Book Review: The Goodnight Kiss by Jennifer L. Hart

Synopsis

A teenage serial killer with a mysterious past.
The deadly hunter sworn to protect her.
Secrets, lies and a shot at redemption.
It all begins with a kiss.

When 16-year-old Nic Rutherford heads out for a night on the town, she brings a full arsenal. Her best weapon? A deadly kiss that can take down the biggest game around—humans. Two-legged predators don’t stand a chance once she makes lip to skin contact. But her blessing is also a curse, one that Nic fears will inadvertently harm anyone who gets too close—her aunts, her best friend, or the mysterious new boy who possesses strange abilities of his own. 

Aiden Jager has the one thing Nic can’t resist—information. With his help Nic begins to unearth answers about her own murky past along with the key to a hidden world where magic thrives and the impossible becomes reality if one is willing to pay the ultimate price. Beware, for once the door is opened, there is no turning back.

My thoughts..

This story is a dark urban fantasy about a girl called Nic who can kill people by kissing them. Nic has appointed herself judge, jury and executioner over the local murderers, rapists etc for reasons unknown and with the help of her two aunts she kills them. Nic’s life is a mystery, she was adopted by two women who clearly aren’t what they pretend to be. There are a thousand different questions that this book raises and just when one question is answered you find you have more. I think that is what kept me reading until the end. I wanted to know who Nic was and what the hell was going on.

The main thing I struggled with in this book was the rather unusual blend of Norse and Greek Mythology mixed together with folktales and faeries. This is very confused by the fact the book is set in the real world, so you have an old Norse god running around after a teenage girl/faerie queen who kills people by kissing them. This teenage girl is looked after by her “Aunties” who are two of the three fates, but also vets in their spare time. All these aspects together just didn’t blend as seamlessly into one story as I would have liked.

Whilst this mix of Nordic mythology and folklore isn’t my cup of tea particularly, I think this book is perfect for people who loved the darker sides of those stories. This book has all the gritty realism of domestic violence and back-alley rapists but with a land of Giants and fae magic. What I loved most about this book was all the faerie aspects, The Seelie and UnSeelie Courts and The Wild Hunt.

This story is a strange and winding journey through familiar mythological and folklore territory that makes it unique. This book twists and turns a lot and while it is unfortunately mainly fuelled by every character being deliberately vague and unhelpful, is still is an entertaining and interesting read. I really liked the developing relationship between Aiden and Nic and the past histories that are being explored and explained between the characters. I’m looking forward to the next book and seeing more of the fae world that I love.

**I was given an eArc of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own**

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

 

Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan

Synopsis

Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: ‘I want you to remember’. Leigh doesn’t know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.

Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died – leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn’t home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.

Overwhelmed by grief, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.

With lyrical prose and magical elements, Emily X.R. Pan’s stunning debut novel alternates between past and present, romance and despair, as one girl attempts to find herself through family history, art, friendship, and love.

Publication Date: 22nd March 2018

I liked the way this story was written, how the author used colour to describe feelings, I had an inkling that was going to happen going into the story and I wasn’t disappointed. This story is very artistic, there is a lot of emphasis placed on colour and music and how they make you feel and in turn represent feelings. If I was more arty I would have loved this book more, while I found the approach interesting I couldn’t entirely relate, and so the book wasn’t as magical or thought provoking as it should have been.

The logical part of me thinks colour is subjective. What I might consider purple, you may think is pink and this is further confused when applying colour to emotions. Colour has been used beautifully through this book to describe an emotion or feeling but at times I felt it was inaccurate as to what I would consider the colour of an emotion to be. What you are left with then is a character that is at times harder to understand and relate to, when the colour was right it was right but when it was wrong it was wrong. Colour is so differently interpreted even across cultures let alone individual people and while I loved the concept a lot I think it changed my reading experience slightly.

In the beginning we are presented with a mystery, Leigh is an average teenage girl who returns home one day to find her mother has killed herself. On the day of her mother’s funeral her mother seemingly returns as a bird who wants her to go to her grandparents in Taiwan. The story is told in both the present and flashbacks and memories as Leigh tries to workout the last thing that her mother wanted to know before she killed herself.

“I want you to remember” scribbed on a note that was dumped in the bin. But what does she want Leigh to remember?

It often felt like this story was on a loop – scenes were repeated so many times I started to get annoyed. There were moments that mattered, that were made important by Leigh’s feelings or thoughts, but when these moments were repeated they mattered less and less. I got bored of how many times I read about Leigh not being able to sleep, how many times she discussed or thought of the bird, how much she envied Feng and felt like a stranger with her grandparents, how much she clearly liked her best friend but thought she had ruined it. It went on and on. It felt like this story was a handful of very original thoughts that were recycled again and again.

Whilst I love magical realism I didn’t feel like it added much to this story in the end. The most poignant part of the book for me was in the last few chapters. All the magic of the smoke memories did nothing to convey the sense of loss and grief, that the realistic and heart-wrenching conversation between Leigh and her dad towards the end of the book managed to achieve.

DISCLAIMER: I was given this eARC by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: The First Dance by Catherine Law

Synopsis

A spellbinding tale of mysteries and secrets and a love that will last forever

1924

The First World War is over and eleven-year-old Alexa is growing up on the idyllic Cornish coast with her best friend Harvey. But she soon discovers there are secrets at the heart of her family that have been hidden for years. 

1931

Alexa flees Cornwall for the intoxicating city of Venice. But her new glamorous life is not what she hoped for and, with dark shadows closing in on her, Alexa will question everything she thought she wanted . .

Publication Date: 22nd March 2016

This is a story about grief, how it changes you, how it can tear people apart and eventually bring them together. If you are looking for a mystery this isn’t one, there no hidden secret to be unravelled, no secret past to be explored. Any hint of mystery is explained away pretty early in the book, before you would even think to ask the question you know the answer. This book was as engrossing as it was depressing but I do think the synopsis is very misleading.

I immediately felt bad for and empathised with the main character Alexa, she’s told to be quiet and sit still and is never allowed to express herself, which leads her to shut herself off from the world. She feels like a stranger in her own life, and everyone around her doesn’t really take the time to understand her. When she finally flees Cornwall in my view its perfectly understandable as to why she makes this choice. Some of the choices she makes later are questionable but I guess this is a story about a girl coming of age and finding out what she wants in the world so she is allowed to make questionable decisions.

I loved the descriptions in this book, particularly of not just the majestic landscapes and enchanting cities but also the little things like the buttons in the box. The characters for me were a bit lacking particularly Sarah was very obviously the infatuated poor girl hopelessly in love with the local rich boy who has eyes for someone else. At one point I felt like I was reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles when Guy was introduced, he was very clearly the bad guy love interest who was going to teach Alexa a difficult life lesson.

I think the depressing nature of this book was what let it down for me in the end. I’m not against a heart wrenching story but I felt it was a bit much for me as far as this book was concerned. There was so much grief and sadness from beginning, middle and end and I think it definitely took away from my enjoyment. I would say this book is a slightly predictable story of a girl learning to deal with grief and the choices that she makes but it lacked the feel of a romance.

DISCLAIMER: I was given this eARC by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Synopsis

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most – a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever. 
The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavoury hobby – it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good.

But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Publication Date: 6th March 2018

My thoughts…

This book is a darker re-telling of the Little Mermaid and it had lots to offer. To Kill a Kingdom has all the elements of a really good dark fantasy, there’s mermaids and pirates, siren’s ripping out hearts, a Sea Queen reminiscent of Ursula and a hate to love romance. The story was nicely paced and I think it does an excellent job of taking The Little Mermaid and making it darker and grittier than the film we all know and love.

This book held such promise for me but in the end it didn’t quite deliver. For me this book was a little too perfect, every twist and turn wasn’t a surprise, I felt like I was on a road I had travelled before. I didn’t really have any doubt in my mind at where this book was going or how it would end. Everything ended up being a bit too convenient, I could see what the author wanted to achieve, so all the character growth needed to get there felt a bit forced.

In the end Lira and Elian didn’t learn to look past their differences, they were moulded into being the same. I say this particularly for Lira who starts out as this blood-thirsty Siren, but this initial characterisation is proclaimed as false as you get further into the book and it ends up that Lira didn’t want to be that way she felt forced by her mother. For me good characterisation would be if they had both learnt to change, not the reader learning that they aren’t the way initially presented. It was all just a little too neat but this might be because it was a standalone.  

There was a few plot issues, namely Lira’s familiarity with all things human despite being from the sea, she recognised things like the smell of peppermint and honey. Are these common in the ocean? I also had issues with the ending, who goes through the trouble of hiding something as far away from the ocean as you can but then decides to built a moat around/through it? Wasn’t the whole point to be that it was away from water?

This book is by no means boring and for a ya dark fantasy it’s pretty decent. There were just several issues for me that stopped me completely enjoying the book, I didn’t find the banter that witty and there was a lot of it and I felt like the plot was often advanced by people overlooking the glaringly obvious. I know lots of people are going to love this book but I ended up being one of those who only liked it.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Book Review: The Queen of the Night By Alexander Chee

Synopsis

From a writer praised by Junot Díaz as ‘the fire, in my opinion, and the light’, a mesmerizing novel that follows one woman’s rise from circus rider to courtesan to world-renowned star Paris, 1882. Lilliet Berne is a sensation, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her still, one wants only to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all. As Lilliet mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from circus rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to stage ingénue,all the while weaving a web of passion and intrigue. Will the truth secure Lillet’s fate – or destroy her with the secrets it reveals? Fifteen years in the writing, The Queen of the Night is a literary tour de force that is also ferociously readable. A blazing tale of lust, ambition, betrayal and revenge, it will captivate readers right up to its final electrifying denouement. 

Publication Date: 22nd February 2018

My thoughts..

The Queen of the Night is an epic tale of death, betrayal, fortune and lust that was as engrossing as it was overwhelming. The mysterious life and rise of Lilliet Berne is intriguing, dangerous and at times tragic but most of all fascinating.

Lilliet’s life is made up of a series of fortunate and unfortunate events that makes it seem like she is not in control of her own destiny. I found this approach not only refreshing but also realistic for the time period. She deals with what life throws her way the best she can and while she is often manipulated by more powerful individuals I don’t think it detracted from her character. Lilliet has a more quiet strength and resilience about her which I found made her very likeable.

The level of detail in this book meant that I was a given a thoroughly in-depth insight into a world I knew nothing about, but it also made this book a lot denser than I found strictly necessary. For example the page long list of furs the Empress owned I just skipped right over and I got lost in the sometimes too detailed explanations of opera performances. I can however appreciate what the author was trying to do and some of the aspects of the book I struggled with I know a classical music lover would love.

I did find that I was at all times reading with a kind of remote detachment. I think this is because partly Lilliet Berne as a narrator is seemingly fairly emotionally detached from events herself. I think this was partly in a way to protect herself from the tragic events from her past but as the story is told through her eyes I found myself adopting the same stance. This book had high drama and tragedy and intrigue and betrayal but it felt like someone had turned the volume down. The story felt muffled, it was as if I was wearing a blanket and didn’t know how cold it was outside.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

4/5 stars

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .

My thoughts..

I have always wondered at how books can be scary? How can reading words on a page in the comfort of your own home give you a sense of horror or dread? How is it that books can have such power that, that the horrors they describe can effect us in such a way as to make us fearful when there is nothing to fear? I didn’t understand these feelings until I read The Hazel Wood.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert was a dark and intriguing story that has all the magic and mystery of the fairy tales we know so well. This book however goes one step further, it describes a world in which fairy tales could be real, a world where there is truth to the stories that we heard growing up. I think the elements of realism is what made this book so damn creepy, the elements of truth within the story and the possibility that somewhere the stories are real, that someone did live this life.

“I told you, she was like a war reporter. She didn’t write this stuff into creation-she wrote about something that was already out there.”

This quote I think is a good description of how this story is told from the point of view of Alice Crewe. Alice grew up on the road with her mother and bad luck following her wherever they went. She has a cold anger that sometimes gives her a more dispassionate point of view to the events that unfold in the book, but somehow still full of feeling and emotion. This anger is her armour and I found Alice to be a realistic and flawed character who would do anything for the people she cared about.

The characters in this book are believable, the stories woven into the story are fascinating and the whole mystery of The Hazel wood had me intrigued from the first page. The depth this author managed to achieve was so good that the fairy tales in this book could themselves be published. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the original fairy tales, the ones where every step The Little Mermaid takes is like knives in her feet and the evil stepsister cuts off her toes to fit into the glass slipper.

*I received a digital review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own*

Rating: 4/5 Stars