Book Review: The Hush, Hush Series


I haven’t done a book review on here for a while, and I have quite a few to get caught up on. I read the first two books in Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series back in May, and finally got around to reading the third and fourth book this August. I decided to just review all of them briefly in one post. Overall, I really enjoyed them, although unfortunately the last installment didn’t quite pull me in like the others did.

I actually became curious about the series because of a few bad reviews I saw about it. Well, “bad” is probably putting it lightly…”scathing” is more like it. And they had less to do with Ms. Fitzpatrick’s writing style/plot/characters and more to do with her main male character, Patch, her quintessential reformed (or is he?) bad boy character, because, you know, it’s impossible to enjoy a character in a book/TV show/movie while recognizing their less desirable qualities wouldn’t make for a good partner in real life. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.) And, although they’re in the minority, she’s also gotten some bad reviews on Goodreads…and this time, by “bad,” I mean actually just pretty horrible and inappropriate. Basically just bullying. I mean, it’s the Internet, so they could be trolls…but if they’re not, there’s really no good excuse for bullying anyone, ever, no matter how justified you think your cause is. (I know by now you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about, so go on Goodreads and take a look for yourself.)

A little more about this at the end of the post. For now, let’s take a quick look at each of the books:

1. Hush, Hush

I thought this was a great debut novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Fitzpatrick’s writing style. She sets the story in the slightly dreary Coldwater, Maine, and creates this perfectly sinister, creepy, Halloween-ish atmosphere. It was reminiscent of L.J. Smith’s earlier work (although, in my mind, few people–if anyone–can trump L.J.). Yes, at this point the plot-line is somewhat overdone and predictable, but I gobbled it up just the same: Nora Grey, a smart, cute-if-something-of-a-misfit high school student, encounters Patch, dark, mysterious boy who seems like bad news, and yet Nora can’t resist his magnetic pull (obviously). I know I sound snarky, but I honestly devoured it. The book is mostly centered around unraveling the mystery that is Patch and his relationship with Nora.

Some have criticized the book as being a Twilight ripoff. There are some parallels, but nothing that jumped out at me as obvious plagiarism. I mean, to give credit where credit’s due, Twilight did open up the market for teen paranormal romance, so there are going to be some similarities. But it is also quite possible for two or more people to come up with fairly similar ideas without being influenced directly by each other’s work.

The books are told from Nora’s point-of-view, and I really liked her character. She’s a smart, motivated high school student. Her best friend, Vee, adds some comic relief to the series and is my favorite character. Nora is also the victim of some pretty vicious pranks by Coldwater’s resident mean rich girl, Marcie Millar. I enjoyed most of the characters, even though secondary ones like Vee and Marcie never seem to break out of their stereotypes. (Marcie starts to, a little, later in the series.)

In fact, I have to say the only character I found to be a little underwhelming was…Patch. For being the dark, mysterious, sexy bad boy, he didn’t really pop off the page for me as much as he should. Also, I never could quite get past his nickname. Patch is just not a sexy nickname, in my opinion. It makes me think of an old pirate with missing teeth or a little kid who gets into a lot of mischief and ends up hurting himself.

But, overall, an entertaining read. I gave it four/five stars on Goodreads because it built up a lot to a twist at the end that wasn’t that earth-shattering. (There is, however, a perfectly creepy seen at Delphic amusement park and a particular ride called the Archangel…I LOVE creepy amusement parks in horror/paranormal books!!!)

If you haven’t read Hush, Hush yet and plan to, I’d stop reading now…spoilers ahead…

2. Crescendo

In Crescendo, we delve a little further into Ms. Fitzpatrick’s dark world of sexy fallen angels and the cursed Nephilim–the children of fallen angels and humans, languishing in between these two worlds and destined to swear fealty to fallen angels. We know that Patch was a fallen angel in Hush, Hush, but, due to the events at the end, now has his wings back and is a guardian angel. But his relationship with Nora isn’t picture perfect, and she catches him doing some pretty suspicious things…like hanging around her arch-nemesis Marcie an awful lot. It doesn’t help that Vee is dating Rixon, Patch’s bff, so Nora can’t quite avoid Patch/people-that-know-Patch completely. Meanwhile, her mother forces her to reconnect with a childhood friend, Scott, who turns out to have some dark secrets of his own. Rixon, though, was my favorite character in this book until…..oh, Rixon…..

From what I recall, this book ended with a cliffhanger, so be prepared for that.

Four/Five Stars

3. Silence

I enjoyed Silence a lot more than I expected I would considering what happens in the first few pages. Which, thankfully, I can tell you about, since it’s in the book’s synopsis and not a spoiler! Nora can’t remember the past five months of her life…including, of course, Patch. So, yes, part of the book ends up being a series of revelations that the reader already knows. This could have ended up super annoying, but I think Fitzpatrick did an excellent job with it…at least for me, I could see where it might bug some readers. I also enjoyed Patch’s character a lot more in this book, and there were some pretty sexy scenes.

I also gave this book four/five stars, and I did have a few issues with it. First off, what happens to Vee in this book, and especially in the last book? Isn’t she Nora’s bff? Where did she go? It’s like she just disappears for large chunks of books three and four. Since I liked her so much, this was really upsetting. Also, Fitzpatrick seems like she’s setting up a whole Scott-Nora-Patch love triangle…not that I necessarily wanted that to happen, because that’s overdone, too, but it definitely seemed headed in that direction, and then it just…doesn’t. (And then you find out in book four that Scott thinks of Nora like a sister? Um, his affection for her in Silence definitely does not seem brotherly.) There’s also a lot of to-do about Nora and Scott going “as friends” to her homecoming dance–Marcie drags Nora out shopping for a dress, and they make a really big deal about finding a dress, and then–the dance doesn’t happen. The book ends before the dance happens. I found this to just be really strange and kind of sloppy. But I’m still giving it four stars for having a nice blend of sinister, romantic, steamy and funny moments. And Scott, who was kind of a jerk in Crescendo, really redeems himself in this book.

4. Finale

I gave this book three out of five stars because I finished it, but honestly, it was a really disappointing end to the series for me. It had its moments, including some surprising twists at the end with both new and old characters. But all in all, my least favorite in the series. I guess I prefer the off-and-on again of fictional relationships because, when Patch and Nora finally end up together, it’s just…annoying, haha. Their romantic dialogue was a little too contrived or something. It doesn’t all come easy for them in this book–they still have some barriers to overcome, including Nora’s attraction to her own dark side. That could have been a really good, gritty plotline (and something I’m exploring with one of my own characters right now), but it fell short for me. I think because Nora feels too guilty about it, haha. Fitzgerald should have pushed her just a teensy bit more.

I will say, though, that Nora turns into a pretty bad ass character. She has to accept a new leadership role in this book and embrace her Nephilim side, so I liked seeing her character develop in these ways.

***

In summary, it’s a series I would recommend to fans of YA horror/paranormal romance (except for maybe Finale).

And now, to wrap up this review, I’m going to put in my two-cents about the scathing reviews I alluded to above. There are some people who think that the popularity of YA paranormal romance is a reflection of our current culture…and not the nice parts. Now, I get that the books/TV shows/movies of a time period can say a lot about a culture, although I also think part of it is just paranormal romance happens to be one of the “hot” trends right now in book publishing. Its popularity will wax and wane just like everything else, until something new replaces it. That doesn’t mean authors will stop writing in the genre, or that readers will stop reading…just that it won’t be quite the sensation it is now.

That being said, there have always been books that have sought to appeal to our darker side…books that mix elements of the horror genre with elements of romance. I really think that the current YA horror/paranormal romance genre is inspired by (not saying they’re on the same level as) the gothic and dark romanticism movements of long ago–writers like Poe, Hawthorne, Shelley, Lord Byron, the Bronte sisters, Stoker. Writers that explored fringe/outcast characters, antiheroes, and darker themes like the origin of sin, temptation, lust, forbidden love etc. Work that sometimes had a romantic twist to it, albeit a dark one. The idea of darkness being attracted to light, of sin to innocence (like Patch to Nora), is nothing new, and the mere exploring of this theme in writing or some other media is not the same thing as endorsement. So you really don’t have to read the series that way. It’s a forbidden love story…it’s dark and twisted. It’s supposed to be.

 

Help Me Pick a Tagline!


I’ve been struggling with picking a tagline for the front cover of Relapse, so I created a short poll to get your input! My graphic designer is already hard at work on the cover, and I want to give her something to work with.

The first option in the poll was my original idea, but I think Siobhan’s going to be solo on the cover, so it wouldn’t make as much sense anymore.

If you don’t like any of them (which is perfectly ok), you can pick none, or write in your own in the poll or the comments. Or, let me know in the comments if you like one of them but have a suggested reword.

Thanks for your help! :-)

Relapse Playlist


Just for fun, here’s a playlist of the songs I was listening to while I was writing Relapse. Links take you to YouTube.

I guess I really like Placebo…

1. “My Sweet Prince” by Placebo

2. “G.U.Y.” by Lady Gaga

3. “Oh! You Pretty Things” by David Bowie

4. “Cars” by Gary Numan

5. “Bad” by U2

6. “Shout” by Tears for Fears

7. “In the Cold Light of Morning” by Placebo

8. “Shady” by Adam Lambert

9. “Meds” by Placebo

10. “Goodness Gracious” by Ellie Goulding

11. “Blind” by Placebo

12. “Pretty When You Cry” by VAST

13. “Devil Inside” by INXS

It’s That Time Again


It’s that time again…time for an update, that is!

Some of you may have caught the Facebook status update a few days ago, but just in case you didn’t…I finally finished my first completish draft of Relapse! Yay! There was a time when I was seriously nervous that this book was never going to happen. Getting over writing Part One was the biggest hump because it set everything else up. It was really hard for me to start writing past that until I was happy with it. But now, suddenly, it’s all out of me. I have a list of things to go back and tweak before I give it to my beta readers. Of course, nothing’s final yet…lots of editing will happen, I’m sure. But it just feels really awesome to have it out of my brain. It’s a lot closer to what I envisioned.

It’s also quite a bit longer than Reborn, which is about 230 pages. I thought that was a decent size for a debut novel, especially since you’re just getting to know the characters. Now that you realize you LOVE my characters (lol), you get to see even more of them. Right now Relapse is about 97K (yikes), which comes out to 300+ pages. Somehow I’ve managed to write so many pages of book and zero pages of dissertation. (Which I’m planning to start writing in August. I swear.) Priorities…..

Relapse has turned out to be pretty dark. So I’m a little nervous for all of the reviewers who were all “Oh, Reborn is such a cool, fun read! Yay!” That they’re going to read Relapse and be like…erm, well, this is dark/depressing. The ending in particular. It’s not a cliffhanger…there are loose ends in the book (because, if all keeps going well, I’m going to write even MORE books!), but it ties things up somewhat at the end since the next book is most likely going to focus on a different set of characters. Now, although I envision a happier ending for the series (because, come on, who doesn’t like those?), the ending of every book isn’t going to be puppies, unicorns and rainbows. Sorry, I’m rambling. Siobhan is going to fall, perhaps more than once, before she gets her happy ending. I guess I’m just curious as to how people feel about darker endings. It’s something I like exploring, especially since most YA/NA books these days seem to have happy-for-now or neat-and-tidy endings. Also, this book is full of most of my characters being very, very naughty (yes, even the ones you probably thought were good).

Some more bad news/good news: The bad news is, someone gets off-ed in Relapse. The good news is…it probably isn’t anyone you were getting horribly attached to (we’ll hope not).

Let’s see, what else can I ramble about? Hmmmmm…I think I’ve mentioned this before in other posts, but Relapse has two major first person POVs: Siobhan and Carly (one of Siobhan’s sorority sisters). This was something else I was worried about going into writing it because it seemed a little risky, and I wasn’t sure if I would end up liking it or not. That being said…I personally think it works really well. (We’ll see what my betas think.) Carly’s story branches off because she gets trapped in the clutches of another sort of dark, mysterious, mischievous character, who’s of course not all that he seems to be (yeah, I know, I’m obsessed, what can I say?). I think it’s a cool subplot because you get to see a little more of Olympus and its culture this way…a little more strictly fantasy, rather than fantasy mixed with modern times, like it is in Siobhan’s world.

Have I confused you yet?

Anyway, I’m getting super excited about Relapse, and I hope you are, too! I’ll try to post a teaser in the upcoming weeks. I think I’m still on track for a fall release date. I did not feel that way about a month ago, haha, but I’m definitely more confident now.

I thought I’d have more to write tonight, but I guess that’s it, so toodles for now! Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments…or comment with your favorite character from Reborn! Just because I’m curious…(And, ladies, pick someone BESIDES Jasper, lol.)

Character Profile: Apate


You may remember Apate as Eric’s other “teaching assistant”/minion of darkness in Reborn. She’s the goddess of trickery/deceit and has a much bigger presence in Relapse. Now that Jasper’s gone for good (…), Apate is next on Gamma Lambda Phi’s list of asses to kick back to Olympus. She also antagonizes Siobhan like it’s her raison d’etre. I’ve been having a blast writing her character, so thought I’d share!

Species: Olympian

Age: In Olympian years, a young adult

Physical Description: Petite; obsidian hair; creamy complexion; wine red lips; cat-like green eyes; often wears black; smells like iron and roses

Relationships: In Relapse, she sets her sights on Jimmy to be her “new toy” (poor Jimmy).

But her most important relationship is with her twin brother, Dolos, who Eric is holding captive to get Apate to do his bidding. Dolos is really the only person Apate would do anything for.

Goal: To free her brother

Obstacles: Being a spirit of deceit, she has trouble getting people to trust her. She also has a hard time trusting other people.

Strengths: Beautiful, confident, independent, doesn’t (usually) care what people think of her, loving (at least when it comes to her family)


Weaknesses: 
Jealous, suspicious, mischievous

Power: Apate and her brother can produce complex illusions, making others see/hear/taste/feel/smell whatever they want them to.

Who would play her in a movie: Phoebe Tonkin, of The Secret Circle/The Vampire Diaries/The Originals fame

Theme Song: Kesha’s “Cannibal”

 

“I’m impulsive. I do things for my own amusement, not really thinking through how it affects other people. Sometimes not really caring.”

 

 

WIP Wednesday: June 18, 2014


I haven’t done an update post in a while, but I’m sick and bored today, so here we go! First off, Reborn is now available on Smashwords and a few other places! Yay! If you’ve read it and would like to leave a review, you can find it on Smashwords here and Barnes and Noble here.

As you might remember, the purpose of Work-In-Progress (WIP) Wednesdays is so I can set personal writing goals. It also serves as a way to let you all know what I’m working on. I hope you’ll join me and link back to your own or share in the comments!

To play, just fill in the following:

1. What are you currently writing?

2. Inspirations:

3. Plan for the upcoming week:

***

1. What are you currently writing?

I’m still slowly but surely writing Relapse, the sequel to Reborn. Although I’ve made a lot of progress on it, I never seem to get as far with it as I think I will. I thought I’d have a complete draft done by the end of May, but that totally didn’t happen, haha. I think I keep misjudging because I’m learning as I go along, and it takes a long time to write a book. Also, this one is turning out to be longer than the first one, so there’s that.

That all being said…when I checked it out a few days ago, I realized (happily) that I had made a lot more progress on it than I thought! Right now it sits at about 61K! Which is awesome especially compared to the progress I’ve made on my dissertation! So hopefully I’ll have a complete draft for betas to look at soon, because I’m definitely getting to that point where I’m just like…I need someone besides me to read this…

2. Inspirations:

I discovered a new/old(?) group! And I really like this song, although it’s really sinister sounding (but I think that’s why I like it). Also, another warning, the video is kind of creepy…

3. Plan for the upcoming week:

I don’t really have a concrete plan except to just continue chugging along. I do have some book reviews I need to get caught up. I recently re-read The Forbidden Game by L.J. Smith and wanted to write a little bit about that, but I also have some books I need to read/review for fellow authors that I just haven’t gotten around to yet. :-( So, sorry for being slow, but I’ll get caught up with that!

Let’s Talk About Jasper


I feel the need to talk about this because…well, I keep going over and over things in my mind (I tend to obsess over things), and I just need to get it out. So, what is it that’s been plaguing my mind lately? One of my favorite topics, of course: the archetypal “sexy bad boy” of paranormal romance.

I’ve talked about it before on this blog, but I’m going to talk about it again. Because it’s my blog. And, in all honesty…sexy, arrogant bad boys who have a hard exterior but are, you know, so vulnerable and angst-ridden inside is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. I realize it’s ridiculous, and I make fun of myself a lot for it. He doesn’t even have to be someone’s object of romantic feelings to get me interested…it’s all about the suggested complexity of the character. (Take Loki from the Thor franchise, for instance. He isn’t anybody’s boyfriend. He’s Thor’s dark, sullen, angst-ridden adopted brother. And one of my all-time favorite characters. What I really might have is a thing for the underdogs.)

I promise I’ll get to Jasper, in a minute.

Anyway, I’ve been reading A LOT of blog posts about the darkness and bad romances of YA literature, mostly because I’m in the midst of reading the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick. I hope to get around to reviewing them on here, but in a nutshell, for me they weren’t as bad as the critiques I’ve read made them sound. But, then again, I’m a twenty-something woman who has a healthy outlook about relationships and can separate dark fantasy from reality. We should be paying attention to how our young heroines and their romantic partnerships are portrayed in YA because its primary audience is still at an impressionable age. I can totally see that. I’m just trying to give you an idea of why I’ve been thinking about this lately.

Now, I think a lot of my readers have picked up on what I’m trying to do with Jasper’s character. I’ve only known of one person who said he was “creepy,” and I don’t think she finished the book. Some other readers have loved the book but have said they either didn’t like or weren’t sure how they felt about Jasper. And I’m here to tell you that this is absolutely fine, and probably a good thing, because Jasper does a lot of really shitty things in Reborn.

Jasper is, in my mind, the ultimate bad boy fantasy. I’m not saying “fantasy” to imply that he’s any sort of ideal. He’s not. He’s the Greek paragon of love (well, lust might be a better word) and desire. He’s physically strong, powerful and sexy. From the back story of Reborn, you get the feeling that he may have, in the past, been a more loving, respectable person. But even when Siobhan encountered him in the woods back in high school, he had already become the darkest version of himself.

Okay, I’m going to stray a bit off topic again, but not really. If I could sum up the vision I have for this series in one word, it would be: control. At the highest level, there’s the idea of fate. Of there being a guiding force in the universe pushing you toward a certain point (or person) no matter what you do. This isn’t necessarily a reflection of any personal belief I hold, but it’s a part of this fictional universe I’m creating.

At the level underneath that, I’ve created my version of the Greek gods and goddesses. We know they’re not really divine, but just a super advanced civilization we can’t really comprehend. So advanced, that they’re really, really bored. How do they entertain themselves? By meddling in the lives of lesser beings. Control and manipulation are their forte. They’re always striving for the upper hand, even amongst themselves. And when that happens, who gets caught in the crossfire? The humans and halflings. This is the species Jasper is a part of.

Reborn starts off with Siobhan running into Jasper everywhere. He’s the TA of her class…he’s at the bar she randomly goes to with her friends…he’s at a mixer her sorority has with the Sigma Iota fraternity. It creeps her out…and it should. Is he intentionally running into her? Or is it fate trying to push these two together again? I’m leaving that up for the reader to decide.

Anyway, Jasper tries the whole I-should-get-to-know-Siobhan-as-she-is-in-this-life thing. He could have probably tried a bit harder, given her more of a chance, but he’s impatient and selfish. Siobhan may not remember their past life together–but he does, and it’s torture for him that she has very little recollection of something that was so important to him. I’m not defending him…but as a character, this is where his motivation is coming from. He grows desperate. He realizes he’ll do anything to get her back. This includes turning her against a few people she really cares about (Jimmy and Victoria) and the other thing she realizes he’s doing (I’m trying not to make this too laden with spoilers). Jasper–and really this goes for most of the other Olympians–hates not being in control of a situation.

Siobhan is a control freak in her own way. In Reborn, this is shown primarily through her role as social chair for Gamma Lambda Phi. She has a hard time trusting other people, even her own sisters, to get things done. This may be why Jasper is really her own personal, ultimate dark fantasy. He’s literally a sex god, but he’s also her enemy. He is her temptation (it wouldn’t be called temptation if it was good for you). With Jasper, she gets to relinquish all of that control she exerts over her own life.

Reborn is also about love versus lust. What Siobhan feels for Jasper in Reborn really boils down to lust. And she realizes this toward the end. Yes, I’ve pegged it as a “paranormal romance,” but that’s a matter of having to market it as a certain genre. It’s a sexy book, but I wouldn’t call it romantic. It’s dark and a little sinister at times. Perhaps “dark fantasy” is a better term for it, but what the hell does that even mean, anyway? Ha! (Honestly, having to fit your book into a predefined nook is annoying at times.) Not that I have a problem with formula fiction (I love dirty paper back romance novels!), but Reborn was never meant to follow a certain formula. It’s about temptation and all-consuming lust. It’s about fantasy versus reality.

Another tangent: Have you ever read The Forbidden Game trilogy by L.J. Smith? She is, in my book, the original queen of YA paranormal romance. (If you haven’t read it and I’ve piqued your interest, don’t read this because there are spoilers.) The first book is about a teenager named Jenny who gets trapped (along with her friends) in a game orchestrated by Julian, this platinum blonde Shadow Man who has fallen in love with her. I remember thinking, as a teenager reading this series, that Julian was totally hot. I reread it a few years ago and still loved the book. It (along with Smith’s other work) has definitely inspired my own writing, including Reborn.

I think what was especially neat about it is that it allowed its presumably YA readers to enjoy a dark-ish fantasy while keeping the fantasy part in its place. Jenny is drawn to Julian because…well, he’s hot, mysterious, and powerful. But he’s also, you know, kind of putting her and her friends through this horrible ordeal…this twisted game. As the trilogy moves forward, he is painted as a rather vulnerable, misunderstood character. But at the end, Jenny doesn’t end up with him. She acknowledges the impact he’s had in her life…he’s helped her discover her sensuality…and, although the idea of being his Shadow Princess or whatever does tempt her, she chooses “reality” in the end. Julian is her fantasy, and there’s a place for him…but real life and love is so much more rewarding. (I can’t lie though. There was that small part of me screaming GO TO THE DARKNESS JENNY. STAY WITH THE COMPLICATED, SEXY SHADOW MAN.)

I don’t think every work of art or writing or whatever has to have a message. A lot of it doesn’t…at least not an intentional one. In Reborn, I’m exploring certain themes and characters that I find interesting. It’s not Moby Dick or something. But a few of those themes are lust versus love, fantasy versus reality. Jasper is like Julian…he’s dark, mysterious, maybe a little complicated, sexy…but a fantasy. And there’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy; we just have to remember that it is exactly that.

I should bring this back around. What was the point of this post again? Oh, yes, the previous paragraph…and that, if you don’t like Jasper, that was intentional. You can think he sounds sexy, but not agree with his actions. Not every character has to be likeable or redeemable. (That being said…Jasper will have a few redeeming qualities that show up in Relapse. Only because I’m trying to blur the lines between good and evil. He’ll do some good things, and some of my “good” characters will behave very, very badly. But this doesn’t mean the good he does gets to cancel out or make you forget all of the bad things he’s done.)

Do I like Jasper? Well, as he is one of my creations, I love Jasper like one might love a child even though he does bad things. ;-)

***

“Ours is a dark, delicious fantasy, but nothing more. It’s like grasping at the tendrils of a dream upon waking—one moment you’re on the cusp of something incredible, but when the fog of sleep clears you can barely recall what that incredible something was—and if you do, it’s not the same.”