Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

shadowfellShadowfell is the first book in a new YA series by Juliet Marillier and although it was not quite as magical an experience as her earlier Sevenwaters series, it did not disappoint. This is the story of Neryn, a young girl with certain ‘canny’ gifts that have made her a target. She has had to keep hidden, never staying long in any one place for fear of discovery. She has heard of a place called Shadowfell where people with abilities such as herself have found refuge. After tragedy strikes, Neryn must make her way to Shadowfell but the road there is not an easy one. Along the way she meets friends and enemies alike, most notable of which is Flint, a young man who may be more than he seems.

Juliet Marillier never fails but to enthrall me with her tales. I have been a huge fan of hers, ever since the day I first picked up Daughter of the Forest. Shadowfell is another engrossing tale of steeped in magic and mystery. Neryn is a young girl who has been on the run for most of her young life, along with her ne’er do well father. When her father makes the ultimate betrayal, Neryn finds herself in the company of Flint, a young man who has ‘bought’ her services. Neryn does everything she can to escape her captor but time and again they find themselves in each other’s company and it soon becomes clear that Flint is more than he seems, he may in fact prove to be an ally, something Neryn desperately needs.

The majority of this book is concerned with Neryn’s journey to Shadowfell, and the strange and mysterious beings she meets on the way will either be a help or a hindrance to her. Her biggest threat may be the human one though. King Keldec has nearly wiped out all those with magical abilities and he has his agents out searching for Neryn, wishing to exploit her unusual gifts. Neryn cannot allow herself to fall into their hands as they will use her abilities to destroy the little magic that is left in the world. Neryn finds herself being ‘tested’ and she will need to pass these tests in order to unlock her most unusual gifts.

Juliet Marillier’s lyrical prose was in full effect here. Shadowfell is not perhaps her strongest work yet it possesses all of her usual unique flair and charm. Neryn and Flint were likeable protagonists and the story and setting were fascinating. I adore reading historical fantasy works and Shadowfell is a prime example of this genre done right. I was left however, left with the feeling of wanting more. I really enjoyed this book but if I had any criticism it would lie with the ending – it was a little anti-climatic. I know this is going to be a trilogy but I still felt as if the book ended quite suddenly and I wanted to keep reading! I shall be waiting (im)patiently for the next book in the series. I cannot wait to see what is in store for Neryn and Flint.

Overall 5/5 stars

Spirit by Brigid Kemmerer

spiritHunter Garrity’s life is falling apart. His father and uncle are dead – killed by the very elementals they opposed. His mother is being distant with him and his grandparents just want him out of the house. He may have made himself as enemy of the Merrick brothers. He definitely made an enemy out of Calla, a conniving, unstable schemer, who seems determined to use him for her owns means. This includes framing him for attacking her and getting him thrown out of his own home.

When his grandfather throws him out of the house, Michael Merrick extends an invitation for Hunter to come and live with him and his brothers. Hunter is unsure if he is really welcome though. Gabriel is still smarting after Hunter’s apparent betrayal in the last book and Chris has never quite forgiven Hunter for his pursuit of Becca inStorm. Nick is also reserved. They all know what threat Hunter poses to them and they are unsure if they can trust him, especially after he previously abused their trust. Hunter feels alone and has convinced himself that is how he wants to stay.

Hunter is a Fifth, which means he is destined to always be apart from the rest of the elemental users. He has to maintain his distance. His duty is to destroy pure elementals as they pose a threat to the rest of the world. He should despise the Merrick brothers but they are the only people who could possibly understand just what he is going though – not to mention the fact that they have saved his life a time or two. Yet Hunter cannot begin to fully trust anyone, feeling it easier to try and make it alone. However new girl Kate Sullivan seems determined to push his buttons. She is feisty and bold and Hunter cannot help but be drawn to her. Kate is hiding a secret of her own though, one which may put her in opposition to Hunter. Hunter’s loyalties will once again be tested. He will need to decide whom he can really trust. A dividing line will soon be drawn and Hunter will have to pick a side…

Spirit was certainly a very, very intense read. Hunter Garrity has always been a bit of a wild card. I have never truly been able to work out his motivations. Now I know it is because he is so confused himself. Poor Hunter was put through the ringer in this book and though his deliberations were frustrating, his confusion and isolation (some of it self-imposed mind you) really pulled at my heartstrings. He has been sorely neglected by his family – which has left him very mistrustful. Hunter is a very conflicted character. There is battle being waged inside him, the beliefs that he was raised with, that pure elementals area threat to be wiped out, are being pitted against the fact that he knows the Merrick brothers are not bad people. Yet he cannot bring himself to fully trust them, even when they go out of their way to help him. To say that he has trust issues would be putting it very mildly. He clearly wants to belong somewhere, but is so unsure about where he stands he cannot let anyone in:

“No one gives a shit about me until there’s a mess, and then suddenly everything is my fault! I can’t please anyone, and every time I try, I’m just one big fucking disappointment. Everyone is on me to pick a side. How the hell am I supposed to pick a side when everyone hates me?”

Hunter has walls up around his heart that makes it impossible for anyone to get past – except for Kate.

Kate Sullivan, the new girl at school, has a big secret of her own. She has an agenda herself, and is not above using her looks and smarts to get what she wants. Kate is also a Guide (or at least one in training) and has come to town to investigate the Merrick brothers. Kate was a well-written kick-ass character that I unfortunately found very difficult to warm up to. I liked that she was capable, funny and smart but although the chemistry between her and Hunter practically leaped off the page, I just didn’t like her very much. The fact that Hunter and Kate just seemed to be using each other at first made it difficult to root for them as a couple. However, when they both starting letting their guard down a little and got to know each other better I found myself liking Kate considerably more though it took awhile to get to that point.

The Merrick brothers were, as usual, the best part of the book for me. Chris had a bit more to do in this one and I enjoyed Nick having a bit more presence as well. It was great seeing Hunter and Gabriel interact again (again – still love their bromance!!) but it was Michael that really stepped up in this one. He offers a helping hand to Hunter right when he needs it most overlooking most of Hunter’s anti-social attitude, yet big brother that he is, he sees through Hunter’s most transparent lies:

“I went by the house. Tried to work things out with my mom.” “You know I’ve got three younger brothers, right?” Hunter frowned. “What?” “It means I’ve got a pretty finely tuned bullshit detector.”

Michael really is such a sweetheart in this book. He is determined to get through to Hunter and willingly brings him into the fold and into their family. It is Gabriel that sums it up best though:

“The first day you meet, you are friends. The next day, you are brothers.” Gabriel lost the smile. Then he clapped Hunter on the shoulder. Hunter frowned at him. “What was that for?” “Brotherhood,” he said. “Welcome to the family.”

Looks like Hunter is now an honorary Merrick!! I wasn’t tearing up at this part at all – really I just had something in my eye!

Spirit was an action-packed book, full of twists and turns (holy moly was I not expecting one particular twist) – well done Brigid Kemmerer for being able to shock me senseless! This book was perhaps the most emotional read yet. I have to say this series is now a favourite of mine. I have become so attached to the characters. It is so hard to pick a favourite. I have always loved Michael (and he was amazing in this book) but Hunter was of course the star and his story had me emotionally wrecked. This was such a heart-breaking tale. Hunter’s life really has been one of struggle but it is good to know he now has a family that will care for him. Although it has been a difficult journey for him, it is clear that he is at heart an inherently ‘good’ person, he wants to do the right thing even when all his training is telling him to do the opposite

The writing was as tight as previous instalments and as the drama unfolded I couldn’t helped but be awed by Brigid Kemmerer’s ability to pull the reader into the action. This book really achieved the remarkable, it was just as character-driven but the plot was just as engaging – full of danger and excitement. Not to mention the fact that it completely propelled the story forward – I cannot wait for the next book!

I would highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good paranormal tale that dares to be different. What are you waiting for – go and read it now!!

Overall score: 5/5 stars

Spark by Brigid Kemmerer

sparkI absolutely loved Storm, the debut novel of Brigid Kemmerer and the first book in this series, but I have to say I think I loved Spark even more. Spark is Gabriel’s story. Gabriel is the hot-headed older brother of Chris Merrick, one of the main characters in the first book. He is fiery, quick-tempered, cocky and aggressive. He doesn’t think before he speaks. His twin brother Nick is the ‘good’ twin whilst Gabriel is the trouble-maker.

Yet Gabriel has a reason for behaving the way he does. He is tormented with guilt over the death of his parents in a fire when he was still a kid and only just coming into his powers (Gabriel’s element is fire). Gabriel is also still feeling the after-effects from the events in the first book and feels he has let his brothers down. Although he and his twin brother Nick are really close, when Nick begins to spend more and more time with Quinn (Becca’s best friend from the first book), Gabriel feels more alone than ever. After Gabriel insults Quinn, he has a falling out with Nick. The twins have always been there for each other so this is a huge blow to Gabriel, yet he cannot bring himself to apologise.

Layne is our female protagonist. She is a bit of a loner; she has very few friends, preferring to spend time with her younger brother Simon. She is shy and very clever but feels isolated from her peers. Her younger brother Simon is having a very tough time at school. He is deaf and is mercilessly bullied by his classmates. Layne tries her best to protect her brother but there is only so much she can do.

Gabriel and Layne are in the same math class. Layne has always been hyper-aware of Gabriel but knows he would never notice a girl like her. It is Layne who observes how Gabriel is struggling with the subject (Nick had always previously completed all of Gabriel’s homework in this subject and had even taken all his tests for him) and she offers to help him. At first Gabriel is resistant but the two of them soon begin to spend time together and after Gabriel sticks up for her brother Simon, Layne starts to see this ‘thug’ in a completely new light. As for Gabriel, the more time he spends with Layne, the more smitten he becomes.

Gabriel also strikes up an unlikely friendship with Hunter, the mysterious new boy from the first book. As a spirit user, Hunter is aware of Gabriel’s powers and after they end up saving people from a fire, he encourages Gabriel to try and use his abilities in a more productive way. Gabriel and Hunter start to monitor a police-scanner and rush out whenever there is a fire to try and use Gabriel’s unique abilities to save lives and also help Gabriel learn some measure of control over his element.

However, after a spate of fires break out across the town, Gabriel’s family start to view him with some suspicion and the fact that Gabriel is always showing up whenever a fire is reported soon attracts the attentions of the fire chief. Gabriel tries to maintain his innocence that he is not the one setting these fires – but the only people who really seem to believe him are Hunter and Layne. With their help, Gabriel sets out to uncover the truth before someone winds up getting hurt…or killed…

I really enjoyed this story. I loved Gabriel in the first book but it was even better getting to see inside his head. You realize what a lonely and insecure person he really his. His brash exterior is just a cover. He may not always be the nicest person around but he has a good heart and cares very deeply for his family. However, he often has a hard time trying to show it. He struggles with trying to find his place and the confusion he feels practically bleeds out onto the page. When he is isolated from his brothers, the utter loneliness he feels causes him to lash out and hurt the people that he cares most for. It is also what eventually allows him to heal and allow other people such as Hunter, Simon and especially Layne into his life.

I also really loved Layne as a character. She too had a troubled past but she starts to overcome this during the course of the book. She was smart, strong-willed and just completely right for Gabriel. I adored their romance and the fact that Gabriel showed his sweet and more vulnerable side to Layne. Their interactions were sweet but also sizzling hot. Just like the first book, with Becca and Chris, the romance was slow to build but when they do finally give into their feelings, well let’s just say: oh my! I like the fact that Layne really challenged Gabriel. She was not the type of girl to get pushed around at all and they really seem to fit very well together and balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They were perfect for each other.

Gabriel and Hunter: two words – epic bromance! I seriously loved the friendship between these two. Didn’t see it coming at all but it was good to see Gabriel connect with someone outside of his family who really knows what is going on. Their interactions were absolutely brilliant and I am so glad that they have found a friend in each other and I hope they find a way to sort out their differences due to some of the events that happen in this book – it cannot be the end of their friendship – it just can’t be!! Looking forward to Hunter’s book now!!

I also enjoyed Gabriel’s interactions with Layne’s younger brother Simon and cheered when he stood up to the bullies who were tormenting the kid (seriously what kind of school is this where kids can bully a deaf boy and get away with it?!)

As for the rest of the Merrick brothers, well let’s just say Michael is still my favourite – I love him. All of his interactions with Gabriel were pitch-perfect. There was such friction between them which later grew to a deeper understanding once Michael opened up a bit more to his brother. I loved seeing their relationship develop. Chris didn’t get too much focus though I was happy to see him and Becca popping into the story now and again. Nick didn’t get as much page-time as I thought he would given the blow-up between him and Gabriel but this lack was made up when the twins finally reconnected with each other. Nick is level-headed and calm compared to Gabriel but I just bet he has some hidden issues like his brother has and I am looking forward to him getting more focus in his own book.

Spark wasn’t as action-packed as Storm but that was ok with me. I enjoyed the heavier focus on character interactions .It was more of an emotional book, being inside Gabriel’s head was more of a turmoil than Chris or Becca’s. Layne also had her fair share of demons to overcome so too much action would have made this book over-crowded.

Spark is a fast-paced, engaging and thoroughly engrossing read. There was plenty of drama and the arsonist story had twists and turns that I totally did not see coming at all. The character development was the real strength of this novel though. I loved really getting to know Gabriel and Layne. There was also plenty of new insight into Hunter and Michael. Simon was another strong character who I absolutely adored from the start. I missed seeing Chris and Becca and I wish there had been more Nick (and by extension Quinn as Nick and Quinn’s relationship has not had much focus as yet so I do not really ‘get’ them as a couple at the moment) but hopefully this will be rectified in future books.

Overall I was totally invested in Gabriel and Layne’s story. Although Michael is still my favourite Merrick brother, Gabriel is a very close second (with Nick slowly making his way up the ranks!). The brothers are the real draw of the series for me and their interactions with each other are so realistically depicted and authentic – they feel like actual real live people to me and I feel their sorrows and joys keenly. This is Brigid Kemmerer’s real strength as a writer – she makes you care very deeply about these characters. Spark was an excellent instalment in the series, and I cannot wait to read Hunter’s story Spirit.

Overall score: 5/5 stars

Storm by Brigid Kemmerer

stormI absolutely adored Storm. I had seen many glowing, overwhelmingly positive reviews for this series but for some reason had never gotten around to reading it even though it looked like something I would really enjoy (I am a sucker for a good paranormal tale with well-drawn, intriguing characters). I stumbled across the first book and on a whim decided to purchase and read it. I wondered if it would live up to the hype but I am glad to report that on the whole Storm more than met my already high expectations.

Storm focuses on two characters: Becca Chandler and Chris Merrick (and is narrated in dual, third-person POV). Becca Chandler is a young girl carrying a lot of baggage. Ever since a boy at school began spreading vicious rumours about her, she has turned into something of a pariah. She is sick and tired of all the negative attention. However, when she sees two older boys beating up a boy in her year, Chris Merrick, Becca doesn’t hesitate to help and manages to interfere long enough for Chris to react to the threat. Becca knows something strange has happened but cannot quite figure out how Chris managed to turn the fight into his favour. She is glad enough for the distraction and she and Chris manage to get away.

Chris is very different to most of his classmates. He is hiding a colossal secret. He is an Elemental (water is his speciality) and is usually more than capable of defending himself. He was caught unawares though so Becca really did save his life. Becca gives Chris a ride home and it is there that she meets the rest of the Merrick brothers who also have the ability to control the elements. Becca has seen Chris’s two older brothers around school; the twins Gabriel (who can control fire) and Nick (who is an air elemental). Michael (the eldest brother whose elemental ability allows him to control earth) is their legal guardian and is none too happy to see Becca and soon succeeds in chasing her off. Chris however, is intrigued by Becca and is keen to get to know her better.

Becca knows there is something off about these brothers but she could never guess what secrets they are actually hiding. Their abilities have attracted the wrong kind of attention and unwittingly by helping Chris; Becca has also made herself a target. When strange symbols keep getting painted on her front door Becca knows that it is time to confront Chris about the strange things that have been going on. Her life has taken a strange turn lately and Becca finds herself in the spotlight yet again. Not to mention the new student Hunter that has been paying Becca a great deal of attention. Becca finds herself caught between these two boys – but who can she really trust?

I really loved the characters in Storm. Becca was a breath of fresh air – she was very brave and I liked how she selflessly went to the aid of Chris without any concern for her own well-being. She is smart, compassionate and certainly has a lot of courage yet can also be weak and insecure at the same time. She gets jealous but does not act like a bitch to other girls and she always backs up her best friend Quinn even when she was being unreasonable (I wasn’t a fan of Quinn to be honest – girl seemed a little self-absorbed and needy). Becca does find herself caught up in a love-triangle with Chris and the new boy Hunter and is unsure about who she wants to be with but there is very little twittering about between the love interests which I found refreshing. In fact, for much of the story I actually thought she might end up with Hunter as she spent way more time with him but ultimately I think she ended up with the right guy for her.

Chris didn’t get as much development as Becca. I liked him ok but I never really felt that I learned much about him except that he feels like the odd one out with his brothers. I have to say though he did come across like an actual adolescent – he felt like a living, breathing teenage boy to me which is a nice change as quite often characters in YA books sound like 30 year-olds thinly disguised as teenagers. Although we spent much more time with Becca, I did really like Chris and was rooting for him. Chris and Becca’s interactions were fraught with tension but the romance was slow to build and that much more satisfying for it. I believed in their feelings for each other and their relationship had none of the usual overly dramatic declarations of love that tends to plague the YA paranormal genre.

Hunter was also an interesting character. Very mysterious and edgy – I would really like to get to know him a bit better (and one of the further books in this series is from his POV – yay!!). His story seems like an interesting and heart-breaking one so I am looking forward to seeing inside his head a bit more as some of his decisions in this book left me with more questions than answers. I really want to know more about Hunter and hopefully see him interact more with the Merrick brothers.

I would say though that the biggest draw about this series has to be the Merrick brothers as a whole. All powerful and good-looking – what is not to love? You have fiery Gabriel and cool, level-headed Nick – so alike on the surface but such different personality types. I think Michael is my favourite through and he certainly had me swooning even though for much of the book he wasn’t painted in a very good light. You later find out the reason behind his actions though and you cannot help but feel sympathy for him. Gabriel’s book is next up but I am hoping that Michael will get his chance to shine at some point. Although these brothers are all certainly hot – it is really the connection they have with each other that is the biggest draw for me. They feel like actual people. All of them felt real and authentic. They have supernatural abilities sure but they act like actual teenage boys and were realistically flawed yet also noble and willing to do anything for each other. Their family bond was very realistic – they do not always get along but they are always willing to back each other up when it comes to the crunch.

The paranormal element to the story was also refreshingly different. Elemental powers are fascinating to me and I really loved how Brigid Kemmerer developed the story-line. The plot was intricate and tight – events that seem insignificant later play a big part and the pacing was just about perfect. If I had any criticism it would be that the ending was a little abrupt but I am looking forward to diving into the next book Sparkso it isn’t a deal-breaker for me. Overall I really enjoyed Storm. I was sucked in from the very beginning and didn’t want to put the book down until the very last page. Brigid Kemmerer has made a new fan that’s for sure!

Overall score: 4/5 stars

Falling for the Ghost of You by Nicole Christie

falling forI wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Falling for the Ghost of You. The title was a bit misleading – I thought that the book was going to be a lot darker than it ultimately turned out to be. I ended up getting a light, fluffy teen romance (albeit one with sexy-times) and to be honest I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes my expectations can fall completely flat and unfortunately Falling for the Ghost of You ended up being a little disappointing.

This book revolves around seventeen year-old Violet Mercer. Violet lives with her single mother. She is not a wild teen, preferring to keep to the company of her best friend Lauren and her boyfriend. However, Violet’s world changes when she returns from holiday to discover her boyfriend has been cheating on her with another of their friends. He breaks the news to her in a Taco Bill and Violet, in her rush to escape the establishment, collides with an extremely handsome young man and makes a fool of herself.

Her world tilts even further when her mother announces the new man in her life – who she intends to marry. Not only that but Violet will soon have a slightly older step-brother. As luck would have it, the young man she bumped into earlier is of course, her new step-brother Zane O’Connor. Zane is handsome and worldly – and also a bit of a player. Violet cannot help but be attracted to him however.

When her mother and her new step-father leave for their honeymoon; Violet’s plans to stay with one of her mother’s friends fall apart. Having no one else to turn to, Violet is forced to stay with Zane. At first, Violet feels really awkward around him and the revolving women he has staying with him but a friendship begins to grow between them which eventually leads to something romantic forming. Violet has difficulty trusting that Zane only has eyes for her though and is very jealous whenever he attracts any female attention. Violet will have to learn to trust Zane is they are to have a future but is Zane being entirely honest with Violet?

Falling for the Ghost of You was a strange read for me. The writing was sharp and the protagonist Violet had a very witty, unique voice yet I absolutely could not abide her. I could understand that her boyfriend cheating must have left some scars but her extreme jealousy was very, very hard to take. Every girl that even spoke to Zane was labelled a slut and Violet would practically foam at the mouth whenever Zane was approached by anyone of the female variety. I am not a big fan of slut-shaming so Violet’s actions left me cold.

I also thought it was a little unrealistic that someone as good-looking as Violet was described to be could have so little self-esteem at the same time (she even describes herself as looking like a porn-star at one point!). Violet came across a little unrealistic (she is so beautiful but doesn’t realize it, she is also a successful self-published author but no one knows this!). I just wasn’t buying that someone as self-assured and successful as Zane would be tripping all over himself to be with her. I liked Zane ok but I could not understand what he saw in Violet and why he would put up with all her jealous antics.

**SPOILER ALERT – HIGHLIGHT TO VIEW**

I really did not see the big reveal coming at all – it seemed to come out of nowhere. Zane is not only a famous singer but is actually Violet’s favourite singer – and she did not recognise him at all?? Hair dye and contact lenses are not enough to disguise someone so completely and I couldn’t believe for one second that Violet could have been so fooled especially considering what a big fan she said she was!!

**END OF SPOILER**

Even though I couldn’t stand Violet, I did rather like Nicole Christie’s writing and I will definitely check out any of her future books. The plot was engaging enough and there were enough twists and turns to keep the story fresh and exciting. I just wish there had been a more likeable protagonist to connect with.

Overall score: 2/5 stars

Warrior’s Cross by Abigail Roux & Madeleine Urban

warriorI read this book because Julian and Cameron were featured in Armed & Dangerous(book 5 in the Cut & Run series) and I was curious about their back-story. Although Julian and Cameron were not as engaging as Ty and Zane, I still enjoyed this novel.

Cameron James is a waiter at a popular, expensive restaurant and he is very good at his job. He sees himself as a fairly ordinary fellow so he does not expect the handsome, mysterious stranger who frequents the restaurant to take an interest in him. Julian Cross is an enigma. He dines at the restaurant on Tuesday evenings and always sits in Cameron’s section. Indeed, he is displeased if anyone other than Cameron serves him. Always ordering the same selection (the special and house wine) he never even says a word.

Cameron is fascinated by this man but their relationship never goes any further than one of customer and server. Until one night when the mysterious man finally speaks to Cameron. Slowly a relationship begins to form culminating in a night of passion. As Cameron begins to get even closer to Julian he realizes that the man he is falling in love with is hiding some pretty big secrets. Julian does not want Cameron to know about this part of his life, fearing that this knowledge will put Cameron in danger. When Cameron finds out what his lover is hiding from him, he feels shocked and betrayed. Will he ever forgive Julian? Is Cameron in danger now that he knows the truth?

Warrior’s Cross was a novel of two halves for me. The first was all about the slow (almost painfully so at times!) building of the relationship between Cameron and Julian. As the story was mainly narrated from Cameron’s point of view, the reader was mostly kept in the dark about Julian’s true occupation. Their various interactions leading up to the start of their relationship were a tease – you could feel the sexual tension and it was easy to question along with Cameron just how he had caught Julian’s attention. Cameron is depicted as very ordinary (almost boring) so he cannot understand why Julian would be interested in him. At the start I was questioning the same thing until you realize that Julian is craving some form of normality – his life is one of danger and intrigue – and Cameron really gives him the stability which his life has lacked. The beginning was all slow build-up but once Cameron discovers Julian’s secret the book rattles along at breakneck speed. Events just seem to bleed into each other. This made the book a little disjointed for me even though I enjoyed it overall. I just which the pace had matched a little better.

Nevertheless, this was still an entertaining read. Julian was a fascinating character and I liked having the chance to get to know him a little better (though I wish I had read this prior to Armed & Dangerous). Cameron wasn’t quite as interesting but I certainly sympathised with him and he was a relatable character. The story was intriguing and the side characters such as Preston and Blake were also interesting and well-rounded (indeed I would love a Preston story – dude is awesome!!). The novel had a lot of potential but took a little long to really get going and then absolutely raced by so quick my head was spinning and I couldn’t really keep up with all the twists as turns as much as I would like. Still, the sweet love story between Cameron and Julian more than made up for this.

Overall score: 3.5/5 stars

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

space betweenThe Space Between is the second Brenna Yovanoff book I have had the pleasure of reading (the first being Paper Valentine which I also thoroughly enjoyed). It wasn’t the easiest read, but it was definitely one of the most rewarding. I was completely captivated from beginning to end.

It is the story of a girl called Daphne. Daphne is the daughter of Lucifer and Lilith and she lives in Pandemonium, a city in Hell, where time is frozen even though the fires burn constantly. Daphne has few joys in life – in fact she is quite an unemotional being. The only thing she really cares about is her older half-brother Obie, the son of Lilith and Adam (yes that Adam). She has many sisters (called the Lilim) but her sisters are all demons like her mother. Her parents despise each other so Obie is all she really has in the world apart from Lucifer’s close advisor Beelzebub who is something of a father figure for her.

One day Daphne has a chance encounter with a mortal boy called Truman (who has ended up in Hell after attempting to commit suicide). Through Daphne and Obie’s intervention, Truman is allowed to return to Earth. This small event will later shape the course of Daphne’s life.

When Obie announces to Daphne that he intends to leave Pandemonium for good to live on Earth, she understandably does not want her brother to go. Daphne’s only connection with Earth is through television and she fears that she will never see her brother again. Obie gives her very little choice however and when she sees how much this means to him, she gives him her blessing to go. However, it is not long before Obie goes missing. Fearing something nefarious has happened to her son, Lilith begs her daughter to go to Earth and find him.

Daphne has always been curious about the world above and she seeks out Beelzebub’s help to travel to the mortal realm. When he will not help her, Daphne sneaks away herself and travels to Earth by herself. She soon discovers that the key to finding out her brother’s fate lies with Truman, the boy she helped return to Earth. A year has passed for this boy and time has not been kind to him. He is even more dispirited and broken than before and it takes all of Daphne’s wits to keep him alive. With Daphne’s help, Truman begins to heal. As the two of them undertake the task to find Daphne’s brother, they uncover more and more secrets and slowly begin to fall in love…

The Space Between was a very dark, rich, sumptuous, disturbing yet also lyrical book. It captivated me from the very first page and I grew to care very much for the characters even though initially Daphne was a very cold, unemotional MC. The novel is narrated by both Daphne and Truman (Daphne in first person, Truman in third person) which initially seems a bit of an odd choice given how removed and remote Daphne is but as the story progressed her character opened up and I began to enjoy her chapters immensely. Her character becomes more and more human the more contact she has with the human world and (especially) Truman. I felt for Truman right away, he is such a broken character and his struggles were difficult to read about. His arc was ended up being every bit as satisfying as Daphne’s and I enjoyed seeing him flourish as the story progressed. The secondary characters such as Obie and Beelzebub were also very interesting and three dimensional.

I also really enjoyed the world-building in this novel. Pandemonium was fascinating to read about, both frightening and immense. I would have liked to have spent a bit more time there exploring the land and its inhabitants. I found myself getting totally swept up and could visualise the scenes – so effectively descriptive is Brenna Yovanoff’s writing.

The story was weaved around a blend of mythology and religion but was given its own interesting spin. I liked the fact that there was good and bad in both the angels and the demons. Nothing is straightforward in this world, and it is a lesson that both Daphne and Truman will need to face.

If you are looking for a book that can move you, The Space Between might just be the book for you. It is a dark, beautifully haunting tale of two souls coming together to find love even in the bleakest of times. It is a story of faith and redemption, sorrow and malice. The book is full of twists and turns and nothing is necessarily as it seems. It was a thoroughly engrossing read, one that I am sure I will be returning to again many times.

Overall score: 5/5 stars

Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

breathe a wordDon’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala is a very intense novel. It is about a girl called Joy Delamere who runs away from home to escape the confines of an abusive relationship. Joy’s life has always been sheltered and protected. Growing up with a severe form of asthma, her health scares have made her parents very protective of her. Her older brother was always her support but now that he is away at college he wants to escape the role that he was cast in.

Joy meets an older boy called Asher who at first seems like the perfect boyfriend. He is very rich and seems to want to shower Joy with gifts and attention. This attention soon turns nasty though. Asher is a very controlling individual and the torture that he inflicts on Joy is difficult to read about.

After a chance encounter with a homeless boy, Joy sees no other option but to run away from home. She takes to the streets of Seattle and this is where the story really begins. Joy seeks out the young street musician who once offered to help her escape her precarious position. It is a testament to how bad her relationship with Asher really was that life on the streets seems like the more viable option.

However, Joy, being completely inexperienced, is a target for the more dangerous element. After a couple of near-misses with a drunken, violent homeless man, Joy runs into Creed, the boy she has been looking for. Although at first Creed encourages Joy to return to her life, he takes her under his wing and into his ‘family’. Santos, a young street beggar with a pet ferret and May, a prickly younger girl, round up this family and they soon welcome Joy into the fold. Renaming herself ‘Triste’, Joy soon gets used to her new life, though danger always seems to be lurking close by.

They take shelter in an abandoned house and at first everything seems almost normal. They scrounge and scavenge for food, and Santos shows Joy how to beg and steal. However, this family is in danger of falling apart. May has a hard time seeing anything of worth in herself and is in danger of falling back in with a pimp who offers young homeless girls ‘protection’. Even Santos is hiding something. He disappears at night and returns in the morning with a haunted look in his eyes. Creed, who has been their protector, cannot keep them from getting hurt and it is not long before they lose their shelter and May and Santos drift away, leaving Joy and Creed to fend for themselves.

After a tragic event, Joy is forced to confront her past and is in danger of losing Creed, whom she has begun to care very deeply for. She will need all her strength in order to overcome what she has been running from.

This book was very hard to read. The emotional abuse that Joy suffered through, the dangers the young kids faced on the streets – all of this made for a harrowing read. Joy was a great main character. Realistically flawed and at times weak yet hiding an inner reserve of strength. I also absolutely loved Creed. What a kind and caring young man he was. The lengths he went to in order protect his friend was awe-inspiring. May and Santos were perhaps the most tragic characters but that made them the most interesting to me. Their stories were absolutely heartbreaking.

The only real criticism I have is the ending. It seemed to be out of place and lacked a sense of realism with everything being tied up neatly and happily for all concerned. Given the severe circumstances these kids faced, I just couldn’t buy that everything would end up going so well for all of them though perhaps the author Holly Cupala was trying to promote a sense of optimism and hope. Nevertheless, it rang a little false as the rest of the novel did not shy away from showing the brutalities and struggles of life on the streets. This was still a thought-provoking read though, one that I would definitely recommend.

Overall score: 4/5 stars

The Dark Tide by Josh Lanyon

dark tideThe Dark Tide, the fifth (and final book) in the Adrien English series, follows on directly from the events of the previous book Death of a Pirate King. While the previous book had my heart in a vice throughout, this book was much easier to get through, though it did have its fair share of angst.

Adrien is recovering from his open-heart surgery, after having gone into cardiac arrest when he was shot in the last book. Adrien faces the possibility that he may now in fact live a long and healthy life, something he never really dared to hope for previously, given the problems that have plagued him since a bout of pneumonia as a teenager left his heart in a weakened state. Adrien does not get much time to recuperate however. After returning to his home above his bookshop Cloak and Dagger, Adrien stumbles upon a late-night intruder who seems determined to break in. As his shop is undergoing renovation to combine it with the building next door, it is all too easy for someone to gain access. When a skeleton is discovered in the floor boards of the building, Adrien knows he has unwittingly stumbled upon yet another mystery to be solved.

Not knowing where else to turn, Adrien turns to his former lover, Jake Riordan for help. Jake finally came out to his wife and family at the end of the previous book. He also left the police force and is now looking to set up business as a private detective. Jake is only too happy to help Adrien, hoping to rekindle their relationship now that he is ‘out’. Adrien is less sure of this reconciliation as he is still nursing his hurts from the breakdown of their previous relationship. Not to mention the fact that two of his exes Guy and Mel have been in touch again. Adrien is unsure if he can take a chance with Jake again, given how much Jake hurt him in the past.

Nevertheless, although their relationship is up in the air throughout most of the novel, Jake is still willing to help Adrien solve his latest mystery and agrees for his services to be ‘hired’. The mystery plot was interesting enough, but given the fact that the murder happened over 50 years ago, it lacked a certain sense of urgency. Luckily, there was plenty drama in the relationship stakes to really propel the plot forward.

I have always sympathised with Jake, even when he made me want to start tearing my hair out in sheer frustration. Being in the closet made him so aggressive yet at the same time he was still so vulnerable. Now that his secret is out, we finally get to see another side of Jake. Still very alpha-male he is at the same time more relaxed and settled within himself, despite all the angst that his coming out has caused. It is finally clear just how much he loves Adrien and he is very supportive of him in this book, even though he is unsure if he still has a chance with him. Adrien on the other hand, is full of indecision. He is still in love with Jake but he does not trust him with his heart. He needs time, which Jake is willing to give him. Working together again, all of the old feelings resurface once more but Adrien will need to let go of the past if he and Jake are to ever have a future together. When they finally come together, I had a big, happy grin on my face, especially when Jake finally tells Adrien those all important words:

“Why can’t you say it?” I hardened my voice. “Because I’m telling you, you never have. I’d have remembered.”
He stared at me with disbelief… “Love you? Of course I love you. Baby, I fucking worship you.”

The Dark Tide was truly an exceptional read. I feel as though I have gone through every gamut of emotion with Adrien and Jake so I was very happy with the resolution of this book. I am pleased that they get to have their HEA, as hard-fought as it was. Don’t get me wrong, you never get the sense that everything will be easy for these two and they still will have a lot to overcome, but after everything that is happened they deserve some happiness which I am hopeful they will get a chance to finally get. I will miss Adrien and Jake, but I am happy with the way their story ended and I already know this will be a series which I will re-read many, many times.

Overall score: 5/5 stars

Death of a Pirate King by Josh Lanyon

pirate kingWow. I thought the Hell You Say left me a quivering mess but I have to say that Death of a Pirate King was an even more emotional read for me.

Picking up two years after the events of the last book, Adrien once again finds himself at the heart of a murder investigation when a guest at a Hollywood dinner party he is attending drops dead into his dinner plate. As luck would have it, one of the investigating officers called to the scene is none other than Jake Riordan, his former lover, who is now a Lieutenant with the LAPD. Adrien has had no contact with Jake since he broke off their relationship but he is determined to not get caught up in all the drama this time. Unfortunately for Adrien the host of the dinner party, Hollywood actor Paul Kane, is determined that Adrien become involved in the investigation. Kane all but blackmails Adrien into complying with his wishes (he has recently optioned one of Adrien’s books through his production company and threatens to withdraw his support if Adrien does not agree to his proposal). Adrien reluctantly agrees to question the deceased Hollywood producer’s friends and family in order to determine who would have had a motive to kill him.

Adrien finds it increasingly difficult to be around Jake again. The situation is made worse when he finds out that Jake and Paul Kane have been involved with each other. Jake married Kate, the policewoman he got pregnant in the last book, but unfortunately Kate lost the baby and Jake retreated back into his old habits once again. Adrien is still seeing Guy Snowden, the college professor he got close to in the last book. However, his relationship with Guy is having some problems. Adrien has been keeping Guy at a distance, unwilling to fully commit to his new partner. Guy is also not happy that Jake is back in Adrien’s life which puts further strain on their relationship. Jake is still as closeted as ever but you find out that he did make an attempt to keep Adrien in his life during the two years they were apart however Adrien was unable to deal with this and rebuffed Jake’s overtures of friendship.

Adrien is also recovering from a bout of pneumonia and discovers over the course of the novel that his heart is bad again and that he will require surgery. A murder investigation is the last thing he needs to be involved with but the mystery writer in him cannot help but become intrigued. As his investigations bring him closer to Jake again, he finds it hard to try and resist as Jake wants to resume their previous relationship. Adrien is not willing to be Jake’s dirty little secret even though it is clear he still has strong feelings for him. Jake is still married and has no intention of ever being with Adrien openly. Even though Jake would at least like to try and be friends, Adrien is having none of it. Throughout the course of his investigations, Adrien fears that Jake may have compromised himself in order to keep up his charade. Just how far will Jake go to keep his secrets and has Adrien unwittingly put himself in danger once again…?

I say it again – Wow. This book was amazing. The mystery was the most interesting yet and although it was fairly obvious who the killer was I was still gripped throughout – not knowing where the twists and turns would ultimately land. Adrien has always been an adorable main character – full of dry wit and very self-deprecating. However you can really see in this book how much Jake had hurt him with his actions. The Adrien in Death of a Pirate King still has all his wit but is much more bitter and jaded. Jake on the other hard became much more likeable (though there were certain parts that made me want to throttle him). I didn’t know what was going to happen with the pair of them and there were moments that it looked very bleak indeed. I’m still trying to process the level of betrayal that Adrien must have been feeling in a few key scenes. However, I really cannot help but love their relationship and root for them, even when all the odds are against them.

Overall Death of a Pirate King was another brilliant installment in the series and my favourite so far. I am very glad I am not reading these in ‘real-time’ as I would have been tearing my hair out waiting between books.

Overall score: 5/5 stars