Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Immortal City

Title: Immortal City
Author: Scott Speer
ISBN: 978-1595145062
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Supernatural, Paranormal Romance
Theme: Angels
Binding: ARC Paperback (advance reader copy)
Length: 368 pgs
Published: 3 April 2012
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com
My Rating:

Jackson Godspeed is the hottest young Angel in a city filled with them. He is days away from becoming a full Guardian, and people around the world are already competing for the chance to be watched over by him. Everyone's obsessed with the Angels and the lucky people they protect - everyone except for Madison Montgomery. Maddy's the one girl in Angel City who doesn't breathlessly follow the Angels on TV and gossip blogs. When she meets Jackson, she doesn't recognize him. But Jackson is instantly captivated by her, and against all odds the two fall in love. Maddy is swiftly caught up in Jackson's scene, a world of glamour, paparazzi - and murder. A serial killer is on the loose, leaving dead Angels' wings for the police to find on the Walk of Fame. Even the Guardians are powerless to protect themselves in the face of this threat … and this time it's up to Maddy to save Jackson.

**The Following Review May Contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I won an early reviewer's copy of this book through Kristin's blog called GrowingUp YA which I am eternally grateful for.

Unlike the angel YA book I read before this one (Temptation of Angels) which was a complete disappointment, Immortal City was a fun, addictive read. The first chapter was a great opener and sets the tone of the story right away. Imagine this: a drunk rich kid (or young man) driving erratically down the road at night. Just as he weaves around a bend, he realizes too late that his car is about to hit into a truck. As the vehicles collide, he is suddenly pulled through his wind shield to safety by his guardian angel. His angel informs him that other then some superficial cuts and bruises, he will be fine and that the money for saving his life has already been transferred out of his account-- in the amount of $100,000 dollars. When the rich kid asks about the unfortunate driver of the truck whom he hit, the angel shrugs, stating simply, "He didn't have coverage." And thus begins the funny yet creepy premise of Immortal City-- angels are now "out of the closet" and only save those who can afford their prices in exchange for their services.

Along with Scott Speer's original and refreshing plot, so is his unique world building. Instead of pages and pages of angel mythology, the author explains his theories through Maddy's history class aptly called "History of Angels in America". So it almost makes the reader feel like they are learning this information with the characters. The fact that the history of angels has been added to high school curriculum also shows how important angels have become in modern society-- even if their significance has become misconstrued in many ways.

So now you are probably wondering not only why angels decided to reveal themselves to man, but how they could possibly save only those who can afford to be saved. Why would they charge people for their services? Well that is for you to find out. However, to sum things up, angels grew tired of seeing mankind self destruct. This idea is not that original and has been used in many books and movies before.

This leads me to my few minor issues with this book. I get that the angels somehow symbolize how we today obsess and idolize celebrities and put them on pedestals. It's a clever plot device. What left me confused is the whole religious aspect-- or lack there of. I'm not saying that every angel book has to mention God or choose a "side" or become preachy. However, I couldn't help but wonder where God is in all of this. Or is there no God, only angels? If God does exist in Scott Speer's mythology, then how can he sit back and allow angels to save only those who can afford their astronomical fees? How does it make them any better than demons and dark angels? God or any other higher entity is not mentioned in the book and I find that puzzling.

My other issue is Maddy's relationship with her uncle Kevin. She was just a baby when her parents were killed and Kevin took over as her guardian. Maddy calls him Kevin instead of uncle Kevin. Also, she thinks to herself at one point, "She loved Kevin dearly, but the fact of the matter was, he wasn't her parent. Some things were just private." Really?? I could see if her parents had died when she was 10 and then she had to live with her uncle. But for someone who has no recollection of her parents and has always lived with her uncle, I would think they'd have a closer bond.

My last gripe is the lack of romantic development between Maddy and Jackson. I am cool with authors who use the "love at first sight" technique. That doesn't bother me so much. However, there does have to be some sort of growth between the characters as the story progresses. The moment they shared in the back office of the diner was not a bad start. They both share the loss of a parent. Sadly, that is pretty much it for their similarities. Most of the novel is Maddy being angry or argumentative towards Jackson and Jackson occasionally wondering why she keeps popping into his head. While I think Scott Speer did a great job developing them as characters individually, their relationship seemed a bit...shallow. I guess what I am trying to say is I really wanted to like them as a couple but wasn't completely sold, even when things started to get more intense at the end.

Despite these things, I think Immortal City is a solid first book in what is sure to be a series based upon how it ended. I give this book a 4 out of 5 star rating because I have faith that the author can smooth out the kinks in the 2nd novel, such as more angel background and spending some more time developing the relationship between Maddy and Jackson.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: A Temptation of Angels

Title: A Temptation of Angels
Author: Michelle Zink
ISBN: 0803737262
Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Romance
Theme: Angels
Binding: ARC Paperback (advance reader copy)
Length: 435 pgs
Published: 20 March 2012
Buy: amazon.com, bn.com
My Rating:

Synopsis: Even angels make mistakes in this page-turning epic romance When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: I won an early reviewer's copy of this book from Library Things, so I was obligated to write a review once I was finished. The book is not due to be published until early next year, March 2012. There is another person who reviewed this book on Library Things under the name MargK that I completely agreed with. A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink was nothing like I expected and I don't mean that in a good way. The list of positive things about this book is very short.

Here are a few of the positives:

1) Like MargK mentioned in her earlier review, the author has a certain simple elegance to her writing, therefore it was easy to read.

2) I liked that the story took place in London (Despite this, I had major issues with the setting—or lack thereof which I will get to shortly).

3) Even though I agree that the author doesn’t really give us any new dimensions to her characters or the love triangle (we’ve read it all before), I will say that she did a good job at building the sexual tension and romantic moments between Helen and Griffin.

Sadly, this is where the positives end. I don’t want to make this a long, drawn out review nor do I want to repeat the negatives that other reviewers have pointed out, so I am going to stick to my 3 main issues with this book.

1) The setting. Like I said above, I was looking forward to reading this book partly because it was supposed to take place in London. The reason I enjoy reading books with settings around the globe should be obvious—it’s a way to learn about a country or time period without having to do extensive research (unless you want to). I think that is one of the important jobs an author has to do—transport you to that time and place, make you feel like you are there. Unfortunately, this does not happen in A Temptation of Angels. The author does not give us any specific dates (not always necessary) or landmarks, or historical references. Helen and the Channing brothers seem to walk everywhere—there is no mention of horses or cars—nothing that could help me get a better sense of what type of London the story takes place in. The only thing that finally gave me an idea where to place the story is when it is revealed that Helen wears corsets and that it is not proper etiquette for a young lady to be walking the streets alone, or to be living with young bachelors that are not her family. This of course is a big contradiction in the book. I’m not even going to go there since MargK’s review gets into detail the major contradictions of the mysterious and supposedly powerful organization called the Dictata.

2) My other major problem with this book is this: the book is supposed to be about angels. Other then Helen and the Channing brothers being able to “jump” through light (as in being able to dissolve their bodies into tiny molecules through light in order to transport to other places), nothing else is explored as far as their abilities. What else can they do? Hell, if they are angels, aren’t they supposed to have wings? Not once are wings mentioned.

3) Lastly, this book is riddled with parts that are unbelievable, unnecessary, or just plain didn’t make sense. The author spends too much time on parts that could be simplified in a page or two while she does not give enough attention to things such as the term “Enlightenment” for example. What does it mean when one reaches “Enlightenment”? This term was mentioned several times in the beginning of the book but was never explored. What happened to Darius’ face? How did he get the scar? I also think that her reaction AND the outcome of the whole dart/dog situation was completely ridiculous. I don’t want to give it away since it would be a major spoiler, but it was a very poor plot device.

To sum it up, the book had an interesting premise but the execution fell flat. For lack of a better way to say this, I was bored. Unless the finished product differs greatly from the ARC I just read, I don’t see Michelle Zink's A Temptation of Angels making any great waves in the YA literature world.