Book Review: Vanish

review-cover-vanishTitle: Vanish

Author: Becca J. Campbell

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Eva has two secrets. The second is that she periodically vanishes into thin air.

Usually, Eva’s spontaneous disappearances last only a few minutes, but on the day of her high school graduation, she vanished for nearly ten years. For a decade she was invisible and intangible—unable to be felt or seen or heard. She can’t imagine a worse torture than standing on the outside looking in.

Now she’s back, but it’s not enough to be tangible once again. Eva needs to find a way to stop vanishing permanently. Which is why she’s facing her ten-year class reunion—and her ex-boyfriend. The clue to stopping her disappearances must be tied to him, intertwined with their past. Unfortunately, approaching him is awkward-level five billion, considering he broke up with her ten years ago.

When Eva starts getting threatening texts from an unknown source, she realizes the reunion has just gotten even more complicated. Especially when she discovers that source has found out about her second, worse secret.

In order to find the key to stop her vanishing, Eva must battle grudge-wielding friends, relentless old crushes, and a classmate with a vendetta against her. And, in the meantime, hope she doesn’t vanish again. Because somebody wants her gone for another ten years.

Vanish is a sweet romance with a fantastical twist. It’s the perfect blend of Magical Realism and Romance. If you enjoy charmingly quirky characters, a love story that will tug on your heartstrings, and an emotionally rich storyline, download this book today.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have sort of an odd relationship with Vanish by Becca J. Campbell, in that I read it twice, and not because I loved the book so much that I wanted to read it again, but because I read two different version of the ARC, several months apart. Because of this, I have a somewhat screwed view of the story. I remember parts of the book that are no longer in the final copy—some of those bits I liked a lot, others no so much, but I’m going to try to stick mostly to the current version (as I assume, fellow reader, that this is the version you will be reading as well).

Here’s the thing: I went into this book having no knowledge about what it was about. I was given a two line teaser and signed an agreement that I’d read the book within a narrow 3-week period. I didn’t know the genre, the premise of the story… nothing. What I found, was a rather contemporary urban fantasy with some paranormal and romance thrown in. There’s quite a bit that happens in the story before the reader is introduced to the story—and I’m not a huge fan of stories that do that. Because the main character’s friendships, relationships, and initial disappearance (and subsequent 10-year absence) happened before the story started, I felt like I’d missed a huge part of the action and tension in the story. What I was left with, was a short, sweet story that spans about three days in its entirety.

Technically speaking, the book was exceedingly well edited. The narrative flowed well and pulled me into the story from the very beginning. There were no obvious typos or grammatical errors, and the actions and dialogue of most of the characters rang true. I say most, because the antagonist of the book, a former classmate, and ex-girlfriend of the male lead, was a rather lackluster character. For no real obvious reason, she was obsessed with Tait in a very stalker-ish way, even though they hadn’t seen each other in a decade. Her actions in this and other parts of the story came across as terribly contrived and unrealistic. Her motivations and the way she handled the paranormal aspect of the book just made no sense—and worse yet, fell apart easily once the characters began to stand up for themselves. She was like the evil popular girl in any teen TV show, but this wasn’t a teen book. This is an adult romance… which is probably why it sat so poorly with me.

That wasn’t the only issue, though arguably the biggest. There were mentions throughout the book of other special people like Eva, who also had super powers, but most of them were mentioned in passing and never shown. The relationship between Eva and her former boyfriend was forced upon the reader as something it wasn’t, and then immediately switched out for another romance with Tait, that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. There was no tension (sexual or otherwise) throughout the book, and the little bit of a teaser mystery that was tossed into the description turned out to be not that big of a deal.

Originally, I gave this book four stars after reading the initial copy. There were issues for me with the way the book was touted as a standalone, but obviously tied into another series (this seemed to be edited out in the second copy), but overall, I found it a sweet, enjoyable story. Maybe it’s the fact that I read it twice, maybe it was the edits that changed the story to the second version… I’m not sure, but I ended up not liking the story as much the second time around. It was entertaining, and it was sweet, but I felt that it was missing depth and a sense of tension.

I think this book is best geared towards readers who enjoy sweet, contemporary romance with a paranormal theme, and maybe the tiniest bit of drama.  It isn’t a story that’s going to draw you in and make you think, but it makes a nice afternoon read if you’re just looking for something fun and romantic to sink into for a few short hours.

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Book Review: Empath

cover-review-empathTitle: Empath [Flawed 1]

Author: Becca J. Campbell

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Suspense, New Adult

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Supernatural empathy isn’t a gift, it’s a curse. Anywhere she goes, Jade’s emotions are replaced by those of the people around her.

Jade grew up in a suburb of Colorado Springs, protected from other people by her parents. Now she faces college—and the world—with nothing to shield her from unwanted feelings.

When Cam, a classmate with a major crush on her, unintentionally hijacks her emotions, Jade struggles to keep from being carried away in feelings of attraction. When Ethan, a psychopath with a thirst for fear, fixates on her, the emotional impact could be lethal.

Caught in a deadly trap, Jade must untangle the emotions and find a way to use her empathic curse to overcome this killer or be overcome by him.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I really had to debate with myself over how many stars to give Empath by Becca J. Campbell. It wasn’t easy to settle on three stars, so try to keep an open mind when I explain why—this was not a light decision.

Technically speaking, the story was well-written. There were very few noticeable typos, the narrative was easy-to-read and flowed well, and the dialog seemed natural. All good things. My only gripe about the technical aspect of the story is that the structure didn’t work for me and wouldn’t have worked in any other way at the same time. Let me explain:

The POVs in this book switched between that of the main character, Jade, to some of the lesser characters (like Cam and Logan), but at the end of every chapter also switched to Ethan. Here’s the problem: Ethan is a psychopath. It wasn’t fun to see the timeline from his point of view. He was creepy (as well he should be) but I wasn’t able to sympathize with him or understand him. His particular motives for being a serial killer weren’t clear, nor was his obsession with Kelsey. Frankly, I didn’t like reading his POV, but the story wouldn’t have carried on had his POV been absent.

Other than one mention where Jade felt Ethan close by in a parking lot, she didn’t interact with him until the very end of the story. From her POV, it didn’t feel like she was being stalked. There was no threat. Had Ethan’s POV been left out, the story would have completely fallen apart. For me, the structure didn’t work. I felt like I should have been fascinated or in some way compelled to read Ethan’s POV. I kept hoping that he’d give me some insight into why he stalks women, or why Kelsey was so important to him, but the answers were vague at best. Most of the time I wanted to skim his POV.

That aside, the other characters were pretty interesting and easy to like. I liked Cam and his siblings. I liked Logan. More importantly, I liked Jade. Her story was engaging and fascinating, and I liked seeing the world from the POV of an empath. The romance and friendships were convincing, and for the most part, the characters actions were believable. Honestly, minus the story’s few flaws, I really enjoyed it.

Here’s the problem—aside from the structure, I had one other major problem with the story. It was just a little too absurd to be believed, and the author didn’t do a good job of convincing me otherwise. From the very beginning, when it was explained that Jade was an empath, the author threw around buzzwords like “rape” and “violation” and explained and re-explained how horrific being an empath is. I get it. I really do—being an empath is not fun… but it seemed like the narrative was trying too hard to convince me without showing me evidence. I wanted to see how Jade’s power affected her life. I didn’t want to be told about it, and it felt melodramatic and overdone.

To make matters worse, it wasn’t just Jade who had supernatural abilities. Cam, Chloe, Logan, Ethan… all of them had some weird quirk or ability—which would have been fine had the story been about a group of supernaturals or there had been some explanation for why this group of young adults all had strange powers. Instead, it was explained away rather vaguely and hodge-podgy with medical conditions and random supernatural coincidences that were never explained.  There was no supporting world building or lore to make the abilities stand up on their own. It felt as if the author was throwing supernaturals into the story willy-nilly and said “these are here because I want them to be” rather than offering any feasible explanation. It didn’t feel cohesive. I’ll admit—I rolled my eyes and cracked up laughing when Jade met “Bigfoot”.

It wasn’t until the very end that it became clear –why- all the characters had supernatural abilities… but it wasn’t an explanation so much as a band-aid slipped over a major plot fault. It felt like the end of Signs (the movie about the alien invasion) when it suddenly becomes clear why all these awful things (one kid’s asthma, another kid’s tick about water, the brother’s problem with swinging at every baseball no matter the outcome) suddenly lead up to the realization that it was all fate leading up to this one moment of clarity and triumph for the family… except in this case it just felt kind of silly. It didn’t have the same emotional impact, and in the end, felt like more of a patch job to wrap everything up before the story ended.

Ultimately, it felt like the story could have been put together a little better. It wasn’t a bad story—I quite enjoyed it overall… but I don’t think it was keeper-shelf worthy. I just wish it had been put together a little better. If you don’t take the plot too seriously, you may really enjoy Empath. Like I said, it wasn’t a bad book. I quite liked it. Was it great? No. I personally think it could have been handled better—but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. If you enjoy paranormal fantasy and suspense/thrillers, you may really enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a lot of world building and a smart, well-crafted plot… you may want to pass on this one.