Category Archives: Fiction

Book Review: Love on a Summer Night (Pine Harbour#4) by Zoe York

5 gems

love on a summer night

Oh boy… This was by far. The. Best. Book in the series. #TheZanderEffect was in full swing in this book.

Zander Minelli has found his way back home to Pine Harbor after dedicating 20 years of his life to the army. In six months he’ll be out and needs to figure out what his future will be. What better place to do that than home sweet home. While on this two-week leave from the army, he meets the most delicious kind of woman, Ponytail Girl. She is beautiful, smart and has lots of questions on how to use deadly weapons and kill people. Fortunately for Zander, she also shares  his love for apple pie.

Faith Davidson is a widowed, single mother and a full-time author. She is ready to dip her feet back into the dating pool. Her only conditions: no tattoos and no bad boys. Only stable, boring men. While spending her time writing at the neighborhood diner, Greta’s, Faith encounters a tall, dark and handsome biker dude, who has her blood boiling and thinking dirty thoughts. He also happens to speak the language of weapons quite fluently, so she racks his brain for all the available knowledge. There’s just one catch. The hot as hell guy is the exact type of man Faith did not want; tattooed-bad boy. Except the attraction is strong and somehow they end up bumping into each other everywhere they go.

Zander and Faith were such amazing characters. Both strong in their own rights. Though they had instant attraction, there’s was by no means an insta-love story. Their relationship developed over the two-weeks Zander was in town and then later, when he was away. I loved seeing the way in which Zoe York dealt with the long distance relationship. A long-distance relationship is not easy, and Ms. York made sure that she included the difficulties that come with it, rather than making it all hunky dory. She also didn’t make Faith and Zander’s relationship full of fights, which I must say is very well done.

Faith was no meek woman, but after the death of husband in a skiing accident she has grown a lot more reserved and overprotective about her son Eric. She dulled her life, suppressed her desires, so that Eric wouldn’t have to grow up without either of his parents. She got a lot of help from her mother too. Faith, Eric and Faith’s mother shared  a very good relationship. Her mother too is a widow and knows how Faith feels.

Zander is indeed a tough, responsible guy. He loved his family, but the army is his life. He is in a dilemma when the book starts as to what to do with his life after his army stint comes to an end. But when Faith enters the picture, his priorities shift. He wants to stay with her and Eric, rather than being gone for months at a time. The six months they spent apart from each other while Zander was gone was difficult for both of them. The best thing about Zander was that he never took Faith for granted. He knew what her insecurities were, dealt with them in the best away possible. He never rubbished her fears, but rather coaxed her out in the open.

As expected from a typical Zoe York book, the chemistry was sizzling between Faith and Zander. They made a really good couple who shared a certain ease with each other. Every time they came together, sparks were flying. It was beautiful to see how caring Zander was towards Faith. He took care of the minutest details. He made her feel special and loved.

while Zander and Faith’s relationship was amazing, what was even better was Zander and Eric’s relationship. Now that took the cake. That man was meant to be a father. #ZanderEffect. Oh man!! The way Zander dealt with Eric, such love and care, I doubt even his biological father would have been capable of that. Zander was friend, a mentor, a comrade, a father, everything humanly possible to Eric. And the relationship all three of them shared together, Faith, Eric and Zander, a perfect family.

A special mention should also be given to Jake and Dani. They finally got married and man, oh man, their wedding vows…. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t shed a few tears. It was just PERFECT!! Everything about this book was just plain amazing. There was nothing wrong that I could find about this book. Since it was an ARC, there were a few typos, but even those were disregarded in favor of the awesome story-line and beautiful characters. I know that every time a new book by Zoe comes out, I say it’s my favorite, but THIS BOOKS WAS PERFECT! This was absolutely mesmerizing in the beauty of the relationships depicted and the story touched my heart.

I’m crossing my fingers that the next book in the series, which is Dean’s book was will as amazing as this, if not better.

This review was first published on The Ever Romantic Arts.

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Book Review: Witness to Passion (Guarding Her Body #1) by Naima Simone

4 gems

witness to passion

Fallon Wayland hates birthdays. After all nothing good has happened to her on any of her birthdays. On her tenth birthday her dad stood her up because he was on a business trip, on her fifteenth birthday, her mom took her puppy to the pound and on her eighteenth birthday she kissed her childhood crush and got rejected. If you think all this was bad till you hear what happened on her twenty-fifth birthday. She gets dumped by her boyfriend on twitter, witnesses a mob hit and gets fired from her job. And now her life is all turned around.

Shane Roarke has avoided his baby sister’s best friend, Fallon for the past seven years after sharing a hot as hell kiss with her. But now that Fallon’s life is in danger, he can’t stay away. I doesn’t matter if just seeing Fallon turns him on. Her life is more important than his need to stay away.

With Fallon’s life endangered at very turn, Shane takes it upon himself to keep her safe. With both of them cooped up in a safe house, desires flare, clothes come off and hearts are at risk. Even when the clothes are flying off, danger is creeping in. Fallon and Shane need to survive if they must have a chance at love.

Fallon and Shane have a love-hate relationship, more hate than love. Being rejected does not sit well with Fallon after all. After avoiding her for almost eight years, when Shane shows up at her doorstep ready to be her knight in shining armor, she is skeptical.

“If you were truly ‘here for me,’ you would have a Kahlua in one hand and Henry Cavill’s number in the other. Since I’m not having drunken phone sex with Superman, there must be another reason you’re darkening my living room.”

Their banter is what made me love Fallon and Shane. Their back and forth was fun and oozing chemistry.  Both came from similar emotional backgrounds. While Fallon’s parents had money and never love to give her, Shane’s mom had loads of love, but was reckless and self-involved. They never tried to see the people behind the masks, and now that they do, they might not survive long enough to act on it.

The suspense in this book was good. I figured out who the traitor was once a couple of hints were dropped, but otherwise this book was majorly unpredictable. The characters were strong, the sex was hot and Addy, Shane’s sister and Fallon’s best was friend was super fun.

Witness to Passion was a good blend of romance and suspense. The action in the book kept me on my toes, and the author did not disappoint.

This review first appeared on The Ever Romantic Arts.


Book Review: Wilde at Heart (Wilde Security #3) by Tonya Burrows

4.5 gems

wilde at heart

I was so happy to receive an early copy of this book, ’cause since the day I finished Wilde for Her,  I was looking forward to Reece and Shelby’s story. And Tonya Burrows didn’t disappoint.Wilde at Heart was by far my favorite book in the series.

Though Cam and Jude were the most fun Wilde brothers and they are, except, Reece is better. He is adorable, sweet and sexy as hell. Reece and Shelby together were amazing together. Tonya Burrows had me laughing from the very first page. And considering that the heroine was Shelby, this book was guaranteed fun.

Shelby as usual spoke her mind and was fun as always. She is an independent young woman who knew her strengths and weakness. People never gave her a chance to be anything other than the flighty, reckless girl that she was. She tried so hard to be the responsible adult, but people’s views including that of her sister Eva and the Wilde brothers, including to some extent Reece, never changed.

While I loved Eva for the kick-ass woman that she was in Wilde For Her, I strongly disliked her in this book. She never really understood Shelby and she didn’t try to. She was always the first one to point out Shelby’s shortcomings and reprimand her. She was also the very last person to believe Shelby could make a sane, responsible decision. True Shelby was impulsive, but even behind her impulse she had good reason.

While I loved Reece for the kind-hearted, geeky nerd that he was, I was sometimes disappointed with him for his behavior with Shelby. He too never saw behind the mask of Shelby’s impulsiveness. He tried to change her from what she is to what he thinks she should be. But on the other hand he also didn’t want Shelby to change. His complexity and duality made for an intriguing read.

This book was suspenseful, fun and mostly unpredictable. There were two tracks working parallel in the story- one was Reece’s blackmail and the other was Shelby’s. While it was easy enough to guess who had a bone to grind with Reece, I honestly couldn’t predict who the villain in Shelby’s life was till the end. The sex as usual in Tonya Burrows style was hot has hell. Burrows has made sure to pave a footpath for both Vaughn and Greer Wilde. Tonya Burrows made sure to throw us crumbs about the upcoming books. I can already feel the fun and intensity in Lark and Vaughn’s book.

The surprise element in this book for me was Reece. In the previous books he came across as uptight and snobbish. But in this book Reece truly shined. He was just a lot more shy and reserved than his brothers. Trying to shoulder the weight of his brothers took a toll on him. Shelby was the perfect woman for him. She brought out the fun, geeky, artistic guy that he was. But what really threw me was the fact that Reece was a virgin!! I NEVER and I mean NEVER expected that. Thank you Ms. Burrows for surprising me!

Wilde at Heart truly encompassed what both Reece and Shelby were, and they were incredibly wild. This book is undoubtedly my favorite book in the series. Can’t wait for Vaughn and Greer’s story to come out.

This review first appeared on The Ever Romantic Arts.


ARC Review: Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels#8) by Ilona Andrews

5 gems
 magic shifts

First off, thanks a lot to Alexis Nixon and Ace Publishing for allowing me to read this book.

Now this is what I felt like when I got a mail telling me ‘Why yes, you can obviously have an early copy of Magic Shifts. You didn’t even have to ask.’ (okay she did not say that, but you get the idea)

fangirling hard

and yes i did this too…

yay2

There are going to be some spoilers of Magic Shifts in this review. They will be minor in the grand scheme of things, but any Ilona Andrews fan knows that any spoiler is a big spoiler when it comes to the Kate Daniels series.

It’s been a couple of months since Curran stepped down as the Beast Lord and Kate claimed the city. The suburban life is as good as their life can be, though it’s an adjustment. While Kate and Curran are happy that they don’t have to get sucked into the Pack politics anymore, Curran misses the challenge of making the Pack run like a well-oiled machine.

When the Pack offers them an ailing Mercenary Guild, Curran has found a new challenge for himself. Except the Guild is in shambles, the Clerk is gone, there’s no one to man the tables so to say, and all the mercenaries have a bad attitude to boot. The mercenaries don’t need Curran coming in and saving them, but then again Curran never cared much for what others wanted.

This time around Kate and Curran are supposed to save Eduardo, the were-bison form the Pack. With no sign of Eduardo, his fiancee, George, is in a turmoil. So she goes to the two people she knows can help her. True to their nature, Curran and Kate do everything in their power to help George and save Eduardo., sometimes going above and beyond to help them. With hoards of ghouls in town and the strange gigs the Kate and Curran are doing for the Guild, they know that their unknown enemy is one of the strongest they’ve ever met.

With one of the oldest supernatural creatures in town wreaking havoc in Atlanta, Kate and Curran don’t have much time to play house or just be. For them, it’s a race against time to save a friend’s life and keep Atlanta whole without losing their lives in the process.

Let me just say this: Holy sh*t! This book was bloody awesome. Kate and Curran are in full form, fighting death, vanquishing enemies, saving friends and meeting Roland for dinner when they have some free time. While I love all the books in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Breaks wasn’t my favorite. I was disappointed with the lack of Curran for half the book, but that is not the case in Magic Shifts. I also forgot how much I loved Kate the Mercenary rather than Kate the Consort, and I was reminded of that in this book. Kate kicked ass in this book. Totally and completely kicked ass.

Magic Shifts took me thorough a whole concoction of emotions. I obviously loved Kate’s kick-assery. Put Kate and her sword together and there’s bound to be magic. I enjoyed Kate being the family woman. Interacting with Curran and Julie, making them breakfast, asking about their day. And when Kate went up to her neighbour and told her to leave Curran alone, all I thought was ‘You go girl’.

Kate’s sarcastic humor is an unsaid favorite. But what I loved most in this book was that there was a point when I wasn’t sure if Kate and Curran are gonna make it. And not like in Magic Rises. I honestly thought they were on the verge of being over, but then they found their footing and worked their way through their problems. Then there was a point when I was crying my eyes out and saying ‘NO! NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT! That’s so unfair. What am I gonna do now?’ That was a total *headpalm* moment with me literally crying buckets. That was also the epitome of Kate’s strength and to some extent her powers.

I was also glad to find out that all the characters I thought would leave with Kate and Curran did leave with them. Yayy me!! Some were unexpected, but all were welcome. Christopher makes an appearance in this book too and like always I enjoyed Kate’s interactions with him. Saiman too graces us with his presence, and honestly, that man needs to stop doubting Kate. When is he gonna realize that Kate is THE BOMB?  Watching Julie turn into a mini-Kate was fun in itself, but she too is getting stronger with each passing day. I’d love to know her role in defeating Roland in the future books.

As with all the Kate books, there was her trademark humor, her banter with not just Curran but also other people. Her intrinsic loyalty towards her family and friends. Walking into trouble headlong and saving lives. This book has all the elements that are present in the classic Kate Daniels books by Ilona Andrews.

There’s not a single thing in Magic Shifts that I didn’t like or that I’d like to change. This book, for me was perfection. I have already read it twice and when it comes out tomorrow, I’m gonna be reading it again. This book is Ilona Andrews at their best.

This review also appears in The Ever Romantic Arts

 


Book Review: Rock Hard(Rock Kiss #2) by Nalini Singh

4 gems

rock hard

I’ve been looking forward to Charlie and T-Rex’s story since I read Rock Addiction. We already got a hint as to how Charlie and Gabriel’s relationship would be in that book. And boy, oh boy did I love it? Heck yeah. Rock Hard is my favorite book in the series. Rock Hard tells the story of a sweet, shy and invisible mouse, Charlotte Baird and a hot, strong, T-Rex of a man, Gabriel Bishop.

Charlie’s previous relationship was an abusive one. And she didn’t get out unscathed. Since her relationship with Richard ended, she has been living in a perpetual state of fear and apprehension, still plagued by the nightmares of that horrendous relationship. She was never an outgoing person to begin with, but after what Richard did to her, she just closed in on herself. The only person who knows who Charlotte really is, is her best friend Molly. But when her new boss, Gabriel Bishop pushes her far enough, she realises that she too has the strength to fight back.

Gabriel Bishop is a successful business man, and he was a successful rugby player. His kind of success doesn’t come without a lot of determination and a spine of steel. The man knows what he wants and how to get it. When he meets a closed off, shy, buttoned up Charlotte, he is tempted to break down her walls and reveal the beautiful woman beneath.

Now Gabriel Bishop is the kind of alpha male that I love. He never pushed too hard, just hard enough. I loved the way he coaxed Charlie out from her shell. It takes her a while, but she comes out on the other side, stronger. Gabriel always knew that Charlie was hiding a painful past, but he never coddled her. He never tried to patronized her. He treated her as his equal, like the strong woman that he knew she was.

Charlie has never been one to pick up a fight, but her boss drives her to almost committing murder. His murder. She just can’t understand why the man keeps pushing all her buttons, and she definitely can’t understand why he is so interested in her. After all T-Rex is a rugby god, a superstar with hoards of female fans, a successful businessman and hot to boot. So what does he see in a mouse like Charlie? The answer was quite simple. Gabriel saw beneath the protective layers of her. He saw the smart, sexy, talented yet vulnerable woman. And all he wanted was to protect her and have her. To call her his.

Unlike Rock Addiction, Rock Hard did not have a sex scene in every second chapter. I enjoyed the way Gabriel peeled off Charlie’s layers and showed us the woman beneath. It’s only when they both had established unwavering trust in each other, that they decided to consummate their relationship. It was a nice change of pace. The minimal sex scenes and abundance of emotions worked very well for me. Another thing I loved in this book was the smartly crafted, funny titles for all the chapter. Those itself were enough to bring a smile to my face.

Rock Hard was the prefect mix of good, strong characters, well-put together story-line and great writing. I look forward to going back to the boys of The Schoolboy Choir.

This review also appears on The Ever Romantic Arts.


Book Review: Half the World (Shattered Sea #2) : by Joe Abercrombie

3.5
half a world

 

 This review contains major spoilers from the first book in the series. Those who are yet to read it, should skip this review. 

The first book ended with Yarvi becoming the minister and thus the right hand to the King of Gettland. He chose to leave the ambition of becoming a King in favour of breathing. Plus, he knew he could do so much better from a position where he was operating from behind the curtain all the while wielding the real power.

In my honest opinion, Half a King was a very apt title for the first book. Notwithstanding the fact that Yarvi does not actually sit on the throne, it is an indisputable truth by the end that Yarvi with his new position will hold half the strings that run the kingdom of Gettland.

In consideration with the first book in the series, Half The World clearly begins after an unannounced period of time has passed, by which time Yarvi has settled himself very well in his new role. FurtherHalf The World  portrays Yarvi thriving. Previously, he was used to scorn and used to be laughed at as he was “half a man”. But now, he is observed with awe as well as wariness. He is now famed to be:

“a deep cunning man”.

Yarvi is seen calculating the odds of winning the battle against those who threaten Gettland’s survival. He observes and assesses the need to put things in motion and so he gets things moving. If he needs to get his hands dirty, he has no qualms about it.
Yarvi is never to be let down. He is persistent and smart enough to change tactics when it is needed in lieu of failures. He acts ruthlessly and takes some cold-blooded steps but he has already realised that a wise man has to often speak the bitter truth but a smarter man has to make the cruellest of choices. It is quite clear that his character operates and thrives in different shades of grey.
Abercrombie puts Yarvi into the mould where he is seen indulging in what would most commonly be called “backseat driving”. And if the ride doesn’t go his way, he has planned for contingencies upon contingencies.

But Half the World is hardly only Yarvi’s story. The author introduces the readers to two new characters: a prickly natured girl named Thorn and a brave but calm warrior Brand.

Thorn has had a difficult time proving herself in the male-dominated society. Her father was a great warrior before he perished and she had a yearning to become a warrior herself since she was a kid. Now, in her teens she unwittingly ends up murdering a fellow trainee and is therefore sentenced to face death. When Yarvi offers her a chance at life, she readily accepts. Yarvi ensures that Thorn is then transformed into a lethal fighter, her killing instincts, the very reason she was doomed is then turned into the reason for her survival and then glory.

Brand’s righteous heart has always landed him in trouble but he cannot live with a heavy conscience. Knowing Thorn is innocent, he tries to save her. Every good deed is punished, so is his. His reward entails the crushing of all his hopes for the future-for a better life by his comrades. Yarvi then takes Brand under his wing.

This novel sees Yarvi, Brand and Thorn on a mission to find allies to aid them in the upcoming war against half the world.

I was suffering through a reading moratorium brought about by life getting in the way of things. I was not sure that I would be able to accord this book with the concentration or time it deserved. But as soon as I picked up this book, I forgot all my worries and was completely at the author’s mercy. I found the opening scene powerful. It was a good strong opening which ensured that the reader would not only be able to sympathise with Thorn’s miserable situation, but also be concerned regarding her future.

Unlike its predecessor, this novel employs multiple POVs which in my opinion serve to enhance the quality of the narrative. The subtlety with which the narratives are handled ensured that I could easily distinguish between the voices of two different characters, for which the author deserves praise.

I admire the fact that the author draws his characters with a number of flaws. Thorn possessed a number of them. In addition to that, Thorn doesn’t lose her pride quite unlike Yarvi who learned to be humbled during his struggle to survive. Due to this, the journey she makes from an impatient and insolent girl to a somewhat-wise woman was a very interesting one.

Brand’s character can be well understood from Yarvi’s words:

A man who gives all thought to do good but no thought to the consequence… that is a dangerous man.”

Indeed the old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes true for Brand. He does take the moral high ground in comparison to his peers but he is never a hypocrite. His journey from a boy to a man is the outcome of an exposure to the depravity of the world he lives in. The glorious war is nothing but the tyranny of the rich and mighty on the poor and the weak. Once Brand has a glimpse of the heartbreaking reality, he emerges the stronger for it. His development leaves him an even more balanced and wiser man. He acknowledges that he might be a brave warrior however his soul yearns for a peaceful life.

Abercrombie further instigates a romance between the two that quite frankly was not really required. On the other hand, Thorn and Brand’s romance isn’t neat and clean. It has its share of awkwardness associated with adolescence. The insecurities and angst is handled nicely and on the whole it is a nicely woven twist in the story. Surprisingly, it specifically adds to the ending with Thorn and Brand choosing such different places for themselves in the world.

Set in a post apocalyptic world, this story is fast-paced. The gritty truth of the pitiful life aboard a vessel during war times is revealed without any unnecessary profanities by the ones who suffer through it. On one hand, apart from the well-written battle scenes, nothing much happens in this book. On the other hand, the political intrigue and the diplomatic games take the front seat. Not at all complying with what is expected, this novel brings up some friends for the protagonists who are much welcomed and unexpected but at the same time dishes out Yarvi’s confrontations with some old enemies. Abercrombie pitts the brain versus brawn in this book and just like the last time, he doesn’t underscore brawn at all.

This book has driven characters and is held by a focused narrative. There are a few similarities that it shares with the first one. Thorn, very much like Yarvi is seen fighting against the odds. Previously, Yarvi’s naivety was questioned, this time it is Brand’s goodness. Very much like the previous book, a lesson is learned at each step of the journey, and of course, this book also involves a voyage like the previous one. It also remains true to its depiction of the harshness of war and a disillusionment with it. Like the last time, there were a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming. In fact, most of the book is unpredictable, apart from one major plot move, which I was sadly able to guess. Still, I enjoyed the book thoroughly. On a side note, I would definitely suggest a re-reading of the previous book before picking up this one though, to better re-acquaint oneself with the world and re-emerging characters. It would definitely double the enjoyment.

 Half the World is a marvellously written book. I couldn’t rest before I finished it. It didn’t drag when not needed and served as a remarkable middle instalment to this series. I am all prepped to read the next one and I am glad that the last book is coming out in July and I won’t have to wait long.

For my review of  Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) click here .


A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

4.5

a darker shade of magic

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. 

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped. (Goodreads)

***** I received an ARC copy of this book from Titan Publishers. This is an Honest Review*****

This is my first Schwab book and it is a fascinating, multidimensional setting of three Londons, which are unique for being the point where three geographically differing worlds overlap. This is a wholly original and refreshing new story with an air of antiquity to it. The story, its complexity, the flavour and atmosphere of the overlapping worlds pull you in from the first page. The world building is remarkable and the prose is nuanced and lyrical.

The characters are satisfactorily complex. Not extraordinarily so, but enough to delight in. Kell is a Traveller – a rare species of people capable of travelling between the three worlds. Worlds of differing amounts of magic, technology and life. He wears a unique coat and acts as messenger for the Red Crown. (I will admit, I really liked Kell’s coat and loved whenever the parts about it came.)

Lila is a cross-dressing thief who aspires to be a pirate. To have an independent and free life with no shackles, no restrictions, no bonds. There’s a stimulating balance to him, and common sense that is welcome in both. The rest of the main characters comprise of the Red Royal Family which includes Prince Rhy, the closest person to Kell; the current rulers of White London and their Traveller and messenger Holland; and a bartender and owner in Grey London.

Kell and Holland particularly, are the truly complex characters of the book. They straddle the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, weak and strong. Lila is refreshingly independent whose ambitions are not put on hold for anything or anyone. However I wish there had been more interactions with Rhy, the prince. His relationship with Kell and personality are all seen through Kell to significant depth, but I wish there are had been more, to get a sense of him as a reader. Especially considering the developments that take place because of him.

The length of the book didn’t faze me, only made me eager to know what would happen next. Kept me on my toes, so to speak. Yes, it takes its sweet time to progress and has a leisurely pace, yet I never felt impatient with the story or for the end to come, nor did I despair over how much was left to read. The thought in my mind was – What will happen next? How will the story move forward? Where will it go? And what will happen once we’ve reached there?

Explaining this without giving details is difficult, but I will say that I did not expect the ending. I am ambiguous about it. On the one hand I expected it to end on a cliff-hanger, especially since it was apparent that there will be sequels. But that did not happen. The danger which I expected to continue into the next one was temporarily halted with the resolution of the part of the story and struggle that this book dealt with. I also did not particularly care for the Rhy-Kell plot in the second half.

I felt the writing slackened towards the end, especially considering the standards of the first three quarters of the book. Suddenly things happened swiftly and not smoothly. It came across as rushed. All the pent up tension and anticipation was not fully and satisfactorily carried through, did not match the build-up. At the end I felt – That’s it?

Other than that, A Darker Shade of Magic is a remarkable story with a mystical charm and I can’t wait for more of the worlds and their stories to unfold. And I will definitely be reading more of Schwab’s works in the future.

a-darker-shade-of-magic1


Book Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

2.5gem

18812405

“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.” 

Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.

Colin’s job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.

An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems….

First thing I’ll say is that I think this book has suffered for its comparisons to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl – on multiple levels. People who never heard or read them might have enjoyed the book more.

The novel is told from the perspectives of three people: Eve (Mia’s mother), Gabe (the lead Detective of the case), and the abductor himself, Colin Thatcher. The narratives also move back and forth in time – Before Mia’s return, and After her return – gradually converging to the point where everything changed and things came to a head. The result of the long seclusion of Colin and Mia, and how it affected her afterwards. This structure was interesting, was probably the strongest part of the book, and was also easy to follow.

However, the narrative is robotic, flat; there’s no difference between the three voices. I couldn’t connect to them. The narrative lacks maturity and depth, and the characterisations are hackneyed. There was no stirring of emotions. I felt nothing for much of the book.

Gabe was unlikable and somewhat odd. The detective only cared about the mother and never came across as an intelligent, sharp officer of the law. His attachment to Eve was banal. She can’t have been the first distraught mom with an asinine husband he’d come across. And despite it being his first high-profile case and being an experienced detective, he seemed much too invested in Eve personally. His attachment to her seemed to stem from her beauty and fragility, and dislike of her husband, which I didn’t appreciate. The idea of needing an immediate substitute/better option to realise the error of your ways and come to the decision of leaving a poisonous relationship never sits well with me. Why can’t characters ever come to that stage in life on their own, without the presence of a better example/option, and have some downtime after the fact?

Eve’s perspective was mostly useless and weak. She kept whining, let herself be dominated and never developed a backbone. Also seemed to lack a meaningful interaction with her daughter. Mia herself was not a character I could feel for. Despite her mothers’ attempts to arouse sympathy and compassion, despite the favourable views of her – there wasn’t much, and it doesn’t make you like her or feel sympathy for her. You don’t feel sorry or bad for her – basically you don’t care either way.

I was more interested in Colin, but the change in him and his development is flawed. The shift from an abusive thug to a person who goes on to care for Mia was gradual and you come to understand why he does what he does. But you never quite get why he took her away and kept her. That he was hit by a moment of conscientiousness seems insufficient since he could’ve easily left her near civilization and got away. Especially if you consider that he did fine at ignoring her attractiveness and not being swayed by it.

The novel doesn’t work very well as a mystery thriller, especially a psychological one. It’s not suspenseful, lacks sufficient build-up and tension until the section towards the end. The actual mystery/suspense part was woefully short, and distasteful even as it made you think about the consequences of decisions made out of vengeance, resentment, misguided justice. How they can cause more harm than imagined; misguided emotions, decisions, choices. But, again, not enough was written about the reasons for the events themselves. Despite all the flashbacks and childhood stories, and family descriptions and background, it wasn’t enough to truly hit you; did not become a revelation and instead left you unhappy with the non-existent reasoning.

It was a predictable novel. I knew what would happen and who set the events in motions almost from the beginning. And there are a few plot holes. The ending wasn’t surprising at all, though I did wish it to be happier. The novel also has a slightly racist tone. It’s not a bad novel, just needed some more work. It might’ve helped to not have a sedate pace throughout the story. The writing was good but often repetitive. In some places the author was too descriptive and in others not enough. Also, the book cover is misleading as Mia is not as young as the girl on the cover.


Book Review: The Naturals (The Naturals #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

3gem

the naturals

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

The Naturals is a teenage version of the TV show Criminal Minds. However, a great suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy and believe it. Having done that, the book is interesting enough. It’s fast-paced with occasionally good sections, but moves too quickly after the second half. Another first person POV, it started well and though I wasn’t bothered by the narration, I didn’t feel anything either. On the one hand Cassie is a good narrator, on the other, there’s a severe lack of emotions and feelings in the entire book, from everyone. She never mentions how she feels and what she thinks with regard to emotions (other than the brief sections on kissing of course), and this makes you get a sense of detachment from her.

I don’t like love triangles and this book, and the rest of the series from the looks of it, has one. There are the two hot, intriguing boys who are instantly attractive and return the interest. As usual even the broody, silent, stay-away, mysterious one happens to be drawn to Cassie as soon as she enters. It’s a short book and the triangle took up too much space. Not Fun.

There is a lack of character development – flat, stereotypical characters despite the potential back-stories yet to come. And even though Michael and Lia are careful to keep Cassie guessing with changes in wardrobe and carriage, they still manage to be cliché.

Considering the content and length of the book, it could have done with more flesh – more activity and more interactions with substance than the surface level ones. It was apparent there are going to be more books in the future, but that doesn’t mean you give nothing.

Also, the supposed team does nothing team-like in the entire book. Even towards the end, there wasn’t enough involvement and use of abilities as there should’ve been. They don’t use all their gifts just to survive.

The most ridiculous part was who the killer turned out to be (I will admit to being surprised). That NOBODY over all those YEARS managed to suspect anything, especially when you consider that the whole team consists of Naturals. Yes, even they can be wrong, but FIVE of them? Undermines the entire premise of the book and series. And the killer’s sudden escalation in behaviour was confusing and disappointing.

Overall, the characters were the weakest part of the book which isn’t good for its health. Other than the premise, the book, though predictable, had potential. It wasn’t boring, it was underwhelming. With some more work, it could’ve been much better.

 


Book Review: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

4.5

afterdark

Translated from Japanese by Jay Rubin.

A short, episodic novel set during a single night from midnight to dawn, After Dark begins with Mari, a young student reading alone at a Denny’s in an anonymous city, probably Tokyo. Her solitude is broken by Takahashi Tetsuya, a young trombone player who claims to have a common acquaintance with Mari, her older sister Eri Asai. Through the rest of the night the novel follows Mari’s encounters with Takahasi and other people, all awake during the night, caught in their own circumstances. There is also Eri Asai, a beautiful model caught in an extended sleep, and her connection to a businessman struggling with the aftereffects of his actions.

The narrative is temporal, with each chapter taking place at a precise time. The prose is sharp, hypnotic, detailed and mystical – the events are being narrated by a mysterious, collective “point-of-view”, a neutral observation. There is a cinematographic quality to it, with detailed descriptions and precise, sometimes abrupt, movements of the “point-of-view” through the city, from one place to the next. It lends the story an enigmatic and uneasy feel.

The novel is somewhat characteristic of magical realism with its touch of other-worldliness in a normal, real world; a heightened awareness of mystery; authorial reticence, etc. Though the novel has no plot, seems to have no purpose, it still captures our attention. It’s not a novel for the purpose of entertainment or escapism, rather to pause and mull over the events and circumstances of the characters. It asks questions, but doesn’t answer them. The characters’ conversations are sometimes non-sequitur, and range from the mundane to the philosophical, forcing us to pause and reflect, to dwell on what is happening and what is not, even if we ourselves can’t find an answer.

One of the stronger themes seems to be alienation in a modern world, a metropolis. Alienation of the reader from the story; alienation of the two sisters from the world, each other and themselves; alienation of Mari from the other people she encounters who are so different from her. And despite it, the inexplicable and surprising things that make for common grounds and lead to a connection, an understanding between two people. The novel also explores the idea of mysterious and nocturnal things that lurk around during the night, and hover at the edges of our worlds.

This was my first Haruki Murakami  work and probably a good, short introduction to a kind of writing that has captured my attention. I hope I read more of his works. After Dark is a mysterious novel with wonderful writing and I really liked it.