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booksandwhimsy

Books and Whimsy

I blog about books that change me at Books and Whimsy. I also write discussion posts, and host original features. I'm quite silly sometimes, serious others, and always champion great books. (booksandwhimsy.com) You can find my author blog at onceuponaprologue.net

Review: Blackout by Robison Wells

 

 

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 Blackout by Robison Wells

 Pub date: 10/01/2013

 Publisher: HarperTeen

 Source: Galley from Publisher

 Rating: Shrug-worthy / 2 stars

 

 Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.

Jack and Aubrey are high school students.

There was no reason for them to ever meet.

But now, a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible powers. And these four are about to find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger—where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all
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You know that vast expanse between what you think a book is going to be, and what it actually is?  That feeling of somehow having been duped by an awesome synopsis?  I hate that, considering I go into every book hoping to love it.  And BLACKOUT has a particularly exciting synopsis that unfortunately never delivers on any of what’s promised, except the basic details.  Yes, these characters can do things.  Yes, things happen.  But there’s no genuine tension, no sweeping love story, no heart to these characters, and nothing for me to recommend. 

 

One of the biggest things I didn’t like was the writing style.  Wells favors “tell” over “show,” and this is a huge pet peeve of mine.  It’s lazy.  It’s HARDER to write “show” scenes and dialogue than it is to “tell”, but the payoff for authors is better.  When you “show,” readers connect to your characters.  So right away I knew I wasn’t going to connect with the characters; before long, I also knew I disliked the actual words, too. 

 

Finally, there’s no storytelling in BLACKOUT.  Real writers can spin a story around you until you’re ensnared before you realize it.  Real writers make you feel like you’re THERE, and I never once felt that with BLACKOUT.  There’s no passion behind the words.  I don’t even get the sense Wells really CARES about BLACKOUT.  It’s reminiscent of the sentiment behind doing a chore to get it over with.  “I’ll just throw this book together to get it out there.”  Writers should FEEL things about their book, and that should translate to the page.  Something got horribly disconnected in BLACKOUT, which makes me sad.

 

Full review at Books and Whimsy.

Source: http://www.booksandwhimsy.com

The One Where I Admit BookLikes is Confusing

 

Like the title says, BookLikes is confusing.  It isn't GoodReads, but that's okay.  I'm slowly learning it, and I want to use it.  I'm going to try to start posting reviews here.  Hopefully y'all will check them out.  :) 

 

So, hi! 

The Boy Most Likely To - Huntley Fitzpatrick TIM'S STORY?!!!!!

NEED THIS ONE NOW.
Nantucket Red - Leila Howland Hmmm, I was rather hoping for a sequel that focused on Jules and might redeem her, but I'll take more Cricket. It sounds like this one could show a lot of growth on her part. Also? MORE ZACK/CRICKET PLS. KTHANKS.
Altered (Crewel World, #2) - Gennifer Albin Probably a 3.5, but I'll have to think on it. Good pacing and twists, but I had no emotional connection. And there was a sub-plot that irritated the HECK out of me.
New Money: A Novel - Lorraine Zago Rosenthal Despite being really excited for New Money once I read the synopsis, something about this novel fell flat for me. It's been said by me and by others that reading is a very subjective experience, and I want to remind y'all of that going into this review. My issues weren't so much with the quality of the writing, the style, or the pacing, but rather with more personal dislikes - and because of that, I'm still going to urge others to give Rosenthal's book a fair chance.

I think my biggest issue was Savannah. Savannah is a meddler, and a "fixer" who doesn't really know when to step in and when NOT to step into someone else's life and problems. She tries hard to be a good friend, but her tendencies get in the way. Couple that with a duplicitous nature (she's as willing to blackmail or play dirty as anyone is, but eager to condemn them for those same things) and she and I didn't hit it off. Without that connection, hard as I tried, I could never really feel for Savannah. She had a tendency to do things that flat out pissed me off and make snap, rash decisions that came back to bite her in the ass. My instant dislike of Savannah was my biggest issue with New Money.

New Money has an interesting, if recycled plot. The poor-girl-turned-rich when she finds out an unknown relative (her father in this case) left her a huge inheritance trope has been done before, and better, I think. When I didn't like Savannah, I hoped other, secondary characters would redeem New Money for me, but Savannah's half-siblings were monstrous to her, without even a shred of civility. One of the love interests was an arrogant ass; the other, at least, offered some salvation, and was a genuinely good guy. The inevitable love triangle felt lukewarm though, as to me, the choice Savannah should make seemed obvious (both in who was better for her, and who she was more interested in/passionate about.) However just when things were looking good, Savannah made another of those decisions I talked about earlier in the review. She just honestly boggled my mind with her childish, impetuous, rude behavior so many times.

Finally, the writing bugged me at times. Though I read a galley, I felt it should have been a bit more polished. I know Rosenthal's book probably went through one final edit, which hopefully cleaned up the prose. The wording was odd, and several key scenes (like a love-making scene) were written so awkwardly, I wondered if an adult had even written them. And the end came...and everything was neatly wrapped in a little bow, which leads me to question WHY in the WORLD this book needs the sequel I've heard is forthcoming?

Final Thought: Readers who go into New Money expecting a light, "chick-lit" type story should be pleased; anyone looking for character growth, memorable characters, or a strong, original plot will be disappointed. A selfish, childish main character and a lukewarm love triangle weighed down my enjoyment of this book; the best I can say is that it DID hold my interest, and I DID want to finish it. I also liked one of the love interests.
Ashes of Twilight - Kassy Tayler (Probably more like 2.5 stars, but I rounded up.)

When I started Ashes of Twilight, I wasn't expecting anything, so as I read Kassy Tayler's novel, my hopes were neither sky high, nor too low. And I think having reasonable hopes really helped me enjoy this steampunk/dystopian mash-up more than I originally would have. Even though it wasn't a great read for me, it was a solid read, and just compelling enough to make me want to read the sequel.

Main character Wren falls into a few stereotypes - the pretty girl who doesn't see her own beauty or self-worth, and doesn't think she's worthy of love or fame - but I loved, right away, that she wanted more. Wren wasn't comfortable with life in the dome, living underground as a shiner (coming from generations of miners gives them the added benefit of seeing in the dark through eyes that literally shine). I applauded Wren's curiosity, and her drive - she wasn't so much the "special one" as in some dystopian books, as she just was an oridinary girl who wanted more out of her life. I like that about her, and that even though she makes some really bad decisions, Wren never does so selfishly, or because she wants power or leadership. She just wants to survive.

The world-building, although not the strongest I've read in other dystopians also wasn't the worst - putting it somewhere in the middle. I could believe in it, even though I saw some flaws (like: really, no one until Alex EVER questioned the dome?) It was interesting to see that society inside the dome still fell into caste systems: royals, shiners, scarabs, and so forth, and Tayler obviously gave some thought to how they all interacted together - or didn't. I was curious about the royals and wanted to know more about them, but I liked that we got a really in-depth look at the shiner's way of life. This was probably the strongest part of Ashes for me.

The plot of Ashes of Twilight wasn't bad, it just moved too jerkily for my taste, without a lot happening. At first it was all talk, talk, talk, then BAM, everything happened at once, which left the middle rather unsettling. Seeing Wren get caught up in everything was exciting, and for that part of Ashes, I did feel like I was right there with her. At that point though, Tayler's story became really predictable, which I didn't care for - but let me be clear: I still enjoyed it.

Also, a little side note: I loved that animals were given important roles, like Pip the canary, and Cat the cat. These little inclusions were cute, and gave Ashes some much-needed heart. When Tayler's writing was a bit lacking - repetitive, and well-formed, if sort of bland, the animals made me smile.

Finally, the romance. This was probably the weakest part of Ashes of Twilight for me. Wren went from being cowered by her "intended" to totally enamored within a few days for Pace, a side character who gets involved in the over-reaching plot. (Really, the continued insistence that James was an okay guy left me uncomfortable - he clearly wasn't.) Although I completely understand the circumstances under which Wren and Pace met, they quickly declared their insta-love for each other. And I don't mean a crush, or admitting to strong feelings. I mean full on eternal devotion, emotional attachment "I love you." That made me cringe, because Wren ended up losing herself in Pace, and I hate to see that in literature.

Final Thoughts: Ashes of Twilight provides solid world-building, and an interesting caste system, all of which is nicely complimented by the book's "frozen in time" feel, even though it's set in the future. Predictable twists plus insta-love kept me from really clicking with this one.
The Deepest Night - Shana Abe After finishing The Deepest Night and thinking about where it went wrong for me, I think it goes back to my post about when your tastes in books change. I read The Sweetest Dark about a year ago and loved it, but with The Deepest Night? To be honest, I skimmed a lot of it.

Maybe it’s because something about the end of The Sweetest Dark broke my heart – and because I feel like the sequel really mishandled that. Or maybe it’s because the writing style – while as gorgeous as ever – felt like Abe was trying TOO hard. Not every paragraph needs to be drenched in pretty prose, or stately dialogue. The writing really wore on me after awhile, and felt so over-done.

However, one of the strongest things about The Deepest Night is again, the atmosphere Shane Abe creates. I absolutely could SEE myself in the this era, there with Lora. Abe fully immerses the reader in the setting and the period, and that helped me enjoy The Deepest Night somewhat.

I also liked the characters. Lora and Armand (or Mandy, as he wants to be called…?) are incredibly strong personalities, and they fill the pages with spirit and fire through their banter and their perspectives.

However to be frank, the pacing and plot felt as if it drug on forever, although the e-galley was relatively short. I kept waiting to be invested or care, and I never did. The plot was so far-fetched at times that I found myself shaking my head in disbelief and hoping I was through with The Deepest Night soon. There’s a very “the chosen one” vibe to Lora that I didn’t buy, and between all that and random switches to a point of view that I don’t think the book NEEDED, I was relieved when this book was over.

Finally, the romance. *sigh* I was enchanted with the romance in the previous book, but in The Deepest Night I felt like it was being pushed at me, and I didn’t care for that.

Final Thought: Shana Abe writes beautifully, but in a way that’s heavy-handed. I’d prefer clearer prose and more action. The romance was a miss for me, and the plot was too far-fetched for my taste.
Simply Irresistible - Jill Shalvis After reading a particularly feels-heavy review book, I needed something entirely different; one of my resolutions this year was to read more of *my* books from my personal To Be Read - books not for review. I've done okay with it, but not as good as I wanted to so far in 2013. So recently I took a break from review books and spent the weekend reading Simply Irresistible. And I really enjoyed it!

After reading predominantly YA for so long, it was really NICE to read an adult contemporary romance. In Simply Irresistible, there was there was no love triangle, and no insta-love, and I felt like I could BREATHE reading Shalvis's book. It was such a relief to not have to pick a team! Instead of multiple guys, there was one (very sexy) guy in Jax Cullen.

I really liked Jill Shalvis's characters - everyone felt like real people I've known or could know, from tentative Maddie, to strong Tara, and wild Chloe. I cheered so much for the sisters as they made progress with the ramshackle inn, and with their relationship. I loved that even though they hadn't always been close, for all their bickering, they WANTED to be tight. I wasn't expecting the family dynamic, and I really liked that.

And romance? Jill Shalvis knows how to do romance. Maddie and Jax were SWOONY! I liked that even from the start, although they were attracted to each other, there was that hint of it being MORE. They both needed each other, and they grew together, which just made me so darned happy. It wasn't just about sex between them, though their chemistry was undeniable.

My only gripe is that at times Shalvis was somewhat redundant - telling the reader the same things over and over again about characters. I would have liked a bit more variety at those times, but still, it didn't keep me from enjoying Simply Irresistible. Also, I didn't feel any emotional connection to the characters, but then again, I wasn't looking for one, so I didn't mind.

Final Thought: Jill Shalvis knows how to write a great romance. Full of steamy moments, family banter, and humor, Simply Irresistible was great. I'll definitely continue t
These Broken Stars - Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner 5 stars simply isn't enough. Terrific world-building, heart-stopping action, poignant romance, and two of the best written characters I've ever come across.

OR IN GIFS TO EXPRESS MY FEEEEEEEELS:

THESE BROKEN STARS = TITANIC in space. Thus, Tarver = Jack Dawson, and Lilac = Rose.

Let's meet Lilac, aboard the Icarus:



This is Lilac at the beginning of THESE BROKEN STARS. A society girl who has problems, problems that authors Kaufman and Spooner actually manage to make resonate with me. (It should be noted I am not a rich person, nor do I typically feel for rich people in books. In this one? I did.) Despite finding Lilac infuriating, I eventually came to like her.



Now, meet Tarver:



I liked Tarver immediately. I LOVED Tarver immediately. I couldn't help but think of the scene in Titanic where Jack is set up invited to dinner by Cal, and ends up schooling everyone there. Tarver doesn't really belong in society, but he's sort of a quiet bad-ass, and I adored him.



Tarver + Lilac grabbed my attention. Tarver has no idea who Lilac is at first, but he's drawn to her. And *I* was drawn to *them.*



Even though at first it was less swoon-y and more like this:



But EVENTUALLY their prejudices toward one another melted away as they were forced to work together. They started to really see each other for who they were. Things happen - dangerous, mysterious things. Tarver and Lilac begin to change, to become better versions of themselves.

And even though there are so MANY themes to this novel: a crash-landing reveals Tarver and Lilac's hearts, there's a not-so-barren planet to cross, mysteries to investigate, and their very survival to fight for...

The romance got under my skin and made me swoon. Their clashes of will were so powerful. It was SO CLEAR these two were feeling something for one another, and yet just as evident that their stations in life, and their fighting for survival threatened to keep them apart. But I LOVED seeing their attitudes change, seeing them become allies, with the potential for more.

Oh, and then this happened, basically:













Want to know more about THESE BROKEN STARS? Want to know if Tarver and Lilac ever get together? What's going on on this planet? If they make it to the crash site, or beyond?

Read THESE BROKEN STARS.

You're welcome.
The Infinite Moment of Us - Lauren Myracle Oh, The Infinite Moment of Us. *SIGH* Since Shine's publication, all I've heard is how amazing Lauren Myracle is, so when Infinite Moment was available on NetGalley, I was excited to be approved. Right away though, I realized Lauren's book and I weren't getting along - and unfortunately, we never did.

I had three main issues: the writing style, the characters, and the dialogue. Lauren's writing in The Infinite Moment of Us is a lot of "tell" and not nearly enough "show" for me, and at times the sentence structure was so basic. As an example, a paragraph might read like this:

Jody said hello as Sara walked into the building. Jody was in the same grade as Sara. Jody had brown hair. Jody wore her hair in a braid. (Totally made-up example.)

There's only so much of that you can read and still retain your sanity. I mean, it's fine to have a few shorter sentences interspersed within more detailed ones, but not EVERY sentence. And mixing in the choppy sentences with the bland way of "telling" us things about the characters... no. A few BETTER way of getting the information across in the example would be:

As Sara walked into the building, Jody, a senior like Sara, said hello. Jody's dark brown hair slid over her shoulder as she waved, and Jody moved her braid out of the way. (Again, totally made up, in a few seconds. And it's STILL awkward because I'm tired, but dammit, it's BETTER.)

The characters. SIGH. Charlie was alright I suppose, just frank, and I think he thought with his downstairs brain a little too often - I mean, I know both males and females DO that sometimes, and more so at various times in your life, but oy VEY, Charlie. I wanted to rent some porn for him so he'd stop hovering over Wren, waiting for her to have sex with him. I mean, he comes into the hospital, injured, and he's fighting the urge not to worry about how badly hurt he is, but to look down her shirt? Charlie, really, don't make me get the hose.

And Wren. MY GOODNESS, NO. On one hand, I remember being a little like Wren - being in my firt serious relationship as a teen, and being awkward and scared, and making some really shitty decisions. And I mean, you don't have to be a teenager to go down that road, but I got what Myracle was doing there. But Wren. No, babe, just no. She made some of THE MOST dumbass moves of any character I've ever come across. Demanding that Charlie pick her over his family, when there was NOTHING TO CHOOSE? Getting pissed off when he had to end their phone call? Shutting down emotionally on him FOR NO REASON? Oh Wren. I wanted to have a come-to-Jesus talk with her so many times. She was so immature and SO selfish, and I was really hoping to see her GROW over the course of The Infinite Moment of Us, but...that didn't happen. *sigh*

My final issue was the dialogue. And maybe - MAYBE it, and the writing will be cleaned up in final edits? The dialogue honestly read to me like something out of the cheesiest romance novel I could imagine. Charlie and Wren would say and think things like, "I'm a man. I'm YOUR man," and "I feel like your woman when I'm with you," and other just REALLY cheesy things (even worse than what I just listed.) There was one point where Charlie thought about how she was "moving her body, wordlessly imploring Charlie to have his way with her." Yeah, um...no.

Once I got past all of that, the story DID sort of grow on me. I liked seeing Charlie and Wren's relationship progress, and I REALLY really liked that their first sexual encounters weren't glossy, Hollywood perfect. It was awkward, and they learned about each other, and thank GOODNESS safe sex was brought up in a normal, non-embarassing way. There needs to be more of this in upper YA. Please.

Otherwise... oh man, oh man. The pacing and plot just weren't good for me at all. There was so much uncessary drama, especially toward the end. The one thing I liked about the conclusion was that it was happy but a tad but open ended, and I applaud that.

Final thoughts: The Infinite Moment of Us let me down in a lot ways. The characters, especially Wren, made some really bad calls, and the dialogue and writing seemed really immature to me. I never clicked at all with the characters, and this one just left me feeling "meh."
Belonging - Karen Ann Hopkins Last year I read Temptation thinking it would be a wonderful, moving, romantic story - and an insightful peek into Amish life. And while it was very romantic at times, I had some serious issues with the book, issues which, unfortunately weren't resolved in any way in Belonging. In fact, it was a disappointment in almost every way.

So, I need to rant for a minute.

*drags soapbox out from under bed*

Oh, and this review will contain spoilers. I can't properly explain my issues with Belonging without them. So if you have not read both books, please to back away now.


Belonging does one thing I liked: it builds on the relationship between Noah and Rose, but to do so, it tears down both characters and reveals their ugliest thoughts and actions. I want to get this part out of the way first, because it REALLY disappointed me. Their relationship is completely unhealthy, especially considering they both are constantly trying to force the other to change to suit their wants/needs - and when that doesn't work, they use their actions to try to hurt the other. Rose commits more strongly to the Amish, all the while hoping she can use Noah's "addiction" to her to make him become English. Even at the point where she's baptized into their church, she still admits she doesn't "get" their religion, and doesn't believe in their ways. It was clear to me at so many points that Rose was in way over her head, but she just kept plowing forward, ignoring her misgivings in order to be with Noah.

For his part, Noah is never satisfied with Rose, and can't accept her as she is. She isn't the passive girl he's looking for, and he even thinks that he both loves and hates her spirit. And this is the girl he wants to spend the rest of his life with - but he hates something about her? NO. Sorry hoss, it doesn't work that way. Noah seems to think he can control Rose by choosing her friends for her, guiding her toward his less flashy sisters, and thus alter her ways. And even though Rose is selfish and manipulative at times, she's also very young and very scared, and I think Noah was extremely judgmental of her at times - and used his Amish upbringing against her to control her. Noah made me so mad so often - making snap judgements about how "loose" other girls, even Rose were, thinking poorly about others, and basically being completely creepy. He never stopped to wonder if Rose was doing the right thing by fitting into his world or if she was happy; he only cares about controlling her. Noah's motto is basically: "if she says something I don't agree with, I'll just kiss her to shut her up."

I will say, although they both spent WAY too much time letting their hormones decide their actions, I do think that Noah and Rose really DO love one another. Hopkins did a better job of showing me that in Belonging versus telling me as she did in Temptation. Several months pass in Belonging, and both Rose and Noah still appear in love, so it made it difficult to be so against them, but they're poisonous for each other. My heart went out to them, loving one another with so many obstacles, but neither of them was willing to really bend for the other. Rose tried, but Noah wasn't willing to sacrifice ANYTHING to be with Rose. Like I said, they were totally unhealthy. When they're separated, Noah pursues a relationship with another Amish girl, even going so far to ask her to marry him, even though he KNOWS he isn't in love with her. Noah's brilliant logic is that if he can't have Rose, he'll hurt her by marrying someone else - he literally thinks that. And Rose ignores her feelings for Noah and jumps into another relationship too soon.

I just wanted to tell them both that sometimes...you can love someone with all your might and still not be meant to be together. SIGH.

The ONE good thing that came out of all the bull was Hunter. Hunter is genuinely a good, awesome guy and good FOR Rose. He encourages and supports her. He wants to make her happy. And for awhile, I had hope, this brief little hope that Rose would let him. But like I said, she jumped into that relationship before she was over Noah, then went running back to Noah at the first chance. SIGH. She said it right - she and Noah are addicted to each other, and it makes me angry to see such an unhealthy relationship - even if they do love one another - portrayed as the be-all/end-all relationship for both of them.

Plot-wise, Belonging is ridiculous. From the moment Rose - a minor - was allowed into what seems to be a slightly progressive but still largely traditional Amish community, I felt like rolling my eyes. Rose was basically a little girl playing at being Amish the entire time, and it hurt me to see her family either largely absent, or only in Belonging when they were bashing the Amish. Her formerly awesome family was reduced to the part of villains in Belonging, which GRRR. I could sort of accept her living within the Plain community, but when she was allowed to become a member of the church without her parent's consent, which snowballed and led to her father basically "kidnapping" her away from the Amish? EYEROLL. Belonging deviated into bad soap opera territory at that point and through several other twists and turns. Perhaps the one that pissed me off the most was that Belonging ends with Rose pregnant - which is nothing more than a convenient way of tying up her and Noah's story in Forever.

I've sat here trying to think of something good to say, but there isn't much. Most of the Amish men in Belonging are presented as flat, Bible-thumping elders with no personality at all, and the women are largely the same. I didn't even see them show any passionate devotion to God at any point - just spouting rules and Bible passages by rote. Any women who aren't dull and pious are obviously "loose" and "rebels" - because those are the only roles for them. I know the Amish hold to their traditions and their beliefs, and maybe I'm just too feminist for this book. But I do believe that there can be love and some spirit in these communities between the couples, and so many of the characters were just downright hostile toward Rose, and in their attitudes toward women.

If I was to find some good, it's that I do enjoy Hopkins's writing style. And Belonging, while largely terrible, held my attention. I did end up wanting to know what happened - like watching a really bad movie you can't take your eyes off of. Having finished, I might read Forever out of pure morbid fascination, and a need to see how it all ends - but if I do, it will be with no expectations at all.
Tumble & Fall - Alexandra Coutts Three points of view which easily could have been two, since one was completely superfluous and melodramatic. The only two things I liked were the writing at times - when the author was showing and not telling - and the VERY loose thread tying the characters together.

Such a disappointment. Apparently this book is packaged via Alloy. Makes sense, but I'm still sad.

Flat characters and inexplicable actions aside, I've tried hard to look for something good or outstanding to redeem Tumble & Fall. The pacing felt off to me, since we were constantly bouncing between points of view at odd moments. And there really was no HEART to the book - I didn't feel anything, becauese there was absolutely no sense of urgency. I mean, the world was potentially ENDING, and I didn't feel anyone's fear/panic - so *I* didn't feel anything while reading Tumble & Fall. And the climax? Frankly the ending was completely disappointing. I kept turning the page looking for something more, because with THIS sort of book, you NEED resolution, and I didn't get that.

I do think the message Coutts was going for is that nothing is certain - asteroid or not, something terrible could happen at any time. And it shouldn't TAKE that to bring people together. There was that faint sense here of lives inter-mingling, which was pretty neat.

Final thought: I was totally disappointed with Tumble & Fall - from the boring characters, to the "tell" in the writing, to the weird ending. Don't look for much substance beyond the stunning cover, or this one will break your heart. Go in blind or with really low expectations, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Vortex - Julie Cross Vortex opens where Tempest left off, but I can only compare Vortex to whatever your county fair's wildest, most unpredictable ride is. (Mine, for reference, was called the Himalaya, and it was equal parts fun and terrifying.) Vortex is not a slow novel, and it is not a mild novel. Vortex is one twist and turn after another, thrilling emotional highs and devastating lows that brought real tears to my eyes.

Once again we follow Jackson as he ventures deeper into the world of Tempest, the CIA branch that exists to fight EOTs (Enemies of Time,) or rogue time travelers. Julie Cross weaves this second installment right into your heart with growth from Jackson, and other characters like his dad, Kevin, and CIA agent Jenni Stewart. I was tense reading Vortex. I was BROKEN reading Vortex, because I kept sinking right into Jackson's story so effortlessly. Both old and new characters immediately felt like real people, for the duration of Vortex. And something that was as genius as it was frustrating is how time travel and notions of parallel universes come into play to show us familiar characters in ways and places we - and I - NEVER expected to find them. Scenes I never thought I'd see but hoped for are in Vortex, which conspired to leave me shaken or hopeful.

Plot-wise, Cross steps everything up a few notches, in terms of mysteries, secrets, and danger. There were several moments where I found myself re-reading paragraphs to make sure I'd read them right. And more than once, I literally had to pause in my reading to wrap my head around an explanation, or an answer that only raised more questions. Vortex is brilliantly crafted, with a pace that is never boring.

The heart of Vortex is Jackson. If Jackson wasn't as compelling a character, as REAL a character as he is, these books wouldn't be quite as amazing. They'd be a good science fiction story with an awesome plot, but Jackson and his love for Holly makes Tempest and Vortex soar to the top of my mental "favorite books" list. Jackson reads like a real guy, with faults and good qualities that make you want to hug him, then give him a good shake. I felt so lost when he did, so happy when he did, so confused when he did. Jackson is an amazing conduit to carry emotions right to the reader, emotions I was still reeling from a few hours after finishing Vortex. I have rarely been as enamored with a character as I am with Jackson, or as proud of him at times.

Final Thought: Vortex gathers speed from the onset, hurtling toward a dizzying conclusion that literally left me rigid and with tears in my eyes. The wait for Timestorm seems infinite, and I am sure I'll be re-reading these books again in preparation for the third book. Julie Cross is a talented story-teller who knows how to pull a reader into her story and keep them there.
Time After Time - Tamara Ireland Stone I have to wait until OCTOBER to read this?

Okay well if anyone needs me, I'll be staring at THAT COVER until October.

___

Initial review after reading an e-arc, graciously provided by Disney/Hyperion...

TIME AFTER TIME is just as moving, deeply romantic, and emotional as TIME BETWEEN US. I felt so much reading TIME AFTER TIME: hopeful, angry, sad, and joyous. I can't wait for the rest of the world to read it and fall back in love with Bennett and Anna.

(Full review coming in October.)
If Only We - Jessica Sankiewicz MUST. HAVE. NOW. I cannot WAIT to read this one. Jess is a fabulous blogger, and I'm sure she's an even better author. Plus this deals with WIBBLY WOBBLY stuff so I hope to adore it.