Monday, November 18, 2013

ARC Book Review: Afterglow by Karsten Knight

Title: Afterglow
Author: Karsten Knight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: Nov 12, 2013
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
I did a little searching and found out that Laurent Linn is the cover artist for all three books.  Man, does he ever do good work.  All three of these covers are stunning and, as I said before, I loved that extra step of making the covers velvety soft.  They make me want to cuddle them. 


Afterglow is an enjoyable read with enough action to keep most readers interested.  Unfortunately, it does suffer from some of the same issues that the previous books did.  Ash has grown into her powers and is, at the same time, more and less reluctant to use them to hurt other gods.  Eve is back, and electric as ever (heh - see what I did there?).  I almost wish the series were written from dual (or tri) points of view.  I would have loved seeing different scenes from inside the heads of each of the three sisters.  I am a fan of the flashbacks though, they showed an interesting view of the Goddess Pele and gave some insight into the way in which the past has been influencing the present. 

As I mentioned in a previous review,  I really liked how we got to see a number of gods from different cultures but I wish that there was more time spent developing those characters rather than just dropping them in to hit some sort of multi-cultural quota.  I am a little bitter about the arrival (and quick dismissal) or one my favorite characters from the first book.  I really wanted these characters to be more than just plot movers.  Every time we met an awesome and amazing god - They Die!

As with the last book, this one has definite peaks and valleys.  There are lots of exciting moments and action scenes.  There are, however, very few wins in the good guy category.  It got a little old to see Ash and crew constantly having their asses handed to them or, when expecting a win, having it snatched out of their hands at the last moment.  This does have the positive side effect of making me really hate Colt.  By the end, I was itching for his death just as much as Ash was. 

And then there was the ending.  I was left a little unsatisfied.  There were some awesome characters that were lost and then we had this strange afterword that was more than a little unbelievable*

Overall, the series was an enjoyable read, and I liked seeing all the different incarnations of the gods.  And the plot was fast paced enough to keep most readers interested.  Definitely buying this one to add to my classroom collection.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Possible sex - very vague
Violence: Death by supernatural means, hand to hand combat
Inappropriate Language: Fuck, Bastard, Asshole, Whore
Substance Use/Abuse: None

* Seriously?  You expect me to believe that after 80 years, the new incarnation just happened to pick out Ashline's book from the millions that would have been printed in all that time?  Assuming that the book was actually still in print?!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: Embers & Echoes by Karsten Knight

Title: Embers & Echoes
Author: Karsten Knight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
Oooooh pretty.  Love these covers.  Not only do they have stunning images and fonts that don't overpower - but they feel super soft and velvety. 


The first time around, I really enjoyed Wildefire.  But clearly not enough, because when Embers & Echoes was published I bought it - but it sat on my shelf until just now.  I just never felt the desire to read it.  Now, with the impending release of the final book in the trilogy, it was time to crack the spine (but just figuratively - I hate cracked spines.) 

Embers & Echoes opens exactly where Wildefire left off, with the car wreak on the highway and Colt emerging unscathed.  I understood Ash's anger at this point, but really?  You didn't have the least little inkling that in this newly discovered world of gods, your boy toy might just be special as well?  I was very happy to see how she left him and that, despite her being a bit of a boring character, at least she wasn't a pushover.

I really liked that the characters came from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities.  It is something you don't see all that often in YA.  However, most of these characters are barely explored and it almost feels like Knight is trying to tick as many boxes as possible, without actually having the page time to flesh them out.  Having her meet up with a new group of gods in this book is interesting and fun, but I do wish there was some more continuity with the characters we had already grown to know.  I will only be happy with this choice if, in the third book, they are all brought together again.  I miss Raja!!!

The whole Four Seasons things was a bit 90s Saturday morning cartoonish.  I simply couldn't take them seriously as a threat because I kept giggling at their name. 

The plot of Embers & Echoes had some real peaks and valleys.  When it was exciting - it was super exciting, but when it was boring oh god was it ever boring.  We see lots of gods get killed (usually ones that we barely know and don't have a great connection to) and some romantic elements that are nothing special.  There isn't a great deal of forward movement between the first book and the third.  I would have liked some character development or some wins on the side of the good guys but, instead, we seem to get a supernatural blood bath without anything of consequence being accomplished. 

I'm still in for the third book.  I am hoping it ties things together and that we bring back some old characters for more than just a page or two.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Death by supernatural means, gunplay, hand to hand combat, kidnapping
Inappropriate Language: Prick, Bitch, Bastard, Shit
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Under the Covers Classics

There are times when I jump into reading in order to find an interesting new story with characters that are unique and transport me to a place that I have never been. 

And then there are the times with I look to my reading as a point of comfort.  It is at those times that I will seek out the books of my childhood (or at least previous years) in an attempt, occasionally, to bring back those feelings of excitement at finding a new book, author or series.  Of nights spend pretending to be asleep while actually hiding under the covers, reading by flashlight.  Of weekdays spent hiding books in my desk in Math class and weekends spent reading for hours on end, with no responsibilities to tear me away from my fictional worlds. 

I miss those days a lot while I am running around after a child (and a husband) and trying to manage the ever growing pile of demands at work.  And I hope that I will be able to remember those days when my children are hiding beneath the blankets and that I will refrain from yelling at them to "Just Go To SLEEP!"

In my attempt to regain those days this past month I started a re-read of the Circle of Three series.  For anyone who is unfamiliar, it is a series that chronicles three teenage girls as they discover the world of witchcraft and begin a year and a day of study.  When I first read the series, I devoured them one after the other.  Now, I could barely get through the first three.  Perhaps, my tastes have become much more demanding as I have gotten older and started reading more prolifically, but the stories just didn't hold up the way they used to and the characters didn't seem as interesting this time around.  Part of me wishes that I could go back, and experience the "first time" all over again.  And it got me thinking about all the other books/series that I wish I could re-experience for the first time:

Harry Potter:  I imagine this would be on a lot of people's lists.  The excitement of readers was palpable once word of this series began to spread.  I loved working at Chapters while the series was still being released because so many people were excited and it made reading something that we could talk about again.  Suddenly, it was ok to dress up and stand in line for hours at a book release and when the movies were announced it added an extra sense of mayhem. 

The Witches:  I loved this book as a kid.  I must have read it at least 30 times as well as watching the movie (if you have never seen it, you must - Angelica Houston is a goddess).  My school library was pretty damn limited, and the nearest bookstore was a 4 hour drive so Roald Dahl became my go-to when the constraints of small town living had me feeling more than a little lonely. 

The Chronicles of Narnia:  I loved this series so much that the hardcover box set was the last thing I bought with my employee discount before my time at Chapters ended.  I just couldn't leave without knowing that I had my own copy of this series if I ever needed walk through the wardrobe once more.  Again, this was in my itty bitty school library and I must have filled an entire card with the number of times that I checked it out. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Review Wildefire by Karsten Knight

Title: Wildefire
Author: Karsten Knight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
Oh so pretty.  I absolutely love this image.  The colors are dark, but stunning and the unassuming title font doesn't take away from the beauty of the smoke curls.  Even better, the physical book feels almost velvety to the touch.  I have no idea what treatment they used on the book jacket, but I love it. 


This is a re-read for me and I seem to remember enjoying it a whole lot more the first time around.  Perhaps my tastes have changed or, perhaps, most of the allure of the book comes from not knowing what is going to happen next.

When this book opens, we meet Ash, who seems, at first glace, to be a badass.  We are quickly shocked by her sister, Eve, who swoops in a creates a great deal of havoc and seems to thrive on violence.  It bothered me that, despite the fact that Eve becomes a very important character, we never really get to know Eve's backstory or why she is so angry with the world.  In the wake of Eve's destructive powers, Ash escapes to a private school and we jump forward several months to see her partaking in a night of debauchery.  When a mysterious call for help is only heard by a select group, she discovers that she may not be quite as ordinary as she thought.

I really enjoyed watching the kids as they stepped into their powers and using my (somewhat limited) knowledge of mythology to try and guess which teen would be which god.  I did think that the kids seemed to accept this whole god thing rather quickly and they went from using their powers during one catastrophic event to using them skillfully and at will.  I would have enjoyed seeing some of this progression as they practiced these newfound skills.  They also seem to jump straight from complete and total strangers to a tight knit group of friends a bit too quickly to seem realistic.  Even my beloved Raja, queen of the withering looks, morphed into a dress-lending, advice-giving uber bestie.

Some of the kids are awesome and I had entertained the thought that perhaps the next book would follow a different teen (come on Raja!) but, alas, we are to leave those kids behind and continue to listen to Ash whine.  She is not a particularly interesting character and I quickly bored of her woe is me attitude and her lackluster flirting.  The relationship between her and Colt is not exactly insta-love but it does progress rather quickly and I could not quite get over the fact that he is an adult man and she is a 16??? year old girl.  That is far too creepy for me. 

I am definitely on board for the next book, Embers and Echoes because I have a copy of the third book waiting for review. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender:  Both
Sex: Sexual Activity (no intercourse) and vulgar language
Violence: Violent Death Scenes, Gunplay, Knifeplay
Inappropriate Language: Piss, Bitch, Whore, Pussy, Fuck, Dick, Ass, Bastard, Shit,
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First Lines: October 2013

The first words you read can often set the tone for the entire story.  I thought it would be fun to keep track of the first lines of the books I read each month and share them with you.  Below are the first lines for all the books I read in October.

 Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
"I have heard it said, by those that cannot possibly know, that in the final moments of a man's existence he sees his whole life pass before his eyes."

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
"The hours were bad."

Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
"'Miss Temminnick, Miss Plumleigh-Teignmott, with me, please, ladies.'"

Shine by Lauren Myracle
"Patrick's house was a ghost."

"Dear Mr. S. Harris, Ignore the blob of red in the top left corner."

"When I was ten years old, I wrote a letter to my future self and buried it in my backyard."

"Ashline Wilde was a human mood ring."

My favorite this month was probably from Hyperbole and a Half, though Ketchup clouds is a close second.  I love the uniqueness of both of these lines and how they immediately draw you into the scene.

My least favorite line was probably Curtsies & Conspiracies because a) it was boring and b) it reminded me of those sheer ridiculousness of the names in this series.