Review: Exile by Rebecca Lim

Review: Exile by Rebecca LimExile by Rebecca Lim
Series: Mercy #2
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 304
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Mercy

Mercy is an angel with a shattered memory, exiled from heaven for a crime she can’t remember committing.  So when she ‘wakes’ inside the body and life of eighteen-year-old Lela Neill, Mercy has only limited recall of her past life. Her strongest memories are of Ryan, the mortal boy who’d begun to fall for her – and she for him.

Mercy soon discovers that circumstances have forced Lela into waitressing at the Green Lantern, a busy city café frequented by suits, cab drivers, strippers, backpackers and the homeless, while caring for her terminally ill mother.

Just as Mercy is adjusting to Lela’s life, her beloved, Luc, reappears in her dreams, and she begins to glimpse her true nature and true feelings for Ryan. What she does not know is that her attempts to contact Ryan may have explosive consequences for everyone around her.  Meanwhile, ‘the Eight’ — the angelic beings responsible for her banishment — remain determined to keep Mercy and Luc apart, forever...

Thoughts: Wow, this book was just… lovely.  Just as ethereal and otherworldly as the first book in the series, Mercy, albeit not quite on the same epic scale. But even still, it was fantastic.  Beautiful and just… lovely.

OK, specifics.  Our amnesiac heroine, Mercy, is as tough as ever.  This is an angel who may not have any idea who she is, but that hasn’t made her weak. She’s fearless and strong – she can do anything, except, well, escape her body. She’s a protector, not the protectee. Mercy is one of my very favourite YA heroines and she deserves more fans!

While I can still call her an amnesiac, she actually grows a lot more aware of her powers, her history, and her relationships with Luc and Ryan. She becomes more “awake”, looking at her situation without the love-spectacles forced on her by Luc. Suddenly things she had never been capable of thinking about – the circumstances that led to her being trapped in mortal bodies, the reasons why Luc actually wants to find her, and her growing feelings for Ryan – become all she can think about.

And while we are only the subject… Ryan. I am so glad Rebecca Lim brought him back for Exile! I fell for him as slowly as Mercy did – it took me up until the last page of Mercy to really start to feel for him. But by the time Exile came around, he was the highlight. This is a guy that fell in love with a body-snatcher while she was wearing the body of an underdeveloped, acne-ridden teen.  In other words, he’s a diamond in the friggin’ rough.

Bottom line? You have to read this series. If you’ve been let down by other Angel YA, this will restore your faith… literally.

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Review: The Gathering by Kelley ArmstrongThe Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Darkness Rising #1
Published by ATOM
Pages: 359
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: The Rising

Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.

Until now.

Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.

Thoughts: I’ll admit it, I almost didn’t want to read this book. I was such a huge fan of the Darkest Powers series and was pretty terrified that this newest trilogy wouldn’t live up to my expectations. And while it is certainly not as fierce as The Awakening or The Reckoning, I’d say it is most certainly the first book in a fantastic new Kelley Armstrong series.

Let’s start off with our new heroine, Maya. For starters, she’s a lot more experienced than Chloe – she’s confident in all sorts of social situations, with guys, and holds no prisoners even when speaking to her parents. Even though Chloe could certainly stand up for herself, Maya let’s no one think she can’t handle herself. This is a girl who can – literally – scare off a cougar… she’s awesome. And just because she’s tough, it doesn’t make her mean. Yeah, she has quite a few defense mechanisms in place to stop from getting emotionally hurt, but she isn’t bitchy in the least.

I also adored Maya’s relationship with her adoptive parents. Armstrong avoids all the parental YA tropes! If you want to read a realistic, loving relationship between two parents and their daughter, then read The Gathering. In fact, Armstrong gets an A+ for all characters in this novel. Love interest Rafe was fabulous. Slightly twisted by circumstance, but fundamentally a good guy. Reminded me of Derek despite being nothing at all like Derek. In fact, this entire book reminded me of its predecessor trilogy despite being very, very different…

Then there’s the plot. Although the book left me going “what! that’s it! I need MORE!”, it is by no means lacking in substance. While those of us who have read the Darkest Powers trilogy might see a couple of clues that first-time Armstrong fans will not, by the end of the book, I’m certain you’ll be just as mystified as everyone else. After I finished The Gathering, I filled my Books Moleskine with over a dozen questions I wanted answered asap. I wasn’t sure what side I should be on, I didn’t know who the bad guys were, and I sure didn’t know whether or not Maya was making the right decision. All the same thoughts/feelings I had after reading The Summoning!

Guh.

Ok, so I tried and failed to review this book without mentioning the first trilogy… but read that as the compliment it is meant to be!

Bottom line? Kelley Armstrong can do no wrong. Read this. Now.

Review: Wake by Lisa McMann

Review: Wake by Lisa McMannWake by Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #1
Published by Simon Pulse
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Fade, Gone

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can't tell anybody about what she does they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can’t control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant.

Thoughts: This was such a stunning novel. Within only a few pages I knew I was in good hands with Lisa McMann – her style is rather minimal but extremely poignant. Some authors need to write a hundred words to describe their characters, McMann only needs eight.  I was simply stunned by how much raw emotion she could create.  I simply didn’t know it was possible to write a slow-burning, tense, mystery novel (with a believable romantic element to boot) without falling over the 100k word count.

I was also surprised by how gritty this book was. Although there is a real paranormal aspect to the novel, it is extremely realistic. Wake is a novel about a girl living in spite her paranormal abilities, not because of them.  They are far from the most interesting thing about her and, while they are an important part of the mystery, the novel would be just as fantastic without them.  How many paranormal books can you honestly say that about?  I, for one, am not sure my beloved Darkest Powers trilogy could have held up without the necromancy and werewolves!

If you’re anything like me, you will be through this book in a blink-and-a-half, and not just because of its length.  I was reading this thing while standing in line at airport security.  I can’t say it was forcibly removed from my hands – but pretty close.  I grew to really care about Janie, and was just desperate to read more more more about her.

Bottom line? Lisa McMann has made my “Authors I trust no matter what” list with only one book.  Wake is everything a Young Adult novel should be.  Read it!

Review: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Review: The Iron Witch by Karen MahoneyThe Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Series: The Iron Witch #1
Published by Corgi Childrens on January 20th 2011
Pages: 304
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

Thoughts: Ok, I know it’s superficial and whatnot, but this cover is absolutely stunning. Breathtakingly stunning. The golden swirls around what appears to be a terrified girl clutching a… well, it’s something gorgeous, whatever it is. Not to mention, the special Waterstones version of this book has gold paper edges. Fierce.

Unfortunately, the book itself is not so fierce.

Let’s start off with the good stuff. The beginning of the book is absolutely swoon-worthy. The world and its characters are dark, mysterious, and gothic – rather like its cover. It was like Florence and the Machine put into words. We meet Donna and her (male) BFF heading to a party where she is far from welcome.  (Why said BFF would drag her to along to such an event is but one of the plot holes that will become evident soon enough.) There, Donna meets  Xan and there’s a spark – literally, a spark – between them.  It’s not insta-romance, but it is insta-connection. But I felt it through the pages, so I was not complaining.

But after that fabulous opening scene, the book starts to show its rather unfortunate flaws. There are absolutely no explanations for anything in this book. For example, the alchemists are seeking out eternal life at any cost. Donna knows this. Donna was taught this. It’s basically the bedrock of their alchemist community. And yet, that never bothered her?

Then there are the wood elves – cast as the ultimate creepy villians. And yet, we never find out why they are evil. Why did they kill Donna’s parents? What is supposed to be motivating them? And if they’re so bad, why is half-fey Xan such a sweetheart? And speaking of sweethearts, was there supposed to be some sort of romantic triangle going on here?  Because, if so, I missed that altogether. This is just basic plot stuff that The Iron Witch just doesn’t have.

Bottom line? If this book had been about 10x longer –  giving the characters, universe, and relationships the fleshing out they deserved – it would have been fantastic. This book is getting stars for its potential, not for its content. Alas.

Review: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Review: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn BarnesRaised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: Raised by Wolves #1
Published by Quercus Books
Pages: 418
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it. That doesn't mean that she's averse to breaking a rule or two.

But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian's basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents' murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs.

But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she's shaped?

Thoughts: It took me a really long time to get into this book. I think I spent about a month slowly making my way through the first 70 pages. Although I could intellectually appreciate the writing, the plot did absolutely nothing for me. I couldn’t understand the main character’s motivations, and found the insta-romance that was both annoying and bland.

I was very tempted to put it down, but then re-read one of the many positive reviews that made me pick it up in the first place. I don’t know about you, but reviews tend to muddle in my brain to become either “Good, pick it up” or “Avoid avoid avoid”. I usually don’t to remember the details. So imagine my surprise to hear the book touted as one of the few truly feminist YA books out there, with a heroine I would love, and twists I would never see coming.

It really didn’t sound like I was reading the same book.

Turns out, I was. I so so was. I’d give the last half of this book five stars. The twists in this book really came out of left-field… and yet, like all good twists, when you re-read the book you can see the clues right in front of you. Suddenly, choices that had annoyed the hell out of me became logical, and characters with whom I had taken some issue suddenly made sense. It was a complete and utter paradigm shift. Fantastic stuff.

Bryn turned out to be quite the leader: this girl was one of the most fabulous, feminist alpha characters I’ve read in a while. Her fantastic support network was another one of the things that set this book apart – although adopted, she has a lot of people guarding her back.  It’s rare to see good parenting (scratch that, any parenting) in YA, so it was a refreshing change!  Alas, Bryn’s love-interest remained bland-as-hell.  Honestly have no idea what she sees in that plank of wood, but at least I didn’t completely hate him… probably because was I was easily distracted by the oh-so-amazing alpha-werewolf Callum (oh, Callum ♥), who completely stole my heart.  Loved him.  He seemed so calm and in control, and yet he could be utterly cold and ruthless when required.  And, GUH, his relationship with pseudo-daughter Bryn was a-mazing.

Bottom line: This book takes a very, very long time to like.  But once you get past the first 150-or-so pages, you’ll love it.  It’s well-worth the read and I – for one – cannot wait for Trial by Fire to come out!

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