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Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

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Sweetly

Sweetly

As a child, Gretchen’s twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch’s forest threatening to make them disappear, too. Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They’re invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion. Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past — until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn’t gone — it’s lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak’s infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is. Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry. (From Goodreads)

The story was good at first. The mystery aspect of the story and the scary moments were well done and gave me the heebie jeebies. I was sort of hoping for a sequel to Sisters Red but knew this wasn’t the case as I read the summary before so I was mildly disappointed. Although it’s nice to see fairy tale retellings.

What’s guaranteed is your sweet tooth will start to crave the various delicious sweets and desserts listed all throughout the book. You’ll want to raid a sweet shop after reading this book. They’re told in descriptive detail and it’s very well done.

Although that aspect of the writing was good, I have to say I didn’t really enjoy reading the story that much. It was slow paced and I found it quite dry in some parts. Gretchen wasn’t much to be intrigued about. Also even the romance between her and Samuel just didn’t have enough to get my attention. So the ending went out with a bang but it just wasn’t enough to make up for such a dry book.

Needless to say I was disappointed. This could have been better. Sure, I feel like grabbing a handful of candies and cupcakes and there were moments of scariness but there characters didn’t really engage me and I didn’t find this a page turner. Take it or leave it. Lovely cover though!

I give it a 5/10

Written by Karoline

March 19, 2014 at 8:14 am

Envy by Gregg Olsen

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Envy

Envy

Crime lives–and dies–in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen–and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town’s victims and culprits. Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins’ old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out–and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined. (From Amazon.ca)

I really tried to like this novel. The cover got me all curious. Yet it wasn’t what I thought it was. I thought there was going to be more of a paranormal feel to it, but it’s limited to mostly the twins having their telepathic abilities. I rather liked the history behind the two girls that was actually the more interesting part of the book. The mystery part of the book wasn’t that great. It sure had all the makings of an intriguing mystery, it even got me hooked and I kept trying to guess who was behind it. Yet the ending was just so anti climactic and I felt almost as if I was cheated out of a good ending (and suddenly feeling the urge to demand a refund of my time back). So when you find out who did it and what really happened, it was pretty much bland.

The characters were okay. The twins were your typical gifted, overachieving, strikingly beautiful people to ever walk the earth with paranormal powers. Nothing new there and they were like made out of a cookie cutter style. None of the characters really stood out to me, and I think this, with the combination of rather dry writing, and a slow pace of the plot, I didn’t really enjoy the novel. It was disappointing, since I was looking forward to reading this, and I thought it certainly had the potential to be interesting.

I am still not sure if I’m going to read the second one of this book. It’ll have to be spectacular and exciting enough for me to read. It is the first book of a series, and sometimes they’re off to a rocky start so who knows what the second one will have. Not going to recommend this to anyone but if you are curious, I say take it or leave it.

I give it a 5/10

Written by Karoline

March 19, 2013 at 6:47 pm

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Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

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Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime. Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives. (From Amazon.ca)

I was very disappointed with this book. I had high hopes because I really did enjoy Shanghai Girls. The beginning of the book wasn’t so bad actually. It was pretty interesting. I liked the way you follow Joy through her journey to China – it was an eye opener, but her naivete also gets the best out of her as well. The reader already knows she’s in for a quite a bit of pain and suffering and so sometimes you find yourself shaking your head at Joy’s blind faith in the system.

I actually preferred Pearl’s point of view of the story and her journey, because she had left so much behind and some questions were left unanswered. I loved how she went back home, back to her town and back to where she used to live, to find it radically changed, but she found people she recognized. It wasn’t really a reunion that would be considered nice, but after so many years of not seeing these people, it was nice to see they were still there. I really liked reading Pearl because she showed a lot of strength and courage to go back and face anything to get Joy back.

When the Great Leap Forward comes along, I liked how this was added in, to make the plot move, and to put Joy and Pearl’s journeys on a similar backdrop, but I just could not get into it. It was really slow and things just seemed to drag. The switching back and forth from Pearl to Joy wasn’t so bad but the pace of the book was about the same as watching molasses being poured out of a container. Joy’s plot really did seem to drag its’ heels. I did not know how much of her stupidity I could take.

The ending wasn’t so bad. However by the time I was almost done, I really wanted it to be done. It was very drawn out, and the writing just seemed really bland. It did not have the same dramatic tone as Shanghai Girls did. One thing I will mention though, this book does a good job in drawing out feelings from the reader.

It wasn’t the greatest book, if you’re a fan, or wanting to know what happens at the end of Shanghai Girls, well you might as well read it. Otherwise, you could just skip it. It’s too slow and bland to be fully enjoyed which is too bad, it would have been an excellent novel otherwise.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Written by Karoline

July 16, 2012 at 7:40 pm

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Empty by Suzanne Weyn

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EmptyAll-American Tom, golden child Nicki, and outsider Leila live in rural Spring Valley in the not-too-distant future, when oil production has slowed dramatically and the country is running out of oil. People can’t get to work because they don’t have gas; they’re being laid off because of businesses cutting costs; the price of everything is rising; and heat and electricity are increasingly hard to get. Nicki’s family is being torn apart by the crisis, and Leila is worried about how to survive the winter on her own. As winter progresses, life in Spring Valley grows more desperate, and people in nearby towns are pitted against one another. The teens must find ways to stop the raids and fighting—and new ways to live without oil. (From Amazon.ca)

The book had all the things I wanted when I felt like reading about the world going down the drain and what happens when stuff hits the fan. So naturally, I picked this one up. It’s a short read, as it’s less than 200 pages.

I wish I could like it more. Yet I couldn’t. Although the situation is realistic and could be very possible, I just couldn’t get into this book. It was dry, and the characters weren’t that great to begin with. There’s also a potential love triangle but the characters just were not likable and there was absolutely no chemistry with any of them that it was almost painful to read.

The plot itself was okay, the subject matter interesting but it just did not have enough to really engage me as a reader. It could be also because the bland characters just didn’t do enough to make the plot flow successfully. It does get a little preachy towards the end, with the environment speech – however I have to add that house and how it was made was very interesting and if only houses like that could be made all throughout, perhaps this type of situation could be avoided.

I’d say take this book or leave it. It is a short read, but because of the dry plot and the blandness of characters the reading took a bit longer than I expected. The idea is unique but more should have been done to make it a more engaging book to read.

5 out of 10

Please note: I’m not sure why ppl would tag this book as “Dystopian” I personally think it’s not….

Written by Karoline

January 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm

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Abandon by Meg Cabot

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AbandonWhen Pierce first sees him, she thinks he is a murderer. She’s right about one thing—he does take lives. But not in the way she ever imagined. Pierce is drawn to the dark stranger even as she tries to uncover the mystery surrounding the tragic death of someone close to her. As she gets closer to the truth—and the stranger—unexpected secrets are revealed, even in her own heart. (From Amazon.ca)

At first this book started off great! it was an interesting idea and I was really interested and engaged with this book. Yet as the book progressed it got really confusing with the flashbacks Pierce has, and her time spent with this mysterious stranger (you find out later who he really is). The flashbacks would have been much better if they actually were related to the present day events but they just seemed to be a rehashing of memories. Even so, it feels it’s all jumbled and it’s makes the reading awkward.

I also had a hard time liking Pierce. She was like a wooden doll with hardly any feeling or form and to be blunt, she just seemed so blah. Nothing exciting at all. I didn’t quite understand her relationship with John Hayden. It was like she liked him, but then she steered clear away from him. Although he ends up saving her from several horrible experiences, she just wants to get away from him as if he’s the plague. Ok. I supposed there’s not a problem with that but if they’re supposed to be the romance couple here, the chemistry seems way off and it just feels like it’s not there. Even the rules of ‘Opposites Attract’ does not work here. Pierce just seemed so wishy washy half of the time I ended up not really liking her in the first place.

The plot itself was okay. Although it’s supposed to be somewhat similar to the Hades and Persephone myth you don’t see much of it except for some parts here and there. Even so, it’s does not seem well put and just feels like a cut and paste job, with a lot of fluff in between. It does pick up in the end though, and it’s interesting enough for me to wait for the second book, I am not in a real rush to get it.

I’d say take it or leave it with this one. I have not read Meg Cabot’s books before but fans of her might like this book more than I did. Those who want a better rendition of the Hades/Persephone myth, try The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Written by Karoline

January 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm

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Deliver Me From Evil by Kathi Macias

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Deliver Me from Evil
Deliver Me from Evil introduces readers to Mara, an eighteen-year-old girl who has been enslaved for nearly ten years, having been sold by her parents in Mexico and then smuggled across the border into San Diego where she was forced into sexual slavery. Readers will also meet 18-year-old, Bible-college-bound Jonathan and his 16-year-old sister, Leah, whose paths cross Mara’s and who become involved in her dramatic rescue. Interwoven between the stories of Mara, Jonathan, and Leah is the heartbreaking story of another young woman in captivity in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, whose past life mysteriously connects to the young people in San Diego. (from Goodreads)

The subject matter in this book is not an easy read at all. It’s heart breaking in moments and you can most certainly feel the despair and helplessness these girls feel and you just want to reach out and save them from this miserable horrible life. It’s hard to believe Mara still manages to survive this ordeal and manages her sanity at the same time. She’s unbelievably strong and I greatly admire her as a character. She’s got a huge amount of strength to be able to put up with this kind of life.

However, the story that really got to me was the one with Chanthra and Lawan. As the book progresses, her story gets bleak, and gets bleaker each time she appears. It was difficult to read yet it shows what millions of people are enduring as a result of sexual slavery, and are not fortunate enough to get out of this horrible vicious cycle. I liked the relationship they had and thought it was interesting of the author to tie both these girls to another family in the US. It wasn’t obvious at first, and when the reader understands, it makes their story even more tragic.

The plot was good, however what bugged me was the ending. I do realize it is a Christian Fiction novel, so obviously it’s going to be different from other fiction novels I have read. Yet I just can’t believe the ending. It just did not seem realistic to me. The idea of the bad guys not even doing anything even at gunpoint is just not possible. They’re criminals. I’m sure they can overtake a couple of teenagers as well despite a gun being held by one of them. The ending just seemed way too good to be true in my opinion.

Because I just could not accept this ending, it made a huge impact on my opinion of the book. Had the book ended different (ohhh I don’t know? maybe at least give Jefe a big punch to the head???) then I would have given this book a much better grade. Otherwise, I just felt disappointed with it.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the ending, I still liked the book. This is Christian Fiction so there are a lot of references to God. I can’t say I recommend this to everyone, but I do think it should be given a read through. Slavery, in all kinds of forms does still exist.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Written by Karoline

October 13, 2011 at 7:16 am

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Sunday Salon: Review of The Birthing House

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The Birthing House

The Birthing House

It’s been a while since I’ve read a horror book. Yet I kept on finding this one through book blogs I’ve been hopping through, and also through book newsletters I get through e-mail. I did take it out of the library numerous times, but always having to return it because of the due date. Finally, I managed to dig in and read.

Conrad and Joanna are trying to save their marriage. Conrad, decides to buy a large old Victorian house that used to be a birthing house for pregnant women (who were usually pregnant outside of wedlock and needed a place to hide for 9 months). Just as Conrad is about to move in, the previous owner gives him a photo album of the history of the house and its’ inhabitants (midwives, and young pregnant women). While leafing through the album, Conrad found something odd and literally impossible; several pictures featuring his wife. The nightmare then begins, as an old crime is re-enacted, and Conrad and Joanna become unwilling victims of the house with a past that doesn’t sleep.

Oh my. Where to start. There were plenty of parts where the hair on the back of my neck stood to one end. It hit me by surprise too. (If any of you have read it, remember the popsicle doll part? argh!) I had the misfortune of reading that part at night right before bedtime. So, there is plenty of horror and suspense. The thing is, although the horror parts are very well written and enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, the storyline and characters don’t really give the story substance or depth.

I didn’t really like Conrad, or Joanna. Conrad hasn’t grown up yet and still acts like an 18 year old teenager who still on raging hormone syndrome. Joanna doesn’t help much with things either as she appears to be whiny, selfish, and acts like a B-movie diva. Despite the book’s great horror moments, Conrad ruins it all with his Lolita moments with Nadia, his constant thoughts about not getting any “action”, and his immaturity just has no boundaries. It can be quite eye rolling and very tedious.

What also bugs me, are some moments where things are mentioned, and then are just forgotten. Like the snakes Conrad has as a hobby. One of them undergoes a miraculous conception…..and….that’s it. Then you have that strange family that used to live in the house before Conrad. They had children – not very normal children. Bad things had happened to them while in that house. Nadia used to babysit the kids. Then they moved out. Hrm. It’s these kinds of details that needed explaining to make the plot and story more enjoyable and thus, more comprehensible.

Now here’s the part that really bugged me. There was one single chapter dedicated to how he and and old ex girlfriend spent the night together making love. It was descriptive. It was long. It was very detailed. At that point I thought to myself “Why would you write a chapter all about that, and why should I care?” I actually skipped ahead. I found it unneccesary and didn’t add anything to the story. So they had sex. Whatever. If I wanted detail and the dirt I’d get myself an erotic novel. I believe it’s not needed here.

The ending was all right. It was something I did rather expect out of a horror novel. Although it did leave me feeling rather as if there should have been a lot more to it. Nevertheless it did succeed in getting me scared in certain parts of the book. It was too bad it fell short in other areas, and the chapter I mentioned above just nearly killed the book for me. Overall, if you don’t mind these shortfalls and just want to read it for the thrills, go right on ahead. The horror moments of the book do deserve credit.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

Written by Karoline

June 13, 2010 at 8:22 am