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Book Review: Wings of the Wicked (Angelfire Series #2)

Wings of the Wicked (Angefire Series #2)
By Courtney Allison Moulton
Published January 31, 2012
HarperCollins Children’s Books
Hardcover
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined.

Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heaven’s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who she really is has come out, so have Hell’s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

She’s been warned.

Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastian’s new plan to destroy Ellie’s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastian’s schemes, the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everything—including herself.

She’ll be betrayed.

Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be Hell to pay.

HOLLI’S REVIEW:

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about this sequel! To say that I loved it would be an understatement. It far surpassed my expectations! This is a slack jaw, bug eyed, squirm in your seat sequel that will leave you screaming for more.  I’m not a reviewer who often compares literary worlds or authors on any level.  However, I have to break my rule and say that I haven’t been this excited about a book to this degree since Cassandra Clare’s, The Mortal Instruments. Yeah people, it was that exciting!

Plot: 10

Ellie continues to walk a fine line in maintaining her double life as Heaven’s Warrior, and it’s becoming more difficult to manage.  Her grades are slipping and she is finding less time to spare for her friends. Her home life is getting worse, her relationship with Will is strained, and to top it off, Bastian is sending his reapers out after her in broad daylight. Will and Nat are doing their best to keep Ellie one step ahead of the enemy but at this point, one step seems far too little. The twists and turns in this sequel were remarkable. Courtney, with clever precision, crafted an increasingly complex twist to her already well-established plot. It was a never ending stream of surprises!  Each time I recovered from one, I got slapped in the face with another. My mind was reeling, and honestly, it still is.

Characters: 10

Ellie was put through the wringer in Wings of the Wicked! She was confronted with so many trying circumstances and experienced a tremendous amount of loss. It was really heartbreaking and admittedly, I wept with her. Regardless, she rolled with the punches and met each adversity head on. Ellie finally embraces her destiny and when she does, she learns that Angelfire isn’t her only weapon. Her Archangel’s Glory is beginning to manifest through her human form. This realization infuses her with courage but also gives her reason for concern. As her Archangel half beings to awaken, does that mean she will lose her humanity, and her love for Will along with it?  It was nice to see the personal growth Ellie went through as she faced each obstacle set before her. All in all, she has grown into a pretty KA protagonist!

WILL KICKS MAJOR REAPER BACKSIDE!!! The fight scenes with Will are as intense as his feelings for Ellie!  He fights with a fierceness that is unmatched by any other guardian.  Ellie attributes this to their love. At the end of Angelfire, Will was warned by Michael about his role as Ellie’s Guardian. Will tries hard to put a professional barrier up between him and his charge… but eventually fails miserably. The love between Will and Ellie can’t be stopped. Five hundred years of history can’t be ignored!  It is truly one of the most beautiful literary romances I’ve come across!

Although he didn’t present any immediate danger to Ellie in Angelfire, I couldn’t help but wonder what Cadan had up his sleeve.   After all, his character was revealed to be a demonic reaper, so that automatically places him on the opposing team! Yet he offers himself as an ally to Ellie. On countless occasions he gives her important information that is vital to her safely. On the flip side, Ellie is drawn to Cadan for reasons that go beyond his attempts to acquire her trust.  There is something oddly conversant about his demeanor that is reassuring, so she can’t help but befriend him as he risks his very existence to protect her.

Setting: 10

Courtney Allison Moulton is every visual person’s dream for an author!  I mentioned in my review for Angelfire that her attention to detail in the surroundings of the story left me feeling like I was flipping through a graphic novel. In Wings of the Wicked, Moutlon sat me front row center of the most intense action packed movie I have ever seen! And as an added bonus, she put a big old tub of buttery popcorn in my lap!  She simply blew my socks off!  I can’t rave enough about how fantastic this sequel is. Courtney really refined her talent in weaving a truly satisfying story!

Pacing: 10

This is a fast paced, high action story from the first page until its jaw dropping cliffhanger. Courtney did a fantastic job maintaining momentum through all the twists and turns. Once I started reading I found it impossible to put down, as each page made me flip faster to the next!  Even though it was face paced, it didn’t leave you with a horrible feeling of whip lash.  It was more like the surge of adrenaline you get while riding an awesome roller-coaster!  I would suggest before picking up this novel that you choose a day where you don’t have a lot to do.  I promise once you start, you will want to read it all the way though.  Considering it is over 500 pages long, you may be there for a while!

Style: 7

Even though I am a huge fan of Courtney’s writing style, I had a few hang-ups with the edginess being it’s a YA 14+ genre. There was an underage drinking scene that nearly resulted in date rape, mild language, and it touched briefly on domestic violence. I will commend Courtney for not getting carried away with each of these topics. It brought awareness towards poor decision making without exploiting or promoting the behavior. Even so, as great as this sequel is, I wouldn’t be comfortable letting my younger teens read this material.

If you enjoyed Angelfire, you will love Wings of the Wicked! I have no doubt that it will sweep you off your feet!  It is a brilliant sequel full of breathtaking action, suspense, and achingly sweet romance. This is going to be an excruciatingly long year in waiting for the third installment!

Grade: 97

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Book Review: Angelfire (Angelfire Series #1)

Angelfire (Angelfire Series #1)
By Courtney Allison Moulton
Published February 15, 2012
HarperCollins Children’s Books
Hardcover
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

First there are nightmares. Then come the memories. Now she must hunt.

Ellie can’t shake the terrifying dreams about monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her. Then she meets Will and feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. When they meet on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie’s power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Will holds the key to Ellie’s memories, whole lifetimes of them, and she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. In order to survive, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives, the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

HOLLI’S REVIEW:

All of the normality of Ellie’s seemingly stable life nearly comes to a screeching halt nearing her seventeenth birthday.  What previously only appeared to be horrible nightmares are becoming more and more of a reality.  And then there is Will.  He steps into Ellie’s life with his ethereal beauty.  He seems so familiar yet she’s never met him before.  Or so she thought.  Will holds the key to unlocking a power within Ellie that she didn’t even know she had.  And as time progresses, the memory of whom she really is.

Plot:  10

Courtney Allison Moulton did a fantastic job dreaming up a new twist to modern Angelic Lore.  Although it mentions Archangels, the Fallen, Niphilim, and the Grigori, this story mainly deals with angelic and demonic reapers.  And not how you typically would envision the grim reaper either.  These reapers are huge beasts that come in various forms.  There are different roles for the two types of reapers.  The demonic reapers set out to steal human souls while the angelic reapers set out to kill the demonic in order to preserve human life.  This is where Ellie comes in.  There are slightly more demonic reapers than angelic.  To even the battle field, Ellie was created or transformed should we say?  I don’t want to give too many details and spoil who she really is … which was a fantastic twist that I never saw coming!  To simplify it, Ellie is called the Preliator.  She is the ultimate “demonic reaper” slayer, an angelic weapon.  Gifted with Angelfire, Ellie has killed reaper after reaper with her Guardian Will, for more than five hundred years.   Upon her seventeenth birthday of each reincarnation, she regains her past life memories, Will unlocks her power, and they begin again.  However, with each reincarnation she becomes more and more human and it becomes increasingly more difficult to regain her memories.  This proves to be very inconvenient for Ellie.  It makes her ill prepared when the reapers seek her out in an attempt to make her their next meal!  Action packed?  Just a tad! 😉

Characters:  8

Ellie is like most other teenage girls.  She goes to school, does her homework, hangs out with her friends, and has dreams and ambitions.  She doesn’t have the perfect family life, and I will get into that a bit.  For the most part, Courtney made Ellie a very believable character.  Beyond being believable, I liked her.  I connected well with her, and was easily able to feel her emotions as things unraveled around her.  I felt the way she responded to her circumstances was realistic.   She started off unsure about herself, dangerously so, but eventually grew to be strong and self-assured by the end of the book.

Will is a fantastic male lead.  He is honorable, dependable, self-sacrificial, dedicated, and unwavering.  Simply put, Will embodies stability.  I love how slow his relationship with Ellie progressed.  It was painful at times, but the fact that this was not an insta-love made it more endearing and realistic.  It is obvious that Will has feelings for Ellie, but he sets those feelings aside and concentrates on his role as her Guardian.

Let’s move on to Ellie’s parents.  First and foremost, Ellie’s father scares me.  He seriously gives me the creeps and makes me want to slap the evil off of him!  I was left with the impression that something deeper was going on.  It didn’t feel like a “Mid-life-crisis” gone bipolarificly (excuse my Holli-isms) wrong.  Courtney didn’t settle this issue in the first installment, so I’m hoping to see that as a twist in Wings of the Wicked.

Now, on to Ellie’s mother.  First, you should know that I am a mother of five children.  I understand that not every parent raises their children with the same morals or holds them to the same standards.  With that being said, I was disappointed with this character.  If I were to host a teen party at my house, you bet your bottom dollar that I am going to be supervising it and not disappearing off into my bedroom.  The second thing that irked me was when she found out Ellie had been drinking at said party, her response was “I understand you’re a teenager and that you’re going to drink no matter what anyone says ….”  — Insert annoying buzzer here — I don’t think so.  Not on my watch, not in my house.  It just would never be allowed.  How about some stiff punishment!  HELLO!?  Annoyance.  :/   The last thing that annoyed me was her sex talk with Ellie.  It was pretty much hashed out with the same flippancy as the drinking.  Call me a fuddy-duddy, kill joy, prude or whatever, but I am one of those old fashioned mothers who teach her children to respect themselves.

Aside from my issues with Ellie’s parents, Courtney did a good job building her characters, whether they had major or minor roles.

Setting: 10

I’m a very visual person so for me, descriptive writing is the key to making a great story and Courtney did a fantastic job!  The setting of Angelfire takes place in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, although we went to places like Puerto Rico for a trip out into the middle of the Ocean, to an abandoned warehouse with Will and Ellie to train, and a Halloween dance.  And let’s not forget the Grim!!!  It didn’t matter where the story took me; I had a very clear visual in my head as to what it looked like.  Even now, thinking back on the book, it is like flipping through a graphic novel in my mind.  Not a lot of author’s have the ability to make a story stand out in this way let alone in their debut!  Bravo, Courtney!

Pacing: 7

I did have a bit of a pacing problem earlier on in the book.  Though slow, it does give you a good feel of our protagonist’s character and the multifaceted issues she was facing as her somewhat normal life went downhill.  Still, I found myself easily distracted.  Once I got over a hundred pages in, the story picked up and I sailed straight through without putting it down.

Style: 10

I thoroughly enjoyed Courtney’s writing style.  There were a lot of scenes where major transitions took place.  Whether it was stepping into the Grim, or while a past memory was beginning to resurface, Courtney pulled it off smoothly.  I enjoyed how balanced the writing was.  Equal parts humor, dialect, action, and suspense!  Aside from my disappointment in the underage drinking, Angelfire was a very enjoyable read!

On a parting note … I had the pleasure of meeting Courtney at the Pitch Dark Days tour in Houston this past week.  While discussing how I enjoyed her first installment, she remarked that the second book was a lot better.  I’m so excited to dive straight into my newly signed – insert cheesy grin – second installment of the Angelfire series!  If that is the case, Wings of the Wicked is going to ROCK!

Grade: 95

Book Review: Incarnate

Incarnate
By Jodi Meadows
Published January 31, 2012
Katherine Tegen
Hardcover
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

New soul. Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why. No soul. Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame? Heart. Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies–human and creature alike–let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

JEN’S REVIEW:

All I can say is – DRIVE ME TO DRINK STRONG BEVERAGE!! This book was sadly a bit of a disappointment. The thing that makes me want to cry is the fact that this book held so much potential. It truly had the makings of a fantastically, epic novel. Unfortunately, Jodi Meadows is a weak writer. You have no clue how much I wish I could break this story down for you bit by bit and elaborate on why it failed on so many levels. But, of course, that would result in me spoiling everything for you. Therefore, let me just say this: Incarnate by Jodi Meadows will leave you confused and with a lot of unanswered questions.

Plot: 6

The one thing that tears me up inside the most is the fact that initially I was thoroughly enjoying this book. It was exciting, suspenseful, heart-pounding, and full of action and adventure. At the age of 18, Ana finally decides to seek the answers to the questions she’s held in her heart all her life. Where she came from, why she’s here, and why she replaced Ciana when she died. Tired of living with an unscrupulous mother, Ana leaves behind everything she’s ever known and sets out for the city of Heart. Along the way, Ana gets into some serious trouble but is saved by a mysterious man named Sam. Sam decides to escort Ana to Heart and to help her find the answers she’s looking for.

The concept is fascinating and I imagine Meadows initially builds a lot of excitement in her readers. They want the answers to Ana’s questions just as badly as she does. Unfortunately, when the time comes to deliver, Meadows falls short. I feel as if I’ve been given a decadent piece of cake only to take my first bite and discover it’s contaminated with nuts! I was so looking forward to that cake…and now I have no choice but to go home empty-handed. I truly wish I could give you details as a means of justification for my brutality but the only thing I can say is Meadows’ attempts at explaining why things are the way they are fall flat and don’t make sense. She clearly expects her readers to take things at face value and not question the why’s and how’s. Incarnate is a book that has far too many questions with no answers.

Characters: 9

Oh Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam…You wonderful man you. I’m pretty sure in one of Sam’s former lives his name was Johnny Lingo. Sam is the type of person who would pay eight cows for a woman whom everyone believes is not even worth one. He is one of the sweetest fictional characters I’ve ever come across. He is caring, considerate, loving, and passionate. When everyone around Ana thinks she’s worthless, Sam believes she is worthwhile, entitled, and just as deserving as anyone else. Sam’s goal is to make Ana see that, regardless of what she has been brainwashed to believe, she has the privilege and the potential to become anyone she wants to be. A very worthy lesson we can all take to heart.

It was difficult for me to connect with Ana because, let’s face it; I have a loving family and friends, whereas she does not. For 18 years she has been treated like a bug to be crushed. Many times she has emotional breakdowns and throws a bit of a hissy fit. I tried my best to sympathize and see the world through her eyes so I may understand the reasoning behind her tantrums but in all honestly she just came off as a bit childish to me. But you’ve got to admire her courage, strength, and fortitude to attempt to let go of the past and start building a more promising future for herself.

Setting: 6

Once again, a wicked storm cloud of pure confusion has befallen upon my brain. From beginning to end I was fasting and praying for some sort of clarification regarding this world Meadows had created. Am I reading a fantasy novel or a Sci-fi? Am I reading about planet Earth or a different planet entirely? For the love of all that is good and holy what year is it!? The people of Range utilize a lot of gizmos, gadgets, and advanced technology which leads me to assume I’m reading a Sci-fi novel. But then I am led to assume I am reading a fantasy when the setting consists of people living in small cottages and battling dragons, trolls, giants, and sylphs on a daily basis. Good gravy Batman I felt I was reading Tolkien! Oh and don’t forget the modern twist when some of Sam’s and Ana’s belongings consist of flashlights, tents, and sleeping bags.

Okay. Let’s just assume Meadows has created an entirely new world. First, let me just say I commend her for her efforts and for taking risks. However, I must shake my fist at her for hitting the ball out of the park but saying ‘screw it!’ to running around the bases. Allow me to clarify by providing one of MANY examples. Sam just happens to be a very famous musician. In one scene, he is explaining to Ana how he first discovered music. He explained how he learned that if you bend string and rub it together it creates sound. So essentially, Sam is the creator of musical instruments. Sure, I’ll accept that. But here’s the kicker. Why is it, if this is an entirely different world, that all these musical inventions have the exact same names as they do on Earth? A piano is still a piano, a flute still a flute, Violin still a violin etc. Yeah, ya know what? Don’t cheat like that. If you’re going to take the risk of creating your own world you have to go all the way. Don’t insult my intelligence by spitting in my face and telling me it’s raining.

Pacing: 7

Initially, the pacing was perfect. As previously stated, at the beginning the book was exciting, suspenseful, and adventurous. I started this book Saturday night and I was convinced I was going to be up reading all night. Unfortunately, after its gripping beginning it became so slow it was utterly painful. The only thing that kept me going was the desire to at least have one of several questions answered. To at least be making progress with the storyline. I figured, if I came this far there’s bound to be some solutions soon. But I continued to read and they never came. By the halfway mark I’ll admit I was skimming. Let me be frank with you folks, if anyone has the ability to skim through your book and still understand the main premise of the story, you’ve got some serious trimming of fat to do on your novel. Get rid of all the crap that isn’t absolutely crucial to the plot.

Style: 7

Although the writing was horrific it did have great potential. With a lot of practice, I’m sure Meadows has the capabilities of becoming a wonderful author. She just needs to learn to give her readers some closure and not leave them utterly befuddled and discombobulated!

In the end, I’m truly heartbroken by this book. But I’m still hooked enough that I’ll be looking out for book number 2. I’m not going to tell you to stay clear from this book because you may have more patience with it than I did. Heck, you might even enjoy it. Just be warned that you better diminish any high hopes before diving in. It will soften the blow.

Grade: 85