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Book Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia HandThe Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published: October 24th 2017
Format: Paper Book
Length: 385 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars

On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

I am not a romance reader. I’ve stated many times in my book reviews that the most annoying aspect of young adult books is always, always, the romance angle for me. There is always some trope to the romance that I can’t stand. (The boy is an asshole because he’s trying to protect the girl and the girl loves the boy despite the fact she knows she should hate his guts because he’s acting like an asshole. I want to claw my eyes out every time I read this and it is everywhere in young adult books.) But The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a romance that does not use those much loathed tropes. It is a romance that did something different and I actually liked it. I know, it was shocking to me too.

This is a great Christmas book and I love the idea. The Scrooge Project uses the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol as a blueprint to try and rehabilitate a single person every year. It uses some pretty snazzy tech to do it too. Like the Go Room, that allows the Ghosts to travel to the Scrooge’s home, and the Time Tunnel, which allows the Ghosts to travel in time to show the Scrooges the error of their ways. And we can’t we forget the Hoodie? Capital letter most definitely needed. The Afterlife of Holly Chase has the same fun and silly tone of My Lady Jane and just the right mix of paranormal fun and seriousness to entertain.

I liked all of the characters. Yes, Holly starts out as the consummate brat, the character you love to hate, but she grows. I loved all the characters at the Scrooge Project. The other Ghosts and all of the tech people helping run things behind the scenes. I even liked Blackpool, the grim and intense Ghost of Christmas Future. I would have liked a bit more development between Holly and Ethan. I see no reason why Holly should love Ethan so much after just seeing a photo of him. Lust, maybe, but not such deep love. That’s my biggest complaint with romance stories. No reasonable build up, in my opinion. The supposed depth of emotion just happens far too fast for me.

When it comes down to it, The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a romance book and the first romance book that I’ve actually liked in a long time. If, like me, you are a bit anti-romance, I suggest you read this one. It’s a perfect read for the holiday season and Cynthia delivers her signature quirky, imaginative brand of writing that I so enjoy.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Scarlet and the White Wolf by Kirby Crow

scarletwhite wolfScarlet and the White Wolf by Kirby Crow
Published June 28th 2006 by Torquere Press, Inc.
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 246 pages / 446KB
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, M/M, Adventure
Reading Level: Teen
Goodreads | Amazon

Scarlet of Lysia is an honest peddler, a young merchant traveling the wild, undefended roads to support his aging parents. Liall, called the Wolf of Omara, is the handsome, world-weary chieftain of a tribe of bandits blocking a mountain road that Scarlet needs to cross. When Liall jokingly demands a carnal toll for the privilege, Scarlet refuses and an inventive battle of wills ensues, with disastrous results. Scarlet is convinced that Liall is a worthless, immoral rogue, but when the hostile countryside explodes into violence and Liall unexpectedly fights to save the lives of Scarlet’s family, Scarlet is forced to admit that the Wolf is not the worst ally he could have, but what price will proud Scarlet ultimately have to pay for Liall’s friendship?

It’s Little Red Riding Hood with a … ahem… twist. This isn’t my first foray into m/m relationships but this is the first time I’ve read an original novel with that themes. I mostly read fanfiction and I must admit that reading a proper book with a homosexual pairing as the main characters was a little odd for me. Scarlet and the White Wolf by Kirby Crow adapted a classic fairytale into an adventure story for adults and Crow’s story is detailed and vivid in a way the old fairytale can’t match. (Thank god. I can feel my childhood squirming.) I’m afraid that I might be a little bias because I’ve been reading fanfiction with m/m pairings since I was a teen and actually reading a proper novel with the same subject makes me too happy for words. Plus, I always enjoy classic fairytales being turned on their heads and Crow created a masterful world and characters from the base material.

There truly are no original plots anymore. Scarlet is a stubborn but handsome man that won’t back down from a challenge. Liall is a rouge with a secret heart of gold. Scarlet hates the arrogant Liall at first but then Liall does something to prove he’s more than he seems and Scarlet warms up to him. This is pretty much every love story ever. I pretty much expected that. But it’s interesting because under that overused premise lurks tidbits of a larger story and events that the characters are just barely getting into by the end of the novel. (Woe and frustration!) Those morsels of world building draw the reader in and we all love to watch the train wreck that is the relationship between Scarlet and Liall. Their story spans a whole continent and beyond.

Like I said, I’m probably bias because the two main characters are men and I’m fascinated with nontraditional relationships. Past their love story is a tale involving entire populations, royalty, and a fading goddess. I really want to know what those little teasers will revolve into and how Scarlet will fair in the far north with Liall’s people. I think the series might end up being a nice fantasy epic if my predictions of where the story is going are right. I think this is one novel where the sequel might be better than the first book. Scarlet and the White Wolf by Kirby Crow has the makings of a great series and I think well worth the read. It’s a romance that can be a readers’ guilty little pleasure and will surprise you with how complex it is. There is some petting and smooching between the two main characters but I think an older teen should have no problem reading this book.

Rating 3.5 out 5

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The Failings of Romance in YA Books. So Clichéd It Hurts.

I am one of the many adults who reads YA books and even middle grade books. (Out of all YA book buyers, 55% are older than 18 years of age and out of that 28% are aged 30 to 44 years old. I’m perilously close to being part of the second group.) It doesn’t matter to me what the so-called target audience is. I read books for the story. I read mostly fantasy books because reading is an escape for me. The further away from reality I can get with a book, the more I will like it. Young adult books have an abundance of fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi elements that attract me to those books.

But, I have a pet peeve. It’s a peeve I can’t seem to get away from either. It appears in both young adult and adult books and it drives me slightly crackers. That pet peeve is less than stellar romance. A good romance should be fluid and evolving and include all the traits and pieces of a real relationship. It should not consist of the so-called love interest being cute/hot/mysterious and some weird reaction of the main character’s body. Have you noticed that? The main character always has heart palpitations or some sort of stomach upset when around their love interest. That’s not romance, that’s something you need to see your doctor about. It’s cliché.

Since a good 90% of young adult books have female main characters, I’ll continue with that for the sake of the argument. In the beginning, the girl never likes the boy. He’s either stand-offish or just a plain jerk. But that doesn’t matter because whenever he’s around the girl’s body suddenly gets hot flashes. There is medication for that. A romance should not be where the girl doesn’t really like the boy but that’s okay because he has a nice face. That’s crap. That is not romance; that is lust. And it can be taken care of with cold showers or just by doing each other already. Stop making me read your train wreck.

My kingdom for a romance that develops naturally. Maybe it’s just the easiest pattern to follow in YA books. It’s a rut. A stereotype. It’s my pet peeve. Romance should involve talking and spending time together and discovering you both hate Jane Austin and love shrimp and like the color blue. That little thing called compatibility? It’s a major part of developing a relationship and it’s what makes romance worth it. There is a difference between genuine romance and just plain lust. The romances in YA books are one-dimensional and, in my opinion, degrading to females. It makes it seem like we will overlook any personality flaws as long as the guy has a hot body. That is not how it work, readers.

How about you? Do you have a romance that actually seems well-developed and between two people that actually have a snowball’s chance in hell? What’s the worst book romance you’ve read?

(Source for statistics. Via Parajunkee.)

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