This book is released as Hemlock outside of the UK.
Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered. Since then, Mac's life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac's hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy's Killer: A white werewolf. Lupine Syndrome -- the werewolf virus - is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control and the Trackers are determined to stop those with Lupine Syndrome, at any cost. Unwilling to work with the brutal Trackers, but desperately wanting to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy's murder herself. But the deeper she delves into the mystery behind Amy's death, the more secrets she discovers lurking in the shadows of Hemlock. Secrets that should have been left untold. Secrets that will change her life forever.
I really liked the initial premise of this story; supernatural elements mixed with a murder investigation, but the actual story didn't really read like this. The blurb does fit it but makes it sound a lot more exciting than it is. I didn't really dislike the book, there wasn't a time when I didn't feel like reading through to the end, but I felt that it didn't take enough time to initially introduce the characters, and because of this I was regularly confused as to which of her many men Mac was talking to.
As a narrator and main character Mac is ok. And really, just ok. I didn't really care that much what happened to her. She seemed to spend a lot of time being blind to everything that was actually going on around her, especially the affection of the two main men in her life, Jason and Kyle. She jumps to conclusions that I felt were way ahead of the narrative, like going straight to the idea that her friend's girlfriend must be pregnant because she looked a bit bedraggled. I didn't feel like I had enough context about the couple to guess it (whether it is true or not) or to even look back and see the clues. I suppose what I mean is that I felt there were parts of the story that were missing, or unecessary.
The Trackers gave the story a dystopian overtone, but it still felt more supernatural on the whole. I wanted it to focus more heavily on the interesting dystopian themes that it touches on but it didn't. It stayed more on the teen angst/romance which really bored me. I wanted to be more challenged. It touched on the fact that the original group of Trackers were a breakaway group of White Supremacists, and there are mentions of racism and race in other places too. There is also the fact that Mac is the only one of her friends that isn't a Trust Fund kid. She's technically an orphan from the other side of the tracks, but this doesn't really get explored either. You could argue it's because money doesn't matter and their all equal, but it makes a point to say that the rich parents wanted a separate school from the poorer families. I really felt there were so many more interesting things that could have been explore alongside it being a coming-of-age/first love story.
I also wished that it had spent more time focussing on Amy's murder. The bits where they were learning things about the town, the Trackers and Amy's life were much more interesting that knowing anything about the werewolves. It only speeds up towards the end where we get a little closer to solving the puzzle. I really liked the inclusion of having Amy haunt Mac's dreams, and even though Mac understood that Amy was a figment of her imagination she very rarely uses that to understand what her subconscious has already noticed. This would have made it much more interesting for me.
I know I've been a little down on this book, but it's only because I saw so much potential in it. I know it is the first in the trilogy and I have high hopes that it will only get better and stronger. And don't get me wrong, I did enjoy many parts of the story and for me there was one brilliant aspect about it - its brutal. Very brutal. It's very visual and the description of the sound of werewolves shifting made me almost want to look away as it was slightly sickening. That was pretty cool.
As I said, the main reason I was attracted to the story was the mix of a murder investigation and the supernatural. With this almost completely solved by the end of the first book, I hope that there will be something else to catch my attention in the next book. I gave this one 3 stars because I liked it, but I felt it could have been so much more. As a good story I still think people will enjoy it.
This review may contain spoilers if you have not read the rest of the Caster Chronicles series. You can find my review for the second book, Beautiful Darkness, here.
Ethan Wate is in love with a caster girl. When he looks at Lena, it's like there's no one else in the world. But Ethan is mortal, and on her seventeenth birthday Lena made a choice that changed everything. The girl Ethan loves has broken the world with the supernatural powers she is struggling to control ...Now, if they are to fix the chaos Lena has caused, one of them must make a terrible sacrifice. Sometimes there isn't just one answer. Sometimes there's no going back. And this time there won't be a happy ending. This is the third installment of the spellbinding love story that began with "Beautiful Creatures".
I have loved this series from the beginning. Sometime a series can falter, stumble and fail as it gets this far in, but for me the Caster Chronicles just gets stronger. There are so many books where the characters lose their personalities and just become stock pawns for a standard storyline. This is where Beautiful Chaos sets itself apart. From the very first book the reader watches the characters change, evolve both mentally and physically without becoming unbelievable. The children have matured, the adults changed by emotions and events and they feel so real. So real that I care about them, to the point where I cried at the ending.
In this, the 3rd book in the series, Lena and Ethan must face the Eighteenth Moon, but who's it is is still in question. Since Lena's claiming went wrong the Order of Things has been broken and Gatlin has been in a state of looming Apocalypse. They must find a way to put things right. However, things are happening behind the scenes that neither Lena nor Ethan know about or can control. They must find out what their places are in the prophecy before they can make any changes.
This book, and arguably the series itself, centres around sacrifice. From the little concessions we make daily to stop arguments, biting your tongue to not hurt someones feelings, to those selfless life changing acts to protect the ones you love. Even though it's a supernatural story and the situations are set apart from the reality of the 'real world' the emotions are no less emphatic to us. There is a time in everyone's life where they realise their parents are human and fallible, when a daughter can understand the sacrifices of a mother. When the love of your partner overrides any ideas you have of self-preservation. These are the themes that makes this series so accessible, and I really connected with this story.
Lena and Ethan are a fantastic couple. Even though there are points where they are one unit, there are so much more than just a couple. They are individuals that make each other stronger whilst at the same time are able to grow independently. What I love about their relationship is that they aren't centred around their physical attractions to each other, there are friends first and foremost and that stops the reader from being shut out. That they can 'Kelt' (speak to each other through their thoughts) gives the reader the opportunity to know and associate with Lena even though the story is completely narrated by Ethan.
The fact that Ethan is the narrator is, I think, I great move in a sea of over-emotional Young Adult novels. He's not you're typical single-minded bloke that is concerned with bedding Lena and showing her off. He is a family boy, a maturing adult that is head-strong but is still concerned about others.
The writing itself is brilliant; Garcia and Stohl are genius in their ability to drop little hints in the storyline. There are multiple things happening at one time but it doesn't feel overwhelming. There is a whole cast of characters that feel like real complete people. I never knew completely who the prophecy was talking about and that made the story so compelling for me. It twists, turns and winds and its way to a both heartbreaking and compelling ending-that-isn't-really-an-ending. I just kept wanting to come back to it and immerse myself in their world again.
I'm going to be sad to see this series end but I wouldn't want to see it fade out. It's such a multi-layed read that it even stopped my wondering brain (which is usually quite difficult to do). I may well add more to this review as it comes to me. I think the sign of a good story is when you notice things about it long after you've finished it.
GENRE: YA PAGES: 464 PUBLISHER: Macmillan Children's FORMAT: Paperback BUY IT: Waterstones RATING: 3 STARS
(This review is of a proof copy edition)
PUBLICATION DATE: 24/05/12
Strange things have been happening to Daire Santos. Animals follow her, crows mock her, glowing people appear from nowhere. Worried that Daire's having a breakdown, her mother sends her to stay with the grandmother she's never met, who lives on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico.There Daire crosses paths with Dace, a gorgeous guy with unearthly blue eyes. Her grandmother recognizes Daire's episodes for what they are - a call to her true destiny as a Soul Seeker, a person who can navigate between the living and the dead. Guided by her grandmother, Daire must be quick to learn how to harness her powers, because Dace's brother is an evil shape-shifter, out to steal them. Daire must embrace her fate as a Soul Seeker and discover whether Dace is the guy she's meant to be with ...or if he's allied with the enemy she's destined to destroy.
Fated is the first novel in Alyson Noel's new Soul Seekers series. You can find my review for the first in her previous series The Immortals, here.
I wasn't the biggest fan of Noel's previous series, it felt naive and amateur, the writing a little weak, so I was weary when beginning to read this one. Actually, it was ok. I warmed to it more and more as the story evolved. The writing seemed brighter, stronger somehow. I found the characters more rounded, less stock pawns for the storyline and more like real people.
The basic storyline follows 17 year old Daire; a sweet girl, quite grounded and actually very likeable. Her mother, whom she refers to by her first name, Jennika, is a make up artist for Hollywood movies and therefore they both travel to wherever her skills are needed. When Daire starts to see grim visions she is sent to live with her grandmother in the town of Enchantment, New Mexico.
As Daire reaches New Mexico the story really starts to come alive. It easily mixes Native American and Spanish/Mexican mythology and brings a brilliant spiritual flavour. There are many moments when the storyline could become a little ridiculous, and I'm not saying it doesn't, but actually I didn't care. I had a lot of fun with this book. In some respects it is a story about a girl who wants to find her family and where she belongs. Even though the teens in Enchantment are jealous of the amount Daire has travelled, she yearns to put down roots and start the life of a normal teen. I really liked the idea of her finding her ancestors and finding where she comes from. Even though Daire is presented as an adaptable young woman, I felt she adapted a little too quickly to living with her grandmother - it's not just a new town, it's whole other layer to her life.
The visual aspects of the story are really what kept me interested. Even though there are moments when both the reader and Daire feel trapped in Enchantment, the visions and manipulation of settings (without giving too much away) make sure you don't become bored of the same of scenery. The inclusion of the Mexican 'Day of the Dead' is brilliant - I love anything thats a little more graphic and Noel is certainly stepping up her game in this area. There are little moments of gore than made even me want to look away.
Of course, there are your typical 'boy' moments, enter soul-mate and accidental stalker. It does start to tick off lots of boxes from the 'stock elements in YA fiction' list but I didn't mind. I don't know if my initial weariness made me settle for thinking the book was better than it was because it wasn't as bad as the Immortal series, but it doesn't really matter. I didn't speed through sections and I'm quite interested as to where the story is going to go.
The reason I only gave Fated three stars was because I wasn't overwhelmed by it. It didn't blow my mind and it didn't make me think about myself or the way I live my life. But that is only my personal criteria for ratings. There are plenty of people who would like this series, and is suitable for slightly younger teens, too. It's a good bit of fun.
The second book in the Soul Seekers series, Echo, is due out 22nd November 2012.
They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who sigh on the six o'clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don't know. You don't know who I used to be. Who I could have been. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever shake off my mistakes or if I'll just carry them around with me forever like a bunch of red balloons Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time. Heart-Shaped Bruise is a compulsive and moving novel about infamy, identity and how far a person might go to seek revenge.
I had heard so much buzz about this book all over Twitter, it had been given 5 stars by so many people that I began to grow curious: what is this book? And why did it have such a strange (and I hate to say it but pretty terrible) name? I had to find out. I requested a copy and the wonderful publisher very kindly obliged. Many people commented that it looks like a crime novel and if I hadn't read the synopsis then the cover would have led me to believe it is too. Even though the main event that the writing centres around is a stabbing, it is SO much more than this.
Its main gist, without giving anything major away, is this: Emily Koll, the narrator of the diary-style narrative, is in the psychiatric ward of a Young Offenders Institute for stabbing Juliet, who had initially stabbed Emily's father in an act of self defence after he had broken into Juliet's home and killer her father. (It sounds complicated but when you start reading it will all make sense). Emily discovers that her Dad had actually been some kind of East-End Gangster and now feels that in stabbing him Juliet had taken everything in her life away from her and wants revenge. I'll stop here because what she does next is important in driving the narrative.
This is a very moving read. The synopsis says this novel is about "infamy, identity and... revenge" and I certainly agree; it discusses the power of identity and its construction. It asks us how far our family and genetics make us who we are, versus how much we create ourselves. It is also a testament for anyone who has ever felt both the overwhelming power and powerlessness of grief. I don't, however, agree that is actually about revenge. It's about loneliness, coping, growth and change. It's about finding your feet after you've been knocked down and held there by fear. And importantly, it's about the need for other people in surviving our grief.
The dialogue is very easy to read in terms of being simple and clean, and this lends so much to its difficult subject. Emily's diary entries incorporate her life in the Institute, her session with her psychiatrist and flashbacks to her life just before she is incarcerated. It is heartbreakingly sad in places, both her desperate attempt to forget the pain of everything that she has done and has happened to her and the idea that she could be in that institute forever, because of what she did over a broken heart.
The thing I liked the most about this book is actually Emily. She's intelligent, tough, and funny. She really is. She's actually pretty humble in places and it's because of her that you get such an emotional attachment to her. That you don't want to watch her relive her mistake, that makes you want her to get better.