Synopsis from Goodreads: Phaedra Thorne’s goals in life are simple. Make it to eighteen so she can legally adopt her sister and hope she never becomes like her deranged mother who secretly lives in the attic. They’re not the normal hopes and dreams of a kid her age, but then again, Phaedra is anything but typical. Schizophrenia and psychokinesis go hand in hand in her genes. With things always upending or blowing up around her, she’s already halfway there and horrified one of these days she’ll be the next to go insane.
Five years have passed since Phaedra has seen her older, estranged brother. She’s hesitant about his return and even more so when he comes bearing a cure for their mother. However, this so-called antidote, having sex with an incubus, comes with a catch that’s larger than the statutory rape implications. The incubus who’s willing to help the Thornes has unwittingly been followed by beings who call themselves hags. They want to drain the demon dry of his power and don’t care if they threaten Phaedra’s desire to have a normal family. She’ll do whatever it takes to protect her loved ones, even if that means trusting her uncontrollable powers won’t kill everyone in the process.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 3/5 stars
My Review: Being a teenager sucks but it sucks twice as hard when your mom is bat-crap crazy and has to be locked in the attic for everyone’s safety! So begins Phaedra’s story in Marcia Colette’s young adult novel Bittersweet. Any book which starts out with this kind of description is going to grab my attention.
The first half of Bittersweet outlines the life young Phaedra is forced to live as a result of her mother’s unique abilities. In a nutshell: Phaedra attends high school (BLECK); cares for her spunky younger sister Nadia; ventures into the attic on a regular basis to care for mom; and tries to keep her emotions in check so that her own abilities don’t bring death, despair, and destruction to those around her. Add to all of this: the regular trips to the ER to repair the bodily harm caused by mom; the constant fear that Child Services will show up; and the sudden and unexpected return of the prodigal brother, Kurt. And you thought your teenage years sucked – WIMP! Phaedra must deal constantly with her worry over her mother’s condition, the knowledge that the condition is genetic and already manifesting in Phaedra, as well as her anger at her brother Kurt for abandoning the family and then returning as if nothing happened. The first half of the book is good and there is plenty of low-level action but I found myself always feeling as if something big was coming and it never did. As a reader, I found this very frustrating.
The second half of Bittersweet was much more intense and fast-paced as Colette finally begins to unravel what she was leading up too in the first half of the book – something big, finally happens. And there are hags – HAGS! I must say, the use of hags is something that doesn’t appear in paranormal novels very often and I was quite glad to read something new. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some vampires and werewolves but a girl cannot live on vampire and werewolf porn alone. Colette completely devotes the last half of the book to the solving of problems: Kurt has brought a not-so-ideal “cure” back with him that can help the entire family; Phaedra is admitted to the Hub – a school which specializes in the training and teaching of people like her; and the hags, who have caused a great deal of trouble for the family are dealt with handily. It is in this half of the book that we see Phaedra get over herself and start truly fighting for her future. Phaedra unleashes her abilities in order to save her family. Phaedra becomes more than an angsty teenager: she becomes a strong lead character that will play well in future novels.
The Bottom Line: Bittersweet is a typical first-in-a-series novel. That is, the author has a lot of ground to cover in terms of establishing characters, creating an interesting plot, and setting the reader up for the future of the series. This is a tall order and one that Colette fills reasonably well. While I was frustrated by the first half of the book I found the second half to be quite satisfying. By novel’s end there is a sense of resolution but also the knowledge that the series is going to continue. Bottom line: this series has potential but only if Colette allows her characters and plot to evolve. As long as there is evolution I will continue to read this series as it becomes available but I don’t see it as a series topping my must-read list.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Beautiful, wild-child Nicole Tepper is hit by a car and left for dead. But when she wakes the next morning, Nicole finds herself in bed without a scratch. Perhaps she was more intoxicated than usual, as her mother is giving her the silent treatment and her friends are ignoring her as well.
Things take a turn for the weird when Nicole soon discovers she is actually hovering between life and death. Her body is lying in the forest while her spirit is searching for anyone who can hear her. Unfortunately the only person who can is Dale Finnigan, the guy she publicly humiliated with a sharp-tongued insult that has left him branded.
Desperate, Nicole has no choice but to haunt Dale and convince the freaked-out senior to help her. Will he find her body before it’s too late? Or will the guy who tried to kill her with his car, beat him there and finish her off before anyone finds out?
Source: ARC from author for a fair and honest review (blog tour)
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Nicky has a few serious problems: she is betwixt this world and the next; the only person who can hear her, one Dale Finnigan, pretty much hates her; her physical body is in a significant amount of pain and fading and; she has no idea where her physical body is actually located. Yeah, this is gonna be easy.
Melissa Pearl delivers a good read and a strong plot filled with likeable and completely unlikeable characters in this quickly-paced young adult novel. Pearl doesn’t waste any time getting the plot moving and within the first chapter Nicky finds herself on a dark country road trying to make her way back home from an unhappy date. While this predicament sucks, it is immeasurably better than what comes next that is, being plowed by a swerving vehicle which sends her flying over a guardrail and into a ditch where no one can see her. The next morning Nicky wakes in her bed with funky hair, dressed in her date clothes, and little to no memory of how she got home the night before. Typical.
Unfortunately, Nicky is a bit dense and it takes her making it through nearly half of the school day before she finally figures out her “friends” and parents aren’t ignoring her, they just can’t see her newly incorporeal from. Let the full-on freak out begin. As Nicky is wandering through the school she catches her tool of a boyfriend making out with another girl and finds her loser friends taking bets and posting Twitter polls about her status as either dead or a runaway. Nicky eventually makes her way to the library where she sees Dale Finnigan, a boy she once thought for sure she could really like if he were only cool enough for her friends to accept. Since that was never going to happen, Nicky turned on Dale and made sure he never put himself in her line of fire again. As they say, karma is a b*tch and it turns out Dale is the only person on earth who can hear Nicky.
For three days Dale does everything possible to help Nicky not only remain calm but find her location so her physical body can be rescued before she actually dies. These three days are some of the most revealing and turbulent of Nicky and Dale’s young lives as they have to learn to trust one another in order to achieve their goal. For Dale this means telling Nicky his secret and for Nicky it means learning to accept that even she, as wretched as she has been for the past two years, deserves a second chance. Depending on her mood, Nicky is either completely worthless or wildly determined – the former is rather tiring and the latter is rather humorous from time to time.
As if Nicky and Dale’s task weren’t already daunting enough let’s add to it the fact that someone else is looking for her body and willing to bury it, dead or alive in order to protect the driver of the car that hit her. Oh balls, really? Really! As Nicky and Dale put all the pieces together the clock on Nicky’s life is winding down and neither is willing to give up on the other. The last several chapters of Betwixt are nerve-wracking and dramatic but so worth the wait. For Nicky and Dale all of their dirty little secrets have been revealed and all that remains is for the two of them to find their way to one another in the real world as they have while Nicky was betwixt and between. For Dale this means allowing Nicky to find the courage to forgive herself and come to him and for Nicky this means confronting those who helped get her into her horrid mess in the first place. Nicky’s moment in the hospital when she goes off on her “friends” is by far one of the most satisfying of the novel.
The bottom line: While I wasn’t blown away by Betwixt I did enjoy the read. I like the development of the characters and seeing two somewhat troubled and lonely kids come to grips with their respective pasts in order to find true friendship with one another. The plot moves quickly with no major issues or questions left unresolved at the end. I can absolutely see this story appealing to a young adult audience but it may fall a bit flat for older audiences.
Synopsis from Goodreads: As Charlotte steps through the gate, she has a strong feeling that nothing will ever be the same again.
Moving back to South Carolina after three years away, Charlotte knows she’s going to have to face people from her past and adjust to a new high school, but she’s completely unprepared for what else waits for her in Charleston.
Drawn through an old garden gate, Charlotte discovers a hidden world where she meets Calvin, a boy to whom she is inexplicably attracted. As Charlotte is pulled deeper into this hidden world, it’s up to her older brother Kevin to rescue her. No matter how hard Kevin tries, the rescue depends upon Charlotte fighting her intense feelings for Calvin while mastering a set of abilities that she has only just discovered she possesses.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: After three years in Alaska, Charlotte Calloway and her older brother Kevin are moving back to their ancestral home in Charleston. As usual, Kevin is relaxed and ready for the adventure while Charlotte, ever the social recluse, is anxious and uncertain. You see, despite her brother’s best efforts and intentions Charlotte has never quite felt that she belongs anywhere. Things are about to change in Charlotte and Kevin’s world. And so, the real story begins . . . .
While Kevin begins to fall seamlessly back into life in Charleston with school, basketball, and friends, Charlotte struggles. Being back in Charleston brings back a flood of memories for Charlotte especially those related to her dead mother. Solace is found in the one place her mother loved beyond all others, the lush and verdant garden behind the family home. Growing up, Charlotte loved the garden as much as her mother but was always warned to never, ever go through the iron gate at the back of property. Mother’s warning had always been headed until one night Charlotte notices a bright light near the gate and in an instant Charlotte’s decision is made and her life is irrevocably changed forever.
Beyond the boundary of the gate is Energo, quite literally a whole new world that Charlotte neither understands nor completely believes. That is, until she meets Calvin, her one true mate and the man destined to walk by her side for all eternity. What?? Let’s add to this the fact that while in Energo Charlotte also discovers she is a very precious and powerful entity that is coveted by all. Holy cats! In a heartbeat, Charlotte goes from being a socially awkward teenager to finding her soul mate and discovering some immensely powerful (and nifty) new talents. Whew! No wonder her mother warned her never to go through that gate! For a short time, the secret of Calvin and Energo is all Charlotte’s and she is blissfully happy with this arrangement. And then she is kidnapped.
Well crap! From this moment on the family secrets begin to spill out all over the place and Charlotte’s safety and rescue becomes the ultimate priority for Kevin, his best friend Liam, and the kid’s uncle, Monty. The rescue party launches itself into Energo with the sole purpose of rescuing Charlotte. The problems? 1) How do you separate a young girl from her soul mate? 2) How do a handful of people breach the walls of a virtually impenetrable castle? and 3) What if Charlotte doesn’t want to leave? From the moment the rescuers enter Energo the story unfolds at a lightning pace. Action is mixed beautifully with background information, each major character really begins to develop, and the ride is worth it! Ivy’s writing style is smooth and easy, the plot flows, and the action and limited romance are absolutely appropriate.
The bottom line: this first part of the Afterglow Trilogy is a fantastic young adult read. The story is gripping, the characters are relatable, and the cliff hanger is tantalizing. I am certain I will be diving into book two, Perilous Light, at the earliest available moment!
Synopsis from Goodreads: To protect those she loves from herself, Jax will leave them all behind. She’ll risk everything in a desperate search for answers.
Jax Pherson fled the darkest of covens and from her own father’s evil. For a brief moment, her courage was rewarded. She found everything she’d ever wanted. A normal life. An amazing boyfriend. An envy-worthy best friend .
But her past put them all in danger, forcing a confrontation with the dark covens. In a life-and-death battle to save those she loved from the covens, Jax gained staggering power. Power so intense, so dangerous, she fears the darkness that now dwells inside her like a living thing.
If she can’t control the power, she may yet become as evil as the witches she conquered.
With her friend Egan, Jax leaves all she’s built and heads for the one place that might hold the answers she desperately needs to hold back the darkness-Salem, Massachusetts. Her research unearths a shocking discovery: the Bane, a secret group of witches dedicated to thwarting the covens.
Jax desperately needs their help in her fight against the covens, but finding the Bane is easier said than done and takes all her skills and courage. As Jax gets closer, her dark powers begin to rise and control her actions. If she succumbs to the darkness, Jax may have as much to fear from the Bane as the evil covens and the determined hunter on her trail.
My Rating: 4½/5 stars
My Review: Holy crap, Batman! Bane is the second book in Trish Milburn’s Coven series and just like book one, my socks have been rocked! Bane picks up precisely where White Witch ended with Jax and Egan having arrived in Salem after skipping out on Keller and Toni in Baker Gap, North Carolina. Yes, it’s as craptastic as it sounds L
Jax and Egan have landed in Salem with a highly specific and rather terrifying agenda: find out what got into Jax at Shiprock, research the possibility of white witches actually existing and, find the key to taking down the covens. Mind you, the dynamic duo has to accomplish all of this without using any of their own powers and being completely separated from the two people they love most.
Jax and Egan seem to think they are completely under the radar that is, until they discover how odd a town Salem actually is. Jax keeps shaking off the feeling she and Egan are being watched because she can’t actually sense the presence of any witches. That is until she encounters Rule Latimer and his grandmother, Fiona Day. After a rather rocky introduction everyone begins to understand they are all on the same side and have frighteningly similar goals. Once Jax and Egan join forces with Fiona and Rule the real research and work gets started.
Here’s the short list of precisely what rocked my socks:
*the relationship between Jax and Fiona: Fiona is such a strong, wise and no-nonsense woman with a lot of experience and knowledge where witches and witch history is concerned. Fiona is good for Jax and helps her understand her powers and her place within the context of the coming fight
*Keller and Toni’s return: You know they had to show up; stop snorting like I just unloaded a spoiler on you! The reappearance of these two is absolutely necessary to the development of the plot and Jax and Egan’s sanity but their reappearance also creates a whole host of new problems.
*The backstory: I am a big, big, big fan of backstories and histories and this book is full of both. The research the group is doing is how Milburn weaves the backstory and histories of Salem, the original families, the covens, and the Bane (the who?) into the contemporary plot. The information is not only really interesting but it also infuses each of the characters and the plot with a greater sense of depth and dimension.
*The fan-crappin’-tastic cliffhanger!! Even with all the backstory and history Milburn still finds time to squeeze in plenty of heart-pounding action. Believe me when I tell you she has cooked up one hell of an ending that will leave you wondering where the hell that came from. So. Totally. Worth. It.
Synopsis from Goodreads: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: It takes a rich imagination indeed to make a story like the real-life and still unsolved theft of $500 million worth of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston more interesting. Congratulations B.A. Shapiro, you have done just that and what a fantastic imagination you have!
Claire Roth was, just three short years ago a graduate student with a promising career as a painter in her future. Thanks to one significant and utterly disastrous decision Claire’s bright future and budding reputation are derailed simultaneously leaving her known in the art world as The Great Pretender and her former professor (and lover) dead. Claire now spends her days diligently and expertly copying famous works of art for an on-line retailer and having little to no hope of making a new name for herself on the strength of her own paintings. And then one day the strikingly handsome and incredibly prominent art dealer and gallery owner, Aiden Markel shows up on Claire’s doorstep with a proposition. The proposition is both elegant and simple: copy one of the paintings long-thought lost in the Gardner Museum heist, make a ton of money, and earn yourself a one-woman show in Markel’s gallery. Markel’s delivery is so smooth and confident and Claire is, quite frankly so desperate, that she makes yet another significant and disastrous decision. The money is just too good to pass up, the one-woman show is an unexpected and once unfathomable opportunity and, according to Markel there is no way the dirty deed can be traced back to either one of them.
From the moment the painting Claire is to copy arrives in her apartment she has some serious doubts about its authenticity. Given the sketchy nature of her job Claire chooses to keep those doubts to herself and sets to work copying the work of the great 19th century Impressionist master, Degas. This section of the book is one of its great strengths with fascinating background information about known and very successful forgers, the process by which one forges or copies a great master, and how the “original” work Claire is copying came be a part of Belle Gardner’s private collection. Shapiro flawlessly mixes fact and fiction to create a wonderfully detailed backstory involving Belle Gardner, Degas, and the building of one of the U.S.’s most important collections of art. Shapiro is very careful not to overdue the technical elements of the forging process so the story will appeal to a wide range of readers and not just those with a background in art and art history.
As Claire works we learn more about her past and how she came to be known as the Great Pretender. Claire’s sad past elicits sympathy from the reader but also feeling of frustration as you see her walking into the same trap she found herself in previously. Again, Claire stupidly falls for the charms of an older man who has promised her things he just can’t deliver. And this, dear reader is where the story really, really gets good. Of course you know the entire scheme unravels and Claire’s only hope of saving herself and Aiden is to prove, beyond all doubt, that the “original” Degas she copied was in fact a forgery as well. Claire’s quest to prove the “original” Degas is a forgery leads to her having to reveal her role in the scheme as well as proving she copied to work by doing the whole thing again in front of a group of experts. This is by far the fastest-paced section of the novel and it brings the past and present together in a delightfully interesting way. All of the secrets, all of the schemes, and all of the plots come to light and not all is well in the end.
The bottom line: this is a fantastically well-written bit of art historical fiction that I had a very, very hard time putting down once I got into the story. Getting into the story took about four pages, by the way. Both Claire and Belle’s respective pasts are intriguing and certainly inform the plot, the real forging information is fascinating and the drama of the plot will keep you from putting the book down. I love that Shapiro is willing to sacrifice the happiness of some her characters in favor of the overall plot and how her writing style is reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Susan Vreeland. Shapiro is in no way a forgery (HA!) of Vreeland but a fine contemporary writing in the same vein. This novel will certainly appeal to lovers of mystery (the heist), art and art history as well as those interested in finely crafted and fast-paced reads.
Synopsis from Amazon: An ancient and malevolent female immortal is rising in Manhattan to reclaim her son, the archangel Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena Deveraux, a vampire-hunter-and Raphael’s lover.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series is one that I truly wish I had not discovered until the entire thing was complete and there was no hope of more new books being added, ever! I WANT MORE, NOW!!! Archangel’s Consort is the third installment of this on-going series and after finishing it in record time, I have discovered that my natural lack of patience has become even more pronounced. The major plot line in Archangel’s Consort is Singh’s version of Mommy Dearest. Reports of foul weather and acts of extreme aggression among members of the Cadre lead Raphael and Elena to believe that an ancient is waking. Turns out, that ancient is Raphael’s ridiculously old and viciously cruel mother, Caliane. Major plot line number two: Raphael and Elena have returned to New York from the Refuge and are immediately bombarded with reports of vampires breaking their contracts and committing heinous crimes. As archangel of New York, Raphael must contain and control this situation before it gets out of hand. With the help of his consort and the usual cast of minor characters, Raphael begins to restore order to his territory.
Generally speaking a reader keeps returning to a series because of the main characters. That is not the case with this book or this series. Raphael and Elena are certainly intriguing figures and Singh has continued to develop those characters but the real beauty of the book lies in the cast of minor characters. There is not a single minor and/or supporting character in Archangel’s Consort that I do not want to know more about, NOW!! Singh cleverly ensnares us (and ensures we will come back for more) by dumping chunks of information about these characters on us. Not tidbits, not small nuggets of information but huge honking chunks of information! However, and this is where Singh’s evil genius comes into play, she never tells us the whole story about any of the supporting cast. Now my lack of patience makes more sense, right? Here’s what I want to know: why is Illium (aka Bluebell) so nervous about the presence of his mother; will Elena’s half-sister really be allowed to develop her burgeoning hunter skills; what happened to Dmitri to make him so fiercely loyal to Raphael; why doesn’t Aodhan liked to be touched and why is his move to New York such a big deal; and finally, why is Venom so creepy yet disturbingly likeable?
The way Singh presents information to the reader is remarkably clever and opens up so many possibilities for future novels. Archangel’s Consort clearly establishes one thing: Singh is in no way close to being done with these characters.
She has developed so many characters and potential plot lines that the Guild Hunter series could realistically continue for years and years to come. Thank goodness for that because I am apparently going to continue to be sweetly addicted to this series and this author.
Synopsis from Goodreads: The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.
Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.
As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting…and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: Bloody Hell! Nalini Singh’s Archangel series just keeps getting better and better with each addition. Archangel’s Blade is the fourth full-length novel in this series and is the first that doesn’t focus almost exclusively on Elena and Raphael. Archangel’s Blade is the story of Dmitri, and man is it a good one.
I feel pretty safe in saying that most readers have, to this point, likely found Dmitri to be totally creepy, seriously lethal, absolutely intriguing, and disturbingly sexy. None of these qualities change in this novel but we are given a glimpse into Dmitri’s world and particularly his past that helps the reader better understand his personality. Dmitri’s past spans a bit more than a thousand years and to say that that past is bloody is putting it mildly. We learn that Dmitri honed his skills as a warrior as a result of his abuse at the hands of Isis; he carries a torch for his long-dead wife, Ingrede; and his loyalty to Raphael runs deeper than anyone ever suspected.
And then there is Honor St. Nicholas, the totally damaged Guild Hunter whose first mission following her abduction and abuse at the hands of a gang of demented vampires is with Dmitri. Man, did she draw the short straw, or what? The problem however is much more complicated than simply dealing with Dmitri’s vampirism. The larger issues are: 1) Honor is still flashing back to her time in captivity which makes her a bit twitchy and somewhat lethal; 2) she and Dmitri are trying to track down a sadistic killer who is taunting Dmitri with memories from his past and; 3) that both Dmitri and Honor are ridiculously attracted to one another.
Here’s what I liked about this book: freakin’ everything!! Once again, the plot not only unfolds but deepens leaving the reader with a ton of questions about what’s going to come next. And we know there is going to be a next. The characters, all of them not just Dmitri and Honor, evolve as the story goes on but remain true to their basic natures – an absolute strength for this series. As for the secondary characters, well, Singh once again manages to dangle just enough information to make the reader crave more. For example, there’s Venom who is still remarkably creepy but evidently has a soft spot for Sorrow (nee Holly), Illium is still dangerously far too interested in humans, and Ashwini has become a more prominent player. With all this being said, Singh doesn’t ignore the older more established characters like Elena and Raphael; they are still very much a part of this series even when they are not center stage. Singh’s willingness to move established and beloved characters like Elena and Raphael to a secondary position is a risk but one that she makes work each and every time. As a dedicated reader of this series I find the risk to be worth it as it allows more time and pages for the development of other characters.
Bottom line: Singh changed my mind about Dmitri; I always thought he was a dangerously sexy but didn’t really care for his attitude. After this book, I’m good with Dmitri and looking forward to seeing how his character will further evolve in future novels. As for Honor, she has nowhere to go but up and with Dmitri at her side, they may be damn near unstoppable as a team. The long-term plot line has far-reaching possibilities and has yet to become even remotely close to stale. I have yet to feel frustrated or cranky over an Archangel novel’s ending because I know, without doubt, that Singh is going to trot out something equally as good within the next year.