Tag Archive | recommend

Review: Crash into You by Katie McGarry

Series: Pushing the Limits #3

crash into you -katie mcgarryFrom acclaimed author Katie McGarry comes an explosive new tale of a romance forged in the fast lane.

The girl with straight A’s and the perfect life—that’s who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy family…and she’s just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker—a guy she has no business even talking to. But after the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can’t get him out of her mind.

The last thing Isaiah needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks. But when their shared love of street racing puts their lives in jeopardy, Isaiah and Rachel will have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they’ll go to save each other.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Crash into You has that same Katie McGarry spark but has its own unique love story that is sweet and so, so very tangible. I fell in love as soon as I opened it.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read Isaiah’s story. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I loved Dare You To and he was just so sad as the girl he thought he was in love with, Beth, fell for another guy (who was so much better for her, to be honest). I always felt sad for him. His home life is awful, with foster parents that just didn’t care about his well-being so long as they got the money for taking him in.

And here’s the girl who was supposed to be good for him. A rich girl who loved cars. Now, I’m not a huge car lover – and frankly, I know crap about cars or their parts. I may admire a fast car but I’m no speed or adrenaline junkie. So I wasn’t sure if I could get into this book since it seems to centre on this connection Isaiah and Rachel had.

But I was so, SO wrong. And thank God for that. Their chemistry was so right and so present from the moment they both eyed each other.

Rachel was such an easy girl to love and understand. She has extreme anxiety and panic attacks, which makes her think that she’s weak. When you’re the youngest of 5 children, all of the rest being boys, and she being the replacement daughter for the one her parents lost to leukemia earlier, it’s a lot of pressure and stress to be “perfect”. That’s no good with anxiety. I understand anxiety and am so glad it doesn’t get as bad as hers did. But she tried. Honestly wanted to make her whole family happy, yet none of them seemed to realize just how hard it was to be this girl they all wanted her to be to make their mom happy and proud. The brothers called themselves protective but all I saw sometimes was a selfish yearning for her to continue pleasing their mom so that she didn’t sink into any depressive funk and forget about all of her remaining children. It goes to show that having money doesn’t equate to a lower probability on family dysfunction.

And Isaiah was equally likable. He had so much heart but he was so afraid of letting people in ’cause they only seem to leave and disappoint him. He had to face the mother who left him and got thrown into jail, letting him suffer in the system. But he found it in himself to still love Rachel, and he honestly would’ve done anything for her even if she didn’t ask. For a guy who wanted to scare the world and give them an impression that says “KEEP AWAY”, his heart had so much room for love if only the girl he cared for realized just how lucky she was to receive board in his heart. No matter how difficult life was for him at the moment, and most of these stem from financial problems and the unpredictable nature of his future after aging out of the system, he had somehow found Rachel and he didn’t ever want to let go, no matter what it cost.

These two broken individuals were so much stronger together than apart. They both developed so much in the course of the story as they conquered their individual demons together. Katie McGarry is just so good at giving her characters such strong voices and depicting the depth of their situations as if we were facing them along with them. I loved how these two came together, and fought alongside each other. I loved their first kiss and how they made up when they miscommunicated with each other. I just loved them.

And of course, there was the tense main story arc they both had to face: paying off a debt to some guy who was like a king of many different underground operations, including illegal drag racing. I read this in one go as I was desperate to see how it would all end, all the while drawing out the Isaiah and Rachel’s insecurities. I was never disappointed and coming up for air after finishing this book has left me in a little funk.

Honestly, I can’t really piece together the right words to describe the beauty of a story like this. McGarry is honestly a queen of contemporary YA. The ending wasn’t very predicable but it ended on a hopeful and happy note. And along the way, there were just so many feels for our protagonists. After falling so in love with Beth’s story previously, I have to say that I’m surprised Isaiah’s story has captured my heart just as much as hers did.

Overall Recommendation:
Filled with heart and emotions as it typical for Katie McGarry’s books, Crash into You was one speedy ride that tore at my heart for the pain our two protagonists faced in their very different lives. However, McGarry was able to craft together a wonderful connection between Isaiah and Rachel as they bonded over a common goal and enemy. And as they learned to let down their walls for each, the delicious chemistry between them from the start took over and another different kind of thrill took my heart on a ride. I honestly can’t think she could’ve done this book any better than it is. It’s a definite recommendation.

Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Series: Caraval #2

caraval -stephanie garberRemember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.


5 Drink Me Potions


Caraval is everything you can imagine from that beautiful synopsis. From a sweeping mystery to the beautifully described world of the once-a-year Caraval, my heart was pounding in excitement to the very end.

I heard that this book has been gushed over since before it came out. It makes me wary sometimes as that puts on really high expectations which could actually do the exact opposite by disappointing me in the end. That was NOT the case with this book.

Caraval is essentially about two sisters who apparently would do anything for each other. Tella’s the more reckless and headstrong sister, while Scarlett is more thoughtful in all her actions. It comes with being the older sister. I loved Scarlett. She was so understandable and her devotion to her younger sister was admirable. She would do anything to get them out of their abusive father’s hands, even by marrying a complete stranger who offered to take in Tella too.

But, the magic and mystery surrounding Caraval and its mystery hunt during its week-long performance was the one thing Scarlett had always dreamed of attending. When things turned and the sisters found themselves entering Caraval to join in on this year’s game, my heart was literally so ecstatic. Even when the “real” plot hadn’t officially started yet, I was already so wrapped up in these characters and what would await them in Caraval.

I didn’t love Tella as much as Scarlett. In part, it was due to the fact that the sisters were separated so early on and everything’s in Scarlett’s POV. But it always seemed like Scarlett was the one to be making the sacrifice. I learned to appreciate Tella a bit more over time, but any more of her presence might’ve annoyed me more. Thankfully, the other protagonist and love interest for Scarlett was surprisingly amazing.

Julian was the PERFECT guy for Scarlett. Not only was he mysterious, confident and very hot, he pushed Scarlett beyond her comfort zone in a way no one else could. And even though there always seemed to be an aura of secrets around him, he was dependable when push came to shove for Scarlett. And I thought she was good for him too. As his secrets untangled over the course of the plot (which by the way were deliciously unpredictable as I kept second-guessing what his purpose was for being at Caraval and what his connections to this place were), I felt all these emotions collide in me. Happy, sad, surprised, relieved, you name it. The chemistry between these two were literally tangible. It was such a beautiful, slow-burn romance. They didn’t necessarily want to fall for each other – after all, Scarlett was technically still engaged to some stranger. But they did and it just worked! *fangirl sigh*

As for the world of Caraval, its mysterious characters that Scarlett met along the way, and the weird rules were all fascinating. Everything was well-described and the oddity of some of the things that went on here reminded me a lot of the imaginative detailing and world of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Of course, that only added to my joy in reading this. On top of that, the mystery game at the heart of Caraval that its contestants could join in to solve for a prize was amazing. It was well-paced, with fun clues that kept Scarlett (and me) guessing for its meaning.

Honestly, Caraval has it all. Whatever you want in a book, it should have it within its pages. Whether you believe the hype or not, I suggest you read it for yourself with no expectations and just maybe, you’ll find yourself as surprised as I was at how much I enjoyed this.

Overall Recommendation:
Caraval is one of those rare books that just makes you believe in the world that you’ve stepped into, and makes it so hard to leave it. With a loyal and empathetic protagonist as Scarlett and a mysterious love interest such as Julian, the romance department here was just HOT. And the additional mystery that they needed to solve while at Caraval with the highest stakes possible only added to the pulse-pounding experience. A well-paced and overall imaginative story, Caraval hasn’t made it to many reviewers’ good graces for no reason. A definite recommendation.

Review: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Series: Lady Helen #2

the-dark-days-pact-alison-goodmanJune 1812.

Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club.

Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers.

However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip.

At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her.

The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.


 

4.5 Drink Me Potions


Mysterious, alluring, and filled with Gothic adventure in Alison Goodman’s latest Regency era novel, The Dark Days Pact was one of those books that actually lived up to the hype I built for it. Which is no small feat ’cause I’ve been waiting a year for this sequel to come out.

Oh, what an adventure

This beautiful sequel picked up quite soon where we left our protagonists previously in The Dark Days Club. Lady Helen’s got to train hard to become the Reclaimer she’s meant to be, a super-honed weapon against the Deceivers (aka monsters/demons of this world) that walk among them. The book may have felt a little slow in the beginning because it mainly focuses on her training (and lack of progress), but I swear, this only helped set the mood more for me.

The action really does pick up soon after when bureaucrat Mr. Pike sets upon our lovely band of heroes working with Lady Helen and gives her (and Mr. Hammond) a secret mission to embark on: to locate and negotiate for a mysterious journal that seems to have all the juiciest secrets about everyone, Deceiver and Reclaimer included.

Along for the ride is Lady Helen’s strange powers. She’s supposed to be an extra special Reclaimer, what with being a direct inheritor even though these powers don’t transmit genetically, but everyone’s always telling her that she’s nowhere near ready that she’s really starting to believe it too (I will get back on this point later). But you’d be glad to know that what transpires throughout the story isn’t some cliched moment where our girl suddenly comes into her own and becomes the strongest, fastest and least expendable person ever (okay, she’s still pretty important either way). As she fights to get her hands on this journal first before the Deceivers and others with less-than-noble motives, she starts to realize her powers are definitely MORE than what others have ever seen. And oh boy does that leave you with a surge of excitement in your mouth! It sure dose for me.

I personally didn’t think this book was very slow. It transitioned well between plot points with the overarching storyline centred around finding this journal. Oh, and of course, worrying about Lord Carlston’s descent into madness.

All the cool people, both historical or fictional, featured here

I loved Lady Helen. I probably mentioned that in my first review of The Dark Days Club. In 1812, a woman’s role was stuck to the household and doing mundane things such as walking around the park while daintily holding onto a friend’s hands. They were seen as weak and in need of protecting.

Helen beats all these stereotypes, while still working within the mold of 19th century Regency time in London. She had to dress like a man sometimes to go investigating (’cause of course poor little women couldn’t go off ANYWHERE on their own, even during broad daylight) and go around chasing bad guys (another taboo!) in public. Alison Goodman made her into someone to admire by her sacrificial actions. Lady Helen wasn’t some woman’s rights figure (a century too early) and she wasn’t hell bent on being different from other ladies. She still loved long hair and the occasional simplistic duties of a woman, so it wasn’t easy for her to give up some of these things. I loved Lady Helen because she knew she had a new duty to serve now and it was worth the sacrifice.

Alongside her is the amazing Lord Carlston. Okay, maybe not everyone loves him as much as I do, but I ship these two so hard. So beware that my excitement level for this book probably also comes from his presence here.

Lord William Carlston. Ah. Such a noble sounding name. Anyway, he wasn’t the stoic hero that was portrayed in book 1. At the climax events of the last novel, some bad things went down and he had absorbed too much Deceiver energy without letting it out. Such energy can lead to madness for Reclaimers if there’s enough collected within them. Throughout, he’s another major plot arc as the whole household has been left worrying about the state of his mind. There’s always this little piece of excitement about whether he’s truly sane at the moment or he’s just more lucid than at other times when the madness shows.

But as sweet as ever, you shippers of Lord Carlston will be glad to know that there are BEAUTIFUL moments with him and Lady Helen. Like, heartbreakingly touching because we know that he’s “technically still married” (recall that his wife disappeared many years ago and people called MURDER but without a body, there has to be some time in between to wait out before officially calling her dead). Even with potential madness looming on him (or maybe because of it), we see him let out his emotions a bit more and Lady Helen’s attraction to him makes it all the sweeter. I just can’t. I need the two of them together. Like now.

The rest of Carlston and Helen’s aides and friends are familiar people you may recall. Both their Terrenes (aka strong sidekicks in my mind) feature largely here, but the brother/sister pair of Mr. Hammond and Lady Margaret were my favourite. Particularly Mr. Hammond who was developed greatly in this story, probably because of the secretive mission he embarked on with Lady Helen, I love that Goodman gives time for secondary characters as well so that the world feels more real and fleshed out instead of solely focusing on Helen and Lord Carlston. The almost 500 page length is used up very well in my opinion on plot pacing and character development for everyone. Even the newest characters, like little Sprat who works for the bawdy house, comes to your affection eventually.

I will also advise that you read the Author’s Note at the end explaining her inclusions of very real characters living in 1812 in London or Brighton (which this novel features greatly in). From a famous dipper who, as the name would describe, dipped people into the sea waters around Brighton for health purposes, to a famous couple who met a grisly end, I truly admire Goodman’s research into these people and places to create a fantasy world that really “could have been”. Like, if I lived in 1812, I could totally imagine going to Brighton and finding myself a spectacular lady who was like no other in her day.

That non-existent love triangle though

Speaking of characters, I left one person out. The Duke of Selburn. I don’t consider the Duke of Selburn (whose first name is Gerard…like, I could’ve gone through this whole series without having to find out his name was Gerard) any contender for Lady Helen’s heart. It may just be a HUGE bias, but let me explain that.

Here’s a man who’s very highly ranked (both Lady Helen’s family and Lord Carlston were earls) and likes to get his way. Okay, so the Duke isn’t a jerk who’s power hungry or abuses that power for his own selfish purposes. He’s not THAT bad. But in a world such as the Dark Days Club, he wouldn’t fit if he can’t take orders and abide by them for the safety of all involved. The Reclaimers have the say (except bureaucrats like Pike I suppose) as they’re the ones with the powers that can fulfill their plans so rank in society doesn’t REALLY matter. You can be a butcher’s son for all they care! So how would he ever be a good match for Lady Helen?

Then there’s that SUFFOCATING way that he likes to do EVERYTHING for Helen. He just wants to “protect” her from things, whether he understands who she really is or not, and ends up screwing plans up so badly because of it. He keeps spying on her because he hates Carlston and just wants to get her “away from that monster who allegedly killed his wife”. I honestly don’t like him, no matter how “noble” his motives are. I don’t understand why he keeps pursuing her even after she rejects him time and time again (bless you, Helen). Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s his way of making sure no one else falls to their doom with Carlston (backstory here from book 1), but either way, please step aside Selburn or else I’m gonna throw a brick at you in the next book.

Honestly, no love triangle here. Not really. I don’t believe Helen’s heart was ever tempted by him. Maybe a little flattered by his attentions, but her heart’s for Carlston. As it should be.

So no middle book syndrome?

Whew, that was a long rant/review. It’s not very often I rate a sequel higher than the first one, but they’re both so good. With the background setting already laid out so nicely from book 1 (hopefully you remember some of it before embarking on book 2), it gives this book time to explore the plot as it ramps up for the conclusion. Plenty of intrigue still happens here with a touch more romance than before. Honestly, it seems Alison Goodman can do no wrong in this series. So more Lady Helen, please!

Overall Recommendation:
The Dark Days Pact lives up to all expectations with an action-filled plot at the centre and well-developed characters leading the way. With beautiful descriptions of the historical setting in 1812 and good pacing throughout the book, this would surely keep you flipping through the pages as fast as you can. You won’t feel the length of this book as you live through the craziness that is Lady Helen’s life as she fights for her incoming powers and follows through with her sacrificial duties for God and country. Oh, and pinches of romance throughout will have you grasping for the next book ASAP.