Category Archives: modern fantasy
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published: October 24th 2017
Format: Paper Book
Length: 385 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
And then she died.
Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.
But this year, everything is about to change. . . .
I am not a romance reader. I’ve stated many times in my book reviews that the most annoying aspect of young adult books is always, always, the romance angle for me. There is always some trope to the romance that I can’t stand. (The boy is an asshole because he’s trying to protect the girl and the girl loves the boy despite the fact she knows she should hate his guts because he’s acting like an asshole. I want to claw my eyes out every time I read this and it is everywhere in young adult books.) But The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a romance that does not use those much loathed tropes. It is a romance that did something different and I actually liked it. I know, it was shocking to me too.
This is a great Christmas book and I love the idea. The Scrooge Project uses the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol as a blueprint to try and rehabilitate a single person every year. It uses some pretty snazzy tech to do it too. Like the Go Room, that allows the Ghosts to travel to the Scrooge’s home, and the Time Tunnel, which allows the Ghosts to travel in time to show the Scrooges the error of their ways. And we can’t we forget the Hoodie? Capital letter most definitely needed. The Afterlife of Holly Chase has the same fun and silly tone of My Lady Jane and just the right mix of paranormal fun and seriousness to entertain.
I liked all of the characters. Yes, Holly starts out as the consummate brat, the character you love to hate, but she grows. I loved all the characters at the Scrooge Project. The other Ghosts and all of the tech people helping run things behind the scenes. I even liked Blackpool, the grim and intense Ghost of Christmas Future. I would have liked a bit more development between Holly and Ethan. I see no reason why Holly should love Ethan so much after just seeing a photo of him. Lust, maybe, but not such deep love. That’s my biggest complaint with romance stories. No reasonable build up, in my opinion. The supposed depth of emotion just happens far too fast for me.
When it comes down to it, The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a romance book and the first romance book that I’ve actually liked in a long time. If, like me, you are a bit anti-romance, I suggest you read this one. It’s a perfect read for the holiday season and Cynthia delivers her signature quirky, imaginative brand of writing that I so enjoy.
Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Published: July 5th 2016 by DAW
Format: Paper Book
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Superheroes, Comical, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.
Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.
Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.
But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right… or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.
If you want something fun to read, then Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn is right up your alley. This book is entertaining and packed full of action. The characters kick-ass and are incredibly diverse. It was a pleasure to see characters that break out of the mold, especially for superheroines. These girls were not secondary characters or love interests to the main male character. I loved the focus on female relationships, either between sisters or best friends. I did have a bit of a problem with Aveda/Annie’s behavior through the first and middle sections of the book. Her attitude made me want to reach in and slap her. Thankfully, she progresses and realizes how she is treating Evie and her other friends is unacceptable. I also adored Evie. Everything from her quirkiness to her fire power made me love her. She was an extremely likable character.
Heroine Complex can also be a little cartoonish and a tad drawn out. It felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, full of color and silly but a little jarring to read. Especially since this is an adult book, not YA. This is accomplished by dropping a fair amount of sexual situations into the plot and some nice cursing. Neither which I had a problem with. If anything, it made the characters more believable. It was just out of place with the tone of the writing. The ending also felt drawn out. Kind of like a ridiculous comic book situation that you have to roll your eyes at. It’s campy and outlandish but so much fun. As long as you don’t take the book too seriously and are looking for something comical, Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn is a good pick.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published: July 5th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 427 pages
Genre: Dystopia, Supernatural, Horror, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
There’s no such thing as safe.
Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.
August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.
Their city is divided.
Their city is crumbling.
Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.
But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?
I’ve only read one other Victoria Schwab book several years ago. It was The Near Witch and I was very unimpressed with it. I received This Savage Song in my OwlCrate box last month and figured, since I had it, I might as well give her another try. I must say, she’s gotten better over the years. While I still found This Savage Song a bit slow at the beginning; the world building is fantastic and the writing superb. In Schwab’s dystopian world, violence spawns physical monsters as consequences. Simple violence breeds Corsai; murder breeds Malchai; while the most heinous crimes, like mass murders, breed Sunai. The best aspect of This Savage Song is the world building because in most other ways, the story is rather generic.
The city of Verity is split in two, with each side ruled by a different man. In North City is the mob boss like Hawker, giving protection to the citizens who can pay for it and keeping the monsters under his control at bay with harsh punishments. South City is run by Flynn, whose task force is barely keeping its head above water. It’s all very West and East Berlin like, with the empty Seam between the city halves acting like the Berlin Wall. Then there are the characters. I liked August but I found Kate to be your typical cookie-cutter YA tough girl who is really a mess inside. She really wasn’t interesting. August was your usual tortured emo boy but at least he had his interesting aspects. The plot is also pretty dull as well. The first half of the book is just Kate and August circling each other until Kate figures out August is a Sunai and even when the action picks up in the second half, there were no surprises. It was obvious what was going to happen and who was behind it. I felt like the whole book was just setup for the next novel, where, hopefully, more interesting things will happen. Over four hundred pages is a lot of setup, though. I kind of felt like I was wasting my time.
The novel’s saving grace is the excellent world building and the writing. I applaud Schwab’s choice to leave out any romance between Kate and August. I often find the romantic tropes between two characters detract from a story and was pleased to find it absent here. I liked the juxtaposition of the monster hierarchy. The more horrendous the violence, the more human looking the resulting monster. The Sunai looked completely human but were spawned from the worst violence. I would have enjoyed even more world building. We never learn why violence started creating physical monsters. It’s just called the Phenomenon but we’re never given details. In all, I felt like This Savage Song by Victor Schwab was good but not perfect. There were no surprises in the plot and the characters are overdone tropes but it was entertaining for the most part.
The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
Published: January 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Format: Paper Book
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Spiritualism, Mythology, Religion, Japan, Journey
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.
But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.
I adore Japanese culture and was very excited to read The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary. Spiritualism for Asian cultures is a bit different than anything Western society usually deals with. For them, spirits are close at hand and a part of everyday life. It’s hard to explain the duality of the world in Asian cultures and how they see the spirit world and the human world very close together. Modern society and the youth are a bit removed from this but their spirituality is much closer to their daily lives than Western society would experience. It helps if you watch a lot of anime. (points at self) I’m rather surprised Tanquary did not use the word ‘yōkai’ to describe the spirits. Yōkai is a blanket term for the spirits like the ones found in The Night Parade, although it loosely translates into ‘demon’ or ‘monster’. Other Japanese vocabulary is sprinkled around the text, so it seems odd to me that ‘yōkai’ wasn’t used. The foreign vocabulary is probably going to confuse younger readers. No young kid is going to be culturally savvy enough to know what a torii gate is but I digress.
The Night Parade is your standard ‘journey’ plotline. The main character goes on a journey and becomes a better person for it. Saki is a brat and just the type of kid I would have smacked across the mouth if I meet them. It’s with her journey through the spirit world and dealings with the creatures there that she is able to grow up and overcome her selfishness and gain respect for others. My real enjoyment of The Night Parade came from the Japanese mythology and creatures. I adored the imagery and the descriptions of the spirits. Most of the reviews I’ve read compare The Night Parade to Spirited Away, and I guess if that is your only source of Japanese culture, then it’s pretty accurate. I much prefer xxxHolic or Mushishi or even Natsume Yuujinchou. All of them deal with the spirit world interacting with the human world and how each affects the other.
The plot is familiar and unoriginal. It is the Japanese setting and culture that elevates The Night Parade above merely mediocre for me. Our main character can be annoying but the supporting cast, especially the three guides and the other spirits, are interesting and appealing. The Japanese setting and culture is fascinating and beautiful. The book’s atmosphere and environment were better than its execution, in my opinion. The novel feels slow in parts and I really wanted to know how Saki was going to handle the return to Tokyo after defying her horrible best friend Hana but we are left hanging in that respect. Most of my enjoyment of The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary came from the Asian culture, rather than the characters or the writing. It’s nice to see more diversity but the story still felt kind of jumbled.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Published: October 6th 2015 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 317 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance, GLBT, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 2.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
What if you aren’t the Chosen One?
The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.
I seem to be stuck in a string of books where I have great expectations but end up with lackluster results. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness has an awesome premise. What are the ordinary kids, the kids who aren’t ‘The Chosen One’, doing during those end-of-the-world adventures? It’s kind of like checking up on the rest of Sunnydale High School while Buffy and her crew were off stopping the hell-mouth from opening. They are just trying to pass math and not get eaten by a vampire. It focuses on the average, rather boring kids on the sidelines. These are the kids not in the spotlight but having to deal with the consequences of the big throw-down between the heroes and whatever evil that they are fighting this time. The problem with this is you end up with a story that is average and rather boring.
It is a clever and fascinating concept but the execution falls flat for me. For one thing, even if they are the average kids that the big, epic story is not happening to, there should still be a story. There is no plot in this. Just a meandering slice-of-life narrative that is pretty bland. Don’t get me wrong; I feel for the characters. The only saving grace of The Rest of Us Just Live Here is its characters. It’s painful to read about Mike’s OCD and hate for himself. That takes skill to write and I found myself most invested in the emotions of the characters. The cast is a diverse set of characters and they are the most interesting thing about this book. Too bad nothing interesting is done with them. I guess that may be the point; The Rest of Us Just Live Here is about the uninteresting lives that ordinary people live, as messed up as they are. But it doesn’t make for a very entertaining book.
I’m probably not the right person for a book like this. I like my books a bit more thrilling. Contemporary novels aren’t really my favorite but I was hoping for something special from this concept. I would have been happier with the clichéd and incredible campy book we see in the blurbs at the beginning of each chapter. The chapter pages was where Ness gave us an update on where the epic showdown between good and evil was progressing so we’d know where the events of our ordinary joes ran parallel. Like narrowly missing the gym being blown up during prom and then not so narrowly missing the whole high school being blown up during graduation. Epic showdowns between good and evil are very hard on schools.
My point is, that you have to enjoy character driven stories to enjoy The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. I don’t. These characters are some of the best I’ve ever seen written. They are having a tough time with life, evil trying to take over the world notwithstanding. They are real and true and evoke strong emotional responses in the reader with their problems and anxieties. It hurt to read Mike. It hurt to read Mel. It called to my own anxieties and messed-up-ness. I applaud Ness on his characters. It was the plot that was lacking and made for an overall unexciting novel.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published: October 6th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: Paper Book
Length: 522 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, GLBT, Paranormal, Magic
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.
I am unbelievably torn with Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. On one hand, I adore fanfiction. I read fanfiction and I write it. For me, the Simon Snow fanfiction bits of Fangirl were the bright spots among what turned out to be a rather slow and boring book. So when Rainbow Rowell announced she was going to write a proper book using the Simon Snow characters and world we caught little glances of in Fangirl, I was super excited. I wasn’t even put off by the 522 page count. But then I eagerly cracked my new copy of Carry On open and my heart sank. Rainbow Rowell had committed one of my biggest peeves; the changing POV. Every chapter, and sometimes ‘chapters’ were a couple of sentences long, was told from a different character’s point of view. I almost threw the book out the window. No. Just, no.
I’m not fond of first person narrative either. Add in the changing POV and I was incredibly annoyed. Each chapter would backtrack to retell the events that had just happened from another character’s point of view. So, we were getting each scene from a different person two or three times depending on who was there. Redundant and pointless. The length of the book was starting to make sense. I was about ready to pull my hair out. But, I’m a dedicated fanfiction shipper and I pushed through and read the whole book. (I don’t know why some person, an editor or proofreader, didn’t point out how much people dislike first person narrative and changing POV. They’re the number one and two criticisms on fanfiction or books in general. Why, Rainbow!? Why!?)
Being a fangirl and shipper often means that you are willing to read utter crap as long as it has your fandom and the characters you like. You have to wade through a lot of mediocrity to find those hidden gems in fanfiction. I’m used to it but I was disappointed to find it in a proper published book. If Rainbow’s goal in writing Carry On was to keep the fanfiction feel of the story, she accomplished that. But she accomplished it by keeping the worst traits of fanfiction, the stuff I personally have to look past to be able to enjoy a story. References to events before this book, in earlier school years, are sprinkled around the book and since we have no way to read those earlier books, this is just madness inducing. The plot was a bit muddled and could be confusing in places. It is also slow and meandering in the first half and a little rushed in the second half. The magic system is very creative and the details of Simon’s past and how the Insidious Humdrum was created are fantastic. In all, I loved the story and the characters of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell but the manner it was written in was not my cup of tea.
Leo never imagined that time travel might really be possible, or that the objects in H. G. Wells’ science fiction novels might actually exist. And when a miniature time machine appears in Leo’s bedroom, he has no idea who the tiny, beautiful girl is riding it. But in the few moments before it vanishes, returning to wherever—and whenever—it came from, he recognizes the other tiny rider: himself!
His search for the time machine, the girl, and his fate leads him to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a magical library that lends out objects instead of books. Hidden away in the Repository basement is the Wells Bequest, a secret collection of powerful objects straight out of classic science fiction novels: robots, rockets, submarines, a shrink ray—and one very famous time machine. And when Leo’s adventure of a lifetime suddenly turns deadly, he must attempt a journey to 1895 to warn real-life scientist Nikola Tesla about a dangerous invention. A race for time is on!
In this grand time-travel adventure full of paradoxes and humor, Polly Shulman gives readers a taste of how fascinating science can be, deftly blending classic science fiction elements with the contemporary fantasy world readers fell in love with in The Grimm Legacy.
I thought it only fitting that I review the sequel to one of the first books I ever reviewed on Lady with Books, The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, during my second year blogiversary. But instead of fairy tale artifacts and relics, we get science fiction machines and contraptions in The Wells Bequest. We get to see a grown up Jaya, who you will remember as the little sister of Anjali in The Grimm Legacy, and a new host of characters who are introduced to the wonders of the New York Circulating Material Repository for the first time. Of course, you can’t mentions science fiction and H.G. Wells without recalling his famous time machine.
The Wells Bequest fits nicely as the sequel to The Grimm Legacy. Jaya is the perfect feisty heroine and ruler of the pages at the repository. She’s bossy and capable and isn’t a damsel in distress. It’s nice also to see a boy, Leo, as the character who bumbles into the adventure by accident. It’s usually a girl who plays that role. We are immediately introduced to Leo and the time machine, which is kind of jarring. There is very little lead-in to the story and it all happens very quickly. I liked how all of the artifacts in the different repositories obeyed the laws set down for them in their source books. I enjoyed the trips with the artifacts, when Jaya and Leo were disassembled to London and then the return trip across the Atlantic in the Terror, and the trip into the past with the time machine. It was interesting to meet Tesla and Mark Twain. Fans of science fiction books will enjoy seeing all their favorite machines mentioned in The Wells Bequest. It’s kind of like playing science fiction bingo.
The story can get a bit bogged down with information overload. There are several times where we have to slow down and explain things; such as how imaginary items from fiction books could possibly exist in the real world, how the items came to be at the repository, trying to explain how the oversized artifact storage area could fit into normal space. It may drive nerdy and logical Leo nuts to not understand how but it just confuses readers. Working with science fiction artifacts in The Wells Bequest ended up more unwieldy than working with fairy tale artifacts proved to be in The Grimm Legacy. Let’s talk a minute about our villain in this book, Simon, who is apparently so in love with Jaya that he feels his only course of action is to hold the world hostage with what may or may not be one of Tesla’s death rays and demand the use of H.G. Wells’ time machine in order to stop his past self being a douchebag and making Jaya hate him. This, is pathetic. Simon is the most uninspiring villain I’ve seen in some time and I agree with Leo that the world was better off with the little snot not existing. He’s cartoonish and a buffoon.
The Wells Bequest is a nice sequel. I enjoyed the refreshing way that the adults in the book treated the teens. The adults weren’t blind fools and they didn’t treat the teens like stupid inferiors. It’s nice to see the adults and teens working together when so many other books have the teens having to work around the adults to accomplish anything. Science fiction fans will enjoy the many literary nuggets sprinkled through the book. We see Captain Nemo’s submarine The Nautilus in the stacks, although see it is all that happens. Those types of tidbits are all through the book. The Well’s Bequest by Polly Shulman was an amazingly fun read. I do suggest reading The Grimm Legacy beforehand. You won’t be totally lost if you don’t but you will miss a bit of the atmosphere and some background, like the big deal with the moving windows and why Jaya keeps going on about her sister. I adored The Grimm Legacy and liked The Wells Bequest and suggest both books.
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
I can safely say that Neil Gaiman is my favorite living author. His writing is fantastic. His novels always have a wonderful turn of phrase and wit about them and are always somehow deeply magical. Gaiman’s novels are set in this world but it’s this world only if you kind of step a little to the left and squint. Because you can only see magic and the fantastical if you go a little out of focus. So, needless to say, I was very excited when news of a new book from him came out. (And completely bummed that his US signing tour wasn’t coming anywhere near me. Dang it.)
Honestly, I was a bit disappointed when I picked up The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s tiny. At only 178 pages long I was dubious of the book. There was no way a proper story could be told in such a small book, let alone one of Gaiman’s artful and whimsical creations. I was proven wrong. While The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not like most of Gaiman’s other books, it is still a complete story with excellent setting and characters. Gaiman’s greatest skill, I think, is in the creation of his characters. He writes children very well. He writes odd and weird very well. The Hempstock ladies are an example of that. Their oddness is so subtle that you’re not even sure you’re seeing it.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not the type of story I am used to seeing from Gaiman. This story is small and personal but the more I read the more the book became, not bigger, but denser. It had weight and is undeniably a story for adults and older teens. Gaiman has created something strange and peculiar and lovely here. It is childhood and how a child experiences and deals with several situations. (The loss of family wealth, his Father’s cheating and abuse, the childhood curse of being ‘different’ from other children.) He is a child and doesn’t understand but he has to deal with it just the same. To a seven year old little boy, magic is real and an eleven year old girl is powerful and wise. I was utterly fascinated.
Could a younger person read this? Well, yes. The story is exciting and scary fun. I’d have reservations about a kid reading this because of the scene where the main character’s Father tries to kill him (let’s not mince words here, the Father was trying to drown him no matter how our young narrator sees it). There is also one, tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sexual moment. But I also think that a young teen might not understand some of the underlying meaning. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about a child’s world and how that world is so different from an adult’s but at the same time it has this deeper tragedy and creepiness that can make a reader uncomfortable. I think that is where the true greatness of this book comes from, along with being a really great story on the surface, and if you can’t understand that then you kind of lose something.
At the end of reading a Gaiman book I always feel this sense of nostalgia and longing for the world he created and the characters I’ve been introduced to. I miss them because it was a world we used to live in, long ago, when we ourselves were children and before we made that horrible decision to grow up. It’s part of the reason why I adore his books so much. My one gripe is that this small book costs $26. I’m sure the fancy paper edging was worth that much. (That was sarcasm.) The Ocean at the End of the Lane joins the host of other Neil Gaiman books that are my favorite.
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
Published September 25th 2012 by Harlequin Teen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 404 pages
Genre: Zombies, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance, Horror
Reading Level: Young Adult
Goodreads | Amazon
She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.
Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.
Her father was right. The monsters are real…
To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies…
I don’t read a lot of zombie books. (They have a habit of giving me nightmares. Nightmares where I have a Japanese katana sword, speak French, and kick ass but then have to throw myself out of the dream when the zombie munching gets too graphic.) But my obsession with everything and anything to do with Alice in Wonderland won out over my hesitation and so when I was browsing the shelves at my library I picked up Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter. I’m weak. I do believe this is the first zombie book I’ve read in almost a decade. (And no nightmares! Although there was one crazy Wonderland dream…)
Alice in Zombieland was not what I expected. For some reason, the blurb made me think this was going to be an apocalyptic zombie novel and that our Alice character would be in an ‘end of the world’ situation. (Thus, creating some sort of new ‘Wonderland’ for our Alice character to live in.) Maybe I fell for a stereotype but the book couldn’t have been farther from what I envisioned. It’s set in contemporary times (In fact, at one point Alice mentioned reading The Iron Fey series and I had to blink in surprise at the destruction of the fourth wall.) and knowledge of the zombies is afforded to only a few select people. The zombies themselves are untraditional and Showalter had to create a whole new mythology for the creatures in order to explain why only certain people could see and fight them. I’m not sure I like the new mythology Showalter created. It works for the book but at the same time it’s a bit absurd. It sort of squashes zombies and ghosts together and gets a bit messy in the process. Also, to my disappointment, the Alice in Wonderland connection is thin at best. There are some scattered references that really don’t bring anything to the novel and that’s it.
Of course, my biggest beef with Alice in Zombieland is the romance. (Romance is pretty much the bane of my existence in Young Adult books.) Alice is a good girl, Cole is a bad boy, they are both ridiculously hot, and have an ‘Instant Connection of Destiny’. So a good portion of the book is them playing relationship yoyo and sucking face. There is even an ‘Ex-Girlfriend of Doom.’ Oh, and Alice is an extra special snowflake among special snowflakes. The only thing that saves Alice in Zombieland for me is that everyone can kick zombie butt and most of the characters are rather interesting, when they’re not trying to get into each other pants. So, the romance is clichéd, the zombie mythology interesting but a little convoluted, and there are a lot of awesome fight scenes. For me, Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter was a typical teen drama that was okay but not great. Other reviews bring me to believe you either loved this book or hated it. I fall somewhere in the middle.
Scorch by Gina Damico
Published September 25th 2012 by Graphia
Format: Paper Book
Length: 332 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Grim Reaper, Modern Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult – I do think this one is unsuitable for younger kids
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Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home.
To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all —but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?
I’m horrible about reading series. I read the first book, I may even love it, but by the time the second book comes out I’ve forgotten about it. Lucky for me, Scorch by Gina Damico was already waiting for me when I finished the first book, Croak. I was late to the party but that meant I could go straight to the next book. Now, all I have to do is remember to get the third book, Rouge, when it comes out this autumn. Here’s hoping I can remember to pick it up by then! (Warning! Spoilers for the first book in the series, Croak.)
In this book, we return to the town of Croak with Lex and some new Juniors. The Grimsphere is still being terrorized by Zara. The group realizes that Zara must have some insider help because she keeps getting into Croak without triggering the security alarms, has gotten a new scythe from somewhere and is crashing with purpose again, Damning those she feels deserve it. (Or is she? What a clever twist!) The Senior Grims are slowly turning against Lex and the other Juniors, led by Norwood and Heloise, and Uncle Mort is trying everything in his power to protect his niece and her friends and sort of failing. It’s just a good old time in grim reaper land!
I have a deep seated loathing for the cliché where the main conflict is people’s inability to share information. If there was more communication between adults and teenagers in this book there wouldn’t be half as many problems as there were. But Uncle Mort is a secretive asshole and Lex is stuck in the mentality of us against them and nobody is sharing their information. This pretty much means that everyone is fumbling around in the dark and things would be so much easier if they just talked with each other. But god forbid Mort treat his niece like an intelligent person or Lex act like anything but a competitive snot. It’s one thing when nobody knows a piece of information but it’s entirely another when butthead characters refuse to share information. Then they just end up looking like petty morons.
(grumble, grumble, stomp all over) Despite hitting a pet peeve of mine, Scorch was a good book. It avoided the second book slump by being fast-paced and exciting. I felt like you didn’t have time to get bored because Lex and her friends were always racing headlong into danger and the unknown. Lex has no sense of self-preservation and she’s slightly reckless. There were a few slight hiccups. I felt the man in white that we see just once in Croak should have gotten more page time just to keep him in the forefront of our minds. He turns out to be an important character but it feels like he was just kind of dropped on us. He’s lead-in could have been more gradual. There are a lot of small puzzles to keep track of and that makes for a suspenseful but occasionally aggravating novel. Altogether, Scorch by Gina Damico is a great second book and I be looking forward to book number three this autumn.