Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Book Review: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz.

Product details:
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: June 28th 2011
Paperback, 384 pages.
Rating: 3½ out of 5
Ages: YA
Source: Netgalley.

What's a girl to do when meeting The One means she's cursed to die a horrible death?

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.

Best described as Gossip Girl with a paranormal twist, Spellbound, the debut novel by Cara Lynn Schultz is brimming with hot guys, mean girls, and an ugly ancient curse which leaves our spellbound lovers in serious danger. An enjoyable, fast-paced read, with sassy prose and a feisty protagonist who I immediately warmed to, Spellbound was, however, a little lacking in certain departments. For one, it didn’t provide me with anything that I haven’t already read dozens of times before in YA paranormal romances (Haven and Shadow Hills are two that immediately spring to mind), and these days I need something more than the well trodden formula of new girl, new school, hot guy, insta-love, guy turns jerk, back in love, ancient curse, that this book offers.

Sixteen year old Emma Conner has experienced a lot of tragedy and hardship in her short life, so a new start with her wealthy aunt in New York is just what she needs. What she doesn’t need is the unwanted attention she attracts at her first day at Vincent Academy her prestigious new school on the Upper East Side, namely from Anthony who is a total sleaze, and Kristin, all round Queen bitch and leader of her very own band of mean girls, who has taken an instant dislike to Emma. It’s not all bad though. On her first day at school she makes eye-contact with Brendan Salinger, who happens to be just about the hottest guy she has ever laid eyes on, and is instantly smitten. Brendan seems pretty taken with her too, but then after a date and an almost kiss, he turns cold. Emma has to figure out if this guy is just not that into her, or if there is something more sinister at work, like, say, an ancient curse, that means the two can never truly be together…

So far, so predictable, right? Well, it was for, me, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this one. While the story and the mystery here are pretty formulaic, I have to admit, the love interest is smokin’ hot! Even though that YA affliction of insta-love is hard at work here (We have a soul mate situation), I couldn’t help but be drawn to Emma and Brendan. Emma is funny, feisty and has some great one liners, and even if she does lose all reason whenever Brendan is near, it’s hard to hold it against her. Brendan is just a bit yum! With his rock star good looks, and constant leaning, I swooned. What’s so appealing about constant leaning, you ask? Well to me, it reminds me of one of my all time biggest crushes Jordan Catalano* from My So-Called Life, who made Angela Chase lose all sense of reason with his constant leaning “I just like how he’s always leaning. Against stuff. He leans great.” Brendan leans great too. If you like Jordan Catalano, you will love Brendan, the sexy bad boy with a sweet, soft side.

The romance here, though, while pretty hot, overshadowed the rest of the plot. Themes of witchcraft and ancient curses are explored, but never really developed, nor is Emma’s family background, which I thought was going to be more integral to the plot. Most of the time, while Emma and Brendan realize they have to do something about the curse that haunts their love, they would rather just make out instead. I also anticipated plot twists and an exciting ending for this one, but unfortunately it all fell a little flat.

Despite my issues with this one, Spellbound is a solid debut overall, and even when I wasn’t so enamoured with the storyline, I admit that Brendan and his sexy leaning kept me turning the pages. Spellbound is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a quick, fun read, but for those looking for something completely new or different that stands out from the PR pile, this isn’t it.

* If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you might know him instead as the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars. ;)


  1. I've been hearing good things about this book so far. I don't really like books that have the romance overshadow the story, but I think I'll try it anyway. Thanks for the review!

  2. I hadn't realised he was in my So-Called Life - must watch now.
    Fantastic and really well put together review. I am quite in awe of how articualte you are. I shall aspire to try harder with my reviews :D
    PS I still want to read this ;D

  3. I saw this book at NG, but I didn't think I would love it. But if you say it's like Gossip Girl with a paranormal twist I should def. check this one out!!

  4. Jared Leto, is that his name? He's pretty hot. Well thought out review-I too am getting a little tired of formulaic YA. Starting to feel as though some people are writing what they know will get published rather than focussing on writing a really good book-seems such a shame. Great review though, really well thought out.

    The Cait Files

  5. I wasn't so sure about this one b/c I agree...I need more than the insta-love, hot guy, new girl at school, etc. But then I read that Brendon is like Jordan Catalano. UMM.... I LOVE Jordan too and was obsessed with him in high school. I just watched My So Called Life again this past winter and relived it all. Haha- you are so right about his leaning. I wish they had a second season, but anyway, maybe I will check this out just for the JC connection. :) Thanks for the great review, Leanna!

  6. I shall remember this one for when I'm in the mood for a hot romance :) I do like boys who lean. It's a shame it couldn't have been romantic and exciting though.

  7. Oh my gosh, what is it about leaning, right? So sexy! Leaning is right up there with quirking one eyebrow for me. Make a male character do either of those things and I'm insta-swoon :)

  8. This is the second review for Spellbound that I've read today; both include the hot boys and mean girls part haha. It doesn't seem to have much depth or originality. Insta-love can never work for me.

  9. Great review as always, I've been undecided about reading this one and I think that I'll probably give it a miss.

  10. Too bad the plot is nothing new because the love interest sounds YUM. Great review :)

  11. Eeek! I keep forgetting the books I have on Netgalley. Must get to this one soon.

  12. With so many books with similar settings and relationships it is difficult to find books that stand out right now. I really love the cover of this and while I also love hot smoking guys, that is not enough for me to go out and buy yet another book with too many formulaic devices. Thank for the honest review.

  13. I do love the cover on this book. It is really pretty, but as Jan says, the storyline doesn't really stand out. I probably wont read it, but I did enjoy your review :-)

  14. JORDAN CATALANO!!!! *SWOON* I just had major flashbacks to high school and watching that show. He was delicious:) This sounds like a pretty good read despite the predictability and insta-love, though I can tell not getting a lot of background will frustrate me. I like a little information take with me as I read:)

  15. Great review! I've been hearing some solid things about this. It is the next one on my reading list, I especially love the cover! Thanks for posting!

    New follower :)


  16. What a cool cover! I’m bummed to hear this is so predictable. I’m a big fan of sexy bad boys so I might still have to give this a read :)

  17. LOL @ "constant leaning" :D I totally know what you mean, though ... it really IS sexy, hehe ... that and *smirking* totally do it for me!! (",) I'm a sucker for romance, so - as long as the rest of the story is good enough - I don't mind when it overshadows the plot. I haven't seen My So-Called Life, but the guy from 30 Seconds to Mars is YUM!! :D

  18. I am loving all the Jordan Catalano love here, and also the appreciation of sexy constant leaning! :D

  19. I'm reading this one right now and Brendan does lean! She says he could make people use the regular mail more by leaning on the mailbox in an more email! Too funny! I loved the romance as well! Great review!

  20. I liked Brendan too but like you, felt the romance overshadowed everything.

  21. This does sound a little bit predicable, but it sounds good. I have via NetGalley, too. Can't wait to read it. The cover is cool!

  22. I don't think I was convinced of this one beforehand, but comparisons to Jordan Catalano are always a good thing!


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