First up is On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves.
This is the story of Anna, a 30-year-old teacher, and T.J., the teenager recovering from cancer whom she is going to spend the summer tutoring on an island in the Maldives. Without giving anything away (it happens quite soon after the start of the book and the title's something of a clue!), they are involved in a plane crash, which results in the pair of them being stranded on a deserted island. They're then plunged into a desperate race for survival. I was gripped right from that point - how do you even fulfill the most basic need to find water when you're surrounded by millions of gallons of it that you can't drink? Life on the island is not all swimming and sunbathing; it's hard graft just to survive. Add to that the loneliness, grief and often despair that they feel, and it's a painful ride. But it's a beautiful one, too. In spite of the age gap, you can see what a great team they make, and as T.J becomes a man, and it appears that they will only ever have each other to depend on, it's natural for them to fall in love.
But you know as you're reading it that it can't last forever - they're fighting a constant battle against the elements as well as illness, not to mention the malnutrition caused by their limited diet. I spent most of the book in an agony of suspense, and I'm not going to spoil the ending for you. But it was without question worth reading. It's written as if the story is told in alternating chapters by the two main characters, and I felt this gave the story an added layer, to get both viewpoints as the story progressed. Yes, I did find myself thinking of both Castaway and The Blue Lagoon, but I thought it offered something different in the characters themselves, more than the setting. I loved it, and it's gone into my 'faves' folder on my Kindle ... 5/5 stars.
Next up is City of Ashes: Book II of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.
This is a YA (young adult series) which began with City of Bones - a book I enjoyed a LOT more than I expected to. I can't say too much about this book without giving away major spoilers from the first book, but the main protagonist is teenager Clary, and while we see most of the story from her viewpoint, we do get some insight into the other characters' minds, too. I don't read much YA (being a looong way past that myself, of course!) but I find Clare's writing compelling. The characters are complex and the story generally doesn't pull any punches, so it's easy to forget that it's aimed at the teen market. I didn't find this story quite as gripping as the first, but still head and shoulders above much of the adult urban fantasy out there. (And if you follow me on Facebook, you'll know I was underwhelmed by the big screen adaptation of the first one, which I saw last weekend - I really should have stuck with the books!) I'm looking forward to reading the next one. 4/5 stars.
Lastly, we have Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow.
If you follow my blog, you'll know that I've fairly recently gone to the 'dark side' and bought myself a Kindle, so I'm consuming electronic books voraciously. However, I like to read in the bath, and I do NOT trust myself near water with an electronic device, so I'm happy that I can still read the old-school way every day. I'm being judicious with the amount of 'real' books I buy now - after all, a large part of the reason for buying the Kindle was the space issue in our bursting-at-the-seams-with-books house. So I'm rereading some of my immense collection. Currently, the Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow.. Working for the Devil is the first one.
Dante (Danny) Valentine is a necromance. She can raise the dead, and does so for profit. Or, if not quite profit, enough money to pay her mortgage and allow her to eat. The book begins with a demon knocking on her front door and pointing a gun in her face with the demand that she follow him to Hell, because the Prince (the Devil) has a non-negotiable job for her. From then on, Danny's life (which clearly has an angst-filled backstory, glimpses of which we are shown throughout) seems to spiral into something approaching chaos. Although you get the feeling it's (almost) all in a day's work for her. I liked the story, the world-building, and most of all, the characters. It's always the characters that make or break a book for me. And more than Danny's character, I was riveted by that of Japhrimel, the demon bonded as a familiar to Danny by the Prince. In spite of his power and willingness to use it, he is taciturn and implacable for much of the story, but he is not the typical alpha male character. All the characters were well-developed and interesting, but Japhrimel was something a little out of the ordinary. Again, I can't say much without spoiling the story, but I remember finishing this and immediately ordering the rest in the series. I still love it, so that's definitely one paperback that won't be consigned to the charity shop any time soon. (It's unlikely any of my rereads will have less than a five star rating, by the way, unless they're interim books in a series - after all, why would I want to reread them otherwise?) 5/5 stars.