Caution: Don't try to read the Jane Yellowrock books out of order. The emotional payoff won't be there if you do. She starts off ruthless, and with each book we see her start to make emotional ties to the people in her life. She really is the kid "raised by wolves". Lots of big guns, thrilling action, and snappy sarcasm, but this book we see her take on more of beast's protective side and start to admit that she has built herself a "family". Jane is no one's cliched feminine lead, and she takes some warming to. the series is starting to reveal some of the story's depth in a very interesting way - both in Jane's history and in the vampire political world. Solid, satisfying, and action-packed.
Solid Urban Fantasy - not too much romance and the heroine is relatable, fully-fledged, and mostly lacking in cliched UF/PNR attributes (insatiable sexual prowess, uncommonly good looks, superpowers that appear far beyond her known powers, crushing feelings of inadequacy, inability to make a decision, annoying sidekicks, or closets full of the perfect heeled black leather boots and endless catalogues of specialized weaponry, for example). Scarlett is smart but not too sassy, practical rather than superficial, and not whiney. She has a few too many trust issues but they are understandable considering what she's been through in the last few years. She has a habit of feeling that things are all her fault that may lead to a overblown guilt crisis at some point in the series. Her power (or anti-power, as she calls it) is unusual: she's a Null, and magical beings that come within her radius of power lose their magical abilities - vampires and werewolves become human, witches cannot use their magic. The author uses this ability to good effect in several scene.
The magic system is well-explained and makes sense. The setting is current day Los Angeles, but realistically so and without a lot of Hollywood glitz or designer name-dropping. There is a romantic triangle, but this book is really not focused on the romance, so there are no eye-rolling romantic declarations, posturing over possession of the girl, or explicit sex scenes. The plot is solid, with enough clues and twists to keep you guessing. There are some fun references to literary history in the vampire background. The storyline wraps up at the end in a satisfying way, though a sequel is hinted at by a surprise plot point at the end. The characters are complex and feel "real" rather than just being archetypes (with the possible exception of Dashiell, the head vampire). I thought this was pretty impressive for a first novel.
The audiobook narrator is Amy McFadden. She does a creditable job but it's not outstanding. Her pacing and delivery are spot on. Like the book itself, it is more than adequate but less than extraordinary.
A well researched look into the history of couponing from the heyday of 1980's refund craze through Extreme Couponing today. The author is likeable and her memoir is interspersed with lots of good facts and research statistics. She does a good job of looking at the trends and ramifications of couponing, including fraudulent use and the way retailers use psychlogical studies of consumer buying habits to try to control what you buy, and speculating what may be the future of coupon usage. This was a more enjoyable read than you might expect from such a dry subject.
The premise was original and interesting in its historical basis in the lost colony of Roanoke, but the romance was so stilted and predictable that it was laughable. The female lead's characterization is uneven, and the male lead is so obviously the cliched unreliable bad boy - so the romance seems contrived and based only on physical attraction, so as the reader you aren't rooting for them to be together.
The ending is a cliffhanger, but that was okay with me as it helped guarantee a readership for the second novel. 2.5 stars
Smart, fast paced, unusual thriller with fantastic pacing/flow and characterization. The plot is interesting - to generation of children are born with special gifts. I appreciated that the gifts were not magical or superpowers like flying or telekenisis but heightened abilities like pattern-matching, numerical abilities, probability figuring, memory recall, and other plausible human abilities. I particularly loved the "readers" who glean details about a person's motivations and probable actions from studying minute physical reactions and from a person's choices and possessions... In a rather Sherlockian way. Our reluctant/flawed hero is complex and relatable. The plot is complex and keeps you guessing who the bad guys are. The "racial" tension of Brilliants versus normal humans speaks to current socio-political tensions without being too like the X-men. The writing itself is really great, reminding me of Grisham or King. The elements of romance are there to make the characters likeable, but never delves into true "romance".
This book was exactly what we readers of Anna needed after the harrowing Winter Study. Despite the death count, the necessary softness of a mystery solved, the bad guy taken out by someone else, and the use of themes of family and child/parent-like relationship left us hopeful for Anna's recovery in Paul's arms. It also paints a decent picture of some of Big Bend National Park, though I'd love to have even more natural description and park particulars. I'd like to see the next in the series place Anna again in a new locale (with Paul), experiencing another park or area in depth... like in A Superior Death, Firestorm, Blood Lure, and Blind Descent. Anna's had enough heartbreak and exposure to the worst of humanity lately!
Read beautifully by Barbara Rosenblat. Love her narration of the Anna Pigeon series!
This is the rare second book in a series that improved upon the first book. My favorite part of the first book was the setting in realms of afterlife (aka Circles of Hell) that was unique with a interesting demonic "bad guy" to fight, and the romance story seemed really cliched and trite. The second book thrusts our characters to a modern day high school setting and that worked for me much better. There is still the higher stakes and the demonic bad guys to fight. It becomes a riff on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. There is better banter and more humor. The secondary characters are more fleshed out than in the first book and helped me have a greater emotional response to this book. The action is fast and believable. Our heroine gets to be quite the badass fighter. The romance seemed more believable and progresses through interesting maturation through the book, and seems to be at an appropriate level of importance in this more usual setting.
Fine wrote a smooth, action-packed story with a lot of suspense and danger. This is a better meld of the high school genre with its inherent YA romance aspect than the previous book's dire fantastical setting did. The book is supplemented nicely with a unique paranormal plotline to add interest, tension, and lots of action.
Audiobook note: Malachi's accent is awful. But the rest of the narration was solid. Nice emphasis during action sequences.
I thought this book was well-written and well-paced. The world of the different afterlives is very interesting and unusual. The version of "angels" and "Judge" is a great twist on what I expected to find. The idea that these two girls had such a strong friendship that one would follow the other into Hell to save her friend after she has committed suicide is fascinating and intriguing. The lead character's background of sexual assault and neglect making her unable to even hug her friends is touching and creates some good tension as she attempts to learn to trust other people.
Unfortunately the book begins to devolve into sexist and cliched territory. Our luxuriously-haired teenage heroine doesn't have enough self-esteem to value her own life and doesn't think she is attractive or worthy of love. She meets The One, falls in love immediately and deeply, as does he - and he is able to break through her barriers in a very extremely short period of time. He saves her physically from monsters and thus she trusts him as no one else... and soon they are kissing and she is attracted to him sexually (despite her previous extreme fear of intimacy). They stop communicating their feelings and thus question each other's love and loyalty repeatedly, creating dangers that seemed easily avoidable. She rushes into danger all alone and has to be rescued. Her friend becomes an afterthought and is relegated to an abruptly easy afterlife and is conveniently pushed out of the story.
The plot never really lives up to the promise of the unique setting and world-building. The romance is too perfect, too quick, and too intense, as is typical of YA paranormal romances. That said, the writing is smooth and well-edited. The author's talent kept me reading while hoping desperately that the plot lines took more advantage of the action plots rather than the romance.
Audiobook version note: the narrator's mangled accent for Malachi make me wince. He sounds like a bad fake Russian Dracula.
Surprisingly good YA novel that I'd never heard of prior to buying on a sale. The atmosphere of the book was really well done - Savannah is deeply Southern and atmospheric, and the acceptance of witches and ghosts as everyday occurrences in the protagonist's life was believable and endearing. The family tension was well-constructed, and I liked the foil of the twin sister to the protagonist. Mercy devolves a bit into Mary Sue territory, where she has magical powers that are amazingly powerful and conveniently re-discovered. Both of the hot men fighting over her and her indecision about who she loved was a bit tiresome, but was resolved unexpectedly. Once the action started, it really ramped up! Lots of twists and turns.
One of the best parts of this book was the way that the adults were written/included. Too many YA/NA books have absentee parents and the book focuses only on the young protagonists, but this book was more about a dysfunctional family and I enjoyed all the characterizations and story arcs of her aunts and uncles, especially her gay uncle and alcoholic aunt.
Another excellent installment in the amazing Harry Dresden series, masterfully narrated by James Marsters. Mab pulls Harry out of solitude on Demonreach to put her Winter Night on loan to Nicodemus, one of the Denarians. Is she trying to kill Harry off, or is this just another faerie machination? A game of "who can you trust" ensues with every relationship in Harry's life. Lots of action plus great interactions with Michael, Murphy, Butters, and Maggie as Harry tries to make his place in his old life while under the influence of the Winter Mantle and under threat of the parasite in his brain. Butters kind of steals the show. Parkour! A much happier, optimistic book after a couple of darker ones in the series.
This is an excellent followup to Brilliance, and even stands on its own as the author provides enough recap to bring a reader up to speed. Despite the fact that this book reads even more like a typical airport thriller in pacing and action, it may be even stronger than the first book was. The plot is unique and richly appropriate to discussion of terrorism and racial bias in the current world.The Brilliants' powers are scientifically possible and explainable - not superpowers that pull you out of the story in disbelief. The characters are fully fleshed out and complex. They seem believable and you have emotional responses to them. The action is fast and sometimes shocking. The language is tight, fast, and very smooth. The futuristic science and technology reads like something out of Wired - advances believably grown out of current technology. The author uses all the tricks to keep the story moving and to present a very human face on all the players in the story. The romance is restrained but feels real too - never 'love at first sight" or too overblown. This book is all about choices and their repercussions.
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