Friday, September 21, 2012

A Hunger Like No Other [Cole]

Book: A Hunger Like No Other [Immortals After Dark #1]
Author: Kresley Cole

Review: Lochlain, leader of the Lykae Clan, is in an underground prison (courtesy of the vampires) when he scents his mate. He summons the energy and will to escape the prison he's been in for over 150 years to find her. When he does, he's shocked to find that she is a vampire.

Emma, part-vampire, part-Valkyrie (fae) is in Paris to find information about her vampire father. Known as 'Emma the Timid' to her coven, this is her first time traveling by herself. She is shocked when Lochlain essentially kidnaps her and demands she travel to Scotland with him. 

As Lochlain adjusts to life outside of prison, his passion for Emma overwhelms her and surprises him. Meanwhile, Emma has to reconcile her feelings for Lochlain while trying not to worry her Vaklyrie aunts (enemies of the Lykae) about her quest. As Lochlain and Emma develop a relationship, vampires are hunting for Emma, who is the last female vampire on earth.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I read a lot of fantasy/paranormal romance so the characters in this world were pretty interesting, especially Emma's Vaklyrie aunts. Even though Emma was a slightly annoying heroine (she rotated between acting timid and then powerful pretty quickly) and the plot was thin, it was a sexy read. This is the first in a series and I will definitely be reading the ones involving the Vaklyrie aunts, I think they could be fun.  

Grade: 4/5 (it's a 4 for the sheer sexiness, 3 if I was judging the story)

Haunted [Preble]

Book: Haunted [Dreaming Anastasia #2]
Author: Joy Preble

Review: After saving Anastasia, newly mortal Ethan is traveling around Europe to redefine his life. Anne is back home in Chicago trying to pretend she is a normal teenager, but it's proving challenging. Her powers are growing, she is still dreaming about the hut in the woods and she is being stalked by a mermaid.  Meanwhile, she is dating a really nice guy (Ben) who makes her feel normal, but she cannot reciprocate his feelings of true love. When the mermaid starts to take drastic measures to capture Anne's attention (like almost drowning Ben), Anne, Ben, Ethan (who comes back in town) and Tess go on an adventure back to Baba Yaga's hut. 

I enjoyed the alternate narratives between Anne, Ethan and Baba Yaga. Overall, this was a decent book but it was not as strong as it's predecessor. Anne has a much stronger personality than Ethan and he comes off as really weak (in his defense, he was also kind of weak in book one but I was hoping he'd grow more of a backbone) and she was almost shrill at times. It was frustrating that she used Ben throughout the book and refused to make a decision (even to herself) about being with Ethan. I was also mad that Anne's didn't confide in Tess after Tess continued to prove what a loyal and dedicated friend she was. While the Russian mermaid was interesting, it didn't hold the historical significance of Anastasia Romanov in the first book. There is another book in the series and I hope the Romanov theme comes back into play. 

Grade: 3/5

Dreaming Anastasia: A Novel of Love, Magic and the Power of Dreams [Preble]

Book: Dreaming Anastasia: A Novel of Love, Magic and the Power of Dreams [Dreaming Anastasia #1]
Author: Joy Preble

Review: Anastasia Romanov's family is murdered in front of her when two large hands grab  her and save her from the same fate. She finds herself in a hut in the woods, with the witch Baba Yaga, seemingly stuck in time.

Meanwhile, in present day Chicago, Anne starts to have weird dreams that she is in a hut with an old woman and talking dolls. It's not real, or is it? She soon meets Ethan, a handsome stranger who tells her an incredible story about magic, witches and destiny. It seems Anne is the only person who can free Anastasia from her fate, and Ethan has traveled around the world almost 70 years to find her. 

Great premise, well developed characters and an overall fun, fast read. I loved the three person narrative (it switches between Anne, Anastasia and Ethan) and the historical element to the book. Anne and her best friend (Tess) both read as teenagers which I enjoyed (sometimes characters in YA books seem too mature) and Ethan, while being somewhat weak in the personality department, has the potential to develop into an intriguing male lead. I think this is the first in a series and I'm excited to read the next one. 

Grade: 4/5 

Shadow Heir [Mead]

Book: Shadow Heir [Dark Swan #4]
Author: Richelle Mead

Review: After discovering she is pregnant with twins, Kiyo tries to kill Eugenie when she refuses to abort the fetus'. She initially seeks refuge with Dorian, who offers to adopt and raise the children as his own, as well as do everything in his power to protect them. But Eugenie is frightened for their safety in the Otherworld, and hides in the human world for the remainder of her pregnancy. After her children are born, she discovers a blight in the Otherworld (imagine never ending winter) and teams up with Dorian and Kiyo to save their kingdoms. 

**spoilers** I don't even know where to start with this. This series started off great and this final book was such a mess. First of all, Eugenie decides to hide in the human world because Kiyo is trying to track her down and kill her (and the babies). Roland puts her with a (conveniently) childless couple in the south and they have no idea who Eugenie is or why she is in danger. Considering someone is trying to assassinate her (someone who spends half his time in the human world), they should have known what they were dealing with. She also didn't appear to use a fake name. I'm not a private detective but it shouldn't be too hard to locate a mid-20s woman named Eugenie who gave birth to twins. I know a lot of people had a hard time with Eugenie leaving the twins in the NICU to travel back to the Otherworld to save her kingdom, but I am fine with that particular decision. What I was disappointed in was the lack of emotion written into her final scene with the twins before she left the hospital. It fell flat.

Next up-the big bad in the final book in the series is some queen we have never heard of before. I wish Mead would have given this role to Queen Maiwenn (Kiyo's baby momma, who plays a small part in all the books but quickly changes from friend to foe when she tries to kill Eugenie and then the twins). It was disappointing another new character was introduced when Maiwenn could have been used.

Next-I'm sure most readers were thrilled, THRILLED to find out that Dorian is actually the father of the twins. For the whole series we are told how it is so difficult for the gentry to conceive. We know Dorian wants a child more than anything in the world and the guy even wants the twins not knowing they are his. He has proven over and over again what a great guy he is. Then we are dealt the ultimate betrayal. Eugenie goes back to Dorian and proclaims her love...but she DOES NOT TELL HIM HE IS THE FATHER. She also decides to leave the kids hidden in the human world (to be raised by the couple she stayed with while pregnant). Mead did include an ambivalent sentence something along the lines of Eugenie probably wouldn't be able to keep it a secret from Dorian but hello-she could have included a three paragraph epilogue or something (I read that she purposely left it open ended yet she has no plans to write a sequel or a spin off series...frustrating). 

Next-at the end of the book Maiwenn is still trying to kill the twins and Kiyo appears to still be with Maiwenn (it's not clear if they are friends or more) and they just go off to her kingdom. WHAT? I'll tell you what should have happened. Eugenie should have used the Iron Crown to strip Maiwenn of her kingdom and she should have given it to Jasmine. 

Finally-where was the editor with this book? Kiyo and Maiwenn's baby name wasn't even correct. Also-if Dorian was the twins father, it means they are 75% gentry and they would not be able to tolerate the iron in the human world. 

Very frustrating conclusion to an otherwise fun, creative series. 

Grade: 2/5

Iron Crowned [Mead]

Book: Iron Crowned [Dark Swan #3]
Author: Richelle Mead

Review: After the conclusion of Thorn Queen, war has broken out. Eugenie and Dorian, now a couple (finally!!) are fighting against Queen Katrice. With no end in sight, Eugenie learns about the Iron Crown, whose power could help bring peace. The only problem? The Iron Crown is hidden in the Otherworld and whoever finds it must pass a series of tests to possess it. The gentry have a strong aversion to iron, so Eugenie and Kiyo set off on an adventure to get the crown.

**spoiler alert** Let me say I love Eugenie and Dorian together. She is a pretty inept queen but their love scenes and his layered plotting allow me to overlook that. What I did not like about this book was how she cheated on Dorian and justified it as having 'broken up with him in her head.' I think I actually said outloud "you stupid cheater, how could you?" when this happened. I was seriously angry at Eugenie and her selfishness. Her likability really took a dive at the end of this book. She is so fickle. Yes, Dorian was a little devious but she was able to end the war, just as he predicted. I enjoyed this book but Eugenie was extremely frustrating. 

Grade: 3/5

Thorn Queen [Mead]

Book: Thorn Queen [Dark Swan #2]
Author: Richelle Mead

Review: Eugenie is now a shaman for hire in the human world and Thorn Queen in the Otherworld. Although she is a reluctant queen, her kingdom needs her help when she inadvertently turns the landscape from lush countryside to the desert. Her people don't know to cultivate the land and Eugenie has to figure out a way to help. Meanwhile, her love life is complicated. Her boyfriend Kiyo is preoccupied by his pregnant ex-girlfriend (a queen in the Otherworld) and King Dorian makes it known he would like to take his relationship with Eugenie to the next level. On top of this, young gentry girls are disappearing and Eugenie tries to figure out what happened to them. She struggles to maintain her kingdom, embrace her powers and retain her humanity.

This book wasn't as strong as Storm Born but I still enjoyed it. I was disappointed in the continued relationship between Eugenie and Kiyo. Let me rant about Kiyo for a minute. **spoiler alert** He lied to her from the beginning, claims his relationship with his ex is ancient history and they are just friends (but she is newly they were together at least a few months ago) and he expects Eugenie to just accept the ex and be friends with her. Hmm...I would be demanding more answers from him. Kiyo does not understand nor accept Eugenie's true nature and just seems like a total ass. King Dorian on the other hand...I cannot say enough good things. Yes, he has an agenda, but when Eugenie asks him, he generally tells her the truth. He accepts her for what she is and would be happy with her as a Queen or as a shaman. He just loves "her." He would even give up having kids (his lifelong dream) for her. This is really a no brainer and so frustrating to read. On the mystery front, I think Mead could have put that more front and center but I enjoyed it. 

Grade: 4/5

Storm Born [Mead]

Book: Storm Born [Dark Swan #1]
Author: Richelle Mead

Review:  Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire in Phoenix. She makes her living protecting humans from non-humans creatures by banishing them to the Underworld (i.e. hell) or the Otherworld (a parallel with faeries, also known as gentry). A new client claims his teenager sister (Jasmine) has been kidnapped by King Aeson and is being held captive in the Otherworld. Eugenie fears Jasmine was taken because of her fertility (gentry have a hard time conceiving) and is high risk of being raped. Eugenie's stepfather Roland (a powerful shaman) tells her not to take the case because the Otherworld is extremely dangerous, but Eugenie goes anyway. She enlists the help of the King Dorian (the Oak King, who happens to be super sexy and quick witted). Eugenie also learns ***spoiler alert** that she is the Storm King's daughter (the Storm King planned to take over the Otherworld and human world before he was killed by Roland) and there is a prophecy that his first grandson will conquer both worlds. Eugenie and Dorian team up to save Jasmine, while Eugenie tries to convince everyone she has no plans to have any children. Eugenie also meets and dates Kiyo, a kitsune (can shape shift from a human to fox) who is also able to travel between the human and Otherworld.

Readers of this blog know I'm a big fan of Richelle Mead so I was excited to start this series. Eugenie is a strong, female character with a dynamic personality and some fun cast of characters around her (I thought her roommate was hilarious). I really loved King Dorian and hope he becomes the main love interest over Kiyo. I am just not feeling Kiyo at all. BORING! I was also impressed with the Otherworld-it is very creative (imagine Game of Thrones with magic users who can shift elements, like water, wind and the earth). This was a strong book to the series and I cannot wait to read more! 

Grade: 4/5 stars

Elephants Can Remember [Christie]

Book: Elephants Can Remember [Hercule Poirot #37]
Author: Agatha Christie

Review: A seemingly happy husband and wife went out for a walk one day, never to return. Was it a suicide pact? A murder/suicide? Or did something else happen? The couple's daughter Celia (who was a child when the tragedy occurred) is now an adult and about to get married. She wants to know the truth. Hercule Poirot is on the case, while his friend and famous novelist Ariadne Oliver (also Celia's godmother) helps. Since the crime happened to long ago, they seek information from people who were alive when the deaths took place, to figure out the mystery.

I think this could have been good, as a short story. There was not enough material, plot, or interesting characters to make this an interesting read. Unfortunately, it dragged out, it was tedious, boring and quite easy to determine what happened to the couple. I have figured out a few of Christie's books but she usually throws in some great red herrings that make me question myself. This time around I kept asking myself "really? There has to be more to this?" She really seemed to broadcast the killer and motive very clearly the last few chapters. 

Grade: 2/5 stars