I have fond memories of reading L.J. Smith's YA Paranormal novels throughout my middle and high school years. To this day, the Forbidden Game Trilogy remains one of my favorite YA stories. With the advent of the CW show The Vampire Diaries, Smith has become more well-known as the years have progressed. I thought all was well within the TVD world...I was not aware of all the turmoil surrounding her contract with her publishing house...nor was I aware that she was recently dropped from her publishing contract. While I haven't kept up with The Vampire Diaries print stories, I am an avid watcher of the CW show. It's definitely disappointing to know that the "endgame" of TVD (both print and tv) will be written by somebody else and not the original author.
I was happy to see this article floating around on the web this morning...a good example of how Ms. Smith isn't letting her forced departure from her vampire series deter her from writing her own version of the TVD endgame.
Fans of L.J. Smith, enjoy this article from The Daily Dot aptly titled "How the Creator of 'Vampire Diaries' used Kindle Worlds to Get Back at Her Publisher".
Jane Austen Ruined my life by Beth Pattillo
I didn't know whether to go 2 gnomes or 3 gnomeson this one. It's light, fluffy chick-lit down to its last sentence. I picked it up because I found the premise interesting -- meet Emma, a newly divorced English professor who sets off to London to (re)discover herself and try to restore her academic career with the discovery of a lifetime - Jane Austen's lost letters guarded by the secretive Formidables.
The story started out alright...a little cliche, but alright. But then it just started to spin its wheels and not go any further. Emma is a pretty annoying lead character (I hesitate to even call her a 'heroine')...I think Patillo was trying to present her as a flawed character (much like Austen's characters were flawed0, but Emma just comes across as whiny and incapable of doing anything.
I breezed through the last fifth of the book and I'm glad that I didn't spend much more time on the story. I won't give any spoilers, but I was highly dissatisfied with the ending. On one hand, I understand why the ending was as it was...but on the other hand, I wish it was more satisfying. I really can't go into more detail without giving a spoiler. I think there could have been ways the author could have more solidly hinted at a satisfying ending...be it through a line or two of dialogue or through the Epilogue. As it stands, I finished the book and was left with a general feeling of "So...what happened??"
I was also amused by the portrayal of academia and professors. As someone who has been in graduate school, I find it extremely hard to believe that a TA claiming their supervisor, a full Professor employed by the university, has committed plagiarism would be enough to get Emma kicked off the faculty. Even with her star, tenured ex-husband backing up the TA...I just don't see the university going "Get thee hence, plagiarist!" quite that easily. There are SO so many politics involved in higher education (at least in my experience) that this would not have been a quick or an easy decision for the university unless Emma had done something else to ruffle the university's or the faculty's feathers.
So, I will give this one three stars because I guess I liked it. And I did finish it. I just wish the story had lived to its potential.
Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
Another solid installment of the Mercy Thompson series. I was hesitant to start reading this one so soon after finishing Iron Kissed because I really enjoyed Iron Kissed.
Despite my reservations, Bone Kissed was pretty good! In this novel, Briggs takes us back to the vampire side of the Tri-Cities and we delve further into the mess made by Andre/Stephan/Mercy etc that was addressed in an earlier book. The vampire seethe Mistress, Marsilia, is upset at Mercy's actions that resulted in the death of Andre and seeks to punish Mercy...even if that means murder. As Mercy starts to deal with the fallout of murdering a vampire, however, she is introduced to a vampire that even other vampires call "The Monster".
Oh, and Mercy officially makes her decision -- Adam or Samuel?
I think, as of right now, I still prefer the fae side of the Tri-Cities story arc. The vampires are interesting and definitely more developed at this point in the plotline, but I am kind of tired of vampires. I know when the books originally came out, vampires weren't as cliche as they are now...but I'm still a little burned out on the vamps. Briggs does a great job, however, establishing interesting focal points within the vampire mythology that kept me interested in the plotline and the character development. Stephan is a great example - I liked him in book one, but I like him even more now that I am in book four. Briggs is excellent at developing rich, flawed characters.
Looking forward to book number five!
Glamorous Illusions by Lisa Tawn Bergren
I have been trying to find another set of books by Bergren that I enjoy as much as I enjoyed the Northern Lights Trilogy: Three Historical Romance Novels from Lisa T. Bergren: The Captain's Bride, Deep Harbor, Midnight Sun and the Full Circle series. Both those series are fond reading memories from my middle and high school years. They are not YA, but I would consider them staples of the Christian fiction genre.
The Grand Tour series seems to be off to a somewhat promising start. I don't think it will live up to the Northern Lights Trilogy, but I do rank that one pretty high up there.
The premise of Glamorous Illusions centers around Cora Diehl who finds out that she is the illegitimate daughter of copper baron Mr. Kensington. Kensington takes Cora away from her birth mother and adopted father and places her among her half-siblings as they take the Grand Tour across Europe. Cora is then faced with social and cultural situations she had never dreamed she would deal with as she struggles to get to know her new family, her new social standing, and herself better.
Structuring the book around the Grand Tour (which was, historically, a rite of passage for youth of privilege) is a pretty fun idea. You get the glamour of Europe and the dazzle of the upper class. I did find the way Mr. Kensington swooped in and plucked Cora out of her home and her entire way of living to be extremely jarring. It kind of seemed like Bergren needed a way to bring a gauche and somewhat naive girl into a group of social, aristocratic veterans. There was a little bit of anger on the part of Cora towards Mr. Kensington for pretty much ruining her life.
But then she got over it.
The (adoptive) father she's known her whole life is laying sick and possibly dying in a hospital bed and she "misses [her] Papa" and that's it? Kensington has an illegitimate child with a maid (Cora's mother) and then disposes of the evidence so as not to destroy his own marriage because of his mistake? Oh, but he sent Cora a piece of jewelry or two throughout the years so he's not a complete absentee father.
Yeah, not really buying that.
I felt as though there should have been more anger...more resentment...more angst...before Cora settled into her new life.
Maybe I'm over-analyzing things...
Anyway, I do plan on picking up book number two. It's noNorthern Lights Trilogy, but it's not too bad. It has the potential to pick up steam as they chug across Europe...so let's see where this Grand Tour Train goes.
Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson
This one's a big bag of "meh".
On the one hand I liked it. It was a light read that had its funny moments. And the vampire mythology wasn't as stereotypical as your average book.
But on the flipside, the book was almost too light and too irreverent. When you take a step back and look at the plot, Davidson throws in some pretty heavy plot points...rape, child abuse, murder, etc. Yet, the book is so fast-paced you almost don't have time to process the "bad stuff" and instead get bounced around from joke to joke to joke. You're twenty pages on before it clicks - "oh, there was a rape reference there" or "oh there's horrific child abuse being attempted here.".
Let's be honest...Twilight aside, vampires aren't supposed to be sparkly high school students full of teenage angst. You expect an element of horror because vampires originated in the horror genre. I just didn't like that the elements of horror in this book were so glossed over that they lost their meaning. You could argue the "horror elements" were trivialized too much.
But, like I said...this is a quick read that does have its fun moments. I can see why a lot of people really enjoy this series. And I am not saying that a book can't be light and humorous while also dealing with heavier themes. I just wish the heavier themes in this book had been treated with more respect.
As of now I don't think I will pick up book number two.
A Girl's Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister
Just couldn't do this one. There's satire and parody...and then there's trying to take it that much further. MacAlister just pushes it beyond the line of parody and comedy into the realm of syrupy awfulness.
I can put up with not liking a side character...but to find the main characters insipid and annoying - nope. Life's too short and there are too many books I want to read out there.
Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
So, I really enjoyed this third installment in the "Mercy Thompson" series. The book is a tad formulaic:
Mercedes Thompson is a hardcore mechanic who can shift...
+ But someone needs her to use her shifter abilities...
+ Mercy uses said abilities but then...
+ Mercy gets into trouble...
+ Which causes the local werewolf pack to go beserk in her defense...
= Mercy saves the day and we move on to the next book
It seems as though those elements have been in all three books so far. Not sure if the rest of the series continues in the same fashion.
Despite it being formulaic and, one could argue, a bit predictable, Iron Kissed was excellent. I think Iron Kissed is my favorite one so far...despite the not-cool twist toward the end of the story. Briggs lets her readers get to know the characters so when something like that end-of-story twist happens...well, you feel awful right along with the characters.
I did enjoy that we explored the fae side of things in Iron Kissed. I like Briggs' vampires, however, I was ready to explore some of the other creatures. And learning more about the enigmatic Zee was excellent as well. I think the next book goes back to vampires...so I hope Briggs' revisits the fae in a future book.
Plus, on a personal note, I really enjoy that Mercy was a history major in college. As a fellow history major, I can really relate with the "historian humor" Briggs throws into the story. In this installment, Mercy complains about a job interview at a high school that she turned down....the school wanted her to coach a sport *and* teach history classes whereas she felt history should be valued enough to be taught exclusively and not by a coach who happens to teach the history class to supplement their coach's income. Trust me...this happens in the real world. And if you are interested in history and not interested in coaching a sport, it can make job hunting very irritating. But I digress....
I am really enjoying this series and am looking forward to the future books. This is one of the perks of being behind in series...it's kind of like Netflix - I can read and read and read and not worry about waiting for the next one to be published.
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
You know that recurring nightmare? The one where you spend days...weeks...looking forward to something special (a date? a wedding?) The day finally arrives and you get all dolled up and head out to your something special. Oh, and of course, your entire family/friend base comes with you to be witness to your something special. You show up to your thing...and wait. And wait.
The other person involved in the something special never shows up and you are humiliated before your entire social circle. What do you do then?
That's pretty much how Vessel starts off. Liyana has waited and trained her whole life to be the vessel of her desert clan's deity. Her life has been spent waiting. She has to preserve herself and her body to the best of her ability because she knows, one day, it will no longer be her own. When the ceremony finally arrives, Liyana does everything she's supposed to do and dances to her goddess. Only her goddess never arrives. Seen as an unfit vessel, Liyana is exiled by her clan into the harsh desert where she discovers Korbyn, the raven deity, and finds out that someone or something is kidnapping deities.
Vessel seemed more like folklore than a novel. Durst creates a vivid desert society filled with many distinct clans and cultures. There are several stories/fables throughout the novel that give the world a rich feel to it.
The story starts out at a really nice pace while the world is being established and as we get to know Liyana. Once those things were completed, however, the story really takes off in an almost hurried pace. I wish the story could have continued at the same pace throughout.
I did think Vessel was a nice departure from your "average" YA fiction. Yes, there was romance...but it wasn't the main focal point of the story. Yes, there were touches of the cliche YA love triangle, but since the romance wasn't the focus of the story, the triangle didn't become overpowering.
Definitely give Vessel a try if you are looking for a fantasy that's a little different than your average wizard/elf/fae variety.
Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase
Royals, Raptors, and Romance oh my!
I mean, that's pretty much the book in a nutshell. Meet Sam -- she's a grad school student studying raptors (ie. birds) when she finds out from a smokin' hot prince and his aunt that she's really a duchess in a country with the weird name of "Lilaria". Romance blooms between the aforementioned smokin' hot prince and the new found duchess.
And...that's pretty much it. Not much danger of spoiling the plot because there really isn't much of one. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, if you're looking for a fun, quick contemporary romance read.
All in all, I liked it. I just don't know if it has enough momentum to carry me on to book number two when that comes out...
Storm's Heart by Thea Harrison
I don't know how to review this book. I mean...yeah, don't know how to do it.
I just keep staring at the picture of the cover and one question remains --> why cut off Tiago's head?? I mean, yeah, it's "that" kind of book, but still... And to add insult to injury, the library edition I have has the library barcode placed smack dab on Tiago's shirtless chest...which only leaves Tiago from the waist down and half a cityscape in the background.
It's just kind of awkward.
You know what else is awkward? The romance in this second installment of The Elder Races. I mean, I liked the book as a whole...but it's really hard to believe that Tiago goes through such a huge character change in less than a week.
Day one: Tiago is a brooding Thunderbird/Destroyer of Worlds...surly and military-minded.
Day two: Tiago is a besotted, possessive alpha-male ready to leave the world he's been living in for...oh, you know...since practically the dawn of time.
Now, granted, Niniane has been in Tiago's world for several years, but she admits that Tiago was always gone doing warlord-y stuff so she didn't really have that much interaction with him during her time in the Wyr demesne.
The romance just seemed contrived and forced and way way way too fast. I wish the romance had evolved a bit more gradually...had been more organic feeling. Since the romance was one of the pivotal elements of the book, the fact that it was just kind of weird made me drop it down two stars.
The rest of the story was pretty good, though. I liked reading about Tricks' journey to take back her inheritance. Harrison sets up the premise for the third installment as well and I definitely plan on continuing the series.
Insta-Love and cheesy shirtless covers, however, put it solidly in the realm of cotton candy.