Book Review: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Nantucket Blue is a solid choice for a relaxing summer read. There’s lots I liked about this book: Jules and Cricket’s friendship, the subtle romance, the way sex was handled in a realistic and positive way, the subplot involving Cricket’s mother. Though Nantucket Blue won’t be going down as a personal favourite, this is a good read and worth checking out.

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

Nantucket Blue is about discovering yourself and who you want to be. Cricket, determined to be there for her best friend following the death of her mother, gets a job in Nantucket Blue, so she’ll be nearby if Jule’s needs her. But, as often happens in life, the death of someone who was a mother figure to both girls causes them to grow apart and Cricket has to figure out who she is without Jules. I thought the cracks in their relationship, the hurtful comments, the betrayal of confided secrets and little signs of how much they still cared was very well drawn. We’ve all experienced the sadness that comes from outgrowing a friendship and I thought Howland captured it realistically.

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Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Since Perfect Chemistry is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, I thought I would enjoy Katie McGarry’s work. Unfortunately this book was so cloying and melodramatic I just wanted to scrub it from my mind once I finished.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Let’s start with the semi-good. The relationship between Noah and his brother was the most interesting part of the book. The whole fostering/adoption storyline was written, like everything else, in such a way as to try to manipulate an emotional response from the reader. However, it did attempt to convey how difficult and painful it must be to watch what’s left of your family become part of a new one without you. That being said, Noah certainly didn’t help his case. Instead of acting responsibly and trying to take steps to build a life where he could eventually be considered a suitable guardian, he does the complete opposite.

After initially being intrigued by Echo’s scars, I got frustrated the longer we were left in the dark. The secret of what happened to her seemed overly drawn out and anti-climatic once everything was finally revealed. I would have preferred more time spent on Echo actually dealing with her trauma and the reader getting to know her mother (who only appears briefly near the end and isn’t painted in the best light, given that she is mentally ill). The complex relationship between Echo and her mother wasn’t explored as it should have been, which was disappointing.

Unfortunately, the book spends far too much time on the ‘romance’, which I didn’t care for in the slightest. I was really turned off by the constant pet names (“siren”, “nymph”, “seductress”) and the way Noah talked was particularly cringe-worthy. Noah is clearly meant to be the ‘bad boy’ with hidden depths in need of a ‘good woman’ to get him on the straight and narrow, but in reality he’s just an asshole. No amount of simpering over Echo is going to make me like him.

Aside from Noah’s fear of loosing his younger brothers, everything else in Pushing the Limits feels overwrought and angst-ridden simply for drama’s sake, instead of taking the opportunity for a nuanced look at mental illness, the effects of trauma, domestic abuse and the foster system.

*Many thanks to NetGalley, HarlequinTEEN and Mira Ink for sending me a copy for review*

Book Breakup: Hidden by Marianne Curley

I’ve been waiting eight years for Marianne Curley to write another book. So I’m kind of gutted that when it finally arrived, I meandered through to 40% before deciding to put it aside.

For as long as Ebony can remember, she’s been sheltered. Confined to her home in a secluded valley, home-schooled by her protective parents, and limited to a small circle of close friends. It’s as if she’s being hidden. But something is changing in Ebony. Something that can’t be concealed. She’s growing more beautiful by the day, she’s freakishly strong, and then there’s the fact that she’s glowing.

On one fateful night, Ebony meets Jordan and she’s intensely drawn to him. It’s as if something explodes inside of her–something that can be seen from the heavens. Ebony still doesn’t know that she’s a stolen angel, but now that the heavens have found her, they want her back.

Marianne Curley was one of my favourite authors growing up. I love Old Magic and her Guardians of Time trilogy and have read them all several times, though not for many years now. I have to wonder if I’d still love them as much if I picked them up for the first time today. Would I have the same trouble with them as I did with Hidden?

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Book Review: What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang

I think this will be a short review. The truth is, I cannot think of much to say about What’s Left Of Me. It was the perfect reading choice, as at the time I didn’t want to pick up anything too taxing or read something that I would get too engrossed in. That being said, all these things also made it a rather forgettable read.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

I loved the premise. A parallel world to ours (I’m assuming), where everyone is born with two souls inhabiting one body. Over time, one of these souls becomes the dominant, while the other just fades away. But for Addie and Eva, this hasn’t happened and now they have to pretend that Eva died long ago in a world that despises and fears people like them.

I guess I felt that nothing really seemed to set Addie and Eva apart. They needed more distinct personalities and for me, none of the relationships seemed to have any real depth or emotion behind them.

Ultimately, nothing really grabbed me. Not the characters, or the situation they found themselves in. I didn’t get any sense of danger or urgency at key moments in the book that should have been filled with tension. Zhang had some interesting events going on, but I didn’t feel like anything was really pushed, like it could have been. For example, Addie and Eva are both female souls within a female body. Does it always happen like that? What happens if one of the inhabiting souls identifies differently? Has that ever happened? What about if the two souls are attracted to different genders? Perhaps these kind of questions might be touched upon in later books. Zhang does question how someone like Addie and Eva might have a relationship one day, but it only very briefly comes into conversation right at the end of the book.

What’s Left of Me is like a light, vanilla dystopian, which is fine, but it could have been far more interesting. Despite my yearning for an easy read, sometimes things need to be gritty and messy and complicated. As it stands, I’m not overly fussed about picking up the rest of the Hybrid Chronicles, I feel satisfied having read this one.

Book Review: Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Touch of Power

I’ve yet to read all of Ms Snyder’s work, but I’m starting to wonder if she’ll ever be able to surpass her first novel, Poison Study. Like many of her readers, I can’t help but compare her later fantasy books with her first one. And in the case of Touch of Power, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d read it before. Characters, relationships, the basic storyline, even specific scenes, were all very familiar. Touch of Power is a bit like reading an early version of Poison Study, one that’s nowhere near as well written or developed.

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life…

Touch of Power definitely has an intriguing set up: fifteen kingdoms decimated by a plague. A Healer’s Guild that has been completely destroyed, its Healers hunted down and executed, a school where future leaders are sent to hone their skills in diplomacy and manipulation, magicians, death eating plants (a subplot I still don’t quite understand). What’s disappointing is that we learn little else beyond this. Touch of Power is the first book in a trilogy, so I wish more time had been set aside to allow the reader to actually experience some of these places instead of learning of them through a brief character conversation. The world building in this book is pretty vague and light on detail.

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