Saturday, April 26, 2014

Moonless: Book I: Maiden of Time

Collier, C. (2013). Moonless. Apopka, FL: Raybourne Publishing.
YA / Romance / Paranormal Series

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Is this not the most gorgeous cover?  I can't help it, but I judge a book by its cover. Well, initially I do. Thankfully, this book is awesome inside and out!

Moonless grabbed me from the first few paragraphs and kept me reading to the very last page and then AGONIZING that I'd have to wait for the next installment, (Soulless, coming Fall 2014) to get much wanted insight and answers.  The writing is beautiful, descriptive, and appropriate to the period and a delightful change of style from others in this genre.

Collier's story reminded me of a YA version of A Discovery of Witches, but to me, Moonless worked much better by having a seventeen-year-old protagonist, Alexia, and a setting in only the 1700s. Alexia's teenaged insta-love behavior towards Kiren was understandable and expected, though I felt like Kiren's feelings needed to be better explained. We're not told much about why he is so drawn to Alexia in this installment; it really didn't make sense to me and was even a little odd. In any case, the romance element will satisfy readers, and Kiren is truly swoon-worthy in his manner and mystery. There are some pretty electrifying kisses and some serious sexual tension building, so I'm not sure how Collier will be able to keep future installments clean, like this book.

Readers will enjoy the building-up of the three parallel worlds that exist at any given moment and the resulting plethora of characters and sub-plots that are spun as a result of the second world of the Passionate and the Soulless. (yes, I said three parallel worlds! you'll never see it coming.) There are some fabulously memorable characters - good, evil, and undetermined - and hints we'll be finding out more. Short chapters help readers to manage it all, though be prepared to have MANY questions that may or may not get answered. And that's the main reason I'm rating this a 4 and not a 5.

With any paranormal storyline, there is an expectation that readers will have to suspend their disbelief, and I'm good with that; however, there were several times where I just couldn't do it and the "not knowing" created some plot holes.  The writing was beautifully done, with the exception of some pronoun use that caused confusion in trying to figure out who was speaking or being spoken about.

Despite these minor flaws -- which I anticipate will be corrected in what I expect to be a smashing-good follow-up -- I really enjoyed this story and recommend it to high school readers and older. 

I received a free eBook copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review -- the only kind I give!  

Visit Crystal Collier's website and learn more about Moonless and Soulless.

Hall Ways Review
Hall Ways Review

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #2)

Riggs, R. (2014). Hollow city. The second novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children. NY: Quirk Books.

YA Fantasy / Paranormal / Historical Fiction

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

 (watch to the end)

THE ENDING! BAM! Game changer! The next book will be able to go an entirely different direction, and I love the possibility of where and how it will unfold.

Though this is definitely a middle book, again, I thought Riggs nailed it. How he wrote workable storylines to fit around vintage pictures was truly amazing. I loved reading along, coming to a description, and turning the page to see it. This just worked for me. It's an incredibly creative way to write.

There is a lot of action in this book, and the tale is somewhat more dark and grim than the prior book. There are lots of new characters introduced, and a few scenes that seemed unnecessary; however, I feel like they are going to come into play later. Without giving a spoiler, I will just say I loved the one word whispering hospital patient in London.

Some may be disappointed in the romance element that was building pretty strongly in the first book. I am not one of those people. There is enough going on that a realistic, sixteen-year-old boy's first love story would have been a distraction. It's good that Jacob's love interest is in her 80s. There is a little schnogging, but it's not the focus of the book. Sensitive readers, there is violence, and several pretty horrific scenes with pictures to help the imagination along. There is a bit of historical fiction woven into the story, which adds to the horror. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Adventures of Superhero Girl

Hicks, F.E. (2013). Adventures of Superhero Girl. NY: Dark Horse.
YA Comic / Humor

I gave this 4 out of 5 stars.

She's an ordinary young woman: she shrinks things in the laundry, she forgets to wear sunscreen, she is short on cash and needs a paying job, she's living in the shadow of her uber-successful older brother. Oh, and she can leap tall buildings and has superhuman strength and regularly kicks the butts of ninjas and monsters wreaking havoc on her town! She is Superhero Girl, named because she kinda waited too long to give herself a cool name and that one stuck. Such is her life.

Superhero Girl's "ordinary-ness" is what makes this book of comic strips fun. The drawings are well-done, and though the book of strips don't exactly pick-up one after the other, they are sequential and enough to give readers a clear picture of the struggles of being a superhero when you still have to be a productive citizen in the world.

Young adults and adults alike will enjoy the humor and sarcasm in this book. There is comical violence - duh, she's a superhero kicking ninja/monster butts and social drinking of alcohol, but it's appropriate since Superhero Girl and her friends are likely of age.

I'm a fan!

I won this book in the Sam Houston State University Library School HBRC 2013. Thanks, SHSU!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Secret Diamond Sisters

Madow, M. (2014). The secret Diamond sisters. NY: Harlequin Teen.
Young Adult for mature young adults

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars.

This is a hard review to write given how impressed I have been by the author.  Oh how I wanted to like this book, but I can't even figure out who an appropriate audience would be. If the book is going to be aimed at young adults, there needs to be some value to it: a lesson, a role model, outstanding writing, enlightenment?

I enjoyed the three books in Madow's Transcend Time Saga  and promoted, recommended, and shared them with many high school students. I expected The Secret Diamond Sisters to be similarly written with great storytelling, likeable characters (with a role model or two thrown into the mix), clean romance, and some twists and turns to keep readers engaged.  The Secret Diamond Sisters had none of these qualities, and despite its main characters being highschoolers, it's not really a high school book.  To match their actions, the characters should have all been four years older and you would have the makings of a great new adult book.

What disappointed me, beyond the writing itself, is that the precedent set in Madow's prior books was thrown aside. In this book, we have heavy drinking (truly, alcoholism), casual and careless sexual encounters, eating disorders, extreme vanity and materialism as the norm for kids ages 15-17.  I know it's Vegas, but I also know this isn't the norm, even there. And I would pray that even in Vegas, being a millionaire's child doesn't mean all laws are "overlooked." Seriously, a fifteen-year-old is going to be allowed in 21+ bars in Vegas? In reality, there would be adult bar patrons complaining about that. This is a stretch I can't accept. I also just didn't like or care about any of the characters. Courtney is most promising, but she also doesn't have anything that makes her interesting or exceptional: a willowy model body and a brain aren't enough.

Okay -- I will acknowledge that extreme vanity and materialism may be a norm for this set, but for the rest of it, there weren't even any "lessons" for a young reader to learn. We start off with one character who is exercising and on an 800 calorie/day diet. She is adored by all, and is considered the hottest girl at school. And she sacrifices food calories to have alcohol to calm her nerves, deal with stress, escape reality, be brave. . . Never do we see a downside. And there are plenty more examples of horrible behavior and decisions made, but no ill consequences. (literally - hangovers without vomiting? For the amount consumed, these girls should have had alcohol poisoning.)

I have heard comparisons to Gossip Girl, but not enough happens to merit the comparison. I loved Gossip Girl, but this book has no real plot and barely a hint of a secret or two which might unfold in the next book. This first book is just a day by day, four person viewpoint of who gives each girl chills, what designer shoes will be worn, and what amount of alcohol will be consumed. This will probably appeal to some because it seems voyeuristic, but I never found that hook to keep me interested.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for providing me this free ARC in exchange for an honest review -- painful as it is to give.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Half Bad (Half Life, #1)

Green, S. (2014). Half Bad. NY: Viking Press Juvenile.
Young Adult / Fantasy / Paranormal

I gave this 4 out of 5 stars.

CHECK OUT THIS TRAILER from Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life:

HALF BAD was more than half good, and I really enjoyed it. For one, I was happy to have a male main character for a change and secondly, there was no sappy love triangle. (Not saying there isn't a love triangle, or one coming, but it is definitely not standard!)

The idea of the modern world having witches living within it isn't a novel premise, but how it was handled was well done and had some fairly unique ideas. The world is a dark, cruel, and violent one, and Green does an excellent job with describing every painful moment -- with a smattering of happiness to offset the darkness.

Poor Nathan, our main character, has to deal with hatred and discrimination and neglect in both the witch and real worlds. The messages were loud and clear that this is something humanity clearly needs to continue to work on remedying.

There were plenty of twists and turns, and the ending hints at plenty more to come in the intended books two and three of the series. As always, I prefer a stand-alone story and I think this could have been one with some clever editing; however, the ending left readers with questions interesting enough that we'll come back for more.

The publisher recommends it for ages 12 and up, but I would err on the side of caution and maybe push it for a little older than that, based on the violence factor. It could be upsetting and/or even cause nightmares because the scenes are so descriptive.

Thank you to the publisher, Viking/Penguin, and NetGalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for a fair review. Hopefully the final eBook will be easier to read than the one I was given, which had all kinds of formatting issues. Better yet -- just opt for the hard cover edition when it comes out! Definitely worth purchasing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Walton, L. (2014). The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender. NY: Candlewick Press.
Young Adult / Adult / Fantasy / Magic
320 pages

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Check out the book trailer!

Tragical, magical, and fantastical! This is not a flowery, fluttery tale of teenage love. This is a multi-generational tale of the rawness, pain, and agony of love -- and the consequences to everyone in love's path. Ava's story truly begins with that of her great-grandmother, and the story flows seamlessly from there. Family that goes before us, we are reminded, never truly leaves us.

Walton's writing is amazing. The imagery is stunning and readers will be able to conjure the exact scenes with Walton's descriptions. Characters come to life and fade from life in both believable and fantastic ways.  

Something about the story -- more than it just being multi-generational -- reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.  Perhaps it's the unfolding of the generations of stories, and then the rapid rewinding and swirling-together of them at the end.  It is dizzying in the most satisfying way.

I would recommend this to mature high school aged readers and higher, and I almost would say this is an adult book that works for young adults, not vice-versa. It is violent - there is rape, murder, and suicide. There is consensual sex (both teenaged and adult) and explorations of sexuality.  Nothing is overly graphic in the descriptions, but the descriptions are such that they are powerful scenes that stay with the reader long after reading them. And though there is plenty to which a teenager can relate -- Ava as a teen is very relate-able, wings and all -- there is also plenty to which only an adult can relate by virtue of life experience.

Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing this free ARC in exchange for an honest review. I give no other!