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Death SwornFrom Goodreads: When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

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Unfortunately, I found this novel to be rather anticlimactic on a number of levels.  First, I did not connect with any of the characters. Not stubborn Sorin, resigned Ileni, nor any other assassin in the novel.  While I usually adore novels about assassins, there just wasn’t much in terms of assassinations to keep my interest in this novel. Now, the entire novel takes place inside a cave, so assassinations would be hard to carry out amongst the assassin clan, but even so, I excepted there to be more battles, more angst (Ileni is the only female in the compound, afterall), and more of a plot itself.

Instead, I found Ileni to be too much of a needy young woman to do any worth while, and as the plot revolves around her, not much happens.  She has been sent to the caves to find out the truth behind the murders of the sorcery teachers that came before her, but even that mystery is only lightly probed.  Little magis is spun, and though Ileni is losing her magi, resigned to her death, and overall quite depressing, I expected a lot more action and magic to take place as I read.

As the story stands, I still don’t know much about the Empire aside from their repressive state, and the assassins are chosen to try and stop them.  And that’s about all I know from this segment.  I realize that it’s the first in the series, and that book two will definitely probe more into the life of the Empire, but knowing very little at this time has made it difficult for me to really care about an upcoming sequel a year or so away.

Likewise, for knowing very little about the Empire and the assassins, I found that some of the events in the plot were a little too far-fetched; too easily overcome.  For one, Ileni is a lost little girl scared of everything, though she tried to put on a good front, and yet near the end too many events she struggled with throughout the entire novel happened much too easily. I can’t say much in terms of these events without spoilers, so I’ll leave you with this: Ileni does two things that should have been near impossible, and she meets no resistance in either, and yet they are hugely impactful to the story.  Instead of a reprimand, she easily saunters away from each, which I personally found unbelievable and anticlimactic as a reader.

2 stars

In exchange for an honest review, I received this novel from the publisher during NCTE 2013.

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The LivingFrom Goodreads: Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.

But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

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This was an interesting premise, but its execution wasn’t my favorite. It follows Shy as he works on a boat, hungers after a co-worker who is engaged to be married in a few months, and tries to deal with the death of his grandmother to a deadly new strain of virus while also coping with the suicide of a guest aboard the ship. Truth be told, I never did get to the point where I connected with Shy (or any of the self absorbed characters, for that matter); his antics didn’t impress me, and his near obsession with his co-worker rubbed me the wrong way. Add in the extreme foreshadowing that begins almost from the very first page, and I ended up knowing the ending before I was even a quarter of the way through, which is unfortunate.

I really liked the idea behind the novel, but it was just too obvious for me, and there wasn’t much that actually surprised me as I read. It was also a bit too long–as if everything was dragged out and I think it could have definitely been shortened, or at least had a conclusion. de la Pena only goes part of the way through the story, ending on a big finale that solidified what I already knew, and didn’t have any closure whatsoever. I felt that the beginning and middle dragged on for much too long, and then the end was a quick succession of unbelievable stunts and antics that honestly didn’t do anything for me as a reader.  Two stars.

2 stars

I received a free copy of this novel at a signing during NCTE 2013.

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NightcrawlersFrom Goodreads: 200 years ago, the village of Clavitt Fields was burned to the ground. It was hoped that what lived there had perished in the fire. But they did not perish. They went underground…

For generations, they lived and bred in darkness, adapting themselves to a subterranean existence. Now they are rising to the surface, and what they’ve become is a horror beyond belief, a crawling nightmare of evil and bloodthirsty violence bent on destruction.

The night is alive…and it belongs to them.
NIGHTCRAWLERS, the horrifying new novel from master of suspense Tim Curran.

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What started out as a freaky horror novel complete with the creep factor ended a little anticlimactic for me. I was expecting some big reveal, something awesome that would explain it all, but what I got instead was a revelation that just didn’t… sit well with me. I wanted curses, or ghosts, or even zombies, but that’s not it. What it is just struck me as odd, and for me, the revelation and the ending took a lot of the steam right out of the novel, which is unfortunate.

The blood, and guts, and the creepy pale bloated bodies… I loved it. It’s not too graphic, just enough to send chills down your spine, and I loved how it opened up with the police digging up the bodies in the abandoned field. There were a ton of events that made me really curious, and were just a tad bit scary as well, especially when the police go off looking for the shapes they see coming out of the fog… and it really kept me on my toes, to a point. However, there was absolutely no character connection for me. I think the focus was so much on the chill factor and the heart-pounding events that the characters remained static. And perhaps that’s a good things, since they basically all die, but even so, no connection with characters leaves me feeling a little desolate; as is, I don’t really have much feeling about them, or their story, one way or another. Had a tighter ending been put on this, I think it could have been a real gem, but as is, it fell just a little flat for me. Three stars.

3 stars

DarkFuse has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on March 4, 2014, in exchange for an honest review.

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