Monday, 25 August 2014

Summer Solstice: Enchanted

Summer Solstice: Enchanted

by K.K. Allen

4 out of 5

Synopsis
The Summer Solstice Enchanted is the first in the Summer Solstice Series – a lighthearted Young Adult Fantasy set in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Katrina "Kat" Summer has been sheltered and void of much social interaction her entire life. But her world changes drastically when her mother dies unexpectedly and she is forced move in with her grandmother and caretaker.

In the picturesque town of Apollo Beach, which dwells on Florida’s West Coast, is where Kat’s world takes on enchanting new beginnings. Her grandmother, Rose, a whimsical old lady with wild tales of the Ancient Greek gods and goddesses from which their family descends, encourages Kat to understand their heritage. But the more Kat learns the more she realizes how many secrets her mother kept from her growing up.

Leading up to her 16th birthday, Kat is occupied with enigmatic visions and disturbing dreams with prophecies much too real to ignore. And after a run-in with the boy-next-door, a good looking guy her age named Alec Stone, Kat is more resolved than ever to find out the truth about her families’ past and what that has to do with her future.

What Kat finds is a mythology surrounding the Summer Solstice that forever transforms her from the awkward teen she once was, to the enchanted Katrina Summer.

Review
Kat's life inevitably changes when her mother dies unexpectedly.  She goes to live with a grandmother she knows nothing about.  It is here that she learns about a world her mother had tried to hide from her - the world of the Solstices.

This book reminded me of the Secret Circle (which is never a bad thing), with the steady pacing and style of writing.  I would definitely recommend this as a summer read!

I love a bit of greek mythology, and I think that Allen got the perfect balance of information and entertainment without breaking the flow.
The whole Solstice bloodlines and history is nicely creative and original, gradually building throughout the book.

I like Kat as the main character.  She's open-minded and you learn about the Summer family and the Soltices along with her.
The rest of the supporting cast are, for the most part, amiable characters.  Iris and Ava were entertaining.

The bad bits:
There was nothing bad exactly.
I thought it was quite formulaic, it ticked all the YA boxes - the new girl, the cute guys smitten with said new girl, the shallow and bitchy girl(s).
That being said, it's better than half the YA stories out there.
It's a very nice read, I felt that it was less an adventure in itself, and more an introduction to the series to follow.
Which I will definitely be reading - only a few months to wait for The Eqiunox!

Goodreads link
Amazon.co.uk

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Beasthood

Beasthood

by A.Z. Green

5 out of 5

Synopsis
The bloody, raw meat was tantalizing her; calling to her. She hated it and yearned for it all at once.
Stop, she ordered. What are you doing?!
So hungryyyyy, snarled a primal voice deep within her.
Don’t you dare! she screamed back.
But the primal hunger ignored her pleas and took over her body, forcing her rational voice deep within the crevices of her mind.



What would you do if you discovered you weren't human? That you turned into a bloodthirsty monster against your will?
What if your instincts, emotions and desires were torn between your own and the dark, dangerous animal lurking inside of you?
If it could make you yearn for someone you shouldn't, make you say and act in ways you wouldn't and overwhelm your whole existence?
If everything you'd ever known about your life was a lie?

In a world where a deeply hidden community is swathed in mystery, deadly secrets, betrayal and murder, Jaz Barker struggles to fight against the dangerous Beast within her and the emotions and desires it thrusts her way.

When tensions ride high and people she cares about are put in danger, she will have to decide how much of her newly awakened animal-side she's willing to let in.

And if it is worth the risk...


Review
Jaz is content with her lot in life, she has reasonably normal parents and a small but loyal group of friends.
Even with her severe iron deficiency that leaves her struggling with fatigue and on pills for the rest of her life is ok.  The nightmares and regular visits to a therapist means that her life is far from perfect, but Jaz has accepted all of this, and is making the most of her life.
Until she is kidnapped and dragged into a world of Weres and shifters she never knew existed.

I thought this book was fantastic and thought-provoking.  Oh, and not for the faint-hearted; if you want a cozy read, go elsewhere.
I realise that I have a habit of giving slightly shorter reviews when I actually like a book, because I'll let you in on a little secret - sometimes I struggle to explain what I like about a book without giving away plot and details, I like the idea of the reader going through the same process as me.
But with Beasthood, Green has given more to like than just the story itself.

First of all, the originality.  Yes, this book feels like something original and new in a category that is currently overflowing.  There's a lot of love for werewolves, paranormal, and paranormal romance at the moment.  But Green throws all that away and doesn't allow herself to be influenced by current trends.  This.  Is.  Original.

I also love how dark this story is.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't class it as a horror, but it feels real.  Which is a refreshing change after all the eye-roll-inducing fluffy pieces where girl meets bad wolf, is terrified + fight (a.k.a. sexual tension) = rainbows.
When Jaz is kidnapped, it is a completely terrifying experience.  She is drugged and examined, and the whole scene made me sick.  At no point does Green romanticise something as terrible as kidnapping.

Jaz is a great character.  She's falling into a crazy world,  with new politics and rules that she can barely grasp; instead of curling up into a ball crying, she survives with a quiet (sometimes not so quiet!) strength.
Her human moralities and upbringing casts the world of Weres in a very harsh and unforgiving light.  She sees them as the monsters they are, and she's in no rush to join them.  She is truly repulsed by what's inside of her.

The "romance".  Yes, there is the romantic aspect of the "creepy but hot" Driver, a guy that unsettles Jaz and not in a good way.  Add the fact that he was involved in her kidnapping, and has the brutish Were morality mind-set (plus some other negative tidbits); you have a very unappealing hero.
There were times that I held my breath, wondering if Beasthood would copy so many paranormal romances where the woman overlooks all the flaws to be so totally in love.  All I can say is congratulations on that front; the outcome was more than satisfactory!

The not-so-brilliant bits:
The major issue I had that dropped it a star, was with the flow of the story.  The chapters jumped around on the timeline - sometimes I felt for no real reason.
One moment you're with Jaz today; the next you're with her aunt last year.  One moment you're with Fraya next week; the next with Jaz "the evening before".
Primarily, I found it hard to work out what day it was.  The chapters are titled with "the day before", but it didn't always click with me the day before what, until halfway through the chapter.
I understand the author wants to add a bit of background, and that certain information should only come to light at certain points; but it just broke the flow for me.

Ok, so anyways, this comes out at about a 4-4.5 for a cracking debut... Oh hell, let's round this up to a nice 5.  It is a very confident piece for a new author and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series!

Goodreads link
Amazon.co.uk

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Silver Ninja: Indoctrination

The Silver Ninja: Indoctrination

by Wilmar Luna

5 out of 5

Synopsis
After saving New York City from a terrorist uprising, Cindy Ames vows to put away the nanosuit that turns her into the Silver Ninja for good. But when a CIA agent uncovers her identity and allies with a pharmaceutical company to take her down. Cindy must team up with her sister, Jadie, and her husband, Jonas, to outrun the government and thwart a plot to turn average citizens into mind-controlled soldiers.

Review
The Silver Ninja is back for the second instalment.
Cindy had plenty to worry about - a husband that ignores her, and a sister fighting her own demons.  Oh yes, and she's being chased by the CIA and has to hide her identity as the Silver Ninja.

Yes, come on!
you have no idea how excited I've been about reading this.  And why shouldn't I be?

The first book was one big adventure; lots of promise, but plenty of room for improvement.
(See review of The Silver Ninja)
My major problem was with Cindy herself, and I am so relieved to say that she is much easier to get on with in this book.  In fact, everything works better.

To be honest, I was lucky enough that Luna asked me to beta read his work - I thought that was an improvement - this finished piece is miles beyond!
It has kept the same sense of adventure; of not being afraid to dream big.  But the characters are all better thought out, the writing is smoother and more accessible (let's be honest, the constant metaphors of the first book were cringeworthy).  All of this makes the story thrilling and it does something special - it shows Luna's sense of humour, as I was chuckling through so many sections.  Especially the British slang confusion.
Oh, and I can't resist mentioning the chocolate banana.  Come on the chocolate banana!  I love an inside joke.

Goodreads Link
Amazon.co.uk

Monday, 4 August 2014

Rogue Hunter: Inquest

Rogue Hunter: Inquest

Kevis Hendrickson

2 out of 5

Synopsis
Fearing retribution from ruthless gangsters over an unsettled debt, intergalactic bounty hunter Zyra Zanr ventures to a distant world to collect the reward for Boris Skringler, a notorious terrorist, who has been sentenced to death by political rivals of the InterGalactic Alliance. When she fails to secure his release, she decides to break him out of prison. Zyra soon finds herself an unwilling participant in events that lead to a climactic showdown between the most powerful worlds in the galaxy.

Torn between her desperation to rid herself of the threats to her life and her guilt in agitating the conflict between two galactic superpowers, Zyra is horrified to learn that the lives of an entire world of people hinge on her ability to return Skringler to his captors. However, her distrust of Skringler gives way to lust, unraveling her plans. Will Zyra give into her passion and allow Skringler to go free? Or will she surrender him to her enemies to stop an impending war? The fate of billions depend on whether she chooses life for a killer or the death of her lover.

Review
Zyra Zanr is a bounty hunter for the InterGalactic Alliance.  Throw in an Amazonian planet, dangerous politics and a murderous Skringler, and you have the introduction to the Rogue Hunter world.

I was sold on the synopsis of this book.  With the promise of the vastness of space, lies and politics, and a love/hate relationship between our main players, I was excited and ready for a vast adventure.  

I was expecting Star Wars, but I got more of a courtroom drama.

To be fair, it was a creative story.
Zyra is initially a great character.  She is focussed, confident, sexy, and more than capable of looking after herself.
Skringler is an absolute dick - and not just an endearingly off-kilter anti-hero.  Hendrickson has given something brilliantly refreshing in writing such an unlikeable character.
Going back to the synopsis - I wish it didn't mention the relationship between Zyra and Skringler; primarily because it doesn't play a big part in this book.  But also because I couldn't help but be disgusted at the hints that Zyra could like this guy with more than a physical attraction.

Unfortunately, there were a few problems I had with this book.
The setting:
New Venus - the world that has a global ban on men.
Seriously?
Ok, I can understand an oppressed gender rising up and rebelling, taking power etc.  But to be so blinded by hate that they would destroy/banish all men from the surface of their world?
Does that mean they enforce killing men, down to the babies unfortunate enough to be born boys?  Hell, what about the process of reproduction in the first place?
How do they enforce a world-wide ban?  I can't even suspend my disbelief to imagine that every woman would agree to it.
Which brings me to Hendrickson's portrayal of women - the women of New Venus are all stubborn and close-minded.  They are all painted with the same brush, they are all self-obsessed.  They are supposed to be infamous warriors, but are petty and picky.
(To be honest, it is impossible to tell whether this is Hendrickson's opinion of women, or people in general; as it is set for the majority on New Venus)

As for the promise of an intergalactic adventure - this story is set on New Venus.  The only time there is a change of scene is when it flips to the InterGalactic Alliance.
I had been hoping for a jaunt across the universe.
Instead we spend most of our time in the courtroom with the pig-headed Queen of New Venus; or in the bedroom of Zyra's lover, Mikaela.

Although initially promising, Zyra's character becomes increasingly annoying and questionable.  There is far too much of the narration stuck in her thoughts, going over some history with a girl called Molly; problems with her father; and vague money worries.  She becomes very "woe-is-me" and is full of doubt, guilt and self-loathing.  I spent a lot of time wondering why was she a bounty hunter?  She's not that old, she's being regaled as one of the best bounty hunters out there... it just doesn't gel.

So, all in all, a lot of promise that just left me cold.

Goodreads Link
Amazon.co.uk