Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Information

Goodreads: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Series: Between #1
Source: Library
Published: August 15, 2013

Official Summary

You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…

Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard.

Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?

Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery… who makes you want to kiss back.

Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Review

I had been looking forward to Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea at the time of its release in 2013, due to its promise of a steamy romance combined with a Gothic horror plot.  However, the less-than-thrilled reviews I saw at the time convinced me to put my reading plans on hold.  Recently I’ve been on a mission to knock some books off my TBR list on Goodreads, so I decided to give it a chance anyway, armed with the knowledge that a lot of reviewers I trust noted that the book is heavy on the romance and light on the Gothic stuff.  However, even expecting an emphasis on romance, I was disappointed with what I got.

The short story is that Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is instalove X1000.  There’s attraction the second the two characters set eyes on each, and they’re taking naps cuddled together on the sofa the very same day, musing about how attracting they are to each other and don’t want to let each other day.  Without any actual build-up to the relationship, I was not invested. At all.

Worse, love interest River is not exactly attractive, at least in my personal opinion.  He’s apparently physically attractive, but his personality leaves a lot to be desired.  The protagonist even frequently reflects on how he’s a jerk and a liar and possibly a sociopath…but she just can’t bring herself to stop making out with him or loving him.  I just can’t bring myself to root for a romance where the girl is so clearly hooked on someone she shouldn’t be, someone who is big trouble, and not in a sexy “bad boy” kind of way.  (Because, seriously, this guy has issues he needs to work out.)

As for the plot, which is supposed to be part mystery and have a Gothic horror vibe, it doesn’t start until over halfway through the novel, and once it does, it doesn’t make any sense.  Sometime after page 100, I started asking myself when the main plot was going to start because, for all intents and purposes, it simply hadn’t yet.  Our heroes were too busy mooning over each other.  However, I wasn’t impressed once it started anyway.  Things happen quite suddenly, and not many of them are logical.  Certainly I wasn’t getting any deliciously creepy Gothic vibes.

Unfortunately, my general impression of this book was that it wasted my time.  I didn’t care for the romance, the plot, the characters, or really anything about it.  I suppose I can say the premise was good, enough that I gave it a shot even after reading a bunch of low-rated reviews, but I certainly won’t be recommending this to anyone.

Briana

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

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Nightmare AffairINFORMATION

Goodreads: The Nightmare Affair
Series: Arkwell Academy #1
Source: Gift
Published: 2013

SUMMARY

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart is a Nightmare, meaning that she has the unenviable need to break into people’s homes and feed on their dreams to survive.  Then Dusty breaks into Eli Booker’s room and everything changes.  Eli is dreaming of a murder at Dusty’s magical boarding school Arkwell Academy–a school he has never even heard of–and then the murder actually takes place.  Only by stepping into Eli’s dreams can Dusty find the murderer and stop the next killing.

Review

I don’t typically read paranormal romances, but this one seemed different from the others, both because the protagonist is a Nightmare who feeds on people’s dreams and because the protagonist is the one with powers, rather than the one falling for an attractive, brooding vampire.  Or whatever happens in paranormal romance.  However, though I enjoyed the magical boarding school setting, The Nightmare Affair proved less original than I had hoped.

The cover bears recommendations raving about the unpredictability of the plot, but I knew who the criminals were almost as soon as they were introduced.  I also knew the outcome of the (apparently required) love triangle.  I even knew how the final battle would end, thanks to the plethora of similarities between this book and Harry Potter.  This is a shame because I enjoyed the book when I wasn’t sighing over  the use of all the old plot devices.

Dusty is an engaging narrator with a bit of sass that is often actually funny, such as when she pokes fun at the cultural trend of making vampires romantic instead of dangerous.  Furthermore, she resides at quite an interesting school, peopled with sirens and minotaurs and all kinds of creatures familiar to fantasy.  Her desire to fit in, her encounters with bullies, and her troubled relationship with her mother all make her relatable, despite her Nightmare status.  These elements, if combined with a more original plot, would have made a most excellent boarding school mystery.

As it is, I liked The Nightmare Affair--I simply felt it could have been much better.  Cut out the love triangle, don’t try to force a romance with a character who had little development, and remove the elements of Harry Potter, and you might have a great story.

3 starsKrysta 64

The Awakening by L. J. Smith

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INFORMATION

Goodreads: The Awakening
Series: Vampire Diaries #1
Source: Library
Published: 1991

SUMMARY

High school senior Elena Gilbert has it all–looks, popularity, even the star quarterback for a boyfriend.  But when she spots new student Stefan Salvatore, Elena knows he has to be hers.

Review

[Plot Spoilers Below!  I do not hold back!]

I know several people who have enjoyed The Vampire Diaries TV show, but this book seems to be an entirely different creature.  Nothing happens in it.  The plot is literally that Elena Gilbert wants Stefan Salvatore and she’s willing to do anything it takes to get him–treat her friends like dirt, ignore her studies, act like a lunatic in front of the school, run around with him in the dark while her aunt stays up worrying she’s been murdered.  She even makes her friends take a blood oath with her, swearing they’ll do whatever she tells them to do in pursuit of this mysterious new student.  Because she has to have him–“even if it kills her.  Even if it kills him.”  The cover might tell you something about an evil brother and a girl torn between two vampires, but honestly most of that is irrelevant at this point in the series.

Fortunately, the book is so bad that in some weird, twisted way it’s almost good.  It was written in the early 90s, but has all the standard YA cliches. Elena is blonde, beautiful, popular, self-absorbed, entitled and vapid.  Yet she still ends up in a love triangle with two vampires willing to fight for her.  (Note she doesn’t get a choice–they will decide who owns her.)  It’s full of cliched writing and overwrought prose.  It’s filled with descriptions of Elena’s looks (amusingly told from her perspective so we get lines about how “Elena knew she looked [filled in the blank]”–even if that means Elena knew she looked like an ice goddess with softly parted lips and a soft, curved neck or whatever.  (Who thinks about their neck?!)  And we get detailed descriptions of all the outfits, including the custom-made Venetian silk Italian Renaissance dress that this high school student will wear ONE TIME for Halloween.  I guess her family’s rolling in wealth?  She’s using up the inheritance she received from her dead parents?  It’s never explained.

Best of all, vampires can read minds, but Elena’s stands out from the rest for its golden light or something.  And she just so happens to look almost exactly like Katherine, the girl Stefan and his evil brother both loved in their past lives!  Except, you know, she’s not soft like Katherine.  She’s a “tigress” and has fire and steel, etc., etc.  We have no evidence of this strength unless you count her obsession with running men down like prey, but who are we to argue with what the narrator tells us?

There are precious moments, like the opening scene where Elena meets a crow who stares at her the way the boys do when she’s wearing a sheer top or a bathing suit, like he’s “undressing her with his eyes.”  You got that right.  A crow.  There’s the line where Elena describes boys as puppies–“adorable but expendable.”  The part where she breaks up with her boyfriend, hurts him by spreading a rumor she was cheating on him, then somehow enlists him to help her get Stefan for her new boyfriend.  He says she’s selfish but does it anyway.  Okay…And, of course, the necessary scene in the graveyard where Elena and her friends feel an evil presence and run stumbling through the dark for the bridge, the bridge that Elena just miraculously knows will save them for whatever reason.

All this culminates in Stefan and Elena randomly meeting one day then automatically falling in love and making out and now they are just the ONE TRUE COUPLE, y’all.  Except Elena can’t figure out why he’s so distant.  She told him she loved him the third time they ever spoke, right?  Why doesn’t he let down all his emotional barriers to this girl he barely knows and who is frankly scarily obsessed with him?  I mean, after you make out with a person and you know they are THE ONE, you just are obligated to tell them every single thing about you.  What’s so hard for Stefan to understand about that?  Now, thanks to his bad attitude, she has to rifle through his secret possessions (the ones he specifically asked her not to touch) to figure out who he is because for some reason he just doesn’t trust her!

Luckily, shortly after this, Elena will learn Stefan is a vampire and will tell him that she wants him to suck her blood so they can have a real bonding experience.  (So, basically she wants to have sex except in this world it’s blood sucking instead because I guess that’s more socially acceptable behavior for a teenager and her much older boyfriend to engage in.  Nice how how vampire books get around that problem.)  He’s really upset about this because one doesn’t just go around sucking other people’s blood willy nilly–what if he can’t stop, what if he hurts her?  But Elena assures him that she knows all about it, better than he the vampire does, and they should go for it.  Because who wants barriers and safety and caution?  Not Elena.  Stefan, after like 30 seconds of doubt, gives in.  Because being safe is so unromantic, am I right?

And then vaguely important stuff happens and the book ends in the middle of a scene and calls it a cliffhanger.  Hurray?

I have to admit, this book is hilarious, even if not intentionally so.  But will I be spending time on the rest of the series?  That’s highly unlikely–even the supposed cliffhanger isn’t going to convince me I need more of Elena in my life.

2 starsKrysta 64

Nameless by Lili St. Crow

NamelessGoodreads: Nameless 
Series: Tales of Beauty and Madness #1
Source: Gift
Published: 2013

Summary

Found in the snow at six years of age and adopted by a powerful branch of the Family, Camille has no memory of her past.  She only knows that she is human, not a true member of the Family, even if they treat her as one of their own.  And her past is about to catch up with her.

Review

You can read Briana’s review here.

Nameless puts an original spin on the story of “Snow White”, replacing the dwarfs with branches of a powerful Mafia-like family and shrouding the past of the protagonist in shadow.  The result is a compelling paranormal romance set in an alternate universe where magic entered history sometime after the Industrial Revolution.  The world building can sometimes be confusing and the protagonist bafflingly oversensitive, but, overall, Nameless is an engrossing read.

Initially I found myself somewhat overwhelmed by the world of Nameless, which is never explained in-depth.  The protagonist Camille simply names creatures, historical events, etc. when they occur and does not provide much background.  Eventually one may surmise that the Family are vampiric, that something bad called Twisting can happen to people with something called Potential (which seems to be magic), that things can be charmed, and that names here are somewhat randomly based on our own names–the Renaissance, for instance, is now the Renascence, or something like that.  But it takes time to build up this knowledge and even now I am not entirely sure what a jack is or why Twisting occurs.

Eventually I just accepted that the book was not going to explain anything, which left me with the dilemma of the narration.  Camille does not speak much as she has a stutter and worries about people becoming impatient with her.  This means that much of the narration is her thoughts.  The other narration could be her thoughts or could be the third-person narrator.  The line is blurry, which is all the more confusing because it curses so much.  Camille herself curses verbally once, I believe.  And she seems pretty demure in general, a quiet girl who goes along with whatever her bolder friends say and whose main desire seems to be to avoid any trouble.  So the narration calling everything g—d can be jarring.

Camille herself is a sweet and engaging protagonist, though oddly concerned with “not fitting in.”  The narration suggests that the Family girls might bully her, but Camille never interacts with them so we’ll never know.  She also implies that her school mates don’t like her or think her odd.  She only interacts with her two friends Ruby and Ellie, so, again, we’ll never know.  But one suspects no one really cares about her, other than the run-of-the-mill gossip you might expect when you’re a member of a prominent vampiric-immortal-Mafia Family.  After all, she’s always moping about how she’s not Family and they plan to cast her out, even though she’s accepted as Papa’s daughter and having a years-long flirtation with the Family heir Nico.  But, sure, Nico’s going to cast her out one day when he suddenly remembers that she’s adopted.  Oh wait.  He’s known that since they met.

Camille’s desire to learn her past makes sense, but her insistence that she “doesn’t belong” and “isn’t wanted” does not when you consider how lovingly her Family treats her, how she is an integral part of the household, how she attends important functions for the Family, how she is finally indisputably and publicly announced as a member of the Family.  This insistence could make her annoying, but somehow I only found Camille a bit odd and maybe a tad wearying.  Her weird decision to “make everything right” by doing the dumbest thing imaginable was more frustrating to me in the end and I was willing to overlook whatever emotional hang-ups she had.

These issues plagued me throughout the novel, but the plot itself is so compelling that I chose to wave them aside while reading.  Plot-wise, the only things that bothered me were an extraneous shirtless scene with Camille (because she just forgot a guy was in her room when she decided she didn’t need a shirt anymore?) and, again, the weird decision to “help” all her friends and family by getting herself killed.  But, hey, the premise of this retold tale was original and I liked the characters.  So I’m willing to pick up the sequel.

4 starsKrysta 64

End of Days by Susan Ee

End of DaysInformation

Goodreads: End of Days
Series: Penryn and the End of Days #3
Source: Library
Published: May 12, 2015

Official Summary

After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run.  They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and on Penryn’s sister.  As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war.  As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious?  Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?

Review

End of Days is a stunning conclusion to Ee’s trilogy.  The past two books take readers across California and into various lairs of the angels—their parties, their labs, their dungeons.  End of Days takes readers farther than ever before, to new exciting settings and the heart of all that is happening in this action-packed adventure.

There are some sparks of romance and sexual tension in this installment, just enough to keep readers interested and on the edges of their seats wondering what Penryn and Raffe will have to give up in order to stay together.  I have seen other readers complain the romance is not enough, but I think the focus is perfect.  For once, someone has written a post-apocalyptic book where the heroine is actually more concerned about saving the world than about whether she is going to kiss a cute guy.  Penryn knows what is important: saving her family, saving lives, and saving Raffe’s wings whether the two of them have a future together or not.

Penryn has been going steadily questioning what her role in the post-apocalyptic world is going to be, and in End of Days she finally comes into her own.  She may not want to be a hero, she may feel like she is a hero—but she can be a hero.  Watching her grow and accept the weight of responsibility because so few other people will is quite beautiful.  The other characters continue to grow, as well.  Readers get new perspectives on Paige, Penryn’s mother, and even some of the baddies.  Some of the heroes are quite unexpected.

The book’s one flaw—and it is a fairly large one—is that some of the most important questions of the series remain unanswered.  I will avoid specifics, so as not to spoil too much of the book—but a lot of about the angels and their purposes is still unknown.  Worse, the characters drop the topic whenever they feel a modicum of safety.  Their world was destroyed, no one knows why, and apparently it does not matter if you think the world will not continue to be destroyed.  The danger has passed, so it does not matter what caused it?  Personally, I ended the book with a large feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction.  The journey was glorious, but the destination is barely worth it.

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

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Information

Goodreads: Silver in the Blood
Series: Silver in the Blood #1
Source: Library
Published: July 2015

Summary

Dacia and Lou, best friends and cousins, are thrilled to be visiting their Romanian relatives for the first time.  But rumors swirl around their family and some of the locals even seem to believe in vampires!  Will Dacia and Lou discover the family secret before it’s too late?

Review

I have long been a fan of Jessica Day George’s work and I believed that if anyone could pull off yet another vampire/werewolf story, it would be her.  Setting it in 1890s Romania with two New York society girls as the protagonists would surely make it original, I mused, and she is an expert hand at magic, so that part would be intriguing.  However, the story progresses slowly and as I forced myself to slog through, I could only wonder what had happened.

The book relies heavily on mini cliffhangers and unspoken dangers to keep suspense strong–or at least I assume suspense was meant to be strong.  Literally half the book goes through with constant perspective switches to keep plot points unresolved and during those scenes the protagonists ask the same questions of various individuals repeatedly, with no one willing to explain to them why they are in Romania or why their family is so odd.  These tactics did not keep me on the edge of my seat, however, but tried my patience sorely.  Worse, many of the questions asked have answers obvious to readers, so I found it impossible to share in the mystery surrounding Dacia and Lou, and just wished they would make some intelligent deductions and get on with it.

The plot finally gets moving halfway through, when the book suddenly transforms from a dull mystery to an action-packed magical adventure.  The excitement was high and I enjoyed these parts, except that every couple scenes seems to be Dacia or Lou meeting one of their handsome suitors in a scandalous state of undress.  Their suitors did not mind, of course, but it is the 1890s–why exactly are the men so willing to accept American society girls acting so unladylike?  Their attitudes seemed anachronistic and the reliance on partial nudity to further the romance got old fast.  I really wanted the girls and their suitors to get to know each other somewhere in between all their furtive peeping.  I also really wanted to know what the rest of polite society thought of the girls’ actions.

I feel really conflicted about this book as I like the idea of real shape-shifters scandalizing early nineteenth century society, but the execution does not have the polish and skill I expected.  Furthermore, Dacia and Lou’s actions are so inappropriate for their time period that I found my suspension of disbelief sorely taxed.  I am not sure yet whether I want to read the sequel.

Krysta 64

World After by Susan Ee

World AfterInformation

Goodreads: World After
Series: Penryn and the End of Days #2
Source: Netgalley
Published: November 19, 2013

Official Summary

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

Review

World After is a fantastic contribution to the Penryn and the End of Days series. Susan Ee shows off her writing chops by crafting a story that is exciting, moving, and dangerous even while the love interest readers have come to adore in the first book is absent for most of the plot. Although protagonist Penryn would love to have the protection of Rafe and his comforting presence, she shows she is more than capable of handling herself—and caring for her family—in a broken world.

The stakes for Penryn and her world are actually higher than ever in this installment. The resisters to the angel occupation thought they had pulled off a brilliant and devastating attack in Angelfall, but it turns out that they had destroyed very little and understood very little of the angels’ real plans. Penryn, Rafe, and the rebellion are suddenly faced with enemies more dangerous than before and prospects bleaker than ever. Ee keeps the story from becoming too dire, however, by using the dangerous to explore what it means to be a hero and if Penryn has to make the choice to act like one.

Penryn certainly grows along with her ever-growing responsibilities. She must tackle whether it is enough to save her sister, whether she should save everyone else as well, or if she even can. The other characters also get a lot of development in this book, however, including Rafe and Penryn’s mother and sister. Paige suffered terribly from the experiments performed on her in Angelfall, and coming back into human society may not be enough for her to recuperate. Penryn’s mother must come to terms with how much she, broken herself, can be held responsible for protecting her own daughters. And Rafe is still torn between obligations to angel commands and his own sense of ethics.

This means the romance between Penryn and Rafe is still up in the air, and I love it. Their relationship is not just frowned upon; it is absolutely forbidden, and consummating it in any way will have dire consequences. I love not going how this all will play out, and being torn between whether I should be rooting for them to get together, or hoping that Rafe should stay true to the commands from his God.

World After, all at once, is thrilling, romantic, and thoughtful. I can’t way to finish the journey with Penryn and Rafe in book three.

Briana

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Gray (ARC Review)

The Girl at MidnightInformation

Goodreads: The Girl at Midnight
Series: The Girl at Midnight #1
Source: Netgalley
Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Official Summary

For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Review

The Girl at Midnight is an imaginative book that will appeal to bookworms and lovers of fantasy. Protagonist Echo lives hidden in the New York Public Library and smuggles books to her room, but she is also the adopted daughter of the Ava, one of the bird-like Avicen race, and gets to go on magical adventures of her own. The story takes readers through Echo’s journey to find herself as she races across the world to locate the mythological firebird she believes can save the future of her adopted family.

The marketing plan has been to compare The Girl at Midnight to City of Bones and Shadow and Bone. However, readers will also see echoes of Daughter of Smoke and Bone (What’s with all the “bone” books?) in the way travelling magic works and parallels to Avatar in the character of the Dragon Prince. Like Zuko, Gray’s prince has conflicting ideas about the best way to lead his people and a complicated relationship with the protagonist that has the opportunity to fall into either friendship or enmity. He also happens to have an insanely violent sister who can wield fire and is bent on fighting him for the throne. The characters are not straight transplants of Zuko and Azula, but Avatar fans will certainly call them to mind.

Echo comes across as more original in her characterization, but not in her dialogue. The majority of her speech is composed of cliché expressions, literary quotes, and literary allusions. The author’s goal was most likely to convey the sense that Echo is an avid reader. Unfortunately, however, so little of Echo’s speech is her own that it is hard to read her as either a sincere character, or as one with serious thoughts about the world. Her character often exudes the sense she is just being carried along for the ride, even when she is ostensibly making active decisions about how her life will go.

Other characters, however, nicely round out the two protagonists and add a bit of diversity to the book. The Dragon Prince has a loyal guard who is a bit more in love with him than his position allows. Echo is friends with a flamboyantly criminal Avicen. Other friends are more quiet and introverted, but not less useful to the plan to save the world.

Plot-wise, the book is well-paced and offers readers variety of schemes and locations. The Avicen can travel by magic dust, and have passed the secret on to Echo, who can romp freely about in America, Paris, or Japan, as she pleases. There are also some great museum adventures, which are sure to appeal to many readers. A sense of Grey’s love of literature, history, and learning pervade the book.

Unfortunately, the conclusion is somewhat lacking. Of course, this is partially due to the fact that this novel starts a series. The result, however, is that absolutely nothing is resolved and the big reveal is underwhelming. The role of the firebird is overstated, and though arguably it is because the characters misinterpret that role, the feeling of the novel is really that the narration itself is misdirecting readers about the firebird for the sake of interest and suspense. The Girl at Midnight would benefit from having a stronger story arc, instead of pretending it has an arc for most of the book, then suddenly pulling back at the end and saying, “Wait, actually you have to wait for the sequels for anything to happen! This is just an opening scene.” The fact that The Girl at Midnight is book one is a series does not mean it must feel quite as incomplete as it does.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and MonstersInformation

Goodreads: Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3
Source: Library
Published: April 8, 2014

Summary

Leading stolen rebel armies, Karou and Akiva seek to finally end a generations-long war between their people.

Review

Taylor ends the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy as strongly as she started it, giving readers a book full of high stakes and powerful emotions.  Everything fans loved about the first two books are present in Dreams of Gods and Monsters and with the same intense quality.  Readers will re-fall in love with Taylor’s richly imagined worlds and characters and with her beautiful, dreamlike prose.

The pacing of Dreams of Gods and Monsters is better than in Days of Blood and Starlight, of which my main complaint was that it felt too much like a “middle book” with no clear goal in sight.  Taylor quickly stops playing games with readers in this conclusion and gets to the point: the battle between the angels and the demons, and the poor humans that are caught between.  Action is everywhere in Dreams of Gods and Monsters, as plot threads weave together and plans are made and executed.  Readers will be unable to put the book down, desperate to know what happens next—and who lives or dies.

Taylor likewise stops playing games with her characters, and Karou and Akiva quickly get their act together.  They finally realize that there is too much at stake for them to prolong their petty fights.  Other characters adopt a sense of carpe diem, as well, and a lot of unexpected but brilliant and seemingly right relationships develop.  Whole new sides of well-known characters are revealed, but they seem natural, as if they were always there but hidden.  Taylor is not manipulating her characters or directing them, but simply discovering them.

Most compelling, however, is Taylor’s finely tuned ending.  Readers will get part of what they want, what they have been hoping for throughout the series, but they will not get everything—and that too seems appropriate.  Taylor has been chronicling a war, and wars do not end neatly, with everything wrapped up in a bow.  One task ends in Dreams of Gods and Monsters, but the rebuilding of a world is left—and an even bigger fight is introduced.  This leaves the series open-ended, with the potential for not just a sequel, but a whole second series.  Personally, though I would love to read more of the characters’ lives, I hope that series remains unwritten, left to readers’ imaginations.  After all that has happened to Karou, Akiva, and their friends, the hint of inconclusiveness seems right.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy is YA literature at its finest, featuring a mature fantasy style that is beautiful and fierce and never watered down.  Taylor takes readers on a gripping journey through two universes that will make them laugh, cry, and long in turn.  Highly recommended, and a perfect choice for anyone who enjoys a very, very good story.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Wicked LovelyInformation

Goodreads: Wicked Lovely
Series: Wicked Lovely #1
Source: Purchased
Published: January 1, 2007

Summary

Aislinn has always been able to see faeries.  And Aislinn’s grandmother has always taught her to ignore them, to fear the attention they would give her if they knew.  Her time for hiding is up, however.  The Summer King himself is interested in her, and will not give up pursuing her until she becomes his Summer Queen–or risks becoming something worse, if she fails.

Review

Wicked Lovely is a compelling romance woven into faerie lore.  Aislinn has spent her whole life cursed with the ability to see faeries, but she believed that if she ignored them, they would ignore her, and she would be safe.  Now, however, she has attracted the attention of the Summer King—and he will not stop pursuing her until she agrees to be his.  Beyond the fact that Aislinn hates fairies, she has another problem: she is already in love with a mortal.

Thus Marr sets up a complicated love knot—but it not simply a triangle.  Other players have stakes in this game, and it is not always clear who is fighting for love, who is fighting for power, or who is dreaming of a chance at both.  Readers will have to read a long way into the novel before they can make a good guess at how this might all come untangled, and before they can hope that anyone might have a chance of being happy at all.  Wicked Lovely incorporates the darkness of its faerie source material wonderfully, creating a story that is seductive but always dangerous, always uncertain.

Aislinn is the perfect protagonist for this type of tale, strong enough to take the faeries head-on at their own game, vulnerable enough one never knows if she will finally be drawn in by their charms, or their threats.  Some readers might find her a little dependent, as she does a lot of running back to her love interest, but I think this is partially a device to fulfill the romantic plot elements.  Seth is created as the ultimate swoon-worthy protector, always ready with a patient ear and open arms.  A lot of readers will fall in love with him just as Aislinn does.  Although I occasionally found him a little too wonderful, a little unrealistic, I was rooting for him all the way.  And for readers who do not find Seth to be their type, Marr presents the Summer King: golden, moody, laughing, unsure, a volatile mix of emotions guaranteed to keep characters and readers alike on their toes.

Wicked Lovely does have a few flaws, the standout being the writing.  The perspective shifts around unexpectedly, switching abruptly from character to character, and frequently inserting first-person thoughts into what is otherwise a third-person chapter.  There are also some awkwardly worded sentences and occasional instances of bad grammar.  At times, I felt as if I were reading an ARC that still needed a round of copyediting, instead of a finished copy.  Ultimately, however, the plot is absorbing enough that even poor wording could not draw me out of it.

Wicked Lovely is the perfect read for those who want a swoon-worthy romance featuring complex characters and a bit of magic.  I enjoyed reading it as a standalone, though it is a tad open-ended and, of course, is the first in a series.  Aislinn and her friends end up in a good place, however, with just enough closure that readers will be satisfied and just enough ambiguity that readers can either pursue the series, or imagine their own endings for the characters.  Recommended for fans of The Iron King and The Treachery of Beautiful Things.

Content Note: Drugs, sexual content, minor swearing