Tara Calaby

writer & editor

Tag: paranormal romance (page 1 of 2)

Review: Fated – Alyson Noël

Fated book coverThe Cover:
It’s gorgeous. I love the yellow background, which is quite unusual, and the sepia toning used for the photo of Daire. The way her hair evolves into the flock of ravens is graphically attractive and a great hint at the novel’s content. I’m loving the font, as well.

The Protagonist:
I liked Daire, even if I have no idea how to pronounce her name. (Then again, this is the same for most of the characters in Fated. What is it about paranormal YA and names I’ve never heard of?) I think that Noël did a good job of giving reason for Daire’s independence and flexibility. Most teenagers would be completely thrown by the revelations that Daire has to quickly take on board, but her background travelling the world means that she is used to change and instability. I also appreciate the fact that Daire is the character whose powers form the focus of Fated. So often with paranormal romance, it’s all about the boy being special, and it’s always nice to have a protagonist who is powerful in her own right.

The Antagonist:
I get the impression that we’ll be seeing a lot more of Cade in further novels. In Fated, he’s a little two dimensional. We know he’s dangerous, because everyone tells Daire that he is, but we don’t really see much of his power. I did, however, appreciate that there was no hint of a love triangle involving Cade and his twin, Dace – at least from Daire’s point of view.

The Love Interest:
Fated falls into the instalove category of paranormals, unfortunately. Daire and Dace’s attraction is fated before they even meet, and so there is no slow build-up to romance in the novel, or even to friendship. Dace himself is a likeable character, however, and I think he’ll be a big hit with young readers. There’s a slight Jacob Black feel to him, with his Native American heritage and long black hair, which I’m sure will go down well! I appreciate the fact that he’s nothing but kind to Daire and her loved ones – no creepy YA boyfriend syndrome here. In this first novel, his and Daire’s connection is largely physical, which meant that I found it a little wanting in the depth department. I did, however, appreciate the fact that there was no moral judgement attached to Daire’s sexual urges.

The Supporting Cast:
I enjoyed Paloma, but my favourite minor character was definitely Chay. I’d love to see more discussion of their relationship in future novels. Xotichl was likeable, although I don’t understand including a character name that you know people won’t be able to pronounce, and I was intrigued by Lita. I think Jennika, Daire’s mother, would have bothered me more if I didn’t know her backstory and a little about the place she comes from with her decisions, but as it was, I actually thought she was a well-crafted character.

The Plot:
Fated is the first book in a series, which means that there is a lot of setting up to be found in the first couple of hundred pages. I’ve read other reviews from people who haven’t been able to make it past this section of the book to the action, and I can understand why. It felt like there was an awful lot of waiting around before things actually started to happen. That said, Noël has come up with an interesting concept, and it will be interesting to see where she goes with it. By the end of the novel, the reader is still left with a lot of questions about what Daire is and how she will have to use her new-found powers. When it comes to a series, I think it’s generally unfair to judge the first book too harshly for having a slow start, because all of that exposition has to happen somewhere. I did find myself wishing, however, that there had been a little more of a pay off for the long introduction when the meat of the story finally began.

The Writing:
Noël’s writing style was actually the thing I struggled most with while reading Fated. She uses sentence fragments. A lot of fragments. Building on previous sentences. Adding information. Rarely using grammar as it was intended.

See what I did there? Look, I’m a big fan of learning the rules of grammar and then using this knowledge to break the rules here and there in order to add interest to your writing. I think there comes a point, though, where this kind of thing can become distracting and, with Fated, I was constantly pulled out of the story by the lack of proper sentence structure. I enjoy an occasional sentence fragment, and use them for pacing and emphasis myself. When it reaches the point, however, where a half-page paragraph consists of one initial sentence followed solely by fragments, it just doesn’t work for me. Others may well consider it stylistically brilliant.

The Verdict:
Fated is sure to find its place in the current YA paranormal market. I think there’s still a large demand for this kind of story and, while there is nothing very new about Fated, it is this that is likely to ensure it becomes a hit with its intended demographic. I personally struggled with Noël’s writing style and a plot that failed to ignite a spark of excitement in me, but I believe that Fated will do well and will amass many fans – not all of whom will be in it solely for Dace!

Review: Storm – Brigid Kemmerer

Storm book coverI was really interested in getting my hands on Storm after reading some of the early reviews that have been posted. A lot of people have been saying that it’s a paranormal novel for teens that doesn’t feel exactly the same as the rest, and that had me intrigued. I usually enjoy paranormal aspects in fiction a lot; what I don’t like is the current fad for books that feel so very similar once you get past the shallow differences like character names and location.

Luckily, the reviewers were right. Storm does feel different. Largely, it’s because the romance here is always secondary to the action. But it’s also because of the interesting premise and the great characters than Brigid Kemmerer has created. The Merrick brothers have the potential to be huge, and rightfully so, because they’re the highlight of the book.

Putting the paranormal element (ha!) aside, I was actually reminded a little of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders when reading this book. There’s the same feeling of kinship and desperation with the boys and, of course, the family situation is also similar. I think most readers will come out of reading Storm with a favourite brother – and possibly a second favourite as well. (For me? Nick, with Michael in second place.) I loved how their interactions felt real. They fight like family and love like family, and that’s such a hard thing to capture. They’re not always likeable, but they’re never dull or one-dimensional.

It’s hard for me to describe my feelings about the novel’s protagonist, Becca, without giving away a lot of the plot. I liked that she’s caring, and that she’s strong in a quiet sort of way that forms a nice contrast to the strength of Hunter and the Merrick boys. I particularly liked that the book opens with her saving the male character, rather than it being the other way around. I think her fears and insecurities and her self-blame are all understandable and realistic, although I would have liked the victim blaming to be rebutted a little more strongly in the book.

Kemmerer’s clever concept of the elemental powers and affinities is also very well developed. Readers will come away from Storm with a sheepish urge to try to manipulate the elements themselves, because there is something so close to believable in the way it is explained. The pacing of the novel joins with this great premise and makes it extremely difficult to put down. It’s engaging and often exciting and a very enjoyable read.

One key aspect of Storm disappointed me, however, and it is one sense in which it is not so different from the glut of paranormal romances in the teen market. I am noticing a disturbing growing trend for authors to introduce rape and attempted rape as plot points intended only to allow a male character to rescue a female protagonist. In Storm, the attempted rape scene is particularly harrowing, and could prove very triggering to a lot of readers. It’s a lazy and disconcerting plotting practice and I believe that most authors are better than it, so I wish they would prove that fact by showing that a boy is kind or devoted in another way. Overall, I’m ambivalent about the presentation of female sexuality in this novel, so I hope that the rest of the trilogy turns that ambivalence to a more positive feeling.

Despite this, I really did enjoy Storm a lot. I love the Merrick brothers and the premise and the way that the plot kept me guessing from start to finish. I’m glad that there isn’t a whole year to wait until the next book, because I want to read more about this universe a lot sooner than that!

Warning: Includes an attempted rape, as discussed above.

Review: Fallen – Lauren Kate

Fallen book coverThis is going to be an interesting review, because I have enormously mixed feelings about this book. You have been warned!

Most people who are involved in the young adult book scene have at least heard of the Fallen books by Lauren Kate. I escaped the phenomenon for a while, but finally stumbled upon a copy of the first book in the series, Fallen, at my local library and decided that it was time for me to see what the fuss is about – and to decide for myself whether I fell into the pro- or anti-Fallen crowd. The verdict? I’m not really in either.

I think there’s a good book here. Unfortunately, it’s hidden beneath about two hundred pages worth of unnecessary writing and obscured by a surprising lack of explanation about why characters are the way they are and why events happen the way they do. It makes me wonder a little about what the original manuscript for Fallen looked like, because the final product reads like it could have used a good editor.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things to like about Fallen. Despite being an absolute brick of a book, it reads quite quickly, and whenever I picked it up, I happily read a good chunk of it before putting it back down. I also really enjoyed Arriane and Gabbe as characters. I’m always up for a book set in a boarding school – although I was disappointed that the exciting reform school element didn’t pay off for me – and I thought that Kate managed to evoke a very good sense of place in the novel. Although it annoyed me a little that things weren’t explained as well as they should have been, I nonetheless came away from Fallen feeling genuinely curious about the premise and I would probably pick up the second book in the series if I found it in the local library.

On the other hand, there are a lot of things that I didn’t like, as well. I’m never a fan of insta-love, and the fated nature of Daniel and Luce’s attraction didn’t do enough to change my feelings on that trope. I thought Luce, Daniel and Cam were all very flat as characters, and that Penn could have been better developed into someone the reader could care more deeply about. Most of all, though, I feel like Fallen is missing an awful lot of WHY. Things kept happening, and there never seemed to be much of a reason given for them. Why do Luce and Daniel always fall in love without any real interaction or commonality? Why is a reform school filled with fallen angels? Why does everyone immediately flock to Luce the moment she starts school? You get the idea.

In the end, I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time reading all 452 pages of Fallen. It didn’t change my life, but it was a pleasant enough read – and I’ll quite probably end up reading Torment as well, if only in the hope of finding a few answers for the questions that Fallen left me with.

Review: Drawn – Marie Lamba

drawnRecently moved from America, due to her father finding work at a prestigious English school, Michelle feels rather out of place in her new castle town home. When she first starts drawing a handsome guy in historical attire, she thinks nothing of it. But then a strange encounter at the castle makes her question whether the man in her drawings is truly a figment of her imagination – and draws her into the long-ago events that set into place the social structure still governing the modern day town.

Marie Lamba has proven herself to be a very proficient author of realistic young adult fiction, with her first novel, What I Meant… being published by Random House in 2007 and its sequel, Over My Head being much enjoyed by me when I reviewed it for my blog last year. I was intrigued, therefore, to discover that her next offering would be a paranormal offerings. There are no vampires or werewolves here, however. Instead, Drawn explores a connection across the centuries with a romantic interest who appears in Michelle’s life like a ghost from the distant past.

Michelle is a likeable protagonist, whom readers should find it very easy to identify with. Her isolation in her new home makes her immediately sympathetic and her determination to ensure Christopher’s safety is admirable. More importantly, she doesn’t fall into that all-too-common paranormal trap of losing herself in order to be with her love interest. She is willing to make sacrifices for Christopher, but will not stand for too many of his dated ideas about women.

Indeed, the best thing about Christopher, in my opinion, was the fact that he isn’t just a modern character in historical dress. He does not react to Michelle like someone from her own era and nor is his behaviour modern – especially when it comes to modesty! Lamba prevents him from ever seeming boorish, however, even at his most unrefined, which makes Michelle’s feelings for him believable – and will probably ensure he earns a lot of reader fans as well.

For me, however, the most fascinating character was William, son of the town’s most influential man. His depiction had so many different facets to it and his nature was so complex that I couldn’t help but be intrigued by him. He’s never entirely likeable – but that’s rather the point! In contrast, I wished that we had seen a little more of Constance. I found her character very interesting and a good foil to William and I would have liked to see how things worked out for her.

With a little help from Back To The Future, Drawn looks at the troubles associated with time travel to the past, in terms of changing the present, but also deals with the difficulties of a a romance where the two lovers’ worlds and lives are not just separated by states or oceans, but rather by time itself. While I thought that the novel’s ending was possibly a little too perfect (or perhaps that should just be enormously lucky!), I enjoyed the way that Lamba presented Michelle’s struggle to balance family ties and romantic love and thought her conclusions were very appropriate.

A clever and enjoyable paranormal romance with a love affair that fans of the genre are sure to swoon over.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: Blood Feud – Alyxandra Harvey

bloodfeudThe Drake Chronicles series are marketed as standard YA paranormal romances, but I think that is underselling them a little. Sure, there has been a hint of romance in both of the instalments I’ve read so far, but the focus is so much more on the conflicts between the various vampire groups. This is particularly so in Blood Feud, where the romance between Isabeau and Logan takes a back seat to the negotiations between the Drakes and the Hounds and the ongoing struggles with Montmartre and the Hel-Blar. There’s probably enough tension here to keep paranormal romance fans happy, but there’s also enough action and world-building to interest those who prefer their paranormal without the side of UST and love.

Blood Feud is interesting in that it doesn’t continue the stories of Solange and Lucy, who were the joint first-person protagonists of the first Drake novel, My Love Lies Bleeding. At first, I wasn’t pleased to realise this. I loved Lucy’s strong and feisty voice, and it was sad to find her so little used in this second book. I soon got over my disappointment, however, because Isabeau is just as enjoyable a character. We also get to see things through the eyes of one of the male Drakes for the first time, and Logan does an excellent job of combining loyal, chivalrous and deadly in a manner that’s sure to win him a lot of fans.

Blood Feud also adds a new element to the series, in that it incorporates numerous flashbacks to Isabeau’s life before she was turned. Interestingly, these are told using a third person perspective, which should really clash with the use of the first person for Isabeau’s present-day chapters but somehow doesn’t. I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but the sections of the novel detailing Isabeau’s life during the French Revolution held my attention well and definitely increased my appreciation of her as a character.

The action and world development here is great, although the final climax seemed a little rushed and a lot too easy. It’s not a particularly long novel in modern terms, so an extra ten or twenty pages dealing with the final battle could easily have been incorporated. That said, it was very refreshing to finish a book in a series and feel as though it had been properly ended, rather than just cut off mid-scene!

I was pleasantly surprised by the first Drake Chronicles book and Blood Feud has confirmed my initial feelings about the series, producing a strong second instalment that has ensured that I will be reading more from Alyxandra Harvey

Review: Vibes – Amy Kathleen Ryan

Kristi Carmichael feels forever on the outer, not least because she can read the thoughts of the people around her – who rarely have anything good to say. Her mother is a workaholic, her father’s disappeared off to Africa, the hottest boy in school thinks she’s sick and her former best friend can’t stand her any more. She responds with outlandish fashion and an impenetrable shell, but is it possible that she’s not as aware of people’s thoughts, motivations and lives as she thinks?

I picked Vibes up thinking it was contemporary realistic and only noticed the paranormal element – Kristi can read minds – once I actually started reading. As it turns out, though, this really does read like a realistic novel, with its focus being on relationships between family members, friends and potential partners. Kristi’s mind reading is almost incidental to the plot, revealing more about who she is than anything, so don’t discount Vibes as just another paranormal book!

Instead, Amy Kathleen Ryan has produced a strong work about teenage relationships and self-identity. It’s a story about the barriers people put up to prevent themselves from being hurt and about learning to see the people around you in a different light. And, if that sounds a bit deep, it’s also a very enjoyable and easy read.

Kristi is a very easy protagonist to identify with. Despite her outward expressions of indifference, she is actually a lot more vulnerable than she would have people believe, and her insecurities are ones that will be shared by many readers. She jokes about her weight and her unusually large breasts (although I hope the quote about going from a training bra to a C-cup wasn’t suggesting that counts as large, because no), but it is obvious that she is not comfortable with either. She also pushes people away, believing that no one could like her, and it is good to watch this change slowly over the course of the novel.

In terms of the three main male characters in Vibes, I liked Gusty immediately, despite the name! He’s attractive and popular, and Kristi initially gives the impression that he’s also stupid and unkind, but the reader quickly learns that there is more to Gusty than Kristi is willing to admit. In contrast, I was never able to warm to Mallory. He has a cruel streak that I felt wasn’t entirely negated by his kindness to Eva in the latter half of the book and I just couldn’t see him as a good influence in Kristi’s life. On the other hand, Kristi’s friend Jacob is lots of fun, and his loyalty to Kristy, even at her most prickly, is commendable.

Although much of Vibes deals with Kristi’s relationships with her peers, it also focusses upon her family life, with her father returning from two years in Africa and her mother changing jobs and spending a lot more time with her daughter. I thought that Ryan’s exploration of Kristi’s feelings (and behaviour) towards her parents was particularly well done. It’s hard to talk too much about it without spoiling potential readers, but I think that Kristi’s reactions seem particularly realistic where her family is concerned.

Although it’s a minor thing, I have to mention that I really didn’t like the final two sentences in the book. The annoying thing is that the third last line would have been perfect to end it on. [/end picky criticism]

Vibes is an enjoyable YA novel, with well-written characters and a great voice. I read it in a day, because I was enjoying it so much, and I’m sure other readers will find it just as appealing.

Review: My Love Lies Bleeding – Alyxandra Harvey

Solange Drake is both a born vampire and female – a combination that hasn’t occurred in over nine hundred years. Unfortunately, her rarity puts her in grave danger as she approaches the bloodchange, largely due to a prophecy that suggests she will be the new vampire queen. As things spiral further and further out of control, it falls to Lucy, Solange’s human best friend, and Nicholas, her youngest brother to try to save Solange from all those who want her and her family dead.

I picked up My Love Lies Bleeding, not expecting to be particularly excited by it. The cover made it seem like your average paranormal romance and, while I tend to appreciate them as brain candy, they’re generally quite forgettable once they’re done. However, while My Love Lies Bleeding contains elements of romance, it is largely an action-filled story about family, friendship and conflict between various vampire groups and their hunters.

My favourite part of the Twilight novels was the Cullen family, Edward excluded, and I know I’m not alone in that opinion. My Love Lies Bleeding was a lot like getting a whole book about the Cullens, with Edward becoming the self-sacrificing Solange and Bella her brilliant best friend, Lucy. Solange’s parents are great, with her father being a quiet diplomat while her mother is a formidable warrior, and her seven older brothers and extended family ensure that the Drake family will not be quickly forgotten.

For me, Lucy was the best part about this book. The story is split between two perspectives – hers and Solange’s – and Lucy’s chapters were the ones that I particularly enjoyed. I know that people are getting a little sick of the kick-arse heroine trope, but I’d personally take it any day over the kind of bland, weak female protagonist who is still far too common in young adult fiction. Lucy is feisty and likeable, with her loyalty to her best friend and Solange’s family being unwavering.

Solange is also an interesting character, although not as much one of my preferred character types. She is very selfless and, instead of embracing the prophesy that suggests that she will control the vampire world, she shies away from it and worries about the danger she is subjecting her family to. Although a much quieter, calmer character than Lucy, Solange can still hold her own in a fight and definitely shouldn’t be underestimated.

With two protagonists, the romance is also twofold in My Love Lies Bleeding. Neither romance dominates the plot, however. Kieran, a member of the vampire hunting group Helios-Ra, will appeal to those readers who appreciate connections that cross factions. In contrast, Nicholas may be a vampire, but first and foremost he is Lucy’s best friend’s big brother. Their attraction, therefore, is much more the kind of thing you would generally find in contemporary realistic fiction, than in paranormal romance!

In My Love Lies Bleeding, Alyxandra Harvey has created an interesting universe populated with likeable characters. I shall definitely be picking up the next book in the Drake Chronicles series.

Review: Something Witchy This Way Comes – Veronica Blade

Something Witchy This Way Comes book coverWhen Tessa McClean finds out she’s a witch, there’s no time for her to celebrate her new-found powers. Instead, she discovers that she’s in danger from a rival coven – so much so that her new mentors have arranged for her to have a bodyguard while she’s at school. Worse still, her bodyguard turns out to be Hayden Anders, the school’s resident bad-boy. And, as much as Tessa loathes Hayden’s reputation, she can’t help but feel drawn to him anyway…

Something Witchy This Way Comes is a great escapist read. Veronica Blade has an easy style that swiftly carries the reader from start to finish and lovers of romance will greatly appreciate the will-they-won’t-they tension between her two main characters.

The novel is written using alternating first-person perspectives, meaning that readers are able to see into the minds (and motivations) of both Tessa and Hayden. The up-side of this is the fact that both characters end up being well fleshed out and three-dimensional. The down-side is that sometimes I ended up wanting to knock their heads together in the hope that they’d finally realise the information that I was already party to!

I enjoyed the fact that, although Tessa is the good girl of the story, she is never presented as being a goody-goody. She makes mistakes, like most teenagers do, and she is happy to have fun and let loose every now and again. Ultimately, though, she is responsible and thoughtful and – most importantly – has the self-awareness and strength necessary to put her own needs before those of the boy she likes.

In contrast, Hayden is represented as being the consummate bad boy, and lovers of his archetype should find plenty to smile about here, from his not-so-happy background right through to his begrudging attraction to Tessa. I have a feeling that Hayden is going to end up with a lot of fans, and if you’re the type of person who tends to fall for the bad boys with hearts of gold, you should probably brace yourself for a new literary crush before picking up Something Witchy This Way Comes!

Together, the two main characters have great chemistry and, indeed, it is their budding romance that forms the centrepiece to this novel, not the paranormal aspect of the plot. I was a little disappointed by this, as I very much enjoyed each new revelation about the witches’ world and loved the tension of Tessa’s situation, but I know that there will be many other readers who will be pleased that the paranormal action doesn’t steal too much page-time away from the romance. I very much felt that Something Witchy This Way Comes is a romance lover’s romance. Often, a love plot will feel like it has only been added to a book to capture a larger audience. Here, however, there is a kind of gleeful focus on every moment of sexual tension between Hayden and Tessa.

(There is quite a lot of discussion about sex in this novel, as well as scenes involving underage drinking, so I would suggest it for an older teenage audience.)

Something Witchy This Way Comes was a light and enjoyable read, which ably held my attention from start to finish. While I personally found myself wishing for a little more action and a little less romance, other readers will undoubtedly think the opposite. A promising debut from Veronica Blade.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: Still Sucks To Be Me – Kimberly Pauley

Still Sucks To Be Me book coverMina made her decision and became a vampire, like her parents. But being a vampire is not all super-human strength and fun special powers – although the shape-shifting is superior to boring old makeup. Stuck in small-town Louisiana after her family is relocated by the VRA, Mina quickly realises that life can still really suck as a vampire… and that’s before things start getting dangerous.

Still Sucks To Be Me picks up where the original left off, with Kimberly Pauley’s heroine, Mina, having just become a vampire. Given that the first Mina book focussed upon her conflict over being forced to choose between life and undeath, it would have been easy for the sequel to fall into the all-too-common trap of trying to create further plot and interest where there is none. Instead, however, Pauley has delivered a new story that is as appealing – if not more so – than her first.

Most of the main characters from Sucks To Be Me reappear, although some in a greatly reduced fashion. Uncle Mortie, in particular, has a much more minor role in Still Sucks To Be Me, which will come as a disappointment to fans of his eccentricity. Nathan fans will be even unhappier; while he is definitely not forgotten, he is not directly involved in the sequel at all.

Mina is back, of course, and she remains an entertaining and creative protagonist. Her voice is consistently strong – which is one of the best features of the book. She has an impulsiveness which is very much in keeping with her age, but also possessed the ability to consider the needs of those around her, making her both likeable and realistic. Well – as realistic as a teenage vampire can be, anyway!

On the romance front, George is back, although his role varies over the course of the book and he is missing for a portion of the timeline. Any gap that his absence may leave, however, is amply filled by the addition of Cameron – a local vampire who Mina befriends early in the piece. With his good looks and intoxicating smell, he might be competition for George in the hearts of Pauley’s readers – as well as Mina’s.

Still Sucks To Be Me is a light, but engaging, paranormal offering, with an ever-present sense of humour and a plot that justifies the existence of a sequel. I personally found it a more entertaining read than the original so, if you read Sucks To Be Me and didn’t entirely fall in love with Pauley’s universe, it might still be worth visiting Mina and her family for a second time.

Review: Between The Land And The Sea – Derrolyn Anderson

Between the Land and the Sea book coverAfter spending much of her life following her father and his work to developing countries, Marina is unhappy when he decides that his latest destination will be too dangerous, instead arranging for her to spend the year with her aunt and cousin in a seaside town. Although attending school for the first time is daunting, Marina quickly begins to enjoy life with her cousin, Cruz, his best friend, Megan – and, of course, Ethan, the hottest guy in town. But there is something in the past that Marina doesn’t know about, a birth right that has something to do with the ocean… and the creatures that live in it.

Between The Land And The Sea is the perfect book for YA readers who enjoy paranormal fiction but are getting a little sick of vampires, shifters, demons and angels. There have been a few books published recently that focus on mermaids, but the market is nowhere near the kind of saturation-point that has been reached in hot-vampire circles. Mermaids have always appealed to me because they combine the Disney innocence of The Little Mermaid with the power and fear of the ancient Sirens, and Derrolyn Anderson has done a great job of combining both of those popular images in this first instalment of the Marina’s Tales series.

Although Between The Land And The Sea involves a lot of scene-setting and character-introducing and is, by no means, all action from start to finish, Anderson’s pacing is such that the reader is nonetheless tugged from one chapter to the next. Just as Marina is enticed towards the sea, so the reader is drawn into the book through a combination of likeable characters and the mystery of Marina’s experiences. Anderson is a master of the slow reveal, feeding information to her audience at just the right pace to hold the reader’s interest.

Marina is a likeable protagonist, even if she is probably a little too perfect for most readers to be able to identify with. I think that her travel-heavy upbringing was an inspired character choice on the part of the author, because it gives her the self-awareness and adaptability necessary to swiftly incorporate each new revelation about the mermaids and her connection to them into her world view.

Ethan is just as likeable as the sexy surfer who Marina falls for at first sight. Although his looks make him the most popular boy in school, his appeal is not a shallow one, as he is depicted as being hard-working, ambitious, down-to-earth and caring as well. By the end of the book, a few of my questions about Ethan remained unanswered, but I am sure we will learn more about him later in the series.

I also enjoyed Cruz and, in particular, the fact that Anderson allows him to be a talented fashion designer without feeling the need to make him stereotypically camp – or even to make an issue of his sexuality (one way or the other) at all. Indeed, I think that gender is dealt with very well in Between The Land And The Sea, whether in terms of Cruz’s interest in fashion and manner of dressing or the representation of the mermaids as both protectors and physically powerful beings.

My only real issue with the novel was the fact that a lot of the main characters were a little too-good-to-be-true, meaning that I found it difficult to identify with any of them. Marina is beautiful, smart, talented and spoilt rotten by her honorary aunt. Cruz is an exceptionally talented designer, while Megan’s abilities lie in the field of music. Even Ethan is fantastically good looking and a talented surfer. (And as for Marina’s father and the prize he wins in the latter half of the book…) In some ways, the mermaids feel more realistic than the humans! But I know these things come down to personal taste and, while I might prefer my characters to be a little more ordinary, I know there are a lot of readers out there who enjoy the fantasy of characters who go beyond the lives that most of us will live.

Between The Land And The Sea is an enjoyable and entertaining novel with an exciting plot and a strong sense of location that leaves the reader feeling as though they’ll need to brush sand off their clothes once they’re done. I shall definitely be checking out more of Derrolyn Anderson’s work.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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