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: Bite of a Vampire

review-cover-bite of a vampireTitle: Bite of a Vampire [Volume 1]

Author: Anna Belsky

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Vampires

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

I never was a romance novel kind of girl, maybe that’s why I decided to get in the business of proving that love was meant to be unfaithful. Call me bitter but my full name is Emily Johnson, and I work as a private investigator for Jonesville Extramarital Affairs. It’s my daily job to investigate, snap photos of and usually proves that a spouse has found someone else to dilly-dally with. It was a bit of a dream job after having my own respect and dignity broken so many times in college by a guy named Robert, Bob for short. I don’t hold a grudge against him, he was my first, and he taught me that love relationships are not really things that exist. My best friend Abby doesn’t believe me so I decided to prove my point and become a Private Investigator.

On this night Emily’s world turns upside down when she comes across a vampire attacking one of her investigations. She is swept into a world of the supernatural and must draw from all her experiences as Private Investigator to survive… or so she thinks until she meets Michael.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Bite of a Vampire by Anna Belsky was a fun, if short, endeavor into an imaginative vampire-filled world. To be honest, I’m a little up in the air over it. It was a fun book. I liked the characters, I liked the intrigue of the plotline, the danger, and the steamy romance. There was a good amount of gore and danger, and the more paranormal aspects of the books (like the ghosts) were really well done.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the book was perfect. The editing in this book was poorly done. I ran into dozens of grammatical mistakes, misspellings, and sentences that just made no sense. The errors made me pause several times to re-read, and ultimately pulled me out of the book. The writing style was first person, present tense…but sometimes that tense was messed up. The style of the writing was a little underdeveloped, and it often felt like I was being ‘told’ the story a little too much, rather than the author letting me sink into the narrative.

Was the book terrible? No. I did enjoy it—but I think it could have easily been better than what it was. The story was just too short to do it’s characters and plotline justice, and the editing was sub-par, making it a difficult book to get into. This is something I’d recommend for people looking for a light, paranormal read to soak in on a bus ride.

Book Review: My Fair Assassin

review-cover-my fair assassin

Title: My Fair Assassin

Author: C.J. Anaya

Genre: Urban, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s not everyday a teenage girl is singled out for assassination.

Crysta has come to accept the fact that she is freakishly different. Her shocking white hair, creepy powers, and weird eating habits have prevented her from fitting in with her various foster families. Now that she is fully emancipated and providing for herself, she hopes that life will settle down and become something halfway normal.

Her hopes are shattered when a dangerous man with lethal intent breaks into her apartment, but this enticing stranger isn’t what he seems. Is he here to kill her or protect her from others who will?

My Fair Assassin is a romantic short story with elements of paranormal and urban fantasy woven in for an entertaining read. It also touches on social issues involving personal self-esteem and acceptance. Adults and teens alike will enjoy getting lost in the pages of Crysta’s story as she finally comes to accept who she is…or rather what she is.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Though perhaps a bit short, I enjoyed My Fair Assassin by C.J. Anaya. The book was well written—I spotted maybe one typo in the entire book, which is pretty fantastic for any book, traditionally published or otherwise. The writing was clear, easy to follow, and moved at a decent pace.

I will admit that the characters struck me as a bit under-developed though. It didn’t feel as though Crysta was a genuine 17-year-old, and given her upbringing, she seemed a bit too well-adjusted to be believable. She felt fabricated at times because of this, and older than she was meant to be. Jareth on the other hand came across as, well, a bit dumb to be honest. I understand that he was meant to be simply ignorant of the idiosyncrasies of human culture and language, but between his complete lack of understanding of the nuances of a language he seemed quite fluent in and his penchant for bowing to Crysta’s will, he came across as a bit of a pushover, and maybe even a little air-headed. Also, despite his proclivity for speaking Gaelic, we never actually heard him even hint at using his professed favorite language. Outside of the two main characters, we barely saw any other characters in the story, and the ones we did see (Crysta and Jareth), didn’t seem well developed.

That being said, I did enjoy the story, and despite the flaws, I found with the characters, I did end up liking them both. It was hard not to enjoy their relationship. The world building, though not heavily delved into, was interesting, and I especially liked the plot. Overall, it was a quick, fun, read and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a shorter story that isn’t too heavy or gritty with its world building. It’d make a great sunny afternoon read for someone looking to while away a few hours. I do wish the book had been developed a bit more, and I think if it had been, the book probably would have easily made a full-length novel, but for what it is, I found it entertaining and enjoyable.

Book Review: Ignition

review-cover-ignitionTitle: Ignition [The Escaping Demons Saga 2]

Author: Stacy McWilliams

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Life has never been easy for Jasmine Johnstone, but failing for Nathan Stevenson brings a whole new level of difficulty. Since she arrived at his home he’s blown hot and cold with her, turned against her and revealed a deadly threat. He is sworn to kill her, and fights against his love for her more than ever, but he knows he can’t live without her.

As they run from monsters, and each other, can their love survive?

Time begins to run out and with new friends and enemies in the strangest places, will they learn who to trust in time?

With their love stronger than ever, but forces pulling them apart, is love enough to keep them together or will Nathan’s parents succeed in pulling them apart?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This book was a mess. Yes, a mess—and I’m being generous. I had some hopes after the first book that maybe this book would be better. Maybe the author would explain things, maybe Nate would somehow beautifully and tragically save Jasmine as to redeem their relationship in some matter. Anything… but what I got was an even bigger tangle of absurdity than with the first book.

The book was littered with typos. Missing words, improper grammar, misspellings, omitted words, even lack of clarifying punctuation. There were too many mistakes for a book that had a professional editor. On the plus side, the writing, for the most part, remained clear despite these problems and flowed along reasonably well.

My biggest problem with this book was the egregious amount of plot holes, obvious plot devices, contradictory phrases, and just the plain absurdity of what the characters were saying, doing, or thinking at any time. I literally broke down into hysterical laughter after about the 15th time the male demon love interest, Nate, shed a tear and Jasmine noted that she’d never seen him break down and cry before. REALLY? I cracked up laughing and exclaimed “Where have you been? He never stops crying!” Nate was constantly sobbing, breaking down into tears, or shedding a tear over everything. Their relationship was in a never ending loop that went something like this: “Baby, I love you more than anything, more than my life!” “I hate you. I never loved you.” “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, I was protecting you! I love you! Please forgive me!” repeat ad infinitum. I lost track of how many times this cycle of love/hate repeated itself, but it was painfully predictable.

Also painfully predictable, was the number of times Jasmine tripped, fell into something, or got a head injury. The girl should have serious brain damage. More worrisome perhaps, was the author’s penchant for softening the blow of all the tensest moments by going meta and explaining what was about to happen. “I didn’t know then that…” became a common theme.

As the book wore on the writing got more and more absurd. Bits of information were thrown in to move the plot along that reasonably, the main character should have never known. She somehow learned magic and how to identify wild herbs out of nowhere when it was needed, even though she’d been orphaned and in the foster care system since she was little. When she needed to drive, it mentioned that she had taken a few driving lessons a few months before. When? When did this happen? She’d been living in the demon household for over a year at that point, and I really can’t imagine that they let her out to take driving lessons. She suddenly identified a witch trap even though until that moment, witches had never been mentioned in the books. She identified an obscure Japanese mythological creature by name even though she didn’t know they existed until that moment. It never ended. Things kept getting introduced into the story, and suddenly Jasmine knew what they were or how to deal with them “although she didn’t know how she knew”—and that was the best explanation we got.

At one point, we were even introduced to the fact that Jasmine had a little brother and sister… (which were never mentioned in the first book), that she somehow forgot existed. Soak that in.

Frankly, the book was badly written and a bit ridiculous. The romance between the two main characters was abusive—full of lies and physical abuse—and every opportunity Jasmine had to get away, she quickly went back on before the page was even over. She was constantly playing the victim, and it got to be both irritating, and after awhile, sickening to read. I honestly don’t understand how this book got so many 4 and 5-star reviews because it’s probably one of the most infuriating and repetitive books I’ve ever read. This is not something I would recommend. Period.

Book Review: Luminosity

review-cover-luminosityTitle: Luminosity [Escaping Demons Saga 1]

Author: Stacy McWilliams

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Jasmine Johnstone’s life was relatively normal until she was forced to live with the Stevenson family. As she stayed she found she had no choice but to battle mythical creatures. Strengths she never knew she possessed began to surface, surprising those around her. Her only chance of surviving the rising tide of evil was Nathan Stevenson. Could she really trust him as he fought against his love for her? With the world against them and time running out, would their love be enough to defeat demons?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Honestly, I’m not sure what to say about Luminosity by Stacy McWilliams. I liked it. The plot was a somewhat new idea, I was curious as to what was happening, and for a few short hours, I was thoroughly entertained—but that doesn’t mean that it was necessarily a good book.

The book was riddled with typos—and I mean a lot of them. There were missing words, spelling problems, even words that were used in the wrong context. Although the writing was fairly clear and easy to read, the plot left me baffled. Half the time I didn’t know what was going on and there were no explanations forthcoming. The “romance” between Nathan and Jasmine was painfully contrived and woefully neglected for the first half of the book. It felt like I spent the majority of the book watching this poor, orphaned kid getting smacked around by basically everyone she met.I lost count of how many head injuries she received, but I’d bet you it was over half a dozen—and she barely stuck up for herself, tried to run away, or otherwise defended herself in any manner. She never even actively tried to figure out what was going on around her, even though she knew something very strange and very bad was definitely going down. Jasmine was a punching bag.

So why did I like it? I’m not sure. I guess I liked it because I keep hoping that there’s going to be more explanation. I keep hoping Nathan’s going to do something risky and beautiful to save Jasmine’s life. It’s all hope. I’m going to keep reading the series, and who knows? Maybe something will be explained in the second book. This definitely isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something different and dark, and you have a high tolerance for confusion, you may be interested in this book. Just be aware that this one needs a high trigger warning for people who’ve suffered emotional or physical abuse. It’s going to make you mad.

Book Review: Darkchylde

review-cover-darkchyldeTitle: Darkchylde: The Ariel Chylde Saga

Author: R. Queen

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Horror

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Ariel Chylde is haunted by horrible dreams, and on her eighteenth birthday sheds her skin as the nightmares emerge to act out her deepest, darkest impulses.

But before Ariel can save her small town from the terror of her dreams,
she must first save herself from the sinister secret of her subconscious.

A secret guarded by unspeakable evil.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have been a huge fan of the Darkchylde comic series since it first came out years ago, so understandably, when I learned that a book had been written based on the comic series, I was ridiculously excited.

The core of the Darkchylde saga was essentially the same as in the comic series and I was glad of that. I’ve always liked Ariel as a character, the dark gritty world building was phenomenal and different than what you find in most YA novels. The dreamscape Ariel visited was certainly the stuff of nightmares… but that’s about where my love of this novel ends.

Honestly, I didn’t like the style the book was written in. It was distinctly poetic, vague, and overly descriptive in a way that bogged down the pace and made it hard to follow. Even when I read everything presented, I felt like I was reading the book while only partially paying attention. I just couldn’t keep interested. I think in this instance, the story was better represented through visual media than it was in written form, and I don’t think the style of the writing fit the intended YA audience.

Overall, I’m glad I gave this book a try, and I’d love to see it as a movie…. but I remain disappointed by the novel as it stands. I think the style did the story a great injustice by making it more difficult to read than it needed to be, and by slowing the pace to a painful crawl.

Book Review: Smoke and Mirrors

review-cover-smoke and mirrorsTitle: Smoke and Mirrors [Blackhollow Academy 1]

Author: Jess Haines

Genre: Urban Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, New Adult

Rating: 5 (4.5) Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Kimberly may wield ultimate cosmic power, but even a mage has to pay the rent. No one will hire her for her magic talents until she’s got the credentials, so she’s stuck in a crappy rent controlled apartment with her mother, yearning for treats she can’t afford at her part time job in a café, counting down the days until she graduates the secret Blackhollow Academy school for magi. Only then will she have the certificate she needs to land her dream job in a coven.

The problem? She needs a familiar to graduate.

As an illusionist, she doesn’t have the ability to summon or create a familiar of her own. Her only option is to convince a supernatural creature to let her bind it instead. Since having a powerful Other at her beck and call would guarantee her a place in a coven after she graduates—and legendary treasure hoards are an added bonus—she thinks binding a dragon as her familiar will solve all her problems…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This book couldn’t’ have come through my inbox at a better time. I was looking for a good, solid romance that I could effortlessly sink into for an afternoon… and staring at me was a long list of books I’d been asked to read that I wasn’t sure fit into that category. I couldn’t have been happier that this was the book that I picked up.

Technically speaking, the book was flawless. I didn’t catch any obvious typos or grammatical errors. The narrative and dialogue flowed smoothly, and at a good pace that was neither too fast nor too slow. I never came across a moment where I had to re-read or roll my eyes at what the characters were saying or doing.

Though there weren’t a lot of characters to the cast, the ones I got to know were well fleshed out and for the most part, likable. Kimberly was a great main character, and although I wish the romance between Kimberly and Cormac had been a bit more solid, it was easy to see why the surly dragon was so drawn to her. I think, for me, there just wasn’t enough of a build up to the romance between the two main characters. Obviously, there was an attraction between the two – but there was also a lot of distrust from both ends, and I just didn’t see them falling in love as quickly as they did. Despite that, their romance was entertaining, so I won’t fault it too much.

The world building by far was one of my favorite aspects of this book. It was an interesting mix of Harry Pottery meets Lost Girl, meets Dresden – and it worked. I liked that there were familiar aspects of urban fantasy (such as a magic academy, magical creatures living in a real life setting, and prejudices against certain types of magical creatures) that I’d seen in other series, but they were put together in a way that was new, and entertaining.

Overall, although the romance was an aspect of this book, I don’t think it was the strongest point. But it didn’t need to be. The story stood up in a lot of other ways, and all together, it made for a solid read. Would I read it again? Yes. Will I continue on with the series? Definitely. If you like Urban Fantasy with a little romance and a hard working heroine that delves into some pretty serious topics without getting too dark or gritty, this is something I’d recommend to you.