Tag Archives: urban

Alexander’s Army (Unicorne Files #2)

Title: Alexander’s Army

Author: Chris D’Lacey

Series: Unicorne Files #2

Michael was hoping joining UNICORNE would allow him to find out more of what happened to his father. But answers are few, and UNICORNE has another mystery they’d like him to investigate first. A comic shop has some weird things going on, and they want Michael to check into it. He’d rather deal with Freya, or his own powers, or his dad, but he reluctantly agrees. But he’s not actually very good at the whole undercover operative gig . . .

I finally figured out what my biggest problem was with this book: I don’t like any of the characters. Michael was fine in the first book, where his weird reality-bending powers kicked in on a regular basis, and he was being eased into a world beyond the world he knows. But in this one, he’s downright terrible at figuring out anything, his powers activate less often (and the book kind of cheats by having a different power take center stage), and there isn’t any real progress made on most of the continuing plot threads.

Michael doesn’t really WANT any of the missions or adventures he’s involved in, and he’s pretty much incompetent at running them too. Freya went from sympathetic to cold and harsh (and though she tries to explain it away, it still doesn’t make the book easier to read). I sort of get the impression the two of them are supposed to eventually become boyfriend/girlfriend for real, but there’s nothing THERE. At this point he’s helping her mostly because he’s got a giant guilt complex about how she died and he inadvertently made her live after death.

Aside from that, the plot definitely veers closer to horror/thriller territory (I was hoping for more of an adventure, because the first book set up what could’ve been a couple of different directions). Although I liked the unusual bits of the supernatural that showed up this time, I can’t help but feel there’s never going to be a point. Michael isn’t offered any kind of framework other than “stuff just happens, and sometimes it’s wacky.” Since he’s not digging into other people’s powers or his own, just trying to get out of whatever he’s been volunteered for this time, I wasn’t as interested.

This isn’t necessarily a bad book, just not for me. I’m not certain at this point if I’ll make it through the third book, but I may give it a shot since I have it on hand. Perhaps if it is the last one Michael will man up and actually do something instead of forcing everyone around him to push him forward. I rate this book Neutral.

The Broken Window (Threshold #3)

Title: The Broken Window

Author: Christa Kinde

Series: Threshold #3

Prissie’s adventures with the angels around her town are starting to get a little more serious. She’s finally understanding more of the spiritual battle they are engaged in, and seeing that the fight isn’t an easy one. In her more ordinary life, too, things are growing more difficult. Rumors abound, and her friends are actively distancing themselves from her. Christmas is around the corner, but what kind of holiday is waiting for her?

Fair warning: if you’re reading this WITHOUT book 4 on hand, put it down until you can get them both. That ending was amazing and cut off way too fast, with all sorts of consequences that are bound to play out in amusing ways. Unlike the first two books, the story doesn’t feel more or less settled by the end, either.

I liked that Ransom finally got a straight answer out of Prissie for why she hates him so much. And what that reason actually is. It’s just as surprising as a lot of the ordinary things that have happened so far, with Prissie coming to realize herself her reason is basically poor. And Ransom is very much game to try to break her out of her bad attitude. I love his sense of humor.

And Prissie finally gets her act together and does what various characters have been hinting she ought to do for a long time: pray. It’s a sobering challenge to her in the first book that pointed out she isn’t interested in the suffering of people (or angels) she doesn’t know about. Even when she learns more, she still neglects to pray, until finally she’s confronted with something she can’t deny. I have my suspicions about how this will all play into her choices going forward (and I’m almost positive her Aunt Ida will help). It’s as big a moment for her as Ransom’s big decision is for him.

I’m liking this series more and more with each book. Especially with the way this one ended, I can’t wait to get the next one read. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Hidden Deep (Threshold #2)

Title: The Hidden Deep

Author: Christa Kinde

Series: Threshold #2

Prissie Pomeroy is still getting used to the fact that she knows several angels. But her life has been changing in other, not-so-welcome ways. Her best friend has found a new best friend, and that person hates Prissie. Ransom, the boy she can’t stand, is also someone she increasingly can’t avoid. Ephron, the missing angel, still hasn’t been found. And the enemy is certainly up to SOMETHING . . .

Most of what I said about the first book is also true for this one. It’s more of a quiet story of everyday life with angels. This book continues to progress through the year: the start of school, the apple harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and so on. It’s fun to see the Pomeroy traditions for each of those, and a few extra events like dinner with all her angelic friends. That’s not to say it’s entirely without action, but the battles clearly aren’t the heart of the story.

I like how the story also isn’t shy about presenting Prissie in all her flaws. Ransom continues to be the most compelling human, someone who would dearly like to know why Prissie is dead set against him, yet not all that interested in being either her friend or her enemy. He just wants to have at least a tolerable relationship so that his employment with her father won’t cause them to butt heads.

And I was very happy the guess I made about a certain character from the first book turned out to be right. Angels aren’t the only ones interacting with Prissie on more than one level . . .

All in all, if you liked the first book, this feels like the next couple of chapters for that story. I rate this book Recommended.

Seeker (Riders #2)

Title: Seeker

Author: Veronica Rossi

Series: Riders #2

Daryn is haunted by her greatest mistake: the conflict that severed Gideon’s hand and thrust Bastian into a world that only she can enter. She has to go back. Has to make things right. But she’s totally unprepared for what’s waiting . . .

Gideon is frustrated at Daryn’s reclusiveness. ALL the Horsemen want to go after Bastian (and messily dismember the demon who went with him), and Daryn won’t clue them in. But they’re searching for her. And once they find her, they’re going after Bastian.

As much as I loved being with these characters again, this felt like a necessary conclusion rather than a story I liked as much in its own right.

The first book was a big favorite, so I’ve been looking forward to the sequel for months. I didn’t want to believe Bastian was doomed to “probably dead in a horrible way” as part of the bittersweet ending to the first book. And I wanted to see more of the Horsemen being awesome and wrecking stuff, or otherwise goofing off with each other, or digging into their personalities more. There was a little of that, but most of the book was so heavily focused on hooking up Daryn and Gideon, and the rest of the plot didn’t go far enough into some of the more interesting ideas it started to explore.

This was still funny. Well, Gideon’s portions were funny. He’s still got that bit of a smartass to liven things up, and there’s some great mini-stories about various misadventures he had with Bastian. Which is a great contrast to the general heaviness of the overall book. Daryn is more depressive, but sometimes she’ll observe something hilarious that the others are doing or saying, but I definitely preferred Gideon’s point of view.

And there were still interesting bits. I found it fascinating how Gideon refers to being War as a VICE, something he has to struggle to overcome. At the same time, I thought the pocket world could have done more to push them through that. As it was, the only character growth I could see was what had happened in the first book (I’m not counting him and Daryn staring intensely at each other and being swept away by “I want you.”). Daryn has a lot more development, for sure, but I felt a little let down by her wanting to go back home to her family. That needed to happen to close out the threads from the first book, but I didn’t care for how it actually worked out (although the aftermath was plenty amusing).

*** SMALL SPOILERS***
The fact that the actual going home was skipped, as well as it being such an easy reintegration, bothered me.
*** END SPOILERS****

I didn’t like how the pocket world limited everyone’s abilities. It helps add to the tension, but it takes away a ton of the fun. Rather than have a scary world where their powers are matched by equally scary Harrows, we get a bunch of restrictions on what can and can’t be done that make them little better than well-armed ordinary humans.

The romance, too, was kind of there for me. I really don’t care for these types of relationships, where it feels a bit more like two people crushing hard on each other, but at least there are things each of them can notice and pull out of the other. So there’s at least something of liking each other as people, and being a decent fit for each other. I did prefer the first book, though, since this one reverses the balance. Here, romance is a much stronger focus than the rest of the plot.

Overall, I was still happy to read this to get more of an ending, but I found myself frustrated at a lot of the directions the story went. I wanted more Jode and Marcus. I wanted more wrecking stuff in huge ways. I wanted Gideon to be more effective, and to be able to use his leadership. That said, this wasn’t bad, just not all I wanted it to be. Be sure to read Riders first, though, as this heavily depends on the previous book. I rate this book Recommended.

The Blue Door (Threshold #1)

Title: The Blue Door

Author: Christa Kinde

Series: Threshold #1

Prissie Pomeroy is the only daughter of a farming family. With five brothers, her parents, and her grandparents, the house is rarely quiet, but she could wish for more time with her friends. Then one day she spots a stranger on her way to get the mail. He claims to be an angel. Prissie has no idea how to react, but she finds she’s slowly being drawn into his world.

I loved this. The whole setup is so interesting precisely because—at least for now—there isn’t any huge, world-defining battle between Good and Evil. Prissie has been granted to see some of what is ordinarily unseen, but it’s in the context of living out her ordinary life on a farm with her family. She faces a few temptations, but nothing that feels like the point of her new revelations. So she struggles mostly with whether or not to believe those who call themselves angels, and what exactly to do about it. She’s always believed in angels in THEORY, but actually living out life interacting with real ones is a whole different story. She’s afraid of what it would mean to accept them. She’s really struggling with the whole supernatural bit.

And the angels were awesome. I loved that they were all so humble and gentle with her, even though not all of them show it the same way. I liked Koji a lot. His curiosity leads to interesting questions, and although he comes across as an oddball, he’s also a good friend. But I have to admit Kester was probably my favorite. He’s formal almost to the point of stiffness, has a large and somewhat outdated vocabulary, and is working with an extremely casual worship leader who can’t help trying to get him to loosen up.

Kester smiled faintly. “I have been to bazaars and street festivals all over the world, but they were nothing like this. Each land has its own flair and flavor, and this one’s is uniquely, uh, deep fried.”

“At least try the doughnuts,” said Baird.

This also made me laugh quite a bit. Most of the best bits were almost throw-away lines, like this:

Momma was summoned back to the house by Jude, who brought news of Zeke’s discovery that he could make taller towers out of building blocks if he used peanut butter between the layers.

I suspect Ransom will have a larger role in the future. Although Prissie doesn’t like him at all, it’s easy for a reader to see there’s much more going on with him than meets her eyes. There’s also a slowly unfolding plot with the demons, but for now whatever they’re actually up to is mostly hidden.

Overall I really liked this. This is a story that includes faith very naturally, allowing Prissie to live out her life and her faith without trying to beat the reader over the head with a Message About Salvation. It’s solid writing and a good story, with interesting characters and a quirky sense of humor. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

A Dark Inheritance (Unicorne Files #1)

Title: A Dark Inheritance

Author: Chris d’Lacey

Series: Unicorne Files #1

Michael Malone is just trying to get to school when he encounters a dog in distress. Little does he realize that meeting will change his life. In more ways than one. Michael possesses a power that can alter reality itself, a power that has come to the attention of secret groups like UNICORNE. He might delve deeper into the mystery of his father’s disappearance, but first, he has to figure out what’s up with that dog . . .

This was a lot of fun. Michael has one of my favorite types of powers: the ability to twist up the reality he’s in to reflect the things he’s thinking about. Only, as the plot shows again and again, he doesn’t have a lot of control over unintended consequences. Things that get jokingly mentioned suddenly become fact, the way things always have been. I loved the way this played out throughout the story. Michael’s clearly got power, but given the consequences, it’s always a gamble for him to try to use it.

The mystery was also well done, with the layers slowly revealed and a mostly satisfying resolution. The only thing that disappointed me was that it was hard to figure out just why this had the effect it did on Michael. Is he sensitive to ghosts as well as able to manipulate reality? And what, exactly, happened with that ending? I’m just hoping Michael was as clueless as I was and someone next book will explain it to him. The only thing I can figure is that something he was considering during that final confrontation ended up becoming an additional side effect.

I was also hoping to see more strangeness than just Michael, although I admit I don’t know how the plot would have worked it in without feeling like it was a tangent. We get a few hints at other things, but nothing more than a really vague idea. But that’s something that could easily be picked up in a future book, so I’ll just hope it follows through.

Overall, I would have liked this better if it had been clearer why the dog’s problem resonated with Michael the way that it did, and if the end had been a bit less vague. Still, I’m interested to see where this goes in future books. I rate this book Recommended.

Firebolt (The Dragonian #1)

Title: Firebolt

Author: Adrienne Woods

Series: The Dragonian #1

Elena Watkins is tired of her dad’s paranoia. Moving every three months, never settling down or making friends, never able to experience a normal life . . . and then the dragons attack, she wakes up in a magical country, and she realizes “normal” will never define her life again. No one knows who was after her (or was it her father?) or why. Now she’s struggling to fit into a world where the ordinary humans surrounding her might be dragons in disguise, and her own role might be bigger than anyone expects.

This book has a lot of solid parts, but it’s also kind of jerky. The first bit is a thriller, with the abnormal home life devolving into an attack that leaves Elena all but dead . . . and then the plot just forgets about that and moves on. Elena’s feelings for her father gets a few brief mentions but otherwise nobody brings up anything about that time, which felt really bizarre. The enemy doesn’t appear to have been killed, so the lack of follow through was puzzling. Elena doesn’t ask any questions about it. No one offers any answers. No one even offers to guard her against the possibility of future attacks.

Once we get past that, it’s pretty definitely a YA fantasy/paranormal romance. There’s one main romance (I can’t honestly call it a love triangle yet) although this is hampered by Elena’s emotions and will running one way and the plot clearly pointing her in another direction. I’m pretty sure the prophecy, for example, has a lot more to do with her romantic choices than anything else.

I did like Elena’s female roommates. They’re neat characters, and Sammy in particular was a lot of fun. I liked the dragon shapeshifters, the various types of dragons, and the various abilities. I wasn’t at all fond of the whole “dragon personality completely changes when claimed by a human,” which was disturbing to watch in action (even if it does clean up his character from jerk to decent guy). Especially since it’s a given this is going to happen again with Blake.

It is pretty easy to spot the overall way things are going, though, which makes Elena’s romance uninteresting and to my mind unimportant.

****SPOILERS****

Elena is clearly the daughter of the late monarchs, with her “mother’s” disappearance and its timeframe, and the prophecy about Blake, being some of the strongest evidence. Blake, equally clearly, is her Destined Soul Mate, so anything not involving him is basically doomed by Authorial Fiat, because the prophecy says the monarch’s child will claim the Rubicon. Elena even has a PICTURE of her “mother”, which she never bothers to bring out but would likely be instantly recognized by some of the older dragons who actually knew that dragon.

****SPOILERS END****

I was also a bit annoyed that so many of the riddles present in the book are just reusing rather famous ones. Particularly Elena’s last and hardest one. Given that it was part of a myth, the two pages devoted to her thinking it over had me wondering how she hadn’t run into this before, since her father likes riddles and this is hardly a new one.

I’m torn about continuing this series. I would probably read more on Kindle Unlimited, but I don’t think I like it enough to buy it outright (if this was in my library, it would get a rental). I feel like the story is dropping some interesting angles in favor of a love story it’s too obviously telegraphing can’t work anyway. On the other hand, the world was fun, and the dragons are by and large more fun, so I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them. I rate this book Neutral.