Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Mini-Review: Dream Man by Linda Howard

72623Detective Dane Hollister of the Orlando police department has never met anyone quite like Marlie Keen. While he has doubts about her supposed clairvoyant powers, she sees crimes as they’re being committed, there is no doubt about how much he desires her. To Marlie, Dane is all heat and hard muscle, and he makes her body come alive as it never has before. But not even she can foresee that their passion will lead them on a dangerous journey into the twisted mind of a madman who will threaten their happiness and their lives.

 

 

I am officially in love with Linda Howard’s writing. Before Dream Man, I read Howard’s Dying to Please and I was absolutely enamored with it as well. These books fall well into the romantic suspense genre, but unlike the other books in this category, in Howard’s books the romantic aspects do not in anyway eclipse the mystery and suspense.

The plot is thoroughly thought out, there aren’t any loose ends or enigmas once you finish the book, everything is revealed and neatly put to rest. One brilliant thing that Howard does in her books, is that she writes brief scenes from the killer’s perspective. It might be disturbing, but it really helps you get a glimpse of what in the murderer’s head.

The characters are another reason to adore Linda Howard’s writing. They are apologetically human, Howard portrays their vulnerability and insecurities without adding unnecessary drama into the mix. The romance is sweet with chemistry that shines through; and with the stakes high you can practically feel the urgency exuding from the characters.

In conclusion, what Linda Howard does in Dream Man and Dying to Please is something many others have failed at; which is to find balance between mystery, suspense and romance. I highly recommend her books to fans of these genres, the will not be disappointed.

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Posted in Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

12959908_618362744995114_1799119084_nGraceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Firstly, I was very hesitant to read Cruel Beauty. I read some very mixed reviews and that it included a love triangle, which I absolutely loathe. But in the end I was too intrigued and gave it a shot and I’m so glad I did.

 

Plot

As you can tell from the blurb, this is a kind of Beauty and the Beast retelling. Once upon a time, Nyx’s father made a bargain with The Gentle Lord; his wife would get pregnant and they would have two daughters. In exchange, The Gentle Lord would have one of the daughters to marry once she turns seventeen. As in every story, no bargain is so simple. The wife died giving birth to her daughters.

Seventeen years later, the time has come for Nyx to marry The Gentle Lord and go live with him. She has been told all her life that it was her duty to save her kingdom, even if she has to die in order to do so. But what Nyx finds that neither The Gentle Lord -Ignifex- nor his castle are what she expected. Now, while exploring the enchanted castle and uncovering ancient secrets, Nyx has to decide whether to fulfill what has always been expected of her or follow her heart’s desire.

Characters

In my opinion, there’s two main reasons this book was a success: the characters and the writing. I love morally complex books, and Nyx, Ignifex and Shade are very intricately written characters that suck you into the story, and leave you desperately wanting to know more about them after every page.

Nyx, unlike the original Beauty, has darkness in her heart. And why wouldn’t she? She’s been told since she was a child that her only purpose in life is to marry and destroy Ignifex. Her father never showed her the love he bestowed upon her sister, only trained and raised her to lead her to her own doom. She battled with feelings of anger, guilt, hatred, selfishness, kindness, self loathing and responsibility. Her relationship with her family is very complicated, she harbors bitterness towards them, but she feels especially guilty that she feels that way towards her sister. Watching her cope with these emotions is very intriguing, heart-wrenching and eye opening. It was so refreshing reading about a female character who knows that she has some darkness in her and actually accepts that part of her, after all she’s only human. She doesn’t act like a martyr, she does what needs to bee done, and while she might sometimes be overly aggressive she isn’t cruel or unkind to anyone undeserving. I could go on and on about her actually but then I would never finish.

Ignifex -The Gentle Lord- was very, very difficult to like in the beginning. Don’t expect to see the misunderstood Beast in this story because you won’t explicitly find him. Ignifex is also a very complex character and it’s easy to see his logic but not easy to understand. He makes bargains with people who call to him, and while they may have pure intentions they are sadly misguided, and to him these people deserve what they get for trying to-more or less-cheat at life. There’s also the other side of him which beautifully connects and entangles with Nyx’s light and dark side. The caring, gentle, protective and thoughtfulness he shows. In addition to his fierce, cunning, and seductive nature.

Shade-Ignifex’s-servant/shadow is a complete enigma. From the start, readers never know the whole truth about him until the very end. And the shocking revelation left me satisfied.

Romance

As I mentioned in the beginning of my review, there is a bit of a love triangle in this book. But there isn’t anything typical and traditional about it.

Like the rest of the book, the romance-love triangle included-is very complex and elaborate. The relationships are based on more than just love. Trust, compatibility and unconditional love are only some of the factors that Hodge weaves into the intricate romance of this book.

The romance is also very linked to the characters themselves, rather than just random feelings or mere circumstance. There’s also an important and controversial question asked: Should you fall in love with someone kind but doesn’t really know you, or somebody wicked who loves you regardless of your own darkness?

Writing

Sometimes when authors try to write poetically, they lose sight of their story and the plot, writing and characters all get jumbled up and lost within each other. But in Cruel Beauty the poetic writing was done beautifully and it was actually one of the best things about it. Hodges writing hypnotizes readers and draws them into a beautiful world of beautiful monsters, starless skies and lethal love.

 

In conclusion, Cruel Beauty is a beautifully written, morally complex and heart-wrenching read with many twists and shocking revelations and answers that will leave readers breathless and satisfied.

Posted in Book Reviews

Review: The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong

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A MASTERPIECE OF TERROR AND SUSPENSE FROM #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR KELLEY ARMSTRONG.

Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.

Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.

The Masked Truth starts with our heroine Riley Vasquez going to therapy camp to deal with her PTSD, after witnessing a violent murder while babysitting. There she meets a variety of teens whom, like her, have mental health issues. During one of their sessions, they’re taken hostage, along with their therapists, by three masked men. After a series of tragic and fast paced events, Riley gets away from her captors along with Max. Max is British, sarcastic, strange and a bit enamored with Riley.

Now both of them are playing a deadly version of cat and mouse with their captors in a maze-like building, while simultaneously dealing with their mental issues and surviving an impossible situation.

 

Plot

The Masked Truth is kind of  The Breakfast Club meets Saw. Riley and Max are running around a building with a lot of hallways trying to find a way out or supplies to help them get out, not knowing whether any of the other teenagers or their therapists are alive. I personally thought Kelley Armstrong did an awesome job writing these scenes. A couple of kids running around a building should get repetitive and boring  after a while, but Armstrong’s execution was brilliant and kept me on the edge of my seat. Also, another brilliant move was continuing the story after the hostage situation-with the characters left alive. During the hostage situation the book was in a thriller stage. But after while the thrilling aspects still remain, the book veers into a mystery genre kind of direction, which I absolutely loved. I didn’t expect this book to have so much directions, with it being a standalone. But it has a lot of different aspects that all mesh into one wonderful book.

Pacing

The books pacing is actually the only issue I had with the book. The beginning was terribly slow, in my opinion. But then when the action started and the pace picked up I couldn’t put this book down. Towards the end during certain scenes it did slow down again, I guess it was appropriate, a kind of chill in between all the excitement, but then it picked right back up until the very end.

Characters

Riley Vasquez is one of those relatable characters, not in the sense of what happened to her, but personality-wise. She isn’t in your face strong and crass, neither is she awkward or meek. She’s just normal, save for her PTSD. And even with her mental illness she doesn’t constantly moan about it or bring it up every chance she gets. That’s not to say that she’s written with PTSD without showing any signs of it. It’s there, but most of her turmoil is inside her head, and of course it does bleed out into her actions but not in an overly obvious way. She could keep a cool head and think rationally during stressful situations,and I admired that. Her characterization was done right and she became one of my favorite characters in no time.

Max Cross might seem like your average British bad boy at first, but throughout the book the stereotype is completely shattered and we get to see why he acts a certain way. And funnily enough, while getting to know more about him, he gradually seems less and less intimidating and more like an actual scared teenager. I’ve read a lot of reviews where people criticized the long inner monologues where Max’s point of view is concerned, and I can see why they might get annoyed. But to me, the more I read the more interested I got in knowing how his mind worked, especially since we don’t get the full picture on his mental illness until a little later in the book.

There are also a lot of other characters in this book, but I won’t get into detail with them because of spoilers, but I will say this: I love how Kelley Armstrong didn’t write them as one dimensional stereotypes. Every character had more than one side, and their actions weren’t all black and white.

Romance

The romance in this book was beautifully portrayed. While Max had a harmless little crush on Riley since before the book, Riley was more or less oblivious since they haven’t interacted that much before they were sent to the same therapy camp. But being on the run with someone has a funny way of bringing people closer together, and that’s what happened to Max and Riley. Since they were thrown together by fate or circumstance, they developed a sort of dependency or rather a bond between them. That bond grew and turned into genuine affection and care, because even though they haven’t interacted much before, they’re bound to get to know each other going to the same groups for a few months.

The Mental Illnesses

One of the greatest things about this book was the portrayal of mental illnesses. As I mentioned before, the characters weren’t one dimensional and black and white-neither were their illnesses. We’ve all read about characters with anxiety who suffer from panic attacks every five minutes or depression who won’t get close to people, but ultimately get better when their friends and love interest saves them. This-thankfully-isn’t one of those books. While Riley and Max aren’t elated about their mental conditions, they are however accepting of them. They know it’s no use living in denial, so they try to deal. Also, their budding friendships and romance doesn’t ultimately cure them. They acknowledge several times in the book that there isn’t a cure, that they can’t save each other, but that there are things to do for the other person that can help make things easier in that moment

 

In conclusion, The Masked Truth is a thrilling mystery by the talented Kelley Armstrong. Fans of Ellie Marney’s Every series and Sarah Alderson’s Conspiracy Girl will love this book.