Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

Drowning Instinct
by Ilsa J Bick
Released: 1st Feb, ’12.
From Goodreads:

There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.) 
Jenna Lord’s first sixteen years were not exactly a fairytale. Her father is a controlling psycho and her mother is a drunk. She used to count on her older brother—until he shipped off to Afghanistan. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire. 
There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and we all shed tears for his innocent victim. (This is not one of those stories either.) 
Mitch Anderson is many things: A dedicated teacher and coach. A caring husband. A man with a certain…magnetism. 
And there are stories where it’s hard to be sure who’s a prince and who’s a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after. (These are the most interesting stories of all.) 
Drowning Instinct is a novel of pain, deception, desperation, and love against the odds—and the rules.

A word about the cover: For some reason, one glance at the cover made me think this was a paranormal. Of course, I hadn’t read the book description or anything then. And, well…I passed it up, because I wasn’t really in the mood for a paranormal. After reading the description, though, my reaction went along the lines of Holy shit! How could I pass up THIS book? Now that I look at it, I think the cover captures the mood of the book rather well. I mean, to me, it kinda looks like the girl has just washed her face after a run and that’s…significant. You know what I mean? No? Well, find out.

My Thoughts:


Drowning Instinct is one of those books that can’t exactly be summed up in a review. But there are certain things I can tell you. Like,

  • While the book description tells you a few things, it doesn’t prepare you with expectations. At least for me, it didn’t. Which means, that the experience that Drowning Instinct packs within those pages, may, in plain-speak, blow your mind.
  • There’s self harm and all kinds of abuse and other twisted things that will take you to dark places and make you squirm and keep you awake at night. And keep you thinking. Thinking is always a good thing, right?
  • Surprises. There are lots of them. Sometimes these are small bumpy ones, sometimes they are roller-coaster-plunge worthy-ish. Either way, it’s a ride.
  • If you have expectations from Jenna Lord, dump them with the garbage. Jenna Lord is not a very reliable narrator. But you won’t be able to forget her.
  • Even before the threads of the relationship – yes, that forbidden relationship – manifest, you will be saying, oh no no no no no, don’t even go there! back off! But then, long past those early scenes, somewhere in the middle of the story you will probably wonder if you said that ‘back off’ out of concern or jealousy.
  • Oftentimes, especially in the latter half of the book, you will think how very twisted Mitch Anderson is and will want to scream What is up with that man?! Sooner or later, that might alternate with Why can’t I have that man?! Oh, yes, Mitch Anderson in inexplicably swoon-worthy.
  • While the rest of the book will probably keep you in page-flipping-frenzy mode, the last quarter will make you hyperventilate alongside. But be careful. If things get too serious, remember you can’t really blame your medical condition on a book.
  • Soon you might stop breathing.
  • Then, you’ll probably experience an overwhelming outpouring of emotions.
  • Later, you will be wondering who was to blame. If anyone was to blame. What you condoned and what you disapproved. If you even have the right to. What was right and what went wrong. If you are even in a position to judge. If you can even point a finger at anybody. The dilemma won’t really leave you with an answer.

Then again, this story is not only about Jenna and Mr. Anderson. There are several more players, each with their own desperate obsessions, twisted pasts and existence of half-truths.
Primarily though, Drowning Instinct is a story that weaves through the lives of broken people looking for something to grasp on to, before they drown in the desolation of their own existence. It is also incredibly brilliant.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it somersaulted straight up my favourites list.

What upcoming release do you want to drown in?

May B.

May B.
by Caroline Starr Rose
Released: January, 2012.
From Goodreads:

May is helping out on a neighbor’s Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it’s hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May’s memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she’s determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose’s fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

My Thoughts:
 
Verse is the most beautiful form of writing EVER. Seriously. Prose can be made beautiful but anything that verse touches is instantly beautified.  It’s easy to go wrong with verse, but if you get it right, the result is nothing short of dazzling.
 
Caroline Starr Rose’s May B. is one such beautiful novel. The verse is stylistic, yet simplistic and makes for a read that is oh-so-compelling, it begs to be completed quickly. And that’s easy, because it is fast paced and May’s voice is very engaging.
 
May’s resilience is arguably the best thing about this novel. She is so young and it hurts to read about her struggles. Her struggle with her reading disability that brings out her insecurities before sniggering classmates and a very discouraging teacher. Her struggles with the downsides of being a girl in the 19th century, witnessing her brother get the little privileges she is denied. Struggles with being separated from her family, then being abandoned in the midst of nowhere and having to face nature’s fury by herself. Her struggle for survival. 
 
Most of the time I just wanted to give her a hug. And it broke my heart that there wasn’t anyone to give her that. Seriously, this girl needed it. But the thing about May B. is that in spite of being severed off from known civilisation and having to do without any human companionship, she has a quiet strength, a fighting spirit that manifests itself against all odds. It’s empowering and it unfurls itself not dramatically, but gradually.
 
I liked how the author juxtaposes May’s struggle with dyslexia with the challenges imposed by the approaching winter. The setting, infact, is brilliant. I could literally hear the blizzard. And it terrified me. That says a lot about the author’s skill, doesn’t it?
 
Caroline Starr Rose’s May B. could be called an adventure tale featuring a very brave and unusual heroine, that makes for a heartwarming and enduring read. Whether verse is your thing or not, I recommend this.
 
How often do you pick up a verse novel?

Graphic Novel Spotlight: Princess Reborn – Chapter 1

Princess Reborn: Chapter 1 (Graphic Novel)
by Lee Tidball

 

Lari’s puzzled. What’s Mom’s secret? And could it have anything to do with Lari’s, secret? Lari’s family will never be the same again when an unspeakable evil is unleashed on the world. a dark nemesis from mom’s phantom past, bent on ruling and revenge. The world will stand helpless against it. 
The time for heroes has come again. One must be born, though she has no idea who she is. And the other must, against all odds, be REBORN.

 



This is the first graphic novel I’m featuring on my blog.


I don’t read as much of them as I’d like to. Although Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel version of Coraline will always be a favourite.

Princess Reborn is a superhero story. And even better? Female superheroes. We don’t get to see much of them as their male counterparts, do we? So this immediately scored brownie points for that. 

It’s a very slim novel and considering that it’s a graphic novel, a quick one, too. 

Seventh grader Lari has always suspected there’s something strange about her mother, who has maintained a discreetness about her past ever since she can remember. What Lari doesn’t realise is that there are bigger secrets and conspiracies at work than she can imagine. And it all builds up to a pulse-racing climax. 

I cannot elaborate much for fear of giving anything crucial away. And there’s a lot of that – crucial details. 

Princess Reborn: Chapter 1 is filled with action, suspense and a lot of excitement from start to finish. It is very well illustrated and structured – which means that I didn’t have trouble following the conversation bubbles which I sometimes have. I think the illustrations capture the action sequences particularly well. 

The only thing that frustrated me is the ending. It ends on such a cliffhanger. And I’m not a fan of the big cliffhangers. They bug me to no end. I guess the fact that this is just ‘Chapter 1’ implies there’s a long adventure to come and I have to wait for Chapter 2 before I get the answers to at least some of the questions raised. 

Overall, this was fun to read. I let my 14 year old brother read it after me. He enjoyed it and called it ‘exciting’. So if you are a graphic novel nerd or know someone who is, here’s a new recommendation to consider picking up next time you have hours to kill 🙂 



Author website
Goodreads
Amazon <– there’s an excerpt available here, if you’re interested.

 

Do you read graphic novels?

 

Cover Re-creation: Help Me? Round II

Okay, so this comes in quick succession, but I need your help again. To help me pick a cover. For the cover recreation contest at Confessions of a Bookaholic.

So, yesterday I posted 6 covers I re-made for Holly Cupala’s new book Don’t Breathe A Word. And I asked for your opinions regarding which you thought would make the best entry (for the contest, ie). If you have no idea what I’m talking about, refer here. Well, THANK YOU for your suggestions! I really appreciated it 🙂

Anyway, based on what you said, I narrowed it down to the top three. I reworked one, tweaked another and let one just be. And now I need you to tell me which ONE you think should be my contest entry, okay?
So, here’s the actual book cover:

In Holly’s own words, these are visual ideas from the book:

Streets, darkness, light (I love the bokeh lights in the final official cover!). Asher, the abusive boyfriend, is obsessed with crows, and Joy feels like she is trapped like one. He gives her a Tiffany I.D. bracelet with a crow dangling from the edge. At the beginning of the novel, Joy cuts off her long, dark hair and bleaches it to disguise herself on the streets. There is a romance, too, with Creed—a talented musician who is on the streets for reasons of his own. 

Taken from here.

And here are the ones that I made:

Cover#1

Cover #2

Cover #3

Please choose just ONE cover. It would make my job easier AND I will love you forever. For reals.

Help Me Pick A Cover?

So, Confessions of a Bookaholic is hosting a re-cover contest for Holly Cupala‘s upcoming 2012 release, Don’t Breathe A Word. Which obviously means, that it’s the fun fight over recreating the cover of Don’t Breathe A Word. Recreating THIS cover.

I really like this cover. There’s a certain subtle fierceness to the way the girl’s hair is whipping about her face. And I love the font used. Overall, I think it really captures the mood of the book, from what I get out of the summary. For those not in the know, this is what it’s about:

Joy Delamere is suffocating… 
From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From delectably dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out. 
Joy can take his words – tender words, cruel words – until the night they go too far. 
Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe… if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late. 
Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the subtleties of abuse, the meaning of love, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.

So, as you must have guessed by now (unless you’re skimming through this – which I can’t really blame you for. I ramble a lot), the Queen Procrastinator in me took over (as it does, most of the time) and *I* decided to participate. Of course there’s the added perk of winning a signed copy of Don’t Breathe A Word. I mean, who wouldn’t want that? I really, really liked Holly Cupala’s debut novel, Tell Me A Secret, so of course, I’d read every book she comes up with.  And, DUDE, this one’s a *signed* copy!
This happens to be the first time ever that I’m recreating a cover. Any cover, at all. It’s just that, I always knew I wanted to read this book, but there’s the matter of *when*. I need to be not-broke, like I perpetually am, so I can pre-order/buy it. And ever since I read an excerpt from the novel I was a goner. It was THAT good. Which brings me to this contest. With the recreation, I actually ended up creating several different covers for Don’t Breathe A Word. I’m obsessive like that. Sadly, it’s only one cover per person, so I need to choose. Which I can’t. So I need you. To choose for me. Can you do that? Please? I’ve told you what the book is about and I’ve showed you the original cover – well, my covers are waaay different from that, I think, but I need you to tell me which you think works best for the book. Okay?
Here goes.

Cover #1

Cover #2

Cover #3

Cover #4

The next two aren’t in book cover size only because it’s distorting the photograph. But don’t chuck them out because of that! 🙂
Cover #5

Cover #6

So, there.
Tell me which one you like best. Choose one to make it easier for me 😉
Tell me if you like something but think it could be better. I appreciate suggestions.
Tell me if you hate them all. Then I’ll think about reworking them.
Sound off in the comments!

See how much I want that book?

The Christmas Post

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home  ~ Charles Dickens


It’s Christmas eve in my part of the world.
Which means I’m full of that giddy joy that accompanies the 24th of Dec. Which also means that I’m so bubbling with, well, feelings, that I don’t quite have the words, for a proper post.

So I’m gonna let other things do the talking.
Like Safe & Sound – the Taylor Swift ft The Civil Wars song from the official The Hunger Games soundtrack. WHO KNEW? I mean, I’d never associate Taylor with HG (c’mon, she’s so sweet and fairy tale-ish, while HG is..well, HG) but..GAH, THIS IS PERFECT.

I can imagine so many instances for this song to be featured. Like, when Katniss tries to console a crying Prim before leaving for the Hunger Games – I don’t remember if there’s such a scene in the book, but if there’s one in the book, and this song is played in the background, it would be so fitting. Or after Rue dies and Katniss sings her a lullaby, this could be the background score – it has such a lullaby-like quality to it. Also, I just know it’s going to rip my heart to shreds. In fact, this song can even fit in when Katniss and Peeta are alone together and Peeta’s certain that he would die. I just this song would be compelling anywhere.
I only, really, hope they actually use the song in the movie. Unlike what was done with Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years from Breaking Dawn (it was part of the official soundtrack but didn’t feature anywhere in the movie).

It’s crazy, but this song just made Christmas a little more perfect 🙂 And if for some reason you are down and sad and lonely, I hope these photos make you smile. Because photos kinda do that.

Don’t tell me that last one didn’t crack you up 😉

My comfort read for this Christmas is Trisha Ashley’s The Magic of Christmas.





In the pretty Lancashire village of Middlemoss, Lizzy is on the verge of leaving her cheating husband, Tom, when tragedy strikes. Luckily she has welcome distraction in the Christmas Pudding Circle, a group of friends swapping seasonal recipes – as well as a rivalry with local cookery writer Nick over who will win Best Mince Pie at the village show… 

Meanwhile, the whole village is gearing up for the annual Boxing Day Mystery Play. But who will play Adam to Lizzy’s Eve? Could it be the handsome and charismatic soap actor Ritch, or could someone closer to home win her heart? Whatever happens, it promises to be a Christmas to remember! 



(And that cover? It’s got sparkly bits all over it!)




Have a great Christmas, blogstars! And make sure you’re under the mistletoe when there’s a smexy boy/girl (whichever you prefer) around 😉


(All photos taken from here)

Hushed by Kelley York

He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her. 

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed. 

Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is. 

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.
 
 
 
This book? MIND. BLOWN.
 

It was this crazy, crazy ride through the lives of psychotic teenagers with very, very dark secrets that are so disturbing, they’ll leave you breathless. Keep an inhaler handy.

So, what we get from the book description is that Archer’s a sort of teenage Dexter who is killing people (actually killing the people who’ve hurt his friend Vivian), thinking it’s the right thing to do.
It’s twisted.
It’s creepy.
And it heightens your curiosity quotient. Because any thinking person will want to know ‘why’ Archer is so crazy twisted. And what is his deal with Vivian, that he would go this far for her. And what on earth had happened to Vivian.
What? Why? How?
Hushed quickly raises numerous questions, and while you flip through the pages at phenomenal speed, it spinballs into a black hole of anticipation that might just give you a mini heart attack. And then, it’ll hit you back with answers. Answers that will make you squirm and bite your lips till they bleed.

Hushed made me go through a range of emotions. Dark emotions, mostly, but dark has its range – rage, jealousy, despair. There’s a lot going on there.

And oh man, Kelley York writes killer characters (no, the pun wasn’t intended). She turns convention on its head and gives you brainsick teens in parasitic relationships, trapped in the role-plays they have created for themselves. Goes without saying, they are not your usual guys-and-girls-next-door. No.


Archer – Going into the book I had no idea what to think about Archer. Except for the fact that I’d be scared around him. Come on, the guy kills! (even if he’s doing it for the benefit of his friend). And the book opens with a rather graphic-of-sorts scene of Archer murdering someone. But, you know, as with skillful storytelling, this man-killing-antisocial grows into somebody who deserves your sympathy. Archer is amazingly written. There’s no black-and-whiteness about him. Archer walks in smoky grey haze, wanting so desperately to be loved by Vivian and doing all the wrong things to make things right that he sometimes makes your heart bleed a little.

Vivian – WHERE DID THIS GIRL COME FROM? I don’t remember having detested any contemporary character (besides the mother in Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden) as much as I detested her. She’s so manipulative, so unstable, so emotionally abusive and misguided, most of the time I wanted to slap her left, right and centre. But as with Archer, I could tell where she was coming from. I never liked her, but I didn’t hate her as much as I started out doing. And that’s where Kelley York scores. Because Vivian wasn’t meant to be a character to be liked (at least I don’t think so) but not understanding where her motivations and insecurities arose from would have totally defeated the purpose of her presence. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that she felt like the most REAL among the three main characters. She breathed right out of the pages.

Evan – Good heavens, I LOVED this guy! And his family. And the things he did. And the things he said. He is the reason his pair-up with Archer has moved into my list of Favourite Contemporary Couples (right next to Tessa and Adam from Before I Die and Lennie and Joe from The Sky Is Everywhere and Anna and St. Clair from Anna And The French Kiss). I loved how their relationship progressed. Not love at first sight, but gradually, unwinding layers and layers of each other, sometimes accidentally, sometimes with that intent. And, OH DEAR LORD, there is a Shower Scene which is probably the hottest thing I’ve read in ages. (Read, I tell you, READ!)

What. Can. I. Say.
I’ve never finished another book on netgalley as quickly as I did this. Characters that creep you out but make you remember them, taut writing that keeps you flipping and flipping pages, Hushed is a stellar YA Contemporary Thriller. READ.

Be warned: this ain’t your bedtime fare. It’ll keep you up ALL night. I speak from experience.

Also, Kelley York put up an amazing cast for Hushed, on her blog –> Check. It. Out.

What’s the best YA Thriller you’ve read?