I chose Nightshade by A.K. Anderson because I like the title and cover, firstly. I like the way “nightshade” rolls off the tongue, the sinister little prickles on the back of my neck, the simplicity of the cover image.
The synopsis was intriguing, hinting at a murder-mystery type young-adult novel. It’s about eighteen-year-old Iris uncovering family secrets after the death of her grandma, and how they tie into her mother’s murder when she was twelve.
I was surprised by the fantastical elements to it, because usually the blurb before reading the book says something about how the hero/heroine must harness their powers or fight off dark powers or something along those lines, and there were no real hints before I started reading (unless, I guess, I had read any of the tags/categories for the book and noticed they were all sci fi/fantasy related). At the beginning, when I first realized it would be more fantasy than murder-mystery, I was disappointed, not quite mentally prepared for the shift in gears. As I kept reading, I quickly got over it and enjoyed the way the world of magic was portrayed somewhat casually.
Something else I probably should have listed about myself: I love love love poetic descriptions. The more surprising (yet perfectly correct) a metaphor, the better. Mark Zusak is my favorite author because of how well he does this in The Book Thief.
Some of the descriptions in Nightshade — a LOT of the descriptions — are right up my alley. Evocative in a brilliant way. One example: “He’s a leather jacket with a heartbeat.” Fantastic.
However. There was way too much of this. Almost everything had a laundry list of beautiful prose tacked onto it. The example above was followed by more [beautiful] imagery: “He’s a flashing yellow light at a too-busy intersection — a warning, a cautionary tale, a yes she might end up fervently wishing she’d said no to.” Wonderful, but it happened all the time and pulled me out of the tension too often, because I had to pause to appreciate the poetry then dive back in to what was actually happening in the story. I found myself skimming over entire paragraphs looking for the next bit of dialogue or something important to the actual story.
Another thing that surprised me by standing out was the number of F-bombs dropped. I have a character in my own writing who is liberal with his swearing, so it was good for me as a writer to see how it works for a reader. At first I was able to brush it off as just how the characters talk, but it got repetitive and trite very fast. There were times when the word was warranted or fit really well, but the “punch” was lacking because it was so heavily used throughout.
Overall, I enjoyed the story. I read it during the five hour flight from California to D.C., so I definitely don’t feel like I’ve wasted anything by investing my time and energy into it, and would recommend it as a decent free option for Kindle. That being said, I’m not chomping at the bit for the sequel. I was invested in it enough that when I finished, I looked on Amazon for the next in the series, but it’s a prequel-sequel and TBH Monroe is my favorite character, so I didn’t feel like reading a story without him in it. The sequel-prequel is only $0.99, so if you read Nightshade and fall for the history of the characters, it would be a worthwhile purchase.
Also: I just went in and checked on Amazon (because I care) and for non-Prime members this book is $2.99 on Kindle. If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t have wanted to pay even that, but another thing to know about me is I have a freaking huge wishlist of physical books in the $10-$15+ range just waiting for me to have a little extra spending money (and shelf space…and time to lull my husband into a false sense that I’ve finished purchasing books on books on books…because I prefer ink-and-paper to electronic) so for my Kindle reads I rarely spend over the $3 mark and prefer to stay around $0.99 or free.
Let me know if you do check it out. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts and discuss!