The Shadow Reader - Sandy Williams ***FAVORITE UF/PNR OF 2011***

“This is ridiculous, Aren. I’m not Cinderella at a ball. And this...this isn’t going to win my support, not even my sympathy. I won’t—”

He places a finger over my lips. “I forget my responsibilities when I’m with you. It’s nice. Peaceful.” His hand slides behind my neck, beneath my hair. He plays with the clasp of my necklace. “I wish you’d let yourself forget things when you’re with me. You’d be happier.”

Rating Explanation:

+1 star for McKenzie. She's everything an excellent UF heroine should be, but still has her own spark that's unparalleled. She's human, strong, sensitive, sharp, and witty. I adore her! Especially how she stood up to Kyol and Aren. She doesn't let anyone, no matter how sexy, push her around, and I seriously respect her for it.

+1 star for Aren. Again, he's the typical male lead but still unique enough that he doesn't blend into the endless list of hot heroes. And am I the only one surprised that the "bad" guy actually won the girl in the end? It certainly makes for a great change, especially since I was rooting for him throughout.

+1 star for the acknowledgment of all the violence and killing that goes on during a war. Most UF/PNR series brush murder and killing off with nothing more than the twitch of a dagger, but I liked how McKenzie felt every death and did suffer for it. She's the farthest thing from wimpy, but at least she's human enough to hate taking lives, no matter how necessary.

+1 star for all the action. This book certainly doesn't give the reader a chance to calm down and think things through. It also doesn't suffer from the Dull Beginning Disease. The Shadow Reader is surprisingly fast-paced for a first book, and so many things happen that it could have easily been a standalone novel, but I love the characters so much that I'm definitely not complaining about this being a series.

+0.5 stars for Kelia and Naito. These two were just too cute! I love their romance and the whole Romeo and Juliet aspect of it. I wish there had been more of them in here. I choked up when Kelia got killed. If anyone, I was expecting Naito to be the one who died, so Kelia's death came as an especially strong and emotional shock.

+0.5 stars for Kyol. I blame him for making McKenzie wait so long, but it's nearly impossible to hate him. He's just too sweet. And do I see a potential pairing with him and Lena? Hmm...

-0.25 stars for McKenzie's indecisiveness towards the end. I'm glad she finally chose who she would be with, but the 70 or so pages before the last chapter were my least favorite and I didn't like McKenzie going back and forth between the two men.

4.75/5 stars

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