I won copies of Lyla Oweds‘ Origins, Ghost, and Blood over on Sadie’s Spotlight with Lola’s Blog Tours. Then I picked Hidden and Balance up as an amazon freebies. What follows is as much just a discussion of my experience with the series as it is review.
Before I get to the reviews of the individual books I’m going to make a couple overarching comments. The books in this series are difficult to review individually because it is one continuous story. Each subsequent book picks up exactly where the last ends. In retrospect, I could of (and probably should have) just written a single review to cover the whole series (or what I’ve read of it). But I didn’t realize that would be better until I was a couple books in and I felt like I’d already committed myself to the idea of individual reviews and I decided to stick with the plan. Plus, in retrospect, I kind of like how you can feel my frustration grow and attitude change from book to book.
So, some general thoughts:
First, I would put dollars to donuts that this author is a Japanophile and/or Otaku of some sort. We have shikigami/Onmyoji/Onmyodo, two characters who are fans of the kawaii ascetic (with references to Kutsushita Nyanko, Tarepanda, San-x and it’s Beer-chan), giving a ‘hairpin’ as a meaningful gift (a tradition that doesn’t carry the same significance in the west), many bishouen (both Bianca’s orbiters and just around in general), kanji for chapter headings, a heroine whose focus on not being a burden or inconveniencing others and working hard feels very Japanese (I expected Bianca—a very Shoujo-set-in-the-west name, IMO—to start bowing to her senpais with her many apologies), character interactions that read more like Shoujo Reverse Harem Romantic Comedy than western-style Reverse Harem Paranormal Fantasy, even Bianca’s rule following feels like a Shoujo Reverse Harem characteristic. There are probably many more comparisons to make that I missed since it’s been several years since I spent much time immersed in manga and/or anime. But I also think this manga comparison is solid and keeping it in mind will help a reader understand some of what transpires in the books.
I don’t usually go out on a limb and give opinion to authors, like I’m any sort of expert. But if Oweds is at all able, I would strongly suggest she lay out the dosh to commission the art to put out an edition of this series with a manga-style cover and catch that readership. Maybe not replace the cover whole-sale, but maybe a special edition or a compilation of the first few books that can be marketed to manga and light novel readers especially. Because I have to wonder if western readers who aren’t familiar with shoujo-style characters will appreciate this as much as those who are.
I’d go so far as to say that if I wasn’t a fan of some Shoujo manga and anime (and therefore recognized the tropes used) I would be strongly tempted to call Bianca too stupid to live and far, far, far too infantilized. A lot of the scenarios resulting from Bianca’s ingénue-ness [is that a word, I’m calling it a word] would enrage me instead of make me roll my eyes. And I’d write this whole thing off as juvenile, instead of centered in a given genre.
Besides, as much as I liked the current covers of these books, the chick on the front looks far too old and serious to be The Cute Thing™ that is supposed to be big eyed, small statured, cute (that’s her primary physical characteristic), 18-year-old Bianca.
Now, on to my thoughts of the individual books, written as I finished each one. But you’ll notice that the reviews get shorter and shorter as the series progresses and also kind of same-same. After a while, all that needs to be said is already said in previous reviews.
About the Book:
The things I see aren’t for the faint of heart.
And I am no longer willing to ignore them. Not even when my family, and my best friend, tell me to keep quiet about what’s happening. They say people will think I’m crazy.
Maybe I am.
But the spirit haunting my professor’s house is definitely trying to tell me something, and I’m the only one who can see it.
The one person who can help me is my best friend’s brother. But I don’t know if I can trust him or his friends. Or if I can step outside the protective bubble I’ve built around myself.
At this point it’s a toss up: the ghosts will kill me or my panic attacks will.
Either way, I figure I’m going to die.I enjoyed this more than I expected. YA and younger NA are always iffy for me. But I’ve recently said several times that I want to find some novels that read like anime or manga (plot-wise). I wouldn’t have thought to look toward The Grimm Cases for that, but that’s what I found anyhow. Origins would make a great reverse harem, forced proximity type of manga/anime. There are several scenes that I 100% visualized in anime style, complete with sound effects. 100%. Someone make this happen.
It wasn’t a total winner for me though. Bianca is far too infantilized for my tastes. I understand that she was meant to have been all but cloistered, so really was a true ingénue. But some of it (like the whole slumber part shtick and her raving assumptions) were overplayed. And I thought the four male leads patronized her horribly. I think I was supposed to find it cute, but I didn’t.
Plus, I’m starting to suspect some horrible history of sexual abuse is going to crop up in a future book and I’m already wincing in anticipation. (I generally try to avoid book with sexual abuse, but it’s so common in the genre as to be almost unavoidable. I often think it’s lazy plotting—the lowest hanging fruit, so to speak.) I hope I’m wrong though.
Regardless of the last point, I giggled frequently and look forward to reading the next book, Ghost.
About the Book:
My abilities are growing every day. But thanks to my new friends, I know that I’m not insane.
Even so, there’s a darkness inside me. It’s been getting stronger. A reality that I’ve been trying to avoid.
Being near the boys draw it out. Being close to them also make me unafraid for the first time in my life.
I’ve never felt like this before, but at the same time, my mind has latched onto the feelings they evoke. Julian encourages me, Miles comforts me, Titus protects me, and Damen…
Damen gives me something to believe in.
We have days to solve this haunting, but my personal issues threaten to overwhelm me. With each passing day, it becomes more difficult to pretend to be normal.
And if I falter, for even a moment, then I could lose everything forever.
I’m still enjoying this series and still think someone needs to make it a Shoujo style reverse harem manga. Seriously, someone get on that. I still think Bianca’s clueless-ness comes across as forced at times. She creates all these misunderstandings (especially around sex) but then we’re told she reads paranormal romances, for example. I get that they’re really just played for the laugh, but I usually just end up rolling my eyes at it.
Plus, there’s a bit of confusion in the world. Seelie and Unseelie got dropped in at one point (with no explanation) and I was like, wait, there are fae? The plot has also dragged a bit. As of the end of book two, we are approximately 550 pages into the plot-line and nothing has been resolved. Almost nothing has even been explored in any depth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying spending time with these characters. But the story is one continuous one and there’s not been a whole lot of plot progression. I see that the author emphasizes that the book is a slow burn. But that generally refers to the romance, not the plot as a whole.
Besides those few complaints though, I really am enjoying the series. I like all the characters and appreciate that we get each hero’s POV (which we didn’t in book one). They’re complete sweethearts, every one. I look forward to seeing how things work out.
About the book:
A million things have been kept secret from me for as long as I can remember. And I’m sure there’s a million more.
However, for once in my life, some things are starting to make sense.
No matter what anyone else says, there’s a place for me. With Damen, Miles, Titus, and Julian, I finally belong. Finn might not be happy about it, but what I do is none of his business.
None of that might matter though. Not unless we finish this case. The more things come to light, the more tangled the web. In the end, I might be forced to make an impossible decision: justice or compassion.
Either choice will leave its mark on my soul.
As I said before, I’m still generally enjoying my time with these characters. But I am also realizing that this isn’t a series with any intention of wrapping up any time soon. Each book is just part of a continuing story and ends when the author decided to break between books. The next book then picks up immediate. Which is fine in one sense. But, in another, I feel like I’ve now read 3 books with no pay-off (i.e. a conclusion of any sort). I didn’t intend to commit to 7+ book when I started the first book (and that assumes the 7th book is the last, instead of just as far as the author’s gotten at the moment). All of this means that I’m also starting to get frustrated and some of the luster is wearing off.
I don’t have a lot more to add to previous reviews. There’s not really been enough plot progression to comment on.
About the Book:
I finally found somewhere to belong, only to be ripped from the four men who complete me. They are the only ones who’ve ever helped me feel normal.
This was my greatest fear—being locked away, alone with those who would call me crazy. No matter how much everyone tries to convince me otherwise, I won’t admit that there’s something wrong with me. But when the voices keep gaining strength, everything I fought to hide comes to light.
Everyone says I’m broken, but this time, things are different. I‘m different. It doesn’t matter that I don’t fully understand it myself. I refuse to let them win.
Ok, four books in now and I can officially say that I’m tired of it. I still like the characters. I do. But no one is growing. The plot isn’t moving…or it’s moving so slow barely anything has happened even four books in. I know the author has called this a slow burn. But, as I previously said, that generally refers to the romance. I don’t think it can be used as a catch-all for everything. The whole thing is starting to feel like it’s stagnating. Which is ironic because one of the characters tells another that they are, in fact, stagnating with their lack of growth in this book. Hmmmm.
Also, I feel like the misunderstandings where Bianca blithely says something sexual and then doesn’t understand why the guys are gaping are getting progressively more annoying. The whole scene where she asked Bryce to get her “rabbit” or the one where she chooses to use 69 in her screen-name because it’s the ‘yin-yang symbol’ and not understanding why the guys get uncomfortable were too slap stick. It’s too far into the series for such things to still play well. This is also part of what makes it feel like Bianca hasn’t grown any.
The editing in this fourth book also seemed to be significantly sloppier than in previous books. For example, empathic became emphatic several times.
It’s not that I’m uninterested in finding out how this series ends, because I do still like the characters. But I admit that I’m losing the will to stick it out. I’m not all together too sad to not have the next book and I’m not racing out to buy it either. It’s time for a break.
About the Book:
Miles is kind, caring, and sensitive; at least, that’s what I thought. However, as the days pass by, I’ve come to realize I don’t know my witch very well at all.
Mysteries are unravelling and new alliances are being formed, but Miles’s absence leaves an ache in my chest that even Damen, Titus, and Julian can’t soothe, nor explain. All this does is highlight how little I understand about my newfound world.
Although everyone says not to worry, I can’t shake this feeling of foreboding. Something is wrong, and if we don’t find him soon and get to the bottom of why he left in the first place, he’ll be lost forever. I’m determined to save him, even from himself.
I honestly think that there was more plot progression in this single book than in all but the first book combined. We finally get some clarity on Mu and the other 4 men’s relationships. I was quite happy with what it turned out to be too. (And yes, I was completely imagining the snippets of the past in manga/anime style. It’s just too avoidable.) Bianca finally seems to have some personal growth and there’s some actual communication happening between the characters. So, I was pleased over all.
I still think the series is frustrating in it’s lack of breaks or feelings of conclusion. It really is just one giant story and I find that exhausting. But I’m also interested in seeing where it goes. I just wish I didn’t feel so inclined to finish that last sentence with “eventually.”
Bookworms For Kids: Review Grim Cases by Lyla Oweds