Embers

Embers
“We all have responsibilities from our circumstances,
even if we didn’t ask for them.”
― Karen Ann Hopkins, Embers

Title: Embers
Author: Karen Ann Hopkins
Series: The Wings of War #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 394
Publisher: Self-published
Published: March 15, 2015
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Synopsis From Goodreads:

There are descendants of angels walking among us. Ember is one of them.
Embers is an epic paranormal adventure/romance about a seventeen year old girl who discovers that she’s immune to fire and any other injury when she’s in a horrific car crash that kills her parents. Following a violent episode with her aunt’s boyfriend, Ember flees Ohio to live with an old relative in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Ember’s exuberance at escaping a bad home life soon turns to trepidation when she learns that she’s a Watcher, a descendant of angels.
While Ember is instructed about her heritage and the powers that go along with it, she strikes up friendships with two teenagers who live in a frightening walled compound in the forest. Inexplicitly drawn to one of the young men in particular, an impossible romance develops. But it’s cut short when Ember discovers that her new friends are fighting on the opposite side of a war that’s been raging between two factions of Watchers for thousands of years. When the compound’s inhabitants threaten the townspeople, Ember takes action, sealing her fate in the ancient battle of good versus evil, and the grayness in between. Ember is up to the challenge, until she realizes that she isn’t only fighting for the lives of the locals and the souls of her new friends. She may be one of the few champions willing to make a stand for all of mankind as the rapture approaches and the end of days begin.

My Rating: ☆☆

Embers is one of those books that has a lot of wasted potential. The premise is great, but the follow-through just isn’t there.
The plot of Embers is interesting enough to hold your attention, but the story starts earlier than it should. For starters, the prologue is entirely unnecessary! By unnecessary, I mean its only purpose is to make you wonder what’s behind the creepy wall in the woods. The writing of the prologue isn’t that amazing either… It’s in third person; the rest of the book is in first person. Also, it is very gorry and almost made me put the book down. Maybe it’s just me, but heads should not come off in the first twenty pages unless the book is a horror story or somebody super important is being murdered, (neither of which is the case here)! The first three chapters are also just a bunch of unnecessary set-up. The story doesn’t start until the main character gets to her aunt’s house, but for some reason we’re given explicit details about how she got there in the form of three extra chapters. That being said, Embers tells a pretty good story once the plot actually kicks off. It isn’t the kind of thing you read for brilliant writing or a message that’ll stick with you, but it makes good mindless entertainment!
The characters are… flat. The main character, Ember, is basically a puppet who does whatever has to be done to move the plot along. There was a lot of potential for her to go through some major development, but it was not fulfilled. I mean… The girl watched her parents burn to death in a fire and discovered that fire couldn’t hurt her in the process. She should be traumatized to the point of needing therapy, but instead she just comes across as a winy teenage girl who is quite honestly super annoying. Her love interest is slightly more developed. He’s a demon who doesn’t want to be a demon and has actually considered suicide to escape his demonicness, but again some great potential is wasted. The romance was also major instalove, and the love triangle that was introduced about two-thirds into the book was obviously just there for the sake of having a love triangle. Seriously… Who is going to believe that there is actually a possibility that the descendent of an angel is going to fall in love with a human guy when she basically threw herself at a demon the first time she saw him???
Embers is an excellent example of a book that should not have been written in first person. It would’ve been better if the characters weren’t so flat, but because neither of the two narrators was developed enough to have a strong narrative voice, the first person narrative was just really awkward sounding. Maybe I’m just an up-tight writerly snob, but I wanted to scream and rewrite the entire book in third person the whole time I was reading it. The only thing that got me to read through the writing was the plot. It kept me turning pages to see what happened even though I predicted every single twist from the midpoint onward. Overall, Embers is a pretty good read if you’re into plot driven stories with the “mindless entertainment factor”, but you should probably avoid it if you’re going to be irritated by cardboard characters and not so fantastic writing.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Gods and monsters
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil pressed their hands to their hearts
And started the apocalypse.”
-Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters

Title: Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of smoke & Bone #3
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 613
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Published: April 8, 2014
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Goodreads

Synopsis From Goodreads:

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited – not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as – from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond – humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Dreams of Gods & Monsters opens by introducing a new character to the series. I would normally consider it a “writerly no-no” to add a main character so late in a series, but in this case, it works! Without the addition of a new key player, the plot couldn’t have ended as it did. The new character is also very well developed to have entered the story so late, and she undergoes a complete character arck by the end.
The plot of Dreams of Gods & Monsters is tight and well paced. While Days of Blood & Starlight seemed slow in places, Dreams of Gods & Monsters flows quickly and holds your attention until the very last page.
The writing style is very smooth and almost captivating in some places, but as with the first two books, the narrator switches were not handled as well as they could’ve been. There were several instances where a narrator swap occurred in the middle of a chapter, and it got super hard to follow! The fact that there were so many characters didn’t help matters either… Honestly, the whole problem could’ve been remedied if the narrator changes had happened at chapter breaks, but because they didn’t, it became “borderline head-hopping.”
The ending of the series was carried out beautifully! I did NOT see the plot twist coming, but I love how everything was wrapped up! The worlds were saved, everyone who mattered got their happy ever after, and the only thing I could find fault with was the head-hopping problem!

Days of Blood & Starlight

Days of blood and starlight
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil held a wishbone between them.
And its snap split the world in two.”
― Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight

Title: Days of Blood & Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2, (click here for my review of book 1)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 517
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published: November 6th, 2012
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Synopsis From Goodreads:

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?

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Days of Blood & Starlight is a pretty good follow-up to Daughter of Smoke & Bone. The plot picks up basically where the first book ended, but introduces an entirely new setting and conflict. The overall plot was excellent, but the pacing did seem a little slow to me. It wasn’t the torturous kind of slow progression that makes you want to skip ahead, but it definitely could’ve gotten off to a faster start!
The character development was amazing! The book was definitely more plot driven than character driven, but all of the main characters began some kind of transformation that was obvious through their actions and the ways in which they interacted with each other. Each of the character arcs unfolded alongside plot events, and the changes they experienced were caused by the plot, which created a nice balance. By the end of the story, all of the key players were placed at a point where they had to make a decision for better or worse. At that point in the story, they had all progressed enough to understand the right choice, and therefore the story reached a form of closure while still leaving room for the next book.
The writing style of Days of Blood & Starlight is very unique. It has a melodic flow that is beautiful and interesting, yet hard to follow sometimes. Part of the confusion also came from the fact that there were multiple narrators. I think I counted three main narrators and a couple chapters from others. I normally don’t have a problem with multiple narrators, but this got super hard to keep up with! I definitely understand why there were so many narrators, and they were all necessary for the story to unfold, but I think it could’ve been written a little more distinctly. Thankfully it was written in third person, otherwise I don’t think I could’ve gotten through all the head-hopping!
This most definitely is not the kind of book you read for mindless entertainment! Coming from someone who can usually listen to audio books while doing a multitude of other tasks simultaneously without missing a thing in the book, this was not an easy read! I mean… I actually had to dedicate time to curl into a small ball on my bed with only a blanket and coffee to read this thing instead of just throwing on my headphones while being a responsible student! That being said, it told a very unique and amazing story, and I have already started the next book because I am totally hooked on this plot!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | Spoiler Free Review

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Cover
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love.
It did not end well.”
-Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Genre: young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 422
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Published: September 27th, 2011
Amazon
iBooks
Audio
Goodreads

Synopsis From Goodreads:

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 beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery 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?

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Coming from someone who is sick and tired of romance over-riding fantasy plots in books, this five star review is high praise! I literally cannot find fault with this book!
The quote at the top pretty much sums up the basic plot. An angel and a devil fall in love, and things end badly, but there is so much more depth to this story!
Karou makes an awesome main character! She knows nothing about where she came from at the beginning of the story. All she knows is that she’s caught between two worlds. One is made of magic, teeth, and monsters; the other is made of humans who can never know the truth. Karou keeps her secrets by telling the truth in such a way that people think she’s lying, which is a nice change. It seems that most fantasy characters simply weave a web of lies, but Karou hides behind a mask of sarcastically spoken truth.
The world building in Daughter of Smoke and Bone is super complex but blends almost seamlessly! In the beginning, Karou is part of two worlds: “Elsewhere,” where she spent her childhood, and the human world. However, her two worlds end up colliding with a third world: Akiva’s angelic realm. I can’t really continue with this train of thought because spoilers abound, but the way in which the three worlds meet is written very well. I don’t think I’ve ever known a book to juggle three worlds as well as Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
Something interesting is the way in which the “big reveal” was written. For the majority of the first half of the book, Karou has no idea where she came from, and that question is eventually answered through what is basically a giant flashback to her past. This kind of seemed like a writerly copout to me, but it also worked well in the situation. It was a little confusing to jump into another time and setting for a few chapters, but I honestly don’t know how it could’ve been done differently without altering the plot in a big way. I would typically knock off a star for something like this, but the writing was good enough that I decided to let it slide.
As you can probably tell, this is one of those books that you can’t really talk about without spoiling everything, so I’ll go on and end my review here. Overall, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is an excellent read, and I definitely recommend that you have the second book ready to go as soon as you finish it because… talk about a cliffhanger!

Book Review: Angelfall by Susan EE

Angelfall cover art

Title: Angelfall 

Author: Susan EE 

Series: Penryn & the End of Days, (Book 1) 

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, SciFi 

Pages: 224 

Format Read: Audio

Publisher: Filia 

Published: July 3, 2013 

iBooks

iTunes Audio 

Amazon 

Barnes & Noble 

Goodreads 

 

Goodreads Synopsis: 

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. 


My Rating: ☆☆ 

Disclaimer, disclaimer! I am a self-proclaimed angel enthusiast! I love studying angel lore! Cheyenne Raphael is my pen name because Archangel Raphael is the angel of healing and the patron angel of the blind. Therefore, I had some angelic expectations upon opening this book! 

I did really enjoy Angelfall, but it was also a bit of a let down for me. I’ll hit the high points first, and then I’ll get into the… not so great stuff. And we’re gonna do this in bullet point form today because I have to do chemistry homework after this is over… Yay me… 

 

The Awesome Stuff! 

  • Penryn Young is a total badass! Like she is awesome, and I love her sarcastic attitude, and we would either be best friends or one of us would kill the other! I’d probably be the one to die… 
  • Penryn’s Mom has paranoid schizophrenia, and it is portrayed very well. I love books with mentally ill characters that aren’t just there for the sake of having mentally ill characters! Like she’s crazy, and that’s a problem, but it’s also not a problem, and that’ll make more sense when you actually read it… Maybe… 
  • There are angels! And they’re actually real angels mentioned in the lore! Sort of… 
  • Penryn’s little sister is wheel chair bound, which is awesome because I don’t see many books with wheel chair bound characters! I have NO idea if it’s a good portrayal of a wheel chair bound character because obviously I’ve never experienced that. It could be totally stereotypical like most blind characters in YA literature, but it seemed pretty darn good to me, and the fact that we had a schizophrenic character and a character in a wheel chair in the same book is awesome! (someone please tell me if this is a good wheel chair bound character because now I really wanna know…) 
  • The plot keeps you on your toes! In fact, it kept me up until midnight trying to finish it… And I had to do Algebra the next day… That went well! Not! 
  • I was really able to get into Penryn’s head and connect with her character. The writing style and POV made that really easy, and it was literally an emotional rollercoaster! 
  • I listened to the audio book, and the narrator was amazing!!! That has absolutely nothing to do with anything unless you love audio books like I do, so just go with it if you don’t…. 

 

The Not So Great Stuff: 

  • The angels are… interesting. I guess I didn’t really expect it to follow the lore exactly, but I didn’t expect them to be kinda warped either. And… There’s some stuff in there that bugs me about the whole God/angel connection thing. You’ll get it when you read it… 
  • The romance aspect seems kinda silly to me! Like… It’s not very believable! I get that it’s fantasy, but usually I can suspend my disbelief and become absorbed in the story enough to believe anything, and that didn’t happen with this relationship! I can’t say anymore for fear of spoilers, so just see for yourself! 
  • Why does every chapter end with a massive cliff hanger?! That’s cool sometimes, but it got old after about the first five times it happened. I’m the kind of person who can’t stand to stop anywhere other than a chapter break, and those, “whose gonna die?!” cliff hangers were making it reeeeeally hard to find a good place to stop and sleep! Hence the midnight reading… 
  • The writing was a little overdone in some places. I noticed it mainly with dialogue and descriptions, which is something I notice a lot because I have to watch it in my own writing. I mean… We get that the city is in ruin; you don’t have to tell us fifty-two thousand times! And the dead body description is making me sick… 
  • Why are there suddenly creepy alien monsters being created in an angelic science lab? Where did that even come from? Is that just there for a weird plot twist to keep people up reading late and give them nightmares, or is it going to mean something later? Ok… It did mean something, but it was just a little shocking, and nothing really lead up to that. I had this whole elaborate plot worked out in my head the way I would have written it, and then it all crumbled to the ground with freaky stuff that seemed like it didn’t belong. We already had demons, and then these weird, creepy, SciFi monsters took over the plot and i didn’t see their connection to the previously mentioned demons!
  • What is with that ending?! It just stopped suddenly, and nothing really came to any kind of close! I get that there are more books in the series, but even though it is a series, it needs some kind of closure or else it’s gonna drive me insane! And not the good kind of insane that makes me want to keep reading! That goes back to the massive cliff hangers getting old after a while… 


Final thoughts: 

I liked Angelfall, and I will probably finish the series, but the other books got shoved further down my TBR list after reading the ending. I wasn’t impressed with the ending, and endings are the one way for a writer to hold my trust. If you can’t write a good ending, I won’t trust you to write a good series. That’s ironic since I struggle with endings myself, but it’s just how I am! The cliff-hanger chapters threw me off too. I like short chapters, and I don’t mind cliff-hangers at all, but we don’t need a giant cliff-hanger to end every chapter. Sometimes it is perfectly ok to write a small cliff-hanger that doesn’t immediately threaten anyone’s life. I did really like Penryn’s character, and her and her sister are honestly probably the only reason I plan to continue the series. I thought I’d like it for the angels, but they’re just weird… Angels shouldn’t be weird! 

 

What Do You Think? 

Have you read Angelfall? Are you going to read Angelfall? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let’s talk bookworm stuff in the comments! 

P.S: My laptop is insisting on autocorrecting Penryn to Penny, so sorry about that if I missed any! I tried… I really tried… But technology hates me today… 

From Cheyenne 🙂