Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book review: The Selkie spell - by Sophie Moss

I love Ireland. There’s something about that country that stole my heart the first time I set foot on its soil, and it kept it hostage when I left. Yes, I left my heart hidden somewhere at the end of the rainbow, near the pot of gold leprechauns are guarding – and I’m going back to claim it, one day. It’s a promise.

Imagine how I felt when I read the synopsis of The Selkie Spell and found it was set on an Irish island, in the middle of nowhere, exactly where I’d love to move to and live…I couldn’t wait to start reading it!

I’ve never considered myself a lover of paranormal or, like I said in another review, of fantasy, but this is not the usual paranormal story or, if it is, maybe I loved it because the setting and the Irish myths are very dear to me and to my heart, and the paranormal element didn’t bother me! Whatever the reason, I started reading it over the weekend and I had to force myself away from the book, simply because I didn’t want it to be over and I didn’t want to go back to my dull world, away from Seal Island and…well, from Dominic. :-)

So, here's what the book is about. Modern life mingles with myth, when American tourist Tara Moore sets foot on Seal Island, a small isle in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Irish coast. She says she’s looking for a summer job in the local pub, but somehow the pub owner, Dominic O’Sullivan, isn’t fooled. He knows there’s something she’s hiding, and he doesn’t want her anywhere near his eight-year-old daughter; but his best friend Caitlin forces him to give the woman a chance and so he hires her in the end.

What Tara doesn’t know is that the isle has a history she will involuntarily become part of: legend has it the Selkies, magical creatures who can shed their seal pelt and turn into women at night, live in the sea surrounding the island; many years before, one of them was captured by a man, who hid her pelt and claimed her as his own, and her spirit is now trapped on the isle and can only be set free by her descendent.
When Tara starts to let down her defenses, and Dominic stops looking at her with wary eyes, things start to change. Until Tara’s past comes hunting her and their lives are in danger.

The Selkie Spell is the first of a trilogy, and it will hook you from chapter one. It’s a real page turner, and it will make you want to pack up and go to Seal Island, just to breathe the salty air, hear the waves crashing on the rocks, walk up the cliffs and look down at the seals swimming in the sea.
At least that’s the effect it had on me – but maybe I’m biased because, deep down, I think there’s a good chance my ancestors were Irish, or even leprechauns, so maybe that’s why this book kept me glued to my Kindle. :-)

PS there are a couple of sex scenes - just so you know.

Have you read "The Selkie spell" already? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book review: Tight Knit - by Allie Brennan

Question: do you like knitting and/or have a thing for bad boys with a secret sweet side hidden somewhere underneath the “tough guy” mask? If the answer is yes to one or both questions, then I think you’ll like Tight Knit.

Well, to be honest, I always loved reading about the “Prince Charming” kind of guys, you know the selfless, romantic, flawless, etc. etc. blah blah guys, while dreaming I’d find someone like them one day (guess what: I think I’m starting to realize they only exist in books…). I never really knew I could like bad guys until I read this book, and boy, didn’t I wish I was sixteen again and a guy like Lachlan walked into my Nan’s store? Okay, I know what you’re thinking: I’m too old for YA novels; that’s probably right. However, if I can say something in my defense, I never read YA when I was the right age for the genre (not sure YA even existed back then… :-) ); when I was a teenager my favourite author was Rosamunde Pilcher, who’s definitely not a YA writer, so I guess I have the right to make up for lost time now.

That being stated, let’s get back to the book. I discovered it on Goodreads, I think someone in my friends’ list had marked it as “to read” and I checked it out, out of curiosity and mainly because the cover looked cute. I read the synopsis and thought it sounded like a cool story – if you’ve read my other reviews, you already know that as long as there’s a love story in it, I’ll definitely give the book a chance. So I decided to download the excerpt from Amazon first, and see if I liked it. I started reading it and I was so intrigued by Lachlan that I definitely wanted to read more, so I bought the complete book. I guess you know what happened next: I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. I was lucky I read it while I was off work for Christmas break, as there’s no better time to read all night without worrying you’ll have to get up early to go to work!

Talia, the main female character, was really cute and I could almost see myself in her at times, the shy teenager who tries to be invisible and gets panic attacks for everything. While Lachlan, well…Lachlan was just super intriguing! Okay, I don’t like the dark spots in his past, the drugs and bad companies, I can’t deny that, but I felt for him, for his tough past, for the fact that people wouldn’t give him a second chance, that they wouldn’t think that deep down he might be a good boy after all. So he simply ended up acting the way people expected him to, and when Talia finally decided to start looking through the “tough guy” mask he was always wearing, his defenses crumbled. And while Talia helped him understand he could actually be a better person, Lachlan helped Talia get out of her shell and gain more self-confidence.

I think this is what makes it a great story: it’s not the usual “bad boy meets good girl and tries to take away her innocence”, or “good girl meets bad boy and tries to turn him into a saint”. It’s how love can turn lives upside-down, how it can change things, those things that we thought could never change because “that’s just how it goes”. It’s how having someone who believes in you, when the rest of the world doesn’t, can help you become a better person, the person that’s hidden somewhere underneath the pain, the dark times, the lack of confidence. It also shows how wrong first impressions can be, and how important it is to give someone a second chance to fix all the mistakes.

So, to summarize the story: Talia is living a bad moment - her beloved Nan gets sick and leaves her to stand in for her as the president of their knitting club, as well as to take care of the organization of the Charity Drive event, where they will have to sell their items. As if this wasn’t enough, she always gets bad panic attacks, and after she finds her boyfriend cheating on her with her best friend, she loses her only friend, too.

Lachlan is the grandson of one of the women in the knitting club; he has a bad reputation among the people at school, and he’s trying to get back on his feet after being on two-year probation, but he still can’t leave his past behind and he sees no reasons why he should, since nobody thinks much of him anyway, apart from his grandmother, who’s the only one who knows what led him to that lifestyle.

Talia and Lachlan couldn’t be more different – yet, as their lives intertwine, and not exactly by chance, they realize that sometimes opposites are complementary.

Tight Knit is more than just another YA romance. It’s a story of forgiveness, of second chances, of the importance of real friends and of people who believe in us, no matter what.

So if you’re up for a sweet teenage romance, grab a copy and start knitting – oops, I meant reading!

PS guess what I did after finishing Tight Knit? I knitted a hat! :-)

Have you read “Tight Knit” already? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

5 reasons why I will never be a best-selling author

Okay, I know I started the new year with my first resolution being “Be more optimistic” but the second resolution was “Be realistic”, so this is what I'm doing right now. I'm being realistic.

Well, as my friends list on Goodreads started to grow and I started checking out reviews and to-read books of my online friends, I quickly realized that the most rated/best reviewed books were totally different from mine.

This is why I have come up with the idea of this post: because I’ve realized that either I change my writing style to sell more books, or I stay true to myself (more likely) and accept that I’ll never be a best-selling author.

The truth is: I love writing. I need to write. I have to get down on paper – or in a Word file - all the stories of the characters that live in my mind, before it gets too crowded and explodes like an atom bomb. :-) And I’ve always found in writing my feel-good therapy, a way of relaxing, of forgetting a long, awful day at work, of escaping tough reality, of creating a world I could control when I couldn't control things in real life, and a way of being myself.

Yes, when I write I am totally, truly myself – I am the person I want to be, the person I can’t be at work or with anyone else, with people who don't understand my passion.

So, even if only one person in a million readers will like my book, if I can make even just one person happy, emotional or somehow touched by my stories, well, I’ll be more than satisfied, because this is what I want: for other people to enjoy my stories half as much as I enjoyed writing them.

All that stated, here is the list I’ve created of the 5 reasons why I’ll never be a best-selling author, in order of importance - at least from what I’ve discovered after checking out Goodreads:

1. I don’t write about sex, nasty sex, hot sex, and all that. You won’t find any of that in my novels.

2. I don’t write about vampires.

3. I don’t write YA.

4. I don’t write paranormal/fantasy.

5. I don’t write about murders, crimes, violence, etc.

And here are the explanations to the above points.

1. I’m a Catholic. Okay, this being stated, I’m not a prude or anything. I read romance and I love romantic movies, and I don’t hide my face behind a cushion during sex scenes, nor I close the book if the author’s describing a sex scene, but there are ways of telling and showing this concept without necessarily stepping into vulgarity.

For example: I’ve recently come across a book with 5 and 4 star reviews (and I’m glad I downloaded it when it was free on Amazon – I would’ve been quite disappointed to waste money on it) and I was so shocked at the amount of vulgarity and dirty sex scenes, that I had to stop at chapter 4, because I almost felt sick at times. Apparently, though, every one else loved it: they wrote wonderful reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and I felt such a weirdo for not liking it, it really made me feel bad. And no, before you wonder, I haven’t read (and am not going to read) Fifty Shades, thank you very much.

Anyway, my point is: I just don’t see why I should write something so “graphic” to attract readers, when I am more for the romantic side of it all. I mean: take Nicholas Sparks, for example. He can write amazing love stories, include sex, and never ever sound vulgar or crude. So why should I put sex before feelings? My stories are all about feelings, all about love and its real meaning. No, I don’t want to overstep the border and change my writing style just to sell more books. Thank you, but I’ll decline the offer.

2. Vampires. Wow, what an amazing world. I’ve always been scared of vampire movies – have never watched “Dracula” and I probably never will – and I’ve never liked the sight of blood either. When “Twilight” hit the theaters and I was asked to go watch it, I said “No, thank you.” Okay, I hadn’t read the book so I didn’t really know what it was about – all I knew what that there were vampires and that was enough for me. I was wrong, okay, I admit it. Needless to say, when a colleague of mine lent me the DVD I simply LOVED it. Why? Because of the love story, obviously! And I loved the books even more. Even so, I would never be able to write about vampires, although this seems to be one of the best-selling topics – it would just sound fake, forced, it’s simply not me, not my style. So, sorry but I’ll pass.

3. I don’t think I’d be able to write YA novels either. Well, that’s not entirely true; I have a story going on in my mind about a teenager and I jotted down some ideas, so I might end up writing it eventually. I used to write YA novellas when I was a teenager (although, at the time, I didn’t know I was writing YA!) and it made perfect sense, because I was a teenager and I wrote down the way I felt, the dreams I had and all that. I guess I’m just too old now to write about teenagers. Although I’ve been there, like we all have, I think it’s too late now, so I’d rather stick to the new adult or adult romance fiction.

4. Paranormal/Fantasy. I’m a dreamer and I have an awful lot of imagination, but not enough to write paranormal or fantasy. I honestly wouldn’t know where to start, so I’ll pass this one too.

5. I love watching “Murder, she wrote”, I’m a big fan and I think Jessica Fletcher is the best. I also love American crime shows (FBI, NCIS, NYPD related – big fan of those too), but murders and violence are just not my cup of tea. And I don’t think I’d be able to plan a murder (in a novel, of course!), find clues, build tension, and all that – it just would be too complicated a task, and at the end of the day, I write because I enjoy it; if it felt like homework, I’m afraid it wouldn’t be half as pleasant. So, no murders in my novels.

Well, sorry for the long post – I just thought I’d share my thoughts with you. I hope you’d like to share yours with me, too. Please leave a comment, let me know what your favourite genre is and what you think about the above topics.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book review: From Notting Hill to New York... actually - by Ali McNamara

Here we go again: Scarlett and Sean are back! And she's about to conquer the States, with the help of her dear - a bit eccentric maybe? - friend, Oscar. Are you ready to fly to New York with Scarlett? Fasten your seat belts, we're about to take off!

It's funny how you impatiently wait for a book to be released and, once you're finally holding it in your hands, you don't want to start reading it because you don't want to reach the last page.
This is exactly what happened to me with Ali McNamara's latest book. Luckily, it hadn't been long since I first entered Scarlett's world (if you read the previous reviews, you'll know that I had only just read her first book "From Notting Hill with Love... Actually"), but even so, I couldn't wait to read more about Scarlett and Sean. I'll admit it - I think I already did it in another post - I am a hopeless romantic and any book with a love story hooks me, be it vampires, centaurs, angels, bad guys, you name it. But this book didn't hook me just because of the love story (boy, do I wish Sean really existed, though!) but because it's also funny, even adventurous at times (Scarlett really knows how to make the most of her life - kudos!) and I really find myself thinking like Scarlett at times!

Well, although I promised myself I would only read a chapter a day, so that it wouldn't be over too soon, I obviously didn't do it... All it took was a rainy Sunday morning in December, a lovely, warm duvet, and I magically left my bed and my room and was teleported to New York, walking around the streets with Scarlett and Oscar, and falling in love with Sean... Is this normal? Well, I think it is, if you love books as much as I do. Or maybe I'm just a crazy person and should be locked up in a madhouse (as long as there are books there, though!)

Anyway, do you want to know what the book's about, I guess? Okay, just a few words though, as you don't want me to spoil all the fun, do you?

So, like I said - and as you may have guessed from the title - it is Scarlett's story again. We left her on the London Eye (the panoramic wheel in London, England) with romantic Sean pouring out his heart to her, right? Well, Scarlett and Sean are now living together in Notting Hill (YAY for Scarlett! I'd love to live in Notting Hill!) and she's managing her pop-corn machines company from there, while her father has moved to New York to take care of the American part of the business. But, if you remember Scarlett from the first book, well, you know she needs adventures and dreams (and movie moments) in her life and a quiet, romantic relationship with Sean might not be enough for her right now.

Discovering an old dragonfly-shaped brooch hidden in a box will mark the start of a new adventure for Scarlett and, as Sean suggests she takes a trip to New York to ask her father where that brooch comes from, get ready for another unpredictable adventure! The brooch will uncover secrets, help her meet people, even find a new goal in her life. And if you add Oscar as her travel companion (Sean being too busy to take days off work) and Jamie, a UK reporter with whom Scarlett seems to get along a little too well, you know you're up for fun, laughter and... yes, a little bit of trouble, too!

If you liked Ali's first book, you will absolutely love this one too! Go grab yourselves a copy, you'll have the time of your life! (Especially if you've dreamed of going to New York for years, like I have...)

Have you read "From Notting Hill to New York... actually" already? Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it.