Wednesday, March 27, 2013

REVIEW: The Holders by Julianna Scott

The Holders (Holders, #1) The Holders by Julianna Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Holders was an easy, speedy read. Good things first, there was no unnecessary drama, no mean girls, no love triangle. The heroine was competent and her love interest was the definition of nice.

Now for the bad things, starting with the small issues working up to the big ones.

The Cons

+ the world building
I expected the world building to enthrall me because the book was a YA paranormal set in Ireland, a beautiful country with a beautiful culture. But nope. Didn’t get that. What I got was was more fantasy than something based in Irish myth, and it was minimal in the sense it was just sufficient.

In short, the world building was unremarkable. I wasn’t bothered by it, just mildly disappointed because I think the book could have easily done better.

+ the plot
I didn’t mind that it was unoriginal, but I did mind how black and white it was. Basically, on one side you have the good guys, the Order at St. Brigid. On other side you have the bad guys, led by Darragh who believes magical people, a.k.a. the Holders, should rule the world; think Magneto from X-Men. The good guys were all good, the bad guys were all bad. There were no shades of gray. No depth. Just clear-cut moral fiber.

The good guys were honestly too good to be believable to the point that I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept wishing for Becca to be vigilant because St. Brigid might be a trap she and her little brother were walking into. But no, no, the good guys were sincerely good.

+ the romance
The romance between Becca and Alex was one or two steps short of insta-love. It progressed too fast for my liking. Towards the end, there were I-love-you’s and we’re-soulmates, as in they’re literally soulmates. I was half-expecting the couple to plan the wedding, the baby’s room, and their life forever.

The soulmate thing was interesting. It fit well into the world building and the magical element of the book, but eh. It made the romance a little contrived and somewhat bland that I skimmed some of Alex and Becca’s scenes.

+ Ryland
Ryland is Becca’s little brother. For such an important character, the book improperly treated him like a minor one. The first half of the plot revolved around him. Becca is where she is because of him. Yet he only showed up in a couple scenes and always presented like a background character. He was almost always spoken to and about. The book didn’t allow him to make his presence known, especially in at least 2 scenes when it was all about him.

The only times reader got to know Ryland were not those scenes when he was present as it should have been. Instead, the reader learn got to know him in Becca’s thoughts when she was thinking about him, which leads to my biggest issue.

In short, his character didn’t have the impact it deserved.

+ the heroine
Becca was unconvincing in her role as an overprotective sister who would do anything for her little brother. She started off strong, but as the plot progressed she deteriorated. She wasn’t focused on Ryland as much as she should have been. She was too easily distracted by her romance with Alex and her family issue with her deadbeat father. During the siblings’ stay at the school, I recall her calling Ryland on the phone once and in another instance Ryland visiting her.

What Becca should have done was visit Ryland, not once but periodically, talking to him face to face, telling him what is going on rather have other characters do it, following up on his classes, and just outright stalking the pitiful boy.

Her biggest offense was in the total two times of when she fainted, after waking up the first thing she asked was NOT about Ryland, regarding his whereabout or well-being, but something else that should have been secondary in lieu of Ryland. Talk about egregious! It punctured a huge hole in her characterization as an overprotective sister.

The only thing possibly worse was the plot hole.

+ Becca’s mother
It was not the biggest issue for me because it didn’t rear its undesirableness till the end whereas the issues with Becca were on stage all the time since she was the heroine. Still, it was big enough for me to label it as a plot hole. At the end, we find out Jocelyn’s reasons for why he abandoned his family. We also learned it was all for naught because of the traitor. The bad guys now know where Jocelyn’s family live. Becca and Ryland are at St. Brigid with the Order and Jocelyn so they’re safe as can be. Now what about the mom?

Their mother, Jocelyn’s wife, is still in back in America — unprotected, putting out the take-me-hostage vibe to the bad guys. No one at end thought to send somebody to protect her or, better yet, bring her to St. Brigid. There was not even a phone call to the mother that say, “Hey. Bad guys are after you. Watch out.” WTF? Talk about a big oversight.

Let me guess, book 2 is going to be about rescuing her. Oy.

The Pros

+ the heroine, part 2
While she may have been my biggest issue, for the most part I genuinely liked her. She was unlike the YA heroines I usually read about. She was earnest and kind. She wore her emotions on her sleeve; it was refreshing to read how self-aware she was.

Okay, so she was granted special snowflake status halfway through the book, but I didn’t mind it. I like wish-fulfillment stories. Becca was a competent protagonist so I didn’t think she was an outright Mary Sue. She didn’t cause unnecessary drama; I liked how forgiving she was. She adjusted to new situations and revelations quickly; I loved how she handled herself at the climax.

+ the BFF
Chloe was bubbly, gossipy, and overall friendly. It was refreshing reading a YA where the girls are nice to each other and there are no cat fights and the girl talks weren’t predominated by the subject of boys. I wished she played a bigger role in the book. Here’s hoping she will in book 2.

+ the love interest
Alex was a good guy through and through, so good it was hard to believe. I was suspicious of the dude for half of the book. I liked how considerate he was and how he didn’t let his sad abandoned-as-a-child past make him Mister Mopey.

The romance may have been fast and bland, but it was without angst and the ridiculous I-can’t-be-with-you shit that will only be resolved till the end of the series. No, that shit was resolved in book 1, and it was resolved in timely manner and in a talk to clear up misunderstandings. Points for Alex and the romance.

In Conclusion

I rate The Holders 3-stars for I liked it. It was linear and predictable, but it was a quick, mindless, pretty entertaining read. It could have been better, but it wasn’t bad. I recommend The Holders if you’re looking for YA that is like a palate cleanser — no stupid drama, no catty girls, no love triangle.

Goodreads | Amazon

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

REVIEW: The New Kid by Temple Mathews

The New Kid The New Kid by Temple Mathews
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The New Kid is so over the top with cliches that it is up in space, orbiting the moon. I knew coming in, after reading my friend’s review, that the book would be full of cliches. However, knowing it is one thing, reading it — experiencing it — was another. It was a head-tilting-back, eyes-popping-out type of experience.

+ the Gary Stu hero
The protagonist was 120% a Gary Stu. 120%! Every third page and I am not exaggerating honest to goodness, the book would tell me how hot Will Hunter is, hot smart Will Hunter is, how lonely but cool Will Hunter is, how Will Hunt is this and that, how he is awesome, how he is awesome, how he is awesome — I get it! I fucking get it! Every time the book extolled Will, I felt as if an anvil dropped on my head. Even when the book went outside of Will’s 3rd person POV that predominated the story and onto another character’s POV, I still got the Will-Is-Fucking-Awesome “character development.”

The only time the book was not extolling Will was when it was lamenting his father complex. “Father, I will save you.” “Father, come back.” “Father, I never give up.” I get it. Will loves his father A LOT.

+ the love interest
His two friends were, thankfully, were not completely cliche. One of Will’s friends and also his love interest was the Girl Next Door, Natalie. I was very thankful that the book didn’t make her out to be a Damsel in Distress when it easily could have. She did, however, have a slight Tortuous Soul trope going on, but thankfully it never took front stage.

+ the doomed sidekick
Will’s other friend, Rudy, stopped short of being a Geeky Sidekick but his characterization still bothered me. The book portrayed Rudy someone who only looked like a geek, which is why he got bullied. To add insult to injury, it portrayed him as the definition of Below Average — not Average but Below Average. This kid couldn’t catch a break. If book made Rudy an outright geek, at least he would have something good going on for him.

I pitied Rudy a lot. His character was nothing more than a convenience for Will to showcase his I-stand-up-to-bullies attitude. Will did eventually consider Rudy a friend but continued to treat him pretty badly. Rudy was more like a friend he put up with rather someone he actually gave a damn about and protected. Otherwise, what happened to Rudy towards the end would have been avoidable.

+ other characters
All the parents were clueless and incompetent; the book made me think that a good parent was like a unicorn, only a myth. The book dressed the bad guys as goth kids and bikers. Villains were named Rage and Dark Lord — enough said.

One of the very few characters that was not a cliche was the stern, ugly, handicapped principal, and thank goodness he turned out to be a good guy. For a few minutes, I was almost led to believe that the book was sending a message about how people not looking or being a certain way are bad people, people under the influence of demons. Anyway, the principal was a missed opportunity. The book could have made him a clued-in, competent adult Will and his friends could come for help and mitigated the flood of cliches.

+ the writing
The book needed to learn the lesson “show, not tell” because it was tell-y for about 90% of the book. The whole book read like it was made to become a TV show. At one point, the writing annoyed me so much that I decided to flip back to the author and see who the author was, and I never do that. It was there in the author’s bio that I learn that the author was a TV show/movie script writer. Made perfect sense. It not only explained the writing, but the cliches and why the plot had an unusual hold on me.

+ the plot
Reading The New Kid was like watching TV. Not so good, not at all original, but yet not so bad that I didn’t want to know what happened at the end. The flashbacks served as the character development info-dump. The pacing moved at a steady pace with action scenes occurring intermittently. The plot even had an obligatory school dance.

Finally, the big twist at the end put a cherry on top on how cliche the book was and how more of a Gary Stu the protagonist was, which I didn’t think was possible but there it was. Upon hindsight, I should have known better and seen the twists coming.

In Conclusion

I rate The New Kid 2-stars for it was okay. The book had the story depth of a paper, here are the good guys, here are the bad guys, cliches everywhere. I like Gary Stu, wish-fulfillment stories, but this book went about it in an anvil-on-head manner.

Goodreads | Amazon

Monday, March 25, 2013

REVIEW: Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep

Deadly Sting (Elemental Assassin #8) Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book was exciting as promised.

+ Gin
She was badass as ever. I definitely liked this book better than the previous volume because Gin was all tough in spite of a personal setback that occurred in the previous volume, i.e. Owen. In Deadly Sting, Gin was on the offensive and ready to take down bad guys.

However, to say I’m irked by Gin’s lack of magical prowess is an understatement. The heroine controls two major elements of magic, Stone and Ice. The series perpetually suggested she was possibly one of the strongest Elementals around, that she was mightier than Mab, the late Big Bad from book 1 through 5 who was powerful because she literally threw firepower. Yet, the only times I ever see Gin unleash her magic to her fullest, extraordinary potential is when she is near-death and desperate at the end of the book. This happened here in book 8, and I continue to be disappointed.

I know not all battles require blunt, brutal magic for victory, but I find that some of the time, if Gin didn’t use her magic as a last resort weapon or a defensive move, she would have won more quickly and easily. For example, Gin had the capabilities to freeze air and people as if time is standing still, which is highly convenient in a hostage situation. Half of what I read in book 8 would have been resolved neatly, imo, if Gin thought to use her magic in that way. Sure, it would have tired her out quickly and left her vulnerable but that’s what family and friends and disgruntled ex-hostages are there for — to kill who is left.

Granted, this is not really an issue of book 8, but instead is of the heroine and the series overall. But still, it’s book 8 already. Where is the magical asskicking festival I was promised?

+ Owen
The romance resolved itself, uh, somewhat. I wanted him to grovel; he didn’t grovel enough. Just barely. The silver lining side was that despite the issues, they didn’t dominate the plot because more important things were happening at the moment, ie.. people being held hostaged, bombs being set — not the time for a relationship talk. The romance was appropriately placed, and I was very glad for it. Nevertheless, I remained disenchanted with Owen. The next book need to have him make a grand gesture for Gin in order to redeem him in my eyes.

+ McAllister
He was Mab’s surviving henchman, her sleazy lawyer. I knew sooner or later Gin would tie up the little, slimy loose end that was McAllister. Finally in book 8, it happened and it was better than I expected. The confrontation between Gin and him at the end was sweet, revengeful-sweet. It was the perfect case of bad karma making its well-deserved appearance.

+ the plot
The flashbacks unnecessarily continued. This is one of the better books in the series where the flashbacks weren’t burdensome, there were only two scenes of it, but still. I didn’t think the flashback enhanced the plot, and if anything they interrupted the rising tension to the climax.

The good news is that the plot was full of great action, almost movie-like. I feel like it’s been awhile since I felt this high level of suspense from this series.

In Conclusion

I rate Deadly Sting 3-stars for I liked it. There is still no apparent story arc since book 5, for me at least, but the series hasn’t become stale. In fact, it seems to be climbing up on the rollercoaster of awesomeness because of a revelation in Deadly Sting which may or may not hearken a new Big Bad.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, March 22, 2013

REVIEW: Balthazar Starblitz by A.J. Llewellyn

Balthazar Starblitz Balthazar Starblitz by A.J. Llewellyn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book wasn't steampunk. It was magical relaism. The plot didn’t answer everything, but I was okay with it.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the book. It also helped the book had a few things I did like, e.g. a likable protagonist, a yaoi-ish bent, and a satisfactory HEA.

Issues that were not an issue for me

+the steampunk
The main setting of the book revolved around a train, which supposedly made the book steampunk. Hell to the N-O. Fortunately, I’m not a steampunk fan, i.e. someone would be pissed about the misleading label, so I didn’t care.

+ the magical realism
I love paranormal books, but not magical realism. The book basically shoved its protagonist into a magical world, and always at the back of my mind was that the magical world might not be real. The protagonist might be hallucinating, whether it's due to drugs or a nervous breakdown, and I'm too dense to realize it.

Fortunately, the magical realism wasn't as ambiguous and confusing as I dreaded. There was a scene towards the end, admittedly later than I'd like, that said to me "Yes, the magical world is real. The protagonist is not going cray-cray."

+the mystery
As I read the story, questions piled at the center of mind. None of them were answered till towards the ending, once again later than I'd like. When I finished the book, some of the questions I have remained.

However, I was not bothered by it because the questions I really wanted answers for were answered. (They were about the romance.) The remaining question had to do with the world building, and I was okay with how it was left as a mystery. Usually, I hate it because I like my stories to be nicely wrapped up but I was okay with it in this case.

Things I Like

+ the protagonist
At first, I had some sympathy for the protagonist because Flip was unemployed for a long while, didn't have any luck with opportunities, and was forced to depend on his overworked sister. However, my sympathy for the protagonist abruptly ceased when I read how late he was running for his job interview at the train station. Dude finally got one after a drought, didn't know where exactly the place was, and didn't think to show up hours earlier to find the place and avoid the morning rush hour. It wasn't as if he was lazy and didn't research on what the job would entail or try to google its location — he did. I was just astounded at how a smart and sensible person could commit a great blunder of incompetence. Astounded and greatly annoyed.

It took me a couple pages before my aggravation settled and I was back on the path to liking the protagonist. Barring that awful incidence, Flip was competent protagonist. I liked how he quickly adjusted to his new surreal reality and kept a level head. There were moments of anxiety but he didn't let them shock him into inaction. Best of all, he researched to understand what was happening to him.

For example, he was quick to realize he just had a time traveling episode, and after every episode he would research the people he encountered and try to make sense of it and to understand what he was being asked (by the universe, I guess) to fix.

Another thing I liked about Flip was his kind and humble demeanor. I loved that the thing that made him a strong, wilful person was his kindness, that his kindness was a strength, not a weakness.

+ the romance
The romance had a yaoish-bent. It had a werewolf and a soulmate trope, but they were not connected in the formulaic sense that all shapeshifters have soulmates and bam there's your romance. The werewolf and the soulmate occurred as distinct entities, and I found it slightly refreshing.

Unfortunately, the romance centered around the soulmate trope to its detriment because it fell into the insta-love trap. I get that the book was going for “You are the one I am meant to be with” but I would have preferred if the two guys started off as friends and went from there. What compensated the shallow romance for me was the smut.

The plot was minimal on the smut, and though I would like a little more, I was satisfied and titillated by the existing amount. There was no doubt the couple had chemistry, insta-love or not. The eponymous love interest was a total lovable hunk; I didn't even mind that his character development consisted nothing more than a tortuous soul trope.

+ the ending
The ending was a sweet HEA. I was satisfied to the point that I was not put off by how Flip was once again unemployed. Flip got Balthazar in return, and I was high on “with Tru Wuv, the future is always bright.”

In Conclusion

I rate Balthazar Starblitz 3-stars for I liked it. I recommend it if you’re looking for something different but still want something familiar, that is have your cake and be able to eat it too.

Goodreads | Amazon

Monday, March 18, 2013

REVIEW: Pawn Takes Rook by Lex Chase

Pawn Takes Rook (Checkmate, #1)Pawn Takes Rook by Lex Chase
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story would have been a solid read were it not for some editing issues.

+ pacing
The story has a pacing issue. Usually, I criticize books for progressing too slowly for my liking, but not today. Instead, this is one of those once-in-a-blue-moon times where the story progressed too fast. It progressed like a Gatling gun, barely giving the reader a moment to digest what was happening.

I would be reading a scene, and before I knew it I was reading another scene. The transition was so seamless it's nonexistent; that's not a compliment. Many time I had to reread a scene, and sometimes I'm at lost to how much time had passed in one scene and from one scene to another. It felt like the story was giving the middle finger to the concept of time passage.

+ the writing
The writing was decent. I really liked how the prose was streamlined and how it put an emphasis on action and dialogue. However, it was a tad too much. I wanted to shout at the book to slow down, to take a moment and do some world building and character development.

+ the plot
The plot was full of action, but unfortunately it occurred at the detriment of world building. One of the questions I had was that I didn't know if this took place in the far future on Earth or if it was some alternative Earth where superhumans are have always existed.

Second to the pacing issue, I couldn't believe they let the villain escape at the end. WTF? Yeah, there was a HFN and it was nice and I liked it, but dude. It was a loose end that should not have been a loose end. It made me buzz with angriness. Talk about contrived. It strongly felt like the villain was being benched for a future book in case the author ran out of imagination.

+ the characters
The story was told in 1st person POV from Hogarth's side. I liked Hogarth. He acted like a puppy, needy, wanting to please, and rather impulsive. I found it... cute surprisingly enough because happy-go-lucky protagonists are not my cup of tea.

Rook, the love interest, on the other hand, was all right. I found his Ooo-I'm-mysterious, Ooo-I'm a torturous soul cliche and kinda annoying. He didn't annoy me as much because he didn't act like a total jerk to Hogarth as I expected.

+ the reasons I liked this book
The book had a yaoi-style and superheroes, my two weaknesses. When it comes to a book that takes advantage of my weakness, my tolerance for crap rises.

The romance was sufficiently believable; there was at least no insta-love. There was a lot of ass-kicking; sometimes I just want thoughtless violence and men in tights.

In Conclusion

I rate Pawn Takes Rook 3-stars for I liked it, a soft 3-stars. The book is good for a mindless, action-y read.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, March 15, 2013

REVIEW: Blessed by a Demon’s Mark by E.S. Moore

Blessed by a Demon’s Mark (Kat Redding, #3) Blessed by a Demon’s Mark by E.S. Moore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The series went downhill for me in book 2. Book 3, Blessed by a Demon’s Mark, stopped the decline but it didn’t do anything to bring the series back up to being enjoyable for me.

+ on the stupidity of the heroine
In the last book, someone important to Kat died. In the grip of grief, Kat ran away from her friends and life as a vampire slayer to a mysterious, “peaceful” town named Delai, a town that radiated an “it’s a fucking cult” vibe. I get that grief can cause you to make terrible decisions, but for Kat it went beyond terrible to “this is fucking ridiculous, how the hell do you not realize it’s a cult especially when you have past experience dealing with cults.” Hell, a tentative love interest of hers is the leader of one, okay admittedly a not-that-bad kind of cult. Still! Kat ran away to a cult, and she is fucking not aware of it!

In book 3, it took a demon to wake her up to the truth. A fucking demon! You know it’s bad when a demon, a creature who wishes to unleash Hell on Earth, is the host of your intervention. FFS.

+ on the contemptible woe-is-me of the heroine
It was bad enough that Kat was lashing out at everyone, pushing her friends and allies away, making one bad decision after another, and just being a bitch, the mean kind of bitch not the awesome kind. I truly tried being patient with Kat, because along the way I suspected she was being manipulated, in the mess-with-your-head-cause-you-to-self-destruct kind. I was half right and half wrong. I felt for Kat. I honestly did, but she exercised my patience hard.

I could handle Kat making bad decisions, but I found it hard to handle her detestable actions against her friends, people who were only trying to help her, people who if Kat pulled her head out of her ass would realize they had been through what she is going through or even arguably worse. Unlike Kat, a few of those friends of hers had their history carved into their flesh. I did not like Kat’s special snowflake attitude of no-one-understands-my-pain. I did not like how she used others’ pains to lash out.

+ more on the stupidity of the heroine
The biggest issue I had with the book was Kat’s abnormal attachment to this seemingly vulnerable “love me and protect me,” new character Sienna. It was gag-worthy. After finding out the truth about Delai and its leader Levi, did it ever occur to Kat that his daughter Sienna might, I don’t know, share particular attributes of her father, that the innocent, “I’m a victim” thing she had working there might be an act? After reading the ending, it apparently did fucking not, and I felt like waving my arms up in surrender.

I am not saying Sienna is evil, but I am not saying Sienna is not evil either. I am saying Kat is a fucking moron for not acting with highly-called-for caution. Not to mention that Kat has too many enemies to deal with. OMG. Kill the ones who you have now before making new ones, Kat. Fortunately for Kat, Levi is an enemy that can wait because in my opinion he might be the hardest to defeat. Biblical proportion, enough said.

+ gist of book 3
Book 3 was pretty much about Kat dealing with her issues, the internal conflicts, and growing, if ever so little and slowly, as a character. The other conflicts, the external kind, had Kat making a new vampire enemy, possibly two, and putting an old vampire enemy back on her plate... so Kat has at least two vampire masters to contend with, three if worst comes to worst. These vampire masters are stronger than the ones Kat dealt before, and then there’s the demon Kat is beholden to. This right here is what I mean about Kat having a lot on her plate and that she hold off on Levi.

+ what I liked about book 3
There was little I liked in book 3, but thankfully book 3 was not as dreadful a read as book 2. Just slow going and occasionally aggravating. I liked that Kat at least kicked a few ass, even if they were only minions. I liked there was some progress on the romance side regarding the leader of the werewolf cult. Finally, but damn was it so small.

+ a niggling issue
Ethan is Kat’s sidekick/best friend, and I didn’t like how little of a role he played in book 3. I didn’t like how Kat was more worried about Sienna who may or may not be evil than Ethan who is trustworthy. I didn’t like how she treated Ethan in book 3, i.e. she was a bitch, and I hope she’ll make it up to him in the next book.

+ the ending
The ending was not an ending, nor was it a cliffhanger. Nothing was really resolved. The ending was like the ending of a chapter and not that of a book, and this left me displeased.

In Conclusion

I rate Blessed by a Demon’s Mark 2-stars for it was okay. I hope book 4 will bring the series back up.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, March 8, 2013

REVIEW: Strange Fates by Marlene Perez

Strange Fates Strange Fates by Marlene Perez
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book because of the premise, revenge. I love me some revenge stories, but unfortunately this one, Strange Fates, book 1 of the Nyx Fortuna series, was blah. It was not bad, but it was not really good, it was somewhere in between, and thus the blah.

+ Nyx, the hero
The story was told in exclusive first person POV from his side. I liked his voice. I liked his easy-going personality. I liked his resilience. What I did not like were the inconsistencies in his character development. He’s supposed to be hundreds of years old, but he acted as how he appeared to be, which is in his 20s. Where is the cynicism, the wisdom, the detachment from humans?

He’s supposed to be a lone wolf, always on his guard because his aunts are actively trying to kill him. Yet, in the first scene he got stabbed, and later throughout the book it turned to be one out of several scenes where he got ambushed. Fuck the aunts because Nyx got in so much trouble that if it wasn’t for his “curse of immortality” he’d be dead already.

His aunt doesn’t want just Nyx dead, they also want anyone who Nyx loved dead too. Thus Nyx said he is antisocial for a very good reason, yet what I saw is that he made friends easily and relatively quickly. He even managed to make friends out of initially hostile characters. Where is the antisocial attitude he said he’s had for hundreds of years?

Hell, there was even an instant love. Nyx said he doesn’t believe in instant love, just instant lust, but that belief was not consistent with how he acted towards Elizabeth. Although what occurred at the end explained some of the infatuation, it didn’t explain all of it and he really did love her. His love for her is what set up the next book in the series.

+ Elizabeth, the love interest
I liked her at first because she kicked her date in the groin because her date refuse to accept no to sexual advances for an answer. I thought, “This is not a damsel in distress. Thank goodness.” That judgement was premature, because it turned she was a damsel in distress in every way. Urban Fantasy and their fucking damsels in distress, ugh. I did not care for Elizabeth. She did earn a handful of my sympathy, but that was it. The romance between her and Nyx was bland and slightly annoying. After discovering her damsel in distress status, I wanted a different love interest for Nick.

+ the pace
In spite of the douchebag-just-stabbed-Nyx beginning, the pace was slow-going afterward for 20% of the book. Only then was there another action scene, and then it was back to being slow-going. Action scenes occurred far apart in the plot. The plot took its sweet time dishing out the action scenes.

+ the plot
There were many twists but they didn’t have the emotional impact that is typical of twists. I feel these twists were more zigzags than twists. The plot was supposed to be about revenge, but most of it had to do with Nyx white-knighting Elizabeth in his “I’m taking my sweet time” pace. If you expect to get a revenge story — desist. Not to say I was bored, but I was not thrilled either.

In Conclusion

I rate Strange Fates 2-stars for it was okay. It was not bad, but nothing really amazed me and I didn’t like how much of the book was so focused on the damsel in distress.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thursday, March 7, 2013

REVIEW: The Burning Bush by Kenya Wright

The Burning Bush (Habitat, #2) The Burning Bush by Kenya Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even though I rated book 2, The Burning Bush, the same as book 1, book 2 is hella better than book 1. The surge in the quality amazed me, and that’s not a compliment I give lightly or frequently, if ever. Whether it’s better editing or better writing or both, it’s working~! Not to mention it’s another book written by an author-friend that I actually like; that’s two out of, uh, many now.

The heroine no longer has fits of TSTL. The transition between chapters was smooth, unlike in book 1 where it was raw, sudden, and disjointed. The plot progressed steadily and dished out ample action scenes, things that are unfortunately not common in the Urban Fantasy books I’ve been reading.

+ the heroine
I didn’t really care for Lanore in book 1, but I do now in book 2. She was awesome. I like her willfulness and confidence. It is rare to see an Urban Fantasy heroine who has no issue with sex and body image and loves herself for who she is. I love how she didn’t let her love interests control her life or decisions, how she pushed back when they got annoyingly alpha towards her, how she let them know in all instances that she is a fucking independent woman and not their fucking squeeze, and how when she wanted sex she got sex and there is no post-coital angst and regret or other emo issues.

I like how Lanore treats her friends and her pets. I like how she takes responsibility and doesn’t run when the going gets tough. While I love kickass bitches, I like that Lanore wasn’t typecast as one, i.e. her character didn’t feel trope-ish or similar to other Urban Fantasy heroines I read about. I like that Lanore is unique without tipping over into the special snowflake zone.

Long story short, I like Lanore.

+ the love triangle
It’s still there, but it wasn’t as annoying as it was in book 1, probably because it did not rear its ugly head often. I got a pretty good guess now who Lanore will end up with.

+ what I did not like
The ending was a cliffhanger for the first time in the series! Talk about the climax. It was great! Major progress in the series. But dude, I felt cheated out of the full awesomeness with that cliffhanger. So unhappy that the book was rounded down from a 3.5 stars.

In Conclusion

I rate The Burning Bush 3-stars for I liked it. Everything but the infuriating cliffhanger ending ruled. As said before, there was major progress in book 2. Deaths happened, people changed, allies and enemies... they’re not clear cut at all. Knock, knock. Who is it? Depth. Story depth, and also its companion Moral quagmire. Fuck, yeah.

Goodreads | Amazon

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

REVIEW: Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep

Crimson Frost (Mythos Academy, #4) Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In my review of book 3, I declared that the series officially sucked. Crimson Frost is book 4, and I expected that suckiness to continue. And it did for the first half of the book, and then OMG... it actually turned — sssh, careful I don’t want to scare away this feeling — *whisper* it actually turned things around and got GOOD! You read that right, good. G-O-O-D! Say it loud, say it proud. Goooood!

The first half of the book

The last book was so bad it crushed my motivation, despite my friend’s encouragement, to read the next book, Crimson Frost. I would pick up Crimson Frost, read a page, immediately put it down, and read another book. It was only because I was really bored and resolved to clear my NetGalley reviews queue that I finally scrounged up some ugly clump of motivation to read Crimson Frost.

OMFG was the first half of the book aggravating. It was bad enough that Gwen was a pathetic excuse of a heroine, but when the Protectorate, the magical government, finally deigned to show up they turned out to be a pathetic excuse of a law organization. Where the fuck were these people in book 1? I could forgive their absence in about book 1 because nobody knew how bad things were going to go. But then what about book 2? And book fucking 3? Where. Were. They? End-of-the-world terrorists have hit the school and tried to kill a bunch of students, particularly Gwen, especially Gwen, Multiple fucking Times and you don’t even send at least an investigator?

When they finally show up in book 4, they arrested Gwen and announced to the entire school that she was a suspected Reaper. They openly and loudly accused her of belonging to those end-of-the-world terrorists who have been terrorizing the students and their families since forever. You know, those people who murdered their loved ones, sometimes right in front of their faces, making for some traumatic memories and shit. What the ever lovely fucking hell? Let me break it down by the number of how WRONG what happened there:

+ 5 reasons to rage

1) Gwen was already an outcast at the school. The Protectorate just effectively cemented her social status. What is with Young Adult fictions’ irrational and perpetual desire to ostracize their protagonist? For fuck’s sake, Gwen was already a special snowflake. Making her out to be like Jesus is over the top.

2) Gwen is a minor. Shouldn’t there be some laws protecting minor’s identity in an on-going investigation? Not to mention the preclusion of a death sentence if she is found guilty. Do the Protectorate simply not give a shit if the accused is a child or an adult? So many ethical issues there that I was shocked to stupor.

3) How is announcing Gwen is a suspected Reaper to the entire school going to help the investigation? What fucked up law enforcement protocols were the Protectorate following? Is suffering your peers’ homicidal rage part of the punishment for being accused? Do the Protectorate believe guilty until proven innocent? Was the Protectorate so primitive in the science of law enforcement that they have no idea that a secret investigation would make the process go faster, smoother, and more productive? How the hell have these people managed to conceal the magical world from the humans all this time?

4) Recall that Gwen is a special snowflake, particularly that she is Nike’s Champion. Nike is the Greek goddess of Victory, and out of all the deities across the world she is the only one who defeated Loki. Yeah, I’m pretty sure a Champion wouldn’t be a Reaper, especially not a Nike’s Champion. By pretty sure, I mean absolutely sure if the sarcasm was too subtle there. If being Nike’s Champion is not a sign of innocence, that Gwen is the chosen one to defeat Loki once and for all, I don’t know what is. Admittedly, I could understand why the Protectorate would need proof but the fact that Vic the talking sword, which only a Nike’s Champion can wield, is in Gwen’s possession should have been all the proof that they needed.

5) Speaking of Nike, helloooooo! Your Champion is in fucking trouble. Some serious fucking trouble. What the hell are you currently doing that you can’t make an appearance for a few seconds and tell it straight to the Protectorate that Gwen is innocent? I get the trial by fire, adversity builds strength and character, blah blah blah, but this was unnecessary. Nike is not doing herself a favor by having someone she picked as Champion die by the hands of people that are supposed to be on her side. You do not endear your followers by treating them like diapers; you’re supposed to be the good guys. Honestly, I’m beginning to become racist against the deities and think Loki is not the only one who needs to be done away with once and for all.

In sum, for the first half of the book, Gwen sucked. The Protectorate sucked. Last but not least, Logan should quit calling Gwen “Gypsy girl” because it’s not endearing; it’s aggravating. Use her fucking name, Logan. Her name is Gwen; use her fucking name.

The last half of the book

I did not expect the last half to be good, but it was. Shy of great as a matter of fact. I loved that Gwen took action of her own initiative to rescue herself, that she was not going to let herself become a Joan of Arc repeat. She investigated. She acted with caution unlike the last book where she did not whatsoever and ended up being like one of those characters from a teenage horror movie who you yell at for being a dumbass and give little pity when they inevitably die due to their dumbassness. Though there were moments when she wanted to pull a Lone Hero act, she thankfully did not and trusted her friends to help her investigate, provide backup in battles, etc.

There was teamwork. There was fucking teamwork. Hallelujah! You don’t know how rare it is for a YA protagonist to work in teams out of their own free will, who depend on their friends, who don’t wait till the end when things are desperate and bad to finally accept some goddamn help when the protagonist realizes that their special snowflake status ain’t gonna save the day. Gwen was actually honest and cooperative with her friends from the start of troubles.

Moreover, Gwen was finally kicking some ass. Okay, I admit it was illogical how she suddenly turned from an amateur warrior to a competent one who was on equal footings with the Reapers who have been warriors their entire lives. She hasn’t mastered her powers whereas the other Reapers have yet she was able to kick their asses. However, at this point I’ll take what I can get. Gwen had her ass kicked book 1 through 3; it’s wearisome and pathetic. The heroine’s fighting skills were based on cracked logic in book 4, but at this point I’ll accept it, embrace it even, if it meant not having the heroine be the bad guys’ favorite punching bag.

+ my favorite scene

I actually have a favorite scene in the series now, I kid you not. It is the scene when Gwen and Logan were battling to death at the end. Gwen have been through a couple of near-death events now, but this one I finally felt all the feelings. I finally felt enough to be wowed.

In Conclusion

I rate Crimson Frost 3-stars for I liked it. Series, you have achieved redemption. Don’t fuck it up.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, March 1, 2013

REVIEW: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy, #2) The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the awesomeness that was book 1 — read my review for book here, I held high expectation for book 2. Woah did I regret doing that. Book 2 exercised my suspension of disbelief hard. Immediately, there were signs portending disappointment. Towards the ending, they bloomed like prickly weeds, and I was left with a rather bitter taste as if I literally ate a weed.

+ the protagonist
Jaron bugged me. He was rude to the people who didn’t deserve it. No, I did not care it was intended to distance and shield them from the danger of being around him. It was juvenile and short-sighted. The times when Jaron was kind, he was kind mostly to the people who didn’t deserve it. They should have been killed for the sake of his life and the relief of my great annoyance. Goodness was I annoyed! How many times does someone have to try to kill you before you accept the fact that they don’t just like you? Honestly.

I stopped thinking Jaron was clever and started seeing him in full display as a Gary Stu. The plot forced itself to portray him as clever when in reality nothing he did was actually clever but instead was reckless. He succeeded only by an incredible amount of luck. So much luck that I swear I could hear the story’s internal logic cracking like an elephant on thin ice. How Jaron overcame obstacle after obstacle, each more seemingly insurmountable than the previous, was difficult to digest.

+ Roden
For 99% of the book, I could not understand for the life of me why Jaron insisted on obtaining Roden’s loyalty when Roden did nothing to earn it. Nothing at all. Roden was homicidal towards Jaron and not to mention useless. I was waiting for Roden to die like the expendable villain that he was. What happened to Jaron and Roden towards the end left me flabbergasted and steamed. When Jaron revealed his reasons for why he wanted Roden at the end, I immediately called bullshit. Utter, utter bullshit. I seriously questioned Jaron’s competence to rule as king. Hell, I questioned his intelligence; I think all that fighting and blood loss Jaron went through obliterated some brain cells.

+ the pirates
The book spent an inordinate amount of the plot developing the bad dudes’ fearsome reputation. When the reader, via Jaron, finally met them, they turned out to be less fearsome than the countryside robbers Jaron encountered in the middle of the book. These pirates respected and protected their female servants. They adhered to a pirate’s code and kept their promises like honorable knights. They weren’t greedy as they were said to be, because if they were they would have tortured Jason until he confessed the location of the kingdom’s treasury. They were basically good guys in bad guys’ clothes who were no more bloodthirsty than the average soldier.

The only actual bad guy in the bunch was the leader of the pirates, and how things ended with him, so ridiculously contrived, made me want to slap somebody. It seriously discredited the leader as a swordmaster and cracked the plot’s internal logic some more.

+ the love triangle
I didn’t really believe there was a love triangle in book 1, but to my disgust book 2 proved me wrong. Imogen and Jaron like each other but can’t be together, because Jaron is a king and Amarinda is promised to be the king’s wife. The romance between Imogen and Jaron was about as convincing and real as a flying pig, and as terrible to read as if that flying pig shit on my head. I felt I got shit on some more when I read how the issue resolved itself.

Isn’t this book supposed to be a Middle Grade? I know I tagged it Young Adult, but the publisher list the book as Middle Grade. Love triangle in a Middle Grade? Has Young Adult been infested by a nearby genre with its laziness?

+ Amarinda
I felt really bad for Amarinda. No one wanted her. Hell, it seemed like even the series doesn’t want her. She still played an important role in book 2, but barely. As the story progressed, it was getting to look like the character was introduced in the series as an afterthought.

Book 2 never developed her beyond the tragic princess from some far away, forgettable kingdom book 1 established her to be. For all the talks about how Jaron’s kingdom was in danger and they have no allies, why did no one ever ask Amarinda’s kingdom for help? Why couldn’t Amarinda or Jaron break off the engagement? “Because the story said so” is not an answer, but that was what essentially was given. Did anyone ever bother to tell Amarinda’s kingdom that the dude she was supposed to marry, Jaron’s big brother, is dead, and Jaron is now her new fiance? If so, what did they think? Where were the political ramifications? Too many questions, and none of them answered.

Once I started examining Amarinda’s backstory, I saw how poorly it was developed. I saw the lack of a strong reason for her character. I started cynically thinking the only reason she was in the series to make for a ridiculous, shitty love triangle.

In Conclusion

I rate The Runaway King 3 stars for I liked it. Surprised? Me too. In spite of all the issues, I managed to enjoy the story...somewhat. The pacing was fast so I never had a long moment to dwell on the issues as they popped up. There was a good twist, some wrapping up of loose ends, and great progress made in the series overall. I didn’t even mind the cliffhanger ending, though half of that was due to the lowering of expectation and subsequent loss of anticipation for the next book. One thing was for sure, I wasn’t bored at least.

Fair warning. That 3 stars is provisional. I will downrate if book 3 sucks ass because how the series is overall affects my very subjective ratings. Hell, even book 1’s 5 stars rating is provisional.

Goodreads | Amazon