Still in Canada. While scheduling posts, I realized that I never have shared with y’all the guest reviews that I post on other sites. I review a lot for one blog in particular, Luxury Reading. I have permission to post the posts on my blog, but I never have. So, I hope y’all enjoy my reviews. They’re a different style than I normally do in my blog. They’re shorter, have links to Amazon, and summarize the book more than the actual review. I hope y’all enjoy!
Wentworth Hall by Abby Graham
Wentworth Hall is wilting. While the family’s fortune may be dwindling, there are still plenty of secrets and scandals. Maggie used to be a fun, vibrant girl and is now moody and withdrawn. At least her parents don’t have to worry about her antics anymore, but somebody in the hall is trying to figure out what happened to her. Appearances are everything in the glorious Britain of 1912. An anonymously published newspaper column details every bit of their lives that are quickly falling apart. Meanwhile, Lila, Maggie’s younger sister, is jealous that Maggie gets everything and doesn’t even realize how lucky she is.
Wentworth Hall had a lot of supporting characters that did contribute to the story and their motivations competed against each other in about everything. I actually really enjoyed the character relationships but wished that the back story was more complex. Some characters complaints didn’t seem like complaints to me and they didn’t seem that real either.
I may have misled myself with Wentworth Hall. I assumed that it would be dramatic, but would also have a lot more going on. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. There was so much opportunity to elaborate, make the characters more complex, the backstory more tangled. It had so much potential. The glitzy premise and a house falling into disrepair were extremely promising. The characters started off fresh and richly composed, so I thought it would continue.
Wentworth Hall followed almost the same story line as every other book like this. It was really predictable. The framework was there. The first few chapters were fantastic. I was waiting for Abby Grahame to build on the characters, to reveal something shocking, but everything that she ended doing was just so predictable. A book like this should take risks and it just felt like Grahame was playing it safe.
The numerous points of view provided a lot of opportunities for Grahame to play with character’s perceptions of each other but these were rarely appreciated. I did enjoy the frothy drama but found myself disappointed by lost chances. If you’re a fan of The Luxe series, you may enjoy this, but if you’re looking for something deeper, I say skip it.
Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins
Anna has been seeing them all her life: colorful outlines reflecting a person’s emotions surrounding their bodies. Nobody knows about her special gift and she doesn’t plan to relinquish that secret anytime soon. Everything changes when she meets Kaidan Rowe.
Kaidan Rowe is the complete opposite of anybody that Anna ever thought that she would be attracted to, but Anna can’t help herself. His alluring nature and dark personality draw her in, but when she turns sixteen, she finds out the real reason behind her attraction, as well as the reasons behind her father’s absence and her special gift.
Demons and angels control the balance of the world. Anna is the daughter of a guardian angel and a fallen one, splitting her nature and forcing her to choose which side to embrace at any given time. Turning sixteen is hard enough, and having an impossible choice thrust in front of her makes it even worse. So when she falls for Kaidan – the son of the demon of Lust – will she end up in the darkness too?
Hiding her past and trying to unearth her nature turn out to be more difficult than she ever could have expected, especially when she and Kaidan embark on a road trip to find out exactly what secrets lay hidden within her.
Sweet Evil is my favorite book of the year. No other book that I have read has even come close to toppling it from its throne. The character development was one of the most intriguing parts of this book, especially when Wendy Higgins threw in the struggle between good and evil and different shades of grey within the two. Anna was an engaging character and one that I instantly fell in love.
Everything about Sweet Evil – characters, writing, plot – was spot on and it has been one of the most put-together and balanced books that I’ve ever read. It’s hard to even find the words to describe the affection and addiction that I have for this book. The battling forces of dark and light and the sizzling chemistry between seemingly wicked Kaidan and tenderhearted Anna kept my eyes glued to the page.
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
The Calling is the sequel to The Gathering, and starts up where the previous book left off. After Maya and her friends witness a strange group of people lighting fires in the Vancouver Island woods, they are evacuated from their isolated town via helicopter. Maya and her friends don’t understand why these things are happening to them, but have some unique abilities. Maya – with her Native heritage – has a small faded paw print birthmark on her hip, and has recently discovered that she is a skin-walker, or can change into a cougar. Daniel senses things about people, and they start to wonder if the town might have a more sinister purpose for keeping them isolated from the rest of the world. After the events in the previous book, they start to wonder which side to take.
When their helicopter crashes in the middle of the Vancouver Island wilderness, the group of teens is stranded without food or water, trying to find their way back to their families against a ticking clock. Their enemies are still after them, trying to pick them off one by one and they don’t know why. Secrets are uncovered. The people that they have known their entire lives have started to turn against each other, wondering who to trust. The main question is: who is the enemy?
I was having a bit of deja vu at the beginning of The Calling because it almost reminded me of Flight 29 Down or Beauty Queens, without the satire. Everything was at first very abrupt. Maya is as likable a character as always, and we learn more about each character as the story line progresses. One of the strengths and one of my favorite parts of the book is Kelley Armstrong’s ability to change my perception of a character with only a few sentences. I enjoyed hearing more about the backstories and it added to the twists that came. Maya was a bit of an unreliable narrator because she struggled with how she judged people, but it worked with the book.
The action and paranormal aspects of The Calling book were incredible. It was cleverly written and everything started to knit together and make sense, although every once in a while something would happen that would turn things upside down all over again. I tore through this book in less than an hour – it was filled with action and intrigue, while still featuring all the character development and cleanliness that I enjoy in all my books. It’s hard to capture both qualities, and Armstrong made it look effortless. I loved it.
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
I had never read anything by Sarah Ockler before but she’s the author of Twenty Boy Summer - a book everyone is always insisting that I read. So when I got the opportunity to read Bittersweet, I jumped at the chance.
One of the most endearing things about Bittersweet is the protagonist, Hudson. Hudson has always been an ice skater, destined for greater things. Her parents, especially her dad, supported her dream. But three years ago, Hudson found evidence of her dad’s affair, the one that tore their family apart. Now she can’t imagine trusting him again, or even trusting the people around her.
After abandoning her life on the ice and going through her parents’ messy divorce, Hudson finds herself inventing cupcakes at her mother’s diner and coaching a boys’ hockey team. She doesn’t let anybody get too close to her, and quietly yearns to get back on the ice, missing its familiarity. With her mother’s diner going under, Hudson learns of a skating competition that could save her family, but could also reopen a lot of old wounds. But with her mother’s livelihood on the line and with Hudson falling in love with a boy who is perfect for her, will her trust problems cause her to miss her chance?
It’s rare for me to read a book where the main character is incredibly passionate about one thing. For me, it’s dance. For Hudson, it’s ice skating. Her passion comes through on every page and and the terminology is easy to pick up and understand even for readers unfamiliar with the sport.
The best and most important parts of Bittersweet are the relationships between Hudson and the people around her. She has trouble with her friends, with her mom and dad, and even with the boy who she is falling for. These relationships are bittersweet because Hudson truly loves the people involved, but allows the doubts and sadness over her family to take over. She is a strong character who is thoughtful and interesting to read about, but her problems truly make her memorable.
The writing in this book was impeccable. I never expected Sarah Ockler’s writing to touch me so deeply. It was all the little things that made it memorable: the cupcake descriptions at the beginning of each chapter that made my mouth water, the natural and clear dialogue, the blossoming romance, and Hudson’s sense of self.
With talented writing and a sweet story line, Bittersweet is not a book to miss.
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Pandemonium is the sequel to Delirium, and picks up where the first book left off. This series takes place in a dystopian world where love is a disease. Lena and Alex defied the society when they fell in love, and promised each other to escape to the Wilds where they could be free to love each other. Lena made it; Alex didn’t.
Lena wakes up to a girl tending to her, who tells her about the ragtag family of runaways she has found herself in and their system for surviving. They never want to go back to a place where they can’t love each other but it takes strength to survive in the Wild. Lena finds herself working harder than she has ever had to in order to bring down the society. Pandemonium is told in two time periods – one in the present, where Lena is inside the society working to bring them down, and another as flashbacks where she is reflecting upon her time in the Wild. When Lena falls in love with Julian, the son of an organization that is anti-love, she doesn’t know whether or not she can truly trust him.
Lena’s time in the Wild is filled with terror and she struggles to survive. She needs to rely on inner strength more than ever and she develops as a memorable character. She struggles with her love for Alex, what she left behind, and what she’ll be facing in the future. Lena’s character was so wonderful in this book that she was definitely a highlight.
Delirium was just okay for me. When I picked up Pandemonium, I was expecting a pretty good read. Instead, it blew me away. Lauren Oliver truly hit her stride inPandemonium and I couldn’t read fast enough. The book was captivating, and did not suffer from the middle book/filler syndrome. It had its own plot while still setting up for the third book. The cliffhanger at the end made me want to throw the book across the room because I want the next book NOW.
Pandemonium is full of hope and despair and made me think about everything that is good and bad about love. Oliver’s creativity and stunning prose shines in this sequel. Dangerous, addictive, and gorgeous, you won’t be able to putPandemonium down.
Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
Ari has always been different. With her silvery hair and startling teal eyes, she is considered an anomaly. Every year, she keeps it together by believing that her estranged mother holds the answers to who she really is.
Once Ari finds the mental institution that her mother had been in, she also has to face a horrifying truth. How could her mother commit suicide? How is it possible that the one beacon of hope she’s had all these years could be gone? Who should she turn to now?
Eventually, Ari decides to go to New 2, the dystopian city that used to be called New Orleans, a treasure trove of information, history, and paranormal activity. She needs to know who she is and why she is the way she is, and she wants more than anything to find the answers soon. In New 2, Ari meets a cast of characters, and realizes that the truth may be closer than she thinks.
What intrigued me the most about Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton was the interesting premise. A ruined city of New Orleans, a girl with silver hair, a mother who commits suicide, and a search for answers? It sounded like the perfect winding adventure.
I did love the diverse cast of characters in New 2. They each had very flavorful personalities and distinct dialogue that allowed you to identify them easily. Their backgrounds were created so seemingly effortlessly that this was one of the few elements of the book that I enjoyed.
The problem for me was that I simply couldn’t connect to Ari. Her personality wasn’t the most unique and her line of thought seemed like it didn’t translate to narration very well. This is one of those books that is either hit-or-miss. I know some who simply adored it but I was one of those people classified in the “miss” category, unfortunately.
The writing was not good enough to justify for its slow-moving plot and an irritating protagonist. The idea behind the plot became apparent as the story developed, but I felt as if the element came in too late for it to make a difference to the pacing. I wished that Keaton would have introduced it earlier, because for the majority of the book, I was waiting for everything to happen.
The ending felt rushed while the beginning and middle felt lazy, and dragged on for me. I wanted Darkness Becomes Her to be dark and intense, or simply be a satisfying story. Unfortunately, it wasn’t either.
Irises by Francisco X. Stork
Irises is not the type of book that I would normally pick up for myself, but I found myself surprisingly loving it. The book is simply about sisters trying to find themselves when everything around them is falling apart. When Kate and Mary’s father dies, they find themselves alone with nobody else but each other. Their mother has been in a permanent vegetative state for three years and their preacher is barely more than a stranger to them.
Kate has always dreamed of being a doctor and getting her M.D. at Stanford. The problem is that her father had always expected her to stay home and take care of her mother and sister. Although she wants nothing more than to leave it all behind, she is held back by her sense of duty. Mary is an artistic spirit, a girl wrapped up in her own dreams and struggles of being an artist.
When their father dies, the two girls are filled with grief, but lurking on the edges of their minds is the word freedom. Although things are tough financially, Kate can now go to Stanford and Mary can stay home and paint if she wishes.
Just as their lives seem to settle down, three men enter the sister’s lives. Two of them are Kate’s toughest choice yet. Her old boyfriend Simon has just proposed to her, but she finds herself having feelings for the young preacher that her father taught – Reverend Andy Soto. Mary is infatuated with Marcos, a gang member; Marcos is dangerous, and Mary is not sure whether to pursue the relationship or run away from it.
When their mother’s life is put on the line, Kate and Mary must choose between keeping their family together and chasing their dreams.
Irises was very thought-provoking and earnest, but in a quiet way. It felt more like a whisper than a shout. Its main focus was on family, and how far you should go to provide for them without giving up your own identity. The promise of a book about the sister’s relationship was what drew me in and it’s what makes Irises truly special.
This novel was by far character driven. It was amazing to read about the range of emotions and conflicted feelings that Kate and Mary shared. There was a fine line between what they each wanted to be and what they were expected to be. People thought that Kate was selfish for wanting to leave her family behind and go to Stanford, but they didn’t know that it was killing her inside. Mary seemed carefree on the surface, but secretly struggled just as much as her sister.
Honest and sweet, Irises explores grief and family. It was stunning to read, and was complex in a way that’s hard to describe. It touches you and makes you think about what you leave behind when you chase your dreams.
I hope y’all enjoyed my reviews! You can catch me anytime at Luxury Reading under the name “Grace Soledad”. I named myself that last year for the blog because I was paranoid about putting my name on the internet and I thought it sounded pretty. Enjoy!
Love y’all! Can’t wait until I’m back!