3.5 stars Is it possible to enjoy a psychological thriller even if you guess the mystery in the prologue? Being well written but somewhat predictable,3.5 stars Is it possible to enjoy a psychological thriller even if you guess the mystery in the prologue? Being well written but somewhat predictable, We’ll Never be Apart by Emiko Jean brings forth this dilemma I struggled to resolve before deciding whether to recommend the book. On the one side, the plot Jean crafted is largely dependent upon the big reveal in the last few chapters, a mystery that can be guessed on the very first pages. On the other side, though, the book has plenty going for it along the way, and Emiko Jean’s writing style itself is enough to make this worth our while.
Alice and Cellie have a very unusual, co-dependent relationship, even for twins. They adore each other, but Cellie doesn’t allow anyone to get too close to Alice or she becomes extremely violent. Both sisters are obviously troubled, but Alice seems more vulnerable – until Cellie kills Alice’s boyfriend Jason in a fit of jealousy. We meet Alice in the days following the incident as she struggles to find her footing in a mental ward at Savage Isle. She misses Jason terribly and she’s desperate to find Cellie and exact revenge. Through her diary entries, we also learn more about the girls’ past, the history of Cellie’s behavior and Alice’s desire to protect her. The two have been inseparable their whole lives, through far too many foster homes and several abusive situations.
Subtle foreshadowing isn’t one of Emiko Jean’s strengths. Everything that was meant to be a small hint is actually a big neon sign in the reader’s face. It is virtually impossible not to guess the big mystery, but somehow, that doesn’t take away too much from the book’s appeal. The power of this book is in uncovering small details, understanding everyone’s motives and the depth or their madness. Despite her less than subtle approach, Emiko Jean writes well and she knows how to create a creepy atmosphere.
All things considered, We’ll Never Be Apart is a decent read, a good choice for readers who enjoy feeling unsettled. Despite being a bit predictable, it’s a good enough book to deserve a few hours of your time.
Often the most difficult books to review are those we love the most. How many superlatives can I possibly write before you grow bored and run off to r Often the most difficult books to review are those we love the most. How many superlatives can I possibly write before you grow bored and run off to read something else? It’s been a while since this reader felt the need to gush unashamedly, but today seems to be the day for it. Sabaa Tahir’s mesmerizing debut left me drowning in my own tears, wondering what on earth took me so long to read it.
An Ember in the Ashes takes place in a dystopian world enriched with elements of Arabian mythology. The quality of Tahir’s worldbuilding is superb and she draws every detail with unparalleled clarity and precision. She doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of oppression. Under the Empire, Laia’s country is shattered by tyranny and killing, the Scholars’ spirits suffocated under the Martials’ unforgiving treatment. There isn’t a single ray of light for these enslaved, brutally tortured people, and even the Resistance often sounds like a distant fairy tale.
Laia is neither the bravest of heroines, nor is she the most competent, but there is something in her relentless efforts to save her brother that draws us immediately to her. Even when she runs and cowers, you understand that she has a backbone of steel just waiting to be discovered. She isn’t a fighter and she can’t be described as reckless, but she is persistent and she is a survivor.
Despite being an elite soldier in the Martial army, Elias is even easier to like. There is an innate goodness that shines in his every thought and action, an attitude that sets him miles apart from those around him. With the Masks in Elias’s school, Tahir shows us the full extent of the Empire’s cruelty. Their treatment of their own children is often even worse than their treatment of slaves.
The story is made even stronger by the variety of relationships portrayed. Some of them are strong enough to be their own plotlines, and even those that get no page time, like Laia’s relationship with her brother, are explored in great depth and detail. In order to understand any of them, you need to see the whole picture, understand their personalities and backgrounds and really consider how this bond came to be. The most interesting, perhaps, was Elias’s relationship with his best friend, Helene. As the only girl in their school, Helene is tougher, braver and stronger than most boys, but still an outcast. Elias himself is an outcast due to his parentage, and the relationship that develops between them in their 15 years of training and mental conditioning is one of the most in depth explorations I’ve ever read.
The plot is a twisty, tangled thing that nevertheless gives the impression of being perfectly planned and executed. Every small detail is in its place, every little thing sharpened to perfection. Credit needs to be given to Tahir for such careful consideration. An Ember in the Ashes is a labor of love, and it shows.
With the second book right around the corner, it seems to be the perfect time to pick this up if you haven’t already. This wonderful book is the best YA debut of 2015 and one of the best I myself have ever stumbled upon.
Fish Out of Water is the very first mystery penned by Amy Lane, a living legend of the M/M romance genre. Lane usually writes contemporary romance witFish Out of Water is the very first mystery penned by Amy Lane, a living legend of the M/M romance genre. Lane usually writes contemporary romance with the occasional forays into PNR, but her desire to branch out further was met with a lot of well deserved enthusiasm. As with everything else she does, Lane runs this story smoothly with seemingly no effort at all, her experience as a writer shining through despite her relative inexperience with mysteries themselves.
Amy Lane is known for her fully fleshed out, dynamic character. Lane is a student of human nature and she uses her vast knowledge to give us characters we will never forget. Nobody breaks them or fixes them quite like she does. Jackson Rivers is one of those – broken almost beyond repair, but honorable and principled as a rule. Jackson was betrayed by his birth mother, by the system and by the police force. Now a private investigator in a law firm, he trusts no one but his three best friends, two of which are also his foster family. The world doesn’t care about Jackson and Jackson doesn’t care about the world, but he would die in a second for his foster brother Kaden and his family.
As the second protagonist and Jackson’s love interest, Ellery doesn’t have such strong impact, but only because his past isn’t quite so traumatic. With his strength, determination and integrity, he is precisely what Jackson needs, even though the PI is reluctant to admit it. Ellery’s approach to life and love is simply amazing. He handles Jackson’s issues matter-of-factly, providing rock solid support and unflinching honesty.
The romance, however, is secondary. Lane has her characters busy uncovering corruption, being shot at, attacked at every turn and isolated on all sides. Despite being emotionally damaged, Jackson is fantastic at what he does, and Ellery’s quick thinking helps to move them forward. Lane planned this very thoroughly and competently, although I sensed some insecurity in the execution. Several times I had to go back to reread because explanations and discoveries tended to be confusing. Nevertheless, it’s a minor flaw in an overall successful novel that left me hungry for more of Amy Lane’s writing.
Although it hasn’t been announced just yet, Fish Out of Water is obviously the start of a new series. Several things were left unresolved and Lane wouldn’t just abandon us with all those loose threads to keep us awake at night. Whenever it comes, Jackson and Ellery’s new adventure will be a treat for the fans.
Bite, K. S. Merbeth’s entertaining debut, shines like the bright star it is as we follow a ragtag group of misfits with no sense of self-preservationBite, K. S. Merbeth’s entertaining debut, shines like the bright star it is as we follow a ragtag group of misfits with no sense of self-preservation and an unholy love of violence. Fans of post-apocalyptic movies like Mad Max will find plenty to love in this bloody debut. If you are bothered by severed body parts, you should perhaps skip this one, but if you are one of those readers who like to see their characters swimming in blood, this is an excellent choice for you.
16-year-old Kid accepts a ride from a strange-looking pair, knowing full well that she might not make it to the other side alive. The two are obviously up to something, but Kid doesn’t really care that much. She wants to be with someone for a change instead of wandering the wasteland alone. Wolfe and Dolly are soon joined by the rest of their people and Kid somehow ends up on the run with them. The fact that they are sharks (killers and cannibals) doesn’t matter much to our Kid. When they start saving her life and she starts saving theirs, she realizes she’s finally found a place to fully belong.
“I’m not really the thinking sort of person,” I say. “Usually I kind of dive headfirst into things and hope it works out for the best. It, uh, doesn’t seem to be going so well right now.”
Bite is a bloody odyssey that follows the adventures of a cannibalistic crew in a world that’s long been dead. If you think you could never sympathize with killers and cannibals, think again. Merbeth makes them practically irresistible in no time at all, making us root for them as they jump from one crazy, impossible plan to the next. None of the characters in Kid’s gang – Wolf, Dolly, Pretty Boy, Tank or Kid herself – have any sort of history that can be shared, but Merbeth still does an excellent job with their characterization. The point is to have five people with no pasts and no names and give them enough personality to be impressive. The strength lies in their relationships (none of them romantic) and their odd sense of loyalty in a world that doesn’t tolerate kindness or kinship. They may be a group of psychos who loot and kill whenever they get a chance, but they are still human, with real feelings and friendships.
The nuclear wasteland provides a fabulous backdrop for this bloody, insane story. Wolf and his people make ludicrous plans with almost no chance of success, they set their eyes on a target (usually guns or food) and go off half-cocked and they still come out on top. Wolf himself is selfish, suicidal and often cruel, and he loves his grenades, but his occasional moments of chivalry and his odd sense of loyalty override his messed up personality.
This story is not for the squeamish or the faint-hearted, but if you enjoy stories with plenty of dark humor, unforgettable characters and a whole lot of blood and gore, this is an excellent choice for you. It’s certainly the most fun I’ve had in ages.
The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson is a touching YA debut by Sean Kennedy, an Australian author with three adult romance novels behind him. SeanThe Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson is a touching YA debut by Sean Kennedy, an Australian author with three adult romance novels behind him. Sean’s Tigers and Devils series is extremely successful, with many loyal fans waiting breathlessly for the next installment. A YA spin off was unexpected but most welcome, and, I can now say, very successful.
We first met Micah Johnson in Tigers on the Run, the third Tigers and Devils novel, as one of Declan’s protégés in his charity organization Get Out. Declan is uniquely qualified to help LGBT teens with possible careers in sports, which is precisely what he does. Although he wasn’t the center of the story, Micah’s problems played a very important part and we learned a lot about who he is and what his troubles might be. In Ongoing Reformation, we finally get his side of the story, which isn’t all that different from Declan’s, and we see him trying to fix his mistakes and learn to better deal with his circumstances, including the stress of possibly being drafted to the AFL.
This book brings about a new beginning for Micah. We first find him somewhat reformed and repentant, but still unable to control his temper or handle challenges that get thrown at him every day. After the ugly way Micah was outed, deep anger is perfectly understandable, although sometimes hard to swallow. Micah’s actions are often difficult to watch through adult eyes, but it’s enough to remember how angry we all were as teens, and most of us never faced homophobia or outright hostility.
Sean obviously remembers well what it’s like to be in Micah’s position because he approaches Micah’s challenges with such deep understanding. He piled a lot of problems on our poor Micah, but he gave him a strong support system as well. Micah’s parents were more or less unknown in Tigers on the Run, but here they truly shine, and their unwavering support means so much to Micah. Declan and Simon do their best, and it’s Declan’s opinion that Micah cares about the most. There are several old friends along the way, as Micah struggles to fit in with someone his own age.
Unlike Sean’s other books, this one is not a romance, although there’s a light romantic interest in it for Micah. Even when he’s writing for adults, Sean’s books tend to be more about the characters, and less about the explicit sex scenes, which is even more true here.This is a real coming of age story, honest, humorous and above all, diverse.
It isn’t strictly necessary to read Tigers on the Run before this, but it helps. If you enjoy funny, low-angst romances with wonderful underlying messages, his books are a great choice for you. I would start from the beginning (Tigers and Devils) and end up here. You’re guaranteed to discover a cast of characters you won’t be able to live without.
There’s an interesting story somewhere in What the Dead Want, although it’s so well hidden that you’ll have trouble finding it. Norah Olson’s sophomorThere’s an interesting story somewhere in What the Dead Want, although it’s so well hidden that you’ll have trouble finding it. Norah Olson’s sophomore novel requires a lot of patience and faith. The first part appears to be a confusing, unconnected series of chapters from several points of view, and this goes on long enough that even the most patient reader starts thinking about giving up. When things finally start to connect, they still feel distant and unemotional, and by the time things start to unravel, it’s very difficult to care at all.
It could be argued that Olson had far too many ideas, but fell short on following through. In order for a book like What the Dead Want to work, the writing needs to be immersive and atmospheric. Olson’s writing is far too simplistic to achieve the necessary depth. It’s almost like watching through a window as a fabulous meal is being cooked – you can see it happening, but none of your other senses are affected. I didn’t want to be told that Gretchen was feeling her skin crawl or that the hair on her arms and neck was rising. I wanted it to happen to me, to feel it all alongside her.
There is an excellent Civil War story in the background about saving slaves from the Ku Klux Klan, but it’s convoluted, confusing and not given nearly enough attention. The big reveal is foreshadowed a bit too strongly so it doesn’t come as a surprise at all. Even the extent of human cruelty doesn’t hurt or shock us, being written in a way that doesn’t quite reach our hearts. What the Dead Want could have been a far better story with some more careful writing and editing. As it is, it’s best to just skip it. ...more
Unforgettable adventures, an excellent fashion sense and ridiculous endearments helped Carriger’s books become the huge success they are today. AlthouUnforgettable adventures, an excellent fashion sense and ridiculous endearments helped Carriger’s books become the huge success they are today. Although she never strays away from her well established world, she always finds some way to keep it fresh and endlessly entertaining. Imprudence is perhaps the richest, most enjoyable example of her work after her debut, a book strong enough to pull in new fans, as well as satisfy the old ones.
We’re already familiar with Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama and her shenanigans. Having first met her when she was merely a toddler and after following her on her first adult adventure, we know that she’s determined, brave, intelligent and witty. Her crew is also pleasantly familiar – Primrose and Percy, Tasherit the lioness shifter, Spoo, and of course, young mister Quesnel Lafoux.
We find Rue in a bit of trouble with Queen Victoria herself for protecting the weremonkeys. She is stripped of her status and protections, the implications of which she doesn’t understand, and sent on her way to fend for herself. With her majority, she even lost the protection of her powerful parents, which left her free, but also very vulnerable. Still, it’s not Rue who is in danger in Imprudence – it’s everyone else, it seems. Her Paw needs more help than Lady Maccon can provide, Percy has managed to unwittingly endanger the lion shifters, and Primrose keeps getting engaged to military officials with attractive legs.
Imprudence is non-stop adventure with many laugh-out-loud moments. Whether it’s a sky chase, academic dispute or a young lady’s education of a very private nature, there is never a shortage of excitement. The adorable romance just adds another layer to it without becoming overwhelming or particularly angsty. Rue is not one to wallow in misery and she faces her challenges head on, so when a certain gentleman runs off in a huff, she does what any sensible lady would do – she cries in her teacup and then moves on. Quesnel is an excellent choice for her, charming and funny, with a spine made of steel.
Traveling to Egypt on The Spotted Custard would be fun under any circumstances, but with Rue’s companions and some very dear characters from The Parasol Protectorate, it’s a true delight. I just hope that more is yet to come.
4.5 stars A World Without You is one of those books that invades your every thought, controls your every breath and breaks your heart, only to rebuild4.5 stars A World Without You is one of those books that invades your every thought, controls your every breath and breaks your heart, only to rebuild it as the better, stronger version of itself. In this genre-bending gem of a book, Revis explores mental illness, loss and guilt that lead to never before seen depths of self-delusion and fear. For a more careful reader, reading it can be an eye-opening experience, as each new page peels away one more bit of prejudice of which we were completely unaware.
Revis succeeds in making us question our own minds as we slowly discover the depths of Bo’s psychosis. We know that he doesn’t actually travel through time – even the book blurb doesn’t attempt to hide that fact – but Bo is so deeply convinced by his own delusions that at times his conviction influences us, too. The sobering moments in which well meaning people try to make Bo see the truth serve as an awakening for us too, and they fill us with sadness and sympathy for this deeply delusional boy.
As we witness the life of Bo’s family through his sister Phoebe’s eyes (several chapters are from her point of view), we see that mental illness still carries the stigma it once did. The deep shame felt by Bo’s father, the complete denial from his mother and the jealous anger coming from his sister would have surely hurt Bo even more deeply had he been fully aware of their actions. None of them ever told anyone that there was something very wrong with Bo, that he was mentally ill and essentially hospitalized. Phoebe lied to her friends, their father buried himself in piles of work and their mother closed herself off from life. Revis showed quite clearly how illness affects more than one person, how it spreads and how the family rots from within. It is very hard not to assign blame, not to despise those who are not supportive enough, and very difficult to understand that people’s defense mechanisms often fail when they need them the most.
Every aspect of Bo’s journey in this book is incredibly painful. He is drowning in guilt for failing to notice the full extent of Sofía’s depression, he’s running from all the hard truths and becoming increasingly paranoid with each new collision with reality. Revis’s powerful writing carries us through all his moods and hallucinations, and through her immense skill, we drown in Bo’s mind, we feel his heart and we understand his pain all too well. Reality abandons us as it abandons him, and oftentimes we get carried away, believing him in our hearts instead of trusting our own minds.
We see the important secondary characters only through Bo’s eyes and we can merely guess at the nature of their illnesses. Bo’s perspective is terribly skewed, his narration the very definition of unreliable, and most people aren’t strong or important enough to penetrate the fog of his mind. His tunnel vision focus on saving Sofía prevents him from seeing anything else, and as he slides down into hallucinations and paranoia, his views of other people become even more unreliable. Nevertheless, one can conclude just enough from things written between the lines, enough to see that each of Bo’s classmates is a tragedy unfolding before our very eyes.
After The Body Electric, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites, I had no doubts left about Revis’ ability to captivate and enchant. In A World Without You, her approach is somewhat different from her previous works, her prose is quieter and more subdued, but it’s all the more powerful for it, and her incredible insightfulness and feather-light touch make this a novel people will talk about for years to come.
Model Citizen by Lissa Kasey has it all. It’s an exciting mystery, a wonderful romance and a book that pushes the limits of its genre. Kasey created a Model Citizen by Lissa Kasey has it all. It’s an exciting mystery, a wonderful romance and a book that pushes the limits of its genre. Kasey created a unique protagonist with enough complexities and nuances to make him truly unforgettable.
For Ollie Petroskovic, the loss of his older brother Nathan, his only living family member, is devastating. He abandons his modeling career to take over Nathan’s PI business, without a license or any real experience in the field. While Ollie struggles with the feeling of abandonment caused by his brother’s suicide, good friends join forces to keep his head above water. His brother’s old army friend, Kade, comes to live with him and help with the business, but Ollie can’t trust that Kade won’t abandon him just like Nathan did.
There are so very few truly gender fluid characters like Ollie. He was based on Stav Strashko, an androgynous Israeli model who identifies as a woman because society demands it, but who’d prefer not to be categorized at all. Ollie identifies as male, but often dresses in women’s clothes of his own making and fully embraces his gender fluidity. He is a highly paid model at the height of his career and he loves and respects his body precisely how it was made.
Lissa Kasey did an excellent job of explaining the challenges a person like Ollie must face every day, even from those who love him the most. Someone who doesn’t fit into the gender binary molds of society struggles to find a place and be accepted. Even his best friend often failed to take Ollie seriously enough, and the overprotective stance of those closest to him often drove him crazy. But even more than that, the expectations for him to be something easy to define and describe were often crushing. Although he struggled with his role and the way people viewed him, Ollie’s self-image never suffered for a second. We desperately need more characters like him, beacons of hope and self-respect with wonderful defense mechanisms and so much bravery.
The plot itself is very well done and I applaud Kasey for keeping me fully engaged from start to finish. Ollie investigates a case involving his childhood friend and a porn reality show called Sex House. He doesn’t have his PI license nor is he particularly intimidating, but he is very good with people and incredibly clever. Ollie never stumbled around with his case and he never gave me the feeling that I was waiting for him to catch up. He only needed to prove his suspicions and his methods tended to be successful.
Aside from being a good mystery and a thrilling romance, Model Citizen is necessary to the genre. Everything about this book is wonderful and I’d strongly recommend it to everyone, even those who don’t usually choose their reads within the M/M genre.
For me, the summer always brings a craving for mysteries and thrillers. There’s something about these hot days that demands only the most exciting stoFor me, the summer always brings a craving for mysteries and thrillers. There’s something about these hot days that demands only the most exciting stories. Having missed The Bones of You, Debbie Howells’ praised psychological thriller, I decided to start with her newest release and work my way backwards if I happen to enjoy it. Although she’s often compared to Gillian Flynn and other famous mystery writers, Howells’ prose lacks the strength of books like Gone Girl. Despite its promising premise, The Beauty of the End is a colorless, uninspiring book that fails to grab attention or bring forth any real emotions.
The story is told from two seemingly unrelated points of view. Noah carries most of the narrative, but there are occasional interludes during which we follow a young girl named Ella. In addition, Noah’s story constantly jumps back and forth in time, from his early school days, to his days in college, to current events. Noah thoughts, and therefore his narration, are focused on one thing only – his childhood sweetheart and the only girl he’s ever loved, April. When he gets news that April is in a coma and that she’s accused of murdering her stepfather, Noah abandons the life he’s built and runs to her rescue, despite not seeing her for 16 years.
For a former lawyer and a crime writer, Noah is unbelievably clueless. His whole life he worshiped his idea of April, a girl that never really existed, while the actual person remained a mystery to him. There were so many things he should have read correctly, so many truths he should have seen. Watching him stumble about, being the very last person to know everything, was painful and not a little bit frustrating.
I imagine the story was meant to be complex and extremely suspenseful, but it lacked any real urgency. I wouldn’t call this story a thriller at all. If anything, it’s a tragedy of two people that were never meant to be. I had issues with the villain, too, seeing as he was both cartoonish and painfully obvious from the start.
The Beauty of the End is for those who enjoy dramas and tragedies, introspective stories with no HEA guaranteed. ...more
The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan is the type of fantasy that will satisfy even the most demanding reader. Ryan envisioned a very dark world, an odd comThe Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan is the type of fantasy that will satisfy even the most demanding reader. Ryan envisioned a very dark world, an odd combination of futuristic and steampunk elements with bits of swashbuckling adventure thrown into the mix that actually works extremely well. In some aspects, it seems to be ahead of our times, what with government and democracy being long forgotten, but paradoxically, things like the social structure call back times long past. There are illiterate servants, steampunk gadgets, and yet women seem completely emancipated and considered equal in every way.
In Ryan’s world, dragonlike creatures, drakes, are hunted and exploited for their blood. Each color of drakes gives different abilities, but only to those who are blood-blessed. Much like the Jedi, the blood-blessed are discovered early and trained to serve the Ironship Syndicate, with only the rare few managing to remain unregistered.
The Waking Fire is told from three different points of view, more or less evenly divided. One is Lizanne Lethridge, a blod-blessed secret operative for the Syndicate. Next is an unregistered blod-blessed thief with deep ties to the criminal underworld. The third is a naval officer on an ironclad warship. The story revolves around the mythical White drake, never seen but desperately wished for by the Syndicate.
Like all good fantasy books, The Waking Fire is a social commentary, a not so subtle review of capitalistic society. It shows where our fixation on supply and demand could possibly lead, and the future is rather bleak. There is no government in Arradsia – the continent is ruled by the Ironship Syndicate, its shareholders and the product (drake blood) itself. They consider everyone else beneath them and ridicule those who adhere to their monarchies. The cultural differences are huge, the progress far too rapid and the divide too difficult to overcome.
The biggest flaw that can be pointed out is the sheer number of secondary and tertiary characters with similar names. At one point, there were a Talmant, a Trumane and a Tottleborn on a single ship, in a single chapter (and never interacting with each other). Therefore, aside from figuring out the chain of command and the rather complicated relationships, we have to struggle just to figure out who exactly our protagonist is talking to. It took me about four chapters from Hilemore’s point of view to learn to tell them apart. That sort of thing puts an unnecessary burden on the reader and draws the focus away from what’s truly important.
The Waking Fire isn’t for those who prefer fantasy-lite. It has a rather complex world that requires patience and persistence, but it’s worth it. Anthony Ryan used every one of those 592 pages extremely well. With his clever writing style and a talent for twisty plots, he produced a series opener everyone will be talking about in no time at all.
2.5 stars With the rising popularity of YA mysteries/thrillers and the never-ending demands for a creepy and suspenseful read, The Killer in Me was pr
2.5 stars With the rising popularity of YA mysteries/thrillers and the never-ending demands for a creepy and suspenseful read, The Killer in Me was pretty much guaranteed to succeed before it was even finished. The few early reviews that could be found had nothing but praise for Harrison’s debut, emphasizing mind-boggling twists and a very creepy atmosphere. A reliable publisher and a truly fantastic cover only added to the conviction that we hold a future bestseller in our hands, a book destined to be loved by many, regardless of their age.
The truth, for this reader, is vastly different. There is no doubt whatsoever that Margot Harrison had a fantastic idea, but unfortunately, the execution was lacking. Starting with the characters and ending with confusingly written scenes, The Killer in Me hides far too many disappointments and offers too few concrete answers.
There are several good things that can be pointed out about this book, the first and foremost being the original and unusual premise. Anything at all could be considered a spoiler in this case, so it’s best to just stick to generalities. Harrison found a fairly original approach to serial killers, something we haven’t seen before, at least not in YA. The opening chapters are purposely confusing and very promising, giving us the impression that the rest will be just as exciting. The author is also very talented when it comes to writing dialogues. All interactions between characters seem natural and unforced, or at least as much as they can, considering the tense circumstances.
The characters themselves, however, are still mostly unclear to me. Neither Nina nor Warren ever felt fully developed. I can’t really discuss my issues without giving away spoilers, nor can I mention the things that bothered me the most, but suffice it to say that Harrison’s characterization could have been better. The three main characters had such unexplored potential, things that could have been used to turn this into a truly memorable book, but the author chose to merely scratch the surface and to focus instead on plot twists that matter less the second we stop caring for the protagonists.
As for these plot twists everyone seems to be raving about, they truly are virtually impossible to predict. If there’s one thing I loved about this book, it’s that it managed to surprise me. However, the most important chapters were the most confusing, and the actual events are still a bit foggy for me. When dreams and reality intersect, it must be very clear where one ends and the other begins lest we end up with incomprehensible Inception moments that remain unclear until the very end.
It bears repeating that I seem to be very alone in my opinion, so please take it with a grain of salt. Read a sample at least, try to see if this book is something that might work for you. And if you do read it, please come back to discuss. I look forward to it.
Eli Easton’s books have always been a special treat for me. I love how deceptively simple her romances can be, how easy it is for her to pull me in,
Eli Easton’s books have always been a special treat for me. I love how deceptively simple her romances can be, how easy it is for her to pull me in, how realistic her characters always seem and how genuine the emotions between them appear to be. I can be quite nitpicky when it comes to my favorite romance authors, but Easton has never given me any reason for complaint. Second Harvest warmed my heart and made me really feel the love.
Our two heroes are the farthest thing from reckless youth. They have both lived a dozen lives and been through so much. By the time they meet, they are tired of their circumstances and ready for a change, even if they don’t dare to truly wish for it. Christie has been doing the bar scene for years and the shine has truly worn off. He wants someone to come home to, someone to finally love and cherish, and he’s certain he won’t find that in a club. As a Mennonite, David won’t even acknowledge his feelings for other men, and as a 41-year old widower with two grown up kids, he’s just about ready to give up on life.
David lives in a rural, primarily Mennonite area, but Easton doesn’t develop too much neighborhood drama. While it does rear its ugly head towards the end, this book is really a journey of discovery for these two men, a quiet, introspective story filled with life, love and demons within. Just like in life, there is no shortage of homophobes, but the true fight takes place inside David’s heart and mind.
As far as David’s religion goes, Easton takes an unexpected path. I’ve read several books lately about deeply religious gay men and I thought that’s what I’d be getting here, but really, David’s faith and his feelings about God weren’t at all exaggerated. In fact, the subtle approach to this sensitive subject is perhaps my favorite thing about this book. I also loved his relationship with both his children, even (or especially) when it was hard.
This is the beginning of a series, but I can’t even imagine where Easton might go with the second book. Whichever direction it takes, I’m already looking forward to it.
3.5 stars Jayne Castle (also writing as Jayne Ann Krentz) is the queen of paranormal romance lite. Her Harmony books are wonderfully addictive, and the3.5 stars Jayne Castle (also writing as Jayne Ann Krentz) is the queen of paranormal romance lite. Her Harmony books are wonderfully addictive, and the first one I read (not the first in this series since they can function as standalones) turned me into an instant fan. I always struggle a bit to find my footing in her books since I have to catch up on the worldbuilding I’ve missed along the way, but Castle makes it easy and her books just pull me in with no effort at all.
Illusion Town is Harmony’s version of Las Vegas – City of Lights with a magical underworld. There’s everything one could possibly find in Vegas, only amplified. Our two heroes, Hannah West and Elias Coppersmith, wake up married after a date neither of them remembers. It’s clear that they both expected to lose their memories and that they married to make sure they’d stick together until the danger passes, but the source of the danger is unclear and the actual events are coming back to them in flashes.
Both Hannah and Elias are powerful, both of them used to getting their way. Elias is the son of a very rich magical family, and Hannah an orphan with two loving, eccentric aunts. The two talked online for about two months prior to their date and marriage, but they are practically strangers tied together in very stressful circumstances.
As usual, the best thing about Castle’s books is the worldbuilding. Harmony, with its alien technology and many different talents, is a constant source of delight for the reader. There is still so much to learn about this world, so many possibilities for Castle to explore. But what I truly love about her books is that they are not primarily paranormal romances, or at least they don’t read as such. As an infamous hater of all things PNR, I tend to stay away from the genre altogether (with just a few notable exceptions), but Harmony books don’t focus primarily on the romance. The plots are always well planned and executed and not just a background for the romantic endeavors of the protagonists. And the romance that’s actually there is more or less angst-free, my favorite kind.
I jumped into this series somewhere around the middle, and so can you. The books really can function as standalones, and although it takes a little bit of time to understand the world, once you do, you’ll love everything about these books. ...more
Julia Vanishes is best labeled as historical fantasy with a distinct Victorian feel. Julia lives in Spira City, where servants are generally illiteratJulia Vanishes is best labeled as historical fantasy with a distinct Victorian feel. Julia lives in Spira City, where servants are generally illiterate, witches are killed publicly and regularly, and propriety is the highest priority for everyone. Egan provides wonderful descriptions of Julia’s surroundings, without them being a burden for the narrative. While not exactly atmospheric, Julia Vanishes is deeply dependent upon its detailed setting.
Julia has the marvelous ability to remain unseen. She can choose to make herself extremely difficult to notice, which makes her career as a thief and a spy somewhat easier. Even though she’s only sixteen, she’s a very skilled actress and mole, known for her ability to discover even the best hidden secrets.
As a character, Julia remains mostly hidden during the first half of the book. Perhaps there’s just too much going on and we have to struggle to keep track of the rapidly expanding world, but it’s not until a major emotional event that we understand more about our invisible spy. Once Julia becomes clear in our heads, we can’t help but admire her fearlessness and strength. We also can’t seem to forget that she’s only 16 years old, and so very capable of taking care of herself.
It is not in my nature to turn away. Not I – I look my nightmares in the eye. And if my nightmares should look back, they see nothing but shadow. I am not there.
Julia struggles with her ever-changing circumstances. Witches are a known enemy in her world, hunted and drowned by the hundreds. But Julia, whose mother was a kindhearted witch, knows that the world is not black and white. Once she begins uncovering other secrets of the world and finding other paranormal creatures, her perspective changes rapidly. Through it all, Julia is so accepting, so difficult to surprise and scare, and even when she is scared, she handles her fear well. There is a big journey for her in this book, a road of mistakes and redemption and it would have been easy to judge her along the way. But Julia quickly lands on her feet and works toward forgiveness.
There is very little actual romance in Julia Vanishes, but there is plenty of growing up and learning to handle disappointments. Some things, although left unacknowledged, might develop into something more in the future. If it does go that way, Julia might end up with someone worthy and wonderful, intelligent and honest.
This book isn’t part of the Thriller Thursday feature for nothing. It is very exciting at tense at certain times. The monster that cuts its victims’ heads open is truly terrifying, but no monster can be worse than humans. Julia faces danger from several sides, and the action that takes place will keep you at the edge of your seats.
Several things were left wide open in the end, with only one thing abundantly clear: Julia’s future will be vastly different from her life in Esme’s gang. Better things might be ahead of her, but her strange ability and her connections pretty much guarantee dangerous and exciting times. The next book can’t come soon enough! ...more