World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)

17849112First Lines: Everyone thinks I’m dead.

Ok, so if the beginning of this book wasn’t a big ol’ spoiler for the previous book, I would definitely give you more information.  But as it stands, that one sentence is all you get for first lines.  This was a book I moved to the top of my to-read list like a year ago and I finally tried reading it.  (I move quickly, you see.)  But first, I reread Angelfall to remember the story and the characters.  Best. Idea. Ever.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

To Penryn, the world after the angel apocalypse looks nothing like the world she knew before.  Making it seem normal again isn’t easy, especially after a group of people attack her sister, Paige, thinking Paige is a monster.  What ends in a massacre leaves a family torn apart and Paige disappears.  Desperate to find her again, Penryn takes to the empty streets of San Francisco, but a question lingers: where is everybody?  Her search reveals the angels’ plans and the depths they are willing to go to for control.  Meanwhile, Raffe can’t rejoin the angel ranks unless he gets his wings back.  But stuck between helping Penryn survive or his wings, which will he choose?

Y’all, I love this series.  There’s something that’s so different about it and I wish I could put my finger on it. But I’ll do my best.

Penryn is such a fascinating lead. She’s independent and self-reliant for such a realistic and reasonable reason: her mentally ill (and unstable) mother has never been able to care for her or her sister. So for Penryn to be clever and resourceful makes sense. She has strong survival instincts that only come more in handy in this apocalypse. I love that she’s sassy and a fighter. It makes every scene where she gets to fight back that much more exciting.

The minor characters also are a complete joy because they are so nuanced. I adore Raffe, I have a crush on Dee and Dum, and I have a place inside of me where I just want to pummel the angels for destroying Penryn’s world. But even the angels (looking at you, Uriel) have nuanced motivations and personalities. There was one moment in this book where Uriel was startled by something that happened and it sticks with me because it shows that he wasn’t planning on something happening the way it did. Penryn assessed the situation perfectly and I just can’t get over how simply perfect that one little sentence was.

The action is as amazing as ever. We haven’t seen the last of the scorpion creatures and they certainly bring a level of insanity and terror to every scene they are in. They’re just creepy and wrong. But at least we have Penryn around to kick butt (literally…just wait and see what she does in this one!) and take names. The fights are intense and I just love the way a couple of them turned out.

The world of this apocalyptic Silicon Valley is just amazing. I may never have been there, but it doesn’t matter. I can picture all the destruction and devastation as easily as if I had seen it myself. Ee pulls in a lot of landmarks that also help set the scene well.

What I loved best about this book was this tension with whether or not Penryn and Raffe would find each other again. There are a few…twists…that come along the way that I thought were well done.

Seriously, is there anything this book can’t do?

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Sweet Reckoning (The Sweet Trilogy, #3)

Screenshot 2016-07-14 13.20.43First Lines: Not a soul in the Vegas cocktail lounge had any idea demons were in their midst.

This book has been on my to-read list for ages, but this is that series for me that I constantly procrastinate reading.  You have those?  The ones where even after you get the book, it sits on your shelf for months if not a year before you *finally* decide it’s time.  And then you wonder why you procrastinated so long.  (Or maybe not?)

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Evil is loose in the world, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time until it finds her.  Life under the Dukes is oppressive and degrading, and Anna’s determined to end their reign.  Instead of it being a weakness, Anna is going to prove that love is her true strength.  But that’s hard to do when her loved ones are constantly targets as well.  And when the Dukes send Anna’s great love, Kaidan, to work against her, Anna will have to decide what’s worth fighting for…and if she can manage it alone.

Like I said, I waited a long time to read this.  Not because I thought it would be bad, but it just never found its way to my “anxiously awaiting” pile.  And I didn’t exactly remember a ton from these books even though I took notes on their endings.  I was kind of a hot mess going into this.

But I quickly remembered a lot about the characters and the plot.  Some of it came back to me and other bits and pieces I just had to fill in using my imagination.  It happens.

Easily the cutest part of this book was Anna and Kaidan.  For real, they were adorable.  I totally think Kaidan did the most growing of all the characters in this book, but Anna definitely had her own challenges to overcome.  And it was interesting see how they dealt with being pitted against each other.

As you may expect if you’ve stuck with this series, the minor characters are also sweethearts.  Marna is my favorite, but Blake and Ginger weren’t far behind.  It’s just really cool seeing all the characters together and interacting with each other.  I enjoyed that, whether they were fighting or getting alone.

The plot doesn’t go the way you think it will, even if by the end you felt like you’d called it.  There were a lot of things that happened that I either didn’t see coming or didn’t even think I should suspect were possibilities.  Some weird things happened too, but that is not a bad thing.  I never quite knew where things were going.  Well, except for the ending we were all waiting for.

I know I’m going to sound a bit weird for saying this, but it was fun to read about bad guys who were nearly omnipotent.  It created a real sense of paranoia that at any moment, Anna and her friends could be overheard or seen and be turned over to the Dukes.  I liked the interesting challenges that brought and how they had to subtly work around those challenges.

I’m not going to say this novel is perfect.  It’s not.  It frequently crosses into cheesy territory.  The ending wasn’t quite as climactic as I was hoping.  Some aspects could have been better, but it was still fun.

Entice (The Violet Eden Chapters, #2)

First Lines: The angel had been ordered to make his choice.  It had to be of his own free will.  But what they asked of him carried a high price.  He would most likely never return.

It’s been a ridiculous 3 years since I read the first book in this series.  Why?  Because I could never, for the life of me, remember which book was the 2nd in the series.  I could stare at the cover for 10 minutes solid, go to the library, and immediately forget.  Honest to Zeus truth.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Violet wonders if she made the right choice in giving up her humanity.  Because being a Grigori is far from easy.  She doesn’t understand all her new powers yet, and worse, she’s not sure is capable of using them anyway.  But not matter what comes her way, she won’t run away or quit.  Even if it means pretending the guy she loves doesn’t love her back.  Even if it means asking an enemy for help.  With no one telling the truth, Violet is going to have to figure out a few things for herself.  Only…with both Exiles and Angels wanting her, who can she turn to for help?

For it having been so long since I read the first book, I was actually pretty surprised by how much I remembered of it.  It must have made an impression on me.

Even better, this book grabbed me quickly.  I sometimes have that issue with a long hiatus, where I no longer feel attached to these characters.  This book quickly got me reinvested in the storyline and the characters.  It was nice to not have to worry about that once I got rolling.

For me, Violet was a bit hard for me to follow sometimes.  Her thoughts seemed a little too dramatic and pessimistic.  I attribute this in part to not remembering a couple of specific life-altering events from the first book.  So that’s on me.  But still, she seemed a little off.

But really, every character in this story was awesome, even the ones you didn’t want to like.  Well developed, well characterized, and distinct in personality.  I was impressed by that.  It definitely helped the story a lot.

There was some heavy-handed foreshadowing in this book, which is really my own negative note.  And what I mean by “heavy-handed” is that at some points, it wasn’t even in the realm of subtle.  There were two things I spotted so early in the story that it was kind of ridiculous.  It just became a waiting game of when it would crop up.  (One was so obvious that I thought it had to be a fake-out…only it wasn’t.)  I wish the book had been more surprising than that.  It took some of the fun out of the story.

Overall, though, it’s a book with a great cast of characters and plenty of action.  Just don’t come looking for an epic love story or for major plot twists.

Shadows in the Silence (Angelfire, #3)

First Lines: The demonic had tried to break me over and over again, but even with my dress drenched in Will’s blood, I stayed standing.

I’d been meaning for a while to get to this series again.  I’m horrible about finishing off series.  I’ll start them any day, but following through?  Eh…  Still, I swooned hard for this series in the first book, so I knew I had to read this.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

For Ellie, it’s not even a choice: she has to save Will.  Wounded by one of the demonic’s worst weapons, Ellie may be Will’s only chance at survival.  But to do that, she will have to team up with an unlikely “friend” to get what she needs.  As if that wasn’t enough, demons are gathering for the End of Days.  Humanity will suffer horrifically if Ellie and her friends can’t stop them in time.  But to fight, Ellie will have to shed her humanity and become the archangel Gabriel.  Can she hold on to what matters most, even when she’s no longer human?

I am not making this up: the moment I finished this book, I hugged it tight to my chest, grabbed the necessary tissues, and began planning which scenes I wanted to reread.  It was that good.  I still can’t put into words the feels I had.

One minor setback that I had was that I didn’t remember much of the 2nd book.  So some of the new main characters (and at least one of the baddies) I didn’t remember…at all.  So…that wasn’t great.  Especially since this book picks up right where the 2nd left off.  But I handled it, I got to know them again, and everything was cool.

Oh my God, Ellie and Will, though.  There’s something unique and special about them.  I wish I could dissect their relationship and pinpoint exactly what it is about them that makes me swoon like a 1700s debutante.  But I can’t.  Still, every scene they’re in together is like magic.  I don’t say this very often, but I truly love these characters.  Like I physically miss them right now.  (If this isn’t a sign that I’m a crazy reader, I don’t know what is.)  Those scenes I previously mentioned I reread?  Yeah, they were all the cute scenes between Ellie and Will.  If I could find my own Will, I’d never want for anything else in my life.

I thought the plot was interesting and always moving, which is good since this book is nearly 500 pages.  I would’ve been surprised if it didn’t move, considering there’s a war going on and this is the last book in the series.  But not everything was about the war.  Some parts had little or nothing to do with that and all to do with Ellie’s life.

That ending.  I broke into a million little pieces.  When I reread it only like, 2 hours later, I cried again.  Moulton is a master, my friends.  Because not only did I break into pieces, but she also helped me slowly knit those pieces back together.

If you’re like me and have put off reading this book, what are you waiting for?  If you’ve read this review but haven’t read any of the books yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!  (I uh…I’m kind of passionate about this series.)

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)

First Lines: Ironically, since the attacks, the sunsets have been glorious.  Outside our condo window, the sky flames like a bruised mango in vivid orange, red, and purple.  The clouds ignite with sunset colors, and I’m almost scared those of us caught below will catch on fire too.

Do you ever have those books that just always seem to be talked about but you can’t find anyone who’s actually read them?  There’s always been a little chatter about this book that I’ve heard, but it got to the point that my mom (who hardly ever even looks at a YA book) asked if I had read this.  When it got to that point, I figured I needed to make reading this a priority, just to find out what everyone was talking about.

It’s been six weeks since angels descended and the apocalypse began.  For Penryn, life now is all about keeping her family together and safe from the street gangs that rule the cities while the sun is up.  Once the sun goes down, the world belongs to the angels.  And when one of those angels takes off with Penryn’s sister, she’ll do anything to get her back…including partnering up with Raffe, an angel who was on the brink of death before Penryn stepped in.  She knows Raffe is the key to finding her sister.  But how just far is she willing to go to protect her family?

As I was reading this, I noticed there were some very distinct differences between the beginning, middle, and end of the story.  So I’ll break down each of those parts because they all almost seem to have a different personality, for whatever reason.

So I thought the beginning was cool.  The story drops you right into this apocalyptic world with very little explanation about what was going on.  (That part was a little disorienting.)  There was enough action to keep things interesting.  And Penryn’s really the only one in her family who is capable of fighting for their survival.  Meeting Raffe and starting off on that adventure was cool as well and really had my attention.

But the middle felt horribly bogged down and boring.  There were so many dystopian cliches in it, from a growing resistance group to women being treated as subservient to men, which really irritates me.  I get why resistance groups keep showing up in stories, but the part about women?  Why can’t there be an Amazonian community in one of these stories where the women are the warriors and the men keep the camps clean?  (PLEASE, someone write that!)  There was also something about the writing style that felt off, almost dated.  I honestly can’t put into words exactly what it was about it, but it didn’t quite flow in the way I’m used to.

And while the story clearly wants you to believe there’s some kind of connection between Penryn and Raffe, I just didn’t feel it.  Based on their personalities and the world they live in, both of them are severely closed off from the other.  I barely ever knew what either one was thinking and feeling, let alone what they felt about each other.  It was really hard to relate to them as characters.

But that ending…that ending was worth it.  I’ve read it twice now.  It was creative and adventurous.  There were a number of surprising twists and it answered a few questions.  I’m not totally sure I bought into everything that happened, but there was enough going on that I was able to overlook some of that.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting dystopian/angel crossover with an exciting plot.  It was incredibly creative, even though there were a few execution flaws.

Normal is the Watchword

NITW_Cover_finalpurple6-210x300First Lines: Normal.  That’s what every teenager both craves to be and also hates to be.  It’s nice to feel normal when you are surrounded by strangers and dying to fit in.

I was given a copy of this by the author to read and review.

Alright.  So I was approached about this in the hay-day of my Supernatural obsession this summer.  (Not that I’m not still obsessed with the show, but it has cooled now that I’ve seen 8 seasons.)  Anyway, this book clearly had a supernatural edge to it, and I wanted to see what would happen.

For most of her life, Juniper has lived on the fringe of social circles.  While she wants to be normal, she is more observant than her classmates, and that makes fitting in difficult sometimes. Armed with her camera, Juni sees the world differently than others.  Her favorite subjects are Carrie, her best friend, and Darius, the mystery soccer player who is too charming for his own good.  But when Juni witnesses something that wasn’t meant to be photographed, normal life is no longer an option for her.  Now, every moment is about real survival, not social survival.  Then Carrie goes missing.  Suddenly alone, Juni turns to Darius for help.  Mysteries start unfolding and it seems there may be a war of supernatural origins about to start…

This was a pretty exciting read.  I mean, I constantly struggled to find a place to stop.  Even when I had to do normal things like, you know, eating, I struggled to turn off my Kindle and walk away.  The mystery (or mysteries, since there is definitely more than one) kept the story interesting and entertaining.  I kept reading in huge chunks because, really, isn’t that the only way to read a book?

I will say that the beginning a bit slow.  The first quarter or so of the book is a bit of a drag as everything gets set up.  It seemed like it too forever to get to the action.  I won’t say that I was bored with the story, but I was definitely anxious to get to the conflict.  And here I go, inserting my teacher words into my reviews.  Oy vey.

There was actually a very cute and sweet romance in the story as well.  Juni is a strong heroine who isn’t looking for a guy to make her whole.  (Just saying, I loved that.  Girls need more role models like this.)  Darius is sensitive and caring while carrying his own strength.  They work well together, and I liked seeing them struggle to find out what exactly their relationship was.  I think too many stories just jump right into the relationship and don’t do justice to the awkwardness of new relationships.  This had awkward moments that were still sweet.

Again, there are a few little issues here as well.  First of all, there were a lot of moments in the romance where I went, “Um, this happens in Twilight too.”  It just made some of the sweeter scenes feel a bit cliche.  So while I still liked them, they just didn’t feel as original.  Also, Juni is a bit cerebral when it comes to Darius.  She tends to think about him and then question what she’s thinking about and then think about it some more.  That was a little annoying, but she eased up on it later in the story.

So…yeah.  I think I’ve covered most everything.  This was really exciting and gripping once I got into the story.  The characters are lovely and I really look forward to what comes next.

Meridian (Fenestra, #1)

First Lines: The first creatures to seek me were the insects; my parents cleaned the bassinet free of dead ants the morning after they brought me home from the hospital.  My first word was “dead.”

This was on my to-read shelf since 2009.  It was one of those books that I always wanted to read, but I just never really found it anywhere.  Until it cropped up at the library.  After probably 5 years of neglecting it, I had to read it.

For her entire life, Meridian has been surrounded by death.  Insects, mice, and toads (among other creatures) would find their way to Meridian’s bed at night and die by her side before morning came.  She’s been a freak ever since her classmates noticed death following her like a faithful dog.  On her 16th birthday, a car crash occurs right in front of her and her body explodes in pain even though she wasn’t hurt.  She’s quickly hustled away to Colorado to live with an old aunt who tells Meridian she’s a Fenestra–a half human, half angel meant to usher souls on to the next life.  Of course, a dark sect of Fenestra known as the Aternocti are determined to turn Meridian dark or kill her.  With the help of her protector, Tens, Meridian is going to find a way to survive…if she can.

It took me a long time to decide what I wanted to rate this book.  Let me see if I can show you why I struggled.

I thought the premise was really cool and original.  Sure, I’ve read angel stories before.  I’ve read stories where souls were helped into the next life.  But there was something about this that felt really different.  I think part of it was because Meridian was actually, you know, alive while helping souls.  A lot of stories have legit angels, reapers, or something else already dead/never alive helping souls.  So that was a nice change.

The characters were also worth the read.  Meridian has never fit in anywhere, which is understandable when she constantly has dying animals finding her and dying at her feet.  Creepy, right?  But even though some people treated her horribly, she really seemed to have a kind heart.  Tens certainly lived up to his duty as a protector.  I thought he was very sweet while still being tough when he needed to be.  But Auntie was probably my favorite.  While physically unable to harm a fly, I’m pretty sure this woman could scare the sin out of the devil if she wanted to.  I loved that.

Now, here’s what wasn’t so great.  There’s a plot line involving a Reverend who may not be what he seems.  And he brings a lot of religious lines to the story.  I wouldn’t necessarily have had a problem with that except that that plot line seemed to take away from the story.  Meridian is completely lost in trying to figure out what she can do and who she’s supposed to be now to deal with the Reverend.  It was too much for the story to handle effectively.

And the romance, if you can call it that.  While there was definitely a connection between the two characters, I did not feel love blossom in the sunshine of their affection.  It was actually about as corny as my last sentence was.  Really, it just seemed to come out of nowhere.  Like the story needed to have a love story for some reason and it was forced upon them.  I actually would have preferred the story if that wasn’t there at all, if it was building up to it in later books.

Overall, I thought it had a good premise.  It was interesting and unique enough to keep me reading for long periods at a time.  The characters were really great too, but I could have done without the romance.  Definitely some room for improvement.