Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Tempest Rising

Title: Tempest Rising
Author: Tracy Deebs
ISBN: 978-0802722317
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal
Theme: Mermaids/Selkies
Binding: Paperback (ARC)
Length: 288 pgs (advanced reader copy)
Published: 10 May 2011
My Rating:

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her-and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Tempest Rising
was on my highly anticipated list and I was lucky enough to get a hold of an ARC (advance reader copy) before the release date. One of the reasons why I was excited about reading this book is because of its subject manner. Mermaids! Stories about mermaids are still fresh and new whereas, books on vampires, werewolves, and even angels are starting to get old and redundant. It’s getting increasingly harder to find that diamond in the rough.

An interesting thing I found out AFTER I had read Tempest Rising is that this author goes by 2 other pseudonym names—Tracy Wolff and Tessa Adams. Here is the connection—I have read the first book in Tessa Adam’s adult “Dragon Heat” series--Dark Embers-- and my rating/review of the book is nn one of my earlier posts. I remember giving Dark Embers a 5 star rating for its unique dragon mythology, sexy alpha hero, and sizzling romance.

That being said, while Tempest Rising had all the pieces to make a great first young adult book for Tracy Deebs about a teenage girl who on her 17th birthday would have to make a crucial decision whether to stay on land or follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a mermaid, somehow it falls a little short. While this book is supposed to be a little more serious in tone, I actually enjoyed Tera Lynn Child’s Forgive My Fins way better, which sort of has the same premise but more comical.

So starting with what I enjoyed…I liked how the book was split into 5 parts and how the chapters were short. Not that I have anything against long chapters; I just think that shorter chapters tend to make you want to read more. It is definitely a nice tool to keep readers interested.

At first I really liked Tempest. She was sort of like a tomboy—enjoyed surfing, hung around a bunch of guys, had a great boyfriend that any girl would be lucky to have. The whole on again, off again relationship with Mark was believable since the story is centered around teenagers and we all know that their emotions can run hot and cold. I also enjoyed Kai's character--at first he is very mysterious and sounds exotic with his darker skin, long hair, and sexy name. I can see why Tempest would have a sudden attraction to him.

However, it doesn't take long for Tempest to get on my nerves. She treats her boyfriend Mark like crap. At one point I was hoping that the author was going to reveal some major flaw of Mark's; like maybe he hits her, or cheats on her, or finds out that she is part mermaid and sees her as a freak, something to justify her mean behavior towards him. Unfortunately none of those things happen. He truly does care for her, puts up with her mood swings, and buys her a beautiful birthday gift. Despite her coldness towards him, I do commend Tempest for finally acting like an adult towards the end (won't spoil it for you).

I also got tired of Tempest always wanting to "run away". Almost every chapter she is either trying to get away from her boyfriend to avoid having a serious conversation with him or she is running away from her father who wants her to confide in him or she is running away from Kai, etc.

It felt like the author was just skimming over everything. She never really gives us background details other than how Tempest feels betrayed by her mother. Why did the tattoos/symbols form on her skin? What are their significance? How did her parents meet? Why does Tempest have so much more power than even her mother when she is only half mermaid? What’s the relationship between selkies and mermaids? Why does Tempest feel such a strong connection to Kai? Why didn’t the Queen of the mer people offer to help train Tempest so she can better understand her powers? Why didn’t her mother keep her promise and return to her to help her daughter through this crucial transition? And if she couldn’t, why didn’t she at least send someone to inform her husband? It’s not like her husband (Tempest’s human father) is in the dark. He knows his wife is a mermaid. I know Tempest’s mother sends Kai to keep an eye on her, but I guess I don’t buy all this secrecy and wondering why her mother has been absent so long. Yes I know that her mother was busy trying to keep her people safe from the sea witch. But if she could send someone to keep an eye on her daughter then why she couldn’t even send a letter to her devoted husband through Kai is beyond me. It seems pretty darn heartless.

The only reason I could think of for the author to only write on the surface is because she has plans to turn this book into a series. I could see that happening since there are things left unresolved as you can tell by my long list of questions. If this is her goal, then she definitely needs to work on her mythology and focus on story development. Hopefully Tempest will be less annoying in the future. While I am in love with the adult romance series that she has written under her pseudonym name Tessa Adams, Tracy Deeps has some work to do in the Young Adult universe.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Review: Surrender the Dark

Title: Surrender the Dark
L.A. Banks
ISBN: 978-1451607789
Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy/Romance
Theme: Angels & Demons
Binding: Paperback
Length: 400 pgs
Published: 29 March 2011
My Rating:

Synopsis: Celeste Jackson has fought all her life against a fog of hallucination and substance abuse, but it’s not until she meets her protector, Azrael, an angel who has left the safety of the Light, that she learns of the evil forces that have been trying to ruin her, and why. A fierce battle for control of the mortal realm is brewing, and only Celeste—with the help of the Remnant, her half-human, half-angel brethren—can stand in the way. Together, Celeste and Azrael must gather an army of sensitives to defeat the dark powers that have ruled humanity for centuries, but time is running out. If Azrael surrenders to his growing desire for Celeste, he risks being trapped among humanity forever. But the longer he stays, the harder she is to resist. To save the world, Celeste must draw on her own dark experiences with addiction to help Azrael overcome the one temptation that could possibly make him an eternal prisoner—his obsession with her.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I was motivated to read Surrender the Dark in quite a different way. While playing around on, I came across the book almost a month ago. I found the cover and the premise of the novel very appealing. At that time, there were only about two reviews and both were very negative. I think one was a 2 star rating while the other was only a 1 star rating. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion so I am not trying to be disrespectful but after reading the book, I am having a hard time finding the validity of their complaints. One reviewer complained that the author's writing is bad, do to the "over explaining of simple concepts" and too much religious lecturing/preaching. Well, I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to realize that a) the book is the 1st in a new series so of course the author is going to introduce the reader to this new world/mythology she is writing about and b) DUH! The book is about ANGELS and the possibility of the end of the world! I am agnostic and am more spiritual than religious. Those close to me know I strongly dislike people who try pushing their religious beliefs on others. While reading this book, I in NO way felt that the author was trying to make me run to the nearest church. I think some readers need to be a little more open-minded and aware of some of the topics they may come across when reading the synopsis of a novel.

That being said, here are a few things I loved about Surrender the Dark.

Third person narration worked well in this novel and I think Ms. Banks made a wise choice in starting it off with Azrael's fall and first few moments of life on Earth in a mortal body. It definitely sets the mood and in my opinion, immediately catches the interest of the reader. Azrael's fall reminded me of Gabriel's fall in the indie movie of the same name, starring Andy Whitfield. Definitely a movie worth checking out if you like this book.

I liked the different terminology that the author uses (I'll get to that later) and her mythology. One thing I found fascinating is how Angels of the Light come into human bodies depending on their surroundings/environment. For example, the main protagonist, Celeste, lives in the hood and is African American. Since Azrael is being sent down to search for her but does not want to draw too much attention to himself, it only makes sense that his mortal body would blend in, therefore, he looks African American (and has dredlocks). Once I figured that out, it made total sense. It would draw too much attention if a white guy is found walking around in a predominantly "black" section. That is just asking for trouble.

I also liked the way Banks connected natural disasters, excessive drug dealing/using, and diseases (like cancer) to that of the evil workings of the devil. I'm not going to further explain that concept as I don't want to give too much away. But it definitely got me thinking.

I was really impressed with the author's ability to write realistic dialogue and dialects. A great example is one of my favorite characters, Aunt Niecey. Banks was able to capture her old southern charm mixed in with a no nonsense, God fearing attitude of a black woman. Here is an excerpt to give you an idea what I mean:

'"This po' girl been through a lot,"' Aunt Niecey said, looking at Azrael as she rubbed Celeste's back. "I don't know who or what you are to her, but if you hurt this baby girl after all she done endured, ain't no power high enough in Heaven to keep me off your ass, son. You hear? This is my baby. My baby sister's only chile. This one here is special. This one here is anointed--jus' like every door and windowsill and floorboard up in here is anointed, I done put down special prayers on this one. An' jus' like the devil can't come in this prayed-up house, can't nobody who ain't right stay with this special chile to bring her down..."'

Banks also did great with the Jamaican accent of her angel character Isda.

Another small thing I noticed-- I liked the fact that the story takes place in Philadelphia, PA! I am from the South Jersey area and it was so refreshing to read a story where the characters are navigating down streets and buildings I have actually been to myself.

Lastly, what makes this book a little different than other urban fantasy/romance novels is the fact that the main protagonist, Celeste, is not perfect. She is on drugs when Azrael first meets her. I think this gives her a real human quality rather than some unrealistic, perfect character that is hard to relate to.

Now for my 2 small complaints if you want to call them that. Although most people detest when authors add glossaries to their books, I think it would have been an asset in this case. Banks introduces new terminology to her readers in this series that may take some getting used to. While I did figure out the meaning of most, a small guide would have been helpful. Some terms are as follows: "Most High", "The Source of All That Is", "On High", etc.

My other small issue is more of a wish. In Surrender the Dark, Azrael is not the only angel we are introduced to nor is he the only one that is sent down on a mission. There are a few of his brethren that are sent to find others like Celeste. I was hoping, wishing, and praying that Banks' sequel would be about these other warrior angels and their missions but I found out that Azrael and Celeste's story continues in the next book. It's not a huge disappointment but I at least hope Banks adds more about these other characters.

All in all, Surrender the Dark is a great start to a new series about angels & demons, light and dark, good vs. evil, and the depths of despair vs. the healing power of faith.