Monday, 11 March 2013

Drowning Instinct - Ilsa J. Bick

Drowning InstinctDrowning Instinct - Ilsa J. Bick
Grade: YA
Rating: 5/5 stars

There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.)

Jenna Lord’s first sixteen years were not exactly a fairytale. Her father is a controlling psycho and her mother is a drunk. She used to count on her older brother—until he shipped off to Afghanistan. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire.

There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and we all shed tears for his innocent victim. (This is not one of those stories either.)

Mitch Anderson is many things: A dedicated teacher and coach. A caring husband. A man with a certain... magnetism.

And there are stories where it’s hard to be sure who’s a prince and who’s a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after. (These are the most interesting stories of all.)

Drowning Instinct is a novel of pain, deception, desperation, and love against the odds—and the rules.

Description taken from Goodreads
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If you like books that are a little bit dark, that pull at your emotions and makes you question ‘right’ from ‘wrong’, that isn’t afraid to bring up the big issues such as depression and abuse (just to name a few) then you’ll love Drowning Instincts by Ilsa J. Bick.

I loved the start of this novel. It begins in the ER, where a Detective is trying to question a victim who was rescued from a freezing lake. Unfortunately the “victim” isn’t talking and so the detective leaves her with his recorder “I need the story, Jenna. I need the truth.” From her response I knew I was going to love this novel: “Right. Like the two are the same thing.” The fact that Jenna is in the ER and talking to a Detective automatically means things ended badly, but I had no idea just how bad things would get.

Jenna’s story begins about a year before the ‘incident’, and you instantly learn that this was not Jenna’s first near death experience, or even the first time she’s meet Detective Robert ‘Bob’ Pendleton. To say Jenna has had a shocking childhood is an understatement. Her father is a manipulative, abusive, evil man (I couldn’t see one redeemable quality in him), and her mother only cares for herself. Her brother, whom she loves, enlisted and so she is alone in this terrifying world. It isn’t any wonder that Jenna suffers from depression. Then she starts a new school and meets Mr. Anderson. He’s always there for her when no one else is, he looks after her and protects her. There’s just a few problems. He’s her married, much older, Science teacher.

What I loved about Jenna was that she was trying. She was trying to get her life back on track. She was trying not ‘to cut’ to make herself feel better. She was trying to take control of her life and make decisions. The fact that in her recordings to Bob she would stop the story at different junctions and admits if she had made a different choice at this point in her life things would’ve ended differently- she wouldn’t be in the ER now, she wouldn’t be telling her story to Detective Bob- brings a sense of foreboding to the reader. In fact, that sense stays with you throughout the entire novel.

In other books I’ve read that deal with confronting themes usually end with…..well, if not a happy ending, then one that leaves you with a little hope. Not this one. The ending left me feeling anxious and confused. I still have questions that I want answered, and I found myself turning the back pages thinking ‘this can’t be it’. I guess in a way it had to end like that, but at the same time I feel like I don’t have closure. I find that I can’t stop thinking about Jenna.

Drowning Instincts is a truly dark, gripping, compelling read. It is one that will continue to haunt you long after you finished.

Loved it. 5/5


Originally Posted on Goodreads

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Hidden - Marianne Curley

Hidden (Avena, #1)Hidden (Avena #1) - Marianne Curley
Grade: YA

Rating: 4/5 stars

Ebony has always known that she is different. Her violet eyes mark her out, and her protective parents have kept her in a gorgeous valley, home-schooled, safe from everything - almost as if she's being hidden. But she's changing: glowing, getting more and more beautiful, and stronger than anyone knows. Ebony can't stay hidden for ever, and when she meets complicated, intense Jordan, something explodes inside her - something that can be seen from the heavens; something that changes everything. Ebony is a stolen angel, concealed on Earth. Now the heavens have found her, they want her back. (Description from Goodreads)

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I really enjoyed reading Hidden. I’m a fan of angel books, but have a hard time finding new ones to actually pick up, even though I know they’re out there. So when I was given a copy of Hidden I hoped it would be an angel book I’d fall in love with. And it definitely gets double thumbs up in my books.

The moment I opened the pages of Hidden I was intrigued. Main character, Ebony Hawkins, is going through a strange time. She feels like she’s way too different from the people around her, and her parents won’t seem to answer the questions she has about herself. Enhanced hearing, sight and smell, amazing strength and an ability to run a lot faster than anyone else at school makes Ebony determined to not be the focus of attention in any way possible. But after a stumble literally pushes Jordan Blake, a guy from Ebony’s school, into a wall, Ebony finds her life changed in unbelievable ways. I didn’t know what to think about this beginning. Ebony and Jordan are so different both in personality and presence. Ebony is tough and determined. She defies her parents to claim some sort of independence and keeps this need to be in control of her actions throughout the entire book. Where as Jordan came off as the weaker of the two characters. He just never seemed to get it together. Their differences made everything stand out more.

I found the beginning of the book was a bit slow. Ebony and Jordan, despite going to the same school, don’t know each other when they first meet, which makes things a little tricky because a fair bit of the novel involves both characters searching for information about each other. From a reader’s point of view, we pick up on the clues a lot quicker than the characters do – Ebony and Jordan, unfortunately, suffer from cluelessness for a lot of the book, but I sort of enjoyed being in the know before them. It made all the revelations that much more exciting.

I liked the split POV because it meant we got to see more than just Ebony’s story – even though she was the most important character in the book. If we hadn’t been focusing on Jordan too, we wouldn’t have been introduced to most of the angel side of the story. I really liked the mystery that surrounded Ebony and her angel connections. Stolen at birth and hidden on earth, Ebony’s history is unknown. I was desperate to find out why she’d been taken and who from her previous life would save her. The angel and demon storyline (even though it wasn’t completely “demon” like) gave the book an extra danger. Though some aspects of the angel history seemed brushed over, it still made the story very interesting.

The romance in the story was a neat little twist. I went into it thinking the focus would be entirely on Ebony and Jordan, as main characters with shared POV and narration...then Thane entered the scene and I was all: Jordan, who? Thane is amazing. His feelings for Ebony were obvious from the start and I waited impatiently to see what would come of them. Despite Ebony’s apparent connection to Jordan at the start, I couldn’t ignore the attraction that came from Thane, or the way he stood out as a presence in the story. His role was so important. Thane really made me smile.

I loved that the ending was a mix of action, mystery and closure. I’m dying to see Ebony learn to fight a bit more – I want her to join in the action. And I definitely won’t say no to more Thane! Can’t wait for book 2.

4/5 stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads)

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Song in the Dark - Christine Howe

Song in the DarkSong in the Dark - Christine Howe
Grade: YA
Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Where do you end up when you have nowhere to go, and no one to turn to?

Paul isn't thinking clearly. After destroying a series of relationships – with his friends, his flatmates, his mum – he finally hurts the one person he cares about most of all. And then he runs away.

An extraordinary and heartrending story of love, betrayal, addiction and hope. (Description from Goodreads)

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If you picked up this book thinking it would be a light, contemporary read, you'll be disappointed. Song in the Dark is a gritty and confronting read that details the downward spiral of a troubled Australian boy and it's a bit tricky to deal with at times.

I went into this story thinking I was going to get something a lot different to what I received. The blurb doesn't give you a lot to go off, but I was definitely thinking this would be a story of self discovery and making something better of yourself. The main character, Paul, struggles to be more than he can be. The drug addiction, lack of money, and lack of a strong family and friend support group makes his troubles difficult to overcome; and when he disappoints his only loving family member - his Grandmother - he runs. I had mixed feelings about Paul. I wanted to feel sorry for him for having such a screwed up life, but I had no sympathy with all the drug taking and stealing. I feel like he didn't progress much as a character for the majority of the book: feeling sorry for himself and failing to commit to, and accept, help from anyone. It took a very long time for him to get anywhere in the story, and I don't feel like we really got a conclusion for his eventual efforts.

I liked seeing the flash back scenes we got from Paul, as well as from his grandmother Hetty, who shared the narration perspective for some the novel. I had this strong desire to find something positive in Paul's life and these scenes showed that his Grandmother was that something. It did make it hard to accept the present Paul a bit, because he had someone good in his life, but I enjoyed seeing these scenes.

The novel is very descriptive, but not always for the better. At first I thought Paul's actions, whether the drug taking, violent sicknesses or insane struggles, were powerful to read. To get such a strong reaction from a reader, the disgust at the thought of someone finding maggots in recently cooked food and preparing the next hit of a drug, the writing had to bring out more than just shallow emotions. It so jarring and commanding. But unfortunately it started to get a bit overdone. I wanted something more than the disgust. After seeing it at the start, and understanding that was happening, it needed to be left behind. But we're overloaded with these strong and detailed descriptions of Paul's dark and gritty life, that it became a bit too much for me.

I enjoyed seeing the rehab side of the story, because it brought about a change and progress. I felt that the ending was a bit uncertain, but at least things were looking up after the tough and slow process of the majority of the book.

2.5/5 stars

(Originally posted on Goodreads)

Thank you Penguin Australia for a review copy of this book.