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: The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

Review: The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth GeorgeThe Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George
Series: Saratoga Woods #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Viking Juvenile
Pages: 448
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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The first young adult book by a #1 New York Times bestselling author

Whidbey Island may be only a ferry ride from Seattle, but it's a world apart. When Becca King arrives there, she doesn't suspect the island will become her home for the next four years. Put at risk by her ability to hear "whispers"--the thoughts of others--Becca is on the run from her stepfather, whose criminal activities she has discovered. Stranded and alone, Becca is soon befriended by Derric, a Ugandon orphan adopted by a local family; Seth, a kindhearted musician and high school dropout; Debbie, a recovering alcoholic who takes her in; and Diana, with whom Becca shares a mysterious psychic connection.

This compelling coming-of-age story, the first of an ongoing sequence of books set on Whidbey Island, has elements of mystery, the paranormal, and romance. Elizabeth George, bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley crime novels, brings her elegant style, intricate plotting, incisive characterization, and top-notch storytelling to her first book for teens.

 Spoilers for the lack of plot.

Thoughts: I’ve been putting off this review for months. Why? Because there really aren’t too many ways to say “boring as hell”.

Honest to God, I have no idea how I managed to finish this book. Maybe it was in the desperate hope that, in the end, the ”mystery” would have some sort of interesting conclusion? This was obviously delusional on my part, because there was barely a mystery.

Let me see if I can explain:

  1. girl with psychic powers arrives on an island.
  2. girl ignores the only real mystery in the book: the disappearance of her mother.
  3. girl falls in insta-love with The Perfect Guy™.
  4. The Perfect Guy™ is injured Tragically and Mysteriously™.
  5. girl kinda, sorta investigates!
  6. turns out The Perfect Guy™ just fell over.
  7. The Perfect Guy™ is fine!
  8. mother is still missing…. oh well.

That plot? Elizabeth George draws it out over 448 very long pages. Do you see what I mean about the lack of mystery? The lack of tension? Elizabeth George is not a bad writer, she’s just not writing about anything worth writing about.

I really, really, really have trouble understanding how a novelist as celebrated in the crime genre as Ms. George can have written this book. Although I have not read her other works, I can only assume that a seasoned crime fiction writers knows that a murder mystery needs a murder and a mystery in order to qualify.

*screams*

Bottom line? The Edge of Nowhere is dull, tedious and disappointing. Elizabeth George can write, but she can’t deliver a plot… or come up with one, for that matter. Maybe her adult books are better? I have no idea.

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: Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan

Review: Darkness Falls by Cate TiernanDarkness Falls by Cate Tiernan
Series: Immortal Beloved #2
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Poppy
Pages: 392
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Immortal Beloved

Nastasya has lived for hundreds of years, but for some reason it never seems to get any easier. She's left behind her days of debauchery to find peace and forgiveness at River's Edge, a safe haven for wayward immortals. There she's uncovered her family's epic history, reclaimed her magickal powers, and met Reyn, whom she dubs "the Viking god. " Just as she settles into her new life, Nastasya learns that her old friends might be in town....

Reuniting with her gorgeous and dangerous ex-best-friend, Innocencio, Nas wonders if she'll ever be truly free of her dark legacy. Is Incy dangerous, power-hungry, and wicked? Or is he the only one who truly understands Nas's darkness? Either way, Nas is desperate to find out who she really is-even if the answer kills her.

Thoughts: I am really rather surprised by how much I enjoyed Darkness Falls. The first book in the series, Immortal Beloved, was… OK. The overarching plot of the book was a bit of a washout, but I remembered rather enjoying the main character, Nas, who was a tough cookie who had finally managed to check her damaged self into rehab. Her love interest Reyne, on the other hand, I would have paid good money to have killed.

Darkness Falls managed to keep the Nas I had enjoyed in the previous book, while also fixing the things I didn’t like! It was rather miraculous. Though I will never be swooning over Reyne, nor will I ever completely understand the draw between him and Nas, I did end this book with a much better understanding of his character. Considering the bounties I’d been putting on his head, that’s pretty amazing!

Tiernan added a lot of context to the background stories she introduced in Immortal Beloved and, to my surprise, they actually worked. Reyne was still the “Butcher of Winter” from the first book, but he was also the nice guy who helped out on the farm. Tiernan showed that the two identities could coexist, but cleverly she did it through another character (who I actually liked to start off with).

Also, as if by request, Darkness Falls featured a lot of Nas’ former-BFF Incy… who was just fabulous. He certainly lived up to be dark, unhinged party boy Tiernan had described. But like all her characters, he wasn’t completely past redemption. While I doubt we will see it in the final book, I really hope that Incy and Nas manage to reconnect at some point in the future. Sure, they were overly codependent for almost a century, but I don’t think they were altogether terrible for each other.

But I have to warn you, the book does begin with some of the terrible premises that were in Immortal Beloved. A couple of lines at the start turned my stomach, as Nas practically swooned “you murderer! I want you!”. But stick it out. It gets better and less rape-apologetic, I promise.

Bottom line? Darkness Falls has a tough heroine, a murderous villain, a brilliant betrayal, a bunch of unanswered questions… the works. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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!

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