New Release Review: Black Beast by Nenia Campbell

Black Beast (Shadow Thane, #1)

Title: Black Beast (Shadow Thane #1)
Author: Nenia Campbell
Publisher:
Nenia Campbell
Release Date:  2nd April 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Format: ebook
Page Count: 284 (paperback)
Source: Author (giveaway)
Rating:

2 of 5 hearts

Nenia is a friend of mine, but as you can see that hasn’t stopped me from being any less annoyingly opinionated on this book, the first of hers I have read. You should pity her. Also, I won it in a giveaway, so you can’t even claim she should expect me to be nice or anything, even though I have been looking forward to reading this ever since I saw the blurb.

Black Beast is framed by the point of view of a young up-and-coming hunter witch named Finn, because he’s obsessed with the new prey he’s locked on to: Catherine Pierce, a teen Shifter who hasn’t settled yet, which is out of the ordinary in the Otherworld. Although most of the POV is from Catherine, occasionally Finn’s creepy POV is added in as well, besides the framing, which sometimes works and sometimes does not, seeing as how Catherine is really the protagonist. Also, Finn’s POV just serves to be creepy. Did I mention he’s a creep?

Catherine is determined to live life under the radar, but it doesn’t help that everyone at school think she’s a freaky outcast, and the Otherkin – witches, vampires, Slayers and other Shifters – all hate her as well. Even amongst Shifters she’s a freak. Catherine works part time in a second hand book shop, and takes home a mysterious dark-magic book one of the customers was interested in (we never find out why – just one of the many, many questions left unanswered in this book), then she’s attacked by the Witch hunter, and shenanigans ensue when she decides she’s incapable of dissecting a cricket because of her Shifting ability, so she enacts a daring break-and-enter-and-destruction-of-school-property to free said crickets.

The plot is a bit of a mess, and the climax of breaking into the school to rescue the crickets was decidedly anti-climactic. I was hoping for a second showdown of Catherine vs Finn where Catherine kicked his ass all the way back to Creepytown, but I was disappointed. There was almost no point in having Finn in the book, as we spent most of our time in Catherine’s head as she moped around not doing very interesting things, having weird dreams and occasionally shifting.

However, the shifting moments were pretty cool. I loved being inside Catherine’s head when she shifted into an animal. The worldbuilding was intense and awesome, with so many factions bristling on the edge of war with one another, a whole history of previous conflicts, and although I was confused about whether regular humans knew about the Otherkin for a while, I eventually figured it out. I loved how the world was so complex and I can see this series continuing indefinitely because of that.

The book plays a very deliberate homage to Twilight, pairing Catherine up with a potential love interest in biology class, and several other sneaky references. It also offers refreshing changes to your typical paranormal novel in that Catherine’s mother is not absent, but involved in her children’s lives and she’s tough and she makes rules she expects her kids to abide by. She’s pretty cool.

I thought Catherine was going to face more intense or difficult trials and hurdles than she did in this book. Instead she spent it fending off people (whether it was a guy with a crush or someone out for her blood), being snarky, and, quite reasonably being a normal teenage girl struggling to follow the rules. Even the Shadow Thane mentioned in the blurb didn’t really feature, and the community group subplot went nowhere.

I prefer my books to gather up their threads at the end and provide answers. Even if one or two overarching issues were left undisclosed and ready to create conflict in the second book – I fully expect Finn to be back in the next book – there were way too many plot threads unravelling and too many unanswered questions to really complete the story. An extra twenty thousand words wrapping up those threads and giving an actual climax involving a certain Shifter/Witch showdown wouldn’t go amiss. I couldn’t help but be disappointed, but at least reading this book has shown me that Nenia’s writing is not for me.

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Stacking The Shelves (80)

button Stacking the Shelves

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.
It’s all about sharing the books we’ve picked up for the week, whether they are bought, borrowed, gifted, galleys, physical or virtual.
Share your shelves and remember to visit Tynga’s Reviews where it all started to find more great books!

For Review:

The Concealing (Spirit Warriors #1)

Sixteen-year-old Emme Belrose has it all: four best friends, a horse of her own, a hidden tepee hangout, and a blossoming romance with tall and handsome Charlie. These friends also have a secret. They can move their spirits into animal bodies: an osprey, a mustang, a grizzly, a mountain lion and a coyote. But when Charlie, who has a gift for seeing the future, has a vision of Emme drowning in the icy Yellowstone River, the Spirit Warriors must train their animal bodies to kill an enemy they know is coming… but know nothing about. Suspenseful, romantic, and awash in Native American magic, Spirit Warriors captures the tragic enchantment of the American West—and confirms the power of friendship.

Love this blurb, and I love the idea of each friend being able tot urn into a specific animal. I really hope I like this, because I’m the first stop on the blog tour!

Purchased

Starglass (Starglass, #1)

Terra has never known anything but life aboard the Asherah, a city-within-a-spaceship that left Earth five hundred years ago in search of refuge. At sixteen, working a job that doesn’t interest her, and living with a grieving father who only notices her when he’s yelling, Terra is sure that there has to be more to life than what she’s got.

But when she inadvertently witnesses the captain’s guard murdering an innocent man, Terra is suddenly thrust into the dark world beneath her ship’s idyllic surface. As she’s drawn into a secret rebellion determined to restore power to the people, Terra discovers that her choices may determine life or death for the people she cares most about. With mere months to go before landing on the long-promised planet, Terra has to make the decision of a lifetime–one that will determine the fate of her people.

Phoebe North used to be quite the prolific reviewer on Goodreads (not sure if she still is) and ran the Intergalactic Academy, a sci-fi book review blog, so I am very interested in seeing her take on sci-fi. One of the things that most interests me is Phoebe’s own Jewish heritage and how it has influenced this book. Also, it was on sale for $1.99. Although I like the paperback cover better:

Starglass (Starglass, #1)

30 Day Animorphs Challenge: Day 16

button 30 day animorphs challenge

Welcome to the Moonlight Library’s 30 Day Animorphs Challenge!
Despite Project Animorphs in 2013, I clearly do not talk about Animorphs enough.
This particular challenge is taken from the Heck Yeah Tumblr Challenges archive on Tumblr.

Day 16: Three moments of nightmare fuel:

You know, the Animorphs series has a reputation for being really dark and gritty ‘for a children’s series’. I personally don’t believe that the later books are really aimed specifically at children: I believe that as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter audience grew and matured, so did the books, and the same thing happened with Animorphs. I was about nine or ten when I first started reading them, and about fifteen or so when the series ended. It was a mature series for younger readers and never spoke down or simplified things for its audience.

So the darkness could be pretty intense.

Here are my three moments of nightmare fuel:

Animorphs 33 The Illusion.jpg The first and most horrific will always be in Book #33 The Illusion, when Tobias is getting tortured. Not the torture itself, though that is pretty awful, but what happens when the Animorphs bust in and rescue him. It’s a bloodbath. Marco in gorilla morph leaps on top of the (glass? Plastic?) cage holding Tobias and tries to unscrew the screws to free him whilst being stabbed repeatedly by a Hork-Bajir Controller on his back. Drops of Marco’s blood splatter onto the cage, and then a steady stream. Marco’s in agony, but he’s determined to rescue Tobias, even going to far as to nearly die himself. I don’t even like Marco all that much, but that one scene has always stayed with me, even as a child, and re-reading it as an adult didn’t help. Marco was so heroic, and Tobias so helpless, and no one could help Marco and he was bleeding to death for some guy he doesn’t particularly like and often clashes with but who is part of the team.

Animorphs bk10.jpgThe second moment of nightmare fuel again stars Marco. For a character I don’t particularly like he sure has a lot of the more memorable and emotional scenes I seem to remember. In this instance the action happens off-page, but it concerns Book #10 The Android, after the Animorphs have broken into the Yeerk stronghold to steal the Pemalite crystal. The Animorphs are left with no choice but to bust out in their biggest, meanest morphs, but they are trapped by ruthless Yeerk guards. A bloody battle ensues, and Marco is tasked with protecting the crystal, and in his point of view we see Erek standing by the window, waiting for the crystal that will let him rewrite his programming and save the Animorphs. Once again, Marco sacrifices his own safety to get the crystal to Erek so Erek can save their lives. Marco actually dies, but Erek restarts his heart after annihilating the enemies, utterly decimating them. My nightmare fuel is made worse because its left up to my very vivid imagination to think about what happened when Marco was ‘dead’ and the action happened off-page.

The Andalite Chronicles front cover.png My third moment of nightmare fuel is in The Andalite Chronicles. At one point, Loren, Elfangor and Visser Three in his stolen Alloran body find the Time Matrix, and as they are being pulled into a black hole, the only way to escape is to use the machine. Because all three want to go to their separate homes, the Time Matrix is forced to create a weird combination universe that satisfies all three criteria. The universe is not complete, though. Loren’s mother knows about Andalites, which is impossible. Loren and Elfangor go to a McDonalds so Loren can have something to eat, and the serving guy simply has no face, because although Loren knows him and her friends back home told her he’s crushing on her, all she ever noticed was his acne. Loren’s McDonalds and the weird fake-universe the Time Matrix created is my third moment of nightmare fuel.

Waiting on Deception’s Princess (Deception’s Princess #1) by Esther M. Friesner (83)

button Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine.
It’s all about spotlighting upcoming releases we’re eagerly anticipating.
Share your books and remember to visit Breaking The Spine for more great books!

This week I’m eagerly waiting on:

Deception's Princess (Deception's Princess, #1)

Deception’s Princess (Deception’s Princess #1) by Esther M. Friesner

Expected publication:  22nd April 2014

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

From Goodreads:

Some lies lead to true adventure…

Maeve, princess of Connacht, was born with her fists clenched. And it’s her spirit and courage that make Maeve her father’s favorite daughter. But once he becomes the High King, powerful men begin to circle—it’s easy to love the girl who brings her husband a kingdom.

Yet Maeve is more than a prize to be won, and she’s determined to win the right to decide her own fate. In the court’s deadly game of intrigue, she uses her wits to keep her father’s friends and enemies close—but not too close. When she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the son of a visiting druid, Maeve faces a brutal decision between her loyalty to her family and to her own heart.

ARC Book Review: Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Adaptation (Adaptation, #1)

Title: Adaptation (Adaptation #1)
Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher:
Hodder Children’s Books
Release Date:  3rd April 2014 (original: 18th September 2012)
Genre: Young Adult, paranormal, romance
Format: ebook
Page Count: 432 (paperback)
Source: Netgalley
Rating:

4 of 5 hearts

Birds are attacking planes and dropping dead from the sky. Reese and David are trapped in an airport when the planes are grounded, and make a mad dash to drive home. On the way, a bird attacks their car, and they crash. Waking up a month later, Reese finds that she and David have weird new abilities and are being stalked by the government, and also by someone who is not the government…

Um… not sure if my above summary really describes this book that well. Sure, all the above happens, but it’s a lovely slow burn. The car doesn’t even crash until about Chapter Five or so. The book is a mish-mash of sci-fi, thriller, suspense, and contemporary romance.

I really loved the way Lo wrote all the relationships to Reese. Reese and her mother have an amazingly strong, awesome relationship, and she’s not absent like other YA parents. Reese’s relationships with her love interests (love triangle alert!) are also achingly realistic, from the embarrassment of a first crush to the swooning of a first kiss and ‘coming out’ to your mother.

Lo’s writing has the perfect balance of description, depth and action to move this book forward and she’s not afraid to skimp on the non-action details. That’s not to say that this book is primarily a romance, because it’s not. The romance definitely takes a back seat, but of course there must be some time dedicated to it. But it’s not like the first half is relationship and the second half is action, it’s all weaved through and to be honest, I thought the blossoming lesbian relationship was really sweet. Lo wrote in third person limited which made the inclusion of news items Reese was reading a clever way to insert the the extra information needed instead of switching to omniscience.

I’m not sure I can really talk about what happens in the second half of the novel without spoiling, so suffice to say that I was pretty much horrified when Reese’s liberty was denied over and over, and there was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it, which was the most terrifying aspect of the novel: sanctioned kidnapping and mandatory testing. I’m still struggling to understand why anyone would do such a thing to two minors without their (or their guardian’s) prior consent, and I also have an enormous pet peeve about the representation about a particular group of characters, and even in a sci-fi novel where I can accept birds attacking airplanes and psychic abilities, my suspension of disbelief will only go so far.

But you know what? Lo’s an amazing writer who doesn’t shy away from not whitewashing or, I dunno, ‘sexuality-washing’ her cast. Her cast of characters are as diverse as real people, with all different sexualities and all different colours, which is a lovely thing to see – and even a female President of the United States. Lo’s more progressive than most other writers out there. This book is clearly designed to set up something epic in the second book, but until I whittle down my massive to-reads pile I won’t be getting to it.

Thanks to Hodder Children’s Books and Netgalley for providing this advanced reader copy for an honest review.

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Stacking The Shelves (79)

button Stacking the Shelves

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.
It’s all about sharing the books we’ve picked up for the week, whether they are bought, borrowed, gifted, galleys, physical or virtual.
Share your shelves and remember to visit Tynga’s Reviews where it all started to find more great books!

Won:

Black Beast (Shadow Thane, #1)

She walks the line between the hunter and the hunted.
Vampires want her blood.
Witches consider her less-than-human.
Slayers simply want her dead.
As if being in high school wasn’t hard enough, Catherine Pierce has to deal with a whole other set of problems that arise from being a shifter that hasn’t settled. Because after puberty, shifters are supposed to stop changing–and Catherine, well, hasn’t.
Even among her own kind, Catherine is regarded as a freak.
To make matters worse, she’d caught the attention of the witches’ Council because they think she’s been dabbling in dark magic because of a stupid old book that popped up at her work. And she’s been having nightmares about a terrifying man who calls himself the Shadow Thane and plans to end the world in a burst of darkness and dragon fire.
Just in case that wasn’t enough, a branch of Slayers are infiltrating Catherine’s town, under the guise of a community youth group called Sterling Rep.
Times are changing and that means, for Catherine, it’s time to Change.

Nenia Campbell is a friend of mine, but she hasn’t written any books I found appealing until this one. Luckily I won a copy in a Booklike giveaway. Thanks, Nenia!

30 Day Animorphs Challenge: Day 15

button 30 day animorphs challenge

Welcome to the Moonlight Library’s 30 Day Animorphs Challenge!
Despite Project Animorphs in 2013, I clearly do not talk about Animorphs enough.
This particular challenge is taken from the Heck Yeah Tumblr Challenges archive on Tumblr.

Day 15: Three moments that broke your heart:

Animorphs was a pretty emotional ride when I re-read them as an adult last year in Project Animorphs. I found myself surprised by how emotional I was reading Marco’s journey, especially considering he’s my least favourite Animorph. If you’d asked me this question before I re-read the books and was basing this on how I responded as a child, my first answer would be different.

Animorphs 30 The Reunion.jpgThe first moment that broke my heart was in Book #30 The Reunion, where Marco sets a trap for his mother Visser One and is then force to carry it out all the way when Jake and Cassie are unexpectedly put out of action. Marco is so brave throughout the entire book and near the end he takes the plunge to ram his mother off the top of a mountain while he’s in goat morph, trying to murder her so she’s no longer a slave to the slug in her head. He’s so convinced he’s going to murder his own mother that he even reveals his true identity, and that’s when my heart broke. When Visser One and Eva both realised Marco was an Animorph.

Animorphs 34 The Prophecy.jpgThe second moment that broke my heart was in #34 The Prophecy, when Cassie is sharing her brain with Aldrea. I’ve always thought of the Hork-Bajir Chronicles as one of the best romances I’ve ever read, and I Aldrea and Dak are my non-core OTP. I love them so hard, and their tragedy breaks my heart. I was particularly heartbroken when Aldrea, after learning to trust Cassie a little, has a nightmare about Dak and her doomed son Seerow. She wakes up and Cassie can’t help but be curious, and she pulls away in her grief. Her husband and son are long dead, and so is she, she’s nothing but a memory, and essence, not a real, complete person. But she still has nightmares, and that broke my heart.

Animorphs bk54.jpg The third moment that really broke my heart was in the final book, #54 The Beginning, when Rachel dies. She asks the Ellimist if she mattered, and he says that she was brave, and good, and yes, she did matter. Rachel was my favourite character and a role model, so having her die really upset me but having the Ellimist confirm how important she was even when she wasn’t one of the four he hand-picked to be part of the team really broke my heart. She was brave. She was good. She mattered.

Other honourable mentions include every time Marco faced his mother, when the experimented on Hork-Bajir died in Cassie’s barn (#36), when Tobias was tortured (#33), when Cassie was forced to complete a mission by herself  and then perform brain surgery on Ax (#39), when Rachel was faced with the choice to murder David (#48), and when Jake sent Rachel after Tom (#53). I’m probably missing a few.