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Smashwords book reviews by Yzabel Ginsberg
- A Demon Made Me Do It (Demonblood Series #1)
on May 18, 2012
Told from the points of view of both Liora and Lucky, the story deals with a girl who's human during the day, and half-demon at night. While they share the same body (and are basically the same soul, only cut in two), Liora doesn't know what Lucky does, and conversely. Every day seems to be the same old drill for Liora: going to school to follow classes she knows by heart and isn't interested in, while being labelled the school freak and not having any real friend to speak of. Every night also seems to be the same for Lucky: a trip to the Demon world, minor demons to hunt, humans to punish for their deeds. Until a new boy, Kieron, enrolls in Liora's school.
I was a little afraid that the tone of the book would be too reminiscent of your typical teen angst, especially in the chapters focusing on Liora (who seemingly likes to wallow in all the bad sides of her life, without enjoying the good moments); and the constant rejecting of fault on each other got tiring after a while, even though it was also understandable, given their circumstances. At times, it deterred me from the pleasure of reading. Fortunately, the first chapters still managed to get me in fairly easily. The world inhabited by the demons is interesting, nicely described, and its layers and social links make it clear that Liora/Lucky's situation is even trickier than the pitch promised at first.
Kieron's first appearance didn't do much for me. Typical good-looking boy with dazzling smile and eyes, with all the popular girls flitting around him like flies, but the only one to really catch his interest is unpopular Liora (who's actually a hottie, but doesn't want to believe it; thanks Satan Lucky is here to be cool, sassy, and make her wear sexy clothes and make-up). Granted, the reason why gets revealed later on; at first, it gave way to quite a little bit of eye-rolling. I enjoyed reading about Lucky more than about Liora, though the latter got better in the end; I guess Lucky is just more my type of character. As for Kieron... I still can't decide if I disliked him or if he was at least mildly bearable. The character I liked the most, all in all, was Bones; there's no particular reason, in fact, I just liked his way of behaving and his personality—straightforward incubus, but also very loyal to his friends.
It was an enjoyable read, but it could've been better, notably in terms of pacing. The way the point of view is carried between Lucky and Liora sometimes leaves certain things in the dark in an odd way, or switches at moments that seemed weird to me. The ending was a little abrupt, compared to the relative 'speed' of the rest of the book. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed that ending and the lesson it carried. The themes of 'revenge' and 'how revenge can ruin your life', are something I am deeply interested in. I think that Lucky made the right choice, and that it was quite a positive ending. The book ends on some kind of closure, yet some things are still not resolved, such as the other crimes of the Amazèa, some elements about Kieron's employment, or whether Liora and Lucky can become one again, and how; and so, in spite of its flaws, I still want to read the next installment.
- Fire with Fire (Demonblood Series #2)
on May 22, 2012
I had read the first installment of this series, and found it interesting. The second one, I went through like a breeze. The story was compelling, and I kept being drawn back to it to read more, which is always a good sign in my case.
We already know the main characters from the first book, of course; we get to know them better here, as well as see some development that I was glad about. While Lucky might have just a tad bit too much of a tendency to feel guilty about everything bad that happens (but still gets out to kick ass no matter what), I thought Liora was getting better. There was less whining about how she doesn't fit in, and more taking things into her own hands, as well as starting to accept to live with her current state (instead of closing her eyes and trying to ignore Lucky's doings). There was also something terribly beautiful about the relationship between Lucky and Bones (I was so, so unhappy at how things unfolded in chapter 19, and hope we get to know, let's say, more in the next novel).
Kieron... got on my nerves, but part of me couldn't keep on thinking that there must be more to his shitty attitude. It was half expected, but he still gave me a good scare here. I found him weaker in this book, though. Perhaps because he doesn't appear for the first half, and gets less 'screen time'?
Tristan seemed so shady from the beginning, but I had no idea at first who or what exactly he was, nor what he wanted. I liked the way he progressively weaseled his way into Liora's life, and how it was introduced, through her skewed perception. It's not so easy to do that in a first-person narrative, and I was surprised, then intrigued, then satisfied at the way it was brought. (The part about coming back from the mines, and then chapter 11 especially, made me frown and go all "ooookay, now this is really getting weird"—toppled with that line about the blueberries pancakes.)
And Tatiana. I already liked her in the first installment, but now I like her even more.
It's hard to write a full review without spoiling too much, so I'll leave it at that. Suffice to say that I will very likely read #3, because I definitely want to know where the characters are going to take it from now on. Too many things have changed in their lives, they can't go back, and so going forward is the only option, and is bound to bring some surprises.
on July 06, 2012
Mary, a 17-year-old girl from London, moves to lovely Eires Green with her father, mother and grandmother. After a series of bad decisions that led to very dark moments in her life, this is her chance at starting anew: new town, new house, new school, new friends… maybe even a boyfriend! Things definitely seem to be looking up for Mary, who grows to enjoy Bell House more than she thought, and can finally hope to find a place of her own here. However, the more she discovers about her new home, the more she realizes that Bell House hasn’t always been devoid of tragedy… and that tragedy might strike again.
As odd as my way of wording it might sound, this novella had a nicely refreshing spookiness. Little by little, the reader is presented with tiny, light touches of eeriness that help the tension build up in a discrete yet efficient manner; they contrast all the more, in restrospect, with the many apparent perfections of Eires Green. At the same time, it was a refreshing read, in that it didn’t leave me with the feeling of just any ghost story. I was pulled in from the beginning, always wanting to know what would happen in the next chapter, and trying to piece up the hints the author scatters along her story; this is not something I make the effort of doing when I’m not so interested in a book.
If I should list one thing I couldn’t really wrap my mind around, unfortunately, it was the fast pace at which relationships evolved in the story. Although that pace made sense once I reached the end and realized why things came to be that way, it was still going too fast to my liking in terms of chronology (one week seemed too short a time frame to develop such relationships—I guess a few weeks would have felt more ‘natural’).
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed reading “Mary”, and will heartily recommend it.
on July 06, 2012
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the world developed in Sophie Davis's novel. While it seems to be divided into two clear camps at first, it soon appeared to me that the dichotomy was far from being so evident, and that factions and characters were bound to harbour secrets and hidden standards. The last chapters sure didn't disappoint me in that regard. I also enjoyed discovering how the Agency works, what kind of jobs its employees perform, as well as how missions are carried—I like to see that such 'details' were taken into account. The use of varied Talents offer those agents diverse opportunities, and it was interesting to read about that.
The reason why I'm giving it 3 stars 'only' is that I was however left with a lingering feeling of frustration at the themes developed throughout the story. I would have liked to see more of Talia's challenges regarding her job as a Hunter, her desire for revenge, the means she would employ to do so, the choice she had to make between saving herself or enacting her revenge... I understand that this novel is not a standalone, and that such aspects are likely to be developed in book 2 or 3—in other words, that they're part of a bigger picture. That's not what frustrated me. I simply thought, when I read the summary, that they'd be keynotes of the story, and in the end, I felt that they were put aside in favour of the developing love triangle. I think I'd have liked this novel best if the romance part had been left to grow in a more balanced way along what I had expected to read about.
The file also contained recurrent typos, such as inverted words and commas in weird places. Unfortunately for me, I'm too trained to notice those things, and they tend to quickly become annoying.
Other than that, I was glad to be handed out this ebook. I spent good moments reading it.
- Day Soldiers
on July 08, 2012
When I asked if I could read & review “Day Soldiers”, I did so because the pitched elicited some interest in me. The prospect of a war between humans and the creatures of darkness looked like something that would provide me with mild fun and a pleasant quick read. To be honest, I didn’t expect a lot from this novel—just that: being a fun and easy read.
And then I got hooked.
The prologue itself, in the form of a declaration of war, immediately grabbed me. The first chapters then pulled me into the action, as Lily and Leo, 18-year-old, decide to take on the vampires who’ve been threatening their small town, because the adults aren’t acting fast enough. As they come back victorious, little do they know that their single action is going to trigger a chain-reaction culminating into events they wouldn’t have suspected. And the both of them are going to pay a heavy price. We then get to see the two friends through their joining and training within the Day Soldiers, a corps specifically aimed at fighting vampires and werewolves. After what happened to them, is there any other path they could follow? Not really.
I thoroughly liked Lily and Leo. Lily’s got a strong personality, and a definite ability to fall back on her feet. Even though she gets discouraged at times, she doesn’t let this stop her, and she doesn’t give in to throwing pity-parties for herself, not for more than a couple of minutes, which is always pleasant to see, in my opinion, in a character. She also has special skills, but I was glad to see that the author didn’t make them *that* special in the end. ***SPOILER*** [She doesn’t get to save the day all by herself, and she’s far from being the only one with such abilities; this makes that plot point more believable.] ***SPOILER END*** As for Leo, at first, I feared for his role in the story, wondering if he’d just be some uninteresting sidekick—because the kid *is* skilled, for sure, and he can pack a handful just as well as Lily can. ***SPOILER*** [I also feared what was in store for him. Until that moment, I hoped he’d get to find a way out. When I realized there wasn’t any, I must admit I shed a tear for him. Be awed. This very seldom happens.] ***SPOILER END***
The other characters were also enjoyable. Abbie does come off as unpleasant at first, but it’s clear that she is a good person, too, and that she doesn’t hesitate to act. The B-Team (no, really, this *is* a play on words on the A-Team, isn’t it? I can’t shake that feeling off!) is made of awesome, and I liked their take on events, how they always did their best to do what felt right to them. Their boldness and inventiveness roped me in (the way they tackle the rescue operation in Sneaker City was just so great!), and I could easily feel their sense of camaraderie, the strong bonds they managed to form among them, the instinct they had to stick to each other now matter the circumstances.
And what about the story itself? I quickly was drawn into its pace: not too slow, packed with action, but not too fast either. Events fold into each other in a logical way; we get to see that every action has its consequences, and that the characters have to deal with those, make their decisions, and then live up to those decisions in the end. I don’t know if there will be a sequel to this novel: the ending could very well stand for itself the way it is, or open up towards a second book. What’s sure is that if there is one, I will definitely pick it.
- Angel Evolution
on July 08, 2012
I've had this novel on my radar for a couple of weeks, and finally got to read it today. I must say it made me spend a good moment, even though it has its flaws.
I think the major problem for me as a reader was that I found connecting with the characters a little hard. Especially the main female character, Taylor, who remained quite bland for a good deal of the story, until she finally grew something of a spine. Besides, she accepted Gabriel's story so quickly! It would've been more believable if she had been more of a skeptic, asked more questions, be warier of him, kept a distance at first... not fall into his arms so soon. I didn't know where to stand regarding Gabriel either, couldn't decide if he was suffering from chronic lying disorder, or was just brainwashed, or tried to convince himself he believed in all of that. I guess this is part of his evolution, of how he goes from obeying orders to standing for what he thinks is really right, but it still came off as shaky.
On the other hand, the story itself was enjoyable, with an original twist about angels and demons. Well, alright, at first I wasn't sure whether I would've wanted those to be closer to their original myths, or not; however, now that I've finished the book, it feels like a positive aspect, that provides a nice change from more classical retellings of such fights. It's a good thing that there is no God here to steer the ship; we are presented with people who, all in all, are still human, or at least evolved from humans, and as such, who are prone to mistakes (but then, there's the black snake... will more be revealed about its role later on?). The ending of this first novel leaves several doors open, regarding various possibilities of action for the characters; I feel like it doesn't have to end in a full-blown war... yet it could just as well... or there could be yet another path to follow. At this point, the outcome is not predictable, and I like that.
What I appreciated most was that there was more than met the eye to the two sides of the war. The angels whom everyone expects to be 'pure' and 'good' actually have their lot of bastards, double-standards, lies and downright crass goals; while the demons, supposedly evil and dark, probably have their lot of ambiguous characters and darker aims as well (I don't know what's going to be tackled in the two other novels, after all), yet were clearly not the totally bad guys they were made to look like. In fact, the character I liked the most throughout the whole novel was Chris, and I hope we get to see more of him in book 2! Even Jonas had a nice side to him, in spite of not being shown under the best light in the world.
Although I'm not giving full marks to this novel, I am positive that its setting and story have strong bases, and that the author's next works can only evolve in an even better direction.
- The Moon Dwellers
on July 11, 2012
I wish we could give .5 stars, because I'd clearly put this one at 4.5/5 stars. Well, I'd put a 5/5 if not for one thing, that I'll expand on later on.
Having read David Estes's first novel, "Angel Evolution", barely a few days ago, I was amazed to discover to which extent this author's writing has developed in this new, beginning trilogy. This is clearly a work for which said author took into account various critiques, and used them to improve his writing and storytelling. The result is, frankly, very good.
"The Moon Dwellers" follows two characters on two opposite ends on the social scale: Adele, a young woman who's been sentenced to jail for life, but decides to escape with her friends Tawni and Cole and find her scattered family again; and Tristan, elder son of the allmighty President, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but intent on estranging himself from this life that doesn't feel like his own. The story is told in the first person, from the alternating points of view pf Adele and Tristan; while such an exercise in writing can be quite hazardous, here it works well, allowing us to learn more and more about those characters and what their lives are like.
I especially enjoyed said characters' personalities. Adele and her friends have had to become strong during their stay in jail, and they don't let anyone dictate them how to behave—they don't hesitate to fight, and they do it well and with spunk, too, both physically and through sarcasm. As for Tristan and Roc, the one isn't such the pampered prince as a lot of people believe him to be, and the other, albeit not the best when it comes to handling a weapon, is terrific in the way he managed to keep his sense of humour throughout dark times. Their friendship, too, is made of solid mettle, and feels genuine and very much present.
The one thing I wasn't too keen on was the 'insta-connection' between Adele and Tristan; it has nothing to do with "The Moond Dwellers" per se, it's simply I as a reader who's never felt convinced by such strong attractions upon first sight. Also, I thought that at times, events unfolded a little too neatly (the various bomb attacks, especially), reinforcing that aspect of 'destiny bringing everyone and everything together'. I suppose you either like it or not.
This said, I am nonetheless eager to read the next volume!
(As a side note, I find the cover's composition absolutely fascinating. The more I look at it, the more it grows on me.)
- Vengeance of the Wolf
on Aug. 06, 2012
3.5/5 stars. I might have given it a 4, only it was frustrating in some aspects.
I was drawn to this book by the concept of dreams and nightmares, which is something that usually catches my interest, and I indeed found the method of killing quite interesting as well as thrilling. Troubling as this may be, seeing the killer in action, the way he picked at his victims and toyed with them, the way he thought, was just as interesting. The chilling feeling I got out of those scenes was reinforced by the descriptions, which were detailed enough to allow me to easily picture places and dreamscape. The ‘bad guy’ is clearly pretty deranged here; there was something almost touching to the reason behind his killing spree—a tiny spark that could’ve died quickly, that might even have seemed laughable to many people, yet blossomed instead into something terrifying, served by means beyond normal human scope. (The nursery rhymes quoted at the beginning of each chapter made me feel this even more strongly: they’re definitely reminiscent of something child-like, with an added creepy edge.)
All the characters had their part to play in the plot, with more or less spotlight, of course. Although it took me some time to get a real liking to Yardley and Williams, they are interesting personae, with spunk and potential, along with willpower and resiliency (how many people would’ve gone on trying to put an end to such an eluding case?). There were a few moments when I was confused at whose point of view I was following (in instances where “IT” and “the man” appeared); otherwise, the dates, places and POVs were clear and evident.
Overall, I had a good time reading this story, and wanted to know how it went from beginning to end (the epilogue was chilly, by the way—it screams for a catastrophe in the making, really). However, I remained frustrated at some things that I wished would have been more elaborated on. For instance, Celeste and her family (there’s something mysterious here, and I was hoping to learn more); the exact mechanism of the killer’s abilities; or Anthony’s motives and involvement, that were partly explained only, in my opinion. I think I’d have enjoyed the novel more if those loose ends had been tied. Last but not least, I managed to guess who the killer was fairly early; once I had it in my head, my hypothesis kept on being validated regularly. I’d have wanted that mystery to last longer.
- Entangled (Spellbound #1)
on Aug. 22, 2012
Although I had to spread the reading of this book over two days, it went fast and smoothly, and turned to be highly addictive. The first chapters may have been a little slow—what was needed, I suppose, to set the backdrop for Gray and Charlene’s ‘ordinary’ life, and thus contrast Gray’s sudden death against it. But past that point, I was hooked. Firstly because of the themes tackled throughout the story: revenge, deception, resentment, grief, death, how do people cope with it and to what lengths would they be ready to go if they had a chance to have a beloved one back… Secondly, while those themes are of the dark kind, the narrative itself doesn’t feel desperate nor gloomy, therefore making for a lighter reading moment no matter what. Last but not least, because I wanted to know how things would unfold, all that simply (already suspecting the kind of outcome the author would come up with didn’t detract from my reading pleasure: it’s the kind of predictable I appreciate).
The characters were both archetypal for that kind of novel (the popular bitchy sister, the nice and hard-working one, the boy with a bad reputation but a heart of gold, the sidekick ready to do everything for the one he has his eyes on…), yet at the same time convincing enough. They behaved with the kind of intensity in feelings and actions that tend to seem fitting for teenage characters, and there were often some darker, secret areas to their personalities. After all, when the girl intent on snagging her boyfriend back is also a witch, can things really go as normally as they would if she wasn’t? When she’s jealous of someone, and want to hamper that someone’s efforts, why stop at just feeling frustrated? And yet, some of those traits may also become understandable: I can understand how suddenly having her dead sister snatch her body one day out of two, putting a regular dent in her life, may feel extremely hard to bear for Charlene. (Alright, this said, she was still an absolute bitch who deserved to be slapped around with a trout full of long, pointy nails. Seriously. Borderline psychopathic much?)
I also liked that the story followed not only Gray, but Raj as well. He was by far my favourite character, being an actual good guy, respectful of others, even though he kept entertaining a facade that in the end hurt himself the most. (And Adrian. Why, Adrian, always full of smiles: I hope you do realize that you’re so creepy, man! And that I love it.)
What I was less satisfied with in “Entangled” was some unanswered questions. The reason to Gray’s death wasn’t so clear (not to mention that it was pretty stupid, to the point of little old me wondering if the ‘culprit’ didn’t act so dumb on purpose, knowing that of course it was just but an accident waiting to happen). And I admit I didn’t really understand what happened with Raj and his mother at the end—well, I *think* I understood, only that part went too fast for me to be certain I really did; more details about that (and the role of the Zippo lighter) would have been appreciated.
Nevertheless, I liked this book, and definitely want to read the next installment.
- Tales the Wind Told Me
on Nov. 07, 2012
This collection of short stories I found particularly enjoyable, focusing as it did around two sets of themes that were both explored in interesting ways: folklore and tales (trolls, the Boondangle spirit, Sleeping Beauty…), and LGBT-related issues (which would definitely deserve to be ‘advertised’ more, because they’re part of the book’s strong points). The author’s own evolution is reflected in those stories, and what’s at stake in them is carried in ways that seem just natural—in the open, but also with a certain subtlety that makes them flow.
As usual with short stories, every reader has his/her favourite ones. I definitely liked the “Troll stories” a lot, for the way they integrate myths and changeling creatures into urban everyday life. “Dancing with Death” was really poignant, and a beautiful lesson about how to accept death, leaving your beloved ones with dignified memories of yourself. “The Boondangle” had me reflect on quite a few things, especially how we may think we have accepted parts of ourselves that we actually dread, and how easy—yet also damageable—it would be if those were to be taken away from us. Finally, “Gemone” was a wonderful story that definitely holds potential for more, for being even turned into a novel, in terms of plot, world building, characters and thoughts; the society developed in it was, simply put, fascinating.
As for editing matters: I noticed a few typos and editing issues here and there; the only one that bothered me was in “Gemone”, with a tense shift whose role I didn’t understand (either it’s just me, or it was remnants of an original version written in the present tense?).
- Reapers With Issues
on Nov. 17, 2012
I’m always up for stories that poke fun about serious themes, and ‘death’ and ‘angels’ have always been such themes for me. Reapers With issues deals exactly with those: the heavy celestial bureaucracy, with all the defects the latter term entails, and how figures of terror, the Four Horsemen, must deal with very day-to-day, down-to-earth problems regarding death. Their main problem being that there are only the four of them to do the job, while humanity keeps on multiplying. ‘Grim’ and his fellow horsemen go to quite a few lengths to keep their heads up, from filing up reports to indulging in buying weed from Saint Peter’s offspring. I found it very funny to see familiar figures of heaven and hell depicted under various, different colours here, within what is a nice satire of the corporate and bureaucratic world. Lucifer is exactly the kind of smart, manipulative bastard I’d expect him to be. Grim tries to tackle problems as seriously as possible, but let’s just say that between War’s antics and the new management imposed by God, this is proving harder and harder as the story progresses.
The least I can say is that this novel made me smile and chuckle, a lot. Granted, there were a few times when the humour wasn’t very subtle; but I think the author also did a good job in not overdoing it, and when fun is being poked at sensitive themes, it is always done so in a good-natured way, not in a voluntarily offensive one. Also, I commend the editing work done on this book. I didn’t notice any of the usual typos and misprints that tend to spring, and the author’s writing style was fluid and pleasant, both in descriptions and in dialogues.
Really, I can’t find many faults with this book. It made me spend a very good time, it was a short and fun reading, its characters made me laugh, and all in all, it’s a novel I’d easily recommend to my friends.