Dark Promises by Christine Feehan

DARK
Dark Promises by Christine Feehan
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (316 pgs)
Heat Level: Hot
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Gabrielle has had enough of battles, of wars, of seeing the man she’s engaged to nearly lose his life when it isn’t even his fight. Once Gary was a gentle and very human researcher. Now he’s a fearless and lethal Carpathian warrior with the blood of an ancient lineage coursing through his veins—a man Gabrielle still needs and dreams of with every breath she takes. All she wants is a life far away from the Carpathian mountains, far from vampires and the shadows cast by the crumbling monastery that hides so many terrible secrets. But Gabrielle soon learns that promises made in the dark can pierce the heart like a dagger.

And she isn’t the only one in search of answers in the corners of the unknown….

Trixie Joanes has come to the Carpathian mountains in search of her wayward granddaughter, fearing that she has been lured there by something unspeakable. Instead, Trixie has stumbled onto the path of a desperate woman on the run. And they’re all fated for the lair of a mysterious ancient with revenge in his soul and the undying power to make bad dreams come true.

If readers are looking for a sexy paranormal romance story with lots of adventures in passion then Dark Promises delivers.

Aleksei is an ancient Carpathian and Ms. Feehan created her hero to be as deadly, dark and commanding as any she’s introduced readers to yet. The one element that is insidiously sensual is his dominance. All Carpathian men are control freaks due to their living in the time when men were warriors, but the author takes the hero to a new level. At first it is an extremely uncomfortable level especially when Gabrielle and Aleksei first meet. He’s wild, untamed, violent and uncontrollable. Fans of the series will understand what drives him and will more than probably accept his behavior with the understanding that he’s overwhelmed emotionally by all the feelings that bombard him all at once. Much of it comes from his misinterpretation of the situation. New readers might be turned off because his initial brutality is shocking; it was even for me, a longtime fan. Once the hero calms down and is able to listen, he slowly starts to figure out he was partly wrong. Never totally wrong, mind you, but certainly some.

Gabrielle is a hard heroine to completely like. She has her moments and I believe and agree with Aleksei’s understanding of her; she’s a submissive. How that revelation comes about needs to be read to understand why I agree. Submissive doesn’t mean ‘doormat’, it means she needs someone to lean on when she needs it and needs–here’s the big thing–to trust that the person will deliver, will be there for her and will understand her needs. When the heroine’s strength has to be counted upon, she comes through. Her character flowers under Aleksei’s care because he truly does ‘get’ her. One scene even dabbles with a little bit of light BDSM hence the mention of Gabrielle’s being submissive. I just didn’t like all the crying she did.

The flowering, so-to-speak comes from sex; lots of sex. I think Ms. Feehan basically shows how Gabrielle and Aleksei fall in love, come to terms with and learn about each other, through all the sex scenes that populate the book. In fact there is so much of it, page after page, that I was hard pressed to find an external conflict. There are a few token suspenseful moments but it goes right back to sex. Dark Promise is basically a hot, sexy romance with light paranormal drama to enhance the love story.

For me, what stole the limelight and the show away from the emotional drama that is the Gabrielle and Aleksei show was Trixie. When Trixie meets Fane, it was pure magic. I’m not sure how to describe their meeting but it was more romantic, fun and enjoyable than the main hero and heroine. I adored Trixie. I liked her sass, her moral compass and her dedication to family. I was thrilled with how Fane treated her, thought of her and talked with her. I felt happy, completely happy when they were on stage. As secondary characters finding their HEA, Ms. Feehan presented a winning combo. Fane and Trixie rock!

The book winds down with hooks for new books, new characters and Carpathian men to save. Certainly I want to read them because I never know just how the author is going to save the hero and what kind of woman is up to the job of taming her caveman Carpathian. That’s half the fun of this series – old fashioned warrior men versus strong-willed modern women.

Dark Promises does have a satisfying happy ever after and tells a good romance story. Many fans will enjoy it and for those that just love the sexy side of a Carpathian romance, those readers are probably going to be extremely happy.

The Ex-Factor by Laura Greaves

EX
The Ex-Factor by Laura Greaves
Publisher: Destiny (Penguin)
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (285 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Quince

Talented, gorgeous and hopelessly in love, American movie star Mitchell Pyke and Brazilian supermodel Vida Torres were Hollywood’s most talked-about couple. They seemed destined for ‘happily ever after’ – until Vida left Mitchell for his best friend, and Mitchell publicly vowed he would never love again.

Sydney dog trainer Kitty Hayden has never even heard of Mitchell Pyke. Still reeling from the loss of her mother, Kitty is too busy cleaning up the various messes made by her indolent younger sister, Frankie, and trying to find a girlfriend for her terminally single best friend, Adam, to keep up with celebrity gossip.

When her work takes Kitty to Mitchell’s movie set, their worlds spectacularly collide. The chemistry between them is undeniable – and it’s not long before Kitty is turning her life upside down to be with her leading man.

But as Kitty quickly discovers, when someone as famous as Mitchell Pyke tells the world he’ll never love again, the world listens. And the vindictive Vida is never far away. With constant reminders that she’s merely a consolation prize, how can Kitty compete with such a tenacious adversary – especially when she starts to suspect that Mitchell isn’t over Vida after all?

Ever since I saw Notting Hill, I like books, movies, and TV shows featuring romances between a celebrity and a non-celebrity. For that particular reason, I decided to read The Ex-Factor. It turns out The Ex-Factor is not so much a romance novel, but chick lit; which wouldn’t be a problem if the blurb indicated that (it sounded very much like a romance) or if more emphasis had been put on the relationship between hero and heroine.

The Ex-Factor is an interesting story about finding yourself and making the peace with your past. In some parts the story was very predictable, and the romantic part is too superficial for my taste, but taking everything into account i.e. characters, development of the story, writing, I enjoyed reading it.

The story started strong, with a slap on the movie set where hero and heroine met and in no time heroine was moving from Australia to the USA. Wow, talk about fast love. But what I missed from this fast love is how and why they fell in love. I didn’t feel the connection between Mitchell and Kitty. I think that a few more scenes and more dialogue between the two of them and the story would be perfect.

Speaking of Mitchell, he’s somewhere in the back of the story and not fully developed. I couldn’t say that he is the main character. The author did much better characterization of Kitty’s best friend Adam and her sister Frances; they are such great secondary characters. Also Kitty, oh Kitty, she is sweet and strong, and life has thrown her some serious punches. Once she got rid of the ghosts from the past she was able to live and love again. I was so happy that everything turned out just fine for her.

Readers who like chick lit that focuses more on a heroine’s trials and not so much on the romance should give this one a try.

Sisters Fate by Jessica Spotswood

FATE
Sisters Fate by Jessica Spotswood
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Alternate Reality
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

A fever ravages New London, but with the Brotherhood sending suspected witches straight to the gallows, the Sisters are powerless against the disease. They can’t help without revealing their powers—as Cate learns when a potent display of magic turns her into the most wanted witch in all of New England.

To make matters worse, Cate has been erased from the memory of her beloved Finn. While she’s torn between protecting him from further attacks and encouraging him to fall for her all over again, she’s certain she can never forgive Maura’s betrayal. And now that Tess’s visions have taken a deadly turn, the prophecy that one Cahill sister will murder another looms ever closer to its fulfillment.

In an alternate 1900s New England, suspected witches are sent to the gallows–although they are hardly the witches of olden days. No, these are gorgeous contemporary girls with lives, loves, and special powers. They’d use the power for good, if they could–like curing disease–but they are in a world where helping someone means putting themselves at risk.

Spotswood’s characters simply shine. The good in their hearts speaks louder than any special magic skills, readers can’t help admiring them and sympathizing with their plight. These are not the dark characters found in some tales: no, in fact, Cate’s specialty is healing magic. Tess, who can foretell, seems always the sweetest and most vulnerable of the sisters, Maura… oh, dear, Maura. Sisters can be sisters! In a family of remarkable closeness Cate and Maura have their differences – different approaches to try to achieve the same thing, only here, those differences might lead to disaster.

Cate struggles not to lose boyfriend Finn, who has no memory of her, while being true to her sisters. Finn is a simply wonderful, real, heartfelt character; readers will adore him.

Spotswood’s New England is both familiar and entirely strange: geographically the same and yet, a magical world that is scene to the struggles between powers.

Although part of a series, this can be read and understood as a stand-alone. Reading this makes me regret not starting at the beginning! Although a ‘paranormal,’ Sister’s Fate, so character-driven, will have a wide general appeal and might well draft a few new readers to the genre! Beautifully written.

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

GRETL
Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville
Publisher: Penguin Imprint – Hamish Hamilton
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (358 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Daisy

A dark, distinctive and addictively compelling novel set in fin-de-siècle Vienna and Nazi Germany—with a dizzying final twist.

Vienna, 1899. Josef Breuer—celebrated psychoanalyst—is about to encounter his strangest case yet. Found by the lunatic asylum, thin, head shaved, she claims to have no name, no feelings—to be, in fact, not even human. Intrigued, Breuer determines to fathom the roots of her disturbance.

Years later, in Germany, we meet Krysta. Krysta’s Papa is busy working in the infirmary with the ‘animal people,’ so little Krysta plays alone, lost in the stories of Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, and more. And when everything changes and the world around her becomes as frightening as any fairy tale, Krysta finds her imagination holds powers beyond what she could have ever guessed. . . .

Gretel and the Dark is a strange mixture of genres. Historical, fantastical and sometimes sadly romantic, it keeps the reader yearning for more details of its protagonist’s life, right up until the end. There are three distinct time periods which make up the narrative of the book. One is in the past, one the assumed present and one becomes the new, later, present towards the end of the book. It becomes apparent as the pages go by that these narratives are intertwined. Fairytale links help to support this, as well as the similarities in characters.

The protagonist in this book does not have an easy ride and this is not a traditional romance by any means. There are some romantic elements but these are often sad, seemingly impossible, or darkly one-sided. The main character faces paedophilia and cases where men much older are keen to be intimate with her. However, these implications are subtly done and not too graphic to read. They are along the lines of saying the man placed his hand on her bum and forgot to remove it or that he touched under her skirt where the woman said no man should. These instances are by no means present throughout the whole book but it is a recurring theme in light of the historical time period the main character experienced.

The novel covers the time period of Hitler, pre-Hitler and post genocide. The protagonist and her love interest are the main sweet romantic thread. They make it through horrific scenarios together and come out stronger but this is not a tale which ends in marriage and kids. The ending reminded me of the bitter-sweet movie PS I love you; even though it didn’t end in death, it made me tear up. This is not a feel-good novel.

The fantastical elements consist of the protagonist’s imaginings and fairytales or old wive’s tales remembered from her youth and threaded into the narrative. In one case this was used repetitively to imply the rape of the protagonist as a child by older men to avoid any graphic descriptions. However, this is also used to show the child’s shaky grip on reality and their need to escape it for a better world, where she can make a difference to the outcome of her life. The fairytales may be dark but they hold the determination of a strong woman, prepared to battle the monster behind her misfortunes.

I gave this book 4.5 stars because, despite all the strong thematical links and historical references, the beginning of the book was too full on. Too many fantastical references were thrown at the reader at once. I would have preferred a slower opening. I also found that I did not pick up on the historical links until much later in the book. Someone thinking along more historical lines would have made the connection a lot earlier but because nothing like this was mentioned in the prologue, I assumed this was merely a dark tale based upon a fairytale, with no real life, historical links.

However, I believe a reader will feel the emotional pulls of history through this book, following in the footsteps of a character full of hope, obstinance and determination to survive and have her own way. She can be too stroppy, as most children can, but she makes it through terrible times off her own back and, through her, I had a peep hole into history I could never have experienced first hand.

A Wanted Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey

WOMAN
A Wanted Woman by Eric Jerome Dickey
Publisher: Penguin Group (Dutton)
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (428 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Ginger

She is a woman of a thousand faces, an assassin who could be anyone, anywhere.

The Trinidad contract was supposed to be simple: to make a living man become a dead man. When the job goes bad under the watchful eye of a bank security camera, there is nowhere for agent MX-401, known as Reaper, to hide from the fearsome local warlords, the Laventille Killers.

Her employers, the Barbarians, send her to Barbados, the next island over, barely two hundred miles away, with the LK’s in hot pursuit of the woman who took many of their own. With the scant protection of a dank safe house, no passport, and no access to funds, an island paradise becomes her prison.

While she trawls for low-profile assignments to keep her skills sharp and a few dollars in her pocket, Reaper discovers that family ties run deep, on both sides of the fight. Will the woman everyone wants, who has lived countless lives in the service of others, finally discover who she really is?

Have you ever walked in on a movie during the middle of the action scene? You probably were puzzled, didn’t have a clue as to what was going on but you were trying your best to catch on to what was happening? Well this was the feeling I got when I started reading A Wanted Woman.

The main heroine who is faceless and nameless, is stationed in Trinidad. She is there to complete a mission that is suppose to be simple, but finds herself on the run and in hiding after she killed her assigned target plus several other people whose family and associates are now wanting revenge. In a strange land, no money and trying to stay under the radar, MX-401 is on a mission now to survive and get away from the members of the Laventille Killers (LK), who are seeking revenge.

Taking time to call a past lover, and reflect on her also assassin father, Old Man Reaper and coming to know new family members, the author has a lot going on in this action filled 400 plus page novel. Believe me, I am an avid reader and love to escape within the confides of a novel, but with this Dickey novel I am sure I missed a lot because I couldn’t put myself into this story. This is a novel that requires patience, time and also you will have to pay attention so that you will not get lost and confused. The characters have odd names. I didn’t get a feel for any of the characters. They just weren’t believable or developed enough. For a novel of this size I feel like I should know the characters in-depth and still have a connection after spending so much time with them. There is a lot of insignificant small talk in the dialogue that took away from the thrills and action of the book.

True to his pattern in writing style, Dickey did do his research and history on the islands of Trinidad. His detail and description of the geographical location is full of depth and colour. Another one of Dickey’s talents is to write such a long loquacious novel. Dickey has a creative talent and his own personal flare of word play and writing style to a rhythm that his work flows to. Reading his novel will stimulate your mind from a world of action, to sensual love scenes. In this novel you will find graphic and explosive gun fire confrontations, cursing, violence and even a rape scene.

I have read the majority of Dickey’s books prior novels; and love his earlier works that didn’t require so much time and thought to unravel. If you are a fan of his most recent work you may enjoy this one as well. If you have never read Dickey’s work and you are into super novels and you can keep focus on the centered plot even when the author gives a lot more, this will be a novel you would like to give a try.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

GRIMM
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
Publisher: Puffin (Penguin Group)
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (338 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rated: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lupine

Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library – a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That’s where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales; seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime or captured by the thief.

Polly Shulman has created a contemporary fantasy with a fascinating setting and premise, starring an ordinary girl whose after-school job is far from ordinary and leads to a world of excitement, romance and magical intrigue.

Elizabeth is new at her school, and she wants to make some new friends. Her social studies teacher recommends that she take a job at the Repository, where they store ancient and even magical items that people can borrow.

It also houses the Grimm Collection, a room that holds things like Cinderella’s glass slippers or the seven league boots or even a magical tablecloth…but someone starts to steal things out of the collection and Elizabeth and her newest friends decide to find out who it is.

This novel is not for the faint of heart, as it holds many surprises and is perfect for those who like a mystery around every corner. It even deals with real world problems, along with the magical ones.

I enjoyed it a lot, and it had a good plot. I got quite attached to the characters and enjoyed how the author mixed realistic things with magical. The Grimm Legacy is perfect for people who like a little fantasy that takes place in the real world.

Atlantis Rising by T. A. Barron

RISING
Atlantis Rising by T. A. Barron
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin Books)
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, YA
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rated 5 stars
Reviewed by Lupine

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

In a magical land called Ellegandia, a young boy named Promi scrapes by, stealing pies, cakes and sweets to survive. But little does he know that his country is a pawn in an ages-old war between good and evil, battled both in the spirit realm and in the human world. Harboring secrets of his own, Promi teams up with a courageous girl named Atlanta and the two vow to save their land—and each other—no matter the cost. But their vow has greater repercussions than they ever could imagine—in fact, it may just bring about the creation of Atlantis, an island cut off from the rest of the world, where magic reigns supreme.

T.A. Barron has written another epic tale…only this time it’s about a magical land called Ellegandia, and young thief named Promi.

Promi steals food, clothes and anything else he needs to survive. But little does he know that when he attempts to steal a pie from the Divine monk that he would be caught, thrown in a dismal dungeon and his life would change forever. Soon, he learns that his country is a battleground for a war between the spirit realm and human kind. Hiding a birthmark that has been written about in multiple prophecies, Promi tries to ignore the imminent battle that will come. But when he meets a smart girl named Atlanta, the two of them, and a kermuncle named Kermi, try to save their land—and each other—no matter what happens. But their actions reap a much bigger surprise…

This book was a total page turner. There was never a dull moment, and there were plenty of surprises hidden around the corners. I was frantically flipping through the pages, anxious to see what would happen next and frequently surprised by what did occur.

The characters were what really made the book great, though. Though they started out as perhaps less than admirable, I was pleased with the changes of heart that the characters went through while they journeyed together. It was, overall, one of the best stories about Atlantis that I have read yet.

It’s perfect for fans of Mythology, folklore and fantasy of all ages.

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

FROZEN
Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Dystopian)
Length: Full Length (325 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lupine

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she’s heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.

For fans of dystopian novels, Frozen fits the bill.

Natasha “Nat” Kestal is just another young blackjack dealer in New Vegas, once known for its lights and glamor. She’s one of many suffering through the harsh, freezing weather like everyone else…but she’s different; marked, as they call it. Every day she fears being executed, or even worse…thrust out into the cold, to starve and die, to become a “Thriller”.

Nat dreams of something new, a healed land, known as the Blue. It’s paradise, where there’s real food, clean water, and sparkling blue skies. She won’t be threatened or hurt anymore, but the only way to get there is treacherous and demanding. She has to rely on an annoying smuggler named Ryan Wesson, better known as “Wes”.

Her only chance to live freely lie on a path covered in death, despair, and tragedy. She has to cheat and lie her way through, even if she is falling for that cocky smuggler. Who can she trust…and who wants her dead? This tale sends the reader spinning into an icy land where true love might win all.

Frozen is really the best dystopian book I’ve read in quite a while. It had my attention from beginning to end; never slowing or moving too quickly. The pace was just right for the plot points. I completely enjoyed the premise, though it was so close to real — I could see it coming to be — that I was just a bit frightened.

I’d recommend it to anyone of any age. It has all sorts of things: romance, suspense, a tad bit of horror and a pinch of magic all mixed together in a really good tale.

Russian Roulette: The Story of an Assassin by Anthony Horowitz

RUSSIAN
Russian Roulette: The Story of an Assassin by Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Philomel / Penguin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full length (372 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Alex Rider’s life changed forever with the silent pull of a trigger.

When Ian Rider died at the hands of the assassin Yassen Gregorovich, Alex, ready or not, was thrust into the world of international espionage—the world’s only teenage spy. Alex vowed revenge against Yassen and the two have battled ever since. Yet, years ago, it was none other than Alex’s own father who trained and mentored Yassen, turning him into the killer he would eventually become.

What makes us choose evil? Why did one boy choose to kill while another chose to risk his life to save others? In some ways, Alex Rider and Yassen Gregorovich are mirror images of each other. Yet the paths they traveled turned them into mortal enemies.

This is Yassen’s story. A journey down a darkened path.

The Alex Rider series has been out for a while and is quite popular. The thought of a young man being recruited to play spy is fascinating and while Alex has lots of skills, his life is dangerous enough to keep you on the edge of your seat while reading the books. When I found out this book was available, it was too tempting not to read. This is the story of the assassin on the other side: Yassen Gregorovich. He’s Alex’s mortal enemy but the same teacher worked with them both…

Mr. Horowitz writes thought provoking stories with lots of politics, black market dealings, assigned killings, and hard hitting action. This is a great series for young boys who find the run of the mill stories boring. These are not boring!

The story of Yassen’s youth and the tortures he was put through after the death of his parents is an ugly tale, but life is no picnic. The man who takes control of him first makes him play a game of Russian roulette. He survives that but understands that now his life belongs to the man in front of him. When he finally escapes him, the life he goes into is no better. What’s even more ironic is that the man teaching him will be Alex Rider’s father in the future.

My favorite part of this story is when Yassen gets even with those who treated him badly in the past. It’s not very nice, but they deserved it. His last assignment is to kill Alex Rider. There’s a good surprise ending that tells you the series is not done yet.

This series is a good fast paced action-packed suspense story expanding over several books. This book can be read as a stand-alone easily enough. I’d like to see more of Yassen’s story but who knows where the author will go next…

QB1 by Mike Lupica

Q
QB1 by Mike Lupica
Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin imprint)
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Length: Full Length (272 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Jake Cullen is a freshman quarterback playing high school football in the high-pressure land of Friday Night Lights (Texas). He is also the brother of Wyatt Cullen, who quarterbacked his team to the Texas State Championship last season–not to mention the son of former NFL quarterback and local legend, Troy Cullen. To be a Cullen in Texas is to be royalty . . . and a quarterback. All of which leaves 14-year-old Jake in a Texas-sized shadow, a tall order for any boy, especially one who’s merely a freshman.

While his teammates assume the starting job will be handed to Jake on a silver platter, the truth is that he has to fight for every snap and every ounce of respect. Jake may be a Cullen and he may play quarterback, but he is not his brother or his father. Being a good teammate comes naturally to Jake; being a winner and a celebrity does not. He’s just like every other boy–awkward around a pretty girl, in awe of his famous family, and desperate to simultaneously blend in and cast his own shadow.

We all are expected to live up to our parent’s expectations, to achieve what our older siblings have, possibly even surpass them. But what do you do when you’re expected to become your older brother in every way? This is the dilemma Jake Cullen is facing as he enters his freshman year of high school. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Wyatt, and his father, everyone looks to Jake to become the next Wyatt. Trouble is, Jake has no desire to become anyone other than he already is – himself. What will he do to make his father accept the truth?

I liked Jake from the very beginning. He’s funny, he’s sweet, and he’s loyal beyond doubt. But he’s also stuck between doing what’s right and what makes his family work best. Add to that the fact that he’s the younger brother of the town’s football hero and his difficulties multiply. He’s forced to prove himself more than anyone else and yet, he always somehow manages to do the right thing.

I hadn’t ever realized how big of a deal high school football was in Texas until reading this book. Having something be such a focus of your life can be both good and bad. Good because it gives you focus, gives you something to work towards and obtain. But it can also become very bad when it becomes the only thing you know, the only thing you do, the only thing you think you can achieve. This is the trap that Jake’s father is stuck in. Never having made his own dream come true, he’s trying to make it happen through his sons which leads to some very upsetting times for Jake. There were more than a few times while reading this that I wanted to shake Troy Cullen and say, “Look. Stop it.” But you can’t. All you can do is hope that he sees what’s happening himself and makes that effort to fix it as soon as possible.

QB1 is an amazing story of family, football, and all that comes with it. The beauty of this novel is that even if you’re not football royalty in small-town Texas, you can still relate to the Cullens and their struggles. At its heart it’s not about football, it’s about family and being the best person that you can possibly be, despite what anyone else thinks you should be. Who knows, you might even be surprised at who you really are in the end.