Living Within the Pages – Book Review #15

31 01 2011

Title: Tempestuous

Author: Lesley Livingston

Series: Wondrous Strange trilogy (#3)

Amazon Rating: 4.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.10

Alex’s Rating: 3.75

Kelley Winslow did it. She, a Faerie princess, managed a lie…and the cruelest one at that. In her hopes of driving Sonny away while she searched for those who sought to do him and his hidden magick harm, Kelley made him believe she did not love him. In his upset daze, Sonny manages to be welcomed into a Lost Fae sanctuary where he finds the magic of the Fae world underground and unlikely allies in a battle that comes from the most unlikely of enemies.

The once trused Janus Guards Sonny so loyally fought with have gone rogue. The few that could be coerced and invited into the power hungry group. Mix these jaded fighters with corrupt monarchs and another being holding quite the grudge, and you get the stormy fight scenes and intense action that sets Tempestuous apart from its milder predecessors.

Kelley must not only fight for herself, Sonny, and their relationship. She must take on and harness all of her mother’s power and save her parents, the Lost Fae, and the mortal world from a Faerie infestation unlike all others. Paired with the gallantry of the Lost, the few Janus who hadn’t gone rogue, and her parents (yes, her biological mother and father), Kelley and Co. flit, fly, ride, stab, transform, and outrun their enemies in this final installment.

The action ante was upped and the stakes were much higher this time around, however I felt the ending was a bit too cookie cutter and everything fell into a place where I wasn’t quite looking (that could be a good and a bad thing).

The re-awakening of an ancient magic originally done out of misguided love, the power of the High Fae, and the corruptibility of one man with vengeance on his mind made this an interesting read, but not my favorite. The discovery of a betrayal at the end and the subsequent heroism of the character later seemed a bit unrealistic, but seemed like it had to be there for the ending to fall into place the way it did.

The first book, Wondrous Strange, still holds the most magick for me. While this is a wonderful series and the ending was as happily ever after as it could get with the losses endured along the way, I still didn’t connect with the sequence the way I did with the first book.

It is still a world woven with love, fantasy, and intrigue, and well worth the read. I love how Livingston weaves Shakespearean themes and lines into the spells and enchantments Kelley and the other magickal creatures in her world put to use. The words of Ariel and Prospero from The Tempest flow through this book just as seamlessly as the famous bard’s plays flow through the first two novels.

And by the end, we see Kelley grow into the princess she was born to be and her love flourish with Sonny the changeling that captured our hearts from the beginning. That in itself was magickal.





Living Within the Pages – Book Review #14

27 01 2011

Title: Darklight

Author: Lesley Livingston

Series: Wondrous Strange trilogy (#2)

Amazon Rating: 4

Goodreads Rating: 3.92

Alex’s Rating: 3.75

Darklight, the second of Lesley Livingston’s Wondrous Strange trilogy, continues with the story of Kelley Winslow, Sonny Flannery, and the menagerie of Fae in Livingston’s world.

Although Kelley managed to end the Wild Hunt, the repercussions are still being felt in the Otherworld. At the end of Wondrous Strange, Auberon commands Sonny to go back with him to the Faerie realm and displace all of the remaining Hunters.

Separated for over six months from Sonny, Kelley–deep in rehearsals for the Avalon Grande’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet–begins to not heed the advice of the Janus Guard and walks through Central Park one night on her way home.

This encounter leaves her with a new fear and appreciation for the Fennrys Wolf, but it does not deter her from walking through the park again, albeit with the Wolf as her escort this time. Although she is flanked by this strong Janus Guard, trouble finds the two deep within the park and another fight for her life lands her in the Otherworld.

Going between the mortal and Faerie realms, Kelley discovers more of her own power and its constraints, a new and terrible power, and is forced to make several difficult choices. Aided by old friends and new, Kelley and company fight off a band of leprechauns and their twisted sisters in a battle for power, control, and a little lucky charm. But just when things seem like they can’t get any worse, Kelly is forced to make the most difficult decision she has ever made. A decision that will cost her the thing she loves most.

I enjoyed the second installment of Livingston’s trilogy, but it did not capture my attention as well as Wondrous Strange did. Perhaps I will chalk it up to “second book” syndrome and try not to think too hard about it when beginning the third and final book, Tempestuous.

I love the warring and complicated world Livingston has woven for her young readers. Even being in my early twenties, there is a special magic between the pages. One of innocence, change, acceptance, and hard decisions. All pertinent to the process of growing from a youth into an adult. Kelley, Sonny, and other friends make tough decisions that not only affect themselves, but everyone around them, and even those in other worlds. And it is that change that allows the reader to feel connected to the characters even in a world so fantastical we can barely fathom it exists within the book.

Livingston’s world is full of life, imagination, deadly wars, dangerous alliances, and lovely dalliances. It is a place to live, love, laugh, cry, and most importantly, grow. It is a place where Kelley learns the true meaning of coming into her own and we as readers get our fair share along the way.





Living Within the Pages – Book Review #13

27 01 2011


Title: Wondrous Strange

Author: Lesley Livingston

Series: Wondrous Strange trilogy (#1)

Amazon Rating: 4

Goodreads Rating: 3.75

Alex’s Rating: 4

Seventeen-year old Kelley Winslow moved out of the safe haven of her aunt’s home to pursue an acting career in the Big Apple. Paired with a diva/model of a roommate, Tyff, Kelley’s life is a far cry from the average teen.

The young teen heads off daily to her way-off Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the understudy, hoping she will one day get to don the sparkly fairy wings in the costume closet of the Avalon Grande, her home away from home.

But a turn in Central Park one night leaves Kelley’s green eyes wide-open to a new world. A world where the impossible does exist and Faeries are much more than Shakespeare’s play minions with mischief on their minds and sparkly gossamer wings on their backs.

Kelley meets Sonny Flannery, a member of the Janus Guard. The Janus Guard was created by the Winter King, the true Auberon (and not the creature Gentleman Jack portrays on stage) to control the rifts in the Samhain Gate–a magical passageway where Lost Fae have slipped through into the mortal world and creatures of the Shadowy Queen Mabh try to come through and wreak havoc.

Enter the real Puck/Robin Goodfellow, the Queen of Air and Darkness, Herne the Hunter, the other Janus Guards, and a plethora of fantastical creatures that will take your imagination on a wild ride trying to put some portrait together of this magical world based in the heart of New York City. Throw in the dangers of the Black Shucks, the Wild Hunt, and a betrayal that will harm the very fabric of Kelley and Sonny’s world.

I fell in love with Kelley and Sonny and the twists and turns neither one of them, nor the reader, were expecting. The third-person narration works wonderfully to get in the minds and eyes of all of the characters and truly breathes life into the world Livingston created for the pleasure of young adult and adult readers alike.

What a great addition to my paranormal collection and the beginning of a wonderful series.





Living Within the Pages – Book Review #12

27 01 2011

Title: Firelight

Author: Sophie Jordan

Series: Firelight (#1)

Amazon Rating: 4.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.02

Alex’s Rating: 3.75

Firelight is the story of 16 year old Jacinda, a human girl who can shift into draki form. Draki are descendants of dragons and have assumed human shifting abilities because of evolution. Draki live in prides and are governed by an alpha male. Jacinda’s family is no exception, however she is bent press on defying her pride and breaking the rules they have in place. One night she breaks an unforgiveable rule and she suffers the consequences throughout the rest of the book.

The story follows Jacinda, her mother, and twin sister Tamra in their adventure into the human world, away from their draki pride. Her mother let her inner draki die a long time ago and her sister Tamra never “manifested,” or was able to turn into a draki. So this move into the human world is welcomed by everyone but Jacinda. She is forced to acclimate to a new school in a desert clime where her inner draki seems to be dying out. Only one thing is keeping her draki alive, and that is Will, a forbidden crush and her mortal enemy. He is a hunter, those who go after draki in order to harvest their skin, blood, and gems. But Will seems different from his hunter brethren, and he and Jacinda soon partake in a forbidden romance where neither one truly knows what the other is and surprises abound up until the cliff-hanging ending.

If you are a young adult/paranormal/romance fan, then Firelight will be a true pleasure. It is chaste and simple reading, appropriate for middle school and early high school. In fact, the choppy and short sentences in the first person narrative were my only large complaint with the novel. Until halfway through the novel, it was very difficult for me to get into. I was getting sick of the short sentences and directives told from Jacinda’s point of view. I’m not a fan of inner dialogue, I prefer dialogue between characters. Hopefully Sophie Jordan will keep the momentum and give fans a more dialogue filled sequel (and I definitely hope there will be a sequel).

This book/series has definite potential. I liked it, liked the premise, and liked the relationship between Jacinda and Will. I would like to see a bit more of Cassian (alpha male that is essentially betrothen to Jacinda in the pride). Who doesn’t like a healthy love triangle?

But those short, choppy thought-sentences need to go.




Living Within the Pages – Book Review #11

20 12 2010

Title: Torment

Author: Lauren Kate

Series: Fallen (#2)

Amazon Rating: 4

Goodreads Rating: 4.03

Alex’s Rating: 3

The setting of Torment couldn’t have been more different than the doom and gloom scene that was Fallen. Sword & Cross was a dark, drab, and down right depressing school to attend. In Torment, Daniel ships Luce off (and yes he is a bit of an agressive boy toy so I use ship instead of send) to Shoreline, a school on the California coast described as a Pepperdine for Nephilim. The entire story revolves around Luce chasing the Announcers, her new relationships with Shelby (her roommate) and Miles (a new love interest). It revolves around Daniel sneaking back to see her, them kissing, fighting, and him leaving. Both seem dissatisfied with this arrangement and so does the reader as it is a pretty stable plotline of fighting, making up, and Luce summoning Announcers outside of her classroom activities.

I was happily awaiting the release of Torment in hopes that it would redeem Lauren Kate’s first installment, Fallen, of her Fallen series. I was intrigued by Luce and Daniel’s story even though it had many flaws and left many questions unanswered at the end of the first book. In my review of Fallen, I asked several questions. I have repeated them below and given the answers (if answers were given) I gleaned from Torment.

1) Why are Cam and Daniel both fighting for Luce? It seemed Cam wanted her genuinely, but then told Daniel he couldn’t wait to annihilate her, only then at the end of the book to say he “just wants her. You know why,” (Cam speaking to Daniel as they watch Luce sleep). What is this triangle?

ANSWER: We never find out why Cam and Daniel are both fighting for Luce in Torment. It doesn’t seem like we will get this answer for a while as the third book is more like a prequel, showing Daniel and Luce’s story over the past millennia. Cam seemed to be out of the love triangle in this book as Miles entered the picture.

2) Why were all of these angels at Sword & Cross anyway? They were there before Luce came, so they could not have been there because they came to protect her.

ANSWER: We were never told why the angels were all at Sword & Cross in the first place.

3) What really happened the night her boyfriend Trevor died in the fire? The fire that got her exiled to Sword & Cross in the first place.

ANSWER: Another unanswered question. We never found out what happened to Trevor, or why fires/tragedy seemed to follow Luce with her first boyfriend and then again at the library at Sword & Cross.

4) What are the shadows really? Why can Luce see them? Who do they belong to?

ANSWER: This book was almost solely based on Luce’s relationship with the Shadows/Announcers. Shadows/Announcers can be summoned by angels and some Nephilim (children of angel/mortal unions), and evidently by Luce in this lifetime, unlike her previous lifetimes. In the last book, Daniel calls them “gossips,” delivering messages back to others…but again, we aren’t told who these others are, and I don’t know if I really agree with the “gossips” and message delivering description given in Fallen as it does not match what is in Torment. In Torment, the Shadows/Announcers, I got the impression they held messages from the past that were specific to the summoner. One could fall in and get lost in the shadows, or, if done properly, one could travel through them. They are distorted (but mostly accurate) descriptions of every moment of history in the world. In this book, Luce was obsessed with them, hoping to glimpse she and Daniel’s past(s). I’m not sure why, but the book’s dependence on these shadows annoyed me. I never felt like I gleaned much information form them except a few of Luce’s annihilations and a few other bits and pieces that I don’t want to spoil (although there isn’t much to spoil.) It seemed these were just another way to move the plot along as Luce “summons” these shadows often and are in many of the book’s scenes. It was a point that was dragged on too long. We are never told why Luce can see them, and we don’t know who they belong to.

5) What is this “longest, greatest battle ever fought?” Is it the fight between “good” and “evil?” I feel like I need this spelled out better.

ANSWER: I still didn’t feel I got much explanation on this battle. In Torment, Daniel and Cam (who the reader is told is actually a demon, but with angel wings…) are fighting on the same side, to keep Luce safe from a new enemy…the Outcasts. The Outcasts are a group of fallen angels not welcomed by Heaven or Hell, but they say Luce is their key at the end scene of the book. Again, I didn’t get much information on this and would like a little more on the Outcasts and why Luce is their “key.” Their key to what? Redemption? Back into Heaven? Back into Hell? Where?

6) What was Miss Sophia’s role? I feel like she all of a sudden went nutso and we were left with the explanation that she is part of a secret sect of Heavenly Elders. I need more on this subject please Miss Kate.

ANSWER: Miss Sophia was barely mentioned in this book. We didn’t get any info on her secret Heavenly sect or how it relates to wanting Luce dead.

7) And what did Miss Sophia mean that fate of everyone’s eternal souls lies in two lovers? What exactly is tipping the balance when Miss Sophia tried to kill Luce? Why does Miss Sophia want Daniel “freed up?”

ANSWER: We are told Daniel is tipping the balance, but we are not told why. We only know Daniel left a high position in Heaven to be with Luce, but again, this was about a two-sentence long explanation. No heavy duty explaining. We are not told why the fate of everyone’s eternal souls is wrapped up within these two lovers. I am hoping (dear Lord I am using this hoping emotion often with this series) to get it explained sometime within the next two books.

————–

The entire book was focused on two things and then a third minor thing towards the end: 1) Luce and the Shadows/Announcers. 2) Luce and Daniel kissing then fighting (this happens at least three or four times and seemed like a plot filler just to keep Daniel in the picture). And 3) Luce developing a crush on Miles although it comes up rather abruptly and then she quickly says no, that she loves Daniel.

I’m not sure why I read series that I am dissatisfied with. Call it the OCD reader in me, once I start something I must finish it. Or, perhaps it is the fact that I see a truly wonderful story and many possibilities with Lauren Kate’s novel, and I try to look past the many, many flaws. What is it with her editors and not asking her to develop her plot, unanswered questions, and lovers better? To be honest, the best parts of her books are the secondary characters. Although Cam fell by the wayside in this novel (I was thoroughly disappointed in this), other characters were great, such as Miles, Shelby, Arriane, Steven, and Francesca. There were some twists and turns with these characters. I have noticed this as a trend lately…writers have been developing their secondary characters/relationships better than their heroes/heroines.

Another large flaw…throughout the entire book the reader realizes things much quicker than the other characters. Daniel as the angel who tips the scales (whatever that means), and Phil the SAEB is an Outcast (sorry if those were wee little spoilers). But at the same time, like Luce, the reader is not given many answers until later, if even at all. For example, why is Luce sent to a school with Nephilim? Why is it dangerous for Daniel to be around her for the 18 day truce? Why was Roland sent to the Shoreline school? (I’m assuming for Luce’s protection, but we never see him except on the periphery and his role is never explained.)

Again, I can’t truly pinpoint it, but I found Luce kind of obnoxious in this book; Daniel as well. He was so secretive yet wanted Luce to blindly believe in their love. Luce was so obsessed with the Shadows/Announcers and then her back and forth with Daniel, that I never really felt connected to her as a character. But because I love angels/fallen angels and a love story (especially combined) I will go on to read the next book, Passion. I will continue to follow Luce and Daniel’s story, mostly in hopes that I will get my many questions answered.

Some new questions to ponder…

1) What are Daniel and Luce’s roles in this epic battle?
2) Where will Miles fit in to the next book, or was he just a nice little carrot dangled in Torment only?
3) Where did Luce go and why must she look into her past to seek answers in her future that Daniel and the other angels can’t seem to answer?
4) Are Luce and Daniel truly meant for each other? What would happen if Luce chose Cam or Miles?
5) What happens now that the 18 day truce is over between angels and demons?
6) What do the Outcasts want with Luce? And will the truce continue so the angels and demons can protect Luce?
7) And truly, will someone please explain why Luce seems to be the key for all of these fallen angels in some way or another?





Living Within the Pages – Book Review #10

13 12 2010

Title: Fallen

Author: Lauren Kate

Series: Fallen (#1)

Amazon Rating: 3.5

Goodreads Rating: 3.81

Alex’s Rating: 3

I was excited to start Lauren Kate’s novel Fallen, as I am an avid YA genre reader with personal research and interest in vampires and angels. As many Amazon reviews state, the marketing for this book was extremely generous. The book was definitely hard to get into, I had to keep persevering, if only to get to a reconciliation between Luce and Daniel. The hot-and-cold, back-and-forth emotional rollercoaster Daniel put on Luce was exhausting and annoying. I am surprised the author’s editor didn’t tell her to bring it on sooner.

It wasn’t until around 250 or so that I felt Daniel really did have more of an interest and feelings for Luce than he let on. In actuality, it was Cam’s character that intrigued me most up until this point and I kept reading to see how his and Luce’s relationship progressed. Call me a sucker for a mischievous boy who you just can’t pin a label to, but I enjoyed his character very much.

At about page 300 was when I really saw Daniel’s feelings for Luce. The incident in the library with him fighting Cam and the several succeeding chapters are what really hooked me. The love triangle I had been waiting for was finally coming to fruition! It was also at this point Luce started putting things together: Daniel is from a line of “Watchers,” he is an angel, and he is involved in a millennia long war against (well this is where I get confused) other fallen angels, demons, shadows?

Although I was happy to see that this time around, the love between Daniel and Luce was “different,” I was still left dissatisfied by the end. We are told they are able to kiss because something is different this time around with Luce. We are told it is because her parents did not baptize her, leaving her soul “up for grabs.” But again, with this point I was left hanging. What does it mean her soul is “up for grabs?” Up for grabs with the “good” fallen angels or the “bad” fallen angels? What exactly is Luce’s role in the longest and greatest battle of all time? What exactly is this battle? Good versus evil? None of these ideas were fleshed out. I realize this might have been on purpose because the book is part of a series, but I can’t help but feel that a good development editor couldn’t have really steered this book onto the right track.

I had several more qualms with this book. The “shadows” that were so prominent in Luce’s world were never explained enough. Sure, Daniel says they are “Announcers,” gossips reporting to someone else. But who is this someone else? What do they want with Luce? Why are they sending shadows to her? As warnings, omens? Again, I am lost.

I think the reason I gave this book a chance was because of its premise. I love angel novels, and I haven’t really found one I feel really fulfills me (although the Grace series by S.L. Naeole is really wonderful). I have so many questions still for this series, and it is because I want those answered will I continue to read this series. I think Lauren Kate has a story with great potential, but I just couldn’t get myself to “love” this story or even the characters (sadly, except for Cam). What is it with people writing wonderful villains but not so great heroes/heroines?

My largest questions are:

1) Why are Cam and Daniel both fighting for Luce? It seemed Cam wanted her genuinely, but then told Daniel he couldn’t wait to annihilate her, only then at the end of the book to say he “just wants her. You know why,” (Cam speaking to Daniel as they watch Luce sleep). What is this triangle?
2) Why were all of these angels at Sword & Cross anyway? They were there before Luce came, so they could not have been there because they came to protect her.
3) What really happened the night her boyfriend Trevor died in the fire? The fire that got her exiled to Sword & Cross in the first place.
4) What are the shadows really? Why can Luce see them? Who do they belong to?
5) What is this “longest, greatest battle ever fought?” Is it the fight between “good” and “evil?” I feel like I need this spelled out better.
6) What was Miss Sophia’s role? I feel like she all of a sudden went nutso and we were left with the explanation that she is part of a secret sect of Heavenly Elders. I need more on this subject please Miss Kate.
7) And what did Miss Sophia mean that fate of everyone’s eternal souls lies in two lovers? What exactly is tipping the balance when Miss Sophia tried to kill Luce? Why does Miss Sophia want Daniel “freed up?”

I’m hoping to get some of my questions answered in the sequel Torment. I have that sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. Although I am not in love with this series, I don’t regret that I read them. Just get through the grueling first half and you shall be rewarded. Perhaps it was “first book in a series” syndrome and numero dos is much better. Let’s pray. (Pun intended.)





Living Within the Pages – Book Review #9

29 11 2010

Title: Eternal Kiss of Darkness

Author: Jeaniene Frost

Series: Night Huntress World (#2)

Amazon Rating: 4.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.13

Alex’s Rating: 4

Eternal Kiss of Darkness is the second book in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress World series, a spin-off of her Night Huntress series featuring Cat and Bones. Eternal Kiss of Darkness is the story of Mencheres, a 4,500 year old master vampire readers were first introduced to in One Foot in the Grave, the second Night Huntress novel. From Cat’s point of view in the NH novels, we get the sense that Mencheres is a cold, chilled, calculating, and unemotional vampire. Cat has an unnamable sense of dislike towards Mencheres, so as a reader, at first, I did not know what to think of him. Could we really trust him as much as Bones seemed to? Why was he so guarded and unyielding? Well, Frost finally let us in to the head and world of Mencheres, and let me tell you, it was a nice change of pace.

The novel begins with Mencheres being surrounded by young ghouls seemingly about to attack him and kill him. What is odd right off the ba, is Mencheres seems to be allowing the torture even though with a small flex of his powers he could easily destroy each ghoul without even touching them. His attempt at suicide is interrupted when a human woman, Kira Graceling, enters the warehouse on her way home from work (back from a stakeout; she is a private investigator). She walks into a gruesome scene, not understanding what she sees, and the ghouls attack her. Before she got to the warehouse she had called the police and they were closing in. Not wanting the human to die as she was there in an attempt to save him, Mencheres kills the ghouls and flees the scene with Kira.

He takes her to one of his smaller homes outside of Chicago and essentially holds her captive for a week. She is immune to his mind control, so she cannot forget about the events and that is a danger he cannot afford, especially now as his millennia old feud between himself and a Law Guardian named Radjedef is coming to a head. For this one week, Mencheres observes Kira and is inexplicably drawn to her. There is obviously a pull on both sides, but neither wants to admit how deep their attraction is at first. Realizing that Kira needs to be back in her world with her sick sister, Mencheres releases her and asks that in return for helping her family she stay silent about the vampire world as she has learned several secrets over the past days of her captivity. She agrees, but there is sadness in their parting, and we know they will meet up once more.

The rest of the novel shows the development of Kira and Mencheres’ feelings for one another when they are apart, and due to some of her own private investigating on the side, Kira comes face to face with Mencheres once more in a battle for her life, but this time, Radjedef is in the mix. I don’t want to give too much more away as the book revolves around Kira and Mencheres’ budding relationship (sorry for the cliché) and Mencheres’ internal battle with losing his visions and guilt over his wife’s murder and of course Radjedef, the crooked Law Guardian out to steal Mencheres’ power and then kill him.

Although this was not my favorite of Frost’s books (I can’t help it, I’m biased towards Cat and Bones) it was nice to see a different side of Mencheres. In this novel we see how 4,500 years has made him a little numb and how suicide is tempting to such old and powerful vampires. We see that he is not cold and calculating in a menacing way, but in a way that a leader cares for his people. He avoids killing innocents, saved Kira and her sister, and has a great sense of compassion despite being jaded by all of the death and destruction he has seen over the past thousands of years.

What I enjoyed most was seeing Kira stand up to Mencheres. In the NH novels he is always a force to be reckoned with. His powers are immense and no one questions him, yet here is this 30-something human woman who isn’t afraid of him and is willing to love him despite all of the evil he believes he has had a hand in. I enjoyed Kira’s character even though she definitely had her stupid meddling moments. They both saved each other from their pasts, and that was what one takes away from the novel.

I can honestly say I like Mencheres now. I wasn’t sure before as Cat’s perspective didn’t really allow for that exploration of his character. Perhaps it wasn’t until we saw him care for a person outside of his current vampire world that we could get a true glimpse into the person he truly was beneath all of those years and power.

Like I stated in my earlier review of the first NHW novel, these heroes and heroines (although wonderful) are no Cat and Bones. I will still continue to read the NHW series (Vlad and Leila are up next), but there will never be another Cat and Bones. Frost writes so perfectly for both of those characters that her other attempts with Spade and Mencheres are good, but not great. But then again, I’m biased.