Review of The Hidden by Bill Pronzini

The Hidden

The Hidden

A series of seemingly random murders along a fifty-mile stretch of the rugged northern California coast, committed by an unknown dubbed by the media the Coastline Killer. A young couple with marital problems, Shelby and Jay Macklin, who decide to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s at a friend’s remote coastal cottage. Two couples in a neighboring home whose relationships are thick with festering menace. A fierce winter storm that leads to a night of unrelenting terror. (Amazon.ca)

It certainly started off interesting. It had all the right elements of suspense and it got me reading further into it. Then it stops. The plot suddenly focuses mainly on the deteriorating relationship between Jay and Shelby and the killer suddenly disappears from the story. Huh? why? and the suspense was just getting along fine! However! I actually liked the spotlight on the two of them. It did provide character development despite the lack of suspense.

As the story progressed, I found myself losing interest. New characters were introduced so the reader is provided with some potential suspects. I didn’t think much of any of them though. They seemed strange, and little out of place and for a minute I thought perhaps it was going to take a turn for the creepy and give the plot a more sinster feel. Unfortunately, I was wrong and it felt as if the characters were placed there out of convenience without any real thought to them.

Towards the end of the novel I just wanted this to be over with, and when the killer was revealed I wasn’t interested in the story anymore. Honestly, I was wondering more about the outcome of Shelby and Jay’s future instead of the mystery. Their marital situation just seemed much more interesting than the mystery itself. It had a lot of potential in the beginning, yet it fell short of its mark. I nearly didn’t finish the book but as it’s only about 200 pages I decided to get it over with anyway. I don’t think I can recommend this to anyone, as there’s plenty of better suspense novels out there.

I give it a 1 out of 10.

Side Order (SPOILER ALERT): When the killer was revealed to be someone not even on the list of suspects, I just about nearly quit the book. As much as I hate to say this, this has to be the worst book I’ve read of 2011 so far.
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Review of Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

Prisoners in the Palace

Prisoners in the Palace

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for providing me a review copy of this book! It was much appreciated!

London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant’s world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen? (From Goodreads)

I absolutely loved this book! I loved the writing, I loved Liza, and all the other characters in this book were just wonderful to read. The plot was really good and the pacing was well done. For those that love intrigue into their historical fiction, you will also find that here. Sir John is certainly the type of villain to make your skin crawl and his plotting with the Duchess gives the plot a good amount of intrigue to enjoy.

Victoria was made to be seen as a spoiled brat, but at the same time she acts this way because she’s lonely and has no one of her age to be with, so her friendship with Liza is somewhat of a Princess/maid relationship, but at times they also put aside their class differences and act like real true friends would.

What I really liked best about this book is that the plot never did slow down, it was a constant steady flow and there was never any stalls or anything done to extend the plot. It got really interesting in the end and made the perfect climax to any story. The author’s note in the end was good and provided good information for further reading.

There was only one criticism, and that was Albert. I didn’t think he was such a surly guy, then again they were younger at the time and he probably did change as he grew older. I was hoping for more of a love story between Victoria and Albert, but it was not to be, they weren’t such a big focus at this time. No matter though, this was just a small setback but nothing that would change my opinion about this book.

I recommend this book for all those in love with the Victorian age! it was a wonderful book to read. Those who like YA books would also love this book as well.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Book Blogger Hop 4/22

Book Blogger Hop

Today’s Question is: “If you find a book you love, do you hunt down other books by the same author?”

– Yes! of course! chances are their writing is consistent so you’re bound to be reading an awesome book each time. I also give authors that I didn’t enjoy a second chance. Everybody deserves one. We all have our off days! 🙂

so! if you’re from the hop stop by and say hi! CHOCOLATE FOR EVERYONE! whhheee!!!

Note: please excuse my lack of posts lately. I’ve been busy with work and hockey playoffs 😀

Have a Great Easter everyone!

Review of Gentlemen by Michael Northrop

Gentlemen

Gentlemen

The cover is what got my attention the most.  It looks creepy and I thought the book might be an interesting read. You gotta love YA covers. They’re just awesome.  However they can be deceiving….

Micheal, Tommy, Mixer, and Bones aren’t just from the wrong side of the tracks–they’re from the wrong side of everything. No one at their high school takes them seriously, except for Mr. Haberman, their remedial English teacher. Mr. Haberman calls them “gentlemen,” but everyone else ignores them–or, in Bones’s case, is dead afraid of them. When one of their close-knit group goes missing, the clues all seem to point in one direction: to Mr. Haberman. Gritty, fast-paced, and brutally real, this debut takes an unflinching look at what binds friends together–and what can tear them apart. (From Amazon.ca)

The first thing that got my attention was, the protagonist. It’s being told by a point of a view of a guy. But not just any guy. Most of the male characters I’ve read in the majority of YA literature are..let’s say sugar coated. They’re there to attract the girl readers and make us into fan girls. (Yes, it’s true. I have several crushes on some of them). In this case, it’s different. Micheal (main character) is, acts, well, like a normal guy. The way he talks, the way he tries to get a girlfriend, his behavior with his friends and his attitude towards school, all of it is so realistic and well written. His friends are equally the same way so this part of the book, I thought was good.

Getting onto the plot is a different story. First, the pace is a little slower than I thought. Also if you’re looking for a super thriller, you won’t find it here. There’s really nothing thrilling or suspenseful about it. Which is disappointing as I was expecting something that packed a punch or at least with something that has a shocking twist. There were also several mini plots throughout the book and none of them contributed to the plot whatsoever. One that particularly irked me was Micheal’s internet moments. He periodically checks back to see if he gets any responses from a potential girlfriend, and what this has to do with anything is beyond me. I thought it was terribly pointless and a page filler, which does nothing to advance the main plot.

The ending climax is, well anti climactic. Tommy’s end result wasn’t anything special and you’re left wondering if you’ve read the entire book for nothing. However, there’s one particular moment when the students confront Haberman, the mood and tension between all of them was well written and felt. Otherwise, once the mood is over, everything just seems to come back to normal again. It’s frustrating as some parts of the story was good and some of the writing is well done but the plot could have used a lot of work.

The cover was a job well done, but I don’t know if the book is really worth a read. It is pretty short so it can be covered in one sitting but it ends up being frustrating because with such an anti climactic ending, you feel as if you wasted your time. I’d say take it or leave it. Your choice.

I give it a 6 out of 10.

Review of Alice in Zombieland

Alice in Zombieland

Alice in Zombieland

Thank you Sourcebooks for providing me a copy of this book! I have this soft spot for these kinds of books. Plus I like zombies. Who doesn’t? honestly? 🙂

When little Alice follows the Black Rat down into the open grave, she falls and falls, and soon finds herself in an undead nightmare. Following the Rat, she ventures further into this land of monsters, encountering characters both creepy and madcap along the way. But there’s something else troubling poor Alice: her skin is rotting and her hair is falling out. Can Alice escape Zombieland before the Dead Red Queen catches up to her? Have a seat at the table for the wildest tea party of your life and explore the unforgettable adventure that is Alice in Zombieland. (From Amazon.ca)

The book certainly had its’ fun moments! Zombieland was well written and well thought out. It certainly put a funny twist on Wonderland (even though Wonderland is quirky to begin with anyway). It’s definitely not for the squeamish, as body parts are flying everywhere and Alice gets a craving for a bite of flesh once very so often.  The characters are all there, they’re just zombified. The only difference I have seen is instead of a White Rabbit, you have a Black Rat instead. (If I am wrong, forgive me, it’s been a while since I’ve read the original Alice in Wonderland).

The zombie element does not really get in the way of the plot, so nothing much has really changed. My favorite moment was the croquet game between the Queen and Alice – it’s more of a croquet game with body parts which was laughable and was fun to read through.

Even though it was a fun idea, I felt like there just could have been more to this story. There just wasn’t enough to it that I could fully enjoy the book. To me, it felt as if they just copied and pasted the zombie bits of the story and added it to Alice in Wonderland, and just changed the title appropriately. It just felt like a very haphazard read.

Perhaps what I wanted to see was, a twist to the plot to enhance the zombie aspect of the novel. Not just zombies added. It did feel like all you got was a simple add on to the story (something similar to an expansion pack for a game). More could be done with the combination but sad to say, there really wasn’t anything to it.

It was a clever idea, and it had potential, but a lot more could have been done with this book. Instead, what you got was a few cut and paste moments of zombie goodness. Some parts were good and fun to read, but it just seemed to be lacking in something big to make this book exceptionally good and read worthy.

I give it a 4 out of 10.

Review of The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

Midwife of Venice

Midwife of Venice

I think I found a new area of historical fiction that I am starting to like the more I read about it. Anything to do with Italy in the 16th century. Anything to do with Italy back then is something I have to look through and read. It’s an amazing era. How did I ever miss out on it?

Hannah ha-Levi, a midwife in the Jewish ghetto, is known throughout Venice for her skill in midwifery. When a Christian count appears at Hannah’s door imploring her to attend his labouring wife who is near death, Hannah’s compassion is tested. Not only is it illegal for Jews to render medical treatment to Christians, it’s also punishable by torture … and death. But Hannah cannot turn down the money. With such a handsome sum, she can save her own husband, Isaac, who was captured at sea and taken to Malta as a slave of the Knights of St. John. Aided by her “birthing spoons” — rudimentary forceps she invented to help with difficult births — will Hannah be able to save mother and child? And if she can, will she also be able to save herself? Woven through Hannah’s travails is the story of Isaac’s life as a captive slave in Malta. Fearing that his wife has perished in the plague, he pins his hopes of returning home to Hannah on his talent for writing love letters that melt even the hardest of hearts. (From Goodreads)

I absolutely loved reading this book. It was so beautifully written, the plot was interesting, and the characters were all memorable. Things just seemed to happen one even after another that the book ended up being a page turner and I would definitely recommend this book for those that are going through a ‘reading rut’ at the moment. This is the perfect book to get back on track on your ‘reading roll’.

The descriptions of the city of Venice were wonderful. There were really great contrasts between the setting where Hannah lives (the Jewish area) and the Christian area. It’s not to say that Hannah lives in deep poverty she seems to be living comfortable with just the basic needs. However when compared to the places she goes to outside of the Ghetto area, it’s a vast difference and shows how different these two groups of people live. The persecution and hatred that Hannah and her people have to go through on a daily basis is hard to read, and does make you upset while reading them. However, it is historically accurate, and it’s interesting to note the mentioning of the blood libel, and how crimes committed against Jews were hugely ignored (however if it was vice versa, there would have been an uproar). So throughout the novel, everywhere she turns, Hannah is faced with her ‘Jewishness’. It’s what sets her apart from the rest and it’s painfully obvious; however she deals with it accordingly and puts it all aside, especially while she does her duties as a midwife.

I really did enjoy reading about Hannah a lot. She’s such a strong woman and very determined. She even puts aside her beliefs to doing what she feels is the right thing. She was such a strong character and I really enjoyed reading how despite all the odds against her, and the threats she had to face, she managed to survive and to keep a clear head throughout the novel. Not to mention, she had to make out a living on her own while her husband was taken into slavery, and she manages to survive despite all these overwhelming odds against her. I really did admire her, and I really liked reading about her throughout the book.

Isaac’s story line was good, although I wish there was a little more to it. Then again if there was, then it wouldn’t be really called ‘The Midwife of Venice’ would it? Anyway, it was good enough to read, and an interesting story line for a supporting character. Towards the end of the book, I thought it was just a little too rushed at the end, and everything was done just a little too convenient. However, everything did seem to fall into place and I’m wondering if there is going to be a sequel to this. If there is, count me in because I’ll definitely be picking it up!

This was a beautifully written, wonderful book to read. I most definitely recommend this book to all historical fiction lovers. Roberta Rich is one of to keep an eye on if she continues to write as superb as this book. I absolutely loved this one.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Review of White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat

White Cat

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers — people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they’re all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail — he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago. Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He’s noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen. (From Amazon.ca)

The story is a little complex from the start, and it was a little hard to get into without figuring out the facts first. After getting the story straight though, it’s a very interesting concept and idea and thought this was definitely a different and unique read. Several characters are thrown at you, so keeping them in line is also a bit of a challenge but it’s nothing to throw you off of your reading.

The plot was really good and Cassel is the guy to cheer for. He’s not your typical angsty teenager with a huge chip on his shoulder. Which is something I really did like. He’s calm, cool, and collected, but also determined to figure out what’s going on with his life and why he’s been sleepwalking and having strange dreams. Another thing I loved about this book. No love triangles! it’s about time! I’ve read countless of YA and it just seems standard to have a love triangle. You won’t find one in this book. (Thankfully.) I really did like the idea of the curse workers being something akin to mafia crime families. That was certainly different and an idea I have not come across before. It did fit in nicely with the overall plot. Plus the scheming, plotting, and conning made it even better.

Following Cassel through the hurdles provided a really good read, and towards the end you’d think everything would go well. Until there’s a giant twist and the ends in a cliffhanger ending. However that seems to be the constant theme throughout the novel as Cassel starts to put the pieces together and as the twists get bigger, the plot takes several shocking spins. It made reading the book really exciting and made the pace go fast.

If you love scheming, shocking twists, and con artistry at its finest, pick this book up. It’s a perfect blend of magic, and mafia crime families in one nice package. Combine this with fabulous writing and it’s an excellent book to read through. Can’t wait to read the second book of this series!

I give it an 8 out of 10.