Angelfall

Angelfall by Susan EeAngelfall by Susan Ee
Penryn and the End of Days # 1
Publisher: Feral Dream
Number of pages:  255
My copy: ebook, from Amazon Kindle Store

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

* * *

Remember that Paul Bettany movie, Legion? The one where he plays Michael the archangel who goes down the earth in defiance to God because apparently He has given up on humans and is off to destroy the world using His angels. Michael, however, would have none of it, so he goes to this middle of nowhere town to save this baby that one girl is about to have because that baby will apparently save humanity.

I hated that movie.

I have another blog entry dedicated to why I didn’t like that movie, so I won’t really write about it here. However, I had to bring it up because Angelfall by Susan Ee reminded me of that movie. The key difference between Legion and Angelfall is how surprisingly good the latter was that I dropped almost everything I read just to finish it.

The world has ended, and all Penryn Young wanted is to keep her family safe. With her dad gone, she was left to take care of Paige, her crippled sister and her paranoid-schizophrenic mother. In normal circumstances, Penryn would have a pretty challenging time doing that on top of her other responsibilities, but now that there are killer angels out to kill humans, it just got a hundred times more difficult. As Penryn leads her family to get somewhere safer, they stumble upon an angel execution. They got caught as an audience, which led to saving the angel but her sister being kidnapped. Penryn teams up with the known enemy to get her sister back, even if it means getting deeper into the messy world of killer angels.

Like I said: Angelfall is a surprise. People I follow on Goodreads gave this book such high ratings but I was wary because the only other angel book I really liked was Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly series. Anything else other than that, I approach with caution. But Angelfall started out great, with a sense of danger and urgency that I remember reading and feeling last from The Curse of the Wendigo (Rick Yancey) and The Ask and the Answer (Patrick Ness). I can easily imagine the ruins of the city that they lived in and was trying to escape, the paranoia of the darkness and the fear when the single feather landed on Penryn’s sister. There’s a certain grit in the story that almost makes me want to close my eyes in fear of knowing what would happen next.

Penryn is a great heroine – determined and loyal, stopping at nothing to save her sister. Yes, it may seem similar to how Katniss was in The Hunger Games but she didn’t strike me as her carbon copy (even if their names are kind of odd). Penryn is strong and her combat skills are so cool (why she knew all these self-defense moves was one of the first creep-factors in the novel), too. I don’t think she would even need the help of the angel if she knew where she was going after her sister was abducted. And speaking of the angel, Raffe is also a pretty good match for Penryn. He’s a pretty secretive fellow but it never really bordered on cliche. I liked how his secrets (some of it, anyway) were revealed in this story, and how his relationship with Penryn developed. Yes, there is some kind of romance in this book, but it was never put on front seat of this novel, thank goodness. Penryn and Raffe were highlighted more as an unlikely team of survivors rather than a couple, which just about sets this book apart. No insta-love here folks!

This book doesn’t take an easy way out on the apocalypse and destruction and the horror. There were several times when I was reading it and I jumped when the phone rang, which meant it was engrossing and I was thoroughly creeped out. There were some scenes that were a bit…well, gruesome is the first word that comes into mind. It’s not too graphic, but it leaves imprints on the imagination that may tend to stay for a while. It just shows how brutal the world that Penryn and Raffe live in is, and also how darkly creative the author is with Angelfall.

As far as the angel mythology goes, it’s pretty sound, even if a part of me is a bit doubtful of how Raffe’s beliefs came to be in the story. Perhaps it’s just me and my faith that’s coming in to disagree, so I’m still (stubbornly) thinking that it just cannot be. But that’s just me — the mythology and theology (I guess you can call it that?) in the story never came close to being offensive for me anyway. The angel politics just raised a bit of questions that I trust will be answered in the next books.

Overall, Angelfall by Susan Ee is a pretty excellent book. Gruesome, creepy and scary but absolutely fun to read. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Also, I’m going to recycle a line from a previous review: did I tell you this book is indie? Yes it is. And that it’s also a finalist for the 2012 Cybils Best of Fantasy & Sci-Fi award? :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
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Hallowed

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 2
Publisher: HarperCollins
Number of pages: 416
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

* * *

One of the books that absolutely surprised me last year was Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly. I can’t keep stressing it enough, but you know, when a book surprised you, you would have the tendency not to stop talking about it. And this is for a paranormal romance novel friends. That is really something. With that premise in this review, it was obvious that I was one of the squealing readers who well…squealed, when I saw that the next book, Hallowed was available in Netgalley. I was supposed to read it as a reward for finishing NaNoWriMo, but resistance was futile and I ended up reading it even as I was writing.

Spoiler warning for Unearthly in the next few paragraphs — stay away if you haven’t read it yet.

Hallowed picks up from where Unearthly left off, where Clara was still reeling from the events that happened in the fire and how she messed up her purpose by saving Tucker instead of Christian. There was also that fact that Christian was actually an angel, and how she can’t deny the attraction between them, even if her heart belongs to Tucker. But there are other things that require her more immediate attention, like her angel training with her friend and the fact that the Black Wing could return, and finally, there was her dream. Her dream that tells her that someone important to her is going to die, soon. And there is only so much she can do without falling apart.

This book was…well, it’s a lot to digest. On one hand, there’s Clara, who’s still a very entertaining character. Her voice still sounds authentic despite the different challenges she had to face, and she never wavered one bit. Her relationship with Tucker was still as sweet as ever, and sometimes I kind of want to stop reading because they got too sweet. :P The great addition in this book, IMHO, was Christian. Love triangles are kind of an old thing in YA, particularly in paranormal romance, but I think the love triangle in Hallowed was exceptionally done. I liked how there was never really a clear answer on who Clara would and should choose, and how the two guys seem to have equal footing in her life. I’m still a huge fan of Tucker, though, but I would like to see how Clara having Christian in her life would play out.

I also really loved that there were more revelations to Clara’s angel heritage, and her powers as well. The high points in the book is really with knowing all these things like Clara’s powers and the rest of her family. The revelation is done gradually so we never get too much information, and there were some truly surprising parts. As with Unearthly, I thought the mythology here was also well done, and yet there still seemed to be more that could be revealed in the later books.

But you see, Hallowed isn’t really a book that is centered on the romance, or even on Clara’s angel powers. This book is really about family and loved ones and yes, loss. Saying anything more would be spoilery, but it’s probably the thing that could make or break the novel for other people (although I use the term “break” loosely). Hallowed has the capacity to punch you in the gut — hard — and leave you reeling with different emotions. That is what makes this book so different. And good.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Midnight Garden
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Unearthly

Unearthly by Cynthia HandUnearthly by Cynthia Hand
Unearthly # 1
Publisher: HarperTeen
Number of pages: 435
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

* * *

I can’t remember the last time I willingly read a paranormal romance novel. I really can’t anymore. I am not denying that I used to like the genre, but after finding out that there seemed to be nothing new there, I just wandered off to other genres. So when rave reviews of Unearthly by Cynthia Hand popped up among book bloggers, I didn’t pay attention. To me, it’s just another angel novel that I will probably wonder why I even bothered after I finish.

And then even people who I know don’t really read much paranormal started giving it glowing reviews. This got my attention. I only pay attention to some people when it comes to paranormal romances, so when they give a good review on a book that I normally wouldn’t read and I know they normally wouldn’t read either, I know I’d have to keep an eye on it. After reading one contemporary novel after the other last month, I gave myself a break from real life stuff and finally picked up Unearthly, wondering if I will like it as much as the others did.

Clara Gardner has angel blood — she’s 3/4 human, 1/4 angel, but that 1/4 makes all the difference in her world. She’s different, and she has a purpose in this world. This purpose makes her and her family move to a new town after a series of visions. There she meets Christian Prescott, the boy in her visions that she somehow has to save. Clara and Christian had an instant connection and Clara wonders if it’s not just her angel side that’s attracted. But there’s a catch: Christian has a girlfriend. And there’s another catch: Clara also seems to be attracted to her best friend’s twin, Tucker. Torn between her angel side and her human side, Clara has to make a choice between what she wants and her destiny as an angel.

Unearthly AU cover – pretty, right?

It sounds like your everyday paranormal romance novel, right? I thought so too. But friends, believe me when I tell you this: it is so much more. I was very surprised with how good Unearthly is. Normally, I hate instant connections, I dislike love triangles, and I don’t like supernatural creatures falling in love with humans, but this one is different. Clara is a believable heroine despite her powers. She’s angel, all right, but even if she’s angelic, she’s also very human (I’m betting she doesn’t need to look for best blackhead remover, though) . I liked that there was a balance between her human and angel side and she’s *gasp!* not a Mary Sue! She’s awkward, she gets shy, she rebels from her mom and even if she’s an angel, she has no idea what to do with her life. She’s a refreshing heroine from all that I can remember of the paranormal romance genre, and I liked it.

The boys? Well, there’s really no question who I’m rooting for, right? :) I found Christian a little too perfect, but it was actually in all good reason once you get to the end. Tucker, oh Tucker. I loved him. :) I loved how his character developed, I loved how he got into Clara’s life. I liked that he wasn’t perfect, and I liked that he’s just…well, human. The description in the blurb says he appeals to Clara’s non-angelic side, and it’s easy to think that he’s, well, evil, but he’s not. The more accurate description should be, he appeals to Clara’s human side, and that made him very adorable for me. The romance in Unearthly is *another gasp!* quite healthy, too. Lots of banter, conversations and time spent together — none of those “I saw him and fell in love” thing. Yes, even the instant connection with Christian was toned down with conversations and whatnot. And it was definitely refreshing.

The angel mythology was probably my favorite of all in this book — very well done, not too religious and not blasphemous, too. I liked how it seemed respectful of how angels are known, and it seemed very well-researched. I loved the idea of Glory, or the wing color, and how angels were given a purpose. This played very well within the story, and it also opened up a very, very surprising twist in the end that really shocked me. And that ending? OMG THAT ENDING! It’s not really a big cliffhanger but it would definitely leave you wanting for more. More, I tell you. WANT! But the next book, Hallowed, isn’t coming out until 2012. Long wait is long! :(

So, if it isn’t obvious, I really liked Unearthly. Definitely one of those books that I am glad I picked up, and one of those books that I am considering getting in print form since my copy is an e-galley (it helps that the cover is very pretty, too) just so I can go back to it again when the next book is out. If you’re planning to pick up a paranormal romance novel soon, or if you want something to surprise you, then definitely get this book. Take it from someone who’s given up on paranormal romance — this is one of the good ones. ;)

Rating:

Other reviews:
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Waiting on Wednesday: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Here’s me trying to blog here more often. Yay!

Ever since I got a Kindle for my iPod touch, I’ve been sampling like crazy. I have about twenty samples in my iPod, most of it are still unread because I don’t have the time to read them yet. Sampling is awesome because it lets me read the first few pages of the book and from there I can sort of decipher if I want the book or not. No more impulse buys, yes? I hope.

I just kind of wish that we can sample some of the books that are just coming out. But alas, I have to wait.

Waiting on WednesdaySince I can’t sample this one yet, I will just have to satisfy myself with putting it on my Waiting on Wednesday post. “Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. My WoW entry for this week is:

Halo by Alexandra AdornettoHalo by Alexandra Adorneto
Release date: August 31, 2010

Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Venus Cove. But everything changes when three angels, Ivy, Bethany and Gabriel are sent from heaven to protect the town against the gathering forces of darkness. They work hard to conceal their true identity and, most of all, their wings.

But the mission is threatened when the youngest angel, Bethany, is sent to high school and falls for the handsome school captain, Xavier Woods. Will she defy the laws of Heaven by loving him?

Things come to a head when the angels realize they are not the only supernatural power in Venus Cove. There′s a new kid in town and he′s charming, seductive and deadly. Worst of all, he′s after Beth.

The angels and Xavier must work together to overcome the dark forces – but will Beth survive the battle? [source]

Look at that cover. So pretty! I can’t remember where I saw this book, but as I was browsing Amazon today, I saw this one…and I want it. Of course, this is me judging a book by its cover again, but how can you not fall in love with something like that? It looks even prettier than outdoor Christmas decorations. *shiny*

I like the concept of angels, too, and mostly all the angel stories I’ve read were about fallen angels and it’s kind of depressing. Not all angels are dark, you know. Plus why the focus on fallen angels? The idea of a teenage girl/angel who falls in love with a human boy is a new one, instead of a male angel falling in love with a human girl.

And again, that cover. So. Pretty!

ETA: OMG, Alexandra Adornetto is only 18?!?!

Angels Among Us

Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne SelforsCoffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors

When Katrina spots a homeless guy sleeping in the alley behind her grandmother’s coffee shop, she decides to leave him a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and some pastries to tide him over. Little does she know that this random act of kindness is about to turn her life upside down.  Because this adorable vagrant, Malcolm, is really a guardian angel on a break between missions. And he won’t leave until he can reward Katrina’s selflessness by fulfilling her deepest desire. Now if only she could decide what that might be . . .

Katrina lived most of her life in her grandmother’s coffee shop, helping her maintain the place with another friend Irmgaard, who has been helping them out without a word because of her vow of silence. Business for their coffee shop was dying because of the next door coffee shop Java Heaven, which is more modern than theirs, and naturally attracts more customers. Katrina generally keeps to herself, happy with her two best friends Vincent and Elizabeth, but deep inside, she’s sad because she doesn’t know what she’s good at, unlike them.

One day, Katrina chances upon a homeless guy sleeping in the alley, and despite her fears about him, she leaves him some food to tide his hunger over. Little did she know that this little act will change her life.

In this time of teen girls falling in love with boys who have supernatural roots, it’s easy to get jaded over the entire concept already. That’s because everything pretty much has the same storyline: girl meets mysterious guy, tries to stay away but is very attracted, ends up spending time with him, learning his dangerous secret, but still falling in love regardless of the possible consequences. It gets tiring, really, and one can only use so many creatures to fall in love with.

Coffeehouse Angel was a fresh twist on that storyline. In a way, it may not even be the same storyline because the romance part wasn’t the sole focus of this novel, but mainly Katrina, and finding out what she is passionate about. Malcolm, the angel, was more of a catalyst than a main character or a love interest, for that matter. I had fun reading this because all the characters were well developed, from the old men who hang out at Katrina’s coffee shop to Ratcatcher the cat. The conflict felt real, and I felt especially sympathetic to Katrina when she started to lose Vincent when he started dating someone.

The story wasn’t shallow either — a lot of things were revealed as the story progressed, and I would never have guessed why Irmgaard was quiet all the time, or why Heidi, Katrina’s “rival” was doing what she was doing. Important lessons were imparted in the book as well, such as being the better person by not blackmailing your enemy, living life, finding your passion and forgiveness.

The only thing that didn’t really sit well on me was, surprisingly, the love angle. I didn’t really feel that much chemistry between Katrina and Malcolm, except that she was annoyed at him first, but as they got to know each other, he just had this “warm” aura that everybody loves. It was clear that they liked each other, but it was kind of hard for me to really believe it. I probably would have believed it more if Katrina fell for Vincent or something like that. Nevertheless, the ending was quite good, too, and it didn’t mean losing one’s mortality, or going totally crazy over each other that they lose their identity.

It’s a good story, one of substance, and one that I would definitely recommend over the other YA supernatural romance novels out there. :)

I end this review with this quote from the book.:

Was I really going to the Solstice Festival with an angel? How do you wrap your head  around something like that? There are so many stories about girls dating vampires and fairy kings but those are dark stories, dangerous where the simple act of falling puts the girl’s life at risk. Malcolm didn’t seem one bit dangerous. Angels are supposed to be pure and sinless, so it would be a pure and sinless date. I didn’t have a problem with that. It was kind of a relief that I wouldn’t have to fend off blood-sucking or an enchantment on our first date.

Hm. Could this be pointing to what I think it’s pointing? ;)

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 17 out of 100 for 2010

→ Get Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors from Amazon.com
→ Suzanne Selfors’ website