Friday, 4 November 2016

Review: Just an Illusion - Side A

Just an Illusion - Side A Just an Illusion - Side A by D. Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darn, this book. First up, a warning - major cliffhanger. I mean major. And I have no idea when the next book is due out. Just saying. Right, now that's out of the way, I can wax lyrical about the greatness of this story. I'm not a love triangle fan, I'm really not, but I'm not sure the situation with Sawyer and Noah really counts as a love triangle. Why mention it then? I hear you ask. Because it's a pretty major part of the story, and I'm not sure how to describe it without giving too much away. Whatever it is, it's intense.

I'm a big Rock Star Romance fan. I'll read anything in the genre I can get my hands on, which means I've read some astoundingly good novels, and some real dross. Thankfully, Just an Illusion falls into the first category. From the very start it drew me in and wouldn't let go of me until the last page. Kelly's characters are addictive, and not just the main ones - there's a large cast of really great characters in this book, which always impresses me. The story has all the drama, intrigue and secrets you expect from a Rock Star Romance, and it manages to still feel fresh. Kelly has mastered the balance between feeling close enough to real life while still providing excellent fantasy escapism fodder.

Please, please will someone tell me that the next book is going to be out soon though, like really soon, because I'm suffering a major book hangover and the only cure is the sequel!

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Thursday, 3 November 2016

Review: The Legacy of Lucy Harte: A poignant, life-affirming novel that will make you laugh and cry

The Legacy of Lucy Harte: A poignant, life-affirming novel that will make you laugh and cry The Legacy of Lucy Harte: A poignant, life-affirming novel that will make you laugh and cry by Emma Heatherington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darn, this made me cry. But it also made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, so I'll forgive it for the crying part. There's something about Irish women's fiction - there are a bunch of really great authors in the genre, and Emma Heatherington is definitely a member of that group. The Legacy of Lucy Harte is, as it says on the tin, a poignant, life-affirming novel that will make you laugh and cry. I don't really like it when books state things like that in the title - I assume it's a ploy to get Amazon to list it in a certain way, and I find it somewhat arrogant. I'll make my own mind up thank you very much. But darn it, it's right. It is poignant - so very poignant. It is life-affirming - a gentle and kind reminder to live life to the fullest while you have the chance. And it did indeed make me laugh and cry, though it wasn't a full-on laugh-out-loud. It's more of a sweet story than a funny one, but it has its moments.

I enjoyed Maggie as a character - she felt real. She wasn't always good, didn't always make the right decisions, didn't always listen to advice. She drank too much, held on to grudges, wallowed in self-pity and smothered her creative urges. Then she receives the legacy of Lucy Harte, and slowly things begin to change as she steps out of her comfort zone and remembers that there's more to life than real estate. And so we follow her on a journey of self-discovery that is an absolute joy to read.

Regular readers of my reviews will know that I'm very picky about endings. I can't actually say much about this one - I'm not the spoiler type - but I will say that it was very well done. It felt right, even if it did make me cry. Well done, Ms Heatherington, on delivering a story that very much makes me want to read more of your work.

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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Review: London Belongs to Me

London Belongs to Me London Belongs to Me by Jacquelyn Middleton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a New Adult adventure with a Young Adult feel to it. For once it's more about life than sex, and that's by no means a bad thing - I love a good raunchy romp, but I also love to read the stories about people starting over, following their dreams and finding themselves. London Belongs to Me is the latter.

Alex is a wonderful character - a kooky fangirl who suffers with anxiety and panic attacks, she's easy to relate to and easy to love. She drew me into the story and made me want the absolute best for her. Alex isn't the only great character in this book though - Middleton has created a stellar cast, with a charming and sexy love interest, a strong and no-nonsense best friend (or two), and an evil bitch who you love to hate.

As a Brit it was strange reading about exploring London from a (half) American's point of view, but I think Middleton did well with the concept - I can see this book doing very well on both sides of the pond. She makes London and its residents very British, while still explaining the little UK idiosycrasies for US readers.

London Belongs to Me has all the markings of a great chick-lit for me. It's easy to read without being too fluffy, it has just the right combination of adventure, romance and strife, a relatable cast of wonderful characters and a great ending. A perfect debut from an exciting new author who I'll be following for sure.

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Review: The Thousandth Floor

The Thousandth Floor The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just when you think everything's been done, a startling new idea comes along and shakes up a genre - The Thousandth Floor is that book, and McGee is that author. This amazing debut is sure to create a lot of buzz in the YA world, and rightly so. But what's it actually like? For starters, it's a backwards story - we're teased with an outcome first, then we're taken back to the beginning and led through the build-up, with secret upon secret slowly being revealed. Then there's the fact that McGee has somehow managed to give us a five-way POV without making it horribly confusing. When I saw the chapter titles and realised the book would focus on five different characters, I worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up, but it's actually very well-done. The five characters start of fairly separate, but as the book goes on they start to intertwine more and more, while they each give us an important aspect of the story. It's a risky tactic, but it pays off handsomly as McGee pulls it off with apomb.

Set in the future, we're given a delightful setting in the mega-huge tower, and it's a nicely-built world with realistic additions and revisions to our present. Complementing this futuristic world are the everyday problems of teenagers, families and friends, which will never really change. Fashions will change, but fashion will always be a thing. Love and friendship won't go away, and there will always be drama surrounding them. This is what McGee focusses on, and she does it remarkably well. I didn't expect this to be the first of a series when I read it - for some reason I was expecting a standalone, but then I got to the end, and it is a great end - no real cliffhanger, but an expectation of continuation. Book one is perfectly complete and incomplete at the same time, the ideal series opener. Roll on book two.

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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Review: Melody Bittersweet and The Girls' Ghostbusting Agency

Melody Bittersweet and The Girls' Ghostbusting Agency Melody Bittersweet and The Girls' Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is paranormal chick-lit an oficial sub-genre? Because if it isn't, it should be, and Melody Bittersweet should be the reigning queen. I love, love, loved this book. It's funny, sweet, entertaining, exciting and perfectly British. Melody is one of the best characters I've read for ages, and I desperately want to hear more from her - can't wait until the next book in the series comes out. She's not the only brilliant character though - not by a long shot. French has created a whole cast of whacky, awesome characters to play with, and that's not even counting the ghosts! I'm now off to read everything else she's ever written...

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Saturday, 16 July 2016

Review: How Not To Fall

How Not To Fall How Not To Fall by Emily Foster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is simply gorgeous. It feels like a real honour to have the chance to follow Annie along her sublime journey of sexual awakening with her incredible teacher, Charles. Foster's erotic scenes are written with consummate skill - never unrealistic or overdone, the are superbly arousing.

For a plethora or reasons, I couldn't put this book down. The characters are wonderfully well-developed, the story itself is highly addictive, and the sex scenes (yes I'm mentioning them again - they're that good) are beautiful.

I am in love with Charles and Annie's brains - their big, beautiful brains. There is so much that is so clever about this book, not least its main characters, that it blows me away. And then there's the feels - oh, the feels. After a period of glorious sexytimes, the feelings inevitably enter the circle, and then nothing is easy anymore.

The ending of this book is exactly what it should be, which is also what you don't want it to be. But fear not, there is another book to come, but not until 2017, because Foster apparently likes to torture her readers. Write faster!

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Friday, 15 July 2016

Review: Songs About a Girl

Songs About a Girl Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. If you like music and you like YA, you have to read this book. I've been veering away from YA for a while, preferring something a bit more adult to entertain me, but this was the perfect book to return to the genre with. Russell's sixteen year-old Charlie is such a great character - she's so realistic, as are all of the other characters around her. This is a start cast, and not just because half of it is made up of a famous boyband. Russell gives us a glimpse of the hardships of fame, the realities of working in the music business, and the real people behind the stardom. There's a backstory running through the book that keeps it interesting too, one which raises some questions that are not yet answered so be prepared for a bit of a cliffhanger.
Full of excitement, sweet romance and drama between family and friends, Songs About a Girl is one of the best things I've read in a while and I hope the next book is released in a timely fashion as I really want to know what happens next!

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Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Review: Resurgence

Resurgence Resurgence by Kerry Wilkinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Silver Blackthorne has to be one of my favourite YA heroines. She never wanted the life that's been thrust upon her. She doesn't want to be a hero, a figurehead, a call to arms. But her natural character, her deep care for those around her, her unerring moral compass, her inability to stand down against inequality all mean that she is the best person for the job.

The deep friendships are one of the things that struck me most in this series. There's a love triangle that annoyed me slightly because it seemed unnecessary, but by the end I realised that it was just Silver - what single guy can be around a girl like her and not become at least a little infatuated? But the friendships between the escapee offerings were what tied the whole story together.

The best thing about the long-awaited release of the end to this series? It meant I got to re-read the first two books. Wilkinson's dystopian world is a clever one, and one that I relished spending time in. His characters are the main draw though - from the fierce heroine to the evil Minister Prime, the whole cast of the trilogy are extremely well-developed and fall into their respective roles with consumate ease. And the plot is just crazy, in a good way. There are so many twists and turns that I never could have predicted, so much that needed to happen to make the brilliant ending work the way it needed to. Wilkinson is nothing short of a genius, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

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Friday, 6 May 2016

Review: You Know Me Well: A Novel

You Know Me Well: A Novel You Know Me Well: A Novel by David Levithan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't normally go for 'friends' books - usually I'm all about the romance. And although I'm Bi, I don't read LGBT books that often. Something about You Know Me Well spoke to me though. I don't know why - I'm most definitely not a teen living in San Fransisco. I'm a late-thirties woman living in rural England. But it made me wish I was a teen living in SF. I grew up in a very straight town, at a very conservative school, with no queer friends. I can't even imagine how freeing it must be to grow up in a place like SF, to have openly out people around you, to have the option of friends who know exactly how you feel. So for me, You Know Me Well was like the ultimate fantasy. And because it's David Levithan, it was so enjoyable to read on so many levels.

There's a certain whimsy to it, in between the very real issues that are dealt with, a joyfulness and a definite journey that we're lead on. Everything happens in a very short space of time, but the events are so big, so definitive, that it's fuller than many stories that take place over a whole lifetime. There's also questioning - of life, of the future, of the present, of love. No matter what age you are, there's always questions to be found, but at the tender age of 18, about to launch yourself on the world, there's a whole lot more.

What I think I loved the most though, was the characters. They feel so, so real. The have real flaws, they talk like real people, they practically jumped out of the page and into my living room. The way they interconnected, the almost visible ropes running from one to another, everything about them ensured I just couldn't put this book down.

You know how sometimes you come across a book, and it just stands out. You can't necessarily put your finger on why, you just fall right into love with it, and it becomes something special to you. This is that book for me. I hope it can be that book for you too.

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Thursday, 28 April 2016

Review: The Raven King

The Raven King The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't have a bloody clue how to review The Raven King, but I can't not. It's just so Stiefvater-ish. I'm assuming that if you're reading this review, you've read the rest of the series. If you haven't, yes it's worth it, yes it's a perfect ending, now go away and read The Raven Boys immediately. For the rest of you, why aren't you already reading it? Or are you just interested in other people's opinions? Which is a strange reason to read reviews. Oh all right, I'm stalling.
One, it was f-ing brilliant. It's a shiny, magical, sparkling, dark, tangled web of brilliance. I seriously don't know how Stiefvater manages to incorporate so many character arcs, so many camera lenses, so many elements of plot, without either going insane or sending her readers insane. But somehow she pulls it out of the hat. She guides us through with apolmb, making sure we never get lost, and revealing just the right information at exactly the right time.
I'm actually really looking forward to reading it again. I read it too fast the first time - I needed to know what happened, in a visceral way, and I couldn't pace myself well enough to soak up all of the detail. Stiefvater books always get better on second and third readings, because there's always some detail, some hook, some link that you don't notice the first time around. Something that makes you marvel at the cleverness of the author, and imagine her smug smile as you have that 'wait but... ohh I see' moment.
I could wax lyrical about Stiefvater's writing for days - she is my most respected author, for a great many reasons, but mostly because of how she manages to make her books about so many things at once. Yes, you could see this as a series about magic and sleeping kings and so on, or you could see it as a series about friendship, or a series about doomed love, or a series about priveledge vs poverty, or a series about the longest awaited kiss ever. Or a whole host of other things. That's the real beauty of Stiefvater's work - you get out of it what you need. She really is one talented wizard.
A word on the end (non-spoilery). It's perfect, because it's not an end. It's a beginning.

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Friday, 15 April 2016

Review: Fire Girl: A Tale of Witches and Wolves

Fire Girl: A Tale of Witches and Wolves Fire Girl: A Tale of Witches and Wolves by Andy Mulberry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's not often any more that a new YA paranormal comes along and really catches my attention. The market is so flooded, it's a hard task to find something that really suits me as a reader. I've definitely become pickier over the years. But Fire Girl had me from the moment I saw that gorgeous cover and read the intriguing blurb. I loved the magic and the mystery, the characters and the dialogue - for me this was a fully immersive experience.

Samantha is a wonderful character to have in a YA paranormal - she's a scientist with absolutely no belief in magic. The fact that her sister reads tarot cards and has an interest in the occult just reinforces this, when we see how Sam reacts to it. She has possibly the best reaction I've ever read to being told she is a witch.

Then there's Daniel, wolf boy. The magic that forces Daniel and Sam together is a very clever hook. You're never quite sure how it's going to turn out (although you have an inkling, because it would have to be a hell of a twist if not), because Daniel is so adamant in his hatred of the way these feelings are being forced on him. Sam, in turn, can't trust him to feel anything real, so the push and pull between the two makes for very interesting reading.

The hidden paranormal society, the politics and business that goes on in the background of the story is what makes it a solid book. There's more to it than meets the eye, and the minimal world-building actually works in its favour I think. There's not much page time devoted to describing how magic works in this world, but I didn't have a problem with that - we were thrown into it pretty quickly, and there was no need for pages of explanations. You could say that Mulberry works on a need to know basis, and it's surprisingly effective.

Witches, wolves, romance and much, much more wait in the pages of Fire Girl. I urge any YA paranormal fan to give it a go.

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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Review: The Dirty Secret

The Dirty Secret The Dirty Secret by Kira A. Gold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vessa and Killian's story is an entrancing one. The architect and the designer. The tall, handsome, nervous man and the flighty, secretive, whimsical woman. Gold's writing is sensuous and intelligent, but there's a certain detachment in the third person perspective. This is a story that could be incredibly intense, but it's not quite that, because of the way the words are put together. It doesn't quite draw you all the way in, even in the raunchy sex scenes. Although, I think that might be necessary, because if it was in immediate first person perspective it might just be too much. The whispered dirty talk, the blatant sexuality of Vessa and the desperation of Killian all come together to create something that could completely take you over if it were any more intense.

Gold's descriptions of Killian's house and Vessa decoration are simply beautiful, full of sensuality and decadent whimsy. The world she has created for her characters is one you desperately want to be a part of. I'm very interested to read more of her work.

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Monday, 25 January 2016

Review: The Book of Shade

The Book of Shade The Book of Shade by K.C. Finn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finn has achieved that rare thing - an original and unique YA paranormal romance. Lily's story is one of the best I've read for a long time, and I'm delighted that it comes from a Brit author. It's been a while since I read a decent book based in the UK, and I tend to forget how enjoyable it is to read in my native language without being peppered with americanisms. Lily is delightfully British, feisty and level-headed in the presense of so much weirdness.

However wonderful The Book of Shade is, it's not easy to review without giving much away. Let's just Finn has put together a world of intriguing magic and mysterious characters. The romance is deliciously slow-burning, with a host of far more practical things to be taken care of first. Such as why Lemarick Novel is covered in lightning flowers, how he performs such incredible feats on stage, why his arctic blue eyes keep locking with hers, and why he never, ever smiles.

Finn has that perfect combination of characters that will hold your interest completely, a story that will grab hold of you and won't let go, and a world so curious that you won't be able to leave it alone once you get a glimpse. She isn't afraid of doing things differently, such as introducing a male MC who is nothing like any I've ever encountered, but somehow in his ennigmatic, stoic character is utterly divine. Lily starts out as a completely normal girl - a freshman at uni who does all the normal things like going out drinking with her friends and joining an intriguing society just because a cute guy asks her. Even when things turn distinctly un-normal, Lily maintains her down-to-earth tendencies, and isn't afraid to face things head-on.

I want to leave as much as possible a mystery for new readers, so that they can enjoy the full effect of the book, so I'll stop here. I'll just add that I can't wait to read more from K.C. Finn, and the Shadeborn series.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Review: This Raging Light

This Raging Light This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Raging Light is a strange animal. It's one of those books that isn't about the ending, but about the journey. It's not so much a story, as an episode, and what's important is the people. Most definitely character-led, something that doesn't always appeal to me, but when it's done in such a splendid way as this, I absolutely approve. It reminds me a little of Maggie Stiefvater's writing (high praise indeed if you know me) - there's something there in the poetry of the words, in their realness and the way they worm inside you. It's a tricky creature to review though. Lucille has been dealt a hard hand, and This Raging Light is about how she learns to deal with it. It's about family and friends and love and neighbours and finding out you're not alone as you thought you were, and learning to lean on people, and raging and crying and getting back up again to rage some more. It's a slice of life, a piece of strength, the clarity of a ringing bell, a jumble of words and feels.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After spending a while floundering in a sea of New Adult angst, this whimsical, feel-good YA was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Also, another brilliant Aussie writer! Either I'm only getting the very best of what Australia produces, or we must be missing out on some amazing fiction over here on the opposite side of the world.

Alba was all kinds of brilliant. It was refreshing to find a girl character who isn't obsessed with body image, is reassuringly quirky, but also has no idea what she wants. She know what she's supposed to want, what everyone assumes she wants, but deep down she's just so confused. We tag along as Alba finds her own mind, in the midst of a possible apocalypse. Just a normal day in small-town Australia, obviously.

Keil's festival-like take-over of Alba's little town provided a great deal of entertainment, and the perfect backdrop for Alba's troubles. It made what could have been boring and ordinary, diverting and extraordinary. Super-high points for location and minor characters there, Ms Kiel. It's like a literary comic book, full of outlandish scenes which Kiel paints with words that worm their way into your head and disperse to create a scene so complete it's like you're there, sitting with Alba and her friends, puzzling over the riotous and ridiculous events of the summer.

I can't say enough good things about this book. It really lifted me up and reminded me why I love reading so much. Five joyful stars and an urge to read it again.

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Thursday, 14 January 2016

Review: When We Collided

When We Collided When We Collided by Emery Lord
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gosh, where to start? First up, get the tissues ready. I cried at the end. Not just shedding a tear or a tingle in the nose or a lump in the throat, but full-on messy crying. And it's not because it's sad exactly, certainly Lord doesn't leave us with a great tragedy or anything heinous like that. It was more of a bittersweet happiness that reduced me to snot and tears. A fullness, a wholesomeness and a burstfulness.
This is not an easy, quick read. I don't mean because it's hard to connect with the characters, or that it's too complex or annoying, because none of those things are true. In fact it's almost because of the opposite, because it's so big and true, that you need to just pause and savour it sometimes, to let it sink in. It's a bit John Green-esque in style - teens that sound and act like adults, big themes, a life of moments both good and bad. It's lyrical and expressive, full of so much life that it's hard to look at straight-on at times. It's even making me write in a similar vein, but this is only me so it's a bunch of vague metaphors being stuffed in your face.
Lord writes about depression with a truth born of experience, and I read about it with a knowing nod, a tear because it's a hardship I wouldn't wish on anyone, and a smile that said 'exactly!'. When We Collided is not a true story, but it might as well be, because it's full of so many truths that the fiction doesn't make any difference. It's the type of book that i recommend EVERYONE reads. Not just those who are affected by depression or know someone who is, because you don't always know. But if you read this, you might just have an inkling.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Review: Firsts

Firsts Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't generally pay much attention when books are compared to other books or films - half the time I can't see the connection at all, and the other half it just seems like a cheap marketing ploy. But Firsts was touted as being perfect for fans of Easy A, which intrigued me as I love that film without quite knowing why. So I read the synopsis, and was drawn in even more. In went my request on Netgalley, and I was rewarded with a completely enjoyable, insightful and interesting read. And you know what? It is perfect for those of you who loved Easy A. There's just something about it, a feeling you get while reading it, which meshes with the film perfectly.

Mercedes is a girl looking for love and affection, but refusing to admit to herself that's what she needs. Her mother encourages all the things a normal mother would forbid, and her friends are a confusing mix of religious virgin and sex-buddy. There are a lot of conflicting messages in her life, and it's easy to see why she's confused, even if she thinks she's got it all worked out.

This is a read-between-the-lines kind of story, and Flynn gently leads us in the direction we need to be thinking, letting us in on Mercy's deepest darkest thoughts as well as the front she puts on for everyone else.

Firsts is an easy book to love. Flynn's characters are solid and loveable, with a full supporting cast to back up the brilliant Mercedes. Her writing is just the right mix of wit, emotion and description, bringing her world to live in technicolour and giving us all the feels. This is a book that I will read over and over again, just because.

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Friday, 8 January 2016

Review: Learning to Live

Learning to Live Learning to Live by Kira Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you loved The Fault in Our Stars, it's a pretty good bet that you'll love Learning to Live. It has a similar feel to it - beautiful and inspiring and heartbreaking all at the same time. Warning: have a box of tissues on hand when reading this book, because you'll need it.
At first I thought it was going to be a pretty standard story, where the shy, unpopular girl catches the eye of the dickhead jock and changes him. But it didn't take long for me to realise that Learning to Live is so much more than that. I really don't want to say too much because, major spoilers! But let's just say that this is one of those books that could change your life. I would urge every teen girl who's lacking in self-confidence to read this book, and to learn from it. Sure, there are elements that are a little bit cliched, but it's the message that you need to take from it, not the literal image.
Adams has tackled a huge and difficult issue here, and she's done it with grace. Her writing is bold and her characters even more so. I can't wait to see what else she gives us in this new series.

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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Review: Soar

Soar Soar by Alyssa Rose Ivy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book not realising that there was a previous series that this is a spin-off from, so I was left feeling like there was a lot of information I was missing at times, but I definitely still enjoyed it, and I'll now be looking out for the Crescent Chronicles now. Ivy's characters are big and bold, and her world-building is complex and intriguing, which is hardly surprisng since she's already had a whole series to build it in.

Casey was a great character who I was able to get fully beind, and the chemistry she shared with Toby and Jared made for a real page turner, although I'm not generally a fan of love triangles. This one felt like there was something else going on behind it though, however I'll have to keep reading the series to get any answers in that respect. It's not all about the romance though - the Pterons are an interesting twist on the shifter theme, and their world drew me right in straight away. Soar made for an addictive read, and I definitely want to read more about this world.

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