Category Archives: Young Adult

3 Reasons I fell in Love with Anna and the French Kiss Series

So it’s official, I went and fell in love with the Anna and the French Kiss series within approximately 5 hours, after finally (months behind everyone else) jumping on the bandwagon to read. My hands were literally glued to Anna and the French Kiss, which I kept promising myself “one more chapter before bed” and ultimately forgoing sleep to consume the whole book. I read the first two books within the space of a day, and then decided I needed to draw myself away and lasted all of around a week, before succumbing to the calling of Isla and the Happily Ever After. (Oh, and mentally slap myself every time I read Isla phonetically rather than Ey-la – I have problems with saying that name as much as I love it!).

Love-Potion

By the point I reached the end of Isla, this was me; entirely star struck. What on earth had I just undertaken, reading contemporary, fluffy young-adult literature, finding genuine meaning, love, friendship and just all around elation?

So here begins my list of reasons to love the series, rather than composing a review for a set of books most of you have probably read/heard about, and you are honest to god bored of reading another mundane review.

1. THE CHARACTERS

I would literally compare how I feel about all the main characters: Anna, St. Clair, Cricket, Lola, Josh and Isla to how I feel (very nearly) about the Harry Potter characters. They are not perfect, they do have issues and they may not honestly be everyone’s cup-of-tea, however I found them quirky, relatable, fun and most of all likeable. Stephanie Perkins makes real effort to flesh out her characters, give them all backstories and connect them all in different ways, despite the fact that many of them end up living in different cities. Beyond these 6 main stars, she also brings in a plethora of secondary characters to support each individual, add more dimension to their character and make you understand them a little more.

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Just sayin’, six awesome characters here, six awesome characters there..

I can literally probably talk your ear of for a good hour about these characters, but I am going to pick one as my favourite. I have to say it has to be Isla, there was just so many times when I connected with her and understood her.

“Because I thought no one could love me.”

“And why did you think that?”

“Because I didn’t think I was worth loving.”

Hattie takes this in. And then she hits me in the stomach. I yowl in surprise, and she hits me again. “Don’t be stupid.”

Ow.”

“Everyone is worthy of love. Even a dumb sister like you.”  – Isla and the Happily Ever After

YEAH SHE MAY BE A BIT OF A DORKY, INSECURE IDIOT AND YOU WANT TO SLAP HER HERE, but that is okay, I did too and I am EXACTLY the same kind of person. Like seriously, Isla and her nerves (okay, I’m not nearly as bad, but sometimes I do stupid things and make situations awkward). Her doubt of herself, her continual pushing that things are not good enough (school nerd here), and just generally everything about her. Also her inability to handle painkillers – totally me.

“Oh, shit.” I tuck up a leg and smack my kneecap on the table. “Am I acting that loopy?” – Isla and the Happily Ever After

There were so many aspects that I loved, but the part that made me applaud Perkins more was that she made Isla realise who she was without Josh. SHE DID NOT NEED A BOY TO FIND HERSELF. WOOOO FOR FEMINISM. YES. GIRL YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT, GET WHAT YOU WANT AND THEN STILL FIND THE BOY LATER.

Anybody gathering that Isla and the Happily Ever After got five stars from me on Goodreads yet? Winking smile

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

And I realise…it’s okay. It’s okay if St. Clair and I never become more than friends. – Anna and the French Kiss

Although Isla is not the only book that Perkins does this in, she started it at the very beginning with Anna. SELF-REALISATION FOR THE WIN!

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2. THE SETTING

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“looks like a fantasyland castle – wet sand dripped through fingers, both sharp and soft. Bright construction lights are everywhere, and workers are tinkering around its massive spires in dangerously tall cranes.” – Isla and the Happily Ever After

I mean, I literally visited Barcelona this summer, I saw the amazing Gaudi’s church. (My beautiful photography *laughs* – it’s just so tall and I’m so small, there is undoubtedly neck cramp here. Yes it’s also the background of my blog!). THIS IS WHERE ISLA AND JOSH WERE. I mean, I literally love the fact that I was there, and so were they (I do remember they’re fictional, okay). Barcelona has to be one of my favourite European cities, it is just so beautiful. I think this has to also be why I connected to Isla and the Happily Ever After so much more.

We’re splashing towards the heart of Barcelona. Red- and yellow- striped flags – some with the blue triangle and star of independence, some without – hang everywhere from apartment balconies, soaked with storm. The city’s appearance is distinctly Western European, but it’s also filled with colourful architecture and steep hills. Palm trees and leafy trees. Purple vines and red flowers. – Isla and the Happily Ever After

Not to mention Paris, I love Paris. It has been a long time since I visited, but I have plans to go back next year and the majority of the setting was in Paris. It is such a beautiful, romantic city. Just downright being set in Europe won me over from the start because most YA contemporary teen fiction is set in America, and I don’t mind, but occasionally, I want something different, something European.

3. THE ROMANCE

Oh, Etienne St. Clair where are you? Oh, Cricket, the boy next door and Josh the troublesome artist.

I definitely have to say I found it hard to pick between love interests. As much as I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After, I do not think Josh was my favourite love interest. And whilst I think I loved Lola and the Boy Next Door the least out of them all, I do think Cricket was my love, the nerdy boy next door who cared about Lola and only wanted the best. There was just something so geeky and loveable about him.

I know you aren’t perfect. But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.Lola and the Boy Next Door.

I mean – weeping – somebody come sweep me off that feet with such a line? Perkins just seemed to make it so effortless when she sweeps you off your feet with her beautiful way with words, and carefully crafted romantic proposals.

Perkins does not just craft an easy boy + girl = fall in love and happily ever after. She brings in the fact that people fall in love with people in a relationship and are afraid to leave them when it doesn’t work, but why? She talks about how we might be too afraid to step from our comfort zone. How we might appear to others, but is that truly us? I think despite the fact that this is contemporary romance and at times, fluffy, there are real issues that she tries to deal with subtlety and with love and attention that makes reading these books such a beautiful experience.

“Mademoiselle Oliphant. It translates to ‘Point zero of the roads of France’. In other words, it’s the point from which all other distances in France are measured.” St. Clair clears his throat. “Its the beginning of everything.”

I look back up. He’s smiling.

“Welcome to Paris, Anna. I am glad you’ve come.” – Anna and the French Kiss

There are just far too many quotes to take from all these books (I realise I have taken probably lots from Isla in comparison to Anna and Lola, but there was just something magical about that book for me. 

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How could I resist the charms of these three guys?

Okay, I will admit this series is not perfect and it seriously has its imperfections, but there is just so much to love. So much beauty in her writing.

But I don’t want to give you this broken, empty me. I want you to have me when I’m full, when I can give something back to you. I don’t have much to give right now. – Lola and the Boy Next Door

This is me and how I am currently feeling towards any other book. This is The Absent Historian signing out on a serious book hangover, after falling in love with Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door and then having her heart confiscated by Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Now go read it if you haven’t already.

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Filed under 2010 Publication, 2011 Publication, 2014 Publication, 4 Books, 4.5 Books, 5 Books, Chick-Lit, Contemporary, Dutton, E-book, Romance, Stephanie Perkins, Young Adult

Series Review (4-7): Morganville Vampires

AA Feast of Foolslord of misrule Feast of Fools (#4), Lord of Misrule (#5) by Rachel Caine

Genre: Young-Adult, Paranormal-Romance, Vampires

The Review *Mild Spoilers for the series*

Feast of Fools and Lord of Misrule are two solid additions to the Morganville Vampire series and continue on seamlessly from where Midnight Alley left off. In these two books we are introduced to the character of Bishop who brings with him a much more sinister air and certainly amps up the tension. These books follow again the journey of Claire largely and then obviously her housemates, Michael, Eve and of course Shane.

The characters certainly seemed to develop to a much greater extent in Feast of Fools and sides were drawn and there were quite a few twists and turns I did not expect in terms of character development. This is one of the reasons that I really appreciate Caine’s skills as an author because she always manages to introduce a new element to the character and following the same individuals throughout this series really gives a chance to develop strong character traits and personalities and build up a plethora of secondary characters.

Admittedly, I have come to the conclusion despite his crazy ways, the unpredictability and some of the more dangerous sides of his character, Myrnin without a doubt is my favourite and although Shane captures my heart as the love interest of these stories, there is just an element of Myrnin that has so much more. For those of you who have not read the series, I urge you to read it just for Myrnin, he is intelligent, scary, creepy, excitable, unpredictable and at times he manages to be genuinely caring. He is a vampire who is immersed in science and discovering and he is certainly self-centred and authoritative and always believes he knows best. He is almost certainly not a perfect character and for me that is what makes him so endearing and likeable, although I doubt he would like to be called either.

In terms of the plot across these two books, it ramps up in action and whilst elements were frustrating with the seeming chain of events from the previous books appearing to reoccur just in a slightly different format, with slightly different characters, the novels were still engaging in terms of plot.

Overall, even five books in, I find the Morganville vampires series as refreshing as ever!

Favourite Quotes

“Claire stretched out against the wall and kissed it. “Glad to see you, too,” she whispered, and pressed her cheek against the smooth surface. It almost felt like it hugged her back. “Dude, it’s a house,” Shane said from behind her. “Hug somebody who cares.”

“What about Myrnin?” Eve swallowed, almost choked, and Michael patted her kindly on the back. She beamed at him. “Myrnin? Oh yeah. He did a Batman and took off into the night. What is with that guy, Claire? If he was a superhero, he’d be Bipolar Man.”

Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars

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Carpe Corpus (#6), Fade Out (#7) by Rachel Caine

Genre: Paranormal-Romance, Young-Adult, Vampires

The Review *Mild Spoilers for the series*

Carpe Corpus and Fade Out move in a slightly different direction to the previous books in the Morganville series and I am finally happy to see some more Shane action in terms of romance. Up until this stage, things between Claire and Shane have been together but rather tip-toeing around their relationship because of age concerns, parents and general differences between their experiences in life. However I felt like we had actual progression and a solid foundation for future between the two of them, although there were moments when I thought Caine was going to frustrate me and ruin everything.

Morganville by this stage has seen some serious changes to the start of the series, and I really like the development in the world building that slowly unravels the history of the town and the reasoning’s behind its existence. It still manages to move forward at the same time and it is a really excellent balancing act from Caine.

Thirdly, there are a lot more plot lines brought into the series now and elements that we have had no idea about until now, and it really serves to draw all the aspects of the previous novels together. However in some regards I feel like Caine is brining in all these new plot lines to draw out the series a little more. Nevertheless, I do not feel like reading is a drag at all in reference to the Morganville series, but it is certainly a long series. Although since the final book has been published, this has encouraged me to return to the series and finally finish it all in one go (hopefully soon since I have recently taken a short break from reading it)..

Overall, I think the Morganville series is refreshing in terms of the paranormal-romance and paranormal genre, since the idea of a town where vampires are confined to, and the humans are given protection or are free for the vampires to have their way with. It is very unlike Twilight and The Vampire Diaries and lots of other popular vampire novels out there, and I really enjoyed this element of the Morganville series and I think despite having grown up from being the young teenager reading these books, I still manage to find a connection with these books to enjoy them. If you have not tried this series, I definitely recommend it!

Favourite Quotes

“If the lab was neater, so was Myrnin. He was still favouring old-timey clothes, so the coat was dark green velvet, flaring out and down to his knees. The ensemble also included a white shirt, bright blue vest, a pocket watch chain gleaming against the satin, tight black pants, and…

Claire found herself staring at his feet, which were in bunny slippers.

Myrning looked down. ‘What’? he asked, ‘They’re quite comfortable.’ He lifted one to look at it, and the ears wobbled in the air.”

Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

Goodreads (#4), (#5), (#6), (#7) ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

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Filed under 3.5 Books, 4.5 Books, Allison & Bushby, Paperback, Paranormal Romance, Rachel Caine, Vampires, Young Adult

Book Review: The Walled City

The Walled City

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Genre: Young-Adult, Crime, Fantasy, Gangsters

The Review

“There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.”

These are the words that drew me in from the blurb of this book. In all honesty, I was unsure about a book that talked of rape, drug culture, gangsters, crime, death and prostitution, never mind the fact that it is a young-adult book. However, that does not mean to say I feel it is wrong for such a book to be published under the young-adult genre. After all, the term includes ‘adult’, the term only refers to somebody slightly below adult years and we have to enable our youth to learn and be educated through some means, and we cannot continue to hide the world from them. So I think whilst this book is gritty, harsh and at times dark and discomforting, it is a book that holds meaning, honesty and a brutal reflection of what human nature can lead to, and I think it is a fabulous addition to the young-adult genre as not the typical read.

The Walled City was unexpected in so many ways. It focused on three youths, Jin, Mei Yee and Dai. They all had secrets, all had a past and the alternate POVS throughout the novel slowly began to unravel their lives, their pasts, their hopes, dreams and needs and I really connected with all three of them. Personally I felt the strongest connection with Jin who is out in the Walled City to find her sister. She is young, but she is determined, feisty and frankly I would not want to mess with this young fireball. She is an absolutely brilliant character and my heart throughout the novel was firmly rooting for her. That is exactly what I want books I read to do too, have me rooting for the main character and living the story with them.

Dai is a mystery, and not exactly the one I expected. He is a likeable, rather tortured character, but underneath the first impression of a prickly, mysterious and rather untrustworthy exterior, he also found a place in my heart.

Mei Yee is the character I connected least with, however I feel that is because we got to know her least. By the end I could see her as an equally strong individual as Jin and Dai, but she faced her own struggles, being sold into prostitution at an early age by her father and being locked in one building for her future, it does appear that she lives a dismal life. There are no real explicit descriptions of the prostitution or lewd events in the brothel, however there are a couple of rather sadistic moments of brutality from a customer and the master to be aware of.

Throughout the novel Graudin is challenging how human nature has allowed this ‘Walled City’ to be created which is a place untouched by the laws of society and police force so that drugs, crime and death can continue. It challenges how human nature can become so depraved. Despite all of this, underneath it are shining moments of friendship, determination, a genuine care for others, doing the right thing and family.

There is a small amount of romance in the novel, but honestly it is not the dominant aspect, in fact it is entirely limited in terms of the plot. This is one of the other reasons why I really enjoyed this novel, because it was a somewhat refreshing look at the young-adult genre without the dominant aspect being romance. It was about friendship, family and trusting others with not just emotions, but your life. Having said that, the romance was entrancing, well-written and it was genuinely built up to. I thought it fit into the narrative with a fluid ease and was not forced in the slightest.

When I finished this novel and found out Graudin had based her novel in part upon a place called Kowloon’s Walled City in Hong Kong which in some ways made her question the type of people that would be there and the happenings, it made it all seem more realistic and heart-wrenching. Obviously the novel is fictitious which leads to the kind of fantasy element, because I would struggle to label this city as ‘contemporary’. Although the genre labelling is one topic that I struggled with when it came to this novel. Despite all this, Graudin is making a clear statement against human trafficking and I appreciated the message of the novel.

Overall, The Walled City was a novel that sent my emotions into turmoil, tugged on my heartstrings and had me racing through the last part of the novel. I almost certainly applaud Graudin on tackling such a sensitive topic, not being afraid to delve into the grit and darkness of humanity and coming out the other side successfully with 5 shining stars that shows human nature is not all bad. An absolutely phenomenal addition to the young-adult genre, and so splendidly written that every word despite being full of grit and tension, was quite beautiful to read; I recommend it to you all!

Survival Chances: 87%

Expiration Date: 2095

Favourite Quotes *quotes taken from an earc subject to change on publication

But there are still more wishes in my soul than there are stars. I wish I could hold Jin Ling’s hand in mine, I wish Sing never tried to run. I wish the boy didn’t make my chest burn, make my thoughts soar like a phoenix. I wish every girl in this brothel could be one of the lucky ones. I wish, like the boy, I was somewhere else. Someone else. And on and on and on.

“I work alone,” I say quickly. I do everything alone: eat, sleep, run, steal, talk, cry. It’s the curse of the second rule: Trust no one. The cost of staying alive.”

We stay like this for a long time. Skin to skin under false stars. The ones that never fall.

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

18 Comments

Filed under 2014 Publication, 5 Books, Crime, E-book, Fantasy, Little, Brown and Company, Ryan Graudin, Young Adult

Storm

10401084Storm by Brigid Kemmerer

Series: Elementals #1

Genre: Young-Adult, Paranormal-Romance

The Plot
Storm is a novel that follows the path of one girl, Becca Chandler and her encounters with fellow pupils at school, which is the likes of past-boyfriends and secrets that the plot follows to uncover, it also includes the Merrick family and in particular Chris. In addition to this, there is a new boy present, an absent father, a demanding best friend and some paranormal elements that are not quite the traditional vampire/werewolf aspect and this make things a little more interesting. So as expected there is romance, potentially of the double-trouble kind (love triangle alert!) and some paranormal-magic to spice things up and drive the action along which there is plenty of!

The Review

Storm is a book that is not quite fabulous, but not entirely awful. It manages to be engaging and exciting, whilst at times utterly predictable which made it a little exasperating when it fit exactly into what I was expecting. I was hoping in some regards that there would be a greater twist or something that would entirely surprise me, but it did not, and for me that was the downfall of this novel. Having said that, I still believe there to be a fair few redeeming qualities about the novel. The literary prose flows freely and I did not have any issues with the writing style, in fact it was a very easy, enjoyable read. The book has a fast paced plot that keeps you turning the pages and this makes up for the predictability. In addition to this, most of the characters I largely liked. However upon my deconstruction of the book I do feel, it deserves 3 stars rather than the initial 4 I gave it.

Becca Chandler the female protagonist of this novel; I almost certainly have a love/hate relationship with this character and honestly I still feel like I am sitting on the fence a little in regards to her. At moments she is this strong, brave and fierce individual who runs headlong into things to save others and the next she appears some tormented, bratty and annoying teenage girl who has “daddy issues” and appears to be a little bit of wild child. However the “wild child” image is not really one I felt other than the derogatory comments from the ‘jocks’ of the story and I thought the whole story line was rather useless in terms of plot and character development. It made me cringe away more than anything because it presented a group of ‘jocks’ as brutish, vulgar individuals and did nothing to discriminate from a very common stereotype. By the end of the story, I still feel like my issues with Becca and her overall progression seem a little unresolved.

Honestly the next part is my own fault for not really reading the blurb, but the love triangle was not something I was expecting. It was frustrating at best and again by the end of the novel it still felt largely open-ended and unresolved and when I see the next novel moving to focus on an a different individual from the series, it leaves me with little comfort. The two male individuals in question seemed to develop fairly quick infatuations with Becca and in particular, the New Kid, Hunter who has hundreds of females in the school to pick from finds Becca the most appealing. To me it all seemed a little far-fetched and I did not feel like there was enough about Becca to warrant this ‘fight’ over her. Personally I took a large dislike to Hunter from the start and something about his character I found downright creepy and he grated on me. I felt there was very little redeeming about him and his odd behaviour that was eventually resolved did not in the end serve to make me like him anymore.

This leaves us with the Merrick brothers, and in particular Chris who I liked much more. Despite his oh so expected conflicted personality and family issues that seem to encompass the YA genre like a suffocating cloak, he was a character I could like. Although the fact his brothers were the hottest creatures on the earth and Becca was not able to function when they were shirtless in the same room was a little bit tedious. The redeeming quality here was the family relationship and the dynamic between the brothers, I definitely felt the camaraderie and bond between brothers and that certainly made me root for them as a family throughout the novel.

Finally the plot concept itself in terms of the paranormal element was actually a fairly interesting one, and my only complaint was that little more was learnt of the origin and the ideas behind that. In fact, I think for an introductory novel to the series, Kemmerer should have made much more of the elementals idea and this left me disappointed. I feel like there is much still to learn about the powers of the brothers and those involved in the story, and I very much hope Kemmerer builds on this, or I can see myself being sorely disappointed.

Overall I devoured Storm and the book is far from being bad, however I fail to have been blown away. I definitely realise the standards I am setting for books are ever increasing, so I hope the next novel Spark will help resolve the issues that this book raised for me. Certainly I would recommend Storm as a quick, lazy day read that helps you escape from reality for a few hours and contains a few potential book boyfriends depending on your type, but I would not go to extreme efforts in making time for this series yet!

Favourite Quotes

“Touch was funny like that. How one movement could choke you and kill you, but another meant nothing more than a caress and an invitation.”

“Crap, Bex, do you think he’ll do something truly horrible like buy you flowers?”

Rating: 3 / 5 Stars

Goodreads ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

 

 

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Filed under 2012 Publication, 3 Books, Brigid Kemmerer, E-book, Kensington, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult

Series Review (1-3): Morganville Vampires

Glass HouseThe Dead Girls' DanceMidnight Alley

Morganville Vampires Series by Rachel Caine

Glass House #1, The Dead Girls Dance #2, and The Midnight Alley #3

Genre: Young-Adult, Romance, Vampires

The Review

The Morganville Vampire series is one I picked up quite a while ago and read the first five books over a large period of time. Unfortunately since it was so long ago, I have seemingly forgot what happened and when I had a spur of the moment decision to return to the series I was largely lost, so I decided the best policy was to start from the beginning.

I have literally devoured these three books over a couple of days. They aren’t particularly long and they are fairly easy going on the prose, nothing too complex, but they draw you in and keep lots of action and fast-paced plots to engage with the audience. If you like flowery, emotional prose then these books certainly don’t offer any of that, but the simplicity is made up for in the engagement and continual plot twists and turns, and suspense that is continually built up.

Admittedly yes, there are a few ‘well duh’ moments where your expectations are met, but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment because there is always something a little unexpected and Caine doesn’t make the end result easily. Although she does like to leave things hanging, so I definitely recommend having all the books to just keep reading as once you finish one, you want to pick up the next.

The characters are honestly my favourite part. In ‘The Glass House’ we are introduced to Claire Danvers, our female protagonist who is a young, sweet sixteen year old and fairly innocent when she arrives in Morganville. However, she is intellectual, sassy and not afraid to fight by the end of things and in these three novels alone, she develops into a young woman who is not entirely fearless, but is stubborn, faithful and most of all she is a likeable character. Claire does rush into a few situations, she makes mistakes, but there are her own and she doesn’t allow herself to be bossed about my others, unless she can really help it. I mean nobody can really say no to a vampire thousands of years old, who might just kill you, right? Claire in my opinion, is a very strong, female protagonist who I hope to see develop more in the next few novels.

Now, the next three all offer something different. Eve, the spunky, goth girl who is loyal and feisty makes a dangerous enemy and she is easy to like and always helping Claire out when she really needs it. Michael the calm and collected one who acts as the responsible individual of the house has some interesting secrets, and issues which lead to exciting developments. He’s also a musician and the love of Eve’s life, so there is a little bit of romance to balance it out. Then finally there is the stereotypical man of the house/jock, Shane who rushes headlong into everything without thought, all in the aid of friendship and for the right moral reasons most of the time. He also happens to be the love interest for Claire. It’s kind of a little cliché and not always an easy path but I do love the pair of them together. I think they work really well.

Make no mistake however, there is no typical vampire series formula in this series so far  which is usually; girl + vampire boy = fall in love for the main plot theme. In fact, a lot of the plot focus is on the town and the four individuals who live in the Glass House and their survival. There is a strong theme of friendship, loyalty and life moral values that makes for some tough decisions, but also some entertaining insightful and joyful moments.

The villains in this novel range from typical high school/college girl who is the airbrushed glamour puss and daddy’s little girl who rules the town, to skulking boys in shadows with knives and mysterious motives and finally the wicked vampires with fangs who rule the town and expect the humans to fall in line. I love the concept of the vampire town and the idea of humans being potential property to the vampires, who sometimes act as protectors of the humans. However there are specific guidelines to this protection which are always changing and the vampires and human interactions run across very unsteady paths!

Overall, ‘The Glass House’, ‘The Dead Girls’ Dance’ and ‘Midnight Alley’ are an engaging start to the Morganville Vampire series that give you only a taste of things to come and certainly draw you in wanting many answers. There are numerous plot lines twisting through all the stories that continue throughout the series. This means the multiple lines that thread through the novels gives depths to series and enables the characters to be fleshed out and given personal identities that blossom and force you to become engaged with them. I most definitely recommend the Morganville Vampire series for vampire/supernatural lovers and even those who are quite a big fan I suggest giving the books a chance!

 

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars 

Goodreads (1), (2), (3) ~ Amazon UK / US ~ Author’s Website

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Filed under Allison & Bushby, Paperback, Rachel Caine, Romance, Vampires, Young Adult

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

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.

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

A Shade of Vampire

A Shade of Vampire

A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest

Genre: Paranormal-Romance, Vampires, Young-Adult

Publication: December 14th 2012

The Plot

A young girl, Sofia is kidnapped on her 17th birthday and whisked away to the land of the vampires. There she must learn to survive and stand brave in the face of fangs.

She meets and catches the eye of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince destined to save all vampires. The weight of responsibility weights heavy on his broad, handsome shoulders, but adding Sofia to his harem will bring butterflies and sunlight to his dark world.

However can he really be trusted and will his evil, blood-sucking brother Lucas destroy all? Or will Sofia’s infatuation with her best friend ruin any potential love match between her and Derek?

My Review

A Shade of Vampire was an interesting read to say the least, and whilst I won’t claim it was entirely original, it was enjoyable. Do be warned that journeying into A Shade of Vampire will be accompanied by quite a few clichés, but it will also be enjoyable, fast-paced and tension filled that made me turn the pages, quirk a smile and shiver in delight. I certainly found A Shade of Vampire to be entertaining at the base of things, and plunging into the world of vampires that exist in their own realm on the verge of extinction only makes things even more thrilling. I only hope that Forest will go on to explore the depths of the world-building in A Shade of Vampire and explore character depth and history a little more.

Firstly, I’ll start with the main character Sophia. I won’t claim she’s a kick-ass heroine, but she was kind, considerate and human. She reacted in fear, wonder, curiosity and didn’t judge everybody when she first met them. I liked that she cared about the individuals and that she was honestly torn. She looked beneath the surface of individuals and didn’t immediately jump to going “I love you, I love you” when she first saw the vampires or immediate “hate” she showed curiosity and intelligence. Sophia honestly isn’t my favourite heroine of all time, but I found it easy to like her and connect with meant reading was enjoyable. I think her strongest characteristic was her forethought to a situation and insight.

He was what every teenage girl would most likely describe as hot, which was rather ironic considering how pale and frozen he looked. He had the same features as his brother, but there was something more refined about him. There was a hint of boyishness in his face.

Derek is the love interest of the story and also the big-bad monster that will supposedly save the vampire race. I saw very little of this, I saw a man that was a coward, afraid of who he was meant to be and where he was meant to go. He was prepared to stand up to his guards, but his siblings and his duty were largely ignored or shirked. Derek for me, held lots of potential and he was always on the edge of falling into the deliciously suave, sexy and irresistible vampire that I expected that held the dark and dangerous edge down to a ‘t’. However currently as much as he was endearing, he’s not quite swept away with my heart as much as he seems to be capturing Sophia’s heart.

The plot wasn’t entirely original, but pacey and engaging enough to keep my attention. Nevertheless I feel that more substance needs to be added into the plot to fulfil my curiosity and questions in the next instalment of this series because whilst I feel like we have a solid foundation to the story, there needs to be more to sustain my interest. The world-building was basic, but the concept of the world separated and protected for vampires to live in from Earth was utterly fascinating and I’d definitely like to learn more about it. I felt like it was on the verge of becoming brilliant! Apart from the clichés I felt like there was a solid basis for a first book in a series.

Parts of The Vale looked like a town that had popped right out of the medieval era. The streets were lit with burning lanterns. Thatched roofs, clay exteriors, tents housing a variety of wares.

In regards to the villain of the novel, Lucas, he’s not really entirely despicable in comparison to others. However he was definitely devious and dangerous enough to ruffle a few feathers and I definitely predict his return with much more vengeance in future novels. He seems to be one of those villains that will never die off in my opinion and I fully expect more schemes and mystery to sink my teeth into. Oh and yeah, these vampires have fangs which get five bonus points from me, which they actually bite with.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Shade of Vampire and whilst it was short, it has lots to offer. A rainy day read or a quick escape into a world of darkness and vampires with some dark sides. There is a romance that will engage and entertain whilst not totally being slow and steamy, it is sweet and pacey that keeps the imagination ticking. Overall A Shade of Vampire is solid entertaining read, which I feel has lots of hidden potential.

~ 3.5 Books / 5 Books ~

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Filed under 2012 Publication, 3.5 Books, Bella Forrest, E-book, Indie Author, Paranormal Romance, Vampires, Young Adult

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