Category Archives: 2013 Publication

The Forbidden Queen

The Forbidden Queen

The Forbidden Queen by Anne O’Brien

Genre: Historical-fiction, Romance, Adult

The Plot

The novel follows the journey of a young girl, Katherine de Valois who is realistically a mistreated, unloved French princess largely forgotten until she becomes of use as a pawn in peace agreements through marriage. She is thrust upon King Henry V in peace talks during the Hundred Years War and he is a man driven by war, with little interest in a wife except for producing an heir.

Katherine must deal with being largely unwanted by her husband, except to produce an heir, the consequences of being mother to the heir of the throne, being left widow and being the foreign enemy in an English court. A court inundated with controlling men, who have little time for a woman and her opinions and feelings. This forces Katherine to grow up in rather harsh conditions and lays testament to her strength with broken hearts, battles with those in power and struggles to be a mother.

The Review

The Forbidden Queen is a novel set in the prelude to one of my favourite periods of history, and this always leaves me wary to picking up such a novel. In general, historical-fiction as a history student is always a difficult one, because whilst I enjoy delving into a more imaginative side of history, sometimes the disregard for standard facts aggravates me. However, The Forbidden Queen whilst clearly being based on lots of imagination in terms of conversations, and the  real dynamics of relationships during this time, managed to encompass what I feel the 1400s would have felt like in England. I believe she encapsulated personalities and struggles from the events, and stuck largely to historical detail and it made a truly fantastic novel!

Katherine de Valois was a woman I fell in love with in this novel, my heart warmed to her throughout the novel. At the start I felt like she was childish and deluded, but part of the magic in this novel was how O’Brien developed her character and showed true growth to her as an individual that I imagine would to some degree be a true reflection. After all, when she left France, she was a scared young girl, basically still a child and by the time she was widow and mother to the heir of the kingdom, she was a much stronger, more capable individual and a woman with her own mind. Overall she was a likeable, strong individual and an important historical figure. After all, she birthed a king of England and was grandmother to another king of England, difficult to disregard such a woman in English history, even if she was the enemy!

There is ultimately a strong focus on romance throughout this book, and Katherine’s yearning for true affection, after receiving little from the Mad King, Charles VI her father and her mother the Isabeau a woman accused of adultery. Affection during this period was not common within royal families anyway, because the children were rarely raised by their parents. So Katherine stumbles through her early marriage, desperate for Henry V’s seal of approval, however he is much more interested in war. O’Brien really manages to interweave the romance with the historical events and descriptions, that provides greater plot and substance to the story.

Ultimately, the best part of the book for me does not arrive until much later in the story when Katherine meets Owen Tudor, which is when my attention was truly captivated. I have to warn you, O’Brien makes you work for happiness in this story, and it certainly tugs on your emotions, even at the end! The relationship between Katherine and Owen is everything is should honestly be, it develops once Katherine has achieved the kind of self-growth necessary to experience love, and Owen does not overpower her opinions. They are clearly an equal couple and one that I fully supported by the end, especially since it was something that actually happened.

O’Brien honestly brought these historical figures to life for me, she drew me into the English court and all the secrets, plots, hopes and dreams and weaved her magic with words. It was descriptive enough for me to visualise everything, yet O’Brien was never excessive. Overall The Forbidden Queen drew me into the 1400s with ease and elegance and kept my attention throughout. It is honestly a masterpiece in historical-fiction, and I encourage everyone to read it, not only because it serves to educate you a little about the basic happenings and people of this time in a fun, engaging and beautiful way, but it is genuinely a quality piece of fiction. I’ll be looking to get my hands on more O’Brien books now!

The Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

Extra note: I had an extremely busy week last week with moving back to University, packing and I also am pleased to announce, I can now drive because I finally passed my practical driving test! So hopefully I will be back to a regular posting schedule and dropping by your blogs from now on!

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 4.5 Books, Adult, Anne O'Brien, E-book, Historical Fiction, Mira Books, Romance

The Blue Blazes

TheBlueBlazes-144dpiThe Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

Series: Mookie Pearl #1

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Adult

The Plot
The Blue Blazes draws together the criminal, gangster underworld and supernatural happenings to give a rather unique take on an urban-fantasy novel. There may be creatures of the dark that haunt your nightmares, but the key feature of the novel surrounds drugs. The ‘blue blazes’ that provide supernatural strength, endurance and enhanced senses is the drug everyone wants to have on their side in battle. However it isn’t that only drug that everyone is searching for, as the main character Mookie uncovers.

Mookie Pearl is a man involved in both the supernatural and gangster underworld, but his family life also crosses over between the two and the novel follows him, and his spats with his daughter that adds yet another dynamic to this urban-fantasy novel.

The Review

 

Chuck Wendig is an author that not everyone will appreciate, but I read the first two books in his Miriam Black series and enjoyed them, I was curious to test out another series by him. However, like with the Miriam Black series he does not shy away from the violence and brutality, harsh language and rather grumpy, sometimes dislikeable characters that characterised the Miriam Black series. Nevertheless, he has a fantastic imagination, and if you don’t mind those sorts of things, delving into The Blue Blazes is an exciting, unique journey that served to keep my interest!

The Blue Blazes is not to me the typical urban-fantasy novel, which I think sets it head and shoulders apart from its genre. Wendig takes on something a little more adventurous and more applicable to modern day and succeeds with flying colours to craft it into a believable, exciting and scary fantasy world. After all, we have drugs in our world, why can’t there be ones that bring about supernatural changes?

Mookie Pearl admittedly is not an easy man to like, he doesn’t make the best life choices and his conflict with his daughter and seeming ignorance of her life makes him seem like a poor father figure. Throughout the novel he doesn’t really seem to make real attempts to mend the broken relationship and whilst his daughter and her wild attempts on her father’s life when she opposes his gang seem to make such things difficult, he still seems to be a rather harsh character. However, he does undergo some character development in terms of sorting out his family relations that redeems him in my eyes. He’s also not the typical main character that usually stares in the books I read and I enjoyed exiting from my comfort zone. Especially since he has a strong sense of identity developed and he is a hard-man with a lot of gruff, ready-to-roll style.

The Blue Blazes has a lot to offer in terms of fantasy and criminal underground dynamics that makes it unusual. It’s exciting, tense and it has tonnes of potential for the future series. I am definitely intrigued to know more about the origins of the drugs, what will happen with them all and especially the gang dynamics after things collapse a little at the end of The Blue Blazes. One thing this novel was not, was predictable and I will definitely be looking out to get my hands on the second instalment of the Mookie Pearl series. This might not be your usual type of book, but definitely take a leap of faith and try The Blue Blazes, as I think any fantasy fan can appreciate Wendig’s innovative slant on the criminal underground!

Historical Survival Chances

I have been contemplating for a short time now, how I rate books, and whilst I might give this book a solid 4.5 stars, will it last into the future? Will people in 20-30 maybe even 100 years time be reading Chuck Wendig like we read Mary Shelley or Dickens?

Wendig is innovative and creative enough that I think in the genre of urban-fantasy, he might stand a strong chance of being read well into the future. So I will be applying a survival chance percentage and an expiration date to the novel when I think people might no longer hold interest in these types of things.

Survival Chance: 65%    

Expiration Date: 2064

Favourite Quotes

“The Blazes are like that: the blue stuff doesn’t merely tear aside the facade to reveal the monsters, but when on it, the whole of the Underworld pulses with a different kind of energy.”

“The saying goes that there is more below the streets of New York City than there is above them. An exaggeration by those who say it, perhaps, but they don’t known just how accurate that statement truly is. Hell’s heart, as it turns out, has many chambers.”

 

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

9 Comments

Filed under 2013 Publication, 4.5 Books, Adult, Adventure, Angry-Robot, Chuck Wendig, E-book, Fantasy, Uncategorized

Walking Disaster

Walking DisasterWalking Disaster by Jamie Maguire

Series: Beautiful #2

Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The Plot
Walking Disaster for those of you who have read Beautiful Disaster is basically a retelling of that from Travis’ perspective and for those of you who are yet to read Beautiful Disaster (although I would not recommend it), it is a novel recounted from the perspective of the male love interest, a boy with severe issues.  This novel depicts an obsessive, controlling and frankly disturbing tale of ‘romance’ in which violence, possessiveness and drugs, drinking and gambling all appeared to be advocated in young-adults to excessive qualities. Read with caution.

The ReviewWhat was I thinking? Starting Walking Disaster seemed like such a good idea at the time, however after making my way into this book, my opinion descended rapidly, within the first few pages. However I continued the torture of reading and repeating the events of everything that happened in the first book with a painful expression. By 60% I was losing the will to live, but for some reason I continued and skim read largely to the end. I guess part of me would hope Walking Disaster would be able to redeem itself from the first book, however it just made the experience ten times worse. There is absolutely no need for the first book to be rewritten from the perspective of Travis. In fact,  being inside his head just made the whole experience worse. Travis is beyond the worst example for a boyfriend to the young-adult population. He is a controlling, possessive and violent individual who supports the view that it is acceptable to pick up your ex-girlfriend and carry her through a party because some other guy danced with her, after punching him. He has a very negative attitude off the female population that is derogatory and demeaning and when this is written by a female author I frankly find it disgusting. Not only does she continue to promote themes of violence, excessive drinking and gambling, but she presents a very archaic, cave-man approach to man and a very bad relationship ideal. NO girl should aim to find a boyfriend like Travis and the thought of people seeing him as acceptable makes my stomach want to turn.
Pigeon or Abby annoyed the living daylights out of me. She continued to allow herself to be deluded by Travis, fell into all of his traps and basically led him along in an unnecessary string of angst and pain. It was physically frustrating to read. I do not honestly understand her thought patterns even when I read Beautiful Disaster. She is almost certainly not a strong individual or a type of girl anybody should ever aspire to be!

The plot… What plot? There is no direction with this novel. It is fully a teenage angst drama that deals with two individuals breaking up, crying, drinking and going wild and then getting back together, then breaking up again. The two appear to continue to fight and basically hurt each other intentionally because they can.
I will not ever be reading another Jamie McGuire book and I can safely say, I am so utterly sorry for ever starting this series. In this case my curiosity for bad books, this was a very bad decision. I just warn you all away.

The Rating: 1 / 5 Stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website 

12 Comments

Filed under 1 Book, 2013 Publication, Atria Books, Contemporary, E-book, Jamie McGuire, New-Adult, Romance

Fangirl

fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young-Adult

The Plot

Fangirl is about a girl called Cather moving away to college, dealing with new people, new experiences, living alone and being without her twin Wren for the majority of the time, who is off partying and ‘living the college experience’.

Cather is a quiet, shy individual, who is awkward and geeky and still stuck in her world of Simon and Baz, characters from her favourite book series, who she writes tonnes of fanfiction about.

Fangirl also happens to be about growing up, learning to communicate with people, relationships and family. It has a lot of dynamics that make it about more than being just a ‘fangirl’.

The Review

Fangirl has to be one of my favourite contemporary reads, it also happens to be my first Rainbow Rowell book and I just could not tear myself away from the book. It definitely left a little bit of itself with me when I read it, especially when moving away to University around the same time as I was reading it, I could definitely understand and empathise with some of the situations Cather was in. Personally, I think this book will depend on the type of person you are, to how much you like it, in terms of whether you fall absolutely in love, or just like it.

Cather for me is an adorable heroine. She’s awkward, geeky, frustrating and always seemingly out of her depth, but she shows real growth throughout the novel and she is a likeable character. Her obsession with Simon and Baz, fictional characters, is kind of one I wanted her to lose throughout the novel, but she never did and whilst that annoyed me a little bit, I think it demonstrated that no matter how old you are, you can still enjoy getting lost in fiction, and manage to mature at the same time. Cather went through quite a few difficult moments in terms of family when dealing with her dad and his mental health issues, becoming estranged from her twin and meeting her mother who abandoned her when she was younger. It definitely shows Rowell was not afraid to tackle more serious issues with this novel, but then I liked how she still managed to interweave romance despite Cather’s blissful ignorance.

Levi is one of my all time favourite love interests, he is charming, cute and he cares about Cather. Despite the fact she is not aware that he flirts with her and goes out of his way to help in an attempt to get her to notice that he likes her, he does not give up. He is definitely a good guy, and the type of love interest contemporary romances should be projecting because whilst the ‘bad boy’ might hold appeal, he is not always the perfect guy for every girl or always a good role model. 

Finally, the bunch of secondary characters beyond this which were Wren, Reagan and the twin’s father happen to be fairly well developed in terms of their personalities, style and story. I wish in some ways we had gotten to know a little bit more about Reagan who is Cather’s room mate, but despite her surly exterior, I loved the way she took Cather under her wing and looked out for her as a friend despite saying she wasn’t that type of person. In addition to this, the twin aspect of the story was one I really enjoyed, and whilst for the first half of the novel I did not particularly like Wren, I understood her behaviour and style. I was pleased largely by the resolution of the plot line between the siblings and I definitely think the family aspect of the novel was important.

One of the reasons I loved Fangirl was because it became so much more than a contemporary romance, it definitely looked at growing up, discovering yourself and facing challenges with family and studying as you are away from home. There were a couple of aspects such as the lack of real resolution between Cather and her mum and the lack of knowledge about how Cather ended her Simon and Baz story that I would have liked to have seen more fully developed. Nevertheless, Fangirl for me had a lot of potential that it fully lived up to and I’ll be putting it on my shelf for a rainy day re-read when I need a book that is bound to tick all the boxes.

Favourite Quotes

“I know.” Reagan shook her head. “But you’re so helpless sometimes. It’s like watching a kitten with its head trapped in a Kleenex box.”

“You’re not the ugly one.” Levi grinned. “You’re just the Clark Kent.”

Cath started checking her e-mail.

“Hey, Cath,” Levi said, kicking her chair. She could hear the teasing in his voice. “Will you warn me when you take off your glasses?”

“How do you feel when I smile at you?” he asked—and then he did smile at her, just a little. Not like myself, Cath thought. She gripped his hands tightly, for balance, then stood on tiptoe, leaning her chin over his shoulder and brushing her head gently against his cheek. It was smooth, and Levi smelled heavy there, like perfume and mint. “Like an idiot,” she said softly. “And like I never want it to stop.”

The Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 4.5 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Rainbow Rowell, Romance, St. Martin's Press, Young Adult

Gone with the Wolf

Gone with the Wolf

Gone with the Wolf by Kristin Miller

Series: Seattle Wolf Pack #1

Genre: Paranormal-Romance, Werewolves, Adult

Publication: April 21st 2013 by Entangled

The Plot

CEO and alpha werewolf Drake Wilder has given up the search for his one true love. When he discovers that she’s a secretary in his company, Drake’s primal instincts kick into overdrive.
What he wouldn’t give to have her fingers rake over his body instead of the keyboard…

Free-spirited bartender Emelia Hudson wants nothing more than to make her Seattle-based bar succeed. But when profits decline, she slips into a dress suit and secures a nine-to-five. After learning that her bar has become property of Wilder Financial, Emelia is determined to get some answers.

Two can play the ruthless business game. If only her attraction to the boss wasn’t so intense…
When Drake’s twin brother senses that Drake has found his match—and now inherits their father’s billion dollar estate—he hatches a plan to take Emelia out. Drake vows to protect her at all costs, but he might have to pay with his own life.

My Review

Originality was rather lacking in the department of Gone with the Wolf. It felt like it fell into the typical cliche of Rich Man + Poor Woman + Angst over social and monetary value = Happily Ever After. Having said that, there still managed to be entertaining moments that I’ve labelled the “good bits” but there were quite a few “bad bits” to match those that damped my overall enjoyment of the book. Overall, it was rather forgettable too, which makes it harder to enjoy a book when nothing strikes you as entirely original.

Honestly, it was quite a while ago since I read this, and I’ve found that much of the details have slipped from my memory. However, Emelia Hudson the protagonist of our story I do recall grating on me quite a lot. She was supposedly free-spirited and whilst she had spunk enough to rebel against Drake, she quickly became drawn to him and didn’t provide that much opposition to him. There were moments when she was clearly against being dragged into his world and suspicious, but as it seems with the paranormal-romance genre, she accepted things a little too readily.

Drake was a rather interesting character, I couldn’t quite pinpoint his emotions at all the times and he was a little stupid. He was also a little frustrating, but eventually he unravelled to see the typical romance figure who didn’t quite understand the girl to start with as he bulldozed in as the “alpha male”. Luckily he rectified that by the end, and I managed to like him a fair amount.

His face didn’t twitch, flinch, flex. Nothing. He barely responded to her presence at all. Like the kiss last night never happened.

The concept wasn’t overly original, but the idea was Drake had to find his “mate” before his evil twin brother to gain control of their father’s pack. However he’d been searching for a long time and about given up hope on that aspect. It makes for a rather, race against time aspect in whether Emelia will accept him and adds some tension. Nevertheless the typical bad family relations that usually provide that angst for paranormal-romance was present and a little tiresome.

Ultimately I enjoyed the romance was a strong, rather entertaining aspect that certainly provided a few shivers. It was more or less the focus of the story, the relationship that kind of occurred rather than a progressive relationship. In addition the “plot” of the story tended to focus largely around the romance, so there wasn’t much substance to the novel.

She gasped for air, clutched at his back, and ache to taste more of his lips.

He dove down to her neck, smudging deliciously wet kisses along her collarbone and back up to her chin.

Overall, Gone with the Wolf is a romance that’s great for a quick, rainy day read as just something light and fluffy. There isn’t much too it and it’s not the best paranormal-romance or werewolf story, but neither it is the worst!

~ 3 Books / 5 Books ~

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 3 Books, Adult, E-book, Entangled Publishing, Kristin Miller, Paranormal Romance, Werewolves

Charm & Strange

Charm & Strange

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Werewolves

Publication: June 11th 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin

The Plot

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.
He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

My Review

Charm & Strange was utterly compelling from the first moment I entered the pages and it haunted me long after putting it down. It’s hard to fully review this book without giving everything away because there is a complexity that is intriguing and the plot whilst I could guess was truly unexpected from my first thoughts. This book is certainly not what it first appears and I applaud Kuehn for her choice of topic and clever handling of it. She chooses to do so in a rather unique fashion and this for me separates Charm & Strange from every other debut on the shelf. Kuehn strove for that originality and in my opinion, she certainly achieved it.

At first I struggled with the narrative style that switched between present and past and Win our unreliable protagonist only managed to make it seem more choppy and jolty with his odd ways and stilted manner at times. However I soon became sucked into the time switches and the prose was genuinely beautiful. I’m not usually one to be bothered by the narrative style all that much, but there was something rather haunting in Kuehn’s style that kept me entranced. I did find that the last part of the book was a little abrupt and rushed compared to the first, very large section of the book and it was rather a let down in terms of suspense. The ultimate end felt like a little bit of anti-climax, but despite this I would urge you to read the book.

From what I can tell, mortality is a word. Nothing more. There’re the things people do when others are watching and the things we do when they aren’t. I’d like to believe Anthony Burgess knew that, but then that dumb last chapter of his book went and ruined the whole thing. That made me mad, and so I think the movie version got it right: people don’t change. Their nature, that is. There are other kinds of change, of course.*

Another point that caused me great confusion to begin with was how to label this book. Is it contemporary or is it paranormal? Well, Win is a very confused and broken teenage boy and it was utterly heart-breaking to feel from his perspective and see through his eyes. I appreciated that we had the teenage boy perspective that wasn’t full of bravado and strength because not every teenage boy is that. Still, he believes he is a wolf and this is the driving force behind the novel and only adds to the unsettling chill and fear that seeps into your bones as you read. It really has an unnerving edge to be in Win’s mind, especially when he moves further and further to the edge of sanity. The journey he takes to uncover himself is one that doesn’t quite slip away from you and for that reason I urge you to read this book. To take the journey with Win and uncover the beauty of Kuehn’s writing craft.

Finally, Kuehn’s novel was absent of romance for Win and for that alone I found it different and refreshing. She focuses on the state of a teenager and the bond between family and I think this enabled me to relate into the storyline and connect with the characters. However I must warn you, the book isn’t all that happy and the rather sombre, dark colours of the new cover certainly reflect the air of despair and mystery at times that encompass this book. It’s poignant, innovative and thought-provoking so don’t miss out. I have nothing else to say, but read it now and be prepared for the unexpected!

4.5 Books / 5 Books

*Quote taken from an uncorrected e-arc copy.

8 Comments

Filed under 2013 Publication, 4.5 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Mystery, St Martin's Griffin, Stephanie Kuehn, Werewolves, Young Adult

How Beauty Saved the Beast

How Beauty Saved the Beast

How Beauty Saved the Beast by Jax Garren

Series: Tales of the Underlight #2

Genre: Urban-Fantasy, Magic, Romance, Adult

Publication: February 11th 2013 by Carina Press

*mild spoilers for book one

The Plot

Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.

The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.

Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him—or risk losing him forever…

My Review

How Beauty Saved the Beast picks up seamlessly from the end of How Beauty Met the Beast. There is a short time gap between the two, but one that enables the plot to be driven on without being hindered by confusion of recapping the events in between. Again, How Beauty Saved the Beast has a very pacey plot line that continues to engage my attention as the reader and build upon the events of the last novel, bringing in more information about the world and the characters and serving to heighten my all around experience of the Underlight.

Admittedly my first thoughts are to the cover which I enjoy so much more than the previous one. The Beast on the front appears to have no visible scarring on his face which is a little annoying, he does seem to fit the kind of figure I would imagine and Beauty’s presence in the back fits much more with the ideal I imagined than the first appearance. The dark blue and light blue fit the mood of the text and bring out the vivid red of Beauty’s hair, so I think Garren really captured the essence of the characters in this cover.

In terms of character development, we’d already gained a good grasp of both Beauty (Jolie) and the Beast (Hauk) in the previous novel, and Garren continued to build on these as both individuals exploring themselves and who they were, but together. She helped to build their relationship based upon communication and things they did together. This displayed the foundations of an emotional connection that whilst didn’t push through directly to lead the novel, had a strong enough presence to see that friendship came as part of the building. I liked that these two valued each other and regarded each other in terms of friends, because in terms of character growth it allowed themselves to look a little deeper at their own characteristics and attitudes. I think this was seen in Jolie’s acceptance of Hauk’s appearance more than anything else, which is probably to be expected, but it wasn’t cliché, it was more natural which I liked.

He had no hair at all and marked where his eyebrows should be with four curved barbells on each side. He had no tattoos on his face, but his skull had her favourite one, a phoenix rising from a fire at the top of his spin, her colourful wings encircling his head and her beak touching his forehead, right where a priest would place a blessing. It was an incredible piece of art, and must have hurt like a mother to have been done entirely on bone like that.

Now when I say that the romance doesn’t overshadow the plot, there are definitely still some very sweet and tension filled moments between the pair that only added to my enjoyment of the overall plotline. So for romance lovers out there, don’t worry because Garren knows how to deliver in the romance department!

Her lips were soft enough, fascinating enough to keep him happy for hours. Jolie wasn’t some quick hook-up. Touching her wasn’t some itch that just needed scratching. She was the real thing. She needed to know that. He needed to treat her like that. They had time to learn each other right.

The plot depth only gets more complicated and even more unexpected since the first book which I really liked because I never knew what to actually expect. Garren makes some really unique ideas, legends and political wars to bring together a novel of some great originality that also manages to be action-filled with fight scenes, rescues (which is pretty obvious given the title) and bomb-shells that I’m finding less and less in modern fiction. I certainly thing How Beauty Saved the Beast hypes up the plot another gear from where we first began and Garren only demonstrates how fabulous she is as an author.

In addition to this, we do get some new characters in this that certainly add more complexities to the novel. I liked how we didn’t weigh to heavily on the past events and Garren drove the novel forward with more action and characters and whilst many of the secondary characters that were in the previous book return, there seems to be something still new and refreshing about the second book that makes it as easy to read as the introduction was to the world.

I would mention that I didn’t quite feel the steampunk element as strongly in this one, however in replace we did get some magic that blends much more strongly into How Beauty Saved the Beast than the first novel. So I wouldn’t expect too much steampunk from these novels, but do regard that Garren has the power to blend, action, romance and magic and so much more into these books that she continues to build upon with new layers that make them so enjoyable.
Another good point, is whilst How Beauty Saved the Beast is urban-fantasy and not a book that looks deep into humanity and pondering the issues of society like contemporary fiction generally does; it certainly proves effective in looking at judgements upon appearance and the conspiracy theories of politics that make it more relatable and realistic for an urban-fantasy novel.

Ultimately for me, Garren has done what so many authors seem to fail when writing a sequel, she has managed to step up the game and only have me eager for more! So pick up the Tales of the Underlight series now as I promise you won’t regret it.

4 Books / 5 Books

3 Comments

Filed under 2013 Publication, 4 Books, Adult, Carina Press, E-book, Jax Garren, Magic, Romance

Twice Tempted

Twice Tempted

Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost

Series: Night Prince #2

Genre: Paranormal-Romance, Adult, Vampires

Published: March 26th 2013 by Avon

The Plot

Dating the Prince of Darkness has its challenges…

Leila’s psychic abilities have been failing her, and now she isn’t sure what the future holds. If that weren’t enough, her lover, Vlad, has been acting distant. Though Leila is a mere mortal, she’s also a modern woman who refuses to accept the cold shoulder treatment forever–especially from the darkly handsome vampire who still won’t admit that he loves her.

Like choosing between eternal love and a loveless eternity…

Soon circumstances send Leila back to the carnival circuit, where tragedy strikes. And when she finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who may be closer than she realizes, Leila must decide who to trust– the fiery vampire who arouses her passions like no other or the tortured knight who longs to be more than a friend? With danger stalking her every step of the way, all it takes is one wrong move to damn her for eternity.

*mild spoilers potentially for book one

The Review

Twice Tempted is honestly my guilt pleasure, or at least Jeaniene Frost is. This woman continues to astound me with her brilliance, talent and pure entertainment quality that she manages to inject into every inch of her books. Twice Tempted is tantalising, tempting and filled with tension for every moment that had me up well into the night turning the pages on my kindle to find out the next adventure of Vlad and Leila. And I assure you, Vlad hands down gets even better than before and he will set the world on fire. Despite my gushing praise, Twice Tempted is not perfect, but it’s enjoyable and filled with romance, action and mystery that means the plot link continues to elude you until the very end.

Vlad is my favourite of Jeaniene Frost’s characters and whilst Bones will always have a special place in my heart, there has always been something about Vlad. He’s definitely what you call the heartless vampire that will crucify his enemies and plunge a stake into the heart of his employee if there is even a whisper of betrayal. It’s ultimately what makes him so fabulous with his iron-will and strong notions that make him predictable. However, beneath all that there is a side to Vlad that is entertaining to be uncovered and he’s not quite as impenetrable as he once thought. He is also the archaic gentlemen with ideas of chivalry and fighting for his lady, however what makes it all the more entertaining is that he is in love with a modern lady.

I drank in the sight of his muscled chest with its dusting of dark hair and numerous scars. Vlad looked like what he was—a warrior who’d hacked his way through battles that would’ve killed lesser men. Unclothed, his seething masculinity and inherent dangerousness weren’t diminished. Instead they increased, and I’d have it no other way.

Leila continues to build on herself and her strength as she flies into everything head-strong and independent. She doesn’t allow anybody to beat her, least of all Vlad. This is particularly what makes their relationship entertaining as they battle and bicker that makes you smile. Leila definitely has lots of emotional turmoil to deal with in this instalment, but she is exceptional and comes out of everything even stronger than before. She is definitely what I call a real kick-ass heroine.

Honestly what makes Jeaniene Frost my favourite author is her ability to articulate flowing scenes, but balance it with humour, spicy romance and action. It perfectly blends elements of urban-fantasy and paranormal-romance into a balanced healthy mix that gives you the best of both worlds. I definitely think fans of either side can appreciate Frost for her wonder and enthusiasm which touches every aspect of her work. In addition to this she crafts well-rounded, realistic and characters full of emotion and grit that draws in every aspect of your attention until you are entirely drawn into it.

Twice Tempted certainly affirms why I love Frost so much and that whilst the Night Huntress series may have waned by the end, she has relighted the passion for her novels in something new, fun and quirky that takes place with the Prince of Darkness. Seriously, don’t miss out on Frost because she is undeniably an author that keeps me up late at night wanting to finish a book, which I find to be a rare occurrence these days.

4.5 Books / 5 Books

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 4.5 Books, Adult, Avon, E-book, Jeaniene Frost, Paranormal Romance, Vampires

Dare You To

Dare You To

Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Series: Pushing the Limits #2

Genre: Contemporary, Young-Adult, Romance

Expected Publication: May 28th 2013 by Harlequin Teen

The Plot.

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things.The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all…

The Review.

Dare You To is a contemporary novel as equally engaging as McGarry’s Pushing the Limits. However, Dare You To didn’t quite push the same buttons as Pushing the Limits for me, but despite this, I loved it all the same. I found that I engaged with the characters and their story and after the introduction took a while to assimilate with because the introduction felt a little stilted, but from then on out the novel was a whirlwind and it kept me hooked from start to finish playing on my emotions and making me smile as well as cry. I think the reason that I didn’t truly connect with McGarry’s Dare You To as much as Pushing the Limits because I felt that Pushing the Limits had more layers to it with the mystery and dynamic that it didn’t seem to be entirely romance centric and whilst McGarry draws in other elements in Dare You To with deprived neighbourhoods impacting upon the characters and their ideals and how the environment can manipulate the individuals. However, Dare You To lacked the mystery that pushed me on to read and devour and the romance took a major part of the story that reminded me it was contemporary. Despite this, I think McGarry reminded us so much why we love her characters and how well she allows the words to flow together.

I know so many people expected Beth and Isaiah to be together, and whilst I did, I actually preferred this route to that which McGarry took and the justification she gave in her novel for her decision. I think the choice she made for Beth and Isaiah represents how well she understands her characters at their deepest level and the progression they need to become who they truly are. Beth and Isaiah I felt would have restricted each other and McGarry addresses this factor in the novel because they had their ups and downs, but the friendship I think they’ll sustain will hopefully be a strong enough bond. After all, Beth never felt invested for me in Isaiah in book 1 and that troubled me, so I’m actually glad McGarry took a different direction. I urge you to not let this put you off reading Dare You To because of the couple she chose because the direction doesn’t take away from the novel at all.

Beth is a character that I struggled to like. I just couldn’t wrap my head around her decisions because she was on a path of self-destruction from the start and I just wanted to shake her, but I guess part of this was her love for her family and I appreciated that McGarry didn’t allow her to give up so easily. Beth was a stubborn, tenacious character with a rather broken spirit and that needed somebody to help rebuild her to a whole rather than like Isaiah, I felt he would have allowed her to spiral further into destruction, Ryan didn’t allow this. I liked that Beth always stood up for her beliefs, but at the same time her proneness to running annoyed me because it felt like a cliché for a lot of novels and she was such a strong character that she had the ability she just chose the easy way out. Most of all, I loved Beth’s spunk and her fashion sense and self-expression that really made her the diverse character in the small town so she wasn’t conforming to the way people expected her to behave. And the fact that by the end on her own terms she managed to form bonds and friendships between the other characters made me smile because truly, her tale of isolation was heart-breaking! This quote actually broke my heart a little bit at how innocent and endearing Beth could be at times despite her crusty exterior there was a girl I just wanted to wrap up and take away from all the hurt and pain.

“With a room like this, I bet he buys rand-name cereal.”

Ryan is a male protagonist that I really liked. If you’re worried about not liking him, he’s an easy character to worming his way into your heart. At first he seems like the player, but beneath the surface and the POVs splits between him and Beth really enabled you to uncover his thoughts. I liked that McGarry continued the theme of POV switches like she did between Noah and Echo is Pushing the Limits because it created consistency and enabled us to really understand both characters. Ryan seems to be rather one dimensional to start with and this is why I struggled with the introduction, but I guess McGarry tries to incorporate the theme of mystery around his family, but I don’t think she achieved it as successfully with Dare You To it felt more of a slow unravelling of the plot rather than mystery. However his character built up as we went along and despite some of the things he did and his first intentions he was a very sweet, caring character and he’s passionate about what he loves; baseball and writing. It’s so infectious.  And with Beth’s help, he eventually stands up for what he believes in.

“Baseball isn’t just a game. It’s the smell of popcorn drifting in the air, the sight of bugs buzzing near the stadium lights, the roughness of the dirt beneath your cleats. It’s the anticipation building in your chest as the anthem plays, the adrenaline rush when your bat cracks against the ball, and the surge of blood when the umpire shouts strike after you pitch. IT’s a team full of guys backing your every move, a bleacher full of people cheering you on. It’s … life.”

Beth and Ryan worked well together as a couple and I thought they challenged and pushed each other to change and do what needed to be done rather than they felt comfortable with. She really makes their characters to be real and not unrealistic Mary Sues.  I think this is truly where McGarry shines when she depicts the true relationships of characters and not something fluffy and unrealistic that some contemporaries I feel play on, which is why I can happily award her novels more than 3 stars because they appear to have more dimensions than one.

Oooh, McGarry also manages to write despicable character who you really hate. Gwen is a character I definitely despised. From the moment I met her, McGarry clearly showed us why we shouldn’t like her and she continued to build the case uncovering sub-plots that related to Lacy, Beth’s friend which I think it would have been nice to have seen explored more.  There was just something about Gwen that really grated against me and I’d be surprised if anybody liked her. She was just so self-centered and I liked how Lacy saw straight through her and supported Beth in the right direction. My only annoyance was how Beth allowed Gwen’s poison to get to her and that was the only real element of McGarry’s novel that I found unrealistic. I just didn’t understand the irrationality of her actions, but I like to think Beth used it more as an excuse than anything.

“Gwen,” I say in return. Reaching the concession stand, she sweeps her hair over her shoulder as she refocuses her attention. I keep staring, trying to remember why we broke up.

“Drama!” Lacy purposely blocks my view of Gwen’s ass.”

– Man much, Ryan, staring at her ass?

One element of this novel that I didn’t like was the reappearance of Echo and Noah. I adored their relationship in Pushing the Limits, but I don’t think McGarry captured the dynamic the same in bringing them back for a snapshot in this novel and that disappointed me. I didn’t want to see them in Dare You To if they appeared different because they seemed tainted by their environment in the destructive environment and Pushing the Limits seemed to show a new direction and I felt like they’d taken a back-step. Maybe it was just me, but I’d have rather McGarry had eclipsed them entirely from the novel and not allow them to encroach on Beth and Ryan’s novel because Beth didn’t really get on well with either of them and I felt that the connection relied with Isaiah who wasn’t seen that much to say that they had such a close friendship. Thus, I expect to see Beth in the next book because of the dynamic Isaiah and Beth had.

For those of you wondering about Isaiah, he gets his own book, Crash Into You to make up the third book in the series and I’m very much looking forward to this one to summarise the little troupe, hopefully with happy endings because whilst McGarry delivers with an emotional rollercoaster, I don’t think she’ll leave you in despair.

Overall I really enjoyed Dare You To and fully expect most people to fall head over heels in love with it, if not more than Pushing the Limits, but for me, I think there was something special and new about the development of Pushing the Limits that didn’t quite touch Dare You To. However, I recommend the novel without reserve and I am eagerly awaiting the next because McGarry is an addiction all on her own.

*Quotes taken from an uncorrected e-copy provided through NetGalley thanks to Harlequin Teen.

~ 4 Books /  5 Books ~

Nerd Fact

So personally, I know very little about baseball except it involves bases and sounds like an English version of rounders. Therefore it being Ryan’s love, I thought I’d look up some facts about it.

It involves nine players on either side and you basically have to hit a ball and run around the four bases at the corners of a 90-foot diamond. With turns of batting and pitching, which I’m sure most, if not all of you know.

However, the early form of baseball was being played in the mid-eighteenth century in England with the first reference in A Little Pretty Pocket-Book by John Newberry and immigrants brought it to North America where they developed the modern version and by the nineteenth century it was seen as the Unite States’ national sport.

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 4 Books, Contemporary, E-book, Harlequin Teen, Katie McGarry, Romance, Young Adult

The Holders

The Holders

The Holders by Julianna Scott

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Young-Adult

Series: Holders #1

Publication: March 5th 2013 by Strange Chemistry

The Plot

Becca is a girl who is the female lioness. She is fiercely protective of her cub, a.k.a her brother. He has these voices in his head and she’s positive that he’s not deluded. She had defended him against all the men in white coats. In addition to this, she has to deal with the fact that her father abandoned her as a child and her brother and mother still idolise this man.

When two people come from a school, St. Brigid’s to promise a happily-ever-after and safe place, Becca is still the paranoid sceptical.

However this leads to moving all the way over to Ireland, but in the process a whole host of history is unveiled and there is Alex. The swoony, heart-throb who is utterly endearing, slightly frustrating, but a very loveable guy.

We get some shocks, some action and lots of quick page turning throughout this book that makes up a fabulous exciting fantasy novel that starts a series that promises to be thrilling!

The Review

The Holders is a book that has come about with plenty of praise for a debut novel, so I had fairly high expectations going into reading, and trust me, it did not disappoint. I was riveted from the very first moment of picking it up and turning the page. I just couldn’t stop reading this book and there was plenty of action delivered. It was exactly the book I needed to drag me into reading again and I think I’ve missed out on some of the intense action that comes with a short book. The Holders is not perfect, and the arc was surprisingly riddled with spelling errors, but it does make a very enjoyable book that made me smile and skipped it’s way into my heart.

Firstly I’m going to start with my favourite element of the whole novel, Alex. Now, I am not usually one for guys who’d I’d necessarily term “cute” like Zeke from ‘The Immortal Rules’, but Alex swept in and easily stole my heart. He was thoughtful, caring and an utterly faulty character which made him realistic. He blushed and was easily hurt, but I feel that literature is full of the “look at me” male heroes and in being so unlike these he captured my heart. I didn’t feel like he was trying to dominate the novel or control Becca like so many guys appear to go, he allowed her independence and actively encouraged it. Alex has undoubtedly made it onto my favourite love interests and the good  news there is only him to see and explore so I thought that Scott really embellished and rounded his character to show the good sides to him.

Then, without seeming conscious of the action, his hand came up and slowly brushed the stray hairs away from my face, softly grazing my cheek. My heart lurched and sputtered, and I prayed he couldn’t feel my hands shake against his shoulders. Holding my eyes with a look that made my stomach tight, he continued, “Don’t ever apologize for saying how you feel.”

Becca on the other hand, I didn’t love as much. She was a great strong, kick-ass protagonist, but her slight tendency to overreact annoyed me ever so slightly. Other than that, I really liked her. She was smart, caring and she clearly had a good relation with her brother and mother. However, I do feel there is more of her to uncover and that we didn’t get to know her character as much as we could have done and that more development is needed to really strengthen her.

The focus on the school and the world building was really good and whilst the school element may not be wholly original, I thought Scott built up a fantastic world of ‘The Holders’ and all the history that surrounded them. I felt that the magic of the really novel really captured the reader and drew me in so I had all my sense bombarded with the powers and talents of the characters. Scott handled the transition from America to Ireland exceptionally well and the rural landscape and greenery of Ireland was captured in the setting of the school with the woods and wildness. I really felt the greenness of the land creeping into the text and a love for the wild.

The main issue of this novel is, it’s pretty predictable on most levels this novel. The events that follow don’t come of much as a surprise, but honestly that didn’t detract all that much from my enjoyment and I happily turned the pages to unveil the next round of action.

Overall, I think The Holders is a really strong debut novel from Scott and I’m looking to future instalments for this series to see where Scott will take us. I definitely think everybody should take a chance with this one as it is lots of fun, an easy read and a whirlwind of action, cute romance and enjoyment.

~ 3.5 Books / 5 Books ~

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Filed under 2013 Publication, 3.5 Books, Fantasy, Julianna Scott, Magic, Romance, Strange Chemistry, Young Adult