Diamonds and Deceit

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Secrets and Sapphires. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Diamonds and Deceit was written by Leila Rasheed and first published in 2014. It is a historical romance set in the early 20th Century that focuses on the lives of the people who live and work on the wealthy Somerton Estate. The novel forms the second part of the At Somerton series – following Secrets and Sapphires (2013) and preceding Emeralds and Ashes (2015). Because of this, I would strongly recommend reading the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them.

A few months have passed since Lady Rose was formally adopted as one of Lord Westlake’s daughters and she is struggling to fit in. The other young Ladies refuse to accept her as one of them, disgusted by her poor upbringing. However, the serving staff behave strangely around her too, projecting a sense that they believe it improper for one of their station to ever believe that they belong in high society. As her season begins and she becomes attracted to a known ladies man, the Duke of Huntleigh, she knows that her feelings will never be reciprocated. What will Huntleigh think when he learns who she truly is?

Her sister, Ada, is also having a miserable time of things. There is a lot of pressure for her to accept Lord Fintan’s offer of engagement in order to save her family from poverty, however how can she do so in good conscience? Even though Ravi has returned to India, she still loves him dearly. It seems unfair to both of them to enter a loveless marriage. However, her choice may soon be taken from her. Charlotte is determined to have her revenge against her stepsister and has more than enough information at her fingertips to publicly shame both Ada and Lord Fintan.

Yet these are not the only dramas unfolding at the Somerton Estate. Sebastian is determined to prove that his love – Oliver – is innocent of murder. Michael must choose between going to Eton and finding a way to start a life with Priya, the Indian nursemaid. Georgina must find a way to stop the staff from leaving in protest of the authoritarian new housekeeper. If any of these scandals are discovered, they could spell the end of the Westlake family. Is there any way that they can hope to keep things together until Ada’s wedding can save the estate?

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My Best Everything

My Best Everything was first published in 2015 and is Sarah Tomp’s debut novel. It is a contemporary romance that focuses on a teenage girl who will do anything it takes to escape from her small home town. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other books to fully appreciate it.

Luisa “Lulu” Mendez can’t wait to leave Dale. All her life, her father has told her that she needs to get out of the small Virginian town, and now she can finally do that. She just has to last one more summer before she can head off to college in San Diego and finally kiss her part-time job at the local junkyard good-bye. Unfortunately, it is not long before everything goes wrong.

When one of her father’s business deals goes south, Lulu’s family suddenly finds itself short of money. This means that her dream is cruelly snatched from her as her family can no longer afford her tuition fees. Lulu is devastated but raising the money in such a short time seems impossible. That is, until someone dumps an old moonshine still at the junkyard. Although Lulu knows that distilling alcohol is illegal without a permit, she also knows just how much money a shiner can make. With the help of her friends, Rona and Bucky, Lulu steals the still and hides it in the woods.

Yet making moonshine is dangerous and she does not know where to begin. This is why Lulu knows that she needs the help of Mason – a local boy with a troubled past. The fact that Mason’s family are shiners is a poorly kept secret and, with his help, she knows that she can succeed. However, Lulu does not realise just how dangerous making moonshine can be. As she draws closer to Mason and puts her plan in action, she soon realises that she is playing with fire. She can only hope that she makes the money that she needs before she gets burned…

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Sparked

Sparked

Sparked was first published in 2015 and is Sheena Snow’s debut novel. It’s a science-fiction romance story about a teenage girl who discovers that her perfect match is an android. The novel is the first part of a planned series but at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

When the American Government announced that robots would be made available to the general public, the country became absolutely mad for them. Although human in appearance, the automatons possessed no emotion or free will and were programmed to perform certain tasks. However, eighteen year old Vienna Avery is less convinced. She knows that the Government is lying and that the robots can’t be trusted.

When her family purchase Robotatouille, a French chef robot, she doesn’t know what to do. Even though they assure her that he is perfectly safe, she is not convinced. She’s sure that he’s smarter than he seems and strange things start happening soon after he arrives. An explosion rocks the kitchen and a strange man begins following Vienna. She knows it can’t be a coincidence but no one will believe her.

Things change when a powerful robot tries to kidnap Vienna in the night. Robotatouille defends her, proving that robots are far more intelligent than humans ever imagined. It turns out that he was sent to protect her from the bad robots that are out to capture her. While Robotatouille remains to ensure her parents are safe, Vienna is spirited away by his commander – a green-eyed robot named Alec. He assures Vienna that he will keep her safe but how can she possibly trust him when she knows he isn’t human?

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Empress of the World

Empress of the World

Empress of the World was written by Sara Ryan and first published in 2001. It is a contemporary romance, focusing on a teenager discovering her sexuality when she finds herself drawn to another girl at her summer school. The novel is the first part of the Battle Hall Davies series and is followed by The Rules for Hearts (2007). It also won 2002 Oregon Book Award for Young Readers Literature.

Nicola Lancaster only really has one thing in mind when she enrolls in the Siegel Institute Summer Program for Gifted Youth – to study hard and decide if she really wants to make a career for herself in archaeology. She’s never really been one for making friends. Sure, she has theatre friends and orchestra friends but never just…friends.

Yet it’s not long before she finds herself surrounded with an eclectic selection of people. There’s Katrina – excitable and obsessed with computers – and Isaac who seems pleasant enough but has serious family troubles. And then there’s Battle. Beautiful, elegant Battle with her flowing blonde hair and trouble expressing herself in words.

Nic is immediately drawn to Battle and their friendship quickly becomes something more. Nic has never been attracted to girls before but quickly grows obsessed with Battle, wanting to understand everything about her. Yet Battle doesn’t like to be analysed and it’s not long before friction begins to grow between them…

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Absolutely

Absolutely

Absolutely was first published in 2014 and is the debut novel of Melissa Veracruz. It is a contemporary romance which tells the story of the blossoming love between a cheerleader and a varsity quarterback. The story is the first part of the Larson series but at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Ashlyn Ramos has always been a popular girl until a drunken accident leaves her publicly shamed. Her former best friend, Reyna, is quick to use this to her advantage and sets about making Ashlyn’s life a living hell, using Facebook and texts to ensure that Ash is soon left friendless and outcast from the social scene.

Now without her car or any mobile phone privileges, Ashlyn is also forced to walk to school each day. It is in doing so that she meets Kiel Fuller – a new boy in her school who has many secrets of his own. Although Ashlyn is keen to get to know him, Kiel is just not interested in making friends. He has heard the rumours about her and thinks that it’s best if he doesn’t get involved.

However, as Reyna’s crowd grow increasingly vicious in their attempts to shame Ashlyn, all it does is push her and Kiel closer together. Soon, Kiel begins to see beyond their lies and begins to realise that he does care for her after all and he will do everything that he can to protect her, whatever the cost.

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

Firstly, I would like to begin this review by thanking everyone who has followed and supported this blog over its six short months of existence. This post marks my 50th review on this site and come just a few weeks after its half-birthday. In order to commemorate both of these events, I thought I would take a look at a very popular novel to see if it stands up to the hype that it has generated. I hope that you enjoy my review and I look forward to seeing what the next six months will bring.

The Fault in Our Stars was written by John Green and first published in 2012. It immediately debuted at number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List and was later named the 2013 Teen Book of the Year at the Children’s Choice Book Awards. The story is a coming of age tale told from the perspective of a sixteen year old girl with terminal cancer as she narrates the story of her first love.

Hazel Grace Lancaster has been growing increasingly reclusive since her thyroid cancer metastasised to her lungs and her parents are concerned that she is suffering from depression. After much coaxing, they convince her to attend a cancer support group. Although Hazel is initially reluctant, it is here that she meets Augustus Waters, a seventeen year old boy who has recently lost a leg to osteosarcoma.

Hazel and Augustus begin to bond over films and their shared experiences with cancer. They also exchange their favourite books so that they can discuss them together – Augustus offering a violent video game tie-in while Hazel shares a novel about a girl with cancer. When Augustus finishes the novel and discovers that the fates of the characters are left ambiguous, the two share their mutual dissatisfaction with this ending.

Using his “Wish” with a children’s charity, Augustus surprises Hazel with tickets to Amsterdam. He has been in contact with books author and he has agreed to a meeting with them so long as they can attend in person. However, Hazel is growing concerned that their relationship is moving too fast. She knows that her illness will eventually kill her and that the closer Augustus gets to her, the more devastated he will be by her passing. How can she continue to date him when she knows that she will soon have to hurt him?

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Dante’s Kiss

Dante's Kiss

I have focused on a couple of paranormal romances that centre on vampires over the last few months and so, for the purpose of today’s post, I’m going to be looking at one that is slightly different.  As this review has been written on the basis of an advanced reader copy that I received from NetGalley, please bear in mind while reading this entry that it may not represent the quality of the published novel.

Dante’s Kiss was first published in 2014 and was written by S.L. Nadathur. Although it reads as though it is the first part of a longer series, at the time of writing there has been no word regarding future instalments.

The story focuses on Kiriela, a three-quarter angel who has recently been exiled to earth after her relationship with a fellow angel (Jadiel) sparked a fight with her father. Forced to spend her rehabilitation in Puerto Rico, she chooses to attend school like a human teenager in order to make her new life feel as normal as possible.

She quickly discovers human life to be neither simple nor peaceful. Teenagers within the school are roughly divided into two groups – rockers and reggaetón – and Kiriela (in her human disguise of ‘Krystal’) is quickly accepted into the latter. However, the young angel quickly finds herself drawn to a young rocker called Dante.

Dante is horribly unpopular, frequently picked on by his peers and possessing a deeply negative outlook on life, but Kiriela has been friends with his guardian angel, Malakiy, for years and over that time has nurtured a deep affection for the human. Yet her feelings for Dante attract the jealousy of another. Jadiel has fallen further that Kiriela and accepted a place as one of Satan’s generals. Still determined to win Kiriela, he has made it is mission to deliver Dante’s soul to his master.

Caught in a battle for a human’s soul, Kiriela is forced to make a life altering decision. Does she risk falling further to protect the soul of a human or does she allow Dante’s life to be utterly destroyed?

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Vampire Diaries: The Awakening / The Struggle

Vampire Diaries 1 + 2

With the release of Twilight came a boom in popularity for the paranormal romance sub-genre. Its roaring success encouraged many authors to churn out cheap carbon-copies in the hope of making easy money, but also lead to the re-releases of older titles that also focused on forbidden romances between human girls and boys who were far less ordinary.

The original Vampire Diaries first hit the shelves fourteen years before Twilight, though became better known following the release of the TV series of the same name in 2009. The initial series was written by L.J. Smith and consisted of four novels: The Awakening (1991), The Struggle (1991), The Fury (1991) and The Reunion (1992 – titled Dark Reunion in America). In recent years, this original run has been followed by three further trilogies titled The Return Trilogy (2009-11), The Hunters Trilogy (2011-12) and The Salvation Trilogy (2013-14).  For the purpose of today’s review, I will be looking at the first two novels.

Elena Gilbert is used to having things her own way. As the most popular girl in Fell’s Church, she has always been idolised by girls and had her pick of the boys. When she first sets eyes on stunningly handsome Stephan Salvatore, she knows that she must have him. Yet Stephan shows no interest her whatsoever, even going out of his way to keep his distance. For Elena this is unthinkable and it just makes her want him all the more.

Yet what Elena does not realise is Stephan hides a terrible secret. Although he looks like an ordinary teenager, he was actually born in 15th Century Florence and is struggling to resist Elena (who reminds him of his lost love). What Elena also does not realise is that Stephan is not alone. Another figure from his past has also come to Fell’s Church – his brother, Damon. While Stephan is desperate to fit in and live an ordinary life, Damon wants the opposite. He possesses a terrible power that Stephan does not and is intent on using to make Elena into his Dark Queen…

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Twilight

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Twilight really is a novel that needs no further introduction. It was written by Stephenie Meyer and published in 2005. Rapidly gaining popularity worldwide, it caused a boom in popularity for “paranormal romance” novels – typically books that crux around the relationship between a human girl and a boy who is far less ordinary. Twilight was rapidly followed by three sequels: New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn (2008). It also has one short spin-off novella based around a character introduced in Eclipse, titled The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner (2010).

The story is told from the perspective of Isabella “Bella” Swan, a teenage girl who has chosen to move away from her beloved life in Phoenix to live with her father in Folks, Washington. Although she is initially depressed by the thought of living in such a remote area, she is quickly accepted by the locals and finds that she fits in well at her school.

Although she is approached by a succession of boys who are all interested in inviting her to the school dance, Bella finds that she only has eyes for one. Edward Cullen, mysterious and beautiful, quickly comes to occupy her thoughts. The only problem is that he seems to be utterly repulsed by her, going at great length to avoid any kind of contact.

However when Edward manages to impossibly save Bella from being crushed by a van, Bella begins to suspect that he is actually hiding some sinister secret. How is it that he can be so impossibly strong and fast? And why does he seem so intent on pushing her further away? As she investigates Edward and his strange family, she quickly comes to realise that the answer is far stranger – and more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined.

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