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: Magic in the Blood by Devon Monk

Review: Magic in the Blood by Devon MonkMagic in the Blood by Devon Monk
Series: Allie Beckstrom #2
Published by Ace/Roc, Berkley UK
Pages: 358
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Magic to the Bone

Working as a Hound-tracing illegal spells back to their casters-has taken its toll on Allison Beckstrom. But even though magic has given her migraines and stolen her recent memory, Allie isn't about to quit. Then the police's magic enforcement division asks her to consult on a missing persons case. But what seems to be a straightforward job turns out to be anything but, as Allie finds herself drawn into the underworld of criminals, ghosts, and blood magic.

Thoughts: My memory of the first Allie Beckstorm novel is the following: Allie takes a lot of cabs, forgets things, and is in love with some guy who I wouldn’t know from Adam. The book left me with a shrug and a vague feeling of disappointment. It wasn’t bad – it was actually pretty well written – but it didn’t make me want to run out and get the sequel. So when I received the sequel for review, I waited until my memory of the first book was well-aged so that I could give the series a fresh start. Alas, Magic in the Blood was more of the same.

The Allie Beckstorm series seems to be rather episodic: there’s a crime, someone is called in, it must be sorted out. On top of that, there are a bunch of series arcs that play out: namely, Allie dealing with the aftermath of her father’s death, and her “boyfriend”‘s bizarre magical powers. You’d think that this developed backstory would give depth to the episodic story… but it just made it worse. Because it is hard to care about characters you find illogical, frustrating and underdeveloped.

My primary issues were with Allie’s inability to look after herself and her “boyfriend” Zayvion. Let’s start with Allie: the girl doesn’t have a car and lives in a city without decent public transport. So, she takes cabs. That would be fine if she were living in New York City where there is a cab on every corner, but she’s not. OK, so she can always call a cab, right? Wrong. Apparently cell phones break when she carries them due to… I dunno… magical interference or some such nonsense. Fine. (Except, no, really not fine – I’ve never seen such an obvious plot device in my life.) What all this boils down to is her taking cabs out to meet extremely dangerous people in isolated places without an escape route in place. Which just… NO! How on earth are we supposed to find this believable?

There are other examples I can give – namely, her insistance on using magic for mundane tasks even though she knows she’ll get a horrendous magical “hangover”. It defies logic and frustrates my belief in, well, humanity.

As for Zayvion… well, I’d say “the less time spent on him the better” but that seems to be the attitude the author has taken. It’s been two books and I feel like we know nothing about him. As such, it makes any emotional relationship between him and Allie implausible. Add to that the fact that the few things we did learn about him in the first book Allie has forgotten and suddenly we’re moving into the “that can’t possibly be real” arena.

Now, let me repeat: this series is not bad. Nor is it terribly written (although I did spot some grammatical errors and a few typos in the UK edition, and an overabundance of “Holy Shit”s). But it is episodic and stars characters I either actively dislike or find peskily illogical/stupid. Had the writing not been as solid as it was, this book would have gotten a much lower rating.

Bottom line? This is the NCIS of the Urban Fantasy world. Not bad, but not a series I’ll be continuing.

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Review: Cinder by Marissa MeyerCinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 400
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Scarlet, Cress

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Things I liked about Cinder:
  • It was only loosely based on Cinderella. Cinder wasn’t a “sit back and wait for my fairy godmother” character and actively rebelled against her family.
  • The universe had fantastic potential. It was very futuristic – complete with cyborgs, flying vehicles, and aliens on the moon – and yet it also seemed quite historic – with a royal family, a hideous plague, and terrible human rights.
  • Prince Kai. I have never been one to swoon over a prince, but this prince? He was everything you could possibly want from a monarch: reluctant to rule but feels obligated to do the best job he can, genuinely cares about his subjects, and has no real prejudices towards people of lower classes. I wholeheartedly approve.

Things that made me roll my eyes:

  • The big “mystery”. Mystery… hah! Within about 10 pages I had worked out the book’s big secret – so I spent the rest of the book hoping that someone would wise up and just say it out loud before I killed them all for their stupidity. Unfortunately, is wasn’t revealed until the end of the book – and revealed with dramatic flair it did not deserve.
  • Cinder. While she did have quite a bit of gumption, I found her self-loathing for her cyborg nature to be extremely tiresome. I wanted to just slap her and say “I get it, you’ve had a hard knock life, but just accept the fact that you don’t deserve it and DO something about it!” In a way, it was rather like a slave believing that they are property… something I cannot possibly accept in a protagonist, although I am sure it is possible in real life.
  • The lunar queen. If one-dimensional were a country, she would be its queen. And, hell, I think she’d enjoy it. Queen Levana was a simple “Big Bad” and absolutely nothing else. Instead of finding her scary, I found her rather cartoonish.
  • And, again, the “mystery”. Seriously, this really bugged me. I mean, I get that this book was aimed at teenagers but it wasn’t aimed at oblivious idiots. I mean, c’mon…

In short, Cinder is good. Quite good indeed. But it isn’t the miraculous novel that some reviews have made it out to be. It has significant flaws and is clearly a debut novel. I just hope that Meyer does a better job with the sequel…

Bottom line? Cinder is an enjoyable sci-fi novel with a well-incorporated fairy-tale at its heart. But is it the best thing since sliced bread? No, it is not.

Review: If I Die by Rachel Vincent

Review: If I Die by Rachel VincentIf I Die by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #5
Published by MIRA
Pages: 342
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 Save, My Soul to Keep, My Soul to Steal, Before I Wake, With All My Soul

The entire school’s talking about the gorgeous new math teacher, Mr Beck. That is, everyone except Kaylee Cavanaugh. After all, Kaylee’s no ordinary high-school junior. She’s a banshee — she screams when someone dies.
But the next scream might be for Kaylee.

Yeah — it’s a shock to her, too. So to distract herself, Kaylee’s going to save every girl in school. Because that hot new teacher is really an incubus who feeds on the desire of unsuspecting students. The only girls immune to his lure are Kaylee and Sabine — her boyfriend’s needy ex-girlfriend. Now the unlikely allies have to get rid of Mr Beck…before he discovers they aren’t quite human, either.

But Kaylee’s borrowed lifeline is nearing its end. And those who care about her will do anything to save her life. Anything.

Thoughts: If I Die was my favourite Soul Screamers novel, hands down. Rachel Vincent resolved all my complaints, “beat my head against the wall” feelings, and shoot-Nash-in-the-face desires in one tidy little novel. How? Well, she gave Kaylee a gigantic wake-up call in the form of imminent death. *grins* Oh, the joy.

OK, I realise that makes me sound rather evil. But let me put it this way: when a character literally has no reason to hold herself back, she has the chance to let out her true self. And the “true” Kaylee? She’s rather brilliant. You see, finding out she is about to die frees Kaylee… it frees her from Nash, from her father, from her schoolmates, and – most importantly – from herself. So when I say “finding out she is about to die is the best thing that ever happened to Kaylee”, I really do mean it in the very best of ways.

Now, other than telling you that open-eyes!Kaylee is featured in If I Die, I can’t really say much more without spoiling the book for you. In short: the villain was horrifically genius, Tod was swoon-worthily brilliant, Nash was ludicrously screwed-up, Kaylee’s Dad was adorably protective, and Sabine was, well… Sabine. *sighs happily*

Bottom line? It is worth reading the first 4 books of the Soul Screamers series just to read If I Die. Seriously. Hell, just consider the first 4 books a very, very long prologue.

Finished the book already? Check out my interview with author Rachel Vincent for her thoughts on the series post-If I Die. She gave me some fantastic answers – read it if you are longing for something to tide you over until the next book!

Review: My Soul to Steal by Rachel Vincent

Review: My Soul to Steal by Rachel VincentMy Soul to Steal by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #4
Published by Harlequin Teen, MIRA
Pages: 368
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 Save, My Soul to Keep, If I Die, Before I Wake, With All My Soul

Trying to work things out with Nash—her maybe boyfriend—is hard enough for Kaylee Cavanaugh. She can't just pretend nothing happened. But "complicated" doesn't even begin to describe their relationship when his ex-girlfriend transfers to their school, determined to take Nash back.

See, Sabine isn't just an ordinary girl. She's a mara, the living personification of a nightmare. She can read people's fears—and craft them into nightmares while her victims sleep. Feeding from human fear is how she survives.

And Sabine isn't above scaring Kaylee and the entire school to death to get whatever—and whoever—she wants

Thoughts: My Soul to Steal made me want to punch things. Punch things repeatedly. And then it made me wish that Nash were real so that I might stab him in the eyes with a fork. These eyes would preferably be the automatically regrowing type so that I could continue the stabbing over and over and over and… yes. My Soul to Steal made me an angry, angry bunny. Angry on Kaylee’s behalf… hell, furious on her behalf.

I was never a big Nash fan, nor was I ever a big Nash/Kaylee fan. But this book just… gah. It really made me wish Nash dead. That said, I do think Nash is not inherently evil, he’s just madly screwed up. Rachel Vincent is an absolute genius in the sense that, yes, her characters are 100% realistic. She deals with the aftermath of drug abuse and betrayal in a heart-breakingly realistic way… but that realism? It leads to my aforementioned desire to kill her characters.

But even while I am busy plotting ways to dispose of the fictional bodies, I understand her characters. The new girl, Sabine, for example… let’s just say she’s pretty damn horrid to Kaylee. And yet, I really do get her – she’s completely open about her actions, be they good or terribly bad. Hell, half-way through this book I would have been happy if Kaylee had decided to switch sexual orientations and run off with her. And if I was choosing the main antagonist over the boyfriend? That really gives you an idea how much said boyfriend was wrong for Kaylee.

Moving away from all the interpersonal DR-A-MA, My Soul to Steal was a riot and a half. Vincent does plotty-but-serial extremely well, and this installment was just another demonstration of her ever-improving style. Had the book been more focussed on the plotty goodness, and not on all the Kaylee/Nash/Sabine business, I would be giving it 4 stars without a doubt.

Bottom line? Rachel Vincent writes the most extraordinary characters – some of them you’ll love, some you’ll want to kill, and others you’ll want to have committed. It’s great, but oh-so frustrating.

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