Sunday, September 30, 2012

I MADE IT - challenge news and reading update

Yup, I've just finished Scorch - the last book I needed to complete the Sequels Challenge! I really didn't think I'd make it, what with having to finish Ironskin too before it expired and university classes starting again, but I did. My review will be up later in the week because I want to spread them out a bit and I've already posted one on Friday and one today. But yup, Scorch is all read and damn did my eyes grow ever larger on those last two dozen or so pages! Can't wait for the next book!!

So here's the record of my victory:

You can click the first three to read my reviews. As I said, Scorch will be up later this week, as will Ironskin. I'm kinda proud of myself for completing the challenge, as I really doubted that I'd make it. I don't think I would have if Scorch hadn't arrived on release day - I knew this one would be a fast read, while Melissa de la Cruz's Masquerade would probably have taken me longer to finish. So now I'm kinda blinking in surprise at all the sequels I've cleaned up over the summer. I think Masquerade is the last one on my shelf, and it'll have to stay there a while longer while I read all the recent releases I got lately but couldn't read because of this challenge and my NetGalley books.

So here's what I plan to read over the next two or so weeks:

 I've already started reading my NetGalley copy of Death and the Girl Next Door but I'm not far in enough yet to say anything about it. And it nearly killed me to own Carnival and Unspoken and not to be allowed to read them!!! Other awesomeness on my shelf that I might get around to: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel, Touch by Jus Accardo, Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Foretold anthology edited by Carrie Ryan... I'll get around to them. The only good thing about my book buying ban is that I already own so much awesomeness :P

Have you taken part in any challenges recently? What were they for? Did you enjoy them?

Review: Demonglass, by Rachel Hawkins

Published: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
Format: Paperback, 384 pages

Goodreads description:
The critics have spoken--this New York Times best-seller is "impossible to put down " Teens and reviewers alike have fallen in love with Demonglass' humor, forbidden romance, suspense, and delicious paranormal fun.
Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch, which was why she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (aka witches, shapeshifters, and fairies). But that was before she discovered she's a "demon," and her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping her kind off the face of the earth. What's worse, Sophie has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is why she decides to go to London for the Removal, a risky procedure that will either destroy her powers forever--or kill her. But once Sophie arrives, she makes a shocking discovery: "someone" is raising new demons in secret and planning to use their powers to destroy the world. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they're using Acher to do it. But it's not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

Review (no spoilers):

It’s been more than a year since I’ve read Hex Hall and I admit I don’t quite remember everything about the ending, but Demonglass sets in pretty soon afterwards. Sophie’s dad, head of the Prodigium Council, wants Sophie to stay in England with him for the summer. By spending time with her and teaching her about her demon powers and heritage, he’s hoping to change her mind about going through the Removal, a ritual which would strip her of all her powers – if it doesn’t kill her, that is. Her father doesn’t want her to undergo it because the threat of L’Occhio di Dio is greater than ever after Archer’s betrayal has been revealed and the organization has struck an alliance with the Brennans, another set of Prodigium enemies. Also, he wants to show her that it’s possible to be a Demon without being a monster.

Then there is, of course, Sophie’s love life. she knows she should forget about Archer but she’s having a hard time. going to England, where he’s allegedly been sighted, evokes conflicting feelings. Oh , and did I mention that her dad betrothed her to Cal years ago? To be honest I didn’t even remember there was a character called Cal ^^’’ He’s Hex Hall’s groundkeeper and has the strangest healing powers of anyone around. He’s a bit hard to read but a genuinely good, caring guy. After her initial shock of being fiancéed without a say in it, Sophie grows to actually like him.

Then there’s England itself, and Thorne Abbey where Sophie and her friends are staying with part of the Council members. Very strange to Sophie & co. Very British – a little too clichéd sometimes for my taste. And imagine Sophie’s surprise when she meets two other demons there! Nick and Daisy don’t remember anything from their lives before they were forcibly changed into demons, and their attitude to their powers is very different from Sophie’s denial. Sophie begins to use and control magic again but still fears to turn into a monster the way Alice did. When a conspiracy is revealed after multiple attacks and things start going to hell in a handbasket, can Sophie protect those she loves? And does that include Archer after all?

Sophie shows quite a bit of character growth and learns from her mistakes in this installment, which I liked. So does her father and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. Also we learn more about Prodigium organization and law as well as Sophie’s faily history. Her feelings for Cal and Archer don’t quite turn into a love triangle but I liked the loyalty conflict they cause for her.

The pace is a bit slow at the beginning but picks up quickly with plenty of mystery and action to keep the reader entertained. The book is very hard to put down near the end, which leaves many questions open and makes me want to pick up the concluding book as soon as it’s out in paperback.

My problem, both with Demonglass and Hex Hall, is that I can’t quite get into the writing, or the voice I should say. The whole teen thing seems a bit forced to me. Yes, there are witty comments and some sarcasm, which I usually love, but here it just doesn’t quite ring true or hit the mark for me. That makes me aware of being a bit above the target audience age, which I’d put at 13-18. I don’t know, maybe younger teens are more into it and it’s just me.
Also, part of the plot was a little predictable, though I didn’t foresee everything and there were some nice twists and unexpected revelations.

All in all, Demonglass is a solid read for teens and takes everything in Hex Hall up a notch. There’s character development and a focus on greater-scale conflict rather than drama, which I liked. There’s action, suspense, and some romance. I liked the novel, it just wasn’t outstanding or one of those books that linger in my mind and truly make me think.

What did you think of this one? I'm really curious whether I'm the only one having a problem with Sophie's voice. Do you like the book/series?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stacking the Shelves and Challenge Update

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews to show off all the books we got that week, no matter what format or how we got them (bought, ARCs for review, gifted, won, borrowed...).

Since I'm still on my book buying ban (sucky but necessary), I only had one in my mailbox because I had preordered it. I was really happy to get it on release day! :D I'll start reading it over the weekend and I hope I can finish by Sunday night, because then I'll have completed the Sequels Challenge I'm participating in.

Scorch, by Gina Damico
Plus some origin swag including a signed sticker. I won that during the Origin Olympics that Jessica Khoury hosted shortly before the release.
Oh, and about the Scorch cover: it's actually shiny silver! That organge is a reflection. Strangely fitting though :P

September is for Sequels Challenge update:
I've reached the first half of my goals, which was to read & review Enshadowed and Black Heart. Click the titles to read my reviews.

I've got a good hundred pages left of Rachel Hawkins' Demon Glass, which I hope to read in the next 1.5 hours before I go to bed. That would leave me free to read & finish Scorch tomorrow (I'm writing this Friday night) and Sunday. I had originally planned to read Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz but I think Scorch will be a quicker read and the challenge ends on Sunday :P So I might complete it even though I started when half the time was gone, had to re-read a big book and started university again.
I also finished Ironskin by Tina Connolly, which will be published on Tuesday. I hope to get up my review on Monday.

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed: You've got until midnight on Sunday to squeeze in some last entries to my blogoversary giveaway ;) I'll probably pick the winner on Tuesday because I'll be busy on Monday. Good luck!

What books and goodies did you guys get this week? Link me up in the comments :)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cover Reveal: Release, by M.R. Merrick

I didn't realize this when I signed up, but this is my second cover reveal this week! Today's reveal is for Release, the third book in the Protector series by indie author M.R. Merrick. I've won a copy of Exiled in a giveaway a few weeks ago but although I'm itching to read it I've had to hold back because of the NetGalley books I still have to review. I can't wait to be 'off schedule' and able to squeeze in some other books again! But without further ado, here is the cover:

 I love the font and colors! Portals, castles... looks like loads of action! If you want to know more, read the description below (I tried not to when I copied it because I'm wary of spoilers).

Release will be published on December 10, 2012.

After uniting the shifters and calling in reinforcements, Chase has to face his toughest challenge yet: learning to control his emotions. But as tensions rise and his powers grow, controlling his emotions becomes the least of his problems.

Terrorized by a multi-shifter who is hell-bent on turning him, Chase questions just how far he’s willing to go to stop his father.  Meanwhile, Tiki’s virtuous nature has placed him in the middle of Vincent’s past, leaving Chase to oppose a senate of vampires and defend a demon he hates.

Trying to balance his friends, his enemies, and his inner demons, Chase is left searching for answers about the Mark, his destiny, and where he can find the next soul piece. Stopping Riley is his top priority, but as more obstacles arise, he finds himself doubting all the decisions he’s made - especially regarding Rayna.
One thing is for certain: Chase has finally realized that he doesn’t know anything. The light doesn’t always quell the darkness, the monsters don’t always stay in the shadows, and the past doesn’t always stay in the past - sometimes, the demons inside are the hardest to fight.


What do you guys think of the cover? Have you read the previous books or heard of the series? If so, did you enjoy it/them? I'm curious, so tell me in the comments :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Black Heart, by Holly Black

Published: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardcover, 296 pages

Goodreads description:
In a world where Magic is illegal.

Cassel Sharpe has the most deadly ability of all. With one touch, he can transform any object - including a person - into something else entirely. And that makes him a wanted man. The Feds are willing to forgive all his past crimes if he'll only leave his con artist family behind and go straight. But why does going straight feel so crooked?

For one thing, it means being on the opposite side of the law from Lila, the girl he loves. She's the daughter of a mob boss and getting ready to join the family business herself. Though Cassel is pretty sure she can never love him back, he can't stop obsessing over her. Which would be bad enough, even if her father wasn't keeping Cassel's mother prisoner in a posh apartment and threatening not to let her leave until she returns the priceless diamond she scammed off him years ago. Too bad she can't remember where she put it.

The Feds say they need Cassel to get rid of a powerful man who is spinning dangerously out of control. But if they want Cassel to use his unique talent to hurt people, what separates the good guys from the bad ones? Or is everyone just out to con him?

Time is running out, and all Cassel's magic and cleverness might not be enough to save him. With no easy answers and no one he can trust, love might be the most dangerous gamble of all.

The following review is based on a copy I purchased myself.

(spoilers for the first two books, but none for Black Heart itself)

I enjoyed Black Heart immensely! It’s definitely a worthy conclusion to the Curse Workers trilogy. I would love another sequel or maybe a short story to see how things continue for the characters, but I was also content to see them where they were and leave the rest up to my own imagination.

At the end of Red Glove, Cassel tricked Barron into joining the feds to help the government against the mob worker families. Cassel himself promised to join the program after finishing school. That was the price he paid for his immunity after being used as an assassin without his knowledge. What I love most about Cassel is that he tries so, so hard to be good and make the right decisions. He loves his family, but he also wants to get away from the fate that seems to be already determined for him – a life of crime, desired by everyone for his rare transformation talent. A life as a tool, a pawn to the powerful. Cassel wants to find a way to use his talent for good ends, he wants a self-determined, independent life. All the while, he is tormented by guilt and cannot believe in his own goodness.

Joining the feds seemed like the lessest evil at the time, but things begin to go downhill pretty quickly. Lila has joined her father and taken the marks of a member of the Zacharov crime family. Even though there seems to be no chance for the two of them, Cassel cannot stop thinking about her. However, his greater problem is that Zacharov is holding his mum captive. The good part: she is wanted by the police and they certainly won’t find her in Zacharov’s apartment. The bad part: Zacharov is holding her hostage until Cassel can find and return the resurrection diamond to him, which she stole and then wanted to sell back to him. Too bad no one knows where the real stone is.

Meanwhile, Zacharov of course cannot know about Cassel’s involvement with the feds. He’d have Cassel’s mom, Barron, and Cassel himself killed immediately for that kind of ‘treason’. And anyway, the lines between good government and evil mobsters become increasingly blurred as the story continues… has Cassel made the right choice? Or is this a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire? Is there anyone at all he can trust?

There’s his roommate Sam, of course. But Sam is trying to piece himself back together after breaking up with Daneca – who is now seeing a mysterious new guy. Then there is a new character with unclear motives who asks Cassel for help, which he cannot deny even while he realizes she might be conning him…
One of my favorite minor characters is Cassel’s grandfather. He is the only family member who truly cares about Cassel, in my opinion. He tries to look out for him without intruding too much into his business and provides comfort and stability.
And Lila… I love Lila. She’s tough. She gets to do things other female characters in YA novels don’t get to do or can’t get away with. She’s a future mob leader! She’s also shrewd, and cruel at times. She knows what she wants and how to get it. She’s (nearly) fearless. In short, she’s something of a mystery and what I enjoy about her is also trying to figure her out, to separate her ‘real’ self (as far as we can glimpse it) from the picture Cassel makes up of her in his mind. I love the scenes between them, how they collide and repel one another but can never truly fight their attraction. Their chemistry is incredible, and there are also some steamy scenes.

I could ramble on and on about how much I love the world of this trilogy, but let me keep that aspect short. The fight for worker rights that got more coverage in Red Glove also plays an important part here. Governor Patton is really pushing for Proposition Two and has become too great a danger to be ignored any longer. I can’t really say more about it without major spoilers. Also the way worker kids are exploited for their talents plays an important role in the novel. I love how realistic and gritty the Curse Workers world is. If people with such talents existed for real, this is what it would be like. I also think it’s amazing how Holly Black interweaves the workers’ past and the fight for worker rights with the working camps of WWII and with the fight for minority rights that is still an issue today.

I love the pacing. This book is incredibly hard to put down, things start off interesting and it just escalates from there, leaving you breathless and quite desperate for Cassel’s situation. I also really like the way Holly Black implies that Cassel has a plan, but manages to keep up a first person narrative without Cassel actually divulging his plan to the reader. So it’s impossible to have an inkling of what he might do and whether it might work. It’s genius.

As is the prose! Amazing descriptions, turns of the phrase, witty ironic snarky remarks, banter… There are beautiful passages, but they sting. There are horrid passages, but you can’t help but admire the way they are crafted. It’s like a paranormal noir thriller of sorts. Holly Black’s writing punches a hole into your heart at times, but you will love her for it.

All in all I love this book to bits. The plot is incredibly well-crafted, the characters fully fleshed-out, the pace gripping and the prose sharp and unique. It’s full of twists and turns and uncertainties but things resolve nicely, though the reader has to figure out plenty on his/her own. It’s a great conclusion that also leaves an opening for the reader’s own imagination or a possible bonus story (please, Holly Black?). I can only recommend these books to anyone who loves their YA with a little more off an edge!

I could have gone on and one about Cassel and his attitude to his ability and to Lila etc etc but that would be more interpretation than review. I really seem to be unable to keep them short, but I blame Holly Black for writing a book that is too good to be written of(f) with just a few short paragraphs.

Holly Black's     tumblr         twitter         livejournal          facebook

What did you think of Black Heart? Was it a good conclusion of the series for you guys? Do you want more? You can also share your thoughts of the other books. I love your comments :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Chantress, by Amy Butler Greenfield

Expected release: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardcover

Description from Goodreads:
Sing and the darkness will find you.

Shipwrecked on an island seven years ago, Lucy has been warned she must never sing, or disaster will strike. But on All Hallows Eve, Lucy hears tantalizing music in the air. When she sings it, she unlocks a terrible secret: She is a Chantress, a spell-singer, brought to the island not by shipwreck but by a desperate enchantment gone wrong.

Her song lands her back in England — and in mortal peril, for the kingdom lies in the cruel grasp of a powerful Lord Protector and his mind-reading hunters, the Shadowgrims. The Protector has killed all Chantresses, for they alone can destroy the Shadowgrims. Only Lucy has survived.

In terrible danger, Lucy takes shelter with Nat, a spy who turns her heart upside-down. Nat has been working with his fellow scholars of the Invisible College to overthrow the Lord Protector, and they have long hoped to find a living Chantress to help them. But Lucy is completely untrained, and Nat deeply distrusts her magic. If Lucy cannot master the songspells, how long can she even stay alive?

Beguiling and lyrical, dangerous and romantic, Chantress will capture readers in a spell they won’t want to break.

I'm not usually a cover-gusher, but this one is just amazing! The colors, the font, the composition! And the world building sounds sooo intriguing! Part historical, part fantasy... I'm so curious to know more about how this version of England is organized, what teh Shadowgrims are, what Nat is like. And of course Lucy coming into her powers, whatever they are exactly. This sounds like it's going to amazing!

What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Link me up, and share your thoughts on Chantress :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Haven't Finished

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, asking bloggers to post their Top Ten lists on a certain topic every week.

Well, so I haven't done a TTT in quite a while and thought this was a good week to get back to it. The topic for this week is:

Top Ten Series I Haven't Finished. This can be either because I don't plan/want to, procrastinated, or just didn't get around to it. Since I made this my summer of finishing/catching up with serieses I felt the need to contribute :P This is in no particular order. Sorry for not including the covers but I just have no time to link them all up and format them ^^''

  1. Lesley Livingston's Wonderous Strange series. I've read the first two books and liked them a lot but somehow number three was never a top priority too many new shiny things!... I plan on finishing it though!
  2. Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series. Same thing. I did some catching up this summer by reading The Iron Daughter, but I haven't gotten around to the rest yet. Once I finish my currently present book stack that'll be one of the first things I'll order though, because I really love the characters!
  3. Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. I read book 3 this summer after it dusted on my shelf for a year and remembered how awesome and hilarious these books are! But there are quite a lot more and somehow I'm in no hurry to get through all of them. It'll probably stay a 'once-a-year' type of thing.
  4. Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels. They're all on my shelf but I kinda have to be in the mood to read one.
  5. Jacky Morse Kessler's Riders of the Apocalypse series. I really enjoyed Hunger but haven't read on yet. I don't know, those books are all about serious issues and it really depends on how they're handled whether I'll like them or not. It's a risk. And from the description it's hard to tell whether or not it's my thing. I'll eventually read the next one though, I guess.
  6. C.C. Hunter's Shadow Falls series. I've only read Born At Midnight a few months ago so this is a time thing since I definitely plan on reading the rest.
  7. Lisa J. Smith's Vampire Diaries. I've read the first volume (book 1+2) but haven't continued yet. I really like the series but the books are quite different. Again, not a priority.
  8. Kim Harrison's The Hollows. I really really want to read A Perfect Blood but I'm waiting for the UK release so it matches the rest of my books.
  9. Alyson Noel's Immortals series. I borrowed and read teh first two books from a friend a few years ago, and while I read them quickly I decided not to finish/continue this series. I had huge problems with some of the values it implies but never questions. I was very frustrated.
  10. Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series. Haven't read the latest one, or Once Burned, the first Vlad novel. I really really want to though, but something else (new) was always there to keep me from it.

Other series I could have included: Fallen, by Lauren Kate. Blue Bloods, by Melissa de la Cruz. Midnight Breed, by Lara Adrian. There are a few others, but I realize that I actually did catch up with quite a lot over the summer. My problem is usually that I don't even start many serieses because half a dozen or more books are already out and I'd have to catch up on sooooo much (and spend a lot of time and money) to get caught up - meanwhile like 2 new books would appear.

It's impossible to catch up on everything. It's quite a pity since this has kept me away from many authors I might enjoy, such as Ilona Andrews, Laurel K. Hamilton, Lilith Saintcrow, Jim Butcher... at some point maybe I can go and read all of them, but at the moment it's just not possible. Sometimes I really wish people would write more standalone novels or shorter serieses of 3-5 books.

What's in your Top Ten? Any responses to my thoughts on serieses and their lengths in general? Does it put you off if you have to catch up on a lot? Let me know in the comments and link me to your own TT :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cover Reveal: Losing It, by Cora Carmack

Hey guys, today I'm taking part in the cover reveal for a new NA contemporary! As a twenty-something myself, I'm really excited that this new category is getting more attention as of late!
So here it is:

Author: Cora Carmack
Title: Losing It
Publisher: indie
Release date: October 16, 2012

About the Book

College student Bliss Edwards is sick of being the only virgin among her friends. She decides the best way to deal with the problem is to lose her virginity quickly and simply— a one-night stand. Her plan turns out to be anything but simple when she chickens out and leaves a gorgeous guy alone and naked in her bed. Already embarrassed, it only gets worse when she arrives for her first class of her last college semester, and recognizes her new Theatre professor. She’d left him naked in her bed about eight hours earlier.

About the Author

Cora Carmack is a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She’s done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working at Target), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She loves theatre, travel, and anything that makes her laugh. She enjoys placing her characters in the most awkward situations possible, and then trying to help them get a boyfriend out of it. Awkward people need love, too. Her first book, a New Adult Contemporary Romance called LOSING IT releases October 16th.

Sounds like one of those books that will make you laugh out loud while still being serious at times, doesn't it? I'm very curious about how Bliss will handle the situation! And I like the cover, how both of them are only visible in profile and how the title info separates them. What are your thoughts on the cover or book description?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature by Tynga's reviews to show off the books and other book-related goodies we got that week. This can be books we bought, got for review, won, etc. No matter whether they are print or ebooks.

After last week's epic haul, I don't have quite as much to report. I put myself on a book buying ban. Still, there are some things I had already ordered that are still trickling in:

Yup, my copy of Obsidian has finally arrived! Now I can see what all the fuss is about ;)
Also, I'm taking a colloquium on James Joyce's Ulysses for my studies this semester.  It's taught at the James Joyce Foundation here in Zurich by Fritz Senn, one of the best Joyce scholars there are, and I'm honored to have the chance to learn from him.
And that mug you see there at the bottom is a Soul Screamers 'Kaylee' mug I won from Rachel Vincent :D

Also won: Dreamwalker, by Andrea Heltsley.

Finally, I'm readlly happy that I got approved on NetGalley for this one:

Death and the Girl Next Door, by Darynda Jones. I haven't read anything by this author before but what I've heard and also the description of the novel makes me excited for this one!

On another note:
I'm behind on the sequels challenge... I've finished Enshadowed, but that means I still have to read 3 books in 9 days, while I actually have a few NetGalley books that will be published very soon and/or are about to expire >.< I also find it very hard to resist the copies of Carnival of Souls, Origin, and Unspoken on my shelf...

What was in your mailbox this week? Link me up in the comments :)

Review: Enshadowed, by Kelly Creagh

Release date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Format: Hardcover, 429 pages

Description from the dust jacket:
Varen Nethers is trapped in a perilous dreamworld – a treacherous and desolate realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life. Isobel Lanley, plagued by strange visions and haunted by nightmares of Varen’s creation, is the only one who can save him.

Isobel knows that her only hope lies within a Baltimore cemetery. There, in the early morning hours of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, a mysterious stranger known as the “Poe Toaster” will make his annual homage at the legendary poet’s grave.

Only the Poe Toaster holds the key to the way between worlds. But great dangers lie ahead for Isobel. An ancient evil, draped in veils of white, is watching, challenging her for Varen’s affections. When Isobel finally finds Varen, he is no longer the quiet and brooding boy who once captivated her, but a dark force, powerful and malevolent.

Could Isobel’s greatest love also be her greatest adversary?

The following review is based on a copy I purchased myself.

Do not read if you haven't read Nevermore and don't want to be spoiled!!!

Review (no spoilers):
I have waited for this book for more than a year, with big expectations and not a little fear for what the novel would hold in store for Isobel and Varen – I was not disappointed on any of those accounts. Trying to review Enshadowed is difficult for me because there is just no way I can do this book justice. Anything I say will be bland compared to the experience of reading it. It made me laugh, it surprised me, it scared me, intrigued me, and it left me in pieces – as it well should.

The ending of Nevermore left Isobel in the real world while Varen was a captive in the dreamworld he helped create. Enshadowed picks up a few weeks later. Isobel has still not found a way to reach Varen but is trying to convince her parents to take her to Baltimore for a ‘university trip’ so that she can then sneak off and intercept Reynolds, aka the Poe Toaster, at Poe’s grave and make him take her to Varen. Meanwhile, she is under a lot of strain because the police, her teacher Mr Swanson, and basically the entire student body think that she has at least an idea about where Varen went. Isobel feels terrible for leaving him behind, even though she was tricked by Reynolds into doing it, and she is hell-bent of finding him and bringing him back no matter what.

However, there are signs of Varen reaching out to her in her dreams and Isobel is finding it harder and harder to distinguish between waking and sleeping, between what is real and what should not be real. Pinfeathers, one of the Nocs created by Varen, is haunting her both in he dreams and in the real world. I never thought I’d say this but I grew to love Pinfeathers. In Nevermore, he plain scared me (though during the re-read I learned to appreciate his sense of humor) but the Pinfeathers in Enshadowed is changed, and Isobel can no longer be sure about who is friend and who is foe. The connection between Pinfeathers and Varen is one I found very fascinating, as are the parallels between Varen and Poe and their relations to the dreamworld and to the veiled female figure who lured them there and whom I cannot really talk about without spoilers.

Isobel is a very strong heroine, refusing to give up even as everyone around her, in the know or not, tells her to turn her back on Varen and get on with her life, lies to her, or otherwise tries to hinder her. Comparing her to the spoilt cheerleader she was at the beginning of Nevermore, she has undergone incredible growth! And she does not wallow in self-pity, even though she has reason enough to do it.
Also the minor characters gain a lot more depth in the sequel: Isobel’s family plays an important role, we get to know Gwen better and there is also some light shed on Varen’s parents and his past in general. I’m still not sure I have figured out how it’s all connected but I have theories ;) Kelly Creagh definitely keeps the reader guessing, and I loved that!

Of course what I loved most of all was the wonderful, rich and lyrical prose. Not once does Creagh resort to a clichéd description; instead, she comes up with wonderful new similes and metaphors that fit her story perfectly. She creates moods and scenes that will pull the reader right into the story, at her mercy to be awed or terrified. Poe’s writing is a phantom haunting the story, woven through it in an unobtrusive yet recognizable way to those who know his stories and poetry. And it’s not just random phrases, quotes or allusions – it’s the deeper themes, the places, the names… I could write an essay just on intertextuality in this series.

All in all, this is a wonderfully crafted, dark read full of mystery and its very own brand of magic, both in the story and in the words Creagh uses to tell it. It will make you laugh and cry and shake your fist at the injustice of the world, and like the notes of a certain lullaby, it will haunt your mind for a long time to come.

I could rhapsodize on forevermore but this is a novel you just have to read for yourself to feel its full effect. I can’t wait for the conclusion of this trilogy!

P.S.: And yet I feel I should ramble on because this is too short to possibly do the story justice… maybe I’ll edit it at a later point. My brain is still too bedazzled but I had to get this on the page while still ‘under the influence’, so to speak.

Have you read Enshadowed? What were your thoughts? Predictions? Fears? Favorite bits? Let me know in the comments :)