The Bride by Julie Garwood

So this was…ok. I like parts of it, but eventually it just became too treacly. It seems that everyone in Garwood’s world is like a 1950s sitcom character. Golly gee whiz.

Plot – English Jamie is forced to marry a highland’s warrior bc her dad didn’t pay taxes. At first she hates her husband. Then she doesn’t. Pretty typical historical romance – they come from 2 different worlds but somehow their love bridges the gap…

It was a cute read. I liked how Jamie and Alec picked at each other. And neither of them was overly stupid or aggravating. Things proceeded predictably. There’s a certain rhythm to these books – this one does not diverge from the many-trodden path.

So if you like a heroine with sunshine coming right out of her butt this is the book for you. Jamie was Little Miss Perfect. Pollyanna rockin it in Scotland – in a time without razor blades. Or Diet Coke. Or kindles. Or Tylenol. Or any real reason to be happy. I guess when you’re bumpin uglies with a giant Scotsman every 20 pages or so those things cease to matter.

Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse #2) by Charlaine Harris

3 stars.

******SPOILERS******

I’m calling it quits with this series. I was on the fence about it until Sookie was suddenly ambivalent about Bill and KISSED ANOTHER DUDE. Yeah, I’m one of those. Ole Judgy McJudgerpants here – totally willing to dismiss Sookie when she put her tongue in some other fella’s mouth.

So this book had the same vibe as the first one – really light and then sort of horrific and violent. It’s difficult for me to reconcile a ditzy narrator with murder and mayhem. Plus Sookie has some horror movie moments “no, Sookie! Don’t go down those dark stairs.” “Don’t go off into the woods with that strange man.” But all of this was manageable until Sookie said she wasn’t sure how she felt about Bill. Dude, he’s the best part of these books. And if she’s ambivalent about him then I can’t even with her.

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) by Charlaine Harris

3 stars.

My 3 star rating is somewhat unfair considering that I’m going to be diving into the next book the instant that I stop typing this review. But life isn’t fair – you’ll live.

I have (perhaps) OD’d on YA angst. It seems I needed to take a break from the genre or break out my flannel shirts and Nirvana CDS. Maybe get my nose pierced. (Can you tell I was a teenager in the 90s?) knew nothing about this series except that it involved a vampire. For whatever reason I went into it expecting something sexier – steamier and with less plot. I can’t say I’m disappointed with what I got, but i had to shift expectations to get comfy with what I was reading.

I’m going to break with tradition and attempt a likes and dislikes list for this book. This is my first time – be gentle.

*Likes*

Sookie – miracle of miracles even in first person narrative Sookie didn’t make me lose my shit. She’s straight-forward and low drama. And pretty bad ass. I liked her worldview and was okay being in her head. She never once pissed me off. Sookie’s special power is great. I enjoy how she uses it and how it shapes her as a person.

Bill – mysterious and sweet and all-vampirey. He was cool.

The story moved quickly – it was super duper easy to read.

The secondary characters – everyone is kind of a sketch at this point but there’s enough of each of them to look forward to seeing development

Light fluffy moments – I grinned a couple of times. That’s the reason I was taking my YA break.

The writing – there was a plainness in it that I enjoyed. Nothing fancy or over the top. And it had some adorable southern quirkiness.

*Dislikes*

The tone – all over the damn place. Happy. Sad. Goofy. The book started out silly and fluffy. And then suddenly people were dying all over the place. And Sookie was depressed as hell. But then there were little silly moments splashed in. I can’t tell if the book wants to be grisly or girly. I guess there’s nothing saying it can’t be both, but it’s gonna take some adjustment on my part.

The writing – I know. I know. I said I liked how straight-forward it was. But I have a little Stockholm syndrome. I miss my rambly, flowy, angsty YA disasters.

The relationship – Bill and Sookie were all over the place. I didn’t think their relationship developed very naturally. And it felt like Sookie was into Bill bc he’s a vampire and Bill is into Sookie bc she’s a weirdo. I wasn’t feeling their connection.

I’m excited to see where the series goes. This is a solid start with tons of room to grow. So here’s to big things from these lil ole books.

We Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

YA. 5 stars.

All. The. Stars.

I’m not sure if this is my favorite book so far of 2016, but it is by far the best I’ve read this year.

And like the other 2 books I adored this year describing this plot is awkward. Henry’s a 16 year old boy who gets abducted by aliens. They give Henry the choice to save the planet – or not. We journey through life with Henry over 144 days as he decides what he’s gonna do. And, here’s the deal, Henry’s life sucks right now. His BF committed suicide – he’s messing around with an asshole – his nana has Alzheimer’s – he’s bullied at school – and his brother is a disaster. Henry’s not sure that this world is worth saving, and you can’t blame him.

This book is perfect. Reading it felt like standing under the night sky – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars twinkling overhead making you feel huge and tiny at the exact same time. Like you could laugh or cry when you next open your mouth – and the sensation is euphoric.

All the things that a book wants to be – showing not telling – understated – funny and sad all at once – well-written – smart – nearly unputdownable – Hutchinson did it with ease. For 451 pages I floated in space with Henry – the quiet and the dark and the fear but surrounded by all those bright spots and all that beauty. I’m a little resentful that it’s over, and my feet have to again touch the ground.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

YA/Fantasy. 3 begrudging stars

Another decent story ruined by first person narrative. Nyx wasn’t strong enough to carry this book. She became whiny and confusing and aggravating. It’s the First Person Curse. When an entire paragraph starts with “I” the person speaking better be really really interesting. That’s a lot of pressure for a 17 year old girl.

This is alleged to be a retelling of Beauty and The Beast, but that link is tenuous. Nyx’s father has promised her to a demon as part of a bargain. She’s resentful of her entire family bc of this. Once she arrives at the demon’s castle there are a bunch of mysteries. Nyx sort of blunders through solving them.

Part of the story felt sudden and rushed. The relationships and decisions came out of nowhere. Despite being privy to the incessant ramblings in Nyx’s head I still didn’t get a lot of things that she did.

I liked the scenes with Nyx and Ingnifex. I enjoyed the imagery. I spent a lot of the book slightly irritated. I was at times bored and disgruntled. I wasn’t thrilled with this book overall. (Did you see what I did there?) 😉

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Four Stars. YA/Fantasy.

Don’t let the 4 star rating fool you. It’s still one of my best books of the year.

Six of Crows came with huge hype and totally delivered. Fantastic world-building. Memorable and lovable characters. Huge action. And just a tease of some swoon.

Kaz Brekker leads a gang of petty thieves and criminals. When the opportunity for a job much too big for them comes along Kaz jumps at it. So it’s like a bank heist – led by a goth rock kid. Oceans 11 for the YA/Fantasy crowd.

I adored Kaz. And Inej. Nina and Matthias too. All of the characters had heart. And bc of Kaz’s giant aspirations the action and adventure are non-stop.

VE Schwab is what stopped me from giving this 5 stars. I saw natural comparisons btw this book and her Shades of Magic series. And while I could set Crows down if I needed to I couldn’t walk away from Magic if my house was on fire. Still, I can’t recommend this book enough. When you’re looking for a book with everything this one delivers.

Almost Innocent By Carina Adams

Holy smokes! Carina Adams loves her characters. If you’re looking for a book that is written with love and with passion this is the story for you. This is not your run-of-the-mill, factory produced romance.

Gabby and Declan grow up together as best friends. Gabby is dating Declan’s brother. Some awful things happen in that relationship, and Declan goes to the mat for Gabby.

Dec is a tough-talking alpha-male who does his best to protect Gabby from himself. Gabby is smart and strong and struggling. This book handles some tough issues – and handles them well.

If you’re looking for a romance that is a little dark, a little twisty but has a HUGE heart this is the story for you.