Sunday 26 March 2017

Demon Road by Derek Landy

Series: Demon Road, Book One
Publisher: HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks
Format: ARC**
Published: 27th August 2015
Number of Pages: 512
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Fantasy, Horror, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Action-Adventure, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Death, Cannibalism, Swearing

Blurb From Goodreads:
Full of Landy’s trademark wit, action and razor sharp dialogue, DEMON ROAD kicks off with a shocking opener and never lets up the pace in an epic road-trip across the supernatural landscape of America. Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in...  Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves.
Forced to go on the run, she hurtles from one threat to another, revealing a tapestry of terror woven into the very fabric of her life. Her only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be…


Omigod omigod o-mi-freaking-god!  
Times this, add a few swearwords, crazy dances, shrieks of excitement and hugs of this book to my chest, you might begin to gather the excitement Demon Road has caused me.
Probably not though.  It was OTT even for me.  Because – hello!  Derek Landy!  Road trip!  Demons!  Supernatural!  Evil freaking cars, people!  This book is like everything I have ever wanted all wrapped up in one – and all of this even before I started reading!
I think I've fangirled enough...  For now, at least.
Oh who are we kidding.  This whole damn review is going to be me fangirling my little head off.  I apologise in advance.
“Her parents were monsters.  They had grown horns.  They'd killed cops.  Her parents - and their friends - were going to kill her.”
Amber Lamont's already having a bad day.  Being attacked by two jerks and going red just tops it all off.  So does the finger Amber bites off.  Yeah.  Ew.
Her parents take the news surprsingly well.  Celebrate it actually.  By drugging Amber.  And trying to kill her.
Turns out they're all demons and her parents want to eat her to amp up their own powers.  So now Amber is on the run with the mysterious Milo.
Oh, and if she doesn't find a guy specifically skilled at hiding in three weeks, her soul is toast.  
And so begins the roadtrip of a lifetime – maybe literally, because death (or worse) is a real possibility.  And while Amber might go red and grow horns, she isn't the worst monster in America.  Oh no.  Not when she's encountering countless demons, serial killers and even murderous cars, all along a stretch of highway called the Demon Road, a very path of darkness that has no map and could be Amber's only chance of survival...  
Ah, how I adore Derek Landy!  I've been reading the Skulduggery Pleasant series since the age of nine or something and I have been a huge fangirl ever since.  I was devastated when SP finished (and then delighted when I learnt it wasn’t – summer, hurry the hell up!), but before that I heard about Demon Road.  It was described as Supernatural for teens with Derek Landy's signature brilliance – and that was all I needed to hear!  I was sold!  And I must say, Demon Road really didn't disappoint – although I, and lots of other SP fans I’m sure, will see definite Skulduggery-esque character and dialogue correlations.  I didn't really mind, but it might bother some.  Just a tiny warning.  But if you love SP and can't get enough, go and buy Demon Road right this very second!  I'll be waitin'...
You back?  Awesome.  On with the review.
Characters first!  Our leading gal, Amber, was a total badass – and also a scared, lost teenager.  And so totally relatable!  I mean, she was just so... normal.  You know.  Except for the monster, scales, horns, occasionally-killing-dudes bits.  But otherwise totally normal!  Like she went to the toilet, she felt self-conscious about her weight, she was funny and snarky and sometimes didn't make decisions that were overly smart or whatever – but she was just so real..  And awesome - and so unlike your average YA heroine.  Sometimes in gross ways – but still cool.
Milo was the Skulduggery to Amber's Valkyrie.  Only....not really.  'Cause he was nowhere near as funny as SP – mainly because he didn't have a sense of humour.  At all.  Which was funny.  Like he was funny because he wasn't... um funny...  Let's move on.  Milo was protective and also a badass and he had a car that ate people and he was a big ol' softy under the stoicness – you don't fool me, Milo. 
Glen was such a dork – very Fletcher-ish, but (I think) slightly less annoying?  At the very least, he didn't have such high maintenance hair.  Seriously though, you could always count on ol' Glen for some timely and hilarious comic relief!  
The rest of the characters were... well, a varied bunch!  From homicidal parents, hilarious writers, demons, serial killers and a people-eating car, there was a mix of hilarious, terrifying, sweet and awesome people.  Oh and some bad ones.  VEry very bad ones.  But awesome anyway.  In a bad way. Kind of.  I don't even know what I'm saying anymore – and I totally blame Derek Landy for being his usual awesome self and blowing my tiny mind.  This mess of a review is all his fault.  Obviously.
Let's move on, yes?  
Ok, I do love Derek's writing – the way he uses dialogue so much, the witty quips and banter between his characters.  He's hilarious and utterly addictive as hell (heh – pun intended).  I loved the action, the adventure, the suspense, the gallons of gore and blood and icky stuff, the humour, the touching moments, the unusual places visited along the Demon Road.  It was all just so awesome.  Obviously.  This is Derek Landy we're talkin' about here.  The man is a master of the funny-scary, of awesome plots that suck you in from the beginning and take you on a wild ride you don't wanna get off!  
And FINALLY!  A book that mentions going to the toilet like a normal person!  And finds it weird that another character doesn't pee!  Halle-blinking-lujah!  As if Derek Landy wasn't enough of a god amongst men – he then goes and does this.  I bow to him.
Wow, I really didn't get enough sleep last night.  Again, Derek Landy's fault.  I am so tired because I just couldn't put Demon Road down.  Apparently tiredness inspires hero worship in me.  Who knew?
Ok, so it might not just be my need for like four hours more sleep.  It's also 'cause Demon Road was freaking awesome and I loved it to pieces.  Sure, it had definite Skulduggery Pleasant-esque qualities.  But y'know what?  It was damned awesome in its own right and I loved it and I need more and when can I have more and please go read it now and OMG it’s so brilliant and where is my bed? 
Seriously though.  Demon Road was pure awesomeness with awesomesauce and awesome chocolate sprinkles.  It was hilarious, exciting, gory as hell, gripping and did I mention awesome?  It had moments of laugh-so-loud-and-sudden-you-snort-a-little and touching moments that tugged at the ol' heartstrings.  It had brilliant characters (who were brilliant in their own right and totally different from the SP ones, despite the similar dynamics) and tons of action and fighting and demons and blood.  It had everything a Derek Landy or Supernatural fan could want (including flannel shirts and a killer car – albeit 'killer' in two totally different senses) and then some.  And man I can't wait to get my hands on Desolation!  
Also sleep.  Sleep is required right now.  So I'll leave you to read the awesomeness that is Demon Road while I go back to bed for a few hours.  Goodnight and may Derek Landy rule over YA as he does MG – with a swagger, lots of laughter and a twisted imagination.

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Happy Reading
* This book was received from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review
** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book

Friday 24 March 2017

Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

Series: Black Widow, Book One
Publisher: Parragon Books
Format: Paperback
Published: 2nd May 2016
Number of Pages: 416
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Superhero, Action-Adventure, Science-Fiction, Thriller-Suspense, YA
Recommended Age: 11+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing and Smoking References
Author's Site: Margaret Stohl

Blurb From Goodreads:
Enter the world of the Avengers’ iconic master spy…
Natasha Romanoff is one of the world’s most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow’s infamous academy for operatives.
Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.  The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments—until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious saviour, but Black Widow isn’t really the big sister type.
Until now.
When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned—and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava’s dreams…
Black Widow: Forever Red features all the heart-pounding adventure readers expect from Marvel, written by #1 New York Times best-selling author Margaret Stohl. Uncover a new side of the Marvel Universe that will thrill loyal fans and newcomers alike, as Stohl reveals the untold story of Black Widow for the very first time.

"This mission, to attack us?  He said it had a name."  Her eyes met Coulson's.  "Forever Red."
Once upon a little girl was given the name Black Widow by her teacher.  She was taught in all manner of things – but mostly in how to kill, deceive and spy.  She was experimented on in the Red Room and she became the most dangerous assassin in the world.
After escaping the clutches of her teacher Ivan Somodorov, Natasha Romanoff became a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Her mission?  To take down Ivan.
She found him with a little girl, who she saved after bringing the building down upon her former mentor.  She took the child to America and told her she would be OK.  And then she left her in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s care..
Now seventeen, Ava Orlova has run away from S.H.I.E.L.D.  She has learned not to trust anyone.  That she cannot rely on the red-haired woman who called her sestrenka, little sister.  All she knows is she has to be her own hero – and that she dreams of a boy called Alexei with a Black Widow tattoo, even though she has never met him.
Natasha has never been much of a big sister.  But when children begin vanishing in Eastern Europe and rumours of the Red Room start up, Natasha fears her former teacher is not as dead as she hoped and his reaches, influences and plans go far deeper than she ever could've imagined...
I'm a huge Marvel fan.  I've had many a discussion with family and friends regarding the best team, character and film in the Marvelverse (team being either the new Guardians of the Galaxy or the X-Men, character being Remy LeBeau, AKA Gambit and film being Guardians of the Galaxy – my brother loudly disagrees with that final point).  So when I was offered the chance to review a book about the awesome Black Widow, how was I meant to refuse?!  Natasha Romanoff is a badass – a gorgeous and deadly agent with a fascinating backstory I really don't know enough about.  Awful, I know, but I love what Margaret Stohl has done with the character.  I just really enjoyed this book – it was like watching a Marvel movie and reading one of the comics all at once and I just loved it.  Also after reading this there needs to be a Black Widow standalone film – I am now in love with her.
Natasha Romanoff is one of MCU's most recognisable and awesome characters.  The Natasha from Forever Red is a mishmash of MCU Black Widow and the comic version – her backstory is more like that of the film Natasha and not the comic Natasha, although she's colder and sharper than movie Natasha.  Which is awesome!  Because – hello – Natasha's backstory is fascinating in the film's and I loved seeing more of it – and of those signature Black Widow death stares.  Who doesn't watch the films (and the brief flashes we get into her past) and think let me know you!  Just me?  Really?  Huh.  Anyways, Natasha was cold and businesslike (as expected) and yet she had these moments – these flashes of confusion and affection and anger that made her so very human and brilliant and ergo loving her.  This was Natasha says I'd never seen her before – as badass and tough as ever, but also broken and hurting and afraid and so very very human indeed.  And I loved it – I want more of this Natasha, this Tasha.
Despite the book series being titled as Black Widow, it's more about Ava – who I discovered after a quick Google upon getting the book is a superhero in her own right and has recently been introduced into the Marvel comics.  She was understandably confused and lost and a little angry at the world, but she was also funny and brave and badass as hell!
Alex was so sweet - he was brave and badass and kind and smart.  He was also pretty darn cute at times, I must admit!  
I must say the romance between Ava and Alex was rather insta-love-y.  After one twist I was like yes, this makes more sense now!  And then I was like hang this does not make more sense it in fact is a little weird now and then my head started hurting as I considered all the facts and then I had to go lie down and watch the Avengers.  But I digress.  They were adorable!  Like so cute – and so incredibly protective of one another, as would be expected in two teenagers tossed in the middle of a plot by a crazy man.
And OMG I loved all the little cameos!  Like Coulson – he's always a favourite of mine in the MCU and I loved seeing his quippy, funny self in Forever Red.  And Tony Stark's scenes?  Literally some of my favourite ones in the whole book!  I adore Tony and he was so perfectly Tony.  Margaret Stohl captured him so absolutely perfectly!  I must admit, I did miss the presence of one hawk-eyed archer (who is often portrayed as Natasha's BFF and also BF at times, though not the latter in the film's) – it was so sad not to have him doing a little cameo or at least being mentioned.  She trusted Tony enough to involve him – so why not Clint? 
The writing was awesome!  It started off from Natasha's POV (which I loved – being inside her head was amazing) and then switched.  We got a split POV between Natasha, Ava, Alex and then transcripts from an official S.H.I.E.L.D. interview of Natasha.  It was all third person – and did occasionally jump perspectives within a set characters' chapter – and I just loved it.  I loved getting into everyone's heads – although I must say Natasha's chapters was my favourite.  I loved her, if you haven’t gathered, and may possibly be a tiny bit obsessed now.  I regret nothing.
The plot – oh my god!  It was like reading a Marvel movie.  The plot was fast-paced and exciting, there were mysteries a plenty, there were thrills and twists – oh that last twist!  It left me in tears – the finale was explosive and then there was just this moment after, a moment of pain and sadness and why Margaret why that left me speechless and in shock.
If you can't tell by now, I loved Forever Red to pieces.  It was so much fun – a real roller coaster of excitement and awesomeness and superheroes and mysteries.  I cannot wait for Red Vengeance – I need in my life like you cannot imagine.  Stay Red, people – because after this series I ain’t ever going back! 

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer
Lois Lane by Gwenda Bond
The Avengers

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Parragon in exchange for an honest review