Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney

Published: 1st January 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A glitzy whodunit set amongst the Gold Coast elite and a hilarious romance between Macey Pentecost, the privileged teenager with a social conscience who just happens to see ghosts, and the good-looking surf champion Finn.

Macey’s life has been turned upside down. Her mother has left, her father is absent and her two best friends (her brother Seth and his girlfriend Willow) are MIA. On top of that Macey is being visited by ghosts who need her help to ‘move on’. But as wild as all that sounds, it’s all under Macey’s control until a rakish, good-looking spirit called Nick turns up … in her bedroom!

Nick’s a spirit with spirit who insists he’s not dead, he’s astral travelling and has a message for Macey: someone is out to get her. Macey’s biting wit has got her in trouble before, so she’s not surprised but when the threatening notes start turning up, she’s seriously shaken. Does someone want her dead?

It’s all rather disturbing but she’s finding it hard to focus on who could mean her harm with the annoyingly handsome surf god Finn turning up at the most inopportune times and a father with a rather large surprise of his own.

Is it a case of bad timing? Or are these things somehow connected? And if they are, what on earth should she wear when she’s solving the mystery?

Even at 400 pages I flew through this book. I started at maybe 11pm and by 3:30 am I was done. I kept telling myself I should stop but then I convince myself to read some more and then all of a sudden I’d read another 40 pages and I was telling myself to stop again. And so the cycle continued until 3:30 when I finished the final page.

There is a perfect balance between the paranormal, the mystery, and the every day, and Kaz’s writing is so inviting that you want to keep turning the page. Her words draw you in and even closing the book for sleep is unthinkable because you don’t want to leave the story. Your curiosity overrules sleep, and who could sleep anyway when such an enthralling tale is being told!

A companion book to Dead, Actually, this time it’s Macey’s story that gets told. What I loved about this was that it was a completely new story but didn’t forget what had come before it. It is impossible to compare the two because they both have very different mysteries with different focuses, but the similarities and same surroundings is a comfortable familiarity. Willow and Seth are not forgotten, and there are throwbacks and references to the other book, but not so much that it tries to make you connect the two and see it as a sequel. Macey’s story is her own and Willow’s hers, and I loved that Kaz gave them both stories that suited them.

There are so many drawcards about this book, not only the creative paranormal aspect, but the mystery, the drama, and the realities of life that all mix together. It is easy to love the amazing events that play out around Nick as well as Macey’s newly discovered gift, not to mention the surprising home life she had found herself living in. Kaz’s portrayal of the stresses and confusion in Macey’s life is divine, as well as managing to express beautifully how overwhelmed and out of her depth she becomes. It’s wonderful.

Macey and Finn’s relationship is cheeky and adorable. He is a wonderful friend, loyal and protective, and seeing Macey fight her feelings for him reveals more of who she is and why. Everything connects and has consequences with this story and moments fit together and react off each other with style and creativity. This is just one of the many things that interact and connect, sometimes you don’t even realise just how connected things are until the last moment.

The mystery side definitely needs mentioning because the way Kaz plays it out you find yourself suspecting even the most innocent of people. There are hints and clues, and no clear motive which means anyone could be the culprit. With so much else happening in Macey’s life, having someone stalk her is another thing she has to worry about, and seeing it overlap with her other problems makes the story more intense and enthralling.

This multifaceted story has something for everyone’s tastes: There are great characters to fall in love with and great friendships to admire, there’s a great YA story, a thrilling mystery, some excellent paranormal, a budding romance, family drama, self discovery and acceptance, and an ending that’s beautiful – all wrapped up in a thrilling 400 pages.

You can purchase Almost Dead via the following

Dymocks | Kindle | Booktopia

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Amazon Aust | QBD

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Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney

Published: 1st January 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

dead-actuallyWillow’s having a bad week. A dead body, a funeral and now she’s being haunted by the star of it all, the dead queen of Ruth Throsby High herself, JoJo Grayson.
Being dead hasn’t made JoJo any nicer. She’s still venomous and vacuous and, unfortunately, determined to stick around unless Willow finds out what happened.
But the mystery keeps multiplying. There’s a missing phone. An anonymous blackmailer. Dirty secrets that won’t stay buried. And the blame is being cleverly pointed right at Willow.
The only good thing? The gorgeous Seth Pentecost. He’s got his own agenda but it looks like he’s going to help Willow out. Could solving this death be what it takes to finally bring him into her life?

There is so much to love about this book: the characters, the mystery, the fabulous writing that sends your heart and mind crazy with anticipation and suspense. I loved everything about this book from start to finish, it’s enthralling, it’s messy and complicated, but that is what makes it exhilarating to read.

The way Kaz has played out this story and these events, and in such a short space of time, is marvellous. Her writing captures the chaos in Willow’s mind, the conflict and the passion, the fear and self-doubt. Everything comes across beautifully on the page and makes this story come alive.

There’s a hundred different things happening all at once, all linked together, crushing Willow’s brain and sending her in every which direction and the chaos and mystery of it all is wonderful. Kaz pulls you along with a mystery and a quest for answers but there’s also other things happening and Kaz links these seemingly unconnected things together so wonderfully that it works on so many levels, interconnected snippets and separate things woven together to create Willow’s life and story. It’s divine.

Having everything happening in a short period of time makes everything more intense, but Kaz never makes it feel rushed or too soon. The strange and compelling nature of the events and the multiple angles covered brings the intensity to a point where Willow’s stress and overwhelmed feeling leap off the page and brings you into the story so you understand her frustrations, fears, and victories.

The romance element is natural and not once feels cheesy or fake. Willow’s crush on Seth is adorable, Seth himself is wonderful so you also fall in love with him, and Kaz beautifully misses out on the making the “crush on best friend’s brother” feel clichéd. Her exploration of Willow’s feelings, mixing it into the paranormal events and life drama, brings out the realism, such as Willow’s romantic feelings cropping up unexpectedly, her desire to control her reactions and emotion’s play down her feelings for fear of ruining what she has. That is what makes it feel so real, so believable, Willow’s feelings don’t come from nowhere, nor do they take away from who she is as a person, everything about her is mixed together into this dramatic and captivating novel.

Despite the paranormal element, everything about this feels so genuine, so much like the every day, and it’s made even better by JoJo being both ghost like and as she was alive. There is so much drama going on without the paranormal but the paranormal is the heart of it, both the main essence and an almost background feature.

I loved this book so much I gave it five stars before I had even finished. The narrative Kaz has constructed is clever, creative, and so incredibly intriguing. From start to finish she brings you into Willow’s world with curiosity and captivating characters and she holds onto your attention until the very last page. As the final chapters play out your heart pounds, your excitement grows, and you still have no idea where the story is going and what is going to happen. Kaz keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the end, even after the whodunit has been solved.

You can purchase Dead, Actually via the following

Dymocks | Kindle

Booktopia | iTunes

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Angels Dawn (#1) by Komali da Silva

Angels Dawn Review Blitz

Published: 25th January 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Pages: 277
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Dawn Huntington wants what every girl wants, a sweet sixteen birthday party with her friends, family, and some hot boys, but fate has other plans. On the night of Dawn’s sixteenth birthday, she witnesses a crime she can’t turn her back on, and the decisions she makes that night will change her life forever. 

Never having been confronted with such violence, Dawn turns to a mysterious and beautiful boy named Angelo, only she can’t remember what happens that night. To make things more complicated, Dawn is in a relationship with Angelo’s complete opposite, Nate. Dawn doesn’t want to hurt Nate, yet she can’t shake her feelings for Angelo, even when she can’t help but feel he’s hiding something from her, and it could be something dark. Why is Angelo acting so weird around Bonita? Are they together? Are they really only friends?

Angelo may be trouble, but Dawn can’t ignore her feelings for him. Dawn is at a crossroads. Should she choose love? Or friendship? Once Dawn finally finds the courage to choose, she thinks the drama is over. But Dawn wasn’t expecting her choices to have such dire consequences. 

Do you believe in love at first sight? But can one trust someone blindly? Can love overcome all the obstacles?

Is friendship just the beginning of love?

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book for review.

Reviewing a book that a lot of people really like but you don’t is always hard. I didn’t dislike it, it just didn’t come across as amazing as everyone is saying it was, not for me anyway. The story was not the problem exactly, there is a story to follow but it felt choppy, something was definitely missing. At the risk of spoilers, I thought there really needed to be more information provided about Angelo; about his situation, what were the rules were, why he was there. It was a completely new part of the story that gets minimal attention. And other aspects get attention that makes it feel like they are going to become bigger parts of the story but they end up being minor.

For most of the book I felt the story seemed a bit flat, characters were one dimensional and even though da Silva has tried to give them some depth and back story it didn’t feel like enough. Dawn’s family come across as the most ideal and perfect family, and other characters were nice but I didn’t have any real connection to them. In addition, the romance and affection I think da Silva was trying to build between Angelo and Dawn didn’t come across as such. Angelo’s doting affections and romanticisms are cringe worthy and feel more obsessive and stalkerish than love, and Dawn’s insta-love and literal three day romance is a lot to deal with.

Even bearing in mind that Dawn’s sixteen and a lot can be excused in her actions, there are a few things you have to find unbelievable; the fact she is stalked and doesn’t tell her parents, harassed for weeks on the phone and doesn’t tell anyone, or even simple things like when her dog goes missing and she doesn’t tell anyone.

I could feel there was a story under the surface but it just wasn’t coming through as strongly as it could have. I had no interest in the love triangle and with no connection to the characters I wasn’t fussed who was chosen. It took the majority of the story before it felt interesting, and even then it was more mild curiosity than any real pull to see what was going to happen. We weren’t given enough detail to understand what was happening and without that it was hard to become too invested. I’m wary to say it was predictable because I’m not sure whether my own knowledge of paranormal tropes made it seem that way, though this didn’t take anything away from the story.

The blurb certainly makes the story seem darker than what it actually is, not that some events in the novel aren’t awful, but there are a few things that just leave it lacking, extra detail that could have built up the story to make it less flat and with less holes that need filling. Too much was left unanswered and never readdressed that I felt was a problem. I know a few things will be answered in the sequel, but there were other things that needed answering in the first book.

You can purchase Angels Dawn via the following

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About Komali:

Komali da Silva was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She started writing as a teenager but never took it seriously because her love for basketball and track and field sports was much stronger. At the age of seventeen she moved to Switzerland. Komali has a degree in Insurance but is dreaming of one day owning her own book cafe.

She adores reading and some of her favorite authors include Lauren Kate, Cassandra Clare, Becca Fitzpatrick, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Cecelia Ahern, J.K. Rowling and Richelle Mead. She started immortalizing her own words on paper in June 2012. Komali, her husband and their daughter Amalia now live in Switzerland, where they eat a lot of chocolate and freeze during the winter.

Komali could live on love and happiness if life lets her do so. She laughs a lot and has different smiles for all her moods.

The Crow Box (#1) by Nikki Rae

Published: 15th January 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 164
Format: ebook
Genre: New Adult/Paranormal/Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

The small wooden box is dirty, the size of a human fist, and sealed with wax. When Corbin takes it upon herself to clean it and break the seal, a voice she has tried to ignore gathers strength. Shadows play on the walls at night, and with a family history of mental illness, Corbin fears the worst. But the voice tells her it is real. That its name is Six and it will prove it in time. 

Drawn to this mysterious entity, Corbin isn’t sure what to believe and the line between reality and her imagination blurs more every day.

Some doors should not be opened; can this one be closed?

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

I think I say this for every one of Nikki Rae’s books, but she is a master at telling a story. Not only are the themes and the plots intricate and unique, but her words and descriptions and vivid and evoke images and feelings, and she places you inside the mind of her characters so well, it’s almost like you are experiencing things alongside them, even minor things like understanding the mind of an artist.

The Crow Box was nothing like I thought it would be, and I am not even disappointed by that. I was not entirely sure what I expected but Rae didn’t let me down. Corbin’s story is filled with mystery and a slow but dangerous decent and watching her struggle against it is enthralling.

When Corbin starts to hear a voice she thinks she is going mad like her mother, and seeing the way Rae introduces Six, and the way it interacts with Corbin, it’s clear why Corbin thinks she is losing her mind. But the wonder of the story is how she functions alongside it, what she does to deal with it, how she reasons with it, embraces it, fears it. Rae’s writing brings you into Corbin’s experience and makes you understand unreservedly what she is going through. Her confusion and attempt to explain what is happening is expressed and explored beautifully.

What makes Corbin so wonderful is that she is practical, she’s had years of stress and worry because of her mother’s condition but she manages to cope and enjoy her art and things around her. Her approach to the strange occurrences around her are reasoned and as Rae brings us deeper into Corbin’s mind you can see this reasoning adjust, but remain.

Rae gradually pulling you into Corbin’s mind is eerie and unsettling. The journey from being an outsider to her inner thoughts is amazing, and it unsettles you in all the right ways. Not knowing what Six is or where it comes from is also part of the experience. The unanswered questions and the non answers given by Six add to the secrets. The gradual development and the mystery is intriguing, and Rae balances the pace and story flow with the not knowing and slow burn mystery very well. There is a balance between the surreal and the real which only enhances the overall feeling because it brings in the idea that the strange and unexplained could come so easily into the every day.

Wherever you think the story is going it isn’t and where Rae takes you is incredible. Theories and assumptions get tossed aside as another thing unravels your thoughts, and tiny twists make you realise you are in much deeper than you thought. The writing is melodic and creative, but not overly poetic or dramatic, the right balance to convey meaning and portray a scene. Rae uses her words wisely and her descriptions are perfect for capturing just the right explanation for a sensation or a feeling. The writing teases you and taunts you, offering hope and answers like dangling a string for a cat.

After the experience Rae takes you on and after those final few chapters, the ending is one of the most frustrating things you’ll endure. The ‘to be continued’ makes you want to pick up the next book immediately and keep reading. From the very first line until the final full stop Rae holds your attention and once you’ve started down this rabbit hole you won’t want to stop.

You can purchase The Crow Box via the following

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A Force of Nature by Dan McEwen

Published: 12th July 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 FriesenPress
Pages: 196
Format: ebook
Genre: Paranormal/Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Do you believe in Fate? Would you recognize it if it was happening to you? Then you’ll want to meet Toronto PR guru Claire Chandler. She grew up convinced greatness awaited her. Why else had she survived a series of bizarre childhood tragedies? Yet she doesn’t see what’s coming when she journeys north on a long weekend in August to Bay Harbour, a post-card pretty tourist town on the edge of Canada’s popular Georgian Bay vacationlands. She thinks she’s there to reconnect with a former mentor. But Chandler’s chilling affinity for the “unnatural and unexplained”, a macabre “gift” that once made her a freak of nature to classmates, will make her a force of Nature. Shadowed by a ghostly white wolf and haunted by the victims of a long-dead killer, she’ll discover a startling new ending to a fifty year-old mystery. She’ll also discover romance with Tom Katz, an affable, treasure-hunting bush pilot with a reputation for living up to his name. They’re an unlikely pair and Chandler thinks it’s just a summer fling. Instead, a series of white-knuckle adventures will bring them to a time, a place and a choice that will forever link their lives. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

There are many things to enjoy about McEwen’s story. It is compelling without being over the top, it has mystery and romance, there are puzzles to solve and unexplained phenomenons, all blended into a relatively normal series of events and narrative.

The narrative is well written, there is a great tone and voice that really suits this type of story. The pacing is excellent, the gradual revealing of new information and clues you don’t know are clues are part of its charm and makes for an entertaining read.

From a seemingly normal enough beginning it soon delves into a story about a possible curse, a horrific past, life in a dying coastal town, and mysteries beyond total comprehension. The ‘ghost story’ element is balanced well with the real and McEwen combines the two naturally and in a wonderful mystical way that makes it border on the realm of possibility.

The characters are interesting and don’t take over control of the story with their own personal problems. They each share the space and manoeuvre around the greater narrative, not even always playing that great of a role, but existing around it. So often there are times in which the story could deviate but McEwen always keeps the main story on track, connecting everything to it rather than having side stories; a clever approach and one that works remarkably well.

For all the mystery and unexplained there is quite a strong believability about this. Relationships are real, connections feel genuine, even the strange occurrences have been explained and placed in such a way it is plausible within the realm of belief and who each character has been portrayed to be. Claire is the first mystery, surviving against the odds numerous times and having an unexplained gift. It is this gift that brings Claire to the coastal town, and during her stay it proves useful on more than one occasion.

The narrative follows Claire’s time in the town, staying with an old friend, but she is not the only perspective we see. With narration from numerous characters a wider picture is shown, opening up the mystery slightly and giving us a better sense of the people and the town.

One thing I did enjoy was how McEwen developed this story, gradually changing focus and making it appear to go in a few directions, telling everyone’s story while never truly straying. Claire’s terrible secret isn’t the main focus like you think, certain characters don’t take focus like you think they will; there are numerous moments that could have been a key factor but McEwen instead uses these as background to the main issue. In doing so this adds to the realism and believable nature, it is just life going on, albeit alongside a greater mystery and unnatural phenomenon.

A strength of this story is as it progresses you are able to see people grow up, you see them have realisations, make changes in their lives, and sort out who they are and what they want to do. This I think is why the ending is also as strong as it is, wrongs have been set right (as much as they can be in the real world), people have their own form of closure and comfort and it is hard to feel dissatisfied even with an ending like that where you wiah you could have just one more answer.

With a story that combines the paranormal and reality it can be hard to make it seem real, however I think McEwen has done a wonderful job in mixing the two. Taking the spiritual approach rather than straight supernatural was a clever idea and one that makes the events of the story much stronger and powerful.

You can purchase A Force of Nature via the following

Amazon

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