Friday, December 28, 2012

RAPUNZEL UNTANGLED by Cindy C. Bennett

Title: Rapunzel Untangled
Author: Cindy C. Bennett


Summary

Rapunzel has been confined to her own few rooms in Gothel Manor for as long as she can remember, not that she has ever had a problem with it.  She has SCID, or Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, which means that any contact with germs could result in her death.  And according to a prophecy, Rapunzel's hair is magic and is the key to saving the world, so Rapunzel is quite content to live in her tower with only her mother for contact in order to protect herself.

That all changes when Rapunzel joins Facebook and befriends a boy named Fane.  Having never communicated with anyone besides her mother, Fane introduces Rapunzel to the world outside of her tower and what it means to be a teenager.  Suddenly Rapunzel is breaking all the rules and in the process discovers that everything her mother told her may not be the whole truth.

My Impression

While reading the first few chapters, I was a little unsure of how I would like this retelling.  Rapunzel and Fane meet on Facebook, and though the two characters had to meet and communicate in some way despite Rapunzel's isolation, I cringe a bit whenever social media is brought into a book.  I think naming specific sites such as Facebook and Skype really limits the audience of a text because it makes it too obvious that this story takes place in a time when both programs are popular; if those two sites ever become obsolete, readers won't get the reference.  

However, it was necessary to have some form of communication to connect the two characters, so I just accepted the reference as a part of the story, because how else could they possibly communicate?  The more I read, the more I liked the purpose that the online communication served in the book.  It does a great job of illustrating how ignorant Rapunzel is of expressions, acronyms, and pop culture references, and how her isolation doesn't just limit her contact with people but also limits her contact with the world and the things that regular kids take for granted.  Plus it was also cute to see Rapunzel and Fane get to know each other without seeing each other face-to-face, and how their friendship develops throughout the book.

I also liked the motivation behind Gothel, Rapunzel's mother.  I wasn't sure how similar her motivation would be to Mother Gothel's in the movie Tangled, but I was glad to learn that it was different.  The book slowly reveals her motivation as Rapunzel becomes more and more curious about the world outside of her tower; though her motivation is pretty dark, I liked that I got to learn along with Rapunzel, instead of knowing and watching Rapunzel's discovery.  

Magic plays an important role in this book, and though it isn't until later in the book that we learn about its complete role, I felt a little unsatisfied with how magic fits into the world.  Though this story is Rapunzel's story, I would have liked to know a bit more about the magic that some of the characters use/possess, where the magic comes from, and why it fits in this world.  

Why I Picked Up This Book

I have always liked retellings of fairy tales, and when I saw that the ARC of this book was available on NetGalley, I decided to request it.

Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance
My Rating: Four Stars




CRIMSON FROST by Jennifer Estep

Title: Crimson Frost

Series: Mythos Academy #4

Author: Jennifer Estep


Summary

Loki is free and Gwen blames herself for his release; after all, the Reapers wouldn't have gotten the Helheim Dagger if Gwen hadn't found it.  While the Reapers are helping Loki to regain his strength and start the second Chaos War, Gwen has to accept her destiny: to be the one to kill Loki.

But Gwen doesn't just have to worry about the Reapers trying to kill her and her friends.  Gwen has been accused of being a Reaper and she must prove her innocence to The Protectorate, the Pantheon's police force, or die for her supposed crimes.  For once Gwen must follow all the rules at Mythos Academy, because one wrong step could only convince the Protectorate of her guilt.  It's times like these when friends show their true colors, and Gwen needs all the friends she can get.

My Impression

I really liked the spin that this book took.  While I have to say that I hated the Protectorate on a moral level because of their accusation that Gwen is a Reaper, I loved what they did for this series.  Before this point, there haven't been any characters that have truly questioned Gwen's actions besides herself.  And while I knew that their accusations were clearly false because I have read about all of Gwen's actions, I think it was important that she be questioned and that she really has to prove herself.  This book and the Protectorate do three things:

  1. They show Gwen who her real friends are.  As news spreads of her supposed crimes, many people at Mythos Academy are hostile towards Gwen.  While she has been mostly ignored by many of her peers or blown off as "that Gypsy girl", it was good to learn which people actually trust Gwen, and which characters we might be seeing more of as their friendship with Gwen grows.
  2. They show that you can't trust everyone.  Gwen lives in a world where Reapers hide in plain site; Jasmine even mentioned in Touch of Frost that there are students and teachers are Mythos Academy that are Reapers, and yet there are very few times that Gwen, or anyone, actually questions whether the people they are sitting in a classroom with are actually Reapers.  While Gwen is a trustworthy person, no one has ever doubted that she is telling the truth, but in her world, blind faith in a person can get you killed.
  3. They force Gwen to accept her previous actions.  While she has made some mistakes that have ultimately led to the release of Loki, she has made every decision with the intent to defeat the Reapers and stop Loki.  Gwen constantly doubts herself and in order to prove her innocence, she first has to accept that she is a good person and that some things that happened were out of her control.

Something I found a bit frustrating in this book is how Gwen still constantly doubts herself.  While some of her moments of doubt are justifiable, such as her role in the release of Loki and murdering Preston, some things that run through her head make me want to shake some sense into her.  There is a moment in the book where she compares herself to Logan, thinking about how amazing, gorgeous, strong, and brave he is, and then she goes on to say that the only interesting thing about her is the necklace that Logan gave her.  I think she has proved herself to be just as strong and brave as Logan and her other friends, and that she has learned a great deal about her power and how to use it.  While she may feel inadequate when she compares looks and weaponry skills, she still has a lot to be proud of and has many interesting things about her.  My hope is that after having to own her actions in this book that she will appreciate more about herself in Midnight Frost.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I fell in love with Gwen's character from the first time I read Touch of Frost, and I can't wait for Midnight Frost's release.

Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Romance, Mythology

My Rating: Five Stars



Interested in other books by Jennifer Estep?  Check here to read my reviews of other books from this series.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

DARK FROST by Jennifer Estep

Title: Dark Frost

Series: Mythos Academy #3

Author: Jennifer Estep


Summary

It's the beginning of her second semester at Mythos Academy and Gwen already has a lot on her plate. 

Nike has charged her with recovering the Helheim Dagger, an artifact that Gwen's mother was charged with protecting from the Reapers of Chaos.  Gwen has spent most of her winter break searching through her mom's belongings with the hope that her touch magic will reveal some clue about the dagger's location. 

When Gwen and some fellow second year students are attacked by the Reapers of Chaos, Gwen finally meets Loki's Champion.  Though the Champion is masked, Gwen has bigger things to worry about than the Champion's true identity.  The Reapers have a lead on the dagger's location, and if they find it before Gwen does, then they hold the power to break the last seal on Loki's prison and start the Second Chaos War.

My Impressions

I think this is my favorite book in the series so far.  Though I really enjoyed Touch of Frost and Kiss of Frost, it feels like those two books have really led up to the events of this book.  Touch of Frost seemed to mostly be about convincing Gwen that the gods do exist and that Loki and his Reapers are determined to bring Chaos back into the world; it was also the book that clearly sets Gwen up to face off against Loki by becoming Nike's Champion.  Kiss of Frost was mostly about Gwen's developing friendships and developing powers; instead of her being just a "Gypsy girl", she gets to discover more of what her touch magic can really do.  It also really sets up her main motivation for wanting to defeat the Reapers - revenge against Loki's Champion.  While this is necessary set up, it was definitely nice to see more of the urgent struggle between the Pantheon and the Reapers.  There was definitely more action, more battle scenes, and more suspense that make this book a really quick (and enjoyable) read.

One thing I really liked about this book was the character development.  While there aren't many new characters introduced in this book, a lot of the old characters grow and I liked being able to see other sides to certain characters (Daphne, Morgan, Logan, Nickamedes), instead of their one steady role in Gwen's life.  It made them seem more real and it made Gwen seem more real because she is the one who notices and recognizes their changes.

Something I struggled with in this book was some of the repetition.  In Touch of Frost we (and Gwen) are introduced to the First Chaos War, Loki, the Reapers of Chaos, the Pantheon, Gwen's Gypsy power, and other such things that were clearly part of the developing plot of the book.  A lot of this information is summarized/restated via Gwen's inner dialogue in Kiss of Frost, and while this felt a bit repetitive, I also thought it was a bit necessary to make sure the concept from Touch of Frost was fully understood and carried over.  However, this is the third book of the series and I didn't need the summary of all of these things and the danger Loki's release poses to the world.  I will admit that I skimmed over this part of the book because I felt like I was reading something I had already read.  Thankfully the summary part is towards the beginning of the book, so I was able to get into the new action rather quickly.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I can honestly say that I am addicted to this series, and I can't wait to see what happens to Gwen next!

Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Romance, Mythology

My Rating: Five Stars




Interested in other books by Jennifer Estep?  Check here to read my reviews of other books from this series.


SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW by Cameron Dokey

Title: Sunlight and Shadow
Series: Once Upon a Time
Author: Cameron Dokey


Summary

Mina is the daughter of Pamina, the Queen of the Night, and Sarastro, the Mage of the Day.  With her birth, a prophecy was given that her marriage would change the world in a way that would remove and give power to her parents.  So her parents made a pact that, for the first sixteen years of her life, Mina would live in the darkness with her mother; on the day of her sixteenth birthday, she would be given to her father and he would select a husband.

But when Mina's father breaks his oath, it takes all of Mina's strength, and the help of some friends, to find her heart's desire.

My Impression

I have never encountered The Magic Flute, so I am not sure how closely/loosely this story follows the original.  I liked this story for that fact, since it had familiar feel of a fairy tale but was at the same time new, even though some of the plot was predictable.  

The thing that I had the hardest time with in this book was the switching perspectives.  There are a total of five narrators for this story, and each one tells the story from a first-person perspective.  Though I really liked seeing inside the heads of various characters, the shifts are not clearly marked in the book, so it often took me a couple sentences before I realized that a different person was "speaking."

Why I Picked Up This Book

I have always had a love for retellings of myths and fairytales, so the Once Upon a Time series, and with it this book, have been on my "to read" list for a while.

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Romance

My Rating: Four Stars




Interested in more books from this series? Click here to see a list of the other books in the Once Upon a Time series and my reviews of them.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

DEAD RADIANCE by T.G. Ayer

Title: Dead Radiance

Series: Valkyrie #1
Author: T.G. Ayer


Summary

The first book in a trilogy, Dead Radiance focuses on Bryn Halbrook, a foster-child whose best friend has just died.  In the days leading up to Joshua's death, Bryn had begun to notice a glow form around him, and it grew stronger each day until the car crash that took his life.  Bryn has seen the glow all of her life, but it isn't until Joshua dies that she realizes that people begin to glow right before they die.

When her foster mother takes in a boy named Aidan, Bryn's life begins to change.  Aidan is mysterious and has a weird fascination with Norse mythology, and is the first person Bryn trusts her secret to.  Then, when Aidan disappears and leaves behind the book he was translating, Bryn becomes obsessed with finishing his translation, only to discover that there are things about her own story that she never knew.

My Impression

I really loved this book.  I am a huge fan of mythology, and though I don't know a lot about Norse mythology, this book definitely sparked my interest.  In the world of the book, all of the Norse gods exist, but there are some differences between the myths we know and the truth behind the myths.  I thought the original spin on the mythology was very clever and allowed this book to really provide the reader with something new, despite their level of familiarity with Norse myth.

That being said, it was really easy to become attached to Bryn and her tragedy: that she knows when the people she loves are about to die, and yet she is powerless to save them.  Her adventure was thrilling and as I found myself trying to predict what would happen next in the book, I was consistently wrong, which made the story that more intriguing. 

Why I Picked Up This Book

I first came upon Dead Radiance while looking at Maria V. Snyder''s recent activity on Goodreads.  Since I love her writing, I followed the link and began to read about this book by T.G. Ayer...I was immediately interested.  After waiting the few weeks for the book to finally be released, and then waiting for Amazon to deliver my book (since neither Barnes & Noble or Hastings had the book in their records), I was finally able to read the book.

Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Mythology, Romance

My Rating: Five Stars 



Once Upon a Time Series

The Once Upon a Time series is published by Simon Pulse and written by various authors.  Each book  in the series retells a fairy tale (or two).  The series began with the publishing of The Storyteller's Daughter in 2002; the most recent book in the series, The World Above, was published in 2010, with a total of 19 books in the series.

Cameron Dokey


Nancy Holder

  • Spirited
  • The Rose Bride

Tracy Lynn

  • Snow

Debbie ViguiƩ

  • Midnight Pearls
  • Scarlet Moon
  • Violet Eyes

Suzanne Weyn

  • The Night Dance
  • Water Song
  • The Crimson Thread
  • The Diamond Secret

**Note: Each of these books were released as stand-alone novels.  However, Cameron Dokey's books are being re-released in collections.  In February 2012 the first collection was released, titled Once; this collection contains Before Midnight, Golden, and Wild Orchid.  A second collection, titled Kissed, is scheduled to be released in February 2013; it will contain Belle, Sunlight and Shadow, and Winter's Child.  



BEAUTY SLEEP by Cameron Dokey

Title: Beauty Sleep
Series: Once Upon a Time
Author: Cameron Dokey


Summary

Aurore is the daughter of  the king and queen, and on the one month anniversary of her birth, the kingdom comes together to celebrate her christening.  But one important person was not invited, and when she arrives she places a curse on Aurore: that in her sixteenth year she will prick her finger and her drop of blood with seal her death.  Even when the curse is modified to only cause a hundred-year sleep, Aurore's parents are overly cautious and determined to keep her safe, something which Aurore tries to fight as much as possible.

My Impression

My favorite part of this story is the development of Aurore's life between the placing of the curse and the inevitable pricking of her finger.  Dokey's development of this time made it a lot easier to love Aurore as a character and feel sorrow that she has been placed under this curse because of events outside of her control.

While I like some of Dokey's retellings more than this tale, I still really liked seeing Aurore as more than just a helpless girl who fumbles into the curse's fulfillment.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I had already read two other books in this series, Scarlet Moon and Midnight Pearls, and I have always had a love for fairy tale retellings, so I decided to read the rest of the series.

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Romance

My Rating: Four Stars




Interested in more books from this series? Click here to see a list of the other books in the Once Upon a Time series and my reviews of them.


KISS OF FROST by Jennifer Estep

Title: Kiss of Frost

Series: Mythos Academy #2

Author: Jennifer Estep


Summary

Thousands of years ago the god Loki decided he wanted to release Chaos into the mortal world and destroy humanity.  He gathered his followers, the Reapers of Chaos, and used them to gain power.  The gods and mortals determined to save humanity formed the Pantheon, a group with the sole purpose of defeating the Reapers in the Chaos War; led by the goddess Nike, the Pantheon was able to imprison Loki and stop Chaos from spreading.

Gwen has learned first hand that Loki's Reapers remain loyal to the god and are determined to release him from his prison.  Though she succeeded in preventing the Reapers' recent attempt to release Loki, Gwen still has a lot to learn in order to survive as Nike's Champion. Her training is even more important now because the Reapers know Gwen is responsible for their recent failure and revenge is one thing the Reapers are especially good at.

With the end of the term approaching, all of Mythos Academy is anxious to attend the annual Winter Carnival...except for Gwen; she would much rather remain at the academy.  But when it seems as though someone is out to kill Gwen, her best friend Daphne refuses to let her stay unprotected and convinces her that the trip will not only be good for her safety but also for her love life.  However, once the group arrives at the carnival, it is clear that the danger has followed Gwen and someone is definitely out for revenge.

My Impression

Gwen is still the same sarcastic Gypsy who can't sword fight to save her life who I met at the beginning of Touch of Frost.  However, Gwen is now more than that Gypsy girl with psychometry; Gwen is Nike's Champion, gifted by the goddess with touch magic, one of the rarest and most powerful of all magics.  

I loved seeing the struggles that Gwen had to face in Kiss of Frost.  While trying to accept her status as the third wheel to Daphne and Carson's relationship and trying to control her jealousy and anger at Logan's relationship with Savannah, Gwen also has to balance the expectations of her role as Nike's champion with her perception of her own abilities.  Yet no matter how bad Gwen feels about herself at times, she is constantly kind-hearted, which really defines her as a character.  

The same grievance I had with Touch of Frost also applies to Kiss of Frost.  This book also contained many pop-culture references, as well as a reference to "Ashland Asylum", which is another place from Estep's Elemental Assassin series. 

Why I Picked Up This Book

I bought and read this book almost as soon as it came out, because I really enjoyed Touch of Frost, the first book in the Mythos Academy series.

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Mythology, Romance

My Rating: Five Stars



Interested in other books by Jennifer Estep?  Check here to read my reviews of other books from this series.


HALLOWEEN FROST by Jennifer Estep


Title: "Halloween Frost"

Anthology: Entangled

Series: Mythos Academy #1.5

Author: Jennifer Estep


Summary

Gwen has learned a lot in the two months she has been at Mythos Academy, enough to know that the gods she once thought to be only myth are real and that Loki, with the help of his Reapers of Chaos, is close to escaping his prison and bringing about the Second Chaos War.

But even warriors deserve a break, especially after the discovery of a Reaper at Mythos Academy.  So Gwen and her friends Daphne and Carson decide to celebrate with some Trick-or-Treating, though they quickly discover that evil doesn't take breaks.

My Impression

I thought this was an okay novella.  I liked being able to see Gwen and some of the other characters outside of Mythos Academy and doing something other than studying and training, especially something like celebrating Halloween. Even though it is a novella and is clearly not going to have as complex of a plot as a novel from the series, I didn't feel that I got any new information by reading the novella.  

Why I Picked Up This Book

After reading Touch of Frost and Kiss of Frost, I figured I should read the novellas that accompany the series.

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Mythology, Romance

 My Rating: Three Stars



Interested in other books by Jennifer Estep?  Check here to read my reviews of other books from this series.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jennifer Estep Book List

Jennifer Estep is the author of three book series, two intended for adults (Elemental Assassin and Bigtime) and one intended for young adults (Mythos Academy).

Mythos Academy

Gwen Frost is a Gypsy.  Though she's not quite sure what that means, she does know that it's the reason she has a power to touch any object or person and receive vibes off of them.  When an accident causes Gwen to transfer to Mythos Academy, she notices something strange: she isn't the only one with powers.  Not only that, but these other people believe that the gods from mythology are real, and that the god Loki is determined to bring chaos back to the world.

Elemental Assassin

  • Spider's Bite
  • Web of Lies
  • Venom
  • Tangled Threads
  • "Haints and Hobwebs"
  • Spider's Revenge
  • "Thread of Death"
  • By a Thread
  • Widow's Web
  • Deadly Sting (to be released)
  • "Parlor Tricks" (to be released)
  • Heart of Venom (to be released)
  • #10

For more information about these series, as well as Estep's Bigtime series, visit her website.


TOUCH OF FROST by Jennifer Estep

Title: Touch of Frost

Series: Mythos Academy #1

Author: Jennifer Estep


Summary

Touch of Frost is the story of seventeen-year-old Gwen Frost.  Gwen has always known about her Gypsy gift, the one that allows her to touch an object and see its history as well as the vibes of emotions and memories left behind by others who have touched it.  Gypsy gifts run in her family, but it isn't until she is sent to Mythos Academy that she realizes her family is not the only one with magic.

Mythos Academy is a school for the descendants of ancient warriors, such as the Celts, Spartans, Viking, Valkyries, and Amazons.  Each group comes with their own special ability, and though Gwen is finally around others who understand what it means to have magic, she is the only Gypsy and doesn't seem to possess the raw magic and fighting abilities that her classmates have.

When a student on campus dies, most are convinced that the murderer was a Reaper of Chaos, one of the followers of Loki, but Gwen is skeptical.  Though she believes in the magic, she doesn't believe that the gods and goddesses of mythology actually exist, just like she believes there is more to the student's death than there appears.  So Gwen decides to investigate, unaware that as she starts to put the pieces together she will drag herself further into the world of Mythos Academy and the war that is about to start.

My Impression

I have to say, I really loved this book.  Gwen is a very spunky character with a sense of humor that made her very easy to read about.  I was more than willing to follow her on her quest as she struggles to deal with her mom's death, her arrival at a new school where she is the clear outcast, the reality behind her Gypsy gift, and her devotion to discovering the truth.  

I am also a huge fan of mythology, so I enjoyed how Touch of Frost incorporated many different world mythologies outside of Western Mythology, such as Native American and Japanese myth, and was able to mash them together in a very interesting way.  It also doesn't limit the audience to readers who already have a strong understanding of these mythologies since the story is more interested in how they come together.

I know there has been a wave of book series revolving around a person with magical abilities ending up at a school for magic where they discover themselves, and I won't argue that this book fits into this sub-genre of paranormal fantasy.  However, I don't think that is a reason to disregard this book/series, since the material is unique enough and branches away from the use of a school for wizards or vampires/vampire-like people.

I only had a few minor dislikes with this book.  The first is the use of pop-culture references and slang.  Though I understand its usefulness in trying to connect with a modern, young-adult audience, I think it can also lessen the longevity of the book's relevance.  Though references to Wonder Woman and Nancy Drew can appeal to many older readers as well as many future readers, references to Gossip Girl and Veronica Mars will only be understood by a more limited audience.  The second minor thing that I disliked was when it references a restaurant called The Pork Pit.  The restaurant is from Estep's adult Elemental Assassin series, and though I find it interesting when an author has multiple series set within the same universe, the two series are set in VERY different universes, and so I found the restaurant's presence in Touch of Frost to be disarming.

Despite my few minor qualms with the book's references, I really enjoyed the world that Jennifer Estep creates in this novel.  I know that this is a book that I will read multiple times and that it is a series I will anxiously follow until the end.

Why I Picked Up This Book

I heard about this book (I am ashamed to say) through an ad on Facebook.  Normally I disregard the ads that the site tries to cater to my interests, but for some reason the ad caught my eye.  I decided to find a copy of the book and see if, for once, Facebook had actually found something that would interest me.

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Mythology, Romance

My Rating: Five Stars



Interested in other books by Jennifer Estep?  Check here to read my reviews of other books from this series.



FIRST FROST by Jennifer Estep

Title: “First Frost”

Series: Mythos Academy #0.5

Author: Jennifer Estep


Summary

Whenever someone touches an object, they leave behind a psychic vibe, hints of their memories and emotions; the more attached a person is to an object, the stronger the vibe they leave behind.  Sixteen-year-old Gwen Frost has the Gypsy gift of psychometry, which allows her to pick up these vibes from any object she touches.

Normally Gwen uses her gift to make extra money by finding lost belongings for her classmates, until one day she notices a distressed look on Paige Forrest's face.  Eager to know what could make Paige look so scared, Gwen touches Paige's hairbrush and is horrified by the secret she discovers.

Gwen's vision leads to a terrible accident and suddenly she is enrolled at Mythos Academy, a school for the magically gifted; but Gwen feels there is more to this school than she can see...now she just has to believe in it.

My Impression

I enjoyed this novella.  However, the reason I liked this novella so much is because I had already read Touch of Frost, the first book in the series.  Though Touch of Frost mentions the events leading up to Gwen's arrival at Mythos Academy, it was nice to see the events as she experiences them, instead of just seeing her mental recap. 

That being said, I am not sure if I would have enjoyed this novella as much if it was my first introduction to Gwen and her world.  The plot is sort of slow moving and, since the novella functions much like a prologue to Touch of Frost than a stand-alone story, the ending is rather abrupt and doesn't give much insight into the world of Mythos Academy, Gwen's Gypsy gifts, or what role magic plays in the world.

Why I Picked Up This Book

After reading the first two novels in the Mythos Academy series, I decided I should read this prequel to the series.

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Mythology

My RatingFour Stars



Interested in other books by Jennifer Estep?  Check here to read my reviews of other books from this series.