From the Notebook: Top Ten Series I Won’t Be Finishing

From the Notebook is back with some potentially unpopular opinions! I have the top ten series that I have cleared out of my Goodreads because I won’t be finishing them, from reasons ranging from outgrowing the writing to actual dislike. Be forewarned that I might say something not so nice about a book series you like! I’m sorry about that! However, I would love to have a conversation about why you think I’m wrong–or if you agree, of course! Let me know if I’m about to miss something at all, or if I’ve made the right call!

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Review: Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

4 1/2 stars

“Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined.

“Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heaven’s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who is really is has come out, so have Hell’s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

“She’s been warned.

“Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastian’s new plan to destroy Ellie’s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastian’s schemes, the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everything–including herself.

“She’ll be betrayed.

“Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be Hell to pay.”

Where do I start? WHERE do I start? Guys: THIS BOOK. This book kept me up until ONE THIRTY in the morning after a long night of work.  It NEVER STOPPED moving. I finally finished it, put it down, and tossed around for a while because I needed to breathe. Not kidding.

When the first book in this series came out, I was instantly hooked. I loved the world, I loved the characters and I loved Ellie. Finally, HERE is a girl who can take care of herself and make quips while being pummeled to death. Angelfire was fast paced, funny and included a guy that I actually crushed on because he wasn’t another one of those Edward types. (Ew)

Wings of the Wicked is a lot like the first book, except it’s darker, somehow even MORE fast paced and–hold your hearts, Will fans–a heck of a lot sexier. Don’t worry: Will and Ellie can’t even stay apart correctly, and once they get together SOMEONE GET A FIRE EXTINGUISHER. (Nono, nothing like a romance book or anything. The book is firmly PG-13.) Yet they also continue to be adorable around that. Go figure. Nice one, Moulton. 😀

You also learn a LOT more of about the world of angels, who Ellie really is–and when I say a lot, I mean it. Sometimes it felt like Nathaniel was facilitating an info dump, but I ate it all up. And then there still managed to be MORE questions that were opened up. I was so totally sucked into this world that I was literally wailing “No EXPLAIN IT!”

The main thing that I keep coming back to with this book is the pace. You read it, and you feel like the Roadrunner. You just CAN’T stop. If you could, I’d be a little more rested than I am right now. 😛 Ellie literally never catches a break; when she gets a chance to breath, you can’t even breathe with her because you know the next big thing is right around the corner of the next page and you are always right–and somehow it’s ALWAYS worse than you imagined. The book reads like a rapid fire shotgun. Just the way I like it.

Ahem. Now, I guess I ought to get technical instead of gushy to try to retain some semblance of credence. Alright. There WERE a few things that caught me as off. The first had to do with the pacing: with so many things happening, of course you’re in danger of not letting Ellie properly deal with what’s happening to her. The biggest events were dealt with beautifully, but sometimes it felt like she didn’t have reactions to some of the smaller things because she just didn’t have the time. The second thing: the relationship with Cadan. The whole thing just felt off to me, and got worse by the page. For one, he seemed to only show up when Ellie needed something explained to her, which just made him feel like a foil. Plus, the whole why-he-loves-her thing? That seemed…off. Perhaps it’s going to get expanded in the next book; I hope so. The third thing: what Bastian is to both Cadan and Will. I’m sorry, but if you ask me that just seemed like a whole plot event meant to facilitate a love triangle and WHY MOULTON WHY. I enjoyed that she tried to have Ellie shut Cadan down right away, but it still doesn’t sit right with me.

Still, overall, this book is AMAZING. I picked up Angelfire on a whim when it first came out and I am SO GLAD. I did. I’ve heard this book recommended for fans of Lauren Kate’s Fallen series and the Unearthly books by Cynthia Hand (both of which I’ve reviewed on my blog, go check out My Reviews!) but I disagree. The only thing that they have in common is angels. Ellie is more like Buffy Summers: kick butt, sarcastic and can totally take care of herself. So what are you waiting for? GO READ THEM.

The third and final book in the Angelfire series, Hymn to the Fallen, is slated for a 2013 release.

 

March 8, 2012 EDIT

Because Courtney Allison Moulton is awesome, she not only read this review but ALSO took time to chat with me on Twitter (@CAMoulton)about how there is NOT going to be a love triangle in Hymn to the Fallen. So you may ax that entire freakout from my initial review, color me curious about how this Will/Cadan thing is going to go and then please allow me to go off and happy dance. It was silly of me to think these books could be less than the awesomest thing on the planet.

Review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

Four stars

“For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn’t prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought.

“Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

“In this compelling sequel to UNEARTHLY, Cynthia Hand captures the joy of first love, the anguish of loss, and the confusion of becoming who you are.”

Suggestion: If you haven’t read it, read my review of Unearthly. I’m going to be referencing it!

Now, once that’s done, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I wasn’t that impressed with Unearthly. I liked it for sure, but it was fairly boring all things considered. I was left with hope, however, that Hallowed would be better than the first book. Going into it, though, I was worried. I’d too recently had my hopes crushed by Crossed by Ally Condie.

The beginning didn’t exactly assuage my fears quickly. I halted about 50 pages of the way in, terrified I was looking at ANOTHER slow start. For everyone’s reference, things ALMOST happening are not the same as things ACTUALLY happening. You need more than a few “cry wolf’s” for me to be hooked.

And then the rest of the book HAPPENED.

Sure, it had its faults (which I’ll get to be in a minute) but MAN things happened. I’d gotten an inkling of how wrapped in the book Hand could keep a person at the end of Unearthly, and now she was USING that power the way it was meant to be used. New characters, new issues, new answers, new questions. Take note, Crossed, THIS is what a 2nd book in a trilogy should look more like. Tucker and Clara continued to be cute, the angel lore/world continued to get more and more interesting–all the things I liked got expanded, which was nice.

Now, of course, the big thing here is the death expected in the book. I don’t want to give away who it is, so I’ll try really hard to just explain how I feel about it without mentioning a name. I was worried about this premise, because the whole “oh someone’s going to die” thing always seems to be taken so melodramatically. Hand handles it quite well, I must say. There is a certain level of melodramatic-ness that just has to be there because that’s what this plot convention is about, but it didn’t rule the situation. I’m not one to get overly emotional at books, but the last scene made me take a sniff or two. It was excellently done and I applaud.

Most of the things that I took issue to in this book were nitpicky, so I’ll just run through them quickly:

A) The whole love triangle thing. Don’t get me wrong, Hand deals with it MUCH, MUCH better than I’ve seen anyone do lately. I’m still impressed, even after reading this book. However, I do feel that it got to be a bit much in Hallowed. There is only so much you can discuss a love triangle issue before you start falling into cliché just because it’s what a love triangle lends itself too. Hand does it well, but I don’t think she needs to do it so much.

B) Clara’s mother’s purpose. Um, what? Pardon me, but I feel that it just seemed a little … trite? That’s not the word, but I hope you understand. Something about it didn’t sit with me, but that’s possibly because it’s going to be retroactively explained in the final book.

C) Jeffrey’s purpose. You can’t just throw something like that into the last few pages of the book like that, people! After all the big reveals and sadness and everything, I felt like this just got tacked on and didn’t get the importance it deserved. Obviously it’s going to be a big part of the next book, but the little that was in Hallowed was … hollow.

D) Samjeeza. Two books later, I’m still not really any closer to understanding this guy. While I feel that’s the point–it’s obviously intentional how kept in the dark we’re supposed to be–it’s still rather annoying. He’s attacking, then he’s sorry, then he’s nasty, then he’s upset–and there is no explanation of why.  Why in the world Clara did what she did at the graveyard still confuses me. Even Clara didn’t seem to understand the plot move she was making.

Clearly, those four issues just need one thing to resolve them: the next book. And you can bet I’ll be reading it, without a doubt. Hallowed was a solid, interesting and always moving. The best part? I can’t already predict how this is all going to end. Sure, I can formulate, but I can formulate multiple scenarios and that is exciting. I can’t even tell you if I’m Team Tucker or Team Christian, because Hand has made me love them both in so many ways. I liked Unearthly, but it wasn’t as good as I thought it could be. Hallowed is a definite, visible improvement that makes me almost more excited to read the third book than the actual plot.

The third book in the Unearthly series is yet untitled and slated for a 2013 release.

Countdown to 2012: Books I Can’t Wait to Read (Part 1)

Does anyone else write down book release dates on their calendar? Because I do. The second I get a date, it’s scrawled on the calendar in a colored pen so fast the ink gets mussed. I got a calendar as a present and that was the first thing I did. Thank you, Goodreads. Here’s a list of books I’m waiting for and their release dates! If you see one that’s on yours too, SQUEE WITH ME. If there are ones that aren’t on here, and that fact BLOWS your MIND, tell me in the comments! You can never get too many books.

JESSICA RULES THE DARK SIDE by Beth Fantasky (Jessica #2)

Release Date: Jan 10

Why: Because I’m honestly curious what Fantasky is going to do, since I was so sure the first book–Jessica’s Guide to Dating the Dark Side–was a stand alone novel. It certainly didn’t leave any loose ends or anything. It was genuinely interesting and a new take on vampirism, so I enjoyed it. I may or may not be a sucker for “what happens after the fairytale ending” stories. Plus, Lucian was a hot vampire. Sign me up!

HALLOWED by Cynthia Hand (Unearthly #2)

Release Date: January 17

Why: I linked to my review of the first book, Unearthly, which will talk more about my feelings about the book, but I will say again that I am genuinely curious how Hallowed is going to unfold, not just plot-wise but also writing style-wise. Unearthly was good but slow, though I was too intrigued by Hand’s take on angelicism to put it down. I think without the time constraints that she was limited to by her own plot conventions in the first book, Hand can really do something special with this one. Or at least I’m hoping. You’ll certainly be the first to know when I figure it out! I’ve already got it pre-ordered.

EVERNEATH  by Brodi Ashton

Release date: Jan 24

Why: THIS BOOK SOUNDS SO COOL. Alright, blurbs can often be very misleading, but, come on. This book has a really, really neat concept as described here. It’s been advertised on inkpop and all over Goodreads, and I can’t help but cave. It probably won’t be on my instantly pre-ordered list because of all the series I’m excited to further and finish, but I most definitely want to pick it up when I get the chance.

WINGS OF THE WICKED by Courtney Allison Moulton (Angelfire #2)

Release Date: Jan 31

Why: Angelfire made me go gaga, plain and simple. Just…gaga. The storyline is awesome, the mythology is awesome, the twists were awesome, the romance is awesome and the guy is one I would love to date. Need I say more? Because I will, actually. The end of book one left opened up twists that I sure as heck didn’t see coming and left more questions than answers, and I NEED ANSWERS. It’s already been preordered and I am counting down days.

FEVER by Lauren DeStefano (The Chemical Garden #2)

Release Date: February 21st

Why: Alright, yes, my book review of the first bookWither–wasn’t completely complimentary, but I can’t help but be intrigued. DeStefano handled some really tough issues really well and wrote in some great relationship stuff (and some not great, but I hold onto hope)…and the blurb talks about Rhine and Gabriel ending up in a “twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls.” Maybe I’m a sucker. Maybe I’m a big sucker. But come on. This is crazy enough it just might work, and Wither was good enough that I’m not ready to give up on this world quite yet.

SPELL BOUND by Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall #3)

Release Date: March 13

Why: WHY DO I NEED TO TELL YOU? Ahem. Anyways. Have you read these? Because you need to read these. Yes, girl at magical boarding school has been tried and tried again, but I am in LOVE. LOVE. LOVE with this books. They are interesting, they are funny, they are will written and the love interest(s) are to die for. Oh, and it is SO NOT FAIR how Hawkins just leaves you hanging again and again. …I am very impatient when I just NEED to know what happens next, you may have noticed. I tend to pre-order by month, so you know what I’ll be doing March 1st instead of celebrating my father’s birthday.

INSURGENT by Veronica Roth (Divergent #2)

Release Date: May 1

Why: Divergent may or may not have been overhyped for a reason. It isn’t groundbreaking amazingness, but it is pretty darn near close. I’ve yet to read a dystopian that I’ve enjoyed this much. It was the realist, and the one I connected the most with. It had pretty much everything I look for in a book, plus I truly enjoy reading Roth’s writing. It’s easy but it sends a message clearly, which is really hard to do. It started a new wave of dystopian trends for a reason. If you haven’t read it yet, READ IT.

CITY OF LOST SOULS by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments #5)

Release Date: May 8

Why: CASSANDRA CLARE. That should be enough for anybody. I’ll admit,  I was almost a little upset when Clare decided she was going to write 3 more books in this series instead of keeping it at a trilogy as planned, but that doesn’t stop me from being a freakish fan girl. Jace and Clary make me so amazingly happy–not to mention Alec and Magnus and Simon and–everybody. Let’s just go with everybody. The last book wasn’t great; it was almost like Clare was actually making stuff up to keep the series going. Now, half of the people I talk to are pretty sure she was actually doing that, but goodness don’t SHOW it. Either way, sign me up for this one and all the rest. I just can’t put these books down EVER.

There were just too many books for this post, so you can find part 2 here!

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

3 ½ stars

When Clara Gardner learns she’s part angel, her entire life changes. She now has a purpose, a specific task she was put on this earth to accomplish, except she doesn’t know what it is. Her visions of a raging forest fire and a mysterious boy lead her to a new high school in a new town but provide no clear instruction. As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between the boy in her vision and the boy in her life, between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. . . . When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

As a fan of the Fallen series by Lauren Kate, I was pretty psyched to get a hold of this book. The Fallen books are great, but I was really looking for a fresh take on angels and I got it. The main character, Clara, is a quarter angel who is trying to be a normal teenage girl while also trying to fulfill her purpose from God, which comes to her only as a short vision. Yes, the “normal teenage girl who actual [insert superpower/secret here]” premise has been well tried, but Hand pulls it off quite well.

The problem, however, comes with the middle of the book. The beginning starts off fast and interesting, but the middle kind of sinks. It focuses more on the teenage stuff as we wait with Clara for her purpose to reveal itself and be fulfilled, but the waiting—while realistic—takes far too long. I blew through this book only partially because it was compulsively readable. The other reason was that I kept flipping through pages looking for the next big angelic event, not prom. Clara falling in love for real was cute, but it felt like filler. Once you get towards the end—if you can hold on that long—you are rewarded, as things start happening one after the other in a very exciting way.

Once again, I’m going to harp on the fact that young adult books have this horrible tendency to have their main characters—typically females—fall instantly in love with their guys. Love at first sight is great, but I’ve seen this so many times it makes me groan. I understand that Christian was the guy from her vision and all, but come on. All these female MCs falling head over heels for guys the second they meet is making me lose faith in my own gender. Hand’s insta-love was certainly not the worst I’ve ever seen, and she even tried to balance it out, so I’m being unduly harsh in this particular review, but the constant issue of this is pushing me onto my soapbox. I’m off now.

Despite how unflattering this review sounds, I am genuinely excited to read the next book. I think that now that Hand has things moving, events are really going to start happening. Unearthly was compulsively readable and hard to find a stopping point even at its dullest middle event. The ending was very vague in a way that leaves me conflicted as to whether it is good or bad, but either way it does its job. There were so many loose ends that the next book has the possibility of being jam-packed with excitement. The end of Unearthly gives me faith that Hand can pull that off is she doesn’t feel locked into waiting for Clara’s purpose to show itself in a realistic timeframe. You can be sure you’ll hear how that goes!

(The second book in the Unearthly series, Hallowed, is expected to be released January 17, 2012)