Tuesday, May 29, 2012

DAC III ~ March: Gilded Wings: Book 1 ~ Illuminate

Author: Aimee Agresti 

Summary: Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything changes when she is awarded a prestigious internship at a posh Chicago hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous strangers: the powerful and alluring hotel owner, Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit. 
As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they're in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set's plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?
My Review: With Illuminate’s premises, I thought that perhaps this book might have more to do with a fantasy element. I thought that fay might be involved. While I guess you could classify this as a fantasy, it didn’t have all the elements involved that I thought it might have had to begin with. Over all, and without spoiling how it truly unfolds, I really did enjoy this book. The writing style had just enough descriptive detail to make the characters and plot all flow nicely together. While I may have had a few minor issues with this book (like, the beginning felt a bit slow), I found them quite easy to overlook. 
Characters: The characters themselves were built rather well, or at least the important ones. While I did feel like some may have disappeared for too long or who’s personalities were not described well enough, I think that over-all they were portrayed nicely and effectively.
Plot: The whole idea of living in such a glamourous hotel made me think this would be a rather typical glitzy high school-out-into-society novel. Surprisingly, I found that I did enjoy it. Perhaps at times it felt a little slow or things felt off, I was able to enjoy it for the most part. The times where Haven spent exploring the hidden sides of the hotel felt a bit rushed and not thought out well to me, as if the author couldn’t spend enough time explaining why it was all really necessary. Haven’s blind faith in the notebook’s words was a little stereotypical to me as well.
Disclaimers: I do not recall much profanity, but if there was any, it was minor. Not to say that it was the out-of-place type. If there was some, it was placed appropriately and only on occasion. Violence wise, I wouldn’t label this book as gory, but the way in which the good defeats the bad almost felt alittle revengeful to me, alittle too ghastly. But only alittle. I was pleased that Agresti kept it tame otherwise, perhaps some of the affections were a bit over the top, but nothing to make the reader feel uncomfortable. There is one homosexual character, but his personality is playful and his interaction with Haven keeps the topic itself at a more subtle level, making his character more humorous and fun loving than guy-obsessed.
Favorite Character: Lucian
Favorite Quote:
“I guess we often want what we can't have. Isn't that a most basic trait of human nature? Isn't that why, for instance, you girls always go for the bad-boy archetype?" 
"Kindly refrain from saddling me with your generalizations, thank you.....Maybe we should discuss why it is you guys always jump at the icy, glamourous girls, the ones who descend from lines of giraffes and hourglasses who usually manage to show a lot of skin.”
~ Lance & Haven
Recommended: Older teens
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆
~ Darkitty

*Next: Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon & Ripper*

Chi’s Sweet Home: Volume 1

Author: Kanata Konami
Summary: Chi is a mischievous newborn American shorthair who, while on a leisurely stroll with her family, found herself lost and alone. When we found Chi it was clear to us she was completely distraught as she longed for the warmth and protection of her mother. Feeling sympathy for the little furball, we quietly whisked her away inviting her into our small apartment home...where pets ate strictly not permitted. While we dread parting with her, there is not way she can stay.
Little Chi is a happy and healthy litter-box trained kitten. And while she can be a little bit of a handful, she has been a great source of joy in our lives and a wonderful companion to our young son. Living with Chi has completely changed our lives, and we are sure she will have the same impact with whomever gives her a good home.
My Review: I absolutely loved, simply adored this series! But I’m a cat lover, so what can I say? With four cats, one can definitely relate to the comical experience of the Yamada's as they take in this feisty little kitten. Konami perfectly captured the personalities of the feline species in this sweet manga series, and it’s such a fun and amusing read, sure to bring a few chuckles.
Art: The artwork and style are simple, but perfect for this story and it’s intended audience. The cute characters and their expressions and interactions are easy and fun to follow along with. With colored panels, it’s all the more entertaining to see the manga world in bright detail.
Characters: The characters are fun, always bright smiles, or exaggerated expressions that just make you want to keep reading. Chi's character is extremely fun to watch as all her emotions are displayed vividly upon her face, from surprise, shock, anger, fear, or pure bliss.
Plot: This simple, but fun volume consists of twenty mini chapters. We follow along as Chi looses her way from her mother cat and the litter of kittens and stumbles into the lives of the Yamada's, who consists of mom, dad, and their son, Yohei. We get to watch as they try and get Chi comfortable in her new home, what with naming her, keeping her indoors, litter box training, feeding, and the ominous vet visit. And keeping her hidden from the Super, since they aren't supposed to have pets in their apartment!
Disclaimers: This is a children's manga, so it's clean and perfectly acceptable for all ages.
Favorite Character: Chi... KITTY!!!!!
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: All ages
Over-all Rating: ★★★★★
~ Darkitty
***Next ~ Chi’s Sweet Home: Volume 2***

DAC Bonus ~ January: Everneath

Author: Brodi Ashton
Summary: Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned - to her old life, her family, her friends - before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.
She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back - this time as his queen.
My Review: I don't generally select books with premises like these, but I must say since it was one of those rare occasions where I selected the book and didn't have a million people gushing about how good or bad it was, I was able to make a fair assessment of it on my own. And the truth is, I really did enjoy it. It's surprises like these that make the reading experience so much fun for me.
Characters: It is one of those lighter books, so there isn't alot of character build up. They do have depth, maybe not as much as they could have, but still enough to make you want to keep reading. Usually with books that sometimes revolve (or just include) the high school experience, I can find a bit dull or repetitive. Ashton did a nice job I think of not making it too monotonous or the center focus of the plot. Her characters were fun and I do look forward to the sequel.
Plot: It was interesting how she related the modern day elements of the plot and the fay part thrown together, not too messy and boringly like some books seem to do nowadays. It was just a perfect, subtle mix of reality and fantasy. A times I guess it could be just a biiit predictable, but not overly so. I mean, if we can't even guess at what's going on, the author isn't taking the right approach to getting the story across.
Disclaimers: I was really happy with this book, since alot of teen novels seem to throw in sex just because..... I liked how the author focused on writing a good story rather than trying to please the reader like that. It makes for a much more comfortable read, and I really wish more authors were like that. There isn’t anything wrong with the minor affections shown, it’s very innocent and tame, and I like it when they never take it any farther than that, because it just takes away from the heart of the story and is a complete distraction. There was just a bit of language and nothing too violent. Minor drunkenness, but it’s very comical actually.
Favorite Character: Oooh... Probably Jack, though I liked Cole, too...just cuz... =P
Favorite Quote: 

"Look, Nik, I know you don't like public scrutiny lately. If you stand off to the side, all mopey and such, without a date, you'll stick out like a nun at a strip club." He leaned in. "Trust me, I've seen one. A nun at a strip club, that is. Everyone was staring at her."

~ Cole
Recommended: Older teens & up
Over-all Rating: ★★★★★
~ Darkitty

Burton & Swinburne: Book 2 ~ The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man

Author: Mark Hodder
Summary: It is 1862, though not the 1862 it should be ... Time has been altered, and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the king's agent, is one of the few people who know that the world is now careening along a very different course from that which Destiny intended. When a clockwork-powered man of brass is found abandoned in Trafalgar Square, Burton and his assistant, the wayward poet Algernon Swinburne, find themselves on the trail of the stolen Garnier Collection—black diamonds rumored to be fragments of the Lemurian Eye of Naga, a meteorite that fell to Earth in prehistoric times. His investigation leads to involvement with the media sensation of the age: the Tichborne Claimant, a man who insists that he's the long lost heir to the cursed Tichborne estate. Monstrous, bloated, and monosyllabic, he's not the aristocratic Sir Roger Tichborne known to everyone, yet the working classes come out in force to support him. They are soon rioting through the streets of London, as mysterious steam wraiths incite all-out class warfare. From a haunted mansion to the Bedlam madhouse, from South America to Australia, from seances to a secret labyrinth, Burton struggles with shadowy opponents and his own inner demons, meeting along the way the philosopher Herbert Spencer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Florence Nightingale, and Charles Doyle (father of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). Can the king's agent expose a plot that threatens to rip the British Empire apart, leading to an international conflict the like of which the world has never seen? And what part does the clockwork man have to play? Burton and Swinburne's second adventure— The Clockwork Man Of Trafalgar Square —is filled with eccentric steam-driven technology, grotesque characters, and a deepening mystery that pushes forward the three-volume story arc begun in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack .
My Review: I actually really did like this book much more than its predecessor, which is usually a rarity with sequels for me. The imaginative plot, the vivid description, the thought provoking writing style, the engaging characters. I just really enjoyed this series, more so than I thought I would have at first. I think it’s gotten me into the steampunk genre, and I now have a few more I hope to pick up this summer.

Characters: I like how the historical figures are brought into the plot, and bent into these fictitious characters in an alternative Victorian era. It’s like you're getting just a tad bit of actual fact mixed in with the fantasy that makes it that much more engaging. I really like how Hodder’s characters stick true to their own personalities and you do follow along loyally, hoping all turns out well in the end. He also makes it perfectly easily to loathe the simply nasty characters and find the humorous ones all the more amusing.
Plot: The plot was just as imaginative, enticing, and amusing as the first, with laughs in all the right places and suspenseful build up in the characters many various excursions and adventures. While perhaps sometimes one might feel the chapters dragging on, I personally did enjoy the wonderful narration and description. It’s just one of those books you have to give some time for to appreciate it all the more.
Disclaimers: It’s still got that edge to it, so definitely not recommended for younger readers. While maybe the sensuality wasn’t as bad as the first book, the graphic violence turned it up a notch, and the language was about the same. I think it came to that point where the details were just a little too gory for my taste. I still enjoyed, but it’s one of those “ew...” moments, e.g. missing limbs, decapitation, zombies, etc. There is the mention of prostitutes again, but nothing explicit ever happens, and anything nasty is usually coated over with humor.
Favorite Character: Swinburne
Favorite Quote: N/A
Recommended: Adult
Over-all Rating: ★★★★☆
~ Darkitty
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