Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Devil in the Corner

Penniless, and escaping the horrors of life as a governess to brutal households, Maud seeks refuge with the cousin-by-marriage she never knew. But Juliana quashes Maud's emerging friendships with the staff and locals - especially John, the artist commissioned to restore the sinister Doom in the local church. John, however, is smitten with Maud and makes every effort to woo her.

Maud, isolated and thwarted at every turn, continues to take the laudanum which was her only solace in London. Soon she becomes dependent on the drug - so is this the cause of her fresh anxieties? Or is someone - or something - plotting her demise?

Is the devil in the corner of the Doom a reality, or a figment of her imagination?
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3 Stars...
The cover makes this book seem so atmospheric and I felt that the gothic mystery would hit the spot.  Elliott did a wonderful job of constructing the proper ambiance and backdrop for the story.  The creepy manor with the small village nearby was a perfect setting to welcome the penniless former governess with dark secrets.  I had a huge issue with the pacing of the novel.  It seemed to drag on and on, with no progress made.  For a fair bit of the middle I wasn't entirely sure what the mystery I was supposed to be interested in even was, despite feeling like something should have been there.  The ending moved super quickly and packed more twists and turns into 50 pages than the previous 200.  Had the book been more evenly paced or given some sort of amazing twist I would have enjoyed it more.

The odd courtship between Maud and John didn't fascinate me or propel the story enough.  It seemed like Elliott was trying to make it a central focus, but without really investing in action or forward momentum.  John isn't a particularly well developed character; all we really learn about him is that he's a painter with feelings for Maud.  Any other depths are simply missing with him.  Maud was better, although I wish we could have learned more about her past.  Any information comes in half-remembered bits and pieces, but added so much to her character.  It made her actions more reasonable and generally made her a more sympathetic heroine.

If you're super into gothic type novels then this might be worth your while.  There were parts of the book that I really enjoyed, but the lack of plot for the length really brought it down in my opinion.  However, the end wrapped things up nicely and finally gave me the development I was looking for.
Book from Publisher

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

from goodreads.com

Beth says 4.5 Stars...
I didn't actually know what this book was about when I borrowed it, but figured that the new Lauren Oliver would have to be pretty good.  It was so far from my expectations since it contained no overt supernatural elements.  However, I found the novel compulsively readable.  I just couldn't put it down and kept finding excuses to read a couple more pages.  Objectively, the book isn't that fantastic and has some obvious issues.  The plot moves really fast making it a serious page-turner, but there are some major holes.  There's no way that something like Panic could actually exist in real life; someone would put a stop to it.  However, Oliver writes the atmosphere of a dead-end small town perfectly.  Having grown up in the middle of nowhere, I completely understand the cycle that keeps people locked into a place like that.  Many of the descriptions were spot on and really drew me in.

The characters felt like real people and behaved like teens stuck in a small town with nothing to do.  Heather and Dodge both were interesting, but didn't grow terribly much over the course of the novel.  I'm actually okay with that because the focus was primarily on the plot rather than internal character conflict.  Although there certainly were places for growth, Oliver didn't take advantage of them.  The secondary characters were quite nice and had unexpected subtleties.  I did like the alternating focus of the chapters that gave glimpses into the lives of both Dodge and Heather.

This book is perfect for a late night binge-reading session.  It's one that I loved unreasonably and thought was a ton of fun.  Grab this if you're waiting for summer, feeling the small town blues, or just want a book that explores fear without being too deep.
book from library

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stolen Songbird

Publication April 1, 2014

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 4.5 Stars...
First of all, I absolutely love this cover.  It's all manner of pretty and has a slightly odd, but appealing, Emerald City vibe.  Although I understand where the title comes from, I think there might have been something better (I don't quite know what, though).  Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel.  I'm a sucker for some epic political intrigue and Stolen Songbird had it in abundance.  It takes a while to get into the main action, so don't be discouraged by the first few chapters!  Most of the characters have hidden motives and all sorts of secrets are slowly revealed throughout the book.  Once things got going I couldn't put the book down.  It turned into one of those nights where I played the "just one more chapter game" until I finished the novel.  I'm super excited this is a series because so much more can be done.  For instance, the world-building outside of Trollus is basically non-existent.  Since a majority of the book is confined to the troll world is isn't too big of an issue, but it leaves opportunity for expansion.  Plus, I have questions about the human society that I want answered!

Cécile is a decent heroine.  She's a mix of cautious and impulsive, sometimes making rash decisions with unfortunate consequences, but at others is quite rational.  What I did really like was that she grew during the story.  As her knowledge of her role in Trollus increases, so do her informed actions.  I definitely liked the trolls much more.  The complex web of court relations delighted me.  Figuring out who each character was loyal to provided tons of interest.  Not only that, but all of the characters had to be multi-layered because surface actions and motivations were constantly suspect.  Trolls aren't a particularly common topic in YA right now and I enjoyed reading something a bit different!  These trolls can be best described as a mixture of court Fae and the typical troll legends.  I appreciated the intelligence of the trolls because it made everything so much more interesting.

This is a wonderful start to a new series.  I can't wait to see what Jensen does next with this world and these characters.  There's so much more to explore and I'm excited!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Jaded Stone

In Cornerstone, Valencia Roth died to protect her daughter. In Jaded Stone, she'll live for her.

Twenty years before the events of Cornerstone, Valencia Roth is the Crown Princess of Sheas, as lonely as she is privileged. She wants for nothing, except a clear path toward peace for her land. She’s always known personal happiness might not be in The Three’s plan for her. As the future ruler of Sheas, and a Cornerstone, her life belongs to her people.

But when Valencia meets the charming Reid Hendel, she dares to believe love could be within her reach. That is, if they can both survive long enough for it to blossom. A new threat prowls the land, and she’s their primary target. Armed with stubborn pride and all the resources of Sheas, she fears nothing—until her brother leads her intended directly into the fray and at least one of them doesn’t return.

Burdened with grief, Valencia must carve her own path forward. From the forge of chaos, a new era will be born.

from goodreads.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
I need to come clean and say that I haven't read the rest of this series, but since it's a prequel I figured it wouldn't matter too terribly much (plus the cover is all sorts of awesome).  Although I might have missed some details, Easter eggs, or intricate plotting, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.  I'm hoping there was more information about the Stones and the history of the three kingdoms in the other novels, because I felt it was lacking in this book.  The mysterious curses and prophecies were never really explained and that detracted a bit from the story.  I enjoyed the court politics that were at play because I'm a sucker for political intrigue coupled with magic.  I thought the book had a few pacing issues; the middle could have been compressed a bit and the final chapters would have worked well if they'd been expanded.  I did really like how the chapters started off with bits of character diaries; they gave nice insights and complimented the ongoing story.

Valenica was awesome.  Strong and determined, but still possessing flaws and the need for growth.  As the book progressed Valencia learned more about her position in Sheas and did some major maturing.  The secondary characters weren't anything special, but it really was Valencia's book.  She definitively formed the center of the story and maintained her importance throughout.  Since I read it as an ebook I can't quite tell how long it was, but it felt short to me, which is another reason the secondary characters lacked significant subplots.  There was a significant romance component, which mixed nicely with Valencia's struggles over duty to country versus individual desire.

This was a lovely little read.  I will be on the look out for the other books in the series.  If you want a light fantasy with a hint of darkness this is for you.  Plus, there are already more books out if you can't get enough!
ebook from publisher

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Replacement

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
Sometimes the mood strikes for a certain type of book and I recently found myself wanting something a little creepy.  This certainly fit the bill; just look at the cover.  I found parts of the plot quite surprising, though.  For instance, there was a fair bit of high school drama that ran throughout the novel.  Since Mackie is concerned with his place in both worlds that coexist in Gentry his identity plays a central role in the plot and the school bits play into that.  I didn't love that particular aspect of the book, because the creepy world underneath the slag heap was much more interesting than a high school party.  The contrast between the underground and general human world proved to be a major and well-written tension woven throughout the book.  I found the double standard acceptance of the paranormal in Gentry absolutely fascinating.  Although everyone pretends that things are completely normal, they still subscribe to old beliefs in secret.  It added a layer of depth and denial to the community.  Although it wasn't as fast paced as it could have been, there's plenty to keep you turning the pages.

I happen to be easily annoyed when it comes to protagonists struggling with their identity, especially if it manifests in typical high school ways.  While I understand how incredibly important Mackie coming to terms with where he belongs is to the book, it doesn't mean that I didn't find it a little irritating.  It could have been much worse because at least this time there was a reason.  The real stars of the book were the delightfully unsettling creatures.  They could perhaps be best characterized as faeries, but that distinction never gets used in the book.  They're all distinct and creepy, but in a very natural way.  They don't seem to be created for shock factor or to be different.  I don't want to give too much away, but the scenes involving the otherworldly denizens were some of my favorites.

This is a great read when you're in the mood for something dark, atmospheric, and more than a bit different.  I might not recommend reading it at night while home alone; it's best done in daylight.
book from library