These books range from the sublime to the ridiculous, and as I'm feeling a little bit poorly at the moment, I'm going to do a bunch of mini reviews. Some of these deserve more, but alas, this will have to do.
Frostblood by Elly Blake is the story of Ruby, a girl who has been forced to hide her status as a Fireblood from the authorities. Her country, ruled by Frostbloods, has hunted and killed Firebloods for years. When she's captured, and then rescued by rebels, she's enlisted to help bring down the Frostblood king.
Ruby is trained by the mysterious Arcus, who she finds herself falling for, despite his harshness towards her.
Frostblood is completely predictable, but is great fun. Yes, it's a chosen one story, but I actually really like that trope. There's enough depth in the story to keep you interested, and I'm looking forward to the next instalment.
Frostblood is published by Hachette who kindly provided a copy for review.
Enemies to lovers is one of my favourite romance tropes and this is a stellar example. When two publishing houses merge, the assistants to the CEOs are set up across from each other in a luxury office environment, and they spend their time playing games. The staring game, the mirror game, the HR game (where they make notes about things to complain to HR about), but the biggest game of all will determine who will get a coveted promotion, and who will be forced to leave.
Lucy and Joshua appear to hate each other, and being forced to work together, but they sure do spend a great deal of time thinking about each other. I loved this slow burn, steamy romance. It's smart and it's funny and I highly recommend it.
The Hating Game is published by Hachette who kindly provided a copy for review.
As one half of the team responsible for the Starbound Trilogy, Meagan Spooner already had my attention, so when I heard about this I was keen to read it.
A beauty and the beast retelling set in medieval Russia, it tells the story of Yeva and her family who, falling on hard times, move to her father's disused hunting cabin. When her father fails to return from a hunt, it's Yeva who goes in search of him.
The familiar elements are here - the beast, a curse, a love story. However, this is an original and enjoyable take on what is a well known tale which injects new life into the story. I was genuinely invested in the outcome, but was never sure of it.
Published by HarperCollins and purchased by the reviewer.
Lifeblood is the sequel to Firstlife, which I reviewed on Reading Lark. It picks up directly after the events of the first book and gets straight into the action. Tenley has chosen her faction and is training for her new role in her Everlife, but the rival faction (trying to avoid spoilers here) haven't given up on her.
There is intrigue and treachery and more people will die because of Tenley Lockwood, but it's okay, because her particular powers mean she can open a door to the after-afterlife and still see and talk to people.
I found myself rolling my eyes for much of this. The moralising is quite heavy handed and it all got a little too ridiculous.
Despite that, I do want to see how it all turns out so I'll be picking up the next (and hopefully last) book to see what happens.
Lifeblood is published by Harlequin Teen who kindly provided me with a copy for review.
Olive is invisible. Yes, really. A curse was placed on her Irish grandmother by a gypsy (the book doesn't specify Roma or Irish Traveller so I'm not sure) and her mother was invisible before her. The curse stated that her true love would see only her. They happen to also be the only person who can see her. So Olive has lived her entire life without being seen. She doesn't even know what she looks like as she can't see herself. Until one day, she sneaks into a club and is spotted.
Tom has never seen anyone as beautiful as Olive and is instantly smitten, but being invisible presents its own problems. He looks like he's talking to, holding hands with, and kissing nobody, and it creates some problems.
How can he have a relationship with someone who he can't bring home to his family? Or even eat out with?
Olive is a pretty horrible person. She's difficult and self-centred and keeps some pretty vital information from Tom, just because she doesn't want to go back to being completely invisible to everyone. Those around her put up with a lot.
I really wasn't sure what to make of this book. The ending left me puzzled, given the genre. I found the gypsy curse element of the story problematic, and people who've experienced mental health issues may be unhappy with the fairly frequent use of terms like "crazy".
I really had trouble suspending my disbelief - how does an invisible baby survive? How was she fed/washed/cared for? There's reference to a leash she wore as a toddler, but how did an invisible mother give birth to an invisible child? It just did not make sense to me.
I've seen others say they enjoyed this book, but it just wasn't really for me.
The Impossible Story of Olive in Love is published by Harlequin Teen who kindly provided a review copy.
And I've saved the best 'til last. I read this in one sitting and was absolutely captivated throughout.
Told in two different timelines, the story opens with a car crash. Tessa, and her boyfriend Nick, have driven off a cliff in a remote area and must survive until help is found. That's now.
Then - Tessa is dealing with her alcoholic mother's seeming change of behaviour and is negotiating a pretty new relationship with her boyfriend, Nick. The dynamic between her and her best friend is changing and the two seem to be growing apart. She needs to learn to trust that her mother really has changed and that her abusive boyfriend is gone for good. She also has to come to terms with what she knows about her father's death.
The tension builds as the timelines converge, and the last 50 pages had me reaching for the tissues.
This could have been overdone, it could have been overly sentimental, but it isn't. A number of difficult subjects are handled with skill and sensitivity. This is a heartrending story, but it's never maudlin.
I absolutely loved it.
A Shadow's Breath is published by Penguin Random House and this copy was purchased by the reviewer.