Review: The Collector – Victoria Scott

Scott_Victoria-TheCollectorTitle: The Collector
Author: Victoria Scott
Series: Dante Walker #1
Entangled Teen
Rating: 4 / 5

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence has made him one of Hell’s best — a soul collector. His job is simple, weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.

Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal opportunity collector and doesn’t want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment: Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within 10 days.

Dante doesn’t know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of Hell. But after Dante meets the quirky, Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect—he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector, and uncover emotions long ago buried. (goodreads.com)

The Collector is a lot of fun. A. Lot.

Dante is your narrator, and if you’re not used to it, he’s a little off-putting with his confidence, swagger, and outright arrogance. At some points, it gets a little annoying, but it’s also nice to see him handed a slice of humble pie, mostly from Charlie.

Dante, in life, was one of the Popular People. Charlie isn’t. Charlie seems a little over the top sometimes in the opposite direction of Dante–she isn’t pretty at all (messed up teeth, fuzzy hair, not-so-clear skin, bad fashion sense, and a bedroom that looks like Mattel’s Barbie threw up all over it). Her friends are just as bad of outcasts. After reading this book, and a few others in the “high school” category, I just have one question: do people really experience high school like this? And by “this” I mean, if you’re not popular, than your ugly? And there’s apparently various levels of popularity? Because I surely didn’t. (For the record, I was not one of the “popular” kids, but I was definitely known.)

Anyway, Dante has a one-track mind about getting out of Hell permanently with this assignment, and of course things go badly for him (because it wouldn’t be story if there weren’t complications). It isn’t until he really gets to know Charlie, as much as he can in a two- or three-day span, that he starts second-guessing himself and his assignment.

When I think about it, I had a lot of problems with this book. Not because it isn’t a good book, because if you take it on the surface level it really is kind of shallow and self-fulfilling, but because Dante is sometimes frustrating (okay, a lot), Charlie is too far in the other direction, and the plot gets a little obvious in places (notably the sub-plot of Max and Valery).

That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book, because I did. It’s a lot of fun. I went into it expecting a fun ride, without taking it too seriously, and that’s exactly what I got. When I first read it, I’d been in the middle of reading several serious books, either seriously long, or just with serious subject matter, and it was a nice change of pace. The second time I read it, I was in the middle of reading a fairly difficult adult book (for some reason, despite enjoying it, I was struggling with the length). The Collector provided me with a nice change of pace there, too.

This is, as you can tell, one of those guilty pleasure books for me. It may not be the best book out there, but dammit, I enjoyed it. And I’m also looking forward to the sequel.

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Review: Susan Ee – Angelfall

Ee_Susan-Angelfall

Title: Angelfall
Author: Susan Ee
Series: Penryn and the End of Days #1
Amazon Children’s Publishing
Rating: 5 / 5

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.
Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.
Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.
Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again. (goodreads.com)

Practically everyone I follow or am friends with that’s read this book loved it (4 or 5 stars). As you can imagine, I went into this with very high expectations. Very, very high. Of course, I’ve noticed that with angel lore, it’s been hit or miss for me, especially in the YA category.

So I was thrilled when this book delivered. Susan Ee’s writing is smooth and flowing, easing from one scene to another, regardless of how much time has passed, as well as discussing the past. I hardly noticed that the book is in present tense, which is sometimes awkward at best, and horribly written at worst. Fortunately, neither of these is the case with Angelfall.

Not only is Ee talented in writing, she is talented in storytelling. Angelfall begins two months after an apocalyptic destruction of the world by angels. Society has gone to hell, and Ee wastes no time in jumping right in, and she doesn’t hold back. Some scenes are a little brutal and not for the sensitive stomach, but she also doesn’t dwell, moving past and shoving the storyline forward. You would think this would make the story seem forced, but it doesn’t. Because of the characters, their reactions (or lack-there-of), it seems to fit well and doesn’t detract from the reading at all.

There is a bit of suspension of disbelief, since society seems to have fallen very quickly in two months post-apocalypse. However, considering the wasteland that is the world, the depravity of some people in general, and considering the angels probably lay waste to half the world’s population, the world is also believable.

And, considering they’re angels, I was somewhat expecting some religious talk. Ee handles this well, managing to touch on the topic of angels and their roles in religion without turning the book into something preachy.

If I were any other kind of reviewer, I’d gush over this using gifs and other fun things, but truthfully I’m just not that kind of reviewer (it’s just plain not my style, although there are some damn amusing reviews of some books out there using nothing but gifs), but since I’m not, I’ll just say that I really, really loved this book and am very much looking forward to book two.

Review: Laini Taylor – Days of Blood and Starlight

Taylor_Laini-DaysOfBloodAndStarlight

Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 / 5

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream? (goodreads.com)

WARNING!! Spoilers for both Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight follow. Proceed with caution!

Continue reading

Review: Laini Taylor – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Taylor_Laini-DaughterOfSmokeAndBone

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4.5 / 5

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? (goodreads.com)

Oh, book, how I love thee. I’d heard such great things about this book that I had to pick it up right effing now. Of course, it took me months to get it from the library, and another few days to finally pick it up and read it, but I did. Oh, I did. Back in December. I read it again just this week to refresh my memory and it’s just as good as I remember it being the first time.

I went into it a little wary, because any book with such rave reviews in the YA Paranormal Romance category has to be a little on the bad side, right?

WRONG. Oh so very effing wrong!

I was thrilled to see that Ms. Taylor was perfectly capable of telling a well-thought-out story, one that is maybe paranormal romance (definitely paranormal something), but the romance is background to the story. It is definitely an element, and a rather prominent one, but it isn’t something that’s noticible–the romance doesn’t stand out so badly from the rest of the book. It flows well, and weaves itself through the rest of the plot so well that it feels natural.

I loved Karou so much. She is so very, very flawed. I felt a little bad for her at first (she has a weird ex-boyfriend–an actor who likes to jump out from behind people and scare them, Karou in particular), she keeps secrets from her best friend because, frankly, who’d believe she was brought up by four creatures that are definitely not human, and then she’s brutally attacked by Akiva, an angel who doesn’t recognize her at first but then, when he does….

I loved Zuzana so much, too! A tiny little firecracker who’s prone to violence (I’m unsure yet if she’d ever really carry anything out, but she likes to talk big). The character comes off as cute, despite all her talk.

And Akiva, poor Akiva. I just really want to give him a hug, because the poor guy seems to need it. I don’t want to say too much about him, because so far any backstory we have on him is essential to the plot, but… poor guy.

Ms. Taylor weaves Karou and Akiva’s story so well that the ending is so damn heart-breaking, it’s almost unbearable. It’s particularly heart-breaking knowing that Karou comes to realize the extent of everything that has happened in the course of the novel, and what the implications are for her. I’ve just started book two, Days of Blood and Starlight, so I don’t know what happens to them yet, but I really hope things get better for Karou.