Tag Archives: romance

Emma Maree Reviews: Anna and the French Kiss

Book: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Genre: YA/Romance

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

I’m not usually much of a romance reader, but this book has received so much universal adoration that I had to give it a try. Plus, a fluffy romance book is a good read while travelling.

I’ve been describing this book to friends as “like a very smartly written chick flick”, and now that I’m finished I think it’s a very fitting description.

The story is a bit slow to start, but fantastic once it gets going — it’s a sweet, complex story of an American trying to find her way in Paris and all the interesting friends she makes in her year there.

It doesn’t shy away from anything, delving head-first into fascinating character personalities and friendships, detailed backstories, and teen issues.

I’ll be looking forward to picking up “Lola and the Boy Next Door” when I’ve whittled down my to-read piles.

Emma Maree Reviews: “The Daughter of Smoke and Bone”

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”

This is one of those books that’s hard to sum up in a review because I am ridiculously in love with it. Laini Taylor takes the old story of an angel falling in love with a devil and makes it new and original. It’s not the only cliche she freshens up either – Taylor takes heroines with a secret, angels fighting demons, magic boy-meets-girl, and turns it into a vivid fantasy series.

But that’s not where I got hooked – it was the opening scene that got its claws into me. In a beautifully described, snowy Prague our protagonist Karou wearily shrugs off a man jumping out at her from the shadows. The man is her ex, Kaz, and he’s got a surprise in store to try a win her back… a surprise involving his appearance on stage during her life drawing class.

It’s just hilarious, watching Karou trying to deal with the whole class seeing her ex naked–and the humor doesn’t end there, with Karou returning to the shop of the demon she works for and wryly recalling the ram-headed demon’s last attempt at a sex ed talk.

And this is all before the real story begins:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? – Goodreads

Author Laini Taylor

“The Daughter of Smoke and Bone” really shines at dropping hints for you to piece together – by the end of the story, all the little details slot into place and you see how Laini planned everything perfectly from the start.

The book is split into three parts – part 1 lets you fall in love with Karou and her life as an errand girl for a shop full of loveable demons, part 2 introduces a flame-eyed angel Karou can’t keep herself away from, and part 3 is full of surprises and secrets.

It’s coming out this week in the UK, and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a captivating, stay-up-all-night-to-finish it fantasy story that takes everything cliche and tired and makes it shine. I can’t wait for UK readers to get their hands on this – and I can’t wait for the sequel!

“The Daughter of Smoke and Bone” is released on September 29th!

Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing a copy of the work for this review. This review is based on the ARC, and may not represent the final content.

Emma Maree Reviews “If I Stay”

This felt like a very fresh book to read, for a lot of reasons. It’s filled with references to classical music and classic rock. It uses flashbacks to tell a lot of the story without slowing down. Most importantly to me, the main character Mia didn’t speak like a teenager. The 17-year-old cellist thought like an adult, acted like an adult, fell in love like an adult. It all made her so much easier to relate too, while the difficult situations she had to deal with in her life kept the focus on how young she still was.

When her entire family die in a car crash Mia is left with a choice: stay and be with her the boy she loves but with her parents and little brother dead; or leave, avoiding the pain and taking the chance to be with her family.

The story is broken up into sections of time, with flashbacks in-between telling the story of Mia’s life before the crash. The hospital scenes are told expertly, and the both past and present contain a huge amount of memorable characters –  Mia’s boyfriend, an up-and-coming guitarist trying to balance his relationship and his tour schedule, her punk rock parents, her drummer little brother, her grandparents, and a long line of relatives and friends.

While at first she’s quite detached from events, Mia goes through all kinds of emotions after the crash – her grief, her anger, her self-doubt and her loves all form vital parts of the story. The decision of whether or not she should stay is never clear-cut, because you can tell how much she loves her boyfriend and her grandparents, and how much she loves her parents and little brother.

Sometimes gruesome, sometimes funny, and always honest – Gayle Foreman’s “If I Stay” is a novel that will stick in your mind long after you’ve finished it.

Click here to read my review of the sequel, “Where She Went”.

“Torment” Book Review

“Torment” by Lauren Kate Release Date: Out now! Genre: Paranormal Romance Publisher: Doubleday Children’s (Random House) I started off my original review of “Fallen” by gushing about how much I loved its cover. The sequel, “Torment”, doesn’t disappoint either – it keeps to the same gothic, monochrome colour scheme. Both covers avoid showing the girl’s face, and the hands in her hair hint at some of the confusion and worries that will be a key part of the story. There’s an excellent video on how covers like this are created here, showing 6 hours of work cut down into a 2 minute video. Here’s the cover blurb this time round:

LOVE NEVER DIES… It took Lucinda an eternity to find her beloved angel, Daniel. But he waited for her. Now they are forced apart again, to protect Luce from the Outcasts – immortals who want her dead. During their separation, Luce learns about her mysterious past lives. But the more she discovers, the more she suspects that Daniel is hiding something. What if Daniel’s version of the past isn’t true? Is it really their destiny to be together? Or is Luce really meant to be with someone else?

Lucinda Price returns as our protagonist, and we join her as she’s being sent to a new private school after the horrors she went up against in “Fallen”. Daniel demands that she stays in her new school for 18 days without any contact with him. Luce can barely stand the idea of them being apart, but what bothers her more is the nagging feeling that Daniel’s hiding something. Something involving strangers coming after her if she ever leaves the school, involving Daniel killing to protect her, and involving a truce that has Daniel working together with Cam, the creepy demon who nearly killed Luce before.

I know what you’re thinking. A girl whining about being separated from her boyfriend for a measly 18 days, ugh. I groaned as well, but after giving it some consideration and thinking back to my young-and-stupidly-lovestruck days, I probably would have been a bit unhappy too. Let’s not kid ourselves here, young people are dramatic through-and-through.

That’s where Lauren Kate excels – she captures that age group perfectly, from the desperation of my-world-revolves-around-you first loves to the vicious mood swings and irrationality that happen when you’re a confused teenage girl. (Especially if you’re a confused teenage girl who’s boyfriend it being a bit of a prick, and keeping you locked up ‘for your own safety’ without telling you why.)

“Torment” is a novel about Luce, following her as she grows a lot more independent, stronger and forms her own ideas about what it takes to have a healthy relationship. She’s wildly reckless, too – frustratingly so, as she ignores warnings from others along the lines of ‘don’t leave the school it’s dangerous’ because of course it’s not that dangerous. Of course.

It doesn’t let down on the action side either, though. The first few opening chapters, which nicely recap “Fallen” for the short of memory but don’t cover it enough for anyone who’s thinking of reading “Torment” without reading the first book, start off at a relaxed pace as Lauren builds up some impressive new settings and a new cast of characters. Before long, though, the suspense starts shooting up and the story gets a welcome injection of paranormal adventure and danger.

Another area Lauren is brilliant at is scenery descriptions – we go from the gothic graveyards and reform schools of “Fallen” to sunny California, with a schools on cliff-side, yachts of bright blue oceans, beach party bonfires and road trips across the land.

She’s still a great creator of a varied cast as well – I particularly like the way there’s no clear signs whether a member of the cast is or isn’t trustworthy, and after the end of “Fallen” it’s impossible to tell if any of them are going to survive the story.

I was slightly let down by the end, though – “Fallen” pulled out a powerful twist with Penn, but the twist in “Torment” felt too obvious right the way through and I was disappointed when it didn’t turn out to be a red herring. The actual resolution of the finale did come as a surprise, though.

The book’s definitely a huge improvement on the writing in “Fallen” – I wish it had answered a few more questions, but I’m hoping the third book “Passion” will resolve a lot of my nagging questions when it’s released.

[easyreview cat1title=”Overall” cat1detail=”The plot could have used more answers and less questions, but it’s a good improvement on Fallen. Lauren’s writing is particularly strong when it comes to description and characterisation.” cat1rating=”4″ overall=false]  

Other Books By This Author: Fallen, The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove.
For Fans of:
Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight”, P.C. Cast’s “The House of Night”, Becca Fitzpatrick’s “Hush, Hush”

A copy of “Torment” was provided for this review by Random House.

I also have a review of Lauren Kate’s first novel, “The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove

“Fallen” Book Review

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“Fallen” by Lauren Kate
Release Date: 8th December 2009 (US), 17th December 2009 (UK)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Doubleday (Random House Children’s Books)

If you’re going to judge a book by it’s cover, then “Fallen” is great – a black-haired, pale girl in a black dress stands against a blue-lit forest. Aiming straight for the gothic-at-heart, the large curving font for the title makes it look a lot like an Evanescence cover. That’s not a bad thing –  it’s eyes catching.

Then there’s the back cover blurb. If you’ve just finished that guilt-ridden-but-enjoyable binge of every recent vampire book within reach, searching for a way to fill the hole left by the end of the “Twilight” series, it’ll be all you need to read before taking the book to the counter and continuing your paranormal romance spree. The endorsement by P.C. Cast – author of the “House of Night” series – doesn’t hurt either.

SOME ANGELS ARE DESTINED TO FALL.

Instant. Intense. Weirdly familiar . . .

The moment Luce looks at Daniel she knows she has never felt like this before. Except that she can’t shake the feeling that she has. And with him – a boy she doesn’t ever remember setting eyes on.

Will her attempt to find out why enlighten her – or destroy her?

Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, FALLEN is a thrilling story about forbidden love.

“Fallen”‘s main girl is Lucinda Price, a mouthful of a name thankfully shortened to simply Luce. A boy mysterious burned to death while with her, so she’s been packed off to the fantastically gothic Sword & Cross reform school, complete with ever-present CCTV, barbed wire, overgrown vegetation, a full Olympic swimming pool inside a church and a military graveyard where you get to spend detention cleaning up old marble statues. It’s set in the marsh covered side of Savannah, Georgia, but the city itself is never really explored because reform school pupils aren’t supposed to just nip to the shops.

Luce focuses her attention on the gorgeous and alluring Daniel Grigori, but as soon as they make eye contact he flips her off. Charming. There to pick up the gauntlet, however, is the smooth-talking and charming Cam.

They are some of the first of “Fallen”‘s large cast, including the ‘wacky’ and rebellious Arriane, a blunt girl with horrible scars across the back of her neck; the much moodier will-break-your-face-with-her-New-Rocks punk kid Molly; chubby Penn, who always wears multiple layers and has access to everyone’s confidential files and dreadlocked smuggler Roland who handles getting contraband items into the school.

The teachers are a little bit more negatively portrayed – the kind-hearted, motherly librarian (who classes are so boring); the history teacher who’s not too bad a bloke when not lecturing his (bored) class; the manly female teacher and ‘warden’ Randy and a strict and cold gym teacher.

The first half of the story revolves around Luce adapting to this school and its pupils, having a bad-run in with Molly and feeling inexplicably attracted to Daniel even though his words to her mostly consist of  lines like “Go away”, “Don’t talk to me” and “You are not my friend”. Luce’s obsession doesn’t go away, though, and in typical teenage girl fashion she proceeds to stalk him and have Penn go through his files while she tries to explain to them that she knows she’s seen him somewhere before. Wait, did I say typical teenage girl fashion? I meant typical teenage girl in a school full of unstable reform kids behavior.  At least nobody’s been horribly burnt to death yet.

While my tongue is firmly in-cheek there, despite the slightly creepiness of it, Fallen’s target audience knows what it is to be head-over-heels with a guy so Luce’s longing will be alien to none of them. For older readers, she’s difficult to relate to with her single-minded focus on that one hot guy but as “Twilight” has already shown us, teenage girls just get it. At least she’s not climbing in his window to watch him sleep, right?

While she’s obsessing over Daniel, Cam is desperately trying to get in Luce’s pants and what was once charming and sweet is quickly getting creepy and desperate. As Daniel begins to soften and meet Luce off-campus, still trying to convince her she’s being silly and delusional because they’ve never met, Cam’s forced advances become a quick-trigger for a fist-fight.

There’s a dramatic rescue that rings true to “Twilight”‘s ‘saved from death by being crushed by a large object’ scene, replacing the car with something a bit more symbolic. There’s also another big fire where someone is horribly burnt to death, but they were too undeveloped for me to care very much.

Aside from those above scenes, though, the first half of the book is in need of some editing. Lauren Kate’s prose is clean and easy-to-read, but without enough action and conflict the endless repetition of stalking Daniel, being rejected by him, leading Cam on despite being a bit repulsed by him, and then crawling back to Daniel afterwards gets tiring. The long, eventless build-up didn’t work in Stephenie Meyer’s work and it doesn’t work here. As this is an advanced copy I was reading, with a bit of luck the editor will take a harsh hand with it before final release.

Lauren’s character development is also flawed – while Arriane, Penn and Cam are both varied and exciting characters, Lucinda and Daniel fall flat. Daniel’s constantly mean for no good reason, and despite Luce’s swooning over his looks and her mysterious attraction most girls would write him off as an ass and move on.

Luce isn’t much better – while she starts off promising with her past as a possible-arsonist-and-manslaughterer, her single-minded fixation on Daniel over any of her friends and cruel leading on of Cam makes her difficult to like. She’s better than Bella Swan, but still too passive. At one point she’s facing her own death and just lies back and thinks about how pretty Daniel is instead of trying to avoid it.

I think Lauren Kate knows she’s far from perfect though – possibly acting as her mouthpiece, one character says about Luce: “you’re nothing more than you appear to be: a stupid, selfish, ignorant, spoiled little girl who thinks the world lives or dies on whether she gets to go out with some good-looking boy at school”

Author Lauren Kate

Author Lauren Kate

The truth if, whether the distinguished readers among us like it or not, most teenage girls are exactly like that. They are going to love it.

The first book in a four book series, the story ends with some cliffhanger set-up for the second book “Torment”, due out September 2010. While its pacing is flawed and it’s main character difficult to love, Lauren Kate shows a lot of promise with world-building and her beautiful settings, along with memorable and likeable side-characters. With some work on developing Luce, and an increase in pace now that introductions are over, the series has a definite potential to progress into something very good.

Until then, young girls are going to love it anyway.

Rating: 3/5 – As the start of a series this dark romance has potential.
Other Books By This Author: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove.
For Fans of: Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight”, P.C. Cast’s “The House of Night”, Becca Fitzpatrick’s “Hush, Hush”,

An advance copy was provided for this review by Random House.  The work may change before final print.

You can also check out a review of the sequel to “Fallen”, “Torment“, or read my review of Lauren Kate’s novel “The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove“!