Book Review: “Illuminate” by Aimee Agresti (Gilded Wings #1)

One thing I can say in favor of this book-- the cover is beautiful.

Title: Illuminate (Click to add to your Goodreads!)

Author: Aimee Agresti

Available In: Hardcover, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook.

Maturity Level: YA. Gore, violence, sexuality, but no language.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy slow-moving and slow-developing plots; you have a strong base in Judeo-Christian angel/demon mythology; you’re a fan of Twilight, Hush Hush, or Evernight.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you’re looking for something fast-paced; you enjoy fresher takes on angel/demon mythology such as Angelfall; you don’t like “angel books”.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS AND STRONG OPINIONS.

Let me start off by saying that I really did want to love this book. It has a lovely cover (that, as many people have pointed out) is actually relevant to an event that takes place in the book. The main character, Haven, is a smart honors student with a bright future ahead of her and a mysterious past. It should have been wonderful, but unfortunately, it came off as rather flat instead.

Part of the problem with this book is that NOTHING HAPPENS. Literally. The majority of the first half is taken up with photography and sleep on Haven’s part, along with a rather creepy romantic relationship that she develops with her boss. I found myself nodding off at times— and I’m not the girl who falls asleep reading. The plot is so vague that had I not gone into this knowing that it was an angel book, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the angel/demon overtones.

Which brings me to another issue: the mythology. It’s not a particularly inspired take on angel/demon mythos. The angels in this book represent Ultimate Good and behave as such—when they’re not being overly emotional, whiny teens or invisibly writing in notebooks. As a mildly agnostic atheist who has read pretty extensively about religions all around the world, I actually found this portrayal to be startlingly inaccurate, given that the A’s are, in fact, badass soldiers of God who have been known to level entire civilizations before in the pursuit of their goal. I’m not poking at anyone’s belief systems here, but to me, that’s a complicated moral conundrum, and I like it when my angels are aware of that (Raffe from Angelfall is a pretty good example) and either choose to leave/reform that society (I’m thinking season 6!revolutionary!Castiel of Supernatural) or make their peace with it and go on (to some extent, Raffe, although he is a self-professed agnostic). I do not like it when they are the only good guys, and I dislike whiny emo teenagers in general, so that’s two strikes against this book. Also, the demons didn’t frighten me AT ALL. They sat around getting their pictures taken and occasionally stealing souls/killing people, and didn’t do much else until the final 20 pages. Even Lucifer was pretty lukewarm. (Oh, the irony.)

Now, there were a few things I liked that stopped this book from going in the DNF pile. I liked Dante and Lance quite a bit, and the descriptions of the hotel and the historical 20’s tidbits were quite nice. Unfortunately, they didn’t make up for the overwhelming slowness or the patchy mythology, resulting in the 2.5 star rating.

Pros

  • 20’s/Capone background details.
  • Dante.
  • Lance.
  • The luscious descriptions of the hotel.

Cons

  • Really long beginning.
  • To paraphrase my notes, “creepy ewww boss romance”.
  • Dante’s stereotypical “gay bestie” attitude.
  • The overwrought, very purple prose.
  • Waaaaayyy too long.
  • Nothing happens until the last twenty pages.
  • The stupid notebook subplot.

Favorite Scene (s): On page 307, things are kind of getting badass and hardcore as people literally sign their souls away…. And then Haven starts musing about sanitation and I lose all interest whatsoever.

Favorite Line(s): “Answer correctly, and you have further cemented your reputation as a brainy, hopeless outcast. Answer incorrectly, and not only are you considered a bookish nerd, but you’re even bad at that.”~pg 3

Star Rating on Goodreads: 2.5 out of 5.

Final Grade: C. Might read sequels, will probably not reread.

Advertisements

Top Ten Books I Would Save if Disaster Struck

(Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely people over at The Broke and the Bookish.)

I don’t have a tremendous amount of time to blog this morning– I’m on a rather tight schedule for today and am also suffering from the Head Cold of Doom– but when I saw this TTT topic, I couldn’t resist jotting my list down really quick. 🙂

And the books are…

  1. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This book is a classic for me, and definitely something I’d want to be reading if there was a disaster 😀
  2. Wild Magicby Tamora Pierce. Ideally, I’d be able to save all my Pierce books, but if I had to pick just one, it would be this one.
  3. Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones. I love the humor in this book, and the romance, and just… pretty much everything about it.
  4. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Best steampunk I’ve read in a while.
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stoneby JK Rowling. Again, I’d prefer to save all of them, but this particular copy has sentimental value.
  6. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. I just love this book too much– from the moment Nick Ryves popped his head and his sword out from under the kitchen sink, I was hooked.
  7. Drink Slay Loveby Sarah Beth Durst. Best vampire book EVER.
  8. White Cat by Holly Black. This copy also has sentimental value– it has been signed and doodled in by Black herself!
  9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Again, signed copy. Also, the most emotionally wrenching book I’ve ever read.
  10. My audiobook copy of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Because awesome story + Neil Gaiman’s voice= unforgettable.

What books are in  your top ten? Feel free to link me to your post or let me know in the comments!

 

Waiting on Wednesday: “Illuminate” by Aimee Agresti

Waiting on Wednesday is an event hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine which spotlights upcoming releases that we just can’t wait for. 🙂

 Title: Illuminate

  by Aimee Agresti

  Due out March 6th, 2012

  From Goodreads:

  Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit.

As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?

Thoughts and Impressions: I, for one, am always keen on the shy-girl-finds-her-voice plot for obvious reasons. I also like improbably beautiful and luxurious settings with a lot of darkness running under the surface. Also, frankly, the cover on this is so lovely, I would probably buy it just to stroke the book jacket and stare. Overall, this looks like it’s going to be a solid offering for YA in March– I probably won’t preorder it, but I will definitely see if I can pick it up at my local bookstore.

TV Review: Supernatural 7.14 ~ “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie”

So, I’m going to be perfectly honest here; I did not have high hopes for this episode. Dabb and Loflin are my least favorite additions to the SPN writing team. Sure, they’ve avoided the trap of, say, “Mannequin 3”, and they have some pretty nifty, sharp ideas, but I feel like their style does not mesh well with the established styles of Gamble, Edlund, Singer, etc.

That said, “Plucky Pennywhistle’s” was a much more solid episode than “Season 7, Time For a Wedding!”. It did fall into the typical Dabb/Loflin trap of having WAY too much going on– tentacle monsters, killer unicorns, and land sharks are just a few of the beasties that feature in the ep– but the character execution and pacing was pretty spot on, compared with the woefully torturous “Wedding”. There were a few snappy dialogue scenes, and I’ll admit that the central theme of the episode was pretty neatly done. If Dabb and Loflin can pull off something like this–admittedly less adroitly than Edlund has done in the past– then I could see them having a place amongst the writers of Supernatural. Here’s hoping they improve even more with their next offering!

Pros

  • The dialogue was pretty nicely done. Plenty of Winchester snark 🙂
  • The way in which the passage of time in the episode was tracked, I believe, through Sam’s POV, which makes sense. He’d be the sort to count down seconds until the moment of absolute crisis (“Right Friggin’ Now”).
  • The Season 2 references. Robots with laser eyes? Unicorns shooting rainbows out of their asses? Makes me want to go rewatch season 2 right now 🙂

Cons

  • There was no exploration of the Case of Dean’s Vanishing Drink. At all. I am now convinced that this can only be Bobby– we can safely assume Cas is probably already re-embodied and wondering around without any idea of what’s going on.
  • The episode was visually a bit overwhelming, which I’m sure was what they were going for, but I’m not particularly fond of the Dabb/Loflin brand of sensory overload. At least there were less crappy special effects than we’ve seen in the last few.

Final Rating: B. Solid and amusing, but not something I’d rewatch more than once.

Coming Up Next: We are now easing into the “darkerepisodes of the season, the ones where all of us who have been SPN fans for awhile just now that the proverbial sh** is about to hit the fan. With the spoilers circulating about episode 17, we can safely assume that Sam’s descent into absolute madness begins here in  “Repo Man”. The trailer can be found here at Spoiler TV.

I’m actually really excited to see these next few episodes. So much of this season seems to have been focused on breaking Dean (and to some extent, Sam, but he’s already bonkers to begin with), but something tells me this next bit is going to be his true breaking point. You’re dumping his crazy-for-cocoa-puffs brother, his amnesiac angel best friend who he watched die and who he’s still pissed at over… well… the fact that he made Sam crazy to begin with, AND the Leviathan Problem into his lap. If he pulls out of it, it says something beautiful about his character, but something tells me he’s going to have his own pathos to struggle through before that happens.


Book Review: “Luck of the Devil” (Speak of the Devil, #1) by Patricia Eimer

Title: Luck of the Devil (Speak of the Devil, #1)

Author: Patricia Eimer

Available In: Paperback, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook

Warnings: R for sexuality and explosions.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, STRONG OPINIONS, AND FRANK DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL SCENES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

To be honest, my expectations for Luck of the Devil were not very high. I’m not really a fan of cozy romances, and that’s what it seemed like it was going to be. In the end, it still was—complete with a slightly tepid Happily Ever After ending—but I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.

Our heroine, Faith Bettincourt, is the one of the multiple daughters of Satan—yes, that guy with the flaming pitchforks—and with that, there comes a certain amount of chaos, which she never misses a chance to duck. Unfortunately, it’s hard to act oblivious when your demon half-brother is courting your succubus roommate, your hippy-dippy Mom and Lucifer Morningstar are busy trying to salvage the pieces of their tumultuous romance, and the guy downstairs is not only hot in a nerdy kind of way, but also a Nephilim caught up in the strange politics of angels and humans. What’s a demoness to do?

This book had some laugh out loud moments, and I loved everything that had to do with Faith Bettincourt and the wacky family that she is surrounded by. The romance was pretty stereotypical but sweet, and  the pacing was neatly handled. Overall, it was a diverting PNR read with less of the noir tendency that the genre has borrowed from urban fantasy and more sunshine, and is certainly worth a look for those who like their romances sweet and funny.

Pros

  • I hated Tolliver, but at the same time, I found his ridiculous entitlement quite amusing. So I guess in the end I really didn’t hate everything about him. Hmph.
  • Malachi. Gotta love shape-shifting demons and their wryly humorous insights.
  • Matt/Faith. I liked them as individual characters, and I absolutely loved them as a couple, which leads me too…
  • Wing!lovin’. I honestly have never seen this trope outside of fanfiction, so I don’t really have any other scenes to pit it against for reference, but it was a nice, sensual scene to begin with and I felt like the wing/power aspects were very neatly handled, giving us a definite reminder that they aren’t humans.
  • The casual, irreverent tone. What’s not to love about two hugely powerful multidimensional beings determined to crush one another at Wii Mario Kart?
  • Faith’s family is quite possibly the most amusing group EVER.

Cons

  • Whereas many writers use too many dialogue tags, Eimer uses too few to identify who is speaking in some of the more rapid-fire conversations.
  • There were a few moments where instead of ACTING, a character would SAY what they were going to do, and I felt like this slowed things down a bit.
  • Some of the kitschy “chick-lit” elements were overly stereotypical.
  • I personally find Tolliver/Lisa kind of creepy as a pairing, and I don’t feel that them getting together was necessary. We have Matt and Faith for that, and I feel like they have a far healthier couple’s dynamic.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 3.5 stars, rounded up for the fun factor.

Final Grade: B. Might reread, will read other books in series.

Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices, #1)

Title: Clockwork Angel

Author: Cassandra Clare

Available In: eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook, Paperback, Hardcover, Audio CD

Warnings: PG-13 for violence, sexual content, and Magnus Bane’s existence.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND STRONG, HONEST OPINIONS. ALSO, DECLARATIONS OF LOVE FOR CERTAIN CHARACTERS.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

When I first picked up Clockwork Angel, I had not yet realized that this book was a prequel to The Mortal Instruments series. I’m kind of glad I didn’t; since I’ve only read City of Bones, my inclination would have been to put the book down and read the rest of TMI first. I kept going, however, and was pleased to discover that my very basic working knowledge of the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders was enough to carry me through this book.

The story opens with our heroine, Tessa, sailing from the familiar streets of New York City to the unfamiliar atmosphere of London Town at the behest of her brother Nathaniel and in the wake of her beloved aunt’s death. Tessa’s already nervous enough about leaving the city that has been her home, and when she is met at the docks by a sinister pair of women who claim to be acting on Nathaniel’s behalf, she is understandably perturbed. She goes along with it, however, thinking that surely Nathaniel knows best. It turns out, however, that the Dark Sisters are interested in her for their own reasons– particularly, her strange power to Change into others at will.

And when Tessa meets Will Herondale, a young Shadowhunter, she discovers that the Dark Sisters aren’t the only ones intrigued by her…

Overall, I really thought this book was much better than City of Bones. I liked Tessa more as a main character than I liked Clary—mainly because there is no reason for Clary to be as passive as she is given that she’s a modern gal. Tessa, on the other hand, is very much a classical Gothic heroine, bound by society’s expectations but determined to fight back, and towards the end of the book, she really has started to grow a backbone of steel. I am also completely in love with Jem, and the love triangle that Clare has set up is delicious. Throw in the lovingly researched alt-London setting and the demon-killing badassery that characterized TMI and we have a real winner here. I’m definitely looking forward to Clockwork Prince.

Pros

  • The clockwork angel pendant is such a lovely concept.
  • Henry. I adore mad scientists, and Henry’s ineptitude makes me snicker.
  • The fact that Tessa is a book lover. Rock on, bookworm girl. Unfortunately, the real world is not like the novels, which sucks.
  • JEM. ❤ I just cannot get over how much I love this guy. He’s just so sweet, and brave, and so DEAD at some point in the future. I always go for the doomed ones.
  • Sophie. I love her as a  character, and should Will/Tessa become a thing, I would love it if Clare threw in some Jem/Sophie—if it weren’t for the fact that Jem is so DEAD.
  • Jessamine’s killer parasol,  which is badass.
  • Henry/Charlotte. They are just so cute together, regardless of what people say about the reasons for their marriage. I do think they truly love one another, under all that—at least they’re happy.
  • The Institute’s family dynamic. I loved reading the bits where the “children” were spying on the Enclave meeting and Jessamine and Will’s brother-sister bickering.
  • Magnus Bane. Who needs no explanation. All I can say is, the Victorian era suits him. AND CHURCH! ❤
  • Jessamine clonking Nate. I was cheering for her. Out loud.
  • Tessa’s London is lovingly researched and beautifully portrayed. It’s a world I would love to take a holiday in, and I applaud Clare for her efforts to make it as historically accurate as possible while still adding enough twists to make it just a little bit steampunk.

Cons

  • Tessa’s kind of passive in the early parts of the book, almost in a bodice-ripper heroine sort of way, which always makes me cringe a bit. She gets better as the book goes on, though, so I’m hoping to see her gain even more awesomeness in book 2.
  • Occasionally, the exposition in this book is rather unwieldy, with long portions of dialogue that are nothing more than one character telling another how the world works.
  • Some descriptive words are used repetitively, i.e. Jem’s silvery eyes.
  • The prose could be made a little tighter and neater, by cutting unnecessary descriptors and sentences, especially when they do nothing but reiterate what a character has just said/done.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars out of 5.

Final Grade: A. Would reread, will definitely read other books in series.

(My review of Clockwork Prince is now live! Click to read….)

Book Review: “Angelfall” (Penryn and the End of Days, Book #1) by Susan Ee

Title: Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days, Book #1)

Author: Susan Ee

Available In: eBook for Kindle, ebook for Nook.

Warnings: PG 13 for violence, disturbing imagery, and  graphic portrayal of paranoid schizophrenia/accompanying issues.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS AND STRONG, HONEST OPINIONS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Angelfall takes place six weeks after the angels have come to destroy Penryn’s world. Scavenging for food and a roof to sleep under is now the norm, and Penryn’s already got her hands full with her unstable mother and paralyzed sister Paige when a wounded angel drops from the sky. When Paige is kidnapped, Penryn must make a choice—help the angel in order to find her sister, or let her prejudice be the cause of Paige’s imminent demise.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I know why self-pubs tend to get a bad rap— lack of editorial direction, poor copyediting, self-indulgent authors who never stop to think about the audience they’re writing for—and none of these tendencies are exhibited here. In fact, I was surprised to find that this was a self-pubbed book—it could easily have been at home on a shelf beside The Hunger Games in my library, were a print version available.

And the characters! I simply couldn’t get enough of them. Penryn and Raffe were both excellently badass. Penryn’s mother was a perfect, chilling portrayal of a woman dancing with madness in a crazy world. Even side characters such as the spymaster twins, the leaders of the Resistance, and the albino angel were interesting and complex to a certain degree. The world was also nicely done—very rough and tumble, very post-apocalypse, though human society does seem to have degenerated exceedingly quickly for only six weeks of occupancy by the angels. It feels more like six months, or even six years, but I’m sure it would feel that way to live in Ee’s world so I count this as a nice nuance rather than a flaw.

In summary? Awesome book. Rather like Sandman Slim met The Hunger Games  and had an awesome YA baby. And at only 99 cents on Kindle/Nook, there’s no reason not to check it out! Book #2 is due out Summer 2012, according to Ee’s website, so grab Angelfall and read it now. You won’t regret it.

IN CASE YOU IGNORED THE SPOILER WARNING ABOVE, HERE’S WHERE IT GETS REALLY SPOILER-Y. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ ANGELFALL, STOP RIGHT NOW OR PREPARE TO BE SPOILED.

Pros

  • The world. Chilling, gritty, not a time I’d want to live in but a time that I freaking love reading about.
  • Penryn. I love several things about Penryn. I love that she’s a fighter, and that the reasons for her being a good fighter are explained. I appreciate the fact that her odd name is also explained, at location 1507 according to my Kindle app and my notes. I love that she loves Paige so much, and that she exhibits infinite patience with her mother. Mostly? I love that Penryn is the resourceful, awesome survivor that she is.
  • the  romance. I am always in support of badass x badass, and Penryn and Raffe are definitely badasses.
  • Raffe. An agnostic archangel with bucketloads of snark always makes me happy. It doesn’t hurt that he’s pretty to boot.
  • I really, really like how Penryn’s mom’s mental illness is handled in this book. It’s chilling, realistic, and does not dehumanize the character; rather, it makes her more human and more sympathetic to the reader.
  • Two words. ZOMBIE ANGELS. BEST PLOT TWIST EVER.

Cons

  • The romance. Which also appeared on the Pros list, but whatever. I always cringe a little when a centuries old, practically immortal being falls in love with a teenage girl, but in this case, the badass factor of both participants outweighs the squick.
  • Some descriptive passages could be shortened, and certain descriptive words are used repetitively (Paige’s face is described as being “pixie-like” on numerous occasions).
  • I felt the ending was a little abrupt, and was not thrilled about the fact that Penryn was paralyzed for the entire climax, but it did match the tone of the story.

Star Rating on Goodreads: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Final Grade: A+. Will definitely reread, eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.