Saturday, February 23, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: Charmfall (Dark Elite #3)

High school can be a battlefield, but for Lily Parker, surviving at St. Sophia’s School for Girls is a matter of life and death...

Protecting Chicago from the dark side can be an exhausting job, especially when you’re a junior. So when the girls of St. Sophia’s start gearing up for Sneak, their fall formal, Lily decides to join in on some good, old-fashioned party prep—even if it means not giving demons, vampires and the twisted magic users known as Reapers her undivided attention.

But when a Reaper infiltrates the school, Lily doesn’t forget what she’s sworn to protect. She reaches deep into herself to draw out her magic—and finds that it’s gone. And it turns out she’s not alone. A magical blackout has slammed through paranormal Chicago, and no one knows what—or who—caused it. But Lily knows getting back her magic is worth the risk of going behind enemy lines...
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: YA paranormal fans
High point: Lily and Scout
Low point: The set-up
Reader maturity: 13+

I'd been waiting a long time to check in with Lily and Scout and find out what's going on in the Chicago underground. Short answer:  trouble.

It took me a while to start Charmfall because, while I gave Hexbound (Dark Elite #2) a decent review, I remember being disappointed in the characterization and, to a lesser extent, the direction of the story. Charmfall wasn't par for the course--it had a different feel than its predecessors--but it's a good kind of different. I liked the addition of an outside enemy, an uneasy truce and inter-group cooperation.

Charmfall was great at building tension and suspense with plausible red herrings and a great balance between giving the reader enough information to stay invested but withholding enough to stay interested. My only complaint is that the secondary characters seemed to exist only to serve a singular plot purpose rather than enriching the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed Charmfall's story development and am crossing my fingers for a fourth Dark Elite novel. Now that Chloe Neill got me excited about Adepts again, I want to know what happens next!

Title:  Charmfall
Author:  Chloe Neill
Genre:   Teen Fiction - Girls & Young Women
Year:   2012
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Supernatural Saturday Review: Undead Much? (Megan Berry #2)

Megan Berry, Zombie Settler extraordinaire, just wants Pom Squad to trounce Cheer Team in this freakishly funny follow-up to You Are So Undead to Me. But someone's turning coma victims into settler-resistant ├╝ber-zombies, and everyone thinks it's Megan's fault! Well, except for super-creepy male cheerleader Aaron. (Ew!) Meg's also being stalked by a hot, albeit undead, seer named Cliff. Can Cliff's premonitions help Megan stop a zombies-on-ice deathscapade and discover who's really behind the coma-killer crusade before an entire army of undead rise up? And when Megan's boyfriend Ethan grows jealous of Cliff, will it end their intra-Settler romance?
[from Goodreads]
Rating:   4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Zombie fans who want something lighthearted
High point:  The surprisingly deep plot twists
Low point:  There's no more after this!!
Reader maturity: 13+

I wish it hadn't taken me so long to get around to reading Undead Much?. I adored the first book in this series, You Are So Undead to Me, but for some reason, I let Undead Much? languish on my bookshelf for over a year. I'm so glad I finally picked it up, though, because it's awesome, maybe even better than the first.

Undead Much? may not have pulled me out of the reading slump I've been in lately, but it definitely managed to avoid being sucked in. From the cover to the title, Undead Much? appears deceptively simple, merely a throwaway book for an afternoon of reading. But, you guys, it's good, I promise!

For starters, the characters are fantastic. There's a whole slew of people in this novel, dead and undead, and Stacey Jay manages to make them all unique. Even the characters that show up only once or twice have distinct character traits that keep them from fading into the background. Character depth and growth are also impressive, especially in a zombie novel, and Megan, Ethan, Monica and Cliff all come a long way in terms of development over the course of 300 pages. Monica's evolution, in particular, impressed me. I can't say much without giving away some plot, but hers is one of the few transformations of its type that I actually find believable.

Of course, there's also tons of action because this is a zombie novel, with Unsettled beings popping up everywhere...again and again and again! There's a good mix of description and imagination in the fight scenes and a sense of urgency that draws the reader into the melee.

Best of all, Undead Much? is a fun book. While I enjoy serious fiction as much as the next reader, sometimes I just want something fun, preferably something fun and worth reading. Undead Much? is it!

FYI:  Razorbill decided not to continue the Megan Berry series, and there's a huuuge cliffhanger at the end of Undead Much?. I'm disappointed that I don't get to join Megan Berry on any more adventures, but I still think the first two are worth a read. Just make up your own ending! (There's supposed to be an ebook called Undead to the World that wraps things up, but I can't find it anywhere. :-(

Title:  Undead Much?
Author:  Stacey Jay
Genre:   Fiction - Supernatural
Year:   2010
Book Source:  Purchased