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: 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.

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.

 

Reborn – Book Review


Five-star review of Reborn from Echoes of the Pen!

51aT5Z6d1rL__AA160_This is a book I discovered quite by accident as a result of a comment posted by the author in reply to one of my blog posts. The author’s own blog, slstacy.wordpress.com, is a most interesting, professional, and well written one, sufficiently so as to tempt me into taking a closer look at her debut novel, Reborn.

As a middle aged man with very set literary tastes it was not a book I would normally have been drawn to but a quick look at the Amazon free sample was enough to wet my appetite. I’m pleased it was, which leads me stray off topic for a moment – one of the added and definite bonuses of blogging is the sheer variety of writing to be explored, the discovery of novels and genres that otherwise one might never have taken the time and trouble to read and enjoy…

Reborn, by…

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