Size Doesn’t Matter (98): No Holding Back; The Creeping Shadow

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (98): No Holding Back; The Creeping ShadowNo Holding Back by Kate Evangelista
Narrator: Emily Bevan
Series: Dodge Cove
Published by Swoon Reads on October 18, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
one-half-stars

A romantic European vacation is the perfect excuse to let go in this highly anticipated sequel to No Love Allowed by Kate Evangelista.

Everyone knows that Nathan is in love with his best friend, Preston…Everyone except Preston. Nathan has always accepted that Preston was too focused on his swim training to worry about love. But Preston is heading off to train for the Olympics soon, so if Nathan wants his chance at love, he has to speak up now. But saying “I love you” is surprisingly difficult, even for someone as confident as Nathan. Maybe a whirlwind vacation in Europe could help? But… what if it doesn’t work out and he loses the best friend he’s ever had?

Kate Evangelista’s No Holding Back improves on No Love Allowed, the first book in the Dodge Cove series, which I immediately loathed last year. I wouldn’t have requested No Holding Back if I’d realized it was a sequel. And, let’s be real, I wouldn’t have missed out on anything if I hadn’t.

No Holding Back didn’t make me mad, and it was a quick, easy read, but that’s about all it has going for it. The romance is fairly cute, too, I guess, but it’s impossible to ship characters strongly when they’re barely developed.

Evangelista skims the surface of everything. Nathan’s passion is party-planning and Preston’s is swimming. Other that I know that they both love their friends and that Nathan’s obsessed with Adam Levine. End characterization.

Though the book centers on a European vacation, it very much doesn’t feel like they went anywhere but a bunch of hotel suites. Literally, they go to Paris and look at one bridge for all I know. They go to Amsterdam solely so that Nathan can eat a pot brownie and finally feel brave enough to confess his feelings, since in this world pot apparently works like a mixture between pot, alcohol, and ecstasy; he totally wakes up with a hangover the next morning.

Mostly, though, it’s the writing that’s the real problem. Evangelista’s writing is very much not good. Here’s a sampling of lines that stood out as especially awful.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect we have gypsy in our blood.”

Never a good idea to put a racial slur in a novel just for lols.

Immediately, the group launched into an explosive rendition of their most popular song—fast and emotional.

This is almost the whole description of the Maroon 5 concert Preston and Nathan go to. It feels like Evangelista couldn’t even bother looking up what their most popular song was. This is a great example of how, even though they go lots of cool places, it never feels like they’re actually there. And look at that telling. Saying “fast and emotional” does not trigger emotion in the reader.

Yet at the back of his mind, he knew the dark kiss of the robust roast wasn’t what he had been craving.

This line made me laugh-groan-snort. My boyfriend can attest to this fact.

It took a moment for Nathan to respond, but when he did, Preston felt it like a wave crashing into the shore: all at once, with arms thrown around his neck.

In no way does that metaphor work. This book tries sometimes to be literary and intense, but it all just comes off silly because there’s so much dramatic emotion there and the characters are far too flat for the emotion to feel authentic.

There are so many better m/m romances out there. Read one of those instead. If you need recs, ask; I will help. I certainly will not be bothering with Evangelista’s books again, since I suspect this is about as good as it’s going to get.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (98): No Holding Back; The Creeping ShadowThe Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
Narrator: Emily Bevan
Length: 13 hrs, 2, mins
Series: Lockwood & Co. #4
Published by Listening Library on September 13, 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Horror, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
four-stars

After leaving Lockwood & Co. at the end of The Hollow Boy, Lucy is a freelance operative hiring herself out to agencies that value her ever-improving skills. One day she is pleasantly surprised by a visit from Lockwood, who tells her he needs a good Listener for a tough assignment. Penelope Fittes, the leader of the giant Fittes Agency, wants them - and only them - to locate and remove the Source for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. They succeed in their very dangerous task, but tensions remain high between Lucy and the other agents. Even the skull in the jar talks to her like a jilted lover.

What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving Steve Rotwell and Penelope Fittes just may do the trick. But in a shocking cliff-hanger ending, the team learns that someone has been manipulating them all along.

The Lockwood and Co. series has been consistently strong, and The Creeping Shadow is no exception. One thing I love about this series is that, where it began solidly middle grade, the characters have been growing up enough that the series now feels more young adult. Obviously, for me, that’s a bonus.

Since they’re older, for this book and the previous one, The Hollow Boy, the ship has been making its way toward the front of the story. In The Hollow Boy, Lucy realized she had feelings for Lockwood, but they unfortunately manifested in jealousy over Holly, the lovely new employee. At the end of the book, Lucy left Lockwood and Co. to work as a solo agent. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long for Lucy to get sucked back in, planning to help with “just one more case” as an independent agent, but you know where that’s going to go.

The Creeping Shadow‘s a big development book for Lucy. She grows a lot. Lucy essentially ran away from all of her problems at the end of the previous book, but they didn’t go anywhere. Leaving Lockwood and Co., her only friend was the skull. It’s actually quite touching how she’s able to admit now that she does care about the skull in a weird way, and he for her.

This book is such shippy torture most of the way through, because Lockwood and Lucy are so perfect for each other, but they both think the other person isn’t interested. The flirting and awkwardness are so well done, and I was basically all aflail whenever the ship was having a moment. The handling of Holly and George’s feelings, having also been left by Lucy, was excellent too.

The plot gets really intense in this installment. The overarching series arc started moving in The Hollow Boy, but now they’ve uncovered the big bad and everything’s poised to be super painful in the final book. I am super curious how Stroud’s going to resolve everything.

If you’re into dark middle grade with ship, Lockwood and Co. is one of the best series I’ve found to date.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Size Doesn’t Matter (98): No Holding Back; The Creeping Shadow”

  1. Is the next Stroud book really the last in the series!? Say it ain’t so.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – Ill Will: A Novel by Dan ChaonMy Profile

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