27 December 2011

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Halo Bookplate

Three angels are sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone—especially herself—from the Dark Forces.

Is love a great enough power against evil?

This was an incredibly difficult read. I will readily admit this was an impulse buy based on the amazing cover. Unfortunately the inside of the book just doesn’t measure up to it, or even to a mediocre cover. It falls into the all-too-common difficulty with angel books: angels are perfect beings with no emotions and no free will, and that makes personal conflict and inner turmoil a hard thing to introduce because, by definition, an angel experiencing those is a renunciation of everything they are. I know, I know, it’s my constant refrain with angel books and why I don’t like them. However there is much more wrong with this book than just a mischaracterization of a legendary being. The plot is so slow it’s pretty much non-existent until the last hundred pages. There are the bare bones of an angels-working-on-earth idea but it’s completely covered up by Bethany’s ultra-scary relationship with a mortal. As soon as Bethany falls in love the entire plot is about her obsessing, clinging, and whining over her ultra-love. The end of the book tries to redeem things with a battle scene between ultimate good and evil, but it falls very flat because the set-up is so scant. In all I would recommend that anyone who’s not a die-hard Twilight fan to pass on this book.

Mistwood by Leah Cypess

Mistwood Bookplate

The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.

Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.

Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty because without it, she may be his greatest threat.

Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.

Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew.

I feel so guilty that I put off this book as long as I did. It’s been on my shelf for at least a year but I never got around to it. I’m really glad I finally got around to it, though, because it was wonderful.

I loved Isabel. That is good because the plot is really the story of her, trying to figure out who she is, how the Shifter is supposed to act, and how she can navigate the new court when she knows that intrigues are all around her and smells lies coming from every corner, even from the prince she is supposed to protect. Her characterization is spot on, which is part of what makes the incredibly blended plot/character study work. The other characters are very layered as well. I like how Prince Rokan has a duty to his country and deep yearning to be a good king, but a rather blank slate when it comes to a plan because his father really taught him how NOT to be, not how to be a good king. Clarisse is also a very interesting person, although it would spoil you to tell you how. And, speaking of spoilers, the plot has many great twists and turns, and although they’re foreshadowed and set up very well they still totally surprised me when they came along. I love a book that keeps me surprised instead of telegraphing its twist from far away. All in all I thought this was an amazingly good read, and I will be going out to get the sequel tomorrow!

26 December 2011

Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

Braden was born with witch eyes: the ability to see the world as it truly is: a blinding explosion of memories, darkness, and magic. The power enables Braden to see through spells and lies, but at the cost of horrible pain.

After a terrifying vision reveals imminent danger for the uncle who raised and instructed him, Braden retreats to Belle Dam, an old city divided by two feuding witch dynasties. As rival family heads Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe desperately try to use Braden's powers to unlock Belle Dam's secrets, Braden vows never to become their sacrificial pawn. But everything changes when Braden learns that Jason is his father--and Trey, the enigmatic guy he's falling for, is Catherine's son.

To stop an insidious dark magic from consuming the town, Braden must master his gift—and risk losing the one he loves.

This book was very good, worth reading for the great characterization and a creative fantasy retelling of a familiar plot. Braden is wonderful. I love that the book starts with an out teenager, because so many stories of LGBT teenagers are stories of discovery. Not that discovery is bad, but I know there are gay teenagers that have known they were gay since before puberty, and it’s good to have diverse characters to let people know about the many facets of gay life. However, Braden is much more than just his sexuality. He’s a powerful witch, a trusting (or gullible) young man, a teenager in love, a little rash and impulsive but creative in his on-the-spot problem solving which serves to help him out of most problems. His powers are multi-faceted as well, having a great advantage but also causing Braden debilitating pain and even loss of consciousness when he uses them too much. It’s always good to have checks and balances on the uber-powerful character, and I just really don’t see “morality” as enough of one. Not that Braden isn’t normal, but the disadvantage adds another facet that rounds out the story well.

And it is a great story. Tracey plays well on and around the traditional theme of Romeo and Juliet, weaving in a homosexual love story that also has action and adventure. The beginning did slow a little bit, but after the first chapter-ish things really get going and you quickly forget the start issues. I recommend this book to fantasy fans that are looking for some good action and an intriguing tale with a fresh take on magic.

15 December 2011

Life and the Future

Sorry for the silence the last few weeks, I got hit by a major case of life from many different directions. I'll be trying to post two reviews a day to catch up to the books I've read this year before it's next year. I've also got my annual top 10 posts coming at the end of the month as well as a connected giveaway, and I'm working on a ridonkulous Hunger Games Movie post, so there's going to be a lot of traffic for the rest of the month.

Also, I've been thinking a lot about this blog and what I want to change about it. I've always thought of this as a blog about reading YA fiction from an adult perspective. I think that YA has a lot of good books in it that should be read and enjoyed by adults, and I want to promote them so that adult sf/f fans can find good reads that will be engaging and interesting. I don't think I've made that point very clear on the blog, however, so I'm trying to figure out ways to change that.

I think I'm going to start with tags. I'm going to add an "adult recommended" as well as an "adult not recommended" and a "potential top 10" tag. I'm also going to try to categorize more books. Right now YA sci-fi especially is a categorical swamp of confusion. YA will not label a book sci-fi upon pain of death, so there are a lot of books that are only barely or not-at-all dystopian that get that label to avoid the dreaded "science" label. Adults, though, aren't as afraid of the label and, as fans of sf, they know the categories of sf and what they like. So I'll be trying to add breakdown tags that split sf into its subcategories and help fans to see that there is a large variety of sci-fi available in YA fiction, and maybe educate current YA fans in the process so they understand the different kinds of sci-fi and get a better understanding of the genre. I'll probably do the same for fantasy. I'll also be posting some educational stuff after the new year so that people who don't know the types of sci-fi can learn how all the new area tags describe a book's plot.

I'm also toying with posts about upcoming fiction so you can keep up with new releases and preorders, or some more interactive discussion posts to engage discussion on facets of books, book fandom, and reading styles. I don't know what I will have time for, though, so I'm still only in the thinking phase on this because I don't want to overload myself right away.

Finally, I want to know what you think? Do you like these ideas? Hate them? Know of a current book meme or posting style that you would like to see here? I'm open to suggestions, so feel free to comment with what you like or hate about this blog.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson's vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.

This was a very difficult but absorbing and rewarding book. The plot is great, and, while I won’t give away the plot twists, I will admit that I saw some of them coming but not nearly as far as I usually would. To me this made the book the story of the journey I knew was coming, and how the characters arrive at the conclusions I had guessed was just as good as the twists being a surprise. The difficulty comes in the heavy source material: how do we determine that a person is worth life-saving medical interventions, especially when the public finances it? How much of their “original” body parts does a person have to lose before they’re no longer a person? Just how far should we go to save a life, even if we’re not sure that the outcome will be the same as us? What if those same lifesaving procedures could be used to prolong the life expectancy? How about if they double it? Triple it? Where is the point where you stop saving lives and start making “sins against nature”? I think the book deals with all these problems in a very open way, doing little to dictate and much more to provoke the reader into deciding for their self. The characters are well constructed, and the growth of Jenna’s emotions and her cognitive reasoning as she recovers from her accident and discovers more about herself is beautiful and seems as true-to-life as science fiction can be. The whole is an engaging read that will peak the interest of many readers, and after I finished the book I had to go out and get the sequel immediately. In all, a highly recommended read.