Friday, October 2, 2015

The Rosary Girls

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Adult
Category: Mystery & Crime
Rating: 4 stars

Helen Thinks: “The Rosary Girls” by Richard Montanari sees a new partnership is formed in rookie detective, Jessica Balzano, and veteran detective, Kevin Byrne, due to his previous partner being laid up in hospital post heart attack. Instead of being slowly eased into her new role as a homicide detective, Balzano's first body is that of a catholic schoolgirl whose hands have been bolted together in a gesture of prayer and she's clutching onto a set of rosary beads. Byrne is unsure if Balzano, the daughter of a famous philadelphia cop, will approve of his approach but together they must work together to catch the serial killer preying on Philadelphia's catholic schoolgirls...

This particular crime formula of a veteran detective that lives on the edge while breaking rules and making enemies along the way being partnered with a fresh faced rookie detective is a cliché that has been done a hundredfold. However, Montanari's shows us how it should be written in “The Rosary Girls” due to giving it a new lease of life and really bringing his characters to life with background stories including journalists out for blood, their family lives and just their every day interactions with each other. Byrne hints towards having a 'psychic' ability where he can sense what happened at a crime scene if he gets a good look at it. If handled incorrectly, this could have caused the book to crash due to readers not seeing it as completely realistic but Montanari handles it like a professional and I found myself curious as to what Byrne could see also.

When it comes to religious murders, sometimes you can be treading into risky territories but Montanari did his research and managed to write a perfect case as well as completely surprise the reader at the end when the killer and motive was revealed. The research in to police procedure was flawless and his writing makes you feel like a third detective on this new crime solving team.

With a gritty, fast-paced and intricate storylines, “The Rosary Girls” was a novel that had me hooked from the first word to the very last and I can't wait to join Byrne and Balzano on their next case.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Deep End of the Sea

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult / Adult
Category: Romance, fantasy
Rating: 3 stars

Rosie Thinks: This is the story of Medusa, like you've never heard it told before. To me, Medusa's always been evil and horrible, deserving of her punishment. The backstory is the same as the legend: Medusa was brutally raped by Poseidon in Athena's temple, then the goddess cursed her and exiled her to live for eternity alone. But Medusa herself is completely different: she has the gentlest of hearts, kind and caring and always despairing when someone unwittingly stumbles upon her and she turns them to stone. The only bright points in her life is Mikkos, the old, blind sailor who visits her, and Hermes, son of Zeus, who has slowly wormed his way into Medusa's heart.

From the summary, I thought this story would be quite static: staying in the same place on Medusa's island as she throws a pity party or a hundred. But it wasn't like this at all - the plot moved fast, and I never got overly frustrated with Medusa. Despite having so many things happen to her, she still retained her inner sanity and goodness. To be fair, she did cry a lot, but it was valid. Her character growth was impressive to see and real. She started off as a shut-in, hurt by the world and not ready to trust easily again. Indeed, it took Hermes over a thousand years to break through her shell. But slowly, she discovers who she really is and what it means to stand up for herself. Most importantly, the incredibly sensitive issue of sexual assault was dealt with properly and very, very well. There are so many books where rape is used as a plot device and given no real exploration of the depth of trauma it causes, but Heather Lyons handled it so perfectly.

The romance between Hermes and Medusa was beautiful. It's one of the healthiest relationships I've ever read about: Hermes doesn't ever push Medusa, knowing her history, and loves her for her, as opposed to her appearance. The other minor characters are lovely as well, and I loved the way they interacted with Medusa and helped her grow. I only wish that the gods and goddesses weren't so black and white: some were good, some were bad. I prefer the grey area, where the villains aren't truly evil and the good people aren't all light.

This is a great book for anyone interested in Greek mythology, but it takes a modern twist on it that I found intriguing. For me, this lies in the grey area between young adult and new adult - it reads like a YA novel, but there are some scenes that are a bit too explicit for YA. Either way, it is an amazing romance that has a solid plot that carried the rest of the novel, and great characters.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Jenny Pox (The Paranormals #1)

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult
Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars

“She felt the skin on her lower face bubble and pop as bleeding sores formed on her lips. Pustules cracked open on her face, extruding curls of pus like tiny white worms.”

Marta Thinks: Jenny Morton inflicts a deadly plague on everyone she touches: the so-called “Jenny Pox”, which is as far from an original name as you can think of, but considering it was coined by Jenny’s nemesis, Ashleigh, at a young age, I can let that one slide. The novel begins from Jenny’s childhood with an especially horrifying image: Jenny holding a deadly snake in her hands, believing it to be a rattle toy, and it sets the tone for a dark story.

The plot itself is nothing extraordinarly original: Jenny, for example, meets Seth, a boy who is resistant to Jenny’s fatal touch and is, also, Ashleigh’s boyfriend. However, J.L. Bryan diverges from the usual path by not presenting these aspects in the usual way, and not shying away from the ugly details either. Jenny, for example, is bullied at school and is poor and her hardships are not pushed aside, but dwelled upon carefully. This allows Jenny herself to become a likable character -- one that is trying to survive despite the circumstances yet tries not to engage in endless pity parties.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Soldier of Raetia

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Adult
Category: Historical, romance, LGBTQIA+
Rating: 3 stars

Rosie Thinks: This story focuses on Manilus Dardanus, a soldier who is sent by his father to try to be sponsored by Cassius Valerian, a famous general with no heirs. Set in Ancient Rome, this story paints a vivid and accurate picture of the time, and the insights into daily military life, of the soldier and the officers, was fantastic - I'm an ancient history buff, and if you're interested in Ancient Rome, then I can't recommend this book enough. At the end, Heather Domin discusses what is real in the story and where her creative licence took control. The depth of research she put into this is huge, and her knowledge pays off.

However, this book isn't a study on Ancient Rome - rather, it is the story of Dardanus' develops from naive and idealistic into a man who is self-assured and confident is his own skills, on the battlefield and off it. It is also about the slow, steady relationship that is created between Dardanus and Valerian. While the beginning was slow, it set up the characters and action well, and by the time the plot truly began to move, I was hooked. The campaign was complex, but explained in a way that made it easy to follow. The climax was well thought out, with a villain that was unique and incredibly interesting. This story follows no pre-set cliches that are usually everywhere in the m/m genre, and I was super glad for that! There was no insta-lust or love - I can't even explain how much this made me happy. The two main characters didn't trip over their feet or become stunned when they met. Rather, their relationship was a slow burn that built on solid foundations of mutual respect, friendship and, eventually, love.

This book contained angst and passion enough to keep the romance-lover in me satisfied, while the plot was also enthralling. It is neither a story that is based around the legion or the romance - the balance of both of these made it stand out for me. Although I've mentioned Dardanus and Valerian a lot, the other characters are definitely worth a mention. Each of them had their own hopes and dreams; a personality of their own. They moved the plot along and helped with the main themes of the novel: trust, ambition, greed, and honour.

Friday, August 28, 2015

How to Get a (Love) Life

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Adult / Young Adult
Category: Romance
Rating: 4 stars

Helen Thinks: Nicola Brown is borderline obsessive compulsive. She likes control and order in her life so much so she eats at the same time every day, has a set menu for her week and absolutely does not day. She likes to be alone. So when her fun-loving, carefree colleague Caroline dares her to get a date for Valentine's Day which is in three months time, Nicola flat out refuses. However, when her brother later tells her again that he couldn't date a woman at thirty three due to the effort of wooing her and them being a relationship would leave her infertile due to her age has her wondering. Has she left it too late? So she accepts the dare to get a love life in three months and the chaos that ensues allows Nicola to see that not only did she need to get a love life but she needed to get a life.

How to Get a (Love) Life is Rosie Blake's debut novel and what an entrance to the literary world she has made. How to Get a (Love) Life is a funny, romantic and addictive novel that I read completely in one sitting. Her characters were poles apart in their personalities and yet jammed well to make a realistic work setting while going on a hunt for possible dates. Nicola's brother, Mark, comes and goes through her life leaving the reader with small smiles on their faces. With chapter openers being laid out like a lonely hearts advert Blake shows a unique style of keeping the audience entertained with her novel.

I obviously won't ruin the book by telling you if Nicola finds love but I think the important lesson learnt through this book isn't about finding love. It's about finding time to live and to enjoy things in life. Yes, you're going to have dates from hell. Yes, your perfectly organised world might crash around you at times. But it doesn't matter. Life is a learning curve and one you should enjoy no matter what. So why not enjoy it a little more and give this book a read?

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Song of Achilles

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 2:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Adult
Category: Historical, romance, LGBTQIA+
Rating: 5 stars

"And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth, when another is gone."

Rosie Thinks: This story is beautiful. I can't think of a better way to describe it. Everything, from the characters to the writing to the way Madeline Miller recreated the Illiad, is just utterly stunning. The retellings of Achilles are ridiculously numerous, as well as being well-known throughout the world, but I have never connected with it as much as I did this. And I have never read a novel that left me close to tears just from the way the sentences are crafted and the images the words evoked. In the legend, it is never quite certain the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, and Miller, a classical teacher herself, has taken the route that they were lovers. It took her ten years to write this story and she has stayed very true to the legend itself.

At the beginning, Achilles and Patroclus are as different as night and day. Achilles is the beautiful, self-confident, beloved prince, and awkward, unwanted Patroclus is captivated from the moment he sees him. Achilles, in all the retellings I've experienced has been completely unsympathetic to me - distant, arrogant, almost a bully. Somehow, Miller has created a character that is all of this yet made him into someone I could see as a real person, and someone who I admired and liked. He did not come off as arrogant and a bully at all - rather, self-assured and focused. Patroclus - well, he was just as masterfully characterised, if not better. He grew from being an envious, closed-off boy to a man who wasn't only defined by his love of Achilles, but was incredibly selfless and giving.

I adored the fierce relationship between the two, but, as I mentioned earlier, my favourite thing about the book is the way it is written. It is direct and to the point, with none of the flowery prose and digression of Homer's work. It is written in first person, from Patroclus' POV - my first question, being familiar with the legend, was how I was going to get a fulfilling story with this? But I most certainly did. The ending was incredible, and I generally can't stand how disappointing some endings can be. Miller never outright tells us what we should be thinking. Instead, she shows us how incredible Patroclus becomes, in a world of killing and greed. She shows how their growing friendship and eventual love, their devotion and loyalty.

There are so many quotes I want to share with you. I've highlighted so many, but I limit myself to one per review, if it's appropriate. Actually, you know what? I'm giving you two and I don't even care. The first quote I shared hit me hard, but this one is something that should be universally known:

"Chiron had said once that nations were the most foolish of mortal inventions. 'No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from.'"

How is it possible for the story of Achilles to be original? You'll have to read and discover for yourself.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Vengeance Road

Posted by A Drop of Romeo at 6:00 PM 0 comments

Age: Young Adult
Category: Historical; romance
Rating: 4.5 stars

Melissa Thinks: A historical western romance? Definitely not something I thought I would enjoy, but Vengeance Road exceeded my expectations. Kate, the main character, is the embodiment of a strong female character. After her father is brutally murdered by the notorious Rose Riders, she vows to track down and kill every last one of them. Along the way she picks up brothers Will and Jesse who, thanks to her disguise, are under the impression she is a boy (think Mulan). This makes it all the more difficult when she finds herself starting to notice the older boy, Jesse, in a "more than traveling companions" kind of way.

Like I said, Kate is an amazing character. Not only is she a badass, gun-slinging, independent, cowgirl-type character, but she also has a sweetness to her that adds to her lovableness. Her need for revenge gets her into some pretty nasty situations and she's willing to kill and even give her life in order to kill whoever murdered her father. I gobbled up this novel in one sitting because I loved Kate's character so much! And it wasn't just her that I loved. The secondary characters complimented Kate well: Will and Jesse--even Liluye, who I would've liked to see more of, made the novel stronger.

I don't think Vengeance Road is completely historically accurate, but it was enough so that I wasn't painfully aware of inconsistencies. My only complaint was the last 1/4 of the book was a little rushed to me. A few things wrapped up in convenient ways that left me feeling unsettled. Besides that, I was very satisfied with this book and I'm finding myself looking forward to reading more western YA books!

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