Thursday 15 August 2013

Blog Tour: Review: The Dirty Secrets of Markham Savoy

Hey, everyone!  Today I'm part of the tour for The Dirty Secrets of Markham Savoy.  You can check out the tour schedule here.

Title: The Dirty Secrets of Markham Savoy (Colebrook Academy #1)
Author: C.C. Dalton
Publisher: Twist Literary
Released: 6th August 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Dirty Secrets of Markham Savoy was not what I was expecting, in more ways than one.  It's a quick, entertaining read that, while it may not have much going on, still manages to capture life at Colebrook Academy.  At the centre of this school is Markham Savoy.  Markham deals in secrets and favours, and through that effectively manages the school.  He is always in control and he never betrays anything about himself.  There's only one exception: Piper Harrington.  When he makes an arrangement that involves Piper, he unwittingly finds himself in a position he is unused to: he is in her debt.  Forced to give up one of his own secrets and repay a favour, Markham finds himself at the start of something new.

Despite the surprisingly short length, it is very easy to get a sense of how Colebrook Academy works and how Markham is able to keep everyone under his control - well, almost everyone, but I'll get to that in a minute.  Markham is an intriguing character.  I'm not sure I like how - to put it in Piper's terms - he micromanages everyone, but at the same time I can't help but wonder why he is the way he is.  He clearly has his own secrets, and feelings and thoughts that he disguises; even as a reader, I don't know much more about him than any given character he interacts with, and I'm curious to see what hides behind the exterior.  The one thing that is made abundantly clear is how much he cares for his younger sister; while he is overprotective by far, he does genuinely love her and want to look out for her.

Piper's character is the one that prevents it from being truly everyone under Markham's thumb.  I liked Piper simply for being immune to Markham's charms and being able to see through the pretences and pretty words.  It was good to see her stand up to him and actually turn the tables so he was on less sure footing.  Since this is in third person narrative but through Markham's perspective, we only see her through his eyes - and yet it's enough to know that she is a strong character.  Dalton doesn't make this into a romance despite the fact that our protagonist likes her, and I was glad of that.  Still, it's clear that Piper's effect on him is a positive one, which leaves me hopeful that we'll see more character growth as the series progresses, despite the fact that each narrative revolves around a different character.

The synopsis doesn't really prepare you for what lies in these pages, but don't let that put you off.  The Dirty Secrets of Markham Savoy was a decent read that I got through in no time at all, and is written in such a way that the reader can automatically understand both the world and the characters.  It sets a good basis for the rest of the series.

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Tuesday 13 August 2013

Mini-Reviews: Faking It & Double Clutch

Title: Faking It (Losing It #2)
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Released: 4th June 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once again, Cora Carmack has provided a quick, humourous read with characters easy to root for.  This time we follow the story of Cade, who is in Philadelphia hoping that he can escape his problems and focus on his career.  Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be working for him at the moment.  Then he meets Max and suddenly finds himself pretending to be her boyfriend.  But a role only meant to last a few minutes somehow turns into something much more long-term.  And the longer they pretend, the less certain they are that it's fake.

I felt bad for Cade after the events of Losing It, so I was looking forward to seeing him have the chance for his own happy ending - even if the journey there was by no means easy.  I like that Carmack doesn't attempt to make her characters fit images or stereotypes; instead she makes them real, relatable, unpretending.  Max intrigued me from the moment I met her, and it wasn't long before we connected.  There was something refreshing about their relationship, making me appreciate it all the more easily.  It was wonderful to see them open with each other and help each other, especially with Cade encouraging Max to find that strength within herself.

Faking It made for a pleasant, uncomplicated read.  While I may not love this series as most people do, the merits of it are undeniable, and I certainly have no regrets.

Title: Double Clutch (Brenna Blixen #1)
Author: Liz Reinhardt
Publisher: RHCP Digital
Released: 20th December 2012
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I have to admit, I did regret snagging myself a copy before I started this, and if I could have rewound time and stopped myself from doing so, I would have done.  I know that doesn't really seem fair, but the synopsis doesn't hide the fact that this is all about a love triangle.  And for a while now, if I see signs of one that early on, I run the other way.  But Liz Reinhardt did something extraordinary.  She handled this triangle well, had me rooting for both guys and somehow kept Brenna from being an entirely ridiculous figure.  While there were moments of frustration, I did still like her.  Despite all the boy drama, she does still manage to keep her head straight, showing strength and maturity.  In addition to that we see other things about her that give us more of a feel for who she is as a person.

Jake and Saxon are our two love interests, and both have things going for them.  I won't tell you who she ends up with - that would be spoiling it, after all - but the relationship works; the two of them do fit together.  At the same time, however, there is a part of me that wishes she'd ended up with the other one.  Reinhardt's characters come with layers, and the further you read, the more you discover about each of them and, in the case of these two boys, it reaches the point where you're too attached to both of them.  One is particularly vulnerable, I think.  It's been some time since I was this ambivalent about the outcome of a love triangle, and this author has certainly performed a feat in making me care for both of her boys.

Aside from this, one thing of note is the parental presence in this book.  Parents seem to be becoming more of an issue in YA books, but there is no need to worry in the case of Double Clutch.  It was truly a pleasure to see the relationship Brenna shared with her mother and stepfather - because, not only is there is a parental presence, but it's also a loving presence.

Despite my apprehension, then, Double Clutch turned out to be a novel that I genuinely enjoyed, and it leaves me feeling glad that I did read it after all.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Review: Losing It

Title: Losing It (Losing It #1)
Author: Cora Carmack
Publisher: Ebury
Released: 28th March 2013
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Bliss Edwards hates the fact that, at 22, she seems to be the only one amongst her friends who is still a virgin.  She hates it even more when she admits the fact to Kelsey, one of her best friends.  Kelsey is determined to help her change this and, resigned, Bliss agrees.  The two of them go to a bar, and it is here where Bliss meets Garrick.  He's sitting at a table reading Shakespeare, and they strike up a conversation.  Instantly she knows that he's the one she'll be losing her virginity to.  They talk, head back to her apartment, make out.  Everything's going fine...until she panics at the crucial moment, makes an excuse and flees.  She's humiliated, but can at least feel safe in the knowledge that no-one will ever know and she will never see him again.  Until, of course, she walks into her drama class and sees her new professor.  It's the same guy she ran from the night before.

The pages flew by while I was reading this.  I'd glance down at the percentage every now and then and be astonished by how far I'd read, and I have Bliss is to thank for that.  She's awkward in an adorable way, and also quite hilarious.  She had me laughing so much right from the start.  I was worried I might not like her because of how much she was fretting over her virginity, but that was soon dispelled.  It was Kelsey who I ended up not liking, though I knew I would even before I started.  If she was truly Bliss' friend, she would have been assuring her that not having sex was fine and that it was important to wait for the right guy.  As it was, Bliss ended up following her own instincts and making her own decisions, and I was glad for that.  It was nice to see her come to accept herself more, as well.  Having theatre as a backdrop worked really well for this, and this could have been worked into the story even more.  But I think Carmack deliberately kept this light and easy, and that was absolutely fine.

Now, I know Garrick is the one you're all swooning over.  Hot British professor, and all that.  And I liked him, I really did.  He was funny, sweet and he had an interesting take on Shakespeare.  I liked seeing him and Bliss together, and I was terrified that someone would find out about them and it would all go wrong.  But...I don't know.  There was something missing that stopped me from going into full swoon mode.  I'd blame it on the accent - I'm British, so it has no effect on me - except that doesn't stand as a good argument since some of my British blogging friends love him, too.  Whatever the reason, I wasn't able to connect with him on a level that had me truly loving him.  What I will say, however, is that the epilogue is pretty much perfect.  Of course, there were a lot of ways his plan could have gone wrong, but it was possibly my favourite part of the entire book.

Whatever impressions I had on starting this, Losing It turned out to be a light, fun read.  There was room for this to be something deeper, but Carmack stayed away from that side, and I genuinely didn't mind.  Even so, this wasn't just about a girl trying to lose her virginity.  I enjoyed the relationship between Bliss and Garrick, and I appreciated the difficulties they had.  I'm definitely glad I got to read this.