Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like I've already mentioned in Beastly my favorite fairy tale is the Beauty and the Beast so that in itself was enough to pick this book up. When I got it, I had not many expectations and this was the first time I was picking up Stacey Jay so a new slate with really no previous experience was a given. I guess I'm prolonging to write how I felt about it but see, it's a valid reason- I can't find any words to express what I'm feeling! All the usual adjectives of 'speechless' and etc.. can't be applied here. This story is so out of the ordinary that it's unbelievable! When I first read the synopsis, to be fair, I was not thrilled to have got the book because the synopsis is that misleading. I thought that the plot would be nothing really worthy and a breezy read. Boy, was I wrong.
This story does have a resemblance with the story that we know of but it's only enough to know that this book is slightly based on the original fairy tale and that's about it! Nothing else is remotely linked or boringly similar to what we know and this point is what makes this book so incredible. At first glance it seems deceptively simple and light but as soon as you get to a few chapters you know you've been duped royally (no pun intended). When I want to start putting some of the elements making this book what it is, I can't decide where to start because of course all of them are mind-blowing.
It seems like a typical Romeo-Juliet situation as well because of the physical differences creating that huge barrier between a race of people. Isra, the Princess/Queen of the Smooth Skins and Gem, the ordinary warrior of the Monstrous are interesting characters unto themselves even with the addition of their blooming friendship through the book. The original linear line of the plot is upended and here it's the 'beauty' who has captured and imprisoned the 'beast'. The plot is of the finest intellect with just enough tension, emotions and character development to keep the book moving at a pace worthy of a journey. The vast physical differences between the two races and their dwelling terrain is jarring and yet fitting. The addition of the nature of magic and it's way of working is really commendable and heart warming. The creep factor and scare tactics were a welcome element to spice the story. The gory details of mutant genes were also very appropriate and seemingly easily blended into the plot.
The characters were extremely well-layered, even the secondary ones. Isra's character was spotlight-snatching and more easy-to-focus on than Gem's. Gem was also fairly enrapturing and yet simpler than Isra especially at the end. I would have liked more of Gem's POV because I found him just as fascinating. The emotions were raw, easy to sympathize with and in a vast range. The writing was old-fashioned and yet a little modern and very beautiful in prose. That writing in itself is a point enough to read this book. That romance of Isra and Gem is another highlight of the story. It was slow, creeping and very satisfying. The world-building from Jay is also worth mentioning because she does it flawlessly. The way she created the history of both the tribes was very spell-binding and a huge part of the plot.
This is a book easily enjoyable by anyone and yet is heavy on thought provocation and incredible characters as well as a satisfying (if cheesy in the end) plot.
Jay is an author to look out for and I hope to read more of her very soon.
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Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I've been into Gothic romances and so was interested in reading Unspoken. The synopsis felt very promising and I had read great reviews from some friends of mine. I feel I'm sitting on the fence for this one because their are equal amounts of great elements and really bad frustrating points of this book.
The beginning was written in a way that captured my attention and I can't find fault in that. Kami feels like a kick-ass, bold, imaginative, feisty, adventurous, restless sort of girl with a healthy (unhealthy for me) amount of curiosity and a very inquisitive 'journalistic' nature. I was hoping she would continue to live upto and go beyond my expectations as the book proceeds. The writing felt very full of humour, the regional elements making it richer, the characters like Angela and Rusty upping the ante. What I always found intriguing from the synopsis was that Kami could hear a voice in her head and that voice would in the course of events, turn out to be a real person. This was the most fascinating part of the book for me and I loved how the author handled it- the feelings of each Kami and Jared when they discover their respective voices in the heads turning into real people were so stormy and gripping. There was no insta-love for which I was grateful because this turns out to be dangerous for just about any book... After this entrance of Jared though I began to have uneasy feelings regarding just about everything in the book; maybe it was intuition. I loved how Kami pursued everything and didn't really leave Jared alone. Although, very often I did feel discomfort that whatever questions were raised in Kami's mind could easily be answered right after them being asked and this wasn't done just for the sake of 'right' timing and the plot-pace. I tried to overcome it but the niggling was there through the whole book for me. Most of the book got Kami which also was jarring and disappointing. I did like how there were slight layers to Kami's character as well as the secondary ones although they could've been deepened or multiplied to get into the characters better. Jared (oh Jared!) was one of the finest 'bad boy' characters I've ever encountered. Even with so less of a time in the book, he managed to be my favorite character. He was very very heart wrenching- the ignored child hated by parents, unable to understand his uniqueness, having the ability to be so very kind and generous and caring even after tolerating such parental cruelty and crushing lonliness thrown in with the life on streets in America, having the emotional range all through black and white and being so human. He also actually remained mysterious even after showing so much of himself and my heart just broke for him when Kami did that HORRENDOUS thing in the climax(This was manufactured to happen clearly for plot-block and progress for the next book...). And what truly made me hate her was her reaction and emotions after what SHE did. You know, all through the book she wanted to find a way to carry it out; all the while taking Jared for granted, and after all that, on the final moment she changes her mind (no doubt the author's doing again for the sake of the plot...) and 'realizes' her feelings right at the climax and still she does the horrifying thing! I would expect someone feminist and intelligent to at least be true to herself when she was bold out in the world but obviously that can't be allowed because how else would their be a (fake) romance? Feelings can't be judged, many say but I still say that Kami had no right to feel the way she did after carrying out her OWN decision. Jared is simply amazing and capable of being romantic even after being what he is and having endured what he has and being so lonely most of his life except for Kami's voice in his head. I can't really blame him for not wanting their connection severed because all his life, Jared felt that only Kami was on his side and supported him wholeheartedly for most of his life. After half the book, Kami became more and more self-absorbed and selfish, unable to see anything/one beyond herself. I don't think being a feminist leads to being egotistic so I resent the author for painting a character and progressing her in this way. I felt Kami could have been so much more than a paranoid person suspecting a person whose mind she can read and someone she's known all her life; more than a self-absorbed idiot capable of realising danger and knowing her friends thoroughly (It was so extremely obvious about Angela's secret! How could their own best friend not see it?!). I hated Kami by the end of the book and felt completely disconnected from her. Angela, the fierce angry girl, was a great character along with Rusty mixing in the humour, the quality of being laid-back and lazy but having the alertness and agility for danger (somehow...)... Ash always went into non-existence for me, maybe the author didn't put enough of a character in him... Lillian and Rosalind were paper thin. Rob was black and white.
The conversations between characters seemed very stilted and unrealistic-who talks so formally even in England? The strange turns and complete turning back over subjects and the breaks and 180s on the flow of any conversation were disorienting and jarring so the author failed to really incorporate the trademark British element and was left with only feeble attempts, with the flimsy pieces of the culture, some very abrupt wit (which although nice lightening humour, was uncalled for the occasion most of the time) and stunted dialogue. Kami is way too engrossed being one point of a love triangle (although this existence of the love triangle is very vaguely hinted) instead of actually taking the mystery and the murders seriously. Overall Kami disappointed me terribly because at some level I liked the Japanese heritage (yup, I'm a sucker for anything Japanese), the interesting family of devilish brothers, the slightly distant yet loving father, the scared mother (all this created dysfunction for me and there goes another black mark...), the initial character I glimpsed which vanished halfway and never came back... The thing is Brennan managed to not fall in some contemporary-romance traps but did hopelessly and utterly fall in the others just in the effort to make this story an original. Trying too hard can suck the life out of a story as well, Miss Brennan.
It is so disappointing when you get the dream of a treasure and even get to glimpse at it and then it stops getting nearer and simply vanishes out of sight in the middle of your journey.
Jared and the cliffhanger are the only things taking me to Untold and I won't shell out the bucks for this one.
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In ONE FOR THE MONEY, Stephanie Plum is introduced to us. She is a divorced, ex-lingerie buyer for Macy's who's desperate for a job after being out of employment for six months (and here starts the outrageousness) and at her parent's house for dinner is mildly humiliated by having her car picked up by the people who owe her money. This leads her to get a job from her pervert cousin to be a bounty-hunter but as they say Desperate times, Desperate measures. Now she needs quick money in her broke condition and there's always a personal revenge/grudge to be avenged, making it a huge motivation. Joe Morelli the big bad cop on the lam for murder (who also took her virginity and never called back so there you go) is skipping the court date with a million dollars of bail bond money allowing her a healthy 10 percent of it as reward of catching him. Morelli is proving to be elusive of course and there encounters although brief are hilariously stomach cramping. There's a light mystery with somewhat dangerous drug dealers, the element of the wild, very quirky (that they put a new definition to it) characters like Grandma Mazur, Stephanie's mom and dad, the colourful characters in her burg and the ensuing outrageously impossible events with butt-cracking humour, the feeling of community making it difficult and funny at the same time for Stephanie to conduct about her business.
The humour element is most noticeable and unparelelled to most others. The drama is hardcore but the levity of a burg community is really relieving. I loved most elements of the books even when sometimes Stephanie's choices were teeth-grindingly frustrating and her clothing choices, hilarious. There's the injecting-humour through drama, outrage and stupidity thing going on and this makes for light breezy reading even sometimes you begin to care about the characters too.
The humour is dominant and eclipsing but it's hardly a problem and worth reading the book for. Stephanie is a normal woman turned bounty hunter but I would have expected her to be taking her job more seriously which she doesn't and this might create a problem for me in the rest of the series if Evanovich continues it. If Evanovich would have done some of the maturity in Stephanie, she would be on par with Kristen for me and I can already guess that I might grow tired of her style if there's only the same kind of thing going on in the rest of her books.
Looking forward to reading
Two for the Dough
The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I'm gonna be honest (of course...) this is the first Higgins novel that has truly disappointed me and I've been seriously let down. It gives me a headache to even think about this!!! I had hoped there would be no books from Higgins that would really be crappy to me; being careful to select the interesting synopsis only...
The main huge glaring hole in this book was obviously that female lead- Lucy. Higgins for the second time, chose another spineless idiot girl who couldn't think for herself (although those were her first thoughts) or even anyone else and that always does it for me. However much I try to find redeeming points ( in some cases, if any) there were none to be found... I wanted to wail and despair that this was happening. How could Higgins drown so completely in all those holes of the usual contemporary romance shit???? *deep defeated sigh*
Well, getting on with it, the book started out with me sitting on the fence as I was discovering right in the first chapter that we were already lumped in the middle of the story and that Lucy is breaking off their 'friends with benefits' relationship because she doesn't even want to give Ethan a chance and wants to just find a 'normal' guy (whose specifications are extremely tedious which really negates her claim of finding anyone 'normal'-how cliche and terribly boringly predictable) and have a boring life. On one hand she doesn't want to be alone for the rest of her life like the Black Widows- her mom and aunts (to whom we'll come at a later junction) and on the other she has too tall of a list for any candidate and always expects way too much when she's living in a dead-end town. I hated her right off the bat because I always, but always, hate any person (be it a man or a woman, I'm not a biased feminist... Hah!) who tries to avoid all their problems and runs away from them consciously simply due to an extremely flimsy reason justifying (and yet unable to do so) this ridiculous act of cowardice. I also hated that Lucy never really moved forward in any of the six years after her husband's death even when she had a terrible dysfunctional family whom she loves, Ethan's tender comfort and love and his unique ability to become sex slave according to her moods and even the petty job at her family's bakery. I very much understand that each person is different and requires different amounts of time to overcome such deep loss (even though they were married for only eight months or so) but they don't have Lucy's privileges and this leads me to think (can't help it) that she only had a crush on her husband and never really knew what went on with him, didn't take the trouble to get to know him and is now in some sorta hero-worship for the guy... She is so irrational in her behavior and even more so during the 'psychic' readings performed by their family friend... See, she is skeptical and doesn't believe the reading considering the psychic woman's a fraud and the next moment when she doesn't wanna think, turns to that fraudulent woman and decides to believe her conclusions! HOW RIDICULOUS CAN YOU GET??? She's way too influenced by the Black Widows and seems like a clay-doll who turns to putty in others' hands and can't think for herself at all.
Ethan was really ridiculously human and way better than Lucy to think about. Whereas Lucy is shallow, brainless, spineless and self-absorbed; Ethan is extremely patient, caring, tender, understanding (too much), sacrificing and reliable. When Lucy breaks up with him I felt very sympathetic to him and what he went through. I also liked that Higgins made him appear human when he was distancing himself from Lucy after the 'break-up'. He was charming, the perfect gentleman, a great person and way too good for Lucy even with the appearance/ facade of the bad boy image through all those daredevil sports and general rebelling (which was perfectly natural because of his parents' preference to their older son and some, or maybe way too much, of that sibling rivalry going on) . Ethan even with less of book time made a shining appearance without appearing too perfect (although the usual boring 'hotness' was upped...) I loved his character and wanted more depth to it or even more time with him.
The Black Widows were the maternal side of Lucy's family all alive, all Black (eh, surname -obviously) and all, yes, widows . I continued to think it impossible of course and Higgins does have that handy creative license so I took it in stride and besides there was lots of humour because of them at least in the beginning of the book. The problem came that as the book moved, that humour became tiresome, a sorta bullying and steam-rolling Lucy around and treating her like a doormat (of course she let them...) *horrified expression* Well sometimes they were funny; other times completely frustrating and tiresome. They had this policy where after their husbands' respective deaths they believed in some curse over the males that married into the family and discouraged Lucy from getting involved with other men (and yet other times, they seemed to introduce her to any potential male entering their bakery and showing her off to him...) *rolls eyes too hard* There was the usual 'community' feeling, the humour (very light but present). I loved Parker and Nicky and hated Ethan's parents. I loved the atmosphere and physicality of the locale. But they couldn't carry the book at all with their rubbery thin legs that gave out in a second...
There was so much potential in all of those characters and I was so sad that it couldn't be met. What happened to the effortless style that Higgins seemed to have in some of her other novels? I dunno why she went so wrong here and hope she doesn't do it again...
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Callie (short for Calliope) Grey is a thirty year old woman who is experiencing a classic chic-lit problem- being single at 30. She has been in love with her boss forever (since she started working for his company 5 years back, a looooong looong time for which I was in complete sync with her and which made her sympathetic to me) and after having (FINALLY) had a five-week relationship (which was a fling in his eyes) she had hopes to stick it out, be humiliated even further and hope for him to get her back. Of course in classic chic-lit style, right on her birthday after giving a guilt gift, the said boss admits to being engaged to the common Bitch Perfect. Imagine how heartbroken you would be ( I can) and you rush out at lunch and are crying about it to your sister when someone makes rude comments about you behind in the line!!! Fucking hilarious for us readers and even them spectators but what a mortifying moment for Callie! I felt like shouting, "Hey Callie, I'm with you, girl! Leave that douche-bag and celebrate some girl power!!" But there is something to be said about the moment our couple of characters were introduced to each other (it's even mentioned in the foreword!) and I agree it does tell about a person when one is vulnerable and the the other is a somewhat reluctant but surprisingly tender stranger. Callie is renewed after breaking down in public and still clinging to the stupid denial and stubborn grip on her crush of said boss, decides to make him jealous by dating somebody and just then gets the news of a new vet in town. Poorly disguising her dog with illness and her true motives with the concern of being a neighbour (I don't blame her just because she's a good person and very entertaining...) even if she's not one, Callie visits the vet and recognizes the same person who was rude to her during that very public breakdown!! That banter between them is so endearing and hilarious and continues throughout the book very well becoming a highlight. She might have started out in hopes of making an old crush jealous but soon finds out that Ian McFarland has some other sides to him other than being rude to crying women, keeping women at length in general and the stoic personality.
Ian McFarland is another on the short list of amazing male leads who's real and very much believable. Even through the air of silent standoffish-ness there's a tender and sensitive guy who's been recently hurt bad. I loved how Ian was no-nonsense, slow (creeping and more so than normal) and simply heart-warming. Generally with Higgins you kinda understand the romance with how the characters are built and these were real, earthy-solid and very slow and sure to take your heart. There's the enviable sibling for Callie and the embarrassing mother owning the town's funeral home (where she holds Callie's birthday party! Whoa...) I didn't particularly like the mushy romantic Betty Boop and the sensible First Lady Michelle Obama taking up Callie's mind because they were too opposite of each other. The comic relief from them was petty, it coming more from Callie. The end was slightly typically chic-lit but I took all the hang-ups in stride because of the absolutely sincere try at having very minimal drama (I was going for none but hey, this is Higgins and so i read it exasperatingly anyway...)
The romance was a slow and creeping burn; very much welcome, appreciated and accepted.
There's the trademark element of family love and drama, the cute pets (SAHWOOOON!) parading around making things lively and the quirky humour equal in situation and characters... I loved the Rocking Chair, the idea of it and significance, the beautiful locale, as always and the community feel of luuuurv! This one was very different and yet felt vaguely like deja vu...
Once again Higgins you leave me wanting more...