Tag Archives: paranormal romance

Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Yes. It’s a book about mermaids. (Okay, Syrena.) I know what you’re thinking. Or at least, I know what my close friends are thinking which is probably along the lines of, “Dear god, this is going to be like Wings and the faeries isn’t it?” Possibly they’re already planning an intervention.

The truth is, I didn’t expect to love to Of Poseidon by Anna Banks. I figured it’d be a short and sweet paranormal romance that would be fun if I could just accept mer people as a premise. And it’s not easy. I don’t know why I have no issue with demons or vampires or wizards but mermaids cross some line beyond my suspension of disbelief. Except that Banks pulls it off. Beautifully, if I may say so. But it’s not only the world building or Syrena ability to blend (effectively camouflage in the water, like an octopus). No. It’s that Banks is freaking hilarious. She’s great at telling a story, developing characters, and all of that good stuff, but her narration had me from page 2.

For example, we meet Emma, the protagonist, at a beach in Florida where she’s just run face-first into a stranger who happens to be a hot teenage guy (Galen, whom we later learn is a Syrena). Emma is mentally running through her options of what to do since she’s basically been standing there like an idiot against him for a very long, awkward moment:

“Option 2: Pretend I’ve fainted. Go limp and everything. Drool, even. But I know this won’t work because my eyes flutter too much to fake it, and besides, people don’t blush while unconscious.
Option 3: Pray for a lightning bolt.”

Here’s the other thing that basically blows my mind about this book: it has so much in common with your standard paranormal romance–no, scratch that. It has so much in common with Twilight--that if I’d ticked off those points, you’d probably groan and put it on your shelf of lost causes. But it works. Because unlike so many other similar premises, this Girl-Discovers-She’s-Special story is built on characters that feel real and behave like sane, normal people. Emma doesn’t stay out of the water when Galen tells her to with vague comments about keeping her safe. And it’s not because she’s needlessly defiant; it’s because he doesn’t give her real reasons and he’s not the boss of her. Emma is awesome.

It also does that thing that usually annoys me where it’s first person for one character and then third person for another. I don’t know why Banks did that, since I’m sure she’s talented enough to make them sound different. Heck, they do. Galen’s narration is his own, even though he’s stuck in 3rd person. But again, it works. Maybe Banks sold her soul to the Magic Narration Fairy.

So yes. This is a novel about mer-people, where one of them goes to high school in human form(!) His twin sister is bratty and suspicious and his best friend Toraf is your standard nice guy. They have to figure out how not-human Emma is. There are some Syrena politics at play(!), and there’s even, hand to god, a “This Love is Complicated By Lack of Communication” plot line between Emma and Galen(!).

And still, still it’s an awesome book. I care about the cast, it’s laugh-out-loud funny and though I think it’s a series, the end is satisfying.

Recommended for: People who want a fun and yet suspenseful paranormal romance. People looking for an entertaining and hilarious quick read. People who like other mermaid/merpeople books.

Review: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare coverTo follow from Tori’s previous review of Clockwork Angel, I have decided to review Clockwork Prince. I enjoy Cassandra Clare’s books as a whole, but The Infernal Devices have captivated me in a way decidedly different to The Mortal Instruments series. In a lot of ways, I find The Infernal Devices easier to relate to. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s very loosely based off Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, or because of the amazing steampunk elements that Cassandra Clare has included, or the connections that her characters have with one another…but whatever it is, it’s brilliant.

In the second book of the trilogy, Tessa remains at the Institute in London in the aftermath of her last encounter with the Magister. The challenges up ahead don’t look promising, with Charlotte and Henry’s position at the Institute placed in jeopardy and someone betraying them from the inside to the Magister, putting Tessa and those that she has grown to care for in danger. A distance has forced itself between her and Will after the events of Clockwork Angel, and she has slowly but surely grown much closer to Jem. Jem, incidentally, already charming and a favourite of mine, is absolutely wonderful in Clockwork Prince. Cassandra Clare really explores the shades of his character well, and some of his interactions with Tessa are absolutely breath-taking.

Tessa herself is really coming into her own and becoming far more sure of herself in terms of what she can say and do, growing into what she’s become and what she may yet grow to be. She is learning to wield her ability to Change into another person (shape-shifting), and she is also displaying willingness to fight against adversity. Tessa has lost her family and even parts of her own identity to get to where she is in Clockwork Prince. To possess the desire to fight against what besets her; despite her own uncertainty about her past and her future, combined with the tangle of her feelings for two very different boys is no mean feat. It’s a pleasure to behold her growth and spell-binding to read. I think Tessa is one of my favourite heroines of recent YA literature; because she is very unique in that she manages to think about what’s happening around her, without being utterly self-centred and considering only how it impacts her. Her exchanges with Jem are lovely and show something wonderful developing between them. Her scenes with Will are incredibly emotionally charged, because everything that he has done previously lies between them and still doesn’t manage to change how they very obviously feel towards one another.

There are some brilliant one-liners from Cassandra Clare as always, but my particular favourite is this one:

“Trains are great dirty smoky things,” said Will. “You won’t like it.”
Tessa was unmoved. “I won’t know if I like it until I try it, will I?”
“I’ve never swum naked in the Thames before, but I know I wouldn’t like it.”
“But think how entertaining for sightseers,” said Tessa, and she saw Jem duck his head to hide the quick flash of his grin.”

That little moment between those three really sums up what I love about their interactions as a whole. However, even taking Tessa’s indomitable nature into account and little gems like the above, the real star of this book is the scenes between Will Herondale and Magnus Bane. Not only does the reader get to see another side to Will, one that is broken and desperate and afraid, we also begin to get to know Magnus on a deeper level. Bearing in mind that Magnus is also in The Mortal Instruments series a century later, you really begin to get a grasp of how much loss Magnus has had to witness and experience, due to being a warlock. Whether it’s personal or watching someone else suffer, it isn’t easy for Magnus to observe and do nothing. Even when told that he can’t save everything and everyone, he responds, “One will do.” That really says a lot about Magnus as a character, and it’s a reason that he’s become one of my favourites in both series. Since warlocks are immortal, Magnus’ experiences also really give you a feel for what Tessa might be up against in the future. Additionally, I really liked seeing a more human side of Will, and this book fully explains his motivations and a lot of his general behaviour up until this point. It was a relief as a reader to have the explanation for that at last. I won’t spoil that part for anyone who hasn’t read, but let’s just say that if you don’t heave the same sigh of relief and sympathy? I’ll be very surprised.

Right, this next bit will contain spoilers. I’m placing it under a more tag, but if you come to this post direct, here is your warning! For those of you who close here, I will be waiting with breathless expectation for Clockwork Princess, though it makes me very sad to think that it will be the last book in this series. I can’t recommend this or Clockwork Angel enough.  Continue reading

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

This is less a review and more of an epic fangirl flail, because you guys, I have it bad. And not just for the snarky boy, Will, who is charming and beautiful but pushes everyone away. Of course, let’s face it, he had me at his line about how the person rescuing you is never wrong, “even if he says the sky is purple and made of hedgehogs”. HOLY BOOK CRUSH. But I love everyone, from Jem, to Jessie, from Henry to Tessa. 

Clockwork Angel is the first book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, which takes place in the same Shadow Hunter world as her Mortal Instruments series. This is set a hundred or so years sooner and has some cool steampunk like elements, including an evil plot with clockwork automatons.

After Tessa Gray’s aunt dies, her brother sends her a steamer ship ticket across the Atlantic to join him in England. But when she arrives, she’s taken by two women called the Dark Sisters, who reveal to her that she has a very special power – she can shapeshift into anyone after holding something that belongs to them. Of course, they torture and abuse her and plan to marry her off to some mysterious Magister, at least until Will comes along to the rescue. Then she get caught up in the world of the Shadow Hunters, demon-fighters descended from angels, and a plot to destroy them.

The world building is immersive and vast, on par with people like Scott Lynch and Seanan McGuire. And that’s nothing compared to Clare’s detailed and incredible character creation. Everyone, even the minor characters, are fleshed out into real people, and it’s easy to imagine Clare could tell you their life stories if you asked. No one is one-dimensional. And even the most tragic of circumstances, like Jem’s, who is always sick, feel real and not forced.

Tessa herself is likable, smart, witty, and tough. She starts to rescue herself before Will interrupts and is perfectly capable of being clear-headed in sticky situations. And while she tries to determine her feelings for Will, who is hot and cold, she doesn’t spend pages and pages pining for him. It’s not annoying, is what I’m saying, when so often it can be in paranormal romance. Tessa is also fond of books but unlike, say, Bella Swan, she’s also constantly quoting from them, and trading snippets of poetry with Will, who pretends to think it’s all sentimental nonsense.

And let me declare right here, right now: Magnus Bane is basically amazing. He’s a flashy bastard but he rocks so hard.

Characters and world-building aside, the story is incredibly crafted. It barely has a dull moment. There’s action, mystery, and crazy plot twists that I didn’t see coming. I’ve already started the second book and I cannot get enough of it. So crap. I guess I’m a Shadow Hunter fan after all. My only complaint is that I wish I’d thought of it first.

Recommended for: People who like October Daye and Harry Dresden will find this similar but different enough that it’s still new.

Audiobook Review: Firelight by Sophie Jordan

I don’t tend to like to shape-shifters*. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t scratch my itch, you know? Werewolves? Eh. Can take ’em or leave ’em, but I don’t care for the “pack mentality” that often happens. However, my knowledge of dragons is based on medieval stuff and the Slayers anime, and let’s face it, I love Filla to pieces.

So let’s talk about dragons–err… draki, which are the evolutionary descendants of dragons in Sophie Jordan’s Firelight. Draki live alone in sucluded and hidden villages in misty, forested mountains. They live in groups called “prides” (like lions). Our protagonist is Jacinda, her pride’s only fire-breather in hundreds of years. But her twin sister, Tamra, never “manifests” (turns into draki form).

Jacinda is fond of sneaking out and flying during the day, which is against the rules because someone might see them. Someone does, and naturally it’s a pack of draki-hunters. Miracle of miracles, one of them is a handsome boy her age who saves her ass by leading the others away from her. Though she survived, the stunt makes her mother decide it’s too dangerous in the pride. She packs them up and moves them to a small desert city that very night.

In the new city, of course the hunter boy, Will, is in her class at school. Of course he is. Which is fine. Coincidences happen, I can accept that. Jacinda falls madly in love him, almost on sight, because something about him draws her to him, and she knows he’s different. That’s what romance in high school is like, really, so points for that. Her sister Tamra is thrilled to be away from the pride since she was always an outcast, as is their mother who only remained for her (now dead) husband. Jacinda hates it, except for the part about being near Will. Who is from a family of hunters that will kill her and wallpaper their house with her skin if they find out.

This book is 1 part Star-Crossed Lovers, 1 Part Teen Angst At Mom, 1 Part Magic and Kissing, with a fair amount of teen angst just because she is a teen, a lot of whining, pining, and indecision. I enjoyed it (thanks in part to the narration by Therese Plummer, who did a fantastic job) but I have a lot of confusing ~feelings~. Much like Jacinda.

Continue reading

Review: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

There’s something to be said for books that take originality and creativity to new levels. In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor does just that through incredible world-building and characterization.

Karou is a seventeen year old girl who goes to an art school in Prague. She has blue hair and a sketchbook that’s full of insane creatures and stories that are famous among her peers. She draws all kinds of chimaera, like the snake-humanoid Issa, who guards the door that serves at the gateway to Brimstone’s workshop. And the parrot-beaked cook Yasri. Everyone thinks she’s got a wild imagination, but Karou is drawing the truth. Raised by these “monsters,” Karou has learned that it’s way easier to tell the truth with a wry smile than to lie.

Brimstone is the Wish Monger and trades wishes for teeth of all varieties and species. Karou runs errands for him (mostly collecting teeth from auctions and hunters and people who dig them out of graves). She grew up in the workshop and the monsters are her family, but she has no idea what Brimstone uses the teeth for. In the human world, Karou has her best friend Zuzana, a fellow artist who comes from a long line of puppeteers. Zuzana (the tiny violent one) is bitingly sarcastic (so is Karou) and their conversations are often hilarious. Massive points for the characterization in the book. Seriously, massive.

I like that the “demons” are not necessarily bad guys. The dialogue is perfectly crafted and reads like real conversations people have and more importantly, that teenagers have. The descriptions of Prague are incredible and make me want to go there tomorrow.

But really the novel’s biggest success is its creativity. The first half of the book–where Karou runs errands and tries to learn Brimstone’s secrets–is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Nothing. So for that alone, it’s something you should pick up. Originality abounds in the young adult genre, and I’m not saying it doesn’t, but the world Taylor has crafted here is not a riff or new take on something. It’s just new.

Of course, the second half of the book–while still good, don’t get me wrong–didn’t keep me as engaged as the first half. I have no idea why not though I suspect a lot of it became information dumping to explain the past. Necessary and mostly well done, but there were times I wanted to hit a fast forward button. I didn’t really like Akiva, although I could at least see why Karou did, especially by the end. I thought the ending was surprising and the explanations for Karou’s early questions are smart. I did have trouble picturing some of the chimaera creatures, but that’s because there were so many descriptions I couldn’t keep them all straight. And that’s my own failing, not the books.

Recommended if: you cannot stand to read another dystopia or vampire novel and want something totally different. You like blue-haired sarcastic girls and stellar world building.

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

It’s going to sound weird for me say, given that I’ve been reading scores of faerie books lately, but I’ve always found the idea of angels a little campy and unappealing (Crowley and his bromance with Aziraphale aside). Maybe because unlike demons and vampires that can exist independently of deities, angels are connected to Abraham’s god. My ability to suspend disbelief for faeries, wizards, and vampires doesn’t generally extend to the Bible’s characters. (Again, Good Omens is the exception to the rule.)

So I was surprised at how quickly I took to Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. I didn’t just tolerate it–I was sold. All in. Happy to accompany Clara on her adventure and journey of self-discovery. Clara is part angel–called an Angelblood–but she’s also sarcastic, smart, witty, funny, and she’s happy to draw lampshades where they’re needed. She’s my favorite recent YA protagonist because while she makes mistakes and can be selfish, she’s not insufferably annoying. She’s likable.

Unearthly is the story of Clara Gardner, who’s a quarter angel. All Angelbloods, at some point in their lives, are given visions or dreams that show them their Purpose with a capital P. Clara’s involves saving a boy her age from a forest fire in Wyoming. Her mom, who is half angel–therefore subverting tropes about the family being in the dark; Clara’s brother Jeffery has angel powers too–packs them up and moves them to a small town where Clara will need to be for her Purpose.

The boy she’s supposed to save is the popular and devastatingly handsome Christian Prescott, and the irony that angel has been sent to save a boy named Christian is not lost on Clara. (That is the sort of detail that would tick me off if unacknowledged). While waiting for the moment to come, she makes friends with a loner goth girl, Angela, and a friendly girl named Wendy, who has a twin brother, Tucker. Tucker is kind of a pain in the ass because, as Wendy puts it, he’s still mentally in elementary school. By which she means–hint, hint–he probably likes Clara.

Clara tries to focus on her Purpose. She attempts to get to know Christian and figure out specifically where and when she will save him, like in her vision. All the while, she tries to learn more about angels from her mom, who won’t say much, and a friend who’s also Angelblood (guess who. Go on, guess!)

The story could be totally corny and the romance absurd and forced. But instead, it’s–god help me–believable. Clara is so normal and down to earth (metaphorically speaking). So’s her brother, and so are all of her friends and classmates. Normally I don’t care for reading about magical girls’ high school days, but Hand makes it interesting.

The book keeps asking questions, while answering enough of them as it goes on that they don’t stack up on top of each other, but you still want to learn more. It’s very skillfully done. Even when the book ends, wrapping up the main plot, it concludes enough that could you stop there, but keeps enough things uncertain that there’s room for further books. I will definitely be picking up the sequel.

OH! OH! I had to edit this to add: I seriously love how Hand subverts common paranormal romance tropes. Clara is only a red-head because her mom gave her a bad dye job. There is no love triangle, just a guy who’s into her and one who isn’t. Mom is not only in on the supernatural, she’s giving the lessons. And the girl knows her father (who lives in NYC, but still, he buys her a car). I just had to point out that I appreciated it.

Recommended if: you like realistic paranormal romance (is that an oxymoron?) and funny first person narration.

YA Book Proposals (Based On Current Trends)

These are, of course, guaranteed* to be bestselling mega hits that will spawn movies and tee shirts. And it’s meant to be a bit of parody of some of the trends and popular ideas shown in YA. It’s supposed to be funny. Call it affectionate snark. And hey, if you’re a book publisher or an agent, and any of these catches your eye as something you want to sell, I am not above writing them seriously and cashing the check. Really**. No, really. E-mail me.

*Assuming you put the money into marketing and generating buzz.
**I have no shame. Ask my friends.

She loves to read. Her favorite book is.. uh... Romeo and Juliet. Because that's not cliched. Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Title: Denial – A Mummy Love Story
Genre:
Paranormal Romance
Pitch: Let’s face it, vampires are everywhere. Heck, even zombies are getting their own romance novels now. But where are the mummies? No where, yet, which is why Denial will be a hit!

Synopsis: Henry is a mummy, an ancient and immortal creature, who was too beautiful for his time. He was wrapped up and put into a tomb to wait until the day his prophecy would come true and he would be a great, gorgeous king. As he slept, he was toured around the world in museums, until a curator accidentally awoke him one night. After hearing his story, the curator swept him away to the United States, to the dry air of Phoenix, Arizona, where she became his forged legal guardian in an attempt to let him live a normal life.

Forever a teenager, Henry goes to high school posing as a burn victim, but the bandages don’t cover up his gorgeous golden eyes. There, he meets Grace Papillion, a girl who is average and plain in every way. She catches Henry’s attention by being so nice to him. Henry wants to be with her. To remove his bandages and show the world what a beautiful immortal thing he is. But her father is an archeologist and he has to resist the urge to curse her and her family for digging up the remains of the dead.

Cover Suggestion: A flower petal with a scarab crawling on it. Black base. Pretty swirly font.
Will be a hit with:
fans of Twilight and their moms.

 (Props where they’re due: this one was a group concept with a few coworkers, on a very slow day. Thanks to Hannah, Jon, and Liam for fleshing out this insanity.)

Apparently in this world, the nurses and doctors are happy knowing they didn't choose. Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Title: Different (alternative tiles: “Special” “Immune” “The Choice”)
Genre: Dystopian Future
Pitch: Dystopias are the new vampires, am I right?

Synopsis: Hundreds of years in the future, the nation Beautopia, everyone is happy because they get to choose their own life and everything works out in the best interests of The Republic. At the age of 17, everyone is brought into the “Future Success Hall” for “Life Choices Day.” In theory, it’s a day where options will be explained and then each person will make a series of choices: who they will marry, where they will live, what career they’ll embark on, and how many children (if any) they will have.

In actuality, it’s a lab that tests their DNA, genetics, and weighs that against their potential, which is derived from academic performance and extracurricular activities. Then each person is given a shot of a drug meant to make them forget the tests and given a list that outlines their futures. They read this list into a camera, smiling on the drug, saying, “I choose to marry [assigned spouse], I choose to work in [assigned field], I want to live in [assigned city] and have [assigned number] children.” But our protagonist, Amanda, is immune to the drug. Panicked, she pretends not to be and reads the list but none of it is what she wants! And if she’s immune, there must be other people out there who are unhappy and pretending.

Should Amanda go along with The Republic and live the life they want her to have? Or should she find a way to get the life she wants, a life of her own choice?

Suggested Cover: Something with glass breaking, maybe a broken syringe with a girl in the background running away.
Will Be a Hit With:
Fans of Matched, Divergent, Delirium, Uglies, etc. Fans of The Hunger Games will find it lackluster and want more bows and arrows.

 

No one can know my perfect skin isn't from Neutrogena! Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Title: Glitter Blood (alternatively, “Horns,” “Unicorn Blood,” “Sparkle Veins”)
Genre: Normal High School Girl is actually special magical creature, ie, Paranormal Romance
Pitch: Everyone wants to find out they’re special. And part of a nearly extinct race. Faeries have been done, but what about unicorns? Am I right?

Synopsis: Larissa Stephens was adopted as an infant. Her mother, Jena, is an artist who paints fantastical paintings and her father, John, is  history teacher at the local university. Larissa loves her parents but has always felt a little weird. She has perfect skin, she heals quickly when injured, and more, she can heal people with her touch, a power she’s kept hidden from everyone but her parents.

At the age of 15, a young man named Coren arrives at her door. He’s handsome with a mane of thick white hair and stunning blue eyes. And he bows and calls Larissa “princess.” It turns out, Larissa is the last unicorn princess, the remaining royalty of a hunted and dying race. She was sent away as a baby to keep her safe, but now unicorn hunters have discovered she’s been sent to live with humans, and they’re after her healing blood. Besides, it’s time for her to take the throne and lead her people to a promised land in a corner of the Faerie World. But Larissa doesn’t want to leave her mortal parents or her mortal life. And she’s not sure about her feelings for Coren, nor her feelings for classmate and best friend Jake.

Suggested Cover: Something pretty, with a sparkle font.
Will be a hit with:
People who like stories about girls finding out they’re magical, like Wings, and fans of paranormal love triangles.

Actually, you know what, these last two are pretty awesome. Any takers? I’ll just be waiting by my inbox for offers from agents and publishers.