Tag Archives: paranormal

Emma Maree Reviews: The Raven Boys

Book: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvate

Series: The Raven Cycle, Book 1

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

After receiving the advanced review copy of this book, I had a flick through the
first pages to get a glimpse of what I had to look forward to. Then I abandoned
the other books I was reading (sorry, Insurgent) and kept reading.

This book is the peak of Maggie’s writing so far: beautiful scenery, fast-paced
scenes, smooth action, and above all… the characters. She’s always been a strong
character writer, but The Raven Boys takes this all to a new level.

Every one of the characters is a crucial, fascinating part of the story. There’s
level-headed psychic’s daughter Blue and The Raven Boys, a motley crew of
private school students and best friends: obsessive researcher and richest of the
rich Gansey; trailer park kid on a scholarship Adam, Irish hot-blooded scrapper
Ronan and smudge-faced loner Noah.

I adored all of these kids, and I kept on loving them straight through. They made
this story for me: their voices, their backstories, and how flesh-and-blood-and-
bones real they felt. I read this book for them, and for their world (a strange, off-
kilter place that keeps on getting stranger as the story continues).

It also gave me some of the best fighting advice I’ve ever gotten from a novel, on
how to throw a good hook:

Hit with your body, not just your fist.

Look where you’re punching.

Elbow at ninety degrees.

Don’t think about how much it will hurt.

I told you. Don’t think about how much it will hurt.

But I do need to have a brief, spoiler-free word about the ending: I hated it. Everything was ticking along smoothly, action and adventure and rapid page turning, and then it ended. Right when everything was at it’s
most exciting it veered to a halt and started hastily trying to wrap up even though exciting things were still going on.

I know The Raven Boys is supposed to be part of a series, but I still feel
like I’ve been left asking a million and one questions and the book is blatantly
ignoring them all and I’m a little disappointed by that.

….But I’m still going to buy the next book.

This review was based on an advanced review copy supplied by Scholastic. Some parts of the story may
change in the final novel.

Emma Maree Reviews: The Graveyard Book

Book: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Childrens/Paranormal/Horror

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

If you’ve ever read Gaiman’s “American Gods” (and you should) you’ll have an idea of what to expect here. Neil Gaiman is a goldmine of mythology and history, and his knowledge leaks into the pages. Everything is infused with accuracy and research, everything is referencing old gods and famous moments in history. They call it a kids book, but as an adult reader you can get so much more out of all his subtle little nods to history.

The story starts out with each chapter being a self-contained ‘snippet’ from the main character Nobody’s life in the graveyard, following him as he grows up and makes friends with witches, steps through portals into other worlds, and deals with a teacher who might not be all that she seems.  Towards the end of the story, all the individual sections start to come together as the man named Jack picks up Nobody’s trail once again…

Neil has a real gift with characters. The Graveyard residents are made memorable with only a few lines of text, and they’re all so likeable. I didn’t even realise how attached I was to these characters, until 2am on Christmas Day rolled around and I was still reading, still desperate to know what happened next and what these poor characters were going to have to go through.

This is a great fantasy novel – an easy, fast-paced read with a lot of depth and appeal to all ages.

Emma Maree Reviews: “Passion”

Lauren Kate’s “Fallen” series is one of the most popular reviewed series here on the blog. Thanks to Random House, I got hold of an early copy of the latest book in the series, “Passion”, for review.

“Every single lifetime, I’ll choose you. Just as you have chosen me. Forever.”

Luce would die for Daniel. And she has. Over and over again. Throughout time, Luce and Daniel have found each other, only to be painfully torn apart: Luce dead, Daniel left broken and alone. But perhaps it doesn’t need to be that way. . . .

Luce is certain that something—or someone—in a past life can help her in her present one. So she begins the most important journey of this lifetime . . . going back eternities to witness firsthand her romances with Daniel . . . and finally unlock the key to making their love last.

Cam and the legions of angels and Outcasts are desperate to catch Luce, but none are as frantic as Daniel. He chases Luce through their shared pasts, terrified of what might happen ifshe rewrites history.

Because their romance for the ages could go up in flames . . . forever.

Time travel is the latest addition to the “Fallen” series, playing an integral role in “Passion” as Luce hops around time trying to find some of the answers behind her curse. I love time travel, so I enjoyed Lauren Kate’s take on it.

With a unique set of rules preventing interaction with their past selves, both Daniel and Luce visit various different decades, and see their own past selves. The settings and cultures are only visited briefly, but Kate shines at them – showcasing culture and colourful characters, even if each location only features for a small amount of time.

She takes Luce from war-torn, snowy Moscow to 19th-century England; from Tahaiti islanders who mark themselves with elaborate tattoos to a Tibetan palace; even to a Mayan tribe with some terrifying rituals (my favourite scene).

It is important to realise that this book is both prequel and sequel – or else you might have the same niggling annoyances I did. The story arc didn’t seem to develop as much as in earlier books – the plot begins with Luce travelling through time to find answers, and that remains her objective for most of the book without any real detours. I could have definitely used a few more twists, but the last act of the book brought in some strong reveals and foreshadowing for the final book, “Rapture”.

As with “Torment”, there’s steady improvement in the writing – new characters, like the loud-mouthed gargoyle Bill, add some witty lines and a change of pace. The dialogue is sharper with some funny exchanges between Luce and Bill, and Luce takes a lot more control of her situation than we’ve seen her before. The world-building is also clarified – we find out more about the Announcers, shadows that are used to step through time and space, and there are some new rules about time travel and some exciting hints about Luce and Daniel’s curse.

I did miss some of the other characters – especially Cam. Cam’s awesome – but “Passion” does a solid job of filling in the back story and setting the scene for “Rapture”, which looks like an action-packed end to the series.

“Passion” is out on the 23 June. You can read our reviews of Lauren Kate’s other novels by clicking here, and we’ll have some exclusive editing advice from the lady herself on Friday.

You can pre-order it with free shipping almost anywhere in the world from the Book Depository, in Hardback or Paperback.

Disclaimer: A copy of “Passion” was provided for this review by Random House.

“Torment” Book Review

“Torment” by Lauren Kate Release Date: Out now! Genre: Paranormal Romance Publisher: Doubleday Children’s (Random House) I started off my original review of “Fallen” by gushing about how much I loved its cover. The sequel, “Torment”, doesn’t disappoint either – it keeps to the same gothic, monochrome colour scheme. Both covers avoid showing the girl’s face, and the hands in her hair hint at some of the confusion and worries that will be a key part of the story. There’s an excellent video on how covers like this are created here, showing 6 hours of work cut down into a 2 minute video. Here’s the cover blurb this time round:

LOVE NEVER DIES… It took Lucinda an eternity to find her beloved angel, Daniel. But he waited for her. Now they are forced apart again, to protect Luce from the Outcasts – immortals who want her dead. During their separation, Luce learns about her mysterious past lives. But the more she discovers, the more she suspects that Daniel is hiding something. What if Daniel’s version of the past isn’t true? Is it really their destiny to be together? Or is Luce really meant to be with someone else?

Lucinda Price returns as our protagonist, and we join her as she’s being sent to a new private school after the horrors she went up against in “Fallen”. Daniel demands that she stays in her new school for 18 days without any contact with him. Luce can barely stand the idea of them being apart, but what bothers her more is the nagging feeling that Daniel’s hiding something. Something involving strangers coming after her if she ever leaves the school, involving Daniel killing to protect her, and involving a truce that has Daniel working together with Cam, the creepy demon who nearly killed Luce before.

I know what you’re thinking. A girl whining about being separated from her boyfriend for a measly 18 days, ugh. I groaned as well, but after giving it some consideration and thinking back to my young-and-stupidly-lovestruck days, I probably would have been a bit unhappy too. Let’s not kid ourselves here, young people are dramatic through-and-through.

That’s where Lauren Kate excels – she captures that age group perfectly, from the desperation of my-world-revolves-around-you first loves to the vicious mood swings and irrationality that happen when you’re a confused teenage girl. (Especially if you’re a confused teenage girl who’s boyfriend it being a bit of a prick, and keeping you locked up ‘for your own safety’ without telling you why.)

“Torment” is a novel about Luce, following her as she grows a lot more independent, stronger and forms her own ideas about what it takes to have a healthy relationship. She’s wildly reckless, too – frustratingly so, as she ignores warnings from others along the lines of ‘don’t leave the school it’s dangerous’ because of course it’s not that dangerous. Of course.

It doesn’t let down on the action side either, though. The first few opening chapters, which nicely recap “Fallen” for the short of memory but don’t cover it enough for anyone who’s thinking of reading “Torment” without reading the first book, start off at a relaxed pace as Lauren builds up some impressive new settings and a new cast of characters. Before long, though, the suspense starts shooting up and the story gets a welcome injection of paranormal adventure and danger.

Another area Lauren is brilliant at is scenery descriptions – we go from the gothic graveyards and reform schools of “Fallen” to sunny California, with a schools on cliff-side, yachts of bright blue oceans, beach party bonfires and road trips across the land.

She’s still a great creator of a varied cast as well – I particularly like the way there’s no clear signs whether a member of the cast is or isn’t trustworthy, and after the end of “Fallen” it’s impossible to tell if any of them are going to survive the story.

I was slightly let down by the end, though – “Fallen” pulled out a powerful twist with Penn, but the twist in “Torment” felt too obvious right the way through and I was disappointed when it didn’t turn out to be a red herring. The actual resolution of the finale did come as a surprise, though.

The book’s definitely a huge improvement on the writing in “Fallen” – I wish it had answered a few more questions, but I’m hoping the third book “Passion” will resolve a lot of my nagging questions when it’s released.

[easyreview cat1title=”Overall” cat1detail=”The plot could have used more answers and less questions, but it’s a good improvement on Fallen. Lauren’s writing is particularly strong when it comes to description and characterisation.” cat1rating=”4″ overall=false]  

Other Books By This Author: Fallen, The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove.
For Fans of:
Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight”, P.C. Cast’s “The House of Night”, Becca Fitzpatrick’s “Hush, Hush”

A copy of “Torment” was provided for this review by Random House.

I also have a review of Lauren Kate’s first novel, “The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove

“Fallen” Book Review

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“Fallen” by Lauren Kate
Release Date: 8th December 2009 (US), 17th December 2009 (UK)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Doubleday (Random House Children’s Books)

If you’re going to judge a book by it’s cover, then “Fallen” is great – a black-haired, pale girl in a black dress stands against a blue-lit forest. Aiming straight for the gothic-at-heart, the large curving font for the title makes it look a lot like an Evanescence cover. That’s not a bad thing –  it’s eyes catching.

Then there’s the back cover blurb. If you’ve just finished that guilt-ridden-but-enjoyable binge of every recent vampire book within reach, searching for a way to fill the hole left by the end of the “Twilight” series, it’ll be all you need to read before taking the book to the counter and continuing your paranormal romance spree. The endorsement by P.C. Cast – author of the “House of Night” series – doesn’t hurt either.

SOME ANGELS ARE DESTINED TO FALL.

Instant. Intense. Weirdly familiar . . .

The moment Luce looks at Daniel she knows she has never felt like this before. Except that she can’t shake the feeling that she has. And with him – a boy she doesn’t ever remember setting eyes on.

Will her attempt to find out why enlighten her – or destroy her?

Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, FALLEN is a thrilling story about forbidden love.

“Fallen”‘s main girl is Lucinda Price, a mouthful of a name thankfully shortened to simply Luce. A boy mysterious burned to death while with her, so she’s been packed off to the fantastically gothic Sword & Cross reform school, complete with ever-present CCTV, barbed wire, overgrown vegetation, a full Olympic swimming pool inside a church and a military graveyard where you get to spend detention cleaning up old marble statues. It’s set in the marsh covered side of Savannah, Georgia, but the city itself is never really explored because reform school pupils aren’t supposed to just nip to the shops.

Luce focuses her attention on the gorgeous and alluring Daniel Grigori, but as soon as they make eye contact he flips her off. Charming. There to pick up the gauntlet, however, is the smooth-talking and charming Cam.

They are some of the first of “Fallen”‘s large cast, including the ‘wacky’ and rebellious Arriane, a blunt girl with horrible scars across the back of her neck; the much moodier will-break-your-face-with-her-New-Rocks punk kid Molly; chubby Penn, who always wears multiple layers and has access to everyone’s confidential files and dreadlocked smuggler Roland who handles getting contraband items into the school.

The teachers are a little bit more negatively portrayed – the kind-hearted, motherly librarian (who classes are so boring); the history teacher who’s not too bad a bloke when not lecturing his (bored) class; the manly female teacher and ‘warden’ Randy and a strict and cold gym teacher.

The first half of the story revolves around Luce adapting to this school and its pupils, having a bad-run in with Molly and feeling inexplicably attracted to Daniel even though his words to her mostly consist of  lines like “Go away”, “Don’t talk to me” and “You are not my friend”. Luce’s obsession doesn’t go away, though, and in typical teenage girl fashion she proceeds to stalk him and have Penn go through his files while she tries to explain to them that she knows she’s seen him somewhere before. Wait, did I say typical teenage girl fashion? I meant typical teenage girl in a school full of unstable reform kids behavior.  At least nobody’s been horribly burnt to death yet.

While my tongue is firmly in-cheek there, despite the slightly creepiness of it, Fallen’s target audience knows what it is to be head-over-heels with a guy so Luce’s longing will be alien to none of them. For older readers, she’s difficult to relate to with her single-minded focus on that one hot guy but as “Twilight” has already shown us, teenage girls just get it. At least she’s not climbing in his window to watch him sleep, right?

While she’s obsessing over Daniel, Cam is desperately trying to get in Luce’s pants and what was once charming and sweet is quickly getting creepy and desperate. As Daniel begins to soften and meet Luce off-campus, still trying to convince her she’s being silly and delusional because they’ve never met, Cam’s forced advances become a quick-trigger for a fist-fight.

There’s a dramatic rescue that rings true to “Twilight”‘s ‘saved from death by being crushed by a large object’ scene, replacing the car with something a bit more symbolic. There’s also another big fire where someone is horribly burnt to death, but they were too undeveloped for me to care very much.

Aside from those above scenes, though, the first half of the book is in need of some editing. Lauren Kate’s prose is clean and easy-to-read, but without enough action and conflict the endless repetition of stalking Daniel, being rejected by him, leading Cam on despite being a bit repulsed by him, and then crawling back to Daniel afterwards gets tiring. The long, eventless build-up didn’t work in Stephenie Meyer’s work and it doesn’t work here. As this is an advanced copy I was reading, with a bit of luck the editor will take a harsh hand with it before final release.

Lauren’s character development is also flawed – while Arriane, Penn and Cam are both varied and exciting characters, Lucinda and Daniel fall flat. Daniel’s constantly mean for no good reason, and despite Luce’s swooning over his looks and her mysterious attraction most girls would write him off as an ass and move on.

Luce isn’t much better – while she starts off promising with her past as a possible-arsonist-and-manslaughterer, her single-minded fixation on Daniel over any of her friends and cruel leading on of Cam makes her difficult to like. She’s better than Bella Swan, but still too passive. At one point she’s facing her own death and just lies back and thinks about how pretty Daniel is instead of trying to avoid it.

I think Lauren Kate knows she’s far from perfect though – possibly acting as her mouthpiece, one character says about Luce: “you’re nothing more than you appear to be: a stupid, selfish, ignorant, spoiled little girl who thinks the world lives or dies on whether she gets to go out with some good-looking boy at school”

Author Lauren Kate

Author Lauren Kate

The truth if, whether the distinguished readers among us like it or not, most teenage girls are exactly like that. They are going to love it.

The first book in a four book series, the story ends with some cliffhanger set-up for the second book “Torment”, due out September 2010. While its pacing is flawed and it’s main character difficult to love, Lauren Kate shows a lot of promise with world-building and her beautiful settings, along with memorable and likeable side-characters. With some work on developing Luce, and an increase in pace now that introductions are over, the series has a definite potential to progress into something very good.

Until then, young girls are going to love it anyway.

Rating: 3/5 – As the start of a series this dark romance has potential.
Other Books By This Author: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove.
For Fans of: Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight”, P.C. Cast’s “The House of Night”, Becca Fitzpatrick’s “Hush, Hush”,

An advance copy was provided for this review by Random House.  The work may change before final print.

You can also check out a review of the sequel to “Fallen”, “Torment“, or read my review of Lauren Kate’s novel “The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove“!