The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

August 25, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon CameronThe Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron Published by Scholastic Press on September 1, 2012
Genres: Gothic, YA Historical
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
three-stars
A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!

When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

Based on Welbeck Abbey, the fifth Duke of Portland, and the building projects that took place at the abbey, The Dark Unwinding comes with a tantalizing premise based largely in truth that seems hard to believe. Cameron constructs a well-written story about a girl’s conflict between preserving her own interests and doing what’s best for nearly a thousand people, though it’s not without its flaws. Misleading advertising, for one.

Katharine makes for a great heroine even if she isn’t the best person at the beginning. She’s only looking out for herself to start with and wants to make sure she can give herself some sort of freedom–even if gaining that freedom means sending nine-hundred people away to workhouses and worse. Her character development kicks in quickly, thank goodness, and she comes to love the estate just as much as everyone living there loves it. Her dilemma was strongly written and I wanted to find out her ultimate decision so badly.

The further I read into the novel, the more baffled I became that it was being advertised as steampunk. The only steampunk elements to be found are small clockwork figurines that Uncle Tully makes, and that is definitely not enough to create a steampunk novel. Rather than that, The Dark Unwinding is a Gothic novel flavored by mysterious happenings, a dark atmosphere, and careful prose. The genre was misclassified, methinks.

Speaking of the prose… It’s well-written and contributes to the novel’s atmosphere very well, but there was something about it that failed to captivate me the way I believe it was supposed to. 336 pages isn’t a terrible long book by my standards, but it felt like I was reading so many more pages than that. Inconsistent characterization made characters like Mrs. Jeffries and Lane suddenly do something outside their character because the plot (or in the latter’s case, the requisite romance) demands it and the plot drags for much of the book.

Katharine also has strange visions/dreams/hallucinations, one of which nearly kills her when she almost falls down a large flight of stairs, and then they’re almost completely forgotten. Yanking on these plot threads and then hiding them away again started to irritate me after the third or fourth instance. Long before she started paying attention to what was happening to her, I had a good idea of what was going on.

The story arc concludes itself well and leaves off in a comfortable place, but this is not the end. The Dark Unwinding will have a sequel, though there’s no information available at press time on what it will be called or when it will be released. Its plot is introduced at the very end of The Dark Unwinding and its promise of espionage during the time of Napoleon III definitely has me interested. Recommended for fellow fans of Gothic novels!

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The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

August 23, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

The Forsaken by Lisa M. StasseThe Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse Published by Simon and Schuster BFYR on July 10, 2012
Genres: YA Dystopian
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from an ARC tour
two-stars
A thought-provoking and exciting start to a riveting new dystopian trilogy for fans of The Hunger Games.

As an obedient orphan of the U.N.A. (the super-country that was once Mexico, the U.S., and Canada), Alenna learned at an early age to blend in and be quiet—having your parents taken by the police will do that to a girl. But Alenna can’t help but stand out when she fails a test that all sixteen-year-olds have to take: The test says she has a high capacity for brutal violence, and so she is sent to The Wheel, an island where all would-be criminals end up.

The life expectancy of prisoners on The Wheel is just two years, but with dirty, violent, and chaotic conditions, the time seems a lot longer as Alenna is forced to deal with civil wars for land ownership and machines that snatch kids out of their makeshift homes. Desperate, she and the other prisoners concoct a potentially fatal plan to flee the island. Survival may seem impossible, but Alenna is determined to achieve it anyway.

This novel could have been so fantastic, especially considering the shades of other, greater novels within it (such as Lord of the Flies, The Hunger Games, and The Giver) and its fast pacing. Unfortunately, The Forsaken fails to be half as good as any of the novels it borrows from and somehow manages to be an exciting bore. I’ll explain what I mean by that in a minute.

The fast pacing and near-relentless action sequences kept the novel moving and it’s easy to keep turning the pages until there aren’t any pages left to turn. While few of the twists caught me off-guard, there was one that managed to surprise me and I thought it was a pretty good twist. Unlike many YA novels, it’s not afraid to kill people and get a little violent the way it should, though the violence is still tame. I want to say more, but that’s really all the good The Forsaken has to offer.

What makes this an exciting bore is that while the action is exciting, the characters involved in that action are bland, unmemorable, and more like pieces to be moved when needed than characters. They do what they’re supposed to in a certain place to move the story along and that’s about it. Alenna is easily forgettable and her romance with Liam is insta-love. There’s no spark or reason to care whether or not they get to be together because they’re so bland and lack deeper characterization. The writing is more tell than show and Alenna’s thought processes are often eye-rolling, such as anything she thinks in italics when describing a scene. Whether a plane is crashing or they discover something terrible, her thoughts can always make it seem less dramatic than it is.

Yet another problem is that the blurb claims this book is thought-provoking. What thoughts does it provoke? The Forsaken treads the exact same themes about freedom and the evils of a government becoming a controlling tyranny that every other dystopian novel published in the last three years has covered. This book offers no new questions–it doesn’t even offer an interesting spin on the same old questions. It’s a cookie-cutter book.

Don’t even get me started on Gadya. She’s a contradictory, badly characterized mess and exemplifies many of the qualities I’ve been complaining about for months concerning negative female characterization. Really, she’s going to start an argument about boys when she and Alenna are on an island where kids are regularly dying? She’ll act one way in one scene, another way in the next scene, another way in the scene after that–basically, she acts however she needs to in order to move things along. She has no set characterization because she is the Every-Character ™, who can conform to fit any role the plot demands a character to fit.

If turned into a major motion picture, The Forsaken would be one hell of an action movie. Maybe that’s my problem: I don’t like action movies because they often lack the character development and depth I desire, and I don’t like books that read like action movies waiting to be made.

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Foretold ed. by Carrie Ryan

August 22, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Foretold ed. by Carrie RyanForetold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction ed. by Carrie Ryan Published by Delacorte Press on August 28, 2012
Genres: Anthology, Magical Realism, YA Contemporary, YA Fantasy, YA Paranormal
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Bought
four-stars
Have you ever been tempted to look into the future? To challenge predictions? To question fate?

It's human nature to wonder about life's twists and turns. But is the future already written—or do you have the power to alter it?

From fantastical prophecies to predictions of how the future will transpire, Foretold is a collection of stories about our universal fascination with life's unknowns and of what is yet to come as interpreted by 14 of young adult fiction's brightest stars.
I love tales of prophecies and visions of the future! Always have, always will. Maybe I love them so much because they’re one of the few supernatural/paranormal bits (ghosts, vampires, the Chupacabra, etc.) I can wholeheartedly say I believe is real and can happen. I will swear on the lives of all five of my cats that I had visions of the future when I was younger; I knew one specific friend of mine was going to get hurt in a very specific way (and it did come true) and those visions of graded tests sure made US History in eighth grade easier. In this anthology, fourteen authors offer their own takes on predictions and prophecies, ranging from a cult leader’s prediction of the end of the world to a princess’s prophecy that comes true mostly because everyone defaulted to heterosexuality.

“Gentlemen Send Phantoms” by Laini Taylor: 3.5/5. In this adorable story, three girls set out specially made cakes and go to bed in hopes the phantom of the man they’re meant to be with will come to visit them. Taylor’s prose is as beautiful as ever and the story is strange as all her stories are (women, when their death is approaching, can make the choice to turn into animals), but it bogs down the story in places and I don’t have positive feelings about how the girls who didn’t get visited by the phantom of the man they wanted suddenly fall for the men whose phantoms did come to them. A little too insta-love for me.

“Burned Bright” by Diana Peterfreund: 5/5. A cult leader’s prediction of the end of the world comes to pass and his most devoted daughter, left behind for some reason, strikes out with another abandoned teen in what is most likely my favorite story. Bright, the main character, is so devoted to her father’s religion that she even shoots someone because she thinks they’re a–well, I’ll let that be a surprise. Intense, a little strange, and incredibly memorable.

“The Angriest Man” by Lisa McMann: 2/5. Too repetitive, and I didn’t care for the narrative voice of the young man who carries the evil of the angriest man ever just because he got stung by a bee who got nectar from the flower at the angry man’s grave. If you’re asking “Wait, what?”, that situation is exactly as it is in the story. You just have to go with it.

“Out of the Blue” by Meg Cabot: 3/5. In this story about fraternal twins, the strange blue moles on their arms, and what they have to do with extraterrestrials, Cabot delivers the same sort of fun, fluffy story that has made her so famous. Cliche characters who aren’t fleshed out, narrative voices that start sounding the same after a bit, and people kissing each other and doing things like that for little to no reason made the fluff a little hard to enjoy, though.

“One True Love” by Malinda Lo: 5/5. This story is why no one should ever default to heterosexuality when there’s a prophecy concerning someone’s true love. The king immediately decided his daughter’s true love had to be male and because he didn’t consider she might be a lesbian, his prophesied downfall came. The prose carried the story and made me not mind that the characters didn’t have much personality and I liked the shades of King Henry VIII and Oedipus Rex I saw too. This story also makes me want to see more LGBT royalty, like MtF transgender queens and bisexual princesses.

“This Is a Mortal Wound” by Michael Grant: 1/5. If you hated Holden Caulfield’s narrative voice in Catcher in the Rye, run far away from this story because Tomaso’s voice is just as annoying. His story of being kidnapped by a former teacher and forced to do schoolwork without the benefit of the Internet and the Link and stuff was supposed to be funny, but it ended up being pretty dumb.

“Misery” by Heather Brewer: 3.5/5. This story, not unlike the eponymous, monochrome town itself where everyone gets a Gift once per year, is a little bland and difficult to understand. Brewer’s writing is fantastic and it makes me want to check out her novels (I’ve been thinking about getting Soulbound for a while, but this push helped me a little), though I still wish this story had more clarity to it.

“The Mind Is a Powerful Thing” by Matt de la Pena: 2/5. As one paranoid girl counts down to catastrophe on her sixteenth birthday, a few things really brought down the story for me. The red herrings are obvious, there’s something off about the third-person narrator’s voice, and the stereotypical portrayal of teenage girls irritated me. I’m also a little disgusted that a gruesome message carved in the naked bodies of her dead mother and sister turns out to mean absolutely nothing. If it has no meaning, why include it? Joanna could have been just as rightfully paranoid without it.

“The Chosen One” by Saundra Mitchell: 4/5. I loved the bond of the sister princesses and how the prophecy of who would find the Fabled Cup had a different twist put on it. I had a hard time putting together an image of the heroine until all her scars were detailed, at which point I decided she looked like Freddy Krueger. Also, it bugged me that the crown princess Lucia was called “Her Majesty” when that is what one calls the queen. “Her Royal Highness” is how one should refer to Lucia. ARC error, hopefully?

“Improbable Futures” by Kami Garcia: 2/5. This story of a fake carnival psychic and how her predictions are suddenly coming true was nicely written in some places and badly written in others, like when the POVs switched to show what happened to some of the people she told her fortunes to. Also, calling girls skanks on the second page? Giving two girls bad fortunes while implying she did it because the girls’ shirts were too low-cut? Really? I’m starting to figure out that I’m not a fan of anything Garcia writes.

“Death for the Deathless” by Margaret Stohl: 2/5. I like this story’s take on Nostradamus and his prophecies (he never existed and it’s a bunch of immortals putting out the predictions), but otherwise, I don’t care one link about this story. The narrators’ voices blended together and the gratuitous French gave me a headache. Same situation as with her writing partner Kami Garcia: I’m quickly figuring out I don’t like things Stohl writes.

“Fate” by Simone Elkeles: 3/5. This small story of two teens finding love in the RV park they both live in was cute and fluffy, but not particularly remarkable. They had a little insta-love going on: too much feeling with too little development. Funny thing is that while their personalities were vastly different, Carson and Willow’s narrative voices share a lot of similarities.

“The Killing Garden” by Carrie Ryan: 4.5/5. A new style of execution: the condemned races against the executioner, aka the Gardener, and if they get to the platform first, they’re merely banished. If not, they die. Tanci, who replaces her father as the Gardener who trims the court when the Emperor condemns someone to a race with her, is a great character and I felt bad for her. The relationship she had with one of the condemned developed well. My only problem is that I wish it hadn’t taken another man to make Tanci realize she had nothing to prove as a female Gardener coming in after a long history of male Gardeners.

“Homecoming” by Richelle Mead: 3.5/5. It’s the story all Vampire Academy fans have been waiting for since the author first brought it up: Dimitri and Rose go back to Russia together and see his family! They also go hunt down a Strigoi nicknamed the Blood King. Knowing this takes place after Last Sacrifice gives me an instant distaste for Rose due to what she did in that book and how she doesn’t even think on any of it here, but a few times, I smiled despite myself. I still like Vampire Academy, but I have a boatload of issues with it–so many that according to my headcanon, Rose never escaped the illusion at the end of book four and everything that happens after it is in her head. That’s how much I hated the last two books.

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Speechless by Hannah Harrington

August 21, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Speechless by Hannah HarringtonSpeechless by Hannah Harrington Published by Harlequin Teen on August 28, 2012
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
four-stars
Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can't keep a secret.
Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she's ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.But there's strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she's done. If only she can forgive herself.

After the fantastic little novel that was Saving June, I knew two things: Hannah Harrington was possibly going to become one of my favorite authors and I needed to get a copy of her sophomore novel Speechless ASAP. Luckily enough for me, I got my Hannah fix much earlier than I expected to, and the quality of this novel confirms that the author is now among one of my favorites. Her characterization is fantastic, her prose is always perfect, and these darn characters made me tear up so many times.

Honestly, I didn’t mean to read it as soon or as quickly as I did. Another book I’ve been anticipating was supposed to come first, but I was a dummy and left it in the book pouch hanging from my bed when I had to go on a trip. My Kindle, and therefore Speechless, was on hand and I decided to read this instead. Wow. Chelsea’s character growth as she starts her long journey into right drove the novel from beginning to end and in a few hours, I’d devoured the entire book when I only meant to read a piece of it while visiting my grandparents.

What happens to Chelsea when she talks to the cops isn’t unfamiliar. I’ve seen a popular girl get frozen out and bullied in multiple novels after she talks to the police about something bad that happened. That doesn’t make it any less painful to read about as she is bullied by the people she used to call her friends and hear about Noah’s slow recovery from the homophobia-motivated attack on him. Forgiveness is never easy and figuring out right from wrong rarely is either. These messages shine clear through the novel I was nearly brought to tears when Chelsea and Noah meet again for the first time after the attack.

Harrington’s prose captures Chelsea’s voice perfectly and her characterization is well-done. I wanted a little more of that for her new friends Sam and Asha, but they were both incredibly likable and I was cheering when Chelsea and Sam’s first kiss came around. They’re so cute! I’m running out of things to say because there are so many subtleties about this novel that I love so much–the bonds between everyone at Rosie’s, the strength of both Chelsea and Noah, Asha’s genuine personality–and I don’t know how to put words to them. I hate to give in to my punny heritage, but this novel darn near left me speechless.

So I loved this book. I mean really loved this book. So why is it not a five-star read? Kristen, Chelsea’s former best friend, is never given any depth. She is the two-dimensional mean girl through and through when so much more could have been done with her. There was also the slut-shaming, which means a star is automatically taken off. I’d be fine if its only instances remained in the first two chapters, when Chelsea was still a mean girl, or when people were calling a whore to make her feel bad (which is a pretty clear implication that doing that is just wrong), but Chelsea continues calling people and things slutty even when she’s supposed to be turning herself around and being a “good” person.

Any future books Harrington decides to publish are going on my to-read list immediately. Maybe we’ll see more cameos from previous novels’ characters in future books too; Jake and Harper’s (of Saving June fame) quick cameo in Rosie’s tickled me pink. (This has nothing to do with anything, but I keep trying to type Chelsi in place of Chelsea because I use the first spelling in one of my manuscripts.)

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: Incarnation by Emma Cromwell

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The Benson by Karina Halle

August 16, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★★

The Benson by Karina HalleThe Benson by Karina Halle Published by Self-published on December 7, 2011
Genres: Adult Paranormal
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
four-stars
An Experiment in Terror Novella (#2.5).

This short story/novella sees amateur Youtube ghost-hunters, Perry Palomino and Dex Foray, investigating the real-life hauntings of Portland's infamous Benson Hotel. It occurs between books #2 (Red Fox) and #3 (Dead Sky Morning) and is the perfect primer for anyone interested in the EIT series.
A quick disclaimer before I begin: the author is one of my friends.

Neither my rating nor my review have been influenced by this.So I gave the first book of the Experiment in Terror series a try a few months ago and though I didn’t care much for it then, I’ve found myself really wanting to read more about Perry and Dex’s adventures these past few weeks. This novella has been sitting on my Kindle ever since I discovered it was free in the Amazon store and something about the yellowish sky as the sun set earlier made me decide now was the right time to read it. Short, sweet, and just as much fun as I expected it to be, The Benson has completely brought back my interest in continuing this series.

One of my problems with Darkhouse, the first Experiment in Terror novel, was Dex’s character, but I was much more comfortable with him here. Perry’s entertaining banter with him flows well and the dynamic they have, quit a bit of it influenced by their sexual tension, is fantastic. I was a little lost to begin with because this takes place after/references events from book two and I’ve only read book one, but I got into the groove soon enough and I think someone who hasn’t read the series before might be able to do the same.  

Stephen King’s The Shining taught everyone to fear haunted hotels and The Benson is exactly the kind of hotel to fear. There aren’t any men driven mad by the spirits of the hotel here, but The Benson is just as creepy. Halle establishes the atmosphere well with the ghost encounters and a hanging man that scared me almost as much as it scared poor Perry, who was trapped in the same room with it!

The only issues I have are some minor editing/writing snafus, like typos and some rough phrasing. That’s it. Otherwise, their adventure through a haunted hotel, complete with evasive ghosts (when aren’t they evasive?), is perfect reading for when one wants something fun, short, and creepy.

This novella only confirmed that I made a good choice when I decided to give this series a second try. I’m picking up Red Fox and the rest of the series (especially The Dex-Files; an incredibly sexy story from it companion novel helped reignite my interest in this series) as soon as possible.

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Heaven by Alexandra Adornetto

August 14, 2012 Reviews 3

Heaven by Alexandra AdornettoHeaven by Alexandra Adornetto Published by Feiwel & Friends on August 21, 2012
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from a swap
zero-stars
Only sixteen when she started the series, Ally Adornetto knows how teen hearts beat, and this long-awaited conclusion is certain to be her most popular book yet.

Bethany, an angel sent to Earth, and her mortal boyfriend, Xavier, have been to Hell and back. But now their love will be put to its highest test yet, as they defy Heavenly law and marry. They don’t tell Beth’s archangel siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, but the angels know soon enough, and punishment comes in a terrifying form: the Sevens, who are rogue angels bent on keeping Beth and Xavier apart, destroying Gabriel and Ivy, and darkening angelic power in the heavens.

The only way Bethany and Xavier can elude the Sevens is to hide in the open, and blend in with other mortals their own age. Gabriel and Ivy set them up at college, where they can’t reveal their relationship, and where there is still danger around each corner. Will Bethany be called back to Heaven – forever – and face leaving the love of her life?

In the first two chapters of Heaven, a priest dies solely because he officiates Bethany and Xavier’s wedding and Bethany’s response is a childish “I didn’t know that would happen!” when she is confronted about what she did. The rest of the novel is this bad and worse. Bigotry, rampant girl-hate, a complete disregard for the tenants of Christianity, purposeful misinformation about abusive relationships, and more make this the worst of the Halo trilogy. On the bright side, the pacing is better. Whether it had to do with my desire to get this book read as quickly as possible, I took less issue with the prose. That’s… about it.

Before anyone asks, I read this to get back my peace of mind and put the series behind me for good. A few weeks ago, I realized I’d never be rid of the thought of these books if I didn’t read Heaven and get all my questions answered, so I did some legwork and managed to procure an ARC. Are we clear on that? Good. Anyone who asks “Well, why did you read this?” will be ignored now.

Bethany regresses to the behavior and logic of a three-year-old in Heaven. Funny how she says she said she’ll never forget that her actions led to a priest’s untimely death and yet she only brings it up once or twice after she says that. Multiple people get killed because Xavier and Bethany go on the run and yet the body count their actions rack up don’t matter to them. Those people are merely bits of collateral damage incurred on the way to their happily-ever-after (as I believe Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead once put it). Why Ivy and Gabriel put all their effort into defending Bethany and Xavier when they would be well within their rights to force the kids to deal with the tempest they’ve wrought upon themselves is a mystery.

Then there’s this line is uttered by Gabriel: “Marriage is an indissoluble covenant between man and woman (ARC p. 37).”

Outright marriage bigotry. The implication that gay marriage is wrong is clear and it made me, a staunch supporter of LGBT-and-beyond rights, have a fit. Friends will be reporting back to me on whether or not this proclamation makes it into the final copy. I don’t want this to be like the “gas pedals on a motorcycle” gaff from Hades that I raised a stink about only for it to not appear in the final copy. Unfortunately, since the purity myth bull permeating Hades didn’t get cut, I have a bad feeling this offensive statement won’t be cut either. Breaking news: it’s in the final copy. -sigh-

Girl-hate is everywhere in Heaven. Bethany presents herself as nonjudgmental, but the way she describes other women’s clothes and behaviors is pretty judgmental, and the portrayals of human girls is twice as bad as that. Bethany’s roommate Mary Ellen is portrayed as obsessed with Xavier and clingy. One girl is deemed bad for asking Xavier (who was undercover with a fake name/background as an unmarried college guy named Ford McGraw) on a date. What is wrong with creating a female character who isn’t bad, one-dimensional, an airhead, or a punching bag?

Does this book even know what Christianity is? This is supposed to be an uber-Christian book, but it violates most of the religion’s tenants and every rule in the angel handbook gets broken, including an angel and a human having sex (in a forest!). The only rule-breaking that comes with repercussions is Xavier and Bethany’s marriage and that’s because of the rogue Sevens, who aren’t really following the rules. It’s implied that God has no problem with Bethany breaking every angel rule she can get her hands on. That’s a very large bird being flipped at Christianity.

Oh yeah, and there’s something about Hell being up in arms, but that’s not important. A visit from Lucifer halfway through the book when he possesses Xavier and a cameo by Jake’s ghost is all Hell has to do with this book. That little plot thread about Hell’s reaction to Jake’s death in Hades gets left hanging there, snipped by a pair of Deus Ex Machina scissors. The real villain is Hamiel (a POC angel; making the only POC character evil was a bad idea) and the Sevens.

Double standards are nothing new in the Halo series, but applying double standards when comparing Xavier and Bethany’s unhealthy relationship to Molly’s unhealthy relationship is purposely spreading misinformation about what defines an unhealthy relationship. Xavier calls Molly insane for changing schools and making decisions based on what her boyfriend wants. That Bethany decided what college to go to, who her favorite football team was, what her favorite food was, and more based on what Xavier liked is not brought up or challenged. There are multiple jabs at the codependency Xavier and Bethany have and they’re all either shut down or ignored. At one point, both characters say they will kill themselves if deprived of the other.

Why was Molly even in this book? The poor girl is a constant punching bag and putting her through an abusive relationship in this book was unnecessary, especially when that is the only time she plays a major part in this book. It almost felt like another jab at critics who say Bethany and Xavier have an unhealthy relationship. “You think they have an unhealthy relationship?” the situation seems to scream. “Well, you’re wrong! Molly and her boyfriend Wade are going to show you what a real bad romance looks like!”

This isn’t even funny anymore. This is dangerous. There is more than one shade of abuse in the relationship spectrum and ignoring Bethany and Xavier’s shade to focus on Molly’s like hers is the only one that exists is wrong. Young men and women need to be educated on all the ways, big and small, a relationship can go wrong, not just one or two ways.

And in the end, the only one who has to make a sacrifice so they can be together is Bethany. She has to give up an integral part of herself to be with Xavier and he doesn’t have to give up one little thing to have Bethany back. Not even an eyelash. Supernatural or no, I’m disappointed and angered she is the one who has to conform to his life and start all over while he doesn’t have to make any adjustments.

Now I am done. That’s what matters. I am dancing around in my Jaguars pajamas because I am finally done and after this, I don’t expect to pick up any more books I know I’m not going to like. It’s all about the good books now, baby. (But I read a book I think I’ll like and it turns out to be bad, any jokes at its expense are fair game.) Speaking of good books, I’m going to read some Courtney Summers in order to get over Heaven’s mess. In my eyes, Summers just can’t write a bad book.

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The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer

August 12, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat BeyerThe Demon Catchers of Milan Published by Egmont USA on August 28, 2012
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
three-stars
Mia's ordinary life is disrupted in the most horrifying way possible when she is possessed by a hungry and powerful demon--and only saved by the arrival of relatives from Italy, the country her grandfather fled many decades ago. Now her cousins Emilio and Giuliano say the only way to keep her safe is for her to come back with them to Milan, to live, to learn Italian, to fall in and out of love, and to master the family trade: fighting all demons with the lore of bell, book, and candle. Milan is not what Mia expected, but it will change her forever, in this stunningly well-written novel about an American girl who, fleeing an ancient evil, finds her only salvation in her ancestral home.

Exorcists/demon catchers! Whoo! I’m always in the mood for a good story involving demons. There aren’t near as many out there as there should be. The Demon Catchers of Milan started off with a well-written bang as Mia got possessed and the demon was exorcised from her a few days later, but the rest of the novel fails to live up to that dynamic beginning. Pacing problems, issues with characterization, and various other bits kept me from enjoying myself very much. On the bright side, there’s Lucifero!

After those first thirty pages, the book seems like it’s going to rock, and in some ways, it still does. The few exorcisms that happen within its pages (let me tell you now, this is not an action-packed book) are still well-written. Then there is Lucifero, the darling Satanist Mia develops a crush on. He is either the most brilliantly hilarious red herring to ever exist or he’s the worst case of foreshadowing ever to exist. That’s up for interpretation. Either way, I love him! The romance is almost nonexistent in this novel other than the crushes Mia develops on her third cousin Emilio and Lucifero, and it was better that way.

I consider anything less than 300 pages long a short book and at 288 pages, The Demon Catchers of Milan is most definitely short. This isn’t an often-made criticism from me, but this book needs to be much longer than it is. None of the ideas or characters are fully developed and because so little happens in the book, it feels almost insubstantial. The conflict and antagonist are barely present and the pacing problem created by that makes reading the novel feel somewhat like walking through a waist-high mud pit.

The demon that possesses Mia wants revenge on their family for something, but what? We know Emilio and Francesco rent a room together elsewhere and Anna Maria is a model who is outspoken about her beliefs, but we don’t really know these characters. All that’s said of the family dynamic is “Yeah, it’s totes sexist because only men can be demon catchers (unless you’re Anna Maria and you force your way in or you’re Mia and you’re practically screwed if you don’t), but whatevs.” (Paraphrased, of course.) Really? Who creates a family of demon catchers without giving even one member of that family any personality/depth or exploring their dynamic?!

There will be a sequel and that hopefully means there will be further development, but that doesn’t excuse this novel for its lackluster development. Even when considered as the sort of series beginner that is merely set-up, this is a weak offering. Still, I want to see where Beyer will take Mia and the rest of the Della Torre family, so I may stick around for the next book. It all depends on what I hear about it in the coming months.

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