Monday, March 11, 2013

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

I don't usually read romance.  Of any kind.  Except for the occasional Jane Austen or L.M. Montgomery book.  It just doesn't appeal to me.  I prefer reading adventure stories, and, if romance must come into play, for it to be a secondary storyline.

But Unearthly, a paranormal romance, piqued my interest.  So I entered the giveaway and, to my shock, won!  The other exciting part is that the author was doing the giveaway so I won a signed copy and two signed bookmarks.

While it was exciting to win, this in no way formed my opinions presented below.  Just in case you were wondering.

I struggled, at first, to get into Unearthly, although I'm not quite sure why.  The premise was interesting, the world-building intriguing, and the characters pretty well developed and unique.

I think it was the romance part that made me halt.  I just don't read romance.  So there I was, waiting for it to happen, watching it all unfold pretty normally, no shocking twists or turns...

And then WHAM.

This book is not just romance.  It's part family drama -- the tension between the daughter and mother was not expected but expertly crafted, especially near the end.  Neither of them are 'bad' or unlikeable.  But they are not communicating and it causes a wide rift between them that makes all sorts of problems.

The worry about the younger brother, although a side storyline, ramps up the tension even more.  What will happen to him?  What is he doing while we can't see him?

Then there's the whole new-girl-new-school-new-people thing.  But it isn't the hackneyed "Everyone thinks she's perfect" or "everyone hates her".  It's a mixture, just like in real life.  She finds a friend pretty quickly, only to connect with another classmate later and realize she's made two very, very different friends.  More tension.

Then comes the romance -- which isn't really *all* about the romance.  On one side, you have the beautiful guy you're supposed to be saving -- who already has a girlfriend; on the other hand, you have this...cowboy version of Mr. Darcy who takes every opportunity to give the heroine a bad time (at first).  Yeah, I have to admit, I like him a lot more than the 'beautiful guy' (even though they're both attractive, of course...which is my one nitpick about romance.  Fall in love for someone other than their looks *first*, please.  Realize they're attractive to you later), and liked him immediately.  He had the whole Gil thing going for him (even calling the heroine "Carrots").  Although he's the brother of one of her friends, which adds another layer of tension.

Then you have the internal struggle -- what's my purpose?  Who am I?  What if I don't accomplish my purpose?  What will my parent's reaction be?  What will happen to me?

While typical teenagers don't definitely know their 'purpose', we can all sympathize with the "Who am I?/What am I here for/what will my parents' reaction be if I fail?" roller coaster of emotions.

I also really loved that the heroine wasn't "I'm perfect and awesome" or "I'm ugly and disgusting".  She was a typical teenage girl (while also being paranormal).  Happy and carefree some days, angry or sad other days, but all within reason giving the circumstances.  She is a middle-of-the-road heroine, apart from her angelic good looks, somewhat content with her lot in life but still wondering just what life has in store for her.

To include all of that in a "paranormal romance" and then on top of it add detailed descriptions of the area that they live in (seriously, enough detail to make it feel like you've visited the area after reading the book while not letting the description drag the narrative down), along with a sweet, budding romance that is fresh and innocent (it was so refreshing to not read a bunch of sexy smut.  I really, really appreciated it -- it was age appropriate without being cheesy or gross, which, in my opinion, is extremely hard to pull off) -- well, I was pretty flabbergasted at just how much was in this book, because it was effortless to read after the initial "I don't know that I can read romance" halt.

The ending definitely made me want to continue reading the series.  I felt the emotion of the characters -- fear, love, hate, awe, disappointment, confusion...there's a lot of loose ends that I need tied up.

The only thing I am nitpicking is that everyone seemed to be good-looking.  But I guess if you live in a resort area and some of you are angels, there are lots of pretty people around.  So I'm only sort of nitpicking.

Props to Ms. Hand for writing a paranormal romance that even non-romance readers can enjoy.  I'll be checking out the rest of the series from the library (or signing up to win the others -- hey, I'm poor).

If you like stories about the paranormal (particularly angelic beings), family dynamics, young romance, or Western imagery, you should give this one a try.

I'll be reading the Beautiful Creatures series next week, so look forward to a review sometime in the next few weeks.  I'm also finishing up a few other books, but I'm not promising a review by next Monday.  I will, however, be writing the normal Wednesday and Friday posts.

Still working on my other website, but I have decided to keep posting reviews on here irregularly.  The other site will focus more on film and television and the craft of writing.  I'll let you know when it's ready.

Have a great week!

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