Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia BriggsHunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #2
Published by Ace/Roc, Orbit
Pages: 286
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Cry Wolf

Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son — and enforcer — of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be either...

Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan — and it seems like someone else might be too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all — or risk losing everything...

Thoughts: How many ways can I say I love Patricia Briggs? No really, give me some suggestions, because I am running out of “I HEART BRIGGS” variations.

Once again, I adored another of Patricia Briggs’ novels. The Mercy Thompson world is such a glorious one, and this second Alpha & Omega book proves that the quality of her spin-off series wasn’t just a one off. Briggs has created something magical with the Alpha & Omega series.

On to the book itself: the first thing that struck me about Hunting Ground was its setting in the universe. It is set around book 3 or 4 of the Mercy Thompson series, and handles an issue mentioned in the Mercy books but not one I had considered requiring its own book. Of course, I was wrong! Because of Charles’ status in his father’s pack, this Alpha & Omega installment gave us a chance to see the wheeling and dealing behind the politics spotted in the Mercy books. I love a good bit of negotiating (especially when it includes bloodshed – see my review of Pride by Rachel Vincent for evidence to that effect).

Anna and Charles’ relationship development was as solid as ever. Considering how little they know each other AND how little we know them (this is only book 2, after all), it’s rather extraordinary how attached they are and how attached I am to them. Of course, this is because Patricia Briggs is excellent at writing real adult relationships, creating complex characters etc. etc. – you’ve heard the pro-Briggs spiel before.

But what truly surprised me about Hunting Ground was the quality of its background characters. Briggs had me in tears over a character I’d met only pages ago. This is horrid, of course, as all of her characters eventually end up going through hell! But still. Her beautiful, wonderful, horrible secondary characters were all deserving of their own spin-off.

Two minor “complaints” that were annoying but did not detract from the quality of the read. These could be considered somewhat spoilery, so tread with caution!:

  • The summary on the back of my edition had major spoilers for the novel. The death it describes takes place more than two-thirds the way through the book. I wrote a whole rant about it here: #PublisherFail Spoiler Summaries
  • I also worked out the identity of the villain rather early on. Since that NEVER happens to me, it must have been rather obvious to other people. That said, the aforementioned summary-from-hell did help rule out some suspects. So… it could have been that?

Bottom line? After reading Hunting Ground, I desperately want to read the next installments in the Mercy and Alpha & Omega series… but I am saving them for my next reading funk. Patricia Briggs can get me out of the most dreadful of reading slumps; she’s that good.

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: Outpost by Ann Aguirre (+ Audiobook Excerpt!)

Review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre (+ Audiobook Excerpt!)Outpost by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 317
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Enclave, Horde

Deuce’s whole world has changed.

Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn't fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Thoughts: I loved Outpost. It was rough, tough, gritty and glorious.

Ann Aguirre is one of those authors whose works I end up hoarding. I want to keep her books for “rainy days” because her work is flawless. But sometimes this hoarding can lead to me disliking a book, because I’ll have waited too long and end up not remembering a thing. I adored Enclave when I read it in 2011, but that was a whopping 2.5 years ago. Perhaps I wouldn’t fall back in love with Deuce and Fade? Perhaps I should have read this book last year when my memory was still fresh? *frets*

Luckily, this was not the case! Despite taking a 2+ year break from the Razorland series, I fell straight back into sync after only 5 or so pages. Aguirre does a great job at reminding you of previous events – using some strategic-and-short flashbacks and some seamless references – without making it feel like she is Reminding You (TM).

Anyhow, on to the book.

Deuce has started to work her way up my list of all time favourite heroines. She is courageous, kind in her own way and possesses a level of pragmatism that I envy. She understands those who hate her, though she won’t let them get in her way. She doesn’t let a bit of emotional turmoil stop her, and she certainly won’t let some man “own” her. She is also developing from the soldier she was trained to be: thinking for herself, and not accepting things at face value. This girl is a leader.

Deuce is also confident in her romantic feelings, thank god almighty. Yes, there is a “romantic triangle” of a sort in Outpost, but it is not a psychological triangle. Deuce always knows what she wants, which made me accept and even enjoy the wee bit of romantic tension that played out in Outpost.

Moving away from Deuce’s awesomeness, Outpost was also a fantastically plotty novel. We learn a whole lot more about the origins of Aguirre’s post-apocalyptic world and we gain some amazingly creepy insight into the “Freaks”. Just… OMG. I really, really, really need to know more. It kills me that there is only one book left in this trilogy, because I want a prequel, a sequel and a tie-in novel.

There was also a wealth of wonderful secondary characters and sub-plots in Outpost. A lot is going on in the background and we get to see peaks of it all through Deuce’s eyes. Aguirre has built a fantastically complex world; you can tell there’s a backstory behind every little detail. Now that’s my kind of storyteller.

Bottom line? This is my first 5 star rating of the year, and I’d give it six stars if I could. Brilliant book in a brilliant series.

Outpost Audiobook

Thanks to Outpost’s publishers, I am happy to be including an fabulous 10 min excerpt from the audiobook version of Outpost. Give it a listen!

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: 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.

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