Review: The Rising by Kelley Armstrong

Review: The Rising by Kelley ArmstrongThe Rising by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Darkness Rising #3
Published by ATOM
Pages: 406
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: The Gathering

Things are getting desperate for Maya and her friends. Hunted by the powerful St. Clouds and now a rival Cabal as well, they're quickly running out of places to hide. And with the whole world thinking they died in a helicopter crash, it's not like they can just go to the authorities for help.

All they have is the name and number of someone who might be able to give them a few answers. Answers to why they're so valuable, and why their supernatural powers are getting more and more out of control.

But Maya is unprepared for the truths that await her. And now, like it or not, she'll have to face down some demons from her past if she ever hopes to move on with her life. Because Maya can't keep running forever.

Thoughts: I’d been looking forward to The Rising for 4 years; I kid you not. Back in 2009, when I met Kelley at one of her rare UK signings, she said she’d be bringing together the characters from the Darkest Powers series with those from her new trilogy. As the “Biggest. Fan. EVA.” of Darkest Powers, this was pretty much the best news I could have heard.

So, not meeting Chloe, Derek and the rest of the gang until the last 100 pages? That was a complete let down. I wanted to see how Maya and the gang interacted, but what we saw was minimal (I think there were about 30 pages of real dialogue) else only referenced to (“Chloe and I talked about X, and decided Y”). Those few interactions were brilliant, but there was nowhere near enough. Fail.

As for the rest of the book? Well, it felt a bit unfocussed. Unlike The Gathering – which introduced the characters and revealed that “All Is Not Well.” – and The Calling – which was the action-packed, we’re-on-the-run book – this final book had no real focus. I guess I could say The Rising was the “Let’s all be reasonable adults and be boring” book… so yeah, not much fun. This all culminated into a series ending which I found rather unsatisfying. It was logically the best way to wrap up the books, but at the same time it managed to undermine almost everything that the kids had fought for. So, logical? Yes. Satisfying? Nope.

Same went for the love triangle in this novel. First off, I felt like the triangle aspect pretty much came out of nowhere. Second, unlike the Derek/Chloe/Simon resolution, I had no die-hard favourites in the race. I would have been happy if she’d pulled a Lilith St.Crow and left us without a resolution.

On the plus side: it’s still Kelley Armstrong. The Rising is tightly written, and fits a mammoth amount of character development and plot into its 400 pages. Not to mention it has Chloe, Derek, Simon and Tori in it – which alone is enough to give the book a read!

Bottom line: Even when Kelley Armstrong is disappointing, she’s still rather brilliant. I finished The Rising in a day and was – on the whole – happy with how she decided to end her YA series.

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: Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Review: Tempted by P.C. and Kristin CastTempted by Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast
Series: House of Night #6
Published by ATOM, St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 336
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Marked, Betrayed, Chosen

Zoey needs a break after some serious excitement. Sadly, the House of Night school for vampyres doesn't feature breaks on its curriculum - even for a High Priestess in training and her gang. Plus juggling three guys is no stress reliever, especially when one is a sexy Warrior so into protecting Zoey that he's sensing her emotions. Wider stresses lurk too, and the dark force in Tulsa's tunnels is spreading. Could Stevie Rae be responsible for more than a group of misfit fledglings? And Aphrodite's visions warn Zoey to stay away from the immortal Kalona and his dark allure - but they also show that only Zoey can stop him. She's not exactly keen to meet up, but if Zoey doesn't go to Kalona he'll exact a fiery vengeance on those closest to her. She just has to find the courage to do what's necessary, or everything that's important to her will be destroyed.

Thoughts: Tempted was terrible.

Okay, so I don’t usually expect all that much from the HoN series.  As a general rule, I find the writing pretty terrible, the characters kinda one-dimensional, and some of the plot ideas seemingly written by somebody high on E.  So why do I keep reading?  Well, I like the universe and – prior to this book – I used to like some of the characters.  Now I’m down to the universe.

Tempted was just all over the place.  We hear from 4 POVs, an unfortunate first for the series.  The Casts jump back and forth from character to character with no discernible pattern.  For example, we get a single chapter from Aphrodite (which was probably the best in the book) about half way through, and then… nothing.  That’s it!  Just the one chapter.

Huh?

The Casts also successfully destroyed two of the characters I liked: Stark and Stevie Ray.  I hate it when characters lose their character because of some insane plot point.  If you have to make a character do a complete 180 to move the story along, try something else!  *shakes fist*

I’ll be reading on the next book – which comes out tomorrow in the USA. But I’m definitely going to wait for the paperback.

Bottom line?  Do the world a favour, and don’t let a teenager within a 100 feet of this book.  The last thing we need is for actual teens to be more like HoN!teens.

Review: Chosen by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Review: Chosen by P.C. and Kristin CastChosen by Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast
Series: House of Night #3
Published by ATOM, St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 352
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Marked, Betrayed, Tempted

SPOILERS for previous books!

Dark forces are at work at the House of Night and fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird’s adventures at the school take a mysterious turn. Those who appear to be friends are turning out to be enemies. And oddly enough, sworn enemies are also turning into friends. So begins the gripping third installment of this “highly addictive series” (Romantic Times), in which Zoey’s mettle will be tested like never before. Her best friend, Stevie Rae, is undead and struggling to maintain a grip on her humanity. Zoey doesn’t have a clue how to help her, but she does know that anything she and Stevie Rae discover must be kept secret from everyone else at the House of Night, where trust has become a rare commodity.

Speaking of rare: Zoey finds herself in the very unexpected and rare position of having three boyfriends. Mix a little bloodlust into the equation and the situation has the potential to spell social disaster. Just when it seems things couldn’t get any tougher, vampyres start turning up dead. Really dead. It looks like the People of Faith, and Zoey’s horrid step-father in particular, are tired of living side-by-side with vampyres. But, as Zoey and her friends so often find out, how things appear rarely reflects the truth…

Thoughts: I have had such a roller-coaster ride with the HoN series. I was stunned (not in a good way) by Marked, blown away (in a good way) by Betrayed – and then I wanted to burn Chosen.

Seriously.

This was by far my least favourite book. It put the series on hold for me, and I likely would not have continued had it not been for the fact that I had already bought the rest of the series after reading Betrayed. I have to say, the books do return to the mediocre-yet-addicting quality of Betrayed… but you have to get past this thing first.

What made this book so bad was the unimaginable stupidity of Zoey. Along with this stupidity came the extraordinary stupidity of her friends – all of whom failed to realise that they were equally as dumb. In fact, the only one with any sense at all was Aphrodite… but of course no one listened to her because she is such a “poo-head.”

*sighs*

Bottom line? Read the a summary of the book on-line and then skip ahead to Untamed.

Review: Betrayed by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Review: Betrayed by P.C. and Kristin CastBetrayed by Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast
Series: House of Night #2
Published by ATOM, St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 400
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Marked, Chosen, Tempted

Things seem to be going pretty well for Zoey Redbird. She's settled in at the house of night finishing school and is coming to terms with her incredible new powers. It all seems too good to be true. And guess what?
Someone has been murdering human teenagers and all evidence points to the vampyres at Zoey's school. Which means her first assignment as the leader of the dark daughters is finding out which one of her classmates or teachers is a killer.

Sigh. And she thought her boyfriends (yes, plural) were going to be her biggest problem this year....

Rec for people who love: Vampire Chick-lit, and people who miss their high school days.

Thoughts: Yet again, as with The Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel Caine, the second book in the series has convinced me to enjoy it! Betrayed made me laugh, made me – surprisingly, even though I sob pretty easily – cry, and, all-in-all got me out to the store to buy the rest of the series.

Admittedly, the writing is almost painfully, er, un-good. Most of the characters are rather simplistic stereotypes, and the Casts remind us of the events of the last book – and at times the last chapter – to distraction. But the writing flows, so reading through the bits you don’t enjoy does not take too long.

In my review for Marked, I complained about the books painful realism. And while the characters are still very much the same as they were in the last book, for some reason I found the same realism refreshing. Having Zoey sit in a Starbucks and talking about Brokeback Mountain, well… it was actually kind of enjoyable.

As for the romance mentioned in the summary, it is very well done. Having Zoey juggling three guys at once I found amazingly acceptable. Instead of sitting through the scenes wondering what these three guys see in her, I instead can understand what she sees in all three. Hell, I might not have done any different in her shoes.

Villain wise, the Casts have really taken it to the next level. Zoey learns to empathise with those she hated, and comes to realise the people she considered allies may not always have her best interest at heart. Hell, the book is called Betrayed, which kinda gives you an idea how it goes!

All in all, a huge improvement over the first in the series, but if you hated Marked you probably still aren’t going to enjoy Betrayed!

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