Tag Archives: 3.5*

Just Finished…Fluffy Romances :)

You know how it is sometimes, you just want some easy reading, a little romance and some nice characters… Coming off the back of the very long All Souls trilogy and finishing the reasonably lengthy fourth book of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles in a week (which I’ll post a review on soon), I needed something easy and fluffy 🙂 And, that’s what I got with the books that I read in the last few days.

Grover Beach 19263535First up was US-set YA romances from the ‘Grover Beach Team’ series by Anna Katmore and Piper Shelley (not sure why only one author name appears on the cover…) The first one, ‘Play with Me’ had been a random free download from Amazon before Christmas. It’s a quick, neat story of first love and frustrations with male best friends, set in summer holidays at high school. Told in first person from POV of Lisa Matthews, there’s lots of sarcasm and banter between the characters, which makes for a fun read and the issues and action of the book seem nice and realistic. Definitely YA, with some language and romantic scenes that turn up the heat over and above a quick peck – but nothing that would have E. L. James worrying. Rating 4*

‘Ryan Hunter’ is the second book in the series, and tells the same tale from Ryan Hunter’s POV (surprising, eh?) It’s a nice twist on the first one and gives you some nice missing scenes that show the other side of the story from ‘Play with Me’ – oddly enough, having liked Ryan in the first book, being inside his head, I came away not liking him quite as much, but that’s often the same when you take away the romantic goggles that you’ve viewed a character through in  reading the first book. By the end of this, I was ready to move away from Grover Beach, but overall, they were really well written books, with good characters and some nice high school romance. Rating 3.5*

23452501My last fluffy read of the week was a novella by Kat Latham from the London Legends series. Unwrapping Her Perfect Match was a freebie download from Christmas – unsurprisingly, set during the holiday season.

For a novella, it was a good length and had great characters that had some decent depth and you were able to get drawn into the story quickly. It wasn’t a straight-forward cheesy romance, there were some nice elements that held the story together and actually aside from the romance elements it would hold together as a story in itself. A nice, fast read, perfect if you’re looking for a quick adult romance, with some definite adult scenes and quite a lot of swearing – one of the MCs is a rugby playing giant of a man, don’t expect him to say “Oopsy Daisy” just because he’s British 🙂 Rating 4*

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Just Finished…The All Souls Trilogy…

A Discovery of WitchesIt’s taken a while to get to reviewing this series, as once I’d started the trilogy with A Discovery of Witches back in September 2015, I then bought the other two books and thought I would do a review for the trilogy as a whole.

In fact, this first book had been on my kindle since March 2012 waiting for me to get around to reading it! There’s nothing like trawling your old purchases to find something new to read, when you’re looking for inspiration – I think this may be the theme for most of my reading this year, as I started off in January reading the first in Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones series and am currently partway through the first Beautiful Creatures book by Garcia and Stohl. I’m only about six years behind the reading curve on those then! 🙂 I added a lot of books in 2012 and as quite a few of them are still there, bouncing around in digi-book purgatory in my kindle, I began to feel bad getting anything new before I released them.

Anyway, back to the book…

A Discovery of Witches lands you right in the middle of academic and book lover nirvana: it’s set in the beautiful libraries and colleges of Oxford, as American Professor Diana Bishop attempts to ignore the fact that she’s a witch to get on with her research without magic. When a strange book lands on her desk during her work, one filled with magic and questions, she deliberately dismisses it – sending it back to the archives, so that she can continue to ignore her magical abilities.

What I loved about this first book, which I would rate 4*, was the world-building and background premise to the magical world of ‘creatures’ that Harkness describes. The first few hundred pages flew by as I learned about daemons, vampires and witches in this world – what made them different, their characteristics and behaviours, and how all this came together in a meeting between genetic science and mythology. It was great. The characters introduced were also intriguing and drew me in to the story and mystery that was obviously being laid out.

There was a lull in the middle of the book for me – something that I found in each of the books in the series if I’m honest – where I was reading and reading and it didn’t really feel like there was much happening, significant character development or action. There was quite a lot of tea making, wandering around buildings described in lots of detail, and day-to-day happenings I wasn’t too fussed to be reading about. I love a good cup of tea, but when your protagonist is making them every few pages in considerable detail, you’re really not that bothered. All three of the books are long-ish (579 pages for this one) and I would have said a good 100 pages or so of exposition could have been lost without detriment to the overall story. After the lull in the middle, it finished with a bang – which had me heading to Amazon to grab the next two books, so that I could find out more about the characters and world I’d invested in.

Shadow of Night So, book two lands: Shadow of Night. Funnily enough, the lull for me in this one came at the very beginning – perhaps because I’d closed one book and opened the other immediately. Here the main characters have used Diana’s powers to ‘time-walk’ into the past to Elizabethan England, to the home – and former life – of her vampire partner Matthew. After a slightly slow start, the world-building picks up, as does the action and Diana – a historian – throws herself into this interesting world. Sixteenth century London is described in fantastic detail, with historical features mingling with the world of creatures set up in book one. We learn more about magic and the issues of the present, as we journey with Diana in the past. Spellbound as a child, to protect herself from her powers, she has always thought she was a poor excuse for a witch and thus focused on academia as her strength and not witchcraft. Now that she has found what was done to her as a child, she has to learn about herself and witches from the beginning, in an unfamiliar world. This was my favourite book in the series – the mixture of worlds and travels through history, living and breathing the places Diana and Matthew pass through, as they continue to unravel the mystery started in A Discovery of Witches. After the initial lull, the rest of the book flew by and I read it in a few days.

The Book of LifeThe Book of Life, brings us back to the present and the huge cast of characters assembled during the first two books now converge in the present day as Diana and Matthew continue their search for answers.

The book started well, but maybe 200 pages in it began to drag. I know loose ends had to be tied up, but just as in book one, there were long chapters of exposition that weren’t adding to the story for me. Also, after the majority of the first two books being written from Diana’s POV (first person) this book moved around a lot more – jumping into other characters heads, re-telling scenes in the third person. I didn’t find the jumps confusing, but just felt that if first person was good enough for the majority of the book, surely there were ways of conveying what was done here, without a quick and easy 3-4 paragraph jump out, to jump back. It felt lazy somehow, and with the detail and story-telling of this series, Harkness is not a lazy writer.

Anyway, there was a long lull and so I found it hard to keep reading in the sporadic moments I’d get. It felt like something I had to get through in order to finish the story and get my answers. In the end, you do get the answers – some are quite satisfying and delivered well; others, particularly action elements, could have been much more exciting. I started the book in September and have just finished it this morning.

So, overall – I’d probably be around 3.5* for this series. There are some great elements to the story and the complexity of the ‘creature’ world-building is excellent. There are characters that you buy into and want to know how their stories develop. But, the pace in several areas is just too slow – you shouldn’t be feeling that you need to ‘power through’ to the good bits. I’ve read several reviews for the books that compare them to Twilight – an adults version, if you like – and I can appreciate that. If Bella had gone off to uni and met her vampire around the age of 34, instead of 17, it probably would have been a very similar tale. My feelings about the drag in the books are very similar to the drag I experienced reading Breaking Dawn, with random characters appearing in an endless stream, leading up to the most anti-climatic battle ever. Action scenes and pace are not Harkness’s strong points either, but she can write depth and history and weave a huge tapestry of a new world that you can absolutely believe is realistic. Maybe just a bit less tea making, wandering in gardens and being coddled by other creatures in rooms described in minute detail; and when you get the violent climax of a three book series, don’t skip over it in a page or two. It was all a bit Finnick: *reading, reading, reading – turn page* “Wait a second!” *turns back a page* “Did Finnick just die?”

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Just Finished…Goddess by Josephine Angelini

Goddess

** spoiler alert **
I’m a little on the fence about Goddess and I’ve ummmed and ahhhed over how to rate it – I’ve hovered around 3.5* – 4* and will stick here.

I’ve obviously been sucked back in to Helen’s world and enjoyed it, as I read the book in two days and stayed up until 1am this morning to finish it. Perhaps, I’m a little disappointed in how the book has come together – a lot happens in this final instalment and I feel as if there could have been a fourth book in there, splitting out the events and giving a bit more time to spend with the characters and relate to the events affecting them.

There are a lot of characters, and with several long standing main characters going through significant changes in this book, I almost felt as if I didn’t get chance to spend enough time with them to get the full effect. Because of this, some of the key emotional scenes, reliving the battles and losses of the Trojan war lost some of their impact for me. (Maybe on a slower re-read, I’ll pick up more). I would have liked a bit more Ariadne and Jason – as they have been so involved earlier, but they felt a little sidelined. The one newbie that I really liked was Andy – she was a nice addition and I think fitted into the ‘cast’ of the play the most effectively.

The other part I’m not sure about, is whether I would have preferred not to know the truth behind Daphne’s lie so early in the series. Unless it was a completely sucky book, which gave no happy ending (which doesn’t happen often) you knew that Helen would find a way to be with Lucas. I was waiting for the reveal throughout, and I wonder if I would have felt their emotional turmoil more if I still believed they were related. It’s a small thing, and probably personal preference, as I like twists in the tale. I remember feeling so sad for Helen and Lucas, when they believed they couldn’t be together initially – once I knew it was a lie, I was waiting for the revelation that would allow them to be together.

Overall, it was a good read, there is a lot to taken in for the conclusion to come together. I enjoyed it – but would probably have enjoyed a four book series better 🙂

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Just Finished…Insurgent

Insurgent

Hmmm…

I’ve just finished Insurgent and ‘Hmmmm…’ is the overwhelming thought in my head. There is something with this series I just don’t feel, and I think it’s because I find Tris difficult. There’s also the ‘faction thing’ for the people within the system: I find it hard to believe that they do not question a system that would seem to want you to be a particular way, but then encourages divergence by allowing the movement of people between the factions (nature / nurture…If they want pure, faction-matched people, why would the system allow movement…?) The conclusion of the book did go some way towards alleviating my issues there, in that it gives you an answer to the ‘why’; but it doesn’t explain why people inside the system should not see it as a flaw in their faction system to allow movement from one to another.

I’m not a Tris fan – I find her reactions to things too variable; she veers from being ultra-logical and self-aware to being obtuse and reactionary. Even with her ‘divergent’ brain I find it difficult to believe in someone so wildly erratic. It’s almost as though she switches from one faction stereotype to another, without a natural blending of the various faction natures coming together. Maybe I’m wrong and she’s like this exactly because of how she’s been raised and so she cannot blend the various elements together, just use one at a time…if that’s the case, there’s some logic to that, but I find it difficult to believe as a true reflection of human nature.

There are characters I like in this series: I like the Dauntless banter and passion (with people like Uriah) and I’m OK with Four; Christina I also like, just as I did in Divergent. And the books are well-written, so that you get a feel for the environment…but I find I’m just mildly ambivalent with the book as a whole.

Overall 3.5* – I found this book more interesting that the first – although it is reasonably long and I could walk away from reading it, so I know I wasn’t gripped. Seeing more of the other factions was good – Divergent was too much Dauntless training for me, with not much of interest until the end of the book. But Tris is not my cup of tea and I find that because I don’t relate to her, I empathise less.

Am I missing something with this series??

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Just Finished…ReVamped by Ada Adams

Canadian Reading Challenge – July 2012

So, for my first and probably only book, I’ll manage to read for this challenge – I’ve been writing more than reading this month to meet my summer deadline for The Rainbow Maker’s Tale – I read Canadian author Ada Adam’s book ReVamped… here’s my review!

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A simple mission turned deadly.

Nineteen-year-old vampire Dawn has led a sheltered life within the confines of her father’s presidential headquarters. Upon being sent on a mission to revamp four goofy misfits into guardians of a peaceful little town of Angel Creek, Dawn believes that all her dreams have finally come true. What starts off as a simple task, turns into something unexpected, changing Dawn’s life forever and leading the action-loving, thrill-seeking vampire teen on a path of mystery, danger and intrigue.

When a human girl is kidnapped by a group of rogue vamps, Dawn discovers that there is more going on in Angel Creek than meets the eye. And it all connects to Ethan, the cute newcomer who seems too perfect to be true, Sebastian, the mysterious vampire with a turbulent past, and even Dawn herself. Dawn must not only succeed in revamping the troubled recruits, but must also prevent the vampire race from being overtaken by a malevolent villain who has a strange and obsessive fascination with her. As threat escalates, romance blooms, and ghosts from her past begin to surface, Dawn is sure of only one thing: her life will never be the same.

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ReVamped is a re-take of the vampire myth, set in the not too distant future, where vamps are out and about in the world, known to humans and borderline celebrities in some cases. In this way it is like a milder version of True Blood / Sookie Stackhouse. It is fun, quick and easy to read, with lots of action and a couple of nice twists.

I do like it when someone takes a familiar idea and does something different with it (see my reviews of Being Human by Patricia Lynne for vampire monster-turned-softie human brother and Stephen Herfst’s Zed, the zombie with a brain)… and Ada Adams does this with ReVamped, especially well in the first few chapters. Genre inversion / bending – I like it! So… what ReVamped does well is create a realistic world for the media savvy, new popular vamps on the block: shows like American Vamp Idol and Transylvanian Shore – loved those little throw-ins. I also liked the fact that eating garlic allowed vampires to wander around in the daylight – nice touch. There were also a couple of light asides to other popular vampire tales, such as Twilight, which worked nicely.

The concept of ‘Born’ Vs ‘Made’ vampires is interesting and I’m sure has some considerable opportunities for development in the series. The idea with this being that some ‘special’ vampires are born of a female vampire parent, who mates with a vampire she’s made. The logistics of how this is physically possible is not delved into in ReVamped, but then neither is the physical body of the vampire (like the stone bodies of Twilight or the fire, silver and stake dodging vamps of Bonne Temps) and so whether this will come to anything in the future I have no idea.

What I did struggle with in ReVamped – but which I know from reviews on sites like Goodreads was a positive point for many readers – was the vampires as protectors (almost like superheroes) set up. There was virtually no neck biting, darkness or typical vampire-as-blood-thirsty-monster behaviour, which is one of the things I tend to like in vampire books when I read them: I like the conflict between the human and monstrous elements; I enjoy flawed characters. ReVamped does not really have these, with the exception of a couple of ‘baddies’ – speaking of which, I did like the werewolf twist, nicely done 🙂

Dawn, the main character we follow and the band of vamps she works with are all very nice, and very human (to me) but with some extra strength. Most of the time I didn’t find myself thinking of them of vampires from their behaviour. I think the hardest thing for me was that – in my eyes – the main defining characteristic of a vampire is their need to drink blood. In ReVamped – similar to True Blood – they have a synthetic alternative now, that becomes the preference over and above ‘the real deal’: the vampires in the book drink Blood Cola, even Blood Vodka on occasion and eat garlic bread to get out in the sun – but all of this made them more human than vampire to me. 

Overall Verdict: ReVamped is a good, fun read. There’s lots of action throughout – sometimes a little too easily and neatly resolving things, but hey-ho – and there’s some nice inversions of the vampire mythology. I think I’d like to have seen more depth and explanation of the vampire characters – as I’ve said, they were more human than vamp for me. I’d be interested to see where the series goes with the next book. (And for anyone interested in romance, a couple of nice boys in the mix, not a full on love triangle though – phew!)

 

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