Friday, August 26, 2016



I loved Jaclyn Dolamore’s novel MAGIC UNDER GLASS. Sadly, my local library doesn’t carry the second in that series. However, in my search I did discover this other intriguing young adult tale by the same author about the forbidden relationship between a mermaid and a winged boy.

Mermaids Esmerine and her sister have been selected for the honor of becoming sirens. Hopefully this prestige will overshadow Esmerine’s lifelong reputation for being that weird mermaid child who played on the beach with that winged boy. Though Esmerine hasn’t seen Alander in years, their taboo friendship has followed her everywhere.

Those selected as sirens often have a dangerous fascination with humans. It helps if you’re going to be spending so much time at the surface luring men to their deaths. When becoming a siren, a mermaid receives a magical belt that adds to the power of her song and gives her the ability to transform her tail into legs. If a human takes a siren’s belt, she cannot return to her mermaid form.

Esmerine’s sister Dosia has always liked humans a little too much for Esmerine’s taste, even abusing her belt’s powers so she can stride on human legs into human parties. When Dosia goes missing Esmerine fears the worst: that one of the human men Dosia has been flirting with took her belt, trapping her on land. Desperate to find and save her sister, Esmerine ventures on land where she finds Alander and he in turn offers his help for finding Dosia.

This is a hyperbolized, familiar tale about people born from such different worlds that you wonder what they can possibly have in common. Yet it turns out they have the most important things in common, core commonalities in their philosophies that make them unexpectedly perfect for each other.

Big surprise, but I love books about characters who love books. And both Esmerine and Alander love books. He works in a bookshop and her main draw to the surface world is the sad fact that the pages of knowledge loves so much disintegrate underwater.

Dolamore delivers another fun, smart read. She never lectures, but there’s a lot of depth to her storylines and characters.

Friday, August 19, 2016


(review based on advance reading copy)

Last summer I read my first novel by White and loved it so much that I’ve been on the lookout for her next release. With AND I DARKEN, she spins a long, unfolding epic about three politically powerful children and their doomed friendship.

Princess Lada may be another tough heroine but she is by no means a cliché. She makes most other tough heroines you’ve read look like wimps (or at least like they have more soul). Lada is brutal and merciless. She learns about power and control at a very young age and lives her life in pursuit of gaining more and dread of losing what she has. This “education” includes lessons on the dangers of caring about anyone, for when you care for someone that only turns them into a weapon that can be used against you.

Lada can’t help caring for her younger brother Radu, at least not completely. Radu cares enough for the both of them and, unfortunately for himself, he doesn’t have Lada’s warrior instinct. He hides and cries where she fights. He will never understand how Lada can sit by at times when someone hurts him, but little does he know Lada believes the best way she can protect him is by refusing to let on how much she cares.

Then their father sells out Lada and Radu by offering them up as collateral to an enemy in exchange for peace. Their situation doesn’t seem so bad when they meet Mehmed, son of the Sultan holding them both captive. Both Lada and Radu fall for Mehmed and he holds them captive in his own way as once again they both care more than they would want. The three form a tight trio, but fate will not make their friendship easy.

Despite funny parts here and there, there is a significant melancholy tone to this entire book. While I enjoyed the novel, the ending frustrated me greatly. In a good novel, I want events to change the characters in some way. This end puts far more weight on fate over decisions than I like philosophically speaking. There’s a sense of being trapped on the hamster wheel, always ending where we started, and us the fools if we think otherwise.

I’ve mentioned before that I dislike rating books because sometimes I want to give the book so many stars for some aspects or chunks and a different number for the rest. I think I would give this book 4-5 out of 5 stars up until the very end when I want to give it only 1 of 5. In short, it feels like a great story…without any actual point.

Friday, August 12, 2016



Young necromancer Katerina is back for her finale. Her mission of protecting the tsar from the undead Konstantin’s pursuit of power continues. She doesn’t yet know Konstantin’s next move, but she knows their fight isn’t over. To complicate things further, at least on a personal level, the tsar grants his blessing for Katerina to marry his son, on the condition that she abandon her dream of becoming a doctor.

I respect that this trilogy holds steady in its appeal. I read plenty that lag in the middle or tapper off from brilliant first book to waste of my time third. The writing and plotting feels consistent from the start of this series to the end and that indicates, to me, a writer comfortable in her style.

For that matter, any criticisms I have remain the same. Katerina takes a little bit more initiative in this book, but she’s still more of a passive vessel. When she takes physical action, it’s with the help of an enchanted object. Also in all three books, the climax scenes felt so chaotic to me I had trouble following what was happening.

There’s a twist at the end of this trilogy that I LOVED! It feels both powerfully affecting as well as hilariously delivered, and I didn’t see it coming in the least.

A strong conclusion to a great series and one that I can add to my growing list of vampire books I actually enjoyed.

Friday, August 5, 2016



On some days, teenager Kali is completely normal, attending high school and doing her best to blend into the wall. However, every other day, she’s superhuman. She doesn’t know if there’s a word for what she is, since she’s never met anyone else like her, but every other day she’s a driven, unstoppable hunter. She tracks down hellhounds, dragons, and other beasts that endanger her world. She senses their presence, feels lured to them, and compelled to kill them. On these days, she’s inhumanly fast and strong, with blood that poisons these beasts if they get a taste of it and a miraculous healing rate. Then Kali notices a symbol on a girl at her high school, a symbol that means that girl will die within the day. Unfortunately, it’s on one of Kali’s “normal” days.

I loved the premise of this book. So many fantasy novels feature protagonists with too much power. It often doesn’t feel they’re earning enough of their accomplishments if they have too many or too strong of magical gifts. Kali manages to be both the cliché superhero and someone who will need to earn her triumph. Not only do we have front row seats to her resourcefulness, but there’s the added twist that she’s not accustomed to needing to be this resourceful. (She can’t help counting down throughout the day to when she’ll be invincible again.)

I also really enjoyed the varied characters and how they play off each other. For starters, Kali doesn’t even like the girl marked for death. She’s a popular cheerleader known for bullying misfits. It tells us a lot about Kali that she would risk her life for this girl nevertheless. And this girl (Bethany by the way) turns out to be an engaging mix of predictably superficial as well as refreshingly layered. Oh, and Kali’s own voice is consistently fantastic.

I did find the book sometimes told rather than showed too much, especially in regards to the characters. The author frequently makes explicit statements about someone’s personality that any attentive reader could figure out herself.

My only other criticism is that the story almost lost me from the start by opening with killing puppies. Granted, they’re hellhound demonic puppies, but I’m a zealous dog lover who felt disgusted by the opening scene all the same.

Back to more of what I admired though, there’s a very unique magic system that keeps unfolding throughout the story to reveal more twists. And this can probably go on the list of the few vampire books that I like! Probably because vampires are only a small part of what’s going on here and the author’s take on vampires feels fresh and intriguing.

Fresh and intriguing. Those words probably summarize this whole book pretty well.