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The Legacy of Tril: Soulbound

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I’ve been reading a ton of YA fiction in the past two years, most of which I have enjoyed. So, when I came across Soulbound, I was intrigued by the fantasy-setting and seemingly original premise. I read through over half the book in one sitting. Then, I put it down for well over a week with no urge to return to it. It took some time before I realized what the problem was – I’ve read this before. Souldbound has more in common with popular series that came before (like Stephenie Meyer, Tamora Pierce, PC Cast, etc.) than it has original content. Female protagonist is pulled into a word hidden right under the noses of “normal” people. At the Shadow Academy she’s torn between two potential suitors, one rebel, one rule-follower, and both of whom she likes for different reasons. Society is trying to force her into a role that she doesn’t want. The headmaster is more menacing than he appears. And, of course, this is first person point of view like so much of YA tends to be. I dislike first person POV because you’re stuck inside someone’s head and if you don’t love that character, it can become tedious after a while. And, you are limited in learning about the world as she does. Kaya isn’t awful, but I got bored with her fast. I was initially inclined to give this 2 stars, but realized I was being harsh due to burn out. This has happened to me with other genres (e.g. how many urban fantasy female protagonists were initially Anita Blake clones?). There are some interesting ideas here and, if this had been the first YA series I came across, it probably would have been more enjoyable for me. As it was, I barely finished it and have no desire to read the next book. Overall, if you are just getting into YA, this may be a worthwhile read. If you’re looking for something fresh and original (like The Night Circus, or Daughter of Smoke and Bone), this isn’t it.
Three in Death

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I really hate buying anthologies in order to read one story by an author I like. So, I was delighted when the publisher decided to combine three of Robb's previously published stories in one volume. I usually prefer novels over short stories because stories often don't have enough time to really get going. JD Robb is a rare exception wherein her stories are on par with the full novels, mainly because the stage has already been set by the series, and it makes sense for a cop to have some cases that aren't as in depth. Each of the stories in Three in Death was excellent.Interlude in Death: Eve has to go to a police conference held off-planet on one of Roarke's resorts. She hates space travel, and loathes giving speeches so when the conference is interrupted by a murder - it's fortuitous for her, if not the victim. The culprit is easy to guess right from the start, but it is the motive that keeps Eve investigating. This story was good because sometimes good people lose their way, and it was interesting to see how Eve handled that.Midnight in Death: Christmas is interrupted by an escaped murderer previously caught by Eve. Once again, there isn't much need for investigating as Eve knows who the killer is. The suspense is built by the two of them playing a deadly game of cat and mouse against each other. Short, but engaging.Haunted in Death: This is my favorite of the three, because it pits the straight-laced Eve against something that just might be otherworldly. Do ghosts really exist? Eve is called to a murder committed with a hand gun - unheard of in her time. Moreover, another very old body is discovered at the same location - a location said to be haunted. This story was fun, and kept me guessing because the killer is not obvious.Overall, I truly enjoyed this collection and hope the publisher does the same with more of the In Death novellas. Highly recommended.
Frost Burned

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Though I enjoyed the previous Mercy Thompson book, River Marked, I thought it was a weak installment in the series. Too little plot, and too much “introspection.” Happily, Frost Burned brings the action back and kicks the character development into overdrive. I was gripped right from the beginning and read straight through without stopping!Someone has kidnapped Adam’s pack while Mercy and Jesse are out shopping on Black Friday. Not only must she figure out how to find and save Adam, she has to protect the few members of the pack still free – Jesse, Kyle and Ben. For that, she’s going to need a little help. I was ecstatic for the return of Stefan, who has not featured much in the past couple books, and surprised to find I was excited to see more of Asil the Moor, a secondary character from the Alpha & Omega series. He’s dangerous, wise, volatile and an altogether intriguing character (like Bran). The story was fast paced, with plenty of twists that expanded on the world-building and will impact the characters for many more books to come. What I love about Mercy is that she knows when she is in over her head, but strives to do the right thing and not take unnecessary risks. She’s not badass, she’s capable but also very willing to accept assistance. And she understands that it is difficult on her loved ones, especially Adam, to see her in danger. Another bonus to this entry was how the two series, Mercy and Omega, are tying ever more together. It makes me excited for a possible crossover book in the future. Overall, this was an excellent installment to a quality urban fantasy series. Highly recommended.
The Rise of Nine: Lorien Legacies Book 3

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I truly enjoyed the first two books of this series and was looking forward to Rise of Nine; at least until I learned there would be six books in the series. That presents two problems for me: 1) waiting years to get closure and 2) the "middle" will probably lag. Sadly, not only did this book lag with little actual plot development, but the actions of the Loriens became so ridiculous I could no longer suspend my disbelief.I have an excellent memory for books, but after reading several dozen books over the year, details begin to erode from following so many series. I was a third of the way into Nine before everything started clicking again. And now it'll be another year before the cliffhanger ending gets picked up. And, Rise of Nine is a "middle" book with all that comes with being one. First off, it jumped around like a madman from one narrator to the next, with the teens spread about the globe. In fact, the last few pages switched between the 7 Loriens paragraph by paragraph, straining my ability to keep track of who was talking (as they all speak in first person!) I did like knowing what was happening to all of them, rather than being stuck with one narrator, but it was poorly organized. But, the more serious problem I had with the book may come down to me being an adult and not the intended YA audience.The teen angst got on my nerves, as well as continuing story contrivances. These teens are on the run for their lives; they have seen their dearest family murdered before their eyes; and yet, they make stupid mistakes and fight amongst themselves like regular teenagers! It just didn't make sense. Nine and Four get caught by the FBI because they are too busy playing with the items in their chests? I mean, really?! Oh, and those chests. So important, yet not one of these kids knows how to use more than one or two items. And have hurt themselves with them more than once. The Cepans knew they could be killed at any time - why would they not go through every item with their charges, or at least leave instructions, just in case?SPOILER>>>>And, speaking of contrivances, the big bad can take away their legacies. All this build-up about how important these kids are; how important their legacies will be, and snap - he can just take them away with a thought? It stretches credibility to the breaking point.>>>>ENDSPOILEROverall, the book wasn't bad but the saga has lost serious momentum for me. After an entire book, all that was accomplished was bringing everyone together except Five. No doubt, the next book will spend its entirety looking for him/her - how else will they stretch this out 3 more books? Though I still find the over-arching story interesting, I will probably hold off on reading any more until all the books have been released. Recommended, but with reservations.
Queen of Kings: The Immortal Story of Cleopatra

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Having an ancient Egyptian Queen become the mother of all vampires is not a new idea. Anne Rice did it in Queen of the Damned. However, having that Queen be "the" Cleopatra, taking on the curse to bring back her true love, Antony, is something fresh. Cleopatra is a vampire, but this didn't feel like a vampire novel because that is not the focus. This is her story - the curse only one facet of it.I think what made this book so enjoyable for me was the mythology deeply woven into a new take on vampire myth. In a way, this book felt like one of those genre mash-ups, a la Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, only using Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra. The novel opens with a prologue, a historian telling us what really happened, and then jumps to Octavian's siege of Alexandria wherein Antony and Cleopatra are supposed to die. Only, she doesn't succumb to an asp - she calls upon the Daughter of Ra to give her back her true love and take revenge upon her enemies. Naturally, it doesn't go according to plan! Her quest for vengeance will take her out of Egypt, to Rome, and even to the Underworld. Gods and goddesses of myth make appearances as the plot unfolds.The writing here is solid. Though the middle section lagged somewhat, the book kept my attention with vivid description and entertaining characters. This Cleopatra is more real than I have read before. A queen and a woman, predator and prey - she is interesting. Overall, I thought the book was very well done and I hope the author pens a sequel. The ending is not cliffhanger, but it certainly leaves the door open for more. Recommended.
Harry Dresden 14 - Eiskalt: Die dunklen Fälle des Harry Dresden Band 14

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It has been a while since I enjoyed a Dresden File book this much! The last few books were so depressing, with Harry beat down so much that it seemed every "victory" was Pyrrhic. I just didn't enjoy them. Cold Days finally brings back the old, smart ass Harry who relies on his friends and never loses hope. And to my delight, Thomas comes front and center again too.At the end of Ghost Story, Harry is in the care of Demonreach and Mab after being "assassinated." He's still the Winter Knight with a boatload of problems, and the world is about to end. Again. Which Thomas and Harry sarcastically say is "same old, same old." That is perhaps the best thing about Cold Days. Butcher returns to the trademark wiserassery and snark that makes Harry so enjoyable and relatable. I laughed out loud when Molly says to Thomas "Wait a minute.... We're his flunkies!" and Thomas snidely replies, "I'm his thug. I'm way higher than a flunky." There was a lot of humor, especially in the dire situations. There are also multiple plot threads, which do eventually tie into each other, but which kept the book engaging with lots of twists and turns.Mab gives Harry his first assignment - to assassinate a member of her court (I won't reveal who) and the target stuns Harry. This tiny beginning blossoms into an overarching plotline that will likely expand many more books, and which reintroduces an enemy that had been on the periphery. An enemy which is a danger to everyone, including all of Harry's foes and frenemies. This plot also allowed for serious expansion on the world-building of Faerie. Readers get a lot of detail on the hows and whys of Summer and Winter, and Mab specifically. When Harry is taken to the distant border of Faerie, the revelations there were a complete surprise and absolutely fantastic. We even learn just what is special about Harry's island, Demonreach, and its purpose. Also very cool. Moreover, though Harry does take some blows (physical and psychological), his victory is decisive and satisfying. Major plots are left open for further development, but the specific missions Harry was on are fully resolved.Overall, this was a wholly satisfying book that I could not put down. So glad to see Dresden in top form, and I cannot wait for the next installment.
Tempest: A Novel

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I'd been considering preordering this book, so when I got the chance for an Advanced Reading Copy I jumped on it. The first quarter of the book was slow and a bit boring; I put it down to continue the next day. However, once Holly and Jackson are attacked (pretty early on), the book kicked into high gear and I read it straight through without stopping - it was that engrossing. The story reminds me of a cross between Steven Gould's "Jumper" and the movie "Next". Jackson can travel back in time, but never more than a few days and it doesn't change anything in the present. When Holly is shot, Jackson travels back two full years, and is unable to return. From there, the book takes on an almost relentless pace.The writing here is excellent, and the story well laid out. It could have become hard on a reader trying to follow a story where the main character is jumping around in time. But whenever Jackson changes times, a new chapter begins with the date when he is. The author also attempted to provide an explanation for Jackson's ability, and for the most part succeeded. As the first in a planned trilogy, I expected to be left hanging with no answers and very little plot development. Instead, I was thrown right into conspiracies! His father is not who he thinks; a mysterious girl who looks like his dead sister keeps appearing; someone may be trying to kill him. Moreover, Jackson thinks and sounds like a 19 year old guy, especially in his relationship with Holly. And he actually grows as a character as the story progresses. The main plot of this book was addressed - Jackson learns who and what he is - but an overarching plot was also introduced that will surely span the trilogy. The result was a book that had a fairly satisfying ending, but left me eager for the next book.The book isn't perfect. A few things are a bit cliché, or stretch credibility (the science geek friend who understands relative physics and can hack any computer? Check. And happens to have a friend in a DNA lab who'll run a test for him? Yeah right), but these are minor and didn't detract from the story. The romance was also well done, albeit understated. Readers looking for a Twilight, front and center romance, may be disappointed. It is fully secondary to the plot, though vitally important to Jackson's motives. Overall, this was an excellent first novel, and a prime example of why YA/teen fiction is so hot right now. I can't wait for more!
Enchanted

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I've been reading a lot of YA lit over the last year, and have enjoyed, to varying degrees, everything I have picked up. I also enjoyed Enchanted. However, this is one of those titles that leans more heavily toward the young than the adult.Kontis has designed quite a mash-up of fairy tales in her story of Sunday Woodcutter. Pretty much every major fairy tale has some trope that pops up in the book. Fairy godmothers, curses, magic kisses, magic beans, foundlings, changelings, and more all come to fruition. Sometimes I felt like the author threw everything but the kitchen sink into the story. It was interesting, but to encompass so many elements it required a lot of exposition. A lot. So, the characters don't do very much until the last third of the book. Thankfully, that last third was very entertaining, but I put the book down to do other things many times until I reached it.That said, the writing shows a lot of imagination, and potential. I loved learning about Sunday's sisters, all named after the days of the week, and what made each of the special (or doomed, as the case may be!) The characters in this book are interesting. Still, at the heart of Enchanted is the love story of Sunday and her frog prince. So many obstacles are arrayed before them, deemed by fate and fairytale to keep them apart. When the characters do begin to take action, the last third of the book flew by right up to the HEA that only a true fairy tale can provide.Overall, this book was not as rich and satisfying for adults as other YA such as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, or Tempest: A Novel. However, it was enjoyable and a rare YA book that parents concerned about too many adult themes can give to their young teens without fear. 3.5 stars, recommended.
Beautiful Redemption

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I was hoping Redemption would knock it out of the park, so to speak. Instead, I got a double. For the most part, this was a satisfying conclusion to the Caster Chronicles. Lena and Ethan’s romance gets a happily ever after; the big bad is defeated; and, we revisit just about every character that was introduced. The reason it wasn't a home run for me was that a couple things were so neatly wrapped up as to be almost deux ex machina. The last book left us with a cliffhanger of Ethan throwing himself from the water tower to save the world. This book begins with him. He’s dead, but shouldn't be. I liked this twist, because it tied the story back to the fabled Caster Chronicles book which was often mentioned but never explored as a concept. It’s not really a spoiler to say Ethan has the chance to come back to life (I mean, really, this is paranormal romance). How he does so is via a quest. He needs some items, which he’ll have to have Lena’s help to get, in order to complete the quest. The rub is that she can’t see or hear him. And one of those items is in possession of the big bad and it will take all his friends still in Gatlin, working together, to get it. Though the first half of the book with Ethan discovering what the heck happened was slow going, the quest was interesting and more about the Caster world was revealed in the process. The second half moved at break-neck speed. And that wasn't necessarily a good thing. Though exciting, some stuff was glossed over too much and the ending should have been tighter.>>>> I can’t really say how the book failed without revealing two plot points. Lena has to get a quest item from no less than Abraham Ravenwood. The authors spent four books building up just how powerful and evil he is. And, he’s defeated in just a few pages. Now, I will say that I loved the twist of who actually takes him down (which I won’t spoil), but I felt let down that after being the boogeyman for so long the showdown was anything but climactic. I felt a bit cheated. My second issue was how Lena and Ethan’s electrical issue (he gets zapped just kissing her) was resolved. It wasn’t - it just went away. No explanation, just boom! - wow! - we can be together. This was just flat-out lazy writing. The authors didn't even try to rationalize how it happened. >>>>Overall, I loved the happy ending but just wish the authors had put a bit more effort into working it out without the contrivances. Though this wasn't as strong a conclusion as I would have liked, it was a good story and the series was well worth reading. I am looking forward to the film adaptations. Recommended.
All Seeing Eye

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After Nightlife, Rob Thurman quickly became one of my favorite authors. She writes mostly in urban fantasy, though her Korsak series is science fiction. All Seeing Eye is squarely in the mystery genre, although it does have a "supernatural" element. Jackson Lee has a talent - psychometry, the ability to read the past from touching things (people, objects). Initially, the book reminded me of Charlaine Harris' Grave series. However, Thurman has written a much better mystery to go along with her protagonist's extra-sensory perception.Jackson makes his living as a psychic. He is satisfied with his life, until Hector, the brother of a kind, young man het met in a state home shows up at his door. Hector needs his help, and is not above blackmailing Jackson to get it. While trying to scientifically engineer astral projection, Hector's brother Charlie died and was left lost in the ether. Only, he keeps trying to get back by homing in on places of violence and forcing the reenactment of those events. Hector wants to release his spirit. Jackson wants to go home. Until he learns it wasn't an accident, and Charlie was murdered. And the murderer certainly doesn't want Jackson discovering the truth.This book was a real page-turner. I read through most of the book before figuring out the villain, and Thurman still managed to throw in a surprise at the end. The book was fast-paced and the setting well defined. In the beginning, Jackson is something of a Cal Leandros clone. He's sarcastic, doesn't like people except for his "sister," and hates what he is. I love that in Cal, but was hesitant about this becoming a retread. Thankfully, by the end Jackson has changed, and accepts new-found friendships and has hope for the future. His ability has a lot of potential for further stories, and the writing is strong enough to sustain it. Overall, highly recommended and I cannot wait for more!
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