Rhapsody by Heather McKenzie

The final instalment of the Nightmusic Trilogy is here!

4/5 stars,
ARC/ebook, 382 pages.
Read from January 9, 2019 to January 16, 2019.

The final instalment of the Nightmusic Trilogy is here! A big thanks to Heather McKenzie for graciously allowing me to read and give honest reviews of all of her novels. It’s been a pleasure! Rhapsody was published on January 7, 2019 and is available for purchase.

If you haven’t read the two previous books in the Nightmusic trilogy, stop right now and go and read them as this novel won’t make much sense if you have not read the previous two novels. Besides, this whole trilogy is like an action-rollercoaster of intense excitement and suspense so you’re missing out on some great YA reads if you don’t start from the beginning.

Rhapsody picks up right where Nocturne left off in which the people that Kaya loves most have been taken by her ruthless and vindictive father, Henry. Henry is trying to get Kaya back under his reign so that he can claim her large inheritance for himself and continue with his ethically unsound pharmaceutical company. Luke, Kaya’s lover, and Stephen, her caretaker and real father-figure are currently being tortured at her father’s home. Kaya loves Luke more than anything and she is going to do whatever it takes to get him back in one piece. Kaya’s passion and recklessness when it comes to Luke are tempered only by Seth, Lisa, Oliver, and Thomas whose own care and reasoning keep her safe from harm.

“Henry chuckled. “A deal? I have what you want. So, in exchange for Luke, unharmed and released from his current situation, you will come home. And you will bring Mr. Oliver Bennet—my loyal, adopted son—with you.””

Thomas, whom we initially met in the previous novel, Nocturne, has fallen desperately in love with Kaya. Poor Thomas is in a bid to try and win Kaya over from Luke, a struggle that Kaya herself was not anticipating with matters of her own heart. Oliver, who has yet to get over his own feelings for Kaya, will still do whatever it takes to keep Kaya safe and happy, even if that means directly helping her save Luke. Can this group of friends get away from the grasps of Kaya’s horrid family? Who will Kaya choose? Thomas or Luke?

“Was I in love with two people? The thought of living out the rest of my days without Luke, or Thomas, made the future seem impossibly bleak and unbearable. My stomach twisted up around my spine.”

I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA book with so much blood and action before. The first chapter is a torture scene! I remember being blown away with Serenade with the action-packed plot and excitement and Rhapsody continues to carry that torch. This book balances a mature and intense, violent plotline with the intensity of teenage loveI struggled a bit with Nocturne due to the building of the love-square that takes place with KayaThomas, Oliver and Luke as it was hard to fathom the intensity that these young men loved Kaya. However, this book developed on those relationships further and allowed Kaya more choice with the outcomes of her life.  Kaya was more empowered with her decision making in this novel and the friendships that come out of Kaya’s tragic and tumultuous story are sincere.  Kaya really is a genuine, kind, and tough individual that everyone wants to know and care for.  Some old acquaintances and friends make a come back in this novel, with some who don’t care about Kaya as much as they initially led on but I’ll keep those suspenseful spoilers to myself. I will say this, however, the ending is a happy one and for that, I am grateful.

I’m sad to see Kaya’s story come to an end as I enjoyed it so much but I am looking forward to seeing what Heather McKenzie will come up with next. If you like YA, especially stories outside of the paranormal genre, I would highly recommend this powerhouse trilogy.

 

Gina in the Floating World by Belle Brett

A stellar debut erotica novel about a young and ambitious woman in Japan in the 1980s.

4/5 stars.
ARC ebook, 328 pages.
Read from September 11, 2018 to September 14, 2018.

Erotica novels are a great pick-me-up and an escape from everyday life, that is if they’re done well. I am very selective when it comes to choosing an erotica novel; the plot either has to sound extremely interesting or the sex scenes have to sound insanely hot. What’s even better is if the two, the plot and the sex scenes, come together to create a book that completely consumes you with intrigue, which, with erotica novels, more often than not, is not the case. This book is a rare exception. Thankfully you won’t have to wait long to get a copy as you purchase this gem for yourself on September 25, 2018.

Dee Dee, or as her clients know her, Gina, has come to Japan for an internship to help her get some international banking experience so that she can get into a coveted university program. This is also how she became an escort. After her housing situation falls through she desperately needs to find income to manage the rest of her internship. Through an acquaintance, Dee Dee becomes Gina, her working nickname, and starts working at a bar in which she entertains male-clients. It’s uncomfortable for her at first but in the beginning its harmless work. She just has to look nice, deal with the crude comments from customers, flirt and sing karaoke. She then, however, starts going out on paid dinner dates in which her customers pay for her time.  Here she meets an older man, potentially a gangster, who takes extreme interest and care in her. He pays her handsomely for the time they spend together and while she is attracted to him her morals question whether or not she should engage in sexual acts with him for money. One thing leads to another and Gina finds herself with multiple clients in which she avalanches into the world of prostitution. The term ‘floating world’ or Ukiyo (浮世), was coined in the Edo period in Japan which describes a pleasure-seeking type lifestyle and popular art form.

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Source: Culture 24

Gina is definitely living life at its best in the floating world. She is taking risks and doing things she had never even dreamed of doing but her two lives, Dee Dee’s and Gina’s, are at odds and her life as Gina has begun to get dangerous. Gina needs to find a way to escape from the floating world that she is deeply entwined in before she is trapped in it forever.

The sex scenes are not as numerous as other erotica novels nor are they as long but it’s quality over quantity for this book. I wasn’t even bothered by the fact that the steamy sex scenes didn’t kick in until a little bit later because the plot was so captivating. The ending is that of an empowered and self-sufficient Dee Dee who has learned more about herself and her life with the short time she has been in Japan than she ever would have at a bank or at back at home. The unique plot setting, along with solid writing and character work make for a story that is interesting on its own, even without the sex. What also made this book a success for me is that the author did not have to stretch my reality too much to make this story interesting and sexy at the same time.

The one thing I did find disappointing in this book is that the plot did not feel like it was set in the 1980s at all but perhaps that is because I have no point of reference for what Japan would have been like in the 80s. There are a couple of music references that indicate the 80s but I found even the clothing description could have easily been applied to the present day.

This novel is a perfect place to start for any first-time erotica reader, though it may set the bar pretty high for anything afterwards. I really enjoyed reading this book and will be placed on my short list of recommendations for this genre.

 

My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih

Finding hope in the darkness, both literally and figuratively…

3/5 stars.
ARC, ebook, 208 pages.
Read from July 6, 2018 to July 12, 2018.

Expected publication: September 11, 2018

WWII and holocaust survivor stories are some of my favourite reading genres so when I saw this book on Netgalley with the absolutely raving reviews I knew I just had to read it.

Set in Kwasova, Ukraine during WWII, My Real Name is Hanna is a unique coming of age story.  With the rise of Nazi Germany, Hanna and her family don’t initially suspect that that anything will happen to them in their small town.  Hanna spends her time helping her neighbour dye decorative pysanky eggs and hanging out with her friend Leon.  However, the tides quickly change with the Nazis on their doorsteps and the carefree life and childhood that Hanna has known comes to an abrupt end.  Her family is desperate to stay together and do whatever it takes to keep it that way. A few kind friends and neighbours help Hanna and her family plot their escape into the forest when the Nazis come for them.  After their first safe place comes under threat, Hanna and her family are forced underground where they have to learn to live in a cramped cave in order to avoid the horrible Nazi forces.  Finding hope in the darkness, both literally and figuratively, is all that Hanna and her family have left.

Everyone seemed to love this book and while I didn’t dislike the novel I also don’t feel the need to rave about it either. I am struggling to find the words for my indifference to this story as the plot was exciting and definitely nerve-wracking at times.  The plot and layout of this story is its best feature but I felt a disconnect between some parts of the story and with the characters. For example, the book Hanna was given as a gift, which is the focal point of the first chapter, felt absolutely unnecessary in the rest of the book and really could have been edited out.  Based on the reviews I have read, it seems that the majority readers had a strong emotional connection to the characters but I, however, found it a bit lacking. The characters struggles, as awful as they were, did not seem like they were communicated as well as they could have been.  While one of the most touching scenes of the story entails Hanna and her friend Leon but at the same time, Leon also felt like an unnecessary character. If the story had focused on just Hanna and her immediate family members, the characters might have felt a bit more robust to me.

I can see why readers have compared this story to The Book Thief as this book has successfully discussed a difficult and tragic story but has also kept it attainable for youth readers.  However, in terms of potency and character development, The Book Thief is still the clear winner for me.

While I wasn’t as enthralled with this book as other readers the content of the story is good and many others swear by its moving story so I would still recommend this book for those interested in the WWII narrative and YA readers.