Book Review: Reaping Me Softly, by Kate Evangelista

Reaping Me Softly 450X679Omnific Publishing
Release Date: October 2012
YA Paranormal

Ever since a near-death-experience on the operating table, seventeen-year-old Arianne Wilson can see dead people. Just as she’s learned to accept her new-found talents, she discovers that the boy she’s had a crush on since freshman year, Niko Clark, is a Reaper.

At last they have something in common, but that doesn’t mean life is getting any easier. All while facing merciless bullying from the most powerful girl in school, Arianne’s world is turned upside down after Niko accidentally reaps the soul of someone she loves. This sends them both into a spiral that threatens to end Arianne’s life. But will Niko break his own Reaper’s code to save her? And what would the consequences be if he did?

Reaping Me Softly opens with an introspective solo scene. Death has a migraine. It’s not really surprising with the paperwork he has to keep up with. A hundred people die every minute on earth and he has to sign every single one. And it’s not just him. Nikolas Clark, the Reaper of Georgia, has been going through the motions for several lifetimes now. He’s so bored, so depressed, so fed up, that he forgets to take in residual energy from the souls he reaps. He’d have faded away to nothing if not for Arianne Wilson, a girl in his chemistry class, who just happens to be in the right place at the right time.

Arianne is a troubled girl. (What teenager isn’t to some extent?) At school, she’s in the crosshairs of the school bully, cheer captain Darla, and so is everyone who talks to her. At home, her family is divided. Both of her parents work. Her mother also spends nights at the hospital with Carrie, Arianne’s sister, whose first kidney transplant is failing while she’s on a waiting list for another. Arianne donated that kidney. She’d donate her other one if her parents would let her. Even if it were possible, she died on the operating table the first time around. Since then, Arianne’s been able to see ghosts, naked people who show up just about everywhere. She can’t talk to them. They don’t bother her. She’s gotten used to them.

At the opening of the story, there is news of a car accident on I-75. She doesn’t think much about it, until two classmates from her chemistry class, including her lab partner, are called to the principal’s office. This leaves Nico Clark without a lab partner, too, so their teacher puts them together. While Arianne is drooling over Nico, she drops hydrochloric acid on her skin, and Nico saves the day by knowing exactly what to do.

I wouldn’t exactly call Nico and Arianne’s relationship “instalove.” Arianne’s had a crush on the guy for years. Nico, however, does fall flat on his face in love rather quickly. Despite having multiple classes with her over the year, and having a locker right next to hers the year before, he has no recollection of having seen her before. Granted, he’s been depressed by his Reaper occupation and his being in school is mainly about fitting in. His best friend teases him, often, for being incredibly dense. But Nico goes from oblivious to lovesick in five seconds flat, and after she saves his life, he really is done for, to the amusement of his Reaper mentor, Tomas, and even Death himself. However, the author remedies this with a punishing ending that promises to make the boy work to keep Arianne.

Reaping Me Softly, is a cute book with serious themes underlying the sweetness. Darla, the bully, is a monster that keeps the entire school, including teachers, on a tight leash. Carrie’s declining health and the literal accumulation of death surrounding Niko and Arianne keep mortality close at hand. The prose is at times a bit too flowery, and in one scene, I remember reading through it three times before I understood what the author meant. These problems aside, I enjoyed reading it. So much, I moved the sequel, Unreap My Heart to the top of my reading list.

Reaping Me Softly is a clean YA read. There’s a scene depicting battle between two Reapers and the aftermath torture. There is no drinking, little swearing, and no inappropriate touchy-feely scenes. I would recommend it to fans of Evangelista’s other paranormal novels, Taste and Savor, and of YA paranormal romance in general.

I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.


About My Book Reviews


Book Review: Phantom Touch, by Jessica Hawke

phantomTouchCrescent Moon Press
Release Date: November 2013
YA Paranormal

Bridget White just wants to be an average girl, but the car accident that killed her sister took away everything normal in Bridget’s life. Now she spends her days talking to unhappy ghosts and helping them move on to the afterlife. But dealing with death on a daily basis is too much for one girl to handle, so when she finds a way to get rid of her supernatural sight, she jumps at the chance.

There’s just one more job standing between her and normal. When a missing local girl turns up as a freshly murdered ghost, Bridget realizes she’s the only one who can find the killer. Worse still, he’s not done killing. Now Bridget may have to sacrifice her only chance at being normal to stop him from taking another innocent life.

Bridget helps the wrongfully dead pass on to the hereafter. It’s not something she wants to do, but if it earns her a shot at a normal life, she’s up for it. In the opening chapter, while she prepares to send off the ghost of a middle aged woman, her sister Val sits irreverently on a headstone and keeps her company. Bridget has researched the woman, and after she’s shown pictures of her children and grandchildren, and the ghost moves along. Bridget has one week left until she can perform a ceremony that will shut off this strange ability. She’s anxious to get rid of it, but she’s also dreading it a little. First she has to let go of Val, who died two years earlier in a car accident.

On the way home, Bridget sees a missing person’s poster for Natalie Fullmer. She gets a very strange feeling when she sees it. The girl’s mother believes she’s run away again and has washed her hands of the mess. Natalie’s totally hot little brother, Michael, is holding out hope, and that brings him and Bridget together. Of course, things get complicated when Natalie attacks Bridget from beyond her shallow grave. Because Natalie doesn’t want Michael to know she’s dead, Bridget has to pretend to be looking for her when she’s actually looking for the killer.

Also in Bridget’s life is an annoying little brother who plays video games at jet engine volume; a divorced mother who works as hard to forget she had an older daughter as she does to put food on the table; and a best friend who is in dire need of a spanking.

Phantom Touch is a young adult paranormal story, told in a very believable teen voice, which focuses more on the complications of Bridget’s personal life than the boy who’s walked into it. That’s right. Even though Bridget has a crush, and it would appear that Michael likes her, too, both kids are too preoccupied with the sisters that are lost to them to start much of a relationship with each other. The two (living) girls in the story have conversations about parents, and concerts, and classmates, making Phantom Touch one of the most realistic teen stories I’ve read in the YA paranormal genre. At the same time, the serial killer arc brings attention to the dangers and the seeming innocent things that can make someone vulnerable to the evil that lurks below the surface of society.

I very much enjoyed seeing how Bridget’s story unfolded. It appears to be a standalone novel, but like the pilot of a television show, the ending left open the possibility of a long-running series. The novel includes some violence and a serial killer that target problem teen girls. I don’t recall coarse language and there are no touchy/feely scenes. She did, however, make me cry, so that has been taken into account in my 5-star rating.

I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

About My Book Reviews

Book Review: Speak of the Devil, by Shawna Romkey

SpeakOfTheDevilCrescent Moon Press
Release Date: March 2013
YA Paranormal

What happens when falling in love and falling from grace collide?

After dying in a car accident with her two best friends, Lily miraculously awakens to grief and guilt. She escapes to her dad’s to come to terms with the event and meets some people at her new school who seem all too eager to help her heal. Sliding deeper into sorrow and trying to fight her feelings for two of them, she finds out who…what they really are and that they are falling too.

Can she find the strength to move on from the past, reconcile her feelings for Luc, find a way to stop a divine war with fallen angels, and still pass the eleventh grade?

Teenagers are complicated, sensitive creatures, and on the surface, Lily is normal for her age. She loves her friends. She loves going out with her friends, Mike and Julie, who are not afraid to take a bit of a risk for a good time. One night, the three go out in a rainstorm and their car ends up going over a bridge.

It’s hard to be grateful to be alive when your friends are dead, and it’s your fault. Seconds before the crash, Lily did something innocuous, but it distracts Mike, causing the slide that resulted in the car going over the edge. Going to school is torture. The other kids treat Lily carefully, but she projects her guilt onto them, and receives their sympathy as blame. To start over, she moves to Kansas City to live with her dad, and finish high school with kids that don’t know about the her, the accident, or her dead friends.

There, she meets a group of kids who are beautiful in a punkish sort-of-way, and entirely too talented for their age. The apparent leader among them is Luc, to whom Lily is immediately drawn, but he steps aside because his friend Mo thinks she’s “the one” for him. But, it doesn’t last, because Luc feels the same connect to Lily as she feels to him.

Luc, the hottie with wings on the cover of the book, was born to human parents but he grew into an angelic calling to save one human soul. At the same time, he and his friends are suffering a crisis of their own. Dwelling on Earth takes its toll on angels, but this group, there are extraordinary circumstances with dire consequences. Luc needs Lily as much as she needs him.

Speak of the Devil is a YA Paranormal Romance that explores survivor’s guilt, the grieving/coping mechanisms of teenagers, and how finding/having a purpose can make all the difference in a young adult’s life. My one problem with the book is this. It is told primarily in Lily’s first-person POV, and because of her circumstances, this results in forty pages of a 16-year-old telling me she’s depressed. After a while, I really wanted to slap her and say, Stop feeling sorry for yourself. She does do something about it, leaves to go to a new school, but her attitude doesn’t really improve until her curiosity about Luc and his friends surpasses her self-pity. At that point, the story improves by leaps and bounds, but getting past the beginning was a little rough for me, thus my 4-star rating.

Speak of the Devil includes angels, demons, scenes of teen alcohol abuse, sexual attraction, and an attempted rape of the main character. Religious subject matter is interpreted in a generic “angels=good/demons=evil” way that doesn’t counter Sunday School, but God is missing, which may offend. I would recommend it for readers as young as 13, depending on the reader’s maturity.

I finished this book on April 2, 2013. I rated it on Goodreads with intention of returning to leave a review, and then…stuff happened. It was nine months ago, I don’t even remember what the stuff was. Pathetic. Truly pathetic. Anyhow, I received this book from Crescent Moon Press in exchange for my honest opinion.


About My Book Reviews

Book Review: Ascendant, by Rebecca Taylor

ascendantCrescent Moon Press
Release Date: June 2013
YA Paranormal

When I was twelve, my mother disappeared. I was the first person to never find her.
I’m sixteen now and she has never been found, alive or dead.
I’m not the girl I should have been.

When Charlotte Stevens, bright but failing, is sent to stay at her mother’s childhood home in Somerset England her life is changed forever. While exploring the lavish family manor, Gaersum Aern, Charlotte discovers a stone puzzle box that contains a pentagram necklace and a note from her mother—clues to her family’s strange past and her mother’s disappearance. Charlotte must try to solve the puzzle box, decipher her mother’s old journals, and figure out who is working to derail her efforts—and why. The family manor contains many secrets and hidden histories, keys to the elegant mystery Charlotte called mom and hopefully, a trail to finding her.

Charlotte Stephens is an orphan. Sort of. Her mother’s been missing since she was twelve, and because her father, Simon Stevens, is a best-selling author 17 times over, Elizabeth’s disappearance was a tabloid-worthy mystery. Four years later, Charlotte plagiarizes a final paper on Richard II, a play she’s read four times, because she just doesn’t care. This sets into motion a chain of events a teenager wouldn’t anticipate. Her principal notifies Charlotte’s emergency contact, her father’s literary agent, that Simon has shown up to a disciplinary meeting sloppy drunk. Twenty-four hours later, Charlotte is on plane for England to stay with an uncle she’s never met while her father dries out at a detox facility.

There, Charlotte is met at the airport by Gaersum Aern’s caretaker’s children. Caleb is seventeen, and she vaguely recalls him as the boy she kissed behind the dining room curtains when she was seven. Along for the ride is fifteen-year-old, Sophie, a “material girl” who’s recently gotten the pair’s Internet privileges revoked.

Caleb is still in love with Charlotte nine years later, an infatuation that she reciprocates easily once they reconnect in Gaersum Aern’s library. Unfortunately for him, another boy has his sights set on Charlotte. Hayden Wriothesley is sixteen and a second cousin of the king of England. He’s filthy rich, absurdly gorgeous, and very accustomed to getting everything he wants from everyone. He’s arrogant and chauvinistic, and Charlotte despises him. Here she is torn in three directions. Her heart wants Caleb. Her mind wants to figure out her mother’s mysteries. And, her body responds to Hayden’s advances, making it very hard to say no when she should.

I suppose now is a good time to mention that’s she’s stumbled ass-over-teakettle into a conflict between orders of Freemasons. By the time she realizes the role she plays, it’s far too late to turn tail and run.

Ascendant is a wonderful YA paranormal tale set in the tapestry of rural England, among old wealth estates, and includes ancient symbols, secret societies. It is driven by naiveté and teen angst on the surface, ancient tradition beneath, and between the two, the consequences of one family’s choice to save face at the expense of an illegitimate child ripple across decades, leaving tragedy in their wake.

Ascendant would fit at home on a shelf with Rebecca Hamilton’s The Forever Girl series, Rebecca Trogner’s The Last Keeper’s Daughter. There are some sexual situations, including kissing and partial nudity. I would recommend it readers over the age of 13 who are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and/or the YA Paranormal Romance.

I was given an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

About My Book Reviews

Book Review: Silencing Breath (Stealing Breath #2), by Joanne Brothwell

silencing breathSilencing Breath (Stealing Breath #2), by Joanne Brothwell

Just as Sarah Ross is learning everything she can about her new abilities as an Indigo Child and settling into a normal life with her beloved Evan, her entire world shatters when Evan disappears without a trace.

Desperate to find him, Sarah’s search leads her to a sadistic serial killer who confirms her worst fears are true; Evan has been kidnapped, and he is once again in the clutches of his abusive family of necromancers.

Sarah uncovers not only Evan’s dark past he tried so desperately to protect her from, but also The Key of Solomon, an ancient text for summoning the dead.
Knowing her abilities are limited in the face of this ancient power, Sarah is forced to face the Malandanti in order to save him. However, one question remains: once he is found, will Evan be the same man she fell in love with?

It’s been four years since Sarah Ross became entangled in Evan Valenti’s strange world of sorcery and skinwalking. They have settled into life in Seattle, complete with a cute house, coffee rituals, and morning sex when they can swing it. This particular moment, they don’t quite have time for the latter. Evan, a successful contractor, is due at a meeting with co-owners in 10 minutes, so they reluctantly settle for a steamy kiss, and then he’s gone. It’s just as well. Sarah, a senior at the University of Washington, has a meeting with a potential advisor. There she learns that not only will she be accepted to graduate school, but also she’ll be working with Dr. “Jerry” Goderich on research regarding psychopaths, starting immediately. There’s a man fresh off a kill sitting on ice at the prison and Jerry’s antsy to get into his head. That’s when Sarah’s beloved normal life comes to a screeching halt. She recognizes the prisoner on sight. She killed him four years ago.

Ms. Brothwell crafts a strong female lead in Sarah Ross. When we met Sarah in Stealing Breath, she was a girl struggling with teenage insecurities on top of her ability to feel the emotions of those around her. Four year later, all of them with Evan at her side, she is a confident woman with control of the power that could have easily destroyed her. Now, Evan has been taken away from her, and she will fight to get him back with little more than love and raw determination, even if it means confronting the devil himself. And when the Valenti family is involved, that’s not just a figure of speech.

The author doesn’t pull any punches with Evan’s situation. Sarah may not know exactly what Stefano, the older Valenti brother, is putting him through, but the reader gets to see all of it. Beautiful Evan is rendered vulnerable, made to bleed, and broken over the course of days with even his ability to plea for mercy silenced by dark magic. As a reader, I held on through every page that Evan could hold onto Sarah, and himself, long enough to be rescued, even as I wondered if anyone could.

This book was somewhat of a surprise for me, as I had some issues with Stealing Breath. However, those awkward bits were left behind in North Dakota along with Sarah Ross’ former life. Silencing Breath is a huge step forward for Joanne Brothwell. The writing is clean, the prose tight, and the stakes dire. There’s cause for  concern on nearly every page that Sarah and her allies won’t get out of this book alive.

I was given an advance copy in return for my honest opinion.

My Red Star AwardAbout My Book Reviews