Swoon by Nina Malkin

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , | Posted on 7:04 AM


Rating: 3 / 5 stars

I can't say that I was comfortable with the romance component of this book -- which was pretty much all of it. First, there was the weirdness of our Leading Lady (Dice) falling for the Brooding Love Interest (Sin) -- while he happens to be possessing the body of her cousin. Because, you know, he's a ghost and all. Interesting premise, but it mostly played out like this...

DICE: So I am irresistibly attracted to a dead boy who is inhabiting the body of my bodacious blond cousin....sweet! Now I get to indulge my latent homoerotic tendencies while pursing the Boy of My Dreams!

SIN: Um....exorcism NOW, please.

The other problematic aspect of this lovefest is the slight detail that Sin is firmly on the vengeful side of the haunting spectrum. His target? The entire town of Swoon, of course, since the good townsfolk turned all angry mob and lynched him back in the 1700s -whenevers. His only crime? Being a little too friendly with the ladyfolk...and having his newly-pregnant girlfriend end up dead.

Hmm...

This at first seemed to be heading into the troublesome loves-me-or-wants-to-kill-me territory of many teen romances in the supernatural realm -- but I can report at least that Sin never deliberately harms Dice. Pretty much everyone else in the town is fair game, though.

So of course Dice is torn, since she kinda-sorta loves this angry little poltergeist, but she also doesn't really want to see the town go up in flames. Mostly. And of course she has her own reasons for coming to Swoon -- being a native of NYC, a little Connecticut backwater wasn't a natural choice for a getaway.

I liked Dice's snark and almost-brutal honesty, and she handles the tango of Love versus Better Judgment pretty well, but I couldn't really get into the romance with Sin. Mostly because of the above issues, but also because he seemed pretty one-dimensional. I know, maybe I should give the revenge-obsessed ghost a break, but I just didn't see the appeal beyond a tragic backstory and (of course) a smokin' bod.

The supernatural elements had a neat little twist, and the way Sin manipulates peoples' desires to cause their ruin had potential, if not fully realized. And the ending was a nice surprise, which at least steered it out of cliche territory.

But overall, I wouldn't go rushing out for this one. Not a painful read, but not a terribly gripping one either.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

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Posted by Cobalt | Posted in , , | Posted on 7:07 AM


Rating: 5 / 5 stars (plus ETERNAL LOVE)

First: why has EVERYONE not read this book? I am aghast and outraged and saddened and deeply shamed.

So this isn't going to be a review so much as a giant incoherent mess of READ THIS NOW PLEASE K?

Because Sunshine is pure awesome. It is the kind of awesome where you are consciously reading slower, dragging your feet so that it can all last longer and getting all panicky and weepy at the sight of dwindling pages to-be-read even as you cannot stop reading.

This is what a vampire-fantasy-YAish novel should be. I would advocate it as the cure for Twilight Madness, but I fear if hardcore Twilight fans read it it would blow their minds.

I hardly even know how to introduce this without babbling on forever -- our heroine is Sunshine, nicknamed not for a sunny disposition but rather her odd affinity for daylight. She is baker at Charlie's Coffeehouse, which is more of a giant family gathering than anything, what with her mother marrying Charlie and her two stepbrothers always stealing the cinnamon rolls and her tattooed-yet-mellow boyfriend Mel working as the cook. But this isn't some idealist fantasy of small town life -- baking is brutal work, getting up at ungodly hours and pounding dough into submission in a blazing kitchen and everyone running like mad and the customers streaming in and out and then oh god the tour buses...

So it's understandable that Sunshine needs a break once in a while. So she drives out to the lake one night -- and the vampires grab her. Dammit.

They give her a cranberry formal dress, and drag her to a grand deserted house in the moonlight, and chain her in the ballroom with another vampire....who is also chained to the wall. But within easy arm's reach.

What the hell?

This will take your assumptions about vampires, about supernatural romance, about pretty much everything in this 'genre' and flip them all sorts of ways. McKinley's worldbuilding is masterly and lush and detailed without turning to overload, and oh would you just read this already?

Please?

You need to read it for Sunshine, most of all -- a cranky, sarcastic, brilliant heroine who thinks of herself as a coward but has more backbone than Rambo in everything that matters. I love how she describes the world, this almost-rambling style that has so much fun with words without showing off, and she's so perceptive that we get to pick up on all the rich nuances of the people and the world around her, too. By the end of the book, I wasn't just in love with Sunshine -- I loved everyone she loved, I loved her work, I loved her entire life and how she was living it. Not even in the wish-I-had-it way (4 am wake up call, no thanks) but just how right it felt for her even in all the complicated mess of it.

Plus? I cannot even say how much I love the human-vampire interaction. FINALLY, we have a Girl-Meets-Otherworldly Creature of Darkness story where the heroine's first reaction isn't "Hot damn!" but "YEAEAACCHH!"
Because, you know, DEAD and EVIL and WRONG and WANTS TO EAT ME equals GET AWAY NOW, not 'Come and get it!'

And our vampire is fantastic too -- Con is not human and so he thinks differently about the world and he's been around for a long time, so we get a character who is truly alien -- not just some angst-ridden Byronic hero with a complexion issue.

And these characters grow through their interactions with each other and the awful, impossible choices they are making and that is also why you will fall in love. Because the Sunshine you meet in the beginning is not the same Sunshine at the end, and you've been with her the whole way and you're changed, too.

I need to stop. Please just read this book. Please. I'll even leave you with a link to an excerpt.

Have fun!
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