“Maybe no boy will love me or want to touch me ever, even in a dark room, even after an apocalypse when all the skinny girls have been wiped off the
“Maybe no boy will love me or want to touch me ever, even in a dark room, even after an apocalypse when all the skinny girls have been wiped off the earth by some horrible plague. Maybe one day I can be thinner than I am now and have a boyfriend who loves me, but I’ll still be a liar.”
I was going to give this book two stars because, honestly, it started well. It was compelling and didn't seem as offensive as the blurb had been, but the more I think about it, the more that doesn't seem to be enough of an excuse for the book as a whole. Yet another book that insensitively uses its characters to create an angsty romance.
If anything, I feel more secure in my assessment of All the Bright Places after reading this book. I got the impression in AtBP that the author was using suicide as a vehicle for romantic angst, and I received a lot of backlash for writing that review. But this just seems to confirm it. I feel like Niven has given very little thought to what it means to portray an obese character and a character with a cognitive disorder. I feel like little thought has been given to any readers who might relate to these characters. I can't help but imagine the author sitting there and simply thinking “how can I make this romance super angsty?"
I don't necessarily care that Libby Strout (Libby as in "Lb" and Strout as in "Stout"?!) was called "America's Fattest Teen" or that a major plot point is a game called "Fat Girl Rodeo". These things are gross and offensive, but showing the horrible effects of labels and cruel bullying does not seem like a bad thing to me. No, the bigger problem is that this book actually isn't about bullying, or fat-shaming, or living with mental illness, it's about high school love. That's it. The rest is just window dressing.
The author throws together two teens who are solely characterized by their weight and prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces) and, despite having zero chemistry, they fall in lurrrve. They are defined by these singular differences - i.e. being the "fat girl" and being unable to recognize anyone, never once feeling like human beings.
I'm sure some readers will see the decision to have such different protagonists as an indication of depth, but I truly feel like this is a very shallow book. Stereotypes and cliches abound. Dress it up however you want, but this book is about an unpopular girl who sees herself as unattractive, and a popular good-looking guy who comes to see how said girl is so much better than all those hot, evil cheerleaders he's been dating. His hot, evil girlfriend constantly fat-shames and bullies Libby, obviously, because we all know pretty popular girls are mean, shallow and have no feelings.
Also - and this is way more offensive to me than the blurb was - Libby's journey to self-love seems to entirely revolve around finding a guy who will actually like her. I was hoping this would be addressed as the novel wore on, but the small rushed steps toward it at the end were dissatisfying.
“Somewhere in this school could be a boy I fall in love with. One of these fine young men might be the one who at long last claims my heart and my body. I’m looking at all the boys going by. It could be that guy or maybe this one."
Or she could learn to love herself without a guy? Also, what teenager says "fine young men"?
The pacing also slows down as the story moves forward. I remember feeling at one point like the book should be coming to an end, and yet there were almost another hundred pages to go. You knew the characters had feelings for one another, you knew they were going to end up together, but the narrative was dawdling.
Then there's my disbelief that Jack has managed to hide face-blindness from his family for years. That seems impossible to me, but I guess this book never was about the reality of the issues it offered up.
And, finally, nauseating prose like this:
The way I feel when I’m with her. Like I just swallowed the sun and it’s shooting out of every pore.
And Libby's eyes...
They are like lying in the grass under the sky on a summer day. You’re blinded by the sun, but you can feel the ground beneath you, so as much as you think you could go flying off, you know you won’t.
There's not a single guy in the world who could tell me I make them feel like they "swallowed the sun and it's shooting out of every pore" without me bursting into hysterical laughter. But, let's be honest, that's the least of this book's problems.
When I do not see you my heart is in a tomb. The whisper of your words I carry in my tomb. The shadow of your smile creeps out from the tomb, the warmth of
When I do not see you my heart is in a tomb. The whisper of your words I carry in my tomb. The shadow of your smile creeps out from the tomb, the warmth of your body without it, I am a tomb. If I can’t be with you bury me in the tomb.
If you're anything like me, the promise of a book unlike anything you've ever read before is very enticing. So when I saw this book - a novel in verse, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, about an Israeli girl and a Palestinian boy - I knew it was a must read. I haven't read any fiction about the Israel/Palestine conflict, never mind any YA about it. Unfortunately, though, Ronit & Jamil just didn't deliver.
It's a quick read, though I'm not sure that's a positive here. If you have an hour to spare, you can breeze through the entire book in that time. And it feels so... lacking in depth. The book takes on a serious political issue that is affecting people in the world today and doesn't give it the time and care it deserves.
For one, the verse is essentially pointless. If you're going to write a novel in verse, then you have to make that style choice count; it has to add something. Here, it feels lazy - a way to quickly tell a story without having to deal with careful sentence structure, character development, dialogue or setting. It allows the author to tell a story in fragments, which is what this feels like.
The verse alternates between the jarringly simplistic:
I live at the bottom of the hills. She lives at the top. I could just climb up to see her. I can smell the flowers in her hair.
And the weird attempts at being deep and metaphorical:
I hate idle chatter my sisters rumble with it: hair and makeup. I like natural hair like a forest of greenery.
The relationship between Ronit and Jamil fails to convince, too. It seems they would cross lands and cultures and defy their families and wipe clean everything they've ever been taught about the other for... a shag? Okay, I'm being crude, but their relationship was never anything more than sex. It's all:
His gaze makes me want to undress so he can lift up and see what’s beneath the dress.
I mean, sweet, you embrace that sexuality, girl! But isn't this book supposed to be a little bit more important than two horny teens? Whose perspectives are indistinguishable, I might add. It would have probably taken me thirty minutes to read this book if I didn't have to keep trying to work out who's POV we were on. It's really hard to tell sometimes.
The real problem, however, is just the oversimplification of everything. I cringed at those chapters where Ronit and Jamil take it in turns to remember what they've been taught about the Arabs/Israelis, but then in the same breath seem to shake it off so quickly and without consideration. The conflict is reduced to: “everyone says he throws bombs but, oh my, he has such pretty eyes” and “everyone says she’s a land stealer but, oh my, she has such pretty eyes”.
If that wasn't enough, it was also really hard to stay firmly in the setting of the story when the two teens kept throwing in Americanisms like "lame" and "ratted me out".
I thought this one sounded different and exciting, but it didn't work for me. The characters are in their mid-to-late twenties but read like sixteen yI thought this one sounded different and exciting, but it didn't work for me. The characters are in their mid-to-late twenties but read like sixteen year-olds (they're sometimes so irritatingly immature that this may be an insult to teenagers), and the build up of angst throughout feels at odds with the rather lackluster ending.
Plus, there's a love triangle thrown in with the other guy being so boring that there's absolutely no conflict, no concerns over who Emiline might end up with. ...more
Two stars means "it was ok" and that's exactly what this was. It's just a very short prequel to The Wrath and the Dawn where Khalid first meets ShahrzTwo stars means "it was ok" and that's exactly what this was. It's just a very short prequel to The Wrath and the Dawn where Khalid first meets Shahrzad and can tell she hates him with a burning passion. I know it's just supposed to be a glimpse into his first impression of her, but I couldn't help thinking "is that it?"
Okay, we need to talk about this. Because I am literally starting to feel like I read a completely different book from everyone else.
The only thing IOkay, we need to talk about this. Because I am literally starting to feel like I read a completely different book from everyone else.
The only thing I got from this book was: COCKS. COCKS EVERYWHERE.
I quite liked (but didn't love) the first book; I had some issues but I pushed them to the back of my mind because I was so happy to have both a M/M romance in fantasy AND for it to be slow burn. But I just... can't anymore. I don't understand. It has a 4.62 average rating. All my friends seem to love it (5 stars kind of loving), even those who are the toughest romance critics. Really, did we read the same book?
Firstly, this book is erotica with some snoozeworthy politics and battles thrown in. I don't buy into the whole "it has so much more than romance! politics and royal scandals!" No, it doesn't. The plot is a thinly-veiled disguise for the descriptions of sex and penises.
And on that matter - why is everyone so obsessed with cocks? Cocks are hanging out everywhere. Damen goes to find a guy and he’s screwing the stable boy, he goes to find yet another guy and he is described by his state of undress, with particular mention of the way he is holding his pants up. All the descriptions of everything are sexual (but not, I might add, sexy).
I am thankful for an LGBT romance that doesn't a) stick to contemporary, or b) just present the difficulties of coming out/dealing with sexuality, but I just don’t believe that gay men are this obsessed with each others cocks. I’m a bi, cisgender woman, I don’t even have a cock, and I assure you - they are just not that exciting.
Even when dramatic stuff is supposed to be happening, even in political meetings, there’s a constant genital awareness in every scene. Everyone is always aware of the others’ penises.
Also, let's talk slow burn. Slow burn is my passion. In fact, it's pretty much the only kind of romance I like.
I knew I loved him the moment I saw him.I already don't care. Yes but sometimes you just know for reasons you can't understand.Yup, still don't care.
And is this romance slow burn? Oh it's slow burn, alright. It's as slow burn as the romance between Dumbledore and Mcgonagall.
What are you saying, Emily? I'm saying let's look at Damen's slow-burning relationship with Laurent's earring:
“His gaze dropped to Laurent’s lips. When he forced it upwards, it fixed instead on the earring. The lobe of Laurent’s ear was pierced through with the ornament of his uncle’s lover. It suited him, in the mundane sense that it matched his colouring. In another sense, it looked as incongruous as it felt to tear another mouthful of bread from the flat loaf, and lift it to feed him.”
And just when you think he’s done…
“It was the earring. Laurent was always so austere. The earring reframed him. It gave the appearance of a sensual side, sophisticated and subtle.”
Oh yes, this romance is slow burn. It burns so slow I fear I might have died of boredom by the time they actually get together.
Because slow burn in this sense means that nothing actually happens. Lots of other cocks come and go, and Laurent and Damen spend a lot of time staring broodily at one another. The whole point of slow burn is TENSION. Instead, I’m rolling my eyes and wishing something would just happen (either that or the book would just end).
And Laurent himself is so unappealing to me. He's broodier than Edward Cullen, with even less personality. In the first book, I thought his cold, distant character was going to develop into something more interesting, but that has yet to happen. I feel nothing for him.
Honestly, I want to love this book. A central LGBT romance in fantasy is so rare that I want to tell you this book is amazing. But I just don't feel it.
This book is almost impossible to rate. Take my 3 -star rating lightly, because it does not even begin to sum up everything I felt about this differenThis book is almost impossible to rate. Take my 3 -star rating lightly, because it does not even begin to sum up everything I felt about this different, imaginative, weird romance.
I call it a "romance" out of the human need to categorize, but it truly doesn't sit well in any genre. It has paranormal and sci-fi elements, as well as what feels like touches of magical realism - all blended together around a complex love story with diverse characters.
Let me emphasize that once more - The Love That Split the World is a book rich with diversity, feminism, sex-positivism and just good old beautiful writing. The author chooses her words carefully, painting a gorgeous and vivid picture of both the Kentucky setting and this delicate time in Natalie Cleary's life.
Brimming with Native American stories, culture and mythology, the book whizzes along with a magical energy. It is full of many short stories (and through them - life lessons) told by the mysterious "Grandmother" who sometimes visits Natalie at night.
Who is Grandmother? A Native American messenger? A religious apparition? Or merely a figment of Natalie's imagination? Only time will tell.
Natalie is a particularly likable and wise character; she is quick to point out slut-shaming and refuses to see her ex's new girlfriend as her enemy or, indeed, anything other than a human being. On top of this, her mental state plays a large part in this book, asking a question I have personally always loved - supernatural or psychological?
Fantasy and psychology live side by side here, prompting the reader to constantly wonder just what is real and what is imagined.
Given my 3-star rating, you've probably been waiting for it and here it is - the BUT. Well... this book might be a great many things, but it is first and foremost a romance and relies on your attachment to said romance to effectively tell the story. And it breaks my first two rules of writing romance novels.
1) Instalove. Like wow, bang, whoosh, I just met you and this is crazy, but let me talk about your beautiful eyelashes kind of instalove. Romances where emotions are plucked out of midair and built upon gorgeous looks just leave me feeling so cold.
2) You so pretty. Sentences that become paragraphs that become pages about how Beau is a physical work of art.
"His biceps are roughly the size of my head, and his eyes look like summer incarnate, and he has two little dark freckles on the side of his nose, and a mouth that somehow manages to look like a shy kid’s one minute and a virile Greek god’s the next.”
*snores* I just don't care that much about beautiful people. And I especially don't need to be reminded over and over again how good-looking they are.
If you can look past the instalove and eye roll-worthy romance moments, then this really is a beautiful book. Unfortunately, so much rests on the romance that it's quite hard to do.
You know, I pride myself on not being what some would call a "book snob". Sure, I like my classics and literary fiction as much as anyone else, but IYou know, I pride myself on not being what some would call a "book snob". Sure, I like my classics and literary fiction as much as anyone else, but I also take a great deal of enjoyment from fast-paced, entertaining and light books. Sometimes I just want some YA fantasy or fluffy chick-lit; you know what I'm saying?
So I looked past this book's appearance (as an obvious William & Kate fanfic) to the positive reviews and all the good things this could possibly be - hilarious, silly, enjoyable, Bridget Jones/Lou Clark-style fun. I think I'd already shelved this under "guilty pleasure" when I picked it up and imagined the faux-embarrassed positive review I would write.
Well, I got it so wrong.
I'm not going to judge this book for basically being a retelling of the William/Kate romance with Rebecca instead being an American student at Oxford. Nor will I judge it for not being deep and offering new perspective - honestly, no one should be going into this book expecting that. And I'll totally ignore the rather comical British stereotyping.
But I can't ignore that this was just a boring, flat romance. Literally the only selling point this book as is that it offers lighthearted entertainment and cute romancing, but damn, these characters are so bland. The book isn't funny or even a "hide it under your pillow" kind of guilty pleasure. Here's a horrifying thought for you: Fifty Shades of Grey was more entertaining than this book.
Both Bex and Nick are one-dimensional and have no personality. At all. They're two beautiful, white people, who are so nice, polite and dull that I'm genuinely very surprised to see they have so many fans. The "angst" of their relationship is centred around the fact that Nick is heir to the throne, but the actual romantic tension and/or angst between them is non-existent.
Most surprisingly, the plot moves very slow. This is an almost 500-page novel and a lot of that features drunken college nights (pretty tame ones at the local pub, I might add) and platonic TV-watching in Bex or Nick's rooms.
I wanted to giggle and swoon. Instead, I was yawning and skimming towards the end....more
2 1/2 stars. I feel really conflicted about this one.
When We Collided tries to be both an honest account of a girl with bipolar disorder AND a love st2 1/2 stars. I feel really conflicted about this one.
When We Collided tries to be both an honest account of a girl with bipolar disorder AND a love story. Unfortunately, while it excels in the former, it fails in the latter, turning what could have been a thoughtful contemporary into an unnecessary romance.
It's such a strange book and I'm puzzled as to why the author thought it should be a romantic story at all. Especially with a dual narrative, only half of which feels particularly meaningful. For me, there could be no doubting that this was Vivi's story. The author tries to create an interesting story for Jonah so he doesn't become another manic pixie dream boy, but his "voice" pales in comparison to Vivi's and it was hard to be drawn into his story.
Maybe this seems a little harsh, and maybe it was the lack of narrative charisma in Jonah's chapters, but Jonah's family issues and money/business problems were just not that interesting.
And then there's the romance founded on instalove:
“When I met Jonah Daniels yesterday, there was a magical shift in the trajectory of my summer. He’s the ring to my Frodo, the wardrobe to my Lucy Pevensie. His presence in my life sets me on my journey, and I can feel it, a vital mission pulsing in my bones. Here is a boy who needs me."
Where was the chemistry? The build? The tension? Why did they just seem to know as soon as they met one another? This kind of romance is really boring to read about. I never came to see them as realistic romantic partners, which is probably why (view spoiler)[the ending had no effect on me. (hide spoiler)]
The book works far better as a study of a teenage girl with bipolar. It's not a pity party either, Vivi is realistically portrayed as a difficult, hyperactive and often annoying person. I think some people will struggle to find sympathy for her, especially because even her "normal" personality is quite over-the-top and she talks in a way that's a little annoying:
“And thank you especially to Jonah for the most beautiful meal I’ve seen in ages. I swear to the Man in the Moon, if it tastes half as good as it looks, I’m going to come meowing back at your front door for table scraps.”
“I’ve always fixated on the things I want in my life - paint palettes and sumptuous fabrics and star-flecked skies and dancing on my tiptoes and the smell of jasmine."
Her very exaggerated personality - full of floaty, artistic descriptions - contrasts with Jonah's bland normality and inherent niceness, making his perspective even less compelling, and hers even more overly enthusiastic.
Still, I liked that Vivi's illness wasn't used to emotionally manipulate the reader and I thought her descriptions of depression and her state of mind whilst taking medication were excellent. The author's note made it clear that depression is something personal and important to Ms Lord, so yet again I have to wonder: why choose to wrap it up in a romance?
Some good parts, but it could have been so much better.
“I want to share whole worlds with you and write your name in the stars.” “I want to measure eternity with your laughter.”
I want to know what the fuc
“I want to share whole worlds with you and write your name in the stars.” “I want to measure eternity with your laughter.”
I want to know what the fuck that^ means? No, seriously, can someone tell me?
1 1/2 stars. The Star-Touched Queen is a book full of dreamy, purple prose that is at times beautiful, and at others makes absolutely no sense. But if you buy into these metaphors, put on your prose-tinted glasses and let yourself get drunk on the glittering descriptions, I suppose you might be able to ignore:
• The slut-shaming/woman-hating • The instalove/obsession (complete with nauseating sweet nothings) • The lack of character development • The meandering plot • The blind stupidity of the heroine • The lack of world-building (beyond the nonsensical weirdness of the Otherworld)
Let's start at the beginning and break this down.
The Star-Touched Queen is not what I expected. People often like to comment on my reviews that "just because it isn't what you were expecting doesn't mean it isn't good". Very true. So I will also add that, for me, this book wasn't good, irrespective of my expectations. But I had it in my mind that this book was a high fantasy entwined with mythology, kingdoms and death. It's not.
It's yet another fairy tale-esque retelling, based on stories like Beauty & the Beast and Hades & Persephone, and reminiscent of better books like Cruel Beauty, and not so great books like A Court of Thorns and Roses (like this one, it has lots of kissing).
The book opens with Maya being forced into a political marriage by her father. When the groom is chosen, she must take a poison and martyr herself for the sake of her kingdom. But at the point when all seems lost, a dashing suitor whirls into the room and takes her away to the Otherworld. The love interest can be spotted immediately from the way the air changes when he enters the room.
When I looked at him, something stirred inside me. It felt like recognition sifted through dreams; like the moment before waking - when sleep blurred the true world, when beasts with sharp teeth and beautiful, winged things flew along the edges of your mind.
Being with him was like seeing for the first time.
But, take a step back a minute. Maya's lack of character development will remain throughout the entire novel, but it is in the early stages of the novel where she establishes herself as someone with no female friendships, lots of female enemies, and a tendency to slut-shame:
“I’d rather spread ideas than legs,” I hissed back. “But I doubt you would agree-"
Suffice it to say, this book definitely does not pass the Bechdel test.
In fact, Maya has literally ONE female friend, who is - wait for it - a horse. Which is almost hilarious.
Not only is Maya allergic to all the other evil, slutty females in this book, but she is so freaking stupid... I can't even. I honestly cannot think of anything she does that was guided by her own decisions and brain cells (does she even have any?). The plot is propelled along by her doing what everyone else tells her to do and being tricked into acting like an idiot. The bad guys (or should I say "girls"?) are not difficult to spot in this book. The reader will spot the deceptions coming a mile away - why is Maya so dense? She has very few thoughts of her own.
Maya:Oh my god! How could I be so stupid? Me:I literally DO NOT KNOW.
The middle part of the book was the hardest for me to get through. Once Maya becomes the queen of Akaran, the plot meanders and we are taken on repetitive tours. Like Cruel Beauty, but less compelling, there are many doors, mysterious voices and mirrors. It is this wandering part of the book where I could not see what we were reading towards. What questions did we have to answer? What made us turn the pages? For me, I drew a blank.
Fortunately for the plot, Maya acts stupid, gets bumped out of this world, and has to figure out how to get back to where she was. That's right - we basically reach the happy ending by the middle of the book, but Maya fucks it up to give us another 150 pages. And to give another example of her a) stupidity and b) lack of original thoughts, this is what happens:
“Gupta, what door is that?” He frowned. “Door? What door?” He turned around and then asked sharply, “What did it look like?” I hesitated. Mother Dhina’s words echoed… keep some secrets for yourself.
Yes. Maya decides to withhold information about a weird voice coming from behind a door... because of the words of an evil, conniving woman. She would rather give weight to the words of someone who hates her than think for herself.
Who would I recommend this book for? Maybe those readers who like cursed romances, but don't care about character development, woman-hating, or actions making sense. Sorry, but it wasn't for me. Points for Kamala, though. The horse is the best thing in this book.
“Why would a girl care to find herself when she’ll never be able to make herself feel as good as a guy can?”
I've said this before, but I'll say it a
“Why would a girl care to find herself when she’ll never be able to make herself feel as good as a guy can?”
I've said this before, but I'll say it again: I like Hoover's writing, I like her concepts for novels that differ from the standard format of NA romance books, I really enjoyed Never Never and I also liked Confess. This book, however, reminded me of all the reasons her stories and characters have annoyed me in the past.
The relationship between writers and the truth is something I find fascinating. I especially like it when authors structure their novel so it's like a book within a book, or a story within a story, and you can't be sure whether you're reading the "truth" or what the writer wants you to believe. November 9 touches upon that concept... barely.
But the reality is it just isn't done very well. From that opening quote that had my jaw dropping in horror at what I was reading to the weird apologies made for bad romance novels. Seriously, this should be called “in defence of shitty romance novels” or “how to write a shitty romance novel” because all the tips are here.
The book tries to make excuses for itself through the use of Ben being a romance writer. Fallon doesn't like instalove (one of my own biggest pet peeves) and yet both her and Ben conclude that they did have a kind of instalove. But, you know, acknowledging something doesn't necessarily make it okay. In this case, it doesn't at all.
Fallon is so annoying and melodramatic. I swear she must cry at least once per chapter. Also, she makes some sweeping, dramatic statements that seem off. Why does she think it would be a normal reaction for Ben/her hypothetical boyfriend to dump her after witnessing her argument with her father? What a drama llama. Just imagine it... your boyfriend sees you having an argument with your dad and he's like "oh wow, that's it, it's over". I wouldn't think that was normal, I'd think "what a jackass".
Ben is another controlling douche wrapped up in a gorgeous "I give you new self-esteem" package.
I shove the dress back at him. “I don’t want to wear that, I want to wear this.” “No,” he says. “I’m paying for dinner, so I get to choose what to stare at while we eat.”
Be still my beating heart, I think I'm in love < /sarcasm>
He also, at one point, interrupts Fallon and puts his hand over her mouth so she can't speak while he delivers this big speech about how beautiful she is and only she cares about her scars. Which, as the book shows, actually isn't true, and also: get your controlling hands off her mouth, douchebag!
So, those are the characters, but there were other things I didn't like. Like the fact that Ben quotes poetry when he sees her naked and they're about to have sex (eww) and he says this cringy line:
“Baby,” he says, his lips forming a smile. “You have already made this the best I’ve ever had, and I’m not even inside you yet.”
And, oh my god, when he finds out she's a virgin:
“Fallon,” he whispers, dragging his lips slowly across mine. “Thank you for this beautiful gift.”
Oh, please. Just let me unsee it. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
Then there's the fact that the blurb refers to "the ultimate plot twist" which can really only be one thing. The characters lives are not developed enough that there are multiple possibilities regarding the twist. It was so obvious what it had to be about.
And, finally, the plot/angst wasn't very well-conceived. I honestly didn't buy into their reasons for not being together - it seemed like excuses made to prolong the story. I've experienced what it's like to meet someone new, click with them instantly, and become completely wrapped up in them and your emotions. You generally do whatever you can to be with these rare people; you do not come up with crappy excuses why it won't work.
Fallon and Ben like each other, they’re falling in love with each other, but oh no, they can’t be together. It’s not time. They would just distract one another from their goals. What a load of bullshit.
Also, one last thing. This is a small matter, given all the other criticisms I have, but can we stop using stereotypes for gay men? And can we stop saying that the guy over there can't possibly be gay because he forgot to shave today? It's just stupid. And, let me tell you, my brother is gay and he waits until we're all like "it looks like a bunch of furry caterpillars died on your face" before he shaves. Just sayin'.
This was a great collection. It's so many things: diverse, creative, funny and sad. That's actually what surprised me most of all: overall, this was aThis was a great collection. It's so many things: diverse, creative, funny and sad. That's actually what surprised me most of all: overall, this was a very melancholy, bittersweet collection, especially when compared to the mostly fun and feel-good My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. The cover makes it look very cutesy, but it tackles a lot of important issues.
"Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo - 4.5/5 This was such a great place to start. Bardugo writes some of the best short stories and this bittersweet, summery love story about river spirits was no exception. It's full of blazing atmosphere and lyrical fairy tale quality, with an ending I didn't see coming. “The summer took on a different shape - a desperate, jagged shape, the rise and fall of a dragon’s back. The world felt full of hazards. Every song on every album bristled with portent.”
"The End of Love" by Nina Lacour - 4/5 A lovely lesbian romance about a girl whose parents are divorcing, so she escapes from home by attending summer school and going camping with new friends (and the object of her affection). It's sweet, touching and the atmosphere is full of summer possibility. “Just because a person reveals something to you about yourself doesn’t mean they’re meant to do more than that."
"Last Stand At the Cinegore" by Libba Bray - 2/5 This one didn't work as well for me. It's less romantic and atmospheric, choosing instead to be a silly, lighthearted ode to classic horror movies. Lots of quirky references and some funny moments, but most of the humour wasn't to my tastes. The plot felt a little scattered and messy too. “Your emotions get super weird after you’ve been hunted by demons and forced to banish your boss to hell.”
"Sick Pleasure" by Francesca Lia Block - 4/5 I'm still reeling from this story because it was one that snuck up on me. It doesn't end how you think it will and it left me feeling quite overwhelmed with emotion, especially after I spent most of the story thinking it was just "okay". It's a heady, drug-fuelled summer haze of a read, and the ending was one I couldn't stop thinking about. “It can be hard to understand why we run toward certain people and away from others at different times in our lives. Why we search so hard for that thing we are looking for, and then run so fast when we find it.”
‘‘In Ninety Minutes Turn North’’ by Stephanie Perkins - 3.5/5 Perkins' stories are just so damn cute. This continuation of her story in the winter anthology sees a return to the relationship between Marigold and North. In truth, I'm not sure we needed to return here and part of me would have liked to see something completely new, and yet it was still sweet and adorable. It's pretty obvious how the story will play out, but fun to watch it happen. She smiled. “You’ve always been my favourite character.”
‘‘Souvenirs’’ by Tim Federle - 3.5/5 This one made me sad. It's "break-up day" for Matt and Kieth before they part ways. The characters were well-drawn and developed in the small amount of page time the author had and it left me with a lot of emotions. It's a gay romance/break-up with Dickens references and a lingering bittersweetness. Our first kiss happened beneath a murky moon, with mosquitoes buzzing around me like a halo.
‘‘Inertia’’ by Veronica Roth - 2/5 I really didn't care for Roth's short. Arguably, this was the most creative of the bunch with a sci-fi setting and memory play, but it honestly felt like another Tris and Four story. Long, lacking in chemistry and quite boring for the most part. “Come on. This isn’t where the story starts.” He reached for my hand, and the scene changed.
‘‘Love is the Last Resort’’ by Jon Skovron - 3/5 Hmm, I quite enjoyed how this one played out, but there were way too many characters for a short story. Still, it was enjoyable and fit well with the summer theme - set in a vacation resort where a bunch of teens play at matchmaking. Very light, funny and breezy compared to the other stories. Dear reader, I want to assure you that this is not a story about love or romance, regardless of what you may have read on the cover.
‘‘Good Luck and Farewell’’ by Brandy Colbert - 4/5 Another quite dark tale that opens up on a Chicago beach, summer sun shining down and sand between the characters' toes. However, it soon becomes clear that all is not well and Rashida's beloved cousin is moving to San Francisco with her girlfriend. What follows is a story about grief, depression and race, offering up a diverse, important addition to the anthology. More about love in all forms, than simple romance. She loves me, but that’s a different kind of love, and it’s not enough to make her stay.
‘‘Brand New Attraction’’ by Cassandra Clare - 2/5 The only thing that saves this from 1 star is the description of the carnival. I guess I'm one of those people that enjoys the creepy glow of carnivals, the mysteries lurking in the Tunnel of Terror, and the talk of popcorn and cotton candy. Other than that, though, the story lacks a hook. And, given the opportunity to write any kind of love story, with any kind of love interest, Clare decides to write about two cousins? Not my thing. Yeah, yeah, I get that they aren't "blood-related", but still not my thing. I tried to decide if it was immoral to lust after your step-cousin. I figured it wasn't. We weren't actually related. No shared blood.
‘‘A Thousand Ways this Could All Go Wrong’’ by Jennifer E. Smith – 3.5/5 This story grew in strength as it progressed. Initially, I thought this was standard romance fare that one would expect from the author, but things are gradually revealed that will change our minds. I especially liked the way our perception of the male love interest shifts as new information is brought to light. Slow-burn and natural. "Well," he says with a shrug, "there was only ever two options. Either it was going to be fine or it wasn't."
‘‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’’ by Lev Grossman - 4/5 I really didn't expect to like this one so much after my bad experience with The Magicians, but maybe Grossman's writing style is more suited to shorts. I found this Groundhog Day love story intelligent, thought-provoking and different. Unlike many of the others, it keeps you asking questions until the end. Here we were, the last boy and girl on earth, and I couldn’t think of anything to say.
I know why many people like this book, I really do. It's the same reason I kept wanting to bump my rating u
“Those dark eyelashes should be illegal.”
I know why many people like this book, I really do. It's the same reason I kept wanting to bump my rating up as I was reading. The Anatomical Shape of a Heart (or Night Owls in the UK edition and, in my opinion, as it should have been called everywhere) is an extremely diverse book in all senses, it has a very sex-positive message and portrays sex in an open and honest way.
Politically, this book and I are on the exact same page. I like the stuff it stands for. Bravo. And yet I feel the same way as I felt about Dumplin' - a few important messages aside, the characters, the plot and the romance are just not particularly memorable.
The main characters are a quirky art girl - Beatrix Adams - and a drop-dead gorgeous (and rich) graffiti artist. I lost count of how many times we are told how beautiful Jack is. It is the first thing we are told about him and the first thing we are always reminded of every time Beatrix sees him. It got a little tiring.
“He had large boy hands, all sinewy and latticed with faint blue veins, and long, slender fingers. More beautiful bones. I desperately wanted to trace my fingers over them—which was insane. And stupid.”
His perfections and his part to play in Beatrix's life were all a bit manic pixie dreamboy-ish for my tastes. The author tries to introduce a back story to him and make him more complex than your average gorgeous rich boy, I'll give her that, and yet the "mystery" behind him is not very interesting. Mysteries should demand that you solve them and this one doesn't.
Jack is mostly there to propel Bex in new directions, encourage and enable her talents, and offer new perspectives to her.
I just think this book doesn't have enough tension for a teen romance. There is very little drama, no obstacles, realistic conflicts, or questions to be answered. It all runs a little too smooth to be compelling. Bex and Jack like each other as soon as they set eyes on one another, they are drawn to each other straight away and are happily in love by the halfway point.
The "conflicts" of the novel, if you can call them that, revolve around family issues that are honestly uninteresting because the secondary characters are not very well-developed. It was hard to care about Bex's absent father or any of Jack's family.
I'm glad for the frank discussions about sex and the message that you are not defined by how many people you've slept with:
“Would it have been an issue if it was four guys?” After all, I’d known plenty of guys our age who’d slept with twice as many girls. Double standards were the worst.
But, sadly, these are not enough on their own. It's great that we're starting to see more YA books promoting healthy attitudes towards sex. I'm just still waiting for some really good ones.
Wow. This is one of the sexiest romances I've ever read, easily the sexiest New Adult romance I've ever read. And it's so wonderfully feminist too.
It'Wow. This is one of the sexiest romances I've ever read, easily the sexiest New Adult romance I've ever read. And it's so wonderfully feminist too.
It's been four years since Eagar has released a novel and now she comes rushing back onto the playing field with this very different, very feisty novel about revenge and female sexuality. It's a completely different beast from the heart-wrenching Raw Blue - her titles seem to be very telling; the other book was raw and blue, this one is about heat and sweat and (you guessed it) summer skin.
There are so many great female characters in this book, who swear, masturbate, and offer no apologies, but are also very sensitively portrayed. Jess Gordon and her friends are badass, funny and lovable, as they try to navigate the seas of college life - alcohol, hook-ups and assholes - and get revenge on the jocks from the old school, sexist Knights College.
I really want to portray what's so damn great about this book and why it stands out. Yes, it's a steamy romance - but there are a million of those, right? And yes, it's got a great feminist message that shows women enjoying sex and asserting their right to choose - but other books are also doing that these days, right?
Well, firstly, it's still really rare to find a steamy romance with open, unapologetic, feminist values. Like, I can think of Leah Raeder and that's it. But, more than that, Summer Skin is really about breaking down ideas and stereotypes about people.
Eagar does this in two really great ways. She takes a guy who, on the surface, is an arrogant, sexist asshole and completely humanizes him. She gives him back the underlying humanity that is stolen by the ideas we have formed about him. I was surprised at how convincing it was, given that arrogant, sexist characters generally make me want to start breaking things.
And she does something else, which is strangely even rarer. She deconstructs the idea many people have about feminists.
This is really important. Jess Gordon is not the perfect fit for the "strong heroine". Feminism is part of her personality, but it isn't who she is. She isn't always strong and she definitely doesn't have everything figured out.
In Summer Skin, the female characters may be feminists, but they’re also just as confused as everyone else. I like that. Because, you know what? It’s damn hard to grow up as a feminist. It’s hard to decide whether wearing make-up is playing into gender ideals or is simply a form of self-expression. It’s hard to figure out how to not cater yourself towards men, but also balance it with your own desire for men to find you attractive.
There’s this common misconception that feminism is an agenda - this image pops to mind of strong, gun-toting heroines who all belong in this cult of feminist sisterhood and know exactly what they’re doing. But it’s not like that. Feminism is more of a perspective. It’s looking at the world in a different way and trying to avoid behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality. And - sometimes - it's getting it wrong.
Self-proclaimed feminists do not have things figured out. They are weird and insecure too. All those feminists on Tumblr and Youtube with such strong ideas didn't just dream them up overnight. They spent years looking at the world around them and trying to figure out what they believe, where they stand, and how best to live in this emerging society of increased equality. Many of them probably still don't know.
Summer Skin reminds us that everyone is human, from the seemingly douchey jock to the feminists. It's a great book that will probably be overlooked by many. And - just in case you forgot about it while I was getting serious - it's damn HOT.
I am not kissing her because I want to, and I am not kissing her because I need to - I am kissing her for a reason that transcends want and need, tha
I am not kissing her because I want to, and I am not kissing her because I need to - I am kissing her for a reason that transcends want and need, that feels elemental to our existence, a molecular component on which our universe will be built.
I have enjoyed Levithan's books in the past, but the magic that other readers found in Every Day just wasn't there for me.
Many claims have been made about this book - that it is a clever "what if" science fiction novel, that it explores what it means to be genderless, without a body, and without a family, and that it is an evocative love story. I honestly didn't get much sense of any of that.
The story is about "A" - someone who wakes up in a different person's body and life every single morning. They have always been this way and have come to accept it. Until, that is, they end up inside the body of a boy called Justin and fall for Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. Suddenly, A's many lives revolve around locating Rhiannon and spending time with her. Hoping they can be together, and knowing that they can't.
The strongest part of this book - for me - was the many small stories scattered throughout about the different lives A enters. They are fleeting, varied, but often quite interesting and touching.
Beyond this, though, it was a disappointment. This same story written by many other authors would be called out for its "instalove". However, I suppose Levithan writes poetically enough that A's relationship with Rhiannon seems deeper, when in reality A falls in "love" with her instantly (because she is a "sad girl" who wants to go to the ocean).
Secondly, there is no explanation at all for the paranormal aspect. No attempt to address it, no consideration given to why A always wakes up in a body 4 hours or less away from Rhiannon and is always the same age. But I can suspend a lot of disbelief and I understand this isn't the kind of book that concerns itself with the "hows", so that wasn't even a major issue.
By far a bigger issue for me was something that many people have praised the book for - the unique perspective from the point of view of someone who is genderless and without a life of their own. Wow, what an interesting idea, right? Indeed it is, and yet it is not explored at all. There is very little discussion of what it means to be male, female, both or neither. It is taken for granted that these things are meaningless and shrugged off. What a wasted opportunity to look at a fascinating subject!
Some people look at Every Day and see a very different and beautiful book. I look at it and see another YA romance, framed in such a way that it can claim to be different without ever really breaking new ground.
For Romance month at my blog, I decided to take the opportunity to read something I wouldn't normally pick - this highly-praised M/M Fantasy Romance.
TFor Romance month at my blog, I decided to take the opportunity to read something I wouldn't normally pick - this highly-praised M/M Fantasy Romance.
The first thing you should know: this is a character-driven story. I think you will enjoy it as long as you don't go into it expecting a lot of grand world-building. The focus of this book - indeed, the whole series, it would seem - is on the relationship between two men, and their relationships with other royals, guards and slaves around them.
As romances go, it has everything I could ask for:
1) A really slow burn that makes a nice change from all the instant gratification NA romances I've read. 2) Characters that grow and develop with the plot. 3) Chemistry, both sexual and otherwise. Plus, a nice bit of hatred turned to reluctant partners in crime turned to...?
The main story goes like this: Damen is a prince and the heir to the throne of Akielos. But when the king dies, Damen is captured and bundled off to Vere, disguised as a slave, while his half brother takes the throne. Vere is an enemy to Akielos and Damen must continue pretending to be a slave if he wishes to live.
Enter Prince Laurent - heir to Vere and a pampered, spoiled and vindictive brat who becomes Damen's new master. Laurent is extremely unlikable at first, but Pacat manages to successfully grow him into a well-rounded and eventually likable character. I loved how our perception of him changes gradually.
Not surprisingly, the two princes despise each other at first. But what starts as an attempt to "break" one another, eventually becomes a reluctant partnership and a mutual understanding and respect.
The book is quite dark at times and is definitely an adult novel. The romance in this first book is pretty much non-existent but the tension is set up nicely to deliver on that in the next two books. However, romance/sex aside, the book contains some graphic descriptions, floggings and rape scenes that could be upsetting for some readers.
“You only care about your friends seeing me.” “That’s not true.” Okay, so it was kinda true. But only because of Jules. She’d infiltrated our group
“You only care about your friends seeing me.” “That’s not true.” Okay, so it was kinda true. But only because of Jules. She’d infiltrated our group a year ago and ever so slowly tried to turn my best friends against me.
Get your tissues ready, this is the saddest story you've heard all year.
Meet Gia Montgomery - a beautiful, popular, wealthy 17-year-old girl with loving parents and early acceptance to UCLA. But Gia, you know, she's got it bad. I mean, her hot college boyfriend not only broke up with her on prom night but, by doing so, he also sabotaged her plan to get even with her evil arch nemesis - Jules - and prove she DID actually have a boyfriend.
Oh lord - and on top of that? She doesn't win Prom Queen.
But wait, Gia is so super smart that she concocts a plan right there in the parking lot! Her boyfriend might have broken up with her (because she's a shallow, self-centred bitch), but looky over there - there's another male specimen just waiting around in his car; obviously waiting to be plucked up by her, ordered into a tux and dragged along into prom to pretend to be the boyfriend who broke up with her.
This guy - Fake Bradley - because of some great mystery of the universe, agrees to go with this girl he's only just met and pretend to be her college boyfriend. Then break up with her AFTER proving he exists. Fake Bradley does everything she asks, plays along, breaks up with her and goes home. And Gia - she's happy right?
Because now, suddenly, Gia can't stop thinking about Fake Bradley. And FB's little sister won't give Gia his number because - gasp! - she thinks Gia will just use him. For some reason, she's got this impression that Gia is a bitch who cares for no one but herself and her little group of popular bitches:
“Hi. I’m sorry. I don’t know your name.” He shrugged. “I’ve only been in four of your classes over the last three years. Why would you?” My cheeks reddened. Had he really? I looked at him again, closer. He honestly didn’t look at all familiar to me, except from prom the other night.
And on top of it all, Gia has to deal with her parents! Her kind, loving, considerate parents who - *sob* - didn't support her relationship with an older man.
Poor Gia. Poor me for suffering through this - one of the dumbest books I've ever read. I expected better from this author.
“Trapped between the door and his body, she froze. He knew he was using his size to intimidate her, but nothing else seemed to work where she was con
“Trapped between the door and his body, she froze. He knew he was using his size to intimidate her, but nothing else seemed to work where she was concerned.”
It's funny how everything remotely marketable as "YA" is these days given a pretty cover, a solid blurb writer, and voila! Truth is, some years ago, I think Blackhearts would have looked like this on the shelves:
It's all romance, no actual historical fiction beyond the racism, sexism and classism floating around. But, more than that, it's just a crappy romance. Teach (later to be known as Blackbeard) enjoys intimidating and stalking Anne Barrett, even after she runs away from his initial sexual advances, until she finally gives in and reciprocates his attentions.
There is absolutely no badassery, pirating and action in this book. The filler parts of the story feature Anne's servitude to Teach's father - lots of descriptions of her making beds, cooking dinner and cleaning rooms, whilst stealing valuable objects to save up for an escape. Everything else is about the romance between the two of them.
As these kind of novels tend to go, Teach is also already engaged to a rich, mean, overtly-sexual woman called Patience. There's real emphasis put on the comparisons between the sweet and innocent Anne, and the evil Patience who repulses Teach with her promises of sexual favours. Teach would much rather have the girl who runs from his advances (ugh).
Anne is a simple beauty, Patience tries too hard. Anne is nice and polite, Patience is fiery and speaks her mind. Anne fights off unwanted attentions, Patience tries to seduce Teach (her promised husband - what a hussy!). This alone was enough for me to dislike Anne, but she then tells Teach that one of her fellow maids likes to kiss the stable boy, knowing it would lead to said maid being called a "harlot".
On top of that, Teach himself is neither likable nor deliciously unlikable. He lacks any of the interesting characteristics we would expect from Blackbeard, instead being portrayed as a romantic hero, but ultimately fails to impress at either when he enjoys intimidating and stalking a maid until she finally gives in. If this had been an adult novel, I'm sure he would have assaulted her until she liked it too.
Give this a miss, unless you enjoy the old Harlequin romances.
“Everybody’s interested in me.” “Not him.” Jeff Stern, the host and roommate, tossed in a thousand dollars’ worth of chips. “Ain’t that right, Lane?” ““Everybody’s interested in me.” “Not him.” Jeff Stern, the host and roommate, tossed in a thousand dollars’ worth of chips. “Ain’t that right, Lane?” “Are you gay? Is he gay?” Lane moved the queen of hearts next to the king of hearts. Shifted the jack next to the queen. Wanted to push the boob job with mouth onto the floor.”
I actually hated this book. I'm not even trying to be dramatic - I HATED it.
Even though Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series was a little cliche and more than a little repetitive after a while, I confess to quite enjoying it. Especially the earlier books. So when I heard that she'd moved away from vampires and turned to Southern family drama for her latest series, I was ready to settle into an entertaining - if not mind-blowing - read.
But not only was this book one big cheesy cliche after another, I just despised the characters, found the sexual chemistry completely absent, and was a little uncomfortable - almost offended - in parts.
Firstly, though, how many times do I have to read this story?:
A rich, gorgeous and arrogant guy has fake-boobed, dyed-haired "bimbos" throwing themselves at him, but he is uninterested and too good for these dehumanized women. Yes, that's right - dehumanized into descriptions of their clothes and plastic surgery. Or referred to like this:
"Lane sat back and addressed the fool that had brought the chatty accessory."
Yeah, that chatty accessory is indeed a woman.
This rich dude, however, only wants a nice girl - a Mary Sue who doesn't wear make-up or have surgical enhancements:
“Her face was free of makeup, the skin tanned and glowing, the bone structure reminding him that good genetics were better than a hundred thousand dollars’ of plastic surgery.”
Plus, Lane - the guy in question - is pretty much a rude dick to everyone he doesn't want to fuck. Is it supposed to be sexy when he talks down to and rudely dismisses the staff in his family home? He also has a wife who is a racist piece of shit, which is used to justify him threatening to beat her:
“Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, she’s black— ” Lane grabbed Chantal’s arm and yanked her up close. “Don’t you ever talk about her with that kind of attitude. I’ve never hit a woman before, but I guarantee I will beat the shit out of you if you disrespect her.”
I honestly don't even know how to feel about that exchange. Should I hate her for being racist? Or hate him for being abusive? In truth, I just couldn't stand either of them.
The whole story is supposed to be about Lane meeting his old flame - Lizzie - after years apart. They could not be together because he is heir to a huge Bourbon empire and she's one of the gardeners. But now she's back and old emotions resurface (etc., etc.) and both of them must try to resist the pull of their pasts.
Now, I admit that there's something really sexy about old lovers with unsolved angst meeting up again. But Ward manages to drain every bit of excitement out of it. There is no build-up, no tension; even the supposed obstacles feel contrived and unrealistic.
This isn't unique to Ward's work, though. It seems to be the modern thing - happening in almost every NA romance I read. Does no one want a slow build of chemistry and tension anymore? Do readers only want instant gratification? Erections popping up and juices flowing as soon as they set eyes on one another? Am I one of a small few who is turned off by this?
Maybe. I don't know. I only know that this book was a mess. And it didn't even manage to be entertaining.
The more I think about this final installment, the more pissed off I get. This book is a joke.
Never Never opened with an exciting premise. Two teens hThe more I think about this final installment, the more pissed off I get. This book is a joke.
Never Never opened with an exciting premise. Two teens have lost all their memories and must piece together who they are and what happened to them.
Never Never: Part Two dawdled a little, but remained compelling. Just what was going on? What happened between Charlie and Silas's families? More clues are revealed. Secrets are uncovered.
All that build... All those clues being pieced together... Surprising reveals and family betrayals...
All... for that ending. One which leaves a million loose ends. One which says "fuck you" to every clue and piece of information introduced. This is the dumbest, soppiest excuse for a mystery I have ever read.
Oh god. Why is it so difficult to find a sexy summer romance that isn't annoying or laden with cliched characters?
I didn't finish Nowhere But Here - aOh god. Why is it so difficult to find a sexy summer romance that isn't annoying or laden with cliched characters?
I didn't finish Nowhere But Here - and feel free to judge me for writing a little review anyway - but I just couldn't make it through all the constant irritations.
The female MC (Emily) is a bland "good girl" from the right side of town and she comes into Oz's "bad boy" life and turns his head away from the slutty, trashy girls he's used to sleeping with and forgetting about. Because Emily is mysterious and classy, not obvious and sexual like all those other girls who show their midriffs, god forbid!
Annoyance #1 : Slut-shaming "Trash bitch woman wears skintight jeans, a tank top that exposes her midriff and, holy mother of God, flip-flops."
Annoyance #2 : Cliches and stereotypes The bikers that Oz hangs out with must be the most cliched, one-dimensional bikers ever. Oz is openly described as a "bad boy". Emily is good and boring and I don't understand why anyone would care about her...
Annoyance #3 : The Collide "She steps back and nearly knocks into me. I sidestep her, but I collided with someone else." This happens in so many romance novels. The author thinks "how can I make Ms Good Girl meet Mr Bad Boy? I know...BAM!" They collide with one another. Because a handshake is so passé.
“There was something about him. Something worth knowing. That much was certain.”
In life, there are times when you meet someone and realize "there's“There was something about him. Something worth knowing. That much was certain.”
In life, there are times when you meet someone and realize "there's just something about them". Maybe you know what I mean. Those people who may not be the best-looking, not even your usual type, not the smartest, the funniest or the "best" at anything really... but, for some reason, you're drawn towards them. And it's wonderful. You don't have to be a romantic to think there's something incredible about being pulled towards someone by some strange unseen force - God? Fate? The very chemistry of the universe? How wonderful to think your bond with someone goes beyond the physical and the rational.
I understand that. And yet... it doesn't work for me in books. Or, at least, it never has yet. Perhaps it's because this feeling that warrants a "there's just something about him/her" is very personal to the one experiencing it. That's the beauty of it, right? That no one else really gets it. But, as the reader of a romance novel, I kind of need to get it. If I want to fall in love with a couple, I need to feel the chemistry between them. I need to love them too.
And that's why instalove never works for me. "There's just something about him/her" never works for me. For me, ineffable emotions don't work in novels when all I have are the words before me. I appreciate in real life there are times when you can't describe how you feel with words; but, in books, being unable to describe something with words is kind of a big problem. Or, not even describe, but SHOW. No need to tell me how you feel, it's even better if you show me through character experiences, dialogue and the details between them.
This book has an interesting premise. It's historical with a fantasy aspect and in this story "Love" and "Death" are actual beings who select players in a millennia-old game. In the past, Death has always won, but can Love finally prevail when it comes to Henry and Flora?
The best bits about this book are the 1930s setting and the subtle explorations of race and homosexuality going on in the background. Henry is a wealthy white boy with a college scholarship and little to worry about, even though this is Depression-era America. Flora is a black girl who sings in jazz clubs by night, hoping to one day become the next Amelia Earhart. And then there's Ethan, a boy struggling to come to terms with his sexuality in a society that would never accept him. The little subplots were excellent, though sadly overshadowed by the "Game".
When Henry sees Flora, he is immediately mesmerized by everything about her for no real reason except it is their "destiny". What then follows is pages and pages of him being cheesy every time she appears:
“He’d never heard anything like her voice, which made him wish he had his bass in his hands, just so he could return the sounds, a mix of chocolate and cream, something he wanted to drink through his skin.”
Not only that, but people do an awful lot of "sensing" in this book. I've said in the past that I find this kind of storytelling lazy - when the characters either do or don't do something because they "get a feeling" about it. Like not trusting the bad guy because they "have a bad feeling". It's lazy and I don't buy into it.
All this being said, the author writes some beautiful descriptions of 1930s Seattle and the jazz scene. Plus, the subplots about race and sexuality were handled in a sensitive and engaging way. If the author branches off from destiny-inspired romance in her future books, I might come back to her work.
Becoming Rain is a book about the worst FBI agent ever. No exaggeration.
I've been in the mood for some romance lately so I've been checking out recenBecoming Rain is a book about the worst FBI agent ever. No exaggeration.
I've been in the mood for some romance lately so I've been checking out recent releases that sound interesting. Unfortunately, every book seems to be one more reminder why I keep taking long breaks from the romance genre - there is so much bad. In my experience, though, I have more luck with romances that are combined with other genres - fantasy, historical or mystery - so when I saw that this highly-rated book was romantic suspense, I thought maybe it was time to fall in love.
“I take easy, slow steps, keeping my face calm as I scramble to come up with a story. This is one of my strengths—lying—and yet right now I’m drawing a blank.”
But I did not bargain for the female MC, Clara (aka "Rain") being such a moron. I honestly don't know how she got her job or came out of this undercover mission alive. In the book, she’s undercover with potentially murderous criminals and every few pages she’s like “Oops! Just gave up some info about my personal life! Better fix it with really bad lies." I mean, that's before we even get to the bit where she falls for her target - Luke - because he's PRETTEH. I could be a better FBI agent than her.
We're constantly told how Luke is different from her previous targets because he's gorgeous and charming. According to Clara, that's the difference between the criminals who deserve it and the criminals who are just misunderstood - a pretty face. Oh, give me a break. She's supposed to be a smart, career-focused woman, and yet all of that turns to mush when she's faced with a hot guy.
And that not-so-subtle blow to feminism is nowhere near the end of it. But let me break down the basic plot first before I continue. Clara is an FBI agent going undercover to try and bust a notorious car theft ring in Portland. Luke is the nephew of one of the ring's main guys and his uncle wants him to take over the "business". Clara must worm her way into Luke's life as "Rain" and find out as much information as she can. However, Clara's training could not prepare her for a six-pack and a large penis so, alas, she starts to fall for Luke.
But Clara isn't just stupid, vapid and senseless, oh no, she also hates almost every single woman in the book. She looks down on "that type" of woman:
“These ones stalk through life with their stunning faces and perfect figures—either naturally granted or acquired with the help of a plastic surgeon—with the single goal of climbing the boyfriend ladder until they reach the top and become the wife of a rich husband who will cater to their every high-maintenance need. They’re vapid. Insecure. Unkind. I can’t stand their type. And I can’t stand the kind of guys who are attracted to them.”
You know what I can't stand? Women who shame other women for NO GOOD FUCKING REASON. Like you're so much better, Clara! You can't even stay on the job for two minutes without getting all caught up in those pretty eyes. Moron.
And this one:
“Maybe she made him breakfast. Maybe they did it again before she made him breakfast. Does that kind of girl even know how to fry an egg?”
What is "that kind of girl", anyway? You mean, the kind that has casual sex with a guy? What the fuck does that have to do with her intelligence or capability of frying an egg? Let me tell you, I'd much rather be the kind of girl who has casual sex than the kind of girl who jeopardizes an entire FBI operation because she couldn't get her shit together and do her job. And, by the way, if she's "that kind of girl", then that would make the guy you're falling for "that kind of guy", right? Or is it supposed to be different with guys? Fuck, you might as well just embroider a flag with "Feminism" and set fire to it.
But I saved the worst quote for last. There's a scene in the book where Clara is with a male colleague who is basically implying - correctly - that she is incapable of doing her job because - incorrectly - women have a tendency to get all caught up in their emotions and fall for their targets. How does Clara react?
“I could get offended, chew him out for treating me like a weak woman, but I know his concern comes from a good place, so I simply smile and nod.”
That's right, ladies. When you're talked down to by your male colleagues, remember that it comes from a good place, so just smile, nod and don't make a fuss.
It's amazing how your opinion of a book can do a complete U-turn by the time it's over. For the first third of Hearts of Fire, I honestly thought I woIt's amazing how your opinion of a book can do a complete U-turn by the time it's over. For the first third of Hearts of Fire, I honestly thought I would be writing a positive review. The writing was a little shaky in parts and I think there were a bunch of missed opportunities with regard to the description/atmosphere of the circus, but it was fun, the characters were interesting and it seemed very different.
Back when I was enjoying this book, I thought I would start my review with this quote:
“And then he was walking out onto the stage, two long metal torches in his hands, the tips blazing with fire. My skin prickled with awareness, and somehow I just knew I was in for something truly amazing.”
Ooh la la, right? If someone had told me at this point just how bad this book was going to get, I may not have believed them. In this NA romance craze, so many books look alike that I find myself doing a double take whenever I discover a book doing something different, in a different setting, with different kinds of characters. This book had that.
Instead of being set in the United States, this book starts in Ireland. When Lille runs away with the circus - looking for adventure, independence and an escape from her overbearing mother - she sets off on a trip to France, making new friends and enemies along the way. Like I said before, I think more could have been done with the atmosphere in the book. I can't help myself imagining how much better and more evocative the circus setting would have been if this book was written by someone like Leah Raeder.
Oh well, I still liked the idea behind it. And what I also really liked was the way the relationship between Lille and Jack was developed. The author builds up their trust for one another through banter and then friendship. It was so rare to see a relationship handled this way and I found myself caring for both characters even more because of it.
And then it all went wrong.
Oh dear, where to start. Okay, so first Lille loses all sense of self and finds herself needing Jack to validate her. I actually can't believe this scene takes place:
“You’re a great artist, Lille,” he said. What he said had been so simple, and yet it felt like just a few words from him, telling me that I didn’t actually suck, had legitimised me. For the first time in my life, I felt real.
Then we get yet another of those scenes where a guy attempts to rape the MC and the love interest turns up to save her. Why is this used in every single NA romance? I swear, it's in almost every single one. Why is rape being used to prove what a big, strong, sexy guy Jack is?
Then there's the crazy, slutty ex who literally threatens to hurt Lille if she doesn't stay away from Jack. Okay, firstly, why does every single NA male have an ex who is an evil nutjob? Are we supposed to compare them to the goodness that is our female MC? And secondly, I find it so strange how all these guys basically cheat on or dump their ex immediately when this new girl comes along, but this is legitimised in the book by said ex being a violent hellbitch.
And then there's the fact that Jack turns into a violent, mentally abusive ass after they start sleeping together. He seemed a little angsty before, but afterwards his behaviour was terrible. He is angry and violent (towards objects and other people, not Lille), he treats her like a disobedient child and orders her not to go out walking by herself. When she does, he's all like:
He grinds against another woman while she is watching because he wants to upset her. He says things like this:
“Flower,” he said quietly. The term of endearment didn’t sound the way it usually did. In fact, it sounded a little threatening. “If you lie to me one more time, you won’t like what happens next.”
This is classic, controlling mental abuse! Before, I wanted them to get together. After, I just wanted her to get as far away as possible.
Oh, and he gets off on hurting women sexually because he was abused by his foster mother. Sounds familiar. *cough*Fifty Shades of Grey*cough*
Though Mr Grey was all about the tie-up and spank stuff. Jack's kink?
“The problem is that it makes me want to pour wax over your skin, press hot matches to your thighs. It makes want to leave marks all over your body until no man can refute that you’re mine.”