Review: Fade by Lisa McMann

Review: Fade by Lisa McMannFade by Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #2
Published by Simon Pulse
Pages: 248
Genres: Contemporary YA, Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wake, Gone

SOME NIGHTMARES NEVER END.

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They're just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.

Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody's talking. When Janie taps into a classmate's violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open -- but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie's in way over her head, and Cabe's shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability -- and it's bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what's to come is way darker than she'd feared....

Thoughts: To start with, I was slightly skeptical about the premise of this book. Janie and the police department are working off only the vaguest of hints… I just couldn’t imagine real-world police officers investigating so much effort following them up.

Of course, they turn out to be true, but hey – that’s just because it’s a book.

Anyhow, once I got over that aspect, Fade was quite enjoyable. Although it didn’t have quite the same magic as Wake, Lisa McMann’s writing is undeniably addictive. I read this whole book on-and-off during a single day. McMann is a concise, poetic and – well – rather brilliant writer.

McMann’s books may have a fantasy element to them, but they are undeniably “realistic fiction”. They are gritty and portray a far-too-real version of life. Relationships are hard. People are horrid. Men will rape you. Mothers will hate you. You aren’t safe. You’ll never be safe. Welcome to the real world.

Surprisingly, I rather enjoyed that aspect of Fade. I feel like a lot of YA tries to make the world a slightly shinier version of itself – which is certainly enjoyable for a bit of escapism – but every once and a while we need something to remind us of how terrible everything is. I mean, this isn’t quite Ellen Hopkins‘ level of misery, but it is a cousin of some sort. But while I like gritty realism, I also think a bit of mild optimism is in order. Wake had that; Fade does not. I missed that… I think Gone is going to be the darkest of the three books.

I was also not enraptured with the main characters (Janie and Cabe) in this installment of the Wake series. While I appreciated their role in the story and pitied the pain they were suffering, I didn’t actually care about them. Probably because they were so wrapped up in their problems… The only character I truly adored was Captain Fran Komisky. We saw very little of her in Wake, so Fade was her chance to shine. She’s a lovely mother figure and also a total badass. *draws hearts* Can’t wait to read more from her.

It’s also probably worth noting that Fade is starting to show its age: a few of the tech references – TiVo and tiny phones that *gasp* go online – stuck out. Unbelievable, but a lot has changed in the 4+ years since this was published.

Bottom line? A solid second novel by a wonderful author. If you are looking for a lyrical YA series to get sucked into, pick up these books!

Review: World After by Susan Ee

Review: World After by Susan EeWorld After by Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & the End of Days #2
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Angelfall

SPOILER WARNING: I find this summary super-spoilery and would recommend skipping it!

When a group of people capture Penryn's sister Paige, thinking she's a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels' secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can't rejoin the angels, can't take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

Thoughts: I devoured World After in a single day. Susan Ee has a style that lends itself to fast reading; her writing is engaging and set with quick chapters that make you feel like speeding ahead.

World After had a lot to live up to. Angelfall was such a knock-out success, I am sure there were worries that Ms. Ee may have been a one-hit-wonder. I am happy to say she is not. Although there is a two-year gap between the books, World After felt as though it was written just seconds after Angelfall. The style, characterisations, everything was exactly as she had last left it. That’s something I feel like most authors fail to achieve: even when you love a sequel, it won’t feel like the same book you read before.

So, in a way, I feel rather weird reviewing World After after reviewing Angelfall… because my comments are the same. World After is a fantastic continuation to an already brilliant series. Ms. Ee doesn’t mess around with my favourite characters and she doesn’t go around randomly adding in a romantic triangle. World After answered many of my “And now what?!” questions without introducing any “How could she do that?!” feelings. Thank friggin’ GOD.

That said, there were a few new additions to this book that I adored. For one, Raffe’s sword played a major role. In fact, it was rather a starring role! When I met Ms. Ee at an event hosted by her UK publishers, I told her that I’d be happy to read an entire spin-off narrated by this sword… and I really do still mean that. I probably sound crazy if you haven’t read the book, but just trust me. This sword is amazing.

I also appreciated how World After gave us a brand-new insight into Raffe’s character. Ms. Ee takes you into his head without resorting to any cliché POV switches (something I find a total cop-out). Raffe lovers are going to really, really happy with this book!

Bottom line? A fantastic sequel to a brilliant novel. There’s a reason Susan Ee is so popular!

Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Review: Angelfall by Susan EeAngelfall by Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & the End of Days #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on May 23rd 2013
Pages: 325
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself, Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: World After

It's been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain.

Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night.

When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back...

Thoughts: Angelfall has a lot of the typical YA Paranormal story elements to it: it stars a strong female character who can kick ass, features an attractive-yet-deadly paranormal male lead and, of course, there’s the apocalypse. Cliché? Perhaps. But all of these stereotypical YA elements are so well done in Angelfall, I could care less whether or not they are “cliché”.

What makes Angelfall‘s characters so engaging was their complete unwillingness play out their stereotypes. For example, most authors would have written the angel Raffe as a romantic lead striving to avenge his attackers. Instead, he fights tooth-and-nail not to engage in a political war. He also knows full well the consequences of a romantic relationship with a human – and wants none of it. Meanwhile, Penryn, who can be a total badass when she has to be, is far more interested in saving her sister than she is in joining an anti-angel militia. She recognizes that fighting the good fight is a nobel cause but she has other priorities.

These aren’t the last two people you are going to see uniting to save the world. They are going to come to the fight kicking and screaming because, dude, they have far more important shit to be doing. They have lives to live, dammit. Maybe later. It was amazing. 

I also have to give Susan Ee serious kudos for giving me shipper feelings for the first time in months. There was just enough romantic tension in this book to make me eager to see more. Then again, maybe I am just a sucker for angel/human relationships (yes, I have noticed my overwhelming emotional attachment to Supernatural (TV) and Mercy by Rebecca Lim).

I could go on about the world building (solid), the secondary characters (surprisingly well developed), the quality of the writing (simple-but-with-sass), etc. When I first bought this book back in 2011, well before it was ever picked up by a major publishing house, I read reviews praising this book as how YA should be done. “If so many people are looking past the self-publishing aspect,” I thought, “this book must be amazing.” And it was. Simple as that.

And now? Now you can pick it up in paperback. Which is so much better.

Bottom line? Thank GOD I didn’t read this book back in 2011, because the 2 year wait would have killed me. Angelfall is completely worth the hype. Pick it up if you want to rock some old-school paranormal YA.

Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Review: Ink by Amanda SunInk by Amanda Sun
Series: Paper Gods #1
Published by Harlequin Teen, MIRA on July 5th 2013
Pages: 384
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Katie Greene is lost in the wake of her mum's death. Sent to Japan, she meets gorgeous but aloof artist Tomohiro, whose tough attitude intrigues and scares her. Then things get really strange. When they're near each other, Tomohiro's drawings start to come to life…

Soon the wrong people begin to ask questions, and Katie and Tomohiro must risk everything to protect the truth.

Thoughts: Ink delves into a culture I didn’t even know I wanted to know about. I am not particularly knowledgeable about Japan*, but after reading Ink I felt like I had taken a mini-course in Japanese culture. Somewhat to my surprise, I was rather intrigued!

Ink’s protagonist, Katie, provides the perfect outsider POV on Japan’s culture and mythology. She is the perfect guide into a world filled with kendo, bento boxes and cherry blossoms. Oh, and of course, she introduces us to some pretty brilliant Japanese mythology: the Kami. These “Paper Gods” can control ink, making it into creatures and objects that are completely under their command. It’s pretty awesome – and pretty original.

So, I certainly loved the Japanese setting and mythology of Ink. Katie and her love interest Tomo, however, I could go either way on. I found Katie rather confusing to be honest. At times she seemed really self-conscious… but her actions contradicted that to the point of being reckless. I mean, I love a girl who refuses to sit back and let “her man” protect her… but at the same time, I felt like she wasn’t always doing it for the right reasons. It irked me a bit.

And as for Tomo, I’ve got nothing too positive or negative to say about the guy… he didn’t make a big impression despite him supposedly being a bit of a badass. Also, his relationship with Katie kinda reminded me of that of Kaylee and Nash in the first Soul Screamers book by Rachel Vincent. It’s puppy love and seems rather idiotic from the outside: I only hope they both grow from it and then proceed to grow out of it.

With that said, I thought Amanda’s side-characters rather awesome. I was drawn to Jun (aka Mr. So-going-to-enter-this-love-triangle), Yuki (the obligatory BFF we need to hide things from) and Aunt Diane (whose backstory I would lurve). I’m looking forward to them all getting a heck of a lot of “air time” in the next book!

Bottom line: Ink is a genuinely original YA novel that still feels familiar. If you love your paranormal teen mysteries but you’re sick of their middle-America settings, pick it up.

* Except for their hideous whaling policies and their annual Taiji dolphin slaughter… that I unfortunately know far too much about. *returns to happy thoughts*

Review: With All My Soul by Rachel Vincent

Review: With All My Soul by Rachel VincentWith All My Soul by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #7
Published by Harlequin Teen, MIRA
Pages: 377
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: My Soul to Take, My Soul to Save, My Soul to Keep, My Soul to Steal, If I Die, Before I Wake

After spending the last year undead, Kaylee Cavanaugh has had enough of the paranormal creatures who have plagued her ever since she came into her banshee powers. Now she's ready to take her school back from the evil hellions, once and forever.

To protect her friends, Kaylee will need to find a way to turn the living incarnations of Avarice, Envy and Vanity against one another.

Yet when one more person close to her is taken, Kaylee realises she can't save everyone she loves without making some powerful sacrifices...

And so ends the Soul Screamers series. A series that quite genuinely surprised the hell out of me, delivering character development and plot turns that were utterly realistic and yet so rarely seen in the YA genre. Thank you, Rachel Vincent, for giving me a series I didn’t even know I wanted until I had it.

Let me just confirm that With All My Soul wrapped up the Soul Screamers series rather perfectly. Kaylee has spent the past six books two steps behind her enemies, but when things go from terrible to so-much-worse, she knows just reacting to attacks is not going to work. But with hellion demons being pretty much impossible to beat, and with no power or leverage to think of, what’s a girl to do? Vincent set up the perfect storm, and with it delivered the perfect solution. Every bit of Kaylee’s growth as a character culminated into her choices in this book. Book 1 Kaylee, Book 4 Kaylee and even Book 6 Kaylee would not have preserved… I love it when an author actually knows where they want a character to go – and then takes them there flawlessly. So, kudos, Rachel.

So while I loved that the series was tied up with a bow, I didn’t get the same emotional response to With All My Soul that I did from the other Soul Screamer books. Perhaps it was just me, but it felt like a lot of the “Big. Emotional. Scenes.” were ones we’d seen time and time again. Kaylee feels guilty and angsts! Nash lashes out at people who love him with unnecessarily cruel remarks! Tod and Kaylee profess their (literally) undying love! Adults randomly disappear and cause more angst! Sabine is Sabine! FEELS are meant to be HAD!

But not for me. I mean, intellectually, I understood that all of this was “Very. Important.” but it felt like a rehash of the last book, at least in terms of character interaction. Sure, the plot itself was solid, but the only real emotional development came from Kaylee – and even that was more “Oh look, Kaylee is finally stopping to think before blaming herself”. Perhaps that sounds unnecessarily harsh, but even when I enjoyed Kaylee, I could still admit her self-hatred was damn annoying.

Bottom line? This was an excellent wrap-up of a brilliant series. That said, it didn’t pack the emotional punch that I so loved in the other Soul Screamers books.

Want a copy? Click here to enter my giveaway of the book (open worldwide).

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