Book Review: No Angel by Helen Keeble

No Angel Tour Banner

Title: No Angel 
Author: Helen Keeble 
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication date: October 8th 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

**********

Goodreads

**********

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble                Amazon

**********

No AngelNo Angel
Helen Keeble
HarperTeen, October 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-208227-5
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Rafael Angelos just got handed the greatest gift any teenage boy could ever dream of. Upon arriving at his new boarding school for his senior year, he discovered that he is the only male student there. But Raffi’s about to learn that St. Mary’s is actually a hub for demons—and that he was summoned to the school by someone expecting him to save the day. Raffi knows he’s no angel—but it’s pretty hard to deny that there’s some higher plan at work when he wakes up one morning to discover he’s sprouted wings and a glowing circle around his head. . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Be honest now. Can you resist a book tag like this?

He flies.
He fights demons.
He’s looking down your shirt.

I admit it, I couldn’t resist ;-). Angels and demons with a splash of humor seemed to be just the ticket for me in my mood at the moment and what I found was a rollicking parody of all the usual angel vs. demon novels out there, chockful of LOLs and a touch of potential romance and a whole lot of fun.

Ms. Keeble has a masterful voice with all of her characters, whether they be self-satisfied teens or love-struck tweens or overbearing teachers and, dare I say, Raffi aka Raf is perhaps the most appealing teenaged boy I’ve come across in a long, long time. I love the way he is first thrilled and then very quickly scared out the wazoo when he finds out he’s not just the first boy to enroll at this previously all-girls academy, he is the ONLY boy. That rings so true, doesn’t it? I can see a cocky kid who swims in popularity thinking this situation would be the most glorious opportunity ever but Raf’s reaction is what I think 99% of the teen male population would have.

So, off he goes to his lonely room in the boys’ dorm and he very quickly finds that loneliness won’t be a problem. The parade of young girls that come knocking at his door, flowers in hand, is hilarious and Raffi (he apparently can’t make the preferred “Raf” stick) shows what he’s made of by being kind to these kids. Unfortunately, that good deed does not go unpunished.

Then, Raffi finds out, in a most alarming way, that there’s much more to him than meets the eye—although the eye can’t help being drawn to the halo that has suddenly appeared and the best he can come up with to hide it is a My Little Pony hat. It seems that his new self-appointed best buddy, Krystal, did a little conjuring and called him to the school to help Faith, one of the most down-trodden pretty girls ever, fight the demons back before they can escape the local Hellgate. Somehow, Raffi never saw himself as an angel but it is what it is.

Can the trio defeat the demons and can Raffi fend off the deadly attentions—and intentions—of Michaela, a girl who drips smoldering beauty and menace? Will those nasty demon tentacles succeed in knocking him into the hereafter?

In a final scene of good versus evil at the annual Masked Ball, Raffi spends just as much time defending the honor of some of his classmates who would like to give up said honor to their dates from the neighboring boys’ school as he does confronting the Demon Prince. Raffi and friends discover too late that they just may have been outmaneuvered and more than one huge secret comes to light.

I so enjoyed this story and I hope that, someday, Ms. Keeble will bring us another adventure with Raffi and his friends. In the meantime, I’ll have to get my Keeble-fix with her previous book, Fang Girl.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About the Author

Helen Keeble
Helen Keeble is not, and never has been, a vampire. She has however been a teenager. She grew up partly in America and partly in England, which has left her with an unidentifiable accent and a fondness for peanut butter crackers washed down with a nice cup of tea. She now lives in West Sussex, England, with her husband, daughter, two cats, and a variable number of fish. To the best of her knowledge, none of the fish are undead. Her first novel, a YA vampire comedy called FANG GIRL, came out 11th Sept 2012, from HarperTeen. Her new YA paranormal comedy novel, NO ANGEL, is scheduled for October 8th, 2013.
Author Links:
Website  //  Goodreads  //  Twitter  //  Facebook

**********

Follow the tour here.

**********

Xpresso Book Tours Button

Book Review: Quarantine #2: The Saints by Lex Thomas

Quarantine The SaintsQuarantine #2: The Saints
Lex Thomas
Egmont USA,
ISBN 978-1-60684-336-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Nothing was worse than being locked in–until they opened the door…
McKinley High has been a battle ground for eighteen months since a virus outbreak led to a military quarantine of the school. When the doors finally open, Will and Lucy will think their nightmare is finished. But they are gravely mistaken.

As a new group of teens enters the school and gains popularity, Will and Lucy join new gangs. An epic party on the quad full of real food and drinks, where kids hookup and actually interact with members of other gangs seemed to signal a new, easier existence. Soon after though, the world inside McKinley takes a startling turn for the worse, and Will and Lucy will have to fight harder than ever to survive.

Whoa.

This is, without a doubt, a very difficult book to read.  If you have any squeamishness at all about violence, teen sex, sheer brutality for no reason other than pleasure, you should not pick up this book. As for the target audience, yes, it is Young Adult in the sense that it’s entirely about high school kids but I really think it’s inappropriate for younger teens. If it were a movie (and, apparently, it will be if things pan out), it should be rated R. That’s unlikely, of course, since it would be difficult to market with such a rating but I don’t know how they’re going to soften this story for a PG-13 rating when it revolves so aggressively around those elements that make this R-worthy.

That’s the very reason I am torn about this book. From beginning to end, the savagery that is to be found on nearly every page is almost overwhelming, to the point of making me so uncomfortable I wondered why I kept reading—and, yet, I did. Partly, it’s because of the trainwreck effect when you just can’t look away but, as tough as it was to read, this is an intense look at a society gone completely to ruin and that is what kept me riveted.

Certainly, there are flaws. It was impossible for me to really like anyone but that doesn’t mean I didn’t care about them, just that this second book in the trilogy allows for no remaining vestiges of gentleness, kindness, courtesy or decency, the traits that enable us to get along with one another. A few individuals love others in one fashion or another but, for the most part, it’s every boy—or girl—for himself or herself. That is an element that’s particularly noticeable, that the girls are every bit as ruthlesss and cruel as the boys. We do get to know a few of them better, especially Will and Lucy, but I can’t say that either one has grown on me much since the first book. Lucy has at least learned to be strong for herself, almost foolhardy, but Will is still rather whiny, although with flashes of being more likeable.

After two books, we still know pretty much nothing about what’s happening outside the school, just dribs and drabs, not nearly enough to understand if anyone is trying to find a cure or even how far the virus has spread. I also find it hard to believe that the parents, who are now in charge of keeping the kids alive, make no effort to identify themselves; just knowing that some of them still have families would give these kids hope.

Most of all, the violence in The Saints is nearly unbearable, particularly because something vicious happens constantly, either physically or psychologically. I think the authors’ point is that, when you live surrounded by such violence, it becomes second nature and you lose your humanity. While that is generally true, we have all heard of people who rise above such a life and that’s what is lacking here, the few kids who would stand fast against the violence. In an interesting if pointless diversion from the usual horrific behavior, one scene, which actually does not involve an altercation between kids, is exceptionally stomach-churning and, to me, was truly gratuitous; as an obvious allusion to Lord of the Flies, it is completely unnecessary to the story and only draws comparisons to that earlier book.

All that aside, I did find much to keep me reading in spite of my reservations and I applaud the authors for making a very harsh story eminently engaging in spite of the gore. If I still had a bookstore, I would be extremely careful to whom I would recommend this but it would most likely be those readers who can look beyond the surface to what lies beneath. This is truly a modern-day morality tale and I’m very curious about what is to come in the third book, coming out in Summer 2014.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2013.

Book Review: Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas

Quarantine The LonersQuarantine: The Loners
Lex Thomas
Egmont USA, July 2012
ISBN 978-1-60684-329-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

 

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.

I have such mixed feelings about this book that I hardly know where to begin. The truth is, there is a lot wrong with it but I still kept right on reading, couldn’t make myself stop. What’s up with that?

For one thing, for a post-disaster scenario, which is pretty nearly always completely unrealistic, this one is way out there in left field. Here you have a school full of teens that have been cordoned off from the outside world. So far, so good. Why this has happened is at first a mystery to the teens and I can buy that, too. What gives me serious pause is what happens within minutes of the teens first realizing something is wrong. Can you imagine our government quarantining an entire school so fast and so competently? Also, why do the adults on the outside cut off all communication with the kids and why do they fail to provide the necessities of life on a regular basis? Well, I suppose these questions are a large part of why I kept reading—I needed to know why even more than what.

In some ways, Quarantine can be compared to Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games, especially in the extreme violence and anarchy that develops and yet…it isn’t really anarchy. The gangs that these 1,000 teens form, based largely on their school hierarchy during normal times, rings true because teens tend to want to belong to groups. The violence is to be expected also when you understand just what they’re up against if they want to survive. The gangs are very distinct and this is one of the aspects of the story I really enjoyed. Each gang has a name and distinguishing colors, each has a leader, each has a responsibility for one or more aspects of life under quarantine, each is feared by the other gangs. There are a couple of gangs that are expectedly in the forefront, particularly the Varsity and the Pretty Ones, but the authors do a great job of building the reader’s empathy for all of them in one way or another.

Another thing the authors do well is come up with details that make the reader really understand the perils these kids face and how they react, such as the way they dispose of bodies and the barter system they develop. Protagonists Will and David are much like most brothers, full of love and antagonism, and the obligatory love triangle with Lucy actually comes about more naturally than in many other young adult novels. I did feel, though, that the extreme hatred Sam has for David is a stretch and Will’s self-centeredness and unwillingness to do his part is a bit much but these elements do add a great deal to the premise. Character development outweighs plot and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I had issues with the way the government/military respond to the situation and with the behavior of the virus, especially how fast it kills and how it is spread, and these are the absurdities that most bothered me in the construction of the story, along with the difficulty I had tracking the passage of time. On the other hand, the pace of the book is breakneck and I can truly say I was never bored. What goes on with the kids is both disturbing and compelling and that is what made me have to finish. Despite its shortcomings, Quarantine is a thriller you don’t want to miss but, because of the violence and sheer darkness, I’d recommend it for older teens and up.

I must admit I also couldn’t resist a story whose first line is “Someone must have bitten off her nose.” Now that’s a grabber if I ever saw one so I guess I’ll have to read the next book, especially if I want to find out where the cliffhanger in this one is going to take us next.  And I most certainly do.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2012.