Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Last Minute Christmas Present - Christmas is Cancelled by Aurelia B Rowl

It's Christmas Eve, the storms have blown themselves out (here in Somerset at least), and it's a glorious day. I suspect for some of you though it's marred by an element of panic - have you got everything ready for tomorrow? Have you got all the presents, wrapped them all? Well, if you find you're missing a gift, and the receiver happens to have the means to read an e-book, and likes a bit of Christmas romance, I've got the perfect last-minute gift idea right here - a copy of Aurelia B Rowl's Christmas is Cancelled.

Goodreads says:
Matilda 'Tilly' Carter didn't think her day could get any worse, but even Christmas had just been cancelled.

The one girl Dean Watson has sworn never to have—never even expected to see again—just flared back into his life and into his home—his sanctuary—like she belonged there. Christmas would certainly be more bearable with Tilly around though…

As the chinks in Dean's armor appear, Tilly seizes the chance to win her knight once and for all. She's not about to take no for answer—not this time—but Dean must resist, even as his heart rebels and temptation threatens to undermine his resolve.

Win or lose? Love or honor? Which will Dean choose? Assuming he gets a choice…

My review:
Christmas is Cancelled is the perfect Christmas read in my opinion - it's funny, sweet, romantic and a little bit sexy. It's just right to get you in a good Christmassy mood. Tilly has lost her job, her boyfriend and her home, all in one foul swoop, but fate has an amazing rescue in store for her - in the shape of Dean. It's been ten years since they saw each other, but when she bumps into her brother's best friend, the man she fell for hard all those years ago, Tilly's Christmas starts looking up. 

Rowl sets the pace perfectly as these two get to know each other all over again. There's a few twists and turns here and there, but that's life for you, and it certainly keeps things interesting. Technically a novella, Christmas is Cancelled isn't a long read, but Rowl somehow packs so much into it that it feels like a full novel. The characters are brilliantly brought to life, full of real emotion, and the chemistry between them is powerful stuff. 

It's impossible not to get caught up in Tilly and Dean's story - from the hints at their back-stories to the awkward, loaded moments between them, these are two addictive characters and a book I didn't want to put down. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sigh. Everything you need from a heart-warming Christmas story. 

So even if you don't need to buy a last minute Christmas gift, why not treat yourself?

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review: The Academy - Introductions by C.L. Stone

Published by: Arcato Publishing
Release date: 23rd December 2013
Series: The Academy #1
I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

With an agoraphobic mother and a barely-there father, Sang abhors the isolation keeping her in the shadows. The only thing Sang craves is a fresh start and to be accepted as ordinary by her peers, because for her being different meant being cast out alone.

When her family moves to a new school district, Sang infiltrates a group of boys nearly perfect in every way. Grateful for an influence outside of her parents’ negativity, she quickly bonds with the boys, hoping to blend in and learn from them what it means to have a natural relationship with friends.

Only the boys have secrets of their own and they’ll do anything to keep her safe from the knowledge of the mysterious Academy that they've sworn allegiance to. Bit by bit, Sang discovers that her friends are far from the normalcy she expected. Will her loyalty change when she's forced to remain in the dark, or will she accept that she's traded one house of secrets for another?

Meet Kota, Victor, Silas, Nathan, Gabriel, Luke and North in a story about differences and loyalty, truth and mystery, friendships and heart-throbbing intimacy.

The Academy, ever vigilant.

My review:
I had a few issues with the beginning of this book - a couple of things didn't quite tie together as well as they should have done, leaving me questioning a couple of pretty major plot features, however I stuck with it and by the end I was glad I did.

Stone's character building is great - we meet seven different guys over the course of the book, which is a lot of characters to get your head around, but she pulls it off well - each guy has his own distinct personality, and the way they all interact with our heroine Sang really works. Stone is cunning in her use of situations to introduce each boy, making him memorable for one reason or another.

Sang herself is a bit of a weak link to start with - her character veers around a bit, one moment shy and naive, the next flirty and fun. But in a way, it makes sense - she's coming out of her shell, shocking herself at times with her own behaviour and learning what it is to be a friend.

Introductions is the title, and it's an apt one - this book is clearly the set-up for an interesting series. We meet all the characters and get a bit of the back-stories that are obviously essential to the series, but nothing major really happens. Despite that though, it's one of those unputdownable books that once I got into, I just had to keep reading! I'm very interested to see what the next book brings us.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Review: Drawn by Cecilia Gray

Published by: Gray Life, LLC
Release date: 15th December 2013
Series: n/a
I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

Take a journey into the gritty world of political espionage through the eyes – and lies – of one extraordinary girl. A wholly original tale of friendship and betrayal from the author of The Jane Austen Academy series....

Sasha has a secret – that she can make you spill your secret with nothing more than a question. Her strange gift makes her a burden to her foster family and a total freak of nature. Not that Sasha cares. Why should she when no one cares about her?

Then the CIA knocks on her door. They want to give Sasha a new identity and drop her into a foreign country to infiltrate a ring of zealous graffiti terrorists. They want to give Sasha something to care about.

To survive a world where no one is who they seem, Sasha needs to make people trust her. But when that trust blossoms into love, Sasha is forced to decide between duty and friendship, between her mind and her heart, and whether to tell the truth or keep her secrets.

My review:
I started this book with some trepidation - I'm not really into political thrillers or espionage, but I fancied a change and Sasha sounded interesting. The book had a definite genre feel to it - some books cross genres and confuse libraries and booksellers, while others seem to fit quite neatly into a category. Drawn, to me, fitted the 'teen spy/agent' category perfectly. And yes, there is such a category, even if it's not official - look at all the books out there featuring teens who are/become secret agents for the government or some other organisation, and you'll know I'm right. So yes, Drawn is a genre book, but I'm not implying that's a bad thing. 

Spy books are fun. They might feature political agendas, but when it's YA you're reading, they're generally not really heavy-going. It's more like teen James Bond than teen... actually I don't know the names of any 'serious' spy thrillers, but I know they exist. Drawn is intriguing because of Sasha's power. Of course there has to be a legitimate reason for a 16 year-old to be getting involved with the CIA, and in this case, it's the fact that whenever she speaks, people tell the truth. It's an inspired talent - I've not read anything like it before, and it works really well for the book. Gray has thought out the idea very well, and the power affects every aspect of Sasha's life. It's surprising how much people keep inside their heads, and it's not until you really think about it that you realise it. How would you feel if you were talking to someone and suddenly blurted out 'you have a really big nose, I can't stop staring at it' or something equally unacceptable? That isn't a quote by the way, just an example. Or if you murdered someone and you buried the body, and you're being held of questioning, and before you know it you're confessing all. This is what happens to people around Sasha, which makes her not exactly a popular person. 

So Drawn deals with issues of isolation and loneliness, feeling separated from everything and everyone. But it deals with them in a sneaky way so you don't realise it's doing it. It also deals with how to deal with the fact that a very hot, very cool guy appears to like you, and you really like him back, but because of your life and your job you have to lie to him about who you really are. Yes, of course there has to be romance, but it's done in a really sweet, non-gushy way. In fact, the romance is very cleverly intertwined with the other aspects of the plot. 

Sasha herself has a great voice - she was a joy to read. Love the way she assesses weapons and exits when she walks into a room - the perfect way to remind us of what she is. She's funny, too, and we really get to know her well. She has the kind of voice that draws me right in and won't let go. I'm longing to read more of her.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Review: Becoming Alpha by Aileen Erin

Published by: Ink Monster, LLC
Release date: 17th December 2013
Series: Alpha Girl #1
I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

Tessa McCaide has a unique talent for getting into trouble. Then again, it isn’t easy for a girl with visions to ignore what she sees. Luckily Tessa and her family are leaving California and moving halfway across the country, giving her the perfect opportunity to leave her reputation as “Freaky Tessa” behind.

But Tessa doesn’t realize that kissing the wrong guy in her new Texas town could land her in far more trouble than she ever imagined. Like being forced to attend St. Ailbe’s Academy, a secret boarding school for werewolves.

Even if the wrong guy did accidentally turn her into one of “them” and doom her to attending the weirdest high school ever, Tessa can’t help her growing attraction to the mysterious Dastien Laurent.

When vampires attack St. Alibe’s and her visions pinpoint an enemy in their midst, Tessa realizes that boy drama and her newfound canine tendencies might just be the least of her problems.

My review:
It's been a while since I've read a werewolf book. I kind of got saturated with them at one time, so I've given the sub-genre a rest but now I'm happy to have it back - especially in the form of this series introduction! 

Becoming Alpha is a great addition to the werewolf ranks - Erin's world-building is excellent and her characters are big and bold, making for a wonderful read. The mythology behind these werewolves is only touched on lightly in this first book, but what there is, is intriguing and I get the feeling we're going to learn a lot more in subsequent books. 

Tessa is a very interesting character, with her visions marking her as something special to begin with. As a person I loved her - she's such a typical teenage girl - at least she wants to be, but her heritage and visions make her life a nightmare, and I really felt for her. When she gets turned into a werewolf, the way she reacted and dealt with everything seemed very true to life - if life really did involve a secret werewolf school! I guess what I mean is, Tessa is so well-written that she comes across as very real, very genuine. 

The other characters around Tessa don't suffer either - I particularly loved her brother, and as for Dastien - who wouldn't fall for a hot, French werewolf?! Although strangely, I think Dastien was probably one of the weaker characters in the book. I hope we'll get to know him more in the next book, as I think he has a lot to offer. There's a large cast involved by the end of the book, and Erin does well to keep them all individual and interesting.

Becoming Alpha was an easy read - a YA supernatural romance that completely fits the genre. There's no startling originality, it's not going to change your life, but it's a really enjoyable read and I can't wait to read the next in the series.