Book Review: The Genesis of Evangeline

cover-review-the genesis of evangelineTitle: The Genesis of Evangeline [The Lost Royals Saga 1]

Author: Rachel Jonas

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Evie Callahan is positive there’s something strange going on in Seaton Falls, her new home. The locals are bigger, stronger, and faster than most. That includes Nick, the boy next door who’s become her silver lining in this godforsaken town.

She wants to trust her instincts–about Nick, about what she suspects in Seaton Falls–but rumors of wolves and dragon shifters makes it hard to tell what’s real. With a history of odd dreams and the nagging sense that she’s never belonged, Evie fears she’s losing touch with reality. Her concern only grows when someone who’s haunted these dreams is suddenly tangible… and claims to hold the key to unlocking her true identity.

Finding out her entire life has been a lie is scary enough, but what’s downright terrifying is discovering who she’s destined to become.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

The Genesis of Evangeline by Rachel Jonas was a solid, fast-paced read. I immediately sank into the story and fell in love with the characters. The author did a good job of making the reader empathize with all of the different characters, particularly the love interests. I’m a firm believer that love triangles only work if both choices are equally appealing, and the author managed to pull that off.

The world building, though cryptic in this first installment of the series, hinted at a depth that I look forward to expanding upon in the subsequent books. The characters were authentic and smart – none of the ridiculous choices and actions you find plaguing young adult fiction these days. My only complaint really is that I did run into a handful of spelling errors. That aside, I would easily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys supernatural YA stories. This book was well worth the price for a fully-fleshed out read hinting at a larger saga.

Book Review: Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board

cover-review-light as a feather, stiff as a boardTitle: Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board [Weeping Willow High 1]

Author: Zoe Aarsen

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Paranormal, Horror, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

McKenna Brady thinks her junior year of high school is going to be the best ever when she’s welcomed into the elite group of popular girls at Weeping Willow High School led by blond, gorgeous Olivia Richmond. Prior to junior year, McKenna was known in her small town as the girl whose twin sister died in a tragic house fire, and she’s overjoyed at the prospect of redefining her identity. She has a date to the Homecoming dance with Olivia’s handsome older brother, and a good chance of being elected to student council. For the first time since McKenna’s parents divorced, things are looking up.

But everything changes the night of Olivia’s Sweet Sixteen sleepover birthday party. Violet, the shy, mysterious new girl in town, suggests that the girls play a scary game called Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, during which Violet makes up elaborate stories about the future ways in which beautiful Olivia, brassy Candace, and athletic Mischa will die. The game unsettles McKenna because she’s already escaped death once in her life, but she doesn’t want to ruin her friends’ fun. It’s only a game, she reminds herself.

But it doesn’t seem like a harmless game a week later when Olivia dies unexpectedly in a violent car crash, exactly as Violet predicted. And something begins haunting McKenna’s bedroom at night, leaving her clues that all seem to point to Violet. McKenna enlists the help of her cute next-door neighbor Trey in finding out exactly what kind of curse Violet has put on all of the popular girls in the junior class. As Violet rises to popularity and seemingly steps into the life Olivia left unfinished, McKenna and Trey know they only have a limited amount of time to bring an end to Violet’s game before more lives are lost.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board by Zoe Aarsen was a chilling tale of vengeance and greed reaching forth from the afterlife to wreak havoc on a a small town as an unwitting group of teen girls become pawns in a plot from beyond the grave.

The story was well written and boasted a cast of characters both unique and complex. I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping tale would would recommend it to any reader looking for a solid supernatural thriller with strong characterization and a well-constructed plot.

Book Review: Sparked

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Title: Sparked

Author: Lily Cahill

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, New Adult

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Independence Falls, Colorado. 1954. It was the start of a perfect summer—until the fog rolled in and changed everything.

Clayton Briggs has always had it easy. The pampered second son of the prestigious Briggs clan, Clayton’s poised to take over the family business. His playboy days aren’t quite over, but his mother is on a campaign to match him with a woman suitable to his station. When he meets a beautiful girl at the Firelight Festival, he’s instantly attracted—until he realizes she’s a member of the notorious Murphy family. The Murphys and Briggs have been feuding for decades, but Clayton can’t control his feelings for Cora. Will passion trump family responsibility?

Cora Murphy has always had it hard. When she isn’t scraping together pennies by baking for the town’s wealthy families, she’s all but a slave to her father and brother, who drink and gamble away most of her profits. She could run, but Cora won’t leave her sister behind. All she needs a bit of luck, but luck has never sided with the Murphys. Then her entire life changes in one moment. When Cora is caught in a mysterious purple fog, she suddenly discovers powers beyond anything she’s ever imagined. And it seems Clayton might be the only man who understands … because he has powers of his own.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Going into Sparked by Lily Cahill, I wasn’t sure how much I was actually going to like it. The synopsis was interesting, but a little odd. I’d never heard of the author previously, and it’s one of those books that came across my inbox with a deadline date that was still a month or so away. I thought, “Well, I’ll give it a chance.” and half an hour later, I was completely engrossed.

I’ll admit, my first impression wasn’t great. The sentence structures at the beginning of the book were choppy and ill-punctuated. I’m one of those people who can’t stand a misused conjunction, and when the sentences become uniform and bite-size because of a misused conjunction? Forget it. It’s a particular pet peeve of mine. I didn’t give up, however. I am happy to say, that other than two minor typos, the rest of the book was free of any large grammatical or punctuation mistakes. The text was easy to follow and well executed.

I love the main characters, Clayton, and Cora. As a couple, the two were an appealing mix of steamy, romantic, and determined. They had their share of misunderstandings through the book, but they never came across as overly dramatic, whiny, or unreasonably moronic. I loved them together, and I loved them equally as much as characters independent of one another. They were a good combination, and I wanted to cheer them on from the very beginning.

Overall, I really liked the book as a whole—but there were a few things that stood out that made me question a five-star rating.

The secondary characters of the book were pretty 2-D. They were all a little overwhelmingly stereotyped. The abusive dad and equally as abusive and cruel son, the father and mother that were all about social class, and quick to blame their son for not having his head on straight… the ex-girlfriend that tried to tear them apart, even the doctor who chose to keep their secrets despite having no logical reason to do so. It made for a very interesting story—don’t get me wrong—but I wish there had been a little more depth and unpredictability to the secondary characters.

Another thing that I couldn’t quite get a grasp on was the world-building. The story was set in the 1950’s, which though quirky and interesting, didn’t seem to have any impact on the story. There didn’t seem to be a particular reason that the story was set in the decade it was—the plot would have been the same had it been set in a more modern time period. I expected there to be some reason, some identifiable point where I could say “That! That is why this was set in the 50’s! They couldn’t have written this event otherwise.” but it never happened. Maybe it will happen in a subsequent book in the series, but frankly, I have no idea.

It was also never explained where the purple fog—the arbiter of the super-powers that brought the main couple together—came from. Other than a few wild guesses by the characters, we never learn its origins, what it does exactly, or where it went. The book was labeled as “sci-fi” (though I didn’t see any sci-fi elements, just fantasy/paranormal), so I can only assume that in a subsequent book we’ll see the sci-fi origins of the purple fog… but at least for now, the question remains unanswered.

In the end, the problems I found with the narrative weren’t big ones. I can live without knowing the origin of the purple fog, and I can live with the stereotyped side characters. The punctuation and minor typos didn’t break the book for me—but all these things added up did knock it down a star. It wasn’t the greatest book I’ve ever read. That being said, it was still a very good book. I was drawn in by the writing, and I loved the romance aspect of the story. The super powers were fantastic and well-executed. Despite it’s flaws, I really enjoyed it, and I’d be happy to continue on into the series. If you’re looking for a good, steamy New Adult book with a bit of a sci-fi/supernatural mystery to it, I recommend you give this a try. I can’t wait to delve further into this series.

Book Review: Hidden Wings

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Title: Hidden Wings [Hidden Wings 1]

Author: Cameo Renae

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Seventeen is a life changing age for Emma Wise.

As her family’s sole survivor in a car crash, she is left with a broken arm and a few scrapes and bruises. But these are only outward marks; inside, her heart is broken and the pieces scattered.

Whisked away to Alaska, to an aunt she’s never met, Emma starts over. Secrets unveil themselves and now…she doesn’t even know who or what she is.

A centuries old prophecy places Emma in the heart of danger. Creatures of horrifying and evil proportions are after her, and it will take Emma, her aunt, and six, gorgeously captivating Guardians to keep her safe. But, if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday… things will change.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First off, the cover is gorgeous—I tilt my jaunty imaginary hat to the cover designer. That being said, I’m a little on the fence with this book. Going into Hidden Wings by Cameo Renae, I found myself having a bit of trouble. The first couple of chapters of this book are terrible. Hands down. It’s full of cliché, poor punctuation, misspellings, and possibly the most dramatic main character in existence. Look, I understand that she just survived a horrific car crash that killed her parents, but the level of drama is almost comical. There are better ways to make a reader care about a character, and certainly better ways to portray such an important moment in Emma’s life. I’ll admit, I very nearly gave up on this book at 13% in and declared it a Did-Not-Finish.

Nearly. Operative word. Instead, I set it aside for a week or two, and I went back and picked it up. I pushed—and I pushed hard, but it started to pick up. By the time I was 30% in, I was engrossed. Yes, the characters were overly dramatic. Yes, it was full of cliché moments and ridiculous character decisions. Emma didn’t come across as an overly bright character. She seemed to be tossed around by the events of the book without taking the time to pause and think through any of it—and it showed. She was curled up sobbing one moment, ready to tear the clothes off a sexy angel the next moment, and a few seconds later, was standing up to Fallen and Darklings (despite the fact that she had no combat skills whatsoever). She was the essential damsel in distress that ended up getting other people, and herself, in danger with every breath she took. To be honest, I didn’t really like her… but I couldn’t help but become interested in her story and where it may lead. Despite the fact that a great bit of this book was poorly written and nearly laughable in it’s execution… I still wanted to read it, and whatever else I may complain about… that says something.

The concept of this book wasn’t bad, it truly wasn’t… but it was executed poorly—and that’s something that can be fixed. Did I enjoy reading this book? Yes. Would I read it again? Yah. I probably would. Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. There’s a lot of promise in the pages of this book. It wasn’t a great book by any means, but I think it holds the promise of better books to come. I fully plan to move on to the next novel in the series—with the hopes that some of what went horribly wrong in this book may be remedied farther down the line. This isn’t going to be for everyone, but I think a good number of teen readers may enjoy it if they can accept it for what it is: a fun, quick read. This isn’t genre breaking, it’s not in-depth and full of gripping world building, and it isn’t going to be a book you push your friends to read, but if you want something you can get through quickly, and you enjoy a little drama every now and then, you’ll probably get a kick out of it.

Book Review: Focus

 

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Title: Focus [The Crescent Chronicles 2]

Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy

Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Urban

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Freshman year of college is hard even when you’re not tied to the future king of a supernatural society.

Allie dives into college head first with Hailey as her roommate and the city of New Orleans as her backyard. As things within The Society heat up, Allie realizes that whether she’s with Levi or not, she’s in far too deep to turn back.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Like it’s predecessor, Focus fell into the iffy gray area between a 3 and a 4 star rating for me. While my overall impression is that I really liked the book, there were definitely some draw backs about this novel that made me cringe.

As far the the writing goes, like Flight (Book 1 of this series), this book was well written. Technically speaking there weren’t a lot of typos or grammatical mistakes, and the narrative moved along at a decent speed throughout. There was still a decided lack of overall detail, but it didn’t bother me as much in this book as it did the first, I think in part because the dynamics between the characters were so tense, that I got caught up in that aspect of the story.

Also like it’s predecessor, the depth of characterization in this novel really stood out to me. I genuinely like all of the characters—even the awful ones. It seemed that I got to see a different side of the main couple throughout this book, and it was nice to see their situation from the opposite stance it took in the first book.

At the end of the previous novel I was quite disturbed by Levi’s interactions with Allie. He came across as pushy, domineering, and a little skeazy to be honest. I was dead set at the end that if Allie was going to be a good female lead, she’d have to make the choice to leave Levi.

Going into this book however, my position changed. Levi came across (perhaps as he should have in the first book) as more endearing and sweet. He was nearly desperate to get back into Allie’s good graces (as well he should be after his glaring mistakes in handling their situation in the first place), and instead, Allie was the character who quickly fell out of my favor. I don’t know that it was a conscious effort on the author’s part to narrate this part of the couple’s relationship the way it came across, but I felt as if the situation Allie found herself in by the mid-point of this book was a very realistic, if imperfect position.

Whereas in the previous book Allie was completely justified in distancing herself from her relationship with Levi (and I fully supported her!), there eventually came a point in this novel where she surpassed the line of what should have been considered a reasonable punishment and ventured into being a bitch. (excuse my label). The longer she drew out this situation of ignoring Levi and denying him any sort of romantic or physical crumbs, the closer she came to pushing not only Levi, but me, too far. When she came to the point where she realized she loved Levi, was able to admit that to herself, and still denied him forgiveness, I grew angry. As a reader, I was ready to give in and have Levi back in my good graces, and Allie wasn’t.

On the one hand, that really irritated me, but on the other, I can understand the position she’s found herself in. There are times in relationships when things don’t go as perfectly scripted as we’d like them to. Allie hit that point, and she made the wrong decision because she was afraid. So although it made me angry at the time, I’m glad the author made these characters fallible. I think it added a layer of depth to the story that I’m not sure everyone will pick up on, and I’m glad that I was someone who could.

That aside, like Flight, I think to enjoy this book you’ll have to approach the story as a delve into the intricacies of relationships—those between friends, family, and lovers, and although there are some action and paranormal aspects, I don’t think think those are the main focus. If you go into this story expecting exceptional world building, cuddly romances and thrilling supernatural occurrences, you’re going to be disappointed.

Another thing that stuck out for me in this book (and maybe the whole series, I don’t know… there wasn’t that much of it in the first book, and I haven’t read the third) is the underwhelming sex scenes. I didn’t notice it so much in the first book because there was only one sex scene…but in the second book, Focus, it became blatantly obvious that sex scenes are not this author’s forte. I’ll put it out in the open: There were a lot of sex scenes in this book. Unfortunately, they were very short, not descriptive in the least, and for the most part, completely glossed over. This of course leads me to ask: why bother putting them in?

It’s not so much that they were glossed over that bugs me—if you don’t feel comfortable having sex scenes in a book, fine… leave them out—but if you’re going to have them, especially in a primarily romance book such as this, you should do them right. They should mean something for the couple, or at least show the audience an aspect of their relationship that helps build its believability. It shouldn’t be watered down to the point where I can skip a paragraph and completely miss it. In that case, what was the point of writing the scene in the first place other than to fill space?

Overall, this isn’t the best book of it’s kind that I’ve read, but it was enjoyable. I think if you can approach it from the angle of viewing it as a characterization of the relationships between several people, instead of a sexy fast-paced adventure into the supernatural, you’ll enjoy it more. This isn’t going to be for everyone. Would I read it again? Certainly. Would I recommend it? Yes. I’m planning to get into the third book and see how Allie and Levi’s story pans out shortly. Just be aware of what you’re going into when you read this series—it’s not going to come across as what most people are expecting from a series like this. Had I gone into this knowing that it was labeled a paranormal romance, I don’t think my rating of this novel would have been as high—but because I tend to ignore synopsis and genre’s, I am able to stand back and see the book for what it is, not what it should have been—and that is what I am basing my rating upon.

Book Review: The Reason is You

cover-thereasonisyou Title: The Reason is You

Author: Sharla Lovelace

Genre: Paranormal, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Anything but Normal… Dani Shane just wants her daughter to have what she never did–a normal life. But “normal” leaves the equation when sixteen year old Riley is found talking to Dani’s only friend, Alex–who’s been dead for forty years. In the small river town of Bethany, Dani never fit in. Being different pushed her to the fringes of society, and even leaving town for two decades didn’t stop the talk. Now that she’s back, so is Alex. Mischievous and sexy and still hot enough to melt her shoes. Between his popping in at inopportune moments and having to hide her daughter’s new talent, Dani fears that her plans for staying under the radar may be short lived .As Dani scrambles to get solid footing under her family, secrets buried for forty years begin to unearth themselves. She and Alex have always been connected, but he is hiding something. The computer is making her hear things. Weird memories that she doesn’t recognize keep popping up in her mind. Then there’s that little thing she’s not telling her daughter yet. Like that some of the people she sees aren’t breathing…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ve been on a roll lately picking up some really great books. I picked up this one in a Goodreads Giveaway back in April, and just now got around to reading it at the end of May… but already wish I’d picked it up sooner. I really enjoyed this book. The Reason is You is a Contemporary/Paranormal/Romance book about a 40-yr old woman named Dani. She’s reached a point in her life where all her best laid plans to have a professional career and live in a big city have fallen to pieces, and out of options, she moves back home to her father’s house in-the-middle-of-nowhere with her teenage daughter, Riley. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a traumatizing experience for the mother. She has a bit of a reputation in her hometown for being crazy–and going back, she’s terrified that she’ll be reliving the nightmare of her youth, as well as dragging her daughter into this fresh hell.

What Dani hasn’t told her daughter, hasn’t told anyone, is that she can see ghosts–all the time–and back home there’s one in particular she’s both eager, and terrified to see. What ensues is a deliciously funny and romantic story about a girl who fell in love with two people at the same time… unfortunately, one of them is dead. The writing itself is clear, well written, and flows nicely. I never felt like it was a chore to read or that the writing quality had dipped down into pre-teen dribble as sometimes happens in romance novels. In fact, I have to hand it to Ms. Lovelace. Her characters were extremely well written. They each had their own unique personality and goals, and it didn’t feel like they were being railroaded into any situations like so often happens. Riley, the teenage daughter, felt like a real 16 yr old, and the banter between mother and daughter sometimes had me grinning. There was this very real connection between the two that left me no doubt in my mind that Dani and Riley were meant to be mother and daughter. They felt like family.

As for the male love interests, I’m not entirely sure what was up with Jason. I liked him as a character. He was brooding, but excited to be in a relationship with Dani, and he seemed to really love her… but his constant mood switches from robot to man were confusing, not only to me, but to Dani as well. It was never really explained why he seemed so bipolar, maybe that was just his personality, but it was nice to see that as the female lead, Dani didn’t understand it either. She didn’t try to make excuses for his weird behavior, she stopped and went “WTF?” too. On the other side of the male interest duo, Alex made me want to squeal. He was the quintessential teenage dream… an older guy, sexy as hell, who was not only Dani’s best friend, but basically only seemed to care about her. She was the only one who could see him for most of her life, and it gave her a sense of claim over him. The dream sequence over Alex as just… yum. In the end when it came down to a decision between Alex and Jason, I have to admit I was riding Alex’s side of the fence. It was a bitter sweet situation when it came down to Dani having to choose one of the males in her life, and letting the other go.

Overall, I found the romance of the book endearing, funny, and steamy at times. There weren’t a lot of sex scenes in this particular book, but the few that there were, were H-O-T and won’t disappoint. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a good ole romantic ghost story. It’s full of twists and turns, hilarious dialogue, and endearing moments between the many characters. Give it a try.