Speechless by Hannah Harrington: Review

Format: Paperback, 288 pagesPublished: August 28th 2012 by HarlequinTeen ISBN:  0373210523 (ISBN13: 9780373210527)Edition language: EnglishOriginal title: Speechless
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Published: August 28th 2012 by HarlequinTeen
ISBN: 0373210523 (ISBN13: 9780373210527)
Edition language: English
Original title: Speechless

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13069681-speechless

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4086928.Hannah_Harrington

Synopsis from Goodreads: Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret
Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.
Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.
But there’s strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she’s done. If only she can forgive herself.

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4½ stars/5 stars

My Review: When I found Hannah Harrington’s novel Speechless at NetGalley I actually wondered “How good can a book about a teenage girl who takes a vow of silence really be?”  The simple answer: extremely good!

Speechless is a cautionary tale of just how damaging words and gossip can be.  Chelsea Knot is the central character and she is, without doubt, a bitch.  Chelsea has gossiped her way to the top of her high school’s social ladder and she doesn’t care who she hurts or how she hurts them as long as she maintains her position.  Chelsea wields gossip like a weapon without ever stopping to think how her words, true or otherwise, can tear apart another person’s life.  And then one Friday night Chelsea discovers how her chosen weapon can not only backfire but have tragic consequences for others.  One student is in the hospital in a coma and two others are accused of beating that student into the coma.  Chelsea knows none of this would have ever happened if she just could have kept her big mouth shut!

To Chelsea’s credit, she does do the right thing and with the help of her parents she tells the police everything she knows about the beating, how it happened and who was involved.  Chelsea understands that by doing the right thing it will cost her everything she holds so dear: her friends, her social standing, and thanks to her vow of silence, her voice.  Yes, a teenage girl takes a vow of silence – hell hath frozen over!  I really wondered how Harrington could pull off a novel where the main character doesn’t actually speak.  Turns out, inner monologue can be quite fun and can very easily keep a character moving and developing.  Chelsea spends a little more than a month honoring her vow of silence and it is during this month that she discovers what she once held so dear was not ever really worth holding on to at all.  Her old “friends” lash out at Chelsea for ratting out two of their own: she is taunted, teased, her locker and car are vandalized, and she becomes a social pariah.

Initially, I found it very, very, very hard to feel any semblance of sympathy for Chelsea.  Her words and actions caused the mess she and others find themselves in and she should rightfully face the consequences of those actions.  I really didn’t want to like Chelsea but in the end, she surprised me!  I honestly don’t think I would have been able to change my opinion about Chelsea if she were using her actual voice and not her inner monologue.  In her own head Chelsea acknowledges and faces many hard facts and realities about herself and her actions.  She learns words mean something and once out there, they cannot be taken back.  Chelsea begins to consider her words more carefully and when she does need to communicate (using a dry erase board) she thinks before she “speaks”.

Chelsea soon discovers that her vow of silence has some pleasant consequences to go along with the bad.  She meets a few other social outcasts and while everyone is initially wary of one another the group finally comes together and Chelsea begins to understand what it is to have true friends.  Chelsea also begins to understand that, like everyone else, she is human, has flaws, and will make mistakes.  Once Chelsea understands and appreciates these revelations she is able to once again use her voice.

The Bottom Line:  Speechless is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time and I really had no trouble getting through this book in short order.  The plot is solid, the characters (both good and bad) show development and growth throughout, and the overall message that words matter is clear without being preachy.   I can absolutely see this book appealing to a wide range of readers including more mature young adults and adults alike.

Soul Magic by Jennifer Lyon: Review

Format: Paperback, 391 pagesPublished: October 27th 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published October 7th 2009) ISBN:  0345506359 (ISBN13: 9780345506351)Edition language: EnglishOriginal title: Soul Magic (Wing Slayer Hunters, Book 2)Series: Wing Slayer Hunters #2
Format: Paperback, 391 pages
Published: October 27th 2009 by Ballantine Books (first published October 7th 2009)
ISBN: 0345506359 (ISBN13: 9780345506351)
Edition language: English
Original title: Soul Magic (Wing Slayer Hunters, Book 2)
Series: Wing Slayer Hunters #2

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6390162-soul-magic

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2759175.Jennifer_Lyon

Synopsis from Goodreads: KISS OR KILL
When an ancient pact is broken, powerful witches who once used their magic to help humanity become the twisted playthings of demons, and the mortal men who once protected the sorceresses become witch hunters, cursed with the longing to spill the witches’ blood: an irresistible craving that will cost witches their lives and witch hunters their souls.
The Wing Slayer Hunters fight this curse, guarding innocent witches until the urge to harm them grows too strong–then they must kill their own. Wing Slayer Sutton West has always honored that vow. His own father killed himself rather than go rogue. But now Sutton is tempted as never before by Carla Fisk, a brilliant psychologist and dynamic witch whose twin sister, Keri, was murdered by rogues.
Bound by blood and passion, Carla and Sutton dare not succumb to their deadly attraction. Yet when a mysterious rogue named Styx joins forces with the demon Asmodeus, witch and hunter have no choice but to work together. For Keri’s immortal soul is at stake–and with it, balanced on a knife-edge, is the fate of humanity itself.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: Round two in Jennifer Lyon’s Wing Slayer Hunter series is the story of Dr. Carla Fisk, a psychologist and earth witch whose sole purpose in life is to help victims of brainwashing and cult activity.  As both a shrink and a practicing earth witch, Carla is uniquely qualified to help her patients deal with their trauma while simultaneously easing their pain.  Carla’s compassion and desire to help others was born out of her inability to help her twin sister Keri, a powerful earth witch who was killed by rogue Hunters.  Since Keri’s death, Carla has remained true to her life’s purpose but has, in all other areas of her life, closed herself off.

By all accounts Sutton West is a tried and true bad ass techno geek who fights valiantly alongside the Wing Slayer Hunters.  Sutton is so absolutely committed to his vow to Wing Slayer that he would, like his father before him, rather kill himself than go rogue.  Unfortunately for Sutton his day of reckoning is closer than he would like to admit; the urge to kill an earth witch and bathe in her blood is becoming harder and harder to resist.  Just to make things interesting, Sutton is thrown into the middle of a mess that involves Carla Fisk and her dead twin sister.

Now, both Carla and Sutton have a few problems: Carla’s dead twin is trapped in the world between life and death and calling out to Carla to help her; Sutton is beyond sure that Carla is his soul mirror but can’t convince Carla of this; a new powerful rogue by the name of Styx is inhibiting Carla’s ability to reach her sister and killing Carla in the process; and Sutton is coming dangerously close to violating his vows and going rogue himself.  It’s time to get serious about fixing these problems.  As with the first book in this series, once the plot really takes hold and is established, things begin to move quickly.  With the help of the rest of the Wing Slayers and a small circle of brave earth witches, Carla and Sutton are able to track down Styx, kick his ass, and save Keri in the process.  Of course, there’s also a little naughtiness thrown in for good measure 🙂

The Bottom Line: What I like about this series is the fact that Lyon isn’t willing to sacrifice the long term plot for the sake of the immediate story and vice versa.  Sutton and Carla’s story is played out to completion while still advancing the long-term plot line at the same time.  We find out, as we expected too, that Styx is simply another piece or pawn in a much larger, more far-reaching, and sinister game than we ever could have imagined.  While Carla, Sutton, the Wing Slayer Hunters, and the witches do their part to eliminate the immediate threat, they are all well aware that the fight has only truly just begun.

 

Sleeping Kings by John Prentice: Review

Format: ebookPublished: April 12th 2011 by John Prentice, via Smashwords ISBN:  0011270802 (ISBN13: 2940011270802)Edition language: English
Format: ebook
Published: April 12th 2011 by John Prentice, via Smashwords
ISBN: 0011270802 (ISBN13: 2940011270802)
Edition language: English

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11399093-sleeping-kings-dark-force

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4819383.John_Prentice

Synopsis from Goodreads: Nik was a normal teen computer geek until her parents split up and her father dragged her off to France.
The move cost her everything; friends, family, even her obsession; an online computer game.
Then she meets a dead guy who’s protecting a secret as old as the mountains themselves, and suddenly people want her and the most gorgeous boy she’s ever met, dead too.
When she finds out who she really is, things get freaky. The race is on, and she’s got to beat the clock – a clock that’s been ticking for seven hundred years.
Time has just run out for Nicola Roscoe.
It could be…Game Over!

Source: Author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: John Prentice’s Sleeping Kings is a young adult novel that revolves around the lives of Nicola, her geologist father, and super-nerdy neighbor, Daan.  After her mother and father divorce, Nicola’s father moves the two of them to a small town in France where Nicola is forced to give up her one true love, on-line gaming.  While Nicola is sure life as she knows it is over, she is about to find out that her life has only truly just begun.

Prentice moves quickly into the plot where, on a field trip with their class, Nicola and Daan unceremoniously fall into an old and uncharted cave.  As if this doesn’t suck enough, the two find themselves face-to-face with Pedro, a living, breathing man who can apparently turn any substance into another and died in the year 1213.  Okie dokie, Nicola and Daan surely bumped their heads a little too hard on the way down, right?  Not so much – neither were hurt in the fall and both become immediately embroiled in a conspiracy that stretches all the way back to the 13th century.

Prentice offers the reader an easy read that is moderately-paced and steeped in French Cathar history.  This history is one of the novel’s greatest strengths and it is used to help further the major plot line: the Cathar discovery of the secrets of alchemy.  Nicola and Daan are essentially forced into helping Pedro and his comrades put down a modern-day plot to recover the Cathar secret, known as the Power and destroy the world.  What is interesting about the kids’ involvement is exactly how connected they really are to both Pedro and the Cathar legacy.

I liked the characters in this book and in particular I liked Pedro and Daan.  Pedro is an honorable man who has literally sacrificed centuries to protect what the Cathars discovered.  Additionally, Pedro helps Nicola understand her role in the plot and protects her when necessary.  Daan, on the other hand is a contemporary character whose knowledge of history and spouting of historical facts is rather delightful.  Rather than dryly reporting the historical information that is necessary for the reader to understand the plot, Prentice uses Pedro and Daan to convey the information through dialogue; a clever and much more entertaining way to tell me what I need to know.

The only parts of the book that I found off-putting are the chapters that take place in a place called “Somewhere Else”.  I believe these chapters are meant to lay the groundwork for the continuation of the series but frankly, they added absolutely nothing to this first-in-the-series book.  For me, these chapters were annoying interruptions of an otherwise very good read.

The Bottom Line: even with the bothersome Somewhere Else chapters, Sleeping Kings is still a very good start to the Dark Force series.  There is plenty of action, good and very interesting historical information, and characters who work nicely within the plot.  This is a novel that will certainly appeal to both young adults and adults.

Sinful Magic by Jennifer Lyon: Review

Format: Paperback, 360 pagesPublished: May 31st 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published May 18th 2011) ISBN:  0345520084 (ISBN13: 9780345520081)Edition language: EnglishOriginal title: Sinful MagicSeries: Wing Slayer Hunters #4
Format: Paperback, 360 pages
Published: May 31st 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published May 18th 2011)ISBN: 0345520084 (ISBN13: 9780345520081)
Edition language: English
Original title: Sinful Magic
Series: Wing Slayer Hunters #4

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9645328-sinful-magic

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2759175.Jennifer_Lyon

Synopsis from Goodreads: Roxanne “Roxy” Banfield refuses to be like her mother, a fertility witch who uses sex as nothing more than a magical weapon. Roxy rejects that life and is determined to become mortal to pursue her dream of real love and a family. All she has to do is avoid meeting the one man whose sensuality can release her powers. But steering clear of this magnetic stranger is easier said than done.
Wing Slayer Hunter Kieran “Key” DeMicca channels the dark violence that lives inside him into a popular comic book series about an ancient dragon named Dyfyr, but only Key knows that Dyfyr is real. Lately he finds himself drawing images of a young woman in peril, and assumes that she’s just a product of his imagination—until he meets Roxy. Struck by her beauty and her resemblance to his sketches, he feels compelled to protect her. As steamy magic, lethal danger, and timeless love collide, Roxy must become what she swore she would never be—and awake a part of Key that will threaten to destroy them both.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Review: Sinful Magic is the latest installment in Jennifer Lyon’s Wing Slayer Hunter series.  Roxy Banfield has two goals: 1) to sign Kieran DeMicca and his graphic novel series to a long-term development contract for movie and TV and; 2) to never, ever give in to her fertility-witch nature and become like her mother.  So far, so good!  Goal number one is well within reach as Kieran DeMicca is attending the Comic Expression Conference and goal number two can certainly be reached as long as Roxy manages to stay away from the one man who can trigger her latent fertility-witch abilities.  Unfortunately for Roxy that man is Kieran DeMicca.  Balls!

Kieran DeMicca is the most unlikely Wing Slayer Hunter.  Oh, he’s got the build, the aggression, and the thirst for witch blood but what he truly loves is his art.  Since he was child, Kieran has managed to channel much of his aggression and anger into his art work.  As an adult, Kieran has turned his talent into a money-making graphic novel series about a dragon named Dyfyr.  For Kieran, Dyfyr is more than just a creature of his imagination; he is a being that has always been a part of Kieran and his life.  In fact, in Kieran’s darkest and most desperate moments, he is sure that Dyfyr has simply taken over and saved his life.  What more could a man ask for?

Kieran and Roxy’s lives collide when he spots the hot little redhead across the room at the Comic Expression Conference.  Roxy also spots Kieran but her reaction to him is much, more dramatic.  While Kieran is perfectly willing to make Roxy’s acquaintance, Roxy is perfectly willing to run fast and furiously in the other direction.  Fate has other plans for Roxy Banfield and she soon realizes that not only is Kieran the man who will trigger her fertility witch abilities but he is also a man that she simply can’t leave behind.  The problem, OK problems?  Dyfyr is quite upset at the prospect of Roxy being in Kieran’s life; Roxy is going to have to accept her nature if she is to survive; Kieran must accept that he is not the only being that loves Roxy; and the rogue Hunters are back in force and they want Roxy at all cost.

The Bottom Line: Once the plot begins to unfold, the reader is taken on a wild ride that involves lots of violence, one seriously pissed off dragon, some steamy sex, and a whole host of people willing to rally around Kieran and Roxy to help them survive the threats they face.  Roxy is one tough chick and she manages to hold her own in the face of danger.  With Kieran and Dyfyr by her side she is nearly unstoppable.  While the long-term plot is certainly continued in this novel and in no danger of wrapping up anytime in the near future, there are also several little clues and hints as to the shorter-term plots that are on the horizon.  I am absolutely ready for more Wing Slayer Hunter novels.  Bring on Ram, Linc, and Eli’s stories, Jennifer Lyon.  I can take it 🙂

Silver by Talia Vance: Review

Format: Paperback, 374 pagesPublished: September 8th 2012 by Flux (first published September 1st 2012) ISBN:  0738733032 (ISBN13: 9780738733036)Edition language: EnglishOriginal title: SilverSeries: Bandia #1
Format: Paperback, 374 pages
Published: September 8th 2012 by Flux (first published September 1st 2012)
ISBN: 0738733032 (ISBN13: 9780738733036)
Edition language: English
Original title: Silver
Series: Bandia #1

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10194637-silver

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4575398.Talia_Vance

Synopsis from Goodreads: “As I step into the room, a silver flash blurs my vision.  Before I can take a breath, the world falls away.”
Brianna has always felt invisible. People stare right past her, including the one boy she can’t resist, Blake Williams. But everything changes at a house party where Brianna’s charm bracelet slips off and time stands still.  In that one frozen, silver moment, Blake not only sees her, he recognizes something deep inside her she’s been hiding even from herself.
Discovering she is descended from Danu, the legendary Bandia of Celtic myth, Brianna finds herself questioning the truth of who she is. And when she accidentally binds her soul to Blake, their mutual attraction becomes undeniable.
But Blake has his own secret, one that could prove deadly for them both.
Bound together by forbidden magic, Brianna and Blake find themselves at the heart of an ancient feud that threatens to destroy their lives and their love.

Source: ARC from Netgalley

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review: “Beauty is pointless when no one’s looking. And no one ever looks.” But Brianna Paxton is used to no one looking at her and has resigned herself to the fact that this will likely never
change. Until the day it does change, and then, quite unexpectedly, everything and everyone around Brianna changes, too. And who would have thought all that change could occur simply because Brianna took off her lucky silver bracelet?

Silver’s plot revolves around an ancient feud that all began with a tragic case of love gone way wrong. Through the centuries the feud, and need for vengeance, has traveled through the generations of two families, the Sons of Killian and the Daughters of Danu. Silver’s plot is entertaining, interesting, and filled with action and romance. Mixed into the brilliantly unfolding plot is the backstory of the feud, Danu and Killian, as well as the backstory of a few of the novel’s major characters. While the plot moves along rather quickly, it is not rushed, and the backstory
is appropriately placed throughout.

While Silver contains a whole host of characters, this particular novel focuses primarily on Brianna, Blake, and Austin. Brianna had the potential to be a really annoying and angsty teenager, but Vance thankfully avoided this by creating a lead female that is smart, logical, rational, and not really your typical teenage girl at all. Brianna knows no one is ever looking at her, especially guys, but rather than wallowing in self-pity, Brianna chooses to focus her attention on her studies and hones her skills as a scientist who relies on empirical evidence rather than emotions. As the plot unfolds and Brianna begins to understand more about herself and her role in the ancient feud, she becomes even stronger and more confident. I love this about Brianna’s character and hope that her confidence and intelligence will continue to grow as the series grows.

Blake, God bless his stupid little heart! Blake is perhaps the most tragic character in the entire novel. He is beautiful, he is conflicted, he is physically strong, and he has a serious problem with inserting his foot in his mouth at every turn. Blake understands that he can’t help or control his
connection to Brianna, and this struggle often has very bad results. Being near Brianna makes Blake both stronger and weaker and the two must come to terms with their place in each other’s world. While Blake struggles to say and do the right thing, he often epically fails. With that being said, it is abundantly clear that Blake is good and well-intentioned, he just can’t ever say or do what he really means, properly. Thank goodness, Brianna was also written to have a healthy level of patience ☺

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Austin in this review, as he is such a major part of Silver, but he is also a character that is difficult to discuss without divulging too much of the plot’s secrets, twists, and turns. So, I will leave you with my impression of Austin: slimy, creep-tastic, over-the-top nice, and always seeming to have some ulterior motive. For me, Austin never “felt” right; his actions and his words never really align, but you don’t fully know and/or appreciate why that is until it is
nearly too late. Austin’s role in Silver is vital, and the plot just wouldn’t have been the same without him, but he still pisses me off!

The Bottom Line: Silver is an excellent read that had me hooked from the very first line. It is a book I had absolutely no desire to put down and, quite frankly, didn’t put down until I had plowed through the entire thing. With the exception of a few smallish and nagging questions, nothing about this novel didn’t appeal to me. This book is a fantastic blend of strong characters and great plot, and something I would certainly feel comfortable recommending to mature young adults and adults alike. Finally, it is clear that Talia Vance is far from done with the stories of Killian and Danu and Blake and Brianna. For that, I am very excited!! Write faster Talia Vance; I have the distinct
feeling you are going to have a very large group of followers anxiously awaiting the release of book two.

Shakespeare Makes Me Puke by Kari Rains: Review

Format: Paperback, 64 pagesPublished: April 21st 2010 by PublishAmerica ISBN: 1451296703 (ISBN13: 9781451296709)Edition language: English
Format: Paperback, 64 pages
Published: April 21st 2010 by PublishAmerica
ISBN: 1451296703 (ISBN13: 9781451296709)
Edition language: English

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9100620-shakespeare-makes-me-puke

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4285793.Kari_Rains

Synopsis from Goodreads: Life in rural small town Oklahoma is not normally this humorous. Kari Rains takes us on an insightful journey through a bizarre childhood to an even more bizarre adulthood. Rains weaves hilarious tales about learning to smoke her first cigarette from the Buddha belly rubbing Catholic next door, as well as her first disastrous date with her husband. Sprinkle in a few untamed children and magic happens.

Source: Author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review: There is apparently no situation in life, no matter how embarrassing that Kari Rains can’t find humor in. In Rains’ ridiculously funny auto-biographical (and first) book, Shakespeare Makes Me Puke, Rains describes events from her life that most of us would like to see buried and forgotten. Thank you for not burying these events!

Rains’ book begins with childhood and memories of her and her sister growing up in a small Oklahoma town surrounded by a wealth of family, neighbors, and friends. The highlight of the early part of Rains’ book is the story of Granny Jane: the Willie Nelson loving, Virginia Slim smoking granny next door who taught Rains and her sister how to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee. Did I mention that Granny Jane also had a cockatiel named Willie who liked to sit on her head?

Rains acknowledges in several places that her ability to make fun of herself and turn an embarrassing situation into something funny comes directly from her mother, Kristy the Great. Kristy is featured in several of Rains’ stories including one involving a dress tucked into the pantyhose moment and the story of exactly how and why Rains throws up when hearing about or discussing Shakespeare – yep, the title is true!!  Rains’ father also plays a starring role in several scenes including a red paint incident and the Saturday morning he came bursting out of the bedroom buck-naked. Who doesn’t like a buck-naked story; am I right?

Rains uses her memories and stories of her mother and father to transition into her own adulthood and stories of how she met her husband and their three children, Ella, Nick, and Nate. Holy cats, there were a few instances in this section of the book where I laughed so hard I cried. Incidentally, there is a story in this book where Rains laughs so hard she not only cries but pees a little. Yes, that incident made me laugh harder. Rains’ kids provide a wealth of humor including the moment when Ella announces in the doctor’s office that her brother is in fact a boy and has a penis; there is the announcement in front of the church congregation as to why the family was late for services; and of course the announcement in front of the youth basketball league about Rains’ pants not falling down if she would just wear underwear.

These examples are just a few of the highlights of this fast-paced and smartly written book. Rains uses her wonderful sense of humor and sarcasm to make light of situations that most of us would rather ignore and/or hope there were very few witnesses too. If you are looking for a quick, easy read that is guaranteed to make you laugh, Shakespeare Makes Me Puke should top your list. This book is refreshing in the fact that Rains’ descriptions of the people, the places, and the events are vivid and real. These moments aren’t just moments of someone’s life; they are the memories of the author.

Shades of Atlantis by Carol Oates: Review

Format: Paperback, 308 pagesPublished: 2010 by Omnific Publishing ISBN: 1936305445 (ISBN13: 9781936305445)Edition language: EnglishSeries: Shades Series #1
Format: Paperback, 308 pages
Published: 2010 by Omnific Publishing
ISBN: 1936305445 (ISBN13: 9781936305445)
Edition language: English
Series: Shades Series #1

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9662110-shades-of-atlantis

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3988619.Carol_Oates

Synopsis from Goodreads: Since the death of their parents, Triona Pryor and her brother, Ben, have lived with their aunt and uncle in Camden, Maine. Now in her senior year of high school, Triona loves her family and friends, but she has always felt that she didn’t quite fit in…in Camden, or anywhere else. Enter Caleb Wallace, the devilishly handsome man who has recently moved to Triona’s small town. While their attraction to each other is instantaneous, it also proves to be dangerous…and deadly. When tragedy strikes, Triona flees to London for solace and to start her life anew. It’s there she discovers from an unlikely source that her family has been keeping secrets from her – secrets about not only her birthright, but her ultimate destiny as well. Armed with this knowledge, Triona finds herself thrown into a whole new world and into a battle to save the lives of everyone she loves.

Source: Purchase

My Rating: 3½/5 stars

My Review: I have always maintained that a good set of characters can carry a mediocre plot right to the end of a novel. I honestly never imagined that I would come across a book with just the opposite scenario. I did, however, find this to be true with Carol Oates’s Shades of Atlantis.

From the beginning, I knew I was in for something pretty sweet. The title alone had me hooked, as I love all things related to the Atlantis legend. (Lynsay Sands anyone??) I was right. The plot for Shades is really good and hands down the novel’s greatest aspect. It has lots of action, drama, and some very, very intense romance. To be completely fair, the combination of action, drama, and romance is sort of like a perfect storm and really keeps the reader moving through the book at near lightning speed from beginning to end. The super quick summary includes:

*Triona and Caleb are crazy, scary in love after only a few days of knowing one another. This part of the story gets really intense.

*Caleb and his family are something other than human. It takes Oates quite a while to get to the explanation of what the “other” actually is, but the dragging out of the big reveal worked quite nicely.

*A nasty little prophecy is floating around that Triona may be the beginning of the end for Caleb and his kind.

*As you may have guessed from #3 above, the book has a group of super-bad guys that will do whatever it takes to prevent Triona from fulfilling the prophecy – nastiness ensues!

Here’s the downside for me: I am a strong character lover, and Shades just really didn’t deliver for me in this respect. Here’s the skinny on the characters for me:

*Triona: if ever there was a case of someone needing to be told “suck it up, buttercup,” Triona is that girl. At some point, I just got used to the fact that no matter what the situation, big or small, Triona was going to break down into tears.

*Caleb: although delightfully lickable in terms of his looks, as my grandmother used to say, “pretty is as pretty does”. Caleb, while well-intentioned, is really kind of an idiot! Caleb’s trouble all begins when he tries thinking for everyone else and determines that everyone, especially Triona, is better off not knowing everything about the über-dangerous situation they are all in. Add to this the fact that Caleb totally wimps out and runs away at a critical moment, and you have a recipe for a wreck!! All of Caleb’s credibility and likability pretty much goes out the window after all the mistakes.

*The characters that were pretty awesome for me are Triona’s brother Ben, her BFF Amanda, and the super-awesome, lie detector Eila. For me, none of these characters were present enough. Each of these characters were the by far the strongest, most straight-forward and forthright in the novel, and I really, really wish there would have been a lot more of all them in this story. Ben is strong, courageous, and loyal. Amanda is faithful, kind, and brutally honest. Eila is beautiful, strong, and compassionate, all while being a super-human lie detector. It’s a pretty sweet super-power ☺

The Bottom Line: I really am torn over this book, as it had such a great plot, but characters that sadly fell short for me. The plot in this novel is strong enough to carry the weaker characters, and I think the book will actually play well with readers who are fans of super-intense, love-at-first-sight romance reads. This is a YA novel, but I would be remiss if I recommended it to the younger end of the YA reader spectrum, as the romance is certainly not sexually explicit, but it is quite intense.