“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

Today I’m ecstatic to have found the gorgeous cover art for Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs.

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

Shapeshifter Mercy Thompson’s life is calming down, at least enough that she can focus on mundane matters like Black Friday sales. But on her return, Mercy is unable to contact her mate, Alpha Adam Hauptman, or the other members of their pack. All she knows is that Adam is angry and in pain. With the werewolves fighting a political battle to gain acceptance from the public, Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related – and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outclassed and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from the most unlikely of allies: the vampire seethe.

It’s been too long since the last time we got to visit Mercy, and judging by that blurb, oh how I hope we get to see more of Stefan!

This title is released on March 5, 2013.

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“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

Today I was super excited to see the cover reveal for The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

An elusive woman arrives at Criminy’s doorstep with a steamer

The Mysterious Madam Morpho by Delilah S. Dawson

trunk, begging for a position in the caravan to perform her unique new act. She opens her trunk to reveal a menagerie of brilliantly colored butterflies. The woman, who calls herself Madam Morpho, is on the run from a dark past in London, where she was forced to leave her equipment behind and abscond with only her tiny performers. Playing a hunch, Criminy hires Madam Morpho on the spot. Taking her down to meet Mr. Murdoch, the reclusive talented engineer who keeps the carnival’s clockworks running, Criminy instructs them to work together to design and build a groundbreaking new circus for the butterflies. Amid the magical ambiance of the circus and the hint of danger from Madam Morpho’s pursuers, she and Mr. Murdoch soon find that their scientific collaboration has produced chemistry of a more romantic kind.

I really enjoyed the first in Dawson’s Blud series and so can’t wait to see how she continues to build the world of Sang in this novella.

This title is released on October 2, 2012.

Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé

What an unexpected little book.

I requested this one after only a cursory glance at the description. Based on the standard sleepy-girl-in-a-pretty-dress cover, I was expecting another typical young adult paranormal, complete with impossibly gifted heroine and two swarthy sides to a love triangle. And that’s what Abé gives us…sort of.

I was completely unprepared for the strength of Abé’s writing. Having read a lot of young adult books that mistake conspicuous word choice for depth, it was lovely to read prose that felt unselfconscious in its own beauty. Two pages turned to twenty, and before I knew it I was completely sucked into the story, even if I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. In an odd way, I count that as one of the book’s strengths; Abé’s worldbuilding isn’t particularly sophisticated, and upon closer scrutiny, it’s like a moth-eaten quilt. You get the feeling that there is a larger rationale connecting all the pieces (likely developed as a backdrop to her previous adult romance series), but the threads that we do have are pretty enough to prop up the weak parts.

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé

Perhaps even more surprising than my lack of scorn toward a poorly constructed magical system was my acceptance, even approval, of the “love triangle.” I set that off in quotations because it doesn’t fit the bill, exactly. Lora does develop relationships with two different young men, yet it seems clear to me that she considers only one of these to be romantic. There is no oscillation between options; she makes it clear who she wants early on, and she doesn’t feel guilty about taking what she wants because she never flirts with the alternative. The characters’ understanding of how the relationships stand is fairly universal; though one of the men admits to his strange obsession with Lora, I never got the sense that even he was truly invested in it from a romantic angle. It could be a bit disappointing, then, that I actually would rather have seen these two together in a romantic sense than who she actually ends up with, but to be honest I liked both guys. It’s a rarity in young adult paranormal nowadays, but Abé pulled off the impossible in creating two reasonably well-rounded male characters to root for. What’s more, she didn’t pull back on investing them with faults, though they are subtlely sown. Most importantly, Abé doesn’t try to convince or justify. Her characters are what they are, individually and in relation to each other, and you don’t have to approve of or understand the crazy fated turns that bring them together; you simply have to keep up with them. Regarding Lora’s romantic connection, it’s not epic, but nor is it the saccharine contrived mess that we are usually fed. It’s a dry love, giving only as much as it cares to, existing whether we believe in it or not.

As for Lora…I liked her. She’s snarky. She’s no pushover. She might be crazy, but she doesn’t spend time lamenting the fact. She’s endured some pretty horrible things in her short life, yet we hear only snippets, and those at unexpected points in the narrative. I love that, despite the occasional third-person perspective shifts to the two male characters, the story’s focus on Lora’s narration maintains the aura of an unreliable narrator. From what we see and hear through Lora’s eyes, there are a lot of unbelievable things occurring without much explanation or credence. Lora has thought herself crazy for years; who’s to say that she isn’t? It’s entirely possible that the events of the story are entirely a creation of her own imagination. Abé doesn’t provide us with an easy answer, and while I might be reading into this too much, that’s alright with me. It is, after all, the reader’s prerogative to interpret a story.

Following the ending of The Sweetest Dark, it’s not entirely clear whether Abé intends for there to be a sequel; it might seem odd, but I almost wish there weren’t, despite the melancholy tone that would lend to the story overall. Yet it’s a beautiful melancholy, a sweet ache as can only be accomplished by those surreal, unapologetic stories that are more Grimm than Anderson. Still, I suspect we will see more to come from these characters, though where Abé goes with this story from here is anyone’s guess; at the very least, it’s guaranteed to be a far cry from the standard fare.

Review: Released by Megan Duncan

While Released doesn’t stray too far from the standard young adult paranormal fare, atypical worldbuilding and a frank, capable narrator made this a truly enjoyable read. The opening scenes introduce a situation that we’ve seen time and again in the genre: some terrible supernatural catastrophe has befallen residents of a town where the survivors are left struggling to eke out an existence. Yet the ante is upped a bit when we learn that Abby, her brother Carter, and Carter’s best friend Max are the only survivors in their small town. The story kicks off after the gang has already become somewhat acclimated to their new, bleak environment, and all three have already experienced the heartache of losing loved ones. I appreciated the fact that Duncan threw readers straight into the story; no time was wasted by characters meandering through the various stages of denial, anger, and helplessness at their plight. No, Abby and the guys have worked out a system for survival, and what’s more, they have a plan to make their way to where they believe there are more survivors.

Released by Megan Duncan

Duncan’s world, while similar to many that I’ve come across before, nonetheless stands out in her depiction of the supernatural elements. Usually, when we encounter demons in the genre, they are at least somewhat sentient, if not largely anthropomorphic. Yet Duncan’s demons are likened to hounds and birds of prey, larger than their normal counterparts and more deadly, yet altogether more like wild beasts animated by instinct rather than motive. Toward the end of the novel, Duncan alludes to the fact that this might not be a universal trait of all demons, and I have a feeling that Abby and crew will be interacting with the demons through more than just fighting in upcoming installments. Still, this feature really stood out to me while reading, and I hope that Duncan continues to deliver her worldbuilding through similar simple yet effective means.

I also quite enjoyed the romantic aspect of the novel, which, though it took up a significant portion of the book, nonetheless didn’t feel overdone or overdramatized. I’m a sucker for stories where friends acknowledge long-pent-up feelings, and Abby and Max are no exception. Their interactions were sweet, heartfelt, and didn’t incorporate unnecessary drama. More importantly, they actually served to enhance the consequences of their struggle to survive rather than hamper them, as neither falls victim to the stupidity of love-sickness at a crucial survival moment. They are able to keep their heads straight when need be, a trait that unfortunately is a rarity in much of young adult nowadays.

For those who are becoming somewhat tired of supernatural fiction, I suggest giving Released a try. It’s a good quick read that manages to use elements we’ve seen before to great effect, and I’m looking forward to reading its follow-up, Chaos.

For those who are interested, check out Megan’s blog where she’s currently hosting a giveaway for the newly-released Chaos.

Review: Blink Once by Cylin Busby

I can’t remember the last time I read a novel that led me to such contradictory reactions. In some regards, I found Blink Once to be utterly refreshing in its genre. It doesn’t read like a typical young adult paranormal, and that’s not merely due to the rare inclusion of a male narrator. On the other hand, nearly every aspect of Blink Once is insufficiently explored, inadequately explained, and just plain incomprehensible. Add to that an insufferable female protagonist and thinly-veiled instalove, and I was left on unsure footing regarding how to rate this one.

Blink Once reeled me in with its promise of a protagonist struggling to overcome paralysis resulting from a near-fatal accident. Characters faced with disability make for fascinating character studies, especially in young adult literature when they are still young enough that they are trying to figure out how to cope with a physical or mental affliction in addition to the normal trials of the teen years. West finds himself in a particularly difficult situation when, upon awakening, he finds

Blink Once by Cylin Busby

that he is intubated and, thus, can’t even talk. His narration is understandably disoriented for the first few chapters, yet as West becomes more acclimated to his current condition, the odd qualities of his surroundings become all the more inexplicable. At this point, I could see where Busby was trying to go with her narration, but unfortunately I don’t believe she succeeded in the effect she was hoping for. The first two-hundred pages of the novel are like a fever dream in their lack of logic, but while some stories can pull that off, here it was a hindrance rather than an asset. Instead of coming across as surreal, the story was merely incomprehensible most of the time.

That being said, the twist, when it came, was actually rather good and not one that I was expecting. Busby went to a place that most young adult authors are unwilling to go, and I’m glad that she didn’t recant on her decision. There’s no sugar-coating to make the ending more palatable. Things are as they are, and sometimes you must overcome one obstacle only to be faced with another. Still, Busby’s success in this one regard simply wasn’t enough to overcome the overwhelming flaws that lace the rest of the story. Though I was happy to see a new male narrator, his voice didn’t strike me as authentic. Olivia’s character was meant to be mysteriously intriguing, but she came across to me as unhinged and detestable; needless to say, no amount of explanation could have led me to understand why West falls in love with her, so I suppose it’s just as well that Busby doesn’t provide us with any explanation anyway. The supernatural elements were eventually justified in a rather cursory manner that wasn’t satisfying and left open more questions than it answered. One particular detail that bothered me to no end while reading was West’s failed efforts to persuade friends and family that he had been awake during his “coma.” While coma patients might be able to recall memory of things they heard while unconscious, surely they could not have memory of things seen if their eyes were closed and taped shut. Why West doesn’t simply describe some of the things he saw during his months in the hospital as proof of his consciousness, I’ll never understand.

In any event, Blink Once delivered on one very limited front, but unless you are strapped for reading material, I wouldn’t recommend you rush out to find this one.

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

 There’s no cover blurb yet, but a cover-spotting means we’re that much closer to the release of Fate’s Edge by Ilona Andrews.

Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

I’m really digging the vibe on this cover; it’s almost as if she’s a creature from the sea behind her who’s ventured onto land. I’m still not a fan of the floating heads, though.

This title will be released on November 27, 2012.

Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at Rose City Reader designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

After work today I’m digging into Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost.

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

“I parked my bike in front of the restaurant, wiping the perspiration from my upper lip.”

An odd way to start a romance novel, and one that’s as burning hot as it’s title suggests from what I’ve heard, but I have no doubt that Frost will deliver. Fans have been waiting for Vlad’s story for years, and the first part is finally here!

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

 She’s a mortal with dark powers…

After a tragic accident scarred her body and destroyed her dreams, Leila never imagined that the worst was still to come: terrifying powers that let her channel electricity and learn a person’s darkest secrets through a single touch. Leila is doomed to a life of solitude…until creatures of the night kidnap her, forcing her to reach out with a telepathic distress call to the world’s most infamous vampire…

He’s the Prince of Night…

Vlad Tepesh inspired the greatest vampire legend of all—but whatever you do, don’t call him Dracula. Vlad’s ability to control fire makes him one of the most feared vampires in existence, but his enemies have found a new weapon against him—a beautiful mortal with powers to match his own. When Vlad and Leila meet, however, passion ignites between them, threatening to consume them both. It will take everything that they are to stop an enemy intent on bringing them down in flames.