Friday, February 26, 2016

The Hanged Man by P.N. Elrod (Her Majesty's Psychic Service, #1)

Title: The Hanged Man
Author: P.N. Elrod

Genre: Victorian Fantasy Alternate History Mystery (with a hint of Steampunk)
On a freezing Christmas Eve in 1879, a forensic psychic reader is summoned from her Baker Street lodgings to the scene of a questionable death. Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury (named after her godmother, the current Queen of England) is adamant that the death in question is a magically compromised murder and not a suicide, as the police had assumed, after the shocking revelation contained by the body in question, Alex must put her personal loss aside to uncover the deeper issues at stake, before more bodies turn up.

Turning to some choice allies—the handsome, prescient Lieutenant Brooks, the brilliant, enigmatic Lord Desmond, and her rapscallion cousin James—Alex will have to marshal all of her magical and mental acumen to save Queen and Country from a shadowy threat. Our singular heroine is caught up in this rousing gaslamp adventure of cloaked assassins, meddlesome family, and dark magic.


I don't think there's anything more enjoyable than a well-thought out Victorian mystery with just a touch of the supernatural. 

The characters were absolutely magnificent, very well fleshed-out and had lovely banter. I couldn't get enough of their witty repartee. 

Besides the characters, the most interesting part of this book was the writing. It fit the atmosphere to a degree but their were certain turns of phrase that didn't click in meaning for me. I had to rely heavily on context clues for some parts. The execution however, was a different story from the writing style. I greatly appreciated the fact that the author built the world and characters up as the plot went along. There's no heavy exposition to bog down the beginning of the novel and stump the reader. 

The murder mystery plot was done fantastically well and the dissemination of the investigation was thrilling and compelling to read about. The combination of her majesty's Psychic Serivce working with Scotland Yard made for a hilarious pairing for solving crimes. 

This novel ended with 'no she didn't!' and 'haha wait, are you serious? Haha excellent!' moments that perfectly wrapped up the all the loose threads. I can't say more or I will end up spoiling something but suffice to say that this book set up a potential series quite nicely.

I would no doubt want to read more about this world and Alex's position in it but I'm not sure if there will be more books to come. In any case, this was an amazing romp of a book and just what I needed. 



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Charcoal Tears by Jane Washington (Seraph Black, #1)

Title: Charcoal Tears
Author: Jane Washington

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Seraph Black used to think that she was prepared for anything. She could last days without eating, and she always walked away from the violent altercations with her father relatively unharmed. She even survived working at the club, surrounded by the dregs of society, all staring into their bottles instead of noticing the unravelling lives that trailed behind them.

She had thought that she could survive anything, but she wasn’t prepared for Noah and Cabe to come bulldozing into her life, careless of the precious secrets they picked apart in their quest to take over her world. She was even less prepared for the mysterious Miro and Silas, but most of all…

Most of all… it was the stalker that threatened her talent for surviving. She wasn’t ready for the photos, and the messages. The warnings. The threats. Seraph’s life of surviving in the shadows was over, because the searchlight had found her, and there was nowhere that she could hide.


Read this in one day because I absolutely loved the writing and reverse harems just do it for me; which, if you've seen what I typically like to read, is not a big surprise.

The biggest problem I had was how secretive the boys were when it came to explaining what they were and the connection they had to Seph. One of the main reasons I initially liked this book was because Seph was quietly strong in her own way but the the author strips that away from her when the boys are introduced. There's absolutely no world building in this book because the author spends too much time trying to develop chemistry between characters who are deliberately kept in the dark about each other's feelings.

The author seemed to prioritize developing an evil villain than explaining the basis of what the villain is fighting against. I wanted to root for the characters to connect and become stronger as a group but I literally have no idea of what to root for because the main character doesn't know what's happening around her most of the time.

This book had all the convenience and benefits that is shown in The Academy series of a damaged girl rescued by a harem of boys but it has none of its amazing background development and relationship building.

Overall, I was disappointed because this could have been another favorite series of mine but the ending seemed so half-assed that I don't want to continue it.



Monday, January 4, 2016

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.


So this definitely took me a while to finish but I'm glad I followed through with it because it was a really good story. I mostly enjoyed the latter half of the novel because the first half had a lot of pacing and execution issues. It was very stop-and-go in the beginning; there was a burst of action and then the plot dwindled to a crawl then another burst and another crawl.

I liked the fact that since Agnieszka was introduced as the Dragon’s latest captive it served as a catalyst in questioning the routine that was settled on the relationship between the Dragon and the villages he protects. Nieshka’s involvement produces an awakening in the Dragon and his methods. Her unique power and straightforward personality was able to infiltrate the Dragon’s dogged attitude and stiff mannerisms. 

I had a love-hate relationship with the writing due to its inconsistent prose. I loved the fluidity of the author's writing when she was describing anything, the scenery, the action, character’s feelings, etc. I hated when she tried to convey emotions via dialogue. In that instance, it was missing that fluidity and she wasn’t able to fully get across the passion in the emotion the character was trying to express.

I enjoyed the characters for the most part and believed they developed quite nicely throughout the story. However, I didn't get attached to any of them because of their development that they each went through was restricted to the circumstances they were in. Like the main character for example, Agnieszka, she turned out to be an amazing character but beyond the scope of the plot of fighting against the Woods, there was no substance to her. The Dragon was the same. His grumpiness was mostly just irritating to read about and his development was very slow-going.

The best parts of the story were mostly when the characters interacted with one another. They showed a depth in feeling was easily captured and conveyed to the reader. Agnieszka's friendship with Kasia was one of favorite parts to read about. And the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon was fun to witness develop because of the polarity between them was comical.

Another aspect that I found fascinating was the character of the Woods and how elaborate the author made it. The entire world-building that the author constructed was magnificent and very fairy tale-esque. That may be the biggest reason this book wasn't a five stars for me. I don't enjoy the linear plots of fairy tales. There's just something very constricting about the plots of fairy tales that limits the characters personalities by tying their development to their determination of confronting the Big Bad, in this case the Woods.



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Title: Emmy & Oliver
Author: Robin Benway

Genre: YA Contemporary
Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?


This is one of those that would be five stars if the genre that I was in love with was YA Contemporary. So for those of you who are in love with that genre and can't get enough then I HIGHLY recommend not just Emmy & Oliver but all of Robin Benway's works.

I am happy I picked this book up--I'm even more glad that the ebook was on sale. I haven't read a really good YA Contemporary in a long time and I'm sad to say I don't go looking for them as much as I used to anymore because I feel like if you've read as much as I have of the genre, you recognize the formula and don't want to keep reading it.

The author's writing restored some of my love for the genre. It reminded me that there are authors out there that know just how to manipulate your emotions. The characters were pretty fantastic and I adored their sense of humor. Their banter was perfect and the teary-eyed moments completely enthralling. The main character was my favorite because while there were major events and life-altering decisions happening around her, she knew just where she stood and how her life wasn't defined by others actions but by her own. That is also why I loved the main guy character in this book. There were so many things happening to him because of other people's actions and he had to learn that he had to find out who he was in order to get the life he wanted.

The characters seemed a bit too mature for their age sometimes but I'm kind of glad they were. They also had moments where they were teenagers in need of their parents which I'm also glad about because it portrayed a vulnerability that would seem impossible to capture in writing but wasn't.

The ending was spot on and somewhat predictable and I'm happy about it.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott (Fire & Flood, #1)

Title: Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood, #1)
Author: Victoria Scott

Genre: YA Fantasy
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?


This book shares a lot of similarities with other YA dystopian books but it was different and creative enough to pull off original characters with some really entertaining and thrilling writing. 

The characters, especially the main characters, are what pushes the plot along and I highly enjoyed reading about their antics. The main character Tella, especially, was quirky and had a great sense of humor even in the middle of the race. The only thing that bugged me about her in the beginning was that when she met another young teenage girl in the race who was blond and blue-eyed, she thought she would have to kill her. Obviously, she was joking but I'm getting sick of reading about girls hating other girls because they perceive them as more beautiful than themselves. Why does the reaction always have to be anger or hatred or any combination thereof? Anyway, besides that, I really did enjoy the Tella's sympathetic, caring personality--the struggle with the curly hair I could totally empathize with, and her courageousness was impressive even when she didn't know what the heck was going on.

I would call this a Hunger Games set in the modern world. I wouldn't actually call this a dystopian world even though the Brimstone Bleed did have similar characteristics to the Hunger Games. The setting was no different than present day in America but it's the creation of the "race" that lacks in development. In this first installment to the series there are only hints of the history behind the Brimstone Bleed. There is only enough to entice the reader to want to continue with the series in order to discover the full story. Overall, the similarities between Fire & Flood and The Hunger Games are substantial but I'm happy to say that I would highly recommend the former even if you've already read the latter. (Maybe just not immediately after you've read The Hunger Games though, otherwise it will probably cause you to create too many analogous comparisons.)