Sun Poisoned (Sunshine #2) by Nikki Rae

Published: June 28, 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: Self Published
Pages: 229
Format: Ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal/Romance
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Note: I was asked for a review by the author

Sophie’s life has changed. She’s moved to New York, she’s playing music for new people, and she’s making new friends. Then there’s Myles, and the fact that he is now her boyfriend—and everyone knows it. There are a lot of new things to take in, but Sophie has no problem adjusting. 

She’s not exactly normal, living in a half-human, half-vampire world, but she’s finally, truly happy. But some parts of Sophie and Myles’ old life still hide in the dark, waiting for the right opportunity to strike.

Sophie’s having nightmares again, but they aren’t about her; Myles is hiding something that she’s not sure she wants to know. And one lie will change everything.

No matter how hard she tries to cover up the marks her monsters have left behind, they never truly go away, and Myles’ monsters are no different. Once again, Sophie’s caught between life and death, but this time, only she can save herself.

Rae did a wonderful job building up my affections and emotions towards her characters…and then she goes and brutally crushes them. But alas, spoilers. But honestly, my emotions were totally and brutally crushed in this book.

In the second book in the Sunshine series we see Sophie living in New York, playing at Midnight with her band, and working at the club selling merchandise. She has escaped her mother, she is doing what she loves, and she has boyfriend Myles plus her friends Boo and Trei to enjoy life with.

But Sophie is still haunted by her past and now she is also now haunted by other people’s as well. The incident with Michael has brought Sophie into Myles’ world even more and she is resisting as much as she can. With Myles’ help she tries to forget the events six months ago and tries to focus on her new exciting life, but the past is never far behind.

We learn a bit more about the supernatural world this time around, Sophie learns more from Myles and situations that she becomes involved in reveal additional rules and elements of the vampire world, though this time she tries to stay away from it, unprepared to become involved after what happened last time.

The events from the first novel are not forgotten and are revisited, and we also see Sophie become more involved with the paranormal side of her life. What was done well was that those who have not read the first book are explained a few things in fractured recaps throughout the second. While some things are explained, others are simply hinted at and require construction from various comments and references. This is good because while you are left in the dark about a lot of things that occur in the first book, especially specific details or certain characters and histories, the reminders are there, keeping the timeline in check, while also filling in a few gaps and questions at the same time. This also acts as a reminder to readers that the past events are still vivid and that they have not been forgotten. Book two is not a new adventure, it is a continuing saga that began in Sunshine and will continue in this book and through the lives of Sophie and her friends and family.

The plot style is curious, the element of mystery is not strong per se, but the drawn out nature and untold information keeps you going to try and find the answers. There is a curiosity that has been created to get you involved with these characters once again, and I did find myself getting further attached to these characters, I will say not to all of them, but it did not entirely matter. Each character is unique in their own way, all with stable development behind them that is adequate to their needs in the story and ours, even if it is revealed slowly or straight away. As with Sunshine the characters drive the story and their experiences and lives keep you wanting more and whether that is day to day life and struggles, or whether it is something phenomenal is unimportant.

As a result of this curiosity and mystery it does make you a tad suspicious as you try and work out if people have ulterior motives and where the story is possibly leading to. As we follow Sophie we again only learn as she does, and when events happen around her we only catch glimpses and must piece things together or be patient until they are revealed. There was the slightest hint in Sunshine I thought that there may be something special about Sophie, these theories were reignited and annoyingly and skilfully only hinted at again in Sun Poisoned which leaves a lot to the imagination.

There are again various incidents and events in this book that occur, some are more complicated and severe compared to those in the first book and Rae writes about these and the experience just as well as before. There are descriptions and emotions used that are excellent at helping us to see and understand them from Sophie’s perspective, even if they are not always about her specifically. This adds to the nice uncertainty because we only know what Sophie knows and what people tell her. I think, especially for the latter half of the book, this is incredible important and something that third person could not achieve with the same level of satisfaction. There needs to be an emotional connection in this story and these books because characters are the key and readers need to understand them more than a third person point of view could adequately provide.

The beginning feels a little bit slow but we get a lot of information in the first half. We learn more about Myles’ life and world, as well as a few outcomes of the events in the last book. Characters are being re-established, a few new ones are introduced, and there is development of Myles and Sophie’s relationship.

The good thing about this development we see of Sophie and Myles’ relationship is how Rae has approached it. Instead of focusing on the romance element on its own, instead it is shown through other events and the actions of others. This is a clever move because it protects the story from being purely about their romance with other things happening around them, or having moments of story, and then moments of their romance. This is where their connection shines, intertwined through life and the people around them.

There is a defining halfway point where it feels a switch is flipped, but it isn’t sudden either. It is like things have gradually been getting more intense without you realising and then all of a sudden something happens and you never come back down. I really enjoyed the story from this point, there was a lot of investment with what was happening and Rae writes drama so well, especially for characters so it was highly emotional to read.

Similarly to the first book, the language is casual on occasion; the tone Sophie uses connects with the continual descriptive nature of the story. She recounts what she does and she describes almost exactly what she sees and feels. In that sense it works together. There is a consistence in the writing style which doesn’t make anything stick out in particular as you read, but certain elements can be identified looking at the story as a whole.

Rae has again created a wonderful slow reveal story with a thread of hidden secrets, and while it may not feel gripping initially it is by the ending I assure you, the suspense and uncertainty that fills most of the last half of the book keeps you on edge as you are eager and impatient to see where it leads. And in between then you still get intrigued and involved with these characters, this is what keeps you going to the excitement and excellent ending that inevitable develops. I could easily reread this series right away. This is a strong temptation stopped only by the pile of other books I have to read. I impatiently wait for book three.

Sunshine (Sunshine #1) by Nikki Rae

Published: January 28, 2013
Publisher: Self Published
Pages: 330
Format: Ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal/Romance
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

18 year old Sophie Jean is pretty good at acting normal. Sure, she’s not exactly happy, but happiness is nothing compared to being like everyone else. She can pretend she’s not allergic to the sun. She can hide what her ex-boyfriend did to her. She can cover up the scars she’s made for herself. Ignore anything. Forget anything. Then Myles enters her life, and he has more than a few secrets of his own. When accident after accident keeps happening to Sophie, she can’t help noticing that he’s everywhere. That he knows too much. That she’s remembering too much.

 Suddenly, those who were monsters before are just people, and the monsters? They’re real. Now being a normal human being is the least of her problems. Now she has to stay alive.

Note: I was asked for a review by the author.

I was interrupted by so many things reading this book (apologies Nikki it took so long!) but by the end of it I was engrossed, and that was something I was not expecting. This was an excellent book, and if we’re honest it was extremely hard to find the words to review it. I did so many drafts, the ability to ramble about what makes this a great story seem endless, and the fact I was trying not to simply describe the book to you was hard, hence the multiple retries.

Sunshine is about a girl called Sophie who has Solar Urticaria, meaning she is allergic to the sun. She lives her life as best she can, as she always has, trying to be normal when she constantly feels abnormal. As the story begins we’re introduced to Sophie and we’re immediately introduced to her condition and how she deals with it. In these opening chapters we see an insight into Sophie’s life through her eyes, about her condition, her mother, her sisters Laura and Leena, as well as her brother, Jade.

As a character Sophie is an anxious girl, she is wary of relationships and trusting people and that comes across clearly. It is mentioned a lot, especially around her developing friendship and relationship with Myles, but her reasons are explained and you can understand it more as the thought process of what goes through her mind when it happens. Where we see more of the real Sophie is around her friends Boo and Trei, when Sophie is around them there is a different side to her, one who jokes and rocks out in a band. The difference between the two levels is evident and we get a feeling of how Sophie feelings change through Rae’s descriptions and Sophie’s reactions.

The introduction Rae’s given us to the world as a whole is not flawless but it is done quite well, and the paranormal and supernatural elements in this book are there but not an overbearing feature. Having read nothing else similar as a comparison, I enjoyed the pace and the balance between the regular and the paranormal. Nothing is rapidly sprung on reader (or character) with no real instance of instant acceptance and understanding by characters which can be a downfall when colliding reality and the supernatural, but Rae manages this balance well.

The various relationships in this book are well written and diverse. The relationship Sophie has with her mother is tense, but her affection for her stepfather is wonderful. Rae captures the family dynamic between Sophie, her brother and sisters quite well and there is a strong sibling connection that shows even through the arguments as well as the love and support.

I really adore some of these characters. Myles is a character I was surprised to like almost instantly. His own secrets and uncertainty make him quite wonderful as he tries so hard to fit in himself, while still trying to be there for Sophie, make new friends and try and make sure everything is going to be ok.

He and Sophie are very similar which is why their relationship works. They both are people who have close friends but feel separated from the rest of the world as well. Their relationship moves from constantly waiting for the other one to realise how strange they believe themselves to be and run off, until finally understanding that they can help one another.

You have to pity Myles for his initial meeting with Sophie but when we get to see her side of things it balances things out. Embarrassment and defense mechanisms are hard defaults to override and the way we see Sophie break these down over the course of the book are excellent. There is a slow emergence after numerous hasty retreats and second thoughts and seeing her character grow is really nice.

Other characters I adored are Stevie and Jade. Jade’s relationship as Sophie’s brother and the relationship he has with his boyfriend Stevie is wonderful. What makes Jade and Stevie exceptional characters is that Rae doesn’t make them imposing but they show understanding and support in other ways and in simple gestures like being there at key moments and helping Sophie when she doesn’t even ask. The sibling relationship is beautiful; it makes and develops Jade’s character and position as a brother by how he sees Sophie and how he acts with her. Rae uses their conversations and gestures as a way to show not tell and while it seems basic, it actually shows much more than if they were more prominent.

Content wise there are some serious personal issues shown and discussed in this book but Rae does it without making it an overbearing factor, but she also doesn’t shy away or glorify it either. The way it is shown and talked about seems to be handled with care and realism, something that brings the emotions and understanding to the surface and reduces the risk of making it dramatic or flippant.

What I love particularly is the ending and the way Rae has written it, especially the moments of confusion and uncertainty. The fact we see all of this from Sophie’s point of view we experience everything she does and with the chaos of the concluding chapters I love that we don’t really know what is going on because Sophie doesn’t know what is going on.

Rae writes these moments of confusion very well, and the emotions and feelings and moments of fading and unconsciousness Sophie experiences are well described. What Sophie goes through is captured without telling or rushing. Again, the length of time that passes in this book makes the story better. Nothing is brushed over or rushed and this adds to the reality and the suspense the story generates. Because we are seeing this through Sophie’s eyes we gain a lot more than if it was a third person narrative. The room for deeper emotions adds more meaning to the story, especially crucial in one that explores things Rae does in this novel.

In terms of writing there are a few description sentences where things like clothing is explained, they stand out slightly but not in an annoying way but perhaps there is room for a more fluid inclusion as they occasionally have purpose behind their mention. Though really, with her writing and storytelling Rae draws you in with character and plot so well that the rest is pretty much unimportant. Characters drive this story and they bring the intrigue, mystery, and excitement along with them that leave you hanging out for the next book.

To learn more about Nikki and her work here are the usual suspects
Author page
The Sunshine Series page

Where to find her books
Sunshine on Amazon
Sun Poisoned (Book #2) on Amazon
Barnes and Noble 

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