Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman



The Glass Casket
McCormick Templeman

Genre: YA Horror
Hardcover: 336 Pages
Publication: February 11, 2014
by Delacorte Press



Death hasn't visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders' bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal. 
Rowan's village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan's door once again. Only this time, its appetite is insatiable. 

Review

After reading the initial summary, I was pretty excited about this book. The tagline alone had already piqued my interest, but the things in that description had me geared up and ready to go. This is one of the few times that a book has really disappointed me.

Some of you may have heard this about the book, but I really didn't catch how this was a retelling of Snow White. I mean okay, so there's a pale, black-haired girl in a glass coffin, but that's literally in only one chapter. There is a character who is a glassblower in the book, so I thought that he would have featured more prominently in the story, but it wasn't the case. I even read up a little on the original Grimm brothers tale to compare and make sure I wasn't letting my judgment get clouded by images of the Disney film, but I couldn't find anything else that really proved a resemblance between the stories. (Maybe one of you guys could find some similarities while reading.)

This book got off to a slow start, but once I was in a few chapters, the plot really started to roll. The mystery is pretty intense, especially because of the buildup when it comes to victims. The first few deaths didn't seem to be such high priorities since the victims were strangers to the village, but once some locals started dying, everyone began freaking out and scrambling to figure out who or what was going around killing in the village. The truth behind the murders was pretty scary, and the scenes when the characters go into the forest had some great tension and suspense. Overall this aspect of the story was well done, as the pieces of the murder puzzle are scattered from the very beginning and came together pretty well at the end.

Throughout the book, we are constantly reminded of the village witch, Mama Lune, and her mysterious visitor, Mama Tetri. In this world, there are different types of witches called by colors (Greenwitches, Bluewitches, etc.) and each type works with different kinds of magic. This seemed like an interesting concept, and I really wished the author had given us more of that mythology, as well as involved the witches in the story some more. They make a few fleeting appearances in the middle of the book before making a big revelation, after which they leave. I had really hoped they would be there for the final confrontation and was disappointed to see them go so quickly.

The romances in this book left a lot to be desired. The potential love interests were Rowan's best friend Tom and his older brother Jude, but nothing in either's interactions with Rowan hinted that they could have feelings for her. It's briefly hinted that Rowan may have feelings for Tom and she feels hurt when he's obviously pining for another girl, but it comes up so suddenly that it feels phoned in. When it comes to Tom and the girl he's after, it does seem like there's some genuine feelings, but things happen afterwards that made me wonder whether it was still the feelings that kept them together or something else altogether. Another romance also pops up towards the end of the book, and though this one has some subtle buildup, it's too subtle and this just makes the romance seem like a spur-of-the-moment sort of deal.

There's no other way for me to put: the ending to this book just went completely off the rails. There are quite a few twists pertaining to the cause of the deaths in the village, and we're not given enough time to process any of these, which was really a problem because these reveals were genuinely shocking and required some going back on my part to figure them out. The final confrontation felt incredibly rushed, and the last chapter felt more like a hastily tacked-on epilogue. Now that I think about it, the whole last third of the book felt too rushed for my taste. There are many revelations about some characters, including one who had died prior to the events of the story, and there isn't really an opportunity to absorb all of this information. It was literally a case of hopping to the next plot point and the next with no resting in between. It also feels like there should be more to the last chapter than what we get; it has no real substance, so the addition of a few events that take place between it and the preceding chapter would've cleared this problem.

I feel so bad because it feels like this book had the potential to be so much more. The scenes in the forest and the mystery surrounding the deaths will probably be what I remember most from this book. The plot takes a few chapters to really pick up, the climax is rushed through at close to warp speed, and the last chapter feels like it may have been added at the last minute. Again, I looked forward to reading this book based on its premise, but all of these problems hurt my enjoyment of the book. Had a few things been cut out and some others expanded, this might've been a better read.

Rating: 1.5 stars


Series

N/A

Similar Books
  • The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson
  • Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Content
  • Kissing
  • Some touching
  • Violence
  • Disturbing imagery
  • Gore

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice



The Queen of the Damned
Anne Rice

Genre: Gothic Horror
Paperback: 491 Pages
Publication: October 1989 (originally 1988)
by Ballantine Books



The rock star known as the Vampire Lestat, worshipped by millions of spellbound fans, prepares for a concert in San Francisco. Among the audience are hundreds of vampires, fiends themselves who hate Lestat's power and are determined to destroy him. 
The sleep of certain men and women--vampires and mortals scattered around the world--is haunted by a vivid, mysterious dream: twins with fiery red hair and piercing green eyes who suffer an unspeakable tragedy. It is a dream that slowly, tauntingly reveals its meaning to the dreamers as they make their way toward each other, some to be destroyed on the journey, some to face an even more terrifying fate at journey's end. 
Akasha, Queen of the Damned, mother of all vampires, rises after a 6,000 year sleep and puts into motion a heinous plan to "save" mankind from itself and make "all myths of the world real" by elevating herself and her chosen son/lover to the level of the gods. 


Review

It seems my magic hats have been on some sort of vampire trend as of late, what with all the vampire books I've drawn for review. I remember trying to read this in high school, but since I hadn't read The Vampire Lestat (which you pretty much have to in order to read this), the bits I did get through didn't make much sense. However, after having read the last two books of the series, I was more than prepared for what would happen in this book. At least, for the most part.

I didn't note this in my last Vampire Chronicles review, but both this book and its predecessor get a little meta. This story takes place in a world where both Interview With the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat are actual books that were published and read by millions. The young reporter who interviewed Louis is a real life author in this world, and the band Lestat forms actually have music videos that play on MTV regularly, hence how the other vampires in the world learned about his existence and rule breaking in the last book. This was something I'd never encountered before, and it made me happy to see how the existence of these books was woven into the current story and how the events retold in them affected the characters.

As was the case with the last book, I loved getting to meet some new vampires, along with seeing some familiar faces. We are formally introduced to Daniel, the boy who spoke to Louis in Interview with the Vampire, and find out what he's done since the book was published and how he came to be involved with the vampires. We meet the women who inspired the Legend of the Twins, Maharet and Mekare, and their descendant, Jesse, who is accompanied with a rather interesting backstory of her own. The interactions between the vampires from previous books, as well as these new acquaintances, were well rendered and made for some great scenes and exchanges.

Even though we've gotten bits in the previous installments, this book expanded even more on the abilities of vampires, as well as their origins. Though there have been instances of a few of the powers vampires have, such as super strength, rapid healing, and mindreading, we get to see even more powers, as well as how some of the vampires discover these abilities. The last book gave us a Sparknotes-version of the beginning of Those Who Must Be Kept, Akasha and Enkil, but here we got all of the details of how they came to be what they are, as well as what they were like before the fateful transformations.

What really interested me about this book was that we got to see both sides of the war. Alternating between Lestat's point of view and those of other characters allowed this to happen pretty well, although there were times when I had difficulty piecing the events that happened to each withing the puzzle of the whole narrative. Since the whole story is essentially bits and pieces Lestat puts together himself afterwards, this was why I had trouble with the layering of the individual stories, but only at first. I know, it sounds kind of confusing, but this book had a pretty complex structure that seems hard to grip in the beginning but makes more sense the further you get into it.

Something that bothered me in the first few sections of the book was the constant mention of the dreams various characters have of Maharet and Mekare. Don't get me wrong, though. The fact that so many different people dream about them builds up the anticipation for the telling of their story, and the payoff was good. But what I didn't like was that it felt like more time was spent with these characters and their confusion as to the meaning of the dreams. One or two of these characters also didn't feel like they really contributed to the plot, so the sections centering on them could've been cut out in my mind.

I also didn't like Akasha's "plan" to better the world. From what we learn about her, the plan can make sense based on what we know about her ideas about certain things. That being said, I actually wanted to know a bit more about what happened to Akasha before she was queen of Egypt; there were brief details about her background as the daughter of another royal family, but none of it was really elaborated on. If maybe there had been a section where we saw things from her own perspective, or some descriptions of events that could've led to her current mindset, we could more easily see the reason behind the madness, if you will. (I know a lot of this sounds kind of vague, but for the sake of not spoiling some good stuff, I have to leave things out.)

Because of all the buildup in the first parts of the book, I was expecting a huge epic battle between the two sides. What we ended up getting was more diplomatic than what previous sections of the book would've led you to believe, but the tension in these moments was really well done, especially when you see how the surviving vampires split themselves up and their reactions to Akasha's schemes. The scene only got better when the action kicked in, but the confrontation felt like it ended too quickly for me. There was a lot of buildup, from the dreams of Maharet and Mekare to the eventual telling of their story, that I was actually disappointed by how quickly the fight was resolved. The conclusion to the confrontation was good and we finally got the meaning behind the dreams, but I would've liked the fight between the vampires to have been drawn out a little more.

The ending to this book has been my favorite so far in the Vampire Chronicles. (Not the end of the fight, but the pages that come after it and serve as a sort of epilogue.) It's more lighthearted than previous endings and feels like it could be the end to the saga. However, it drifts to a close that gives just enough of an impression that the story isn't entirely over yet. Personally, the lightheartedness of the ending was what made it really enjoyable. Since most of the story is told by others, spending the last few chapters with Lestat reminded me of the liveliness of his narrative, not just in this book but also in The Vampire Lestat. Okay, I may have also really liked the ending because it ends with Lestat hanging out with Louis, who happens to be my favorite of the vampires. The chemistry between Lestat and Louis is beautiful, their relationship seemingly better than what it had been in the past, and it's this chemistry that lends its beauty to these last few pages.

Some of you may have heard that there's a film adaptation of this book. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it, but from what I've heard, it wasn't that great. Most complaints stem from the fact that the film tried to adapt both this book and The Vampire Lestat, something which supposedly really upset Anne Rice herself. I've read up on it, and honestly, it sounds like something you could skip. The synopsis sounded like a botched version of this book with a few elements from Vampire Lestat, and this just seems like a recipe for absolute confusion. After having read all three books, I feel pretty confident in saying that they probably should've adapted the second book of the series before jumping into the third.

Though the beginning was a bit slow for my liking, it ended up being a great read overall. The expansion of the vampire universe was great, and the interactions between the vampires were well done also. Rice's writing is as exquisite as it has been in previous books, and maybe a little more lush than usual. Despite setbacks from structure and not spending as much time as I would've liked with the story of the twins and the fight against Akasha, this was a delight to read, and now I'm very curious as to where the next installment in the series will lead.

Rating: 4.5 stars


Series
  1. Interview with the Vampire
  2. The Vampire Lestat
  3. The Queen of the Damned
  4. The Tale of the Body Thief
  5. Memnoch the Devil
  6. The Vampire Armand
  7. Merrick
  8. Blood and Gold
  9. Blackwood Farm
  10. Blood Canticle
  11. Prince Lestat
Similar Books
  • Hotel Transylvania by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman
  • Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy A. Collins
Content
  • Violence
  • Kissing
  • Touching
  • Scenes with intense homoerotic undertones
  • Graphic depictions of murder
  • Some depictions of mutilation
  • Gore
  • Implied rape

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Candis Terry: What I Loved About Writing Sweet Surprise

Today, I'm delighted to have Candis Terry on the blog to talk about the writing of Sweet Surprise. I love her Sweet, Texas series (read my review of Something Sweeter here) and am so excited to be a part of the Sweet Surprise tour!


Candis Terry:
What I Loved About Writing Sweet Surprise

When you get to the fourth or fifth book in a series it can be easy to get burned out. Or so I’ve been told. Each book in the Sweet, Texas series has been completely different for me, and after I’ve finished each one I’ve always been anxious to get right back to the Wilder family and that magical little town in the Texas Hill Country. Writing Sweet Surprise was extra special because Fiona Wilder—a single mom—finally got her own story. For me, it was difficult to watch her through the previous books because as the ex-wife of Jackson Wilder she had to sit by and watch everyone else get their happy ever afters—including her ex husband. Even though she and Jackson have a great, warm, and loving relationship as exes, I kept thinking it still had to be hard when you were the one who always had to go home to a cold, empty bed. Fiona didn’t feel that way though. She never slighted Jackson or his new wife because she knew they were really meant to be together. Still, it was a blast for me to help her find the path to happiness although it wasn’t an easy one. Fiona doubted herself every step of the way. But each rocky step was worth the doubt. Because she was rewarded tenfold with a hero who was perfect for her in every way. Fireman Mike Halsey is truly a man she will be able to love and count on even when she’s old and gray.

In real life we don’t always get to see someone find their perfect mate let alone live happily ever after with them. I was overjoyed to help Fiona find the love of her life.

Question . . . when you read a book, is there usually one bullet-point moment or emotion that you take away from the story?


About the Author

Candis Terry was born and raised near the sunny beaches of Southern California and now makes her home on an Idaho farm. She's experienced life in such diverse ways as working in a Hollywood recording studio to scooping up road apples left by her daughter's rodeo queening horse to working as a graphic designer. Only one thing has remained constant: Candis' passion for writing stories about relationships, the push and pull in the search for love, and the security one finds in their own happily ever after. Though her stories are set in small towns, Candis' wish is to give each of her characters a great big memorable love story rich with quirky characters, tons of fun, and a happy ending

Connect with Candis
Website | Facebook | Twitter



About the Book


Sweet Surprise
by Candis Terry

Genre: Contemporary
Paperback: 384 Pages
Publication: January 27, 2015
by Avon Romance


Playing naughty or nice . . .

Fiona Wilder knows all about falling in lust. Love? That's another story. Determined not to repeat past mistakes, the single mom and cupcake shop owner is focused on walking the straight and narrow. But trouble has a way of finding her. And this time it comes in the form of a smoking hot firefighter who knows all the delicious ways to ignite her bad-girl fuse.

Can lead to heartbreak . . .

Firefighter Mike Halsey learned long ago that playing with fire just gets you burned. He's put his demons behind him, and if there's one line he won't cross, it's getting involved with his best friend's ex. But when fate throws him in the path of the beautiful, strong, and off-limits Fiona, will he be able to fight their attraction? Or will he willingly go down in flames?

Or a sweet surprise!



Giveaway

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: Sweetblood by Pete Hautman



Sweetblood
Pete Hautman

Genre: YA Contemporary
Paperback: 242 Pages
Publication: August 10, 2004
by Simon Pulse



Lucy Szabo thinks she knows where the myth of vampires came from. She's sure that that the first vampires ever were dying diabetics. And she should know. She's diabetic herself. When she gets involved with Draco, a self-proclaimed "real" vampire she meets in a Transylvania chat room, her world starts to crash down around her. Soon, her whole life--grades, relationships and health--are spiralling dangerously out of control. Lucy needs to make some important choices to take back control of her life--but is it already too late?  

Review

I know we're two weeks in already, but happy 2015, readers! I was away in Mexico visiting family, hence why I haven't posted in the last few weeks. But while I was gone, I did some reading and took notes to be ready for this new post! Now on to the review.

Interesting story about this book: when I was a sophomore in high school, I was usually the first of my friends to get to the cafeteria and save a table for the rest of us. One day I felt my foot nudge something under the table and, lo and behold, I found this book by my shoe. No one came looking for it, so I decided to take it home and read it; it's now been a resident of my bookshelves for more than seven years. The book held well when I read it as a teenager, and it continues to do so even when reading it as an adult.

I really liked Lucy as a character. She has really clear cut convictions, isn't afraid to be herself, and is pretty mature for your average sixteen-year-old. This, along with the fact that she's dealing with pressure from parents and teachers and a crush on a new student, made her easy to relate to. That being said, there were times when I felt it was hard to connect with her because of how "surly and mouthy" she is, to borrow her own words. She was a bit rough around the edges and an outsider at school, and I'm not entirely sure why she feels she has to be this way. She's asked if it's because of her diabetes, but she doesn't exactly answer the question.

For the most part, I liked the potential love interests in the book. Lucy's best friend Mark serves as a great contrast to her, a goofball jock who's known her since they were kids, and their relationship is portrayed well despite the fact that Mark doesn't turn up often in the book. However, when he does pop up, we get the feeling that though their relationship is platonic, Lucy starts to consider the possibility of it becoming something more. The new boy in school, Dylan, immediately catches Lucy's attention when he first arrives, and Hautman captures those crush feelings beautifully. Since she's so tough, it was actually kind of cute to see how easily she melted over Dylan when she meets him, and even more so when they spend more time together. However, towards the end we get to see Dylan in a new light, and I felt like this change happened too abruptly and would've liked a more gradual transition into it.

There are plenty of adults featured in this book, but I wanted more of a focus on two in particular: Lucy's endocrinologist, Dr. Harlan "Fish" Fisher, and her tattoo artist friend, Antoinette. We get snippets of conversations Lucy has had with Fish and some scenes with him in the present, but I would've liked to have seen something from when she first became his patient and how she comes to trust him so much. The case was the same for Antoinette, owner of Antoinette's Body Art in Harker Village, an area Lucy regularly visits. Antoinette, like Fish, is one of the few adults Lucy seems to really respect and is able to talk to, and I wanted to know why. Lucy mentions that she's had many conversations with Antoinette in the past but we don't get any flashbacks to them, which I think would've been great development to their relationship. I especially wanted to see the beginning of said relationship, as I was curious as to how a teenage girl would become friends with a tattoo artist Antoinette's age.

There is one adult in the book whom I have very mixed feelings for: Wayne Smith, the butterfly rancher who throws crazy Goth parties and poses as the "vampire" Draco online. His physical appearance makes him seem really unassuming, but his manner of speaking reveals him to be eloquent and intelligent, a contrast that I really liked. But I did find myself wanting to know more about him. For someone who frequently surrounds himself with Goths, Wayne doesn't actually mention a lot about Goth culture, other than a few jokes. When asked about his past or his online persona as Draco, he dodges the questions almost entirely. Being surrounded by so much mystery and the lack of more personal info actually made him more unsettling the further I read into the book. Like Fish and Antoinette, I thought Wayne could've been fleshed out a little more, but through information given to the reader instead of more time with him. Seriously, I never thought someone so normal-sounding could come across as so creepy.

While there aren't actually any vampires in the book, there are a lot of talks about them. I really liked Lucy's theory about vampire legends springing up as an explanation for uncured diabetes, and how she explains it sounds kind of reasonable. This may just be personal curiosity, but I wanted to know how Lucy became so interested in vampires, more specifically Anne Rice's vampires. She's reading Queen of the Damned (which I happen to be currently reading) at the beginning of the book, but beyond that, she doesn't really mention any more vampire literature, despite her claims of being well read on the subject, nor does she bring up vampire films or TV shows. Again, it could just be me wanting to know more, but I thought seeing Lucy as she develops an interest in vampires could've added to her current outlook and shown how she pieced together her theory about vampires and diabetes.

I also had a bit of an issue with the portrayal of Goths in this book. Lucy blows them off as a fashion-obsessed dorks who aspire to be super pale and able to wilt flowers with a single glance. As was the case with her knowledge about vampires, I wanted to know how Lucy knows what she does about Goths and Goth culture, little and inaccurate as this knowledge may be. While I am by no means an encyclopedia of Goth, I can admit that there aren't really any major Goth references, other than maybe a handful sprinkled throughout the book and, to an extent, Lucy's interest in vampires (a common cliche among Goths is that we're obsessed with vampires). Even the Goths Lucy encounters don't really add anything to the reader's knowledge of Goth and only give off the impression of being the partying type. As a Goth myself, this disappointed me.

I think the biggest question of the book is that of personal identity. At the beginning, Lucy reveals that she was once an honors student but her grades have been slipping as of late. As someone who was an honors student during all her grade school years, I could relate to the desire Lucy feels to take it easy and not have everyone freak out about the sudden change. Some moments showing her during those times would've been a good contrast to the present Lucy, so we could see why she decided that taking time for herself was more important than keeping up something others want for her. There are also numerous times when Lucy says "I am [insert name/nickname/character]," and these tied back to the notion of trying on different identities until a suitable one comes around. Antoinette gives her a talk about how identity changes, which seems to unlock a few doors for Lucy and made me want more moments with Antoinette. Overall, I thought this was a great thing to contemplate, even as an adult: your identity doesn't have to be set in stone and can change a lot, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

On the whole, this book was pretty interesting. The feelings of being a misfit in high school came rushing back to me, and the nods to pop culture and literature references worked well. I still think there could've been so much more done with some of the characters, and there could've been more nods to vampires in books and TV, as well as to Goths. What really gives this book its appeal is the notion of the outsider figuring out where she belongs and who she wants to be. I think that's something anyone can relate to, obsessed with vampires or not.

Rating: 4 stars


Series

N/A

Similar Books
  • Thirsty by M.T. Anderson
  • The Science of Vampires by Katherine Ramsland
Content
  • Mild language
  • Drinking
  • Brief touching

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown



Torn Away
Jennifer Brown


Genre: YA Contemporary
Hardback: 288 Pages
Publication: May 6, 2014
by Little Brown BFYR



Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.


Review

I’ve been a fan of Jennifer Brown’s works since I read Perfect Escape back in 2012. I love how she tackles serious issues relating to teens and how she keeps the family near and present in the protagonist’s life. Family is so important to me, and it breaks my heart that family is so absent in many MG/YA books on the market today — with some books even suggesting that parents aren’t reliable or can’t be trusted with our biggest, darkest secrets. While it may not always be the case, I'm sure most of us find our parents fairly dependable. It is important to have novels that portray strong familial bonds and show us that family is there for us if only we open our hearts to them. This is a theme that is especially strong in Torn Away.

The only family that Jersey has ever known is her immediate family. Her dad left when she was little, and her mom is estranged from her family. The only tie she has to her extended family is the little porcelain cat she receives on her birthday each year. Nevertheless, she's not especially eager to meet her extended family because her mom hasn't had anything good to say about them, so when the tornado takes away everything from her, she's far from thrilled to meet them. Jersey's feelings are understandable. Not only has she lost the only family she's ever known, she's being uprooted from all that she has remaining and being sent to relatives that she's been taught to hate. I won't go into detail about this because of potential spoilers. What you should know is that, during her time with different relations, Jersey learns truths about her mother and, in the process, what it means to be family.

If there's one thing this novel did right, it's definitely the emotions. Following Jersey along her journey was one big heartbreak. Few people understand what she's gone through, and she's not even sure who all made it out of the tornado. She has lost so much and is emotionally alone in the world except for her phone communication with her (ex)neighbor, who is there supporting her as much as he can along the way. Note: If you're reading this and expecting a love plot, don't get your hopes up! There were times when I suspected that Jersey liked him because of the attention she pays to him and how she calls him in times of need, but they were mostly suspicions. I didn't sense a romance brewing until maybe the end of the novel.

I was surprised to find that a good portion of the novel is focused on the aftermath of the tornado. Given the synopsis, I thought that we would see more of Jersey's extended family. While we get to see Jersey go through the different stages of grief, I feel like the novel tried to cover too much ground, so the plotline wasn't as tight as it could have been. Nevertheless, I do feel like the strongest part section of the novel was at the beginning when we see Jersey and the rest of town pick through the aftermath of the tornado. This novel might have done better to focus on that part of her journey and then continue her story in a sequel or two.

Overall, this was an enjoyable novel. I'm still a fan of Jennifer Brown's writing and will be sure to check out her next book!

An ARC was provided by Little Brown for review

Rating: 4 stars

Series
  • N/A

Content
  • Language
  • Name calling, verbal abuse
  • Some violence

Monday, January 5, 2015

Review: Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant



Messenger of Fear
Michael Grant

Series: Messenger of Fear #1
Genre: HorrorParanormal
Hardback: 272 Pages
Publication: September 23, 2014
by Katherine Tegan Books



I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out . . .


Review

One of the things that drew me to this book is that the synopsis doesn't really explain anything—a pretty bad decision looking back. While I understand that a lot is kept from Mara until the very end, I wish that I had known going in that there was going to be a lot of violence and terrible scenes. The synopsis wasn't kidding that people will live out their greatest fear; it maybe only forgot to mention that we get to live it out with them. It also fails to mention that there is a lot more going on in this book than the "games," which serve mostly as a side plot. The main focus is on the story of a girl named Samantha Early and the unraveling of how her story relates to Mara's present situation.

For the first couple chapters, I was intrigued by Mara's situation. Why is the Messenger of Fear having her tag alongside him, and why is he showing her Samantha's story? What does Mara have to learn from all this? I even found myself fascinated by the same things she is curious about. It quickly got old and routine, however. Mara has little control over events, which means that she's forced to follow the Messenger of Fear, which means that the reader too is mostly tagging along for the ride. There's little suspense and action. We don't even have any stakes because we don't know what they are. I wish that Oriax's interest in happenings was explored a bit more. I feel like her presence in the novel could have helped amp the stakes and add more tension to the plot. As it is, her presence is like a spider crawling on the wall: ominous yet not much of a force to be reckoned with as of yet.

I think that it's really cool how Mara is half-Caucasian half-Chinese; however, not much is done with this element of diversity except for her appearance. While there's nothing wrong with that—it's important that we have diversity in books—being Chinese, I remember being delighted whenever I came across a book that featured an Asian heroine and which explored Asian culture and experiences. There are so few of these kinds of books. I'm not asking to explore the culture in depth but it would have been nice to see more of Mara's experiences growing up with a Caucasian father and Chinese mother. What was the culture like at home and what traditions did they have?

Overall, the characters and story fell flat. The characters are pretty stereotypical like the ones you'd expect to see in a caricature of high school life, and Oriax is like the busty seductress you'd expect to see in a mature video game. The Messenger of Fear is like the tall dark brooding guy from an anime. It didn't really feel like the characters grew. Mostly, this first book seems to serve as a prequel to events to come. Even as Mara strives to understand what the Messenger of Fear is trying to teach her, we the readers make our own revelations about this new world and how it influences our own world. Honestly, I'm not sure what the whole moral of the lesson is and what exactly the Messenger of Fear is trying to teach Mara. For the most part, it feels like this books is made up of a series of episodic events stringed together.

I do warn: though the writing is more youthful, seeming to target younger YA readers, there is a lot of violence and gory detail. I mentioned this earlier, but I want to stress it again. It's gross; it's terrible. And yet the descriptions aren't so vivid that I wanted to cringe. Rather, I was mostly grossed out. Regardless, if you're not into this stuff, I suggest passing on this book.

It definitely seems like there is more to this world than has been introduced in this book. I really wish we'd been given more information on what is to come. It would have helped me decide whether this is a world that I want to explore more (while giving the plot more tension and intrigue). At the moment, however, I'm not interested in pursuing the series further. I'll wait to see what other readers have to say about the second and third books when they come out. If it seems promising, I might be convinced to given the second book a try.

* The story kind of reminds me of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, the difference being that Ranger's Apprentice is set in a fantasy world and has a lot more action going on.

An ARC was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 2 stars

Series
  • Messenger of Fear
  • Untitled 2
  • Untitled 3

Similar Books
  • Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
Content
  • A lot of violence and gory details
  • Sex implied but not shown
  • Bullying