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review 2016-11-24 11:50
Review: The Witch's Kiss
The Witch's Kiss - Katharine Corr,Elizabeth Fernando Corr

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

A very enjoyable UK based YA paranormal novel with some unique takes on witchcraft, a modern day story mixed in with a fantasy like historical side plot made for some really interesting story telling. Sixteen year old Merry has been having scary dreams, involving a boy her age with a scary looking sword, who seems hell bent on trying to kill her. Not helped by the fact there is a serial killer around in her town who is striking at couple in love and taking their hearts. When the boy from her dreams turns up in real life, a hidden family curse is revealed along with the fact that Merry is the latest in the family line to take on an evil wizard who is really responsible for the serial killer taking hearts.

 

All sounds a bit convoluted, but comes together really well. Merry is a likeable heroine, she’s known she’s had witch magic for some time and started using it, the reader learns right away that she won’t any more because something went very very wrong with her magic, and Merry is afraid of it. Though her powers are getting stronger and she finds herself losing control without meaning to. Her dad is out of the picture, left a long time ago, her mum is in complete denial and hates the family magic. Her best friend Ruby knows nothing of the magic, the only solace and comfort Merry has in dealing with it all is her older brother Leo.

 

Initially, Leo comes off as a typical British lad more interested in going to the pub and hanging out with his mates than anything else. But Leo turns out to be one of the best characters in the book. His relationship with his sister turns out to be a really close one, he's there, he listens to her, he helps when he can and even though he doesn't have any magic of his own, he’s by Merry’s side and supporting her every step of the way. The magic comes through the female line, while Mum ignores and wants nothing to do with it, Merry’s grandmother and her coven are the ones who help Merry train her powers once she finally accepts her destiny.

 

Made worse by the fact that the boy from her dreams, turns out to be very very real and part of the family curse. Only the boy has two sides to him, two different personalities one of which he has no control over as it’s tied to the evil wizard and one the normal boy he was before anything happened. Oh, and that boy’s really sweet and Merry might be falling in love with him. Just to complicate things further.

 

Merry’s struggle with her normal school life and her magic duties are very believable. The reader learns a little more about how Merry has handled things with her magic when she first started learning and how things unravelled quickly. She behaved pretty badly, but at least she knew it was wrong and is trying to fix it. Merry has a pretty good moral compass and a good balance of trying to do the right thing.

 

The story also weaves in a family curse, when Merry gets the details from Gran, instead of just being told this is what happened way back when, there’s an evil wizard tied to our ancestors who wants to destroy all lovers because he was jilted a thousand years ago and there’s a curse and an innocent boy tied up in this and turned into a monster and you have to defeat him…the story is actually shown to the reader. In separate chapters, the historical part of the story comes to vivid life like a fantasy novel, then the novel switches back to the present as Leo and Merry learn more.

 

We learn more about the curse and backstory through flashback and Merry’s dreams as she turns out to have a direct tie to one of her ancestors who was involved back then.

 

It’s completely addictive and completely gripping. Likeable characters, deplorable villains and a complex romantic side plot. It’s a really different way of story telling and I really enjoyed it.

 

Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2016-05-26 22:15
Sometimes judging a book by it's cover isn't a bad thing...
The Bridge - Rachel Lou

If you think being a regular teenager is hard then you should try being Everett Hallman. Everett's a witch and not just any witch he's a Bridge Master, he has the ability to help the dead crossover from the land of the living to their afterlife and in spite of the fact that his powers don't seem very strong they're unique and more than one person is interested in his powers and maybe even just in him. Things are starting to get a little strange in Everett's life. Weird things are happening with his powers and then there's Bryce, the cute guy at the marshal arts studio whom Everett likes and who seems to like him back. Now if he could just figure out what's up with him and the weird things that are going on around town.

 

'The Bridge' is first time author, Rachel Lou's entry into the world of young adult fiction and to say the least it's a pretty impressive offering for a first novel. While I'm not new to the world of YA. It's admittedly not my usual playground, but this book captured my attention with it's unique twist on the paranormal.

 

Everett is quiet introverted young man, who's more comfortable with books than people and Bryce is a happy extrovert who seems to have an abundance of self confidence and a definite interest in Everett. I enjoyed both of these characters and was impressed with how much their reactions mirrored those of an average teenager especially when interacting with each other. I liked the slow but steady way that their relationship progressed with both of them exhibiting bits of insecurity and nervousness at different times throughout the story.

 

Everett's struggle to exert his independence while still maintaining his relationship with his grandfather (whom he lives with and something that we learn about in the first few pages of the story) was a constant challenge for him and something that as teenagers most of us are able to relate to at one time or another. At the same time Bryce has his own very different family challenges to face and both of these young men have things they are keeping from each other. Things that will need to be shared if they are to have the relationship that they both seem to want.

 

The connection between the personal relationship that Everett and Bryce are trying to develop and the paranormal events of this story are very strongly connected and the balance that the author maintained between them was impressive. 

 

From start to finish this was a well put together novel. Let's start right at the cover...I love this cover and after reading the book I totally understand why it was chosen, I know there's no bridge but trust me even if there was it wouldn't have made the cover more suited to the story. Next editing anyone who's read my reviews knows that editing is a pet peeve of mine well honestly if there were any editing mistakes in this they were minor and had no bearing at all on my ability to enjoy this well crafted story.

 

And my absolute favorite thing about this book was the lighter moments threaded throughout the story, many of them involving my favorite character, Everett's familiar who to say the least was not your typical black cat...actually he wasn't a cat at all and nope, I'm not giving away that little treasure you'll have to read the book to find out what his familiar was. 

 

***A copy of this book was graciously provided by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review*** 

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review 2016-04-28 21:44
DNF: The Dark Days Club
The Dark Days Club (A Lady Helen Novel) - Alison Goodman

Calling it quits at 230 pages. It's taken this long to get to the paranormal element and while that bit is rather unique and interesting I'm still bored. It's been almost two months since I started this and not very excited when I pick it up again so time to DNF. I may try this again at another time.

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review 2016-03-01 23:52
Seranfyll - Susan Windsor,Christina Daley

This is a unique story that although has endless turbulent situations, is adventurous and entertaining. Lord Seranfyll is a wonderful character that I really liked and over all the fantasy/paranormal thread weaved together with historic elements adds a pleasant twist to this fun read.

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review 2016-01-05 15:32
Review: Sage's Eyes
Sage's Eyes - V.C. Andrews

I received a copy in Netgalley.

 

I haven't read a VC Andrews book in years. Initially I discovered them whilst volunteering in a charity shop one summer when I was home from university and kept seeing the books donated. And I devoured them. But eventually stopped when I got to the DeBeers series as I realised the plots all seem to follow the same formula. 

 

I've noticed some newer ones floating around the last couple of years, but when I saw this one pop up on Netgalley, I figured, what the hell - I would give it a shot. I would either love it or hate it. I most certainly did not love it - I really don't quite know what to make of it.  This review will be ranty and spoilery. Spoilers will be hidden.

 

(Trigger Warnings - book contains sexual abuse and incest)

 

We're introduced to Sage who guides us through her early childhood to her teen years. Starting off with some info dumpy information on how she has some sort of clairvoyance/sixth sense. She just seems to know things - she has vivid dreams that seem like memories and hears voices - whispers in the dark. She knows things that a small child shouldn’t know. Something else she also goes on and on and on about is the fact that she’s adopted and this makes her different from everyone else because she has no connection to her birth parents or any idea of her family history or why she sees things. She can see people’s futures as well. She knows when they’ve done something bad.

 

Granted, she has a few fair points in regards to adoption, and not knowing anything about where she came from other than what her adopted parents tell her. She has some sensible and lots of reasonably logical points. All about her connection to her parents and some of her feelings regarding whether they really wanted her after all. They are ridiculously strict with her, not quite cruel, but makes for uncomfortable reading. The problem is she goes on about it so much and in such a dramatic way it’s really hard to care. The whole tone of her voice is weird, it’s either so formal it’s boring or it’s so purple prosey it’s laughable.  She’s such a goody two shoes, but of course, she’s so much more special and pretty than she could possibly realise.

 

 As a child Sage would always talk about her strange vivid dreams and her visions, much to her parent’s horror. Particularly the very strict mother, who controls everything Sage does. She’s questioned constantly about what she does, who she talks to, where she goes. Her mother even chooses her outfits up to when she’s 15. The formality of the tone makes it hard to determine the setting off the novel. Is it sometime in the past or more modern day? Because of her sixth sense and the font of knowledge and strange dreams she has Sage appears much more mature and older than her 15 years. The setting is supposed to be modern day. Though the formality and strangeness of Sage’s tone and attitude makes it hard to grasp at certain times it is a modern day setting.

 

At one point a boy in her school is trying to get her to go out with him (she’s about 14 at this this point) but she flat out refuses because she knows what he did to another girl – he gave her alcohol when he knew the girl had some sort of bad reaction to booze and was planning to take advantage of her. She tells him so bluntly she doesn’t want anything do with him. Then when the girl’s friends overhear and find out it gets back to the girl and she’s furious with Sage and accuses her of spreading rumours, calls her a “nit” and says something along the lines of “I should pull your hair out!” What modern day 14 year old talks like this when they’re pissed off something (even though it’s true) has come out in public? It’s eye rolling stupid. 

(spoiler show)

 

 

Somehow, this gets back to Sage’s parents who transfer her to a private school. Sage doesn’t see that she’s done anything wrong. And really, she hasn’t. She’s just not sure where this knowledge comes from and doesn’t quite know what to do with it. She’s of course, not like all the other girls. She doesn’t have any friends, she’s not allowed to go to parties or movies or to the mall. While parental interaction in YA is usually non-existent, in this book it’s the other extreme. Sage is so controlled, particularly on her mother’s side (don’t ask questions, don’t do this, don’t do that, do what I tell you, you’re old enough to know better etc) it’s obsessive boarding on creepy. Her mother has some seemingly odd superstitions. Putting a wreath of garlic on the front door, gives her some sort of stone with holes in to hang by her bed to keep the vivid dreams away. She sends Sage to a child psychiatrist at some point when she keeps talking about her visions and just won’t listen to anything she says. Though the general consensus from everyone else seems to be ‘she’ll grow out of it’. Eventually she does stop talking to everyone about what she sees.  Any time Sage shows the slightest sign of rebellion or voicing an opinion she’s cut down immediately and harshly.

 

She’s now 15 and in her freshman year of high school, she’s a bright student, never been in trouble, liked by teachers, empathetic and musically gifted at singing (of course). On transferring to a new school she does finally make some friends and gets a small amount of freedom when she finally manages to convince her mother that it’s okay for her to go to a party or to the mall. She has of course to be dropped off and picked up by her dad, but at least she’s got a little bit of freedom. The girls she hangs out with talk about boys and parties and sexual experiences.

 

 

Sage’s sixth sense comes into play again and she tells them small things that would get certain boys to like them, and which boys she just knows are morons. Then at a party one of these popular girls throws, their forced to invite a mousey girl Cassie, no one likes. So Sage decides she will be nice to Cassie. And thanks to her knowledge and visions, she makes a horrific discovery.

 

Cassie is being sexually abused by her own father. It’s vile and disturbing to read as Sage tries to figure out how to use her powers to help Cassie without being found out and without her parents finding out. At one time her powers have developed so she actually experiences what Cassie is experiencing. She finally figures out a way to help Cassie without getting herself involved. This is probably the only thing Sage does that makes her even somewhat likeable. She’s so above everyone else (although she’s trying to fit in) she just comes off as so wooden and snobby. This helps her redeem herself a little. She can use her gifts to help someone in danger.

(spoiler show)

 

 

Then that all goes to hell when good looking new boy Summer Dante arrives. He’s the sexiest thing since sliced bread and every girl wants him. But unsurprisingly, its only Sage he’s got eyes for and Sage can’t understand why and doesn’t seem to get why the other girls are very very jealous. As she gets to know Dante better and finds herself falling for him, even though she’s telling herself, there’s something not quite right about Dante. He’s got unusual talents like she does. He knows things he shouldn’t too. Sage even starts to have sexual thoughts mostly relating to him. Now it should be a good thing that she’s starting experience a sexual awakening, however, but it’s so terribly written it’s like it’s trying to be sensual and romantic and really it’s just terrible! And doesn’t sound at all like a teenager’s thoughts. But of course, Sage has always been much older than she appears to be and talked different. Again, it’s all eye-rollingly stupid.

 

There’s one rather funny bit where Sage’s friends convince her to go to another party and tell her to tell her parents she’s going to the mall and the movies with her friends. The movie is ‘Ruby’ one of them will lend her the book. This of course all goes pear shaped, but on route back to the mall to meet her dad in time for pickup she discusses the movie with Summer who tells her the plot – a girl who’s got a secret twin in new Orleans part of a really rich family and Ruby goes to live with her. The more the story was described the more it was like – why is this so familiar? Any VC Andrews fan can tell you – it’s the first book in the Landry family saga! Usually it annoys the hell out me when authors use their books in novels for whatever reason. I saw it in a scifi novel I read a while back where the author used her novel earlier dystopian novels in a futuristic English as an example of a really bad government – this one made me completely disgusted and I have never read that author since. In this case it was quite funny when it twigged. Who knows, maybe we’ll eventually get a Lifetime Landry saga movie.

 

And here’s where it gets disturbing. This is going to be a major spoiler but I need to rant about it because it’s just beyond weird.

 

 

Summer Dante is romantic with Sage, when her jealous friends invite her to a party with the sole purpose of spiking her drink and getting her harmed and in trouble with her parents, Summer gets them to take drugs and leaves them to it, after making them strip their most of their clothes off, and escorts Sage away on a romantic date. He takes her to meet his dad, a charming author who writes romance novels. He has a huge picture of her in his room. He took it sneakily. It’s just plain creepy. But he sweet talks his way out of it.

 

Later in the plot, he asks Sage on an official date and goes to her house to pick her up. Her parents have put up some sort of pentagram symbol and explained to Sage it’s part of their religion (this hasn’t been touched on before but more later) and Summer freaks out when he enters the house and sees it. He runs off, abandoning Sage. Later appearing in Sage’s bedroom and seducing her. They start getting down to business but Sage can’t handle it and freaks, Summer finally leaves after convincing her to meet him tomorrow. Later on Sage wakes to find her parents, an aunt and an uncle who decide to tell her the truth about where she came from and who they all are. They are powerful wiccans, Sage’s father was part of the coven but her mother was not. That’s her parents were so protective because that had happened before and it didn’t work out well. The icky bit to the plot twist is Sage’s real father was banished from the coven for falling into dark magic. And it turns out he’s Summer’s father and Summer is her half brother. Who has been seducing her.

 

 

For a VC Andrews novel this type of incest isn’t exactly unusual. It’s just bizarre when from the second Summer Dante arrives about half way through, the novel has the tone of a paranormal romance. And this is supposed to be marketed to teenagers?!?

 

 

[spoiler]

The good guy coven of Sage’s adoptive family want her powers for them. They can help her learn more about her magic and sixth sense and stuff. There’s a reason for the vivid dreams she’s been having since childhood after all. Summer and his dad want her powers for the bad guy coven. He goes away after Sage confronts him with the truth but not without a warning he’ll keep trying to get her for the bad guys. Sage goes home to be inducted into the good guy coven. At least she’s smart enough to know how wrong her feelings for him are and wants nothing to do with him.

(spoiler show)

 

 

That all being said, in spite of how utterly absurd the plot was and how ridiculous the characters were, I couldn’t put down. I did find myself skimming through some parts I found dull and wordy, mostly of Sage making the same point in different ways. But it was still like regardless of how much it made me giggle with the overall idiocy of it all, after reading the first 5% or so one day, I finished the rest in a day. It was terribly addictive. And will still be looking for the next instalment.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for approving my request to view the title.

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