Review: Storm and Fury (The Harbinger #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her unique gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound fiercely guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her, flesh and bone, to enhance their own powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something out there is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s safe world implodes. Not the least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family and maybe the world, she’ll have to put her trust in Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…

I received copies of this title via NetGalley and via a Goodreads giveaway. It does not impact my review.

Storm and Fury will be available June 11, 2019. 

I really enjoyed this. I must confess, I was never a huge fan of the original The Dark Elements series that this series spun-off from and I thought I would feel similarly about this one. However, it definitely surpassed my expectations.

I thought Trinity was a good main character. She frustrated me a little bit with her impulsiveness and argumentativeness, but she was a pretty classic JLA heroine. One thing that really made her stand out is that she’s dealing with a vision disability – Retinitis pigmentosa. It causes tunnel vision and a host of other vision problems and will most likely end in blindness. JLA has been diagnosed with this in real life and I have to imagine including this in a character was a bit cathartic, but also difficult. There are parts here and there when Trinity says something about it that I have seen JLA say on social media, so you know this character is very personal to her and it made her that much more special to read.

I also liked seeing Zayne again. I was Team Zayne in The Dark Elements series, even though I knew it was never going to happen, so I was happy to see him really start to move on a bit. I liked his banter with Trinity and his protectiveness of her. I also thought we got just the right amount of Roth and Layla. They’re around enough to make fans of the original series happy, while also contributing to the plot in a big way, but they don’t take the focus off of Trinity and Zayne.

At over 500 pages, I did think this book was a little too long, though. There is honestly not that much going on and I think it really could’ve been cut down a bit. However, there is lots of character development and I never felt bored or anything, despite the slow moving plot. There were several reveals saved until the end that I thought were pretty obvious much earlier in the book, but there was one big one that I hadn’t seen coming and I liked that it managed to surprise me.

Other than the length, there was only really one other thing I didn’t care for. I expect a little more mature content from a JLA book, but there is one scene that I thought was a little too explicit for YA. I could see that an argument could be made for this being New Adult instead of Young Adult since Trinity is 18 and Zane is a few years older, but everything else reads very much YA, so it still felt a little inappropriate.

Overall, I really enjoyed Storm and Fury. I thought it improved upon the original series it spun off from. I liked the characters and shipped the romance. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers #1) by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Take

Synopsis from Good Reads:

She doesn’t see dead people. She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about her need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who’ll be next.

March has been a pretty slow reading month for me so far and My Soul to Take is the first book that’s inspired me to write a review. The Soul Screamers series is one that’s never been on my radar, but was part of the haul I won in a giveaway recently and I’m glad I gave it a go.

Kaylee is a banshee. A different term is used in the book, but it’s two words and pronounced the same, so I’m going with “banshee”. I haven’t encountered books about banshees before, so it was an interesting new twist for YA paranormal for me. For those unfamiliar, banshees are not-quite-humans who scream (or “sing”) for a soul that is about to be taken. Kaylee sees shadows and feels crushing grief whenever someone around her is about to die. While banshee myth is traditionally women, there are also male banshees and they can’t tell when a person is about to die, but once it’s happened, they can see the soul and can sometimes “redirect” it back into the body. However, doing so means someone else will have to die in the person’s place.

Kaylee has had a few episodes when the need of uncontrollable screaming takes over and her aunt and uncle, who she lives with, explain it away as panic attacks, but Kaylee has always known it’s a little more than that. When she has an “attack” at a club she’s calmed down by hottie-hot-hot Nash. Cue Typical YA Trope where the “Special Girl” who is more beautiful than she realizes falls head-over-heels into insta-love with the Hottest Guy Ever Who Has Never Noticed Her Before. Despite the cliché, I was ok with Kaylee and Nash’s relationship. While Nash has to explain a lot to her, they felt like pretty equal characters, needing to work together to save anyone. I’m still trying to decide if he’s mysterious or shady. There’s a lot that he holds back and by the end of the book I still feel like there’s a lot more about him that we don’t know.

In addition to the two main characters, we also get to know Kaylee’s aunt and uncle, popular cousin, best friend (who is mostly absent due to being grounded), and a reaper who has ties to Nash. I really liked Uncle Brendan and am intrigued by Tod, the reaper (but super annoyed it’s spelled with only one “d”. I don’t know why, but it bugs me).

I felt like the main mystery of the dying girls took backstage to Kaylee finding out about her family heritage of banshees and her romance with Nash. However, the resolution to it took me by surprise and I kind of liked that it wasn’t a typical “happily ever after” ending.

Overall, I enjoyed My Soul To Take and I think it broke me out of my reading rut. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series and would recommend it to people who like YA paranormal.

Rating (out of 5):

3.5 stars

Firefly Hollow by T.L. Haddix – 3 stars (out of 5)

Firefly Hollow (Firefly Hollow, #1)

*I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.*

Synopsis from Good Reads:

The mysterious recluse…

Owen Campbell holds himself apart from other people. Badly scarred from emotional wounds that have never healed, he doesn’t expect to find true love or happiness. He remains isolated in a prison of his own making, determined to not let anyone close enough to hurt him again.

But his willpower is shaken to the core when Sarah Browning enters his world.

The girl next door…

Sarah Jane Browning is three years into her college degree when a call from home changes everything. Back at the family homestead in the heart of Appalachia, she’s forced to reevaluate her hopes and dreams for the future.

Distraction from her heartache comes in the form of her parents’ neighbor. Whispers about “odd Owen Campbell” abound in their small community, and Sarah’s curiosity is aroused. When she breaks the rules and trespasses onto his land, what she finds is beyond her wildest imaginings.

As Sarah struggles to overcome tragedy and loss, her burgeoning relationship with Owen is sorely tested. Will love conquer all, or will the secrets from Owen’s past tear them apart forever?

My Thoughts:

-Firefly Hollow is described as a Romance with paranormal elements. I didn’t really understand how that was different than a “paranormal romance”, but after reading it, that description makes sense. We find out almost right away that Owen is a shape shifter, but it’s a pretty minor point in the love story.

-The story centers on Sarah and Owen and their growing relationship. I felt like both characters were likable and well-developed. They’ve both gone through multiple heartaches and hardships that made them relatable, to each other and to the readers.

-The cast of secondary characters were also well-developed, especially Sarah’s mom, Eliza. She was wise and smart and loving. I enjoyed her honest and open relationship with Sarah and with her other children, Jack and Kathy. Owen’s uncle Eli was also very likable.

-The pace was pretty slow, but the writing made up for it. Despite not a whole lot really happening, I found myself unable to put the book down. Though there were a couple of major events, the real story was in the small moments. The emotional and character development of both Sarah and Owen, as individuals as well as a couple, is what made the story so compelling.

-Overall I enjoyed Firefly Hollow. It’s over 300 pages and I read it in less than 24 hours. I would recommend this to those interested in Romance and don’t mind a bit of the paranormal. I liked Haddix’s writing style and look forward to reading more books by her.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – 3 stars (out of 5)

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)

Synopsis from Good Reads:

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

So I’m not really sure how to review The Raven Boys. I really liked the characters, I just kinda wish they were in a different story.

MY (SOMEWHAT SPOILERY) THOUGHTS

-The book is in told in 3rd person POV, traveling between Blue, the 16-year-old non-psychic in a house full of psychic women, Gansey, Adam (2 of the 4 Raven Boys), and Barrington Whelk, a former Raven Boy who is now a much poorer teacher. While I don’t mind 3rd person POV, there were times when I thought the multiple viewpoints were a little much and jumped around too often. I prefer 1st person from 1 or 2 narrators.

-Am I the only person who thought Adam was in love with Gansey after the first chapter with his POV? The way he described him, adored him, and also kind of resented him. But then the next chapter he’s crushing on Blue. So even though he turns out to be straight I still think he’s just a little in love with Gansey. And there’s a fine line between love and hate.

-I didn’t really like the description that was used in this book. It just struck me as odd. If I was a better reviewer I would list some examples, but the only one I have marked is, “The smile on Gansey’s face could have lit coal mines.” Which really isn’t that weird now that I look at it, but that’s kind of the general idea. Like too many similes and metaphors that weren’t really that clever.

-The synopsis of the book makes it sound like it’s focused much more on romance than it really is. I don’t mind that, actually. It’s a lot more about friendship than romance and the inevitable YA love triangle is just barely implied.

-In the beginning Noah says that he’s been dead for seven years. So it’s not entirely a surprise later on when it turns out he actually has been dead for seven years. But what I did think was a good twist was that Noah turned out to be the same person as Whelk’s old friend Czerney – Noah Czerney. This is the kind of twist and surprise that I like – something I didn’t see coming, but makes sense after I thought about it.

-What I really liked about this book were the characters. Blue is well-developed and I was very rarely, if ever, frustrated by her actions. I also enjoyed the crazy cast of characters that she lives with – her mother, Neeve, Calla, and Persephone in particular. I also thought the Raven boys were well-developed, particularly Gansey and Adam. Noah and Ronan kind of got the short of the stick in this book, but I still mostly enjoyed them. I always felt like Ronan’s actions could have been explored more, but I guess we’ll get that in the second book, which I’ve heard focuses mostly on him. I did really like Gansey and his big heart and his unintentional condescending ways. I liked Adam too, but as the story went on I liked him a little less. It seemed a little cliché to make the poor kid the most prideful and obsessed with money.

-My favorite parts of the book were when it focused on Blue and “her boys”. Their interactions and character developments as a group is what really made the book for me. The story – psychics, ley lines, finding Glendower – was just ok. But, I’m looking forward to see what happens to the characters in the future. What happened to Ronan’s father and why is Ronan the way he is? Does Blue’s first kiss really kill her true love? Is that true love Gansey? Will Adam stop being a douche about Gansey’s money?

Overall, I enjoyed The Raven Boys and look forward to the next installment in the series. I would recommend this book to fans of fantasy/paranormal.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon – 3.5 stars (out of 5)

The Bone Season

When I first started reading The Bone Season I thought it would be a little too sci-fi for me. It’s about clairvoyants and ghosts and other such creatures. There are several different types of clairvoyants that we meet throughout the book, but they are often mentioned without being well explained and they were hard to keep straight. I found a lot of this to be confusing, but once I decided to stop paying so much attention to the details and focus on the story of Paige Mahoney, I really began to enjoy the story.

Paige Mahoney is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant that can sense/enter other people’s dreamscapes (mind/spirit) in a world where clairvoyants are deemed “unnatural” criminals.  On her way home to visit her father, on a break from her work with a clairvoyant crime gang called The Seven Seals, she accidentally kills two government workers when they tried to capture her. Her escape doesn’t last long, as she is captured that very night.

She’s taken to a place called Sheol I, run by the Rephaim, who are beings from the aether (the spirit world), clairvoyants, and not human. They work with the human government, Scion, to capture clairvoyants and keep them in Sheol I and away from the normal people (“amaurotics”). The humans are given Rephaim keepers and there are different social classes they can ascend to, but for most it’s basically a concentration camp.

Paige is taken in by the Blood-Consort (fiancé to the queenly “Blood-Sovereign”), Warden. Their relationship grows from Keeper/Slave to a partnership, both working towards their respective freedom.

Thoughts:

-There is a chart in the front of the book naming all the groups of clairvoyants, but it got pretty old pretty fast to have to keep looking back (also my Nook did not let me enlarge it, so it was hard to read, but that might just be the formatting on my edition of Nook). Once I was done, I discovered there was a glossary of terms at the end of the book that would have been helpful while I was reading it. While both references are great, I still feel like there could have been some more in depth description in the opening chapters when so many foreign terms were thrown out at one time it was almost impossible to keep them straight.

-Once Paige got to Sheol I, I felt the character development was well written. We get Paige’s background story through a series of memories/dreams, which include her fellow gang members, as well as some family. We also get to know her new allies in Sheol I and see how her relationship with Warden changes and grows.

-Though I wouldn’t categorize this book as a romance, it does fall into one of their most famous clichés. It was easy to predict from the first mention of Warden that he would be the romantic lead in the story.

“He must have been examining me for a long time. His gaze cleaved straight to mine, as if he’d been waiting for me to look. His skin was a dark honey gold…and beneath his velvet shirt, his chest was broad and strong…He was the single most beautiful and terrible thing I’d ever laid eyes on.”

Predictably Paige hates him at first, but they slowly begin to understand and trust each other.

-I would’ve liked a little more development of Warden, as well. He often offers excuses instead of answering Paige’s questions and while we can pretty  accurately guess at his motivation and background, I still feel like I wanted to know more about him.

-It took about half way through for me to really get a handle on the world that Shannon created, but once I did, I really enjoyed the The Bone Season. I’ve heard that there will be seven books in the series and I look forward to reading the next one, even though I suspect the POV will change for each one (Seven Seals. Seven books.), which I generally don’t appreciate, but at least in this case I’m actually interested in the other possible narrators.

*Note: This is my first ever advanced copy of a book from NetGalley and I can’t even tell you how super excited I was to get it*