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Smashwords book reviews by Jenn Donnelly
- On Dark Shores 1: The Lady
on May 25, 2011
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
On Dark Shores: The Lady is an odd little story of the town of Scarlock and it's many battered residents trying to make their way though life. They live in a land that's apparently in the middle of some sort of war between the Shantari and the Mardon which I think are neighboring races but could be just neighboring countries. It's not really completely clarified within the text itself.
The biggest issue with this story is that even though it's part of what will be a series of books it doesn't have it's own individual story arc. It is the beginning of what looks like it will be an amazing story but just that, the beginning. You have the build of getting to know each character, learning the plan of the villain and learning individual character motives which is great, but it's leading to something that even at the end you aren't sure what. Don't get me wrong, the story shows promise, but this looks like it's one of those books where it's best to wait to have all the pieces before you read it. When you reach the end it's much the case of what happens now? From what I've read it's my personal opinion that this story might have been better served as a really long book similar to the Historian in length than to have been broken up into individual pieces to what I believe is going to end up being a trilogy.
The beginning is a little hard to get into because it opens jumping from dream to dream in what seems like random characters and tends to leave you a little confused. From there you get a a short introduction to the Mother of the Shantari, but it doesn't really give a full explanation of what she does, who she really is. Yes we know she protects her people and that she has some gifted abilities to do so. We learn that there's something out there called the Dark Waters that's a danger somehow to the people but it's still a bit confusing. I think this scene would have better been served with a bit more background. I realize that some explanations were provided within a glossary at the back of the book, but most readers, myself included never look at glossaries or appendages unless there's no other choice. It's too reminiscent of school. Also a part of this scene included the daughter telling her mother what she should do, and to me that was a little realistic. It was only one line and then the interlude faded back to the norm of the mother being that all-knowing and the daughter asking the questions, but it's a bit jarring. Also the narrative style voice at the beginning leaves the reader at a bit of a distance wondering if you're really going to be able to connect to the characters. That being said the opening still has an interesting flow to it. Clement's words are almost like poetry as she opens this book, and it's almost reminiscent of I'd say and Irish lilting lullaby in flow.
Once you've passed the opening you start to get a real introduction the characters. You root for poor Nereia, an orphan uprooted from her home and mistreated by her awful cousin, while she struggles through dangers trying to protect her young sister Mary from the harsh truths of their life. You wish that Blakley would get a backbone and save the entire town from Copeland instead hiding in his drugs and booze while following his cruel employers orders. And you grow more and more curious about just what Mickel is doing in Scarlock because it's made very clear there's more to Mickel than meets the eye. Toward the end you even have a growing respect for the Madam. The last portion of the story introduces a few new characters, but the story doesn't have the opportunity to delve enough into those for you to really understand what role they're going to play in this book series. You have the idea it's going to be a pivotal role, but you can't be sure without having more to read.
It does take a little bit to find that connection to the character but once you find that spot the characters are there, in your face and raw. You can't help but connect to them. There are a few odd scenes of skeletons and beaches in small section of the story but as of yet those don't exactly make sense. Honestly I think I'll have a much better understanding when the next section of this story is released. Hopefully it won't be something we have to wait too long for because I finished the book feeling like a little kid whose mother had just come in and taken away their book in the good part and said it's time for bed. So then the kid can't sleep tossing and turning as they wonder what happens next. It's the opening of what could really be a phenomenal series, however it doesn't have enough of it's own story arc to hold as a single title in my personal opinion. However I still appreciate the experience the author has gifted with by giving me this story to read and review.
- Vampires Rule
on May 30, 2011
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Jack Creed has been a reluctant vampire for ten years, turned on the night he was attacked and left for dead by the werewolf who killed his parents, then saved by a group of passing vampires when one took an interest in him as a potential romantic partner. All of that changes when he encounters Silver Reign while visiting his grave and attempts to save her from a werewolf attack. In the misguided attempt to save her Jack is scratched by a werewolf, something fatal to vampires and believes he's going to die. Instead of a quick death at the beginning of the story Jack not only survives but becomes some sort of enhanced mortal with powers of both a werewolf and a vampire, a mortal who's arrival has been prophesied for a very long time. His shared destiny with Silver is to kill the first werewolf, the wolf responsible for creating them all and who's death could save every other werewolf in existence. If they should fail this being will not only destroy all vampires, but the entire human race as well. The story follows his budding relationship with silver, his interactions with his human brother and his vampire family and his path to discovering the first werewolf, a path that leaves him questioning if his destiny is one he wants to fulfill.
Overall this book is a great read that keeps you turning pages. I'll admit I debated between three and four stars on this one. But my copy of the book had some issues that kept skipping me around in pages and turning through blank ones to find words. Considering that I decided I might be being a little harsher on the writing than I should be because I was irritated at the difficulty it was giving me reading it on my ipod. That said I decided to give the writer the benefit of the doubt and go with the higher of the two ratings. The story is fast paced and for the most part well written.
Some of the things I noticed were first the character names, so many of them were a little far-fetched ie Silver Reign, that I found this a little distracting. With names like that it's hard to picture them as realistic people. While I've read other books with odd character names, most of them have reasonable explanations for those names and the odd names are not employed by the majority of the characters in a the book. That isn't the case with this story in my personal opinion. Another thing about the characters is that I don't think the writer gave them enough actual character flaws to be believable. Silver is bright, articulate, a good fighter, beautiful and her list of appealing qualities goes on and on. The same can be said for Jack. However, I can't really mention anything negative about their characters. Yes Jack used to be a vampire, but he only drank animal blood. Characters in a story are supposed to be a fictional reflection of real people. Real people are not perfect, they have at least one physical flaw that drives them nuts every time they look in a mirror. Real people have at least a handful of bad habits, and they have lists of things they don't really like about themselves, things they want to change. While I could see the flaws in all the secondary characters, in the two main characters, the ones you could tell the writer really cared about you didn't really see flaws. Jack and Silver are practically perfect teenage kids. Yes they skipped school, but that was to free the trapped souls of the poor wraiths from the never-ending slavery of the first werewolf. Yes Jack considered returning to being just a vampire, but the vampires are the ones who saved him from death when the werewolves attacked his family and they then became his friends, his family for the last decade. Everything Jack and Silver do that could possibly have a negative connotation behind it has a completely good and justifiable reason to go with it. I feel the main characters need a little bit more grit and more flaws to be real to a reader. No I'm not asking her to take her favorite characters and make them into criminals but for example with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which the writer has obviously watched, Buffy is an a##kicking vampire and demon slayer, however her grades in school suck because she's so busy saving the world she doesn't have time to study. She's not popular because her priorities aren't the same as a normal teenager and it's very clear during that series that despite her calling Buffy clearly resents her life. While Silver does make similar claims in this story they aren't as believable because she doesn't have the actions to go with them and as the old saying goes actions speak louder than words.
Another issue I had with this story is some of the plot points seemed a bit contrived or unoriginal and some of them were predictable. For instance I knew who the first werewolf was the minute Silver mentioned him, I knew he'd already been introduced and I knew exactly what character it was. Silver being the chosen one, and the way it was described seemed like a scene right out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yeah she's more meant to kill werewolves than anything else, but it almost mirrors the Slayer prophecy. And the having met in dreams, being destined to be together thing just was hard to believe. I was also expecting a little bit more in the ending after having read all that build up throughout the book. I felt cheated to not get the final confrontation in this story especially when the battle we did get didn't have nearly the attention or build enough to satisfy me as a reader with the ending.
That said, it was an interesting story and employed a lot of things I did like. I found it intriguing to keep getting pulled into memories when Jack touched something or someone. I liked character of Jersey Clifford, the way he was both intelligent and insane. He was the kind of character who drew you in, who you wanted to understand. I'd have to have seen more of his interaction with Jack, more back story in to him and everyone else including the prophesy. I liked Lily and Summer but again I don't think they got enough play in the story. I guess the thing I think this story is really missing is the build. When the writer decided she wanted to make this a series, she should have added a little more bulk to the villain she was planning to take out in this section of the story. It needed more than just a few random scenes for a reader to feel vindicated when he's taken out. It's missing the back story I guess, the explanations to make it completely believable. We did get some of that and those portions that we got were extremely intriguing. They had me curious and kept me turning pages to discover more. It is a good story and a thrilling read, but I personally wish the author had given us just a little bit more throughout the story to make it something no reader can dismiss or ignore.
Additionally I'd like to thank the author for offering me the chance to read and review her book by giving me a free review copy.
- End of Mae
on June 12, 2011
RECEIVED FROM: The Author For Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Mae is a small town journalist investigating tales of the Jersey Devil in hopes of finding that big story that will take her to a larger publication. During her investigation she is attacked and almost killed by a frightening obsidian creature, then abducted to an unknown location. There she meets a man who looks like angel, but acts like the devil himself. When the man takes an interest in her survival Mae is drawn into a strange violent world and left to wonder if she'll even survive to write the story that led her to this fate.
Like many other books I've read recently this one was a debate between a three and four star rating. I decided on the lower rating because if I didn't include the nonfiction section included as an addition to the book I didn't think it was quite to a four star story yet.
The non-fiction journalistic type story added at the end of the book showed a confidence and proficiency in writing that just wasn't evident in the fictional story itself. If the writer could have transferred that confidence and talent shown there into her fictional piece she could have easily written a four, possibly five star story.
My first issue with this book is the way the writer avoids using pronouns. Mae's name is used too much in telling what's going on it becomes distracting and somewhat reminiscent of the See Spot Run story books of long ago. As the target audience has long since advanced past seeing Spot run, she could have greatly improved her story by more frequently using pronouns like she and her, or portraying some of the information through Mae's thoughts. The reader is already clear on her name after the first couple times it's used, it doesn't need to be liberally peppered through half the sentences in the book.
Another distracting thing in the writing was the use of repetitive words, while many people in real life find a favorite adjective like tiny and stick to it, readers expect a little more variety from a writer. Varying her descriptive words rather than sticking to the same comfortable ones I think would have also improved the flow of the work.
While the book does include a full story arc, a clear beginning, middle and ending, it doesn't really have the length to be qualified as a novel. Part of the reason I bumped it to the top of my TBR pile was it's length since it could be read in no time at all. Writing it at more short story than novel length makes it difficult to create characters readers can get to know and relate to. While the reader can develop an attachment for Mae, other characters are still a major curiosity and the length doesn't allow for character growth within those characters. What she's given us here could be easily taken and expanded upon into a full length novel allowing the reader to know each character in detail, to see them grow and see Mae begin and adjust to her new life after her death. While it is a full arc, it could just as easily be a beginning to a greater and more intriguing novel that I for one would be interested in reading. Finishing I'm left wondering, what happens to Mae now?
Another thing that stuck with me is the description blurb emphases a lot on the fact that Mae is a writer, like this is an important plot point, however this is little more than what presents the situation of the story and it's not like she does any actual writing. Another thing that stuck with me was a comment in the book that Mae enjoyed fictional writing in high school but switched to journalism when she realized there wasn't any money to be made in fiction. I don't know what small town paper this character is writing for, but all the ones I know about pay little more than minimum wage. Many journalists at small town papers take second jobs to pay their bills or have a secondary income from a spouse. Fiction or nonfiction, starting out you do it because you love to write, not because you're expecting to get rich. Unless you're a successful broadcast journalist, which is more television presence than actual writing, you're more likely to make money with success in fiction writing than in journalism. Last I read J. K. Rowling was the richest person in the UK and she made that money in fiction. The main difference between starting as a fictional writer or starting as a small town journalist is the regularity of pay. Neither entry level start can be considered rolling in the dough. This statement coming from the lead character really made me wonder about the intelligence of the character I'm supposed to be rooting for. I really think further research into the careers of the character might have improved the work.
While the story is fiction, there needs to be a certain presence of believability in the story and the character for the reader to really consider it great and worth reading. The great fiction writers put as much if not more time into researching their novels as the nonfiction writers out there. They just choose to present their information in a more entertaining format which is less about teaching the reader and more about realism in their story.
Overall it was an entertaining piece with an intriguing plot and interesting characters that made you want to learn more about them. The main issue with this piece is that it's such a great set up, but limited follow through. For a quick half hour or so read, I would however recommend it.
- The Superiors
on June 22, 2011
RECEIVED FROM: The Author For Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
In this Futuristic or possibly Alternate Reality tale a vampire-like species called Superiors are the rulers of the earth and have been for the last 200 years. Draven Castle is a third class superior, a being created for a war he never had to fight in who's at the bottom of the social ladder because of when he was made. He barely ranks above the humans, though since the humans are considered animals, a source of food while any class of superior is not, he's still above them on the chain of social hierarchy. When he catches a young human named Aspen attempting to escape the confinement he begins to question the general population's belief that all humans are stupid and without feelings. When he runs into her again years later as almost an adult working as the meal at a restaurant his insatiable thirst for her blood in particular creates within him an attachment to the young girl. Through repeated visits with her he learns more about the human race and the girl, now called Cali, in particular. Her actions, thought and speech make it difficult to deny that she is in fact a sentient being, albeit under-educated Throughout the course of the story his views of her grow from interesting animal, to desired possession to possibly even caring about her as one would a child or friend. While developing an interaction with Cali, Draven also connects to another class of being he never previously understood, a Superior Second Class named Byron Kingsley whom he saves during a raid on a restaurant prostituting humans. The story follows Draven's path as he opens his mind and learns about the world and beings around him.
Before I begin I'm going to say two things, first this is the type of story that would be better served being reviewed by a professional reviewer or college professor. It begs for the type of literary analysis only someone with that type of credentials can give, though I do plan to make my best attempt in this review. The second, this is the type of book I think would have been better served going through traditional methods with an agent and mainstream major publishing house. I feel this way because the major publishing house would have a better ability to get the book out to a larger audience of educated readers who might otherwise skip an indie novel because of the small faction of indie writers that don't feel the need to edit their work before publishing and therefore give the rest a bad name. Even though it's a vampire type novel, it's filled with allusions to real world occurrences and greater meaning beyond the plot. It's more of an entertaining fictional social study than a read for entertainment plot. I personally don't believe it's reaching it's target audience as well as it should because of the method of publishing. Don't get me wrong, I adore a lot of indie authors, but unfortunately because of those few that are better skipped, the rest don't have the reach they should to the general public and educated readers. That said, onto my review.
Reading this I wonder is there even a genre for this? The Superiors is a breath of fresh air, a story so original and well written, that can’t really be cookie-cut into a genre. I don’t claim to be a genre expert but usually you can read a book and say this is romance, this is fantasy this is this or this is that. I’m not quite sure what The Superiors is. The writer has combined elements I would have never imagined possible, and blended them so seamlessly that it’s hard to imagine you don’t see them daily. She blends the seedy feel of 1920s noir with the futuristic setting of what I guess would be called a dystopian society. She then liberally adds the paranormal elements by making this society a world dominated by Vampire like creatures called The Superiors and those groups are then divided even further into classes of Superior. What’s left for the humans? They've become slaves in their own world existing only for the sustenance and pleasure of the Superiors. While typically I’d say there’s just too much here for this story-line to work, Hillbrand pulls it off with brilliance.
The story isn’t one that grabs you on page one, it starts a little slowly and I’ll admit I did set this book aside once after reading only a few pages because at the time I was in the mood for a book that would grab me the second I began to read. When I got a reminder that I’d had the book for three weeks and not reviewed it, I set aside the series book I’d been planning to read to open this one back up and give it another try. To my dismay I’d left off right when the book starts pulling you in, if I’d but turned a couple more pages I wouldn’t have set it down.
It’s not a fast moving plot and at the beginning you do wonder what the plot is at all. What keeps you turning the pages is the desire to learn more about this odd society and the strange connection between the young girl Aspen aka Cali and the Superior Third Class Draven. It’s not attraction, he views humans as little more than animals, but yet he can’t walk away and ignore her like every other human he feeds from either. She’s like his favorite flavor of ice cream and the odd puppy at the pet store you can’t help but stare at all rolled into one. The story doesn't have your typical plot of goal established, challenges to meet goal and goal achieved. It's more of a social study on the culture of these people and the differences between classes within their social structure than it is a story. It's not a book you read for entertainment value, it's one you read when you have the desire for something that includes some heavy thinking. That said I'm more of an entertainment reader so it wasn't something I would typically read.
The people in this novel are so blind to the other beings and classes in their world that they've become completely uneducated on the needs, wants or even abilities of others. It's a futuristic society where humans are being treated by Superior doctors for blood infections by using leaches instead of medicines like are common in today's society. The Superiors have convinced themselves that humans don't even have the ability to feel pain. While humanity is not as educated as they are today, they certainly haven't lost their nerve endings which recognize pain. The Second Class Superiors don't have a much higher opinion of the Third Class Superiors. Intelligence in a Third Class Superior actually surprises them. No one in the novel seems to view people in a different social caste as an individual rather than just a piece of a larger group. While some behaviors by both groups display actions that could be compared to how you'd picture cavemen acting, the violence born of both lack of higher learning and necessity, neither group can really be classified as unintelligent. A friend of mine on Goodreads mentioned that some scenes with the Third Class Superiors on the South End remind him of a pack of wolves fighting for a meal, I have to say I agree with that statement, it pretty much falls in with where I was going with the caveman like behavior. There are many scenes like this one, things that don't occur in the real world, that can easily be compared to things that really do happen in today's society.
The books seems to address the issues of animal cruelty, prejudice born of misconception, and social classes or structure that can still be found in today's society. I'm sure there are many more illusions and points the author wanted to make within this novel that I've missed simply because I haven't voluntarily read anything that wasn't for entertainment value alone since my attempts at college. I'm out of practice at picking out themes and allusions to the real world which reinforces the idea that I'm not the target reviewer or audience.
The book does have a full, but slow moving, story arc that also has a cliff hanger type ending. However, I think the cliffhanger fell a little flat with me as a reader because it wasn't a plot driven story that needed that sort of ending. It still feels complete without a second novel to come even though you don't exactly know what's going to happen between the three leading characters. What's happening in the story seems less the point than the characters within the story, but then again maybe that's just me.
Overall it's an excellent novel if you're looking for a book that's going to make you think. It's extremely well written and encompasses an extensive vocabulary of vastly underused words. It did take me longer to read than I typically spend on a novel, but for me it got so heavy at points that I just needed a break in a purely entertainment read. Lena Hillbrand has entered the writing world with a stunning literary piece that I think readers will talk about for years to come.
- Paradox - The Angels Are Here (Book 1)
on June 23, 2011
RECEIVED FROM: The Author For Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Paradox: The Angels Are Here is an introduction to many characters, Abaddon, an angel vampire creature, second in command of the Grigorian Angel Demon creatures, only second to his brother Cerebrus. Juliette, an angel who sort of serves as an introductory narrator. And Grace, a human child with strange nightmares and angels constantly flocking to her who serves as the main character in this tale. Grace is unaware of the many angels around her and the reason for this isn't even revealed to the reader in the course of this novel. Her father is aware of what's going on though that's not completely explained either and the angels become even more prevalent in Grace's life when he passes on in what's she's told is a mining accident.
I know that's not the best summary of a book, however it's the best one I can put together with so many things going on in this novel, hopefully my explanations in the review will better serve for an explanation of the book.
Have you ever read a book where a good editor would have made all the difference? Paradox: The Angels Are Here is one such novel in my personal opinion. The synopsis listed for this book focuses on Juliette, a character who had an entire two pages of presence in the novel. Her entering voice is a compelling opening, but after that she just disappears, lost in the tale of the strange fantasy read that follows.
Scene changes in the novel are abrupt and confusing, especially toward the beginning. It does smooth out a little later in the novel, but I often found myself stopping and asking what is going on and where did this character come from before realizing the author had transitioned into a different scene.
The writing jumps between past and present tense, which is extremely confusing and changes point of views so often it's almost whiplash like in it's effect. She head hops within the third person, which while I know this point of view opens the ability to jump into a variety of minds, it's not meant to be jumping every other sentence. In addition to this she jumps back and forth between first and third person point of view and at one point even includes the rarely used second person point of view. I understand that most of the time when she moves to the first person she's trying to show a dream sequence but unless that dream sequence is a part of a conversation it would be better identified with the use of italic font than a point of view switch. And honestly I don't think she meant to include the small section of second person point of view. It wasn't long enough to come across as something she planned when writing. It's more just there.
She begins multiple plots in the course of this story, a baby being born on the night of his grandfather's death, the birth being strange with the medical staff being even stranger. The little girl growing up with only an angel she thinks is imaginary for a friend, losing her father, befriending hidden angels. The odd war and the politics within the Griogorian family. Unfortunately for the reader she never fully explains any of these plots and they don't quite blend together right, so I spent most of the novel wonder what was going on. I think the plots have something to do with each other of course, but the lack of explanation in each plot and subplot is probably what causes the lack of these stories really weaving together. Also none of the plot lines encompass a full story arc, therefore the book is more of an introduction to this vast cast of characters leaving the reader curious as to exactly what they have to do with each other. As there are further novels planned for the series I believe the writer intends to explain this at a further date, however I truly to believe she needed to do a little more explaining in the first novels to better encourage readers to read the second.
The quick jumps from plot to plot also make it close to impossible to get to know any of the characters and really relate to them.
While her descriptions are well written and almost prose like at points, especially in the beginning the sections of them are so long it distracts the reader from the actual plot and by the time she comes back from the descriptions to the story you can't remember what was going on. She needs to find a way to weave these well written descriptions into the text without putting them in giant block that don't serve to move her story forward in anyway.
What saves this book is two things. One the writer is actually very talented, she can weave together a well written sentence and has a very strong voice. Two she's got some great plot lines going on, though they are extremely unorganized when presented in this story. If she'd expanded and explained more on any of the plots connecting them better, lengthening the time spent in each story line the book really would have been a page turner. Her ideas are excellent, it's her follow through that's not quite there yet. What Roberts really needs is to be paired up with a shrewd and experienced editor who can help her with transitioning and point of view. Someone who will point out the writing issues that make her story hard to follow before she publishes the story and an editor strong enough to make her voice heard. The combination of Robert's talent and imagination with a shrewd and experienced editor would make an unstoppable pair. However I will mention that this is a debut novel, her only other release being a book that she felt wasn't actually ready for publishing, and many writers are shaky on form and organization on their first novels. I can only hope that with experience her style will become more organized and easier to follow.
- Between The Land And The Sea
on June 26, 2011
RECEIVED FROM: The Author For Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Marina is about to start her senior year of high school in a new school, the first she's ever actually attended, and for the first time without her Dad there to support her. Marina's father is a agronomist who's spending the year in Afghanistan to help them develops ways to feed their country, while Marina is going to Aptos, California to live with her Aunt Abby and her cousin Cruz in their little seaside town. She believes her life is over until she encounters a sexy boy named Ethan and an ethereal mermaid name Lorelei. Soon she's drawn into the little seaside town and the mysteries of the ocean it borders, embarking on a dangerous quest to find out who she is and where she comes from. Will she survive to discover the answers she seeks?
The summary isn't the best description of the book, but lately I seem to find myself staring at a blank screen forever just to try to find the right words to both summarize and review the books I've read. I don't know if it's having a blog that's creating this loss for words in my writing or just some temporary mental block, but hopefully it goes away soon. Anyway back to the review.
This book is really more of a 3.5 stars than 3 but I don't do half ratings since I copy my reviews to my different profiles it's easier to stay with solid stars since that's what the other sites use. I actually only found two things that I think detracted from what is an otherwise well written and interesting story, however one of them was just so big that it dropped my rating considerably.
The first thing that bothered me, and this is actually the smaller one was that the characters seemed to have this inside joke that was never explained to the reader. There's multiple scenes with giggling characters where I didn't really understand what was so funny. To the characters in this novel there's apparently something hilarious about the statement "That's what she said." I didn't get it and there's nothing worse than being on the outside of a joke. Okay well there is, but it still sucks when you're left out.
The thing that I thought was the major flaw with this book was the Mary Sue tendencies of the characters and their lifestyles. They weren't quite perfect but they were darn close, at first I wasn't going to ding this book so hard for this, but it was her father winning the Nobel prize that kind of put it over the top for me. Marina has traveled extensively attending online school because her father is not only a brilliant agronomist (a job that to be honest I'd never heard of before reading this book.) but also holds a faculty position at a prestigious university. Apparently he's powerful enough that Marina can get her own way on all her classes just by mentioning his name to the school guidance counselor.
She herself is brilliant and is only attending high school because her father feels she's too independent and needs to learn to be around her peers. It's pretty apparent that no one really expects her to learn anything new academically there. Let's not forget that's she's beautiful and mystical as well.
Her neighbor, who's pretty much adopted her to the point she's referred to as Aunt Evie, is a retired fashion model who dresses Marina is Prada and other top of the line designers just because she enjoys doing it. If that weren't enough with this flamboyant character she has a basement full of expensive cars that she lets Marina learn to drive on and oh she's the original fashion "it" girl. Not to mention the fabulous Evie spends her time searching out hidden talents in fashion and music and helping them succeed in the business. (I seriously need an Aunt Evie.)
Her cousin Cruz, though a social outcast is a brilliant but as of yet undiscovered fashion designer. His best friend Meghan is a song writer with the most amazing voice. And we can't forget that Evan the boy who falls for Marina is the hottest and most respect guy in school. He's the best surfer on the beach, works all the time to achieve his future and adores the perfect Marina.
I had planned to mention this from about the introduction of Aunt Evie, but I hadn't planned to make as big of a deal of it in my review until Dad won the Nobel prize. That's just what put it over the top for me. The only negative things really in the character's lives is that Ethan doesn't have a lot of money and his mother ran off when he was only a kid. Cruz is a social outcast, and believe his father died in a car crash when he was a baby only to learn later that his father was a married man who tried paying his mother to abort him. Meghan is overweight and also a social outcast. And finishing out the social outcast crew is Marina who's mother died in child birth. It's as if the writer has found a couple flaws she likes and just attributed them to every character.
The book however is extremely well written, fast paced and a quick and enjoyable read. The plot has some interesting twists and turns that keep readers turning the page. The only thing I think the writer needs to learn is that perfect characters may lead wonderful lives, but it's harder for a reader to relate to characters whose lives they envy than a characters who has just as many issues as they do. Overall though I really did enjoy reading this book and I would recommend it to others who enjoy young adult urban fantasy novels. It's an excellent debut novel from a writer I look forward to reading more of. There's an obvious talent in the writing and the ability to weave a page turning story. I only hope that the characters become a little more believable in future works.
- The Moon And The Tide
on June 28, 2011
RECEIVED FROM: The Author For Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Marina Vanderpool is the half human, half mermaid child of a mermaid and a Nobel prize winning scientist. She lives a life that most people only dream of and has four years to decide whether she wants to be a child of the land or the sea. Though she's made her choice to stay with her human family before, she can't deny that the sea and her mermaid sisters call to her. Marina becomes like a rope in an emotional tug of war between her sea siren sisters and her human friends and family. Neither wants to share her or give her up and she isn't willing to turn her back on either. When her secret is exposed during a terrible accident everyone she cares about is threatened. Will she be able to protect them all? Can she even protect herself?
Anderson makes a brilliant return in the second story in her Marina's Tales series. Her characters start to really take shape in this story. Marina has an addictive personality, she's slightly self centered and on the dishonest side. Evan is clingy and though protective definite leaning toward controlling in his need to protect her and keep her. Aunt Evie is manipulative. Cruz, is WAY self centered, it's almost like he thinks the world revolves around him. Meghan get's a bossy side. Now if you've read my review from yesterday you'll actually understand how this is an EXCELLENT development in Derrolyn Anderson's work. In the first novel her characters were just too perfect to feel real. In this tale she provides them with flaws, makes them human for the reader allowing the reader to become a little more attached to each character through their flaws.
In this tale she also begins to reveal a little more of what the mermaids' abilities really are. The revelation of their abilities really puts a nice explanation on why every character's life in this novel seems so perfect. It's not just chance, it's magic. Of course, now I need to half mermaid to be my friend so I can lead that kind of life. In The Moon and The Tide Anderson takes the flaws from her first novel and puts a couple of explanations on them to make them seem more realistic because of the mermaid magic woven into the story. She also explains that Marina's lavish lifestyle was created by design to make her immune to persuasion in the form of bribery. She was raised to not value wealth so that she could never be manipulated by wealth. I don't know if this spin and explanation were initially planned by the author when she plotted out the series or a clever way to clean up constructive reviews from her first work right after it was published, however what she's done in this novel really works.
She did have a couple of hard to believe scenes, like one where Marina and Lorelei take out some burly bad guys, which did lower my rating a tad. Overall though it was a fast paced and well told story that I really enjoyed reading.
She also has a wonderful way of addressing the issues of sex with teens, she doesn't deny that the idea appeals to them, that they're tempted and close to crossing that line. However she also doesn't cross that line with teen readers and condoning premarital teenage sex. I'm not sure if she plans to in future novels, but so far she's keeping the book right where it should be for teen readers without making the teens seem like they're oblivious to hormones.
Anderson is not a writer to be missed in the young adult fantasy genre. The Moon and Tide is a wonderful tale of mermaids, love and adventure, and for the price it would be a serious mistake to pass over this series.
- Of Witches and Warlocks: Blood of the White Witch
on July 12, 2011
Received From: The Author For Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Vance Mangum and Portia Mullins are teenage soul mates. Due to the dangers of their lives as a witch and warlock, they marry young at the beginning of the story. Their honeymoon in Scotland doubles as a rescue mission for the mother Vance hasn't seen since he was a child. Their leads bring them to the home of Douglas and Fiona Cummings, Vance's wealthy grandparents who stand accused of keeping his mother Krista hostage. The Cummings seem to know nothing of what has happened to his mother of his recently deceased father, their own son. They welcome their long lost grandson into their lives with open arms and Portia and Vance are soon drawn into the Cummings lives of wealth and privilege. But all is not what it appears to be in the Cumming's household. Will Portia and Vance discover the truth before it's too late?
I really enjoy the second book in this series, but I have to say the third installment was a major let down after the previous book. The first quarter of the book might appeal to the pre-teen reader, but as an adult it definitely didn't appeal to me. I finally understand now why romance novelists end the book at the proposal. The wedding and subsequent honeymoon period leads to very dry and boring reading. "I love you" was said so many times it was like listening to a scratched cd stuck on the same line.
They got married and their lives seemed perfect. Yay for them, but frankly as a reader that bored me out of my mind. I know I said the relationship would be more realistic in previous books if it advanced to the next level, but I didn't mean a teen wedding and alluding to the couple have sex every other sentence. On a more comfortable note, we as a reader are at least spared any details of their constant honeymoon sex. We know they're doing it, but the scenes aren't spelled out like in an adult romance.
It didn't help that despite how in love the couple seemed, my mind completely rebelled against a high school wedding. I guess the point was demonstrating the moral idea that marriage should come before sex, but I don't think teens should be encouraged to marry that young for any reason.
The book starts to get interesting after the first quarter, and though I've never said this about a book before I recommend only skimming the first quarter so you don't loose interest in the story. The middle has an interesting plot line beginning to develop and some really good scenes.
What save this book from a bad rating is the last quarter of the novel. The battle scenes are intense, but the raw grief the character feels leaps from the page grabbing you. It yanks you into the pain she feels, giving you no choice but to experience it with her. The emotions and experience of the final quarter of this book are what make this novel worth reading.
The book has an odd, open style end that leaves you wanting to read more of the series curious about what will happen next in the saga of Portia and Vance.
Overall, I can't say this novel was better than okay. The first quarter of the book with all the happy, lovey dovey scenes really killed it for me. If you could cut the first quarter down to just a few pages and picked the book up from the middle, my rating would have been a lot higher. But you spend too long in the beginning waiting for something to actually happen with the plot for me to qualify this novel as good.
on July 24, 2011
RECEIVED FROM: Library Thing for Review
***NOTE MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN SPOILERS***
Ariel Donovan is a completely normal fifteen year old girl living in the town of Hell, Michigan. Well she’s normal if you discount the fact that she calls her parents by their first names. And you don’t mention that her best friend has been missing for three months and without Jenna she’s a social zero. Also if we’re calling her normal we probably shouldn’t mention that she might be seeing ghost and there appears to be something sinister going on beneath the surface of the small town of Hell. Okay so she’s probably not all that normal, but who needs normal when you live in Hell right? Ariel is the girl who’s been left behind in their close friendship, the one with all the questions that no one else is asking. But will she find the answers before it’s too late?
I’ll start this review by telling you that mature part of me is telling me that I’m not being fair in my rating of this book. Logically I know it’s a four star novel, well written with strong character development and good pacing. But have you ever read a book where you got to the end and just though wtf? You found yourself so angry you wanted to call up the author and ask her that exact question? Emotionally however I can’t give it higher than a three stars because I finished this book and I’m just plain MAD. That leaves something to be said about my maturity as a reviewer, but at least I’m admitting that I’m letting my anger at the ending dictate my final rating for the book.
Each scene within this novel is described so completely it’s like you’re there living it and the characters as so multifaceted that at times they’re confusing, just as real people are. Do you remember those people in high school, especially the teenage boys where you’d think you know them and then they’d do something that left you going huh? Afterward you’d go on and on to your friends about how boys made no sense whatsoever and it’s no wonder that most of the girls had higher grades because boys clearly weren’t born with brains. While as an adult I can claim a slightly better understanding of the opposite sex than I could as a teen, this book brought me right back to that adolescent phase where boys and their actions just made you go huh? By making them not completely make sense at points she makes her characters seem completely real.
The book overall is hard to describe, it’s like Veronica Mars meets Ghost Whisper with a hint of something else thrown into the mix, maybe some Charmed, I’m not really sure what that extra element is that makes this story so original.
One of the things I loved about Ariel is that it’s not just stated that she’s fifteen, followed by her being whisked away into some surreal world. She’s living the life of a fifteen year old complete with over protective, though strange parents. The books is filled with paranormal elements which Ariel has to deal with or at least attempt to comprehend, but she’s also dealing with teenage crushes, hot and cold boys, teacher boredom and embarrassment. She attends classes, gets sent to the principal’s office, and deals with teenage rejection from the popular crowd who like in every school seem to get away with everything. By being a part of all these mundane portions of her life she’s more real as a character because real teenagers have to go to school and suffer through classes they’d rather not take and agonize over the one subject in school that doesn’t make sense.
While there were a few things that seemed off to me which is why I state that it was more deserving four stars than three, like calling parents by first names and other little things I couldn’t comprehend like that. The main thing that upset me about the book was being left with more questions than answers. Is Ariel really seeing ghosts? What was it about the necklace? What’s really happening with the town and how is Henry involved? What does her family seem to know that she doesn’t? And the ending while I guess enlightening in some ways is more frustrating than anything else because it looks like everything has gone wrong, nothing has gone right and no one is getting answers. Additionally, the villain revealed in the novel was completely unexpected and there was no foreshadowing whatsoever that he might be guilty or involved in anything so that was kind of a major huh moment for me. I hope to god this is part of a series because if that is then end of Ariel’s story I’m thinking this writer might be kind of sadistic. To get the reader so involved and weaving the world and characters so intricately to end in the manner she did seems all sorts of wrong to me. Overall I’m hesitant about recommending it. On one hand it’s extremely well written and an engaging story. On the other since I didn’t get hardly any answers but was left instead with a ton of questions and a burning anger I have a hard time recommending someone else step on an emotional roller coaster ride only to be left stuck at the top of the drop at the end wondering if the writer will let them down. I will say this, if there is a sequel to this novel I’d like to preorder it because I am highly involved with the characters she’s presented to me. As a standalone title I couldn’t recommend it only because of the things I’ve stated above, but if this novel opens a new series I highly recommend jumping on for the ride because I can guarantee she will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end.