Friday, 28 June 2013

Review: Real Vampires Don't Sparkle by Amy Fecteau

Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Release date:
8th June 2013
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:

Matheus Taylor didn’t ask to be murdered.

To be fair, the percentage of people actually asking to be murdered is probably small enough to be safely ignored, but he felt it was worth stating regardless.

His life might have been ordinary, but it was his life and he wasn’t done with it yet. Quin didn’t care. A seventeen-hundred old Roman, Quintus Livius Saturnius had a different view of morality than most people. Killing Matheus and hijacking his undead existence seemed perfectly acceptable to him.

Now, Matheus spends his nights running for his life, questioning his sexual orientation, and defying a mysterious new threat to the vampires within his city. Not that he set out to do any defying; he just wanted to be left alone.

Unfortunately, that was never going to happen.

My review:
This book has the feel of a self-published. This isn't a bad thing, although the editing could do with a bit of work. It's just that it has a very different kind of voice from your bog-standard main-stream publisher's offerings. It's unusual to find this level of sarcasm for a start.

Real Vampires Don't Sparkle isn't really my usual kind of book. Yes, I'm partial to the blood-sucking monsters, but I don't usually go for homoerotica. I found the relationship between Matheus and Quin very interesting though. The whole 'I'm not gay, I'm not gay, acutally...' thing is something of a mystery to me - all of the gay people I know have always known what they are, so the concept of suppressed sexual feelings is a new subject for me.

The humour running through the book kept it quite light, despite the often dark scenes. I have to admit though that I did find the constant stream of sarcasm and pithy come-backs a little wearing after a while. I began to wonder if any of these people ever say what they really feel. I can completely understand the use of wit and sarcasm as a defense mechanism, but I think you do need a bit of straight forward honesty from time to time, and there isn't really enough of that in this book.

RVDS is very much a dialogue-led book. There is a story in there, with a good dose of action, adventure and danger, but it's the dialogue which drags it along at a cracking pace. I would have been interested to hear a bit more of Quin's history, although he doesn't dwell on it himself so perhaps sharing it with the reader would have little point.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Review: Arash by Elke Schuster

Published by: Smith Publicity
Release date:
16th May 2013
Shadow Hunt #1
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:

Author Elke Schuster is addicted to creating new worlds and settings. When she woke one morning with a particular fantasy story in mind she knew she needed some special creatures to go along with it. Fairies? No. Vampires? Overdone. When a friend suggested that angels were the ‘new’ vampires she mulled it over and introduced a new player in the world of fantasy creatures: the Arash, descendants of the stars whose name mean ‘bright’. More human than vampires, but powerful enough to be alluring, Schuster made them into the “stars” of her newest release Arash, Vol. 1, Shadow Hunt, the first in a four-book series.

Livia is the black sheep of her family, self-conscious and underachieving. That is, until she meets her new friends: the exuberant Natalie, her brother Rupert, the sculptor, intelligent librarian Will, stunning interior designer Ruth, and arrogant horse breeder Cassius. The group of mismatched friends makes Livia feel as if she may fit in somewhere for the first time in her life. Then she begins to suspect that her so-called friends are not who they claim to be. They hold a secret that could change Livia’s life forever.

Will her great love for one of them survive the challenges of becoming an immortal Arash? Will Livia herself manage to survive?

My review:
Diving right in, I found the way the book was written in third person present tense somewhat disconcerting to start with, but after a short while I got used to it and it kind of worked, even if it did have a slight 'school essay' feel to it. Using the third person enables us to see what is going on with various different characters, which is always a bonus. I'm sort-of in love with first-person writing at the moment, but it can be restrictive when it comes to the storyline - you only ever get one side of the story.

Livia is ok, as heroines go - her inner monologue (which intersperses the main third-person narrative) gets a little whiny at times, but it is an inner monologue and if you can't whine to yourself now and then, when can you? With the help of the Arash, she discovers her own strengths and becomes a much more likeable character as the book goes on. At the start she's a bit wishy-washy, but she comes into herself by the end. I quite liked that she's not all good. She makes some bad choices that I have a feeling are going to rear up and bite her at some point, but that's life.

The Arash characters are a mixed bunch. Natalie is an enthusiastic friend, but a bit too bubbly for my taste at times. Ruth is a first-class bitch, and you have to admire her a little for it. Rupert I found a bit inconsistent - he doesn't really fit the artsy sculptor character that I felt he should be. Will is a sweetie, not an important character in this book but a good foundation for the future I feel. Cassius is hot. I would really have liked to get to know what's going on in his head more.

The family of Arash reminded me a little of the Cullens in Twilight - a voluntary family, who have come together because they fit well with one another and enjoy each other's company. They are more loyal and companionable than most natural families, which is good because when you're together for centuries you really need to make sure you get on well.

A few of the Arash's abilities did feel like they had been shoehorned in for the sake of the story, but I'm happy to overlook that - what's the point in making up your own beings if you can't give them the abilities they need to make it through whatever you throw at them? The problem I had with the third person present tense narrative is that you don't really get a feel for the inner characters of the Arash. What is life like for these people, who have lived for so long, and when they're not on the hunt for a new member, what do they get up to?

I'm interested to read the next book in the series, as I feel that this race of immortals can be developed and explored a lot more. We're only just getting to know them now, and I think they have a lot more to offer.

Monday, 24 June 2013

New Adult Monday Review: Left Drowning by Jessica Park

Published by: Amazon Children's Publishing
Release date:
16th July 2013
I got it from:
ARC from author
Goodreads summary:

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning. 

My review:
I wish I could have the characters from this book in my life, because they're all incredible. Totally un-put-down-able, Left Drowning is an exceptional love story full of very messed up, but completely beautiful people. Blythe is the girl with issues at the start - barely surviving after a tragedy that broke her world apart, when a chance meeting drives her to start living again.

Sabin is the first of the Shepherds that Blythe meets. Sabin is theatre guy - outrageous and crazy and full of life, dropping into Blythe's world and waking her up more than the coffee he stole ever could. Christopher comes next - grounding Blythe right from the start more than he knows. Estelle & Eric soon follow, each worming their way into her life in their own inimitable way. Chris may be the one she lusts after, but all of the Shepherds play their own part in bringing Blythe back to life, and I love that.

So, Christopher Shepherd. Wow. Be warned - this book is seriously sexy in parts. Chris does things to Blythe that made me want to swoon. Things may not always be plain sailing with these two - in fact their relationship is questionable at the best of times - but when they do get it on, they are hot!

The Shepherds offered Blythe family when she needed it most, but we mustn't overlook her own family, small as it is. If we cast aside the cold-fish aunt, we're left with James, Blythe's younger brother. He doesn't have a huge part to play lines-wise, but he does feature heavily in Blythe's past map of guilt and distress. He is an important character, and he is a sweetie. I'd rather like to hear his story, is if you're looking for inspiration, Ms Parks, how about giving James a voice?

One of the things Blythe doesn't realise, as they put her back together, is the full extent of the Shepherds' own painful tangle of issues. They do so well at hiding it, always looking forward, never casting an eye back to the past. Bit it's there alright, and you can't choose to ignore the past forever. At some point you're going to have to face up to it and deal with it. Can Blythe help the Shepherds' in the way that they helped her?

One of the things I especially loved was the way Parks intertwined the fates of these two lovers. She does it so gently that we don't even realise it at first, and neither do they. Little by little though, more is revealed, and you realise that there is more to this story than meets the eye. This involvement of fate rises Left Drowning way above the tide of NA that is currently flooding our shelves. Because this is more than just another NA book. This is one that you don't want to put down ever. I want the characters to be my best friends forever. I felt so good at the end, knowing that it wasn't really the end of the story, but a whole bunch of new beginnings.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Review: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook & Brendan Halpin

Published by: Egmont USA
Release date:
23rd July 2013
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:
A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin's summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents' divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog-- and Emmy definitely doesn't. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

My review:
I've been trying to work out what makes books like this so appealing. What makes us want to read about a bunch of messed up kids trying to work out what the hell is going on with their lives?

I guess there's a certain happy-ever-after thrill - the inevitable break-through, turning their lives around and working out how to be a fully-functioning member of society, possibly falling in love somewhere along the line, or at least making some good friends. That's not a spoiler by the way - I'm only about a third of the way through the book at this time, so it's more of a prediction. I may be proved wrong.

Then there's the disaster aspect - their lives are much worse than mine, which makes me feel better about myself and my situation. Or for some people, maybe it's identifying with something you've been through yourself.

What actually appeals to me above all else, is the what-if. How many times have you wanted, however deep down, to 'act out' in the way that these kids do? To scream and shout, rant and trash stuff, hit people that annoy you and generally make a spectacle of yourself? I love the parts where the characters are messing things up as much as possible, doing damage to themselves and the people around them, because as a fairly level-headed person I've not actually done those things, but I've been sorely tempted many times. Actually, there is a certain level of identification for me, because I have done stuff, albeit on a smaller scale, that I'm not really proud of.

All of these aspects come together to form a story that, for me, is addictive. But let's get reviewing before this turns into a personal therapy session. I have now finished the book. I'm not going to tell you whether my prediction was right, I'll just say that the ending was my favourite kind - the type that's not really an ending.

There are so many things I love about this book. One of them is the dual PoV. I'm a sucker for it. Why would any book not give me the boy's thoughts as well as the girl's? I want, nay, need them both! Having two writers makes the two characters feel completely real - they're very different people, each with a distinctive voice. Emmy is a good character, a real person. She's got some problems, but they're not all as bad as she thinks they are. Though some are actually worse than she thinks. It's easy to blow everything out of proportion when you're a hormonal teen, and it's easy to react to situations in an inappropriate way. That's what's happened to Emmy - there's nothing fundamentally wrong with her, and I think eventually she can be a happy, well person. This is just a part of her journey.

Justin is another matter - his problems are more easily medically-diagnosed. He's always going to have to fight the depression, which is a major thing to come to terms with. While the book starts with more of a focus on Emmy, whose problems seem worse at the time, by the end the focus has switched to Justin. I think he has further to go than Emmy, which added a realistic tint - it's not all 'oh we'll get better together and then be happy forever!'.

Emmy and Justin arrive at Assland (you'll get it) at the same time, both believing they don't belong there at all, thinking they can just fob off the therapists with some well-chosen words and be out of there in no time. Obviously it doesn't work like that. It takes a while for them both to come to terms with the fact that they need to be there, but while they're doing that they both appreciate having someone to share jokes and eye-rolls with. Once they start to realise that there might actually be a reason for being there, things start to get interesting. That's when the Anger Management group comes in. Emmy and Justin are in the same group, along with a few other 'students', all with different issues. When they come together for sessions, these guys are hilarious. I loved their sessions. The group are made to work together and support each other full-time, and after some teething problems they really click. There's a slightly cheesy element where they all manage to confront their problems in one way or another, but this is a light-hearted read, considering the subject-matter, and that is what they're there for after all.

I'm not going to go into it too much more. Suffice to say that A Really Awesome Mess is all kinds on wonderful. It's a fairly short read, but I loved every minute of it. I've been looking forward to reading it since I saw it on NetGalley, and it's lived up to my expectations, even surpassing them. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll feel everything. The characters feel incredibly real, and so do their problems. I really want to read more from these guys.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

UKYA Review: Let's Get Lost by Sarra Manning

Published by: Hodder Children's
Release date:
2nd February 2006
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:
Isabel is the girl who rules the school with an iron fist and a gang of minions who do her bidding. Her friends are scared of her, her teachers can't get through to her, and that's just the way she likes it. With her razor-sharp edges and tall walls, nothing gets to Isabel and no one, but no one, is ever going to discover her dark, sad secrets. Then she meets Smith. And Isabel learns that sometimes when all the expectations and pressures are too much, you just need someone to help you get lost.

My review:
I can't believe I haven't come across Sarra Manning before. I'm having one of those epiphical moments you get when you discover a new author and want to scream 'where have you been all my life?' and immediately obtain their whole back-catalogue. And even better, it's a Brit author! I love reading about the American kids and their kooky lives, but I'm all for supporting home-grown talent and sometimes it's nice to come home, to be able to imagine the place I'm reading about and understand the lingo. My first thought when reading Let's Get Lost was, hang on, I've found a British Sarah Dessen! Which is most definitely a good thing - I love Dessen's books, and to have found a British version is just my idea of heaven. Manning's writing is convincingly teenish, yet peppered with insights and wisdom to make you think and smile.

Isabel is the girl you love to hate. She's the best kind of character - flawed but redeemable. I can see elements of myself in her, which is not necessarily a good thing for me, but is a good thing when it comes to reading about her. There's something soothingly familiar about reading about her time at school - I'm so used to reading about the US school system, which is confusing and strange to me, than when I actually get to read about Brit school life I'm transported back to my own time as a poor, misguided teen right away. Isabel plays at being a bitch because it means she doesn't have to let anyone see inside her. No talking about feelings, no heart-to-hearts, absolutely no little chats about her mother.

The thing about being a bitch though, is that once you start it's hard to stop. It spills over and before you know it you're being hateful to everyone around you, letting no-one get within 10 feet without a caustic remark being thrown their way. But then there's Smith. He's not like anyone else she knows - he doesn't let her get away with being a bitch, and so maybe, just maybe, with him she can be someone else, if only she can figure out how to stop her mouth spouting out vile remarks. The only problem is that there is a mountain of lies stopping her from being true to him, and she doesn't know how to start climbing it.

If Isabel is the girl you love to hate, then Smith is the guilty crush, the foxy geek, the rather adorable if slightly emo student who you can't help but love a little bit. Again, Manning has him exactly right - the slightly older student, but most definitely still a student. You have to feel sorry for him at times, getting involved with Isabel, but then he says something perfect and you're soon cheering him on again.

I'm off to find more Sarra Manning...

Monday, 17 June 2013

New Adult Monday Review: Secret for a Song by S K Falls

Published by: S K Falls
Release date:
3rd June 2013
I got it from:
Goodreads summary: 
Saylor Grayson makes herself sick. Literally.

She ate her first needle when she was seven. Now, at nineteen, she’s been kicked out of college for poisoning herself with laxatives. The shrinks call it Munchausen Syndrome. All Saylor knows is that when she’s ill, her normally distant mother pays attention and the doctors and nurses make her feel special.

Then she meets Drew Dean, the leader of a local support group for those with terminal diseases. When he mistakes her for a new member, Saylor knows she should correct him. But she can’t bring herself to, not after she’s welcomed into a new circle of friends. Friends who, like Drew, all have illnesses ready to claim their independence or their lives.

For the first time, Saylor finds out what it feels like to be in love, to have friends who genuinely care about her. But secrets have a way of revealing themselves. What will happen when Saylor’s is out?

My review:
This book is equal parts annoying, depressing and addictive.

Annoying because of the whole MS thing. Anyone who knows anything about MS would question the girl's claim to have it. She had none of the symptoms that are a reason for diagnosis. I would have thought Drew especially would have realised it as many symptoms are similar to his disease.

Depressing because... I can't really put my finger on it, it just is. Perhaps because of the secret. I can't help but compare this book to The Fault in our Stars by John Green, and I can't help finding it wanting. TFIOS is so uplifting, so heartwarming, and so not about the diseases that make it. Secret for a Song is about nothing but the diseases and syndromes that fill its pages.

Addictive because despite all this, I still kind of liked Saylor. I really wanted her to work things out, to help herself and find a way to live a good life. Between all the lies, she knows in her heart what is right, and she's not a bad person, just a messed up one. You know that things can't possibly work out all hunky-dory. There's a glimmer of hope, that there will be understanding and forgiveness. Whether there is or not, you'll have to find out for yourself.

I don't know much about Munchausen's and have never met anyone with it, so I don't know if it's portrayed well or not. I thought it seemed realistic the way Saylor veered between not admitting her shameful (to her) problem, and talking about it with candid detachment. It was as if she was saying This is who I am, but it's not who I want to be. But I'm not ready to be anyone else at the moment.

It was a good ending. Not because it was happy, or wrapped everything up nicely, or anything like that, but because it was a beginning.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Review: Dark Child by Adina West

Published by: Momentum
Release date:
1st June 2013
Dark Child #1-5
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:
Perfect for fans of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, this intriguing urban fantasy follows the story of Kat Chanter, who discovers that the world she knows is controlled by ancient creatures who feed on blood. And she might just be one of them ...

Lately things have been getting weird for pathology technician Kat Chanter. She's been craving raw meat, and having dreams so realistic they're scary. When she accepts a job offer from the prestigious Hema Castus Research Institute, she hopes she'll have the chance to discover what's wrong with her, but instead, her move to New York thrusts her headlong into a treacherous hidden world, where the wrong move could be fatal . . .
Tarot, witchcraft and astrology all take on a frightening resonance in Dark Child's richly imagined alternative reality where vampiric beings live among us, hidden by magic. Dark romance tangles with paranormal fantasy and page-turning suspense in this enthralling tale of 'dark child' Kat Chanter, half-human and half-vampire, who has woken an ancient prophecy and must face a formidable destiny.

My review:
The premise of this book was very interesting, but when I started reading I found it took a long time to get going. Once it did get going a bit more, I did get into it, but not really into it. It didn't have that addictive, page-turner, must-reach-the-end-now feeling to it. It felt a bit cliched if I'm honest, a bit too similar to lots of other paranormal books out there. There are a couple of nice touches, such as the different types of beings and their various talents, but the whole 'big health corporation being a front for a load of bloodsuckers'? It seemed a bit jaded.

I liked Kat well enough but I didn't feel we really got to know her well enough. Her voice just didn't feel all that strong to me. She was very quick to accept the whole 'vampires exist' situation, but then I guess her cravings for raw meat, the weirdness of her blood sample and her experience at the club must have aided her acceptance.

I was surprised that there wasn't more romance involved actually. The lack of it totally made sense with what was going on at the time, and the amount of time that the characters had known one another, but I actually felt a bit lost without it. Dark Child reads like an adult paranormal romance, but the fact that there's barely any romance left me wanting somewhat. The two shapeshifters who are interested in Kat are your typical brooding, dark characters - one with a hero complex, the other a bit of a bastard just to make sure there's something for everyone. They're undeniably hot, but the lack of action made them a bit superfluous.

Considering it was originally released in serial form, the book holds together well. There are no obvious breaks, and if I didn't know it was a serial then I wouldn't have guessed it. I have no idea why it's touted as 'perfect for fans of The Mortal Instruments' - as far as I can see there are no similarities, and as a fan of The Mortal Instruments I wasn't won over by Dark Child as much as I wanted to be. There are some aspects of it that I really like - the different types of vampires and their legends mainly - but there were too many characters in my opinion, making it overly complex. I would read the next book, as I have a feeling that it might be better than the first, with more action, now that the scene has been set. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Review: Sunshine by Nikki Rae

Release date: 28th January 2013
Sunshine Series #1
I got it from:
ARC from author via GR New Adult Book Club

Goodreads summary:
18 year old Sophie Jean is pretty good at acting normal. Sure, she’s not exactly happy, but happiness is nothing compared to being like everyone else. She can pretend she’s not allergic to the sun. She can hide what her ex-boyfriend did to her. She can cover up the scars she’s made for herself. Ignore anything. Forget anything. Then Myles enters her life, and he has more than a few secrets of his own. When accident after accident keeps happening to Sophie, she can’t help noticing that he’s everywhere. That he knows too much. That she’s remembering too much.

It’s one thing covering up her own dark past, but does she really need to worry about people finding out just how much Myles likes her? Or that despite how much she doesn’t want to repeat past mistakes, she kind of likes him back? Not to mention the fact that she now has to conceal that Myles drinks blood-that he says he’s about four hundred years old.

She almost forgot about that part.

But Sophie has no plans to ruin the normal life she has created for herself. She can deal with this little glitch, no problem. Even if word has gotten around to the wrong vampire about Sophie and Myles, even if she’s putting the few people she loves at risk. Suddenly, those who were monsters before are just people, and the monsters? They’re real. Now being a normal human being is the least of her problems. Now she has to stay alive.

My review:
Alright, so I have to make the Twilight comparison, so let's get that over and done with. There are many parallels. In some ways, Sunshine reads like the author liked some parts of twilight but not others, so she decided to write her own version. Which is as good a reason to write a book as any. Of course, it could be that she's never read Twilight, and this is just a collection of coincidences. It happens. But whatever the how, why and wherefore, the connection is there. The chaste relationship between Sophie and Myles, some of the events that happen in the book, and Myles himself - there are definitely echoes of Edward Cullen there. Maybe it's just because he's an old-fashioned boy like Edward, but I found their characters rather similar. Also, I wasn't totally convinced by Rae's excuse for Miles being out during the day - 'some vampires have evolved but not others' is on a par with sparkling I'm afraid.

However. Now that I've done all the comparisons, I can get on with telling you why, despite them, I really enjoyed reading Sunshine! Firstly, Sophie is a really interesting character, with a great voice. She totally drew me in right from the start. The issues she has would make a lesser person into a hermit, but she has an inner strength that is admirable, if sometimes hidden from herself. She doesn't see her health problems as real problems, just inconveniences, which is a great way to be. Then there's her emotional problems, which are more severe. Emotionally, Sophie is very delicate. We see her go through some trauma, and we see the consequences of that, but as she gets closer to Myles, millimeter by millimeter, we see her start to heal. Sometimes a character like this can come across as just that - a character in a book. But Sophie has a certain realism about her. I like her a lot more than Bella Swan!

The way Myles reacts to finding out about Sophie's problems is perfect. He may be a gentleman, but he's also quite a stoic. He doesn't treat her with pity or kid gloves, but he does give her the space she needs in an understanding way. It takes a long time for their relationship to get off the ground, and you'll understand way if you read the book, but this is another plus for it in my eyes. No insta-love, no obsession, just a girl who's very wary of boys allowing this unusual guy to gradually become friends and little by little, something more.

Sunshine is an interesting mix of genres - at first it's easy to forget that it's a paranormal book, because Sophie's very human issues take precedence. Rae deals with a number of serious issues well here. When the paranormal aspect is introduced, it's done in such a way that it's kind of believable (if you can believe in vampires). Sophie's reaction to being told what Myles is was suitably realistic. When it gets closer to the end and the big bad sets the pace off running, things get very paranormal for a while, which is something of a shock after such a gentle introduction, but it kind of works.

All good characters need a good supporting cast, and Sophie is no different. Her friends Boo and Trei, her brother and his boyfriend, even her family are all well-developed, essential and complete characters. Her brother Jude in particular is a great guy. I want him to be my brother. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Myles friends in the book - it felt like they were significant when we first met them, but then we didn't see that much more of them which disappointed me slightly. Perhaps we will in the future.

Sunshine is touted as the first book in a series, but there's no cliff-hanger ending, which is nice. It is what it is, a story about a girl who's allergic to the sun and a vampire who isn't. There's a pleasant synchronicity and irony there. There are a few things left open - just enough to make me want to read whatever comes next.

Monday, 10 June 2013

New Adult Monday Review: Crossing by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Published by: Write Free/All Night Reads
Release date:
8th May 2013
I got it from:
"What's more important? Loving the man that loves you, or trying to achieve this bullshit idea you have of what a perfect relationship is supposed to be?"

Goodreads summary:
He stole her lipstick…and her heart.

Twenty-year-old Dani Walker can’t believe her luck when she’s paired up with the gorgeous Liam Garrett as her Acting I scene partner – or when he ends up in her bed. Being a Plain Jane with a mouth on her hasn’t exactly served Dani well in the guy department. In fact, she’s had nothing but one night stands. Still, she lets go of her insecurities and falls for Liam, despite feeling like he’s holding something back.

When Dani finally discovers Liam’s secret, she must learn the true meaning of accepting the ones we love for who they are, or risk losing the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

My review:
After reading Found, Benefiel's YA paranormal follow-up to the Zellie Wells trilogy (review here), I was happy to read whatever I could get my hands on by the author. Bizarrely, I'd already seen Crossing listed on Netgalley but had dismissed it in a bad case of judging a book by its cover. I couldn't have been more wrong. When you see the kissing couple and pinkness of the cover you could be forgiven for expecting a fluffy tale of happy romance. What you're getting is a deep, personal and boundary-destroying love story.

Dani is an unusual character. She's very insecure with self-image issues and has had to deal with some hard life lessons. She has a very well developed sense of humour, and she's very open and accepting. She dances with drag queens, loves acting and writing, she says what she thinks and gives amazing foot massages. She has a low opinion of herself though, never seeing herself in the starring role - always the kookie best friend. She needs someone to lift her up, to show her that she is beautiful and talented...

If Dani is a great heroine, Liam is an incredible hero. He has a big secret, which I'm not going to reveal so don't worry. He's conventionally gorgeous, but also full of wit and surprisingly down-to-earth. I think his secret makes him a very different person from who he could have been if he was conventional through and through. He's a hottie with a heart and a conscience. He's just come out of a long-term relationship, so you know he's not a commitment-phobe. He's not really bitter about it (well he is a bit, but in an understandable and acceptable way), and he's not out to shag everything that moves in a making-up-for-lost-time way. He's the perfect man, except for the secret.

A chance incident brings Dani and Liam together, and you can see that they have an instant connection. Their banter is hilarious. Here are two people who are meant for each other, and you're rooting for them all the way though. They have some pretty hefty stuff to work through, but you know that if they can work it out they'll be immensely happy together. Both characters were so likeable that they completely drew me into their lives, made me love them absolutely and want the very best for them. I feel like they're my best friends!

The way Dani deals with Liam is just brilliant. Because she's never been in a relationship and has such a low opinion of herself, she doesn't expect anything and doesn't push. She realises early on that there's something not quite right, but she doesn't want to risk losing everything, so she just leaves it. No hassle, no drama. When she does find out the full story, she's amazing. Lots of people say they didn't see the twist coming, but I have to say I saw it straight away. This didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book at all though, so if you're as perceptive as I am, don't worry - just  relax and enjoy the ride.

Crossing is all kinds of wonderful. It's funny, touching, brave and daring. And it's based on a true story, which makes it even more so. I feel priveledged that I've been allowed to share this story.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Review: The Wrong Girl by C J Archer

Published by: C J Archer
Release date:
25th May 2013
Freak House #1
I got it from:

Goodreads summary:
It's customary for Gothic romance novels to include a mysterious girl locked in the attic. Hannah Smith just wishes she wasn't that girl. As a narcoleptic and the companion to an earl's daughter with a strange affliction of her own, Hannah knows she's lucky to have a roof over her head and food in her belly when so many orphans starve on the streets. Yet freedom is something Hannah longs for. She did not, however, want her freedom to arrive in the form of kidnapping.

Taken by handsome Jack Langley to a place known as Freak House, she finds herself under the same roof as a mad scientist, his niece, a mute servant and Jack, a fire starter with a mysterious past. They assure Hannah she is not a prisoner and that they want to help her. The problem is, they think she's the earl's daughter. What will they do when they discover they took the wrong girl?

My review:
Ah, there's something particularly comforting and indulgent about a good Gothic fantasy. Set in an 1888, a time when ladies wore bustles and corsets, a girl wasn't allowed to be alone with a boy for fear of losing her reputation, and horse-drawn carriages were the preferred mode of transportation, The Wrong Girl is a wonderfully enjoyable bit of escapism.

If I'm to avoid spoilers here I'll have to be very careful, so I apologise now for any vagueness - I'm sure you'll agree it's better to be a bit mysterious than to let something important slip!

Hannah has spent the 18 years of her life so far locked in an attic. This is because she is the companion to Lady Violet, the daughter of earl who is banished to the attic for reasons I won't divulge. It's not that bad a life really. They have good tutors, decent food, clothes on their backs, and even get to go for walks outside. Hannah knows that as the orphan of servants she could be much, much worse off.

Violet and Hannah are best friends, sisters in soul if not in blood. Hannah does her best to protect, amuse and care for Violet, who is a delicate girl despite her strange affliction. But where Violet is shy and scared to venture out, Hannah is brave and dreams of freedom from her restrictive life. She watches the handsome gardener, reveling in the strange feeling she gets inside when she sees him. He seems to seek her out when she and Violet go for walks, never approaching them but always hovering nearby, watching. The last thing Hannah expects however is for him to kidnap her.

The Wrong Girl is a fun bit of historical paranormal fantasy. With its romantic setting and interesting supernatural twist, it's hard to find anything not to like. My only gripe, and it is a very small one, is that Hannah is extremely forward and outspoken for a girl of the time, especially one who has had such a very sheltered upbringing. I also wasn't sure about the existence of microbiologists working on cures for diseases at that time, but I decided that in my ignorance I could easily accept that the author has done at least a little research and has not merely plucked a professor out of the sky.

The way Hannah deals with her situation felt real and true. She wants to protect Violet so she doesn't let on at first that they've got the wrong girl. Then she finds herself becoming fascinated by her captors. For a while she's torn between refusing to co-operate and giving in. Is this a chance for the freedom she desires, or has she merely swapped one prison cell for another? And what will become of Violet without her there to look after her? If she admits who she really is, will she be punished and will Violet be abducted in her place? There are a lot of questions opened up as the book goes on, and lots of twists that will keep you glued and turning the pages at a rate of knots.

I've been reading a lot of contemporary NA recently, so this side-trip into the nineteenth century was a welcome break, and the paranormal aspect was just what I needed. The hint of romance was just right, and the interesting characters kept me gripped throughout. The element of mystery made for an entertaining and enthralling read, and I'll definitely be looking out for the next book in the series. 

Monday, 3 June 2013

New Adult Monday Review: Dragonfly by Leigh Talbot Moore

Published by: All Night Reads
Release date:
6th June 2013
Dragonfly #1
I got it from:
Goodreads summary:
Three bad things I learned this year:
-People you trust lie, even parents.
-That hot guy, the one who's totally into you, he might not be the one.
-Things are not always how they appear.

Three good things I learned this year:
-Best friends are always there for you, even when they're far away.
-That other hot guy, the one who remembers your birthday, he just might be the one.
-Oh, and things are not always how they appear.

When her best friend moves at the start of senior year, Anna Sanders resolves to keep her head down and follow her plans through graduation. Until Lucy, a beautiful, mysterious girl, and Jack, her gorgeous twin brother, transfer to Anna's school.

The two draw Anna into their rich, extravagant life on the Gulf Coast with their distant, single father. Anna can't resist falling for Jack, even after he pushes her away.

Just when she's finally learning to be strong, Anna uncovers their father's closely guarded secret and is pulled back--this time even closer. His secret could change all their lives.

My review:
Gosh, Anna's annoying! I had to keep reading this book because I needed to make it to the end to see if she could actually make a good decision for once in her life. She kept annoying me right up til the end though. I think maybe I'm too old for this book. I get that when you're young you can get confused between love and lust, and everything seems like a massive drama, and you have a totally irrational sense of self-entitlement, but there's really no need to shove all the most infuriating parts of a teenager into a book.

Anna strings along two boys, butts her nose in where it doesn't belong, is modest to the point of irritation (oh but why do you like me? I'm not pretty!), and is generally a poor excuse for a character. I feel sorry for both the boys trying to get her. They should really cut their losses and look elsewhere.

It's a real shame, because it's not that bad a book, it's just the main character who is really annoying. Have I used that word enough yet? I can't help it, it's just the most perfect word to use to describe her. But really, the elements are all there. If we lost the pointless investigative journalist has to uncover the big secret part, and made the female lead someone we could actually like, then Dragonfly could be a great book.

I like both the guys in the book - they're perfect opposites. Jack is the rich boy disenchanted with his life, under pressure from his dad to push harder and be a success, and let's be fair, he does warn Anna right from the start that he isn't in a position to get involved. She just gets under his skin (yeah she does that to me too, just not in a good way!). Can such a vacuous, nosy girl really be that appealing? Then there's Julian - he's known Anna for over a year, so he really should know better. There must be something about this girl that we're not being shown, otherwise why on earth would the hot sculptor fall for her? I'm team Julian all the way. A surfer artist who also happens to be a chilled, nice, sensitive and romantic type? Who wouldn't fall for him?

Also, be ready - there is no ending! The darn thing's part of a series. I was all set for getting to the bottom of the big mystery (which Anna had no business knowing about, and definitely no business getting all involved in), and getting a happily ever after with the right guy finally, but no - it just finished abruptly, as if cut off mid-scene. Now I have to stop myself from being tempted to read the next installment, as I really don't think I can take another book's worth of Anna!

As always, I want to apologise for writing a less-than-lovely review. I don't like doing it, and I want to make it clear that this is my personal opinion. If you take a look on Goodreads you'll see that other readers have different opinions of this book so if you think you might like it please give it a chance. You might get on just fine with Anna!