Thursday, 15 August 2013

Review: Breathless

Breathless by Brigid Kemmerer
Kensington Teen, 65 Pages
Published: April 30th 2013

Too many secrets. Not enough time.

Nick Merrick is supposed to be the level-headed one. The peacemaker. Since it’s just him and his three hotheaded brothers against the world, that’s a survival tactic.

But now he’s got problems even his brothers can’t help him survive.

His so-called girlfriend, Quinn, is going quick as mercury from daring to crazy. Meanwhile, Quinn’s dancer friend Adam is throwing Nick off balance, forcing him to recognize a truth he’d rather shove back into the dark.

He can feel it—the atmosphere is sizzling. Danger is on the way. But whatever happens next, Nick is starting to find out that sometimes nothing you do can keep the peace.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brigid Kemmerer is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. Her books have a quality to them which is so raw and real, something that a lot of people don't quite manage to achieve. She also has a knack for broaching difficult issues with a sensitivity and tact that is a true credit to her and her writing. In this sense, Breathless is no different to her full length novels, and my only problem with this novella is that there wasn't enough of it for me.

Nick Merrick has always been the standout character of this series for me. I adore him. While his brothers are relatively open books, Nick has a calm, quiet, brooding strength about him, he is complex, with secrets that he keeps under lock and key. Secrets which, through the course of the novella, are slowly revealed to us.
I've always found him to be a hugely compelling personality, and the emotional struggle that he faces in this novella is both heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measure. The (albeit brief) insight we are given into his hopes and dreams help to flesh out a character who has in some ways, always been a bit of a secondary character, overshadowed by his larger than life siblings, and in particular his twin brother. Here we finally get to see the first sparks of Nick coming into his own, and it is delighful. His character & emotions which bubble up through the novella come to boiling point in a scene which is sweet, romantic, and just steamy enough ;)

Quinn is another character who comes into her own here, and we are shown a completely different side to her than we have been before. Breathless belongs to both Nick & Quinn, and I was honestly surprised by how much I liked her by the end of it. Not a character I hate, but also not one I particularly liked, Kemmerer spun me around completely. Sharp, brash Quinn is shown to have a different face than the one she shows the world, and the glimpse into what she thinks, feels & suffers will throw a grenade at the opinions previously held of her. Well done Brigid: I already loved Nick, now you've made me love Quinn too!

One thing I don't think I'll ever be able to fault this author on his her writing style. It is fluid and compelling and you can't help but always want more of it. Breathless had humour, drama and excitement, not to mention scenes which were sweet & sad in equal measure. In all, a lot to pack into a 65 page ebook.

If you're already a fan of The Elementals series, then you have no doubt already read this one. If you're not, then this might just make you one.

View all my reviews

Friday, 8 March 2013

(Very belated) 2013 TBR Challenge

So, I'm posting this very late (we're already 1/4 of the way through the year, EEP!) but I've signed up to Evie's TBR challenge, which for me, will hopefully clear a few things off my growing TBR pile.

We all know what it's like. A new book is released - we buy it. The charity shop has a ton of great books at ridiculously cheap prices - we come home with armfuls. So it's no surprise really that we all have those books which just mount up and never actually get read.

That is the point of this challenge, to dust off those stacked up books that we never get round to.

Only books from 2012 or earlier are allowed as part of this challenge, and there are 5 levels, based on how many books you plan to read:

Level 1 1-10 - A firm handshake
Level 2 11-20 - A friendly hug
Level 3 21-30 - A sweet kiss
Level 4 31-40 - Love at first sight
Level 5 41-50 - Married with children

I've chosen to do Level 5 (I could definitely do more books than this, but I'm sticking to the rules! As I've posted this a little late, I've already gone through over a dozen of my TBR, which I will post an update of soon.

If you fancy joining in, click on the link image up top and sign up. What books are on your TBR piles.

Happy Reading!

Review - Forsaken by Jana Oliver

By Jana Oliver
Macmillan Children's Books, 422 pages
Published: February 7th 2011

"Riley Blackthorne.
Kicking hell's ass one demon at a time...

Riley has always wanted to be a Demon Trapper like her father, and she's already following in his footsteps as one of the best. But it's tough being the only girl in an all-guy world, especially when three of those guys start making her life more complicated:

Simon: the angelic apprentice who has heaven on his side; Beck, the tough trapper who thinks he's God's gift, and Ori, the strikingly sexy stranger who keeps turning up to save her life.

One thing's for sure - if she doesn't keep her wits about her there'll be hell to pay..."

- from the book

4.5 out of 5

From the blurb, this book would probably be billed as a paranormal romance. It is in part, but that's not remotely the focus of the tale.
As a girl fighting demons in a man's world, Riley Blackthorne already has a fight on her hands trying to prove she's good enough, but when a routine capture goes wrong, Riley is started on a path that will soon have her world spinning out of control.

I fell in love with the characters in this book. Each one has their own distinctive personality, which blend seamlessly together to create a fantastic ensemble cast.
Riley has a 'never give up' attitude which has you wanting her to succeed from the word go. She isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in, or fight for what she wants. She goes through a lot in this book alone, and you can't help but feel for her. Eventhough she is a very contained character, when she lets her emotions show, it's thrilling and heartbreaking at the same time. She shows such incredible strength throughout that you can't help but admire and be inspired by her.

As stated in the blurb, Riley has several love interests in this book, some of whom were a little less impressive than others. Let me start with Beck. Oh Beck. I loved you, I hated you, which only made me love you more. He is an incredibly complex character, who feels highly protective of Riley, and although he constantly keeps her at arms length and pushes her away often, there are emotions there under the surface that you will be begging to explode. He has hidden, sensitive depths and I can't wait to read more about him. His POV sections were some of my highlights of the book, as they allow us to see both Beck & Riley in a completely different (and highly illuminating) light.
Simon on the other hand. Well, there was just something about him that didn't sit well for me. Yes, he was sweet and charming, and obviously cares for Riley, but I couldn't in all honesty, figure out the big attraction to him. Their relationship felt almost rushed, and I didn't feel myself as drawn to him as Riley appears to be, and as perhaps I should've been.

This book definitely has a feel of the tv show Supernatural about it, which was not a problem for me, because I love that show. It has appeal for adults as well it's target YA audience, because it's a bit grittier than your average YA novel.
I loved the fresh take on demons & how the humans of the book interact with them, showing a world that is tough and slightly mercenary, but which has it's bright spots too.

Thrilling and action packed, I would definitely recommend this book, and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series.

Review - Secret Lives by Gabriella Poole

Secret Lives
By Gabriella Poole
Hodder & Stoughton, 288 pages
Published: August 6th 2009

"The Darke Academy is a school like no other. An elite establishment that moves to a new exotic city every term, its students are impossibly beautiful, sophisticated. and rich, and the more the new scholarship girl Cassie Bell learns about the Academy, the more curious she becomes.
What sinister secrets are guarded by the Few - —the select group of students who keep outsiders away? Who is the dark stranger prowling the corridors at night? And what really happened a year earlier, when the last scholarship girl died in mysterious circumstances?
Cassie quickly discovers that a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but knowing too much can be deadly."

-From the book

3 out of 5

Starting at a prestigious boarding school as a scholarship student already has Cassie Bell feeling like an outsider, but when she starts to uncover the secrets of the exclusive Darke Academy, she starts to feel even more lost at sea.

I found this a difficult one to review, because I have mixed emotions about this book. I neither loved it nor hated it, but there was something compelling about it. The plotline was something I've seen before, but there were definitely elements which I hadn't seen, which was a pleasant surprise.

At times it was a little predictable (it was obvious from the start who the respective villains and heroes were), but I think that's part of it's charm. You weren't constantly second guessing character's actions. While I found it took a little time to get to the main action, the time up until then wasn't dull like it could've been, and we learn things about the characters which help to flesh them out and make them more rounded individuals.

It sometimes felt as though the motivations behind certain actions, as well as the backstory for most of the characters, weren't very well developed, but as this is the first in the series, I'm hoping we get more insight in future books. Several characters (Ranjit & Isabella in particular) had the potential to be great stand out characters, however they lacked the depth fully required for this, which was disappointing.
The quality of the narrative and descriptive passages was something I loved, making this a smooth and enjoyable read. While I wouldn't rush to recommend this book, I also wouldn't try and dissuade anyone from reading it.

Review - Hysteria by Megan Miranda

By Megan Miranda
Bloomsbury, 352 pages
Published: February 14th 2013

"You wanted him.
You needed him.
You killed him.

Life can change in an instant.
Fear can take you to the very edge.

Mallory's old life is dead. Her boyfriend is gone; his blood washed from the kitchen tiles. Still it stains her mind. She can't ever go back.

Monroe Prep School is her new start. But everyone thinks they know what happened that night.
They think they know her. They don't.

Secrets are deadly.
Secrets are the only real currency".

- From the book

4 out of 5

Hysteria, simply, blew me away. Just when I thought it was heading in one direction, Miranda would make a u-turn and head in a completely different direction. Sometimes this was confusing as hell, but on the whole, it just added to the suspense and thrill of the ride, emulating Mallory's thought process. There were some things that I saw coming, but that wasn't a disappointment. Actually it was a nice change of pace, to know what was going on for a change, in addition to upping the tension. You know what's about to happen, and are willing the characters to figure it out too before it's too late.

There are two storylines running almost simultaneously in Hysteria, which compliment as opposed to distract from each other, and the ending does a great job of tying all those loose ends together. I know the ending will please some readers but may disappoint others. I was in the former category. There are several unnerving scenes of bloody handprints which definitely upped the tension throughout, and those combined with a series of flashbacks to the events before Mallory came to boarding school give us just enough to keep questioning what the heck is goings on.

The characters were engaging and believable, and their reactions to specific events were very realistic. Mallory herself is a contradiction in terms. Brave but shattered, she has been through something traumatic, and as intended, she sometimes comes across as slightly unhinged. Like Mallory, we are kept guessing as to what is real, and Miranda does a fantastic job of keeping us guessing.
There is romance there, it was sweet and just what you'd expect from the characters, but it was more in the background than upfront, which I think in this case was the way to go, leaving the main focus to be Mallory's struggle with right and wrong, real and not real.

I'm not sure what else I can say without giving any of the story away, but if you're looking for a creepy, Soul Survivors type of psychological thriller, then this is the book for you.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Review - Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick

Nothing Like You
By Lauren Strasnick
Simon Pulse, 224 pages
Published: October 20th 2009

"You think he's yours but he's not I thought.
"You think he's yours but really he's mine."

When Holly loses her virginity to Paul, a guy she barely knows, she assumes their encounter is a one-night stand. After all, Paul is too popular to even be speaking to Holly...and he happens to have a long-term girlfriend, Saskia. But ever since Holly's mom died six months ago, Holly has been numb to the world, and she's getting desperate to feel something, anything -- so when Paul keeps pursuing her, Holly relents. Paul's kisses are a welcome diversion...and it's nice to feel like the kind of girl that a guy like Paul would choose.

But things aren't so simple with Saskia around. Paul's real girlfriend is willowy and perfect...and nothing like Holly. To make matters worse, she and Holly are becoming friends. Suddenly the consequences of Holly's choices are all too real, and Holly stands to lose more than she ever realized she had.

- Goodreads description

1.5 out of 5

After reading other reviews on Goodreads, it appears that I may just be the only person in the world who didn't like this book.

If I was to describe this book in one word, it'd probably be predictable. That's not always a bad thing, but with this book, it wasn't just one thing that you could forsee, it was a lot.

I really wanted to like Nothing Like You, but I can't really feel much for it. Maybe I've been spoiled by the other contemporary YA books I've read recently, but I just found this rather...bland.

This had a lot of potential that I don't feel it lived up to. It could have been something amazing but sadly, for me, it wasn't. It felt like the plot kept getting stuck, so the author just went for the easiest (and unfortunately) most obvious way to move the story along. Also, the end felt like it was lacking in, well, everything to be honest. It didn't feel much like a resolution. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting hearts, flowers & a chorus of birds, but it just seemed far too abrupt. I know it was to drive home the 'actions have consequences' and not everything works out riff, but it just felt like there should've been more after it.

I really can't seem to find anything redeeming to say about Holly. I'm sorry, but I really couldn't connect with her at all. She grated on me pretty much the entire book, I wanted to hit her so many times and tell her to get a grip! More than once I found myself thinking 'seriously?' when she was all 'oh woe is me' over Paul. She's possibly the only fictional female I dislike more than Bella Swan, and if you knew me, you'd know that that's something I never thought I'd see myself type. It wasn't until near the end of the book where I actually felt something for her. It wasn't until that point that she seemed to have any real depth, as opposed to just being a swoony naive little girl.
Describing Paul is quite easy to do. He's a douchebag, pure and simple. At first I thought he might actually be a little bit of a nice guy, but those illusions were quickly shattered. There's not really much else I can say without breaking into a long list of swear words and insults.
Saskia & Nils were actually better characters than Holly & Paul in my opinion. They seemed have more depth, and Nils in particular was just much more likeable.

The one thing I will commend Strasnick for in this book is her approach to the death of Holly's mum. It's never directly broached (we know she died of cancer, but her death is never actual put into any detail like it has been in other YA books) so all we see is the aftermath. Holly isn't treated with kid gloves all the time, like many other grieving characters have been in the past, and she hasn't either gone off the deep end with grief, or become a stoic zombie. She's in the void of confusion inbetween where you're never quite sure what's going to happen. I thought this was very well handled, and it was a refreshing change from the norm.

Sadly however, that wasn't enough to make up for the disappointment I felt with the rest of the book. An ok read if you want to kill time and don't want to think too much, but it won't be going on my 'to recommend' pile

Book Haul #2 a.k.a. why The Works is bad for my bank balance

All links lead to Goodreads

In My Mailbox is a weekly post hosted by The Story Siren. IMM is where a bunch of book lovers and bloggers show you what books/book related things we got over the week(s). I'll be posting mine (more or less) the first week of every month, although if I get something special, I may just have to share a lil bit more :)

This week's haul (technically the last two weeks)

Ok, so there are good things and bad things about where I work. The good things are that the centre I work in has a The Works concession. The bad thing is my sister works there & tells me what they're about to get in, so I tend to spend my lunch breaks (and shopping centre discount) on the latest stock they get in. Like this not so lil lot. The great thing? Because it's a discount book store, they're all mega cheap. As in hardbacks for less than a fiver, and paperbacks for 3 for £5.

Clockwork Angel (Hardback) - Cassandra Clare

Divergent - Veronica Roth
Room (Hardback) - Emma Donoghue
The Burying Place - Brian Freeman
The Bone Yard - Jefferson Bass
The Tide Knot - Helen Dunmore
Sepulchre (Signed Hardback) - Kate Mosse yes i really did get a signed book by my favourite author for £3.99 in The Works. *happy dance*
The Body in the Thames - Susanna Gregory
Breakfast at Darcy's - Ali McNamara
Scandal's Bride - Stephanie Laurens
Rosebush - Michele Jaffe
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
Bury Your Dead - Louise Penny
Alice's Girls - Julia Stoneham
Sherlock: A Study in Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle
Into The Wild - Jon Krakauer
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Haunting of James Hastings - Christoper Ransom
Working Stiff - Rachel Caine
City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare
Wither - Lauren DeStefano
Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

Yes, I did re-buy the Hunger Games trilogy, but come on, the new covers are so much prettier than the original ones (and at £7.99 for the boxset, you can't really go wrong can you)