Review: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

 

Title: Spell Bound

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Publisher:  Disney Hyperion

Also available in digital:

Spell Bound (Digital)

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Hailed as “impossible to put down,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and teens cheering. With a winning combination of romance, action, magic and humor, this third volume will leave readers enchanted.
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium.  Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

Review:

I have been waiting with a great deal of anticipation for the final book in Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall series.  I found the first book rather predicable, but Demonglass kept me on the edge of my seat.  I hated the cliffhanger ending! How could you do that to me?  I was finally onboard with Sophie and her acidic personality, and then – WHAM!  We ran into a brick wall of “See you later!”  Ugh!

Anyway, a copy finally came in at the library, so I hustled over to pick it up.  On my lunch break.  Even though I couldn’t read it until after work.  I dove into the book as soon as I arrived home, and after that uncomfortable few moments of trying like heck to remember what happened in the previous book, and who all of the characters were, I was in!  There is such a loss of momentum when you have to wait for over a year to read the next book in a series, and most of the time, they don’t work as well for me.  When I am in the reading zone provided by a book, I am also in a particular frame of mind at that place in time.  Sometimes I don’t get it back.  Sometimes I no longer click with the protagonist.  Sometimes I discover, with dismay, that I don’t even like the protagonist anymore.  While she hasn’t changed in the year and a half since we last met, I have.  I am a different person, and there have been times when I have outgrown a series or cast of characters, and I am always bummed when that happens.

Don’t worry, though! That didn’t happen with Spell Bound.  While some of the plot points didn’t work for me, I still enjoyed Sophie’s occasionally grating personality.  Her coping mechanism is to get sarcastic, and I actually liked when she was blasting out snarky comments, or better yet, making unfiltered inner commentary about whatever person happened to be pissing her off.  I didn’t like the back and forth between Archer and her fiancée, Cal, but heck, I usually never like all of the romantic triangles cluttering up YA PNR these days.  It is the one trope that drives me batty, and the one that I find the least interesting.  The resolution to this one was a cop-out, with Sophie not making a decision so much as having it made for her.  I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so I’ll just say UGH!  Sophie gets off guilt free, and I didn’t like that.  I felt that it belittled her emotional conflict and her feelings for both guys was also trivialized. 

Moving on, I love the action in the these books.  Sophie has to always be on her toes, ready to fight for her life.  She also has to be ready to fight for the lives of her friends, and now, her family.  In this supernatural war, there are many casualties.  Sophie is under so much stress to ensure the safety of her loved ones that I’m surprised she didn’t lose all of her hair from the stress.  Worse yet, she didn’t have her powers, because they had been locked away by the villains at the end of the last book!  Her father’s powers had been completely and forcibly ripped from his body.  Sophie was running on empty, and ouch!  it wasn’t easy for her to escape from all of the danger she repeatedly found herself in.  That is one of her traits that I admire most about her character; Sophie has an innate ability to think well under pressure.  While she may lack the common sense to keep her out of danger in the first place, once she’s in it, she is able to stay relatively calm, examine the situation from every angle, and find a way to get her out of trouble without getting killed.  That she is ready to sacrifice her life when the stakes get so high that I would have crumbled into a ball of black despair, is another reason why I enjoyed Sophie, and these books, so much.

All in all, Hex Hall was a fun series, and now that they are all out, I recommend that you give them a try.  Each book was better than the last, and all of the characters, especially Sophie and Elodie, are likeable.

Grade:  B+

Review copy obtained from my local library 

Cover Shot! Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Bloomsbury revealed the cover for Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black yesterday.  I like the how the lack of background distractions draws your eye to the model and her weird, red, flower petal imploding costume.  At least, I think they are flower petals.  The book sounds interesting, so I’m curious about whether or not it will live up to my expectations, which are, admittedly, high.  Are you looking forward to Dance of Shadows?

In stores December 2012.

    

Curtains up on a deliciously dark new YA trilogy!

Vanessa Adler isn’t so sure she really belongs at the School of American Ballet. But dance runs in her family. It’s been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her grandmother and mother were prima ballerinas, and her older sister Margaret was, too. That is, until Margaret mysteriously disappeared from school three years ago. Vanessa is heir to the family’s gift and the only person who can fulfill her sister’s destiny. She has no choice.

But she never could have guessed how dangerous the school is. The infamous choreographer, Josef, isn’t just ruthless with his pupils, he guards a sinister secret, one in which the school’s dancers—prized for their beauty, grace, and discipline—become pawns in a world of dark, deadly demons.

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Waiting on Wednesday- The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

While I am intrigued by the demons in The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer, it’s the setting that really caught my interest.  I hope Mia gets to at least enjoy some good pasta while she is monster hunting in Milan.

 

Mia’s ordinary life is disrupted in the most horrifying way possible when she is possessed by a hungry and powerful demon–and only saved by the arrival of relatives from Italy, the country her grandfather fled many decades ago. Now her cousins Emilio and Giuliano say the only way to keep her safe is for her to come back with them to Milan, to live, to learn Italian, to fall in and out of love, and to master the family trade: fighting all demons with the lore of bell, book, and candle. Milan is not what Mia expected, but it will change her forever, in this stunningly well-written novel about an American girl who, fleeing an ancient evil, finds her only salvation in her ancestral home.

In stores August 2012

What are you waiting on?

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Waiting on Wednesday–Dark Light of Day by Jill Archer

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

 

 

Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret—she was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of and some will consider her an abomination.

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.

In stores Sept 2012

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Interview with Ryan Inzana, Author of Ichiro

Ryan Inzana is an artist and author.  His latest release, the graphic novel Ichiro, hits stores next week.  Ryan stopped by the virtual offices to talk about his new book, so read on to see what he has to say about Ichiro.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Ryan Inzana] I am an illustrator, writer and comic artist.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Ichiro?

[Ryan Inzana] It is a graphic novel about a boy’s adventure through a mythological world. Along the way, the protagonist, whose name is Ichiro, deals with issues of cultural identity, war, history and loss. And monsters, there is an abundance of monsters.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?

[Ryan Inzana] The first seeds of the book were planted on a trip I took to the Peace Park museum in Hiroshima, Japan. I was there with my wife and her family, who are originally from the area.  It is at once both disturbing and enlightening to visit the museum. Not only do you find out about the atom bomb and its effect, but you learn the history of World War II as told from the perspective of the Japanese.

When most Americans think of Japan and World War II, they immediately think of Pearl Harbor. The history most school children learn in the United States labels Japan as the aggressor and America as the victim that begrudgingly enters the fray only after being attacked. But in front of me in Hiroshima history told a very different story, the roles of aggressor and victim seemed to be vastly less defined. Most importantly, the museum gives you the stories of the average people that were killed in the blast, not some faceless enemy, but ordinary people. History in general and war in particular are a lot less black and white than some make it out to be.

I wondered, how would I explain this all to my son, that long ago the country where his father was born fought a war against the country where his mother was born. That scores of people died and that both sides had good intentions and bad intentions but most of them wished the war would simply just end. That now America and Japan are friends and the world is ok? There are still scars. I left the museum and looked up at all these modern buildings that stand in today’s Hiroshima City. For the first time, I gave some thought as to why Japan’s cities look so new and futuristic, it’s because the old buildings were bombed into rubble during World War II so they had to rebuild.

The experience made me feel conflicted, but it also made me curious. I started talking to people, reading books, doing research. This all led me to think more broadly about war and humanity. One aspect that really interested me in my research was the role that Shintoism and Japanese mythology played in World War II. There is a notion, not just in World War II Japan but probably in every country that has ever engaged in large scale combat, that God (or Gods, as the case maybe) not only supports war, but has a stake in it and has bet on the fill-in-the-blank country to win it all. I thought to myself, if the Gods are so pro-war, maybe they are fighting amongst themselves. And so I imagined an epic mythological battle going on in the heavens that mirrored the real world conflict that is going on today.

The character of Ichiro really came out of the "how would I tell my son about this" thought that I had. The mythological characters in the book are in part based on their descriptions in the Kojiki, which is Shinto scripture. Also ukiyo-e prints, Japanese handscrolls and screen paintings, stories of the yokai (monsters from Japanese folktales) helped inform my design sense and gave me some sort of base of the character’s personalities that I could embellish on.

Some of weirdest characters in the book came from random doodles in my sketch book.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of creating the story?

[Ryan Inzana] I’m dealing with a lot of themes and issues in this book. I didn’t want it to come off heavy-handed or have it seem forced. That and drawing, inking, painting and coloring 280 pages of comics.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things would Ichiro never have in his pockets?

[Ryan Inzana] I don’t know, Ichi is a little survivalist so you can never tell what he’s going to have in his pockets in case of an emergency. Can’t rule out anything.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Ryan Inzana] I like that quote from Faulkner where he says, "Read, read, read. Read everything–trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window."  That’s exactly how I feel about it and the same goes for art. My book shelves are buckling under the weight of a little bit of everything.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

The 3 s’s: Silence, Solitude and more Silence.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

[Ryan Inzana] I fish. I live on a river, so when the conditions are right, I’m out the door like a kid when the school bell rings.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!!


You can learn more about Ryan by visiting his website.

You can pre-order Ichiro from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

 

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Interview with Hildie McQueen, Author of Desperate Betrayal

Hildie McQueen is the author of Desperate Betrayal, a paranormal romance that kicks off her Protectors series.  Hildie stopped by the virtual offices to chat about her book and her writing.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about yourself?

[Hildie McQueen] I’ve been described as a party on wheels, because I’m loud and boisterous. Let’s see, I’m a woman that blossomed at forty, I took matters in hand and began doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I got married, got a tattoo, began to write and enjoy life to the fullest. I live in the sunny south with my wonderful handsome husband, two Chihuahuas and a cat that has some kind of affliction because he acts like he’s never seen me, every single day.

I write mostly paranormal, although, I’m toying with the idea of writing contemporary and I have a western historical in the works. Yet, paranormal is my first love.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, Desperate Betrayal?

[Hildie McQueen] It’s a story about a guy, who happens to be an immortal demon slayer, and a girl, who is half demon. It’s a story of how these two meet in the midst of a terrible event in her life. How she is faced with a decision of whether or not to betray him in order to save her sister’s life. Desperate Betrayal is a fast paced emotional roller coaster that will have the reader cheering for Cyn and Emma’s relationship to the very last page.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Hildie McQueen] Now this is a difficult question for me, but I suppose I began to think about a story with a powerful alpha male with a soft side, a double life and how he’d cope. Cyn became this man; I made him immortal and a warrior then added the element of being a single parent. Emma, on the other hand, I created around whom I thought would make a good heroine for him.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Hildie McQueen] Without a doubt, the fight scenes — keeping them realistic and ensuring specific moves and motions could actually be done by a fighter. My husband helped me with them and since he reads a lot of fantasy. Thankfully he guided me through some of them.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Emma would never have in her purse?

[Hildie McQueen] Wow this is an interesting question. Emma is a headstrong no-nonsense kind of girl, so she’d have the bare essentials in her purse. So I don’t think she’d have things like hand creams, jewelry or any type of snacks.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Hildie McQueen] I will have to say Jane Austen, I know it sounds cliché but her writing amazes me, her style is simple yet so engaging at the same time. On a more modern front, J.R. Ward is one of my greatest influences.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Hildie McQueen] A Car. Driving, it’s where my characters figuratively sit in the passenger seat and talk to me.

Music. I listen to country music when I write, love the stories in the songs.

Friends. Some of my best ideas come from conversations with my crazy friends.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Hildie McQueen] Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, I read it over and over as a kid. What a great story.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Hildie McQueen] I love to read, I read almost every night. I also have an open home, people are always dropping by, stopping in on their way to wherever they are heading or just to hang out. I keep wine and snacks available at all times. My hubby and I have created the home of our dreams, it’s a place where friends can come and relax. An oasis.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!


You can learn more about Hildie by visiting the following websites:

www.hildiemcqueen.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HildieMcQueen

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/HildieMcQueen

Blog: http://www.hildiemcqueen.com/

Desperate Betrayal is available in both print and digital formats. You can order a copy by clicking the widget below.

 

Desperate Betrayal By Hildie McQueen

Cynden Frasier (Cyn) is a member of a group of immortal warriors, the Protectors, assigned to protect humans in Atlanta, Georgia, the epicenter of a major uprising in demon activity. When Cyn is approached by a beautiful woman in a dirty alley, he is intrigued by the fact that she can see him for what he is, a terrifying demon slayer, and still dares to approach him.

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The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark–Excerpt

One of my most anticipated January 2012 releases is The Demon Love by Juliet Dark. Random House is offering a free sneak peek at the book. Here’s an excerpt from the book for you to enjoy with your morning coffee.

 

A must-read for paranormal romance fans: THE DEMON LOVER: A Novel by Juliet Dark (excerpt)

The Demon Lover is available in both print and digital formats.  You can order a copy from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.

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Review: No Proper Lady by Isabel Cooper

 

 

Title: No Proper Lady

Author: Isabel Cooper

Publisher: Sourcebooks

ISBN: 978-1402259524

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

It’s Terminator meets My Fair Lady in this fascinating debut of black magic and brilliant ball gowns, martial arts, and mysticism.

England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and no one has any idea that in a few hundred years, demons will destroy it all. Joan plans to keep it that way. All she has to do is take out the dark magician responsible-before he summons the demons in the first place. But as a rough-around-the-edges assassin from that bleak future, she’ll have to learn how to fit into polite Victorian society to get close to her target.

Simon Grenville has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell. The man used to be his best friend-until his practice of the dark arts almost killed Simon’s sister. The beautiful half-naked stranger Simon meets in the woods may be the perfect instrument for his revenge. It will just take a little time to teach her the necessary etiquette and assemble a proper wardrobe. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants Joan anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn’t in it.

Review:

I was originally attracted to this book by the gorgeous cover.  A quick scan of the synopsis heightened my interest in No Proper Lady.  Terminator meets My Fair Lady?  Heck, yeah, I’ll take that bet!  I eagerly dove into the story, and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.  The plot is unique, the setting is intriguing, and I liked both leads.  I can hardly wait for Isabel Cooper’s next book!

Joan is a fighter, and she is one tough chick.  In a last ditch effort to save humanity, she is sent back in time to assassinate the man responsible for the fall of the human race.  Leaving behind everything she has known, and more importantly, everyone that she loves, Joan’s ticket to the past is irrevocably one-way.  She can never go back to be with her family and her friends.  If she fails her mission, she dooms them to death and destruction.  Joan has survived the horrors of her world, and when she arrives in Simon’s, she is taken aback by the beauty and quiet of his world.  Of the future she and her people were robbed of.   The stakes are high in this game of hers, and Joan isn’t about to fail.  For her, failure is simply not an option.

Simon is having a troubling time himself.  His former best friend has betrayed him.  His sister was almost lost to him, a vessel for a demon.  He frets about how he will keep Eleanor safe, and he worries about how far Alex will let his dark arts sway him.  House parties and genteel manners no longer seem important to the English nobleman; everything that he holds dear is now at risk of being sucked into a darkness so evil there will be no escape for any of them.  When Joan’s time travel spell poofs her in front of Simon, he suddenly has an ally and someone who might just understand how urgently Alex needs to be stopped in his tracks.

I love time travel stories, and this one is a good one.  Joan makes a huge sacrifice to make her journey back in time, and Simon, though slightly skeptical of how awful the situation in the future truly is, readily makes enormous sacrifices as well.  There can be no happy ending for Joan’s family – she is separated from them forever.  I wonder if I could have made the same choice.  Could I have left my family behind me forever, in order to save all of my kind from the demons that preyed upon the few humans who remained?  There is little softness or tenderness in Joan, because her world doesn’t allow for that.  I loved the contrast between her and Simon.  Simon has been raised in the lap of luxury, he can’t possibly imagine how awful her world was, and next to Joan, he is soft.  Not weak, but he lacks the cutting hardness that is Joan’s primary trait.  She always expects terrible things to happen, because they always do.  Her whole life has been a struggle to live to see the dawn of another day.

I liked Isabel Cooper’s re-imagined Victorian England where things really do go bump in the night.  I was totally convinced that Simon and Joan would fall for each.  They have both seen some terrible things, and they both have so much fear for the future.  They also find renewed strength together, and the courage to face the horrors that threaten to swallow them whole.  Knowing what the future holds, they are both willing to give their lives to ensure that Alex doesn’t get away with his dabbling with the darkest and cruelest of the demon kind.  I am so glad that I don’t live in Joan’s world, though!l

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher