Tag Archives: paranormal

In Which I Flail Over The Raven Cycle

It’s been a long time, people, but I finally found a series that broke my reading slump for good (fingers crossed). The last time I binge-read an entire four-part series in less than 10 days was when I first read Twilight (don’t judge, okay?).

So I’m beyond happy to have finally caved to peer pressure – because Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle is great. Let me tell you why (also this is a non-spoilery sort-of review of the entire series):

  • The characters are fantastic. Okay, I know people are saying that they’re really over-privileged white spoiled boys (and girl), but I couldn’t help but feel that the over-privileged part was more of a hindrance in their case. And I know readers are especially partial to Ronan (or Adam), but I have to say Gansey stole my heart. He’s such a good guy and you know how much I love good guys. I was also afraid that Blue would be your typical manic pixie girl, but she’s just so relatable and down to earth and kind. She’s a wonderful heroine.
  • The adults aren’t complete morons. So often in YA, adults either act as antagonists or are completely absent from the plot, leaving teenagers to save the world (which is…fine, but gets old pretty fast). Here, I loved Blue’s relationship with her mother, the psychic ladies, and Mr. Gray. They never stole the spotlight from the main characters but they also didn’t let them flail around on their own.
  • The writing is addictive. I’ve read the Mercy Falls series before and I liked Stiefvater’s world a lot, though it didn’t blow me away. With The Raven Cycle, however, I couldn’t stop reading. When my local bookstore didn’t have Blue Lily, Lily Blue in stock, it was the worst (they got it for me from another town so I didn’t have to order through The Book Depository and wait for two weeks, whew).
  • The worldbuilding is detailed but not overpowering. As always, I’m super glad when I find a series where the author doesn’t beat me over the head with their world. Like, the mythical king Gansey is looking for (the drive for the entire series) was completely unknown to me, and though I didn’t particularly care about the king (and didn’t even check if he’s an actual historical persona), I could still follow and enjoy the plot.

All in all, this series is a treat. If paranormal YA is your thing, you need this in your life. And then we can chat about who your favorite raven boy (or girl?) is, alright?
Have you read The Raven Cycle? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you! :)

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Published in 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: won in a giveaway (paperback).

Genre: YA paranormal/horror.

My rating:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Coldest Girl in Coldtown has been on my TBR list for two years, I think. I won it in a Halloween giveaway during my first year of blogging, and I’ve been putting off reading it because I was scared it would be too scary for me (you know I’m a chicken when it comes to horror, right?). But then I put it on my winter tbr list – and managed to read it because I love crossing items off lists. Whatever works, right?

I really liked this book, which… is both a surprise and pretty predictable, depending on how you look at it. It’s a horror story alright, nothing light about it, but it’s also a book about vampires and it has a romance in it.

Tana is a great, smart heroine who kicks some ass but isn’t perfect at the same time. Her gut reaction to vampires is horror, which is good, but there’s also attraction, which is understandable. She’s not one of those swoony heroines who fall for the vampire boys – okay, so she does fall for the vampire boy, but her feelings are lust mixed with curiosity and a hefty amount of shame. Her childhood was really colourful (her mom bit her when she was infected) and she still carries the consequences of that. Her love for her sister, Pearl, is also great, she’d do anything for her. I liked her a lot because she was such a complex character.

The romance was slow enough for me to really get behind it. First of all, it’s not love at first sight at all – we don’t know what the guy is thinking, anyway, because he’s half crazy, and Tana is afraid of him as much as she wants to kiss him. I liked how they shared their history with each other and how Tana began to trust him, even if he’s a predator who’s likely to drink all her blood. It’s a twisted attraction – and I was glad it was presented as such, not overly romanticised, as is often the case with vampire romances.

I also liked the fact that there are no vegetarian vampires in this story. By this I mean to say that vampires are, for once, crazy, blood-thirsty monsters. Are they insanely beautiful? Sure. Do they have luscious hair and gorgeous lips? Yep. But there’s no sugar-coating the fact that they need to drink blood to survive and that they often kill while feeding because biting a human makes him or her go Cold, which is the stage before vampirism, and making more vampires will mean more strain on the blood supply.

My only real complaint would be the amount of backstory – the switching chapters made me feel like the story wasn’t as tense as it could have been. I mean, yeah, the “past” segments add color and information (mostly on Tana’s character), but they were sometimes too long and I felt like skipping them to get to the good parts again.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a good story, made even better by the fact that it’s a standalone and not a part of a stretched-out series. It’s a horror story but mild enough even for me (so all you fellow chickens out there can be sure it isn’t very horrible after all). I’m really glad I gave it a try, not only because it was collecting dust on my bookshelf, but because I’m starting to really like Holly Black (I’d previously read and reviewed her novel White Cat, which IS part of a series I really need to continue). I’ll be reading more of her work for sure.

Have you read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown? What did you think?

Have you read any more of Black’s novels? How about other vampire stories? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness
Published in 2011 by Headline.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: paranormal fantasy.

My rating:

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft.

Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

srcek

I first read A Discovery of Witches several years ago – probably when the paperback was first published. And I liked it a lot! I bought the second book of the trilogy and then got stuck about a quarter way in and never finished reading it. Since I’m making an effort to finish more series, and since I already own 2 out of 3 books, I decided to give it another go.

First of all, I have to say I loved the worldbuilding in this one. The magical creatures (witches, vampires, and daemons) have very interesting histories and they seemed very well thought out. The historical aspect of the novel is also stunning, which isn’t surprising given that Harkness teaches history. I’m totally helpless when it comes to history (I blame bad school teachers), so I have no idea if the history stuff is factual, but it sure as hell sounds impressive.

I took a half star/heart from my rating this time around *le gasp*. Maybe it was because I already knew the story but I kept noticing things that didn’t bother me as much when I first read it. Mostly, I’m talking about Matthew and his antiquated views of what women should or should not be doing with their lives. His overbearing attitude to Diana (both before and after they become a couple) was horrible and I hated that it was explained away with “oh, he’s like that because he’s a vampire and also 1500 years old, so don’t bother trying to change him.”

To her credit, Diana does try to change him – she just has little to no success with it. Her initial reaction to meeting a vampire was also refreshingly normal (she kind of freaks out and tries to escape) compared to most other vampire novels.

I liked Diana a lot, despite her questionable taste in men. She’s very good at controlling every aspect of her life – until she isn’t. But she doesn’t crumble and cry when things go to shit but makes the best of her situation. She’s fiercely loyal and quick to love, which are both traits I admire in characters.

The plot is also sufficiently intriguing that I got sucked into the story again and managed to finish this 700-page beast in a matter of days. I’ll try not to wait too long before I tackle the sequel this time so I don’t forget what’s happened in this book.

srcek

Have you read A Discovery of Witches? What did you think?

Do you have any favourite books that feature history this strongly?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Where the Wild Things Bite by Molly Harper

Where the Wild Things Bite (Half-Moon Hollow #5) by Molly Harper
Published in July 2016 by Pocket Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: paranormal romance.

My rating:

Delivering a rare book to a valued customer is definitely part of mild-mannered archivist Anna Winthrop’s job description. You know what isn’t? Protecting her precious cargo from mid-flight theft by the very pilot who is flying her to Half-Moon Hollow…while trying to appear as unappetizing as possible to the only other passenger, a vampire. Undead bookstore owner Jane Jameson could be waiting a very long time for her book. Possibly forever.

Fortunately, Anna’s dashing fanged companion Finn Palmeroy helps her fend off the attack, but not before their plane crash lands in the forest hundreds of miles from civilization. Great, now she’s stranded with a priceless tome and a rakish vampire whose bedtime is fast approaching. Why does everyone want this book so badly, anyway? Anna just wants to get it to Jane before Finn decides to turn her into dinner-or sweep her off her feet. Okay, the second option is really tempting. But they’re not out of the woods yet…

srcek

I’ve read a number of Molly Harper’s books – yet I read them all before I started blogging, it seems, so I never reviewed one on the blog. Well, in case you’re new to her work, Molly Harper writes really great paranormal romances that are actually laugh-out-loud funny. I haven’t read her Jane Jameson series (at least not in its entirety), but the Naked Werewolf series is one of my all-time favourite paranormals. Don’t let the rather awful covers put you off – you’re in for some serious fun.

Where the Wild Things Bite is the fifth instalment of the Half-Moon Hollow series and it’s just as good as the rest of her books. I binge read it in one evening when I couldn’t really focus on anything else (being 39 weeks pregnant is curiously demanding when it comes to mental capacities, gah) and it was the perfect antidote to stress and anxious waiting.

I might not agree with all of Finn’s decisions – he’s a shifty fellow, that’s for sure – but I liked how Anna dealt with him. She’s one tough lady despite the fact that she doesn’t come off as a particularly well-adjusted individual. I really liked her personal journey in this novel, I thought the first-person narrative was especially well-done here. I rooted for her from the moment I met her and she didn’t disappoint.

Anna’s narration is really funny, too – I don’t know how Harper does this lighthearted humor that never fails to cheer me up. She goes into absurd situations without making me roll my eyes at the story and the heroines are always just flawed enough to be endearing, yet never stupid or anything of the sort.

The setting – a Kentucky lake preserve – is unique to the romance genre, I think, which made the story all the more fun to read. I love big city romances as much as the next girl but I love surprising scenery such as this (you really should check out the Naked Werewolf series – that one takes place in small-town Alaska, so good).

Anyway, if you haven’t given Harper’s novels a try, you really should change that if paranormal romances are your thing. You’ll find little angst here – just some good fun.

srcek

Have you read Where the Wild Things Bite or any other Harper novels? What did you think?

I’d love a good recommendation in the funny paranormal romance genre if you have any! 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Torn by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Torn (A Wicked Saga #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published on July 19, 2016 by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: paranormal NA romance.

My rating:

Torn between duty and survival, nothing can be the same. Everything Ivy Morgan thought she knew has been turned on its head. After being betrayed and then nearly killed by the Prince of the Fae, she’s left bruised and devastated—and with an earth-shattering secret that she must keep at all costs. And if the Order finds out her secret, they’ll kill her.

Everything Ivy Morgan thought she knew has been turned on its head. After being betrayed and then nearly killed by the Prince of the Fae, she’s left bruised and devastated—and with an earth-shattering secret that she must keep at all costs. And if the Order finds out her secret, they’ll kill her. Then there’s Ren Owens, the sexy, tattooed Elite member of the Order who has been sharing Ivy’s bed and claiming her heart. Their chemistry is smoking hot, but Ivy knows that Ren has always valued his duty to the Order above all else—he could never touch her if he knew the truth. That is, if he let her live at all. Yet how can she live with herself if she lies to him?

Then there’s Ren Owens, the sexy, tattooed Elite member of the Order who has been sharing Ivy’s bed and claiming her heart. Their chemistry is smoking hot, but Ivy knows that Ren has always valued his duty to the Order above all else—he could never touch her if he knew the truth. That is, if he let her live at all. Yet how can she live with herself if she lies to him? But as the Fae Prince begins to close in, intent on permanently opening the gates to the Otherworld, Ivy is running out of options. If she doesn’t figure out who she can trust—and fast—it’s not only her heart that will be torn apart, but civilization itself.

srcek

This is the review for the second part of A Wicked Saga, so there will definitely be some spoilers for the first book of the series. If you’re new to it, you can start by reading my notes on Wicked (it’s not exactly a review, but yeah).

I buddy-read Torn with Becky and Danya, which was my first experience of the kind and I enjoyed it A LOT. We read it in three relatively equal parts (first 10 chapters, then the next 10, then a sprint to the end) and vented after each one. Their comments made me snort-laugh, so you’d better go check out their reviews here and here!

So. Torn. I am in two minds about this book. I would have given it an even lower rating if it wasn’t for its readability and my weakness for Armentrout’s writing. I flew through each of the thirds and liked the tempo if nothing else. However, it’s also a pretty horrible book. If someone told me this was where the story would go, I honestly wouldn’t have started the series. That’s how annoyed I was.

The first issue I have is with Ivy. We find out she’s a halfling (half human, half fae) at the end of Wicked. This means that the fae prince will want to make a baby with her in order to open the gates to the Otherworld, allowing all the nasty fae to swarm into the human realm and take over. I was not okay with this “a woman’s womb is the possible source of the apocalypse” plotline, and I was even less impressed by how Armentrout dealt with it. I mean, I never expected Armentrout to write a feminist story but this was just plain awful.

There are several instances where Ivy is nearly raped, threatened with rape, and drugged by the prince and forced to do things she never would have done otherwise. AGAIN, I know some authors can write about such delicate issues and master them beautifully, however, Armentrout is not such a writer. She has Ivy feeling ashamed for her actions, even though she keeps telling herself she did nothing wrong, and feeling guilty, too. That is appalling. Okay. I’m changing my rating (from 2.5 hearts). This is pissing me off too much even as I write.

Ivy is also so damn cliché when it comes to her personal image. When she’s not thinking that she’s an abomination because she is half-fae (yawn), she’s thinking that she isn’t hot enough for Ren – because he is gorgeous and she is just this special, milk-skinned redhead that no one would look at twice. *facepalm*

Another problem I had was with Ren. The guy was really hot in Wicked and even though he subscribed to the Order’s weird mentality (they killed two innocent people in this part, for example, because their daughter was suspected of being a halfling – she wasn’t, so they were killed for nothing), he was strong and confident and, well, kind of mouth-watering. In Torn, however, he starts off by being an overprotective jackass and steadily progresses into being a controlling, judgmental asshole. Why this change? I have no idea, especially as he’s somewhat redeemed at the end of the book. But I can’t reconcile this last-chapter Ren with the unreasonable guy we meet in the first half of the book. I usually read Armentrout’s books for a good amount of sass and sex and now I couldn’t even enjoy those. Meh.

Armentrout also did a fantastic job of isolating Ivy from all her friends. She even can’t trust Tink properly now that he’s a man-sized brownie, not a tiny winged creature anymore (yeah, that happened…). There are also no significant women left around her – and unless one fae lady who helped her and another human one become much more prominent characters in the third book, Ivy is going to be the only woman around. Also, Armentrout calls women “females”. I just… wow.

Oh! Oh! And Ivy makes a deal that … wait, that’s a spoiler. *spoiler in white* Anyway, she makes a deal with the prince that goes like this: he will release Ren, who has been captured, beaten, and fed on, if she willingly submits to the prince in three weeks – aka sleeps with him in order to make the door-making baby. And she agrees to the deal because a) she feels guilty about Ren being captured, even though we later find out he’d been an asshole and went fae hunting without being ready; b) she doesn’t feel good enough because she’s a halfling anyway, and c) muses that she could still kill herself before sleeping with the prince if she doesn’t manage to escape in time. SHOOT. ME. NOW. *end spoiler* Okay, I feel better now.

I’m not even sure I’ll be reading the third part. Probably not, even though I’m on a mission to finish more series (doing… poorly) and I want to know if Armentrout is capable of redeeming herself. I kind of thought Torn might be the final part but I saw that we have one more book to go (or so it seems now). I was also shocked to see that Torn has a 4,3 rating on Goodreads! Were we even reading the same book?! I don’t think I’ll be picking up her next series, whatever it is, so this might just be the final goodbye. It’s sad and harsh but there are just so many better books out there.

srcek

Have you read Wicked and/or Torn? What did you think?

Do you have any good paranormal recs for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Published in 2002 by Scholastic Inc..

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: MG paranormal (?) fantasy.

My rating:

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

zmaj-desno

I really like Neil Gaiman. I mean, I haven’t had much luck with his adult novels yet but Stardust was a beautiful fairytale and I still think The Graveyard Book is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read.

Coraline is another one of his successes but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to young readers. Why, you ask? Well, I know it was written and published and marketed as an MG book but honestly, it creeped me out and I can definitely imagine having nightmares if I’d read it as a child. I didn’t often read scary stuff when I was younger (I was a big chicken even then) but I remember reading Dracula when I was about 14, for example, and it scared the sh*t out of me. The fact that the story is accompanied by black-and-white illustrations by Dave McKean isn’t comforting at all, as they are creepy as hell. Buttons for eyes? *shudder* So … I’d say Coraline is a great book for youngsters who are already used to scary stuff and even crave it but I’d be careful if the kid was a bit of a scaredy cat.

The fact is that Coraline deals with some serious issues. The image of a girl whose parents are less than enthusiastic about her is provocative in its own right, but the big question is: would she switch her parents for more loving ones, given the chance? I found Gaiman’s execution of this problem to be really good, he managed to bring all the tension into it but also gave us a powerful resolution in the end.

I loved the setting, the big old house with wonky neighbors and the strange feeling of isolation. But maybe it’s a bit much for kids? I don’t even know, it’s so surreal and dreamlike at times that I could hardly keep up with all the doors and hallways and all. Am I judging it too harshly? Am I being patronizing towards kids? Ugh.

See, I can’t even make up my own mind on this one. I think Coraline is a fantastic read but if the target audience is supposed to be the same age as the heroine, it’s too complex (the setting and the execution, not the theme – the theme is perfect). I’d expect this kind of complexity from a YA novel but then the theme is perhaps less relevant for such an age group. *sigh*

zmaj-levo

Have you read Coraline? What did you think?

Do you always trust publishers and authors when it comes to determining the target audience of a novel?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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