Review of ‘Year of the kiss’ by Giselle Fox.

In New Year’s Eve artist Sasha and PhD student Naomi meet by chance and they briefly enjoy an incredible kiss. But things get complicated fast and they both go separate ways without knowing anything about each other. Will they be able to meet again and find out if that initial chemistry has potential to develop into something more permanent?

‘Year of the kiss’ is a sweet romance novella set out in Boston in New Years’ Eve and the first weeks of 2019. All the characters are
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Review of ‘Compass Rose’ by Anna Burke.

I rarely read sci-fi and even less pirates’ stories but this year I decided to read a few books that throw me out of my comfort zone. I’m glad I’ve chosen this one. Anna Burke is a new promising author and ‘Compass Rose’ is her debut book. For this novel she received the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Sandra Moran scholarship, created to mentor young writers like Ms. Burke.

‘Compass Rose’ is set in a dystopian world in 2513 in which the sea levels on Earth have risen and land is either flooded or too polluted to live on. Humans live on sea stations mainly located in the North Atlantic Archipielago. Compass Rose is a navigator born with an extraordinary ability: she can always tell her exact location and get the best nautical routes to a destination. When her Admiral orders her to work alongside mercenary Captain Miranda Stillwater to defeat the pirates that threaten to rule the Atlantic, her world turns upside down. But even her exceptional navigational skills won’t prepare her for Miranda’s captivating persona and for her threatening crew.

This novel is written in first person from the point of view of Compass Rose except for a brief Captain’s log at the beginning of each section (East, South, West, North, Center).The world the author built is very imaginative in its unpleasant and threatening nature. The dangers come in the form of gigantic squids, murdering pirates or greedy politicians. The beauty of this book is that even in this imaginary world we can see humanity at its best and worst. Ms. Burke’s use of nautical metaphors is beautiful and poetic.

Compass Rose makes a well rounded main character with all her extraordinary abilities and her shortcomings. Ms. Burke isn’t afraid to depict her as an unwilling heroine stressing on her fears and her anxiety coping mechanisms (her mantra ‘North, south, east, west’ is an amusing example). The cast of secondary characters is presented with no rush so each one can be recognised for their own physical appearance and personalities. The author doesn’t sugarcoat their cruelty or ferocity which makes the story very credible.

The romance is too much on the side for my liking but I understand the logic around it. This is not a romance but a fast-paced adventure novel. Despite that they are not together much, the chemistry between Rose and Miranda is sizzling and believable.

Overall, a very good pirates’ adventure novel for fans of dystopian sci-fi. Great debut novel by a promising author. 4.5 stars.

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Review of ‘When the stars sang’ by Caren J. Werlinger.

Kathleen Halloran spent every summer of her childhood in her grandmother’s house in Little Sister, an isolated island in Maine, until her younger brother died in an accident there. Twenty five years later, after her grandmother died, she decides to move back permanently. But the islanders are a tight community and her arrival stirs old memories and distrust. Among them is Molly Cooper, the attractive part-time sheriff that is less than enthusiastic about the newcomer. But as they get to know each other, their attraction grows and Molly wonders if Kathleen’s past will make her bond with the island or take her away forever.

This is a very good novel by Ms. Werlinger with many different ingredients like drama, angst, humour and romance in a delicate balance. Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters Kathleen and Molly, the story unveils slowly ideal for taking all in.

Ms. Werlinger builds an interesting world in this small island. She takes her time describing how the islanders blend their Irish and native (First Ones) heritage, their mix of Paganism and Catholicism, a culture not attached to consumerism or property laws and very close to nature.

There are lots of secondary characters but Ms. Werlinger introduces them slowly and each with their own distinct personalities so it’s not a burden on the reader to recognise them. There are different types such as extroverts, introverts, mystic, caring, loyal, and even quirky, like in Robin Alexander’s books. There is also space for a very cute dog.

My only issue with this book is that I couldn’t feel the sexual intimacy between the main characters, they feel more like life companions, lacking passion. It doesn’t help that all sex scenes are fade to black. It’s a minor issue because this story isn’t solely a romance. Additionally, the villain characters, especially Kathleen’s parents, seem a bit stereotyped and the story could have gained from getting to know them better in their suffering. Having said that, this is a very enjoyable book for those who are looking to read a life story rather than a romance.

Overall, a very good book about life in a small and tight community. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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