Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review: Angelfall

Title: Angelfall

Author: Susan Ee

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Part of a Series?: First in series

Goodreads Summary:
It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

I'm fighting my snooty, good-books-cost-more-than-99-cents-on-Amazon gag reflex here when I'm giving this book 5 (technically, 4.5 but it's still a MUST READ book) stars. There are certain issues I could point out about Angelfall, but I would much rather relish the great quality of the first book I've ever read that lives up to the epic potential of angels.

I wouldn't say that this book currently fills the shoes left by The Hunger Games, but Ee's story has the potential. I'll admit that the first couple of chapters were a little hard to get through because 1) I had to get over my previously mentioned prejudice against the "bargain books" of Amazon and 2) the start of the book was pretty formulaic: Penryn's sister is kidnapped, and in the process, Penryn joins up with the beautiful angel Raffe (who obviously is going to be the main love interest). But I had to eat my words--or thoughts--because the book continued to kick up the pace from that point on. I read past midnight with a huge migraine just to finish this book, showing how addictive Angelfall is once it gets its momentum.

The characters aren't just interesting -- they're believable. Penryn and Raffe, my favorite agnostic angel, are really realistic; in other words, they are not the Mary Sue byproduct of the YA author syndrome to create the perfect protagonists. Before writing this review, I read some other ones on Goodreads, and they all commented on the dialogue. Obviously, there is that spark of wit and sarcasm we all like to read, but I actually loved the moments when Penryn failed to come up with good comebacks. I mean, realistically, don't you ever have those moments when you finish the argument, and minutes later, you come up with some witty retort that you wish  you could've used?

Another point I really liked is the angel plot line. I'm not religious so I can't say whether the mythology is accurate or not, but I think everything was presented in a way that was believable. My debate coach used to say that, as long as you spoke with confidence, you could lie as much as you want and get away with it. Let's not get into the touchy morals of that statement, but the gist pretty much fits the book's angel premise. Ee is unabashedly confident with describing her "antagonists." I use quotation marks because it seems like there is a whole new level to them than just the blackhearted beasts that destroyed the world. I'd personally like to know more about what happened when Raffe went to get his wings reattached.

Gah, there is just so much to talk about for Angelfall. And can I say, this is only the first in the series! The last third presented so many questions and not enough answers. And the ending! PLEASE, I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! 


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Quote Something Sunday #2

Last week's quote:

"It could be him. It could be Giles. Oh yes, he looks different. Thinner. More worn. Older. But it could easily be him. Right age, right build. Hair." She smiled. "Right eyes."

And dun, dun, dun! The quote belongs to Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. The speaker of this quote is Claudia. 

Now, for this week's quote, I'm going to dig into one of my favorite books of all time. I'm a sucker for epic fantasy, so maybe that genre tag will help you figure out the quote. 

"I'm useless upriver," _________ told the Chief Healer flatly. "There's only Jon's or Myles's armor to clean,
and I can't clean it while they're wearing it. If I don’t do something, I’ll scream.” 

I'd also like to apologize for my recent flakiness in posting. I'm so sorry! During vacations, days seem to all blur together. I'll be way more reliable when school starts next week. And for everyone, I wish you all a Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Whisper

Title: Whisper

Author: Phoebe Kitanidis

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Part of a Series?: First in series

Goodreads Summary:
I’d love a cup of coffee. I wish she knew how pretty she was. I wish I could drop this kid in the dryer sometimes. I just want her to be happy. I hope she didn’t find out what Ben said about her. I wish I knew how many calories were in a bite of muffin… 

Joy is used to hearing Whispers. She’s used to walking down the street and instantly knowing people’s deepest, darkest desires. She uses this talent for good, to make people happy and give them what they want. But for her older sister, Jessica, the family gift is a curse, and she uses it to make people’s lives—especially Joy’s—miserable. Still, when Joy Hears a frightening whisper from Jessica's own mind, she knows she has to save her sister, even if it means deserting her friends, stealing a car and running away with a boy she barely knows—a boy who may have a dark secret of his own.

So what did I like from this book? 

I thought the concept of Whispers and Waves was fun. It wasn't very unique, maybe, but you can't really squeeze that much more out of the mind reading lemon these days. In a way, Kitanidis featured a different sort of mind reading that was only limited to desires. I had no idea a person wished for something so much. I'll have to be more aware more often of what I subconsciously think about people. 

Whispers actually focused a lot more on Joy and Icka's sisterhood. That was a new and refreshing twist. I thought the book would be more suspense-driven, especially looking at the Goodreads summary. But I actually found the flashback moments into the sisters' past and the development of their present day relationship to be poignant and well-developed. I can only hope for more Joy-Icka bonding in later installments. 

What did I think could definitely use some improvements for the next book?

Joy, Joy, Joy. I had a tremendous amount of difficulty relating to her. She is so frustratingly naive, as her sister pointed out. While a lot of people would find Icka's (note: Icka is the saddest nickname to give a person...ever) criticism insensitive and hateful, I actually agreed with the eldest Stefani sister. Joy can be so blind and shallow--she takes all her information "prechewed" from her Mom and her friends. For a fifteen-year-old, Joy is heavily dependent on those around her. To be honest, the only way to describe her initial personality is ghostly; she has no substance of her own but is only defined by those she interacts with. Overall, Whisper, for better or for worse, tilted away from urban fantasy mystery and more towards chicklitty melodrama. And chicklits all deal in the minutiae of teenage woes and high school drama. 

Joy's "friends" with the exception of Parker are all plastic and fake. While I can sort of relate with Joy in not seeing how badly she fits in with her friends (for me, it's 2nd grade all over again...), I can't really say Joy did anything to stand out from being the follower. Joy gets really pissy right about when her Hearing starts improving and she realizes her BFFs think she's a sidekick. But honestly, for 2/3 of the book, Joy only focuses on pleasing everyone else but never herself. Whether it's becoming president of Parker's recycling club or trying to appease both grandparents during the most awkward family brunch in history, Joy spends every hour of her life Hearing the Whispers in order to keep everyone satisfied. Disappointing someone ruins her entire day. Moreover, it completely blindsides Joy when her father tells her that he only wants her to be happy. At that moment, I was thinking, Joy, you cannot please everyone! And are you really surprised that your dad is selfless? Are you so surprised that someone actually doesn't want something from you? Try to get to know the man before you run off to your mom because your father is way more understanding than you think. 

So...I did have a few more minor qualms, but I mainly just wished Joy wasn't so bland. She sort of ruined the story for me, but I'll still read whatever sequel is next.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Quote Something Sunday #1

Welcome to the first Quote Something Sunday! This is a new meme that I'll be hosting for the next month or so.

To explain, Quote Something Sunday starts with me choosing a random book off my bookshelf, picking a random quote from that book, and writing it without any context to the book's title, author, or quote narrator.

If you correctly identify that quote -- including the book's title and author and the quote narrator -- WITHOUT CHEATING (please, we're going on the honor system here), I will give you a virtual cookie. Also, maybe I'll do something extra for you if I'm in the spirit. Speaking of spirit, Happy Holidays! I got two books from my mom and sister this year, and I've picked one of them to give you the quote from.

"It could be him. It could be Giles. Oh yes, he looks different. Thinner. More worn. Older. But it could easily be him. Right age, right build. Hair." She smiled. "Right eyes."

Post in the comments if you can guess the quote's ID! I'll reveal the answer next week along with a new quote from a different books.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Full Series Review for the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

Alright, I had a long time to ruminate about this book (since I miscalculated and only brought along one book on vacation) and the series in general.

To keep this short and simple, the series itself was cute but nothing special. There were moments that I wanted to go "Awww!" and moments where I got angry and wanted to scream some sense into the characters. There were moments were I was surprised at how blindsided I was to what just happened (either that was good because I didn't expect the development or bad because there was no hint whatsoever to go off of beforehand) and moments where I wished the revelation had come ten chapters earlier because that's where I first figured out the plot "twist."

I think the Kate Daniels series has a lot of promise, but it keeps teasing us to the real problem: Roland. So far, Kate's big bad daddy hasn't made an appearance except by name. Meanwhile, I felt like the series has pandered to the fangirls with 5 very episodic entries. Don't get me wrong. I like being a fangirl as much as the next self-indulgent reader does. But I had the chance to reread Magic Slays and its prequels several times the last week because I had no other books left. I found myself comparing the books to my favorite television series. I enjoy the breaks in the main plot to dip my toes into the character development and light action and adventure, but the reason I keep returning to watch the newest episode is to figure out what is the next clue to the overall grand scheme of things (because you know there has to be one, right?).

The character development is alright. Curran will never really be too memorable for me since I read his carbon copy in almost EVERY other adult PNR I've read this year (*cough* Barrons *cough*), but there are still moments between him and Kate that are cute enough for me to enjoy. But he kind of lost his edge in Magic Slays, which now makes him slightly less memorable than he already was...and Kate, well...she's a pretty straightforward protagonist. I don't have too much to say about her because she doesn't break any new boundaries. I found that she spends a lot of time charging headlong into dangerous situations, only to spend the next chapter getting healed, and then the next chapter back in the field because she has her daddy's magic blood to revive her. It got really repetitive. The hospital scenes really appeared to be fanservice devices for Andrews to appeal to the readers who want more Curran-Kate moments.

So I'll stick with the series for now because I want to read the fated showdown between Kate and Roland. But...meh. I need more substance!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

First half of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

 Book Titles: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, and Magic Strikes

Author: Ilona Andrews

*Note: These are the first three books of the series

In my defense, I like paranormal romance. Criticize as much as you want. I could probably pick several books off your books list and laugh at your tastes. So this review is coming from someone who likes paranormal romance. She likes good PNR, and she likes it done well. But she doesn't automatically jump on the "Ew slut porn with magic books" bandwagon.

So I actually sort of enjoyed the first half of the Kate Daniels series. What did I like?
  • The badass, eponymous protagonist, Kate Daniels. She has a wicked magical sword that slices through undead vampires like they're melted butter, and she has an equally impressive arsenal of snappy retorts. She greets the Beast Lord with "Here, kitty, kitty."
  • The steam is so HOT. I like sex scenes, okay? Geez. I admit it. But can you believe that in these first books, there was NO SEX AT ALL! That's got to break some unwritten adult PNR rule that God created to satisfy all the horny readers all the time. Kate obviously is meant to get with Curran, the sexy Beast Lord. And yes, they have some tense, chemically charged moments. Yet, there was no doing the deed. Thank God! I've gotten really tired of the female protagonists having some serious libido touch.
  • The last scene in the third book says it all. What a LOL moment.
What I don't really like about the series:
  • The first book is typical for a PNR: infodumps, internal monologues, and sarcasm. 
  • Sometimes, the plot gets forced. I feel like Andrews sometimes just adds stuff for the sake of keeping the momentum going. Mystery is not the best point to this series; the "subtle" clues sort of hit you in the back of your head. 
  • Overall, there just wasn't much that really separated the first half of the series from any of the other PNR series I've read. It had some memorable moments, but for the most part, it was fairly average. 

I'm baaaack--sort of? And Terrible Thursday

Hey, you guys! I am officially on Winter Break! Woohoo, no more finals! I can now throw my hands up in jubilation, cavorting through the snow with flushed cheeks among the white Christmas trees.

And now we're back to our weekly meme day. I'd like to note, for all of you wondering, that I won't be putting up any fresh book review for a couple days at least.

My terrible book this Thursday is John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Don't get me started on this "American classic." I had to read this book for my English class, and I was so frustrated. The story was overly prosaic. The alternating chapters of plot and monologue narration killed the book. And I just hate, hate, hate books like that. I felt like I was in the dust bowl, living a droll farmer's life just like the Joad family.

Sorry, Steinbeck. You could put me to sleep even if I was reading you in the front row of a rock concert.

I'll be out of town for the next week starting on Saturday. But when I get back, I'll be around for a long time, so no more flaking out on you guys! Sorry about this inconsistent posting routine I've gotten into the last couple of weeks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review Archive: Intrinsical

Hello, everyone. So in case you didn't read my last post, I want to remind you all that I have semester finals and projects due for the next two weeks. I won't be able to post my usual memes or book reviews...but to keep you interested, here is an old review.

Intrinsical (The Yara Silva Trilogy, #1)Intrinsical by Lani Woodland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.6 stars. Yes, it is actually 3.6. Not as low as a 3.5, but not really a 4 either.

This book was like fine wine--it got better with time (or so I've heard, since I've always thought wine tasted like liquid Sharpie). The beginning was borderline 2 star. I honestly didn't get what was going on. First of all, we were dropped right in the middle of action. If you hadn't been informed about the black mist in the story summary, you would've been blindsided to what exactly was happening. The first half of the story was really just a mess of awkward scenes stitched together to make a really disjointed time line. If Woodland had gotten a better editor, maybe the beginning could've been just as good as the second half which is definitely more 4 stars material.

There are two things that really stood out in this book: the romance and the plot/mystery. Let's start off with the romance. I'd like to congratulate the author on creating such a fun romance. Seriously, in a lot of YA romance novels, the couple ends up getting together pretty quickly and it's all downhill from there. For Brent and Yara, their relationship was definitely an uphill battle. I loved how whenever Brent was an ass (with infuriating misogynistic principles sometimes), Yara called him out for it. She actually chucked her textbook at him when he pissed her off -- thank you! Brent totally deserved that. And I especially liked how they really didn't establish a concrete relationship until the very end of the book, when they'd had more time to build a semi-platonic connection. I'll admit, it got a little frustrating about 3/4 in because it was obvious both Yara and Brent liked each other but were too proud to admit it...but I felt like the payoff at the end was definitely worth it.

The plot was pretty good. I enjoyed reading how the mystery of the school's curse played out. It actually surprised me that what I perceived to be the climactic twist actually happened about half way into the book, but the plot didn't slow down a single bit. I guess it's all because I had to reread the first half of the book to try to piece together the clues Woodland subtly hinted at.

Anyway, I wish we could've seen a little more of Vovó and the actual school. Like most boarding school stories, Intrinsical lacked a good balance between class time and extracurricular ghost hunting. Maybe this isn't really a valid argument since Yara technically isn't physically capable of going to class for the greater part of the last half of the book, but I still stand by this point. It was almost as if, after that first day of school with the in-class presentation, Woodland decided that the trauma of speaking in class was too much for Yara and her readers. But otherwise kudos to this book for a great paranormal setting.

In general, I don't know if I would recommend it or not. I think I would recommend it but with a clear warning label that this book will frustrate the most patient of readers at times.

P.S. OH! And I forgot to mention something. I LOVE THE COVER! It's gorgeous. And the title (for this book and Indelible, the sequel) actually is a vocabulary word. Woodland just can't keep things simple, can she? :P

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: Red Glove

Title: Red Glove

Holly Black

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Part of a Series?: Second in series; Click here for first review
Goodreads Summary:
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else. 

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does. 

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself? 

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.
Unfortunately, Red Glove was a definite disappointment. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't up to the standards I had for the series after White Cat. The first book had drama, mystery, suspense, and intrigue, all with a believable male protagonist. Yet all of those great aspects seemed diminished in this book. 

First off, I thought the book lacked a certain...pop? It wasn't boring, but the mystery wasn't nearly as interesting as the last book's backstabbing who's-who's-ally drama. Cassel spends the entire book ditching school to go on little random outings, partly because he's a big sufferer of senioritis and partly because the FBI has him working to find his brother's murderer. The identity of said murderer wasn't really all that important though. When the big reveal happens, Black literally spends a few pages on the confrontation scene. It was not the climax I expected it to be. In general, the main story was heavily diluted so Black could spend more unnecessary pages on Cassel's internal conflict. 

Why did Black spend more time on Cassel's mental monologues? I liked how White Cat portrayed a male protagonist who didn't spend so much time in thought. Furthermore, I was pretty ambivalent about Cassel's new no-care attitude about school, family, and life in general. He lied plenty of times in the first book, but now Cassel just seemed to lie because the truth was too much of a hassle. It was frustrating, and it made it hard for me to care for him. He treated in his life like it was a con, including his relationship with Lila. I could understand him for wanting to distance himself while Lila was cursed. But he also used Lila for his own gains, and I'm glad it all backfired in his face in the end. 

The good thing about Red Glove is that it contained more of the characters I wanted to read about: Sam, Daneca, and Cassel's mother. They were secondary characters that really got a lot more description instead of remaining 2D filler characters. I was especially happy with the amount of time we got to read about Cassel's mother. She's a double-edged sword in Cassel's life. Because she's a emotion worker, her blowback makes her emotionally unstable. She could be the maternal mommy and the hysterical ex-con all on one page, and I found myself enjoying every second she was featured.


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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Angel Evolution (sorry this is a little late)

Title: Angel Evolution

Author: David Estes

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Part of a Series?: First in series

Goodreads Summary:
 Angel Evolution- the first book in the young adult fantasy trilogy: The Evolution Trilogy... When Taylor meets Gabriel at college, she is in awe of the subtle glow that surrounds him. No one else, not even her best friend, seems to notice. Something about him scares her. Is all as it appears? While Taylor struggles for answers, she finds herself in the middle of a century old war centered on one miraculous revelation: evolution.

Thanks goes out to David Estes for letting me have a free ebook copy of his book to review. :) 

2.5 stars 

The last self-pubbed book I read was Betrayal by Mayandree Michel. Long story short, it sucked. Thankfully, Angel Evolution was better than I expected coming away from my prior experience with self-pubs; however, there were a lot of things that could have been improved.

The best way I can describe the faults of Angel Evolution is that the story itself reads a lot like fanfiction. Now before you make any judgments about this statement, consider this: fanfiction.nethas thousands and thousands of stories in its catalogue, with more submitted every day. Obviously, there is something addictive about fanfiction, not just because it spins a take on your favorite stories but also because its just interesting. There are some really good undiscovered writers out there hiding behind online pen names. However, generally, the stories online have a relative entertainment value but, if bound into a hardcover and put into a bookstore, wouldn't cut it among professionally published works.  

The same goes for Estes and Angel Evolution. There is a certain amount of mystery and drama that I enjoyed to the plot, but overall, the story read like a fanfiction. There were a lot of "show don't tell" violations in the form of infodumps and internal expositions. I thought that the book lacked a naturalness that is usually found in published books. There were a lot of strange phrases and stiff, awkward dialogues (note: I personally like contractions. Even in non-dialogue sentences, they make the narration smoother) that don't match up with my idea of a group of laid back college folk. Events also happened way to quickly. Estes uses a lot of jumps in narration and time, which really cut into our ability to relate fully to a character. The two month jump in the middle of Taylor and Gabriel's relationship startled me, and as a result, I was unable to feel the chemistry between the two--all of the sudden, they went from the new couple stage to the able-to-say-I-love-you stage. I wished I could have experienced the bonding phase between the protagonists. It would've really helped me relate to the otherwise unrelatable protagonists.

I do not profess to know anything about the jobs of professional book editors and publishers, but they're paid to fix these kinds of errors. Again, I can't blame this book or Estes himself for self-pubbing (since this is a good way to just get your work out to the public), but a lot of the faults to this book simply stem from a lack of experience reviewing the initial drafts.

Not everything about this book was bad. I thought that there was something enticing about the angel-demon war. Estes put his own unique spin on the two races, and I really want to know more about the backstory behind the conflict and those involved. What was interesting to me was that neither side really seemed to be truly evil. As a demon, Chris definitely made a good case for being the good guy. But then again, Gabriel and his fellow angels had this light-hearted nature to them. I think Estes did a great job at blurring the lines between the friends and enemies.