Review: “Clockwork Princess” by Cassandra Clare

princessClockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare

Goodreads | Amazon

Tessa Gray should be happy – aren’t all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa’s heart, will do anything to save her.

4 ½ stars

So this is it. And so soon after the end of Shadows in the Silence, too. I literally may die. I can’t handle this. Even if Cassie is going to be writing like a bajillion more Shadowhunter books.

This book starts out much like you might expect: Tessa is trying out a wedding dress, Jem’s in love, Will’s moody because all the women in his life seem to do is vex him and Benedict Lightwood has transformed into a giant bug thing because of demon pox.

Oh wait. No, I wasn’t expecting that last bit there.

The inciting incident of this novel is, in fact, that Benedict Lightwood has becoming a giant bug demon and that he ate his son in law. Gabriel Lightwood has nowhere to go but the London Institute for help. Charlotte is of course going to give it to him, without telling the Clave because of the shame it would cause the Lightwood family. Let the games begin!

Interestingly enough, these events are also interspersed with correspondence between the Clave and the Consul, telling the Consul that they are considering Charlotte as the new Consul. The characters have no idea this is going on, but we get a sense that the Consul has bad plans for Charlotte to keep her from getting his job. Throughout the book, these letters will keep cropping up to advise us of where the Clave is in their plans and just exactly what the Consul is thinking without making him a major POV character. It was a really interesting device, and I think it worked really well.

If you were expecting all the feels with this book, though, you’d be right. There is not one character mentioned who doesn’t rip at your heart strings. (I know the cliché is tug at your heart strings. This is way too tame for this book.) Even Gabriel Lightwood realizes he has a soul. The relationship between Will, Jem and Tessa continues to build, to the point where I almost couldn’t stand the idea that she would pick one over the other. But more on that later.

The plot was pretty good in this one, if a little over laden with dialogue sometimes. The most gorgeous moments in this book do occur through dialogue, but even I wished sometimes that somebody would just kill something. At the same time, the amount of character development was striking and I would have hated to not have had a moment of it. But just don’t expect all that much action.

So I know the big thing here is: who does she end up with? Well, I’m not going to tell you, obviously. I WILL tell you that if you want to be surprised by the ending, don’t get curious as to why the inside of your hard cover book jacket sparkles. There’s a family tree in there that tells you all you need to know and I looked at it way too soon.

This is mostly for my folks who’ve already read the ending and want to know what I think, but without spoilers so those of you who haven’t can try to puzzle it out. I thought the ending was heartbreakingly perfect—until the epilogue. I’ve read Cassie’s explanation for why she added the epilogue, but I’m still not sure I like it. On the one hand, the romantic in me finds it absolutely perfect. On the other hand, the reasoning that led Tessa to make her original decision just broke my heart in all the right places. It said so much about the beauty of their whole relationship. I may have died inside when she made the choice, but I probably could have come to grips with it a lot faster than this whole epilogue thing.

This review has already gone on way too long, but I had to make this a perfect send off. I will always love The Mortal Instruments, but the level of writing in The Infernal Devices is just off the charts. I love the characters in TMI, but the TID characters just break my heart, and I can’t stand to see them go. Thank you for a breathtakingly beautiful story, Cassie. I have to go cry again now.

ARC Review: “Splintered” by A. G. Howard

SplinteredSplintered by A. G. Howard

Goodreads | Amazon

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

4 1/2 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Amulet Books for this eARC! This title is now available.

I liked basically every Disney movie as a kid. Every one, that is, except for Alice in Wonderland. When the new fad became Alice retellings, I rolled my eyes and said, “There’s no way this goes well.” I still requested Splintered anyways.

Then I finally started reading.

Alyssa isn’t supposed to be Alice. Alice went and came back from Wonderland ages ago, and now her family has to deal with the notoriety of that fact—and the fact that all the women in her family since Alice had ended up locked away in asylums, if they didn’t kill themselves first. Alyssa’s mother has been committed for a great deal of Alyssa’s life, and Alyssa herself has just started hearing the voices of plants and bugs. She’s pretty sure she’s going to follow her mom shortly. She tries to make the voices stop by turning bugs into artwork and skateboarding with her iPod turned up. The other voice, the familiar and male one, that’s in her head all the time like a second consciousness isn’t helping matters, though.

And that is just the beginning.

Now, you may be able to understand how much I was drooling by this point already. This isn’t the Alice story of your childhood, people. Even when Alyssa gets to Wonderland, Howard turns all your preconceptions on your head. For just a teaser, you know the White Rabbit? Well, Alice messed up his name. He’s actually called White Rabid, and he’s partially a skeleton. You cannot tell me that isn’t an awesome way to go. You can’t.

I wish I could explain more of the twists, but then there would be spoilers and oh dear. But just know they’re SO AWESOME.

Besides all the things Howard has done to the world, I was also impressed by how layered the plot was. Morpheus—this hot fairy dude who Alice called the Caterpillar—is the mastermind behind everything that happens, but he is so good at keeping the truth concealed that you never know what’s actually going on until the end. Is he good? Is he bad? His character arc is a zigzag that doesn’t stop! (Well, until the end, but that would be a spoiler.)

I think most of the reason for the half star loss is the characterization of Morpheus and Alyssa’s other love interest, Jeb. Yes, other love interest. Morpheus yanks Alyssa’s chain so many times that I still don’t know what to think of him, and I never believed she could love him. Jeb, on the other hand, is the usual best friend/knight in shining armor. So, yeah, this love triangle has the requisite bad boy vs. good boy thing going on, which I don’t like. However, I will say that I did NOT expect the ending in anyway, so kudos for that.

At the end of the day, though, I cannot believe how much I liked this book. Despite being tied to a retelling, it was interesting and unique. The plot never ever stopped moving, and I was always kept guessing. If Alice in Wonderland is your thing, GET THIS. NOW. Even if it isn’t, though, and you’re looking to check out one of the new Alice books because you’re curious, this would be my pick FOR SURE!

ARC Review: “Silver” by Talia Vance

Silver by Talia Vance (Click for Goodreads)

4 1/2 stars

Beauty is pointless when no one’s looking.
Brianna Paxton has been invisible to guys since the eighth grade. She’s pretty enough, it’s just that no one bothers to look. There’s almost nothing that can’t be explained with science, and Brianna has a theory: she’s missing the pheromone that attracts people to one another. Brianna’s theory is shot to hell in one frozen, silver moment, when time stops and Blake Williams not only sees her, he recognizes something inside her that she’s been hiding from even herself.
Before Brianna fully understands who and what she is, she accidentally binds her soul to Blake. Forced to find a way to reconcile forbidden love and her bloody heritage, Brianna discovers that there’s nothing pointless about her, and Blake may be in the most danger of all.

This review is based on an ARC received from NetGalley. You can get a copy for yourself September 8, 2012

I don’t even know where to start with this book. I went into it a little apprehensively, because the blurb made it sound like Brie might be another one of those girls who goes on and on about how she’s not pretty and then whoops there would be this insta-love thing and I would be left knocking my head against my desk.

That didn’t happen.

First off, Brie is totally relatable. She’s geeky, but not in the overpowering, stereotype way. She doesn’t think she’s pretty, she thinks she’s invisible BUT she doesn’t spend hours whining about it. She accepts it, she’s chill about it and she let’s that make her stronger. Especially after dealing with the character of America in The Selection, that was fantastic to read. Add in some snappy dialogue and I was hooked.

The book started off with a rocky beginning, and that was when I realized this book was going to go severely either way with me. The reason for the half star dock is that there were a few logical inconsistencies that made me flip back a few pages and say WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE? or HOW DOES THAT WORK? and I got no explanation. For me, though, they were small (okay, one was not so small and that’s the biggest reason for the docked 1/2 star but I can’t tell you what it is without spoiling!) and I forgot them in the fast pace of the novel. I just enjoyed the ride.

And it is a fantastic ride. There are few books that make me actually laugh out loud, and this is one of them. I was not a fan of Blake at first, but then all the sudden Brie is being all stupidly into insta-love and Blake takes a step back and goes INSTA-LOVE? EW! We became good friends after that point.

The mythology–as you might have seen hinted at and that’s probably the reason why you thought this book was cool–doesn’t disappoint. Vance doesn’t spend an inordinate amount of time explaining it either, which is nice. We know what we need to know as we need to know it. Then, of course, there is all the supernatural powers being flung around. In my book, that is always awesome. Despite not knowing anything about these Irish myths, I was instantly at home in the world and the legend, which isn’t always easy to do.

A big thing with me is always a book’s pacing, and there Silver didn’t disappoint either. There was certainly time set about for “normal” life and romance, but there was plenty of action too–at almost the perfect intervals, actually. Nothing was squashed together or rushed, for the most part. The book kept moving and I was unable to find many places to stop and catch my breath. I know I’m into a book when I have to force myself to literally get up and take a breather for a second.

Overall, Silver is one of my new favorites of 2012. It makes me genuinely sad you guys can’t share this with me until September 8. The characters were relatable and cute, the dialogue was snappy and the mythology was excellent. All the action and romance didn’t help either. 😛 If you’re in for a refreshing read with a great storyline, fast action and sexy romance, definitely give this one a try!

Goodreads tells me that Vance will be writing a second Bandia novel, tentatively titled Gold, to be published 2013. However, it also informs me the title isn’t even final. But add it to your TBR with Silver anyways. 😛

ARC Review: “Otherkin” by Nina Berry

Otherkin (Otherkin #1) by Nina Berry (Click for Goodreads)

Sixteen-year-old Desdemona Gray doesn’t even bother with crushes on cute boys now that she’s forced to wear a hard plastic back brace all day.  What guy would want to literally have to knock on a girl to be let in?  So she squashes down every impossible desire until an uber-awkward brush with a boy brings out all her frustration and she changes…into a tiger.  In that bewildering moment, she is captured by Ximon, the leader of a fanatical group hell-bent on wiping out the five remaining tribes of shape-shifters, known as the otherkin. 

With help from a handsome, mysterious fellow captive named Caleb, she escapes and goes on the run, finding allies and learning the truth behind the legends of wizards and were-creatures.  Then Ximon goes too far, and Dez must tap into all her buried desires to find her inner tiger and save herself, her new friends, and the boy she loves.

4 1/2 stars

This review is of an ARC received from NetGalley. You can get a copy for yourself July 31st, 2012.

I’m going to be perfectly honest: I did not go into this book with high expectations. The first book I ever requested from NetGalley was a shifter book so bad I couldn’t finish it. I haven’t read anything about shifters regularly since … the Animorphs when I was about 12. BUT, this story has an awesome cover with a tiger on the front so how COULDN’T I request it?

And I’m so happy I did.

Just the first chapter is literally explosive. You instantly get a feel for Dez, how she feels about herself AND get a bunch of action–action that, by the way, rarely ever stops for a good while. The perimeters of the novel are pretty quickly established, but you aren’t hit over the head with exposition which is fantastic. In fact, the amount of info-learning but not info-dumping was excellent throughout the novel, even though the mythology was very unique and slightly confusing in places. I understood the gist of it and was never bogged down in trying to understand, which is a big plus for me, Ms. Short Attention Span.

However, about a fourth of the way book, the plotline twisted in such a way that I deflated and moaned like I was a hot air balloon stabbed through the heart. Caleb tells Dez that there is a place they can be safe, and guess where it is?

A school. A shifter school. A freaking school.

Schools feel like such a cliché these days that I CANNOT stand them when they happened. This is also how that first shifter novel I read really rolled over and died. I had to stop reading because I was so worried this book was also going to dip into horribleness.

But it DIDN’T.

I kept reading and almost couldn’t believe it. Berry managed to make it readable, the characters not too much of clichés and really make it feel REAL. The tension and then camaraderie between the classmates came right out of the pages. It really set up the ending well, and–most importantly–it was READABLE. I can be nasty when a book drops into clichés I hate, so I fully expected to start hating everything. But instead, i loved it. I was shocked!

The end brought back that rolling action I loved in the beginning. The cooperation between all the shifters and the descriptions were absolutely fantastic. The end of the end seemed to almost be anticlimactic and flat after all that action, though it did make sense. The pacing of the book, for the most part, however, was fast, which I love. There were never many points where I felt I could put the book down.

But about that  docked star: A little bit of it is the ending, but not a lot of it. Most of it came from Dez and Caleb’s relationship. I hate insta-love. I will forever and always dock stars for insta-love. The only reason it wasn’t a full star was because Dez and Caleb weren’t–shockingly and fantastically–the center point of the novel. It was more about action and information than their romance. However, when you’ve only known each other for less than a month and have kissed only once, there is no way multiple conversations about seeing Dez naked don’t come off as creepy. Caleb’s kind of buzzed-all-the-time attitude didn’t help matters. Given that I loved Dez as a character, I kept screaming ABORT, ABANDON SHIP! But of course she didn’t. They’ve found eternal insta-love.

All in all, however, this book turned into a favorite for me. I loved the descriptions, the history, and the pacing. The action was fantastic, and I was ridiculously impressed at how Berry wrote in a school setting that I didn’t hate the guts of and in fact really enjoyed. For once, there was romance for the main character that wasn’t the driving force of the story, so I even forgave the insta-love a little bit. If you love shifter books, GET THIS NOW. Even if you don’t love shifter books and are looking for something new–like I was–I RECOMMEND IT. July 31st, folks, preorder now!

The second book in the Otherkin series, Othermoon, is slated for a February 2013 release date.

Review: “The Golden Lily” by Richelle Mead

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2) by Richelle Mead

Goodreads | Amazon

Tough, brainy alchemist Sydney Sage and doe-eyed Moroi princess Jill Dragomir are in hiding at a human boarding school in the sunny, glamorous world of Palm Springs, California. The students–children of the wealthy and powerful–carry on with their lives in blissful ignorance, while Sydney, Jill, Eddie, and Adrian must do everything in their power to keep their secret safe. But with forbidden romances, unexpected spirit bonds, and the threat of Strigoi moving ever closer, hiding the truth is harder than anyone thought.
Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Richelle Mead’s breathtaking Bloodlines series explores all the friendship, romance, battles, and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive. In this second book, the drama is hotter, the romances are steamier, and the stakes are even higher.

4 1/2 stars

I picked up this book on the release date and proceeded to finish it in three hours. Despite the fact that I was supposed to be cheering on my brother at his Little League game.

And I regret nothing.

If you have not yet heard me fangirling about this series yet, well, you’re about to. Because *insert fangirl squealing here*.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of the idea of these books at the beginning. After all, in the VA series Adrian and Sydney weren’t really that big in my mind. I was a hardcore Dimitri/Rose shipper and found Adrian cute but in the way. Sydney I just didn’t find particularly interesting with Rose at the front and center.

Bloodlines, I have to admit, was good. The Golden Lily? BETTER.

I liked Sydney in Bloodlines. I loved her in The Golden Lily. I liked Adrian in Bloodlines. I LOVED HIM IN THE GOLDEN LILY.

*Mild spoiler warning*

Adrian turned into such a different person in this book. In the VA series especially, he was a big cliché of a slacker dude. In The Golden Lily, though, he really comes into his own. The depth that he shows and the personality past the snark and slacking was utterly amazing. Plus, it didn’t feel like this sudden turn around. Mead made me believe that this was really under there all along. I will never give up on Dimitri because HELLO SEXY but Adrian?

HELLO ADORABLE MARRY ME NOW.

I was really not expecting the Sydney/Adrian scenes to go like then did. I especially didn’t expect Sydney to get a boyfriend. That in itself was awkwardly adorable, but again DUDE IN THE WAY OF THE REAL LOVE. Mead, you love to torture us so. Adrian’s attempts to hang out with Sydney through subtle ruses was way too overt coupled with Jill’s apparent “crush” on Sydney, though. I mean, we got it, really. And Sydney, HOW DENSE CAN YOU BE?

Oh, oh, should I be talking about the other stuff in the book? Crap. Uh. I also enjoyed finding out what Trey’s sun tattoo meant, and seeing Jill grow up a little in regards to her situation. The whole Eddie/Angeline/Jill thing seemed a little contrived to me, but I’ll let it slide because I’m here for the Sydney/Adrian, really.

One of the biggest changes for me is the fact that there is a lot less action then I seem to always expect. After all, Rose was THE most active person ever, getting into fights at every chance. Sydney, of course, is the brainy chick who was not raised to be a fighter and that necessitates a different form of “action.” Because of this, it almost seemed like The Golden Lily moves slower than any of the VA books, when there really is a lot going on. My brain has yet to process this.

I really wanted the whole witch thing to be delved into a little more, but with everything else going on there wasn’t really room for it anyways. Still, the next book doesn’t come out til 2013, come o–

The next book doesn’t come out til 2013 and SHE LEFT IT WITH THAT ENDING? WHY, MEAD, WHY?!?

I may die of anticipation.

Also, by the way, if you were expecting a coherent review you weren’t listening to me when I said FANGIRL HERE.

And because the fangirl really is here now I … should probably stop typing. Bottom line?

Bloodlines < The Golden Lily

IT’S THAT GOOD.

Review: “The Immortal Rules” by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules (The Blood of Eden #1) by Julie Kagawa (Click for Goodreads)

4 1/2 stars

MY VAMPIRE CREATOR TOLD ME THIS:

“Sometime in your life, Allison Sekemoto, you will kill a human being. The question is not if it will happen, but when. Do you understand?”

I didn’t then, not really.

I DO NOW.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

This review is of an Advanced Review Copy received from NetGalley. You can get your hands on a copy April 24, 2012.

Now, before we begin this review, I should probably admit something. Something that will have all of you screaming blasphemy and what-have-you.

I never read the Iron Fey series.

DON’T KILL ME. I mean to, I swear! Actually, after this book, make that I NEED TO READ NOW.

I went for this book for two reasons: One, it had vampires in it. Traditional sounding vampires, not sparkly ones. Two, I had heard Julie Kagawa has a way with words. Well, let me tell you guys, if you weren’t aware already:

JULIE KAGAWA HAS A WAY WITH WORDS.

I really just can’t get over the way this book read. After Shatter Me and Illuminate, books with any kind of flowery language make me go, “Seriously? Again?” But this book just read so well, and so beautiful, I was sucked in.

Someone told me that this book’s blurb just sounded like it was capitalizing on the two biggest trends in YA today–dystopian and vampires–and really I can’t deny that. After a while, all these dystopian worlds start having a few similar characteristics and that was the same here. However, unlike some other books, I never found myself questioning this one. Kagawa lays out the world so well that there’s no question. You can SEE this world and how the humans got to be where they are, and everything from the cities to the country is very realistic. That’s a big plus in my book. The vampires in this book also try to buck the trend a little bit. They don’t glamorize being undead. They don’t make the vampires into rock stars or sulky-yet-somehow-swoonworthy guys hung up on immortal ideas of love. Allie is a vampire. She struggles with it. She is a human soul inside a demon body trying to rationalize the two. It’s almost not about the fact that she’s a vampire; it’s about the fact that she’s no longer human. All in all, what book isn’t a combination of something that’s been done before? The whole point is to take it, own it and make it your own, and Kagawa did that with some of the best skill I’ve ever seen.

Now, let’s back up to that whole “She is a human soul inside a demon body trying to rationalize the two” thing. You’ll notice that this review is only 4 1/2 stars, and I’ll say without shame that is possibly solely because of personal taste. The first third of this book, or thereabouts, is all about Allie trying to come to turns with what she’s become. She’s learning about being a vampire and dealing with the repercussions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and at times I quite enjoyed it. However, I am–without fail–an impatient reader who always wants something exciting to happen NOW. For me, it felt like the book got off to a slow start because it was focusing on Allie’s personal journey in the beginnings of vampirism and not ACTIONACTIONACTION. I liked it a lot, but the fact that it lasted for more than the first third of the book was too much for me.

But now … the last two-thirds. GUYS. I literally COULD NOT SIT IN MY SEAT. I’m not kidding. I was readingreadingreading and then I had to get up. I have no idea when I get so immersed into this book, but I certainly noticed it when I bounced out of my seat because I could. Not. Sit. I was constantly questioning what she was going to do next, because I was never sure if she was going to give into her vampire side or go with her humanity because THAT is how will the character of Allie was set up. She wasn’t exactly an easy character to love at first, but by the end of the book I was drowning in pity for her. She can have my back anytime. I wasn’t actually sold on too many other members of the cast, except for Caleb of course. No, he’s not the love interest–he is a little boy who acts WAY too much like my little brother. 😛

So, basically, here is The Immortal Rules in a nutshell: Do you love vampires? Then GET THIS. Do you love dystopian and feel like giving vampires a try? Then GET THIS. Looking for a new, exciting book with a kick ass female main character? THEN GET THIS. April 24th, guys. Break down the bookstore door.

Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Review: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Four 1/2 stars

NEWSOUL

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, millions of souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

NOSOUL

Even Ana’s own mother think’s she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

HEART

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies–human and creature alike–let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Guys. Guys. THIS BOOK. THIS BOOK. I’m still quite gaga over it, I’m not going to lie, and I purposefully waited until I’d calmed down a little to write this review. I guess this is as calmed down as I’m going to get. To be fair, I HAVE finally sat back enough to realize there were some issues with this book, but what book doesn’t have those? We’ll brush over those down at the bottom there. But first…

GUYS THIS BOOK. I was willing to give it 5 stars by sheer originality. I thought I was actually one of the worst offenders of the paranormal addiction that’s taken over the YA shelves–and was glad of it–but GUYS. Read that blurb. This book is JUST AS INTERESTING AS IT SOUNDS. And more. Much more.

Let’s just discuss the world for a second, forgetting the characters. Meadows’ world is almost overly ambitious, given that it does leave room for a lot of plot holes if you want to ask questions. If you’re willing to just sit back and let the author explain in her own time, it’s not that bad. (Given that this IS a first in a series of three, I’m giving Meadows some leeway time to answer questions in coming books.) It’s NEW, its INTERESTING and it totally reverses ideas of death and mortality currently held in our society onto it’s head. The souls thing would have been awesome on its own, but throw in some sylph, dragons that spit acid and a possible God-who-is-maybe-not-a-God and the world is so full to bursting with so many things it’s not surprising Meadows’ world building isn’t as on the nose as it could have been. THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON, I was giddy off it, not going to lie.

Now, the characters. The main character, Ana, is pretty much awesome. Her emotions are a bit swingy, but I found her equally strong and vulnerable, which isn’t easy to do. I knew she could stand up for herself, but she certainly wasn’t “all-powerful” either. I thoroughly appreciate and love how her character was handled, and look forward to how the character is going to further develop. Plus, her sarcastic quips. I basically fall head over heels for characters that can quip well. I’d be friends with Ana any day.

The other most important character beside Ana was the love interest (of course), Sam. But you know what is AMAZINGLY AWESOME? These guys ACTUALLY FELL IN LOVE. FOR REAL REASONS. And then they’re relationship had REAL PROBLEMS. And there is NO LOVE TRIANGLE. Did I feel like the romance might have taken up a little more of the book than it needed to? Yes, sometimes, but I’m willing to forgive it because it WORKED. I believed these two were in love, I felt for their problems and plus Sam is the sweetest, cutest boy ever, who is ALSO equal parts strong and vulnerable. Meadows’ let’s us see why they need each other and how they compliment each other, and I love it. YA authors, take note! Real love is deeply appreciated. The only thing that ever felt off about these two to me is how old they FELT they were. The book reminds us several times that they are technically, physically of the same age, but of course Sam is really 5,000 years older than Ana is. While I understand the contrast was important, it got to the point where I pictured Sam older than he was and Ana younger than she was, which made some of the later scenes a little awkward til I got my head back on track.

SPEAKING of love in this book, let’s give Meadows some bonus points her theories on love. One of the central scenes of the book was a masquerade that took place at a rededication ceremony (basically a wedding) for a pair of souls who had been in love for FIVE THOUSAND YEARS. Why the bonus points? Well, Meadows took the opportunity to slip in the idea that love transcends gender. The two souls getting married were both women in this life, but Meadows made a point to show several different photographs of the couple throughout time, and in some they were a man-and-woman couple and in others they were a man-and-man couple. I know some people have been turned off the book by this, but personally I liked it.

Okay, now, I’ve already touched on the world building issue and the characterization issues, so here is my only final issue with the book, which is most of the reason I docked half a star from this review: the ending. Meadows gives us hundreds of pages of awesomeness, but then…that happens. (I’m really trying to not give things away here, :P) Basically, the ending doesn’t feel finished. It’s confusing.  I understand that we’re being set up for another book, but even books in series need to find a way to at least have their end point make sense.

This review has ended up sounding a little more critical than I meant it to be, but that’s probably for the best. After all, I couldn’t put in paragraphs of GUYS GUYS GUYS GAGAGAGAGAGA! No matter my issues, I adore this book. I ADORE THIS BOOK. This book is certainly going on my favorites list, and I will absolutely be getting the next two, which are slated for 2013 and 2014 releases. (No titles yet, I’m afraid.) I am SUPER HYPED for those books because if Incarnate was THIS amazing, Meadows is only going to get better. I know they tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but in Incarnate‘s case, don’t listen. This book is just as beautiful as it’s cover.

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.

“The Girl of Fire and Thorns” by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Four and half stars

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

Well, I should start off by saying that I could NOT stop reading this book. Literally. I started it LAST NIGHT, stayed up until 1:30 AM and then opened my eyes before 9 to keep reading it. I just had to know what happened. I do enjoy guessing what is going to happen as I read, and sadly with most books I’m hardly ever actually surprised. Not here! I was convinced the book was going to end with some kind of sappy, love-triangle ending as a lot of books seem to these days, but I was wrong. It was very refreshing.

The characters here were no great shakes, except for the main character Elisa. Talk about refreshing. She starts off as a fat, pampered, ignorant child–but not spoiled. She becomes pretty kick butt by the end, but she takes a journey to get there that is believable. Few authors dare to do this these days, and the ones who do rarely do it well. I felt like I could sit down and chat with Elisa, because she was just so REAL.

Granted, Elisa and the book did fall into one YA cliché that makes me sigh. So often in YA books these days, there is no visible growth when the main character falls in love. It is just instant love at first sight, BAM. Does it make the book move along, sure. But it’s fairly ridiculous and it annoys me when it happens. At least here, Carson makes an obvious attempt to discern why Elisa feels the way she, and there isn’t an instant lovey-dovey scene anywhere. Still a little too quick for my taste (and a little too quick for a certain event near the end of the book to have the impact it ought to) but better done then I’ve seen lately.

The world of The Girl of Fire and Thorns was also great. In places – especially in the beginning – I felt like I wasn’t getting enough information to form a clear picture with, but enough information came out as the book went on for me to grasp generalities. The book was clearly setting up for a sequel, so it’s entirely possible the world wasn’t completely explained for just that purpose. Either way, it worked out well enough. The book flowed quickly and easily.

I read ridiculously fast first time through, and sometimes after that I won’t reread a book, but I certainly want to revisit this one! Overall, I would certainly recommend this book to fans of fantasy YA fiction. It’s different, it’s believable and it’s interesting. Four and a half stars from me!