Sunday, February 19, 2012


Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin)
Released: January 24, 2012
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Series: Nightshade Trilogy
Source: Bought
Challenge: Speculative Romance

Calla has always welcomed war.

But now that the final battle is upon her, there's more at stake than fighting. There's saving Ren, even if it incurs Shay's wrath. There's keeping Ansel safe, even if he's been branded a traitor. There's proving herself as the pack's alpha, facing unnamable horrors, and ridding the world of the Keepers' magic once and for all. And then there's deciding what to do when the war ends. If Calla makes it out alive, that is.
To start with, I'll recap what I thought about the first two books. Nightshade was breathtaking - so awesome, with nail-biting moments and real passionate romance, and such real landscaping that I actually felt like I was in the story. Wolfsbane was solid - good info-giving and setting up for the final world-ending battle.

So for this one, Bloodrose, I was somewhat disappointed. The reality of the relationships was lacking a bit, as Calla was suddenly not struggling to deal with Ren's love for her while she loves Shay, but actually embracing the fact that she loves both boys! I don't know, it just didn't speak to me.

And the pacing of the book was somewhat off. At first, the expeditions to get the Elemental Cross go by really quickly, one after the other, with hardly any set-up between each one. But during the final battle, time slooooowsss down, and the group spends way too much time in lighthearted banter when others are busy losing their lives diverting attention from them. It made me mad at the characters, and I lost some respect for them.

So not the greatest end to an awesome beginning. Oh well.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Grave Witch

Author: Kalayna Price
Publisher: ROC (Penguin)
Released: October 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Mystery/Romance
Series: Alex Craft
Source: Library
Challenges: Witchy Books, Mystery & Suspense, Speculative Romance

As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she's on good terms with Death himself - who happens to look fantastic in jeans - nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high-profile murder when she's attacked by the "shade" she's raising, which should be impossible. To top off her day, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, but Death saves her. Guess he likes having her around...

To solve this case, Alex will have to team up with tough homicide detective Falin Andrews. Falin seems to be hiding something - though it's certainly not his dislike of Alex. But Alex knows she needs his help to navigate the tangled webs of mortal and paranormal politics, and to track down a killer who wields a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life...and her soul.
A sassy heroine, a gripping mystery, a heartthrob of a love interest - Grave Witch has all the perfection of every essential element! I loved Alex from the first pages, where her attitude and snarkiness shows through in all its glory. Why do I love snarky heroines? Eve Dallas of the In Death series, now Alex - the more sarcastic and cynical they are the more I like them. Huh. I'll have to puzzle that one out. Anyway, Alex is tough but deep down vulnerable, and I love that about her. It sets things up for later on in the book, when Falin gets under her guard and such sweet scenes result from it. Very briefly, because obviously Alex can't change that easily - and I'm looking forward to seeing how she does in Grave Dance.

I really love the world-building that Kalayna does, seemingly effortlessly. Every little detail matches up to the rest, and each detail is important to the plot and development of the story. It feels like this world is organic - it just grew, and Kalayna is simply reporting on what she observed growing. It's brilliant how the magic has all these complicated rules, but with virtually no explanations given, we can understand exactly how it all works and what effects each new bit of magic will have.

The two threads of the story - the mystery and the romance - are perfect. The mystery is all nail-biting suspense, as Alex gets in more and more danger even as she gets closer to finding out the answer, culminating in a scene where I literally was at the edge of my chair, holding my breath as it played out. And the romance, as I explained before, fits Alex's personality perfectly, and having a strong and silent - well, almost silent - leading man adds a kick of excitement to the whole thing. I like how the romance didn't interrupt the mystery and actually helped it along in some ways.

I can't wait to read Grave Dance now, because though the whole mystery is tied up in this book, there's more about Falin, about Death, about Alex's family that needs to be answered, and Kalayna leaves us with a bit of bait at the end to tempt us along to the next installment of Alex's wild investigations.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Under the Never Sky

Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: Harper
Released: January 2012
Genre: YA Dystopian
Series: Yes, trilogy
Author's Blog:
Source: Library
Challenge: YA Debut Author, Dystopia

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland - known as the Death Shop - are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild - a savage - and her only hope of staying alive.

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile - everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too: she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
I couldn't help but compare this book to the other dystopian books I've been reading lately - books like Delirium and Crossed/Matched,  as well as the older book The Line. I noticed that the thing these books have in common is that there's an insular, protected realm, and then the "outside" where all the rules and regulations of the new society don't operate.

The difference between this book and the others is that here, the new society is not based on a totalitarian government, with oppressive rules in the guise of ensuring safety for all its inhabitants. Instead, what Under the Never Sky explores is the choice between complete safety at the expense of feeling anything real, or the chance to feel real pleasure and pain at the expense of comfort and certainty. I think Veronica deals with the issue brilliantly. Having the Outsiders have heightened senses is an added bonus to it! The way Aria discovers real feeling, both good and bad, and the way she keeps comparing things to the way they are in the Realms, really does raise questions about which one is better. And to be quite honest, I'm not sure that's answered in this first book.

But part of the reason I think it's not answered is that I feel like Veronica lost a bit of the focus at the end of the book. All along, seeing Aria's and Perry's feelings, both for each other and separate from each other, made me think about this concept. But the way the book ends and sets itself up for the sequel let me down, as it turned from a philosophical question to simply a - good - action and adventure story. I felt like the last bit was tacked on only to give momentum for continuing the story in the second book.

I also thought that we didn't get to see enough of Aria's world before she was taken away from it. I didn't understand a lot of the things about the way the Pod worked, and while it didn't actually detract from the story, it did leave me with a niggling feeling of "but why? and how?"

Leaving that aside, I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching Perry and Aria's relationship unfold. They're both such distinct characters, so different from each other but so much the same at the same time, that it was really interesting to see them spar, wary of each other at first and then slowly growing to like each other while resisting it with all they have!

So my opinion of the book on the whole: The beginning and the end are a throwaway for me. The middle swept me up in the wave of the story and kept me enthralled. I'm definitely going to look out for the second book because I do want to spend more time with Aria and Perry!