I was very lucky to be featured on Avery Olive’s blog last year for a special 13 Days of Christmas giveaway that she did, featuring my book Trapped on Draconica. Later in the year, she reviewed my book and gave it some very good comments – which I’m thankful for. In return, I promised that I would read her book A Stiff Kiss and do a review of it. Well, it took me a while – but I am finally now ready to fulfil my promise to her!
A Stiff Kiss is a book that has been getting some very positive reviews on Amazon/Goodreads – which is fantastic given that this is her first novel, so I’m pretty sure that I’m in for a great ride here! Of all the books I’ve read and reviewed, I’ve yet to review a Teen Romance novel (with the possible exception of The Pack: Retribution), so I’m kinda excited about this one. So let’s dive into A Stiff Kiss and see what I thought.
About The Author (provided by the author)
Avery Olive is proudly Canadian. She is married, and when she’s not helping raise her very energetic and inquisitive son, she can be found working on her latest novel-where she devilishly adds U's into every word she can.
When she is looking for a break Avery enjoys cake decorating, losing herself in a good book, or heading out to the lake to go camping.
The release of Avery's first novel proves to her it won't be the last. As long as her family continues to be supportive, she can find the time, and people want to read, Avery will keep on writing.
Avery Olive’s Blog: www.averyolive.blogspot.com
A Stiff Kiss Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Stiff-Kiss/255522414458899
Crescent Moon Press:
A Stiff Kiss Buy Links:
The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Stiff-Kiss-Avery-Olive/9781937254339
Considering how most Teen Romances tend to have bright colours, this one seems a little morbid at first look, with its dark colours and image of our heroine Xylia lying next to a graveyard. But death is the major theme in this book, as is Xylia’s obsession with it. The cover could have easily been just the two main characters on the front, looking at each other lovingly like so many other romantic books – but I actually like the fact that Avery Olive didn’t go with the obvious and just describe the theme of the book. I also like the way the kiss is drawn and coloured (as red is both the colour of love AND blood).
Since the death of her mother, Xylia has had an almost unhealthy obsession with death – visiting graveyards and supposedly haunted places. Her father is worried for her and tries everything to quell her obsession, but to no affect.
Landon is the school jock and rising football star (yes, I know he’s a soccer player – but I’m British and we call it football, dammit! Ok, rant over, lol), and Xylia is head over heels in love with him – despite the fact he’s already taken. During a football match, Landon drops and dies in the ambulance. Visiting him in the morgue, Xylia steals a kiss from Landon’s corpse, which brings him back to life!
It’s a classic tale – boy meets girl, boy dies, girl kisses boy, boy comes back to life, balance of life and death is thrown out. It’s a classic tale!
Ok, all fooling aside, I did actually think this was a very well done story. Each chapter is told from the point of view of the main characters, Landon and Xylia – so it was good to get the different viewpoints of the characters. And both the main characters are finely crafted and likeable – Xylia is morbid and somewhat emotionally detached, but does still have feelings and Landon is a bit arrogant and up his own backside, but also pines for a better life and his world is turned upside down when he’s brought back from the dead. At times, I found Xylia a bit mean-spirited and nasty, especially towards her dad – but then, she’s a teenager, which teenager isn’t a pain in the backside sometimes?
The secondary characters are very well detailed also. I particularly liked Xylia’s father – he brilliantly written as a sympathetic man still coping with the loss of his wife and dealing with the stress of a daughter with a dark obsession. He does do some things that upset Xylia, but at no point did I ever think he was a bastard in any way – he genuinely wanted to help his daughter and I did feel sorry for him when Xylia was horrible to him.
In actual fact, this book is much darker than you would think – it deals with themes of loss, death, depression and also letting go. It’s not the typical “high-school romp” that you get with most teenage stories – it has genuine depth and layers that most other books lack. Landon and Xylia help each other through their particular problems and both come out stronger because of it – through love. The emotion is definitely real and very moving.
But, as much as I loved this story, there were one or two little plot holes that come close to affecting the story. WARNING! The next part includes spoilers, so I’m going to write it in italics to show this.
Firstly, when Xylia and Landon go on their trip to various locations (graveyards and churches), Landon doesn’t seem to be recognised. Given that earlier in the novel, his death and resurrection is widely publicised, it seems strange that no one would recognise him, especially since this is the age of social media where news travels fast. That felt a little strange to me.
Secondly, throughout the story, Xylia and Landon are chased by a couple of “angels”. Both of them seem to want to take Landon back to the dead and restore the balance – but one of them seems to hesitate. Why is never explained, especially given that their mission is of utmost importance. Also, it’s never really explained HOW Landon came back to life through Xylia’s kiss.
Finally, the ending was just really confusing. Did Xylia go back in time? Was this another day? If so, why wasn’t Landon dead? And how did the gift appear in her bag? I have no problem with the book having a happy ending, but this ending I found a little disjointed and, again, not really explained very well.
Despite all this, I did enjoy reading this book very much and the above points could easily be overlooked given it’s a brilliantly written novel. I would gladly read another of Avery’s books in the future!
PROS (love conquers all):
- Primary and secondary characters written very well.
- Deals with a lot of real life issues not really looked at in most romance novels.
- Has real emotional depth.
- Romance is heart-warming and fans of romantic novels will love reading it.
CONS (dead man walking):
- One or two plot holes almost spoil an otherwise brilliant story.
- Very little is explained in the plot.
This one I highly recommend! Despite one or two plot holes, A Stiff Kiss has much more depth and emotional layers to it than most books I’ve read. Even the secondary characters have depth to them that makes them as interesting as the main ones – which is a rare skill in writing. Definitely one to check out – read it!
FINAL SCORE: 4/5