Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Review: "Stray" by Rachel Vincent

Title: Stray
Series: Shifters #1
Author: Rachel Vincent
Publisher: Mira
Year: 2007

"There are only eight breeding female werecats left . . .

And I'm one of them
I look like an all-American grad student. But I am a werecat, a shape-shifter, and I live in two worlds.
Despite reservations from my family and my Pride, I escaped the pressure to continue my species and carved out a normal life for myself. Until the night a Stray attacked. 

I'd been warned about Strays -- werecats without a Pride, constantly on the lookout for someone like me: attractive, female, and fertile. I fought him off, but then learned two of my fellow tabbies had disappeared. 

This brush with danger was all my Pride needed to summon me back . . . for my own protection. Yeah, right. But I'm no meek kitty. I'll take on whatever -- and whoever -- I have to in order to find my friends. Watch out, Strays -- 'cause I got claws, and I'm not afraid to use them . . ."

I have no idea why I have rated this book 4 stars. I mean if I list the things that I find wrong with this book then it makes no sense that I am rating it this high. It should be a 3. At most. Sure, it has its good points. But do they make up for the gaping holes in the brilliance it could be? Well let us dissect this beast a little further.

Lets start off on the positive note. I have never been very fond of werewolves. I find nothing adorable and/or sexy about turning into a slobbering dog-wolf hybrid every full moon. Or more often, whichever is the case. I did not have the similar allergic reaction to werecats. A sleek black panther-like cat? Sure, I can work with that.

The plot itself is not bad at all. I like the dynamic of the Pride and can relate to the rebelling woman who does not like being treated as a weakling meant to be a babyfactory. Go girl power. 

But this leads me to my first big problem. It is fine for a teenage/under 20 girl to run away in the hopes of being independent from her over-bearing family. It is fine that, if an agreement is made, that her parents would help her out financially. But Faythe, the heroin of the story, is 23 years old and she whines that she does not get enough independence while she has never in her life lifted a finger to pay her own bills. What sort of a f*cked up pro-female message is that?

Also, this book is almost one-on-one from Kelley Armstrong’s “Bitten” and “Stolen” (one of the very few werewolf stories I enjoyed). This would be a major turn-off but I read “Stray” first, just a little after it came out in 2007, which is why it does not bother me as much as I believe it would otherwise.
Now to the love interest(s). Jace, the tomcat who came in from a different Pride and is considered an unpreferable match for the only tabby (for reference I will say that the next Alpha will be the guy who marries the tabby of a Pride). Jace was great, I loved the overconfident guy who was not shy with kinky remarks or acts. He was carefree and fun.
Meet Marc. The ultimate nightmare for Faythe. He is overly protective, jealous and fairly violent. After five years, a rejected marriage proposal and severe injuries he has yet understand that she is not interested any more. We hear so much about how Marc is a not for her and never will be again. And what does the same girl who complains about his attitude do? Hook up with him!  I just… arrrgh!

Okay, must calm down. Lets get this thing in order.

The plot is a good idea, with werecats being a both original yet a dozen times done story.

The characters are very numerous which is why I will only further comment on Faythe. She is a strong-willed and kick ass but I understand why other Pride members think of her as selfish and childish. I think she should get her head straight before jumping into bed with anyone else. Okay and a tiny spoiler alert, she does step up at the end of the book and takes more responsibility. It redeems her a little.

I think what made me like this book at the end was that it was a sexy story with a heroine who is not afraid to speak her mind. There was a lot of fun action and the whole story was written well and in a very enjoyable style.

It is up to you whether 4 stars makes sense after this rant or not. But this is what it gets for now.

This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: "Wicked Lovely" by Melissa Marr

Title: Wicked Lovely
Series: Wicked Lovely #1
Author: Melissa Marr
Publisher: HarperTeen
Year: 2007

"Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty - especially if they learn of her Sight - and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost — regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.

Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning twenty-first-century faery tale."

It happens too often that you revisit the book you loved as a kid/teenager and then realize that it was not half as good as you remembered. I am so very relieved that Wicked Lovely did not fall under that category. It was just as brilliant as it was 4 years ago. It is great to have access to my old bookshelf again and this book was first on the list to be reread. And for a good reason.

Melissa Marr has quite a unique style when it comes to writing. Unique in a good way. I can’t really place it under the usual style that I have come to love but it is just as brilliant and 2 days on the countryside is what it took for me to finish the book. 

The “slightly” alternative teenage me loved this book because it had references to the darker style (talking about looks here this time) I was so fond of. It was nice to see it pictured in a book not in a mocking way. And while the grown-up (relatively speaking) me owns a few less corsets then it still warms my heart. 

The story in this book is ridiculously good. I mean we all know the stereotype of a human girl, sometimes blessed/cursed with an unusual gift, becoming the object of interest to a supernatural hunk of a guy. She is reluctant at first but eventually gives in to the charms of the drop-dead-gorgeous eye-candy. Try telling this story to the heroine of the story, Aislinn, and she will gracefully give you the middle finger. "Wicked Lovely" is a sophisticated faery story that is true to the myth with its own original twist. Just when you think you figured out how this is going to end it will have a surprise waiting around the next corner.

The amount of good characters in this book… I have no words. Aislinn is such a great heroine. While she might not be the whoopa-ass kind of a girl that I like from the beginning then she gets there. And boy will she make you listen when she wants to be heard.
So without spoiling the ending I will need to call both Seth (the human) and Keenan (the faery king) the male interests. Seth is the guy all of us girls secretly want. A bad boy who is good just for you. He can be so sweet it melts your bones. Keenan is used to getting what he wants while not getting what he ultimately seeks. It was brilliant seeing him progress and battle for the girl and his future.
The Winter Queen Beira is so twisted it makes you want to smile gleefully and pledge yourself to the demoness of a woman. But it was Donia’s, the Winter Girls point of view that was truly heart-breaking. To know that you are not the One to the guy who is your prince Charming and having to help him find the queen who could be what you aren’t... Just let that sink in, it is sad beyond belief.
There are also quite a few side-characters that were interesting as well and get more attention in the later books, but I will leave exploring them up to you.

Melissa Marr’s writing can really call to all readers, regardless of their age. “Wicked Lovely” is a unique masterpiece that I absolutely loved. It gets five stars and my highest recommendation to all that like (or even dislike) faeries. If you are indifferent towards them then you will love them after this book.

This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Review: "Dance of Shadows" by Yelena Black

Title: Dance of Shadows
Series: Dance of Shadows #1
Author: Yelena Black
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year: 2013

"Dancing with someone is an act of trust. Elegant and intimate; you're close enough to kiss, close enough to feel your partner's heartbeat. But for Vanessa, dance is deadly – and she must be very careful who she trusts . . .

Vanessa Adler attends an elite ballet school – the same one her older sister, Margaret, attended before she disappeared. Vanessa feels she can never live up to her sister's shining reputation. But Vanessa, with her glorious red hair and fair skin, has a kind of power when she dances – she loses herself in the music, breathes different air, and the world around her turns to flames . . .

Soon she attracts the attention of three men: gorgeous Zep, mysterious Justin, and the great, enigmatic choreographer Josef Zhalkovsky. When Josef asks Vanessa to dance the lead in the Firebird, she has little idea of the danger that lies ahead – and the burning forces about to be unleashed ."

I read this book a little while ago but Dance of Shadows was an impulse buy that happened largely due to having the most gorgeous cover. I mean look at it, pale and red and perfect. Plus the idea of it seemed very interesting and original. It did not disappoint, I loved it!

Black's writing style was very fluid (which seems to be my favorite word to describe a writing style that I like) and even though the plot had a lot of mysterious and on-purpose unclear parts, then it was still quite easy to follow.

The characters in this book were really not what I expected them to be. Vanessa could be a little at odds with herself but not to the point of being obnoxious. Unlike what the blurb suggests she is also not overflowing with male-interests. The relationships to these men are all different, ranging from love to dislike to professional. What I most liked about Vanessa was her motivation. The depths of her almost self-deceiving conviction with what she believed that her sister Margaret is alive just to deal with her grief was amazing. I will leave the rest of the characters up to you to find out about because I do not want to give too much away.

I left the story for last this time because it was phenomenal. I have great respect for ballerinas. What they do is incredibly difficult, beautiful and often short-lived. And the way Vanessas feelings were described when she danced... (insert a content sigh). For someone who can barely dance while she is counting the beats out loud, even I was drawn in. 
Also, for so long I had no idea if this was supposed to be fantasy or an all-human mystery or something else entirely. I will tell you this much, it will get a supernatural element. And the build-up to the revelation of the supernatural is great. 
The ground work for the next novel was laid at the end of the book and I think this can go on to be a great series. I really hope that the author will not sever the connection with the first book by leaving out the importance of the dance in next book. Which I am impatiently waiting for.

This said, I was thinking that this book is between 4.5 and 5 stars but at the end decided on 5. 

 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review: "Thrall" by Jennifer Quintenz

Title: Thrall
Series: Daughters of Lilith #1
Author: Jennifer Quintenz
Publisher: Secret Tree Press
Year: 2012

"Braedyn is a normal girl just trying to survive high school with her two devoted friends, Royal and Cassie. Together they’re doing a pretty good job of shrugging off the slings and arrows cast their way by the popular crowd when a new boy, Lucas, moves into the house next door. Suddenly Braedyn finds herself falling in love for the first time.

But as her sixteenth birthday approaches, Braedyn discovers humankind is at war with the Lilitu, an ancient race of enticing demons that prey on human souls. Her father is a member of the Guard fighting against the Lilitu - and so are the new neighbors, including her crush, Lucas.

As her world starts to unravel at the seams, Braedyn learns the right answers aren’t always clear or easy. And as for “good” and “evil” – it all depends on how we choose to act.

Inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian myths of Lilith and her offspring, Thrall explores first love, strong friendships, and taking on adult responsibilities against the backdrop of powerful supernatural forces and life-and-death stakes."

The succubus fangirl in me is going happy-go-lucky. A coming of age story for a succubus, one of my favorite supernatural creatures of all time? Yes please! And amazingly enough this book does not disappoint. I meant to savour it, to draw out the pages and enjoy for as long as I could. Instead I tore through it in two sittings without being able to put it down.

Every once in a while I really want to buy the books that are self-published, first time novels, yet to reach the shelves in your local bookstore. I like the idea of supporting aspiring authors in their way to writers heaven. But sadly sometimes those shiny new books are rushed to the printing press before they are ready. This is not one of those books. Ignore the blurb, it makes it sound so much more teen-y than it is.

I would like to draw your attention to the cover. It is a good cover but there are others like it. I thought it was nice enough when I bought the book but it should not be that special. But when you hit the exact scene in the book from which the cover is, it blows you away. Suddenly the girl looks magical, having that Cinderella effect and everything.

For a first time author, Jennifer Quintenz, I salute you. I truly hope that you are going places (hopefully places where one writes many many books). The writing style is so smooth, yet gripping. Add some good characters, well-paced story and you have something that I like. No, not like. Love. 

As I mentioned before I loves succubus stories. In this case named after Lilith and called Lilitu. And there really has not been a story which gives us first-hand insight into what it feels like to become one of the seductive demonesses. This story was paced perfectly, being very exciting and yet easing you into it when needed. I do not want to spoil because everyone deserves the awe of this book. I will drop the ditbit that I think it is wonderful that the part of mythology where succubi visit men in their dreams is not left out. And that they are, in fact, demons.

Braedyn is a sweet girl, easy to identify with. But as she progresses and grows into being a Lilitu while still being part of the Guard is amazing. She is not written as too perfect, she makes mistakes, stumbles and that's what makes her loveable. Plus while she is the "loner", she is not a whiny character, which is not easy to write. Lucas is the male interest in this book, he has solid reason for doing what he does and he stays true to why he became part of the Guard. It’s what makes him a good character. Definitely not your typical, shallowly written lover boy. But my favorites are Braedyns father and Thane. It is so lovely to have such deep side characters. Their stories were just as compelling as Breadyns.

As you can tell I am over the moon with this book and will be ordering the second book as soon as I have money for it. (which has to be after Christmas. Really, who thought gift-giving was more fun than receiving them. But sadly so much more expensive). So no surprise that “Thrall” gets full five stars and the highest recommendations I can give.  

 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.