Book Review: Nocturne (Claire de Lune #2) by Christine Johnson

8567502Title: Nocturne (Claire de Lune #2)
Author: Christine Johnson
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Werewolves, Young Adults, Drama
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 23rd 2011
Rating: 3,5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Claire feels like her life is finally settling down and she couldn’t be happier. She’s been filly initiated into her family’s pack of female werewolves, her best friend Emily is back in town, and the gorgeous Matthew Engle us now her boyfriend.
But Claire knows all to well that life as a werewolf is never simple. And when she discovers that new girl Amy knows more about her than she’s letting on, Claire feels that things are beginning to unravel.
Claire knows that if her werewolf identity is exposed everyone she loves will be put at risk. And, as her human and wolf live continue to collide, Claire must fight to keep her secret safe.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t read Claire De Lune, the first book in this series, so for me, Nocturne was really a start-from-scratch project. I had to get to know the characters, their personalities and in which way they were all related, I had to find out – albeit briefly – what happened in the first book and what brought them to this point in their lives. However, I figured this out quite easily. The characters are straightforward (that doesn’t mean that they’re not divers because they are, but they are easy to comprehend and relate to) and although no real flashback is given, I sort-of figured out what happened in book one along the way as well. So for those of you new to this series as well, don’t let the fact that this is book two discourage you!

Although Claire and Emily have been best friends since the dawn of time, she can’t confess to Emily that she’s a werewolf. That leaves Matthew, Claire’s boyfriend, as her only source of help when it comes to werewolf stuff. And boy, some things certainly are going wrong in that department. For instance, Claire has trouble lightning fire with her mind. It’s something every werewolf should be able to do easily enough as being standard procedure, but for Claire it’s an almost impossible task. The fact that if she can’t do it properly within two weeks only adds to the pressure. If she wants any chance at combining a normal life with her nightly escapades as a werewolf without Matthew’s dad suspecting anything about actual werewolf living in the area, she’s going to have to be very, very careful.

Unfortunately fooling your best friend isn’t always that easy, and having to say ‘no’ to every invitation she makes under the assumption that spending time with her boyfriend is more important than spending time with Emily, is driving Claire mad. Add the fact that Amy is making a move on Emily in terms of wanting to be her new best friend, and it’s enough to make Claire go completely berserk. Although she isn’t so sure as to what Amy’s gameplan really is – the girl is acting nice enough, but Claire doesn’t easily trust people, especially not people trying to take her best friend away – and she happens to be everywhere she shouldn’t at the wrong time. At the same time, Matthew begins pulling away from Claire, causing her to be even more on guard than usually. When things spiral out of control, who can Claire trust? And who is betraying her?

I absolutely loved the dynamics between Claire and her best friend Emily and I could totally understand Claire’s feelings as to being on guard around Amy, who she considers to be an unhealthy element in her relationship with her best friend. It seems to her that Amy can have everything she can’t: a normal life, time to hang out with Emily like a proper friend should, and perhaps even having fun with Claire’s boyfriend Matthew, something that Claire herself doesn’t get around to as of late, with him acting strange about the werewolf stuff. Naturally she feels threatened by Amy, and I must say that if it were me, I would feel threatened as well. Amy seems nice enough, but you never know what’s hidden behind that.

Apart from Claire’s struggle with her werewolf side and her struggle with school, her friends and her relationship, there is also an element of mystery and suspense in this novel as Matthew’s father is a lycantropologist or something along those lines and tries to investigate the existence of real werewolves, possibly exposing Claire and her fellow werewolves in the process, something they can’t let happen. Plus, there’s also prom coming up, and we all know that prom is usually an excuse for heavy-hearted teenage drama.

As I already mentioned, I loved most of the characters in this book. Claire is awesome. Her inner struggles are very convincing, and she’s suffering from the same teenage angst as most teenagers do. With her werewolf abilities on top of that, she is definately in a difficult spot. Emily is a wonderful best friend. She keeps on forgiving Claire for not showing up when she promised, and she keeps on creating opportunities for Claire to step up and do the best friend act. On top of that, she stays a loyal friend till the better end. Encouraging and inspiring, to be honest. But I did feel like slapping Emily around the head sometimes and say: “Figure it out sometime, girl! Your BFF is a werewolf. It’s not that hard to figure out!” In any case, the Claire-Emily friendship dynamic was at all times entertaining and interesting, and the solid bottom this book is built upon.

In regards to Matthew, let me say that I love him as well. I can’t wait to see what happens to his relationship with Claire in the next book, as they’ll probably be tested even further. For a regular highschool guy dating a girl who happens to be a werewolf, he sure manages to keep his cool. The only downside of this book, character-relationships-wise was Claire’s relationship with her Mom. Claire’s Mom doesn’t appear like an actual Mom. She’s more like a roommate, or a boss-type person, but not a Mom. That’s a bugger, because I like to read about good family relationships. Oh well, not every one has a perfect Mom I suppose, although this one does appear to be very cold and distant.

There wasn’t enough mystery or suspense in this book either. It reads like a contemporary novel with some werewolves thrown in just to turn it into a paranormal romance book instead. Perhaps not always a good idea. Paranormal books do require a higher level of mystery or suspense than contemporary novels and I’m not sure if Christine Johnson succeeded.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Nocturne and read it in one setting. I recommend it to all fantasy and/or werewolf fans who are up for a nice, light read with an amazing cast and some old-fashioned highschool drama. I’m looking forward to book three.

Book Review: Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite

10387018Title: Ghost on Black Mountain
Author: Ann Hite
Genre: Ghost, Supernatural, Horror, Thriller, Romance, Drama
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 13th 2011
Rating: 4,5 stars
Review copy provided by S&S Galley Grab.
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Nellie Clay married Hobbs Pritchard without even noticing he was a spell conjured into a man, a walking, talking ghost story. But her mama knew. She saw it in her tea leaves: death. Folks told Nellie to get off the mountain while she could, to go back home before it was too late. Hobbs wasn’t nothing but trouble. He’d even killed a man. No telling what else. That mountain was haunted, and soon enough, Nellie would feel it too. One way or another, Hobbs would get what was coming to him. The ghosts would see to that. . . .
Told in the stunning voices of five women whose lives are inextricably bound when a murder takes place in rural Depression-era North Carolina, Ann Hite’s unforgettable debut spans generations and conjures the best of Southern folk-lore—mystery, spirits, hoodoo, and the incomparable beauty of the Appalachian landscape.

Ghost on Black Mountain is a powerful, eerie and haunting tale of real-life ghosts sometimes tormenting and sometimes aiding the inhabitants of Black Mountain, a gloomy and according to some, cursed place. Black Mountain got most of its rather creepy reputation from one of its most dangerous residents, Hobbs Pritchard. Who Hobbs Pritchard really is, a straight-out bad man, or a fellow struggling with himself and his own emotions, is revealed gradually through-out the story, but most of it is still up to the reader to decide. In this haunting debut novel, Ann Hite searches for what evil truly is, how different those we easily claim to be evil are to those who truly love them, and how one person’s evil acts can reflect on the lifes of others, even many years in the future.

I have to say that, several hours after finishing this book, I’m still perplexed and most of all, impressed. Ann Hite’s writing fits the voice of the narrators – five Southern women at the turn of the 20th century, all the way through the war, and beyond that – perfectly. She describes Black Mountain as an eerie, terrifying but also atmospheric and sometimes even inviting place, a beauty in daylight but a true menace in the dark. Our resident back guy, Hobbs Pritchard is a fellow with many layers, equally as many different faces and a whole lot of trouble written all over him. Although charming at first glance, he proves to be anything but. But is he really the villain we portray him to be, or is there more to him than meets the eye?

The first heroine who tells us her version of the tale is Nellie, soon-to-be Nellie Pritchard. Falling head over heels with Hobbs Pritchard, she goes against her mother’s advices and marries the man eight years her senior. Although he threats her decently enough at first, it doesn’t take long before even Nellie registers that Hobbs is a cruel, unsympathetic and mean man. He threats the people of Black Mountain like dirt, eagerly keeping them poor to gain wealth for himself. One of the families most tormented by Hobbs Pritchard is The Connors, and although Nellie at first tries to reconcile with the family, they end up warning her about Hobbs’ sadistic ways instead. Nellie, still foolish and eager to believe in her husband’s kindness, with the stubbornness of youth still following her around, ignores their pleas. But even she must one day realize who Hobbs truly is.

Nellie is by far the strongest voice that appears in the entire book. Although often scorned by Hobbs as being ‘stupid, ignorant and incapable of even cooking a decent meal’, the reader soon realizes that Nellie is neither of those things. She is headstrong and intelligent, her only flaw in the matter being her naivety when it comes to men, marriage and love. When Nellie feels herself falling for Jack, Hobbs’ half-brother instead, while Hobbs is on another unexpected, long business trip, she sees him as her possible rescuer from the terrible hold Hobbs has over her, threatening even her mother if she does not do his every bid. However, when the time is neigh and Jack fails to come to her rescue, Nellie, now reduced to an empty shell of her former self, must take matters in her own hands.

What follows is both eerie and gruesome, but haunting and compelling all the same. Aided by the ghosts of Black Mountain themselves, Nellie might just escape Hobbs’ deadly clutches. But secret sins are a hard burden to bear….

The next part of the story, is significantly less powerful than Nellie’s haunting tale. Whereas the ghosts, who we first encountered when Nellie told her story, do make some reappearance in the rest of the novel, their presence is much less threatening than they appeared at first.

We learn about Nellie’s childhood through the eyes of her mother, Josie Clay, who herself saw a ghost or two as well. Although this casts a light on why Nellie too is capable of seeing ghosts, this dropped the pace of the narrative significantly and I could have done well without. Later on, we also read the story from Shelly Parker, local pshycic and perhaps Nellie’s only true friend on those lonely mountains. Although this served as some sort of inbetween-story to glue Nellie’s and Rose’s story together, I did find it intriguing, but not necessarily to keep the story going.

Rose Gardner’s story on the other hand, is a lot more intriguing and interesting than the two previously mentioned. Rose was the other woman in Hobbs Pritchard’s life. Although she herself proclaims not to be as beautiful as Nellie nor as intelligent, she strikes the reader as being the opposite, at least at first glance. Rose is the woman Hobbs supposedly truly loved, or as truly as a man like Hobbs can love anyone. Although their relationship is mostly based upon the physical attraction between them, Rose is the only woman Hobbs ever said “I like you” to, which is as close to professing his love as he could get. Strangely, we don’t hear or know about Rose until at the very end of Nellie’s tale, but her presence in Hobbs’ life is just as notable. Rose occasionally wonders to herself is she really did love Hobbs throughout their love affair, a question she has a hard time answering.

As most murderers and mad men, Hobbs has two sides about him, which make him all the more interesting and multi-faceted. However, the question that rises is if these two parts of him are really too far apart. Did he really love Rose, as one might think when you imagine them spending days in bed or talking for hours, whereas it’s clear he would prefer it if Nellie kept her mouth shut all the time? Or is his love for Rose based solely on her hoodoo spell? I personally had trouble accepting the latter, not because I don’t believe in hoodoo – don’t know enough about the matter to form my opinion about it – but mostly because I didn’t want to. Part of me felt that this book would have been richer, more compelling, if Hobbs was capable of loving – or seemingly loving – another living being, instead of having that part of him based on some spell. I wish the author had left that out alltogether, and that Hobbs’ love for Rose could have been at least partly genuine. Instead, the author left the reader with an option, and since I chose to believe that he did care for Rose in his own, twisted way, that made me view Hobbs as more than a deranged, aggressive and violent man. Instead, I saw him as a troubled individual, with a lot of issues that made him into the monster most people believed he was.

As I already mentioned, I would have been content with the story only being told from Nellie’s and Rose’s point of view. I did not see the need for Shelly’s version of the events, or Josie Clay’s memoir, which totally messed up the chronological order as well. Nellie saw the good side of Hobbs, fell in love with him, and then met his bad side along the way. He threated her like a porcelain doll: he places her in a house, he lived with her, but he didn’t really talk to her or communicated in any other way. On his worst days, he threated her like garbage, or worse. With Rose on the other hand, we meet a rather passionate Hobbs Pritchard, a man struggling with his own feeilngs, who will never get beyond saying “I like you” no matter how hard he tries. In Rose Gardner he meets the woman he’s actually looking for, a woman more his equal, a person he can talk to. She knows he’s a bad man, and accepts it, mostly because she doesn’t know – nor wants to know – the full extent of his crimes. But he can be nice to her, and in fact, he is most of the time. He makes love to her, while he usually just has sex with Nellie (up till the point that I would call it rape). It’s another side of this multi-faced person, a side that makes him all the more intriguing. As is mentioned throughout the novel, not a lot of women can change a man’s ways, but Rose might just be the person to do that with Hobbs Pritchard.

However, what I found most notable is the way I as a reader changed my views of both Rose and Nellie as their story progressed. I first met Nellie when she was a rather shy, young and naïve child, with an innocent look upon marriage and the world in its whole. Protected from the bad stuff in life by her mother, Nellie is definately not ready for what it means to be married with a man like Hobbs Pritchard, however, blinded by love and the foolishness of youth, she decides to marry him anyway. But – and this is what I think Hobbs least expected – life on Black Mountain hardens Nellie. Seeing as both ghosts and living people warn her about her husband, faced with his erratic and compulsive behavior herself, she builds an almost impenetrable wall around her. She grows stronger, not only by chopping wood at the back of her house, but in her heart as well. Her heart turns black, as she herself indicates. Hobbs, by violating and malthreating her, is turning her into his worst possible enemy. And the thing is, he doesn’t even notice. He fails to see that the naïve, innocent young girl he took with him to Black Mountain, has become a little too much like him.

When we meet Rose, on the other hand, she is nor innocent nor naïve. With a mother who’s basically a prostitute, Rose knows a thing or two about life. Yet she too is foolish enough to fall for Hobbs Pritchard and even believing that he could care for, or love her like a proper man should. At first, she was obviously a lot stronger than Nellie, but whereas Nellie grows stronger throughout the novel, we see Rose growing weaker and more humble, until the point that she even admits that Nellie was stronger and more intelligent than she was all along. This shows a remarkable skill for characterization on Ann Hite’s behalf: turning the roles around, making us see the different kinds of strength and intelligence people can have, and making it all the more obvious how a person can change when they have no other options left or no one else to turn to.

I have to admit that, although I found the parts about Nellie Pritchard and Rosie Gardner to be superb, in both writing style, authentic narrator’s voice and fast-paced suspense, the spin-off story about Iona Harbor was something better left out, in my opinion. It just dragged the story on, taking a masterpiece and expanding it for another good fifty-pages until its status changed from “it’s a good book, but stop dragging it out”. Beware though; here are some spoilers. Iona Harbor is Annie Harbor’s daughter, and Annie is no one else but Nellie, who changed her name to escape her past. She goes through some troubles as well – I’m not going to say what, because that might spoil things for you – which, as can be expected, bring her and Annie back to Black Mountain. Cliché, much? In any case, I totally saw this coming, and I didn’t even want to wait to see how things played out. As I said, instead of dragging this book out, Ann Hite could have called it quits a hundred or so pages earlier and she would have written what I would consider a masterpiece in gothic horror and Southern literature. Now, not so much. That’s not to say that I’m not mighty impressed – I am – but still, I feel a tad bit dissapointed with the ending. Not all loose ends have to be tied up.

The ghosts were a nice addition and they added to the haunting and eerie atmosphere of Black Mountain. Although not particularly scary when read in daylight, I can imagine that this novel might be terrifying when read at night. Ann Hite has a wonderful writing style, with a lot of authenticity in her character’s voices. It’s obvious that a lot of care and thought went into creating this novel, its backstory and its characters. Whereas I would have preferred to learn more about Hobbs’ history and what caused him to become such a cruel and mean man, and I wasn’t that interested in the story of Iona Harbor, I did thoroughly enjoy reading this book. In fact, I read it in one reading session, and I didn’t even want to pause to grab myself a new cup of milk, so that’s saying something.

Dramatic, eerie and supsenseful at its best, Ghost on Black Mountain is a gripping debut novel that will make fans of Faulkner and Poe squeal from delight. With strong and authentic main characters, a multi-faceted bad guy and a haunting backstory, this book will appeal to everyone who enjoys a decent thriller or gothic horror story. Definately recommended, but beware: Once a person leaves Black Mountain, they never come back, not really. They’re lost forever.

Author Interview with Karina Halle

The Books

11710500Karina Halle
Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror #1) | Read my review.
Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2) | Read my review.
Dead Sky Morning | Coming October 13th 2011.

With the Experiment in Terror show finding some success, amateur ghost hunters Perry Palomino and Dex Foray embark on their most terrifying investigation yet. A tiny, fog-shrouded island in the rough strait between British Columbia and Washington State has held a dark secret for decades: It was a former leper colony where over forty souls were left to rot, die and bury each other. Now a functioning campground, Perry and Dex spend an isolated weekend there to investigate potential hauntings but as the duo quickly find out, there is more to fear on D’Arcy Island than just ghosts. The island quickly pits partner against partner, spiraling the pair into madness that serves to destroy their sanity, their relationship and their very lives.

Today I’m pleased to announce that I was granted the honor to host an interview with horror author Karina Halle. She wrote two novels in her Experiment in Terror series so far, both of which I reviewed and loved tremendously.

For those interested, she is currently offering the first novel in her series, Darkhouse, for only $0,99 USD on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. This promotions runs to October 13th, so be fast!

The Interview

1) Hey Karina! Thanks for letting me interview you 🙂 My first question, something I’ve been dying to know is: how did you come up with the idea of Darkhouse?

– No problem! It’s an honour to be interviewed on I <3 Reading. Well, it wasn’t so much that I came up with the idea of Darkhouse, but that I came up with the idea for the series. I always wanted to write a series of books about a realistic character who is in that tumultuous early/mid twenties period and told from her POV, and I’ve always been attracted to ghost stories and don’t think they’re explored enough in literature, so both those ideas just kind of mashed together one day. I still have the original summary of the series I wrote on an iTouch notes section when the idea for Perry Palomino struck me, and even though my original plan for the series was a lot different (ie there was no male lead in the first outline), the overall theme is the same.

2) As a writer of horror novels myself, I’m always curious about why people decide to write books in the horror genre. So…why horror and not any other genre?

– To be honest, I’m just a very sadistic, macabre person (though I’m very nice too ;). From a very young age, I liked to be scared and, even more than that, I liked to scare people. From having haunted houses at Halloween, to enlisting my mother to pretend to be a ghost at my sleepover, to going on night hikes with friends and leaving them alone in the forest without a flashlight…yeah, I’d say the need to terrify is deep in my veins. Now I’ve just found an outlet that’s not so “lawsuit” ish, ha ha.

3) I’ve read on your website that there will be 8 books total in the Experiment in Terror series. When did you decide that there would be 8 books, and why?

– At first I think there were five books planned. This was before I wrote Darkhouse. I always knew Darkhouse was going to be the “set-up” book. I had plotted out the five books too but then half-way through writing the second novel, Red Fox, I realized the overall story of Perry and Dex that I needed to tell was going to take more than five books to do. So I settled on eight. It’s the perfect amount. Frankly, I don’t ever want to stop writing about these characters, so eight was the most I could do while being able to tell the whole story of these people but without overstaying my welcome. The last thing I’d want is for the series to drag on.

4) Dead Sky Morning is the next book in the series. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

– It’s a bit of a departure from the other two books. It’s a similar setting and feel to Darkhouse, being in the cold, rainy Pacific Northwest (where I’m from) and it deals with ghosts rather than skinwalkers (as Red Fox did). But it’s also the most adult book of the series. From this book onwards, it definitely takes a giant step out of the Young Adult section. Not that it’s obscene or overtly graphic or anything, but it’s gorier, scarier and…sexier. I’m interested to see how it’s received. Because the characters are essentially alone on an island for most of the book, it has a very claustrophobic feel. You can just see the threads of sanity snapping for both of them. It’s also based on true events that the Canadian government sort of swept under the rug, so that’s cool too. The island is an actual place, and we may go there in the fall to shoot the book trailer. If only my crew weren’t such scaredy cats, lol.

5) What book did you find easiest to write: Darkhouse or Red Fox? And, I know this is probably a difficult question, but which one do you like best yourself?

– Hmmm. Well the difficult question is the easiest for me to answer. I like Red Fox better. Darkhouse was always about setting up the characters, where Red Fox I was able to play with them more and let them develop. I think it moves fast, like a screenplay, and it really lets the reader see what my characters are capable of. Both Perry and Dex have some pretty intense moments in Red Fox and some of my favorite scenes ever are from that book.

As for easiest book to write? I couldn’t say. Maybe Red Fox, even though there was a lot of research involved and it took a year (versus Darkhouse which took six weeks). I think there was less pressure for me in Red Fox.

6) When you start writing a book, how does your writing schedule look like?

– Well, I don’t really plan too much. I write for several publications as a music journalist, so I’m aware that my other duties can throw me off. It’s tough to write what you want to write after you write what you HAVE to write. I think it takes me about three months or less to write a book and that’s not writing every day. I just pick a goal (usually publication) and get it done.

7) What do you do when you’re out of inspiration to write?

– Huh. Well, I’m always inspired to write (so far). But I take breaks on purpose. No sense rushing through the series since I love writing it so much. I read a lot. I travel a lot (usually for concerts). And since I’m self-published, I do a lot of promotion and marketing stuff to help my books when I’m not writing. I’m pretty much always writing something or always working on promoting the series 24/7. No complaints though!

8 ) What book are you currently working on?

– Lying Season, Book Four. Actually I’m at 97K words at this exact moment and by the time this interview is published, I’ll be done writing the book. I’m on a roll and can’t stop. Been writing for days straight, and all day long, which is not normal for me (I’m a night writer mostly). It’s funny, this particular novel is really wrapping me up in knots at the moment. My characters are going through some changes and I’m getting nervous and apprehensive on their behalf. And a little sad. I’ve never felt so torn up and emotional about the series as I am at this exact moment. I think I’m just really emphasizing with Perry and Dex and their journey at this point and subconsciously aware of what I’m going to do to them. It has to be done, but for the first time…it kind of hurts me! That said, it’s a good thing. I’m very excited to see where things go and I’m really proud of this one.

I’m very excited to see where things go as well. Thank you for this interview, Karina, and thanks for letting me review your awesome books!

Book Review: Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2) by Karina Halle

11710500Title: Red Fox (Experiment in Terror #2)
Author: Karina Halle
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Publisher: Metal Blonde Books
Publication Date: June 13th 2011
Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)
Rating: 4,5 stars

With Book Two of the Experiment in Terror Series, Perry Palomino and Dex Foray trade in the stormy Oregon coast for the unforgiving deserts of New Mexico.
In the for­got­ten town of Red Fox, a Navajo cou­ple is tor­tured by things unseen and by motives unknown. Wild ani­mals slink through their house in the dark, a bar­rage of stones pound their roof nightly, and muti­lated sheep car­casses are turn­ing up on their prop­erty. Armed with a cam­era and just enough to go on, Perry and Dex travel to the des­o­late locale, hop­ing to film the super­nat­ural occur­rences and add cred­i­bil­ity to their flail­ing web­cast. Only their show has a lot more work­ing against them than just grow­ing pains. Tested by dubi­ous ranch hands, a ghost from Dex’s past, and shapeshift­ing decep­tion, the ama­teur ghost hunters must learn to trust each other in order to fight the most ancient of myths…or die trying.

I already wrote a review about the first book in this series, Darkhouse, and went to great lengths to explain to you all how much I truly enjoyed that book. It’s always a bit frightening when a debut book is great and you have the next book the series waiting for you to read it. If it’s worse than the first book, you’re always left with this double feelings as a reader: on the one hand, you still pretty much enjoyed the first book and you’d like to recommend it to people, but on the other hand if the second book didn’t appeal to you quite as much you feel like you’re being a hypocrite if you try to apraise the series to people. However, luckily for me I didn’t have to worry about that with Red Fox. This book totally went above and beyond my expectations, and completely surpassed Darkhouse on all levels.

It took me a while to write this review. I find it difficult to either completely praise a book or completely break down a book – in this case it’s obviously the first. Mixed reviews, in which I have good and bad opinions about a book are surprisingly easier to write. I finished reading Red Fox for the first time approximately a month ago, but after writing my review for Darkhouse and when I sat down to write my review for this book I realized that I couldn’t. The pace of Red Fox is fast, but for my curious mind it apparently wasn’t fast enough, so I skipped paragraphs here and there as to know the outcome of the story, which I always do when books excite me. However, that’s not advisable, and I had to reread Red Fox to give it the review it deserved. It’s a good sign that I skipped through parts to reach the end, because that means I thought the story was really gripping and I desperately wanted to know how it ended – but unfortunately that way you miss out on beautiful descriptions, well-written dialogues and some underlying plot points, all of which I encountered while rereading Red Fox.

In Red Fox, New Mexico, Perry and Dex discover an evil greater and scarier than the one they fought and defeated in Darkhouse. Weird things are happening on the farm of a Navajo couple. Animals are behaving strangely, stones drop down on the house and the inhabitants are getting more and more scared every minute. When Perry and Dex come to their rescue in a desperate attempt to save their TV Show, which was not well received by the producer, things get even more out of control. Now the forces that appeared to be haunting Will and Sarah are after Perry and Dex as well. Battling ghosts or poltergeists is one thing, but fighting skinwalkers? Shamans? That might be too much for even Perry and Dex to handle!

While I think that the story in Red Fox is certainly more original than the one in Darkhouse, that doesn’t necessarily make it better. Don’t get me wrong: the story is great, well-constructed with enough plot twists to keep even Sherlock Holmes occupied, but I liked the story behind Darkhouse as well. Perhaps less original, but it certainly had me surprised and waiting for more. In my opinion, the major pluspoint about Red Fox is that we already knew the characters. Karina Halle had to waste no time introducing us to Dex, Perry and their friends and family, but she could jump right into the action with the reader tagging along. I also liked the way Dex and Perry’s relationship developed. Although they were cute in their interactions in the first book, the attraction between them slowly grows visible as Red Fox progresses. I was skeptic of them as a couple at first since Dex didn’t seem the most trustworthy person in the world as Perry met him in Darkhouse, but the way he evolves and grows from a mysterious, sometimes even cowardly stranger who dissapears when Perry needs him the most into a trustworthy companion is impressive.

This book is not built upon the exquisite story behind it, although that is impressive, original and entertaining to say the least, but it’s based upon the characters, their interactions, their feelings and emotions and their undeniable attraction to one another. Perry and Dex, I officially love you guys. Other noteworthy characters include the skinwalkers (how cool is that?) and the somewhat messed-up dynamics in the relationship between the Navajo couple. Karina Halle really has a talent for sketching believable, interesting characters with as many flaws as qualities and a good mixture of both. Her ability to develop these characters from their starting point and turn them into stronger, independent and intelligent individuals who are coming to terms with who they really are and their real feelings is astonishing. For character development, Karina Halle certainly deserves an A+.

There are, however, some reasons why I chose to rate this book 4,5 rather than 5 stars. For one, I know that Karina Halle has recently finished her next book in the series, Dead Sky Morning, and if what I’m anticipating is true and that book is even better than Red Fox, then I need to be able to give it a higher rating still. On the other hand, I wasn’t as scared with this book as I was with the previous. Red Fox reads a bit like a Supernatural episode or a Buffy episode. It’s not all that scary, but it’s thrilling and exciting. You get used to the permanent ‘scary’ threat soon enough and then it’s only a matter of suspense and mystery as to who is doing what and who’s responsible for what. But this may have to do with my personal opinion that ghosts are the scariest thing ever, and even some extremely dangerous shamans can’t make me think differently. Sorry dudes, but ghosts rule everything in the scary department.

Apart from the original take on paranormal activity, the addition of skinwalkers, the lovely descriptions of the New Mexico desert atmosphere and the wonderful characters, Red Fox also offers a surreal and mysterious vibe through the entire book, a fast pace with delicious plot twists and a love story worth swooning over. Red Fox is a pageturner you definately shouldn’t miss out on, and just like its predecessor it’s an excellent work in the horror genre. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Karina Halle is truly ruling the horror genre this season with her Experiment in Terror series. Recommended to all horror fans and I can’t wait for the next part in the series.

Interested in reading this extraordinary scary series yourself? Darkhouse is currently available from Smashwords for only $0,99 USD. Try it out now!

Book Review: While They Slept by Kathryn Harrison

2048874Title: While They Slept: An Inquiry Into The Murder of a Family
Author: Kathryn Harrison
Genre: True Crime, Non-Fiction
Pubisher: Random House
Publication Date: June 10th 2008
Rating: 1 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Author Website

Early on an April morning, eighteen-year-old Billy Frank Gilley, Jr., killed his sleeping parents. Surprised in the act by his younger sister, Becky, he turned on her as well. Billy then climbed the stairs to the bedroom of his other sister, Jody, and said, “We’re free.” But is one ever free after an unredeemable act of violence? The Gilley family murders ended a lifetime of physical and mental abuse suffered by Billy and Jody at the hands of their parents. And it required each of the two survivors–one a convicted murderer, the other suddenly an orphan–to create a new identity, a new life.In this mesmerizing book, bestselling writer Kathryn Harrison brilliantly uncovers the true story behind a shocking and unforgettable crime as she explores the impact of escalating violence and emotional abuse visited on the children of a deeply troubled family. With an artistry that recalls Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song, and her own The Kiss, Harrison reveals the antecedents of the murders–of a crime of such violence that it had the power to sever past from present–and the consequences for Billy and for Jody. Weaving in meditations on her own experience of parental abuse, Harrison searches out answers to the question of how survivors of violent trauma shape a future when their lives have been divided into Before and After.
Based on interviews with Billy and Jody as well as with friends, police, and social workers involved in the case, While They Slept is Kathryn Harrison’s unflinching inquiry into the dark heart of violence in an American family, and a personal quest to understand how young people go on after tragedy–to examine the extent as well as the limits of psychic resilience. The New York Times called Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss “a powerful piece of writing, a testament to evil and hope.” The same could be said about While They Slept.

I don’t usually read non-fiction novels, and the true crime genre is new to me as well. But when I saw this book in my local bookstore at a significant discount (three thrillers/true crime books for 10 euros), I was drawn to it like a bee is to honey. I hadn’t heard about this case before, and the name Billy Gilley didn’t ring a bell. But I had heard about other cases in which a young boy slaughters his entire family, driven to the verge of madness by a vast ray of causes, be it abuse, neglect or voices in their head. For Billy Gilley it was the first. He was mercilessly beaten and terrorized by his parents, the two people in the world who should have been there for him but weren’t. And then one day, he just snapped. His sister had skipped school that day, and got into trouble with her parents for doing so. Billy then told his sister Jody that he would like to ‘bash in their heads with a baseball bat’. That night, he did, killing both of his parents and his younger sister Becky.

Author Kathryn Harrison investigates the Billy Gilley case by interviewing both Billy and Jody Gilley regularly. She tries to reconstruct what happened that fateful day by both of their eye-witness accounts, and tries to give the reader an insight into the mind of a young man driven to murder and the aftermath of those terrible events for Jody. She tries to explain to us how Jody is coping with that loss, and the person she became because of it. As I mentioned, Kathryn Harrison ‘tried’ to do all those things. Unfortunately for the reader, she fails on more than half of those things, and offers a book that can be described as ‘interesting’ at best. It’s obvious, even for the non-experienced true crime reader, and a person with no expertise in the area of psychology or criminology whatsoever apart from some basic classes at university, that Kathryn Harrison did not do the Billy Gilley story justice. In fact, she brutally misused both Jody and Billy Gilley in her book, comparing her own bad luck in life with that of what Jody had to go through, drawing parallels that aren’t really there, applying her own mismatched amateur-psychology when it’s not wanted nor advised, and believing every word Jody says where she’s continuously sceptical towards anything Billy mentions. I spent more time being annoyed at Kathryn Harrison’s far-fetched and outrageously large narcissism, her inability to sound neutral and non-biased and her continuous referring to her own life than I spent enjoying the rest of the book, which is saying something.

Unfortunately, rather than teaching me something more about Billy and Jody Gilley, While They Slept taught me more about Kathryn Harrison than about anyone else. For instance, when she was eighteen or twenty (I forgot, because I didn’t really care) Kathryn tongue-kissed her long lost father, trying to make up for all those years of abandonment and trying to get back at her mother for God knows what reason. She then continued to have an incestuous relationship with her own father for about two years, in which he maltreated her and sometimes even locked her up (or that’s what I gathered). Eventually she got out, got her life back on track and has spent the rest of her life trying to deal with her past. It’s not that I don’t find it terrible what happened to Kathryn Harrison. Really, I do. Although she chose to have an incestuous relationship (she wasn’t really forced though, it wasn’t rape) I can understand where those feelings came from, and of course it can’t ever feel right to do that kind of stuff with your father. But let me begin by saying that she already wrote a memoir about that. There’s no need to mention these events occassionally throughout this book, to point them out to your readers in a casual but misleading way and trying to bring the spotlight from where it should be – Billy and Jody Gilley – to Kathryn Harrison. Sorry Kat, but this book isn’t supposed to be about you. You’re not the center of the universe. I understand you have problems, but you already told us about that, and if you want to, write another memoir, but don’t go ruin this story about two different people by trying to make it about you.

Furthermore, what angered me beyond belief about Kathryn Harrison is that she continuously draws parallels between the tragedy Jody Gilley had to go through – the murder of her entire family by her own brother – and Kathryn’s own troubles in life. She refers to both herself and Jody as being people who changed into a ‘before’ and ‘after’ person. I think it’s a tremendously preposterous claim of the author that both these things could even be compared. They can’t. I don’t know how it’s possible that Jody Gilley never once felt like hitting some sense into Kathryn Harrison, especially when the author grows so daring to tell these things in person. Apparently Kathryn lives in this illusion that her own life and troubles can be compared to Jody’s, that she went through so much irreversible tragedy that she’s entitled to behave like a psychologist, and that she has the right – can you believe the pretention? – to analyse everything Jody and Billy Gilley say, find hidden meanings behind their words and declare to all her readers who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. Unfortunately, Kathryn Harrison is nor a psychologist, criminologist, criminal profiler, social worker or a lawyer, and thus she is entitled to no such things. When you have no credentials in a field of expertise whatsoever, then stay out of it. She’s an author, and the point was that she had to write down Billy and Jody’s story, not mismatch it with several assumptions of her own, draw her own conclusions or have the pretention to tell her readers who to believe and who not to believe, based on amateur psychology.

But brace yourself, the horror isn’t over yet. Apart from her continous comparison between Jody Gilley and herself, and her unasked for retelling of her own memoir, Kathryn Harrison also has a clear and obvious favorism for Jody, and believes her every word contrary to those of Jody’s brother, who she doesn’t believe at all. However, from what I gathered from reading this book, sometimes what Billy says makes a lot of sense, whereas it seems as if Jody just suppressed those feelings and events in an attempt to live with survivor’s guilt. However, the author has drawn a clear line in this book: Billy is a murderer, thus he’s always wrong, and Jody isn’t, thus she’s always right. We all know that the real truth hardly is as linear, and that two people may have different reactions as to what’s going on, whereas that doesn’t necessarily mean one of them is lying. It’s obvious that in her effort to draw a parallel between herself and Jody Gilley, Kathryn chose a definite side, and she lost all abilities to talk about the murders in a neutral way.

To be honest, I think both Jody and Billy Gilley deserved an author who spend less time worrying about herself, and more time worrying about what happened to them and to listen to their story. They didn’t need to be psycho-analyzed by an amateur, and they definately didn’t need their case compared to an adult having an incestuous relationship with her own father, however disturbing that may be as well. More than anything, they deserved to be treated as main characters of this book rather than figures used for this author’s self-absorption. Moreover, Billy deserved the benefit of the doubt, definately in a society where the role of abuse leading up to a child murdering his own parents has been thoroughly investigated, speculated and debated by real psychiatrists and psychologists, and where the common answer nowadays is that it can be excusable to kill one’s own family when pushed to the breaking point by physical and mental abuse by one’s own parents. It certainly seems understandable, and we should not always judge people based on what they did in moments all logic left them. I feel that Kathryn chose to paint Billy as a murderer rather than a person, and it’s obvious that her opinion is so biased it greatly weighs down on the quality of this book.

Personally, I felt sorry for both children. Although I’m not a psychologist or criminologist or all those things Kathryn Harrison occassionally pretends to be, it’s my opinion that Billy was once again wronged with this book, in which he voluntarily participated but that portrayed him as being a liar, sometimes on purpose, sometimes without realizing it; whereas I thought it was obvious in some parts of the book that Billy’s recount of the events made more sense and seemed more logical than Jody’s. Rather than believe Jody’s every word, Kathryn should have taken into account that she should hold the same prejudice against Jody that she should against Billy. For example, Jody says she never encouraged Billy to kill her parents, but the thing is that it would be totally understandable if she did. After all, we all say stupid things sometimes, especially when we’re angered or feel threatened. Jody and Billy must have felt threated and scared continuously, and it makes sense that one would snap then. But of course, in her memory, Jody could have suppressed all the times she said things like that, trying to deal with the events and the guilt that followed them, which wouldn’t make her a liar, but rather a victim of this trauma. However, as I said, I won’t go play the psychologist as well, but I think that explenation would be a lot more logical than calling Billy a liar. After all, what would he gain from putting his sister in jail as well for conspiracy or something along those lines, the sister he tried to protect up till the point that he rather killed their parents then let himself and her get hurt at their hands one more time? If Kathryn tells her readers one option, she should also tell us the other option, and not just choose sides.

In my opinion, the emphazises was mostly on victims of a traumatic event, and how they deal with the aftermath, survivor’s guilt in particular. However, I would have liked a greater emphazises on what happened prior to the murders, the abuse that drove Billy to do what he did and Billy’s own path to redemption or dealing with what happened. Thing is that partially through this book, I began to feel sorry for Billy. One can never say that murder can be approved, but in some cases, like when a child has been abused, maltreated and terrorized until it feels like an animal in a cage, it is excusable. If Billy only saw one way of escaping and that was through murder, then it is somehow understandable that eventually he gave in and did just about that. Furthermore, he was already ridiculed by his parents and fellow schoolmates for not being able to write and read properly, something which we know realize – which no one really did at the time the murders were commited – were probably signs of a messed-up life at home. Add his aggression, the fact that from Kathryn Harrison’s and real psychiatrists’s descriptions he now seems as a loving and caring individual, the constant abuse and the never-ending fear of that abuse, and you have the circumstances set to turn everyone into a murderer. Billy was not accepted anywhere – not by the people at school, not by his own parents, and in the end, not even by the sister he probably cared for the most. It’s a saddening tale. Sometimes throughout this novel Kathryn Harrison – perhaps with her own sometimes twisted and perverted mind – often wondered aloud whether Billy loved his sister the way he shouldn’t, and Jody actually recalls Billy sexually harrassing her. I don’t know if that’s true or not, although according to the book Billy denies it, but from what I gather, in my personal opinion, I think there are two options more valuable than Kathryn just painting Billy off as a pervert. One option is that Jody replaced the image of her father harrassing her with the image of Billy doing so, because this would be easier to cope with, seeing as she already felt a lot of guilt for her parent’s death – blame it all on Billy, because he already murdered them, seems like a viable solution in that case. The other possibility is that Billy did harrass her, but in his own disturbed mind it was probably more a cry for acceptance and love than anything else. However, I’m not a psychologist, and this is just my opinion, as some sort of counter-opinion of Kathryn Harrison, who just portrays Billy as a perverted murderer.

A boy growing up in a household without much love, with a mother who backstabs him continously and a father who beats him mercilessly. He’s terrible at reading and writing, almost illiterate, ends up with the wrong friends and always ends up in trouble. On one day, he has had enough. He talks to his sister about murdering his parents. He takes her silence as an answer and that night he takes a baseball bat and beats his mother and father to death. Unfortunately his little sister hears something is going on and goes back downstairs. Panicking, Billy kills her as well, the only murder he actually feels terribly sorry for. He goes upstairs and tells Jody that now they’re finally free. Does this sound like the portrait of a mad man, a psychopath? Or does it sound like the story of a boy who knew no way out, who was let down by social services, school and everyone who ever could have helped him? Does this sound like the story of a boy accepted by no one, betrayed by everyone and desperately seeking the love and care he so needed? I think it does, and at least on that point, Kathryn Harrison agrees with me, albeit partly.

I would have liked to learn more about Billy, and less about Kathryn Harrison herself. I would honestly say that I’d like to see Billy out of jail. He has been punished before he ever commited the crime, and he has been punished severely afterward for something society nowadays usually excuses or advises therapy for. And at the end of this book, I began to feel sorry for him. I felt sorry for Jody from the beginning, but with Billy it took a while, but it’s there. Unfortunately we may never truly know what happened that fateful night – we have Jody’s version and Billy’s version and the pseudo-psychologic analyse made by Kathryn Harrison – but as always I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Let me finish by adding that throughout this book, Kathryn Harrison sees a lot of sexual references were there aren’t any, probably inspired by her own sexual relationship with her father, or by an overly-in-depth reading of Freud. However, once you look past her odd conclusions, her biased look on things and clear preference for Jody’s side of the story, her continuous self-absorption and her amataur psychology, you will realize that at the core of this book is a story about a family gone wrong, about abuse and destruction, about freedom, acceptance and love and about the ability to move on and keep on hoping for a better future. These underlying thoughts are inspiring, but are unfortunately overshadowed by Kathryn’s own life story and her occassional writing flaws. If you’re a fan of true fiction, or Jody and Billy’s story inspired you, then read this book. If however you’re like me and you’ll find yourself more disturbed by the author’s judgemental and erratic behavior than anything else, and you feel like writing her hatemail by the end of this book, then stay away from it as far as possible.

In My Mailbox (16) / Mailbox Monday (25)

mailbox

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. (Library books don’t count, but eBooks & audiobooks do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here). This month it is hosted by Bluestocking.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

xt-align: justify;”>Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here). This month it is hosted by Bluestocking.

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

In My Mailbox

Book Review: Paradise 21 by Aubrie Dionne

12225018Title: Paradise 21
Author: Aubrie Dionne
Genre: Science-Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication Date: August 2nd 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Author Website | Author’s Website | Amazon

Aries has lived her entire life aboard mankind’s last hope, the New Dawn, a spaceship traveling toward a planet where humanity can begin anew-a planet that won’t be reached in Aries’ lifetime. As one of the last genetically desirable women in the universe, she must marry her designated genetic match and produce the next generation for this centuries-long voyage.
But Aries has other plans.
When her desperate escape from the New Dawn strands her on a desert planet, Aries discovers the rumors about pirates-humans who escaped Earth before its demise-are true. Handsome, genetically imperfect Striker possesses the freedom Aries envies, and the two connect on a level she never thought possible. But pursued by her match from above and hunted by the planet’s native inhabitants, Aries quickly learns her freedom will come at a hefty price.
The life of the man she loves.

I’m happy to host a giveaway for one of Aubrie’s older books as well. Scroll down to the end of the review to find out more drtails about the giveaway!

Life on the New Dawn is predictable to say the least. Original thoughts are discouraged at all levels, future spouses are selected by a computer and rebellion is certainly out of hte question. Naturally, sooner or later someone is going to try and escape. However, since escape is usually noticed fast, and the properties of some possible refugee-planets aren’t necessarily ideal either. But that doesn’t stop Aries, our heroine, one of the few people aboard the colony ship actually capable of forming a single self-created thought. When she finds herself, to her horror, paired to Lieutenant Barliss, a heartless and sometimes even cruel man whose determination to follow the set system of rules is without boundaries, Aries knows she has to make a run for it. She would rather die than spend her entire life in this prison she is forced to call home.

But her escape backfires at first as she is being held hostage by alien creatures and natural inhabitants of the planet she chose as destination. Luckily for Aries, a marooned space pirate called Striker comes to her rescue. Hurt beyond repair by a former love of his, Striker is reluctant to open up his heart for anyone again. But as his attraction towards Aries grows, and she begins to see him romantically as well, they just can’t deny their feelings any longer. For Striker, Aries presents a long-awaited second chance at love, life and happiness, and for Aries Striker represents freedom, hope and a chance at a future of her own choosing.

Aries and Striker work together to repair the space ship Striker has been using for shelter, their now only hope of leaving this planet. Unfortunately, Aries gets captured and Striker’s old crew pops up out of nowhere with a debt to collect. They want him to interpret a coded map leading straight to Paradise 21, the paradise and salvation man kind has been searching for ever since Earth became uninhabitable by man’s own mistakes.

The main reason why Aries’ life seems so predetermined is because her supposedly only goal in life is to pass on her unique genetic code, so that one day in the future their offspring would be able to reach the New Dawn’s true destination, Paradise 21, hence the title of the book. Choice, and being unable to choose one’s own future, is a major concept in this book, and it’s an interesting one as well. What would you do if your only purpose was to procreate so that one day your ship could reach a Paradise-like Planet? Would you follow the rules as set before you, or would you take a chance at the unknown and try to escape, with possible fatal results? Furthermore, this book talks about Paradise 21, a mythical utopian planet the post-apocalyptic survivors have been looking for since the day they were forced to leave Earth. It’s utopia and its existence is widely debated since no one has ever ventured there before. The thought alone that its properties and climate would be fit to keep humans alive would be a long shot, if such planet existed to begin with. But Paradise 21 is more than just a destination: it’s hope. For the humans aboard the New Dawn and for Striker’s crew of space pirates, it’s their final hope.

As you can see from my last paragraph, Paradise 21 really leaves room for thought. It talks about the freedom of choice and how much one would be willing to sacrifice to gain that freedom, but it also talks about hope at the end of a most catastrophical disaster, and humanity’s unfailing ability to always find said hope, even in the darkest of days. I’m usually not a big fan of science fiction, because I generally see it as a genre filled with cliché books and substandard writing, but Paradise 21 made me reconsider. This book is fast-paced and action-filled with multi-layered and complex characters, interesting villains and some pretty strong thoughts about choosing one’s own destiny and the perseverence of hope, against all odds. Barliss, Aries’ former fiance, was one of the characters I personally found the most interesting, especially as he changes towards the end and shows us the monster he was all along. There is no villain more interesting than one who thinks he is doing the right thing.

If you like science fiction, Paradise 21 definately is an excellent choice. If you don’t like science fiction, you shouldn’t pass by this book either. It reads like a movie script, leaving you barely room to breathe and relax, but at the end it keeps you with some unanswered questions, the desire to read more about these characters and this dystopian, futuristic world they’re living in, and a whole lot of questions in your mind about how much you would be willing to sacrifice to the things we deem as being normal in today’s world. I loved this book, and I recommend it to everyone who’s looking for something different and unique.

Giveaway

Aubrie was kind enough to offer to give an eBook copy of one of her previously released books to one lucky visitor! You can see a list of Aubrie’s books over at Gypsy Shadow Publishing. Want to participate in this contest?
Leave a comment below to participate in the contest! Don’t forget to leave a valid email address so I can contact you.

Book Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

6339664Title: Hush, Hush
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult, Angels
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: October 13th 2009
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Author Website

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her…until Patch comes along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

I must admit that Hush, Hush totally surprised me. It went above and beyond my expectations. After reading Fallen, The Vampire Diaries, The House of Night series and Evermore by Alyson Noel, I thought nothing could surprise me anymore. I thought I had seen it all when it comes to angels, paranormal romances, and high school girls falling for supernatural creatures. I had seen cliché scenes, slightly more original ways to handle it, I had rolled my eyes on plenty of occassions and I had felt like slapping the heroine on the head on equally as many occassions. I grabbed Hush, Hush from my local bookstore and thought “Well, maybe it’s time to go through all of it again. Because even though you sometimes get annoyed with the clueless heroine or her annoying bratty friends or the clichés are so overwhelming that you feel like puking – that still doesn’t change the fact that you love those paranormal romance books. Especially when in the young adult genre. You love them. Try it.” Notice how I say ‘you’ when I address myself in third person? Anyway, that was the debate going on in my head before I eventually succumbed and purchased Hush, Hush. I wasn’t going to be dissapointed.

Let me get the bad stuff out of the way first. Hush, Hush is not original. Let’s not pretend it is. It’s the same basic story we’ve seen remodeled, reshaped and redecorated for over a thousand times now: fallen angel falls in love with human girl. Initially he was supposed to kill her, but we can’t argue about that once fluffy feelings get in the way now, can we? But that’s where the large cliché part stops.

Nora Grey, the main character of this book, is your average teenage girl. With ‘your average’ I mean that she’s actually pretty average. She is far from being ugly, but she isn’t Prom Queen either. Moreover, she somewhat holds the balance between Elena Gilbert and Bella Swan, except that she’s one hundred percent cooler and more down to earth. She doesn’t get asked out a lot, but she doesn’t really mind because she’s picky about boys as well, which is fine by my standards. She is pretty realistic about herself, has a wonderful best friend (God I loved Vee…More about that later though!), gets along pretty well with her Mom, at least better than half the teenage population nowadays, and hopes to get into a major university once day. She’s quiet but not exactly shy, studious and a bit nerdy, but she isn’t exactly going to win an award for being adventurous or outgoing. As I said, she’s average, your average everything. And I liked that. I liked to have an average, normal heroine for once rather than an insecure little brat (read: Bella Swan) or an over-confident, mindless cheerleader (read: Elena Gilbert). In fact, Nora reminded me a lot of myself, apart from her sometimes rather stalkery sleuthing adventures with her best friend Vee…Even I have to admit that was often over the top, but hey…We all do crazy things when we’re teenagers. So let’s forgive Nora that so I can safely give her the award for ‘most awesome, down-to-earth and normal heroine ever’.

With this ordinary and average girl in the main role, you need to have a male counterpart who’s gripping, interesting, a bit rough around the edges, and confident enough to pull the reader into this story from the moment he walks in. May I introduce you to…Patch. Trust me when I say that he’s all that, and more. It’s been a while since I ever felt my heart flutter when I read a character’s name or imagined how he would be like in real life (in fact it’s been ever since I read In The Forests Of The Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes for the first time when I was roughly ten years old), but Patch accomplishes just that. He’s your typical bad-boy, hanging around in clubs he shouldn’t be in, getting into bar fights, driving a motorcycle…You name it, and I’m pretty sure Patch has done it. Where do you think he got the name Patch from? Add to that list that Patch is perfectly capable of getting under Nora’s skin, has an amazing sense of humor, is cocky in a way that practically screams sexy…It’s like my dream boyfriend became reality. Well, except that unlike Nora, I would not jump to the conclusion that he’s some psycho-serial killer, but I would go all “Meh, he’s probably just a fallen angel”. Because I’m cool like that. Anyway, Patch is amazing. If you like cocky bad boys who are excellent and giving snarky remarks, then Patch will melt your heart.

The thing I enjoyed most about this book, is Nora’s interaction with her best friend Vee. Vee is nothing short of amazing. She’s funny, the voice of sillyness when Nora is the voice of reason, a friend you can truly depend on, the best team mate a girl could wish for, outgoing, hilarious and wonderful. Alright so she sometimes goes a little crazy when Nora and Vee go on a sleuthing spree to find out what exactly is going on, with who and when, but that’s what you expect from sugar-high high-school girls. But Vee and Nora’s interactions are the best. They really warmed my heart, because they’re so honest, down-to-earth and so obvious best friends in every way. Their relationship is what really lifted this book from a 4 to a 5 stars for me. Too often I see practically non-existent, continuously backstabbing ‘friendships’ developed in YA literature, and I’m just so relieved to see that it also can be done differently. There is a real bond between Vee and Nora, they have this entire friendship code with a particular kind of humor attached to it, inside jokes, etc. It just feels real, and that’s what makes it special and unique.

As I already mentioned, the plot line might not seem all that original at first. And truthfully, it isn’t. But Becca Fitzpatrick really brings her characters to life. It’s the characters that make this book, that drive this plot forward. She also adds some mystery, surprising plot twists and some authentic ancient mythology to the mix, resulting in a book that I can’t help but find both outstanding and surprising. If you’re a fan of paranormal romance, Hush, Hush is definately an excellent choice.