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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Black Night

Black Night (Black Wings 2) by Christina Henry

Grade: 4 stars out of 5
If obstinate dead people were all that Maddy had to worry about, life would be much easier. But the best-laid plans of Agents and fallen angels often go awry. Deaths are occurring contrary to the natural order, Maddy's being stalked by foes inside and outside of her family, and her two loves-her bodyguard, Gabriel, and her doughnut-loving gargoyle, Beezle-have disappeared. But because Maddy is Lucifer's granddaughter, things are expected of her, things like delicate diplomatic missions to other realms.

Black Night is as hot and action-packed as its prequel, Black Wings. From the very first chapter, Christina Henry will take readers from the ground to the sky, from angels to werewolves to vampires to faeries. It’s almost impossible to settle down before being rocketed off to the next fight-for-your-life adventure that Maddy Black seems to be dealing more of.

The beginning lagged in my opinion that took a while for the plot to finally pick up. Throughout the entire novel, there was one question on everyone minds: who is killing the werewolves? That answer is ignored until the very end, which puts it in an awkward position. There was already a climax that proved to be a showstopper and yet Christina Henry went as far as to create another climax at the end shocked me. I had wanted Henry to weave the two problem, Gabriel’s disappearance and the murders, together and yet they were as a separate as can be. It proved to be a clunky read.

A problem that I originally had with Black Wings reappears yet again: the onslaught of names and paternal/maternal linage. At one point in the book I threw my hands up and thought to myself that everyone must be related to one another by some distant relative. They could be cousins (second twice removed blah blah), uncles, sisters, or something. Halfway through I resigned myself to not caring and ignored whether or not if a new character was related to Maddy.

Maddy for the matter remains to be the strong heroine who can deftly kick butt. With a sword that can do almost anything by her side and magic powers that rival many, Maddy tries to protect her life and her loved ones. As her power grows, as do the number of enemies she accumulates. Yet despite that, Maddy is still that rock-headed girl readers know from before. For all her flaws, Maddy continues be one my favorite heroine because she’s soft and hard at the same time. She doesn’t pretend to know everything and is unafraid to ask for help or shed a little tear. Even then, she’s hard when she doesn’t show her fear, tears, and sadness in front of the enemies.

The cast of Black Night develop in a way that I would have never imagined. Strangers become familiar, and ones that we thought we knew suddenly casts a shell around them. Gabriel is first and foremost the male lead I liked from Black Wings. In Black Night, Gabriel does not appear much. When he is rescued, his relationship to Maddy is altered completely. For better or for worst is to be determined in the sequel.

J.B. and Nathaniel’s personalities are finally unleashed in Black Night. I was able to understand them better and connect them to a level further than another-guy-that-might-like-Maddy. Their lives do not revolve around Maddy, but undeniable it is affected by her actions. I may have felt a bit bad for Nathaniel after Black Night (surprisingly since I did not like him in Black Wings).

The humor takes the constant pressure and stress of fight scenes off the novel whenever Beezle, the animated comic-relief character, talks.

With added characters, Black Night becomes a political battleground with fists and magic instead of pens and heated words. Black Wings series starts to shape itself as the chapters go by and hopefully by the third book, readers will find themselves with the full cast and the climax as a high. I am counting down and preparing myself for whatever next Christina Henry will throw at readers.

Cover B
Source: unsolicited ARC from Ace
Published: 2011 July 26

Monday, July 25, 2011

Royally Jacked

Royally Jacked by Niki Burnham

Grade: 1.5 star out of 5

Do you hate those books where the girl claims that she's Plain Jane while her friends are the most beautiful, smartest, confident girls in the school? And somehow, some way or another, this girl manages to catch the attention of the hottest guy in the book with her stellar personality! Though, between you and me, her personality stinks. Say hello to Valerie.

Valerie's parents got divorced. It turns out her mother is actually gay. Her dad works for the government so to avoid a big scandal, Valerie and her dad moves a small town called Schwerinborg in Europe. In this tiny town, Valerie and her dad stay with the royal family. Of course, plain Valerie who doesn't have the most redeeming qualities a girl needs to snatch a guy manages to catch the eye of the Prince. That's right. A PRINCE. He's freaking hot and nice and smart and the perfect guy even if the title isn't attached.

The prince's name is Georg. It's pronounced gay-org.

And somehow Valerie is still upset. She's afraid of what her friends think about her gay mother. (Because OMG her "butch" haircut is the one thing that Valerie keeps mentioning about her mother now.) She's worried if the hot guy from her old school likes her because she's been pining away at him since forever (and still pining even with Georg). Cry me a freaking river Valerie. Cry me a freaking river. Your mother still loves you. Your father still rocks. You have an awesome boyfriend.Yet she still somehow finds a way to whine about something.

Okay enough ranting. Royally Jacked wasn't all that bad (but it was very much testing my patience). There were some great scenes, funny even, with a fun group of friends and a sweet boyfriend. I found almost everyone to be likeable except Valerie.

Will I read the sequel? I'm not so sure. I finished Royally Jacked in March. It's now late July. I have the bind-up edition with all three books in one (because hello, for $7 I had to buy it!). Now I'm regretting that decision. Hopefully if and when I do continue with Valerie's story, it gets better.

Cover B+
for the bindup cover
Source: purchased
Published: 2011 March 22

Also check out the companion to Royally Crushed with Royally Check:
Jules edition! [free download]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sirenz Blog Tour (Review and Interview)

Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman

Grade: 3 stars out of 5

Authors Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman take the saying "those shoes are to die for" to a whole new level in their debut novel, Sirenz.
Meg and Shar are forced to live together meaning they must find a way to set aside their differences and be on friendly terms. It’ll be hard when they run into a melt-your-pants-off hot guy and an irresistible pair of red heels. Those claws will surely come out. Tragedy hits when said hot guy gets killed (mostly due to Meg and Shar’s fault) yet opportunity strikes when Hades offers the two girls the chance to redo what they’ve just done for the same price of their service. They’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue.
In this dual POV novel, Sirenz takes an interesting adaption on Greek gods and goddesses. It defied what my original thought on such myths and personalities with its almost reality television like humor. Don’t think of Hades as a disgusting bastard, but a hot badass. Don’t think of Persephone as a victim, but a sexy cunning mastermind. And don’t think Shar and Meg will go willy-nilly with whatever Hades wants. They’re going to fight back, however crazy they may act.

With surprising twists and sensitive humor, Sirenz will hold the readers’ attention. Focusing on actions and consequences, Bennardo and Zaman tell a delectable, sometimes over the top, story. However, choppy at times and shallow in the other, Sirenz keeps me torn from loving it. I had difficulty relating to both Meg and Shar because they become too focus at the task at hand. Of course, if I was fighting for my life I would react the same way. The progression of Meg and Shar’s friendship was realistic and well done as the pacing was not too quick. I did find both girls strong on their own but can see how if the novel focused on just one, it would be tiresome and annoying in the end. Together they compliment each other.

Sirenz, while slow at times definitely picks up the fast for one of the most unique ending.

Cover B+
Source: authors for blog tour
Published: 2011, June 8

Interview with the authors:
Give any past experiences, was co-writing a book harder or easier than writing solo?
Char: Both! It was harder because I work in manic bursts and I had to compromise on conflicts. It was easier because I have a built-in cheerleader, muse and nudge, and I only had to write half the book!

Nat: Writing is hard no matter how you slice it. Co-writing is different, and has its own challenges. Compromise and communication is key: you have to be able to see the other person's perspective on things, and you have to be able to work things out.

Was it planned ahead that one person would write one character and the other person would write another character? Or did the earlier drafts just have one continuous POV
Char/NatSirenz started out with the two POVs, it just seemed to be a given. We tried a single POV for an agent who requested it, but it lost a lot of its humor and sparkle.

In your opinion, who is the "hottest" Greek/Roman god?
Char/Nat: Hades! Well, at least the way we portray him. As Lord of the Underworld, how could he be tempting and conniving if he wasn’t alluring? It’s a given that most of the gods in the two pantheons are physically beautiful so why should Hades be an exception, especially since he’s brother to Zeus and Poseidon (and the oldest!)?

Do you think a reality TV show starring Greek gods and goddess will be popular?
Char/Nat: Why not? If vampires, werewolves, monsters, aliens and zombies can do it, why not the gods? There’s not a single show with either Greek or Roman deities on air, and they’re a very popular theme in books right now. The last time we saw them was in the Xena and Hercules series. It's time to bring 'em back! Hollywood? We’re home, waiting by the phone…

Which punishment would you prefer: feathers all over your body or claws replacing your feet? I have to ask since you are giving up on one or the other when facing the punishments: little black dress or patent red heels as a must have item in the closet?
Char: Spare me the feathers! Not only am I too vain to give up sexy little black dresses, but I’m really allergic to feathers! I’d find some way to disguise my claw-footed feet…

Nat: I'd take the claw feet. I could do summertime boots and make them work. For me it would be little black dress(ES). I do multiples when it comes to black, much to Char's chagrin.

Are you guilty of buying an expensive piece of clothing for a special event and then returning it the following day?
Char: NEVER! If I buy something, I keep it! (Unless damaged.) I hate when people do that, like we can’t see the deodorant tracks, smell the sweat, or brush off the crumbs! Besides, it gives me an excuse to schedule another upscale outing…

Nat: I tend to be cheap with the clothes ($5 Vintage dress—yes!) and splurge on shoes and bags which I abuse the second I use them. FINAL SALE.

Since both Meg and Shar share a pair of lucky cat charms, I wanted to know if you guys own a pair as well?
Char/Nat: That particular scene from the book used to have a different lucky charm for the girls, but we had to change it because of copyright issues. Since we both have cats, Maneki Neko kitties seemed a natural fit—and they were easy to find. We both carry pink and black kitty charms—and we gave them out as swag too!

Have you ever worked as an intern and just hated it?
Char: No, never even thought about working as an intern (too stupid?) although I worked as a reporter/photographer for a small paper and made so little money I had to decide gas in the car or food for me. It was like being an unpaid intern.

Nat: Never had the pleasure. But I did have some “real” jobs that were less than stellar.

I was reading the acknowledgments page and wanted to ask Charlotte what she meant when she called Natalie a "straight man".
Char: I’m the jokester, prankster, tease. It’s a personal goal to make Nat blush, laugh, gasp, pee her pants or faint. Managed most of them.

Nat: Um, no. Maybe the blushing, I'll give her that. For the record, in a comedy team, the “straight man” delivers the more droll, serious lines, expressions, etc. This would make Char my “funny man.” I actually looked this up to make sure I got the definition right—and read that if a woman is the “funny man” she's called a “comic foil.” So many labels—go figure! 

Daughter of Smoke and BoneAnd finally the last question: what was the last book you finished? Would you recommend it?
Char: Frankenstein’s Monster by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe. It’s an adult book, so there are some moments that aren’t appropriate (imho) for YA readers. Susan has crafted a story from the monster’s perspective, staying true to Mary Shelley’s original style. It’s literary yet not stuffy and a reader can go seamlessly from Shelley to O’Keefe. I’d recommend it.

Nat: I'm reading and rereading Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I was lucky to snag an ARC when we were at BEA in May. Wowzers is it good. Sorry you have to wait till end September to get it though...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Queen of the Dead

Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade

Grade: 3 out of 5 stars
The Ghost, Alona, had agreed to be the “assistant” for The Goth, Will. Except now there’s another ghost-seer in town and Will is more than curious about the girl and her connections to his now dead father. 
It’s been ages since I finished the prequel to The Queen of the Dead, and for whatever reason I recall it being a fun, flirty, and new take on forbidden romance. Or perhaps it was a fun book and I’m not losing my mind. I’m rambling. The Queen of the Dead was much more action packed than I first anticipated. Some of the humor is lost, which was what made the first book so great. The Queen of the Dead held a more serious note revolving around the consequences of death and the affects it could have to a family.

As readers are acquainted to the society of nowadays ghost busters, Will’s life becomes better known. His father was another ghost seer and had been part of a bigger picture. A picture that seemed to not include Will. When Will becomes involved with the same society, it brings more questions than answers as much as it frustrates me. It also brings forth more drama between him and Alona. The course that the book takes definitely surprised me. I became the audience and didn’t voice any opinions with the new change in pace. I just sat and thought about it; the book was very different than I hoped, but not in a completely bad way.

The romance seemed to sway in The Queen of the Dead, which was another reason why the book wasn’t as fun as the first. I found Alona to be hard headed and childish and the temptation to hit her grew. As with any road, there are a few bumps and this time, expect some bruises.

With any continuation to a series, smaller details are explored and the death of Will’s father, Will’s best friend, and Alona’s death are put on the spotlight. Hopefully the third book will continue on and delve deeper into the tragedy.

The ending is one big shocker. There is no way I could have predicted the outcome. Kade keeps the readers on their toes in anticipation for the next installment.

Cover C+/B-
the mood of the cover was different than the one in the book
Published: 2011 May 31
Source: review copy from Hyperion