Sunday, December 21, 2014

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

★★★★★
Sydney escaped from her abusive husband and has taken her young daughter, Bay, to the only place she ever felt safe.  Returning to Bascom was something she promised never to do when she left as a teenager. Her older sister, Claire, runs a catering business keeping up the family tradition of infusing food with flowers that can influence a person's emotions. Bay adjusts easily to the magic surrounding Bascom while Claire and Sydney are hesitant to follow the path fate is pushing them in. This is the first book in the Waverly Family series. 

Garden Spells is sweet and charming story. The story setup is slightly reminiscent of Practical Magic but it's more of a light-hearted rendition. It took me a while to adjust to the writing style but I felt it evened out after the first couple of chapters.

I really liked the magic system in the story. It's expressed through the characters as different types of intuition. It was fun to see how certain families were known for specific abilities. I also liked how the Waverly's family garden was portrayed as a magical setting. The magic system was incorporated nicely and enhanced the story without overpowering it.

The story has a large cast of characters with interwoven storylines. I liked how the story was able to capture the sense of a small town community. The characters' were wonderfully diverse in their personalities and remained likeable. I liked that the major and minor characters were given equally powerful storylines that were resolved at the end. I also liked the different types of relationships the story explored. It gave an insightful look at the varying dynamics among families as well as romantic relationships.

Garden Spells is a heartwarming story and I look forward to reading its sequel.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

After The Music by Christine Feehan

★★★★★
Jessica Fitzpatrick and her mother have taken care of Dillion's twin children ever since he rose to fame as a rock star. Jessica reunites the twins with their father for Christmas trying to escape the mysterious threats stalking them. The private island and its Gothic mansion bring back too many memories of betrayal, the occult, murder, and the deadly fire which left Dillion horribly disfigured. Jessica has always loved Dillion but his demeanor has definitely changed meanwhile dangerous accidents continue to happen.       

After The Music is a Gothic holiday read. This novella is available for individual sale but it was also previously published in A Christine Feehan Holiday Treasury, The Wicked And The Wondrous, and A Very Gothic Christmas.

It took me a while to get into the story because the beginning confused me. I didn't initially understand the relationship dynamics and the timeline in comparison to the characters' ages threw me off a bit. After the first couple of chapters I was able to adjust and become better engaged in the story.

The story has a sizable cast since Dillion's band is also present working on an album. The story incorporates their troubled past and the current state of their strained relationships. It was nice to see how Jessica and the twins positively influenced the other characters and better united them. Forgiveness and second chances are major themes throughout the story while dramatic revelations and confessions threatens the peace established.

Jessica and Dillion's romance was intense and complex because they both survived the darkness and tragedy his wife introduced into their lives. It makes an interesting statement about moving forward. I thought it was sweet how the sense of family gradually developed between them as the story progressed. 

Dangerous accidents combined with the supernatural added a sense of mystery to the story. At times it was difficult to determine what was responsible. It created interesting conflict that gave the story a suspenseful element. The ending settled past and present mysteries while giving the characters a miraculous Christmas and hopeful future.   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

★★★✩✩
Garrison Brown must settle his deceased grandmother's estate. He's determined to honor her final request to find new homes for her six cats but his severe allergies complicate the situation. The new owners must also meet very specific criteria because each cat comes with a secret inheritance.

The Christmas Cat is a holiday read embedded with Christian messages on faith. I loved the way the cats were portrayed in the story. It was heartwarming how each cat was a positive influence on their new owner's life.

I liked how the story's setting and characters were able to give a sense of community. I really liked how interconnected the characters were and how they influenced each other. It was nice to see the main character find a place for himself within the community while reaffirming his direction in life.

Unfortunately, at times the prose felt a bit stilted to me. Character development was okay but emotions seemed overly restrained outside of interactions with the cats. It kind of lessened the impact of key moments and made the romance subplot seem hollow. Overall, I thought it was a decent holiday read and its novella length makes its shortcomings forgivable.

The Christmas Cat is light holiday read with a heartwarming portrayal of cats.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

★★★★★
Percy Jackson has been expelled from another school after a strange string of events. Monsters are stalking him and his only option is to seek safety at Camp Halfblood. There he learns that he's actually a demigod with powerful abilities. Percy receives a quest from an oracle and must complete it quickly to prevent a war starting amongst the gods. This is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.

The Lightning Thief is a middle grade, young adult book. It's an amusing and engaging story that gives a modern reinterpretation of Greek mythology.

I reread this book following along with the charming and insightful blog series, Michael Reads Percy Jackson, written by Michael G. Munz. It was fun to revisit the story and get a different perspective on the book chapter by chapter.

Reading the story at a slower pace made me appreciate how each chapter is its own self contained adventure. The humor, action, and pacing kept me engaged and made me want to continue reading.

I loved the story's incorporation of Greek mythology. The story gives it modern twist along with a reimagined portrayal of mythical entities. I liked that it also included references to the original lore and explained relevant myths for those unfamiliar with them.

I've come to adore the characters over the course of the series so it was fun to be reintroduced to them. The world building is fantastic and I liked that the characters were able to visit a number of different settings. The magic system is fun and interesting. I liked how it gave the story more depth and enhanced every fantastical adventure.   

The Lightning Thief is a fun and engaging story that introduces a wonderful young adult series.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gasp by V.J. Chambers

★★★★✩
Azazel is pregnant and traces of her magic have returned. Now she has to tell Jason he isn't the father. Imri will do anything in his power to ensure that Azazel's baby isn't born. Even if it means manipulating Jason to help him. This is the ninth and final book in the Jason and Azazel series. It's also the final book in the Jason and Azazel: Ambrosia trilogy.

Gasp is a paranormal story that begins right in the midst of the stunning dark drama. The first half of the story is told through an engaging narrative from alternating viewpoints between Jason and Azazel.

The secrets that Jason and Azazel have been keeping from each other are finally revealed. It was interesting to learn Jason's perspective and reasoning for enacting the dark ritualistic abductions. Azazel's pregnancy results in a whirlwind of drama and intensifies the threat from Imri.

The first half of the story is a dramatic string of suspenseful and violent events. It's a ultimately a tragic read that presents an uncertain future that Jason and Azazel will have to face together.

The second half of the story introduces new narrative viewpoints along with a significant jump in time. It's an eerie blend of events and influences from previous books reenacted through a new generation. I really liked the concept of the cycle beginning again especially since they tried so hard to avoid repeating past mistakes. It was an enjoyable read that gave a cohesive feel to the overall series and offered a satisfying conclusion to the Jason and Azazel series.

Related Posts:
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2)
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3) 
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5) 
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8) 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Falter by V.J. Chambers

★★★★★
Jason is adjusting to being a father and trying to live a peaceful life but he's beginning to miss the thrill of violence. Azazel is exhilarated with hunting down their would be pursuers and hates that Jason doesn't approve of her impassioned cause. A simple survellance mission quickly escalates into an issue that endangers the people they swore to protect. Working together again comes naturally but it threatens to unveil the secrets they've been hiding from each other. This is the eighth book in the Jason and Azazel series and the second book in the Jason and Azazel: Ambrosia trilogy.

Falter is a paranormal story that takes place about six months after where the previous book ended. I like the new direction this last trilogy in the series has taken. It has the same intriguing drama that defines the series but it feels a bit more grounded with additional focus on action and suspense. While the paranormal elements gives it an interesting twist.

The narrative is told from Jason and Azazel's alternating viewpoints. The story really reinforces their mature perspective and how much they've been through. Their interactions with the younger characters were amusing and insightful. I liked that events from the previous books were referred to and reanalyzed by the characters. It gave the world a sense of history and it was interesting to see how it affected the characters.

Jason and Azazel have always navigated a morally gray landscape often getting lost in darkness and violence. It was interesting to see them try to define new boundaries and establish a new moral compass. I liked the moral dilemmas the story forced them to confront. 

The story introduces an edgier and darker intensity to Jason and Azazel's sexual relationship. Throughout the series they've betrayed and hurt each other in numerous ways but this story's portrayal of their relationship and the secrets they're keeping from each other seemed more intimate and intense. I liked how the story was able to capture that emotional rawness and internal conflict.

It was fun to see how Azazel's team had developed since the previous book. It was interesting to see how they all worked together and the different relationships that developed between the characters. I liked the setting of their chosen headquarters and it was fun to see their operation setup. I also liked how they utilized technology and altered weaponry in their missions.

The newly integrated magic system was developed more in this story. Its limits were better defined and it introduced interesting consequences. The story also further developed the lore behind its magic system. It's an intriguing biblical reinterpretation that introduces a formidable character and a secret society with an unusual goal. 

Falter is a dark, suspenseful story and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Related Posts:
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2)
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3) 
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5) 
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7) 
Gasp (Jason and Azazel, #9)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shudder by V.J. Chambers

★★★★★
Jason and Azazel have finally awoken from their coma. The only power they have left is the ability to heal. Their miraculous recovery attracts unwanted attention and they soon find themselves forcibly imprisoned within a secret high tech facility. Jason and Azazel must find a way to escape with the other inmates but each attempt is met with severe consequences. This is the seventh book in the Jason and Azazel series and the first book in the Jason and Azazel: Ambrosia trilogy.

Shudder is a paranormal story that takes place about a year after where the previous book ended. I had a lot of fun reading this story. It has a different feel than previous books but I liked its reimagined story line and incorporation of technology.

The story is told from Azazel's perspective. It was interesting to see how much she's matured and changed throughout the series. It was nice to see Jason and Azazel working together towards a common goal. Their weakened magical state and mortal vulnerability added even more tension. It was fun realizing how dangerously skilled they remained even without their magical abilities. It was also interesting to learn their true mindset without their magic's influence.

I loved the setting of the story. The facility's layout was vivid and complex. I liked that it used advanced technology and presented such a unique challenge. The antagonists' were wonderfully twisted. I liked the story behind their motivation and how they turned the facility into a psychological game of sorts. I also liked that it forced Azazel to choose such a drastic course of action.

The story presents a new mystery with an engaging combination of action and drama. New characters are introduced while some old characters return. There were so many twists and surprising revelations that it made me really excited and nervous to continue reading the rest of the trilogy.    

Related Posts:
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2)
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3) 
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5) 
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8)
Gasp (Jason and Azazel, #9) 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

That Last Onset by V.J. Chambers

★★★✩✩
Kieran and Eve have established a utopia with their stolen magic and are brainwashing society to feel nothing but happiness. Jason is trying to pay penance for everything he's done throughout his life. He discovers that Kieran and Eve want to steal his son and are actively trying to track down Azazel. This is the sixth book in the Jason and Azazel series and the final book in the Jason and Azazel: Apocalypse trilogy. 

That Last Onset is a paranormal story. It takes place five years after where the previous book ended. The narrative is told exclusively from Jason's point of view.

I loved the beginning of the book. The initial six chapters make a strong introduction to the state of the world and reintroduction to the characters. It was intense and I was excited about the story's potential but the rest of the story has a very different feel and tone.

The remainder of the story is spent in a spiritual realm. Jason and Azazel must navigate it in order to reclaim their powers and return to their physical bodies. In general, it's a literary trope I'm not very fond of because it tries so hard to be both meaningful and surreal.

The alternate timeline from the first book was interesting to read especially since it was told from Jason's perspective. There were a few scenes that recast Jason and Azazel as part of different story motifs which were kind of fun to read.

A bulk of the spirit journey is mainly a string of situations that forces them to take violent action in order to proceed. Some scenes challenge their faults directly or exploit their jealous insecurities. They reanalyze their relationship while getting to see a different perspective on events and have to consider their future. It made for interesting character development but it kind of got tedious the longer it went on.

The spirit realm is heavy with symbolism and rehashes the story's ideology of order and chaos. It references previous books and gives them a better sense of unification. The ending was predictable but it wraps everything up nicely.

That Last Onset is the conclusion to the second trilogy in the Jason and Azazel series.

Related Posts:
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2)
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3) 
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5) 
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8)
Gasp (Jason and Azazel, #9)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Between The Heaves Of Storm by V.J. Chambers

★★★★✩
Kieran wanted to eradicate Azazel's destructive magic but accidentally stole her powers and memories instead. Azazel doesn't remember who she is but she can feel Jason's power calling out to her. Jason has established a compound and is brainwashing his followers to feel nothing but happiness and tranquility. Reunited with Azazel once again he is determined to keep her close even if it means influencing her mind. This is the fifth book in the Jason and Azazel series and the second book in the Jason and Azazel: Apocalypse trilogy.

Between The Heaves Of Storm is a post-apocalyptic story with paranormal elements. This story takes place about a year after the last book ended. It's a light read with lots of drama and violence.

Joan is the name Azazel has chosen for herself after not being able to recall anything about her former life. Joan's narrative is devoid of Azazel's established personality and is kind of a throwback to her naive romantic obsession from the first book. Her chapters give a better sense of who Jason has become while he reanalyzes their relationship in depth. Jason gets a lot more character development and has some personal breakthroughs that were a long time coming.

I usually get bored with stories that incorporate amnesia but this one keeps it interesting by adding a twist and an additional narrative viewpoint. Kieran is frustrated with having all of Azazel's memories and he's trying to find her so he can return them but he isn't sure if he should also return her powers. His chapters offer a different perspective on Azazel's magic, her personality, and her relationships with Jason and Kieran.

World building was good. Jason's compound has its own culture, values and customs that were interesting to read. It was kind of reminiscent of Jonestown but Jason's magical abilities and his struggle to maintain order gives it a different type of darkness. Kieran's viewpoint shows more of the post-apocalyptic world and society while also demonstrating how powerful magic has become throughout the world.

The ending presents an ironic twist and I'm curious to see its repercussions.

Related Posts:
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2)
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3) 
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4) 
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8)
Gasp (Jason and Azazel, #9) 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Stillness In The Air by V.J. Chambers

★★★✩✩
The Eastern half of the United States has been plunged into darkness. Resources are dwindling and magic has awakened throughout the world. Jason and Azazel have broken up and are now in direct opposition amongst the civil unrest. She never wanted to see Jason again after everything that happened but his wayward band of allies are blocking the passage westward. This is the fourth book in the Jason and Azazel series and the first book within the Jason and Azazel: Apocalypse trilogy.

The Stillness In The Air is a post-apocalyptic story with paranormal elements. It takes place a few years after where the previous book ended. It mainly focuses on the present timeline with small recollections from the gap in time sprinkled in.

Azazel is guilty and nervous about using her powers while remaining adamant about staying away from Jason. It's a drastic change from the previous book and the story isn't initially forthcoming about the reasons for her changed mindset. It felt odd not knowing the character's motivation as a result it was difficult for me to remain fully engaged in the story. Once key elements from the past were addressed I was able to gradually get into the story. 

Overall, it's a dramatic and frustrating read. Jason and Azazel haven't seen each other in long time but still share a dark attraction to each other. They've both grown in maturity and strength as well as influence. Being reunited forces them see how much they've changed and confront the new lives they've chosen. 

I liked how the story became darker as the story progressed. The magic system was fleshed out more and the world building was altered significantly to showcase the post-apocalyptic setting. There was a surplus of drama, mystery, violence, and action scenes. It was interesting to see how Azazel's perceptions changed throughout the story. I enjoyed reading the ending and I'm eager to see what this story leads to.

Related Posts:
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2)
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5)
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8)
Gasp (Jason and Azazel, #9)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Tortured by V.J. Chambers

★★★✩✩
Jason and Azazel are in Italy finishing off their senior year at a posh private school funded by the Sons of the Rising Sun. They bide their time trying to break into the school's library hoping to uncover evidence that Jason isn't the prophesied Rising Sun. Azazel is plagued by nightmares and feels overwhelmed by what their lives have become. This is the third book in the Jason and Azazel series.

Breathless is a young adult story. It was a fun and action packed read with tinges of darkness. It has a lighter tone than the previous books and makes startling revelations about everything the characters thought they knew. The narration was engaging and character development is great. The world building was given more focus offering a detailed and comprehensive overview. 

The beginning was dark, Azazel's nightmares were intense and it was upsetting to see her drinking problem surface again. It was interesting to see her work through her psychological distress after everything that happened in the previous book. I liked that Azazel finally confronted how she would deal with navigating the violence in their lives. She becomes more assertive and it was heartening to see her boost of confidence and determination to stay with Jason.

The rest of the story was fluffy and cute. The scenes were amusing and lacked the violent intensity established in previous books instead it felt more action oriented. The mystery surrounding Jason and Azazel's lives was given more focus and they followed clues gradually piecing together the story behind their forced prophetic mantles.

The world building was given additional focus. It further expands on the lore of the Rising Sun and vessel of Azazel. It was interesting and thorough offering a different perspective on events. It felt fair considering those events were first meant to be shocking. Though I liked all the additional history, I really disliked the compiled info dumps dispensed through text heavy dialogue. 

The first couple of books felt like they were leading up to a cataclysmic tragedy. This story releases a lot of that tension and it seemed to negate everything it previously established. I didn't necessarily feel let down but I did feel like I was tricked. The backtracking felt odd but it presents a new concept full of possibilities. 

Tortured is fun read with a happy conclusion to the first trilogy in the Jason and Azazel series.

Related Posts: 
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2) 
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5) 
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8)
Gasp (Jason and Azazel, #9) 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Trembling by V.J. Chambers

★★★★✩
Jason and Azazel have moved to Florida and are trying to establish a normal life for themselves. They should feel safe knowing their freedom is secure with the blackmail material they have but Azazel is still paranoid. She keeps noticing signs that their enemies may be close. It puts a strain on her relationship with Jason which is further complicated by their surfacing insecurities. This is the second book in the Jason and Azazel series.

Trembling is a dark, young adult story that explores mature and controversial themes. The story picks up a few months after where the previous book ended. Jason and Azazel have developed a relationship that has turned into an obsession with each other. Their courtship was immersed in blood and violence. Now that the chaos has subsided they are struck by how little they actually know about each other.

Azazel's seductive ex-best friend seems intent on luring Jason away while Jason is jealous of how close Azazel has become to her new friend. It's a very dramatic story and manages to capture the emotional angst perfectly. It wasn't a comfortable read but it was engaging. I liked how complex Jason and Azazel's relationship has become especially with their violent lifestyle factored into it.

Character development was great. I especially liked how much Azazel has grown over the course of the series so far. Her psychological distress and paranoia felt authentic especially after everything that happened in the first book. She begins to realize that a relationship with Jason will require a lot from her while her doubts continually make her falter. I liked that the story forced her to make difficult decisions and that she chose such a dark course of action.

I liked that the religious order and satanic cult were further developed. It was interesting to learn more about them and how they influenced each other. I loved that the mystery surrounding Jason and Azazel keeps getting more intense and complicated. I enjoyed the irony of the revelation confirmed at the end and that there is an ambiguity surrounding both factions without one being clearly right or wrong.

Trembling is a dramatic and dark young adult story and I look forward to continuing the Jason and Azazel series.

Related Posts:
Breathless (Jason and Azazel, #1) 
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3)
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5) 
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8)
Gasp (Jason and Azazel, #9) 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Breathless by V.J. Chambers

★★★★★
Azazel lives in a wholesome small town where the most exciting thing has been finding Jason. He's on the run from danger and Azazel wants to keep him safe with her family. She's determined to uncover the secrets that haunt him but soon finds that their lives are intertwined in a horrifying plot between a violent religious order and a satanic cult. This is the first book in the Jason And Azazel series.

Breathless is a dark, young adult story that explores mature and controversial themes. The narration is engaging with a genuine and unreserved voice that isn't often found in traditional young adult books. The characters are all wonderfully developed and the world building is fantastic.

The first part of the book has a slower pace focusing on high school life while building up a sense of foreboding and mystery. The second half of the book is a dramatic explosion of action, violence, and shocking revelations. 

I loved the amount of detail and research that went into the portrayal of the religious group and satanic cult. I liked that the initial focus was what their base values were before interweaving their lore, history, ideologies and structure. It was interesting to note overlapping similarities and I loved that there was an uncertainty about which one was in the right.

Breathless hints at an ominous future for the main characters and I look forward to reading the rest of the Jason and Azazel series.

Related Posts:
Trembling (Jason and Azazel, #2) 
Tortured   (Jason and Azazel, #3)
The Stillness In The Air (Jason and Azazel, #4)
Between The Heaves Of Storm (Jason and Azazel, #5) 
That Last Onset (Jason and Azazel, #6)
Shudder (Jason and Azazel, #7)
Falter (Jason and Azazel, #8)
Gasp (Jason and Azazel, #9) 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Three by V.J. Chambers

★★★★★
Olivia Calabrese's chosen course of action has brought upon the apocalypse. Berserkers are ravaging the city in droves and continue to increase in number. Her faction has a tedious forced alliance with their enemies but tensions are running high within their haphazard fortress. Something is influencing the berserkers and they all seem intent on finding Olivia.

The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Three is a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy story that is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. The voice and tone are different then the previous stories. It has a darker bleak perspective with a tangible sense of despair. The prose is more visually descriptive and almost poetic. It was fascinating to watch everything unfold.

From the previous books I had an impression of the world’s geography but this story made it more concrete. The rich visual details really brought the post-apocalyptic city to life. I also liked that the world’s lore and history were focused on more.

The action scenes were more intense and plentiful. The berserkers were wonderfully horrifying. I liked that psychological stress was portrayed and depicted through the characters. I also liked that there was continual sense of tension and the possibility for any situation to escalate quickly.

Each story has a mixture of themes it explores. In this story gender roles and identity felt the most prominent along with faith and redemption. It was an interesting discourse played out by the characters and I liked that it forced Olivia’s character to develop more.

The ending itself was pretty powerful and I was stunned into contemplation after reading it. I loved the author’s afterword, it provided closure and also gave a deeper meaning to the trilogy as a whole.

The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Three is a captivating and tragic read.

Related Posts:
The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book One
The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Two 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Two by V.J. Chambers

★★★★★
Olivia Calabrese once valued family above everything else but now her father wants her dead. She's starting to make a name for herself but each success is met with violent opposition. There's a traitor amongst her allies, her boyfriend is still transforming into a berserker each night, and her most trusted friend may be falling in love with her. Olivia is determined to find a cure for the berserker curse but the berserkers are getting stronger and keep increasing in number.

The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Two is an urban fantasy story. The narrative voice seems more mature than in the previous book, it has a definite new-adult feel. The beginning of the book felt a bit rushed and I didn't like the overdramatic arguments. After a few chapters the pacing leveled out and the drama became much more meaningful and intense.

I really enjoyed reading this story. It built upon the previous book while also amplifying the tension and suspense. I liked how the conflict allowed further characterization. The magic system was fleshed out more and I loved all the additional details included because it gave a sense of history to the world and characters.

Relationships and sexuality are prominent themes throughout the story. I liked how it was interwoven into the story's lore while also offering a unique perspective on common issues. At times it was unsettling but I loved how raw and insightful it was.

There's also a lot more action and violence in this story compared to the first book. The berserkers are more numerous and their violent ferocity is fully unleashed. The fight scenes were fun to read and I liked how it forced Olivia to adapt and acquire new skills.

Olivia's new position as leader of her makeshift family also presents new issues. Not only is there a business to run but she has to inspire loyalty and obedience. It resulted in some dark scenes and troubling choices with stark consequences.

The second book of the The Toil And Trouble Trilogy was an engaging read and I loved it's intensity.

Related Posts:
The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book One 
The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Three

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book One by V.J. Chambers

★★★★★
Olivia Calabrese values family and loyalty above everything else. Olivia has already made her first kill on behalf of the family, a gesture to show she's serious about taking part in the family business. The Calabrese family is renown for selling magically imbued charms outlawed for their tendency to turn their users into animalistic berserkers. Olivia is determined to become head of the family business but learning the source of their magical power has her questioning everything she ever knew.

The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book One is an urban fantasy story. Olivia is a young protagonist so the story has a young adult feel but the overall story gives it a darker and edgier perspective. It took me the first two chapters to adjust to the cadence of the narration but I found it an engaging read from that point onward.

I adored Olivia's character, she's a strong heroine that continually grows throughout the story. I liked that her moral dilemmas were framed within such a dark and violent setting. Characterization in general was great for all the characters and I liked how well suited the dialogue was for them all.

I loved the amount of detail that went into the magic system and world building. The berserkers were interesting creatures and I liked how they were portrayed throughout the story. The incorporation of Italian witchcraft was interesting to read. I liked that it further enhanced characterization by showcasing the cultural beliefs and values of the characters. 

The organized crime syndicate operations were also a fun addition and I really liked how it colored the story. A majority of the story is Olivia trying to establish a place for herself within the family business. I liked the drama that surrounded her choice to become head of the family. It was fun seeing her efforts to outmaneuver her rival and also continually face tough decisions that could potentially make her lose face.

The Macbeth influences felt a bit heavy to me mainly because I'm not overly familiar with the play. The story did a good job of summarizing and clarifying embedded references though I still wondered if I was missing out on something. 

Overall, I found Book One to be an enjoyable read and I look forward to continuing the trilogy. 
  
Related Posts:
The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Two
The Toil And Trouble Trilogy: Book Three