Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

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Book: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Release date: July 4, 2011
Source: ARC received from NetGalley
Series: Lost Voices #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of a grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid. A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in â?? all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce possesses an extraordinary singing talent, which makes her important to the tribeâ??she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

The first book in a trilogy, Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

First impressions: I found the beginning of the book to be interesting, but felt it took too long to get Luce in the water. We know it’s a mermaid story, and I felt some of the opening scenes could have been cut. Luce runs around town showing us how sad and miserable her life is, introducing us to characters who have no real impact on the rest of the story. I got impatient waiting for her to turn into a mermaid.

Lasting impressions: The descriptions of life in the sea were really cool, and I think I could get behind mermaids. They’re strong, fast, beautiful, and deadly – all things which make up the best heroines in my opinion.

Conflicting impressions: Unfortunately, there were too many dull moments to make me gaga for this book. For every swift-moving exciting scene there were three more where the mermaids just hang out on the rocks and talk. I felt the tension was missing in a majority of the scenes.

Overall impressions: Though I struggled with the pacing and tension in this story, Luce’s growth as a person was satisfying to read. She starts off as a young, sheltered teen stuck in a life she doesn’t want, and winds up a strong mermaid who can stand up for herself and others. It’s a powerful message, especially considering the dark circumstances of this mermaid world.

In this book, mermaids turn after horrific circumstances alter the lives of young girls. In Luce’s case, she is attacked and nearly raped by her uncle. Other girls fell victim to human trafficking, car accidents, or abuse. To mete out punishment on the humans who tried to destroy their lives, the girls-turned-mermaids wreck boats and drown the humans they despise.

Luce, however, isn’t so sure she hates humans. She had a happy life with her father before he was lost at sea and she was sent to live with her uncle. The mermaid queen, Caterina, goes after humans with a vengeance, and Luce struggles with how to fit in with her new mermaid clan while disagreeing with her queen.

The relationship with Caterina is a complicated one, and I could never quite tell if we were supposed to trust Caterina or not. She befriends Luce, but also can blow her off without a thought, and young Luce is obviously pained by the hot-and-cold nature of Caterina’s emotions. When a new mermaid (and probable sociopath) comes on the scene and tries to further that friction between the two sometime-friends, the whole mess gets even messier.

Luce is believably naive and insecure as a youngish fourteen, but the more time she spends with erratic Caterina and the devilish newcomer, the more she realizes that she must rely on her own inner strength and leadership capabilities if she hopes to save herself and her friends. This transformation is a beautiful thing to watch happen, even if I took issue with some of Luce’s choices along the way.

Luce’s story is not necessarily a happy one. She didn’t ask to become a mermaid and is often surrounded by sycophantic and insecure girls caught up in bloodlust against the people they feel have wronged them. It’s a dark tale about the damage done by hardship in one’s life, and how the choices we make in trying to overcome our pasts can have a huge impact on our enjoyment of our futures. I recommend this one for die-hard mermaid fans, but I think the average reader will find the overall story a bit boring.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system
Interested in other mermaid tales? Click to read my review of Siren’s Storm by Lisa Papademetriou.

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Dark Lover by J. R. Ward

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Book: Dark Lover
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher: Signet
Release date: September 6, 2005
Source: Purchased on Kindle
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) In the shadows of the night in Caldwell, New York, there’s a deadly turf war going war going on between vampires and their slayers. There exists a secret band of brothers like no other-six vampire warriors, defenders of their race. Yet none of them relishes killing their enemies more than Wrath, the leader of the Black Dagger Brotherhood…

The only purebred vampire left on the planet, Wrath has a score to settle with the slayers who murdered his parents centuries ago. But when one of his most trusted fighters is killed – orphaning a half-breed daughter unaware of her heritage or her fate – Wrath must usher the beautiful female into the world of the undead…

Racked by a restlessness in her body that wasn’t there, Beth Randall is helpless against the dangerously sexy man who comes at night with shadows in his eyes. His tales of brotherhood and blood frighten her. But his touch ignites a dawning hunger that threatens to consume them both.

First impressions: I was really excited to read this book because so many people love this series, but the first few chapters were not the most attention-getting. Wrath is really what kept me reading because he’s so well developed. I love that he has a visual impairment but is still totally badass.

Lasting impressions: I will definitely stick with this series. The story started to pick up about a quarter of the way through and kept me turning pages until I’d gobbled the whole thing.

Conflicting impressions: There are some cheesy moments (Does every vampire have to hang out in a dark, bass-thumping club?), and Beth got on my nerves quite frequently, but these are easily overlooked.

Overall impressions: Here’s the thing. Did you see that cover? I suffer from cover shyness, and for that reason I have long avoided reading romance novels in public. This is another in a long list of reasons I love my Kindle. And because of said Kindle, I finally gave myself the chance to read this book.

I was really surprised by how funny and unique it turned out to be. Ward has obviously spent a lot of time crafting this world, so it’s easy to get immersed in it. That’s one of my favorite qualities in a book.

Beth is kind of a blah main character for most of the book. She’s a gorgeous woman with no interest in men, which she comes to learn is because she’s turning into a vampire. I loved how Ward played around with female character tropes and made them work for her instead of against her. Beautiful, unattainable woman who can’t get a date? Got a perfectly good explanation. Later in the book, she jokes about how she wishes her name was something shorter than Elizabeth, “like Mary. Or Sue.” Mary Sue! I had a good chuckle over that one. Ward is playing us like a fiddle.

Despite their cheesy names (Wrath, Rhage, Tohrment, etc.), the BDB boys are pretty cool. I struggled a bit to keep them all straight, since we don’t have a lot of opportunity to learn their individual traits in the midst of what is primarily Wrath’s story, but they are still enjoyable and interesting, and sometimes downright scary.

The romance element here does not disappoint, either. Again, because Ward is a genius at twisting tired devices in her favor, she’s written a world where maturing vampires are at their sexual peak, so when Beth starts to turn, things heat up pretty quickly with Wrath. I felt like they genuinely cared for each other, though, and the love story that follows their initial, erm, encounter is believable and sweet.

In fact, I felt the love story was far and away more interesting than the conflict with the bad guys. The Lessers are militant counterparts to the Brotherhood, and both groups want to destroy each other. It does seem a bit exhausting as a reader since these battles have raged on for centuries and there doesn’t appear to be a clear favorite for the win. With 8 more books in the series, I have to assume this thing is going to drag out, and that may be a big part of why I felt so much more attached to the Beth/Wrath storyline.

This was a fun book with a great balance of mystery, surprise, steamy romance and hot boys fighting. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, where each book allows us to get to know another BDB member in more detail.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want to get in on the discussion? Check out the Dark Lover BDB book club post at Bookaholic Does Blogging.

Steampunkery & Book Reviews

Hunted by the Others by Jess Haines

Hunted By The Others
Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Hunted by the Others
Author: Jess Haines
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release date: May 1, 2010
Source: Free ebook purchased for Kindle
Series: H&W Investigations #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) They are the Others-the vampires, mages, and werewolves once thought to exist only in our imaginations. Now they’re stepping out of the shadows, and nothing in our world will ever be the same again…

In A Town Like This, Being A P.I. Can Be Murder

Shiarra Waynest’s detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm-if it doesn’t kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York’s most powerful vampires.

As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend-a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing-and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren’t always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil-whether she likes it or not…

First impressions: I never know what to expect with free ebooks, so usually my guard is up and my expectations are down. Here, I was pleasantly surprised. The book opens with a great scene where our reluctant protagonist, Shiarra, is pulled into an investigative job for the Others. I loved the idea that Shiarra really didn’t want to get involved with the Others, especially since most books have characters that want to either be them or be in love with them.

Lasting impressions: What a welcome addition to the urban fantasy genre! I thought this book was a lot of fun, with some original new contributions that added a lot to my enjoyment. In Shiarra’s world, the Others (supernatural types) have to sign contracts in order to have romantic (or blood servant) relationships, in order to avoid litigation should the human meet their death. This is a key plot point and added to the believability of the world.

Conflicting impressions: Given the well-developed supporting characters, I found Shiarra just a bit weak, especially in the beginning. I wish she hadn’t needed to take the job because of money troubles. This just made her an unwilling participant and didn’t give me much reason to root for her to succeed. I think bigger stakes would have made it more exciting.

Overall impressions: Shiarra and her business partner, Sara, pale a bit in comparison to the fun Others they come across. The vampire Alec Royce is the perfect blend of sexy and scary. What a treat to have a vampire who is actually terrifying! It seems like every other vamp I read about is so in control of his or her blood supply or hunger that they’re never really risky to be around. Well, Royce is definitely scary in this one, and I loved every minute of it.

Arnold, a mage, becomes a de facto sidekick when his boss (who hired Shiarra for the job) winds up dead. His development through the book is well handled, at first seeming untrustworthy but by the end winning our full confidence and friendship. He helps outfit Shiarra in some butt-kicking gear that keeps her alive and grants her some extra oomph in her fighting abilities.

The story line is straightforward enough, but Haines delivers a nice surprise at the end. The different Others factions are all vying for the same thing, and Shiarra is just trying to do her job and get out before things get too messy. Shiarra was likeable, but the other characters really take the book to the next level. Haines’ interesting take on supernaturals living side by side with humans, each wary of the other, everyone seemingly on edge, was both realistic and compelling. A great read for UF fans.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this greatreview by Dark Faerie Tales.

Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare


Book: City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release date: February 19, 2008
Source: Local library

Summary: (from Goodreads) When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder – much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing – not even a smear of blood – to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

First impressions: The opening nightclub scene in NYC was fun and intriguing, so I got hooked in right away. I have to admit, however, that the large Stephenie Meyer quote on the front cover of this edition was distracting. I was not a fan of this cover. It doesn’t have anything to do with my experience with the book matter, but…duly noted.

Lasting impressions: I was not a big fan of the twist at the end. **SPOILER AHEAD** I didn’t want Jace and Clary to be brother/sister. I wanted them to fall in love! It was Luke and Leia disappointment all over again. Sigh.

Negative impressions: I didn’t have major issues with this book. Other than the twist ending and cover, I have no real complaints.

Overall impressions: I really liked this book. From the moment Clary’s mom went missing, I was invested in how Clary was going to get her back. Clare does a good job of setting up some tension in the relationship between Clary, her mother and Luke. From the first scene, we know something is up in this world of the Shadowhunters, and with enough tidbits and clues thrown in along the way, we start to piece together the truth about Clary’s family. I thought the pacing and flow of information to the reader were handled well.

**SPOILER AHEAD**There is also a nice dose of unrequited love thrown in between Clary and Simon, her best friend. Normally this situation is bungled by writers who can’t seem to quite work out how those feelings are discussed among teenagers. Here, I felt Clare had a perfect grasp on what a boy says to his best friend who he happens to love. The scene where this is revealed had spot on dialogue that hit all the right emotions square on the head.

This was a solid book from start to finish, with lots of promise for the rest of the series. I thought Clary was a great protagonist, and her dialogue with Simon and Jace seemed honest and warm. The plot had enough mystery to keep me hooked until the end, and the final battles were well paced. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Steampunkery & Book Reviews

Three more challenges

I can’t help it. I am the challenge accepter. I am helpless against the draw to challenge myself, particularly when the challenge is to do something I like to do anyway (like read). So I am signing up for three more reading challenges.

Steampunkery & Book Reviews

First up is steampunkery & book reviews’ Morbid Romantica challenge. I will be participating in the Lost Romantica category, reading one book in each of the twelve themes. Each month the challenge focuses on a different theme of paranormal romance, such as zombies, selkies, dark gothic fantasy, tortured heros, shifters and other fun stuff like that. You can read any of the themes in any month. I’m excited to stretch outside of the normal themes I read and expand my horizons a bit.

Next up is Stalking the Bookshelves’ YA Series Challenge. I’m going all out on this one and joining Level 6 – Addicted and Loving It. This means reading 23-30 YA books that are part of a series with at least 3 entries out by 2011.  There are a LOT of series that I am trying to get caught up on, so this is a perfect challenge for me to get some of that old reading out of the way.  I’m planning to read The Mortal Instruments, Vampire Academy, Iron Fae and Wicked Lovely series, among others. I can’t wait to get on the bandwagon with these!

The last challenge is to read 100 books this year.  Tabitha at Writer Musings is hosting this challenge where you comment with a link once a month to check in on your progress, and every month she does a giveaway to participants. You don’t have to commit to 100 books, you just have to link to your reviews or other proof that you’re reading.  Considering the vast number of books I want to read this year, I’m going to try to match Tabitha and read at least 100. That will truly be a challenge!