The Crazy Bookworm

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Book Review: Heist Society (Heist Society #1) by Ally Carter

Heist Society - Ally Carter

Thieving is not supposed to be a desirable job but after reading Heist Society, I definitely wanted to be an A class thief like Katarina Bishop. There is just something about Ally Carter’s way of writing that engages you from the very beginning. Some people might not like her style, but I am not one of them. The story is well thought out and the plot is intricately detailed without being confusing, as are the characters that are colorfully woven into the very heart of the story.

 

I like that this book isn’t just about a girl, a girl and a boy, or a girl and a boy and their friends. This book is about family and the lengths that a young girl would go just to make sure that no harm would come to the people she cares for. This book is about cons and heists, failures and successes. This book is so much more than what it appears to be at first.

 

Kat’s story is full of twist and turns and of puzzles that doesn’t seem to have any solution at all, at least not to the innocent mind of a non-thief reader. Ally Carter keeps us all at the edge of our seats, anxious and excited about the turn out of the cons that our protagonists would pull on seemingly unconnable antagonists and of the techniques with quirky names (i.e. Benjamin Franklin) that they would use to rob a never-been-robbed-before museum.

 

There is also the matter of the not-yet-romance between the characters of Kat and Hale, and of the (sort of) love triangle-ish fiasco when Nick, another fellow thief who is not who he says he is, comes into the picture. Carter doesn’t hurry the romance factor of the story but instead, she shows us the depth of Kat and Hale’s friendship and lets the events unfold gradually from there. That there is an actual solid foundation is a good thing too, especially in YA, where authors plot insta-love between characters that doesn’t even seem to have any level of chemistry at all. In her own way, Ally Carter prepares us for the inevitable take off of a soon-to-be epic love story, and she did a very good job in this first installment so far.

 

All in all, a very fun, exciting, and unputdownable read. This is a really great way to start a series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book. Kat is a very relatable character despite the fact that she is a thief because other than that unusual job description, she is actually very normal. All the other supporting characters are very likable, too: Simon and his geekness, Angus and Hamish who reminds me of Fred and George from Harry Potter because of their playful ingenuity, Gabrielle for her lethal badassery, Hale for his charm and even Nick, for his charm, too, I guess. But most of all I admire Katarina Bishop’s unwavering determination to conquer the impossible just to save her father’s life. Another addition to girls-in-YA-that-we-should-all-look-up-to. And I’m not talking about the being a thief part.

 

The ending was probably the best part of this book. It is always the conclusion that can make or break a work of fiction. In this case, the conclusion made it all the more awesome, so I guess what I’m trying to say is the Heist Society is now officially part of my favorite books shelf.

 

Why only 4 out of 5 coconuts, you say? I guess it’s because of the antagonist, Mr. Tarconne. Although he seemed like a total psychopath that couldn’t be conned, he still didn’t scare me enough. His bad guy mojo needs some work, but other than that, this book is really great.

 

Book Review: Flat-out Love by Jessica Park

Flat-Out Love  - Jessica Park

I liked this book a lot. I am actually hunting down New Adult books that could *maybe* make me swoon more and cringe less but I haven’t found a single one aside from Easy, and that was from a year ago. And then this book came along, and although Julie and Matt’s love story wasn’t as breathtaking for me as Jacqueline and Lucas’ was, this cute little novel still made me smile and giggle and even shriek a few times.

 

Julie was a fairly likeable character; she’s nice and smart, she’s not a whiner or a complainer, she was reasonable for the most part, and she was brilliant at handling Celeste. But she was not without flaws and I actually have a few issues with her, specifically a.) she complained at the beginning of the novel that her friends don’t understand her love of studying and that if she ever tells them how much she likes to learn, they would make fun of her. But then she went and criticized – even made fun of – Matt’s preference for geeky t-shirts and asked him many times to stop wearing them. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that Julie just became one of the people she was complaining about. And b.) I get that Julie was a fixer and she wanted to fix Celeste and the whole Watkins Family, but there were times when she was so overbearing that I wondered why on earth was Matt still putting up with her. It was painful to read those parts of the story, and maybe this is just me because I hate it when people stick their hands in my business, but if I were Matt or Erin, I would’ve told Julie off a long time ago. Subtlety’s probably not Jessica Park’s style, but I wish she wrote those scenes in a way that made me like Julie more, not less.

 

Matt was an adorable character. I felt his burden and hardships as I read, and he didn’t even have to say them out loud. Jessica Park did a great job with his character and she weaved his struggles into the plot seamlessly. Also, the geeky shirts are sexy, Matt! Don’t listen to Julie!!! Yes, I just had to put that out there. But let’s move on to Matt’s brother, Finn. I guess I get why Julie would fall for him and why it took her so long to see the truth behind him. Even I couldn’t be sure about what to make of him for 70% of the novel because Park’s writing style leaves so many room for surprises (a good thing). I was glad when I turned out to be right, but oh holy fudgebuckets. That’s all I’m going to say.

 

Now let’s talk about Celeste, my most favorite character in the whole freaking book. My heart went out to Celeste many, many times. I loved her and pitied her but mostly I just wish I could adopt her and shower her with hugs and kisses. Celeste was the heart of this book, and yes I was very interested with the love story as well, but Celeste’s evolution is 70% of the reason why I couldn’t put this book down. I thought that Jessica Park handled Celeste and her unique case brilliantly, and she’s just been added to the list of my most adorable fictional (sadly) children.

 

Writing-wise, Flat-out Love could do with a bit more polishing, but Jessica Park did a really good job at sequencing scenes and transitioning them. Some characters felt so flat they were as good as non-existent (Jamie, Dana) but the main characters were solidly built and multi-faceted. The romance was sweet and heart-warming and Park was good to avoid some clichéd reactions that I was expecting. Since this book was NA, I was expecting to feel some of that college-vibe that I loved from Easy, but it was noticeably weak in this novel. It was still a good story, though. Better than most NA’s out there for sure.

 

If you are a romance and/or contemporary aficionado or if you’re just like me who hasn’t given up yet in finding treasures out of the notoriously avoided New Adult genre, I urge you to try and read Flat-Out Love. It’s a sweet and heartening story of love and healing and second chances. Jessica Park is an author to watch out for, and I will most definitely read her other works from here on out. 3 and 1/2 coconuts!

 

Book Review: Easy by Tammara Webber

Easy - Tammara Webber

This review also appears on my blog, The Crazy Bookworm

 

First of all I just want to express my dislike of the cover. Seriously? The cover does not do this book any justice at all. If I were at a bookstore, I won’t even bother picking it up. Thankfully, I have Kathryn who harassed me until I bought this book. I told her she should make a blog because she has impeccable taste, but she’s lazier than lazy and can’t be bothered. (Whatever, Kath.)

 

But omg, we better get down to business before I get more distracted.

 

Last Sunday was my fourth time to read Easy. It was kind of a spontaneous decision I made because I spent the whole morning trying to read some of the New Adult selections on my Kobo Library, but each one was at least 5x more cringe-inducing than the next. I am losing faith in the genre, truth be told, and I needed something to remind me that there’s hope in finding a gem out of all the stones I’ve unearthed.

 

When I first read Easy, I wasn’t really expecting much from it. Mainly it’s because of that hideous cover and of course, the misleading title (I am judging you, Tammara Webber’s marketing team) but the book itself was such a pleasant surprise. The writing was neat and eloquent, but what really pulled me in was the first sentence.

 

"I had never noticed Lucas before that night. It was as though he didn’t exist, and then suddenly, he was everywhere."

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I am a firm believer in opening your book not with a fizzle, but with a bang. For me, this opening line was perfect because it gives you a vivid image of what happened after that night, and it makes you curious. Why was Lucas everywhere all of a sudden? What exactly did he do? What exactly took place during that night? And now you can’t wait but read it and find out.

 

Easy has a very simple but multi-layered plot. I’m not going to give you the juicy details because I think it would work better if you find out on your own, but let me just say that this book tackles a very delicate yet relevant issue for men and women everywhere. Granted that it did not dominate the plot, but it was a catalyst of sorts for all the events that followed and towards the end, it was given the justice that it deserves in such a beautifully simplistic and sophisticated manner.

 

In terms of characterization, I honestly loved the way Webber built her characters and their connections with each other. Jacqueline and Lucas were so different as individuals but their chemistry was so palpable even from the very beginning. They both had stories of their own, histories that were independent of each other, and it added to their realness as characters in my opinion. I can’t say I’m in-love with Jacqueline but she never got on my nerves either. She grew on me and she felt genuine in a way that it was so easy to empathize/sympathize with her. Her emotions and responses were reasonable and her voice in the narrative remained consistent all throughout. And Lucas – oh dear lord. Lucas was very hot, and I don’t know about other people, but I find his feelings for Jacqueline pre-accident to be so indomitably human. It added to his appeal in my opinion, because it showed that despite his seemingly cool façade he can be boyishly stupid underneath. Plus, he’s hot, and I know I already said that but WTH, I don’t think I can say it enough. The boy’s hot! H-A-W-T!!!!

 

Anyway, aside from the main characters, the secondary ones also deserve applause. Erin and Dr. Heller were my favorites because of the way they shaped the story. And Erin was probably one of the most-entertaining and lovable best friends I’ve read about in a while. The whole college-vibe in the book felt real to me as a Uni student myself, and I guess that’s one reason why I loved this book very much.

 

But of course I can’t forget to talk about the romance. THE ROMANCE, OMFG! It was honestly one of the best I’ve ever read, and I’m not giving that praise lightly. This book was oozing with chemistry and swoon-worthy scenes that would make you want to scream and giggle and roll on the floor. There were no declarations of love or some jazz like that, mostly just whispers and one liners that just hit you where it matters.

 

All in all, Easy is easily one of my most favorite books of all time. It’s a great story with complex characters and a thoughtful pacing that lets you savor every moment in the book. It deals with an important issue that young and old people everywhere should definitely know about. It’s deliciously romantic and if you’re like me who is dangerously close to losing their faith on the New Adult genre, this is the perfect read to renew your hope. Easy is a beautiful and heartwarming read, and I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough. 5 coconuts!

 

Book Review: White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black

White Cat - Holly Black

This book has been on my TBR list since early this year and I decided to finally crack it open for my Tackle Your TBR Pile Read-a-thon. Lots of people have been going on and on about how great this book is and the series as a whole. In fact, many of my trusted book bloggers seem to like White Cat a lot, but after reading it I honestly don’t see what all the hype is about.

Conceptually, White Cat was very promising. ‘Curse Worker’ sounds so sinister and magical at the same time and truthfully, I think that we can never have enough books about magic so I welcomed the concept with open arms. But I guess when it comes to building the principles around the concept itself Holly Black falls short. I personally think it’s because of the lack of details and I for one am hungry about the good nitty-gritty. The idea of curse working was very casually served to the readers, the first few chapters were smattered with vague details about the crime families and the government’s stand on ‘workers’ and ‘working’ but the execution itself of this technique was average at best. I’ve read novels before that doesn’t necessarily give detailed lists, graphs, or lengthy explanations about the concepts/ideas involved but dishes them out slowly throughout the story, and they worked fine for me, better actually since the author challenges the reader to read through the lines and figure out all things unsaid, and I live for those moments, trust me. But this one was just confusing and that in itself is a huge buzzkill. It felt suspiciously like the author obscuring the obvious behind a curtain of opaque vagueness just to make it feel like there’s something mysterious about the whole thing when in truth, there’s really not.

When it comes to the characters, I don’t really have much to say except that I was thoroughly bored. Cassel’s voice was distinctly male, yes, but there was nothing special about him really. In fact, I might have to say that he’s a bit overdramatic at times even considering the circumstances. Lila was projected as an interesting character because that’s how Cassel feels about her, but I am not enchanted by her at all. She did nothing surprising in my opinion and in fact, she ended up being too predictable. Plus, there’s zero chemistry between her and Cassel, I’d probably rather ship him with Daneca. The most interesting characters in this book for me were Maura and Granddad, Maura because in my mind’s eye she looks like the woman who played Jack Nicholson’s wife in The Shining, and Granddad because he reminds me a liiitttle bit of Uncle Eddie from [b:Heist Society|6574102|Heist Society (Heist Society, #1)|Ally Carter|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1359254479s/6574102.jpg|6767235]. The villains at least, were well crafted. I like the fact that Philip and Barron were conning their own brother and Anton was believably psychotic. I expected a whole lot from Zacharov than what I got, though. I mean, isn’t he supposed to be head of a crime family? His character felt a little too soft for my liking. That was one of the big disappointments I got out of this book.

Plotwise, it was entirely too predictable. I immediately knew who the White Cat was and I guessed rather early that Cassel was really a worker and what kind of work he can do. About the only thing I didn’t guess was what Cassel’s mom would do in the end, and honestly? Bad parenting. The mafia-ish vibe wasn’t used to it’s full potential and the cons aren’t really impressive if you think about it. I liked the concept of the blowback, though. Lots of magic books tell us about limitless power with very slight physical consequences, but in Cassel’s world, you get your karma immediately, and light would be the last word to describe it. The blowback definitely made things more interesting and it set even Cassel and his unusual abilities on the same ground with other workers because it’s a mutual vulnerability they all share.

Despite the myriad of shortcomings I listed, White Cat was still an enjoyable read. Some parts were slow but most were action-packed and I can’t help but notice that this was the case in The Coldest Girl in Coldtown as well. Holly Black thrives when she’s world-building and writing the ass-kicking scenes, and for the most part it makes up for her more-or-less average skill in plot-weaving and characterization. I’m a bit disappointed though that White Cat was not as good as I thought it would be, but I have to admit that it wasn’t half bad either. I most probably won’t read the other books in the series, but I would still recommend it to everyone who loves urban fantasy and who enjoys reading in the male character’s POV. Three coconuts!

 

Book Review: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

The Spectacular Now - Tim Tharp

It’s so difficult for me to rate and review books like this. It totally took me by surprised, it totally disturbed my equilibrium. Tim Tharp has managed to coax out of me the most difficult of emotions, and I am at a loss for words.

WARNING: There may be spoilers, so watch out.

Sutter Keely. At first he was the most charismatic guy. Kind and funny and utterly compassionate, despite having a little bit of a drinking problem that he refuses to call alcoholism. I was charmed from the moment he was introduced to me, with his honest and sincere narrator’s voice and his uniqueness as a character. He was hilarious and sweet and I can’t help but like him, but at the same time it was hard for me to keep up with his mindset.

Sutter is that guy. The guy that everyone knows and everyone was casually friends with. He’s fun and impulsive and he’s the life of the party. He’s the epitome of easy-go-lucky and devil-may-care. He doesn’t take anything seriously at all, not even his own future, and he can be a bit short-sighted at times. But his story goes way beyond that. Underneath all the bravado and the jokes and the I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude is a Sutter that is lost and hurt and lonely. His father left without a trace, his mother and his stepfather doesn’t pay him enough attention and affection, his girlfriend broke up with him, and to top it all off like a cherry, his best friend Rick is now spending less and less time in his company and started to withdraw from all the things they used to enjoy together. And then Aimee came into the picture; lost and vulnerable and totally clueless about the concept of standing up for herself. Sutter feels the need to help Aimee, to teach her and guide her towards her full potential, and somewhere along the way Aimee realizes that she needed Sutter more than she ever thought she would.

When I finished this book, when I turned the last page that left me utterly confused and hurt and angry, I had to admit I pretty much hated Sutter. How can a person be compassionate and seemingly self-centered at the same time? On the one had, Sutter has this really big heart and can sympathize with anyone, even with the guy he lost his girlfriend to. But on the other, he can’t seem to see past his feelings and reservations and into those of other people who he dragged into his life. I was so completely frustrated with him, so infuriated at his actions and his inactions, at his denials, and how he’s treating poor, sweet Aimee, who opened up to him and had been honest with him and loved him with all her heart. I just couldn’t process it, what he had done in the end and what that would mean for the sweet, gullible girl that would have done anything, anything at all just to keep him. What was this book even about, Tim Tharp? What was it supposed to tell me?

And then it hit me.

Life is, for the most part, full of unhappy endings. We just don’t want to see it because we’re scared of how hideous it would look like, without the rainbows and unicorns and bucketful of confetti. Someone once told me that the people who smile the most and laugh the loudest are the saddest people on earth, and I can’t help but think how applicable that was to Sutter Keely. He hid his issues behind his goofy grin, he drowned his sorrows in mischief. He was scared to face his demons so he pretended that they didn’t exist. Sutter was on his way to the downwards spiral, he was soon to meet rock bottom, and sometimes no matter how much we hope for things to turn out differently, for a sort of miracle to stop the inevitable, it simply doesn’t happen for some people. We may not want to accept it, but it’s reality, it’s the painful, awful truth.

I did not want to accept it, trust me. Seeing how Aimee’s and Sutter’s relationship started and flourished, how she was continuously being lead to believe his lies just so he could spare her feelings, how he was being a deliberate coward for not telling the truth. It was a bittersweet thing to witness, and it impacted me in a really significant level. I wanted Sutter to change, to at least see what a beautiful thing he had in his hands, something so pure and lovely that not everybody get’s the chance to catch. Experiencing their love story was one of a kind; it conjures a helplessness that gnaws at you. And you can’t do anything to quell it; the only thing to do is watch as everything falls to pieces.

Despite the suffering he caused, I have to hand it to Tim Tharp. Not once did he break the stride in Sutter’s voice, despite his world crumbling all around him and the people he cared for slipping away from his grasp one by one, whether by choice or because he pushed them away, the tone of the narrative never strayed from Sutter’s casual and unapologetic honesty and stark sincerity. Tharp made us feel what we were meant to with this novel without being preachy or overly dramatic. He let Sutter charm us and frustrate us to the point of exhaustion, he let us hate Sutter and pity him and want him to be saved, even when we knew full well before it even happened that it was far from possible.

I still could not forgive the ending. I know deep down that it was realistic and therefore brilliant, it’s what makes this novel not just any of the other contemporary books out there. I thought this novel was thoughtful and beautifully told, but I can’t help but look back to that moment when Sutter reflected over what Cassidy said, that he never let somebody love him. Sutter tells us that he learned to let people love him eventually, but you know what he doesn’t learn? He doesn’t learn to love himself, and that to me most of all, is this book’s greatest tragedy.

 



You can also see this review on my blog, The Crazy Bookworm.

Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. You are lying if you tell me that that title doesn’t intrigue you even just a little, and you are lying even more if you say that that cover doesn’t tickle your morbid curiosity. Those two factors are what made me want to read this book so, so bad, I could literally feel my hands itching for it. It had been a long time since I’ve read a good vampire novel and I wanted this book to break that dry spell. Sadly, it didn’t.

The plot revolves around Tana, a 17 year old girl living in a world where vampires exist and are contained in a Coldtown, walled cities within cities that housed the living dead. One morning after a party, she wakes up to find her friends bluish pale and drained of blood, all of them dead except her ex-boyfriend who was infected and chained in the guestroom with a manacled and mysterious-looking vampire boy at the foot of the bed. Unable to stomach the thought of leaving them in the mercy of the vampires who killed her friends, Tana gets them out of the house and drives them into Coldtown.

If you guys have read any of my reviews before, you would know how particular I am when it comes to characterization. I want my characters well-rounded and multi-faceted because that’s one of the biggest factors that makes a great book for me. But despite the backstory and the constant insight into Tana’s thoughts in the narrative, she felt flat to me as a character and I found her personality quite boring. She was projected as the guilty daughter who was responsible for her mother’s vampirism and death, and that played a big part into wanting to save Aidan and Gavriel, but other than that, she’s really dull. Even her bouts of bravery seem to come out of nowhere, like they’re being pulled randomly out of a box.

The most outstanding character for me is Gavriel. Oh dear Lord, he’s the exact personification of my weakness. I have this personality quirk where I am helplessly attracted to damaged, unpredictable, and potentially insane people. Gavriel are those things exactly, not to mention mysteriously sexy. He has a very good backstory that supports his brand of madness, and it makes him a shade or two more vivid than the other characters in this book. I particularly enjoyed scenes involving him, and even though Tana’s impression on me was weak at best, I have to admit that she and Gavriel have that slow burning chemistry form their very first scene together. To be honest, Gavriel was the only reason I read until the end, and if he isn’t so insanely sexy, I would have dnf-ed this early on.

In terms of plot, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown could have done better. It was basically non-existent until 60% in the book, and the story was so very dragging at times. There were lots of unnecessary scenes that didn’t move the plot along at all, plus the irritating transition of flashbacks to present. It just wasn’t smoothly done and it disturbs the flow of the story. It felt like they were just inserted there without much thought on how it would affect the continuation of each chapter. Think of road blocks that you have to go around so you could drive at your regular speed. Think of road blocks that pop up several times. It gets annoying, really, and coupled with the author’s inconsistent writing style, it made my head hurt a little.

But despite being practically plotless and having bumpy transitions, I would still have to commend Black for creating a breed of vampires with a different mechanism on vampirism. The way of turning was unique and the vampiric lifestyle was interesting, although they largely stayed true to the mythical cannon. There was also that great realistic feel because of the mentions of things that we currently have and enjoy in real life, like Tumblr, for example. That fangirls are gif-ing the famous vamps is something that’s entirely plausible if we ever have the vamp problem. I could actually imagine it, and that’s just creepy. I also liked the gory details of this book, and Holly Black does those parts extremely well, plus the parts that involve ass-kicking. Those were pretty good, too.

Unfortunately, the good parts weren’t enough for me to get over the bad ones. I was hugely disappointed by this book, and maybe that’s because I was expecting too much out of it, but I also didn’t foresee how low it would fall from those expectations. Nonetheless, it was scary in its own way, and fans of horror, paranormal, and vampire novel aficionados might like it better than I did.

 

The Pentrals  - Crystal Mack I'll get back to this later, but for now I need to take a break.
Hussy - Selena Kitt Holly mother of Zeus. This book. I don’t even know how to review this.

I got this off of Netgalley as an advanced reading copy and to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I have never read a Selena Kitt book before, but I am no stranger to erotic literature, so I thought, why not? But this book, oh dear. This is worlds apart from all the other erotic novels I have ever read.

Selena Kitt doesn’t go round and round the bush. From the very beginning of this novella, we are already met by an inappropriately dressed Lindsey being reprimanded by her stepfather for her clothes, or lack thereof. Hussy is the most apt title for this book indeed, because Lindsey is just that. A freaking slut. She is so horny all the time and she relieves it by having sex with absolutely anyone, even her school principal. It was kind of disturbing to me, since I am not used to reading this kind of aggressive stuff that Kitt writes, but since I requested this book from the publisher, I figured I might as well stick to it till the end.

The romantic aspect of this book didn’t really leave me with an impression. Zach is a perfectly decent man, and maybe he felt like he should save Lindsey from herself which is a totally acceptable premise, but there just wasn’t enough emotional connection. I didn’t feel any chemistry beyond the physical kind, and though the sex is hot and all, there was just something I was looking fore that isn’t there.

This book is also filled with scenarios that are considered taboo like non-consensual sex, multiple sexual partners, gang bang, and some psuedo-incest… so yeah, if you’re sensitive about stuff like that, stay away from this book because this clearly isn’t right for you. Hussy is not for the faint-hearted and definitely not for conservative types. You have to be open-minded to even manage to get through the opening scene of this thing.

All in all, I would say that this book isn’t really bad, per se. The author can write, although she focuses too much (I think) on the sex scenes that she forgets to apply the same meticulous details on the ‘regular’ scenes of this book, which can be just as important if treated correctly. And before you ask, yes, Lindsey has a reason behind her slutty demeanor which may just be psychologically justifiable, although that doesn’t make it any easier for my brain to process.

I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. It was readable, enjoyable to an extent, but it has a very specific target audience. Did I like it? It was okay. It wasn’t mind-blowing or life-changing, it wasn’t all that compelling either, and it made me uncomfortable many, many times. But surprisingly, I liked Lindsey, hussy that she is. She managed to evoke some sympathy in me, and I read until I couldn’t take it anymore because of her.

Selena Kitt also has my respect for writing things only a few others would dare to, if any at all. I probably wouldn’t read any more of her books because I have a feeling that they might not be my prefered cup of tea. But still, A+ for contributing to literary diversity and for not being afraid to bend the rules of erotic fiction. This book was different, if that’s a positive or negative thing, the reader would have to decide. But I think we need books like this, no matter how small a portion of the reader population they appeal to, because like it or not, some people want these kinds of books, and it’s a very good thing that authors like Selena Kitt are here to give it to them.

Book Review: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Ultraviolet - R.J. Anderson

Good God. Okay, I loved this book. Not a fan so much of the romance but everything else is A+. Review is soon to come. xoxo

Review:

Whoa. This book. I am beyond impressed.

I am terribly happy that I had the privilege to read this book unspoiled, knowing nothing at all about the beginning, middle, or ending of the story. That’s the best way to read it, in my opinion. So I should tell you now to stay away from Ultraviolet’s Goodreads page or at least don’t click any of the spoiler links. As for me, I will do my best not to give anything away in this review.

Ultraviolet’s main character and narrator is Alison. Her voice paired with Anderson’s beautiful writing was enough to make me fall head-over-heels with this book. I don’t quite know how to describe Anderson’s prose style because I’ve never encountered anything like it before. Granted, there were a few overkills, but the narrative was mostly rich and colorful, like my imagination’s favorite candy. I am also genuinely surprised with where the author took the story. I never would have been able to guess that this was a Science Fiction novel from the first pages. It reads like a paranormal suspense thriller, and all the better too, because this unique way of easing us into the Sci-Fi part of the plot intensifies the effect of all the major plot revelations when they happen. It’s so unique and different and honestly, I love it.

Aside from her gorgeous writing style, Anderson also wins plus points for her characterization. Every character in this book is solid, vivid, and important – in a way that all did something to move the plot along, they had significant roles to play to add volume to the story. Even now, I can actually imagine them as real people, going on about their business somewhere in the world. Additionally, I liked that Anderson dabbled at a medical/psychological condition that isn’t common. It added texture to the plot, and the role that it plays in the story is enchanting, to say the least.

All in all, I thought that this book was original. Anderson took the cliched and the stereotypical and twisted and bent those elements into something more – something worthy of note, something masterful. I really, really loved this book, and though I am not such a fan of the romantic subplot (hence, the 4 over 5), I still think that this is quite possibly one of the best books I’ve read this year. Engaging, unputdownable, entertaining, and intense, this book is definitely a must read in my opinion. I highly recommend Ultraviolet to everyone who loves a good YA novel. And now I can’t wait to begin reading it’s sequel, Quicksilver.

 

Book Review: Sins & Needles (The Artist Trilogy #1) by Karina Halle

Sins & Needles - Karina Halle

Before I say anything else I would just like to point out that this book is an indie-published contemporary romance. Not exactly the usual qualities I’m looking for in a book; in fact, just the opposite, and yet there was no mistaking the high ratings and positive feedbacks that Sins & Needles have been receiving from book bloggers and casual reviewers alike in and out of Goodreads. I wanted to know what this was all about. What’s so special about this book by Karina Halle that makes it stand out among other contemporary romance novels out there that’s gained over the top popularity even with its mediocre plot and clichéd characters? And I know you know which ones I’m talking about, so I guess you can’t fault me for being careful.

But hey, I’m just very glad to say that this book does not belong on the list of those infamously bad contemporary romances. I would even go as far as saying that Sins & Needles might just be the saving grace of the aforementioned notoriously avoided genre. It’s different, it’s well-written, it’s deliciously sexy, and the characters in it are devastatingly hot, not to mention multi-dimensional. Karina Halle has succeeded in luring me into a world of grifting and revenge, of love and hate and pain. Of cons and marks and pasts that catch up with you, no matter where you go or what name you take. More importantly, Karina Halle has proved to me that contemporary romance can work without having to make your male character an abusive, control-freak, pretty-faced psycho.

Camden and Ellie are our main characters. They are not perfect and they know it. They are bad people, and they know that, too. For the first time since I can remember, I am able to read about characters that are on equal footing on the negative side of the moral scale. Most of the time we see a bad boy and a good girl and the bad boy trying to make the good girl bad, or the good girl trying to make the bad boy good. It’s refreshing to see Halle change the trends a bit by giving us bad boy and bad girl and telling us their story. Almost no one has the guts to go against the standard and overused tropes anymore, but Miss Halle is gutsy enough to give us something new, something different, and what’s more impressive is how she managed to make it work.

Ellie is a character not everyone will like, but I’m happy to say that I did. She’s fierce and strong-willed and she puts survival first before anything, thus she is willing to screw anyone over if that means it’ll buy her one more day. ‘Spiteful’ is the adjective that both her current and past lover had described her as. Not the ideal role model, yes, but intriguing all the same. Camden, at first glance, would probably look like your ideal hottie: he’s insanely gorgeous, he seems to be doing well with his life, and he’s got ink. But don’t mistake this fraudulent façade for the real picture. Camden is a tortured soul, a brimming reservoir of hatred and vengeance and regret. There is a darkness inside him, probably a shade or two richer than the darkness inside Ellie, and it’s fascinating to watch it all unravel, to see how who he is is affected by who he was. All in all, he is the perfect bad boy – and not in the way that Christian Grey of Fifty Shades fame or Travis Maddox of Beautiful Disaster was – but in a better, more believable way that’s entirely his own. I guess what I’m trying to say is that he’s angy, scarily so at times, but he doesn’t use his issues to justify manipulative, controlling, or psychotic behaviour.

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I also liked that Camden and Ellie has a foundation, a back story that binds them together, something that validates his anger and explains her frustrations. We see first class character and relationship development, courtesy of the author’s meticulous writing style. We see vivid imagery, clearly described settings, thoroughly expressed emotions, and maybe I’m praising this book a bit too much but I can’t help it. I loved it a lot and really, there’s just something about the way Karina Halle paints her pictures with her thousand words that astounds me so. She gives her characters flaws, dimensions, motivations and appropriate reactions; exceptionally enough that they jump out on you from the very pages and make you remember them. And oh, before I forget to tell you (like I’m actually capable of forgetting), sexual tension is this book’s middle name. It’s everywhere and I honestly cannot complain. The series of events that eventually lead to the actual sex scenes are almost as good as the sex itself. Almost. And the sex is satisfyingly glorious and those are the only words I have to describe it.

I love this book and I can’t wait to see what the sequel has in store for me. I want more of the anger, the spite, and the desperation to keep the past at bay and run towards the promise of escape. I need more of Camden, who despite his rage and his desire for vendetta, has never controlled, manipulated, forced, or abused Ellie. And I can't wait to know more about our heroine, Ellie, who was able to make decisions that stood because she is capable and because Camden respected her enough not to underestimate her. We need more books like this; we need more contemporary romances that uplift the genre instead of painting it the bland, ugly color of stereotype (no thanks to you, E.L. James and Jamie Maguire).

I’m giving this book 4.5 stars because it ended on such a relevant note and I’m pretty upset that I don’t have the sequel yet and have no way of knowing what happens next. But needless to say, I am one happy camper because of Sins & Needles, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Shooting Scars which is book 2, and the short prequel entitled On Ever Street. And you, too, should be excited! I would highly recommend this book to those who are in for a good and healthy mix of angst, drama, action, and romance, and if you plan on picking this up after you read this review, I suggest you brace yourself for a fun, sexy, dark, and thrilling ride into Ellie and Camden's world, where we get to see the bad people in action and witness their story as the layers of deceit fall off and we are left with nothing but their truths for us to judge.

 

Book Review: The Nightmare Affair (Arkwell Academy #1) by Mindee Arnett

The Nightmare Affair - Mindee Arnett

I am a true-blue sucker for boarding school stories, which is perhaps the very reason why I picked up The Nightmare Affair. That, and the cover, which reminded me so much of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. Before cracking this book open, I was actually expecting some sort of dark, gothic, paranormal mystery, but what I got instead was a fun and entertaining read.

Sure, it isn’t high literature or anything and the plot was a little predictable, but I honestly could not put it down while I was reading it. Whatever magic Mindy Arnett put on the pages of this book, it sure worked on me. But that doesn’t mean I failed to notice the many deficiencies of the story. Although I liked The Nightmare Affair a lot, I must admit that the plot felt like a Jenga tower that’s very close to toppling down on itself. There were parts in the book where the author would pepper us with facts about magickind history and the mechanics of this or that, but crammed in a chapter and in succeeding paragraphs, they ended up perplexing the heck out of me. There were also some very confusing concepts, which I understood in the end, but the point is, the telling wasn’t flawless, and understanding didn’t come naturally as I was reading it (or maybe it was just my brain, tired from lack of sleep).

Dusty was very likable as a main character. She’s plucky and witty and capable, though a little bit slow on the uptake. Eli was likable as well, but I can’t help noticing the lack of a back story, which could have served as a foundation for his character development. This is also true with secondary characters such as Paul, Selene, and Moira – Dusty’s mom, who I kinda liked a lot. Sad to say, her relationship with Dusty was reduced to an inconsequential part of the plot. Characters-wise, the book felt brimming with them, so much that some managed to spill on the side. There were just TOO MANY types of magickind all at once, and this turned out to be a disadvantage, mainly because the author failed to make distinctions as sharp as they should have been.

In terms of the romance, I’m actually surprised to find myself liking it. There was a bit of a love triangle, which I know is a common premise in YA, but I have to argue that the Paul-Dusty-Eli triangle is a bit more reasonable than others. First, because none of the guys acted particularly douchenuggetty. Second, because Dusty’s feelings were valid – an attraction for the good-looking guy she had to sit on during their dream-feeding sessions, and the magnetic pull of someone who makes it clear that he wants to be with her. Third, even during the end of our story, Dusty was still smart about her feelings. There wasn’t an instant jump from one guy to the next, which I greatly appreciated. Plus, there were no illicit kisses shared and other stupid love-triangle related stuff.

But let’s go back to the plot. As I have mentioned earlier, it was a bit predictable. It didn’t take that much brain power to know who the nefarious people were and I saw the ending coming long before it’s opening scene. It also has uncanny similarities with other novels such as Hex Hall by Rachelle Hawkins and even Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, especially during the second half of the novel. I should also point out that the events leading to the climax fell short of riveting and ended up quite lax, odd because this is the part where everything should be coming together for the ultimate build-up.

Still, this book has a significant entertainment value, otherwise it wouldn’t get a 3 out of 5. I was vastly entertained by it and for the most part, I couldn’t put it down. I guess it’s because I’ve been reading a ton of serious stuff lately and this kind of book was just what I needed to lighten up a little. Low-ish ratings aside, I would still recommend The Nightmare Affair for those who are looking for something fun to read just to pass the time. I don’t know if I’m actually looking forward to the next installment, but I’m not pushing the idea of reading it away either. All in all, a very fun book. Not the best of its kind, but definitely far from the worst as well.

 

The Sixth Power

The Sixth Power - Carol Nicolas

I was so disappointed by this book that I cannot even begin to properly explain it. When I first started reading The Sixth Power, I admit that I had no clue what I’m walking into, just that it involves super powers and genetic research. We all know how many books/comics, both good and bad, have attempted that kind of plot recipe before with a myriad of varying results, so I was wondering what would make this book stand out from the rest.

Nothing made this book stand out. In fact, I can name a handful of things that makes it sink under. First off, the writing. I’ve read better, I’ve read worse, but this one is just not good enough. Writing is kind of a tough industry to infiltrate, knowing that there are a lot of brilliant and promising authors out there vying for the readers’ attention, so for an author to stand above the rest, they should be able to compete in terms of prose-quality. I’m not saying that Nicolas’ writing is bad, because it was okay. And that’s exactly the issue. It’s just ‘okay’.

The characters of this book also failed to impress me. We should begin with Tania Westing, after all, she is our main character. Tania is just a normal teenager with an abnormal amount of tragedy in her life. First, her mother dies, causing her father to fall into depression and social withdrawal. And then his geneticist brother commits suicide for no apparent reason. It’s really hard not to feel sympathetic about Tania, and I did at the very start. But as the story progresses, I could not help but notice her utter lack of self-preservation, which is odd for a girl who has gone through as much suffering as she did. She literally pore her heart out to Dan the moment they were alone without even much effort on his part. And then she pitches herself heart-first into the love cliff with shameless abandon within a few days of meeting him. Talk about mind-numbing events.

My problem with Tania’s personality does not even come close with my problem with ALL the characters in general. You know how sometimes when you read a book with a mediocre plot but you can’t seem to put it down because you started to care deeply for the characters? Yeah, that did not happen in this case because I felt absolutely nothing for any character in this book, except maybe some slight irritation. Everyone, from Tania to the Maclean Siblings, to El Calavera – they all seemed dull to me. It would have been good if I liked them, and it would have been bad if I hated them, but I was indifferent to them, which was worse. Not that I didn’t understand any of their collective or individual issues, because I did. It’s just that they lacked personality and were too two-dimensional for my taste, thus you can only imagine how difficult it was for me not to drop this book in the middle of reading.

Did I mention that this book also features a love story? Yes I did! Another case of insta-love with no chemistry involved at all. Allow me to just set this straight once and for all: there are rare cases where insta-love works because somehow, the author manages to conjure enough spark to keep the love story aflame, but these instances are the exceptions, not the rule. That’s why I can’t understand why authors continue to shower us with insta-romances when we clearly do not want them that much. As readers, we need foundation, we need that slow, impossible torture of watching two people fall in-love while they deny it, and that crippling agony of anticipation as we yell at them to just kiss already. You’re not going to find anything like that in The Sixth Power. Dan and Tania’s love story seemed too hurried to me. There was no build-up and no magic. Also, the storyline where both characters didn’t have anyone for a long time before they met each other and suddenly they feel the need to be together is getting REALLY OLD. Someone needs to figure out something new already.

Another thing is that this book’s narrative tends to be dragging at times. For someone who is used to fast-paced stories, I found myself not adjusting very well with the slow-moving plot. In my opinion, the author failed to provide minor plotlines that managed to hold my interest as I wait for the main plot to be revealed. Some dialogs also bordered on preachy and annoying, which did not sit well with me.

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars because I thought that this is one of those ‘could-have-beens’. Could have been better if the plot was well cultivated, because I honestly think that there’s some promise behind the author’s idea. Could have been better if the author invested more, way more, in character development. Could have been better if the romance wasn’t an insta-love. All in all, could have been better but just isn’t. I realize that I’m the only person in Goodreads to give The Sixth Power a low rating, but keep in mind that I’m not trying to be rude or offensive, just honest and impartial. Some people might like this book, I guess, as evidenced by it’s 4.12 GR ratings. Sad to say, I’m not one of them.