Fragmented hits us right where it hurts the most with some things we’ve been dreading and anticipating finally coming to light. The second b
Fragmented hits us right where it hurts the most with some things we’ve been dreading and anticipating finally coming to light. The second book in the Shadow Mountain series is emotionally intense, almost suffocating, as our hearts break over and over again for Hart and Isaac both. And yet, through it all, we never lose hope and we never stop believing that things will miraculously turn out well in the end. It takes a lot of faith to go through such pain and uncertainty with our heads held high, but there is no choice for us, just as there is no choice for Hart.
Fragmented is much more focused on Isaac, but we never stop feeling Hart’s suffocating loneliness. His short time with Isaac brings him some reprieve, but as soon as Isaac becomes unreachable again, the feeling is back, stronger than ever. So much could be said about Vaughn’s ability to bring her character into the spotlight, but reveal them tom us slowly, gradually. She peels them like onions, showing us layer upon layer of genuine feelings.
Vaughn’s writing is once again a thing of beauty, elegant but unassuming. She knows precisely how to captivate her readers and she keeps the focus on her characters throughout. The mystery is once again excellent and the tension builds slowly until it becomes almost too much, with Isaac and Hart at the very center.
The Shadow Mountain series has so much more to give, with its strong, fully fleshed character and its unforgettable atmosphere. As far as I’m concerned, the next book can’t come soon enough. I’m breathlessly waiting for more. ...more
Damage Done is one of those books that push us far outside our comfort zones, making us feel confused, scared and completely disgusted. It was a cons
Damage Done is one of those books that push us far outside our comfort zones, making us feel confused, scared and completely disgusted. It was a considerable feat for Amanda Panitch and a huge risk to take for a debut novel, but being courageous enough to stretch the boundaries or even erase them altogether can certainly pay off, and it did.
We meet Julia Vann as she’s getting accustomed to her new life, in a new city and under a different name. Her parents packed up and ran from their past after a horrible crime, mostly for her benefit, and now she’s alone in a new city for the first time in her life, a tabula rasa free to become anything at all.
It’s clear from the start that Lucy/Julia has a lot to hide as she’s very consciously lying and manipulating her way through her new environment. The terrible crime her brother committed might be a looming shadow over her life, but her exact role in it remains unclear until the end. Through her eyes, as she slowly reveals her past to us, we see the development of a sociopath, feared by everyone but herself. While it’s clear that people can be born evil, it’s also quite obvious that nothing is ever that simple. Even those born with something essential missing can be changed by their environment, if those around them are interested or caring enough to actually get involved. Damage Done is a psychological thriller first, but at the same time, it’s a critique of parents, the school system and even, to a degree, mental health professionals, who can become so absorbed in their own problems that they completely miss the warning signs of those they’re responsible for.
Damage Done works hard to shock and astonish and it succeeds to a degree. It would probably work best for someone who’d go into it blindly, unaware of the many comparisons to Gillian Flynn and other similar thrillers. But even aware that something is coming, I couldn’t have possibly guessed the full extent of it or how unsettling it would all be.
For all the attention it gave to its protagonist, the book painfully neglected the secondary characters, leaving them unexplored, unexplained and completely two-dimensional, starting with Julia’s parents and ending with her new boyfriend Michael. Such lack of serious characterization should not have happened in what is essentially a psychological thriller, where everything is, and should be, about the characters.
Overall, Damage Done is disconcerting and scary as hell, but it’s a much needed breath of fresh air in YA fiction. I’m still reeling from the effect it had on me, and although uncomfortable, it makes for a nice change after all the lukewarm, forgettable reads.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review....more
It's a rare event when a secondary character outshines the protagonist, but that's exactly what happened in Double Up, the first book in Vanessa NorthIt's a rare event when a secondary character outshines the protagonist, but that's exactly what happened in Double Up, the first book in Vanessa North's Lake Lovelace series. Ben's best friend Eddie was the shining star that held the book together, so it's no wonder that the fans begged for his story.
Writing tastefully about a character nicknamed Kinky Eddie is no easy feat, and yet Vanessa North accomplished it with seeming ease. It would seem that she goes exactly where her characters lead her, even if it means exploring the mindset of a non-submissive masochist. Rough Road is far from being vanilla, but Eddie's relationship with Wish is written very tastefully, even while exploring their mutual kinks.
The obstacles in front of this couple seemed very realistic and probable, which is all one can ask. I love that it took a while for them to really settle into their relationship and figure out what they could possibly mean to each other. It was instalust between them, but love came slowly and gradually, in a way that could be easily imagined and felt alongside them.
For me, Eddie's book outshined its predecessor and it left me hopefull that the next book by North will be even better. I look forward to it....more
3.5 stars I find the distinction between boy books and girl books to be discriminatory and a tiny bit offensive, and yet Stone Rider undeniably aims t
3.5 stars I find the distinction between boy books and girl books to be discriminatory and a tiny bit offensive, and yet Stone Rider undeniably aims towards young adult boys as its intended audience. Heavy on the action, violence and technical description and very light on any kind of emotional development, it often reads as a videogame on paper. But by no means is it a bad thing – whatever it tries to do, this book does exceptionally well, and the end result is an unusually written story that has a lot to offer to its readers.
Stone Rider paints us a horrible picture of Earth – a barren, bleak environment with very little mercy for its inhabitants. The smallest possibility of survival comes from two sources – mining or byke racing, and our hero Adam chooses the latter. The races themselves are extremely dangerous with very low survival rates, but the battles begin even earlier. The rivalries are often deadly and the bykes themselves are no joke, but for most people in Blackwater, they’re the only hope for a better life.
Hofmeyr’s writing stands out with its sharpness and simplicity. The short, clipped sentences truly emphasize the sense of imminent danger and the pacing seems even faster thanks to the author’s style. The no-nonsense tone took some getting used to, but it suited the story perfectly.
The fortunately secondary romance leaves a lot to be desired. Mostly it’s a young boy’s admiration for a cool, untouchable girl, a dystopian version of manic pixie dream girl with a pixie haircut and heaps of attitude. There is some development between them, but always at the worst possible moment, and the relationship was more of a burden to this story than anything else.
Oddly, my favorite part were the bykes (although I truly resent the spelling) and their connection to the riders. The technical parts were very well done and it was obvious to me that a lot of thought was put into them. While the romance and the worldbuilding left some room for improvement in future installments, the bykes and the races are pretty much perfect as they are. I have high hopes for the second book. A more solid worldbuilding and stronger character development will make a world of difference for this series. ...more
4.5 stars Here are the three things that can lift my mood any day of the week: 1. bacon; 2. Nutella; 3. anti-heroes written by Tim Marquitz… and not n
4.5 stars Here are the three things that can lift my mood any day of the week: 1. bacon; 2. Nutella; 3. anti-heroes written by Tim Marquitz… and not necessarily in that order of importance. The very simple truth is that no one writes foul-mouthed underdogs better than Tim. First came Frank, the charming bastard, and now there’s Theo, a doppelganger and a hot mess with a moral compass that points every which way but north and a dry, self-deprecating, wicked sense of humor.
But as interesting as he sounds, the thing you need to know about Theodor Crane is that he’s been dead for months, and he really wasn’t that great before his unfortunate demise. In his place is actually Z, a doppelganger from Aellisar and a spy for the Aellisarian Intelligence. Z has only one mission – to prevent the war between his people and the few humans aware of their existence. For that purpose, he will deceive, steal and kill. Thanks to Marquitz’s excellent writing and even better imagination, this character, like those before him, comes alive on the very first pages and makes you cheer for him even while you berate yourself for feeling that way.
We aren’t new to Z’s charms – we’ve met him before in Eyes Deep, the prequel novella released last year. I knew to expect a very dark, extremely conflicted character, but the depth of his development still took me by surprise. Z is a special creature, feared even by his own people. He can shapeshift into anyone at all (by killing them first and eating small pieces of their eyeballs), which makes him a formidable enemy and an excellent infiltrator. But most unfortunately, Z has a conscience, no matter how weak it may be, and it keeps him awake at night. The longer he lives the life of Theodor Crane, the more difficult it is for him to bury his emotions. Getting attached is the stupidest thing he can do, and yet it’s almost impossible to avoid it.
The short interludes between chapters offer us glimpses into Z’s past that gradually turn him into a somewhat more sympathetic character. He may be a killer and the worst kind of thief, but his redeeming qualities definitely count for something. While the plot can seem a bit episodic at times, the moral dilemmas and self-justifications more than make up for it. What’s more, the action scenes are graphic and very detailed, each one done with a movie-like quality. For someone who gets confused during action scenes more often than not, these were a true delight.
At this point, after several years of being his very enthusiastic fan, I can only say that Marquitz is consistently excellent. He has one of the strongest, clearest voices in genre fiction and his excellent sense of pacing serves to strengthen his narrative. Fans of urban fantasy, this is one you absolutely do not want to miss. I’d highly recommend starting with Eyes Deep, but even if you jump right into this one, you’ll soon find yourself completely immersed into Z’s story. ...more
Imagine waking up in the bed of an old, filthy truck, concussed, bound and blindfolded, disoriented and scared, only to realize that a near stranger
Imagine waking up in the bed of an old, filthy truck, concussed, bound and blindfolded, disoriented and scared, only to realize that a near stranger took you from your family and friends, for reasons unknown, and that he’s taking you deep into the woods where no one will think to look for you. That is exactly what Ruthless puts us through on its very first pages, not caring how hard our hearts will beat or how scared we’ll be.
There can be no winner in the seemingly endless mind game that ensues. Everyone needs to lose something and sacrifices have to be made. Ruth is forced to face some hard truths about her life and become a different person, a better person, if she is to survive.
“I think I learned something in our first conversation. He wants to break me down, get to the core of me. My truth is his crack.”
We also jump back several times, at various intervals, to peek into the killer’s mind, see several events through his eyes and learn how he became who he is, how his mind and psyche got irreparably damaged. The scariest thing is that it’s so easy to see, to track the line of events that broke him beyond repair.
Ruth isn’t the most sympathetic of heroines. She is known as Ruthless among her peers because she always does what needs to be done. She too is the product of her circumstances, hard and unyielding because life often gave her no choice. But although we don’t agree with some of her actions, her fear and courage are palpable. Her strength easily translates into sheer determination to survive and such a huge admirable quality instantly brings her closer to us.
There is just a touch of romance as we see signs of love unrecognized and unacknowledged during our glimpses into the past. It’s enough to give us another reason to fear for Ruth and wish for another chance for her and the boy she loves.
Ruthless is one of those rare convincing YA psychological thrillers that challenge you on many different levels. It’s frightening because it can easily happen to any of us, but it also forces you to look deeper and understand both the monster and the girl who simply refuses to become his victim. Highly recommended. ...more
Simon and Declan are finally (finally!) back, stronger and more entertaining than ever. After a three year break, we’re finally holding a new adventu
Simon and Declan are finally (finally!) back, stronger and more entertaining than ever. After a three year break, we’re finally holding a new adventure in our hands, a delightful, Aussie-flavored, heartfelt and family-oriented romance unlike anything I’ve ever read.
I’ve been asked on several occasions to choose my favorite gay romance couple, and it’s always been Simon and Dec (and also – just to be fair – Tony and Mac from Kaje Harper’s Life Lessons series). But the charm of these books lies with more than just its two protagonists. As a rule, Kennedy portrays realistic, believable, and above all warm characters.
Eight years after their relationship was forged under extreme pressure, Simon and Declan are still going strong. They’ve built an amazing life together, a life of tolerance, understanding, patience and genuine affection. They have an incredible circle of family and friends and they’ve even found ways to bring their very different careers much closer. Tigers on the Run offers a new peek into their very ordinary life, under somewhat unusual circumstances. Simon faces new drama with his old nemesis, and this time it comes just a bit too close to home. Declan is trying desperately to help a 17-year-old gay football player, but the kid isn’t making it easy at all. Their friends and family have changed and grown, but the love and support remains unchanged. Jumping back into this world truly feels like coming home.
With Simon and Declan in such a strong, committed relationship, one would think that this series has nothing left to give, but one would be very, very wrong. This is exactly the type of thing I want to read – a strong, loving couple facing difficulties together, living their life and overcoming obstacles just like the rest of us. When you add to that Simon’s propensity for drama and his highbrow sense of humor (he is, after all, my very favorite arty wanker), you get a series that will give you more than just characters to love – it will give you friends for life.
I have loved Simon Murray and Declan Tyler from my very first peek into their lives. What’s more, I’ve loved Roger and Fran, Abe and Lisa, and pretty much everyone else just as much. Luckily for me, Tigers on the Run left some possibilities wide open – I hope I’ll be seeing more of them, and soon. ...more
4.5 stars Bluewater Bay is a series published by Riptide Publishing as a collaborative effort of ten of their most prominent authors. Each author wrot
4.5 stars Bluewater Bay is a series published by Riptide Publishing as a collaborative effort of ten of their most prominent authors. Each author wrote (or will soon write) a single independent novel, but they are all set in the small town of Bluewater Bay where an insanely popular paranormal TV series called Wolf’s Landing is being filmed. Although this book counts as the eighth in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone since it has all new characters and situations and the only thing it shares with the others is the setting.
To those of you unfamiliar with Amy Lane, let me first say this: among many (and I do mean many these days) M/M authors, she is practically royalty. There isn’t an M/M fan out there who hasn’t cried over her books, or if there is, it’s a horrible oversight on their part that needs to be fixed immediately. With dozens of novels behind her, Amy Lane has proven over and over again that she’s one of the best.
Her books can be neatly divided into two categories: those swimming in angst, and those that are more light-hearted, although no less exciting. And yet, The Deep of the Sound defies any sort of categorization. It is in many ways a painfully intense book, a heart-wrenching experience from start to finish. And yet the romance itself is surprisingly light and easy, a thing that happens when two complementary souls recognize each other.
Most of the angst comes from Cal’s horrible family situation. He is the sole provider for his brother with severe mental health issues and his uncle with Alzheimer’s disease. Poor Cal is desperate to keep them all together and out of nursing homes or worse, but his job is far from easy.
Cal’s despair is overwhelming, his loneliness a strong fist that suffocates and never lets go. Lane is never afraid to show us her characters at the worst possible time, as the very worst versions of themselves. Cal’s life at the beginning of this story is so incredibly bleak that it brought tears to my eyes in the very first chapter.
Avery’s troubles are a perhaps not so severe, but they’re just as touching. His self-respect is at an all-time low and his support system is virtually non-existent. When two such lives collide, how can it possibly result in anything remotely good? And yet slowly, painfully, by making one step forward and several steps back, it actually does.
Amy’s characters are always unforgettable, always designed to make the strongest possible impact. They’re people, imperfect, sad, often rash people with very little to look forward to. She always finds a way to make them resonate with us, to make them stand out and be remembered. Emotionally, this story is right up there with her very best: The Locker Room, the Promises series and Johnnies series.
If you really are unfamiliar with her book, you can start here, or you can just choose a book at random. You simply can’t go wrong with Amy. ...more
4.5 stars Fated by Indra Vaughn came my way completely accidentally, recommended by author John Inman in the comments of a Facebook poll no more than
4.5 stars Fated by Indra Vaughn came my way completely accidentally, recommended by author John Inman in the comments of a Facebook poll no more than a few weeks ago. To this day I haven’t figured out how it went unnoticed by me until that moment. What’s more, it seems to be somewhat overlooked by its intended audience, which is a crime, to be honest. The characters Vaughn has created deserve to be celebrated and talked about, they should inspire people to start discussions and street teams, and yet, they haven’t just yet. Why? Mostly because their beauty is quiet and unassuming, complex and deeply felt. They’re not instantly likeable or wildly entertaining, they just are… human, vulnerable and often wrong, just like everybody else.
We meet Hart, a police detective, in his own home, working on renovations with his much younger neighbor, Isaac. It’s clear from the start that the two have feelings for each other, but Hart is bothered by their age difference and quite used to a life of profound loneliness. When his father dies and he has to leave to handle his funeral, he’s oddly relieved to put some distance between him and Isaac.
This love story doesn’t begin like most other romances and it certainly doesn’t end that way. Their road isn’t easy or predictable, but the feelings are palpable and incredibly real. Hart makes ridiculously many mistakes along the way, but each stems from a very believable place and seems entirely genuine. While in his home town, he stumbles upon a mystery with paranormal elements he’s not quite ready to accept. When Isaac follows him and gets involved, it all becomes too much for him to handle.
The mystery is fascinating and excellently paced, but the soul of this novel is Hart himself. He is lonely and very set in his ways, and it’s clear that giving his heart to a much younger man terrifies him. Vaughn’s writing is a thing of beauty, a work of art in and of itself, and the setting is gorgeous, vivid and deeply atmospheric. She has such an excellent sense of her story and characters and everything is so well defined, but she skillfully keeps things hidden from us and builds tension to almost unbearable levels.
The sheer gorgeousness of this story cannot be put into words. It is not a conventional romance, nor is it your average paranormal mystery, and yet somehow it’s both. It may be a bit difficult to swallow at times, but it is a story that ultimately soothes, enriches, and makes us reevaluate ourselves. ...more