Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spell Bound

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?
This is such a good series. Rachel Hawkins created not only a world but a culture of magic that was believable, fun, and entrancing. One of my favorite parts about this series, too, is the humor that goes along with it. You can tell that Hawkins doesn't take things too seriously and likes to have fun when she writes which makes it all the more enjoyable. Sometimes humorous writing is almost too light and there is not any depth, but Hawkins plays this balancing act really well. 
This final installment in the Hex Hall series (I'm assuming it's the final installment, but don't quote me on that) is decent. When compared to the other two it isn't so great. As far as plot goes it feels rushed and surface-level where the other two were a little more complex and exciting. I hate to say it but Hawkins dropped the ball. Somewhat. What it lacks in plot development it makes up for in funny quips from the characters. Those are always entertaining and it seems that both Sophie and Archer are extra funny in this book. All these plot points that she spends a long time building up end up being no big deal. It just seems very blase. Hello, they go to the Underworld aka Hell. Yeah, Sophie gets nervous. Yeah, she gets claustrophobic. Yeah they see some scary scenes. And that is it. The scene in the cellar where they discover what Lara is hiding is very noncommittal also. The discoveries, twists, and plot points in the story seem so casual and easily overcome that it's hard to take them seriously. All the buildup doesn't add up to what you get.
Before I get haters who absolutely adored this book and want to send me death threats for even considering negative things about it, I would like to add that I did not re-read the other two before I read this one. Some of my time was spent trying to recall what had happened. My opinion may change once I've read all of them at once. This is one series that I would re-read and that says a lot for it because I never re-read. I actually re-read Hex Hall but didn't have time to re-read Demon Glass. 
With that little addendum, I do have to add that the final installment should be able to stand by itself. It seems to be the ongoing trend that, in these trilogies, the last one always seems rushed and not quite as impacting as the beginning. The Hunger Games is a fantastic trilogy but Katniss' character is significantly weaker, more whiny, and passive in the final book. Breaking Dawn in Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series is a sad ending to a creative and beautiful love story. I was hoping Hawkins would break the mold but it seems she succumbed to the pressure and didn't really give it her all. 
My final point is about love triangles. If you're going to have a love triangle, carry it through. The love triangle between Sophie and Cal, and Sophie and Archer is good. Hawkins spent, from what I remember, a good bit of time getting the reader to like Cal in the second book and there was definite chemistry between the characters. The answer just seemed too simple and I wasn't a fan of the ending to that whole scenario. It just seemed like a copout. Read it and you will see what I'm talking about. If you disagree with me feel free to comment. If you agree, you can comment too. 
All in all, it is still a good series. I would recommend it for anyone wanting a light read and likes a good bit of magic in their books with a sense of intrigue.     

Friday, March 16, 2012


Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil

I had bought this book on a whim. I'm fascinated by anything Irish, and it is definitely a weakness of mine if you couldn't tell. I loved the concept of this book. The idea is awesome. 
Kevin Hearne did not do well with this idea though. The writing is stifling and wordy. The dialogue doesn't flow naturally. Everyone talks like they're from the Iron Age. They are from the Iron Age, but I would think a smart Druid like Atticus O'Sullivan would have figured out the lingo. And if he could then I'm pretty sure the gods and goddesses he came across would too. It just felt immature and overwrought because of how much explaining he had to do. 
Atticus is supposed to be some hunk. I never really got that vibe. Hearne kept having to have Atticus tell me how much a sexy beast he was instead of showing me. And the only real way he showed me was by throwing Atticus into this random, casual sex relationship with Flidais, goddess of the hunt. I just think he could have had a lot more fun with this whole thing instead of feeling like he had to explain every little thing. 
The book is filled with Atticus meeting people. It gets annoying. One goddess leaves, another one comes in, she leaves and a witch comes. By the end I was exhausted because of the constant flow of the plot. There didn't seem to be any twists or excitement. Atticus was too good at what he did. He was too confident in his abilities too. A character that is much less learned or has some flaws is a lot more readable and accessible. 
His relationship with his dog, Oberon, is cool, but I could not stand Oberon. The damn mutt talked like a teenager. I'm sorry, but I don't think my dog wants to be Genghis Khan. There were a lot of things Oberon would say that were cheesy and they only made me think "Do dogs even know what that is?" I don't think dogs care enough to understand the details of our lives. I think they sense things differently and if they could talk it would be more sporadic and spontaneous, not full-on conversations that actually make sense. Oberon was my least favorite character and he was probably supposed to be the entertainment in the book. I am still unsure as to why he's there. 
The revelation about Granuaile comes too late in the story. Hey, I'm going to introduce this character near the end of the middle of the book then I'm going to have her plot suddenly become pertinent at the end even though it doesn't tie with anything else in the book. I wanted to scream. 
The only reason I didn't hate this book was because of the history of Ireland it provided. I could tell it was very well researched and I'm pretty sure I just don't fit the mold of who this book was written for: teenagers who love fantasy and like a good sword fight and no depth to their reading whatsoever. Atticus could be an interesting character. I might read the other two installments just to see if they get better. I did end up skimming at the end of this one which is never a good sign. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Four Years

Four years ago today my sister passed away. March 15, 2008 will forever be ingrained in my head as the worst day of my life. There is not a single day goes by that she does not pop up in my mind at least once. I see her in the face of her beautiful daughter and I am so grateful for the little piece of Brittany that was left behind. It's funny because I thought I was coping, and I thought I was doing better. I am. Doing better, that is. But it still hurts. And I can see the pain it has inflicted on my parents to lose a child. In the process of losing one child, however, they gained another with Gigi.

I look back on what has happened since then. Who I have become since that fateful day. I am a stronger person both physically and emotionally. I feel as though I have seen a glimmer of what hell is like, but I have been rising above it. I stand today as a testament that I have made it through. There will always be tough days. I miss my sister a lot. She was my ally in several ways I can't even begin to express. Funny that I did not realize that until she was gone.

A friend of mine told me today that she knew Brittany was proud of me. Not only did my friend have a feeling about it, but she felt as though someone had whispered it to her. My friend knew that my sister was proud of me and my choices and she loves me. That, above all today, has been the greatest gift ever. I know Brittany is watching over us and I consider her my guardian angel. I can feel her presence sometimes when I'm with Gigi or when I'm distraught or lonely. I know she's there reaching out for me to lift me up.

I know for a fact that Brittany is especially proud of my decision to join the Navy. She always admired the people in the armed forces, and it was she who really understood the power and the beauty of serving your country. I have only just begun to see it. So it is for her that I will go to basic in August. It is for her that I will serve my country. It is for her that I will become a United States Sailor with honor, courage, and commitment.

I love you, Brittany.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Woot! Woot!
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. 
When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

What I've been finding in the YA fiction world is a lot of dystopian premises. And the thing about it is it seems the plots just get weirder and weirder. This one took me awhile before I finally picked it up mostly because I was uncertain about the plot. Was it enticing because of its weirdness? Yes. That's why I bought the book. But I wasn't sure. Mostly because the main plot of the whole thing included a polygamist marriage. Seems like people are obsessed with polygamists these days and I've not been able to hop on that bandwagon.

DeStefano's writing rings clear as a bell. It is often poetic and quite often very symbolic and rigorous. I grew attached to the characters immediately. Rhine is a reliable heroine who is smart and quick on her feet. She doesn't do anything that makes me want to reach through the pages and strangle her. One thing I was unsure of was the attraction between her and Gabriel, but there was enough chemistry there that I accepted it for what it was.

The premise is odd. Let's go back to that. The virus isn't explained, and kind of glossed over, but I'm actually glad she didn't get into too much detail. Her whole dystopian world is built around the idea that men only live until they are 25 and women only until they're 20. This makes 13 year old girls into women in their prime. I really think DeStefano captured the significance and the impact that this whole virus would have on society. It's quite a mental shift as you read her book, but I really liked it.

And the whole sister wives and polygamist thing. While it was off-setting at first, I found that I really liked it. It would make sense in the setting and in the world that DeStefano has created that men would marry multiple wives in order to continue their progeny. I think, however, what really did it for me was the relationship between the three girls. Rhine seems to be the glue that holds them all together. I never really cared for Cecily. Jenna is a remarkable character who sits in the background but is the backbone of the story. I loved the dynamic between them and also their relationship with Linden. It became fascinating to me to see how it all unfolded. It is summed up near the end in the best way: "Jenna was the disposable one. Cecily was the baby factory. And I was to be the apple of his eye."

I just read another review on this book and, while this review is pretty surface level, the reviewer did mention something I found interesting. Linden is an interesting character. At first he seems to be the bad guy although I never really sensed the hostility or antagonism from him that I got from Vaughn. Sure, he's rich and snobbish. He's also a fragile character and I'm not sure why he's so...soft, but I do like the dynamic between him and Rhine. There is chemistry between them and she fights it because he is the one she's supposed to hate. Really it makes for a great love story. So it makes me wonder if Rhine only hates him for what he represents (slavery) and loves Gabriel for what he represents (freedom) or if she does, in fact, love both of them in her own way.

This book has it all: romance, intrigue, action, people-killing virus, under-handed rich people, fantastic illusions, and beautiful writing. The subject matter is a little more mature so I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers who aren't able to understand/comprehend/deal with these things in a more serious fashion.