Book Review: Poison Princess

cover-poisonprincessTitle: Poison Princess [The Arcana Chronicles]

Author: Kresley Cole

Genre: Dystopian, Apocalyptic, Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can’t do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side….

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Last month for my Romance Book-Club, we had two books we were asked to read, and Poison Princess by Kresley Cole was the second of them. To be honest, I was so busy that I didn’t get to it, so this month the first thing I did was read the two books we’d been asked to. Out of the two, I think Poison Princess certainly had the best world building. The book starts with a girl, Evangeline, who has recently  returned to school after spending the summer in a mental institution. For as long as she can remember she’s had visions and hallucinations of the end of the world, and other terrifying images of death and destruction. What she doesn’t realize, is that all of her visions are true. The world is about to end, and Evangeline may be the only person who can save the remnants of what’s left. So starts the journey of Evangeline, her mother, a cajun boy from the wrong side of town, and two wayward teens from another part of the country as the seek out the truth of Evie’s visions, what truly happened when the great flash scorched the Earth to cinders, and what their purpose is in the upcoming battle of the Arcana.

I actually really enjoyed the world building in this book. A great flash that scorches the crust of the Earth in a manner of minutes isn’t an entirely new concept to the end of the world, but it’s certainly a lesser used one. Scientists have been saying for years that if a very large sunflare (which we’re due for in the next 5 years) were to happen, one of two outcomes would become reality. The first, is that all electronic equipment on the face of the Earth would be fried… leaving us back in the stone-age (yes, we are currently preparing for this situation in the US. It’s going to happen.) The second, is that if the sunflare were large enough, it could very well burn up the Earth and make it nearly uninhabitable (This should happen in the next 10,000 years). Kresley Cole went with the second option. It’s a terrifying reality where plants, animals, and water are nearly non-existent, and humans aren’t destined to survive long. Once the few non-perishable supplies are gone, that’s the end of humanity. We can’t live without an ecosystem or sufficient water. I thought Ms. Cole did an excellent job of showing the true desperation of such a situation through her characters and the brutality of how they lived their lives.

As for the characters, well, they irked me a bit. Evangeline was your typical clueless, snobby, teen. It’s almost unfortunate that she was one of the popular kids. She seemed to have a very shallow personality for the majority, if not all, of the book. Generally I like my main characters to be a bit less air-headed, and a lot more determined. Evangeline seemed ready to give up at every turn, and let her teenage angst get in the way of some really critical decisions. She worried more about boys than her own survival, and I found that really irritating.

Jack, on the other hand, was extremely determined, practical, and had a no-nonsense attitude when it came to survival. I really enjoyed him as a character for the most part, except one major character flaw: he was totally in love with Evie… I couldn’t understand it.  He even said at one point that he found her snobbish and useless, and yet he refused to leave her behind. I would have.  I guess overall, I did enjoy the other characters, and they each seemed unique and consistent. Mainly, it was Evie I couldn’t stand.

That aside, The narrative moved fast, was clearly written, and had a fun dark undertone to the story. The use of tarot cards as a basis for the main characters of the story was a unique and interesting way of setting things up that I did like, but I’m not sure I fully understood. Why did the tarot cards have superhero/villain counterparts? I don’t know. Why did they feel the need to battle it out at the end of the world? No idea. Either way, it was still fun, and I really enjoyed it.

I do have to admit though, that I greatly disliked the ending of the story. (SPOILERS AHEAD) It seemed like, the entire story I was rooting for Evie to not turn into the red witch. She tried so hard to be good and avoid killing people… and then at the end.. she turned wholly evil. What? How did this happen? Why did this happen? Jack was terrified of her, and it just seems to me that she threw everything she’d been working towards during the course of the book out the window. I was NOT happy.(End of spoilers)

Overall, I really liked the story. It was engaging, well written, and a unique take on the apocalypse. It wasn’t what I was expecting (I don’t know why I was expecting an actual princess to be in a book called Poison Princess!) but it was fun all the same. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who likes Dystopian, Fantasy, or angsty teen novels.

Book Review: Shadow’s Claim

cover-shadow'sclaimTitle: Shadow’s Claim [The Dacians 1]

Author: Kresley Cole

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Shadow’s Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament—to the death.

He won’t be denied…

Trehan Daciano, known as the Prince of Shadows, has spent his life serving his people, striking in the night, quietly executing any threat to their realm. The coldly disciplined swordsman has never desired anything for himself—until he beholds Bettina, the sheltered ward of two of the Lore’s most fearsome villains.

She’s bound to another…

Desperate to earn her guardians’ approval after a life-shattering mistake, young Bettina has no choice but to marry whichever suitor prevails—even though she’s lost her heart to another. Yet one lethal competitor, a mysterious cloaked swordsman, invades her dreams, tempting her with forbidden pleasure.

A battle for her body and soul…

Even if Trehan can survive the punishing contests to claim her as his wife, the true battle for Bettina’s heart is yet to come. And unleashing a millennium’s worth of savage need will either frighten his Bride away—or stoke Bettina’s own desires to a fever-pitch…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This book was not entirely what I was expecting. Just this past month, Vaginal Fantasy, the romance book club I belong to, put Shadow’s Claim on it’s reading list. I didn’t have time to get around to it, so I watched the group hangout, read some reviews by my fellow book club members, and then picked this book up to give it a read. I’m glad in a way that I heard other people’s reviews about the book before I actually read it, because it gave me the opportunity to look out for some of the things people mentioned had bothered them, and I think it gave me a bit of a different perspective on the book. Every time I came to an issue someone else had, I paused, looked at it, and tried to decide if it bothered me as much as it had them. In some cases, they did, and in others, I was left scratching my head wondering if they were off their rocker.

When I first started reading the book, I’ll admit, I was really thrown. I was greeted with a glossary of terms and histories of all the different clans and planes within the elaborate world of Lore (yes, that is what it’s called), and it was a bit intimidating. Frankly, I’m glad I read it. The author really didn’t take the time to explain any of the world building or terms in this book, so if I hadn’t read the glossary, I probably wouldn’t have understood the story. Odd terms and names of places and people in the culture were constantly been thrown at the reader, and not once did the narrative explain them. The first time the word “Trace” came up, I had to look back to the glossary to remind myself what they were talking about. As a reader, I’m somewhat disgruntled about it. I’m one of those people that demands two things from a story:

  • All unfamiliar but crucial terms must be explained to the reader within the story.
  • All books in a series should be strong enough to stand up alone outside the series.

I think this book failed the first of those bullet points. Without the glossary, I would have been dead in the water, and probably set the book aside. The first chapter was an exercise in flipping back and forth between the story and the glossary, and even having read the book, I’m not entirely sure I fully comprehend how the world works.

That aside, I really enjoyed the story. Once I could get past all the weird terms that I didn’t understand, the plot was fast-paced, interesting, and full of steamy sex scenes. I’ve only read a few books where the main character was a demon, and I like looking at the different way certain authors handle the lore. It was nice to see a demon character that wasn’t wholly evil, but didn’t blink at doing morally questionable things.  When it came to the world building, unlike most of my fellow book club members, I really didn’t care for it much. Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of books that try to smash a lot of fantastical creatures into one story… it always comes across as silly to me. I’d rather have a selective array of well-fleshed out species than dozens of species that were barely touched upon. That’s just a “me” thing. I think for the most part, the books strength lay in the romance between Trehan and Bettina.

Honestly, I didn’t like most of the characters. Raum and Bettina’s sylph (I can’t bother to remember his name) as far as I could tell, were completely needless in the story. Neither one did anything in the book that couldn’t have been perpetrated by another character. In fact, Raum was barely present in the story at all. The sylph’s main purposed seem to be raunchy dialogue and making Bettina uncomfortable. Bettina’s aunt, on the other hand (again, can’t seem to bother with her name) seemed to be present only to give snarky comments and threaten people. She was an odd bird, as they say, and I really didn’t like her, which is funny, because most readers seemed to. She was manipulative and childish, and I really couldn’t stand her. As for Caspion… I never really understood the attraction, or even the friendship between him and Bettina. He wasn’t a good guy. Sure, he was good looking… but he was a man-whore. Everyone knew it. She knew it… and still she was madly in love with him. The woman was out of her mind I tell you. Caspion was skeazy. He was interested in only one thing: himself–and it showed with every action.

In contrast, Trehan was loving, attentive, manly, sexy, and deadly. I was amazed at how long it took Bettina to really consider him as a love interest. If you don’t want him Bett, I’ll take him. Thanks. As for the (many) sex scenes… they were steamy. A big deal was made over the amount of “manly fluid” throughout the book in a lot of reviews I went through, but really, if you read through it, it was only mentioned three -maybe- four times, and not egregiously so. I’m kind of baffled by the overwhelming mention of it. Since most of the steamy scenes were written from Trehan’s viewpoint, the mention of “manly fluids” seemed appropriate and not overwhelmingly mentioned.

As for Bettina… she was annoyingly stupid considering how brilliant she was supposed to be. She let everyone walk all over her, spent the better part of her life fawning over a man-whore, and was afraid to even go outside alone. Her only redeeming qualities were her weapon/jewelry work, and her relationship with Trehan (who is my favorite character). Overall, I think if the romance hadn’t been as strong as it was, the book would have slipped to a solid 3 on my rating scale. Luckily, it was there, and it was H-O-T.

In the end, I really did enjoy the book despite it’s many flaws. There was action, passion, and gore.. which are three of my favorite things, and the lack of character depth and confusing world-building took a back burner to those portions of the story for me.Would I recommend it? Yes. I liked it, and I think many others would too, possibly for different reasons than me. It’s one of those books where the different elements of the story will draw an array of readers who may not all agree on which are the best portions of the story, and that’s okay. It works.

Book Review: Katana

ImageTitle: Katana

Author: Cole Gibsen

Genre: YA Fiction, Historical, Reincarnation

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Skater girl or supernatural samurai? Rileigh Martin wants to believe that adrenaline gave her the strength to fend off three muggers in the mall parking lot. But adrenaline doesn’t explain the voice in her head giving her battle tips and warnings.

While worrying that she’s going crazy (always a reputation ruiner), Rileigh gets a visit from Kim, a handsome martial arts instructor, who tells Rileigh she’s harboring the spirit of a five-hundred-year-old samurai warrior.

Relentlessly attacked by ninjas, Rileigh has no choice but to master the katana–a deadly Japanese sword that’s also the key to her past. As the spirit grows stronger and her feelings for Kim intensify, Rileigh is torn between continuing as the girl she’s always been and embracing the warrior inside her.

WARNING – SPOILERS WILL ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – DETAILED REVIEW BELOW

I very nearly gave this book a 4 star review. In fact, I pondered over it quite a while before I settled on 5 stars. Why? Because there is so much of this story that was screaming “marysue” at me when the story started. Here’s this blonde haired, blue eyed girl who suddenly finds out she has ninja (excuse me, samurai) super-skills even though she’s never taken a fighting class in her life… it’s a walking talking example of what happens when you take an anime fangirl and give them a pen.

That being said, I’m still giving it five stars. The author managed to take something that should have been horribly marysue and made it into an action-packed, captivating story. By the end of the book I could have cared less what marysue qualities the book came with, it was awesome-sauce on a stick.

Now, I will agree that the characters (read: Rileigh and her ridiculous name) were a bit juvenile – but I didn’t find it as annoying as I’d expected. This is a YA fiction after all, and I think the author did a decent job of making her characters fit the genre. They sounded like teenagers – take that however you will. I probably wouldn’t recommend this book for a serious adult reader… but if you enjoy youthful imaginative stories or you’re a YA yourself, then you’ll probably love this story.

I think my favorite part about this whole book was Kim and Rileigh’s relationship. Don’t worry, there were no inappropriate scenes for the younger audience, but I can definitely say that their relationship was bordering on steamy. I had no problem imagining the pull of attraction between these two. I also really appreciated the friendships throughout this book – they seemed genuine.

I even liked the bad-guy (I won’t spoil who he is) despite his betrayal. In fact, the only character I didn’t particularly care for was the doctor. What a pansy… and it’s creepy that he was dating her mom. It gave me the heebie jeebies just like it gave Rileigh the heebie jeebies. I could write more, but I think you get the gist: I really liked the book. It was engaging, fast-paced, and well written. Plus, I don’t want to have to spell Rileigh’s name ever again. For the love of all that is good in the written-worlds… don’t name your characters ridiculously-spelled alternatives. Riley would have been okay.

In The Mail #3

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I had a feeling a book was coming in the mail today – I don’t know how, but I just knew, and after checking my mailbox about 5 times before 11 AM, FINALLY, my mailman dropped off a lovely manilla bubble-wrapped package from the lovely Angela Brown of Publishness & PartnersInParanormYA. Inside was the much-anticipated Katana by Cole Gibson that I won in Angela’s Blog Hop Giveaway awhile back. I can’t wait to add it to my reading list! Come on, who doesn’t love books about girl ninjas? It’s epic!

On a side note: The book smells very pretty. Must have spent some time somewhere that smells nice – I can only assume that place was Angela’s bookshelf. Okay this just got weird. Moving on.