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Warped

Warped - K.W. Jeter 2 stars - great narration but terribly written with a ludicrous story. SKIP

Poison Study

Poison Study  - Maria V. Snyder Great but not as stellar during the re-read. 4 stars

Hex Hall

Hex Hall  - Rachel Hawkins I expected a lot from Hex Hall. I thought it would be funny and smart and a warm, cosy, awesome read. So maybe my expectations were set a bit too high... because while I enjoyed it? I am not sure I'll be running out to buy book 2.

Let's start off with the good things: I LOVED the boarding school aspect. Call it a symptom of a Harry Potter generation, but there is nothing in the world I enjoy more than the teenagers-dealing-with-important-things-at-school!trope. Hex Hall had plenty of that and, I admit, that was a blast.

While I would have liked to have stayed in class, Hex Hall was far more focussed more on the extracurricular elements of the school. There was a pretty good mystery keeping the plot rolling (A murderer is loose! Is it my roommate? She does drink blood! Whatever shall we do?!). I found myself quite invested in protecting BFF!Vampire!Jenna. Her determination to stay as human as possible despite the horrible things that have happened to her... it was quite inspiring.

But where the book really let me down was in the romance department. We are introduced to standard bad-boy Archer early on, and while Sophie starts out hating him she gives up on that unfortunately quickly. Oh! And now that she has a crush? He's taken. Of course he is.

I am sick to death of the "I love him but his girlfriend is a bitch!" set-up. It drives me up the wall. Either your One True Love is as perfect as you think, in which case there is probably something awesome about his girlfriend you don't know about - or he really is the jerkface he plays and they deserve each other. I am NOT a fan of reading about girls hating each other over some guy. Not to mention the fact that Archer is so, so not worth an iota of swooning.

Bottom line? Hex Hall is a fun, quick read - but the love triangle thing really bothered me. I may pick up book 2 someday... maybe.

Reviewed at Dead Book Darling

Emissary

Emissary  - J.M. Dillard 3.5 stars - Lovely narration by Nana Visitor but, other than a few additional details, there was very little added to the original pilot. Great for hardcore Niners.

Forever

Forever - Maggie Stiefvater 4 to 3.5 stars - Surprisingly slow with way too much of the focus on Sam's woe-is-me angst. Plot could have been... redirected to make it less painfully tedious. Oh, and Isabel? While tolerable for most of the book, made me want to set her one fire with her later actions.

The only saving grace? COLE. He was the only bloody character in this book to DO anything, and yet everyone just ragged on him for being a menace. Basically, he was the Tony Stark of the novel: Genius, Rock Star, Playboy, Philanthropist and NOT LETTING HIS ANGST INTERFERE WITH SCIENCE. Thank God almighty I read this with Sinner already on my shelf.

All Fall Down

All Fall Down - Ally Carter I hovering between 4 and 3.5 stars - overall, GREAT series starter. Only wish I had Book 2 in hand!!!
Full review to come

Rook

Rook - Sharon Cameron Love me a good retelling - ESPECIALLY a scarlet pimpernel one!

United We Spy

United We Spy - Ally Carter 4.5 stars - OMG this ending. I really didn't expect to tear up but well... I did. So sad to see this great series end but happy it ended with such a great book!!

Out of Sight, Out of Time

Out of Sight, Out of Time - Ally Carter When I started the Gallagher Girl books, I was entertained but not exactly fulfilled. They felt like young, fun books that straddled the line between Middle Grade and Young Adult.

But as the characters have matured, so have the content and the writing. These have turned serious, meaty books that deal with a lot more than just teenage shenanigans. The change was gradual and it was only in Out of Sight, Out of Time that I really felt it come through. Needless to say, I am a big fan!

Out of Sight, Out of Time is by far my favourite in the series. The novel opens with an amnesiac Cammie being tended to by Austrian nuns – so right from the start I knew I was going to be in for a treat. You’d think the amnesia trope would be too cliché to handle, but instead it gave the book an overarching mystery that I really enjoyed. What happened to Cammie? How did she suddenly become a bad-ass warrior? What did Bex and Zach get up to while Cammie was away? ALL THE QUESTIONS.

Not only did Ally Carter deliver a fantastic mystery, she wrapped it up in a kick-ass ending. This book had me salivating for the next (I managed to delay the satisfaction of starting that one… by 2 whole days).

Bottom line? If you gave up on the Gallagher series during the first few books, please reconsider! They get plottier and more awesome as they go on.

http://deadbookdarling.com/2014/12/review-out-of-sight-out-of-time-by-ally-carter.html

Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread

Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread - Nathan Edmondson, Phil Noto This is everything a Black Widow movie should have: a heroine who kicks ass who reluctantly has a cat and does awesome, mysterious spy things. Oh, and GORGEOUS "cinematography" (art!). Nathan Edmondson describes his own book in the AWESOME 6-page Black Widow script:

hell-yeah moments and gunplay and subterfuge and a romantic arc and etc, etc, etc... someone get on it, already

Only the Good Spy Young

Only the Good Spy Young - Ally Carter I’m surprised every time I pick up a Gallagher Girls book. It always starts off the same:

- Page 2: My god these characters are juvenile.
- Page 3: Honestly, how many excited can anyone possibly get about a teenaged boy?
- Page 5: OK WOW. Everything just got real really fast – the world is a lie, and everyone is a liar – this is life/death here, people!

In other words, Ally Carter manages to make the Gallagher Girls real teenagers (worried about nails, and boys, and their homework) while still involving them in life-or-death scenarios. To make things even better, there is are about 10 underlying mysteries that have been woven through the series. With each book we get more revelations that often lead to more questions than answers. I’m reminded – bizarrely enough – of the Harry Potter books. Of how no one would answer Harry’s questions because of his age – but his age, determination and friends were what gave him the ability to succeed where grown-ups failed. Same goes for Cammie.

Only the Good Spy Young gave me so many answers I’m been waiting for! We find out more about Mr. Solomon (oh, Mr. Solomon), Blackthorne Institute and – shockingly enough – Zach (oh, Zach). Read it to find out, but I let me just say I loved it all. Each revelation made the books grittier and darker – always an improvement, in my mind!

But, most of all, I loved what Cammie did as she uncovered each new piece of information. She was smart and logical while still recognizing her emotions. She discussed it with her friends and didn’t just fall into a boy’s arms. YA heroines could learn a lot from Cammie – she was a Gallagher Girl through and through.

Bottom line? This series gets better and better with every book: darker, more complicated and utterly kick-ass. They are light reads but highly enjoyable.

Reviewed at Dead Book Darling

Alif the Unseen

Alif the Unseen - G. Willow Wilson DNF: Despite adoring the writer, I had serious issues enjoying this narrator. He was an immature jerk that I couldn't possibly root for... that does not a good novel make. :(

Avengers Arena, Vol. 1: Kill or Die

Avengers Arena, Vol. 1: Kill or Die - Dennis Hopeless This series is emotionally manipulative but... God, that's what makes it GOOD. It helps that I went into this with no background on any of the characters, so I am not overly inverted in who "wins" this thing... That being said, I am growing to love them all (except you, Captain Brit clone) and the deaths are getting all the more painful! So yeah... Manipulative, but good. Like The Walking Dead - anyone could die and you will be back for the next issue nonetheless.

Midnight Crossroad

Midnight Crossroad - Charlaine Harris 2.5/3 stars - Midnight Crossroad is a hard book to review. I can't say I enjoyed it - I admit I was glad to finally turn the last page - but I cannot say it is a bad book. It isn't. It's a good book written by a skilled author... but it isn't her best work by a long shot.

Charlaine's writing has always been rather laid back. She takes a while to get to things, but you enjoy the ride so much that you forget nothing substantial has happened for 30 pages. Midnight Crossroad fits that same trend, it's just that we don't know the characters well enough to enjoy the ride. Perhaps that's because this series stars characters from her Harper Connelly series, Lily Bard series and Aurora Teagarden series? (I haven't read these books, nor really plan to although, yes, I own most of them.)

But Midnight Crossroad is the start of a new separate series, they said! No need to keep up with her other books to enjoy, they said! Hmph... I don't know about that. I, for one, did not enjoy 120 pages of watch-this-character-move-into-house. Maybe if I knew the guy... and then, only maybe. But as introductions go, lifting boxes and meeting the new neighbors do not make for a meet-cute.

That being said, once past the first third of the book, Midnight Crossroad does at last start to take off. There was mystery, intrigue, murder - all that good stuff. But it took an inexcusable amount of time to get to the substance of the novel and - to be frank - the mystery was not so intriguing as to overwrite the blandness that had preceded it.

Bottom line: I can't recommend this book to a new Charlaine Harris reader - but if you are already a fan, you will probably enjoy it. New readers? Start with the Sookie series like the rest of us!

http://deadbookdarling.com/2014/07/review-midnight-crossroad-by-charlaine-harris.html

Fair Game

Fair Game - Patricia Briggs 4.5 stars - brilliant, as always, and OMG what an ending!! Review to come

White Hot Kiss

White Hot Kiss - Jennifer L. Armentrout Reviewed on Dead Book Darling

Some books take you completely by surprise. Last year, that was These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. And the 2014 winner for the title seems to be the fantastic White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

First off, let me address the cover. Most confident women than I could no doubt read this book on the tube, but I was glad to have it on my kindle. I know, I know. Society’s misogynistic view of the romance genre should not be indulged – trust me I’m not proud. That being said: this book’s genre isn’t quite reflected in its cover. It is much more a YA Urban Fantasy novel so… yeah. Can’t say the cover really fits it in this case.

Moving on.

White Hot Kiss is absolutely fantastic. It’s an action-packed, well-plotted novel that borders the Young Adult and Urban Fantasy genre. The main character, Layla, had that ideal mix of gumption and self-doubt that makes for the perfect teenage narrator. And as a half-demon, half-Guardian (an Angel-ish type species – just go with it), Layla is quite rightly conflicted. She has been raised in a household where she is actively hated because of her blood and her only wish in life is to fit in. It is ludicrously relatable. But she isn’t just her angst: she wants to be of use to the world and is tough enough to pull off the role as a urban fantasy narrator. Thing Rose from Vampire Academy, only with fewer mood swings.

Of course, like all good Urban Fantasy novels, along come a few big reveals. Parents come out of the woodwork! No one is who they seemed to be! Evil is the new awesome! “No really, I’m a Prince”! If you read the genre, many of these may seem overly familiar, but they are all well handled as to feel fresh. I’ve read about Armentrout’s skill as an author, but I needed to read it to believe it.

Armentrout also managed to handle the dreaded romantic triangle flawlessly. I had not been looking forward that aspect of the novel but it really, really worked. You’ve got two leading men who are spectacularly different and yet so very likable… you can see the cause of Layla’s conflict. I could go on and on about them both for quite a while, but I’d rather not show my “team” hand. Just trust me when I say it will be a tough choice!

Bottom line: White Hot Kiss is, in a way, a very familiar book for the Urban Fantasy genre. What sets it apart is the skill of the writing, the stellar pace and fantastic character development. Go forth and read, my people!