Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Book: Hounded
Author: Kevin Hearne
Publisher: Del Ray
Release date: May 3, 2011
Source: Local library
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #1

Summary from Goodreads: The first novel in an original, back-to-back three-book series The Iron Druid Chronicles–introducing a cool, new, funny urban fantasy hero Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old–when in actuality, he’s twenty-one “centuries” old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power–plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish–to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

First impressions: Knowing absolutely nothing about Celtic mythology, this book threw me into a madcap new world full of hilariously entertaining gods and mortals.

Lasting impressions: This one lives up to the hype. Atticus is a charming protagonist with plenty of opportunities to dazzle us, both in this book and the rest of the series.

Conflicting impressions: I didn’t get a good sense of the danger involved with this plot. Atticus seemed to have an easy fix for everything, and although the final battle was realistically short, things resolved themselves a bit too quickly for my taste. I wanted him to have to work a bit harder to keep Fragarach from the bad guys.

Overall impressions: Don’t even ask me to use names other than Atticus, Oberon, and the Morrigan. There are so many Irish names and places that the book has to start out with a pronunciation guide, and even then I mostly made it up as I went (good thing Mr. Hearne suggests that as an excellent solution). I think Missie had the right idea with the audiobook.

Atticus is thousands of years old, but currently living as a 21 year old occult bookstore owner near the Arizona State University campus. He’s accompanied almost everywhere by his Irish wolfhound, Oberon, whom he has magically charmed into the ability to communicate through a kind of telepathy. Atticus can bind himself to Oberon’s mind, and the two trade a fair amount of dialogue throughout the book.

And let me tell you – Oberon is fecking hilarious. He knows how to push Atticus’s buttons, he has snarky comments about everyone and everything going on around him, and yet he remains sweetly dog-like so as to remain believable. If my dog could talk, I would hope she’d sound like Oberon.

The plot moves quickly and is pretty straightforward. Atticus has a magical sword that one of the unpronounceably-named gods wants for himself, and the rest of the gods are picking sides and forming unwieldy alliances among themselves, a coven of local witches, and even the demons of Hell. Lots of betrayal and mystery, thrown in a blender with copious amounts of action and battles. Add in the colorful side characters (like the possessed bartender and the vampire/werewolf lawyer team) and you can’t help but fall in love.

Despite the too easily achieved resolution and what I found to be an inadequate backstory for us Celtic mythology-challenged readers, any urban fantasy reader will gobble up this series. I’m excited to continue on to the next book, and thank you, my fellow bloggers, for convincing me this was a must-read.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: The Mephisto Covenant by Trinity Faegen

Book: The Mephisto Covenant
Author: Trinity Faegen
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release date: September 27, 2011
Source: ARC received from I Read Banned Books Tour
Series: The Mephisto Covenant #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Sasha is desperate to find out who murdered her father. When getting the answer means pledging her soul to Eryx, she unlocks a secret that puts her in grave danger â?? Sasha is Anabo, a daughter of Eve, and Eryxâ??s biggest threat.

A son of Hell, immortal, and bound to Earth forever, Jax looks for redemption in the Mephisto Covenant â?? Godâ??s promise he will find peace in the love of an Anabo. After a thousand years, heâ??s finally found the girl heâ??s been searching for: Sasha.

With the threat of Eryx looming, Jax has to keep Sasha safe and win her over. But can he? Will Sasha love him and give up her mortal life?

First impressions: I tweeted and blogged already about the exhilarating opening to this book, but it bears repeating. Few novels have been able to draw me in so completely. Sasha, determined to find out what happened to her dad, sets out to a secret meeting of Eryx devotees who promise to fulfill your dreams. Almost immediately they turn on her, and she is caught up in a brutal stoning. A stoning! It caught me completely off guard and told me that this book was going to be full of surprises. Loved that aspect.

Lasting impressions: Trinity Faegen put the effort into creating this fully developed mythology, and it shows. The character arcs are nuanced and proceed at an appropriate pace, and she never lets the story get away from her.

Conflicting impressions: The flip side of that mythology coin is that because the background needs to be explained to us, there wind up being a lot of info dumps. I would have liked to see this information more seamlessly blended with the action instead of feeling like “Oh, now they’re going to explain who Eryx is.”

Overall impressions: Everything about this book seemed fresh, different, and unique, while also simultaneously feeling like this was not new ground being covered. I hate when stories feel as if the author was trying to go so hard against the grain that they wind up with a story that doesn’t work. Here, Faegen instead blends exciting new elements with a story that felt comforting and familiar.

Sasha is the daughter of an American insurance salesman (or is he?) and a Russian mother who defected and now works for the State Department in San Francisco. Sasha’s father is recently deceased, and the circumstances seem too bizarre for Sasha to just let it go. She wants to find out what happened, and in the process stumbles into this club for followers of Eryx, who promises the world to these kids and then takes their souls. He is a corrupted son of Mephistopheles and Elektra who is trying to gain enough souls to take over hell from Lucifer.

Enter Jax. Also Mephisto, though not corrupted, he and his brothers fight against Eryx, taking the souls back from him and depositing them in Hell on Earth – sort of the permanently sealed Tupperware for these bad egg humans that sold their souls. He saves Sasha from the Eryx followers that are attacking her, explaining that as Anabo – a pure soul – she is a target for them. She also happens to be destined for love of a Mephisto, and that Mephisto is Jax.

It gets a little complicated here (see info dumps), so I’m not going to get into the details, but Jax must convince Sasha to love him (and he must love her) in order to find redemption and a path out of hell and into heaven. By doing so, however, Sasha must leave her old life behind and lose some of her pure Anabo self. She must join the Mephisto and capture lost souls, while also taking on some of their hellish characteristics. It’s a choice that dogs her throughout the narrative, as she struggles between wanting her old life back and wanting to be with Jax.

Their love happens quickly, but believably. It seems they are fated from the beginning, and I bought into that. Though Jax gets moony quite quickly, Sasha is more reserved with her feelings, so when she finally needs to make a choice her anguish seemed honest. There is a lot of talking about sex in this book (as, of course, it carries significant plot consequences) and I should also mention that this is definitely a book for older readers. There’s a scene toward the end that borders on romance novel territory.

Did the book have more complications than it needed? Yes, but I was thoroughly engrossed in what was happening. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen to Sasha, whether she would find out about her dad, and how many characters would make the mistake of succumbing to Eryx. When Sasha’s mother is deported and she moves to Telluride, Colorado to live with a family friend, the threat of Eryx goes up by a thousand points. The tension is palpable and as the stakes get bigger Sasha’s timeline gets shorter.

I highly recommend this one to fans of Unearthly and Angel Burn, or anyone with an interest in mythology. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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San Francisco is my favorite California town, and someplace I’m dying to visit with my husband. I’ve never been to Telluride, but I love Colorado and definitely want to go back. For both of those reasons, I’m counting this toward the Vacation Reads Challenge.

Thank you to I Read Banned Books Tour for lending me this copy!

Amazingly beautiful and painstakingly crafted signature courtesy of Small Review

Review: Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

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Book: Starcrossed
Author: Josephine Angelini
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: May 31, 2011
Source: ARC received from NetGalley
Series: Starcrossed #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) How do you defy destiny?

Helen Hamilton has spent her entire sixteen years trying to hide how different she isâ??no easy task on an island as small and sheltered as Nantucket. And it’s getting harder. Nightmares of a desperate desert journey have Helen waking parched, only to find her sheets damaged by dirt and dust. At school she’s haunted by hallucinations of three women weeping tears of blood . . . and when Helen first crosses paths with Lucas Delos, she has no way of knowing they’re destined to play the leading roles in a tragedy the Fates insist on repeating throughout history.

As Helen unlocks the secrets of her ancestry, she realizes that some myths are more than just legend. But even demigod powers might not be enough to defy the forces that are both drawing her and Lucas togetherâ??and trying to tear them apart.

First impressions: I got hooked into this book pretty quickly. I loved the New England rustic setting and Helen and her best friend were really likable.

Lasting impressions: I’m struggling to find words. Though I didn’t outright hate this book, I’m actively trying to forget that I read this one.

Conflicting impressions: I’m going to admit something that for me is really difficult to do: I’m not sure I followed a whole lot of what was going on. I felt like I needed to read the Cliff’s Notes on The Odyssey before attempting to process the backstory, and that made this a lot less enjoyable for me.

Overall impressions: I’m starting to think that the whole gods/goddesses YA subgenre is just not for me. I’ve read a couple now, and my experiences are turning me off to picking up another any time soon. What I don’t get is that I feel like this should be interesting to me. I like Greek mythology. So what am I missing?

As I mentioned above, this book started out great for me. Helen is cool, and the super extreme killing urge she experiences upon first glance at Lucas was a hoot (HOOT I SAY – make fun of me if you wish). It seemed so fresh and interesting, and when Helen is nearly killed shortly thereafter, I got even more excited about the possibilities.

Where was this going? Why did she want to kill Lucas? Who is trying to kill her? Why is she waking up with dirt and blood on her feet? Mysterious! Love it!

And then I waited 400 pages for the answer. 400 incredibly boring pages at that.

Somewhere in that middle portion, all of this exposition is laid out for us, but in this very dry manner that made it about as exciting for me to read as the Wall Street Journal. Trust me when I tell you that the WSJ is not my scene. Helen discovers all of these things about herself (I can fly! I can love Lucas after all! I’m a demi-god!) that should be exciting, but instead are presented with all of the pomp of a deflated souffle. There is very little explanation, and a whole lot of Helen simply practicing her skills while she waits for the antagonist to arrive.

Which brings me to my primary problem with this story. Said antagonist doesn’t arrive – literally does not set foot in Nantucket – until two-thirds of the way through the book. There is nothing as frustrating as watching a heroine prepare for a fight against someone who hasn’t even been introduced yet. It may have taken Harry Potter seven books and thousands of pages to prepare for his final battle, but at least we knew from word “go” that his nemesis was Lord Voldemort.

The ending did pick up and engaged me in much the same manner as the beginning, but the long middle stretch totally undid any positive feelings I had for this book. I recommend it if you love Greek mythology and Twilight (to which this has often been compared), but this one just wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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Want a different perspective? Read this cute review by Kaitlyn in Bookland.