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Trilogy Review: Madison Avery by Kim Harrison

The Madison Avery Trilogy
by Kim Harrison
Rating: 2/5 stars

If you can overlook a few flaws, the Madison Avery trilogy is a fun, light YA read.

However, I had a difficult time following my own advice. I have a lot of nitpicky things to talk about in this review and unfortunately, not a lot of positive takeaways.

Once Dead, Twice Shy, the first book, had a few glaring weaknesses – the most prominent being the main character’s propensity for making bad decisions. I don’t mind it when characters make mistakes – flaws and an occasional lax in judgement can go a long way in making a story feel authentic. However, I take exception when every single decision the character makes goes against common sense (and against advice from other characters actively stating it’s a bad idea). Thus the pattern would go: 1. Bad decision made 2. Fallout from the bad decision made 3. The character saying “I’m sorry” and then moving on to the next bad decision.

I lost count of the number of times the character said “I’m sorry” throughout the first book and got really tired of the same spiel over and over again. And what’s worse, those tendencies and attitudes were evident in all of the other characters as well… which I think equals out to a story cluster-you-know-what where perhaps if the characters weren’t getting in their own way, they could’ve focused on adding substance. I think had the book been longer (allowing me more time to get irritated), my rating would’ve dropped proportionately. As it was, the short length actually worked in its favor.

Here’s what bothered me most about that, though: the character never used those failures to grow. There was no reflection on what she could’ve done better (other than the self-blame and apologizing), and I see that as a missed opportunity for more depth. She did use those moments to solidify some convictions, so I guess that’s something, but overall I kept craving more introspection. Incidentally, my biggest negative takeaway from the entire series is that Madison Avery’s character was a flat-lined consistency through the whole thing (and not just because she was dead) and all the focus was on the external conflicts. I should lighten the blow a bit by saying I did actually like her character profile, I just wish she’d given me an opportunity to feel something for her.

The external conflict/focus of the series took a while to become clear. There were moments in the second book where it started budding into something really satisfying, but every time it gained momentum, the focus would shift and it would get ignored for a while. I wonder if part of that was to save the “big profound moment” for the end of the series, but for me, by the time it got there I found my enthusiasm in the pits because it danced around it for so long.

This is one of those cases where my initial rating was going to be a 3 stars (I liked it), but after writing my review and really analyzing how I felt about it, I downgraded to a 2 stars (it was just okay) rating. Does anyone else let their word vomit help solidify their opinions? It doesn’t happen often to me, but when it does, I run with it. Keep in mind that I’ve been unusually harsh on YA lately and had I read these when they first came out, I likely would not have been so critical.

Recommendations: this YA paranormal story is definitely more suited towards younger readers. It doesn’t have a very strong romance angle, which might be perfect for a few readers tired of the same old tropes.

Other books you might like (…better?):

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr

Title: Fragile Eternity

Author: Melissa Marr

Series: Wicked Lovely #3

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: Seth never expected he would want to settle down with anyone – but that was before Aislinn. She is everything he’d ever dreamed of, and he wants to be with her forever. Forever takes on new meaning, though, when your girlfriend is an immortal faery queen. Aislinn never expected to rule the very creatures who’d always terrified her – but that was before Keenan. He stole her mortality to make her a monarch, and now she faces challenges and enticements beyond any she’d ever imagined. In Melissa Marr’s third mesmerizing tale of Faerie, Seth and Aislinn struggle to stay true to themselves and each other in a milieu of shadowy rules and shifting allegiances, where old friends become new enemies and one wrong move could plunge the Earth into chaos. -Goodreads

The Review:

Okay, let’s keep it real. We all know I’ve had trouble getting into YA lately, but I needed something light to listen to while doing yoga. It turned out to be a rather insightful experience, however, because reading Fragile Eternity help me pinpoint a little better why YA just hasn’t been hitting the spot lately (and I don’t think it’s because I’m getting too old for it, thank the stars).

You see, I’m in a reading point in my life where I’m looking for more world building and event-driven novels. Good character development is important, but I need more than a strictly character-driven “are they going to end up/stay together” story to grab and keep my attention. As many YA plot structures are romance-centric, this would explain why I’m not loving them like I used to. Something keeps me reaching for them, and I genuinely like what I read, they’ve just been getting lower ratings because I’m in the mood for something more robust. Fragile Eternity was solely a romance/character-driven plot with a ton of introspection, communication, and zero world building and action. Nuff said.

Don’t get me wrong, the story was on par with Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange (which were also character driven), and I absolutely loved both of those (they’re among the strongest teen paranormal works, in my opinion). So if you love those, you’ll love this… unless you’re having a reading crisis like me. Although it would seem all of the interesting things about this world have been revealed by this point, so maybe Fragile Eternity was slightly weaker because it just maintained the status quo. Overall, it was a light read filled with plenty of teenaged angst, and I’m looking forward to half paying attention to the final two as I do yoga, lol.

Recommendations: This highly character-driven YA Paranormal Romance is something I wish I’d continued shortly after reading (and loving) the first two books. Wicked Lovely is one of the strongest in the genre and I still recommend it with gusto to older teens (and up). If you’re in the mood for a story as lovely as it its unique, this is the series for you.

Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes

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DNF Q&A: Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep

Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep

Title: Killer Frost

Author: Jennifer Estep

Series: Mythos Academy #6

Genre: Teen Paranormal

Rating: 0 stars (DNF)

The Overview: I’ve battled the Reapers of Chaos before–and survived. But this time I have a Bad, Bad Feeling it’s going to be a fight to the death … most likely mine. Yeah, I’ve got my psychometry magic, my talking sword, Vic–and even the most dangerous Spartan on campus at my side, in Logan freaking Quinn, but I’m no match for Loki, the evil Norse god of chaos. I may be Nike’s Champion, but at heart, I’m still just Gwen Frost, that weird Gypsy girl everyone at school loves to gossip about. Then someone I love is put in more danger than ever before, and something inside me snaps. This time, Loki and his Reapers are going down for good … or I am.

The DNF Q&A:

This is a reviewing feature I’ve been eyeballing on one of my favorite book blogs There Were Books Involved for a couple years now because I think it’s an excellent way to talk about an unfinished book fairly. I’m incredibly grateful because Nikki (the brains behind the blog, who has a most excellent name)  kindly allowed me to steal the idea and questions for my own blog. As my list of “amazing books to read” continues to grow, I find I have less and less time and patience to devote to the books I’m just not enjoying. I never would have considered DNFing a book ten years ago, but then I came across a quote, “Read the best books first, for you might not have the chance to read them all,” and have since made it my personal mantra. Life’s too short to read books you’re just not enjoying. So let the Q&A begin!

Did you really give Killer Frost a chance?

Yes – especially when you consider it’s book 6, the final book in the series. The series took a nosedive around the fourth book, and I’ve been just trying to get it over with ever since (which is an awful sentiment – who wants to read anything “just to get it over with” like it’s a chore?). As harsh as that sounds, I did try, making it halfway through Killer Frost before putting it down.

Have you enjoyed other books in the same genre before?

You mean all of the YA Paranormal books that I can’t live without? Yes, I’ve enjoyed those. Here are some of my favorites:

Yes, Twilight is on there. Leave me alone.

Did you have certain expectations before starting it?

Sadly, I think I expected exactly what I got – senseless rehashing of the same concepts over and over again; the random enemy attacks with no discernable strategy; and no real depth of character. Maybe that’s not totally true – maybe I expected more going into the finale of the series, so was even more disappointed when faced with the same issues I’d been noticing all along.

What ultimately made you stop reading?

Frustration that I had already invested so much time in this series and it STILL wasn’t showing any improvement. As I mentioned, I read more than half of this book before finally putting it down, and at least 75% of that half was dialogue and speculation about what the problem was… very little action. Then the bad guys would sporadically show up, gloat, take something, then leave. Same stuff, different day. I ended up taking five minutes and skimming, reading only the first and last paragraphs of each chapter until I got to the end. And you know what? I feel like I got the entire essence of how the story ended without any of the fluff.

Another colossal disappointment was the great concept that never lived up to its potential. All of the students at Mythos Academy are descendents of Spartans, Ninjas, Valkyries, and many other kickass entities throughout history. They all attend this school to learn how to harness their powers and use them to fight the bad guys. The trouble is, aside from a handful of sparring sessions in the gym, none of those great ideas are explored anywhere THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE SERIES! I wanted to attend school with the characters and learn with them, kind of like what I got to do in the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, but instead all we got to do was hang out at the library… A lot. Don’t get me wrong, library was a cool setting, but there were no classes there and everything seemed to revolve around it. I can’t seem to find the exact words to describe how disappointed I am in what I feel is the promise of a school for magic-users unfulfilled. They might as well have been at a prep school that offered a few fencing classes rather than a school for gifted kids. Such a great idea completely unrealized.

Was there anything you liked about Killer Frost? 

This book specifically? No. The series in general? Yes – I really enjoyed the first two books and thought the concept behind the whole thing was really creative. It just failed on delivery. I honestly think it would’ve been a lot stronger condensed down to three books – I’m positive Estep could have included all of the main conflicts and cut out all of the endlessly repeating plot points and speculation. Maybe if she had made the school a bigger part of it… Bah – I’ll never get over that one.

Would you read anything else by this author? 

Honestly, I’m not too sure anymore. I read the first book in her Spider series and enjoyed it, but now I’m almost afraid to keep going. What if I invest all of that time and wind up just as disappointed in the end? Maybe if I allow myself to stop reading as soon as I see it going south… what a sad sentiment.

So you DNF’d the book – would you still recommend it?

No… I don’t think so. Perhaps the first three are recommendable, but why encourage someone to read a series that doesn’t really go anywhere?

Overall, I’m bummed.

I’m also curious if I’m the only one who felt this way about the series… Did anybody else happen to finish it? What are your thoughts?

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead

the ruby circleTitle: The Ruby Circle

Author: Richelle Mead

Series: Bloodlines #6

Genre: Teen Paranormal

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: Their forbidden romance exposed, Sydney and Adrian find themselves facing the wrath of both the Alchemists and the Moroi in this electrifying conclusion to Richelle Mead’s bestselling Bloodlines series.

When the life of someone they both love is put on the line, Sydney risks everything to hunt down a deadly former nemesis. Meanwhile, she and Adrian becomes enmeshed in a puzzle that could hold the key to a shocking secret about spirit magic, a secret that could shake the entire Moroi world and alter their lives forever.

The Mini Review:

I want to start out by saying Richelle Mead is my all-time favorite author… Although if you’ve been following for any length of time you probably already know that. I gush about her so much in my reviews that I’m going to make this one a mini review to help tone it down a little. :-)

Considering Silver Shadows was one of the best books I’ve read EVER, The Ruby Circle had a lot to live up to. It was a decent series ender – filled with all the things we love about the VA world – but I couldn’t help but come away thinking it felt a bit rushed (flash forward to the Richelle Mead signing I attended where she stated: with a newborn to deal with, “it’s a miracle this book got published it all,” and it all starts to make sense… I have a tendency to forget that authors are real people with busy lives of their own, which is ironic considering I am an aspiring author). Richelle did mention that she left a few things open because she wanted to give herself room to revisit this world in the future (we can hope). Even slightly rushed, it was still a great book – Sydney had a lot of obstacles to traverse with her magic, the romance was as sweet as ever, and there were a few surprises that practically knocked me out of my chair (you’ll see). As for the series as a whole, I wasn’t convinced I was going to like it at first, but I ended up loving it even more than VA and found Sydney to be the female character I identify most with from any series, so that’s kind of neat. Ooooh and something else cool – the characters visit my hometown at some point in the book – SHOUT OUT!!!! I feel famous. Anyway, if you like YA paranormal and haven’t read this author, you’re missing out on who I consider the best in the genre… just saying.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Midnight Frost by Jennifer Estep

july 30, estepTitle: Midnight Frost

Author: Jennifer Estep

Series: Mythos Academy #5

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Release Date: July 30, 2013

The Overview: Just when it seems life at Mythos Academy can’t get any more dangerous, the Reapers of Chaos manage to prove me wrong. It was just a typical night at the Library of Antiquities — until a Reaper tried to poison me. The good news is I’m still alive and kicking. The bad news is the Reaper poisoned someone else instead. 

As Nike’s Champion, everyone expects me to lead the charge against the Reapers, even though I’m still hurting over what happened with Spartan warrior Logan Quinn. I’ve got to get my hands on the antidote fast — otherwise, an innocent person will die. But the only known cure is hidden in some creepy ruins — and the Reapers are sure to be waiting for me there …

july 30, estep

Nik’s Notes:

Fans of House of Night should definitely check this series out – it’s a neat hybrid of mythology and paranormal. While book 3 let me down a  bit, I absolutely devoured books 1 and 2 (and thus far, book 4 seems to be redeeming itself). Anyway, it’s a neat concept and I’ve categorized it in my personal “beach-read” favorites list.

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Coming Soon: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

Nov 19Title: The Fiery Heart

Author: Richelle Mead

Series: Bloodlines #4

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

Release Date: November 19, 2013

The Overview: In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . .

But the struggle isn’t over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there’s still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure—and re-education—looms larger than ever.

Nov 19

Nik’s Notes:

How excited is everyone else that we don’t have to wait a full year to read this one? This is about the point in the series where the arc of the story takes you on that can’t-catch-your-breath ride to the finale (at least if the VA and Succubus series are anything to go by). These highly character-driven novels are fantastic and I’m betting this is going to be the best one yet! The countdown has begun…

Also, be on the lookout for her latest series (Age of X) available June 4th:

(click the cover to read my review)

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead (June 4th)