From the very beginning Brightest Kind of Darkness reminded me of a way better version of F...moreReview originally posted on Bitten Books and given 5 stars.
From the very beginning Brightest Kind of Darkness reminded me of a way better version of Final Destination. They aren't even similar in the beginning, at all. However, just one thing Nara said got the comparison stuck in my head and I was unable to let it go. Nara mentions trying to alter what happened in her dream when she was young, a girl breaking her arms on the monkey bars, by inviting her to play with sidewalk chalk. Instead of the broken arm, the girl ends up with a blood clot from a rogue baseball. Changing fate is a dangerous thing and yet Nara knows she has to risk it again in the opening scenes of the novel. Because of this past horrific experience, I was so proud and endeared to her from this moment on because reporting a bomb should be an obvious choice but Nara knows first hand that it isn't. I don't want to say too much, but I was so pleased with myself when Nara made a discovery a little more than halfway into the book. My stupid comparisons are genius.
Nara was such a refreshing teenager to read about. She was genuinely a good person; it's so rare to read about a character like her especially in YA. She wasn't sickly sweet or full of fake kindness either. I like realistic characters and as someone who is kinda sorta prone to grudge holding, I find those types characters easier to identify with. Nara was effortlessly easy to sympathize with and understand, and she was real. Her volunteering at an animal shelter is what helped me make that special reader-character connection. I volunteer with horses and handicapped kids/adult so I have a special respect for others that donate their time. It's not easy and it's usually thankless; if you only do it for yourself, you won't last more than a few weeks before it burns you out. I don't like saying it because it always annoys me when it is or isn't attributed to a celebrity, but I have to admit that Nara is a great role model. She's certainly someone I admire.
For quite a good portion of Brightest Kind of Darkness I had no idea what to make of Ethan. We're given little snippets of information that all contradict what Nara seems to be feeling. For example we see his drawings of a demon eating flesh and he's described as a troubled loner. All of Nara's first descriptions of him had me feeling pretty blah about him, I'll admit that I can be shallow when it comes to heroes though. However, Nara tells us she feels safe around him etc. I liked having conflicting feelings about Ethan instead of being pulled into an instant love situation where I've either got to love him along with the heroine or else the book isn't nearly as enjoyable.
Brightest Kind of Darkness is an amazing, intense read. Even when it was 6AM and hadn't slept yet, I couldn't seem to put it down.(less)
Stan Markowski, as one of the detectives on the Occult Crime Unit, has seen his fair share...moreReview originally posted on Bitten Books and given 4 stars.
Stan Markowski, as one of the detectives on the Occult Crime Unit, has seen his fair share of supernatural crimes. He carries a gun loaded with silver bullets and always has a stake on hand, just in case. When a bust goes wrong and Markowski suffers a haunting loss, it's just the beginning of terrible things in Scranton. His latest case is a lot more dangerous and could mean the death of some of those closest to him as well as those of the whole city.
I've read a lot of urban fantasy. I love the genre and what it brings to the table. When I picked up Hard Spell I was expecting the usual elements and formula that I know and love, I definitely wasn't expecting any surprises, good or bad. Gustainis managed to shock me not only once but several times. It turned out that it was absolutely wonderful experiencing something new. One of these surprises involved an aspect of Stan Markowski that you simply never ever see in urban fantasy. It blew my mind and I loved it. I don't want to spoil anything but I also want to make it clear what it was. It was a relationship thing. I was caught completely off guard by it not only because I've never seen it in urban fantasy but also because it was meant to be a complete shock. I think it added a really interesting and complex twist to his character, especially when I thought I had him completely figured out.
Hard Spell has a gritty, almost noir feel and tone to it. I really enjoyed that because I haven't come across it in urban fantasy before despite detectives being a prevalent theme. I couldn't help but picture Markowski in a trench coat and fedora with a cigarette... and everything was in black and white. There was violence, a lot of it and it wasn't overly graphic but it was enough that if you have a weak stomach, you'd probably want to steer clear. It wasn't violence for the sake of violence though, again it had a noir quality about it that made it more like a cynical detective sharing the hard truths of his everyday life.
The beginning of Hard Spell, while I enjoyed it, is much slower and more information/background based than the rest of the book. It's a fairly long introduction period too and is not a good representation of the meat of the book. I was actually unsure if there was even going to be a main plot at first because the summary didn't mention one and I wasn't familiar with Gustainis' writing. Never fear, however, because there very much is a plot, a very dark and ominous one. Once I was introduced into the true storyline, I couldn't stop reading (and not just because there aren't chapter markers, that took some adjusting to). The ending, once you get past the gory, cringe-worthy bit, was utterly perfect. Loved it, couldn't have imagined a better ending for Hard Spell. It fit perfectly. I can't wait to see what the sequel brings us.
Hard Spell is the police procedural of urban fantasy, not a case and some fantasy elements used to lightly veil a romantic plot. There's often a fine line between paranormal romance and urban fantasy, this is without a doubt a true urban fantasy.(less)
Review originally posted on Bitten Books and given 4½ stars.
Maddie is struggling from day to day as an outcast after moving in with her grandmother du...moreReview originally posted on Bitten Books and given 4½ stars.
Maddie is struggling from day to day as an outcast after moving in with her grandmother due to a haunting family tragedy. Her world gets tipped upside down again when two new students make an appearance on the same day, both of whom can't seem to leave her alone. Chase takes on a role as her knight in shining armor while Dougal gives her the creeps. I don't want to give anything more away because a lot of my enjoyment in reading this book was finding out all of its secrets, but I do want to say that this is a paranormal like none I've read before. You won't be getting vampires, werewolves, or witches in this book. In fact, fantasy romance might be a more appropriate category.
I really enjoyed this read. Once I got started I couldn't seem to put it down. The story and characters' uniqueness is what really sucked me in. If you're a jaded paranormal reader and are tired of reading the same plot line with new characters, give this book a try. I bet you haven't read anything similar.
I think the book was written perfectly for teen enjoyment. I'm a little older than the target audience but I never found this detracting from my own enjoyment. There were no eye-roll moments or frustrating (as an older reader) scenes which are most often my problem with YA books. I found all of the situations and emotions relatable and believable despite the fantasy elements.
I completely adored Chase. It took a while for him to grow on me because I was convinced he couldn't be as wonderful as he seemed in the beginning but Maddie is definitely a lucky lady. Chase was literally my perfect YA hero; protective without being a caveman, caring, chivalrous, handsome, funny etc. I'm so glad the book split the POVs in half between Maddie and him with a few guests thrown in. I loved having a chance at getting into his head.
I only had one issue while reading The Key. The very beginning, first two or three chapters (there are nearly fifty so it's not very much of the book), was rough going for me. I think it's because I was confused and there was a POV change, which was a little too soon for me, or maybe it was because I was simply acclimating to the characters and story and couldn't appreciate the book yet. Either way, I reread that section after finishing the book and found I loved it just as much as the rest. I wanted to mention that though for any future readers who might have the same experience. Stick with it, it's not a very long patch. The book gets wonderful really quickly and you'll come to appreciate the introduction of some great characters.(less)