. There is also apparently a prequel, called Retro Demonology, about Riley's first demon trapping experience. Here is a link to the details on Goodreads.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

review: ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton

ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton
Series: Angelfire #1
HarperCollins: Katherine Tegen Books
Released: February 15, 2011
Source: Star Book Tours
Page Count: 453

Rating: Loved it!

When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once. 

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.
 
My Review

Ellie is just your average high school student with everyday problems. That is, except for the nightmares. She dreams of ugly beasts stalking the night and of hunts and fighting, blood and death. It's no wonder her grades have been slipping. Just before her seventeenth birthday, Ellie notices a boy hanging around outside school, then later on at the ice cream shop. He seems so familiar, but she can't place him. When she sees Will outside her house, she worries that he might be stalking her. But then he awakens her powers just before a reaper attack, and her entire life is changed. Between the memory flashes of past lives, training to discover her latent skills, and trying to fight reapers without totaling her brand new Audi (named Marshmallow), Ellie has a lot on her hands and doesn't quite know how to balance it all with her rapidly diminishing social life. Her social life will be nonexistent, though, if she can't get it together enough to win the battle against her enemies. If she can't, the Enshi won't just kill her - it will destroy her soul so she can never be reincarnated again. And if that happens, she will be responsible for bringing on the Apocalypse.
 
I have been waiting for this book for almost a year now! I was beyond ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy. The first thing I noticed was the setting. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is only a few minutes away from where I grew up, and I went to school there for nine years. Every description, especially the trips to Somerset Mall, made me feel like I was home again. I always love to read books that are set locally, particularly when the author gets it right like Moulton did. Anyway, the next best thing about this book is the main character. On the surface, Ellie seems like your typical rich snob who doesn't appreciate everything she has. I'm sure her friends see her (and themselves) that way. But once her powers are awakened, a new side emerges. Ellie is a kick-ass heroine who appreciates but doesn't exactly need the help of her male love interest. After reading one too many books with weak female characters, Angelfire is a breath of fresh air. Will, for his part, is not overly domineering, another definite change of pace from typical young adult novels these days. Will pushes Ellie to be the best she can be - Will is anxious to support Ellie in her battles rather than fighting them for her. Angelfire is a great book for girls to read. Ellie is a great role model - for younger girls especially, and Will is just the kind of guy that a girl should be looking for - loving, respectful, supportive, and a dash of intrigue. I really can't recommend this book more without sounding like a paid advertisement, so I will step off my soapbox now. (But seriously, go out and buy Angelfire as soon as it comes out! You won't be disappointed!)

Monday, March 04, 2013

review: A BRUSH OF DARKNESS by Allison Pang

A BRUSH OF DARKNESS by Allison Pang
Series: Abby Sinclair #1
Simon & Schuster: Pocket Books
Released: January 25, 2011
Source: Blogger Trade
Page Count: 343

Rating: Loved it!

Six months ago, twenty-six-year-old Abby Sinclair was struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Now, she has an enchanted iPod and a miniature unicorn living in her underwear drawer. With her lack of OtherWorldly knowledge, Abby needs all the help she can get. So when her Faery employer and some of her friends go missing, she must team up with the sexy and mysterious incubus who’s been haunting her dreams. As Abby’s sucked deeper and deeper into this dangerous world she barely knows – filled with daemons, angels, and faeries – she finds herself trapped at the center of it all. And she might not be able to escape . . .

My Thoughts

I’ve had a hard time finding good urban fantasy lately, and I think it’s because the female characters are so strong and independent that they are completely incapable of asking for or accepting help from others. It’s one thing to be strong, but it’s another thing entirely to be so stubborn that you end up shooting yourself in the foot by thinking that any offer of help means that people think you’re not capable of doing whatever it is you need to do. Thankfully, A Brush of Darkness helped to pull me out of my urban fantasy rut. Abby Sinclair is a strong character, but, though certainly not without attitude, she is also intelligent enough to recognize that she can’t do everything on her own. Her character is a lovely change of pace from typical urban fantasy heroines, and I can't wait to read more about her in book two. 

Another great aspect of this book is that there is not a love triangle. When they're well-done, it works, but at this point they're so over-played that it was refreshing to watch two people fall in love without the added complication of a second love interest. Abby and Brystion have enough on their plate that throwing in a love triangle really would have been over the top. Though their relationship is certainly not perfect, these two characters fit each other well, and I hope that their relationship only blossoms over the course of the series.

The secondary characters in A Brush of Darkness are fantastic. I would have liked them to be a bit more well-developed, but they did not play as big of a role in this book as I expect they will in book two. I loved Brandon, Robert, Melanie, Charlie, and the others, but Phineas, the miniature unicorn, was probably my favorite of all of them. I don't want to give anything away, but he is definitely one cheeky little bugger!

The whole concept of TouchStones is not thoroughly explained, which is my only real complaint. This is probably because Abby does not know much about her part in OtherWorld society rather than an intentional omission on the author's part. The ending leaves room for a more in-depth exploration of OtherWorld society in the next book, and I sincerely hope this happens.

A Brush of Darkness is a fantastic, highly-charged urban fantasy debut novel. Allison Pang has earned herself a place on my highly selective auto-buy author list.

This is Pang's debut novel.

Friday, March 01, 2013

review: THE FLOATING ISLANDS by Rachel Neumeier

THE FLOATING ISLANDS by Rachel Neumeier
Random House: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released: February 8, 2011
Source: Star Book Tours
Page Count: 400

Rating: Really liked it!

The Floating Islands are unlike anything Trei has ever seen: stunning, majestic, and graced with kajuraihi, men who soar the skies with wings. Trei is instantly sky-mad, and desperate to be a kajurai himself. The only one who fully understands his passion is Araenè, his newfound cousin. Prickly, sarcastic, and gifted, Araenè has a secret of her own . . . a dream a girl can never attain.

Trei and Araenè quickly become conspirators as they pursue their individual paths. But neither suspects that their lives will be deeply entwined – and that the fate of the Floating Islands will lie in their hands . . .

Lyrical and engrossing, The Floating Islands captures a world of great beauty, great bravery, and great danger.

My Review

Trei arrives at the Floating Islands penniless, still riding the waves of grief from his family's demise. He expects to be turned away yet again, as his father's brother had done, but instead finds solace in his mother's brother's home. Though the grief never truly leaves him, Trei adapts to his new life and even finds joy in his new goal of auditioning for the kajuraihi. There is nothing he wants more than to join the ranks of the winged men, protectors of the islands.

Araenè is not happy with this disruption to her normal life, especially since Trei is bunking in her room while the attic is being made over for him. But she learns to tolerate him, and even befriends him once she discovers that his presence means that she can have more freedom than ever. Island society is far from progressive when it comes to women's rights, and she is used to sneaking out of the house dressed as a boy when she wants her freedom. When tragedy strikes, though, Araenè is forced to make a choice between following her prescribed path in life or taking a chance on her dreams.

What Trei and Araenè don't realize is that the individual paths they are following will eventually intertwine - and that they hold the key to the Islands' future in their hands.

I was definitely not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did! Had it been just Trei's story or just Araenè's story, it would not have been so enjoyable. But the two of them fit together perfectly, and it's impossible to not keep reading. Neumeier has built a fantastically detailed universe - complete with a map in the front of the book - and deftly weaves in history lessons for both the Islands and Tolounn, along with a real sense of social and military protocol. All in all, this book is a lot of fun, and I hope there will be a sequel.