Review: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells

Review: Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye WellsSilver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #4
Published by Orbit on January 5th 2012
Pages: 405
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Red-Headed Stepchild, The Mage in Black, Green-Eyed Demon

Spoilers for the first 3 books! 

Life is looking up for Sabina Kane. Now that her scheming grandmother is dead, the threat of war has passed and the rulers of the dark races are about to sign a treaty to ensure ongoing peace. Her relationship with sexy mage Adam Lazarus is strong and all her friends are around her. Even her magic training is progressing further than she ever expected. The only two dark spots in her otherwise settled life are her guilt over her sister Maisie's fragile mental state and Sabina's own sinking sense that she's got unfinished business with Cain, the mysterious cult leader she let get away months earlier.

When a string of murders rock the New York dark races community and threatens to stall the peace negotiations, Sabina finds herself helping to find the killer. Her investigation leads her down troubling paths that have her questioning everything - and everyone - she knows. And the closer she gets to the murderer, the more Sabina realises this is one foe she may not able to kill.

Thoughts: Silver-Tongued Devil was brilliant. I expected great things from Jaye Wells, but truth is that Green-Eyed Demon left me wondering where she could go with the series. Everything had ended so happily that I couldn’t really work out why Wells needed two more books.

The reason? Because there is no such thing as a happy ending, not even in fiction! In real life, people don’t just go from being a ruthless assassin for 50 years to being a warm-hearted softie overnight. And in real life, love and friendship aren’t the only ingredients to lasting relationships. So while Sabina might want to ride into the sunset, that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. And to honest, I am so very grateful for that!

Let’s start with Sabina. She’s one of my favourite characters in fiction, she is a take-no-prisoners woman who has a panache for violence. It’s fabulous and depressing at the same time. But in the third book in the series, it felt like she was trying to be someone she wasn’t. Luckily, that attempt is dealt with head-on in Silver-Tongued Devil. Not only did she deal with her own demons, she dealt with the way people around her were treating her too. *cough* Adam. *cough*

And while all the inter-character relationships were fantastically done, it was the gargantuan plot twists that made this book stand out. Jaye Wells is not afraid to “go there”. She made some pretty big revaluations in this book and made her characters suffer through pretty horrific consequences because of them. What was especially gratifying was the way the plot built on existing scenes – Wells has been laying the groundwork for the events of Silver-Tongued Devil over the entire series. Now that? That’s a real writer.

While the first half of the book was good, the second half was fantastic. The pace and the plot just grew more and more intriguing with each page – I found myself thinking about the book whenever I’d put it down. This book made going about my day a very frustrating venture, as all I wanted to do was read!! The only reason it isn’t getting 5 stars? Well, it’s not quite as funny as its predecessors. Other than that, it was perfection.

Bottom line? Silver-Tongued Devil was everything I didn’t even know I wanted. It was a gripping installment to an already brilliant series. Go forth and read it!

Early Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Early Review: Pure by Julianna BaggottPure by Julianna Baggott
Series: Pure #1
Published by Headline
Pages: 448
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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We know you are here, our brothers and sisters... Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Thoughts: I wanted to wait for this book to come out before I raved about it. Honest to God, I planned on waiting. Because, really, I loathe it when people rave about books that aren’t available for puchase. But in this case, I just couldn’t keep it all in. This book is fan-bloody-tastic, and I need to share.

Pure is quite possibly the most terrifying YA novel out there… which is saying quite a bit. The Hunger Games was terrifying, as was Blood Magic and The Replacement. But the very premise on which Pure is based is so horror-film terrifying that it has to take the cake as the scariest YA book I’ve ever read.

Ok, so how do I explain?

Well, Pure is set in a post-apocalyptic world. But unlike a lot of books, it isn’t set 50 years after the apocalypse – this end-of-the-world is in living memory. And the people suffering hurt all the more because they can remember the time when they weren’t in pain.

Pain, you ask? Well, that’s an understatement. Pure is set after a nuclear explosion has decimated the world. But the problem isn’t with the casualties of death, it’s with the pseudo-scientific effects of the radiation. At the time of the attack, people were merged with their surroundings. By surroundings I mean objects, animals, trees, dirt, and even other people. They fused together and everyone became, well, everyone else.

To say that this event made people less-than-friendly is an understatement. While the fused survivors are to be pitied, they are also the most fearful characters I’ve read in a long time. I found the whole premise utterly realistic and utterly haunting. Pure held me captive.

The reason, however, that Pure isn’t getting 5 stars has to do with the nitty-gritty character business. While I surprised myself by enjoying the multi-narrator style, there were things I found a bit too coincidental. Not to mention that some of the relationships in the novel felt rather… rushed. Unfortunately, these inconsistencies kept me slightly apart from the main characters. My hope is that I grow to understand them more in the next novels!

Bottom line? Pure is an original, steampunk-esque take on dystopian fiction. It’s the stuff of nightmares and you’re going to love it.

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Review: Matched by Ally CondieMatched by Ally Condie
Series: Matched #1
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 366
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Thoughts: Matched is one of those books suffering from so-much-hype-I-don’t-want-to-read-it syndrome. Every blogger out there has raved about the book, and as a result it took me a year to pick it up. Call it reverse psychology or whatever. But with the release of the sequel Crossed coming up, I knew I had to give Matched a shot. And – surprisingly – it lived up to the hype!

At its core, Matched is a romance novel. But like all good romantic stories, it is about so much more than just the romance. Its main message is an age-old one: Do not go gentle into that good night. The protagonist, Cassia, goes from being a girl who embraces the status quo to being a girl who refuses to give in. It is quite a dramatic change and the cause of the change is not just her newfound romance. There is a loss in her family, she has the things most precious to her taken away, and there are threats made against her two lovely parents. And, above all, there is the poetry. The beautiful, illegal poetry that tell her to not go gentle. It’s a message that resounded with me, and I think will certainly speak to teens.

Moving on to the characters – I can wholeheartedly say that I enjoyed them all. Both love interests were fantastic (a real coup for a teen novel). They were gentle, kind, and smart – they didn’t necessarily make you swoon, but they did fill me with the overwhelming urge to keep them safe. Safe, you ask? Well, while Matched is a very sedate dystopian novel (there aren’t people running about with guns and cattle prods), there is a danger present in the book that was just a scary as actual violence. The Society expressed their power subtly, by reducing your food portions or cutting down your trees. It wasn’t overt but it was constant. The effect was extremely unnerving.

I also enjoyed the integral role Cassia’s family played in the novel. Her parents were wonderful, supportive people, and her relationship with them was one of the healthiest I have ever seen in a YA novel. It was refreshing to read – especially since most teenagers actually do have good relationships with their parents!

My only complaint would be Cassia. While I didn’t dislike her, I found her to be rather bland. Every other character I felt something for, but Cassia felt like a blank slate for the reader to place themselves into the novel. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it kept me from truly connecting with the novel. Shame.

Bottom line? Matched was an extremely enjoyable dystopian novel. It’s the perfect book for people who wanted more romance in their Hunger Games!

Review: My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

Review: My Soul to Save by Rachel VincentMy Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent
Series: Soul Screamers #2
Published by Harlequin Teen, MIRA
Pages: 362
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 Keep, My Soul to Steal, If I Die, Before I Wake, With All My Soul

When Kaylee Cavanaugh screams, someone dies.

So when teen pop star Eden croaks onstage and Kaylee doesn't wail, she knows something is dead wrong. She can't cry for someone who has no soul.

The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad's ironclad curfew and putting her too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend's loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls: a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can't possibly understand.

Kaylee can't let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk….

Thoughts: My Soul to Save makes it clear what type of series Soul Screamers is… think post-book 6 Morganville Vampire. Episodic with a monster-of-the-week. Which is cool, but you need to know that before you start reading.

I enjoyed My Soul to Save even though I can’t say it was the most, er, gripping of novels. Honestly, when I worked out that the plot was going to revolve around saving pop queens who had sold their soul for fame… well, I was more of the “they deserve what they got” school of mind. But Vincent sold the nobility of the entire scenario and the pop queens actually turned out to be pretty sweet. Thank God, really, because there is nothing worse than hating the guest star.

But while I liked Kaylee (who is super independent but not at all idiotic) and the Netherworld (creepy, to say the least), I wasn’t really moved by this book. Everything was perfectly well written, the dialogue was tight and the plot was even tighter…. but My Soul to Save just felt like it was missing something. When I pick up a new book in a series, I expect something to fundamentally change. There has to be something new, otherwise why bother writing the book? And the truth is that nothing really changes at the end of My Soul to Save – a couple of things are different, but nothing fundamental.

These complaints are really rather minor, though. So while this book might not have been the most riveting, I am expecting earth-shattering things in Rachel’s next book!

Bottom line? Great YA series, good installment. Pick up the Soul Screamers series if you want something different-yet-familiar in your paranormal YA.

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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