Book Review: Death Wish

cover-review-death wishTitle: Death Wish [Ceruleans 1]

Author: Megan Tayte

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her estranged sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit. Running away from school, joining a surfing fraternity, partying hard: that sounds like Sienna. But suicide? It makes no sense.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to the isolated cove of Twycombe, Devon, with grand plans to uncover the truth. Alone. But she hasn’t reckoned on meeting two boys who are determined to help her. Luke: the blue-eyed surfer who’ll see the real Scarlett, who’ll challenge her, who’ll save her. And Jude: the elusive drifter with a knack for turning up whenever Scarlett’s in need.

As Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Warmth. Power.

What transpires is a summer of discovery. Of what it means to conquer fear. To fall in love. To choose life. To choose death.

To believe the impossible.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First, let’s get the technical bits out of the way. I’ll admit, my first impression of the narrative style of Death Wish by Megan Tayte wasn’t great. I don’t know what I was expecting going into this book, but the first few pages came across as a little overly poetic. Maybe because it was a YA Fantasy that had been e-mailed to me directly from the author, I regretfully assumed that the writing was going to be subpar. That happens a lot when you review books on a regular basis. It also didn’t help that the author chose to perpetrate one of my biggest writing pet peeves: incorrectly used conjunctions. It drives me up the wall. Seriously.

Otherwise, the writing was pretty flawless. I didn’t notice a lot of obvious typos or awkward sentences, and other than constantly having to look up the slang (I’m from the US, and Scarlett clearly is not), I found the narrative to be clean. It was easy to follow, and engaging. I got sucked into the story right away and finished it in a matter of hours.

So, going into the book, right off the bat, I’ll admit I was probably a little prejudiced. I was expecting simplistic, overly dramatic writing, and I got… well… detail and well-thought out passages that verged on poetic. It was a bit of a narrative shock, and it bothered me. I wasn’t quite in the right mindset for what I was reading. That didn’t last long. Before I knew it, I was engrossed in Scarlett Blake’s story—I was consumed by it.

I adored the characters, especially Cara and Luke. Scarlett had her moments of stupidity and misjudgment, but overall, I found her to be a strong character. She was a teen that was caught in the middle of dealing with some pretty heavy issues and considering everything she had heaped on her shoulders, she muddled through as best she could. Sometimes she made poor decisions… but I can’t fault her for them. Considering everything that was thrown at her, frankly, she handled it all pretty damn well.

The only characters I truly didn’t like where Scarlett’s parents. Out of the all the characters, they were probably the most 2 dimensional. Her father was little more than a prop. Her mother, was an emotional basket case in the worst, most dramatic way. Frankly, I think the book could have done without them both.

As for the rest, well, I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery aspect of the plot—it almost read more like a mystery/thriller than a fantasy/romance, and every bit of it was enthralling. I wanted to know what had happened to Siena and what was in store for Scarlett as the story wound its way through the twists and turns of the plot. I was desperately clinging on in hopes of learning more about Jude. In the end, not everything was cleared up. I still have a lot of questions about what happened to Scarlett’s sister and who and what exactly the Ceruleans are, but though the ending was a little vague, I feel as if I’m right on the edge of understanding something big about the world Scarlett lives in—and I love that feeling.

Overall, the book gave me more than I’d expected. I was expecting this to be some kind of indie-published YA Romance that was full of dramatics, angst, and typos… but I got so much more. I genuinely enjoyed this book, and I’m hooked from here on out. I will happily be looking out for the rest of the books in the series, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the YA/Fantasy/Romance genres. I still think “Ceruleans” is a bit of a ridiculous name for… whatever it is that Jude is, but I’m willing to live with it.

7 ways to differentiate your novel

Originally posted on Suffolk Scribblings:

writing idea Image reproduced under creative commons license. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/massimobarbieri/

Picture this. You’ve spent weeks, months, possibly years pulling together the first draft of your novel. Having let it sit for a month or so you finally read it through. You discover poorly written passages along with gems that make you wonder if you actually wrote the words yourself. There are slow, dull passages that need removing along with scenes that race through so fast you can hardly catch your breath. All of these problems can be dealt with during the edit but there is one issue troubling you more than any other, it’s just not original.

According to Christopher Booker there are only seven basic plots. This is open to some debate but it’s true that many stories follow a similar structure, and with so many stories having already been written, the challenge for any writer is how to make their story unique?

The good…

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Where are all the Children’s Books?

Originally posted on chrismcmullen:

Image from ShutterStock Image from ShutterStock

THE CHILDREN’S MARKET

There are currently 1,314,394 books listed on Amazon.com in children’s.

Over a million children’s books. At first, that sounds like a lot. But it’s really not so much.

  • There are 28,000,000 paperbacks listed on Amazon, but only 700,000 of these are children’s books. That’s a mere 2.5%.
  • There are 9,000,000 hardcover books; 300,000 are children’s books. 3.3%.
  • There are 3,300,000 e-books listed in the Kindle Store; 230,000 of these are children’s. That’s nearly 7%.
  • There are 900,000 Kindle Unlimited e-books; 89,000 of these are children’s. 10%.

Let’s look at the 230,000 Kindle children’s e-books, for example:

  • 82,000 are classified under literature and fiction. That’s about one-third. That leaves only 150,000 for the other categories.
  • 34,000 are sci-fi and fantasy.
  • 32,000 are in animals. (Most of these also appear in a second category.)
  • 32,000 relate to growing up and the facts of life.
  • 26,000 are…

View original 1,190 more words

Book Review: Cinders & Sapphires

cover-review-cinders & sapphiresTitle: Cinders & Sapphires [At Somerton 1]

Author: Leila Rasheed

Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name-but it would mean giving up her one true love … someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting … at Somerton.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was given to me on a whim by a local librarian (thank you so much!), and at first I was a little hesitant to pick it up. It’s not a small book at over 389 pages, and as much as I love the historical, romance, and YA genres… having all three in one book is a tall order. YA books so often make romance into a silly affair, and history into a simplified, dumbed down alternate universe that is often woefully inaccurate. However, after having read Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed, I can assure you that you have nothing to fear.

The book was excellently well-written. The narrative was appropriately tinted by the dialect and romance of vocabulary known to the early 1900’s. The characters, while often ensconced in scandal, acted appropriately in their dialog, thought, and eventual shame. I never felt the need to question their actions or words, and I never stumbled over any technical errors either. The narrative was easy to read and devoid of any obvious misspellings. The sentences flowed nicely, and it was easy to sink into the text.

The characters were unique and colorful, each in their own ways. I adored Rose, Ada, and Georgina and loathed Charlotte and Stella. I sympathized with Oliver and Sebastian and swooned over Ravi and Lord Fintan. The characters never fell into the trap of fading into the background or melding into one another as time went on through the book—the author did an excellent job of making them all stand out for their own merits, and it made it easy to keep track of them—which, in a historical setting such as this, where the language can be hard to follow at times, was most welcome.

I will say that the plot was extremely busy. There were numerous scandals and intrigues going on throughout the course of the book. Relationships were complicated and intertwined, and everyone had secrets. It could be hard to untangle at times, but it certainly made things interesting. I never got bored with the plot—it always seemed like there was so much going on.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I hate to compare Cinders & Sapphires to anything, but I think it’s a pretty decent analogy to call it Downton Abbey for the YA crowd. I’m certainly glad I read it, and I’m looking forward to more books in the series. If you’re looking for a smart, intricate-plotted YA story filled with scandal, secrets, and romance, it’s a good bet that you’ll like this book. It isn’t going to be for everyone (not everyone can stomach historical novels because of the language and the politics of the Ton), but I’d certainly recommend it.

Sometimes living in an old house sucks.

Yet again, something in my old house has broken, and like every other time, it’s turned into a much bigger fiasco than I’d expected. It all started last Saturday when my family realized that our one and only bathtub wasn’t draining. Well—it was, but it took an hour to drain 2 inches of water. That isn’t normal. Since it wasn’t an emergency, just inconvenient, we waited to call our landlord till Monday morning—thinking, great, we’ll get a plumber to come out, and it’ll be fixed by the end of the day.

HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Well, obviously, we were a bit naïve. The landlord said they couldn’t get anyone to come out till Tuesday. Fine. Whatever. We all need showers, but we can survive that long. Tuesday rolled around… and the day went really slowly. We had to stay home all day and wait for the plumbers… they finally showed up at about 3pm, and the mess started.

The poor plumber worked on our bathtub for two hours, including cutting out the metal drain of our old bathtub (which is now in pieces and sticking up at weird angles… I seriously hope they remember to replace it). Anyways, to make a long day short, the guy couldn’t fix it. He didn’t know why it wasn’t draining… even after it snaked. He threw some Drain-O in and told me to call him the next morning, and if it hadn’t worked, he’d come back out and take apart the wall in my kitchen (which has better access to the pipes).

Great.

So I called early the next morning because, of course, the tub still wasn’t draining. Did they come out that day? No. They said they’d be by the next morning. This makes it our fifth day without a shower. (Imagine our irritation).

Thursday morning rolls around… then afternoon, then evening. No one showed up. No one called. So, this morning (Friday), I called my landlord to complain. At this point, not only is my bathtub not draining, my kitchen sink is holding standing water on one side, and draining slowly on the other side. I can’t use my sink, or my bathtub. Which means we’re eating out so we don’t dirty dishes—because I can’t wash them, and we’re going out in public without having had a shower since the previous Saturday. First world problem hashtags aside… as you can imagine, it hasn’t been a fun week for us.

Finally, FINALLY, the plumbers showed up today—after the landlord had to re-call them twice—and I now have four guys working on my bathtub. The good news is, it’s finally draining after another 2 hours of work. They’re still working on the sinks. I can’t even tell you how apprehensive, annoyed, and simultaneously hopeful I am at this point.

Sometimes living in a really old house sucks.

As you can imagine, I haven’t gotten a lot done this week. I’m still severely behind on books (I had almost caught up, and then after the plumber fiasco, I’m back to being 5 books behind). I just haven’t been able to find the time to read while I’m busy cleaning my house, fighting with my plumbing, and waiting around for unpunctual people. Right now the noise level in my house is about a 10. They’re literally sawing my pipes apart and shouting back and forth between the rooms. Chaos. Just… utter chaos.

Free Fiction Friday #39

Hello ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #39! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays: every Friday (okay, almost every Friday—I try). I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% free on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre and on sale for less than $5. I try my best to make sure they’re all 4+ stars with over 40+ reviews and 100 pages minimum if I can (it isn’t always possible) – so that you can get a list of the best of the best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things than post… like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Romantic Suspense! Enjoy!

 

THE FREE

FFF-winter's heatFFF-the enemy we knowFFF-one sweet summerFFF-teacher bewareFFF-armed and fabulousFFF-castle cayFFF-maids of misfortuneFFF-innocent in las vegasFFF-the book of lovefff-green lake

THE BARGAINS

FFF-bound by honorfff-a beautiful prisonfff-boslin creek anthologyfff-murder on the hillfff-tank

Book Review: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

review-cover-the haunting of sunshine girlTitle: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

Author: Paige McKenzie & Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary

Rating: 4 Stars (4.5)

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Description/Synopsis:

Based on the wildly popular YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl has been described as “ Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity for the new media age.” YA fans new and old will learn the secrets behind Sunshine—the adorkable girl living in a haunted house—a story that is much bigger, and runs much deeper, than even the most devoted viewer can imagine…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this book since it was first announced. Let’s be clear—I’ve maybe watched every single episode of the Haunting of Sunshine Girl web series since its inception. I know. I’m an adult, it’s not really scary, but it’s something I can’t help but enjoy as a paranormal fan. If anything, my prior predisposition for the story of Sunshine made me both cautious and excited for the first book in the series. Excited, because I wanted to re-live the adventure of Season One in text form (and okay, I’ll admit it, I desperately wanted Nolan to make an appearance—he’s one of my favorite characters). Cautious, because I was terribly worried that I wouldn’t like the book. I didn’t know if Paige McKenzie could write, and I’ve never read anything by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. I was terrified that the YA-geared voice of the narrative would be irritating and ruin the story I enjoyed so much.

Luckily, that wasn’t so.

First off, let’s cover the well, cover. It’s gorgeous, and it’s great to see Paige herself on the cover (aka Sunshine)—but to be honest, the cover, as pretty as it is, has nothing to do with the story. Not once does Sunshine wear a beautiful white dress, put on heels, or fall sideways through a room.

Technically speaking, the book was decently written. There were a number of errors in the copy I received—mostly formatting errors, missing spaces, missing commas and misspelled words—but given that my copy was an ARC from NetGalley, that’s to be expected. I can only hope the final copy of the book will have the aforementioned issues resolved. As many errors as there were (and there were many) they weren’t too distracting for the most part and only cause a few stumbles along the way.

As one might expect, the book did a pretty decent job of sticking to the source material (the web show). There were some deviations from the original story, but if you’re a die-hard fan of the original, I don’t think you’ll find this one too far off. The changes were made mostly to the origin stories of Nolan and Victoria and the method in how Anna died—and honestly, I think the changes were for the better; the story seemed a little more cohesive overall.

As for the characters, they stuck true to form. Victoria was wonderfully creepy and a little off-kilter. Nolan was charming and geeky and the most adorable way and Sunshine was her usual quirky fun-loving self. The humor in this book was spot-on and goofy in a lovable sort of way. It made the narrative charming and engaging, and fun to read along with.

The relationship between Sunshine and her mother especially was filled with humor and quirky quips, and it really shone through how much the two characters got along—but of course, my favorite duo were Sunshine and Nolan. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say this: if you enjoyed Sunshine and Nolan in the web series, you’re going to love them in the book. Their moments together were by far the most endearing and interesting moments for me, and I may have squealed with glee a few times.

Not all was puppies and rainbows however—and this is why I’m giving this book a four star rating. The book wasn’t that creepy or scary. That being said, I am an adult obsessed with the horror and haunting genres, and I’ve previously watched the entirety of the web show—so the fact that I didn’t find the story scary, creepy, or surprising… well, it’s to be expected.

More so than that, I wish more depth had been presented to some of the characters. Sunshine was, of course, the forefront of the story, but things were a little hazy when it came to Nolan and Victoria. The way they came into the story, the strange little clues about their personalities… it was a little too obvious. A little too manufactured. Even had I not watched the web series, I wouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised that Victoria was going to end up having something to do with the haunting. She was purposefully gothic to the point of being a bit of a cliché. Nolan was a little too charming, a little too eager to believe Sunshine and help. He kind of fell into her lap from the very beginning of the story, and no one ever questioned it—and that’s admitting a lot coming from a die-hard Nolan groupie like myself.

Overall, I did really enjoy the book. I think it was well written despite the errors I ran into, the narrative was engaging and easy to follow, the story was interesting, and I loved the characters. I think the book was perfectly voiced for the YA genre, and I think sunshine’s quirky humor was charming. I’d have no problem handing this book over to my 11-year-old—it was clean for the most part minus a few moments of graphicness (blood, the intentional cutting of flesh), and I’m glad I read it. I’d be happy to recommend it to any middle-grade or YA readers who enjoy spooky ghost stories. I’m excited to see this series expand further.