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Mercy  - Rebecca Lim Pitched to me as "Quantum Leap with angels" ((Laugh all you like, it's actually a very apt description, and the perfect shorthand for describing it)), Mercy is the great start to a fresh new series from Australian author Rebecca Lim.

One of the most appealing things about Mercy was the voice of the titular character. As an angel Mercy's voice is (for the most part) wise beyond her years; there is a sense about her, in her choice and words and way she describes things, that is more mature than the age of her current host; there's also the weariness behind her words, and the knowledge and experiences of the lives she has passed through adds to that. But this is nicely contrasted with Mercy's limited memory, limited knowledge of what it really means to be (and act) human and most difficult at all - at least with regards to the immediate problem at hand - the fact that she does not know anything about the body she has surfed into... save the fact that there is a problem that she must fix. And even that's not made perfectly clear. Overall Mercy's voice makes it an interesting read as I tried to discern where each part of Mercy actually was, and where her limits of knowledge and understanding actually were. Although she is a little distant at times, it was fascinating to see where Mercy thought her own limits were.

The other thing that I really enjoyed was the emphasis on the mystery plot. It was there right from the start and even when it was not at the forefront (which was not exactly that often) it was still bubbling underneath, pushing things forward even when it was not exactly seen. It was actually great to see a paranormal novel where the entire plot isn't just "OMG [CREATURE/BEING]" (or "OMG THE HOT GUY IS A [CREATURE/BEING]") - in Mercy the paranormal aspect is a means of helping heal/solve the (disturbingly) human problem - in this case a family that's been torn apart by a missing daughter, and the son who is convinced that he can find his sister, if only he just had the next clue. And here Rebecca Lim deftly combines both aspects, two separate things that are great on their own, and makes it into something that I couldn't put down until I knew what had happened. And if that time happened to be after midnight, then so be it.

Whether you're a fan of angels, mysteries or even Quantum Leap mixed with a bit of fantasy, then I suggest you give Mercy a go.
Paranormalcy - Kiersten White In a recent wave of YA paranormals with less-than-reactive (let alone pro-active) ‘heroines’ and love interests that seem more like villains, Paranormalcy is a vibrant addition to the YA shelves, especially the urban fantasy/paranormal section.

Right in the opening sequence White established that Evie is a strong and resourceful heroine. It’s a burst of action that not only establishes Evie but also the general feel and rules of Paranormalcy‘s setting. And not only that, it also begins to peel away some of the layers of character expectations, making even minor characters (in their first/only appearances) interesting and sympathetic. Adding in Evie’s authentic teen voice and it’s one of the best opening I have read in some time.

While Paranormalcy does have the occasional bumpy moment as it adjusts speed or turns a corner, overall it’s a gripping read. White doesn’t hesitate to do what it takes to make sure the story goes where it needs to go; there is potential for real darkness in the premise and Paranormalcy does not shy away from it at all.

The central romance in Paranormalcy is sweet and realistic (or as much as it can be given the initial circumstances) and makes a fantastic counterpoint to all the chaos that unfolds through the course of the novel. It and Evie’s other relationships with characters (be they pseudo-parental/familial or simply friendly) as well as the world around her are to me truly the heart of the novel. The mystery pushing everything forward is great as well, but for me the best moments were watching Evie interact one-on-one with characters, and her sheer delight at this ‘new’ world she was discovering after years in another.

Whether you enjoy a fast-paced paranormal mystery with high stakes or a sweet romance surrounded by paranormal elements and intrigue then I suggest you check out the newly released Paranormalcy. As for me, I’m going to be waiting anxiously for the sequel, Supernaturally.
Crescendo - Becca Fitzpatrick Those who know me will know that if a book is for review I will do more than just make a good faith effort to finish it. I planned to finish Crescendo, I forced myself to pick it up again and again and keep going. But I woke up the morning after going to bed at page 208, took one look at Crescendo and decided that any book that made my stomach roll at the thought of reading was not one I was going to force myself to finish - although later I did flick through to the end, although that did not change my view on Crescendo.

I just could not take any more slut-shaming.

In Crescendo, slut-shaming is used in lieu of actual characterisation (apart from an inability to say the most ridiculous, pathetic and cliche attempts at insults) to 'show' the reader that Marcie is a character we are not supposed to like. It seemed every time Marcie appeared or was even brought up in discussion, we were reminded of how horrible she was through comments about her sexuality - she's called a ho, implied to offer sexual favours to boys in exchange for payment, and we're repeatedly reminded of how terrible she is compared to the pure and virginal Nora because of the way she acts around guys, through the way she dresses and more.

Marcie is not the only victim of poor characterisation, although she does suffer the worst due to slut-shaming. In Crescendo characterisation is flat all around, really, to the point where I felt some characters would find more purpose being used for origami than taking part in Crescendo. And where characters were not flat they were just unlikeable.

Nora: I don't understand why I am supposed to cheer for you as our 'heroine', considering some of the nasty, despicable things you confess to doing, the nasty comments you make about Marcie and Vee - who is supposed to be your best friend! - and the way you cannot take note of anything that might be relevant even if Dobby were to pop over from Harry Potter and dance about waving with the entire clue on a flag.

Patch: I still don't like you. It creeps me out the way you are supposed to be the love interest, given the way you treat Nora and others. To borrow a phrase from Ceilidh: you are the sort of character only a fist could love.

Vee: You don't deserve the nastiness and the fat-shaming that is constantly being directed at you, not to mention all the terrible things that happen to you as a result of other characters' bad decisions.

I saw some vague signs of a plot in the midst of the first half of Crescendo, but it was poorly paced or just plain overshadowed by Nora's constant whining or the focus on reminding us again how horrible Marcie was. But really, Crescendo could have had the most amazing plot ever and I still would not be able to finish it, due to the constant slut-shaming and, to a lesser extent, fat-shaming of characters.

As I mentioned at the start, I do make a good faith effort to finish every book I start, especially when that book comes for review (see my review of Wings by Aprilynne Pike), and Crescendo is the first book in a long long time that I have given up on. Slut-shaming is a serious matter and any novel that uses it to characterise its female antagonists - and, in fact, all female characters other than the protagonist - in lieu of character depth and development is not one that is worth my time finishing, and definitely not one I recommend. In fact I recommend the opposite.

And to finish this off, let me mangle a quote from Mean Girls: We have got to stop characterising our female antagonists as sluts and whores, and letting our heroines call them such and be elevated because they aren't sluts and whores. Because that just makes it seem okay for readers to call these characters - and then other girls - sluts and whores.

And that is simply not okay. It needs to stop.
Unholy Ghosts  - Stacia Kane It’s a risky move, I think, to make the main character of your novel a drug addict. A lot of people would go into the novel at least a little biased against the protagonist (depending on your views, of course) and wondering why they should be supporting such a character. This feeling can only get worse then as it’s realised that the supporting cast is much the same – including a drug dealer, his cotillion and a rival gang leader. But in Unholy Ghosts this actually works: it’s a rough and hard world, and this is reflected in its characters. But even with this clinging to the characters, permeating their thoughts and actions, they are still compelling enough to follow and support – and mentally yell at them for not going for the romantic option you see as the right one – even when perhaps they aren’t the most likable of people.

The world Chess and others inhabit is a hard one, dark and gritty, and fantastically put together. The ghosts in it are definitely not the Casper kind, and the mystery at the center of it is not a cozy one. This is a world where ghosts can kill and the Church dominates, and drugs offer a way to get through these difficult days. The rules of the ghosts and the forms of magic is utterly fascinating, and while I think a little more regarding the Church of Real Church within the actual story would have been nice, the epigraphs taken from The Book of Real Truth were a highlight. The little glimpses into The Book of Real Truth were fascinating and really helped give a little more insight into at least the beliefs in the background of Chess’s world.

Between the world-building and the mystery, I have a hard time choosing a favorite. Unholy Ghosts has incredible pacing, and each element of the mystery is unveiled at the perfect time to keep that. It’s dark and twisted, with more than its fair share of nastiness… it’s definitely a mystery that you want to see solved. Or in this case, the problem at the heart of it made right. And perhaps that is why Chess is likable, despite the drugs and the way she seems to be coming to pieces – like us, she is seeing something terribly wrong and wants to make it right.

Overall Unholy Ghosts is a roller-coaster urban fantasy novel, with a rough heroine in an even tougher world, and a fantastic supporting cast of characters. If you’re willing to give a protagonist like Chess a try (as I am aware there are people who will be turned off by the fact she is a drug addict), then I highly recommend it to any adult urban fantasy fans.
Scarlett Dedd - Cathy Brett Well, more a 4.5 but I rounded up here.

In Scarlett Dedd, Cathy Brett combines prose and illustrations to tell a humorous yet heart-filled tale of life and everything after.

The story at the heart of Scarlett Dedd is a simple one – a young girl dies and must become accustomed to her new existence – but it’s the characters that really (if you’ll pardon the pun) bring the whole thing to life. From gloomy-quirky Scarlett to her horribly embarrassing family on one side of the great divide between life and death, and the friends Scarlett left behind, each of them are deftly crafted, both with words and illustration. Indeed, Brett makes a difficult thing look simple with the ease she made me sympathetic – even to the point of nodding along at times – with Scarlett even as she started taking actions that I did not exactly approve of.

The illustrations scattered throughout the pages make for a great complement to the written story. Her artistic style is distinct and has a real flair to it, and it was always a delight to see how the next image was going to interact with the text someway – in fact it was another reason to not put the book down, as I wanted to see what illustration was going to come next. And Brett uses these illustrations to wonderful effect, from simple things like the video rental cards of Scarlett and her friends (expired in Scarlett’s case) to gorgeous two-page illustrations of scenes taking place or settings. Combined with Scarlett’s blog entries and IM conversations between her and other ghosts, the blending of all these things with traditional prose helps make Scarlett Dedd stand out even more in a current YA paranormal already so competitive thanks to so many great books.

There was just one thing that kept Scarlett Dedd from having a full five stars. Occasionally the text was formatted in different ways depending on the scene in question, meaning you would have to tilt the book or twist it around. For the most part this was fine, and I enjoyed doing so – save for two pages. While I understand the reasons behind these two pages, having to constantly spin the book around multiple times became headache inducing, and I was forced to skip until the next non-cyclical page, which was a bit of a disappointment.

Overall, I have one thing to say about Scarlett Dead: Hurry and get yourself a copy, ASAP – you never know how much time you have left. But do be careful until then… especially when it comes to mushrooms.
Tymon's Flight - Mary Victoria In Tymon's Flight, debut novelist Mary Victoria successfully combines the best elements of fantasy and adventure while bringing to life her incredible world set inside the canopy of a giant tree.

Anyone who follows this blog should know by now that I love a book that really takes care to build the world of the story. In Tymon's Flight not only does Mary Victoria come up with a wonderful seed of an idea - cities supported by the branches of a giant tree - she plants what it means for the world and the societies within it in the earliest pages, and it's a great delight to watch how those ideas have taken root and grown. And it's all so natural, both the physical structure and the way this has effected the societies within the branches - nothing here is forced, and it flows so wonderfully well. It's hard to describe in so short a space how complex and captivating this world is - you really have to pick up the book yourself.

While marketed as an adult title, while reading Tymon's Flight I got the feeling it was more like a long young adult book - this feeling was confirmed when, at the book launch, Victoria mentioned that she was aiming for more of a young adult book, rather than an adult one. Not only is Tymon in his middle teens, the themes of Tymon's Flight are very much young adult in nature - it's a book about discovery, discovering oneself and the world one lives in, seeking the truth and deciding what is the right thing to do. And of course there's the life-changing effects of first love, and what happens when the impulsiveness that often comes with it takes root. Tymon is a dynamic character, and his journey - both physically and emotionally/mentally - is captivating, and I can't wait to see what happens to him (and Samiha!) next.

In Tymon's Flight, Mary Victoria has planted the beginnings of a great trilogy. Fortunately this trilogy grows fast, and I only have to wait until February to see where book two - Samiha’s Song - takes me and Mary Victoria's incredible imagination.
Wintercraft - Jenna Burtenshaw I have mixed feelings about Wintercraft. After taking time to think about it, to me Wintercraft is a novel that has a whole lot of great ideas that just does not quite make it when it comes to putting them all together.

There were a number of things that Wintercraft does really well. There is some really fantastic world-building here, coupled with some great description. The world of Wintercraft is a world tied (at least historically) to the dead, and that issue and concept of the other side is handled beautifully. The first proper introduction to the city of Fume – a city built on the dead and on the thought of death – is a wonderful moment, and for me was one of the high points of the story. The magic that permeates the world was fascinating too, especially since you rarely see abilities regarding the dead as anything but bad and unnatural – in fact in Wintercraft it seems to be the exact opposite, at least when practiced in accordance to the traditions of their world makes for an enthralling twist.

The other high point of Wintercraft is the character of Silas. Silas is a great anti-villain, one I hated for doing what he did, yet felt sorry for him when truths about him were revealed. Yet even as he gained sympathy through his motivations and his desires, he never lost his edge. It’s a difficult line to walk as a writer – being able to make a villain very much a villain, yet still sympathetic without taking either side too far – but Burtenshaw handles this very well.

So with such things to like, what was my trouble with Wintercraft? The answer to this question is the main character, Kate. I cannot say I liked her, and I cannot say I disliked her, really – because that would sort of suggest that I was affected by her presence in some way. And that is the problem, right there. For most of the book she seemed more like an object than an actual character. Her time seemed split between being dragged around by other characters because she had some ability that she was not really aware of, or being given repeated info-dumps by other characters regarding the history of the world, magic and the characters after/around her. Kate started to come into her own towards the end, but it was sort of too little, too late. Had she been developed more, been pro-active on her own accord (not manipulated into being so) then Wintercraft would have been an excellent, well-rounded debut.

While the flatness of the main character did some disservice to the excellent world-building, writing style and minor characters of Wintercraft, for the most part Wintercraft was an enjoyable read that just did not quite live up to its potential. Hopefully in Blackwatch, the next book (out April) see more of the Kate that started to come through at the end – because if that happens while keeping the standard of the rest of Wintercraft, it will be a very powerful follow-up.
Dark Secrets: No Time to Die and the Deep End of Fear (Dark Secrets Bind Up) - Elizabeth Chandler I really enjoyed the first bind-up of the Dark Secrets series, Legacy of Lies & Don't Tell, so I was very excited to be able to read and review the next bind-up and its two novels. Once again Dark Secrets 2 takes us back to the town of Wisteria, where strange and paranormal things happen to otherwise unconnected people.

The first story, No Time To Die, is a classic mystery, a theatre-based whodunnit with just a fraction of paranormal activity. While it is the weaker of the two stories in the bind-up, it's still a great read. It does lose a fraction of a point due to feeling vaguely like a re-tread of a concept done many times over - the vague, mystical assistance of the murder victim providing clues to the amateur sleuth - but in No Time To Die it's a mild thing (albeit one worth mentioning). The best moments were the ones away from the main mystery thread, where Jenny grows into herself and more confident about everything. The mystery picked up towards the end, with what I thought was one heck of a twist - I did not see it coming, but after getting there I was able to see how the whole story got there. Overall No Time To Die was an easy and enjoyable read.

Unlike in Dark Secrets 1, it is the second story, The Deep End Of Fear, that is my favourite of the two in the bind-up. The Deep End Of Fear is different and thus a stand-out. Even just mixing up what the paranormal aspect at the beginning could be makes a world of difference in a story - is it ghosts, psychic imprints, something else paranormal or just a lonely little boy with an uncanny knack for picking things up from adults? The mystery here is very well done, with a great amount of clever misdirection and an ending that really packs a punch. The Deep End Of Fear is a great story on its own, but it becomes memorable for the addition of a single character. Sam is one of the best YA love interests I have read in a while and amongst all of the others he's a stand-out. He's not perfect or dangerous, but he's sweet and real and helpful - he's that good guy you know in real life, or the guy you would want your daughter/kid sister to go out with. In a time where the favoured YA love interests are the beautiful bad boys, a guy like Sam - who is good to his mother, patience with lonely little kids, and sweet to the girl he likes - is a welcome change, and something I wish I could see more of. In short, an excellent story.

Overall, Dark Secrets 2: No Time To Die & The Deep End Of Fear is a great bind-up of two YA paranormal mysteries, and is due for release on August 5. The first bind-up, Legacy Of Lies & Don't Tell is out now, while the fifth book in the series, The Back Door Of Midnight, is finally out January 2011 from Simon & Schuster UK.
Dead Witch Walking  - Kim Harrison When I read and reviewed Kim Harrison's young adult novel, Once Dead, Twice Shy I made a comment about it being (hopefully) a rare fumble for an otherwise great author. Having finally read the first in her adult urban fantasy series, The Hollows, I can definitely say that my thoughts proved true.

The first thing that really struck me about Dead Witch Walking is the world-building. The Hollows world is one where a pandemic (caused by genetically modified tomatoes) wiped out a large portion of the human race. From the chaos the Inderlanders - witches (like main character and narrator Rachel Morgan), werewolves, vampires and more revealed their identities and helped keep the world from falling apart. Harrison very quickly sets up the feel of the world, the wariness of both sides and the different subtypes of Inderlanders, and deftly reveals more of the depth as time goes on. It's a fascinating world to read, full of complexities and many layers of rules, and for me it was definitely one of the high points of the novel.

The other high point to Dead Witch Walking is the characters (the plot comes in a close third). Rachel is smart and tough, yet definitely flawed. She makes her mistakes, and while she fixes some on her own sometimes she needs a little help. But isn't that what friends are for? Jenks, the devoted family man (or should I say pixy?) and tiny spy steals the spotlight as the comic relief, while Ivy - despite struggling against her nature and not so keen on what her undead future will be like - is a wonderful example of a vampire, dangerous yet fascinating, and some of the most intense scenes of the book are her struggles between herself and her vampire nature... with Rachel stuck in the middle.

While Dead Witch Walking does have a few issues common to first books in series (having to introduce all the main players, bringing up all the backstory etc.) Harrison clearly is in her element here. Dark and gritty, yet full of humour, I found Dead Witch Walking to be a very addictive read (I was very glad to have the next one at hand!) and a great next step in my journey through adult urban fantasy reads.
The White Queen - Philippa Gregory (More like 4.5 stars)

I was in a bit of a reading funk when The White Queen arrived; for over a week I had been struggling to read due to illness, and even after recovering things just did not quite click. But when I opened up the first pages of The White Queen to take a peek I found I had to keep going, and really did not put it down until I turned the last page.

Why? The first thing that captured me was the voice. Told in first person present, Elizabeth Woodville presents her tale - spanning two decades - with force and heart, and showing off the depths of her character as well. As Gregory writes her, Woodville is a woman who knows what she wants/needs, and what she must do to make it happen, whether it's standing by the road and begging a king for the return of her lands for her sons, to making that same king her husband, and doing the best for her children before and by him. Some of the ways she goes about this does not make her the most likable of characters (especially as the years pass and she ages), it still makes her a fascinating one to read as she cuts her way through everything in her path.

One thing that did stand out for me is use (possibly?) of magic in The White Queen. For those unfamiliar, Elizabeth's family claimed descent from Melusine, and the charge of witchcraft is laid against Elizabeth and her mother. Gregory spends a great deal of time devoted to this, and even now I'm not quite sure what to think of it. I was not expecting it when I opened the book, so when talk began of witchcraft and being descended from goddesses I didn't really know what to think. Even now I find myself considering the ambiguity with which it was written, and it's been a while since I actually read The White Queen. While the elements of magic did make for a somewhat awkward surprise ("what's the fantasy doing in my straight-up historical?"), once I accepted the fact that these characters believed in it, at the very least, the story became enjoyable again.

Despite a few stumbles in the appearance of witchcraft and my own unfamiliarity with the time period, The White Queen was a captivating read with a fantastic voice and a stand-out cast of real-life (if fictionalised) characters. The Red Queen, the second book in The Cousins' War, is out August.
Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy, Book 5) - Richelle Mead Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series is one of my new favourite collection of reads. Its fantastic mix of drama, romance, action, great world-building and cast of characters makes me wonder why it took me so long to pick the books up in the first place. Spirit Bound, the fifth book in the series, is a fantastic addition to the series as a whole – and as an installment on its own it is one that knocked me on my back with its twists, turns and killer of an ending.

To me, Spirit Bound is a book about consequences. After the events of Blood Promise, and what Rose did – or rather, did not do – in Siberia, Rose has returned home to find what happened there has followed her home… quite literally in fact. All of the past is catching up, and everything that they try to do to fix it doesn’t actually seem to help in a lot of ways. Sometimes the best result is merely exchanging one shade of gray for another – and in a world like that of Vampire Academy, gray is often the best thing to read.

At times during my initial reading of Spirit Bound I had a feeling like nothing much was happening, due to Spirit Bound not being as full of action as previous entries in the series, but when I thought about it afterward there was an incredible amount of things happening still. The focus here is on Rose’s emotions, her growth, all the things happening around her that concerns her and that she wants to fix. Despite being the slayer of countless Strigoi, she’s still nervous about tests she must face to look after Lissa as a guardian, and as a teenager she still has a lot of growing to do (even after five books of it!). Unlike in some other works, the quiet and normal and young moments, the stuff that simmers beneath the surface but never bubbles over are just as strong here as the emotional highs and the physical extremes. Overall it makes for a tale that is incredibly well-balanced, especially when one stops to think about things in greater detail.

Spirit Bound, with its multiple layers and shocker of an ending, is a great addition to the already fantastic Vampire Academy series. I know I will be holding out until December for the sixth and final book in Rose’s story, Last Sacrifice.
The Glass Demon - Helen Grant The Glass Demon is one of those books I knew was going to be good right from the very first lines. In just two lines Grant effectively sets up a feeling of impending doom, and with the third sets up the first death - and thus the rest of the book. With such a strong opening, standards are high for the rest of the book. But Grant's elegant writing and careful plotting make for a page-turning novel that gets better and better with each chapter.

In a YA paranormal market awash with vampires, werewolves and the like, and set in English-speaking parts of the world (mostly the United States of America), The Glass Demon stands out thanks to its slow-building series of mysterious events and deaths due to uncertain demonic causes, and (more importantly), its German setting. It is that German setting that adds to the sense of isolation and strange discovery - while main character Lin is fluent in German enough to communicate with the townsfolk and attend school, her family is not. So not only are the family isolated by the tight-knit community into which they have arrived, as well as their out-of-cell-coverage, but also by language.

But not only does Lin have to play translator for her family with regards to their new home, she also attempts to play translator within it. From the outside they look like a wonderful family, but if they themselves were a portrait made of glass it would be full of cracks. Grant deftly combines the internal family problems with the external attacks on them, and ties the whole thing together with the foreshadowing of impending doom for one of them. All in all it makes for a compelling drama, in and outside the family.

The paranormal/horror aspects are very well-handled as well. The clues to the mystery are tantalizing, while the twists and new discoveries kept me turning pages to see what happened next. The Glass Demon was definitely one of those books that once picked up I could not put down, and Lin's first person narration was excellent at building up the tension and was filled with wonderful lines and pieces of imagery. In fact, I found Lin's voice to be at its most beautiful at the most tragic of moments, and the juxtaposition there made for absolutely breathless reading.

Overall, The Glass Demon was a compelling piece of drama and horror that captured me from the first page, and its combination of religious, historical and German elements made it a stand out read. I highly recommend it.
Jekel Loves Hyde - Beth Fantaskey Beth Fantaskey's debut novel, Jessica's Guide To Dating On The Dark Side was one of my favourite reads of 2009. As you can imagine then, I was eagerly anticipating her sophomore effort. When I heard it was to be Jekel Loves Hyde I was surprised (given how different it sounded to Jessica's Guide), and now having read it I understand it much more. A blend of "what if the story was real?" and a case of history repeating it was not quite up to the standard that Jessica's Guide had set, but still quite an enjoyable read.

I enjoyed the altering (but uneven) first person narratives by Jill and Tristen. Both had really distinct voices and played off well against each other. While Jill's meek acceptance of everything was saddening, watching her journey forward made it better. Tristen, too, changes but as that is a stated goal it has a bit of a different emphasis to it. One seeks for something external to change what is inside, while the other requires a bit of poking and prodding to actually think about it. It was a very watchable journey though, with character development and science going hand-in-hand.

For the most part Jekel Loves Hyde was incredibly well-paced and absorbing. When I finally was able to tear myself away from the pages - about three quarters of the way in - I was surprised to see that only an hour (for me) had passed. I was not trying to speed along (although I know I can), Jekel Loves Hyde kept going when it had to, and did not linger where it was not supposed to. After complaining that it seems a lot of YA books are padding things out with the most mundane of activities, it is very nice to read a book that does not do that.

What kept Jekel Loves Hyde from reaching the full five stars was the last part. It almost felt like the book went, realised it was nearly at the end, went "Oops! I totally forgot about that" and then tried to cram it all in. With the emphasis on the back of the book being about bad-girl-Jill I was surprised to see that there was not as much as I thought there would be, and overall it did feel a little bit tacked on at times. This, combined with a very abrupt ending (which left me flicking back a few pages and rereading several times to check that no, I wasn't missing anything) left the book just a little bit lacking. I would not minded have minded more pages to cover this stuff - indeed I would have preferred it - but alas it was not to be.

A combination of chemistry of both the scientific and romantic kinds, Jekel Loves Hyde did not quite stand up to the level of Fantaskey's debut but it was still an enjoyable read.


Everwild  - Neal Shusterman In the second book of the Skinjacker Trilogy, Shusterman has created a powerful follow-up to Everlost. Most of what I can say about Everwild (being forced to limit some things for fear of major spoilers) I have said about Everlost... only even more so. I did not think it was possible to best Everlost, but I was wrong.

Everwild is split into three different (but inter-connected) storylines, with each follows a different main character (Allie, Nick and Mary) and revealing new aspects of Everlost. While Allie is now Allie the Outcast, searching for her place in Everlost and more about her skinjacking abilities, Nick and Mary continue their battle for the Afterlights that populate the in-between world of Everlost. The stakes are considerably higher in this sequel, and the characters - especially Mary, who impressed with the depth of her character even as that depth proved shocking - rise to meet them.

Secondary characters are important in Everwild, and it is impressive how much detail each of these characters gets. Shusterman has an incredible gift for writing well-rounded, well-developed characters. My clear favourite was Zin, a tough little girl with a powerful gift and a heart to match. But she is not the only one, of course, and the large supporting cast makes Everwild an even more enjoyable read.

I have to say, I did not see the ending coming. While unfortunately the blurb spoiled one major plot development (don't you hate it when that happens? That's why the Everwild blurb I posted here has been edited slightly, to remove that twist), what was not spoiled proved unexpected and riveting. I could not put Everwild down in the last quarter, and the finale caused my jaw to literally drop. It makes perfect sense to the story, and definitely was the right choice but... wow. That is all I am going to say - you are just going to have to read it to find out.

There was just one problem with Everwild: I did not have the third and final part of the trilogy, Everfound, at hand.
The Evil Within - Nancy Holder
Those who read this blog or follow me on twitter will probably know that I am a big Nancy Holder fan, and after reading Possessions - which I was unable to put down while reading, especially towards the end - I was very keen on getting to The Evil Within. What was really great was not just that I was not disappointed, but that Holder had improved on everything - all the little things that I didn't quite like about Possessions, or that I felt could have been handled differently (for the better) were fixed here, and to me it made The Evil Within an even better read than its predecessor.

In Possessions a lot of the early story was rich kid/scholarship, Mean Girls-type of drama, with the paranormal coming in behind that. While the rich kid, Mean Girls drama adds flavour to The Evil Within, the paranormal aspect of the series was in full-force here. To me the change in emphasis is a good thing - it helps pick up the pace a bit and really gets into all the things that I wanted answered after reading the first book. It also allows the characterisation to pick up - now that everything seems more focussed, and with higher stakes and new goals for characters, everything gets expanded and for the best.

I love a book that keeps me guessing along with the characters, and The Evil Within definitely managed to do that. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen next, something came along and flipped me so I was not sure/was proved wrong - and it wasn't in a way that didn't make sense/conflicted with everything that had set up, so it made for a fantastic whirlwind of a plot. If Pretty Little Devils had me guessing and second-guessing the truth, then The Evil Within had been fourth and fifth-guessing at what would happen and had happened. And as a person who tends to figure things out 'too soon', I loved that.

Overall The Evil Within was an incredibly spooky read that, once picked up proved very addictive and difficult to put down. Now that I have finished The Evil Within though, and put it down, it is now simply a matter of eagerly waiting for part three.

Legacy: A Private Novel (Private Series)

Legacy  - Kate Brian The sixth book in the Private series, Legacy picks off a few days after the ending of Inner Circle, and it confirms some of my feelings about Inner Circle while failing to live up to some of hopes for Legacy that came with from the book before.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, and so in Legacy we begin to see more of the flaws of main character Reed. Some of the perks of the position seemed a little ridiculous while reading (is that really how those born into wealth and privilege live? It seems almost as fantastical as anything in the paranormal market at the moment) but Reed’s reactions to having them are what really count here. There is temptation, there is worry about what to do with these gifts – use, or abuse? – and it is interesting to see how Reed copes (or does not cope) with leadership while also dealing with everything that is going on.

Unfortunately, Legacy appears to have trouble finding its footing regarding a few other plots. The death of Cheyenne, an event that at the beginning of Legacy (and, of course, at the end of Inner Circle) has rocked the characters… and then it’s cast aside for the most part in favour of the greater tragedy: super special Easton students cannot go to a super special party? While the plotline of solving that problem was an interesting one, and yes, Cheyenne’s death was not completely forgotten (there are some vague nods to it throughout the book, and almost a half-hearted attempt at explaining a subplot to the main storyline), it still did not really endear me to the story or the characters that it is just suddenly brushed aside.

The Private series are (in my experience) light, easy reads, and Legacy is no exception. If you are into scheming young women of privilege and the world they reside in, then Legacy (and the rest of the series) may just be for you.