Review: My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

Review: My Soul to Save by Rachel VincentMy Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #2
Published by Harlequin Teen, MIRA
Pages: 362
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 Keep, My Soul to Steal, If I Die, Before I Wake, With All My Soul

When Kaylee Cavanaugh screams, someone dies.

So when teen pop star Eden croaks onstage and Kaylee doesn't wail, she knows something is dead wrong. She can't cry for someone who has no soul.

The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad's ironclad curfew and putting her too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend's loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls: a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can't possibly understand.

Kaylee can't let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk….

Thoughts: My Soul to Save makes it clear what type of series Soul Screamers is… think post-book 6 Morganville Vampire. Episodic with a monster-of-the-week. Which is cool, but you need to know that before you start reading.

I enjoyed My Soul to Save even though I can’t say it was the most, er, gripping of novels. Honestly, when I worked out that the plot was going to revolve around saving pop queens who had sold their soul for fame… well, I was more of the “they deserve what they got” school of mind. But Vincent sold the nobility of the entire scenario and the pop queens actually turned out to be pretty sweet. Thank God, really, because there is nothing worse than hating the guest star.

But while I liked Kaylee (who is super independent but not at all idiotic) and the Netherworld (creepy, to say the least), I wasn’t really moved by this book. Everything was perfectly well written, the dialogue was tight and the plot was even tighter…. but My Soul to Save just felt like it was missing something. When I pick up a new book in a series, I expect something to fundamentally change. There has to be something new, otherwise why bother writing the book? And the truth is that nothing really changes at the end of My Soul to Save – a couple of things are different, but nothing fundamental.

These complaints are really rather minor, though. So while this book might not have been the most riveting, I am expecting earth-shattering things in Rachel’s next book!

Bottom line? Great YA series, good installment. Pick up the Soul Screamers series if you want something different-yet-familiar in your paranormal YA.

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

Review: Beastly by Alex FlinnBeastly by Alex Flinn
Published by HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and a perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly beastly.

Before you read: Apparently Alex is a she. Huh. So, note that this review was written before Jan set me straight!

Thoughts: Alex Flinn was never a teenager. He went straight from 12 to 20. It’s true. How do I know? Well, I read his book Beastly.

Despite what some people may believe, writing about teenagers is like dealing with teenagers… not easy. You have to write about their hormone-fueled decisions without making them seem completely irrational. It’s really hard, and your “research” cannot be limited to watching She’s All That 30 times. Which is what Alex Flinn did… I can’t think of any other explanation.

Beastly just fell flat. Its characters were illogical, one-dimensional creatures, even though they were based off of the brilliant characters from the Beauty and the Beast tale. In short, Flinn’s Beauty is an idiot and his Beast a real ass. I mean, would the Beauty we all love – who loves her family as much as they love her – risk her future for a drug-addict Daddy? I think not. And would Beast ever purposefully lie to Beauty? No, because he’s a straight-forward ass… not a backstabbing one! *shakes fist* And don’t even get me started on the Beast’s entourage. I mean, what self-respecting teacher would condone kidnapping a teenage girl for some spoiled hermit? Seriously? Seriously?

Ok, so while Flinn completely missed the mark with his characters, there were some things that I liked in this book. I liked the fact that the novel is told from the Beast’s point-of-view. It’s a perspective I honestly had never considered. I also liked how Flinn transferred the tale to modern Manhattan – Beast goes to plastic surgeons looking for a cosmetic cure, and he dresses as a Muslim woman in order to go out in public… isn’t that just ingenious? Shame it didn’t make the characters any more likable.

So… I am giving this book 2.5 stars despite everything I’ve just written. Why? Well, it’s still Beauty and the Beast. And anything Beauty and the Beast is inherently brilliant – even when it misses the mark.

Bottom line? Not worth reading unless you’re a die-hard Beauty and the Beast fan. And even then…

Review: The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

Review: The Eternal Ones by Kirsten MillerThe Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Series: The Eternal Ones #1
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 410
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Haven Moore can’t control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother’s house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.

In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves, before all is lost and the cycle begins again.

Thoughts: The Eternal Ones started off extremely well. It took an inherently cheesy stereotype (lovers through time), and made it not just entertaining but believable. The author gets rid of all the far-too-convenient logistics of having visions from a past life: they don’t start as a teen, but as a child; Haven doesn’t hide them from her family, because they result in violent outbursts; Haven doesn’t immediately think they’re real, because the entire town believes she’s possessed by the devil (that is, except the Penecostals up the road). It’s a brilliant idea: a young girl hated by Born Again Christians who was – literally – born again.

So, yeah. Everything started off well. Sure, the main character had a tendency to change her mind every few minutes, but hey, she had a traumatic childhood.

But then she ups and moves to New York to stalk a rich playboy, and the entire novel falls into a deep, dark well of I-can’t-believe-someone-wrote-this-crap terrible.

And to think, it started off so well.

The rest of the book revolves around Haven going back and forth between being completely and utterly in love with Ethan/Iain (the aforementioned playboy), and being convinced that he is a lying, murdering, cheating ass. Now, if you were to ask – say – any normal person, they would tell you that these two beliefs cannot exist simultaneously. If you believe the man you met two days before is out to kill you, then you do not decide to sleep with him “one last time”. You wouldn’t be convinced by a couple of well-delivered excuses and you sure as hell wouldn’t stay in his house. Or, if you are certain that the world is just trying to frame the man you love for crimes he never committed, then you don’t go around taking the word of a stranger over his!

Over a 20-page period, Haven went from convinced Ethan/Iain was trying to kill her, then back to believing that he was her eternal soulmate who would never lie to her, until finally deciding that, actually, she might have fallen in love with the wrong guy. Seriously? Seriously?

While Haven’s flip-flopping emotions were my biggest issue with this book, there were a whole bunch of other problems in it. The underlying “mystery” was an flat as a pancake (not to mention, completely illogical), the secondary characters were 10 kinds of stereotypical, and the villain was utterly deranged (but not in that cool, Disney!villain sort of way).

Bottom line? Don’t read this – the illogic will hurt your brain.

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 29th 2011
Pages: 448
Genres: Paranormal YA, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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There once was a young artist called Karou who drew tales of monsters and demons that delighted and enthralled those around her. But she has a secret, a secret that ties her to a dusty subterranean chamber, where her beloved guardian brokers dark deals in a place that is not here. A place that is Elsewhere. Living with one foot in each world, Karou has never really known which one is her true home.

Now the doors to Elsewhere closing . . .

Thoughts: I was expecting great things from Laini Taylor, and I got them. I got them in spades. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is probably the most unique paranormal Young Adult novel I’ve ever read. Absolutely everything took me by surprise: the characters, the universe and – amazingly – even the romance.

US cover

Daughter of Smoke and Bone starts off in Prague, narrated by multi-lingual, blue-haired, and tattooed Karou. In between trips to gothic cafes and studying at an art school, she tries to keep up a secret life in a magical world. And before you start imagining Diagon Alley, let me clarify. Karou’s other world is filled with body parts and bizarre creatures, it is rough around the edges and dark in the centre… dark but not evil, per-say.

While there are plenty of more detailed reviews out there, you really should not know more than that. Because past the introduction? Everything goes haywire. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book about angels and demons, but it is also not about angels and demons. It is about forbidden love, but it is about so much more than forbidden love. It is a book that takes every stereotype you’ve ever loathed and turns them into something magical and utterly unique. I was stunned by how Laini Taylor could make me accept things that – only ten pages before – I would have thought utterly implausible or unjustifiable. It turns out, all I needed was a stellar author guiding me!

The only thing that keeps me from giving this a full five stars – and there really is only one thing, this novel is almost perfection in writing – is the central romantic relationship. While I loved both characters individually, I wasn’t completely sold on them together. I think I just need some more time to become enamoured with the two of them together… something the next novel should accomplish!

One final note: Brimstone. Brimstone, Brimstone, Brimstone. He was the one and only character that made me tear up in this book, and just thinking about him gives me a lump in my throat. Apparently I have a thing for tender-hearted father figures who show little-to-no emotion – and if you do too, you’ll love him just as much as I did. ♥

Bottom line? Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a book about wishes and monsters, hope and betrayal, love lost and love found, teeth and smoke. Read it.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is out today in the UK. Go get a copy!

Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany13 to Life by Shannon Delany
Series: 13 to Life #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 308
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Everything about Jessie Gillmansen's life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing. Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she's about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent—he's a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie's small town. It seems change is the one thing Jessie can't avoid...

Thoughts: This book is… odd. Very odd. It is basically a book of disjointed scenes, held together by the fact that they all feature the same characters. The first half of this book is your typical teenage he-loves-she-loves love triangle saga – complete with a football game, a bizarre homecoming, a girl-fight, history classes, and a sweet best friend. And then, about half way through, that book ends. Now it is a book about the main character’s epic tragedy, her best friend’s evil under layer, and the hot new boy’s mafioso family… Needless to say, I liked the “second book” better.

Besides the two-book divide, there are all sorts of bizarre plot holes in 13 to Life. For starters, the protagonist Jessie is supposed to be smart. And yet, when presented with extraordinary evidence proving that her crush is a serious ass, she remains in love with him. Huh? I can understand nursing a hopeless crush, but when said crush uses you to get back together with his girlfriend? Well, it’s time to let it go. That Jessie doesn’t “let it go” isn’t really her fault, Shannon Delany just wanted to keep her and Pietr (the aforementioned hot new boy) from getting together for a little while longer.

Except it gets worse. Once I’ve accepted the fact that Jessie is stupidly in love with I-can’t-even-remember-his-name, she promptly forgets about him. Oh, and starts making out with Pietr, who is now her creepy best friend’s boyfriend. Huh? What? She pushes the guy she likes into the arms of another girl, only to turn him into a cheater? WTF?

The only vaguely reassuring thing about this love-square mess is that Shannon Delany is aware of how needlessly crazy she’s made everything. And I quote:

“I was so stupid. As a writer, I knew if I’d been a character in a novel a good editor would have scrawled TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) on the manuscript pages. Well, maybe not too stupid to live, but definitely too stupid to date.”
Chapter 14, 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

So even though I could overlook the bizarre romance business going on – despite it being the only thing going on for the first half of the book – there was one thing I could not overlook: the dogs. Or more specifically, how Jessie treats her dogs. She screams at them to shut up and calls them stupid. And in another event, where a German Shepherd acts out due to Pietr being a bloody werewolf, she screams about how the dog is crazy. When the dog clearly clearly isn’t. Her behaviour, for me, was borderline animal abuse – if she had started hitting one of the dogs, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I didn’t like it one little bit and I couldn’t help but think that Maya (from The Gathering) would never have treated her hounds that way.

So, by now you’re thinking: why on Earth should I read this book? Excellent question. While there were times when I really wanted to take a red pen to the text, it did keep me engaged and entertained for 5 solid hours. Mostly due to Pietr and his brilliant Russian werewolf mafioso family. Pietr is a mix between Edward (Twilight) and Dmitri (Vampire Academy) – in other words, he’s engaging, mysterious, and has an accent to die for. And his family? They are the werewolf version of the Cullens. I want to know more about them… I want to know everything about them! Even by the end of the book, we know next to nothing about Pietr’s background. That might be enough for me to pick up the next novel.

That, and to see if Jessie grows a brain.

Bottom line? 13 to Life has decent writing, a needless complicated plot, and supremely frustrating characters. But there are Russians in it, so…

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