Review: Ashstorm

Posted on October 13th, 2015 @ 19:43
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Ashstorm (Seventeen #4)Ashstorm by A.D. Starrling

My rating:


The Hunter who should have been king.

The Elemental who fears love.

The Seer who is yet to embrace her powers.

Three immortals whose fates are intertwined with that of the oldest and most formidable enemy the immortal and human societies have ever faced.

1599. While hunting a deadly adversary who has eluded him for two hundred years, Asgard Godard falls into an icy tomb that leaves him frozen in time.

1969. After more than a century on the run, Ethan Storm finds himself at the mercy of the man who ripped his family apart and sent him into exile.

2013. Following a hundred years of solitary existence, Olivia Ash wakes from a nightmare to find the home where she has lived her entire life under attack by a deadly foe.

Linked by an incredible destiny and with time very much against them, Asgard, Ethan, and Olivia must keep ahead of their common enemy and the rogue branch of the US army at his command. When an unlikely ally crosses their path, they come into possession of a set of clues that help them unearth their opponents’ devastating plans.

With the future of the whole world at risk, the three immortals and their allies must draw on all their skills and unique abilities to defeat the man who has inflicted so much loss and misery upon their lives.


[I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I read the first three books in this series last year, and found them enjoyable—not the best, but definitely enjoyable, and making me feel like checking if book 4 was out. Which it was.

New characters are introduced here, some of them bearing birth marks (and displaying powers) like the main characters in the previous installments, leading more and more to the gathering of a kind of “league” who, no doubt, will have to fight more and more dangerous odds. Olivia and Ethan complement and enhance each other’s powers nicely, while Asgard is tied to quite a few people among the most important ones, owing to his own birth. If there’s one thing, it’s how little we see of the others as the cast keeps on growing. I can’t help but feel impatient regarding the moment when they’re finally all together (is this book it, or will others appear in the next one?). Such a group is bound to have an impressive dynamics.

The focus was less on Kronos in general, and more on one specific antagonist pursuing goals tied partly to it and partly to his own ambitions. The idea of a secret base and secret experiments was a bit basic, though, so I hope later developments—the kind hinted at by the end of the novel—will go deeper. That Kronos isn’t “only that”. I’m sure it’s not.

I’m a bit torn, too, regarding relationships between the characters. Although the idea of soulmates finding each other is nice, it’s starting to feel like every set of people is meant to find their own love interest in each story. Maybe it’s just me, but at some point I’d like to see something different, bonds that would run very deep without necessary being “couple-love”. We have some of this here with Ethan and Asgard, and I wish we could see more: after all, they fought Jonah for decades, and their loyalty to each other is unswerving. Comrades to death, and all that.

I still enjoyed the blend of action and quieter moments nonetheless, all the more because the characters didn’t completely forget about their predicament (something that tends to happen too often in many books: as soon as the love interest appears, the impending end of the world doesn’t seem so important anymore, and too much time is spent on trifles).

Once again, I’m not rating this novel higher… yet I’ll still seek out volume 5.

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Review: The Conquering Dark

Posted on October 10th, 2015 @ 23:16
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The Conquering Dark (Crown & Key #3)The Conquering Dark by Clay Griffith

My rating:


The Crown and Key Society face their most terrifying villain yet: Gaios, a deranged demigod with the power to destroy Britain.

To avenge a centuries-old betrayal, Gaios is hell-bent on summoning the elemental forces of the earth to level London and bury Britain. The Crown and Key Society, a secret league consisting of a magician, an alchemist, and a monster-hunter, is the realm’s only hope—and to stop Gaios, they must gather their full strength and come together as a team, or the world will fall apart.
But Simon Archer, the Crown and Key’s leader and the last living magician-scribe, has lost his powers. As Gaios searches for the Stone of Scone, which will give him destructive dominion over the land, monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane, alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther, gadget geek Penny Carter, and Charlotte the werewolf scramble to reconnect Simon to his magic before the world as they know it is left forever in ruins.


[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]

I have to admit I read this third installment because I had received a copy to review, and I didn’t want to let it go to oblivion; however, I wouldn’t have picked it otherwise.

A lot of points I made in my reviews of the first two novels stand here again. The action scenes had a spectacular side, yet in the grand scheme of things didn’t bring that much to the plot nor to the characters. The magic system—”speaking a secret word” doesn’t do much for me (I want technobabble, to make the magic look “real”, like something the character truly masters and knows about). Again, the book read like a draft more than like an edited version (I’m not talking about proofing here), even considering it was an ARC; I could sense a lot of telling instead of showing scenes and thoughts, as well as sentence structures that could, and should, have been polished. I can only hope this was different in the final, printed version.

Also problematic was the characters’ growth. More time was devoted to Imogen and Charlotte, which was great, because their relationships with Kate for the one and Malcom for the other provide good opportunities for questioning. Who needs to accept whom? What if Imogen never goes back to being “human”? Can she accept that? And what of the monster hunter’s affection for the very creature he’s supposed to hunt? Unfortunately, they were more part of the story as new additions to the group, fighting alongside with the others—cf. the first action scene, making everybody look as if they’re some kind of badass society of supernatural-savvy people who’ve been fighting crime together for years. The gap between the events of book 2 and 3 (a few months) removes plenty of possibilities here, as we go for instance from one Imogen to a completely different one, without getting to see her evolve fully; this would’ve been very interesting to witness, at least in my opinion.

Penny was still full of fun and useful ideas (the battle fan: for when a lady cannot bring a gun). The others, though, I couldn’t really push myself to care about. The villain’s motives were somewhat shallow, which didn’t make them very interesting as characters either. More insight about Ash, Gaios and Byron’s relationships would’ve been necessary, to fully get why their group imploded for starters, and why everything turned sour to the point of a full-out war between Ash and Gaios. “Because I loved him and he didn’t love me back” is a bit… simplistic.

The story read like an average action movie, and was somewhat entertaining, but I already know I won’t remember much about it very soon.

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Review: Harry Plotter and The Chamber of Serpents

Posted on October 7th, 2015 @ 20:14
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Harry Plotter and The Chamber of Serpents, A Potter Secret ParodyHarry Plotter and The Chamber of Serpents, A Potter Secret Parody by M.J. Ware

My rating:


Austin comes to England knowing as an American he’ll stick out at his new school. But when an errant owl lands him at Hogwarts he’s in for more than he expected.


[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

A somewhat funny idea, although in the end it didn’t go far enough to be more than quaint fanfiction. The story is basically that of the second Harry Potter book, from the point of view of an American pupil thrown into Hogwarts. It was mildly interesting, in that it inserted a different take on why some events got to unfold the way they did in the original novel (the cat hair ending up in the potion, for instance), as well as peeked into what may have been the daily life of other students than the ones we saw throughout Rowling’s series.

However, this should have been taken further, and to greater lengths, I think, in order to become a story of its own. As it was, it didn’t bring much to the Potterverse, because the “blanks” it filled weren’t many, and so it was mostly a retelling from a different perspective, rather than something really interesting. Austin being American didn’t play much of a part either; he could have been German or French, and it would’ve been roughly the same. The reason why he ended up in second year when he hadn’t attended the first wasn’t really explained either: “so that he’d be on the level with the Harry, Hermione and Draco of the official timeline” and “because he wasn’t in England before” are a bit of an easy cop-out.

Some aspects were tentatively explored (a Slytherin/Slipperen being friends with a Gryffindor/Gryffinbore, opening up to other people, all Slytherins aren’t uptight worshippers of pure blooded ancestry…), only not enough. It felt like an attempt to redeem this House by downplaying the others (Harry seen negatively…), in a “Slytherins are misunderstood” way, instead of delving further into what could’ve been complex House relationships. This is reflected in general in how the novel remained too close to the original one, and never soared away from it to become its own.

Also, seeing the names changed (Harry Plotter, Hogworts…) was strange: everything’s so close to the original that it doesn’t fool anybody. No doubt a matter of copyright, yet it made me wonder where Rowling stood regarding all of this. Did she allow it, and if yes, then why not a joint effort of sorts, using the real names and places? And if not allowed… then what? (Yes, you can tell I’m always torn when it comes to fanfiction. That said, the book’s free, which I can appreciate—making money off it would’ve been shameful.)

Fun enough if you want something light to read and on which you don’t want to focus a lot. Otherwise nothing exceptional.

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Review: The Dead House

Posted on October 6th, 2015 @ 19:51
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The Dead HouseThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

My rating:


Three students: dead.
Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, “the girl of nowhere.”

Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t – because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.


[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

The kind of format I like (and I probably missed on a lot more, considering I had a digital copy, not a paper one), mixing extracts from diaries, interviews and camera clips, as well as a non-chronological narrative and an unreliable narrator.

The story mostly revolves around Carly and Kaitlyn, twin sisters of sorts, or perhaps not? They’re two minds in one body, and who can tell whether one is crazy and the other just a mere symptom, or whether they’re actually two souls who just happen to coexist in an unusual way—Carly during the day, and Kaitlyn at night? After their parents’ death, the “sisters” are sent to Elmbridge, a boarding school in Somerset, but their stay there is chaotic, as they’re regularly sent back to Claydon, a psychiatric facility for teens. Under the guidance of Dr. Lansing, Carly has to accept that Kaitlyn is only an alter, meant to hold the painful memory of the night when her family was torn asunder. And yet… Doesn’t Kaitlyn exist in her own way, too? Is she a construct, or a real person? Doesn’t her diary reflect how real she is, just as real as Carly?

“The Dead House” explores this idea, mainly from Kaitlyn’s point of view, but also through Naida’s camera footage and through the group of friends gathered around her: Naida, Carly’s best friend during daytime; Scott, Naida’s boyfriend; and Brett and Ari. Naida’s peculiar in her own way, in that she comes from a family of priests, brought up within the faith of “Mala”, an Scottish mix of traditional witchcraft and voodoo (it doesn’t actually exist, and was created specifically for this story). And she may be the only one to accept that Kaitlyn/Carly is something special, something unique.

However, there’s something rotten in the Dead House: the sisters grow estranged, pills may do more harm than good, the doctor may not be so competent as she thinks she is, and Kaitlyn’s losing herself more and more in the maze of her own mind. Fascinating elements here, that I really liked reading about. Creept imagery, too, even though I’ve read more gory and morbid.

I’m torn when it comes to other aspects of this book, though. First, the Mala part, which sometimes felt strange and… “not Scottish”? There was something unsettling about the names, whether the spirits’ or even the people’s (“Naida” and “Haji” definitely don’t sound Scottish, and their French family-name hints more at New Orleans/voodoo surroundings than British ones). It would also have been interesting to see a real set of beliefs used here, rather than an imaginary one.

Then the romance, which I didn’t particularly care about, as the story could likely have stood on its own just as well with pure friendship and similar relationships. (But I’m very nitpicky when it comes to romance, so don’t mind me here.) The love interests looked really flat compared to Kaitlyn. In fact, most characters seemed flat, including Carly. Perhaps more insights into her own diary, into the post-its the sisters left for each other, would have helped to get to know here better. As it was, I didn’t really care about her either.

I was also confused about the actual time when the story was set: the diary and footage were recovered more than 20 years later, yet there’s no real sense of “the future”. It could’ve been 2015, and it would’ve been just the same. As for the ending, it felt incomplete, and I couldn’t decide whether the supernatural element was a good thing, or if I would’ve enjoyed the novel more if it had been purely a matter of psychological disorders.

As it was, I did enjoy “The Dead House”, and I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. On the other hand, I can’t help but think that something was missing—perhaps several things, even.

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Review: Lair of Dreams

Posted on October 5th, 2015 @ 21:00
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Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

My rating:


After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?


[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Interesting premise, all the more because dreams fascinate me—lucid dreaming, the power to travel in dreams and even shape them—but possibly too ambitious a book for its own good.

The good stuff:

* Dreams and dream walkers. People who can travel in dreams and remember everything upon waking up, consciously alter others’ dreams, find the spirits of the dead to ask them for answers… Meeting other dreamers like them: Henry, Ling, Wai-Mae. The many landscapes found in there, and how they may or may not have ties to the real world. As said: fascinating.

* More bits about the bigger picture: the man in the stove pipe hat. The mysterious men in suits, all with (obviously fake) names of dead presidents. Project Buffalo. Sam’s mother.

* The last chapters, and how the characters had to basically work in both worlds to save the day.

* The sleeping sickness.

* Vivid descriptions, sometimes really creepy and eerie.

And the not so good…:

* Half the characters were left aside or weren’t terribly relevant for a good two thirds of the plot. While I found Ling interesting, and Henry got more screen time, it was frustrating to see Jericho left dangling in his museum, Will pretty much out of the picture all the time, Evie doing her radio show (then partying/getting drunk, rinse and repeat), and Theta and Memphis… just standing there in the background, looking cool? I can easily appreciate a plot with a large cast, but here it felt like the two arcs (the sleeping sickness + Project Buffalo) could have benefitted from having each their own novel.

* Everything being all over the place, including the historical themes (immigrants, racial tensions, the KKK…): interesting, yet so many things to tackle that in the end, just like the main characters, they didn’t really come together.

* Inconsistencies. Why did Ling take ages to notice what should be absolutely oblivious, considering her own abilities within dreams?

* Mabel. There was no point in having her around. The poor girl should just forget about Jericho and go live her life.

* Still a lot of 20s slang. I didn’t particularly care for it, and it was repetitive. Like a good deal of the book, in fact.

Conclusion: Really good ideas, only the execution didn’t convince me, and I felt that more threads were left dangling, without any real, solid resolution (even the sleeping sickness arc isn’t 100% resolved, with questions remaining about what caused it in the first place).

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