Saturday, September 13, 2014

REVIEW: Faerie Tales from the White Forest Omnibus by Danika Dinsmore

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

This omnibus contains the first three books of the Faerie Tales from the White Forest series: Brigitta of the White Forest, The Ruins of Noe, and Ondelle of Grioth. I am reviewing each book separately, and the star rating above is an average of the three.

Brigitta of the White Forest (Book 1) - 6 stars
Brigitta embarks on a bold journey to save her realm from the mysterious curse that has turned all the other faeries to stone. Accompanied by her sister Himalette, the only other who was spared the curse, the two leave the protection of the White Forest to seek help from a faerie banished to Dead Mountain long ago. What ensues is a grand adventure filled with menacing beasts and ominous danger. But with the help of some unlikely allies, the two might just be able to save the day.

The author does a lot of world building in this first volume, and thoughtfully included a lexicon at the end to further elaborate on the intricate details of this magical realm. It's indeed written with a young adult audience in mind, though learning the complexities of an entirely new world may be a bit intimidating to less experienced young readers.

One thing that disappointed me slightly is that I never fully connected with the main characters, even though I liked them well enough. While the author was wonderfully detailed in constructing this beautiful faerie realm, I didn't feel that same depth extended to the characters. Instead I felt more like a comrade traveling alongside them, never really experiencing the wonder of the land through their eyes, or feeling what they felt. Lacking that, I lost a level of intimacy and immersion that I often experience with other fantasy novels. I saw an Amazon reviewer mention a similar sentiment and noted that Ms. Dinsmore comes from a background in script writing, which probably explains this somewhat. In any case, I'm hoping to see the author gain her stride in later volumes and let us live this magical world more fully through her characters.

The Ruins of Noe (Book 2) - 7 stars
The faeries of the White Forest have begun to lose touch with the Ancients—baby faerie are born with eyes of crystal white, and the spirits of the deceased are no longer being dispersed. An ancient prophecy predicts these events, and foretells of the coming of a guiding light, which a single faery would call by name. And so it is that Brigitta recognizes the whisper light, which slipped through the protected perimeter surrounding their realm, and becomes the one referenced in the prophecy. Brigitta and High Priestess Ondelle travel to the valley of Noe, the original home of the Ancients, in order to seek the means to make the elemental balance right again.

I liked this second book a bit better than the first as there was more action and danger. I started to feel a bit more connected to Brigitta too, even though I still feel as if the author is writing from the outside looking in instead of living in her characters' skins more fully—she tends to describe actions and places with a lot of detail but really scrimps on the feelings of the characters. If that characteristic of her writing style was changed, I could easily see this series moving up into 8 or 9 star territory.

Ondelle of Grioth (Book 3) - 8 stars
Brigitta has absorbed HP Ondelle's air energy and is learning to control it, but finds she's now being bombarded with the former High Priestess's memories as well—memories that are speaking to her, leading her to a destiny she does not yet fully understand. With the whole of Faweh still not in balance, several daunting tasks remain if their way of life in the White Forest is to be preserved. With her destiny spread out before her, Brigitta is leading the charge.

I was left with a feeling of awe as I finished this third book in the series. On the one hand, the awe-inspiring wilderness of the terrain thru which Brigitta and her friends traveled—cold and beautiful at times, hot and deadly at others—and the vividness with which the author describes them, makes you feel as if you're traveling right there along with Brigitta and her friends. On the other hand, their most important journey wasn't fully complete at the close of this book, so I was also thinking, "awww must I really wait until Summer of 2015 for the next book to be released?"

I still didn't get into Brigitta's head as much as I'd have liked to, but by now I became used to being more of a traveling companion alongside her rather than feeling like I was seeing this world through her own eyes. The fact that I still give this book 8 stars (or 4 for Amazon/Goodreads) goes to show how great I think the rest of the story is here. I am sure that despite that single shortcoming (which I've pointed out above), this will be one of those books that stays with me for awhile. Certainly, I hope, long enough for me to remember everything by the time I pick up the 4th book next summer.

*I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Sunday, September 07, 2014

REVIEW: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Mead is a headstrong young lady living in Portland, Oregon in the year 1900. Women of this period were expected to be silent, docile, and nurturing, without a voice in government or much say at all as to what goes on around them. The suffrage movement is in full swing and Olivia stands firmly on that side of the camp, very much in favor of women's rights, and very much in opposition to her overly domineering father.

Dear old dad—the local dentist who strikes fear in the local community by inflicting pain on his patients with his myriad dental torture devices—decides to have the rebelliousness hypnotized right out of Olivia by Henri Reverie, the intriguing young hypnotist who's recently come to town. But what Henri gives to Olivia isn't necessarily quite what the doctor ordered. Instead he gives her the gift to see the world as it really is, and see people's true natures. Suddenly, Olivia is seeing things she shouldn't—ordinary people who now look like vampires or fiends, women in cages, brilliant lights like halos around certain individuals—and the visions she's having only make her all the more determined to speak her mind.

This was a fascinating story, vividly real and overflowing with the atmosphere of a significant turning point in American history. It really opened my eyes to the suffragist movement taking place during this time as it was a subject I knew very little about, and of which I remembered next to nothing from my high school and college studies. I've discovered that I do much better remembering historical facts—dates, times, location, important people—when said facts have a story surrounding them. Dull, dry facts taken in alone readily vacate my mind, while weaving a story around them allows them to linger. The mind is an amazing thing—the way certain brains only retain knowledge for the long term when taken in in a particular way. I've experienced this over and over again through various other novels that take place during significant periods in time—95% of them have actually been among the best books I've read, current title definitely included.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

REVIEW: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Mookie Pearl is a thug—a bald, hulking brute of a man that works for the Organization, the syndicated crime ring that runs New York City. He's a harsh, gruff ruffian, and at first, I thought I wouldn't care for his character at all, but as the story progressed and I got a bit more insight into his character, I found beneath his brash exterior an endearing and admirable set of morals that can't help but endear him to any reader, no matter how rough he is around the edges.

The Organization, in addition to defining territories and providing extra protection to the smaller above ground gangs, is also responsible for controlling the flow of Blue, a trendy, underground pigment-based drug that's tapped from the veins of prehistoric schist found in the Great Below. In addition to increased strength and endurance, Blue gives the user the ability to see the true form of the monsters living among us, hidden in human guise to anyone not riding the Blue Blazes.

The story moves swiftly as we traverse the deep underbelly of the Great Below, running across goblins, ghosts, wraiths, daemons, snake-men, and all sorts of other monsters. But what gets under Mookie's skin most of all is his own teenage daughter Nora—street name Persephone—who decides she wants a piece of the pie and is determined to undermine the Organization, taking her father down with them, while they're at their weakest.

This was an action-packed book, full of monsters, mobsters and plenty of cussing. It's the first in the Mookie Pearl series, with the follow-up, The Hellshound Bride, due to be released at the beginning of 2015. I'm already looking forward to it! :)

Friday, August 29, 2014

REVIEW: Love & Zombies by Eric Shapiro

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

The zombie apocalypse is upon us, the government is attempting to nip it in the bud by wiping out entire areas where full permeation has occurred. The smartest people—who use their brains and don't believe everything the government tells them—are convinced that's not the solution. But some of the more slimy yet enterprising degenerates of the business world are trying to make a buck off the zombie invasion. Zombie porn anyone?!

Enter Henry and his whacked out friend Sam, who head to Las Vegas on a job that will net them a huge sum of cash to retrieve a zombie from the vast desert north of the Vegas strip and deliver it to the Sharks Hotel & Casino. Voila! Everyone's happy! Only things don't go down quite that easy... and Henry is in for the run of his life!

Though it took me a little while to get into the writing style—the overuse of colons and abundance of section breaks—I found after awhile that the choppiness of it worked well here and actually added to the overall tone of the story.

At only 90 pages, this short book is full of non-stop action, at 100 mph! What you get for investing only an hour or two of your time is a campy, dark comedy with a highly original plot and lots of humorous tongue-in-cheek dialogue—and inner monologue. Oh and of course, hungry shambling zombies. :)

REVIEW: The Monsters in Your Neighborhood by Jesse Petersen

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The Monsters of New York City are back in this hilarious sequel to Club Monstrosity. It's been six months since the death of their friends—and the subsequent removal of the menace causing it—and war is brewing between the Monsters and the Van Helsing family. While most of the monsters just wish to remain anonymous and blend in with humanity, the Van Helsings are looking to expose them for the monsters they truly are.

When a YouTube video of an unknown Frankenstein Creature tearing the arm off a man in Central Park goes viral, Natalie realizes she's not the only child of the great doctor still walking the earth. But more importantly, she needs to find out who the Creature is and why he's acting so violently. While Twitter is trending with hashtags of #MonstersInNewYork and #KillTheMonsters, Natalie and the rest of the monsters must put their heads together to formulate a plan to take down their enemies once and for all!

This was a great read, even slightly better than Club Monstrosity in my opinion. Many of your favorite monsters from the first book are back, along with a few new ones such as the formidable Patrick the Cthulhu. Awesome-ness! And since the original characters were previously fleshed out in book one, we can really get under their skin and see what makes them tick here. A very fun read indeed... with plenty of LOL moments! I sincerely hope Ms Petersen will continue to feed us more tales of these quirky, entertaining monsters in future volumes to come.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

REVIEW: Club Monstrosity by Jesse Petersen

My Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Monsters are living among us—although these particular monsters prefer to remain in the shadows. After being hunted for centuries, the monsters of the Monstofelldosis Anonymous (MFD) support group meet several times a week to discuss any current problems or issues, chief among them being the best way to remain hidden and conceal their monster tendencies among the population of New York City.

Unfortunately, someone has managed to figure out who they are, and that someone is now hunting down the monsters of their little group one by one, killing them in the same way they were finished off in the book or movie that made them famous—Invisible Man Ellis hunted down by an angry mob, and Bob the Blob found locked in his freezer. Now, if they wish to remain among the "living", the remaining monsters—Natalie, "daughter" of Frankenstein, Alec the Wolf Man, Kai the Mummy, Drake the Vampire, and Linda the Swamp Thing—must discover who's behind these crazy murders before they become the next victim.

This was a funny and engaging read, fairly quick at just over 200 pages. Unlike most of the fantasy books I read, the monsters in this book keep their identities secret from the general population out of fear of persecution; monsters are not very well received in their society. The characters were all likeable for the most part and the story was fast-paced and entertaining. I look forward to reading the sequel, The Monsters in Your Neighborhood, next.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

REVIEW: Unmarked (The Legion, Book 2) by Kami Garcia

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! I'm so excited I was able to obtain an advanced reader's copy of the second book in this series, since it's not actually coming out in the US until the end of September.

Unmarked picks up nineteen days after Unbreakable left off. Kennedy is at the boarding school she was to have attended after her mother's death, and the torrential rains of hell are pouring down around her. She has unleashed an unspeakable evil on the world and lost the boy she loves, along with the rest of the Legion. But Kennedy knows things can't stop here! Once again reunited with the Legion, the group unearths even more shocking secrets about both the Legion and the Illuminati, and Kennedy's past is even more entwined than she could've possibly imagined. So why is she still Unmarked???

As with the previous book, the reader is thrown into a world that explodes around you, and the unsuspecting twists and turns will keep you glued to the pages from beginning to end. It's definitely best to have read Unbreakable first before picking this one up. Though the author does throw a few reminders in from time to time, it's not really enough to catch you up fully unless you've read the previous book first. So for complete world immersion, definitely go in order. :)

Overall, I'm extremely delighted with where this series is going. I didn't feel anywhere near the same level of elation after reading the first book of the Beautiful Creatures series, too much teenage love drama for me there to get overly excited about it. But in The Legion series, the balance between fantasy, adventure, intrigue, and just a sprinkling of romance is just the right balance for me. I hope everyone else enjoys the ride as much as I did.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

REVIEW: Unbreakable (The Legion, Book 1) by Kami Garcia

My Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Kennedy Waters has no idea where her life is heading after she comes home one night to find her mother dead in her bed. But when gorgeous twins, Lukas and Jared Lockheart break into her house one night nearly a month later to save her from a similar fate, a vengeance spirit trying to kill her in her sleep, they fill her in on all the mysterious details.

Kennedy doesn't want to believe her mother may have been part of a secret society called the Legion that battles demons... or that her death wasn't accidental at all. Though that last part's a little easier to swallow after her own brush with death. But the Legion??? Despite her reluctance, Kennedy joins forces with the twins and fellow Legion members Priest and Alara; they seem to be the only ones who understand what's going on, and can keep her safe while they attempt to track down the fiery demon causing all the havoc.

Unbreakable was a fast-paced exciting read with an engrossing story and engaging characters. Lukas and Jared reminded me of the sexy Sam and Dean Winchester of Supernatural, a TV series I very much enjoy, and the demon-hunting secret society fits into the Supernatural story line as well. But though the author may have borrowed some inspiration from Supernatural, Unbreakable is definitely a different enough story in all other aspects, strong enough to stand on it's own and definitely not feel like a rip-off.

It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger though so I'm very much looking forward to the next book in the series, Unmarked, due to be released September 11.