4.5 Stars. As soon as I saw the description of this book, I had to have it. It turned out to be nothing like I was expecting. And boy, was I impressed4.5 Stars. As soon as I saw the description of this book, I had to have it. It turned out to be nothing like I was expecting. And boy, was I impressed. Written like it flowed from the pen of one of my favorite historical fiction novelists, this is the tale of a young Vlad the Impaler, but with one major twist: Vlad's a girl. The back cover blurb actually does a really good job of summing up the plot, so I will skip the detailed recap and tell you what I loved about it.
This is the story of Lada, a girl in a man's world, a brutal world of conquerors and the conquered, a world where women are little more than heir-producing ornaments. But emboldened by her father's admiration for her fierceness, she dares to envision a different future for herself, one where she rules her beloved Wallachia. But it's also the story of her little brother, Radu. The son of a warrior who would rather be a scholar. A dreamer. A boy overshadowed by his savage sister. Theirs is a complicated relationship. But when their father sends them to the Ottoman Empire court as hostages to ensure his good behavior and then defaults on his promises, their relationship becomes one of ensuring mutual survival. Enter the sultan's son, Mehmed, and the ties that bind become both lifelines and cages. Thrust into the center of power, intrigue, and war, all three come of age knowing what is expected of them but daring to hope for something different. When opportunities arise and are seized, betrayal, heartbreak, and bittersweet triumph result.
Having read White's first novel, Paranormalcy, I was skeptical of her ability to pull this concept off convincingly. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Paranormalcy. It's sassy and fun, but it's also a bit of fluff compared to historical fiction. But I was quickly convinced of her skills. White's research shows in her attention to detail and in her ability to take a brutal and bloodthirsty era in history and pare it down to basic human nature and instinct, something we can all understand, even if we can't imagine making those choices ourselves. The description is lush, the characterization excellent. Lada is one of the more unique heroines I've come across in young adult fiction. She is unapologetically who she is. Tough as nails, conniving, demanding, unforgiving, yet achingly vulnerable. And Radu was a pleasant surprise. I was not expecting to love him as much as I did. He is everything that Lada is not—something that Lada both hates and admires—and the dichotomy between them and their alternating viewpoints is brilliant. The tangled web of vassal states and rival warlords and their relationship with their Ottoman master makes for one heck of a backdrop. Not to mention the breathtaking scenery that is the actual backdrop of this region and this story.
Some of my adoration wore off as a love triangle developed, which I thought rather unnecessary. They already had extremely complicated and nuanced relationships without making it a romantic triangle. But Lada is not the kind of girl to let emotions—or any man—deter her from her ultimate goal, so I don't think that will come into play much in the second book. I have seen some reviewers lament that the story moves too slowly, and perhaps for some young adult readers not accustomed to historical fiction, it may take a while to get into. They may also be uncomfortable with some of the accurate historical depictions. It is a bit of a slow burn in the beginning as White takes the time to acclimate the reader with this world and the players in it, but I was hooked from page one and savored the ride. And I Darken is one of my favorite reads of 2016 so far, and I am anxiously awaiting the sequel and Lada's hard-fought rise to power....more
3.5 Stars. I was hooked on the description of 'Til Death Do us Part and had to get my hands on a copy. (Thanks NetGalley!) I was immediately drawn int3.5 Stars. I was hooked on the description of 'Til Death Do us Part and had to get my hands on a copy. (Thanks NetGalley!) I was immediately drawn into this story of Calista, a matchmaking businesswoman who acquires a murderous stalker, and Trent, the scarred and brooding mystery writer who comes out of his seclusion to help her. Together they uncover a string of murdered young women in the stalker's wake and must stay a step ahead of him before he makes Calista his next victim.
Unfortunately, 'Til Death Do Us Part did not quite live up to my expectations. Though it did at first. I was loving the first half of the story. An excellent buildup of mystery with a truly frightening and creepy villain. I didn't even mind the multiple points of view as they were used rather cleverly to reveal little clues and heighten the suspense. But as Calista and Trent and their siblings get into the business of solving the case, there's a lot of rehashing of things the reader already knows when they all sit down together to compare notes, and I found the story dragged during those parts.
But the real reason for the downgrade in enjoyment is that I thought it seriously lacking in the romance department. The plot focuses so heavily on the murders and solving them that the romance gets pushed to the back burner, even though the hero and heroine spend so much time together. I loved both Trent and Calista, and I loved them together as mystery-solving partners, but I really needed to see more sexual tension between them before they became lovers and then more tenderness and emotion afterward and on their way to a happily ever after. The consummation of their desire and the progression of their relationship after that felt almost clinical to me, with none of the passion and soul-deep love I've come to expect from a great romance.
I give the author big props for crafting the story in such a way that I did not figure out who the real villain was before the big reveal, and for incorporating a lot of creepy historical ambiance, particularly in the form of the Victorians' obsession with death and the rituals they created around it, but the love story itself really got short-changed here, and thus I can't rank it among my favorites....more
OMG! A New Adult novel with a hero who isn't a player-slash-asshole and a couple that actually forms a functional, caring, communicative relationship-OMG! A New Adult novel with a hero who isn't a player-slash-asshole and a couple that actually forms a functional, caring, communicative relationship--and all of that before they even get close to hopping into bed together? Quite refreshing. It gets big thumbs up for that alone!
It's not perfect, and it almost lost me in the beginning, but I hung in there and became hooked before too long. The writing style could use a little polishing, but overall I really liked it. It's very funny. Humor comes easily to this story and I think it's because Kelli has a truly natural, totally believable, intelligent, teenage girl voice. I found myself smiling and chuckling through most of the book. And it's also a very sweet and kind of off-the-wall love story.
Original and almost wholesome--a memorable stand-out in the genre for me....more
Started off pretty good, but about halfway through it started becoming very cheesy and too predictable. I might give it another try one day, then agaiStarted off pretty good, but about halfway through it started becoming very cheesy and too predictable. I might give it another try one day, then again I might not....more
Two days later and I still can't stop thinking about it. Even re-read my favorite parts today. Sucks to have to wait till June to get my own copy! RevTwo days later and I still can't stop thinking about it. Even re-read my favorite parts today. Sucks to have to wait till June to get my own copy! Review to come......more
I wanted to love this, and the first chapter really sucked me in, but after 150 pages I skipped to the end to see what happened. Its biggest problem iI wanted to love this, and the first chapter really sucked me in, but after 150 pages I skipped to the end to see what happened. Its biggest problem is a real lack of subtlety in the writing, especially when it comes to foreshadowing and presenting plot points. And there's too much head-hopping for my taste, which also aids in taking away any element of surprise....more
Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, is doing his former commanding officer and close friend a favor by marrying his daughter and saving the familAnthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, is doing his former commanding officer and close friend a favor by marrying his daughter and saving the family from bankruptcy. But he’s not pleased to discover that his bride-to-be was not raised to know her place as a lady of society. No wife of his will be out riding stallions, competing in archery competitions, and taking fencing lessons! She’ll have to be tamed if she’s to take her place by his side in London, and he’s not looking forward to the task. But once he has a moment alone with the tempting beauty, he decides that taming her may be a rather delightful endeavor, and that he is exactly the right man for the job.
Caroline Montague is not happy at being forced into marriage with a man not of her choosing, but she loves her father and is prepared to do what she must to save him from ruin. Unfortunately, her new fiance rubs her the wrong way from the moment she discovers him waiting for her in her darkened bedroom. His invasion of her privacy and ridiculous assumptions about marriage and her role in his life light a fire in her, but his handsome looks and commanding presence also light a fire in her, of a very different sort indeed.
After a quick engagement and a hasty wedding, Anthony and Caroline are off to his country estate in Shropshire, where they spend their days butting heads and their nights exploring every inch of each other’s bodies. The passion between them is intense, and despite Anthony’s efforts to curb her wild behavior, Caroline finds herself falling in love with him. But is his interest in her purely sexual? Why does he keep her secluded on his estate? Why won’t he take her with him on his business trips to London? Why won’t he open up to her about his past and his feud with the dashing Lord Carlyle, who seems to be genuinely concerned for Caroline’s welfare and happiness? Anthony’s keeping secrets. And because he is, Caroline feels entitled to keep a few secrets of her own. While the cat’s away, the mouse will play…
Meanwhile, Anthony thinks he’s doing the right thing by keeping his young wife safe and ignorant of the darker aspects of his life. But he doesn’t realize he is undermining her trust in him and jeopardizing the shaky truce of their newfound wedded bliss. And there are also some outside forces working against our couple. Anthony has a bitch of a former mistress who is not happy about being let go after ten years of faithful service. And the more he warns Caroline away from his enemy Lord Carlyle, the more leverage Carlyle gains against him. And you just know all of that is going to hit the fan in epic style at the Twelfth Night ball where Anthony is finally going to show his beautiful country bride off to the Prince Regent and the rest of the London ton. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen and I couldn’t turn my eyes away from it!
I really enjoyed this romance. I'm not normally a big fan of storylines where the hero sees the heroine for the first time and vows he will have her in his bed at all costs, and that's pretty much the way this one starts out. But it ended up working really well in the long run. I liked both of the lead characters--they were very nice foils for each other. There's a big age difference between them, and I thought it was handled very realistically. There is a lot of good, angst-y tension, and the story zips right along, interspersed with quotes from The Taming of the Shrew. It's pretty sexy too :) I thought it was a very good start to Ms. English's Shakespeare in Love series, though I did feel like the storylines involving Anthony's sister and his best friend were introduced only to be left hanging, I'm assuming (and hoping) that's because we'll be seeing them again in stories of their own. It's been twenty years since I saw a production of The Taming of the Shrew and I don't remember much, so I can't judge how well the story does or does not follow the theme, and How to Tame a Willful Wife is light on the history, but it is a very satisfying romance, and that ending--oh! The reader has to wait awhile for Anthony to finally come to his senses, but when he does, it's totally swoon-worthy! Fans of Regency romance should really enjoy this one....more
3.5 Stars. So originally I read the first two pages of this and set it aside, thinking it was actually a mean girls high school clique book instead of3.5 Stars. So originally I read the first two pages of this and set it aside, thinking it was actually a mean girls high school clique book instead of the creepy ghost story I'd been expecting. But I was in the mood for some teen angst, so I picked it back up a few days later and pretty quickly became absorbed in it. In a nutshell: Jade's family moves into their dream house in a new town, but it turns out the meanest and most popular girl in school died there under suspicious circumstances, and her malicious spirit is now haunting the house and won't leave until Jade finds out who killed her. So Jade, the new girl in school, infiltrates Kayla's old clique and discovers many people had motives for killing Kayla, including both of her ex-boyfriends, who now both want to be Jade's boyfriend. But are they attracted to her for who she is or because she's a link to Kayla?
There is some clique-y stuff in the story, but it doesn't overwhelm it, and I was pretty intrigued by Jade's love interests. Jade is a good character too: smart, sensible, natural, and gutsy--although prone to whining--and her gemology hobby and its presence in the story was a nice touch. At times the ghost story is a tad creepy, but it's nothing too serious or spine-tingling. I figured out halfway through who did it, but there was some doubt in my mind right up till the end with secrets coming out all over the place and casting serious suspicion on other characters. There was a sweet surprise at the end that brought tears to my eyes, and though the ending comes about very quickly, it was very satisfying. I ended up enjoying The Dead and Buried, but I can't say that it really has anything going for it that makes it memorable or able to stand out from the crowd....more
3.5 Stars. Well-written, creepy, and wonderfully atmospheric with a great cast of intriguing characters, a mystery that kept me guessing, a couple of3.5 Stars. Well-written, creepy, and wonderfully atmospheric with a great cast of intriguing characters, a mystery that kept me guessing, a couple of good "WTF" moments, and a subtle yet powerful love story. I couldn't put it down. But the ending, though unpredictable and poignant, left me feeling dissatisfied and empty. Kind of tarnished what had been a really good read....more
I really liked the first half of this book, which introduced us to Jake Hayes, a popular senior who had it all, and then followed his struggle to putI really liked the first half of this book, which introduced us to Jake Hayes, a popular senior who had it all, and then followed his struggle to put his life back together after a drunken crash robbed him not only of his voice, but of his confidence and his passions and his dreams, too. The premise really intrigued me, Jake won my heart right away, and I couldn't wait to see how he would find the courage to tell his life-long crush Samantha that he loved her when he had never been able to do so before when he could still speak. I loved the depiction of life on a small island and the dynamics of a large, close-knit family, and I thought the unraveling of his relationships with his friends who were also in the accident but not badly hurt was very realistic. It was pretty emotional at times watching Jake cope with his new reality, and his increasing closeness with Sam was sweet and heartwarming.
But then the book shifted focus from Jake and the repercussions of his accident to Samantha and her home life problems, and that wasn't what I wanted to read about. It would have made a nice subplot, but having it take over Jake's story didn't really work for me. And that monumental scene I'd been waiting for since before I started reading ended up being rather anti-climactic and uneventful. It's by no means a bad book and I give it props for tackling serious subject matter, and there are plenty of glowing reviews, so if it intrigues you, read it. But for me it didn't quite live up to my expectations. ...more
Got about halfway through, but it's just not doing it for me. Nothing particularly wrong with it, aside from a rather slow pace, so I may try it againGot about halfway through, but it's just not doing it for me. Nothing particularly wrong with it, aside from a rather slow pace, so I may try it again one day....more