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Currently Browsing: paranormal YA
Oct
30

Review: Scavenger Girl–Season of Atchem by Jennifer Arntson

Review: Scavenger Girl–Season of Atchem by Jennifer Arntson Scavenger Girl-Season of Atchem Author: Jennifer Arntson Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Scavenger Girl is the first book in the new young adult series by the same name.  It’s told from the perspective of Una, a seventeen year old girl and member of the lowest caste in a leveled socio-economic system.  This dystopian novel is set on a planet with three moons that with their movements create five distinct seasons: Atchem, Talium, Hytalia, Toridia, and Zoetica.  The seasons correspond to the five books intended for the series. The single perspective creates a very intimate feeling with the narration.  The pace isn’t slow so much as it feels like real time, not skipping or jumping over large days or weeks. Arntson’s methodical writing style reminds me of Lois McMaster Bujold, author of the Sharing Knife series. The story is told day by day at the end of Atchem season, leading up to Talium, the dark season when the moons line up to block out the sun in a perpetual total eclipse. Nothing grows, it’s always night, and even rivers are affected by gravitational pull.  In a largely agrarian society, the ability to produce food and goods is significant. Productive farmers tend to be wealthy—if they are “citizens.” “Citizens” have standing and privilege.  They worship a pantheon of gods and approve of human sacrifice.  “Reclaimers” are those who have lost or never had a birthright.  They are not entitled to own anything, but what they can scavenge or reclaim from the castoffs and trash of citizens.  This includes their own children.  Girls reaching puberty are sold into surrogacy and slavery.  The contrast between the citizens and the reclaimers is stark, characterized by have and have-not at its basic level and graphically violent at the extreme.  That violence feels very personal since we are intimate with Una and her family.  Some sensitive readers may be triggered. At its heart, however, Scavenger Girl is a love story.  When Una has the opportunity to secure the safety of her beloved family by virtue of a betrothal to a citizen farmer, she gets to live a Cinderella fairytale—or is it?  Can she fit into this parallel culture for the sake of her family?  I have a few minor criticisms, but mostly, I was impressed.  Arntson made me remember what a teenage, real first kiss felt like.  I’ve been married 30 years so that’s saying a lot.  I read enough romance that I...
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Apr
10

Review: Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft

Review: Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft Sanguine Moon Author: Jennifer Foxcroft Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Sanguine Moon is the second installment in the young adult paranormal romance Camazotz Trilogy.  It picks up right where Sanguine Mountain left off.  I appreciated the fact that this was not a filler book, but had its own, valid plot.  While it is a complete story, this is definitely a “read in order” trilogy, also setting us up for book three in the last chapter. With two years between the release of the first and second installments, there is a character list in the back to help the reader keep multiple players in order. I found the first story was unique enough that I did remember most of it and have been looking forward to this read. I’m enjoying continuing this alternate version of the vampire myth.  Camazotz are a species of shape-shifting vampire bats—more zoology, less Bela Lugosi.  They shun modern technology and outsiders in an effort to keep their secrets.  Main heartthrob Rockland “Rocks” is desperately in love with aeronaught (ordinary human) Connie Phillips. Unfortunately he’s also heir-apparent to leadership of his colony. Connie has her own troubles as the identity of her biological parents prove to be more than problematic. In fact, they become very adult problems which is why I was frustrated by Connie’s lack of faith in the adults in her life—parents who are perfect in a way only fictional characters can be.  Keeping them from the action of the story felt a little contrived, even if necessary.  Academy Award winning director Keith Merrill once said, “If you’re a screenwriter and understand the essence of drama, and you want to plunge your characters into conflict and keep them there, then you probably need to ‘lose the mom.’ Mothers go missing in movies because leaving them in the lives of characters in crisis makes sustaining conflict difficult. Mothers listen and understand, solve problems, and resolve conflicts. They are selfless and love without conditions. You want to stir up a heap of trouble and make it believable? Better keep Mom out of it.”  Foxcroft’s justifications for keeping good parents “out of it” wore very thin before being resolved.  To her credit, however, when we finally got there, it was almost a physical relief.  I hope it is appropriate to give them a larger support role in book three. Rocks has his own problems with his colony.  Their fear of the outside world, especially...
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Jul
5

Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine Paper and Fire Author: Rachel Caine Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A/A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have really enjoyed this new series, The Great Library.  The first novel, Ink and Bone, was a captivating and thrilling page-turner.  Paper and Fire ramps it up even more, with an unexpected twist at the end. As with our review of Ink and Bone, it is very difficult for us to do our normal discussion type review.  From the beginning of Paper and Fire, the plot begins to twist and turn, revealing some truths while hinting at other plots.  It would be far too easy to spoil this novel.  So we apologize for this terse and vague review. Jess continues to be the central character.  We follow him in the new chapter of his life as part of the Library.  As a bottom-rung cadet, he has very little power, but if the Library thinks they can control him, they are very wrong.  Jess continues to seek answers, find out the truth of his friends, and search for a way to change the brutal dictatorial nature of the library.  Although he never is completely sure whom he can trust, Jess knows he will never be able to free Morgan without help. This series continues to mesmerize us.  Although it can be argued whether this is a young adult series or fantasy, there are topics that are strictly for the more mature reader: torture, rape, and war.  The nefarious plots of the different factions all weave around each other, and all seem to be against Jess.  It is overwhelmingly and incredibly addicting.  We especially enjoyed the painfully clear depiction that no matter how gilded the cage is, it is still a prison. The end came as quite a surprise to us as the novel goes in a completely unexpected direction.  But it is one that makes sense and holds an intriguing possibility.  We eagerly look forward to the next book in this series.  If you haven’t picked it up yet, you are seriously missing out on a well crafted, addicting, and suspenseful world. Our Rating: A/A-  Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good. Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is...
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Apr
12

Review: Reckoning by Veronica Wolff

Review: Reckoning by Veronica Wolff Reckoning Author: Veronica Wolff Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have eagerly anticipated this final novel in The Watchers young adult series.  We have been mesmerized by this rich and fascinating world of a secret society of vampires and the candidates they lure in so they can train them to be Watchers.  Although the novel nicely ties up everything with a big bow, we thought it was not as smooth as the previous novels. Drew finally exhibits a sense of maturity in this final installment.  We enjoyed seeing her finally take to heart the lessons so many had tried to teach her.  Although she wasn’t perfectly mature throughout, she tried to do the right things and to think before acting.  However her waffling between Cardin and Ronin did wear on us after a while.  We felt it was never a contest between Ronin and Carden (we’ve always had a soft spot for Ronin in our hearts), however with the blood bond between her and Carden and with Ronin’s compulsion abilities, we can understand her fears and inability to determine what is real. Although we were happy with how the story ends, its execution was not polished.  We thought the first half of the novel was forced while the ending was abrupt.  The beginning felt like it was being rushed just to get to the last half.  So much happens near the end that it was a bit convoluted.  We were appalled that a critical reunion took place outside of the storyline.  This was a driving force for Drew, and to not be able to experience this meeting was a huge let down. Overall, we loved The Watchers series and are sad that it is over.  This was a wondrously rich and fascinatingly fresh world of vampires.  Although this final book is a bit of a letdown, we are relieved that Drew achieves her happy ending.  Despite our reservations with this title, we still recommend the young adult series. Our Rating:  B- Liked It, but we had a few small issues About the Book: IN THE GAME OF EVIL, THERE IS ALWAYS A FINAL RECKONING Annelise’s slaying of Vampire Dagursson has thrown the Isle of Night – and her own heart – into chaos. Though she shares a bond with the vampire Carden, her connection to Ronan grows deeper as he protects her from those who seek justice for and power from Dagursson’s death....
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Mar
1

Review: Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine

Review: Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine Midnight Bites: Stories of the Morganville Vampires Author: Rachel Caine Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: What a treat for Morganville Vampires series fans!  Midnight Bites: Stories of the Morganville Vampires is a wonderful collection of some previously released and brand new short stories in this rich and vibrant world.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this to all fans of the series but advise caution for newbies.  This collection would be considered spoilerish if you haven’t read the series.  You’d also be a bit lost on the significance and context of some of the stories included. I’m a big fan of this series and was sad when I read the final book, Daylighters.  I have read anything and everything that I could get my hands on in this world, including those stories that Ms. Caine posted for free on the web, as well as getting anthologies from the library so I didn’t miss a novella.  Though this is not a comprehensive collection of all the short stories Ms. Caine has created, it is a wonderfully balanced anthology. I was able to experience the backstory of some of the most colorful and critical characters in the series as well as enjoy a few new adventures.  Included are points of view from our favorite misunderstood vampire, Myrnin and his liege Amelie.  I enjoyed seeing Morganville, along with our heroes, through their eyes.  There is so much more to the vampires than what we previously experienced.  We are also given a glimpse of Myrnin’s past as well as a few stories that are more epilogues in nature.  One of the most compelling stories I found was from Michael and Eve’s point of view when Michael was struggling as a new vampire.  There is just so much to love in this collection including stories that centered on Shane as well as one from Hannah Moses. Ms. Caine in her afterword gave me hope that she is not finished with this world.  In the meantime though, Morganville Vampires fans will certainly want and need to read this short story collection.  You won’t be disappointed, I certainly wasn’t! My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine presents a collection of stories—including six new tales—featuring the little Texas town that’s overrun by the undead.  WELCOME TO MORGANVILLE. YOU’LL NEVER WANT TO LEAVE. By day, Morganville, Texas, is just a typical college town. By night, the vampires emerge and...
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Apr
15

Review: Sanguine Mountain by Jennifer Foxcroft

Review: Sanguine Mountain by Jennifer Foxcroft Sanguine Mountain Author: Jennifer Foxcroft Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Sanguine Mountain’s title suggests a story of vampires and blood.  There is blood, although very little, and there are vampire—bats.  Neither Lestat nor Edward Cullen are sneaking in anyone’s windows.  The only creatures of the night in this tale are actual bats.  In a new take on the vampire myth, this is a much more Wild Kingdom approach to a teen love story. Rockland or “Rocks” is descended from a centuries old culture called the Camazotz that was magically transformed into bats to evade and conquer their enemies.  They have shunned the advances of the world as it grew up and they did not, choosing instead to isolate themselves.  Now their numbers are dwindling and Rocks believes it is crucial to modernize if they are to survive.  He is fascinated by all things technological, but especially by Connie, a high school senior who is blonde and all things sunshine. The story is told in first person, completely from Connie’s perspective.  Foxcroft successfully represents a teenage girl with a unique voice.  Connie’s maturity is age appropriate and does not feel like the voice of an adult author trying to speak as a teenager.  It reminds me of Need by Carrie Jones, combining normal teen life with a wispy, ethereal quality that hangs in magical, but not dangerous places.  Sanguine Mountain is better written than Need.  If I have any criticism of Connie’s character it’s that she does a little too much swooning over Rocks and it actually impedes the reader from getting to know him better.  Rather than more observations of his speech and actions, we get a few too many forest smells and giddy tingles. For me it crossed over a certain line of saturation.  Nevertheless all the swooning did successfully express some of the self-centeredness that is typical of teenage life. In the end it probably added some authenticity. The story is the first of three in a trilogy and must be read in order.  In fact, Sanguine Mountain comes to a stopping place, but isn’t a complete story on its own.  It’s only an introduction that comes in under 300 pages.  If you read it, be prepared to read all three.  I hope in future books that we get additional perspectives.  I would be disappointed for the entire trilogy to be from solely Connie’s point of view. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About...
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Dec
3

Review: The Vault by Emily McKay

Review: The Vault by Emily McKay The Vault Author: Emily McKay Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: B- What We’re Talking About: Note: This review contains spoilers from the previous two titles. If you have not read the previous books, read this review at your risk. Gikany and Una have come to appreciate the compelling world of The Farm series. The unique vampire mythology is fascinating. Humans already possess the DNA that can turn us from thinking beings into ticks consumed by only the hunt and need for blood. That this potential can be made a reality through a catalyst created by human scientists is staggering. The previous two novels, The Farm and The Lair, have led to this final resolution: the search for the cure. Does it exist? Will it actually work? But most importantly, what are the consequences using the cure on the tick? As the novel begins, Carter and Mel are forced to split up to try to save Lily. Carter returned to base camp to get help obtaining a sample of the cure from the vampire Sabrina. Meanwhile, Mel returned to El Dorado to hopefully find Sebastian and use him to open his impregnable vault. However, nothing in this novel was as simple or clear cut as it seemed. The end of the novel nicely tied everything up with a big bow. We enjoyed how the story came full circle and the hope we were left with. Despite that, we still wonder what happens next. The world isn’t fixed, but there is hope that it can heal. However, with nothing on the author’s website alluding to future novels, it seems like this is the last novel. After experiencing so much heartbreak and tension through the series, it was really wonderful to have that sense of hope and happiness at the end. Gikany and Una are not fond of multiple points of view when utilized in first person narration. The Vault is told from the viewpoints of all three main characters. This is a chapter from Mel, then a chapter from Lily, a few from Carter, then one from each, and so on. The constant starting and stopping interrupted the flow of the story for us, especially as the story bounced from once location and situation to another. To add to the roughness of the rhythm of the story, Carter and Lily’s perspectives are in past tense while Mel perspective uses present tense adding to the confusion as the story transitioned from one...
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Oct
28

Review: Eventide by Christine Allen-Riley

Review: Eventide by Christine Allen-Riley Eventide Author: Christine Allen-Riley Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Eventide is the first book in a new young adult series that is quite promising. Gikany and Una enjoyed this slowly building story, becoming completely lost in the heroine’s plight. The story starts very slowly. We are gently introduced to Devon, the pain and grief she is battling after the loss of her best friend, and her understanding that all is not as it seems in her hometown. As the story begins to unfold, we, along with Devon, learn about the Sidhe who live and hunt in the town of Iron Falls. The tragic accidents that have been occurring are not what they seem to be and that those lost may not be lost at all. First, we really enjoyed this novel. The tension increases through the novel as the character development, plot, and mythology unfold, and the plight of the characters becomes clear. It is very expertly woven. Though the start is slow, it truly is akin to waiting for the first drop on a rollercoaster ride. Nothing is very clearly cut and we enjoyed trying to figure things out along with Devon – not just the mystery of the Sidhe and how she can save her friend Rachel, but her relationships. This is a very well done balance between a coming of age story, fantasy/adventure, and mystery. Devon is a down to earth character dealing with some very real and adult issues. Nothing is sugar coated, but it is done gently. It is also handled respectfully and responsibly. Devon was driving on the night of the fateful accident because she was the sober one. The care and concern Devon shows for her siblings. Although nothing is clear-cut and Devon’s world is completely shattered, she is working at putting it in some semblance of order. We liked Devon and we look forward to seeing more of what happens to her and her growth in the next book. Considering the themes of the novel, we would recommend this to any mature junior high students and above. In spite of the temptations she faces, Devon strives to be conscious of consequences and takes responsibility for her actions. We found we liked her and were rooting for her as she heals and fights for innocents. Though she is a victim of bullying, she works at keeping herself grounded. What helps to keep this story fresh and real...
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Jun
10

Review: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Review: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare City of Heavenly Fire Author: Cassandra Clare Reviewer: Una Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: It seems lately I have been reviewing the end-of-a-series books.  So far, they have all been well done.  City of Heavenly Fire is no exception and in fact is amazing!  It is beautifully crafted, brimming with pathos, and completely tensioned filled; I was mesmerized, overwhelmed, and ensnared.  The course of the last five books reached an unexpected and almost hopelessly impossible pinnacle, and I find myself left with a beautiful sense of peace and a core of hope.  City of Heavenly Fire is by far my favorite book of the series! Ms. Clare certainly has the ability to craft a poetic epic.  The imagery, the characters and situations; they all seem orchestrated to music.  The feelings she evokes, the images her words paint, the knowledge she plants, combine to an incredibly all-encompassing read.  For a novel that is over 700 pages, it goes by quickly and yet, at times, each second lasted pages.  Frequently, the tension is tempered by humor, but more often I found it tempered by several different emotions: love, desire, fear, confusion, and sometimes cold logical thinking (“what on earth was next” being the most popular in my mind).  But what I find the most humorous of my read is that I am the main culprit for a good deal of the tension.  The war was coming; the majority of the novel is a chess game.  Yet, just when I think the pieces are in position, I discovered that we were not quite to the end game.  I found myself expecting the worst around each turn due to the loss of a character early on in the novel. City of Heavenly Fire truly takes us full circle.  Though the novel does wrap up with a big bow of hope, we still grieve the losses.  However, Ms. Clare writes about loss in more than the conventional way.  Though there are moments and players that I could tell were key, the way it unfolds is completely a surprise.  I was stunned by some of the sacrifices that take place.  Some sacrifices are in the form of death, but some are political, some are of love, friendships, and some of home or the path of what could have been.  If Ms. Clare plays as she writes, I would be a poor opponent indeed at the chess table.  Although I am taken by the twists,...
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Mar
6

Review: Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep

Review: Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep Killer Frost Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una are bereft to inform you that we have indeed read the last of the Mythos Academy books.  Killer Frost is a bittersweet read only in that we say goodbye to Gwen and her friends and this rich and wondrous world.  However, Killer Frost is an exceedingly brilliant novel that ties up all the loose ends simply and poignantly. Throughout the Mythos Academy series, Gwen has been the underdog, the unlikely hero.  Surrounded at the Academy by Amazons, Valkyries, Spartans, Ninjas and other great warriors, Gwen is different.  Her magic lies in psychometry – not really a fearsome offensive weapon.  But Nike chose Gwen to be her champion anyway.  Was it her fierce determination, her stubborn will, or her innate compassion and kindness?  Rest assured fans and readers, the answer is revealed!  Gikany and Una always wondered why Gwen was chosen, she seemed so outmatched, especially taking into consideration that Loki’s champion is a Valkyrie.  Nike is one smart cookie – this explains why she is the Goddess of Victory.  The clues were there all along but, as is the nature of the gods, you needed the right circumstances and context to understand them.  Gwen truly is the embodiment of a Champion. This book is all about the final battle, Gwen facing Loki.  However, as we build up to this final moment there are many different pieces that first needed to be locked into place.  Getting there was not just full of suspense and adventure, but emotionally charged as well.  We loved seeing how well Gwen’s friends not only know her, but love her.  They do what they can to support her.  Part of what makes this series so rich is the group of supporting characters.  Not just Gwen’s friends, but other allies – some obvious and some not so.  They add humor, humanity and pathos. One thing that we respected and loved about Killer Frost was the reality check at the end.  Once the dust settles, these people will never be the same.  We were not spared the reality of a great battle’s aftermath.  In this world, where Loki and his followers have affected each and every student and teacher, it would be insulting to not endure their losses with them.  Some have lost friends, parents, etc. during this time of turmoil.  The great final battle requires more sacrifices and losses. ...
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