Monster Girls and Wicked Boys


Happy Thursday! I haven’t really done a book review on this blog for quite some time. But, I recently read Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air trilogy, and I have thoughts, lol.

It’s been awhile since I felt like anything pulled me in as much as this series did. And it was somewhat unexpected. I read the first book, The Cruel Prince, early last year, probably a month or so before the pandemic began. I really liked it! But it took me until this past month to read the next two (The Wicked King and The Queen of Nothing). I was so pulled in that I actually went back and re-read The Cruel Prince, then read the other two again before I had to return them to the library. I rarely re-read books at all, let alone this soon after the first read, haha. I was curious to see, though, what clues Holly Black might have sprinkled throughout the series leading up to its conclusion.

So, this post is sort of part book review, part discussion of themes that I liked in the trilogy. First, the review part: top-notch books, five million stars. Lol. (I should note, too, the title of today’s post is borrowed from How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories, a short story collection and companion to TFOTA.)

The series centers around Jude Duarte, a girl whose parents were murdered by the Folk and then raised by their murderer, a redcap named Madoc, in Elfhame. Jude and her twin sister, Taryn, have quite a different upbringing in Elfhame than they would have in the human world, to say the least. The fairy world is one filled with intrigue, epic political rivalries, debauchery, and violence. In the first book, Jude has aspirations of becoming a knight. She craves both physical armor and the respect such a position would grant her, but she’s also, in a sense, armored her emotions, her heart, just to survive as a human in Elfhame.

Jude is a great, and perhaps rare, type of character in YA literature. She is unapologetically ambitious and will do anything to take, and hold onto, even a little bit of power in the fairy world. Especially in the first book, she’s very nearly, if not entirely, a psychopath. She also has a bloodthirsty streak.

There’s actually quite a lot of political intrigue going on in this series, so it’s unfair to boil it down to its central romance. But, what a “romance” it is. Cardan is the youngest prince of Elfhame. When they’re in school together, he and his friends are bullies, and to say Jude hates him is an understatement. Cardan “hates” her at the start, too, although perhaps it’s more fair to say that he hates himself for not actually hating her, a puny human.

If you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan, this is the trilogy for you. And clearly from some of the reviews I’ve seen after finishing the series, not everyone is a fan of this, and that’s fine. This aspect of the book seems to have gotten some slack because Cardan is, of course, a bully at the beginning, and for some readers, that’s a deal breaker. But, although I think it’s fair to say a relationship like this doesn’t translate well to real life (and it doesn’t have to), I love the themes Holly Black is able to explore with this dynamic.

Because it’s true, Cardan is cruel at the start of the series (although some of his friends are arguably worse), but Jude is also horrible, in her way. Like I said, she will do anything to get ahead, to feel like she has at least some control in a world she knows is against her. And this includes tricking, lying, and controlling Cardan in The Wicked King. Cardan has a troubled past that explains much of why he is the way he is, and he grows out of this by the end of the series. One of the themes of the trilogy is that boys can change, and I actually think this is really important. Not in a sense that you should be in a relationship with someone who bullies you (you absolutely shouldn’t), but in a more general sense. Like, honestly, boys absorb a lot of toxic messages, whether they’re aware of it or not, about what it means to be a man. But, as you get older, you can learn new things – realize what you’ve been taught or raised to believe isn’t necessarily true – and change your perspective as a result.

Jude, too, goes through a learning process throughout the series. She comes to learn that loving someone doesn’t mean controlling them. The emotional armor she’s built around herself begins, slowly, to chip away.

I think this trilogy’s themes also resonated with me because (shameless plug alert), it reminded me of what I was trying to do in my Reborn series. In Reborn and Relapse, Siobhan and Jasper have a pretty toxic relationship. They could both use a lesson in love does not equal control. Jasper blatantly manipulates Siobhan in the first book, believing he has her best interests in mind. In the second book, I try to reverse their roles a bit. Jasper is starting to come around, disliking the darker version of himself he’s become. And, despite everything, he does love Siobhan. She knows this. She knows this, exploits it because she gets something from him, too – but can’t give herself entirely to him, emotionally. Siobhan, in this way, is hurting him right back; she’s aware of it, but she goes ahead with it, anyway.

Another aspect of Holly Black’s trilogy I appreciated was the way she reversed gender roles. In addition to wanting to become a knight, Jude has many of the personality traits that, if we do see them, we usually see them in male characters. Like I said, she’s shamelessly ambitious, needs to control everything, and has a penchant for solving problems with violence. And, this is a bit superficial, but I also love how Cardan is the “flashy” one, ha. Jude does get dressed up in the books, but she tends to gravitate toward more practical clothing, while Cardan’s closets are full of fancy attire.

Anyway, these kinds of role reversals are what I like to see in books, and also what I tried to incorporate in Retribution. I want to see heroines who are ambitious, complicated, controlling, bloodthirsty, unapologetic. “Monster” girls, as Holly Black might say.

If you are a fan of YA, fantasy, and romance, I highly recommend The Folk of the Air books!

Love Triangles


Hello dearies, and happy 2021! It’s been a strange year, to say the least, but I wish you all health and happiness in this new year! I spent my holiday vacation binging (bingeing?) season 2 of The Mandalorian with hubby (SO AMAZINGLY GOOD) and starting season 3 of my current guilty pleasure, Hannibal. (Very Christmas-y, I know.)

But, anyway, this post isn’t about any of that (even though this blog will be converting to a Mads Mikkelsen stan account very shortly…). The last book I read for 2020 has got me thinking about love triangles.

Now, some people really hate love triangles. I’m not in that camp – occasionally, I love a good, ol’ fashioned love triangle, especially if it’s done well, or if there’s a twist on it. There was one in the first two books of my Reborn series (Siobhan/Jasper/Jimmy), although I think my novella Rectify put a nail in that coffin. I realized there was a rather accidental one after I finished writing the third book, but I also put a twist on this in the next installment, Retribution. 😉 Sorry for the book plug, but I couldn’t resist…

The reason I’m thinking love triangles today, though, is because the book I just read did one…poorly. And I’ve been pondering why it didn’t work for me.

The book is Finale, the third book in Stephanie Garber’s Caraval series. Now, I’m definitely not here to bash this series. I enjoyed the first two books, and I generally liked the magical, whimsical world of games and deception Ms. Garber created. But in the second and third books, there was a love triangle between one of the main heroines, Donatella (Tella) Dragna, Legend (the gamemaster of Caraval), and Jacks/the Prince of Hearts (one of the Fates, the major supernatural/god-like race in the series).

Now, Legend and Jacks are both villainous types in these books. And it’s potentially interesting for the heroine to be caught between two villains (as long as she’s not merely their pawn). But it fell really flat for me, to the point where I was wondering…what is the point? Jacks is kind of a vivid, intriguing character, but why is he here? Why does this love triangle even exist? Even as a villain (or antihero), it would work if he serves as a foil to Legend, or gives Tella something Legend can’t. But most of the time, he’s just kind of there, being cruel and capricious, and Tella seems attracted to him for no reason. Legend goes through more of a character change than Jacks, but even that didn’t have as hard of a punch as it should have.

So, what does make a good love triangle? This example might show my, ahem, age, but I always liked the way L.J. Smith approached them in her novels back in the day. I still think and talk about her books…a lot (Exhibit A). Lol. They’re like thirty years old. It’s fine. But in her books, there was always a light-darkness theme going on with the love triangles her heroines found themselves in. In The Forbidden Game trilogy, Jenny was in love with Tom, her high school sweetheart, who represented light and safety to her. But the part of her that’s growing up, and possibly growing out of Tom, is intrigued by the danger and mystery trickster god Julian offers, despite his darkness. The books aren’t even that long, but Ms. Smith manages to show how Tom isn’t always the safety net Jenny has come to depend on, and how Julian isn’t all that he seems, either. They both offer her something she wants, even if those sides of her are in conflict.

For this next section, if you don’t want spoilers for The Infernal Devices, Splintered, or A Court of Thorns and Roses series, I would stop reading…right about…now.

The other twist on YA love triangles that seems to have become popular in recent years is that…it’s quite possible…to love more than one person during your life? I know it seems crazy, but it’s true! All kidding aside, I think this is an important message for teen audiences. And it makes for a better story! In Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy, Tessa marries Will, and they have a very happy life together. But as he’s a shadowhunter and she has demon blood, she outlives him. Long after he’s gone, she reunites with Jem, the other love of her life. There’s a similar theme in A.G. Howard’s Alice in Wonderland-inspired trilogy, Splintered.

I’ve just decided I don’t want to spoil Sarah J. Maas’s ACOTAR series, but if you want to read a trilogy where all of your expectations after reading the first book are completely upended, in the best way possible, READ THESE BOOKS. IMMEDIATELY. Books don’t have to have a message, but I think this series does. It’s an important one and not incorporated in a “preach-y” way or anything like that.

I guess if this post has any sort of conclusion or advice, and isn’t simply me rambling, it’s this. Love triangles can be fun! They don’t have to be super complex or convey some sort of message, but each love interest should offer the central character something he or she wants – or fulfill them in some way – the other person can’t, emotionally or otherwise. It will be more interesting if each of the three characters has very clear internal and external motivations, especially if they come into conflict (and beyond just the fact you have two people fighting over the same person). Or, you know, they should at least be different in some way, and not basically the same person, lol.

Any thoughts about love triangles? I would love to hear them below!

Book Review: Feversong


Before getting into tonight’s review, I made a small change to the format of this blog. Now when you go to the home page–instead of my blog post feed–you will be taken to a static page where I will post general updates about what I’m working on, followed by a list of my current books and links if you want to grab a copy. Right now the update is very vague and general since I’m working that out, lol, but it will become more detailed as I figure that out.

A list of recent blog posts is available on the right hand menu.

I decided to do this as a quicker and more general way of keeping readers and those who may stumble upon this blog up-to-date with what I’m working on. I don’t really blog as much as I used to, nor do I usually have the time and/or desire to blog that much, haha. February is an exception because I released a novella and then Reclaim, but I’m going to try to keep update posts to once every month, or even every two months. Until I’m well underway with a project, there’s usually not that much to say, and I end up repeating myself a lot.

With that said, onto my review of Feversong, the final installment of Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series (at least as we know it!).

*****

feversong_coverI thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion to KMM’s Fever series, although I’m super bummed this is the end for Barrons and Mac’s story, at least, it seems, for now. I believe Ms. Moning is planning additional books set in the fever world, only centered around other characters, so I’m interested to see where that goes.

Honestly, I was nervous at the beginning of the book that I wouldn’t like it. At the end of Feverborn, to save herself and Jada/Dani, Mac basically opens her inner Sinsar Dubh…and sure, it gets them out, but it also turns Mac into a psychopath, haha. The parts written from Mac/the Sinsar Dubh’s perspective got old for me, fast, but luckily it’s only the first quarter of the book or so. And she does some REALLY horrible things while she’s possessed. I mean, dear God, lol.

But I loved the rest of the book, and I felt like everything that happened after that was a natural extension of Mac’s story. Also, and I may be in the minority here, but I really like Dani, and I liked seeing her become her old self more and more as the book went on. And I LOVE her and Dancer and get a little annoyed when KMM seems to be trying to appease the Dani/Ryodan shippers while also giving Dani and Dancer the time together they deserve.

I also enjoyed the flashbacks to Dani’s time in the Silvers with Shazam. (I love Shazam.) We get to find out more about him, too.

All in all, KMM brought this second part of the Fever series to a satisfying and admirable close, while still leaving the reader with a bit of a sense of mystery, particularly around the destinies of Barrons and Mac. (If you’re curious or confused, she did write a blog post about this. It’s on her Facebook page, but don’t read it until you finish this book because there are spoilers. But it might clear up any confusion you may have.)

There was also a scene in Feversong that made me cry. 😦 Overall, well done, Ms. Moning!

Book Review: Lady Midnight


I’ll have a real update post for you tomorrow, but I’m also trying to get caught up on book reviews. Here is one for Lady Midnight, the first book in Cassandra Clare’s newest trilogy, The Dark Artifices.

Back Cover Book Summary:

lady-midnight“In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?”

*****

So, I am typically a huge Cassandra Clare fan. I loved The Mortal Instruments series. I loved The Infernal Devices trilogy even more. But Lady Midnight was a 3-star read for me and a kind of shaky start to this newest trilogy.

Part of the problem is that LM takes about one hundred pages for the plot to really get moving and interesting. The beginning of the book is A LOT of set up, which is somewhat needed but seemed to take too long and wasn’t as organically incorporated into the developing plot as it could have been. The Mortal Instruments series has a memorable opening with Clary encountering the shadowhunters for the first time in a club called Pandemonium. The opening of this book does not live up to that. Plus, I found myself not really invested in the main plot point–Emma’s search for the person who killed her parents–at least initially. This did get better.

A few other aspects that bothered me: First, there were too many kids. Haha. I get that Clare has developed this character, Julian, who had to grow up quickly, taking care of the household and his brothers and sisters–and I liked that about him. I did. He was one of my favorite characters in the book. But I think she could have gotten this point across without quite so many younger siblings. Plus, when their names are Ty, Livvy, Tavvy, and Drusilla, I got them mixed up, lol. At least at first. Maybe part of it was I didn’t care to keep track of who was who. I liked that she includes Ty as an autistic character, but the other ones seemed pointless. (Or maybe I’m terrible.)

The other major drawback for me was the incorporation of characters from previous books. Look, I get that she has created this world now and it’s all connected and that’s fun, but I could have done without the cameos from Clary, Jace, Alec, Magnus, Jem, and Tessa (Jem’s is the only one that should have been there because it made sense). I would love to know what’s happened to these characters since the ends of their respective series, but maybe in a short story or something. In LM, I just wanted to get a feel for the new characters, and these throwbacks to past books kept taking me out of the story.

I love getting lost in long books, but only if there’s a point to it being that long. I think this book could have been tighter for the reasons mentioned above, and, consequently, about 100 pages shorter than it was.

That being said, I didn’t actually hate this book. Mark Blackthorn’s plot thread saved this book for me. As far as I’m concerned, the entire book could have been about that conflict. Maybe she could just write a series about Mark and Kieran in the Wild Hunt.

There are also some cool surprises in Lady Midnight. (This might be a tiny bit spoiler-y, so stop reading now if you don’t want any sort of spoiler, even a small, vague one.) At first, I thought the rule about parabatai not being allowed to have a romantic relationship was as dumb and senseless as Emma and Julian seemed to think it was, but that got better, too.

Despite the issues I had with this book, I still intend to read book 2, Lord of Shadows, to see where all of this is going.

Book Review: Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh


Back cover summary: “Varen Nethers is trapped in a perilous dreamworld—a treacherous and desolate realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life. Isobel Lanley, plagued by strange visions and haunted by the nightmares of Varen’s creation, is the only one who can save him. Isobel knows that her only hope lies within a Baltimore cemetery. There, in the early morning of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, a mysterious stranger known as the “Poe Toaster” will make his annual homage at the legendary poet’s grave. Only the Poe Toaster holds the key to the way between worlds. But great dangers lie ahead for Isobel. An ancient evil, draped in veils of white, is watching, challenging her for Varen’s affections. When Isobel finally finds Varen, he is no longer the quiet and brooding boy who once captivated her, but a dark force, powerful and malevolent. Could Isobel’s greatest love also be her greatest adversary?”

*****

For the most part, I liked this sequel to Creagh’s debut novel, Nevermore (read my review here)–maybe not as much, but I still liked it and enjoy the author’s writing style.

I think what might disappoint readers somewhat is the lack of Varen in this follow-up. Although the trilogy certainly covers other themes, the relationship between Isobel and Varen is the main focus of the first book, so I’m not sure if it was daring or misguided on Creagh’s part to lessen Varen’s presence in Enshadowed. It’s carried through in a different (and unexpected) way…I don’t want to say too much about it because it would likely spoil the book, but just wanted to warn readers that it might not be what they expect. (I think the official book summary is misleading in this way.)

Because of this, it felt like one of those books that, while well written, is very much a transitional installment and doesn’t stand very well on its own. I’m glad all three books are out because now I don’t have to wait to read the third one, haha, and hopefully the third book will wrap things up nicely since the author does leave you hanging and wanting more.

However, Enshadowed still has a lot going for it, which is why I’m giving it four stars. As a YA paranormal/horror book, it definitely has some creepy parts, particularly in the delightfully sinister character of Pinfeathers. Creagh also reverses a few popular tropes. By the end of Nevermore, we know that Varen is trapped in a dangerous dreamworld of his own creation, held captive there by the alluring but evil Lilith. In the sequel, it’s up to Isobel to find a way back to the dreamworld to rescue Varen, although the end result of this probably isn’t what you’d expect, either. Creagh addresses some of the unanswered questions left at the end of the first book, but leaves plenty of mysteries still waiting to be solved in book three. I enjoyed her paranormal spins on the Poe Toaster and Poe’s own murky past and demise.

All in all, I thought it was a good, if not an amazing, sequel, and I’m definitely interested to see where Kelly Creagh is going with all of this in the third and final book.

Book Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh


Back cover summary: “Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.”

***

I’ve been bad about writing reviews lately (well, bad about reading outside of work, period), but I absolutely have to tell fellow YA paranormal, horror, and romance fans about this book by Kelly Creagh. It’s the first in a trilogy, and, although it seems like she’s been enjoying some success, I don’t think nearly enough people know about this book. So I want to spread the word.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I got this book from the library last weekend. (As an aside, I checked out a new library–I LOVE libraries–but didn’t know where anything was yet so had to ask someone where the YA section was. The librarian started prattling on about the summer YA reading list, and I got the feeling they thought I was looking for some books for a kid or something. Nope, I’m just in my late 20s and still read young adult books…and if you’re one of the people playing Pokemon Go right now, you have no room to judge…)

Anyway, I recognized this book from Goodreads and decided to give it a go. I mean, the book summary sounded intriguing if a little predictable, and I wasn’t sure how the Edgar Allan Poe spin would play out, even though it seems like a unique twist for a YA book. Plus, Varen Nethers has to be the bestest character name ever. So, excited but not sure what to expect, I checked it out of the library.

And Ms. Creagh completely sucked me in.

I guess I’m so pleasantly surprised because Nevermore did not have to be this good. The cheerleader/goth “forbidden” high school romance that forms the premise is probably overdone, but Kelly Creagh writes it in such a way that feels fresh and not corny, for lack of a better word. (At least in my opinion). Nevermore opens with the main character, unlikely heroine Isobel Lanley, getting partnered with king of the goths Varen for an English class project. (They decide to do theirs on Poe, of course, Varen’s favorite writer.) Varen and Isobel butt heads for much of the first third of the book or so. She’s still hanging with the popular crowd and dating one of the football players (Brad), but when her “crew” starts to turn on Varen and Brad becomes disturbingly jealous of the fact she has to do this project with Varen, Isobel starts to see that maybe her so-called “friends” really aren’t that great. Throughout the course of the project, she finds herself more intrigued by Varen and drawn into his world, which turns out to be stranger and more twisted than she ever expected.

I thought the tension between Isobel and Varen was great, although it took them a little long to start discovering their feelings for each other for my taste. And, although Varen is your typical dark-and-broody anti-hero (as find out, he kind of has a good reason to be), he’s not mean to Isobel or so forgone that leaves you wondering why she would be interested in him in the first place. He’s somewhat sarcastic in the beginning, and at one point he tells her she’s “not his type,” but it’s more of a mutual dislike (Isobel’s not great to him in the beginning, either). Brad is the real creep. In general I just really liked the characters in this book. Isobel starts off as being the stereotypical, bubbly cheerleader but changes a lot throughout Nevermore. No matter what’s thrown her way, she never stops fighting. One of my other favorite characters was her locker neighbor/new best friend Gwen, who really pops off the page and is just hilarious.

All in all, I would say this is the perfect book for high school readers who enjoy paranormal, horror, and romance. And also for old people like me who also enjoy YA books. 😉 Seriously, though, it’s a pretty balanced mix of horror, humor, and romance. Not so scary as to make you leave a light on at night, but it definitely as some creepy parts. And I just really liked Creagh’s writing style. It’s a dark but beautiful debut novel.

Nevermore isn’t totally without some problems. It’s 500+ pages and, even though it’s still an easy read, I felt like it could have been a little shorter. Like I said, the romantic tension between Isobel and Varen takes a little too long to build up, and is pretty understated (there’s a desperate kiss at one point, but that’s pretty much it). Then again, it is a YA book, so that’s age-appropriate. (I’ll admit, I used to write more YA-oriented stories, but then transitioned to New Adult so that I could write sexier scenes, teehee). Also toward the beginning there’s a chapter broken up with some long passages from The Red Masque of Death as Isobel is reading through The Complete Works of EAP that really pulled me out of the story. I mean, gotta love Poe, but it was a little much. Luckily, it didn’t become a “thing” throughout the book. Otherwise, I really liked the Poe-inspired world she created in this book.

But, at the end of it all, I loved Nevermore and can’t wait to read the next two (Creagh leaves you hanging at the end of book 1). A well-deserved 5 stars!

Book Review: Feverborn


Last night, I stayed up until two in the morning reading Feverborn, the latest installment of Karen Marie Moning’s bestselling Fever series. In typical Moning fashion, she really blew me away in the last 150 pages or so of the book, and I couldn’t put it down. That being said, I had some issues with the first part of the book. But I’ll get to those in a second.

I would say the “big picture” plot point in Feverborn, and this phase of the series in general, is repairing the damage that has been done to Earth since the walls came down. Small black holes (that are only getting bigger) have cropped up all over Dublin–including the one steadily growing towards the abbey–and the squad (Mac, Jada, Barrons, Ryodan, Christian, and Dancer) have figured out the reason and a theoretical remedy. So, part of Feverborn are these very different characters, with strong, and at many times clashing personalities, forming an unlikely alliance to save Earth. This is complicated by the fact that many outside characters and groups want one or the other of them dead for various reasons.

There are a few other interesting subplots interspersed throughout the book as well. We find out what happened to Dageus after Burned and a near-fatal mission to rescue his nephew, druid-turned-Unseelie prince Christian, who was being tortured by the creepy Crimson Hag. Mac’s past also comes back to haunt her, in more ways than one. We even get a few insights into what Cruce, the Unseelie prince trapped underneath the abbey, has been up to, and he’s starting to reemerge as the “big bad.”

That all being said, what Feverborn is really about is Mac and ice-cold Jada, formerly Mac’s energetic, impulsive bff, Dani. This was my favorite part of the book. Through Jada’s impersonal third-person narration, we learn bits and pieces of what happened to her while she was in the Silvers, and–although she never divulges everything–it’s enough to paint the bleak, heartbreaking picture. I actually have to say that, this time around, I enjoyed Jada’s plot thread considerably more than Mac’s. And I love how Moning has challenged their friendship, and the healing process for both of them that starts to take place in Feverborn.

I have to admit, though–and I hate saying this about one of my favorite authors–that the first half of the book was a bit of a mess. I felt like the book didn’t know what it itself was really about (Mac and Jada) until about the halfway point, maybe even further along. Moning often switches between points of view within books, and I usually admire her ability to do so effortlessly and convincingly. I never question whose head I’m in, and each plot thread typically stands well on its own while still advancing the overall plot.

But this style didn’t work for me as much in Feverborn. I have to agree with other reviews I’ve read saying that Mac’s part is basically a rehash of her old problems–issues I thought had been wrapped up by the end of Shadowfever. Also, the strain Moning placed on her and Barrons’s relationship in Burned seems to have completely evaporated now, and they’ve reverted to slamming their walls back up whenever they’re not having insanely hot sex (really, if Barrons can’t just call her Mac all the time at this point instead of Ms. Lane, fts). It’s like all of the progress they’ve made in their relationship throughout the course of the series has been unraveled for no reason.

Further, there are some random chapters written from Christian and Lor’s POVs for seemingly no reason. Okay, Christian’s sort of had a point (although it’s not carried throughout FB like in past books), but Lor’s didn’t give any significant insight into his or Jo’s characters and didn’t advance the plot. I guess it was sort of amusing, but it really should have served some other function than comic relief. I did, however, enjoy the parts with Cruce and Papa Roach, and I really hope Cruce is coming back as the major evil player in the next book (which I think is supposed to be the final, final book?).

By the way, I hate that I have to write this. As a writer myself, I know that criticism can be a good thing and very helpful, but I hate sounding overly critical or mean about a series and author that I love. I still think Karen is an excellent writer. I love the language she uses, the settings she creates–I can picture everything vividly in my mind, and I’m still highly invested in all of the characters. It’s just this book felt like a lot of filler material before the next book. (A lot of readers said that about Burned as well, although it didn’t feel that way to me for some reason. But this book did.)

The last fourth of the book really saved it for me, though. I wish the entire book had just focused on Mac and Jada and their friendship, because those parts were really touching. There are enough mysteries planted throughout FB that keep you hooked and plenty of twists and surprises–toward the end, they just kept coming. The battle at the abbey sort of works as a climax for the good guys/bad guys conflict in the book, but I think the real climax happens right after that, when you find out why Jada goes running back into the burning abbey. It just shows so much about what she must have went through in the Silvers and the person she has become now. Those parts actually brought tears to my eyes, they were so heartbreaking. I’m still intrigued to see where Moning is going with all of this and how she’ll tie up the loose ends she left at the end of FB.

So, in summary, while I felt like Feverborn had trouble finding its footing, the last part of the book saved it for me, and that’s why I’m giving it four stars. I will still probably pre-order the next book and binge read it when it comes.

Return of the Mac: A Review of Burned


There have only been a few authors in my life that have left me almost not able to function until their next book comes out. That I read it as soon as I get my hands on it. In high school and part of college, that author was J.K. Rowling. Now, in my adult life, I have Karen Marie Moning.

It was actually my mom who discovered the Fever series seven or so years ago. I think back then there were already three or four books out, so I didn’t have long to wait until the next installment. (Now, the wait is longer, harder, but still totally worth it.) I was immediately sucked in to the seedy underbelly of Ms. Moning’s Dublin, where the Unseelie lurk and dark forces are at work to bring the walls between our world and the Fae’s down. I crushed on Jericho Barrons, a sexy, enigmatic antihero equal parts elegant and wild. And I loved the fever world’s kick ass heroine, MacKayla (Mac) Lane, who, over the series, transforms from a blonde, pink Southern girl without a care in the world to a fierce Unseelie fighter and a protector of Dublin, the city she’s grown to love even though it took her twin sister, Alina.

The first five Fever books are primarily from Mac’s point-of-view. Fans of the series know that the last book, Iced, was Dani “Mega” O’Malley’s time to shine, with some insight into Christian MacKeltar’s life as he made the agonizing transformation from sexy, Highlander druid to insatiable Unseelie Prince, as well as Kat’s POV and life with the sidhe-seers at the abbey. I feel like not too many people were thrilled with a book that was told mostly from Dani’s POV, and, although perhaps not my favorite in the series–I think that honor still goes to Shadowfever–I enjoyed Iced, and Dani’s story was definitely one that needed to be told.

In Burned, “Mac is back,” as it quotes on the front cover–and I think Ms. Moning’s got her groove back. The book was fun, sexy, packed with action and suspense, and I couldn’t put it down. Well, somehow I managed to for a few hours to get some shut-eye, but this morning I was right back reading, and I finished it within the day. Like I said, not many books have sucked me in quite like the Fever and Highlander series have. I devoured it, and when it was over I was in some sort of book haze/coma, wanting more but knowing that more probably won’t come for another year, maybe longer.

Ugh.

I’m not sure what to even say about this book–like Shadowfever, there are so many twists in it–and so many inklings of things to come–I’m not sure I can talk about it without accidentally giving something away. I can say, though, that it centers mostly around Mac and Dani’s relationship, which–if you’ve read the series–you know was tried when Mac found out Dani, of all people, was the one who killed her dear twin sister, Alina. (You find out even more about the circumstances surrounding this in Burned.) Mac and Jericho’s relationship, which was sort of wrapped up nicely enough at the end of Shadowfever (I will always remember the quote, “I will always be priya for this man.”), is also tested in this latest installment.

Although most of the story is told from Mac’s POV, we get glimpses of Barrons at the very beginning, the Unseelie king, Christian as he’s being tortured by the Crimson Hag, Kat as she struggles to maintain leadership of the sidhe-seers at the abbey, and even Lor. (I have to admit, out of all the POVs, I think I enjoyed Lor’s the least, although I guess he was kind of amusing. I just didn’t find it very convincing–it was a  little too much for me, although he and his budding love interest were sort of cute towards the end.) We also get glimpses of a new, ultra kick ass assassin, Jada–who, even though her dialogue is reminiscent of Seven of Nine’s in Star Trek: Voyager (everything is inefficient), she turns out to be oh so important. The transitions between the first (and third) person POVs works well for the book and, even though Ms. Moning conveniently labels each chapter with the character’s name, the styles are different enough that I think you’d be able to tell them apart, anyway–something I hope I can master.

There are also some very old friends in this book–namely, twins Drustan and Dageus MacKeltar from the Highlander series. They’re pivotal to the mission to save Christian from the clutches of the Crimson Hag. New troubles are also brewing in post-apocalyptic Dublin–problems even the Unseelie king may not be able to fix (and it’s questionable whether he even wants to). Although some issues leftover from Iced are resolved, and Mac comes to term with some demons from her past, there are still lots of loose ends at the end of Burned and a slight cliffhanger, which will leave you yearning for the next book.

This book got me right in the feels, and I know I won’t be able to shake it all week. I even called my mom to fangirl about it…which, in retrospect, was kind of mean because she won’t read it until I bring my copy home with me, lol. If you’re a fellow Moning Maniac, I know you will love Burned. If you haven’t read the Fever series–do it. Immediately. And the Highlander series, too–or at least the Immortal Highlander.

Book Review: Clockwork Angel


Clockwork Angel is the first book in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy. I love Ms. Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series (City of Heavenly Fire is sitting on my bookcase, waiting patiently for me to read it…but it looks sort of daunting…), and it took me awhile to get around to starting The Infernal Devices…but I am oh so glad I did. For me, it was a five-star read. In my opinion, the back cover book summary does not do this book justice. It makes it sound like it’s only about a love triangle–which, for better or for worse, there is a love triangle in this book. That device has sort of exploded along with YA lit in recent years. But anyway, there is so much more going on in this book than that, and I fell in love with all of the characters.

Our heroine, Teresa (Tessa) Gray, comes over to London from the States when she gets a note from her brother, Nathaniel, who moved there for work. Unfortunately, in London she falls into the clutches of the Dark Sisters. They force her to practice her unique ability–with the touch of a personal item, Tessa can shape shift into the person it belongs to–a power she didn’t even know she had until now. If she doesn’t do as the Dark Sisters say, they threaten to hurt Nate. Things are looking pretty grim when they inform Tessa that she is ready to marry the mysterious, powerful Magister. Thankfully, a group of Shadowhunters break into the Dark House and rescue Tessa on what would probably have been her wedding day.

Tessa becomes a guest at the London Institute, run by Charlotte and Henry Branwell and home to three orphans: Jessamine Lovelace, James (Jem) Carstairs, and Will Herondale. She learns about the Nephilim, the world of the Shadowhunters, and the Downworld of vampires, werewolves, faeries and warlocks–the world she herself is a part of. Much of the book is Tessa learning to accept this knowledge, and to accept herself and her ability. There’s also a lot of great action, suspense, and yes, romantic tension, as well as an unexpected twist toward the end.

I loved all of the characters in this book. Cassandra Clare does a magnificent job of weaving together the world of the Shadowhunters with Victorian England. Charlotte, who is truly in charge at the Institute, struggles to make her voice and opinion heard at the Enclave meetings mostly dominated by men. Henry, on the other hand, is too busy tinkering with inventions to run much of anything. I loved Henry–he was the eccentric scientist/inventor whose inventions never quite worked the way they were supposed to. These two worlds also conflict in the character of Jessamine. She’s an aspiring proper Victorian lady who claims to reject her calling as a Shadowhunter, but she’s kind of a bad ass when duty calls. Her parasol turns into a weapon (that was a nice touch).

And then there’s Will and Jem–parabatai, like Jace and Alec are in TMI. There’s a bit of mystery surrounding each of them; both seem to harbor dark secrets, especially Will. Tessa finds herself drawn to each of them, of course. Jem is kind and brave, but unfortunately suffers from a mystery illness that makes it difficult for him to fight. And Will…..well, Will is the gorgeous, dark-haired, arrogant, sarcastic, broody one who lashes out at people because he’s compensating for his inner turmoil/vulnerability–so, naturally, he’s my favorite. Sorry not sorry. You get to find out Jem’s secret in Clockwork Angel, but Will’s past and why he’s so broody and angry is still shrouded in mystery at the end of the book, which was REALLY frustrating, and made  me want to read the next two immediately, except I don’t have them yet. I mean…Will’s not the only reason I want to keep reading, but I won’t pretend like he’s not one of the reasons. Oh, Cassandra Clare, why must you do this to me?

Clockwork Angel also had an awesome ending. Besides the twist, Tessa learns to at least partly accept her unique ability and uses it in a really incredible way. I much prefer when the main character outwits his or her opponent rather than killing them or something. I mean, if the villain was dead after the first book, it probably wouldn’t have been a trilogy, but I just think it makes for a more creative resolution. Tessa is a strong female lead, and I’m excited to see how she grows in the series.

Last but not least, I’m so glad Magnus Bane is immortal, so that he can be in ALL of Cassandra Clare’s books. He was only around a little bit in this book, but the ending hints that he might have a bigger presence in Clockwork Prince. I hope. He better.

 

 

Book Review: The Hush, Hush Series


I haven’t done a book review on here for a while, and I have quite a few to get caught up on. I read the first two books in Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series back in May, and finally got around to reading the third and fourth book this August. I decided to just review all of them briefly in one post. Overall, I really enjoyed them, although unfortunately the last installment didn’t quite pull me in like the others did.

I actually became curious about the series because of a few bad reviews I saw about it. Well, “bad” is probably putting it lightly…”scathing” is more like it. And they had less to do with Ms. Fitzpatrick’s writing style/plot/characters and more to do with her main male character, Patch, her quintessential reformed (or is he?) bad boy character, because, you know, it’s impossible to enjoy a character in a book/TV show/movie while recognizing their less desirable qualities wouldn’t make for a good partner in real life. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.) And, although they’re in the minority, she’s also gotten some bad reviews on Goodreads…and this time, by “bad,” I mean actually just pretty horrible and inappropriate. Basically just bullying. I mean, it’s the Internet, so they could be trolls…but if they’re not, there’s really no good excuse for bullying anyone, ever, no matter how justified you think your cause is. (I know by now you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about, so go on Goodreads and take a look for yourself.)

A little more about this at the end of the post. For now, let’s take a quick look at each of the books:

1. Hush, Hush

I thought this was a great debut novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Fitzpatrick’s writing style. She sets the story in the slightly dreary Coldwater, Maine, and creates this perfectly sinister, creepy, Halloween-ish atmosphere. It was reminiscent of L.J. Smith’s earlier work (although, in my mind, few people–if anyone–can trump L.J.). Yes, at this point the plot-line is somewhat overdone and predictable, but I gobbled it up just the same: Nora Grey, a smart, cute-if-something-of-a-misfit high school student, encounters Patch, dark, mysterious boy who seems like bad news, and yet Nora can’t resist his magnetic pull (obviously). I know I sound snarky, but I honestly devoured it. The book is mostly centered around unraveling the mystery that is Patch and his relationship with Nora.

Some have criticized the book as being a Twilight ripoff. There are some parallels, but nothing that jumped out at me as obvious plagiarism. I mean, to give credit where credit’s due, Twilight did open up the market for teen paranormal romance, so there are going to be some similarities. But it is also quite possible for two or more people to come up with fairly similar ideas without being influenced directly by each other’s work.

The books are told from Nora’s point-of-view, and I really liked her character. She’s a smart, motivated high school student. Her best friend, Vee, adds some comic relief to the series and is my favorite character. Nora is also the victim of some pretty vicious pranks by Coldwater’s resident mean rich girl, Marcie Millar. I enjoyed most of the characters, even though secondary ones like Vee and Marcie never seem to break out of their stereotypes. (Marcie starts to, a little, later in the series.)

In fact, I have to say the only character I found to be a little underwhelming was…Patch. For being the dark, mysterious, sexy bad boy, he didn’t really pop off the page for me as much as he should. Also, I never could quite get past his nickname. Patch is just not a sexy nickname, in my opinion. It makes me think of an old pirate with missing teeth or a little kid who gets into a lot of mischief and ends up hurting himself.

But, overall, an entertaining read. I gave it four/five stars on Goodreads because it built up a lot to a twist at the end that wasn’t that earth-shattering. (There is, however, a perfectly creepy seen at Delphic amusement park and a particular ride called the Archangel…I LOVE creepy amusement parks in horror/paranormal books!!!)

If you haven’t read Hush, Hush yet and plan to, I’d stop reading now…spoilers ahead…

2. Crescendo

In Crescendo, we delve a little further into Ms. Fitzpatrick’s dark world of sexy fallen angels and the cursed Nephilim–the children of fallen angels and humans, languishing in between these two worlds and destined to swear fealty to fallen angels. We know that Patch was a fallen angel in Hush, Hush, but, due to the events at the end, now has his wings back and is a guardian angel. But his relationship with Nora isn’t picture perfect, and she catches him doing some pretty suspicious things…like hanging around her arch-nemesis Marcie an awful lot. It doesn’t help that Vee is dating Rixon, Patch’s bff, so Nora can’t quite avoid Patch/people-that-know-Patch completely. Meanwhile, her mother forces her to reconnect with a childhood friend, Scott, who turns out to have some dark secrets of his own. Rixon, though, was my favorite character in this book until…..oh, Rixon…..

From what I recall, this book ended with a cliffhanger, so be prepared for that.

Four/Five Stars

3. Silence

I enjoyed Silence a lot more than I expected I would considering what happens in the first few pages. Which, thankfully, I can tell you about, since it’s in the book’s synopsis and not a spoiler! Nora can’t remember the past five months of her life…including, of course, Patch. So, yes, part of the book ends up being a series of revelations that the reader already knows. This could have ended up super annoying, but I think Fitzpatrick did an excellent job with it…at least for me, I could see where it might bug some readers. I also enjoyed Patch’s character a lot more in this book, and there were some pretty sexy scenes.

I also gave this book four/five stars, and I did have a few issues with it. First off, what happens to Vee in this book, and especially in the last book? Isn’t she Nora’s bff? Where did she go? It’s like she just disappears for large chunks of books three and four. Since I liked her so much, this was really upsetting. Also, Fitzpatrick seems like she’s setting up a whole Scott-Nora-Patch love triangle…not that I necessarily wanted that to happen, because that’s overdone, too, but it definitely seemed headed in that direction, and then it just…doesn’t. (And then you find out in book four that Scott thinks of Nora like a sister? Um, his affection for her in Silence definitely does not seem brotherly.) There’s also a lot of to-do about Nora and Scott going “as friends” to her homecoming dance–Marcie drags Nora out shopping for a dress, and they make a really big deal about finding a dress, and then–the dance doesn’t happen. The book ends before the dance happens. I found this to just be really strange and kind of sloppy. But I’m still giving it four stars for having a nice blend of sinister, romantic, steamy and funny moments. And Scott, who was kind of a jerk in Crescendo, really redeems himself in this book.

4. Finale

I gave this book three out of five stars because I finished it, but honestly, it was a really disappointing end to the series for me. It had its moments, including some surprising twists at the end with both new and old characters. But all in all, my least favorite in the series. I guess I prefer the off-and-on again of fictional relationships because, when Patch and Nora finally end up together, it’s just…annoying, haha. Their romantic dialogue was a little too contrived or something. It doesn’t all come easy for them in this book–they still have some barriers to overcome, including Nora’s attraction to her own dark side. That could have been a really good, gritty plotline (and something I’m exploring with one of my own characters right now), but it fell short for me. I think because Nora feels too guilty about it, haha. Fitzgerald should have pushed her just a teensy bit more.

I will say, though, that Nora turns into a pretty bad ass character. She has to accept a new leadership role in this book and embrace her Nephilim side, so I liked seeing her character develop in these ways.

***

In summary, it’s a series I would recommend to fans of YA horror/paranormal romance (except for maybe Finale).

And now, to wrap up this review, I’m going to put in my two-cents about the scathing reviews I alluded to above. There are some people who think that the popularity of YA paranormal romance is a reflection of our current culture…and not the nice parts. Now, I get that the books/TV shows/movies of a time period can say a lot about a culture, although I also think part of it is just paranormal romance happens to be one of the “hot” trends right now in book publishing. Its popularity will wax and wane just like everything else, until something new replaces it. That doesn’t mean authors will stop writing in the genre, or that readers will stop reading…just that it won’t be quite the sensation it is now.

That being said, there have always been books that have sought to appeal to our darker side…books that mix elements of the horror genre with elements of romance. I really think that the current YA horror/paranormal romance genre is inspired by (not saying they’re on the same level as) the gothic and dark romanticism movements of long ago–writers like Poe, Hawthorne, Shelley, Lord Byron, the Bronte sisters, Stoker. Writers that explored fringe/outcast characters, antiheroes, and darker themes like the origin of sin, temptation, lust, forbidden love etc. Work that sometimes had a romantic twist to it, albeit a dark one. The idea of darkness being attracted to light, of sin to innocence (like Patch to Nora), is nothing new, and the mere exploring of this theme in writing or some other media is not the same thing as endorsement. So you really don’t have to read the series that way. It’s a forbidden love story…it’s dark and twisted. It’s supposed to be.