Stone Cold Touch : A Book Review

Book: Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements #2)

Author: Jennifer L Armentrout

Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements, #2)

Blurb:

Every touch has its price

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.

But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay…

My thoughts:

Sometimes I’m colossally stupid. I read the Lux series and I think I almost retched but then against my better judgement, I went ahead and read Half-Blood, which was even worse (and I didn’t think that was even possible.) But sometimes (just sometimes) my monumental stupidity pays off and this is one of those times. Yes, I went out and read another Jennifer L Armentrout book (which just shows how hopelessly naive and optimistic I can be when it comes to books); I picked up White Hot Kiss which was the first book in the Dark Elements trilogy (yes I’m aware of how cliche and messed up the names are) and kind of fell in love (even though it was a guilty pleasure, because…yes, it’s kind of messed up)

Stone Cold Touch is the second book in the Dark Elements trilogy. It came out recently- the 21st of this month, if I’m correct. I think I actually squealed out loud when I saw the book.

I think the plot kind of disappointed me. This book suffers from all middle-book syndrome. It’s good enough to make you want to read the next book, but it’s little more than a filler. The atmosphere of this book, with it’s fresh ‘mystery’ isn’t nearly as creepy as it is before. In fact, Layla seems almost detached to what’s going on, more fixed on the turmoil of her unsteady powers and turbulent love life.

Layla doesn’t mature much in this book (although she does muster up the guts to tell Roth off when he treats her badly) but there is a whole lot of character development in her friends and the background demons (Like Caymen) and Wardens (Dez and Danika) . But I think I was most blown away by Zayne.

Ordinarily, I’m not a huge fan of love triangles. I’ve been known to refer to them as ‘trashy’. That’s probably why I stay away from teams and everything that goes with an ordinary love triangle. But this is no ordinary love triangle; Zayne is the ultimate forbidden love (seriously, kissing Layla could perilize his soul). Layla grew up with him and he always played an elder brother role to her…until suddenly he doesn’t see her as his younger sister any more. He’s a Warden (as opposed to a demon) so that means he’s a bit of a rule-follower. But to keep Layla safe, he’s willing to hide a couple of facts here and there (like the fact that her snake tattoo ate up a warden who attacked her). He’s less crude than Roth, but no less mischievous and playful  and the fact that he’s always there for her, ready to give her support (unlike the last book) makes me firmly Team Zayne. However, like every other time I finally decide to choose a ‘team’, I know I’m on the losing team.  I can see which way the wind is blowing.  The age difference which kind of freaked me out in the previous book is still as present as it was in the first book and Layla clearly prefers Roth (even though he treats her much worse). Besides, Zayne is so the kind of guy who will let himself get all trampled over for the sake of his best-friend that he loves.

This series is good, but it still has the typical Armentrout stuff- you know, the kind that almost made me throw up when I read Obsidian and Half-blood. For one thing, the heroine is the star of the show; everything in the book centres on her even though her heritage is the only thing special about her.
Another thing that bugs me is even though Armentrout’s books are supposed to be action-centric, they involve less fighting and more flirting. To further this, despite all the heroines wondrous skills and training (Head. Gutter. Out now!), she still is a damsel in distress, constantly waiting for the killing blow to be dealt by her boyfriend.

The ending absolutely killed me. I did not see that coming. I so didn’t see that at all. The cliff-hanger of this book is just as spectacular and memorable as it was in her previous book (I think it cracked my top 5 list). I’m dying for the next book Every Last Breath, which comes out in late July next year.  Guilty pleasure. Don’t judge.

My Ratings:

Cover: 4/5

Plot: 2/5

Characters: 2/5

Romance: 4/5

Plotholes: 2/5

Ending: 5/5

Overall Rating: 2.5/ 5

Will I read the next book: Yes

Book like this: The Lovely and the Lost by Paige Weatherly (more gargoyles, same part demon MC, less hot love interest, less cliches- you decide)

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Understanding Urban Fantasy

In the last two or three months, if you would have happened to glance down at my ‘I’ve been busy reading’ goodreads sticker, you would have noticed urban fantasy featuring very heavily on the list. You know, the Women of the Underowrld series by Kelley Armstrong, Karen Chance’s books set in the Cassandra Palmer series and Unearthly by Christina Hand.

Until recently, I had no idea what urban fantasy was (poor, poor, deprived me). I put it in the same box as I put fantasy, in- the I’m-sure-it’s-great-but-elves-with-names-that-are-too-long-to-pronounce-are-not for-me.  Well, lucky me- urban fantasy very rarely has to do with unpronounceable names and characters with pointy ears. Usually, urban fantasy books deal with a host of magical species; everything from albino vampires and banshees to werewolves, witches and zombies. In fact, the only criterion for a book to be placed under the Urban Fantasy genre is that it must take place in a city.

Wikipedia says, Urban fantasy describes a work that is set primarily in the real world and contains aspects of fantasy. These matters may involve the arrivals of alien races, the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence between humans and paranormal beings, conflicts between humans and malicious paranormals, and subsequent changes to city management.

The city doesn’t even have to be a realistic, modern day city. The city could be a futuristic Atlanta (such as the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews)  with supernatural elements working quietly in the background or it could be Victorian London (like Gale Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series) where the fae have ‘come out of the closet’. At the same time, the city could be completely imaginary like Perdido Beach in Michael Grant’s Gone series. But in most cases, the city plays a major role- almost developing a personality and character of it’s own.

Urban Fantasy is totally thrilling because it gives us familiarity and then throws a random element of unpredictability into it. Imagine making your routine, everyday commute from home to work/school. Just think about it- same driver, same bus, ordinary traffic signals, stop signs, apartment complexes and trees that pass you by but if you look closely at the kid tapping next to you on a smartphone, you’ll suddenly notice two small horns pushing out from under his curly hair and ratsa cap.  That’s exactly what the Urban Fantasy genre is supposed to be like; it’s magic and weird stuff creeping in at the edges of a world in which magic is not the norm.The majority of the people who live there will have normal lives, oblivious to the magical all around them, hidden in plain sight.

Sounds creepy,huh? It can get a little bit creepy. Yes, I’ve had paranoia attacks because of reading Urban Fantasy. I see an abnormally pale person with unusual eyes and just for a second I think ‘vampire’ but that’s part of the fun. Urban fantasy is like the exact opposite of High Fantasy; instead of taking you away from the normal world to the paranormal world, it brings the preternatural to your normal world .

Urban Fantasy is only a sub-genre. As a result, most books in this genre blur lines with other genres like paranormal romance. It can get a bit trick to differentiate between the two, but like author Jeannie Holmes says:

The two [Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance] share 90% of their genre DNA. However, the main differences are this: Urban fantasy focuses on an issue outside of a romantic relationship between two characters. Paranormal romance focuses on a romantic relationship between two characters and how outside forces affect that relationship. The best litmus test to determine if a story is urban fantasy or paranormal romance is to ask the following question: ‘If the romance between Character A and Character B were removed, would the plot still stand as a viable storyline?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ chances are good it’s urban fantasy. If the answer is ‘no,’ it’s most likely paranormal romance.

So go give this genre a chance. Pick out an urban fantasy book. If genres were food, than Urban Fantasy would be like an avocado- tasty, slightly fattening and surprisingly nutritious. Here are some YA Urban Fantasy books I’ve reviewed:

  1. Young Elites by Marie Lu
  2. Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Exquisite Captive: A Book Review

Book: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1)

Author: Heather Demetrios

Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1)

Blurb:

Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

My thoughts:

‘Oh gag me!’ I think I actually said that out loud when I first saw the title of this book. Um…can I just say the title evokes a very different kind of book (I’m thinking explicit BDSM). The cover was nice enough but it wasn’t enough to help me change my mind (you know what they say about first impressions- they’re the most important).For that matter, neither was the blurb. So, I bet you’re wondering ‘Why exactly did she read this then?’. That’s a good question. A very good question. I’d tell you the answer but I’m not sure of it myself.

But that’s kind of irrelevant right now since I’m so glad I read the book. The world-building was a little hard to process (for the life of me, i can’t remember all five of the jinn races) but at the end of the day it worked pretty well, providing a beautiful, dramatic backdrop to the plot of the story.  But other than the unfamiliar terms, it was amazing. With short, selective flashbacks and believable dialogue she creates Arjinna, a fictional realm which feels so realistic.Through these flashbacks, we learn about a complex military coup (and Nalia’s pivotal role in it), the realm’s social injustice and brazen attitude to violence.

I’ll tell you one more thing that’s essential to the plot- the characters. This book is very character driven.  Can you imagine anything more compelling than forced slavery, Stockholm syndrome, exotic djinn, a war torn land and a shit-load of guilt? I can’t (but that’s probably explains why I’m a terrible author).I just described our main character for you. She’s trapped in a position of eternal servitude, but somehow she never comes across as defeated. She takes part in small, little rebellions against her ‘master’, Malek like wearing different clothes from the ones he gifted her or purposely misinterpreting wishes. She’s passively aggressive- I love passive-aggressive characters espescially ’cause they usually come with a huge dose of wonderful, wonderful sarcasm.

Sometimes I felt that the light sarcasm was the only thing in this book which kept it from crossing the line over to the ‘adults’ section. With Nalia’s guilt, her unwilling seduction of Malek and the question of slavery rearing it’s head at every turn, this book had a lot of dark themes going on.  The humor that counter-balnced all of this was veryw ell placed and not over-done.

That brings us to the romance of the story; it’s terrible. There’s a love triangle but that’s not completely unforigvable. What is unforgivable is how abusive both the male characters are. Unfortunately, this is something we see in a lot of young adult fiction. I’ve written about it here.
Malek, her ‘Master’ is physically abusive. He traps her in silver bottles (silver is poisonous to jinn), throws her into walls and tells her stuff like “We belong together.” CREEPY. And then he tries buying her stuff in ‘forgiveness’. I was disgusted when Nalia actually felt something ‘real’ for him. However, by the end of the story it’s made clear that it was just a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome and when Nalia completely denounced him and his love for her, I burst into spontaneous applause.
Raif is really no better. He doesn’t go as far as hurting Nalia physically but he keeps her at arms length, constantly referring to her as a ‘Goat’s whore’ and reminding her of the terrible tragedies suffered by the majority of the djinn at her hands and the hands of her people. He backs her into corners, bargaining to give  her freedom if she betrays an oath that she took ages and ages ago. I hate to say it- no actually I don’t- but that’s not the most healthy relationship either.

The ending is a pretty good segue for the next book, Blood Passage,which should come out in 2015. There were no cliff-hangers so I wasn’t left with a burning desire to read the next book right away but I think this is one of the books I’ll look forward to next year.

My Ratings:

Cover: 2/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Romance:1/5
Plotholes: 2/5
Ending:3/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
Books like this: Shatter Me (for the romance) by Tahereh Mafi,  Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Rites of Passage: A Book Review

Book: Rites of Passage 
Author: Joy N Hensley

Rites of Passage

Blurb: 

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences

My thoughts:

When the cover came out, I was like ‘meh’ and then promptly  forgot it for a couple of months until the blurb came out… the blurb was a mega game-changer; it marketed the book as a chick-lit military fic. I’ve never made a secret of the how much I love chick-lit  (it’s my guilty pleasure) or how much I enjoy reading about the army. Just reading the blurb was enough to push me to read it.

I’m a sucker for girls who have to prove to the world just how worthy they are. Sam is one of them – one of the first females to be allowed into a military school!  Right from the beginning, Sam realises that she doesn’t have to be just as good as the boys-she has to be better. And she is-she’s better at doing pushups, at maintaining her uniform and generally at being a recruit.  However, sexism plays a huge part in the army and there are a lot of guys who think she doesn’t deserve to be there no matter how good she is. As a fellow female,I was rooting for Sam throughout the book. She is humiliated in millions of ways, forced to do strenuous physical training (which reminds me just how out of shape I am) and is ostracised by her peers and leaders (even her own brother) at every opportunity. At times, this book made me sick with anger and disgust. As a fellow female,I was rooting for Sam throughout the book; this book made me desperate for Sam to prove everyone wrong and make it through.

Sam rose to every occasion. She was fierce, determined…and a total badass. At the same time, she wasn’t perfect. At several points throughout the book, she is almost ready to give up in despair and anger,her respect problems (I sometimes felt that she gave authority figures waaay too much respect) and serious lack of tact are enough to keep her out of the Mary-Sue box.

While there are a whole lot of jerks at school, Joy makes sure to develop back-stories and characters for all the cadets Sam comes in contact with. There’s a major emphasis on the girls there but some of the boys are well-rounded too.

The romance doesn’t play a major role in the book. There are two romances taking place (not simultaneously though, thank the gods!) but they remain light and seem more like a good friendship than epic declarations of love.

A lot of people were unsatisfied with the ending but I’m going to go ahead and be a little unpopular. I think the ending was fine for this book. After all, there were no loose ends left to wrap up and the book had succeeded in presenting the problem of sexism and how Sam fought against it; there was a introduction, character development, rise of action, climax, fall of action and a cute enough resolution. What more do you want? That being said, I wouldn’t say no to a sequel.<winks>

What I like most about the book is the message that it promotes. The strongest theme of the book is feminism and it’s splashed everywhere in this book in black, white and pink but the book takes a very serious stance against homophobia and bullying,  showing how -even now- the military is pretty close-minded. The book is inspiring; motivating and encouraging us (sorry to be cliche) to follow our dreams and never give up. Like any good YA book it sweetly cover what family is really about and the truth behind deep friendships.

My Ratings:

Cover: 1/5

Plot: 4/5

Characters: 4/5

Romance: 3/5

Ending: 3/5 

 Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Books like this:  If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Psychology and Personality Tests

If you want to get technical, characters are just layers upon layers of intense psychology. As a writer, you have to consider what kind of character would stand up and fight and which one would flee? You have to figure out what each character’s weakness is and what motivates them. More importantly, you have to come up with a good backstory that would explain why and how each character has all these personality traits. That’s why any good author has a deep understanding of psychology. I think it’s fairly obvious that I consider psychology important (I’ve seriously considering majoring in it; if I don’t, I definitely will minor in it). But before you can evaluate anyone else’s personality, you have to be familiar with your own. I hate to sound like a bad cliche, but you’ve got to be self aware. The easiest (and most fun) way to get self-awareness? I’d say it’s the personality quiz. Briggs Myer’s 16 Personality Type Quiz is the ultimate personality quiz. It’s a type indicator which tells you  you about your attitude (whether you’re introverted or extroverted), whether you’re more objective or intutive, whether you rely more on thinking or feeling and whether you make judgements or rely on your perception. This test is eerily accurate. I took the Type Indicator and found out that I have and INTP personality…the architect personality. Basically, I am introverted intutive and I rely more on thinking and perception. That actually makes a lot of sense. I wish I could ignore some parts of my test, but unfortunately I can’t. On the other hand, I’m absurdly pleased with some of my results. I think I’ve gotten a deeper sense of who I am and my strengths and weaknesses. So in case you want to find out what kind of personality you have, you can take it for free here- www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test. If you want a second opinion, you can try www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp. You could also use one of the types as a model for one of the characters.

Happy personality testing. Disclaimer: As always the pictures aren’t mine

Top 5 Realistic Fiction YA Authors

I’ve read a lot of young adult books. Inevitably, I guess that means I’ve read a lot of realistic young adult fiction. This genre holds a special place in my heart because the characters in the (good) books of this genre are so realistic. It’ very easy (sometimes it seems too easy) to put yourself in their shoes, to understand their ambitions and be totally crippled by their losses. These term ‘The Feels’ was coined for these kind of books.

I love these books but a huge part (if not all) of the enjoyability is attributed to the authors who write such amazing books. Here’s my list of the top 5 realistic fiction authors. They write characters which make you fall in love their dialogue will make you laugh, their stories will make you cry and the books themselves will drive you crazy in the best way possible.

1.)

Author: Jenny Han

Books: 

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)Burn for Burn (Burn for Burn, #1)The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)

Blog: www.dearjennyhan.com
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/jennyhan


2.)

Author: Melina Marchetta

Books: 

On the Jellicoe RoadSaving FrancescaThe Piper's Son

Blog: melinamarchetta.wordpress.com
Twitter:https://twitter.com/MMarchetta
My Reviews: On the Jellicoe Road


3.)

Author: Ally Carter

Books:

Heist Society (Heist Society, #1)I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1)

Blog: allycarter.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/OfficiallyAlly


4.)

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Books: 

Eleanor & ParkFangirl

Blog: www.rainbowrowell.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rainbowrowell
My Reviews:
Rainbow Rowell: Rant or Rave About


5.)

Author: Gayle Foreman

Books: 

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)

Blog: gayleforman.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gayleforman
My Reviews:
Just One Day/Just One Year


So here are my Top 5 Realistic YA fiction authors. No they’re not in any specific order. Do you think I missed anyone out? Who would you include on this list? Who would you leave out?

Compare and Contrast (Female YA characters)

This is the first post in a series of posts of Comparisons and Contrasts in YA.

This one will feature female strong female characters from some of the most famous YA series ever: Abhorsen, Divergent and A Song of Ice and Fire.

I grew up on Garth Nix’s books people. The Abhorsen series (also known as the Old Kingdom series)  features some of the most honestly strong female characters I have ever seen. These book were probably the catalyst that  helped me take my first steps towards feminism (I’m still moving there.)

Beatrice Prior, Divergent- I loved watching her take destiny into her own hands. Watching her confront her deepest fears and learn how to handle knives and guns was pretty inspiring

A Song of Ice and Fire is a series that I have wanted to read for a long, long time. Truth is, the book intimidates me. For one thing, it’s an epic fantasy. I don’t have a very good history with epic fantasy, (except for the possible exception of Throne of Glass which is more like epic chick lit fantasy). For another, the book is supposed to be very…mature; more new adult than young adult.  But I’ve heard so many good things about this series, I will read it sooner or later. (Probably later.)

What do the Old Kingdom series, A Song of Ice and Fire and Divergent have in common? more importantly, what separates Clariel, Tris and Arya from each other?

Disclaimer: This work of art is not mine. It belongs to Booki Vivat, assistant publisher at Harper Collins)

You can follow her on Twitter.

A Venn Diagram of Some of the Most Powerful Female Characters in YA