Tag Archives: romance

Review: Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

January 2011, Splinter

YA fantasy/romance

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.

I read this book as a quick intermission from Susanna Clark’s formidable volume Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I was hoping for a break from all the small print and extensive footnotes–which I got. Unfortunately, Tiger’s Curse, while a refreshingly easy read, is not one of the better books I’ve read. Colleen Houck has set up an interesting back-story for this novel, but the plot quickly falls into predictable patterns and the characters fail to support the story.

Houck has clearly put in a lot of effort to research the culture and mythology of India for this novel, and I applaud her for that. The novel is full of rich description that really helps to set the scene and draw the reader in. I was fascinated by the abounding references to classical Indian mythology throughout the book–I would say that this is the strongest point of Tiger’s Curse.

However, I found myself predicting plot points early on and was surprised by very little. I was never fully invested in the central characters; in fact, quite the opposite. From Kelsey’s initial introduction, I decided I didn’t like her, and that opinion never changed. The male lead I found to be a sickeningly perfect romantic hero. As for the romantic story-line itself, I was painfully reminded of the Twilight Saga.

Contrary to the blurb’s claim, after finishing this book, I have no desire to move on with the series. Overall, I don’t recommend Tiger’s Curse, but if you’re looking for a quick, fairly generic YA fantasy/romance, this fits the bill.

Rating: 1.5 Stars

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On Love Polygons and the Big Kiss

This post is for the February 2012 edition of the Teens Can Write Too! blog chain. This month’s prompt was:

“What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre? Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?”

 

Undoubtedly, my typical and favorite genre in both reading and writing is fantasy/sci-fi and its various derivatives, including but not limited to dystopian, steampunk, paranormal, epic fantasy, and macabre. While it is most certainly possible for these types of storylines to stand on their own merits, I always find them most enjoyable when there’s an element of romance lurking somewhere in the thick of the plot.

In reading these types of stories, I find that a touch of romance in the background–or even a broad brush of it in the foreground–adds that much-needed sense of humanity to the outlandish plot, particularly in YA. Even if a group of teenagers gets involved in a supernatural event of some sort, are they honestly expected to drop all hormones immediately and for all time? Let’s face it–it’s not going to happen. My taste for a bit of romance in reading is also fed by my own secret inner idealist (or hopeless romantic). This is the girl who doesn’t like animated Disney films. And you thought I was soulless!

Writing romance, however, is a whole other evil empire to be overthrown. Reading about love is easy–all you do is soak in someone else’s words. When one has no experience in these matters, as I do as of the posting date, it is decidedly difficult to write about it oneself. How are you expected to write about that fabled Big Kiss when, to yourself, it reminds just that–a myth? It’s like the Forever Alone guy handing out relationship advice. On the other hand, if I could only write just what I know, I would only be writing stories about single high schoolers who are told by their elders that their “intelligence is intimidating” but are probably just awkward weirdos.

So basically what I’m getting at is that the best I can do when writing romance is to take all I’ve read, watched, and heard from others, put them together in a big mental jumble, and use modified versions of the pieces that work best with the rest of the story. In a few years, I’ll probably read back the so-called romantic moments I write now and spray some beverage across the room from laughter.

The one thing I am confident about when writing romance is cliche avoidance. Love triangles featuring two badass guys and a weak-minded central female character have no place in my story, and neither do trouble-free InstaLUV tales. Love polygons of other sorts are acceptable, and two characters can fall in love quickly as long as there’s some amount of conflict later on. I’m chill with it as long as vampires and werewolves don’t both get involved.

Oh no! A Twilight reference! Everyone run for cover before she starts ranting!

All right, I can take a hint, you guys. Why don’t you check out the rest of the blog chain instead?

February 5– http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com –Novel Journeys

February 6– http://lilyjenness.blogspot.com –Lily’s Notes in the Margins

February 7– http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com –Kirsten Writes!

February 8– http://correctingpenswelcome.wordpress.com — Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish

February 9– http://delorfinde.wordpress.com –A Farewell to Sanity

February 10– http://thewordasylum.wordpress.com –The Word Asylum

February 11– http://weirdalocity.wordpress.com –From My Head

February 12– http://estherstar1996.wordpress.com –Esther Victoria1996

February 13– http://alohathemuse.wordpress.com –Embracing Insanity

February 14– http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com –Red Herring Online

February 15– http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com –Go Teen Writers (Honorary Participant)

February 16– http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com –This Page Intentionally Left Blank

February 17– http://oyeahwrite.wordpress.com –Oh Yeah, Write!

February 18–http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com –The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

February 19– http://herestous.wordpress.com –Here’s To Us

February 20– http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com –Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

 

Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments #2)

March 2008, Margaret K. McElderry Books

Young Adult urban fantasy

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go—especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil—and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings—and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

As I continue on my quest to read the Mortal Instruments series in its entirety before the movie, slated for release in 2012, comes out, it’s fairly easy for me to see where this story is going. This isn’t entirely a bad thing: I can be a big believer in the classic storyline. Cassandra Clare’s true talent doesn’t lie in the realm of creating a storyline, but in the crucial ability to draw readers in. Clare has created a rich and addictive New York underworld that can be very hard to leave; it’s fully a sensory experience, replete with intriguing detail.

Clare continues to create strong characters to inhabit this world. Clary still isn’t one of my favorites, but everyone else is fantastic. The variety of supernatural creatures is astonishing, from grotesque demons to the elegant fey, with a few of our beloved vampires and werewolves thrown in the mix. (Have I mentioned how relieved I am that these vamps don’t sparkle?)

There’s plenty of action in City of Ashes, and this volume certainly has its fair share of angst. It isn’t markedly different from the first book in this series, but expands on the same themes, adding a few welcome new characters and subplots. This isn’t an extraordinary series, but one worth reading; I’ll be looking forward to reading Book Three.

Rating: 4 stars

Review: Lovesick by Tonya Hurley

Lovesick by Tonya Hurley (Ghostgirl #3)

July 2010, Little, Brown & Company

Young Adult paranormal romance

Before she can rest in peace, Charlotte Usher must return to the tragic site of her death: high school. She still has one last assignment to complete, but no one explained what happens if you fall in love with your class project.

Charlotte would die (again) for love. But when her only chance at an afterlife means having to face the dreaded, all-too-familiar pains of being invisible, it may be too much for her to withstand.

The Ghostgirl books are not easily forgettable. The first one, simply entitled Ghostgirl, made a strong impact on me–I’d even go so far as to say it changed my life. Twilight this isn’t. I feel guilty about slapping the “paranormal romance” label on it, because this, along with the previous two in the series, is a well-written, at times satirical, and carefully planned book that could be enjoyed by all sorts of teens and adults. And think of all the stigma attached to the genre! This is one of the best examples of it, and one that stubbornly refuses to become a franchise. It should be more well-known than it is.

Tonya Hurley knows how to manipulate readers’ emotions. If you’ve read books one and two, Lovesick will wrench you heart, threaten to rip it in two, and leave it in a bittersweet state once the book is closed. Over the course of the series, I grew to care so deeply about Charlotte and her human best friend, Scarlet, and seeing them both change from the forms I met them in was a bit painful. And Petula–the trendsetting prom queen we’ve all grown to deliciously despise–will definitely surprise fans.

(If said fans haven’t read it already, that is. I waited for this one to come out in paperback. Ahem.)

Hurley continues to meet her standards of smart, sharp, and mostly realistic dialogue, excellent scene-setting description, and vivid characterization. The book’s beautiful design in both paperback and hardcover editions will draw old and new readers in–but please, if you’re just getting into the series, start at the beginning. It’ll only confuse you, and going in without any background will take away half of the experience.

I will admit that the plot gets a little repetitive in Lovesick; the same thing happened with book two, Homecoming. I didn’t care too much, though. This is, overall, a great installment in this fascinating series, which, if the closure–The end?–is to be believed, will be as infinite as any afterlife, whether Hurley continues to write it or not.

Rating: 4 stars

Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments #1)

April 2007, Margaret K. McElderry Books

Young Adult urban fantasy

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

Finally, I get around to reading something out of the Mortal Instruments series. Am I ever glad I did. While not (yet, anyway) in the league of the absolute best books I’ve ever read, City of Bones is definitely high on the list. This is a gritty, tough, and refreshing urban fantasy that surely will appeal to readers across genres. The story starts out strong and doesn’t let up, leaving readers with plenty of loose threads to be picked up in the sequel, City of Ashes.

The vast majority of characters were fantastic. I liked them all, except Clary. Well, it’s not really that I didn’t like her, just that I didn’t make that connection to her that readers forge with excellent protagonists. She seemed slightly flat to me, or perhaps so multidimensional that it was difficult to comprehend her. All the others, though, were very well-developed and believable. I loved Jace–such an adorable jerk. The Lightwoods were awesome, and I hope to see more of them in future volumes. (Or volumes that are already out and my slowpoke self is just getting around to, more accurately.)

Clare really puts readers through the loop with numerous, hugely unexpected plot twists. It made me both nervous and excited to see which established story paradigm would be shattered or added to next. The action is fast-moving and just gory enough to give an edge and element of horror to the story.

That’s another one of this book’s strong suits: its ability to transcend genres while still keeping a firm footing in urban fantasy. Action-adventure, horror, and romance fans will all find something to appreciate here, right along with the fantasy junkies. The cover may look like a wacked-out Avon romance (you know that it’s the same buff, shirtless guy, plus Shadowhunter tattoos), and the description may seem like just another trendy YA, but the stuff in the middle–the actual story–is much richer than any of it.

Rating: 4 stars

 

Romance, religion, and reform school…an odd combination?

Title: Fallen

Author: Lauren Kate

Pub. Date:  December 2009

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Genre: Paranormal/Romance

Age Range: Young Adult

Synopsis/Teaser: Ever since she was a little girl, Luce Price has been followed by shadows that no one else can see. They haunt her, frighten her, chill her– but she’s been forced to admit that she doesn’t see them any more, lest her parents think her insane. Now, after a horrible incident involving the shadows, Luce has been accused of setting a fire that killed a boy she liked. Luce is sent to the remote Sword and Cross reform school, where she meets Daniel Grigori: a gorgeous guy who seems to want to avoid her at all costs. There’s something else about Daniel that draws Luce to him, though. She can’t help thinking that she knows him, even though they’ve never met outside of Sword and Cross. Daniel continues giving Luce the cold shoulder, but Luce is still attracted to him– and the shadows continue to track her and tear her life apart.

Review: Let me be frank. This book reminded me an awful lot of Twilight. The premise of a girl who goes to a new school and meets a really good-looking guy who ignores her and leaves our heroine star-struck just seems a little too close. And then there’s the paranormal element. I thought I was reading the same book for a while, but the plot eventually changed– still, though. But, I’ll be frank about this, too: I didn’t enjoy the Twilight Saga much, but I liked Fallen. Fallen has a certain unique spark to it, and it’s backed up with Lauren Kate’s writing skills. It may just be following the paranormal-romance craze of the moment, but Fallen definitely has something different.

Kate’s descriptions of Sword and Cross were great. I felt like I was right there. The horrible school was almost Roald Dahl-like in its near ridiculous treatment of students. Though the book is told in the third person, I felt included in the story– something that rarely happens. Kate includes all of the right details to stir up the atmosphere and suck the reader in. Most of the characters were original and well-rounded enough to pop off the page. Daniel Grigori, though, was your run-of-the-mill paranormal-romance love interest. His impeccable good looks, slightly arrogant personality, and mysterious past were nothing new. Towards the end, Fallen turned into a real page-turner, an element that I didn’t expect. The action and well-done plot sets it apart from other books of its kind. All-around paranormal/fantasy fans should be able to appreciate it.

I feel obligated to say that Fallen contains some religious elements that may bother some readers– think Christian and Jewish mythology twisted around, like a fairy tale retelling. I certainly didn’t mind it– I thought it was a good take– but others might.

On the surface, Fallen is just another trendy YA paranormal romance, but if you dig a little deeper and give it a chance, you’ll find a nugget of something shiny and new. It’s worth a read for fans of the genre.

Recommended for: Fans of paranormal/romance a la “Twilight” who want something a little different and more well-rounded.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 possible stars

Beth Revis’s soaring debut

Title: Across the Universe

Author: Beth Revis

Pub. Date: January 2011

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)

Genre: Science Fiction

Age Range: Young Adult

Synopsis/Teaser: 17-year-old Amy Martin has been cryogenically frozen and is to remain in a state of limbo for 300 years. She is a passenger on the spaceship Godspeed, heading toward a new planet fit for human population. 16-year-old Elder is the heir to the position of Eldest, or leader, of the Godspeed. His rebellious and forward-thinking nature vexes his mentor, the current Eldest, who keeps the majority of crew under a constant state of delusion in order to maintain absolute power. Amy’s and Elder’s lives collide when Amy is disconnected from her cryo chamber 50 years too early and almost dies in the misconducted reanimation process. Other frozen passengers are being killed, and Amy and Elder have their suspicions, but it’s impossible to know for sure. It’s a race against time to stop the murderer, and all the while the thick veil of lies surrounding the Godspeed is finally starting to dissolve.

Review: Across the Universe deserves nothing less than an A+.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This book has been at the top of my To-Be-Read list for a while before it was officially released. Nothing but good reviews were popping up everywhere: in the Bookpage, on The Story Siren, on Icey Books. I was practically drooling when I snatched up my copy at the friendly neighborhood bookstore. I devoured it in a few days, and I absolutely adored it.

The characters are awesome, and the alternating narrator gives us a chance to enjoy both. Amy is perfectly believable, and her emotions come through clearly in her thoughts and actions. Elder is probably more fun to listen to, though. His offhand attitude will be relatable for many teenagers. I loved his frequent use of “frex,” a made-up cuss word– a trademark of sci-fi novels.

Across the Universe has many unexpected over- and undertones. Its layers of murder mystery, traditional science fiction, budding romance, and social commentary make it rich, complex, and absorbing– a gold mine of discussion-worthy material. It contains many wonderful elements that I was not expecting going in and left me pleasantly surprised.

This book also gets bonus points for a gorgeous cover and handy map of the Godspeed.

Beth Revis is a promising new talent in the world of books. I’m grateful that the Penguin Group picked her up, because otherwise we readers would be missing out on a lot. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books by Beth Revis, and I’ll be buying them hot off the press.

Recommended for: Pretty much everyone.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 possible stars