angels

A book, a blurb, and a victim

The book:  Devil’s Daughter (Lucinda’s Pawnshop, Book 1) by Hope Schenk-de Michele, Paul Marquez with Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

The blurb (from netgalley, that got me interested in the book):

“Lucinda is as old as humanity itself, yet perpetually young, beautiful, and endowed with supernatural powers. She lives a double life—human and immortal. Born out of a betrayal of trust between the first woman, Eve, and father, Lucifer, Lucinda has worked covertly and subtly for millennia to be true to her mother’s love by subverting her father’s schemes. In her human guise, she manages Lucinda’s Pawnshop & Antiquary, the doors of which can open to any street anywhere in the world at any time. Mortals who have arrived at a moral or spiritual crossroads are drawn into the mysterious shop. If they acquire one of its cursed artifacts, they may find themselves drafted into Lucifer’s service. And if the Devil’s daughter will not love a man he can control, can Lucifer control the man she loves?”

The victim: Me.

BUT… it’s ok.  Because while I was suckered by the blurb and requested the book because of it, while it was so very different than what I expected, it is ok.  Because I really enjoyed it!  I won’t bother with a synopsis, because, well, the blurb.  But, I will say that I expected some paranormal romance it was more like Tom Clancy or Brad Meltzer meets, well anyone that I read that is paranormal but working the Devil/fallen angel angle (like Larissa Ione’s Demonica), but minus any of the sex.

What I mean is that this is a plot driven story, with a number of threads of the plot all scattered, but coming together.  It is fairly easy to find the common thread of an object from the pawn shop for most of the folks involved, there are places where the link is tenuous at first.  And there are a lot of plot threads to keep track of to get to the whole story.

I am pleased that this seems to be the start of a series, since when I realized I was at the end of the book I was disappointed that it ended and it felt like there was still so much story left to tell, with respect to a number of the individual threads, and with respect to the entire tapestry as well.  I don’t know how many installments are planned, but I think it will be wonderful to read more of this world.

The world building was decent, decent enough to make sure I wasn’t more confused than I think the author intended (for which side is Nathaniel really on?).  And the character development was enough, especially with the player’s in the Devil’s game, that I felt like I really wanted to know where the story was going to take them.  There was action, and some romance (although not as much as I expected from the blurb) and definitely paranormal workings.  The idea of a pawn shop selling talismans that have actual powers is a pretty cool idea too, that leaves room for so many things.

So, the real issue is that I expected more JR Ward – Black Dagger Brotherhood, Larissa Ione – Demonica, you name the author – sexy paranormal book title here!  But got some woo’ing of Lucinda by a super religious guy who wouldn’t mess around (no judgment, that’s ok with me, just not what I expected) with her casually.  And a pervert who pretended to be someone else to try to get into Lucinda’s pants, plus a succubus who implied she was getting action, but there was no page time for any of it.  Again, that’s ok – I read plenty like that, but with the emphasis on Lucinda’s love for a man her father can’t control, that isn’t where my brain was expecting to go.

So, kudos on the story – I thought it was a unique and fresh take on this aspect of paranormal, maybe I’ve now even been introduced to a new little sub-genre that I wasn’t aware of.  I look forward to reading more.  I would just like to have my expectations properly set by the book blurb with the next installment.  Sometimes the blurbs set things up for disappointment, here it didn’t, but improper blurb writing runs the risk of leaving unhappy victims behind.  And this was a good enough book, I would hate to see it fall prey to that.

 

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The Midori Ito of Paranormal Mystery

I am three books complete in 4 days.  Even for me that is a record.  Unfortunately, however, it isn’t per se a sign of three great books that I couldn’t put down.  There was one really goo, one mediocre, and one, well… read on and you can decide after reading the review.

A Slaughter of Angels by Matthew Angelo was, if nothing else, a quick read.  In e-books, on my phone, it was only 319 pages.  So, it was pretty short.  I can’t decide if that should be in the “helped it” or “hurt it” column.

I feel like this particular book should be graded the way figure skating is (or was, I’m not really a fan of the sport so I am not sure which tense of that verb is accurate, but given that I am just trying to illustrate a point, it doesn’t really matter): one score for technical merit (aka, execution, grammar, etc.) and the other for artistic merit (aka, the story/plot).  Because this is a book (or short story, since it really isn’t terribly long) that really suffers in one area but had such promise in the other.  And where is suffers?  It doesn’t just stumble a little.  No, it flat out falls on its rear end and the routine never recovers.  And yet, there was the potential to be so beautiful and graceful.  Why the figure skating analogy, you might wonder.  Because figure skating looks easy, but it is phenomenally difficult, takes tons of practice to get right, lots of coaching is absolutely necessary, it take a lot of courage to attempt some of those cra-zy jumps and spins and even those really, really good at the sport fall on their butts.  A lot.  That, to me, is the perfect analogy to writing a book.  And the scoring system, with two scores, seems to be a good way to describe things here.

Here’s the way it really breaks down – there was just way too much of each of the following: grammatical mistakes, clunky sentences, choppy sentences, tense-mixing, typos, inconsistencies (from small to large) in the little aspects of the story or the plot itself, to have been an execution that score anywhere but “on its ass.”  I counted nearly a dozen glaring issues (e.g., “to” instead of “too” – where earlier in the same sentence “too” was correctly used – yikes!) that were either typos or bad, bad, bad grammatical mistakes.  Some of the more subtle grammatical issues were things like using the past tense and present tense in the same paragraph, which could be missed a little easier, but they still made reading the story a challenge.  And then there were the inconsistencies that are typical of self-published works – where there is no (decent) editor:  page 50 (of the iphone count epub) discussed the European clans of Nephilim and yet page 51 contains the following thought “[i]t would be arrogant of me to think I was the only Nephilim in the world.”  The page before he was talking about clans of them.  Clans.  Yes, that word is plural.  And that word typically indicates a number at least a little larger than one or two.  Decent editing would have picked this up.  Hell, decent story boarding would have picked up most of the issues like this.

And then there is the lack of development of anything that has any real meaning.  The character tells us he is nervous and scared and that Axel (the Detective in the story) is angry and Axel only does XYZ when really pissed off… etc., but we have to take  it all on face value.  There is no supporting evidence for most of what the book is trying to lay out, and as a result, I never for a second felt invested in the story or any of the characters.

All of that is the really, really low technical score.

So, the logical question seems to be, why did I continue to read it?  Well, the artistic merit had promise.  I will tell you, because the idea of the paranormal, angel/demon detective is something I love.  And the murder mystery?  Well, lets just say that I was trying to fill a Castle size hole in my heart with something that sounded like it could be fun and Castle-like, even if it was without the Kate-Rick romance (oh, ABC, how I HATE you for cancelling my absolute favorite TV writer/detective and show, and I do so hope Nathan Fillion lands somewhere awesome so I can watch more of him).  Throw in some paranormal, coupled with the essence that the cover had (another great example of things being off – the main character doesn’t have wings, but look at the cover!!!)? I was itchin’ for something good.  The main character was sarcastic – but to his determent because it was over the top and the author was clearly trying to hard.  And there was a whole lot of stuff that was set up for a finish that never really came.  And the epilogue?  It looks like a set up for more books, but while the overall idea is intriguing, unless the author can graduate from fan-fiction like writing (and not the sophisticated fan-fiction writing) and get some serious editing help, then I am not sure I can bear to read more about Rian MacCaren and his Midnight Agency, no matter how awesome the premise sounds because one really low score in each is enough for me.

 

p.s. if you are wondering about Midori Ito and why the comparison, I was specifically thinking of a particular fall, highlighted in this list of the best of figure skating falls: The 9 Most Epic Olympic Figure Skating Wipeouts Ever.

Will we be Blest with a sequel?

Blest by Blaise Lucey started off slow, but boy, it is take off in the end.  After the first half, I found I had trouble putting it down.  I love stories about angels and demons falling in love – and this one was no exception.  While I had some little issues with the beginning, specifically pace (insta-love) and world-building (background for it), by the time I was half-way through I was so very sucked-in I was sitting on the edge of my chair while reading because I was desperate to know what happened next.

Since the book begins with the first half, however, let me address a few of the short-comings.  First, there was a lot of love between two character who merely spent a few minutes, and one afternoon, together.  Even for the PNR stuff that I read, which is usually all about insta-love, that is giving the relationship development shot-shrift.  There is no reason why the characters couldn’t have developed the feelings over a little bit of time, a month or two for example.  Then, frankly, some of the vitriol towards Jim by the demon kids would have been more on display and a deeper connection to Claire and Jim would have been easier to feel.  There was no need for their birthdays to be quite so early in the school year – or the story – a little more of the suspense as to why the two characters were this books version of Romeo and Juliet would have only added to the plot. The acceptance of why they were different was also a little quick (and this is the second book I’ve finished in the last 3 days that treated this the same) – way too quick  – like, the Flash might as well be moving in slow motion compared to the speed at which they all accept the supernatural and paranormal and that angels and demons are real.  It was just too quick.  It didn’t give me time as a reader to adjust and again, I think a little more page time spent on that would have added to the overall plot and pace of the story.  Once things got going though, there were a bunch of reveals – and that was great as I felt much more involved in the story and it was easier to stay engaged.  I am just a little curious – as I don’t see this being billed as the start of a series, and lots of loose ends were tied up, but there is still certainly loose ends that aren’t tied up, including the events of the epilogue, so I hope there is at least one more coming.

Despite the need to pay attention to some of the terminology, lest you get lost, this reminded me much of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments – and some of the hints that were dropped had me holding my breath that the reveals weren’t going to be the same as with City of Bones, and thank goodness, they weren’t.  But to me, Blest had tones of City of Bones with the love between our main protagonists and the good vs evil nature of things.  Unlike Mortal Instruments, however, I have enough details to hold me to book 2 (assuming there is one **fingers crossed**) and enough to make at least another good book or two out of the things that aren’t solved and the stuff we don’t know.  And some of what we don’t know has such potential – like the back stories to the parents of all our teenage cast, the mythology of the Tribunal and how the demons were originally banished, exactly what the feathers that each of Claire and Jim have that are “opposite” the rest of their respective wings… there quite a bit of fodder to serve as the basis for some excellent follow-up books.

Even out the pace a little with the second, balance the relationship building and world building to give me more, and we may have a new favorite YA/Angel and demon series!  At least, I really hope there will be a second!

p.s. LOVE the cover!!

Can Earthbound Bones fill the hole in my heart?

This was my first exposure to anything by ReGina Welling, and I am thrilled to have found someone to fill the gap left by Madelyn Alt (at least I hope more books by this author will leave me feeling that way).  See, when I finished reading “Home for a Spell”, by Madelyn Alt (which was book #7) I was so eager to read the next.  This was the perfect set of “cozy mysteries” for me – the perfect blend of cozy with paranormal.  I absolutely adored the books!  And I watched, and watched, and watched (like so many others) for details on “In Charm’s Way”.  10559681I was super excited when a cover showed up on good reads.  And even more super excited with there was an original December 2015 publication date.  And, then I had to face the cold hard reality that I am never going to see book 8 – the author hasn’t updated her “website” since April 2012 (here’s what she said in November 2011 about the book – after explaining that life was hard for a while for her (no judgment, just a short way of summarizing):  “It’s time for me to get back in saddle and reclaim the life I love. The writing . . . it’s there. It has not forsaken me. Maggie and Company have been whispering to me all along, assuring me all was okay, that they would be there when I was ready. And they are. I’m pushing to complete IN CHARM’S WAY{please, please don’t groan, sigh, or stamp your feet with exasperation that it is so behind schedule — I have put quite enough pressure on myself as it is, LOL}, and . . . I think it’s good. Quite good, in fact. I know you were looking for a publication date of this fall, but obviously that didn’t happen. The reason the book shows a 2025 release date is that it was removed from the schedule to remove the pressure from me. Just as soon as I turn it in, it will find its way back onto said publishing schedule, and all will be well.” but that was November 2011!).  Everything online says release is “pending” but it’s been that way for years now.  And, all evidence points to the book not even being finished.  So, I turned to a few of the suggestions that goodreads or amazon gave me based on that series.  And none of them ever felt quite right.  They were too much paranormal very little mystery, they were too much mystery and no real paranormal, they were snarky but not funny, they had characters that I despised, they were merely two book “series” that puttered out….  There were lots of reasons that they just didn’t fill the void that the Bewitching Mysteries left.  That’s not to say that I did’t enjoy them or find a umber of really great books – because I did – but they just didn’t fill the very particular spot in my heart that Madelyn’s books did.

So, I am now super hopeful that since goodreads lists this as book 1 of the Earthbound series) there will be lots more of the same to come.  Earthbound Bones: A Psychic Seasons Novel (Earthbound Series Book 1)Because I thought this book was amazing!  It was the perfect blend of mystery, funny, snark, paranormal, and unique.  There was just enough of a cliffhanger to tie the next story in easily, and we got to know the main character, Galmadriel aka Adriel, well enough that she should be a joy to follow.  No real romance brewing (at least as it appears now) for the Angel and that’s perfect – perfect for this type of cozy.

Here’s what we learn (and what I will share at the moment – spoilers not for the moment) – Galmadriel and a band of psychics attempt to expel an earthwalker (malevolent spirit making a human’s body home) and Galmadriel wakes up no longer angel but human.  And she was never human to being with, so she is in for it as she tries to figure out a way to live among humans.  The town she is in – just happens to have a murder mystery on their hands after she’s been in town for a few days and she works to help set it right.  She thinks it is going to be hard because she is no longer an angel.  But has she really lost her powers?  Just read to see!  It didn’t take long to read, in part because it was hard to put down.  And to me, that is the first sign that I am holding an excellent book – I don’t want to put it down.

There were quirky characters, your typical cozy suspects, nosy neighbors, a small town, a friendly cop who is more ally than enforcer (at least to the main character anyway), and a mystery solved.  But, here’s the great thing – there is also mythology and world building like what goes on in a great PNR series.  There are rules to the paranormal, there’s a paranormal character who seems to know more than she is able to let on, a bigger overarching paranormal conflict, and a loveable paranormal character as the main protagonist.  See?  Perfect!

I really hope to see more of Adriel and Pam and friends – and hope that this series really can fill the paranormal-cozy size hole in my heart!

p.s. Does anyone know – this is listed as “A Psychic Seasons Novel” on goodreads and I see some Psychic Season’s books – are they related?  Should I go read that series while waiting for what ever is #2 in this Earthbound Series?

How to categorize the Grim Reaper?

I don’t often review a series at a time, instead of reviewing each individual installment.  But, in the case of the Lana Harvey series (at least as of the end of book 4), Graveyard Shift (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., #1)I am going to make an exception.  Not because each book doesn’t deserve its own review, but purely as a matter of efficiency and because I read them each over the course of a day or two (tops) and back-to-back so they really felt like one big book to me.  And, well, this is my little blog and I set the rules.  Ok, I feel like my 2 year old now and feel that I should be sticking my tongue out at somebody in an act of pure juvenile defiance!

The Lana Harvey series, by Angela Roquet, stands at four books so far: (1) Graveyard Shift, (2) Pocket Full of Posies, (3) For the Birds, and (4) Psychopomp.  The fifth is coming soon – Death Wish.

first things first, let’s explain what this series is all about.  It’s about a Reaper (yes, as in Grim) who is charged with transporting souls right after death to their particular after life.  And each soul’s particular  afterlife is determined by their faith while living.  So, the Christian’s version of things is right beside the Muslim, right beside the Jewish, right beside the Egyptian… (you get the idea).  Pocket Full of Posies (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. #2)That makes for a vast and interesting well of deities and beliefs to draw from and to build a world around.  Pretty clever, and the world building was pretty well done.  Now, this series isn’t just about the escapades around the transport of random souls in each installment.  There is an overall story arc that drives Lana and Grim and all the others, while transporting souls of course.  And it has to do with keeping Eternity from collapsing into War.  It’s pretty original.

I realize that I think I need to add another category to this little blog of mine, as this was “billed” as a horror, but it certainly didn’t meet my standards of horror.  I thinFor the Birds (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. #3)k of Michael Scott’s Reflection or Steven King when I think horror.  This never had the fear factor or the blood and guts spewing that I think requisite for books in the horror category.  And while one might thing that a story about a bunch of grim reapers would naturally fit into the horror category, the little bit of death and danger is no where near significant enough to justify the horror categorization.  Instead, I found myself chuckling more than cowering and smiling more than nail biting.  It wouldn’t exactly call it a dark comedy (not quite enough chuckling or LOLs for that) but there were funny moments.  And, with the exception of a few scenes in Posies, even with the “romance” that goes with the main protagonist dating I am not sure I would classify this as PNR either.  So where does that leave me?  I’m going to categorize them in the PNR category because of the second book and because it seems after four books that Lana’s love life is at least semi-important to the plot of the overall series.

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed the stories, some of the installments have much sloppier editing than others and some of them were littered with grammatical issues and typos. That was kind of frustrating. I really do credit (or I guess really it should be discredit) the self-publishing trend for that.  I don’t know if these are self published books (goodreads doesn’t note the publisher but says “Kindle”) but the ability to turn out books by anybody without a professional editor is really making things hard for readers. It’s not just limited to grammatical mistakes and typos either.  No, it perpetuates much deeper issues such as keeping track of overall plot points and issues around story editing too.  I will note here, however, while there are a few blips on the radar Psychopomp (Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc., #4)from a story perspective the bulk of the issues I have with this series seem to be around the grammatical mistakes and typos.  But they weren’t big enough issues to keep me from reading all four that are currently published, and they definitely weren’t bad enough to keep me from looking forward to the fifth book.

I do wonder what’s with the quote at the beginning of each chapter? Is it an attempt by the author to show how well read she is? An attempt to show off and show the readers how well educated she is? A way to rub it in your face the fact that some of those quotes and people are unfamiliar? Frankly it feels a little… well annoying is the best word I can think of at the moment.  Again this isn’t enough to prevent me from looking forward to the next book however.

The author clearly was well researched and spent a lot of time learning what she needed to to create a detailed and fairly complicated world for our characters to be living and working in.  And the best part is, most of it works.  There are few places where I am left scratching my head thinking that there might have been an easier way to do something and something felt a little convoluted.  But overall, it worked.  The characters worked.
The story worked.  And I am happy to say that when you put all of the different faiths together there was a way to make that work. It feels mostly like the author took a very complicated puzzle and somehow managed to get all of the pieces put them together and give me a great and complete overall picture. There are funny moments and there are sad moments. There are characters you can root for and characters you can root against. And there some real human emotion coming from characters who aren’t even close to human. I have been enjoying this series very much.  I will say, one of the funniest things, throughout the series, has been the mental picture of Lana donning her “reapers robe”….  but again, it works!

So, I am not sure what else there is to ask for.  Except to hurry up and get Death Wish published!

The End of the (Demonica) World as We Know It!

Oh no!!!!! It’s the end of the Demonica, Lords of Deliverance World!  I had no idea.  I am so totally bummed!  I loved the Demonica7970070_f496 books when I read them.  That is, I loved the first 5 books because I was reading them as they were published since I found Pleasure Unbound when it was brand new, and the first 5 were really written so that they looked like a single series.  I was bummed when I hit Sin Undone and at the end, was thinking that it was the end of a great series.  Then, I was totally excited when I heard about the Lords of Deliverance series, starting with Eternal Rider.  At first, it didn’t seem that they were the same series, but that quickly changed and we were seeing loads of Underworld General and all my favorite characters.  So, I was happily just reading away, picking up the next installment when ever I could and devouring each one of them.  I wasn’t paying attention to anything that would give me any clue that with Revenant, that would be it.  The end of the world.  **sniff sniff**

Jeez, the snippet could at least clue us addicted readers into the fact that this is the last full length installment.  Instead, it felt like getting hit by a bus coming out of nowhere.  I wasn’t prepared.  The end and the message from the author directing us to her website for the scoop on the whole thing… well… I was blindsided.  I was totally flattened.  And it hurt.  Especially since I think that Revenant was the best book yet.  It was smart, captivating, sexy, fun, creative and a total joy to read.  To it is painful to say that this is really the end.  Now, I know that the author said the world will be continued in some sort of series about the Horsemans’ and Sem demons’ kids.  But I don’t know how I feel about that.  As Black Dagger Brotherhood started to move to the next generation of members, the series lost a lot for me.  I don’t want to see the same thing happen here.  I know these are different series and different authors, but I have yet to see a successful transition like that – or at least one that was as captivating as the original books.  And I know there are a bunch of “novellas”, but my regular readers know I have a hard time with them.  I would prefer longer, more well written, better plotted, full length novels.  I won’t rule out reading them, but I will probably read other stuff first.  That, and I need time to mourn this story arc.  Because it was so very good.  And it was such a shocker to have it so abruptly, although so artfully and perfectly, come to an end.

Revenant is, despite the fact that this is the last book, absolutely amazing!  If a series is going to end, this is how it should be done.  There wasn’t a moment of disappointment (other than the general mourning I will now need to do over the series as a whole) with the story.  And the use of the characters other than just the two that make up our main couple, was wonderful.  It was a great way to pull everything together.  Better, it didn’t feel like a rush to tie up loose ends just to tie them up.  Neither did we see a whole lot of things not addressed.  It was perfect.  I haven’t read a perfect ending to a series since Deathly Hallows.  It reminds me a little of when an athlete (or athletic team) is heading into a tournament, you want to peak at the right time – do well enough to get you to the finals and then peak there so you win.  This book did just that.  It was the absolute best I have seen of the series.  That is part of what made it so hard to stomach that this is the end.  **tears**

If you are a fan of the series – this is a must read.  If you haven’t read the other stories first, you will probably be pretty lost and the rest of the series is good – so go back and read those first then read this!  For fans of the PNR genre looking for a little steam, it’s here.  A great couple, a great story, an ending that didn’t feel contrived yet had twists that were satisfying and a surprise, all here.   It is everything I could have asked for out of this series.  Well done!  Even though we really a bidding a sad goodbye to this world.  For now anyway.

And unlike what REM would like us to believe, this end of the world does not leave me feeling fine.

NOTE:  I am ignoring the Azagoth novellas, the ones in the 1001 Dark Nights… I haven’t read them, and while I might, even if they play into the overall story arc of the Demonica/Lords of  Deliverance, the arc that started all the way back in Pleasure Unbound ended with Revenant.

Hope for Hope

Dark Rising, by Monica McGurk is the second installment in the Archangel Prophecies trilogy.

I finished it over two weeks ago and this is the first moment I am “putting pen to paper” to write the review.  There is significance in that.  Typically, I have strong feelings one way or another and I just have to get it out.  I have to get the review done so I can move on to the next book.  Here, I couldn’t even start another book I am so conflicted.  I didn’t want another story to muddy the waters that are my thoughts on this book – or at least not muddy them any more than they already are.

Even as I write this, I find myself (already) pausing at my keyboard trying to decide what to say next.  Or at this very moment, really, what to say first.  The angel story – has potential a-plenty.  The characters are developing nicely, for the most part.  There’s still too much of the YA bull *$%@ that for some reasons authors think creates great tension or relationship building when all it really does is annoy the reader.  There were some great plot twists.  But there were some great big grand canyon size plot holes too.  There was some really great story telling and yet there was still a fair bit of trouble within the narration when it comes to switching the verb tense used to tell the story.  There was much less focus on the human trafficking element and it pains me to say (because I know the author is super passionate about that) that I found that a positive with this installment.  There was a slight imbalance in the amount of description given to things – some of the more well done scene building, in terms of imagery, seems to be throw-away (or red herring or maybe set up for the final installment, but too soon to tell that.  And because the first book suffered from this a little too, and I didn’t see any pay off, I have to assume that it is just not well enough balanced story telling) while others could have used more of what was well done.  Because if that imagery found the right balance, then this would go from a solid 3 stars (note:  I am using the descriptors for the goodreads star convention for this statement; if I were using the amazon I would say solid 4 with a potential solid 5) to at least a solid 4 in my opinion.  The overall story arc, which seemed to conclude in this installment was interesting and I loved that it was dragged out.  The action was paced well and a few of the twists I didn’t see coming – now, part of that is because there were what seemed to be humongous plot holes associated with, or rather that facilitated, the twists.  But, none of these issues were insurmountable as I still found the book enjoyable.

The main story here is that Hope and Michael are on their way to prevent the fallen angels from getting the key and opening the gates of heaven.  They are traveling around Europe and Asia to find it.  And, in the end, the prophecy is dealt with.

One of the elements that was particularly well done is hard for me to talk about in just the review – as it would create a huge spoiler.  While spoilers are totally ok in my book on the page for a book I try not to let too big a spoiler out in the review.  So… how to say this… often authors create super complicated and contrived sections of the plot so as to avoid a tragedy which impacts to permanently a main protagonist.  Here, it seems that the author embraced letting some things happen to each of Hope and Michael and I question the ability to have the happily-ever-after that most YA books see as the absolute requirement for this type of story.  At least as it stands at the end of this book.  I know there is still a third installment to follow, but the preview that I got at the end of the second leaves me wondering and very curious.  So, that’s super good because it means that I am very motivated to read the third – so I can see how it all ends!

I just hope that a couple of books written means that the author is learning a little of the balancing so that the potential for this series can be fully realized.  The first two books are good but I really hope the third time we seem Hope will be great!

It couldn’t get more superficial than this

And I thought that Bella’s love was superficial and grounded in nothing other than what the boy looks like.  This book makes that love story look like the deepest, soul reaching, romantic and well developed love story ever.  **Shudder**  I know that so many books, Para-YA and PNR especially, don’t exactly do the whole getting-to-know-you thing between the characters before they declare themselves madly in love, but here, it made even the fastest move at a snail’s pace in comparison.  And, unfortunately, it’s not smart enough or well enough written to be love-at-first sight.  Instead, it’s love at first “OMG isn’t he the most gorgeous person ever”.

I am talking about the first installment in the Guardians series, titled The Girl by Lola St.Vil.  It is not all that original a story as we are looking at a good vs evil, balance needs to be kept or the world will end, a human and an angel relationship, and a quest plus a prophecy of some sort.  Not that I need it to be that original – look at what I read for goodness sakes, mostly clones of one of a few stories with subtle differences.  Here, the difference is the idiocy and angst of some of the characters is off the charts.  Also, the inconsistent grammar, character development, and detail vomit that happen from time to time just get to be a little too much.

Believe it or not though, I am reading the next book.  Because despite all the issues I had with the first, and there were plenty (I will share just a few), I still thought it was a fun little read.  It was a great little distraction and I am interested enough in a few of the collateral characters that I want to see where the overall story takes us.  How can I have so many issues with the series after just one book yet keep reading?  It’s like watching a soap opera – the terrible acting, terrible scripts and story lines, pregnant pauses for the sake of it taking three weeks to get out a single sentence – and yet you keep watching anyway because it is still fun.  So, this is a review after all so I will share a few of the things that were (more than) a little eye roll inducing.  eye roll animated GIF Before I do that, though, let me give a 10 second synopsis.  We have angels who are trying to prevent the devil (and her minions) from letting evil take over the world.  Marcus, the leader of the angels trying to do the saving is dating another angel on his team.  His team meets Emmy, who is important because she is a clue that can lead to how to either let evil win or how to stop evil.  And Emmy falls for Marcus.  Chaos ensues.  Fights break out (not just the physical kind either) and characters die and others make-out.  And the angels have some cool powers but there are rules to the game that is being played and mostly the good guys have rules while the bad guys have very few.  Ok, I think that’s enough for the review.

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First, and worst of all, the life-changing insta-love that Marcus and Emmy, the two main protagonists, feel for each other – because the kicker is that even though I see this all the time in the stuff I read (I readily admit that I am not a great literature addict – I love Dumas, Bronte, Shelley, Dickens, Carroll, Tolstoy and more but I am addicted to the… hmmm… crap, for lack of a better word), readers typically at least see that semi-developed over the course of the protagonists encounter – they spend time together, talk to each other, get to know each other (a little)…. The point is, it becomes something that is easier to understand and substantiate.  Here, does that happen?  Nope.   They spend no time together (I am ignoring the one car ride they take, because it is so insignificant) and yet they are turning their lives upside down because of this love that they feel.  I will lump in the awful amount of immaturity and jealousy that Emmy displays into this problem as well.  It’s almost comical it is so extreme.  And since there is no real relationship to back it up, the awfulness is magnified.  Honestly, it makes me really dislike Emmy as a character.  I know she is merely 15/16, but she is really hard to stomach.  Instead, it is all about how drop-dead gorgeous he is and he’s soooo handsome **swoon** so that means I luuuuurve him.  Lust at first site is love at first sight for Emmy.  And all Emmy really cares about is what everyone else looks like.  It’s really pretty pathetic and disgusting.  Marcus has the personality of a cardboard box, but he’s pretty, so she’s in love.  Ugghhh.  You know it’s pathetic when I am comparing this to Twilight and saying that Twilight is so deep in comparison.  Because even if you adore Twilight, you have to admit, the relationship wasn’t exactly built on mutual adoration, friendship, trust… you know all those things that make for a good relationship.  Instead, it was “he’s smokin’ hot, I am in love.”  Again:  Ugghhh.

Problem two is the information vomit that the author does.  I can’t believe I am saying this – because recently my complaint has been lack of enough to keep me interested.  But clearly, I am looking for that perfect balance of enough information to understand what is going on and not too much that I have little desire to read more.  Here, we get (what appears to be anyway, although maybe I am wrong and I will have to eat my words after reading the next books) all but one of the mysteries solved in the first book.    Too much.  There’s no sense of suspense left really, at least not with respect to the world building.

Problem three is the grammar.  I am no grammar queen, I admit.  I have problems with tense sometimes and pronouns, dangling participles, etc.  But, I don’t write novels for a living.  If I did, the first thing I would do is get a book or take an English grammar class.  Come on people, learn the language you are writing!!!!!!   Better yet, HIRE AN EDITOR.  Because, you know, the best idea ever it to have your friend who thinks s/he is good at it to do it.  Pay a professional, who does it for a living!  Because they really are good at it, they don’t just think they are good at it.  While the ability to self-publish has lead to some great stories it has also lead to some really terribly written ones.  Even worse are the great stories that are written very poorly.  Because they are even more of a let down.  And don’t even get me started on the typos.  They were everywhere.  When I realize I have typos on this blog I am embarrassed and pissed off at myself.  But I write, then proof-read right away.  And it is easy to miss typos and misspellings when that is the process – my brain reads what I knew I wrote (or meant to write).  If I were attempting to put a book out in the public or if I made my living writing this little blog (gee, don’t I wish!) I would have someone who is good at proof-reading do just that before publishing.  But I guess that makes me crazy and abnormal, for thinking logically like that and thinking that I would care about the quality of my work.

Problem four is one particular scene.  That’s right.  One scene is bad enough that it is a significant enough problem to mention it by itself.  Marcus meets with the Sage and is told that he needs to use Emmy, he doesn’t need to be Image result for overdonenice to her. Then Marcus takes his girlfriend to spend time together and convince her that he loves her.   And they do all sorts of angel adrenaline junkie things (their version of sky diving and stuff).  Then, he heads off to Emmy.  And, given the sequence and what the Sage said, I assume that when in the very next scene  Marcus is confessing his undying love, that he is just going to use Emmy.  But apparently that wasn’t the case.  The melodrama, the unintentional (I assume) sap that virtually flows off the page giving the reader sticky finger, is so overdone, it’s turned a hunk of meat into a lump of charcoal.  He really does a 180, and in the most unrealistic so over the top kind of love confession it was stupid.  Not romantic but idiotic. Here’s a passage:  “Since I met you I have been unable to count in days.  I can only count your eyes.  How long until I see your eyes again?  That’s the only clock I have in my head.”  When Emmy calls him on that, he say’s it is all true.  So, here I am thinking the whole time that he is going to really turn out to be just using her.  But nope.  And, not to mention the confession about taking all the invisibility snaps so he can be a peeping tom and not be seen – that’s just creepy.  Like EL James, 50 Shades stalker creepy.  That whole scene, the dialogue, the way it came about… yikes.  Just yikes.  

Problem five is that the author completely disregards certain elements of Emmy’s home life.  Emmy end up grounded, but goes out anyway and gets beaten up and no mention of the fact that she had been punished.  Since a big deal was made about the punishment and Emmy’s not being able to read or listen to music, I thought, great, some realism.  Them two months of grounding turns into like one day and then going to West Africa and no repercussions – not even a passing mention of one.  It’s a failure to plot out (or outline) the story well enough.  It’s an oversight that felt amateur.

Problem six is the cover.  So, I got this book because it was a suggested on goodreads in the YA category.  But the cover implies something definitely other than YA.  And while the writing style and actions of Emmy are juvenile enough to justify the YA category, at least at the moment, that is not the impression I got from the cover.  And, ok, there are other version of the cover.  But the one I have is the cover shown above.  the other two cover options in goodreads are certainly more aligned with the whole YA category.

Is there anything redeeming here?  The story is just interesting enough, that despite its lack of originality, it isn’t wholly without value.  And Miku, Rio, Reese and Jay are great characters.  In fact, in many ways they are the characters that I feel I know better after finishing.  Emmy is too superficial and so green with jealousy that it is beyond annoying.  Scratching my own eyes out would probably be more pleasant than reading one more word of her jealous inner monologue.  Miku, Reese, Rio and Jay?  Like the fantastic four though.  We learn more about them, including things about some of their lives and deaths, then we do about Marcus or Mimi.  And we learn a little about what motivates them, how they think and feel.  Where the heck is that character development for Marcus and Emmy?  It’s just poorly balanced.  But, I want to see more of the wonder twins and if they ever join their powers, I want to know what happens to Jay.  So, I am already  into book two, and think unless it gets much worse (although not sure how it can) intend on riding this out until the end.   Although I do think that is a sad commentary on the series – that I am saying this has to be rock bottom so I will read because it has to get better….

I wanted more, I got more Mephisto!

The latest installment of the Mephisto Covenant series by Trinity Faegen, the Mephisto Mark, only you mephisto 3seems to be setting some records for me.  Often, by book three there are a number of problems that are starting to surface.   I begin to anticipate the “jump the shark” moment.  The cracks in the overall story arc start to be visible.  The characters and their “oh poor me” start to become whiney annoying people.  The bad guys start to loose any trait that makes them nothing more than mindless bores who are aiming to end the world.  The gals in these stories become mindless bores, weaklings who couldn’t spend a night in bed with the lights off, let alone do anything that takes even the smallest iota of courage (ironically, its these heroines that are often called “strong women” in reviews and that makes me want to scream).  We start to see action where we could skip entire chapters because nothing interesting, new or different happens.  So often we start to see the same plot points with bad guys who get away for the sake of stretching the plot further than it should be stretched, and dialogue – in the characters head or out loud – where the same stuff is told to me over and over and over. That gets old and take the joy out of a series fast.  jumpthesharkBook three is so often the jump the shark moment because of all these things.  However, I am happy to say, I didn’t see any sharks in the water here!

The third installment takes a very unique approach to series progression: the events in this book take place simultaneously with the events in the last book.  I have never seen this done quite so extensively or quite so well.  I have seen books with some overlap, or where you know there are other events taking place and the characters who are in the other books are nothing more than references.  Here, it was like the botched Twilight from edwards POV – we get to see exact events that we saw in the first book, just from other characters perspectives and we see those other characters throughout the book with the interactions mirroring what happened in the last book (Oh, and I should say, unlike the botched Edward POV, this was finished and really well done, so the similarities are limited!).  It was a great accomplishment and must have taken quite a bit of planning on the author’s part.  As a reader, I would like to thank the author for the effort put into doing that.  I loved this installment and was so thoroughly entertained.  It was done well enough that even though I just finished the last book, when I came to text that I knew was identical and I had read it before, when I re-read it, it still felt new!  Kudos!!

This story is about Phoenix and Mariah.  Mariah is Jordan’s birth sister.  Key found her in the last book and brought her to the mountain.  Phoenix is who she is meant for.  But she was abused when she was younger and Phoenix is battling the guilt over and memories of Jane.  But, as with all in this genre, we watch as the two main protagonists fall for one another and how they get deal with the baggage they bring to the relationship.

The books in this series  just get better and better.  Each installment of the Mephisto Covenant series is better than the last.  Which means that I can’t wait until #4 comes out!

The author does a wonderful job of giving us enough information to recap the big items yet giving us new information and story lines at the same time.  You don’t feel like you are being bogged down by too much background.  She creates a world where there is a wonderful balance of new and old information.  And this is a huge accomplishment given the timing of this book.  This was a first for me – reading a book where the timeline is concurrent with another book in the series.  I have seen a little overlap, but to have the entire book take place during the exact same time as the last installment that is new.  And it was great because I could see it being easy to forget a detail or two and have some inconsistencies between the books, but I didn’t see that here.

This book did seem to travel a little further with a few things than its predecessors.  It was a little more religious.  I still didn’t feel preached to, but some of the religious tenants were much more important to the characters and faith therefore seemed to play a much more important role in this book.  The author, however, seems to know how to balance the presentation of characters with faith, even characters talking about their faith, without it feeling like the author is trying to bean you over the head until you relent and believe in what the author believes.  It is a hard balance; there are many authors who try to present EOW scenarios or do the angel/demon/god/lucifer thing and they can not find the balance.  Ms. Faegen has managed to present the perfect balance.

Part of this balance may come from the origins of the Mephistopheles story in that he isn’t really a demon from church teachings but from other literature.  So there is an inherent limitation on the amount of scripture surrounding him, making him easier to balance.  And while it is clear that there is a message about not loosing faith and redemption, it seems that part of this message is that love is redeeming, not just faith.

This installment brings on some additional imagery and misery.  I won’t talk about the elements of abuse – I am grateful that I can’t identify I can only sympathize.  As a result of the fact that I can’t say what it is like to be a victim or surviver of this kind of abuse, I will leave that alone.  Readers should be warned, however, that there is some talk of what happened to Mariah and the author warns of triggers in this regards.  There is other imagery at work here that I don’t recall in the other 2 books – we see the place “Hell on Earth” and get a little background on it.  It is descriptive and disturbing.  It was well done as it felt like the author was trying to make sure we understood this place but it didn’t feel like the caricature that one often finds in this genre.  It was also an interesting take to see the difference in the descriptions (and the mythology in this world) between Hell and Hell on Earth.

There were some delightful little twists.  They weren’t the Game of Thrones type twists (Red Wedding, yikes!  joffrey chokingIt’s Just Wine, double yikes! And if you haven’t guessed, I am talking the HBO GOT-game-of-thrones--ep because I haven’t read the books yet), but just small enough things to keep the story feeling fresh and the plots feeling unique.  Learning the truth about Phoenix and Jane – it just wasn’t something I expected.  And I was pleasantly surprised.  It was also a great little surprise to see the way the brothers dealt with some of the other twists that presented themselves. All in all, they each moved the plot forward in pleasant ways, yet managed to make sure I didn’t get a sense of deja vu which happens a lot in the genre – I often find myself mixing up plot points and characters because it’s hard to find new ways to do things and a lot of the same stuff gets recycled through the genre.

Like with the previous installments, this isn’t the steamiest series.  If you are looking for heat (other than from Hell on Earth), you won’t find a lot of it here.  Just so you know….

The one thing that started to get a little annoying was a subtle shift in the way “Anabo” and “Mephisto” are referenced.  In the first installment those two things were types of people.  The ladies were Anabo and the guys Mephisto and the ladies could become Mephisto.  In the second book there were references to it that way as well as references to being something one could “lose”.  To me, those are two very different types of nouns.  Here, there are more references to Mephisto and Anabo as a thing that could be lost.  For example: “If she had Mephisto” or “lost Anabo”.  But its really been that they are Mephisto or Anabo, not they have Mephisto or Anabo which  could be a thing to be won or lost.

Regardless of that little itsy bitsy nit, I am thoroughly enjoying these wonderful books.  The author has built an interesting world, the mythology is fresh and the characters are wonderful.  I hope we get to see a lot more of  Mephisto Mountain and the folks who call it home.

 

p.s. still think the covers should be better…

More Mephisto, please!

More Mephisto!!!   That’s all I can think right now.  It is driving me bananas that I need to write this (and finish the appropriate page recap) before diving head first into the next installment.  And, I just about squealed when I saw on goodreads that there is an expected 4th book!  Yippeeeeee!

mephisto2I adored the first book.  I gushed about it.  I re-read it right away because I didn’t want to leave the world that was built or the characters behind.  I would probably do the same here but I have the next one to read instead.  And I am so glad.

This series is set up much more akin to the way many adult PNR series are done.  It is a book for each of the male protagonists and there is a girl and one saves the other/they save each other.  So, if you are more of the twilight/shiver series type this will seem like they are companion books and not a series.  However, the world is the same, the mythology guiding the over all story arc is expanded on and used the same, and there is an over all story arc – beating a bad guy.

The short version of the story: Key is the leader of the Mephisto (sons of Hell, because they are sons of the fallen angel Mephistopheles), a group of “young” men who were born from a fallen angel and are lost to Heaven.  The Mephisto are responsible for battling Eryx, a brother of theirs, who has turned evil.  He is lost to Heaven and Hell, however, and is looking for a way to take over Hell so he will belong somewhere.  To do this, he creates lost souls and Skia who pledge themselves to him and reject God.  The Mephisto take the lost souls and skia to hell on earth.  Jordan, the US President’s daughter is kidnapped as part of Eryx’s plan to take over the US government but he discovers she is Anabo – a rare person born without original sin and one of the few who can love a son of Hell.  The Mephisto rescue Jordan, who is meant for Key.  The love story between Key and Jordan is what we watch.

The mythology stayed interesting and fresh.  This is sort of an EOW scenario in that if the bad guy wins and he battles Lucifer, it will be very bad for all the humans.  But we aren’t there (yet) so it’s a story about the group of guys battling one bad guy to keep him in line at the moment.  There is definitely a Christian undertone but it is so nice that the characters can be religious and the author isn’t preaching or trying to convert readers to her particular brand of religion.  You could be from any walk of life and appreciate that being good is a good thing and being bad isn’t – that’s what this really seems to feel like.  The wonderful messages I see in this series:  when you are good, you have a light that helps the world; when you are a good person, others like you for who you are; putting others first sometimes and being a good person will be good for everyone; loving someone unselfishly is the best feeling; and unconditional love means loving every part of a person, not just the parts you agree with or like.  Those are messages that transcend the boundaries of organized modern religion and are commonalities that today, too many people don’t see across religions.

Now, before my review turns preachy….  We learn more about the mythology and the world we are living in.  We get more back story of the characters.  We get to see a fair amour of Jax and Sasha and the other guys.  We get real emotion and reactions from characters.  In short, we get so much great stuff from the author, it is a treat to read!

One of the signs to me that this was a wonderful book was when I hit a scene, and I knew what was coming, and I couldn’t bear to read it.  I felt so invested in the characters, I felt so much for them and was rooting for our guy/gal coupling that I had to force myself to read through it.  You might ask ‘how is that a good sign?’  It’s like when you are watching a move that you really love and there is a part that makes you cringe – you don’t want to watch or hear the dialogue because it will upset you – because you are so into it.  When I have those moments watching, I turn the volume down or change the channel briefly.  Best example for me, when watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Umbridge potterphoenix26 punishes Harry in her office, I am so frustrated and pissed off at her because of how invested in Harry I feel, that I can’t watch it happen.  It’s a testament to how good the actors are because I can totally believe it happening and I can’t bear it.  It’s similar with this book, I struggled to watch Eryx and Jordan’s conversation after the winter ball [spoiler ahead -highlight to read] and watch Eryx trick her into kissing him.  It was a good thing that this was near the end of the book or I might have had a panic attack, waiting for it to be resolved!

It was wonderful to read a story that stayed true to its mythology without throwing in a twist that made me feel like the author didn’t know what to do so they took the easy way out.   Here, we see resolution to the love story that is consistent with the characters and the mythology and it totally feels organic.  It doesn’t feel like the cheap and easy way out.  And yet we still get sufficient set up for the next book.  This book is truly a work of beautiful art!

I will note that while the first installment was a little steamier than I had expected when I read that one, this one wasn’t steamy at all.  There were discussions of sex and Jordan loosing her virginity, but we don’t have that happen here.  It was also so very well done, how that played out, in the beginning where Jordan is with her boyfriend Matthew and later with Key.  There were honest conversations, Jordan’s thoughts felt genuine and it was nice to see things handled so tastefully.

I will end with two small criticisms.  I think there was one small hiccup with the mythology.  What I remember from the first book, and what I wrote about it too, suggest that the first book presented the change to Mephisto as something that only occurred with sex.  Even here, we are told that the mark is gotten through sex and once it’s gotten it is permanent if the Anabo is immortal.  Jordan gets marked from kissing only, which explains [another spoiler ahead -highlight to read] why when she kisses Eryx his mark takes over, but we see Jordan’s birthmark change and her personality and abilities change as if she has been totally marked.  So, there is a teeny tiny inconsistency there.  But this is nothing to take away from the five stars I would give this book if I gave stars on this site!  Second and only other criticism (which isn’t a criticism of the book itself or the author or writing: I think the author’s publisher is doing a dis-service to this series by not having better cover artonly you mephisto 3.  I still pick up a lot of books based on the fact that the cover art caught my attention.  Especially when in book stores and looking for things other than e-books.  But even on amazon and goodreads, if a cover catches my attention I am more likely to read it.  I know that can be deceiving and can lead to being let down, but sometimes that is what I need to distinguish a future member of my “to read pile” from something I skip right over.  And so here, I really wish that we had more striking cover art.  I think there is potential for a graphic artist to do something wonderful.  We are dealing with fallen angels after all.  Archon for example has beautiful cover art with a crappy story behind it.  raziel1Here, if there was better cover art, there might be more readers.  Just my humble opinion, but I would love to see this entire series get a bump up in the quality of the cover art so that the cover is as striking and wonderful as the words behind it!