Saturday, 27 April 2013

Books To Read In May

May is just around the corner and after a long and harsh winter I'm very much looking forward to finally reading out in the sun, enveloped by the lushness of spring, sitting on a bench somewhere in the middle of a meadow bursting with wild flowers, a heavy book in my lap, and occasionally listening in to the chirping of the birds and buzzing of the bumble bees. Smiling, because I've found my little piece of heaven.

That is why I composed a list of 5 books I'm planning to read in the beautiful month of May.

What books are you planning to read in May? Or do you choose books randomly?

A warm spring hug,

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Sweetest Dark (The Sweetest Dark #1) by Shana Abe

“With every fiber of my being, I yearned to be normal. To glide through my days at Iverson without incident. But I’d have to face the fact that my life was about to unfold in a very, very different way than I’d ever envisioned. Normal would become forever out of reach.”  Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.

England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.

Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.

Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time. (Goodreads)


"Like all the orphans crowding the Home, I felt certain that I did not belong where I was. That someone, somewhere, was surely searching for me, because I was special. Unline all the rest of the orphans, I was right."

We all want to be special, or to have something that sets us apart from the crowd, isn't that true? Ever since I read Harry Potter novels and Matilda I was constantly waving a twig in my hand at random objects, secretly wishing that they would move, or explode, or disappear. Unfortunately they never did anything other than remain right where they were and mock me. Lora, the main character, is "luckier" than I was, because she is indeed special. At first glance she is a tough cookie with a rough childhod, who knows how to defend herself and stand up to others who try to make her life miserable because she's an orphan and not some snotty little rich pampered girl like the girls at this school. I liked reading about her - she had so many layers and hid so many wonderful things beneath the surface. 

The writing style was beautiful, dark and intriguing, mysterious and rich with descriptions. I was transfixed by the world the author took me in, desperately wanting to figure out what was happening to Lora and trying to guess what kind of a creature she was. When I finally found out I was blown away. I'll not spoil anything because I think it is great that I learned that from the book and not from someone else - the effect is so much more powerful.

We don't really connect with the characters, we are merely the audience - the fortunate ones who get an insight into a world of wonder. It felt like I was outside, looking through a window of a house in awe, fully knowing I will never be invited in, that I would only be allowed to peek in from the shadows. And I actually didn't mind that. It was also that kind of a book where there wasn't much of a plot but more of a heroine's internal thoughts, struggles, the Becoming and coming to terms with what she is. 

The love triangle wasn't really a love triangle since Lora was instantly drawn to beautiful Jesse who has a few secrets up his sleeves, too. Armand, the aristocrat, on the other hand is inexplicably drawn to Lora, and later on we find out why - partly because he is what she is. But even though he was obnoxious at times I liked him better than Jesse, despite introducing himself to Lora: "Call me Mandy", after being described as rich, handsome and alpha male. And there the author goes and ruins my fantasy by nicknaming him "Mandy". Sheesh. But why I didn't like Jesse? I don't know how to explain it, he just wasn't interesting. He sounded old and boring. And I'm not a big fan of "star-crossed lovers". Too ... romanticky for me.

The ending was surprising, although a bit forced for me. No action for three quarters of the book and then "BAM"! World war 1 in the school's backyard. Literally! And I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can always appreciate a good death and although unexpected, it was a great twist to the story. However, I have a strange feeling that this person will be returning. It's all written in the stars, I guess...

All in all, a very unique story with many interesting elements, if a bit slow-paced in some parts. I expected more pulse-quickening scenes and a better Jesse. But overall it was a pleasant read and I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group. All opinions in this review are my own.

3.5 quills

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Sins & Needles (The Artist Trilogy #1) by Karina Halle

The first thought that crossed my mind after reading the last word on the last page of the book was "Wow! I did not see that this is the direction we're taking!" Karina Halle sure has serious talent for writing 'realistic' and compelling novels. So far I've only read two of her works (this one and Devil's Metal) but I'm liking the journey she's taking me on. She has that addicting style of writing that pulls you in and doesn't let go. I guess the thing that sets her apart from the other writers is that even though her plots are over the top and highly unlikely to happen in a real life (a con artist being chased by her mobster ex boyfriend while ... some other things happen to her that would be considered as spoiler; a journalist going on a tour with a metal band whose member made a deal with the devil...) there are certain realistic elements intertwined in the plot that make the story very likeable and impossible to put down. Yet again I found myself reading this book everywhere I went and simultaneously with everything else I was doing. 

As I already mentioned, Ellie Watts, a con artist, returns to her home town because she's broke and running away from her ex-boyfriend (who sounds like a dangerous deliciousness incarnate) who happens to be a mobster and whom Ellie happened to steal a car and money from. She thinks no one will recognize her after being away from home so long, but Camden McQueen does. Ellie is surprised to see her former weird goth "friend" transformed into a beautiful butterfly (In my books a 'beautiful butterfly' is a hunky tattooed guy with a charming smile and wicked streak, btw) and even though she likes him more each day they hang out she decides on stealing money from his successful tattoo parlor - because this is all she is good at. However, things don't always go as planned and Ellie finds herself in a situation she never anticipated in her wildest dreams and has to find a way to get herself out of the mess she created. 

The story is told from Ellie's point of view and alternates between present and past (when Ellie and Camden were younger), which is a great approach to slowly revealing the missing puzzle pieces to Ellie and Camden's past relationship. Ellie, at first sight, is not a very likeable character. She is a thief and a liar, she is addicted to pills due to her paranoia, and on top of that she thinks she is entitled to act the way she does and do the things she does because of her scarred leg and scarred childhood. 

"I'm not bad. The world is bad and I'm just trying to survive in it."

I didn't particularly mind that, because Karina Halle's skill to create characters flawed to perfection made me fall in love with Ellie and also Camden, even though Camden is not your typical hero one encounters in the majority of the books out there. He has some flaws, or should I say personality traits, that make him more realistic and on the other hand possibly less likeable because he does not match the criteria set by some higher force in the book realm. Camden actually has flaws that are actually not likeable, that's the first deviation, because let's face it - usually the heroes have flaws like "having an adorable crooked tooth", or "being too mysterious-yet-sexy" or "being too tall-but-the-girl-feels-immensely-safe-in-his-arms-because-he-is-covering-above-her" or simply "being too freakin' perfect". 

I'm not going to say there was nothing that bothered me because I would be lying. I didn't like that Ellie and Camden's relationship felt a bit rushed and mainly based on mutual desire (which they acted on ... multiple times). Their relationship was messed up (I am not going any further because then I'd be spoiling) on so many levels, and I am glad there are two more books for Ellie to sort her feelings, beliefs and fears, because she is one helluva broken cookie. So is Camden. But then again I liked how messy, complexed and complicated they were because they make great characters who people want to read more about. And Camden is just the right person for Ellie because he gets her like noone else. Even when he's being a total jackass his words hold a grain of truth.

"You're a con artist. A liar. A thief. An unredeemable soul. You can't be reformed. You can't be saved. You'll die trying to make the world pay for what it did to you. And you'll die alone."

"Oh, do you?" You think because of your leg and your scars that gives you a right to punish people? Rob people? Cheat, scam and steal? You think you can use that to justify what you do for a living?"

"Do you think because you can't see my scars that they don't exist? That's the trouble with pain, Ellie. If you're lucky, you can wear it for all the world to see. Most people have their pain deep inside, in places no one ever goes. Not until it's too late."

"I hate you, Ellie Watt," he whispered, lips coming closer to mine, "because I still love you after all these years." 

Ahh you see how conflicted am I? But the scales tip in their (and book's) favour. The good things outweigh the bad by far.

And there comes the end, where Halle throws us an (un)expected twist that leaves me craving for book #2 like a man in the desert craving books and TV series. May is not just around the corner, people!

The story was well-paced and it had the right amount of suspense, action and surprise elements. The bad guys are exciting and terrifying, and just for the main twist it is worth reading this book. If I said this story was a thrilling roller coaster of epic proportions that would be somewhere close to what I read. And it sure was a ride I immensely enjoyed and would recommend it to anyone who is not afraid of a little bumps and bruises in order to get the good stuff. Believe me, it's all worth it.