f0zKg0J4zFLYz-Yq0aednQVqREE Once Upon a Prologue: April 2012
Click Here For Free Blog Backgrounds!!!
Blogaholic Designs

Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: The Calling by Kelley Armstrong









The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
Pages: 326
Published: April 10, 2012 (HarperCollins)
Source: ATW ARC Tours
Rating: Squee-worthy
Series or Stand-alone: Darkness Rising (2)
Further info/Purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 
Find the author online: Website | Twitter 



Maya Delaney’s paw-print birthmark is the sign of what she truly is—a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly anyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home, Maya knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.


Now, Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they’re kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home. Plentiful action and romance in this second installment in the Darkness Rising series will keep readers enthralled to the last page.




 My Review

By now it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that I am a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong.  Her Darkest Powers trilogy is partially what catapulted me back into reading YA novels and I am always super excited to read a new novel by her.  With The Calling, the second book in her Darkness Rising series, Kelley begins to further bridge the gap between trilogies in a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching, stake-rising way.  Picking up exactly where The Gathering left off, with The Calling, we're immediately plunged right back into the action as Maya and her assorted, eccentric group crash land on Vancouver Island.  Struggling to maintain some sort of calm amidst the undeniable danger surrounding them, Maya, Daniel, and the others carry this impressive novel.  Kelley Armstrong is so gifted at creating an atmosphere of peril, and this overtone is present throughout the story.  Even when the group thinks they're safe, Armstrong has only fooled them and us into a false sense of security.  

Not only is The Calling a thrill-ride with a side of uncertainty, in this installment we also get to see several characters take on bigger, more important roles, both in each other's lives, and as individual characters.  Secondary characters from the first book, like Nicole, Sam, Corey, and Haley are bumped up a notch as to how they play into the bigger story being told, and it was really refreshing to see that Kelley Armstrong didn't let me down, in that aspect.  I always find myself drawn not just to her main characters, but her minor characters, as well, because they're always memorable, which just seems - to me - to go hand-in-hand with her clear, concise, yet descriptive writing style.  I am still not a fan of a few of the characters, but I loved getting inside Sam's motivations and seeing that there is more to her and to Corey than meets the eye.  I look forward to learning a lot more about them!  I think it should be really fascinating learning more about everyone's powers and how they play off one another.  This group has a LOT of potential to do some great things!  There are some serious trust issues brought up in The Calling that I hope they can all work through, though, but I found it to be really fascinating, sort of moment where the tables were turned on what they all thought of each other. 

Another aspect of this book that I loved is that Kelley Armstrong even found a way to work in a bit of romantic tension, between Maya and Rafe, and unless I'm imagining it, between Maya and Daniel.  I may be the only one here, on a little deserted island called Denial, but...I am REALLY cheering for Maya and Daniel.  They have this incredibly strong friendship and bond, and I love that so much.  Rafe and Maya are intense and powerful, and there was definitely that tense vibe there, but I just...for the first time ever, I'm disappointed in one of Kelley's couples.  Always before, I BELIEVED in the couple she was writing about, because she showed us why they were good for one another, showed that they were in love.  With Rafe and Maya, I don't feel anything, other than a detached sort of, "oh, okay, they're interesting."  And maybe this is my preference for the boy-next-door showing, but I feel like Daniel and Maya have a lot of potential to be an amazing pairing.  They may never go there, and if they don't, it's cool - they work so well as friends that as long as they're always at least friends, I'm going to be happy.  Rafe and Maya happened so fast - they went from 0 - 60, in my opinion, and because of the circumstances surrounding them as a couple, I just can't get behind them.  I do love me some Daniel though, and I adored watching him figure out what his abilities were, and seeing him being there for Maya.  I definitely expect him to continue to be completely awesome in the third book.  And really, Maya is such a strong, kick-ass character that even if she ends up alone, I'd be okay with that, too.  I definitely wouldn't call Rafe/Maya/Daniel a love triangle, because Daniel has never said anything to really make a case for himself, but everyone but Maya seems to think that he's crazy for her, so we'll see!

The Calling is a terrific addition to Kelley Armstrong's Darkness Rising series.  The characters are never able to slow down, so neither is the reader.  You will not be bored while reading this novel; if anything, you'll be like me - seeing how fast you can turn the pages to discover what happens next.  Between the character growth and the secrets revealed, and most especially, the links to and hints about Chloe and the others from the Darkest Powers trilogy, I genuinely cannot wait for the third and final book!
 


Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell






The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell
Pages: 275
Source: ARC from the publisher via AWTW Tours
Published: April 17, 2012 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Series or stand-alone: The Vespertine (2)
Rating: Squee-worthy
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Find the author online: Twitter | Website


Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancĂ©, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed aunt keep her homestead going. 

There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing ability to sense water under the parched earth. When her aunt hires her out as a "springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land. 

Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water. Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving and start living.


My Review

It's no secret that Saundra Mitchell's Gothic novel, The Vespertine was one of my favorite novels of 2011.  I'm a romantic at heart, and drawn to all kinds of anachronisms, and to me, The Vespertine was a book that, wonderfully, and amazingly, just didn't fit in, didn't quite belong amidst all the other young adult books I was reading, and that's a huge part of why I loved Saundra's book and her ethereal writing style quite so much.  I've recommended The Vespertine to so many people and talked extensively about it here, so when I received a copy of The Springsweet for an ARC tour, I was thrilled and elated, and I also had high hopes for the sequel to The Vespertine, it being Zora Stewart's story.  The Springsweet picks up right at a year after the events of The Vespertine, and it's not a lie to say that when I read the opening passages, I felt like I'd come home, back to Saundra's beautiful writing.

That I went a little mad, I cannot deny.  - Zora Stewart, page 1.  

With a beginning like that, I KNEW I was going to love The Springsweet, and I did definitely adore this novel.  As Zora flees Baltimore, and the reminder of the tragedies her family has suffered, she starts anew in the untamed West, and under Saundra Mitchell's pen, Oklahoma comes alive, a hot, dry, hard place that Zora nevertheless finds something elusive in: hope, and a rebirth of sorts when she discovers her ability to locate water underground, becoming a "springsweet."  This touch of the paranormal was very well-done, and flowed nicely with the rest of the story.  I immediately felt for Zora, who is Understandably broken and grieving, and fell for her all over again, for the spirit buried underneath her mourning.  Zora was changed vastly from the first book, but she still impressed me throughout The Springsweet with her heart and her ferocity.

I also fell for secondary character Emerson Birch, and one of Zora's two would-be suitors.  The second suitor, Theo de la Croix was a true gentleman, and although I found him to be very kind and sweet, it was Emerson I was drawn to: brave, unfettered Emerson.  I could see why Zora gravitated toward him, as well.  Saundra Mitchell certainly brought to life a man befitting the wild, feral Oklahoma, giving us just enough glimpses of Emerson, his abilities, and his heart to make him utterly irresistible.  I looked forward to Zora's interactions with him, and only wish we'd seen more of them together!

The Springsweet left me a little breathless with the beautiful scope of the story playing out, and Saundra's ability to so easily draw me in to the story she's telling.  Page after page, I was astounded at the grace spilling from the pages, and my ONLY complaint is that the story wasn't long enough!  I wanted and needed more - more time with Zora, and with Emerson, and even with Birdie, who was a wonderfully developed character.  I couldn't help it - I LOVED what I was reading and I quite desperately didn't want The Springsweet to end.  However it DID end...and on an amazingly heart-pounding cliff-hanger that left me grasping at the pages, and already looking forward to the third and final book in this series, Aetherborne.  I'm going to hate the wait, but I have EVERY bit of faith that it will be worth it!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell





Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
Pages: 299
Expected publication: May 1st 2012 by Amulet Books
Rating: Squee-worthy
Source: E-ARC from NetGalley
Series or stand-alone: Stand-alone
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Find the author online: Website | Blog



Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school's struggling radio station, where the other students don't find her too queenly. 

Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams's mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. 

On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.




My Review

True story: I almost passed on this book, and I am SO glad that I didn't.  When I requested Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe on NetGalley, I still wasn't for sure if I was going to like it, but within the first two or three chapters, I knew that author Shelley Coriell had delivered a quirky, emotional, and fabulous debut novel.

Chloe is a joy to read about!  As the synopsis says, Chloe falls on hard times coming back to school after winter break.  Her two BF's (best friends) Brie and Mercedes have abandoned her, and I have to say, it was difficult watching that storyline play out.  Chloe is a bit clueless at times, and so it took her awhile to see how deeply she had hurt Brie, but at the same time, their strained friendships lead Chloe to KDRS The Edge (the job experience project her counselor forces her into), new friends, and some self-growth.  Chloe is endearing but rather used to her persona - Queen Chloe - and having things fall into place for her.  Over the rocky and fascinating course of Welcome Caller, This is Chloe, Chloe has to grow as a person.  While staying innately the same, Chloe learns to broaden her horizons, her ideals about friendship, and most importantly, she learns how to really listen to what others have to say. 

Shelley Coriell does an amazing job of creating romantic tension between Chloe and Duncan Moore, the troubled loner who works at the station as handy-man and boards operator.  I was cheering for Duncan and Chloe right from the beginning, though they certainly ran into their fair share of obstacles.  Duncan's home life is the worst imaginable, yet he's still kind, but has his flaws - he isn't perfect, and he's eventually forced to acknowledge his faults.  The conflict between Duncan and Chloe, who's dealing with her own issues within her family, is brilliantly done. 

In Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe, we also meet several entertaining and unforgettable secondary characters, ranging from Clem, the radio station manager to Haley, the pregnant teen with her own story, to Chloe's Grams, in her eighties and still crushing on Brad Pitt.  Grams has taught Chloe a lot and still has more wisdom to dole out over the course of Welcome Caller, including when and how to listen, instead of filling the silence with words. Grams and Chloe's interaction had me giggling at some points, and sobering up at others.

Overall this was an entirely adorable novel, with pockets of character growth that really made this an enjoyable read.  I would have liked to see a bit more self-realization on Chloe's part, since it did sometimes feel like no matter what, she landed on her feet, and of course, I wanted more Duncan and Chloe.  I wish Chloe's family (mainly her dad and her brothers) could have been involved more; instead, they were only mentioned a few times and never actually appeared in the book.  I did really, greatly enjoy seeing Chloe on the air, and watching her go from invader to friend with the KDRS staff, and Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe is cute and funny, and certainly not to be missed! 



Disclaimer

In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands.   I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - #24: Ironskin by Tina Connolly









{ ++ }  This weekly event/feature is graciously hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. You know that feeling you get when you're browsing upcoming books on Goodreads or Amazon and one strikes your fancy?  Maybe you squee.  Maybe you giggle to yourself.  Maybe you bounce in your seat. We all get excited (I do a combination of all three of the previous choices...) about new books, be it a favorite author you're familiar with, or someone whose work you'll be reading for the first time.  Jill's meme gives us the chance to spotlight what we are anxiously awaiting this week.





I'm Waiting On...




Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discover just how far she will go to become whole again.


Ironskin by Tina Connoly 
Expected publication: October 2, 2012 (Tor)
Add it on Goodreads!

Why it's worth waiting on:  Just the shelves people have added this to - steampunk, YA paranormal, science fiction - got me interested.  Then there's the cover.  And the synopsis.  And the name, Jane, which I adore.  Which, by the way, Jane sounds like someone I NEED to get to know, plus there's an element of magic and mystery.  Oh yes, I WILL be reading this one! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova








The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
Pages: 384
Rating: Squee-worthy
Expected publication: May 1, 2012 (Sourcebooks Fire)
Source: E-ARC from the publisher
Series or stand-alone: The Vicious Deep (1)
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Website | Twitter


 For Tristan Hart, everything changes with one crashing wave.

He was gone for three days. Sucked out to sea in a tidal wave and spit back ashore at Coney Island with no memory of what happened. Now his dreams are haunted by a terrifying silver mermaid with razor-sharp teeth.

His best friend Layla is convinced something is wrong. But how can he explain he can sense emotion like never before? How can he explain he’s heir to a kingdom he never knew existed? That he’s suddenly a pawn in a battle as ancient as the gods.

Something happened to him in those three days. He was claimed by the sea…and now it wants him back.



My Review

In The Vicious Deep, we meet lifeguard Tristan Hart - popular, handsome, who seems to have the perfect life - shortly before a freakish storm hits the beach he's on, and Tristan dives into the water, thinking he's saving someone.  Three days later Tristan wakes up on the beach, with no memory of what happened to him after he entered the water, and his entire life changes.  Zoraida Cordova plunges the reader instantly into Tristan's world with a novel where the action never really stops, yet where this would have thrown me off in other books, with this one: it worked.  I felt like I was constantly trying to catch my breath, but because that sensation was backed by a hilarious, sensitive at times, typical male at other times narrator and a fabulously twist-y plot, I was never taken aback by the pacing; if anything, it seemed right.  Cordova is a talented author, delving into the mind of a male protagonist, which has to be tricky, but I've discovered, I REALLY enjoy: both as a writer and as a reader.  It's a nice treat from most novels, which are narrated by females, plus, Tristan, even though he's a stereotypical guy, is also instantly likable, and carries the novel well.  

The Vicious Deep takes Tristan Hart on an unbelievable journey, from Coney Island to another island - the ancestral home of the merfolk, to whom he learns he has a connection that is truly mind-blowing for Tristan.  I was worried about the reveal - as an author, how do you pull out the, "So, you're a merman card?" but Zoraida Cordova handles that with fabulous poise and style.  She's built an amazing home life for Tristan, who has the love and support of both parents, as well as his best friend, Layla.  All of these characters were beautifully developed and never felt flat; often, authors don't pay enough attention to their secondary characters, but for Cordova, this clearly was not a problem.  I found myself drawn to Layla and wanting immediately to know more about her, and to see more interaction between her and Tristan.  I just wanted to wrap my arms around them both - their banter and bond was adorable, with moments of seriousness to break up the light-hardhearted-ness, where you REALLY saw how much they cared for one another.  

The plot itself, while not chock-full of twists, did keep me guessing at a few points, and was just genuinely really enjoyable.   In some ways, The Vicious Deep definitely wasn't what I was expecting - it was better.  The entire Sea Court angle was different and oddly fascinating!  And while I'd have liked for there to be more interaction with Tristan and a few of the minor characters, who nonetheless play very important roles, there is a sequel, and I have high hopes that I might get my wish, then, because most of those characters are still around.  And the awesome thing is there are people like Kurt and Thalia that, yes, you will have to read the book to meet, but I promise, they are well worth it!

Zoraida Cordova has a way with words, and a way of getting under the reader's skin.  I never thought I would enjoy a mermaid book as much as I did, but after I was 50 or so pages in, I quickly realized that The Vicious Deep has a lot to offer: action, romance, humor, and most importantly, heart.  I saw some character growth on Tristan's part throughout the novel and I think in the next book/s just judging by what I think is going to happen, there will have to be a LOT more.  I don't really have any gripes with this book - it was a good length, there were a lot of elements to it that are guaranteed to make me giggly, and it left off in such a way that I NEED the sequel now.  The Vicious Deep is a GREAT read, just not one of those "this will change your life" kind of books, but definitely an energetic, mysterious read.  If I could say one thing to convince you to read The Vicious Deep, it is that this is the perfect summer read: fast-paced and fun, yet definitely with more to offer than meets the eye - this book has a  LOT to offer, and I am already highly, eagerly, impatiently awaiting the sequel, The Savage Blue!

Book Trailer




Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

 



Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Expected publication: May 8th 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 305
Series or stand-alone: Stand-alone
Rating: Beam-worthy
Source: E-ARC from NetGalley
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Twitter | Website



It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?

My Review


In Enchanted when Sunday Woodcutter encounters a charmed/cursed frog, she finds a friend.  Sunday is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, and although she loves her family, she doesn't always understand their storied history, or her place with them.  Sunday is a romantic who quickly finds herself falling for her frog, for Sunday knows that he was once a man, and wistfully aches to know that man.  Sunday and Grumble (the frog) become fast friends and confidantes; with Grumble, Sunday has someone who wants to know her secrets and hear her writings, and someone she can trust.  Grumble disappears one night, leaving the tender-hearted Sunday worse for the wear.

Alethea Kontis masterfully draws the reader into Sunday's world - her longing for love, for happiness.  All her other sisters have their own places in the family - Monday is the prodigal daughter, Wednesday the dreamer, Friday the seamstress, Saturday the hard worker, Thursday the nomadic wife of a Pirate King.  Sunday is lost amidst her whimsical family, and unaware that the Prince Rumbold, former frog Grumble, is returned to himself and desperate to find her.  Rumbold is an interesting addition to Enchanted, and watching his transformation from frog back to human was at once endearing and a bit confusing.   As far as the other characters, I was drawn to both Sunday and to her ethereal sister, Wednesday, and to the spirited and wild Trix, one of Sunday's brothers.  I wish Alethea Kontis had given us a bit more insight into those characters, and Monday as well.  I feel that the family had some untapped potential, though overall they were all nicely developed. 

Enchanted is an adorable novel in its entirety.  From the Woodcutter family to the royal family, sinister secrets and magics abound, and I could not seem to stop turning the pages, driven by a need to know what happened next.  As lead characters, Sunday and Rumbold were a charming duo, and I enjoyed seeing both of their points of view.  I thought the conflicts keeping them apart were really well done, both internally, as Rumbold wondered if Sunday could love him due to their tangled histories, and externally, with threats from various magical sources.  The threats to their happiness felt real, which made the climax of Enchanted that much more breathless and awesome.

Overall Enchanted lived up to my excitement.  I read it as a fantasy, and that way, I enjoyed it greatly.  Sunday and Rumbold's relationship did read as a bit too insta-love for my taste but again, when I thought of Enchanted as a fairy tale, I went along with it all, and really enjoyed the story as a whole. 


Disclaimer

In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands.   I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins







Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
Expected publication: May 1, 2012 (Harper Collins)
Pages: 464
Series or stand-alone: Sweet Evil (1) (I think!)
Rating: Squee-worthy
Source: ARC from the publisher
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Find the author online: Twitter | Website

What if there were teens whose lives depended on being bad influences? This is life for sons and daughters of fallen angels in
Sweet Evil.

Tenderhearted Southern girl, Anna Whitt, was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage, and her will-power is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

A cross-country trip to meet her father forces Anna to face the reality that hope and love are not options for her kind. When she confronts her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?





My Thoughts

 Debut author Wendy Higgins delivers as astoundingly heart-pounding, poignant, breath-taking book with Sweet Evil, the story of Southern "good girl," Anna Whit, and the drastic turn her life takes when she meets Kaidan Rowe; Kaiden is THAT guy - mysterious, sensual, and immediately works his way totally under her skin.  What surprises the sweet, good-natured Anna the most isn't her attraction to Kaidan, but rather, it's that he is something she's never come across before: he's like her.    Wendy Higgins made it impossible NOT to fall for not only Anna, but Kaidan.  The two of them together in any scene, on any and every page, were a tantalizing mix of oil and water; despite their similarities, they are also very different, and the ways in which Wendy showcases that were stunningly beautiful and heart-wrenching at times. 

Sweet Evil is a study in many things: love, fear, evil, good, and ultimately, what a person's soul is worth.  There were a few moments when I feared it would stray into a territory too religious for my tastes (though if it had, I couldn't fault the author!) but Wendy Higgins managed to infuse Sweet Evil with a sense of spirituality, and something else: hope.  Even in a story that, at times, was dark and things seemed hopeless and inevitable for Anna, somehow, the darkness never quite overcame the light.  Sweet Evil isn't preachy, and I think a lot of people tend to see books as either religious or not - a spiritual tone gets lost in the mass labeling.  But Wendy Higgins knows when and where to use that approach, and how to do it right, and make it all seem fitting, and more of a "good versus evil" approach.  There are times when Anna prays, and other such religious mentions, but none of it is ever over-done, or handled poorly; if anything, it is lovingly done, which really impressed me, to have all that going on there, kind of battling the dark. 

I was also a big fan of the characters, and while Anna and Kai were both amazingly genuine, there was also a wonderful cast of supporting characters.  I was especially fond of Anna's dad, and really found myself wanting to get to know him more in the book/s to come.  And what I loved was that each of the secondary characters stood out to me - none of them felt like a stereotype, except maybe a few that simply didn't get a lot of page time.  I really loved Kopano, and even may have  giggled a bit over him.  I think it's wonderful that Wendy Higgins presents so many different, vivid characters for us as readers to enjoy, and that some of them are fantastic foils to others. 

And of course, I have to talk a bit more about Anna and Kai.  I knew they were going to be special from the moment I first saw this cover.  When it arrived, I held it close, and couldn't wait to start it; shortly after beginning Sweet Evil, I was deeply involved in Anna and Kaidan's story.  Kai is tormented, and Anna is incredibly drawn to him, but make no mistake - this isn't insta-love. This is organic, and this is real - they are a simmer, a growing flame, an attraction that builds throughout the course of Sweet Evil.  As often as I fell for them, I was frustrated because of what they were going through, and I will say that they felt totally real, and I was RIGHT THERE with both of them, especially seeing things through Anna's eyes.  Wendy Higgins really brought their tension and their yearning for one another to life so well, so achingly truthfully.  What I loved is that we get to see Anna fall in love, but because of her situation, it isn't strictly the happy first love - it's something more, something infinitely more complicated and fragile.  It's as harrowing as it is renewing, and the growth that Anna experiences through her relationship with Kai and because of everything happening to and around her is both encouraging and bittersweet. 

Sweet Evil took me through the gamut of emotions: fear, shock, sadness, frustration, happiness, hope, and even a few teary-eyed moments.  The pacing was perfect for the story being told; at 464 pages, Sweet Evil is longer than most YA books these days, but that was fine with me, because I was totally engrossed in the story being told.  Everything worked for me - the pacing and passage of time, Anna's growth as a person, the overall plot, and the romance.  Sweet Evil is sure to resonate with readers - I know it did with me - and if you're anything like me, you'll be thinking about it for a long time. 

 Further Thoughts

Are you comfortable or uncomfortable with religion/spiritual themes in books?  Do you think there is a time and place for that theme?   What about "angels and demons" books?  Is that a trend you're interested in seeing more of? 


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm Going on Vacation...




To Florida!!!!

{ | } This will be the first time I've ever seen the ocean!  I'm SO excited and it won't feel real until I leave, I expect.  I'm leaving tonight with a group of friends, and we'll be back on Sunday; unfortunately, I have to go right back to work on Monday.  So my usual reviews and features will return ASAP including a new discussion post and If I Could Write a Letter to Me.  It may not be Monday, since I may or may not be exhausted on Sunday when I get home, but we'll see!  Thank you for bearing with me during this, and I will be back as soon as I can, loves!  Everyone have a GREAT week!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Guest Who - #3: Series vs Stand-Alones with Jessica from Thoughts at One In the Morning








{ ++ } Welcome to Guest Who, a new feature here at Once Upon a Prologue, for 2012.  I wanted to get to know my followers and fellow bloggers better, so this idea was born: a guest-post swap!  Each month, I'll feature someone new.  We will write either on the same topic, or one of our own choosing, and it'll give me a chance to see what y'all think about the chosen topic, and have loads of fun!  And of course, discussion is welcome, anytime!

To get involved (and I hope you want to!), send me a email at courageousgrace (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject "Guest Who," and we'll have loads of fun doing our posts!

{ ++ } Today's Guest Who features Jessica from Thoughts At One in the Morning.  Jessica's blog is one that I always adore visiting, because of her honest, well-thought-out, fun posts.  (Plus she's fun to squee with over books and TV shows, like Castle!)





Mismatching clothes, giggling uncontrollably, yelling at Penskes, and takin' names since 1985. I blog and write. I love lemurs, music, and TV on DVD, especially Castle. Just a 26 year old girl who's a little too strange to pin down into a few words. Still trying to figure out her future, still trying to figure out herself. Currently in the midst of her quarter-life-crisis yet getting very close to reaching an epiphany. Love to read, love to write, love to write about reading!

Find Jessica online:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads



"Stand Alone Vs. Series"


An age old question (that isn’t in the form of a question).

I can definitely attest to reading plenty of each. I spent my early years reading from the Anne Of Green Gables series (L.M. Montgomery) and The Baby Sitter’s Club series (Ann M. Martin). I also read plenty of stand alones like Blubber (Judy Blume) and The Incredible Cat Caper (Stephen and Kelly Roos). I’ve spent my teen-adult life still reading many in each category. As much as I love both stand alone novels and book series, I do have some issues. So, I am going to break it down into the pros and the cons. 


Stand Alone

Pro: One book can tell a whole story, a sometimes epic journey, and it doesn’t last longer than it should to get the point across.
Con: One book is sometimes never enough when you come to love the characters and adore the path of the story.

A good book can be so absorbing that you just want to keep reading. You want to find out what happens in the end and you don’t want it to end at the same time! Why? Because when it ends, there’s no sequel… there’s no novella… there’s no ’to be continued’… there’s nothing more. It’s saddening, and sometimes extremely maddening. Then again, when you think about it, the story didn’t need to continue. It was perfect just the way it was. It contained the right amount of growth, the right balance between the plot and characters, the right words in the right places. Everything was just right, there was nothing missing, nothing that didn’t belong, nothing that was forced to add to the word count. It was just one great story.

Some of my favorite stand alone books: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard, The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Blue Sky Days by Marie Landry.

Series

Pro: The story keeps going so you can read more intriguing tales and be around characters you never wanted to leave.

Con: The story gets dragged out for far too long ruining it with unnecessary characters and plot twists that make you want to pull out your hair.

A good series can keep us guessing and on the edge of our seat. You can’t wait to finish the book so you can move on to the next book. Why? Because it is so addicting! Unless, of course, the author changes something in a way to create drama or friction or destroy the whole reason why you started reading it in the first place. You wonder why the story can’t just end so you can stop being sucked into it even though you hate where it’s going. You want to stop reading but you can’t. There are too many questions that will keep rolling around in your head until they get answered… by the 30th book in a series that should have ended at the 3rd. Or if the story does end, you cross your fingers that it doesn’t end horribly and you haven’t wasted your time reading it from start to finish.

Some of my favorite series books: Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkins.  




As you can tell, no matter what, stand alones seem to be winning the battle because the only thing bad about them is that there isn’t MORE of them. Series books are more popular these days because they seem to get more interest going than stand alones. Yet the words ‘stand alone’ pretty much epitomize the point: they can stand ALONE. I think it would be great to see more of them than series. 

These are just my thoughts though… how about everyone else? What are your opinions of series versus stand alone novels? Do you have a preference or do you like them both equally? 







Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves





Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves
Pages: 340
Expected publication: April 8, 2012 (Flux)

Source: E-ARC from the publisher
Series or stand-alone: Planned series but no sequel announced
Rating: Beam-worthy
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Website | Twitter


In 1888, following her mother's sudden death, seventeen-year-old Arabella Sharp goes to live with her grandmother in a posh London neighborhood. At her grandmother's request, Abbie volunteers at Whitechapel Hospital, where she discovers a passion for helping the unfortunate women and children there.

But within days, female patients begin turning up brutally murdered at the hands of Jack the Ripper. Even more horrifying, Abbie starts having strange visions that lead her straight to the Ripper's next massacres. As her apparent psychic connection with the twisted killer grows stronger, Abbie is drawn into a deadly mystery involving the murders, her mother's shadowed past, and a secret brotherhood of immortals—who'll stop at nothing to lure Abbie into its "humanitarian" aims.




  
My Review

Ripper plunges the reader into the midst of the story with the opening lines, sending protagonist Arabella "Abbie" Sharp chasing a pick-pocket who has lifted a brooch that belonged to her dead mother.  Although I inwardly shook my head at Abbie's reckless pursuit of the thief, I liked her immediately - her courage, her fierceness, and her heart.  Abbie made some rash decisions at times, but I never gave up on her; if anything, over the course of Ripper, I liked her more and more.  Her growth as a character was inspiring to read about. 

Amy Carol Reeves has a wonderfully clear writing style that made the action-packed Ripper quite easy to follow and to enjoy.   It's a fast-paced thrill ride full of nifty twists and turns that left me guessing as to what would happen next.  Readers who think they know the story of Jack the Ripper will find themselves proven wrong; Amy Carol Reeves has developed an alternate explanation for the murderer that plagued the streets of London, and the "who" and the "why" will shock readers, just as I was surprised. 

Throughout Ripper, I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled: by the plot, by the characters, and by the relationships.  I don't read that many historical novels, so I went into this one with a bit of trepidation, but Reeves won me over quickly with how genuine Ripper felt; despite the fearful note running through it, which the story relies heavily on, it still (to me) felt like I was reading a true historical novel, one with a lot of heart, and mystery.  There were a few plot points I saw coming and wish I had enjoyed more than I did, but overall the story was very gripping.  

I also really enjoyed some of the character interactions in Ripper.  William and Simon were both fascinating characters in their own rights, and I loved watching each of them with Abbie.  I was slightly disappointed in the direction their individual relationships took with her; I didn't feel like this novel needed to stray into love triangle territory, because to me, it was obvious from the beginning where Abbie's heart lay, though it took her longer to figure that out than it did me.  And Abbie's grandmother was a really enjoyable character; for all the importance she placed on appearances, it was clear she really did love Abbie, and that was nice to see.  

Ripper was a fabulous, quick read, and my few flaws (things like multiple typos) will likely be resolved before the finished copies are printed.  Overall I really enjoyed the story - I just didn't love it, or emotionally connect with it, like I wanted to, though that is certainly not Amy Carol Reeves's fault.  She's produced a great book that did leave me anxiously awaiting the sequel. 



Further Thoughts

Do you like historical novels?  Or do you prefer contemporary reads?  How do you feel about books like this one, that take place as a story inside a well-known historical event? 


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Pure by Jennifer Armentrout







Pure by Jennifer Armentrout
Expected publication: April 3, 2012 (Spencer Hill Press)
Pages: 329
Rating: Squee-worthy 
Series or stand-alone: Covenant (2)
Source: ARC from the publisher
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 There is need. And then there is Fate...

Being destined to become some kind of supernatural electrical outlet isn't exactly awesome--especially when Alexandria's "other half" is everywhere she goes. Seth's in her training room, outside her classes, and keeps showing up in her bedroom--so not cool. Their connection does have some benefits, like staving off her nightmares of the tragic showdown with her mother, but it has no effect on what Alex feels for the forbidden, pure-blooded Aiden. Or what he will do--and sacrifice--for her.

When daimons infiltrate the Covenants and attack students, the gods send furies--lesser gods determined to eradicate any threat to the Covenants and to the gods, and that includes the Apollyon... and Alex. And if that and hordes of aether-sucking monsters didn't blow bad enough, a mysterious threat seems willing to do anything to neutralize Seth, even if that means forcing Alex into servitude... or killing her.

When the gods are involved, some decisions can never, ever be undone.


My Review

Just when I think that Jennifer Armentrout can't possibly get any better, can't bring to the table a more fast-paced, heart-racing, pulse-pumping story....she delivers Pure, the second book in her Covenant series, narrated by feisty, vivacious, kick-ass Alexandria Andros.   Pure picks up shortly after the events that ended Half-Blood, and we find Alex struggling to cope with the aftermath of the loss of a loved one, as well as the added burden of her new connection to Apollyon Seth, who keeps showing up...everywhere.  Alex can't shake him OR her growing feelings for Aiden, all of which continues to complicate her already complicated life.  

I connected more with Alex in Pure, and to me, the series lost any of the Vampire Academy feel it held in Half-Blood.  Jennifer has taken a world with a few basic similarities and has ramped up the mythology, the action, and the heartache, proving that this series can stand on its own in terms of heavy-weight champs in the young adult world.  While I came to really like Seth in Pure, and at times wondered if he would overtake Aiden in terms of MY affections, in the end, as sexy, appealing, and even caring as Seth proves he is, like Alex, I still found myself bound to Aiden.  Oh, Aiden.  Jennifer Armentrout doesn't depend on telling us that Alex and Aiden care for one another; she's brave enough to show her readers.  Don't believe me?  

"Ever since I've met you, I've wanted to break every rule."  Aiden turned away, the muscles in his neck tensing.  He sighed.  "You'll become the center of someone's world one day.  And he'll be the luckiest son of a bitch on this earth."  

See?!  I'm still swooning over that line, and so many others.  Aiden stole my heart in Pure as much as he broke it, because along with raising the stakes for Alex, Jennifer Armentrout also raises the odds against Alex and Aiden ever being together.  The ruling class is holding fast to their edicts that Pures and Half-Bloods can't be together, and amongst all that, Alex has to try to figure out why she's drawn to Seth, and if she can ever feel something real for him.  

Alex has a LOT on her shoulders in Pure, but she handles it with an abundance of Alex-spunk and also a bit of growth, which made me happy.  Alex faces hard times in Pure, but she doesn't let any of it break her - not the heartache, not the loss, not the danger.  I really came to admire and respect Alex in Pure, and by the end, I felt like I'd taken an incredibly emotional roller-coaster ride along with her, made heart-breaking decisions with her, seen it all through her eyes and my heart felt just as raw as hers.  To say I'm breathlessly awaiting Deity is an understatement - I need it now.  

You'll want this book as an addition to your Jennifer Armentrout collection, and take my word for it - if Pure is any indication of what's in store for our beloved characters in the coming novels, you're going to want to hold on tight.  I'm still reeling from the action, romance, and intrigue in Pure, and all I can say is, I hope you're ready!


Top Ten Tuesday - #16: Top Ten Books To Read In A Day







{ ++ } Hosted by the girls over at The Broke and the Bookish, this meme features a different theme every week, and hey, it's Tuesday - we've got the rest of the week ahead of us.  We all need a little fun, and who doesn't love the challenge of ranking their top 10 anything...especially when it comes to books?!  I know I do, hence why I thought it'd be fun to participate, and spice things up a little!






April 3: Top Ten Books To Read In A Day


{ 1 } Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.  I don't read a LOT of chick lit, but this one is so cute and fun, I can't imagine it not being a great beach or pool-side read.

{ 2 } Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.  This one is so fast-paced that if I were to re-read it, I could definitely see myself devouring it in one sitting!  It launches an amazing YA series I adore!

{ 3 } Dark Lover by JR Ward.  This is the first book in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, one of the first paranormal romance series I read...and I'm going to be doing a series re-read soon in celebration of the fact that my FAVORITE character's book was just released.  I'll have to see if I can read this one in a day.  :)

{ 4 } The Catastophic History of You &  Me by Jess Rothenberg.  I DID read this book in a day...it's so emotional, filled with moments that will make you cry and happily, moments that will make you laugh.  If you haven't read it, why haven't you?  For a story about death, it's also a story about life and love AFTER death and worth a read, because for the few moments you'll be sad, you'll end it beaming - I promise!

{ 5 } Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock.  I just finished this one and it did take me two days, but if I'd had a day off from work when I was reading it...whew.  It is SO breathless, fast-paced, action-packed with a swoon-worthy romance and amazingly genuine characters that trust me, you WILL NOT want to stop reading it. 

{ 6 } Half-Blood by Jennifer Armentrout.  Having just finished Pure, I'm in a mood for more JLA.  If you haven't read any of her books, start here - as sexy as Daemon Black is in Obsidian, you'll also have Aiden and Seth in Half-Blood to swoon over, and it's another fast, awesomely fun read!

{ 7 } The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter.  This is the first book in her amazingly sexy and compelling Lords of the Underworld series, and if I didn't read this one in a day, shame on me, because it just doesn't do anything but make you want to read faster.  Gena is fabulous and if you like PNR and haven't read her books, I suggest starting here! 

{ 8 } Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins.  This one will grab ahold of you and refuse to let go.  Kai is one of the most awesome love interests around, and Anna was a real pleasure to read about, not to mention the fact that the twists and action just don't stop in Sweet Evil until the last page.  You'll be finished before you realize it!

{ 9 } Slide by Jill Hathaway.  This one is short but it also is fast-paced, and a great little murder mystery book with a neat twist.  I didn't love it as much as I wanted to, but it's definitely a debut I'd recommend to readers looking for a quick, mysterious read! 

{ 10 } Saving June by Hannah Harrington.  Once you've embarked on the journey with Harper and Jake, you won't want to stop until you've read every last page.  I read this book over one tear-filled night (but wait, some of them are GOOD tears!) and I think you will, too.  It was truly amazing - emotional, sad, happy, even made me laugh a time or two! 


{ ++ } What about you?  What book or books could or would YOU read in a day, and why? 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review Archive






{ | } I wanted a place where my readers - be they bloggers, authors, or publishers - could quickly find any review of mine they are looking for, hence a review archive.  It will be fairly simple, just alphabetical order, because ALL my reviews (should be, unless I've missed something) are tagged by genre in the review.  This will be updated as I add more reviews.  My reviews are sorted by the author's last name! 


A

Crewel by Gennifer Albin
A Taste of Midnight by Lara Adrian 
Illuminate by Aimee Agresti
Glitch by Heather Anastasiu
Dawnkeepers by Jessica Andersen
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Dawn by V.C. Andrews
Secrets of the Morning by V.C. Andrews
Twilight's Child by V.C. Andrews
Midnight Whispers by V.C. Andrews

Daimon by Jennifer L Armentrout
Cursed by Jennifer L Armentrout
Half-Blood by Jennifer L Armentrout
Obsidian by Jennifer L Armentrout
Pure by Jennifer L Armentrout
Deity by Jennifer L Armentrout
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong
The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

B

Pure by Julianna Baggott 
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Masques by Patricia Briggs
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Wolfsbane by Patricia Briggs
Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

C

Belles by Jenn Calonita
Eve by Anna Carey 
Once by Anna Carey
Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter 
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
The Selection by Kiera Cass
The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova 
Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer 
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer 
Tempest by Julie Cross 


D

Croak by Gina Damico
Scorch by Gina Damico
On A Dark Wing by Jordan Dane
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Denneard 
The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore 
How To Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donohue

E

F

Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
Eden's Root by Rachel Fisher 
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Inbetween by Tara Fuller 

G

Pieces Of Us by Margie Gelbwasser 
Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham
Mark of the Loon by Molly Greene

H

Through To You by Emily Hainsworth
New Girl by Paige Harbison
Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Speechless by Hannah Harrington
My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachael Harris 
Slide by Jill Hathaway
When The Sea Is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen
Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
Switched by Amanda Hocking
Wake by Amanda Hocking
Temptation by Karen Anne Hopkins


I

J

Life Is But a Dream by Brian James
Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson 
Hope's Daughter by Melanie Cusick-Jones

K

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella 
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis 

L

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Blue Sky Days by Marie Landry
Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan
Counting Backward by Laura Lascarso
Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear
Gilt by Katharine Longshore


M

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
Remembrance by Michelle Madow 
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
One Moment by Kristina McBride
Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Timepiece by Myra McEntire
Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry
Over You by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Klaus
The Glimpse by Claire Merle
Cinder by Marissa Meyer 
Fracture by Megan Miranda 
The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell
The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell
Amber House by Kelly Moore

N

Fated by Alyson Noel 
Treasure Me by Christine Nolfi
The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by Christine Nolfi

O

Delirium by Lauren Oliver 

P

Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson
Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins 
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund 
Between The Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer 
Burn Mark by Laura Powell
Starters by Lissa Price

Q

R

Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves
Defiance by CJ Redwine 
Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
The Catastrophic History of You & Me by Jess Rothenberg
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

S

Miracle by Elizabeth Scott 
Various Positions by Martha Schabas
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab 
Send Me A Sign by Tiffany Schimdt
Voodoo Dues by Stephany Simmons
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone 
Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass
This IS Not a Test by Courtney Summers

T

Quarantine by Lex Thomas

U

V

Silver by Talia Vance


W

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker
Beautiful Lies by Jessica Warman
Partials by Dan Wells 
The Calling by Ashley Lynn Willis
Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

X

Y

A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young
A Want So Wicked by Suzanne Young 

Z



* Updated as of 11.03.12

Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson






Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson
Expected publication: April 10, 2012 (Tom Doherty Associates)
Pages: 336
Rating: Squee-worthy
Source: E-ARC from the publisher
Series or stand-alone: Sentinels of New Orleans (1)
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon
Find the author online: Twitter | Website


As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo.


My Review

Suzanne Johnson's urban fantasy, Royal Street starts off with a bang: a bottle of rum, a junior wizard, and a sexy, undead pirate - and the action and mystery never lets up from there.  As an apprentice sentinel (the sentinel is a wizard who keeps all the creepy-crawly oogly-boogly's from slipping through the barrier of the other side and into New Orleans), Drusilla Jaco, or DJ as she prefers to be called, is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to her potions, but lacking in the physical magic department.  She can paralyze you with a potion, but can't throw you across the room - so imagine strong-willed DJ's surprise and frustration when, after her mentor goes missing in the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the wizard's Elder council sends an Enforcer in as her new partner...a sexy-as-hell Enforcer, complete with grenades, hand guns, and a seductive aura to him that DJ has to struggle to resist.  

After Katrina, the normally resistant walls between the afterlife - where you'll find anyone from vengeful pirate Jean Lafitte to Louis Armstrong - disintegrated.  Normally, DJ's mentor and father figure, Gerry would be the wizard sending the dead back where they belong, but with him missing and presumed dead, the task falls to DJ, now promoted to Sentinel, a task even she isn't sure she's prepared for.  She's got a lot on her plate: Alex, her Enforcer - whom she may be falling for - plus Jake, his amber-eyed, big-hearted cousin who she's definitely crushing on, not to mention Jean Lafitte, who won't stay dead, and either wants to kiss her or kill her.  

I had a LOT of fun with Royal Street.  I read it in two days, and would have finished it sooner, but the formatting was kind of weird - it was set by default at a small font, so I kept having to enlarge the font every time I turned a page, but that's neither here nor there.  DJ is an awesome heroine - kick-ass despite her lack of physical magic.  She's resourceful, she's independent and fierce, and I fell for hr instantly.  I connected with her, and couldn't tear myself away from Royal Street and DJ's adventures.  I loved learning about her and her relationships with her family and with Gerry.  I also loved watching her interact with both Alex and Jake.  (It probably didn't help that I'm pretty sure I mentally dream cast Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Alex - he's too old for the role, but mmmmm, that didn't stop me.)

Suzanne Johnson has written a superb first in a series, and it's the most excited I've been about a new series in awhile.  With some books, I feel that a sequel isn't necessary; with Royal Street, I was emphatic that there HAD to be a sequel - and there will be, later this year!  I was impressed with the pacing of Royal Street, as well as how carefully Suzanne crafted her characters, from DJ to Alex, to Jake (*swoons a lot*) to Gerry, and so on.  Drusilla is a fabulous narrator, and I really loved her voice, mixed with Suzanne's snappy writing style.  But she also knows how - and more importantly - when to slow things down for a romantic interlude or a sobering family moment.  There's a wealth of potential here for more stories, and more adventures, especially with the knowledge that we aren't just talking the not-so-resting dead - we're also talking potential for vampires, werwolves, and other such creatures of the night to come into play.  (And somehow, I don't think these vampires will sparkle...)

I was only mildly disappointed with a few aspects of Royal Street - one of them was what was, I assume, supposed to be a big reveal, but I figured it out a LONG time before DJ did.  That's okay, because I still enjoyed Royal Street, but some of the events that happened after the reveal upset me a bit...I felt like all the lead-up had been for nothing, but really, that was my only complaint.  Everything else was great, including the smoking hot Alex and the still water, Jake.  

I'm absolutely torn between the two of them - my heart says Alex is more DJ's type, but you see, Jake is THAT character that I always fall for - the shoulder when you need to cry, the kiss that instantly sweeps you off your feet, the tormented edge that draws you in, the chivalry that makes you fall even harder.  Jake is quiet and stalwart with an edge he doesn't show often, and when the way Royal Street left off with him, I'm both happy and nervous for the next books.  I will definitely be reading anything else in this series that Suzanne Johnson publishes!

Further Thoughts

What's your favorite urban fantasy novel?  Have you read Royal Street - if not, will you?   (I promise you'll like it.)  Do you read a lot of urban fantasy, whether it's YA or adult?  What type of male character do you fall for, the alpha male hotness or the quiet, tormented-but-amazing guy?