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Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Laced In Malice by Riley Gray

Goodreads summary (abbreviated):

Behind the creepy castle-like exterior of Birchtree academy is the sound of gossip, back stabbing and malice. When Zara’s dad takes on the new principal job at the elite boarding school, Zara knows she’ll be an outsider. She dreams of true love and marriage instead of possible frenemies and secrets. Definitely not Birchtree material.

In the cusp of everything are the twins. Oliver and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Nixon are renowned for their different – yet equally effective – methods of torture. And both have their eyes set on goody, goody Zara.Will she fall under their spell? Will friendship and raw desire cause her to re-think her values? Or will Zara change theirs?  

Rarely does a book surprise me as much as Riley Gray's Laced In Malice did. In the ten minutes it took me to read the first chapter, I was hooked. By what, you ask? The descriptive train ride through the English countryside? By the main character's texts with her mum? Aside: even though I'm not English, I have an itching desire to start using the word Mum. Definitely no. By the sexy, leather clad, cigarette-smoking hotty who got a nice verbal backhand from the MC when he propositioned her for a quickie. *insert shifty eyebrows* Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner.

In a nutshell, I think guys who sleep around and use women are creepy (doesn't everybody?). But I loved that Gray was able to take this stock character, the man whore, and change him into something real. Oliver comes across as intelligent, not just because he's in the highest classes but because *gasp* Gray actually makes him sound intelligent! He actually has a well-thought out explanation for why casual sex is okay. Now, I'm not saying that I bought his excuses, I'm saying that Gray made me believe that he believed them. And in the process, like Zara, I was eager for him to see how wrong he was. Everything else about Oliver puts him in the "yes please" category. He was charming, polite, a writer (GOD yes!!), and knowing that I was going to see this sexy and intelligent young man change his tune hooked me to the story. But I don't want to leave you thinking that Oliver didn't make me want to pull my hair out or slap him silly because I did want to do both those things at various points in the story. And in the end, I wasn't entirely sure of his motivations. I kept flip-flopping, was he really just into Zara because she was an unattainable conquest or did he honestly care about her? Was he a victim too or was he hiding something BIG? I'm not going to give the story away, but I will say that Gray did an excellent job of giving his character enough depth that I loved him even while I was never 100% sure of him.

Now, Zara. Admittedly, she comes across as a goody two shoes (as it says in the summary), but she also had a tongue on her that I admired. She could give it back to Oliver just as easily as he gave it to her. I was rooting for her from the start. But there were moments in the story where I was scratching my head and wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her so she'd wake up. Thankfully, a few chapters after I had that moment of thinking, 'you're so stupid', she had me questioning whether I was the one who had to be shaken awake. Zara was too trustworthy, but at the same time, she made me realize that I am too.  I asked myself, if I were in Zara's shoes would I have tried to brush aside my misgivings about the people I called friends? Would I have tried to give them the benefit of the doubt? Sadly, the answer is probably yes. I am, like Zara, a bit naive. The good thing is that I like characters who can make me see flaws in my own, and Zara did this, so two thumbs up for her.

Together: so here's a bit of analysis that I hope will give you an extra incentive to buy this book. 50 Shades of Gray. I haven't read it. I have no desire to read it. But I have read countless discussions of it, and there's one thing they all seem to agree on. The plot line of the girl turning a guy around and making him into a worthy man is the success of that book (well along with the sex and I'll get to that in a moment). I think the same could be said of Laced In Malice. I was so so eager to see Zara turn Oliver around or for them to come to some sort of middle ground. Like I said, I'm not a 50 Shades fan, nor do I want to be one, but if you're looking for a toned-down version of that book, and a better written one, then I say look no further. Laced in Malice delivers.

The sex. Well, I had to bring this up because of the 50 Shades reference above, and I want to be fair both to the author and to my readers. Individually, I'd say that I've come across scenes in other young adult books that are just as intense as the ones here. The difference I think comes with the fact that there are more scenes of this type in Laced In Malice. It is not erotica by any means, but it does give the book a  heavier sexual draw than most other young adult books I've read. I hate to put an age limit on books, but for those who want to know what it's like, that pretty much sums it up. 

Finally, I feel like all I've talked about is the relationship between Zara and Oliver, and while that was a driving force as to why I loved this book and read it in one day, it wasn't the only one. I really loved the mystery/thriller aspect that Gray set up. I had my suspicions as to what was happening, but I was never 100% sure of who to trust.  Like I said above, I kept flip flopping. Back and forth. Back and forth. I don't think I've gotten sea sick by a book before, but this one gave me that experience! Yay to Gray for excellent writing that keeps the reader guessing. And then... the ending! GAH!!!!!! MISS GRAY, YOU HAD BETTER SET YOUR BUTT DOWN AND START WRITING THE SEQUEL!!! Yes, I can say that because she's a friend of mine, but that in no way taints my review. Those who know me know that I'm stingy with my 5 stars, and Laced In Malice deserves them all. 

Summary: five stars. Buy it now!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

October reading list

OY!! I forgot to do a list for October, and now the end of November has snuck up on me as well. So...this is a double wammy, giving a brief outline of what I've been reading the past two months.
70. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore** I've really loved the seven realms series by Cashore. Each book is a bit different but with very strong, witty female characters. With the second book, you didn't need to read the first in order to understand it. But with the third installment, it really does require that you've read the first and second book because it ties both together. The thing I loved most about  Bitterblue was seeing her transform from a somewhat traumatized young woman into a powerful queen. I mean, how cool is that? The secondary characters were all memorable too, and the ending was rather bittersweet. Some may not like those types of endings, but I'm cool with it. Highly recommended.

71. Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'roark Dowell* I admit that I bought this book based on the very youthful, fun cover. It's basically about a farm girl who doesn't like living on the farm and how she deals with that. I think younger teens could relate to this more than older teens, but it was still a cute read.

72. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner* Dashner really took the advice of throw everything at your MC to heart with this one. Like with the Maze Runner, most of the book is a bit confusing. Unlike The Maze Runner, I didn't feel like anything was resolved at the end, which is why it only gets 4 stars for me. The Third book resumes the awesome story (and got 5 stars from me) which I technically finished in December so it's not on this post.

73. Always and Forever by Karla Nellenbach* Review here!

74. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley** I luuuuurved Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon, so I was excited when I found out that my library had her earlier book in stock. Amazing writing as with GM and fun, real characters just like GM. This book is mainly about friendship but there is a bit of romance thrown in there as well, and it has a distinct aussie-ness about it. I really loved the bits of poetry throughout. Cath Crowley is definitely a multi-talented writer!

75. Everybody Sees the Ants by AS King** This is a fabulous book about bullying that every kid should read. I loved the magical realism in it with the grandpa who was a prisoner in the Vietnam War. It added a very cool dimension to a really great boy book.

76. Personal Effects by EM Kokie** Loved this one too. The emotions in it were really raw and realistic. I knew basically the whole plot going into it, but this was one instance where I didn't really care.

77. Crash Into Me by Albert Borris* Four online friends make a suicide pact and travel around the US visiting other places where suicides occurred. It's a solid friendship book that I quite enjoyed, and of course a rather serious topic.

78. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney* Didn't care much for this one as I didn't really buy into the whole Mockingbirds organization. Though I would recommend it because it's about a subject (rape) that I think is far too ignored.

79. The Outsiders by SE Hinton ** I think this makes about the 10th time that I've read this book, though it's been a good 15 years since the last time. I loved this book in high school and re-reading it was a real treat. Ponyboy forev-ah!!

November reads:

80. This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers** I'm not a huge zombie fan, but this one really hit home. It's right up there with Forest of Hands and Teeth for me, and tells me once again that CS is made of awesome-sauce.

81. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini**My second adult book this year (I know!!!!). I quite enjoyed this one, though to me it had what many adult books have and that's a very slow pace. It was disturbing at times, but I don't regret reading it. I definitely have a new appreciation of what's going on in the middle east due to this book.

82. Ask The Passengers by AS King * AS King has become one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. This one was sexy, and had that touch of magical realism I'm coming to appreciate in her books. I do think she writes a boy point of view slightly better than a female one, but I'm still looking forward to what she puts out next.

83. Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr* In classic Melissa Marr fashion, the world building in this book sucked up much of the pacing. BUT it was all still intriguing enough that I endured. I will definitely pick up the next in the series just to see what happens.

84. The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson** Next to Melina Marchetta's Lumatere chronicles, I think this is probably my favorite fantasy series. The setting is to die for, the characters swoon-worthy and romantic and sweet and the heroine KICKS ASS! Loved it! Can't wait for the last in the series.

85. Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake**
I really like this series too even though some of it is very classic Buffy - ghost hunter (slayer), two best friends, creepy old dudes who know everything. Still a very quick and satisfying read though.

So I read one more, technically finished in December, which puts me at 86 total for the year. I have met my reading goal of 75 books!!!  I was hoping to push it up to 100, but I know I won't get 14 more books read in December. Still I'm very proud to have made my goal. Any one else break past theirs yet? Any good books I need to put on my list?



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