Spellbound (Spellbound #1)
Life hasn't been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she's irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.
But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can't stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma's been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.
I liked the chemistry between the two but the revelation of what is really going on I felt came a little late in the story. I still kept reading as I love the idea of an endless love even if it might be doomed from the start. Emma's confusion about Brendan and her anger on how she was treated by her stepfather are shown in such a way that feels real and not forced. Emma is spunky and not afraid to reach out to others at the school that don't fit the 'in' status. The mean girl Kristin felt a little too one dimensional at times though her hatred of Emma over Brendan is very real. Some of the things she does to get back at Emma are cruel but do happen in a real life situation.
One of my favorite characters had to be Emma's friend Angelique, who helps her find out more about a medallion that might be a clue on the attraction Emma has with Brendan.
At the end of the book is a list of what is playing on Brendan and Emma's iPods. The songs are linked to different scenes throughout the book. I really loved this addition which helped me glimpse into the world of both of these characters.
I'm hoping there will be a next book as the ending hints at one. For sure Spellbound will keep readers just that with a love that lasts throughout time.
I really enjoyed the different characters that Cara Lynn Shultz melds together. You have Emma who, at first is the type of girl who shuns away from confrontation, but then as she is constantly picked on at the posh private school she attends, she begins to break out of her shell. I’m not sure “break” is really the word, even, more like lashes out of her shell and charges anyone who gets in her way. It’s great to see Emma’s confidence in herself build, and it’s even greater to see her start to stand up to Kristin (the resident, rhymes with smee-ootch) of the school.
Then you have Angelique—the resident emo witch of the school who I absolutely adore! She’s so spunky and from the moment I met her, I couldn’t wait to see how her character developed. Besides Brendan (who’s my favorite because let’s face it…he’s an overprotective hottie with parent issues…yum), Angelique is definitely my favorite character. I can’t wait to see what awaits her next!
Okay…drum roll please…..Brendan!
Give me a moment to form my thoughts….because right now, all I’m getting is:
BRENDAN!!!! OH LA LA!!!!! BRENDAN!!!!! EEEEEKKKK!!!!! BRENDAN!!!!!
Where to begin? He’s got dark hair and mesmerizing green eyes that literally take your breath away. He’s tough as nails—winning every fight he gets in to, seriously, Cara Lynn Shultz should put him in a fight club—the only thing that could make this guy even hotter! His parents are practically “The Queen” type of rich, and the parent issues are obvious from the get-go. But who doesn’t love a guy that’s a rebel? What else? He’s crazy protective—which I love even more! The scenes where Brendan sticks up for Emma are the absolute best in the book!
You know, it’s not very often that I find a book that quite literally speeds up my heartbeat. I found myself growing increasingly nervous as things became even more dangerous in the book. Even now, thinking back on it, I feel my heart beating a little faster—and I know how it ends!
Now, there are a few flaws. Namely, I wish we would get more details about Emma and Brendan’s relationship (it’s pretty G rated)—there’s only so many kisses I can read about before I scream, “Come on! More!” But, maybe Cara Lynn Shultz is saving that for the future. I also wish there would be a few more plot twists (there were some aspects of predictability).
As far as content goes, the only thing you might be wary about is the underage drinking (which there is quite a bit), and some violence against women. But truthfully, I wouldn’t mind my teenage daughter reading this one.
If you’ve got a foothold in the book world, you’ll know that Spellbound has been all the rage lately. Book bloggers keep on reviewing it and giving it five stars, and it’s currently the second most requested book on NetGalley.
But if you ask me? I don’t see what this hype is about.
Yes, Spellbound was a nice break from vampires and werewolves. Yes, Spellbound had a cute couple. Yes, Spellbound had interesting characters. Yes, Spellbound had an interesting plot.
But that’s not enough to reel me in, trust me.
Sure, Spellbound isn’t about vampires and werewolves. Lots of books aren’t these days, thankfully. (Otherwise I would give up on books, honestly.) But Spellbound is based on something that’s getting slightly old. Reincarnation. I’ve already read a few books about that.
Sure, Spellbound had a cute couple. Emma and Brendan are just adorable for each other, and they really do have chemistry. But honestly, their love for each other doesn’t seem real to me yet. Even with that ending of how to break the curse and how Brendan was willing to sacrifice himself for Emma, their love isn’t realistic. In fact, the ending made me even more convinced that their love isn’t realistic. That’s classic. It’s cheesy.
The characters? I wasn’t lying when I said that they were interesting. But I didn’t mean the main characters. Because in addition to their un-real romance, they are both un-real characters. Emma is a Mary Sue. Seriously, coming from a tragic past? Pretty and kind of smart? Has a rich and powerful aunt? And even though I love her for standing up for her younger cousin, Emma is not kick-butt. Snarky, yes (and I do admit that I love snarky protagonists), but not kick-butt. Did she kick Anthony’s butt? No. She had to be saved by the hero of the day, Brendan.
And Brendan? He’s DEFINITELY a Marty Stue. Without a doubt. Smart? Strong? Athletic? Incredibly hot? Devil-may-care attitude to everyone except Emma? It’s completely obvious. And I know it was necessary because Archer wanted him to be reincarnated as handsome and strong and smart and all of those things, but does it really have to be that obvious?
And the plot. It was definitely interesting watching Emma and Brendan trying to get past the curse, but it was completely predictable at times. I definitely found out about the reincarnated love far before Emma read about Archer.
And at times, the plot reminded me of Twilight. Pretty girl going to a new school, where she gets new friends and finds true love in a hot guy she meets? And this hot guy is different from all of the others because of whatever improbable reason? Yes, Spellbound was a tad bit Twilight-esque.
Now that I’ve got all the negativity out of my system, I’ll talk about the good things. I loved Angelique. Angelique is Emma’s best friend. And Angelique is a witch. A good one, that is. Angelique was amazingly considerate and supporting of Emma, trying to help Emma break the curse and convince Emma to get in touch with her inner witch.
I loved Cisco too. Though it was obvious from the moment that I met Brendan that Emma would end up with him, I half hoped that Emma would end up with Cisco . . . until I learned that Cisco was, unfortunately, not interested in females. But Cisco was realistic and friendly and everything I hope a friend could be.
Overall, Spellbound was a predictable book with unrealistic main characters, but I highly enjoyed Emma’s snarky attitude, Angelique’s witchy-ness, and the romance between Emma and Brendan.
Source: ARC/galley received from publisher for review
While the whole plot of Spellbound does involve what I have termed instalove, it is much better done than in a lot of YA. I don't want to spoiler anything, so I can't be too detailed as to why it makes sense in this case. Generally, though, despite the great attraction the two main characters feel to one another, they do try to fight it, in ways that are rather familiar to anyone who has gone through high school. So, while their romance is unrealistic, that's because this is fantasy and, accepting the fantastical plot, I think it has been well done.
What really made Spellbound an utter pleasure for me to read, though, was not the romance or the sexily disheveled hero of the piece. Shultz clearly loves pop culture and references it constantly. At pretty much every reference, I really just wanted to give her a high five for her sense of humor and her good choices. While I did not love everything she referenced, I think the references were well-woven and fit with the personality of the narrator.
I definitely ended up being quite impressed with this novel. Spellbound is ultimately just a flight of fancy, not a great literary work, but I highly recommend it to anyone looking for fun, romance and magic. There is also a pretty dang convincing horror scene in there, too. Recommended to people who liked The Eternal Ones (or who liked the idea and thought it could have been waaaay better).
even though there's instalove, it's well-handled
I really liked the plot in this one. It was quite swoonworthy - a true soulmate that you keep finding generation after generation, only to lose soon after they’re found? Lots of potential there. The characters were the real treat for me, though. I especially liked Emma, she was strong and kind. She’d had a shitty past few years and still managed to have a fairly happy outlook. She was able to blow off the bullies in her new ultra-rich private school while also befriending the “weird” social outcast who happens to be a gothtastic witch. A few of the characters leaned toward the cliché (i.e., the almost unworldly handsome reformed bad boy, the Louboutin wearing rich spoiled girl, the gay best friend), but I was able to look past those.
The dialogue was snappy, though I disliked Emma’s tendency to say snarky things to herself. Say it loud and proud sister. The behavior of a few of the characters gave me pause. I wondered why Emma was so obsessed with Brendan so soon. She had just barely met him, yet she was totally destroyed when he turned a cold shoulder on her. That went beyond a simple crush. Although, I guess it could be argued that they were soulmates so she was drawn to him. Then there was the student who clearly had an anger issue and simply went off the deep end. I found his level of anger very hard to believe.
I also liked the story within the story, aka how Emma and Brendan got screwed and ended up with a curse. It was fun to read the old-timey stuff as it related to the characters today. And what would a book about soulmates be without a little swoon? A boring-ass book, that’s what. Luckily, there was lots of swoon to be had. It was sweet and new-relationshipy, and though it got more intense as the book progressed, it was never taken too far or made too graphic. The novel’s final climax was a nail biter, with lots of action. I was surprised at how the final action came about, it wasn’t what I was expecting.
I’m a big fan of the cover – I like it’s simplicity and the font suits the story so well. The girl running and the shattered streetlight all fit perfectly. For some reason the long blond hair says “Little House on the Prairie” to me, but other than that, I think it’s perfect.
The writing and vocabulary is not earth shattering. But a tightly woven tale is established throughout the book. Spellbound is not a book that will have the read looking in the dictionary every five minutes. But it is not childish enough to bore the reader to death either. It hovers at a nice place in between. A rather perfect place actually. The vocabulary is more then respectable enough to properly convey the emotion and meaning of the characters, action, and imagery with a very smooth flow. Spellbound is a nice sit-on-the-comfy-couch-curled-up-with-a-blanket-and-cup-of-coffee-on-a-rainy-day-to-enjoy-some-chill-time kind of book.
I do have to mention though, that I felt the dialog was a bit lacking. The conversation between the characters felt bland. Not bland as in boring and uninformative. But bland as in I could not develop any personality difference between Brenden and Emma. The two very much seemed exactly the same person. The tone I heard in my head while reading the conversations between these two characters felt the same as if they were the same person. I didn’t feel like this with other characters such as Ashley or Angilique. Anthony had a bit of the same personality blur with his dialogue but the detailed nuances of his temper and attitude as described in the text gave Anthony his own image, albeit not a good one. I found myself hating Anthony and, by the end of the book, wishing him dead.
I have to make a note about the characters. Emma, the primary damsel in distress, is absolutely adorable. She is the character that has had the devastating life that everyone should want to save. You can’t help but feel sorry for Emma and intrigued by how strong willed and emotionally stable she is. Brenden, the shining knight, is the ever loving bad ass every girl wants. His outward actions make him appear as a heartless player but eventually he softens and the reader can see the gentleness behind him. The antagonists are the type of characters the reader will be thrilled to hate. As I mentioned, by the end of the book, I wished Anthony dead. The author picked the right little quirks and adjectives to explain these people in Spellbound in such a perfectly personality intertwined tale.
Now again, I mentioned I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this book. I don’t mind romance subplots. I mean, I do like some chick flicks. But having the entire plot based around a doomed and raging romance is not my cup of tea. With that, I have to be fair. I kept swaying back and fourth with Spellbound. The beginning of the book left me wanting to read more like a day time soap opera. By the middle of the book enough of the paranormal dash was mixed in that I forgot about the deep romance plot behind the book. I also spent some time wondering if there would be a sequel, and thinking that there should be because events are slow to unfold through the first half of the book. Then the romance thickens in the second half and the plot evolves quickly. I don’t think this book needs a sequel. Maybe a spin off for Angelique, but we don’t need to know anymore about Anthony (hint hint, Cara Lynn Shultz). The conclusion of the book deserves good praise and a final fight though.
Ultimately, I like a little more careless action in a book. Whether it is wizards facing off, ticked off kids in the hallway, or what have you, I like my action. A little action and violence really can emphasize the passion between characters. But I think Cara played it perfectly. The perfect pinch of distasteful womanizing abuse was thrown in to really make the antagonists stand out. The romance was a little thick for my taste. I know my wife will love this book (hint hint, Mandie). And, even though romances aren’t my thing, I will happily recommend Spellbound to anyone.
This is one of the few books I can honestly say I enjoyed, from cover to cover. There wasn't one page I got tired of reading. Emma's story was just so engrossing it sucks you in. You can't wait to find out what the deal is with her medallion (necklace, charm, whatever. It's this cool, gothic-like piece of ancient history that really ties the entire story together), and what's going on with this thousand-year-old-curse. That concept alone made the book's mystery factor shoot up into 'OMG' areas.
Okay, moving on from the always lovable, Emma, lets get onto the most important factor in the book...
BRENDAN!! He was so...ADORABLE! Even when he was being a jerky idiot I loved him. And when he kept standing up for Emma and being all protective, I kind of swooned! I loved him! He puts the book's OMG factor at around a billion. Really liked Brendan's character. And the romance between him and Emma was so cute and realatiable.
Actually, the entire cast is lovable! From Emma's quirky friends, Cisco and Angelique, to the bitch-of-the-novel Kristin and Emma's too-cute cousin, Ashley, I kind of loved them all.
I really liked the (semi) final confrontation with the jerky psycho of the story (what good tale doesn't include a guy who's off his rocker?). But I liked it more that the author left some ends untied, which totally means SEQUEL!
Also, the final-final chapter, with Angelique, was really cool. Oh, and the playlist! Have you seen a better composition of artists? This author is awesome!
Can't wait to read more from this author, and more of these characters!
(Almost forgot...THE COVER. I love it. Nuff said.)
The characters are great. I like Emma and Brendan. They have this whole star-crossed lovers thing going on, and I totally buy into it. Enchanted amulet. History repeating itself as penance. Got it. Add this to Emma and Brendan and you have youself a pretty hot romance.
There was an element of supernatural at play in the story that I honestly thought would deter my reading. I'm not a big fan of "witch" books. I guess I just have a hard time buying into that magical element. BUT, this book really wasn't like that. There was an underlying element of magic throughout the book, but it wasn't overpowering. I really appreciate that. I can also see how the magical aspect will be important in future books. Yep, I'm totally speculating that there will be more books in this series. There were too many loose ends that I would want to see wrapped up for there not to be a sequel.
Overall, it was pretty good and I did enjoy it. I found myself not eating because I was so invested in the book. The story moves pretty quickly and it's easy to become engrossed in the plot. If I gave half scores, I would say a 3 1/2, but since I don't do halves it gets a solid 3. I may change it to a 4 after I ponder on the book a little longer.