YA Romance Reviews

THE SIREN by Kiera Cass: The Perfect Beach Read

siren
Image from Goodreads.com

A good beach read doesn’t have to have anything to do with the beach. It doesn’t need sea or sand or romance. But if it contains these qualities and compounds them with a spark–a voice. Magic. Well then, that’s my perfect beach read.

This book is so much more than its gorgeous cover (though that doesn’t hurt–jeez, look at that thing!).  Here’s the blurb from Amazon.com:

Kahlen is a Siren, bound to serve the Ocean by luring humans to watery graves with her voice, which is deadly to any human who hears it. Akinli is human—a kind, handsome boy who’s everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. Falling in love puts them both in danger . . . but Kahlen can’t bear to stay away. Will she risk everything to follow her heart?

My desire for complexity in a novel will ebb and flow depending on my mood. There are times when I’m just not in the mood for extreme world-building, complex societies, etc. Sometimes (beachtimes) I just want something simple. A world with one type of supernatural being to track. A universe that is closer to our own–where most people don’t access the supernatural. A closed world. A tight, little romance.

THE SIREN is just that. This is not to say that this book doesn’t have high stakes–that its characters don’t have the same depth as other novels. Kahlen has her past, her pain, and her hope for the future. But the one thing she might need to sacrifice for that future (because romance, duh) is love. To love is to die.

The concept is simple, the world–beautiful, and who wouldn’t want their own Siren dress??

Hope you enjoy this read and check out Keira Cass’s website!

Pick up any good beach reads lately?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Uncategorized

BENEATH US Is Now a Four-Time Finalist!

four time finalistRecently, I received call from a Contest Chair, Megan Randall, who was happy to share the news that I finaled in the YA category of Virginia Romance Writers’ Fool for Love Contest! They read it. They liked it. Watch me as I dance the Watusi!

So now what? Lately, I’ve been drawing inspiration from Jodi Thomas’s RWA workshop, Why Write One Book When You Could Write a Series? and putting together a detailed plan for another three books. Quirky characters, strange magic, dark worlds, and three girls who will sacrifice everything for one small town–one small world to anchor them all. Can’t wait to get started. 🙂

What projects have you been working on lately? #amwriting much?

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

TORN by Erica O’Rourke–Evocative YA Paranormal Romance

torn
Image from Goodreads.com

TORN is lesson in how to write immersive, visceral fiction. I’m blow so far away, I’m drifting in the stratosphere.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon.com:

Everyone has secrets.
Even best friends.

Swirling black descends like ravens, large enough to block the glow of the streetlights. A dull roar starts like a train on the ‘L’, a far-away rumbling that grows louder as it pulls closer, until it’s directly overhead and you feel it in your chest, except this doesn’t pass you by. Verity, white-faced and eyes blazing, shouts through the din, “Run, Mo!”

Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend’s murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo–quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo–will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she’ll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys–protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc.
One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?

I am huge, huge, HUGE on setting description, and this is where O’Rourke shines. Mo’s reality–all the details of her life–are rendered sharp and clear. These intense descriptions bleed into the paranormal world, making magic that much more believable.

Mo is an incredible character–a good girl driven out of her corner by incredible circumstances. This book is a tale of friendship lost as much as it is a romance. Flashes of Verity make the pain of her death fresh and real. Mo is bent on revenge, and we’re right there with her.

I’m not huge on books with love triangles, but this element works very well in TORN because Mo isn’t just torn between two guys. She’s torn between two worlds: family mob-ties in her everyday life and a world of magic introduced by hot-as-hell Luc. If I were to choose a “team,” I’d be Team Colin (sorry Luc!). Colin–construction worker by day and muscle by night–is hired by Mo’s uncle to protect her after Verity’s murder. Colin is the strong, blunt alpha-type I just can’t resist.

O’Rourke has an incredible, authentic voice, and a dark, unapologetic story-telling style that draws the reader in. She is true to her characters and is unafraid to take risks. I hope you check out this incredible title!

Read more about Erica O’Rourke and her books here!

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER by Melida Salisbury –Dark YA Fantasy

sin eater
Image from Amazon.com

This YA debut left me spellbound. The cover of THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER encapsulates both character and concept. Twylla is trapped–bound by duty and myth to her country’s castle. Destined to be queen, Twylla is also poison–her skin enough to kill anyone unfortunate enough to touch her. That is, except for the prince.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads.com:

I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it’s price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla’s fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla’s chilling role to the girls she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen’s, some truths should not be told…

This novel’s high concept hooked me immediately, but it was Twylla herself that reeled me in. Conflicted by a duty assigned to her by fate and what she feels is right, Twylla is an incredibly complex character. And she isn’t the only one. The prince, the queen, and Twylla’s guard, Lief are each revealed to have incredible depth.

The play of imagery in this book and feast of the senses draws the reader deep into Twylla’s opulent and twisted world. Salisbury’s world-building reaches wide in terms of geography and deep in terms of history. She’s thought the fabric of this society through, its enemy kingdom upholding a different mythology, history, and set of values.

Twylla’s guard, Leif, is from that kingdom–a place that questions the traditions Twylla and her people have stubbornly held up for centuries. Through the course of the book, Twylla opens up to seeing both the world and herself from a completely different perspective. Salisbury achieves this transition in her character masterfully.

Check out Melinda Salisbury’s website for more on this author and her books!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Uncategorized

THE GHOST CHRONICLES by Marlo Berliner – YA Love Beyond the Veil

The Ghost Chroncles
Image from Amazon.com

I just finished THE GHOST CHRONICLES by Marlo Berliner and had to give a shout out to my fellow Jerseyite for this incredible YA Paranormal! Berliner’s high-concept storytelling and sympathetic hero had me hooked on this title immediately.

Here’s the summary from Amazon.com:

Can Michael get to heaven before the devil gets him first, and if it means leaving Sarah is he sure he still wants to go?

Michael Andrews had everything – a loving family, a great girlfriend and a promising basketball career. That was before the accident that took his life. Now, he’s a ghost, wandering among the living, struggling to understand why he’s stuck. All he wants is to move on.

That is until he meets Sarah, an attractive young girl who died just as tragically as he did. The only trouble is falling in love and binding oneself to another soul is forbidden, for it may keep one or both of the souls bound to earth for longer than they should be.

To make matters worse, there’s also a danger in going too far with Sarah, because the “joining” of two souls in the afterlife is also strictly forbidden and they don’t know what will happen if they do go that far. Each time they touch they can feel the boundaries of their energies slipping perilously into one another.

Things get even more complicated as Michael learns he’s being pursued. Demons are after him because he’s a marked soul, a soul the devil wants very badly for some unknown reason.

So, maybe falling in love in the afterlife isn’t such a good idea.

I can’t help beginning with the setting because (holla!) a large part of it takes place in New Jersey. Michael, our ghostly hero, grew up in central Jersey. The description of this area is especially fun for local readers who can connect to the landmarks mentioned a la Evanovich.

The heart of the setting, however, is the Angel of the Sea, a gorgeous bed and breakfast in Cape May, NJ that’s rumored to harbor the ghost of a teenage girl, Sarah. Love crosses boundaries of time, space, and death as Michael falls for Sarah.

Berliner pulls out all the paranormal stops by rolling explanations of other paranormal creatures besides ghosts into her world-building. I don’t want to give these pieces away, but look forward to meeting incredible creatures as well as historical figures.

Michael himself had me hooked from the beginning–a teen character who looses his life, his girlfriend, his future in basketball, and his family. He begins the book alive, so this loss is more deeply felt, and his journey to move on from his ties to the mortal world has its own perils. Travel with Michael to several historic locations as he seeks the answers to the big questions of his afterlife and flees the demons that want his soul.

Be sure to check out Berliner’s webpage!

Michelle Joyce Bond

 

 

Stick Figures

End of Summer Reflection

imageDid you accomplish everything you wanted to this summer?  We technically have a few weeks until the end of the season, but as August closes, many of us come to the end of a significant chunk of time we spend reading, writing, and relaxing with our families.

This summer was incredible for me for several reasons–the top being that I attended my first RWA Conference!  I finaled in my first writing contest: the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers with my YA time slip romance, STARCHILD.  I took road trips, caught up with family, and read, read, read.

I also completed another manuscript and began revising it with my critique group.  The new baby’s working title is BENEATH US.  This YA paranormal is as strange as anything else I’ve written (no vampires, werewolves, or “normal” paranormal here), but I’m going to hold off on specific details for now.  I used Scrivener to reverse engineer BENEATH US, strengthen, and rewrite it.  I’m feeling very good about it now. 🙂

During the conference, I connected with new writers, have been communicating with some of them online, and have been checking out their social media.  I learned from YA and adult romance author Marty Mayberry about Pitch Wars which I plan on participating in during their next run.  She’s a Pitch Wars mentor and it seems like an incredible program!  Contemporary romance author Aly Grady clued me in about Pitch Madness which begins on September 10th.  This is a twitter pitch session which lasts the entire day.  I’m getting my 140 character pitches ready for that now.  So excited!

How about you?  How did your summer go?  What are you up to now?

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles — Best Opposites Attract Novel EVER

pc
Image from Amazon.com

Oh my god–read this book now!  Last week, I attended the Romance Writer’s of America Conference in NYC where I was surrounded by wonderful books and authors who wrote them (will blog soon!), but I couldn’t touch a single book until finished PERFECT CHEMISTRY.  This super hot opposites attract novel actually made NJ Transit fun.

Here is the summary from Amazon.com:

A fresh, urban twist on the classic tale of star-crossed lovers.

When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for–her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

I’m going to start where I finished with this book, and that’s by reading the Acknowledgements section in the back.  There, Elkeles thanks several people who helped her research so that she might add believable Spanish and Mexican culture to her book.  This makes this story especially believable and lends incredible authority to her hero, Alex a.k.a. Alejandro Fuentes, a boy from the other side of the tracks with a good heart who joined a gang to protect his family.  He is intelligent and has college potential but has given up his long-ago hope for a better life, feeling he is already in too deep to ever break free.

Brittany Ellis comes from an incredibly wealthy but broken family.  Her father is a workaholic, her mother has anxiety and obsesses over perfection, and Brittany struggles to protect a sister who has cerebral palsy.  On the outside, Brittany has the best clothes, the best car, and the perfect life, but inside, she’s falling apart.  Pressure from her mother to obtain impossible standards and pressure she puts on herself to care for her sister in order to avoid her being sent away is just too much.  Soon, something will have to give.

When Alex and Brittany are paired as lab partners, each judges the other based on surface appearances.  Each seems disgusted with the other, but there is a spark of attraction obvious to the students around them.  The secondary characters in this book constantly warn Alex and Brittany against a doomed relationship, even when Alex and Brittany themselves are not yet ready to accept their own attraction.  I found this rather interesting–that their friends could see how much they wanted each other even when they were in strict denial.

As Alex and Brittany grow closer, they see past the armor and find they have a lot more in common than they originally imagined.  They are both fundamentally good people, trapped within their roles.  As things heat up between them, the plot thickens.  Of course, both Alex and Brittany care deeply for one or more members of their family.  This makes it impossible to extract themselves from their world of cemented roles and expectations.  As they try to break out, things only get worse.  Elkeles did a beautiful job of painting her characters into a corner.  Without giving away the ending, I’ll say I was very satisfied with it.  Elkeles really made her protagonists work for their happily ever after.

Check out Simone Elkeles’ webpage to find out more about PERFECT CHEMISTRY and the other books in her Perfect Chemistry Series!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Woot–I’m a Finalist in the 2015 Orange Rose Contest!

imageI’m taking a break from doing the Charleston to write this.  Just a few minutes ago, I found out I finaled in the 2015 Orange Rose Contest for Unpubilished Writers!  I tied for third in the YA category for my time slip romance, STARCHILD.  This is the first time I’ve ever finaled in a writing contest–so exciting!!

YA Romance Reviews

WONDROUS STRANGE By Lesley Livingston — Dramatic YA Paranormal Romance

wondrous strange
Image from goodreads.com

I recently finished WONDROUS STRANGE by Lesley Livingston, and though fairy-focused books aren’t usually my favorite in paranormal fiction, I was won over by this Shakespearean-inspired tale.  WONDROUS STRANGE is exactly that.

Here is the summary from Amazon.com:

Since the dawn of time, the Faerie have taken. . . .

Seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow always thought faeries were just something from childhood stories. Then she meets Sonny Flannery. He’s a changeling—a mortal taken as an infant and raised among Faerie—and within short order he’s turned Kelley’s heart inside out and her life upside down.

For Kelley’s beloved Central Park isn’t just a park—it’s a gateway between her ordinary city and the Faerie’s dangerous, bewitching Otherworld. Now Kelley’s eyes are opening not just to the Faerie that surround her, but to the heritage that awaits her . . . a destiny both wondrous and strange.

The first thing I love about this book is Kelly herself.  She’s determined to make it as an actress in New York, but the director and Kelly’s own nerves play against her.  Then, of course, her fey blood and fairy mischief make it waaaay worse.  She’s the underdog deluxe.

The play her company is producing just so happens to be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the lines and themes of which are artfully woven throughout the book.  The book begins with “Up and down, up and down / I will lead them up and down..” — a set of lines given new life with Livingston’s own imagery of a carousel and the drama of the final battle.  There are also dedications of love from the play of which Livingston takes full advantage.

Which brings me to the love story itself.  Sonny is a sweet, hot guy who kicks fairy butt and is completely dedicated to Kelly.  They come from different worlds, but find common ground in Central Park.  The question as to whether they will be able to remain that way.  Their story is linked to that of Pyramus and Thisbe, and we must read to the end to find if their love will end in tragedy or triumph.

Livingston’s description of magic is detailed and distinct.  Her references to fairy lore are fun and illuminated by passages from Midsummer’s.  Overall, it was a fabulous read which I hope you’ll check out if you’re in the mood for a little fairy magic.

Be sure to check out Lesley Livingston’s webpage.

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

RISING FIRE by Terri Brisbin — Hot Jersey Author

risingfire
Image from http://www.terribrisbin.com

Next in this series of hot authors from New Jersey is Terri Brisbin whose blend of magical and historical elements in her new book, RISING FIRE, kept me turning pages.

Brienne of Yester, an innocent village girl adopted by a blacksmith, finds herself the sudden center of attention when her cruel lord and father, Hugh de Gifford, reclaims her.  He says he wants to train her in her ability to cast fire, but in reality, he’s planning on sacrificing her to the goddess of flame and chaos–setting the goddess free from her prison.

William de Brus, loyal servant to the king and fierce warrior, is sent on a mission to investigate Hugh de Gifford and the powers he is rumored to possesses.  When William meets Brienne, he is transfixed by this beautiful girl with a molten aura.   Brienne has little experience with men outside of her village, but is equally drawn to William, daring to meet him in the forest where he threatens to teach her why she should never go to a man alone.

Soon, Brienne and William find it is more than just chemistry that’s drawn them together.  William has also been blessed by the gods, possessing a warrior’s power.  He cannot resist the urge to protect her, but Brienne is allied with Hugh.  Will she prove William’s greatest weakness…or his greatest strength?

Brisbin is such a strong historical author–I appreciated the research she did to make her story world that much closer to reality.  As in many contemporary fantasies or paranormals, most characters are resistant to the idea that magic exists.  Even William doubts the existence of these rumored fire powers and worries for the king’s mental health.  There is a big payoff when the principal character’s powers are revealed.  🙂

The antagonist, Hugh, is a sadistic monster you will love to hate.  Brisbin did a great job building background so we can understand how he got to be that way, adding dimension too his character that is much appreciated in a genre where antagonists are often flat.

I really liked both William and Brienne whose chemistry is fueled on multiple levels.  They meet as village girl and lord–a couple for which marriage would be next to impossible.  The closer Hugh draws Brienne beneath his wing, the more she becomes an enemy to William’s cause.  William needs to be very careful around her, but his power and need to possess her make it difficult to control himself (absolutely love this!).

Here’s a link to Terri Brisbin’s website: http://www.terribrisbin.com/index.php

I hope you enjoy this gorgeous fantasy–first in Brisbin’s new Stone Circles Series!

Michelle Joyce Bond