The Salt Line Falls Too Short…

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In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line–a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what’s left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife.

Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks–and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line. (From Goodreads)

The first third of the book had lots of promise. I was intrigued and thrilled to read it. It had the perfect introduction of the characters you’ll stay with throughout the book and you already had a sense of who your favorite characters are.

The world building was certainly interesting and the explanation of how the ticks took over the country and divided it was well done. The breakdown in stages on what happens when you get a tick bite is done in good detail and the idea of the Stamp (which is a harsh form of an epi pen) is great and also well written. However, when I went halfway to the book it started falling short.

The plot started losing its’ momentum and slows to a crawl. The characters then start losing their personalities and start becoming flat and two dimensional. I’d have to say the only two characters that were the most interesting to read were Marta and Wes. Understandably so, because they were key characters throughout this book. But their chemistry together and personalities just seemed to flow together and I enjoyed reading them the most.

Edie, well it took a trip like this for her to see the light about Jesse. Although I wouldn’t say she’s really likeable. She has her moments where her compassion shines towards the last third of the novel which is admirable. But there’s just nothing to her personality. She just happens to be a page filler.

By the last third of the book, you could already smell that there’s going to be a possible sequel as some aspects of the characters go on unexplained or incomplete. It’s almost eye rolling when this book really should have been completed in just one volume.

If there ever is going to be a sequel, it would have to be ten times much better than this one and a vast improvement on plot and characters. I’d probably pick it up only if it focused a lot more on Marta and Wes.

The book had a lot of promise, but it just fell short which is disappointing. It was such a great idea for a plot and the setting was well done.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

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Review of Conclave by Robert Harris

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The pope is dead. Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on Earth. (From Goodreads)

 

I love these kinds of novels. I’m always up for a plot filled with intrigue, who’s going to backstab who, who’s got the dirty secrets and who’s the horrible but cunning bastage that will expose these secrets and so on….

I had to whip out my dictionary for these latin/Catholic terms that are prevalent throughout this novel. (My knowledge in Catholicism is very rusty.) But you learn something new all the time right? Now I know there’s actually names for each piece of their clothing these men wear.

I love how it in the first third of the novel the plotting to be the next pope starts. It’s a reminder that even though these people are spiritual figureheads and we look to them as authority figures, they’re still humans with ambition. But this is the part I loved reading the most. I love the intrigue, I love the plotting. I love how Lomeli is in the middle of this and is trying to make sure everything in the voting process is legitimate.

You have a group of characters to keep track of, but there isn’t much to them. They’re broken into cliques to keep track of them easily but the book is centralized on Lomeli and he’s the only one that develops throughout the novel. He’s likable for the most part and does deal with his inner self for the most part. He has his faults as well which makes sense (who doesn’t want to be pope?!) which makes these characters realistic.

The plot itself starts off really well. I liked the pace and events during the story. What bothered me was the last third of the novel where everything went chaotic and the author seemed to inject some action to make it more lively. I didn’t think it was necessary and there wasn’t any need for that. What I would prefer is more intrigue and inner plotting amongst the Cardinals. (There was but there was no need to the action sequence which wasn’t even a feature it happened “off screen”.)

Another thing which didn’t sit too well was it was one thing after another with the surprises. First it was this guy. Then the other. Oh, can’t forget this guy either. We already elected the pope? No wait here’s another monkey wrench. It was just too much (by the end I was screaming out: “Just give him the papacy and let’s go home. This is getting ridiculous”.) Some parts were spaced out but it just felt too much. However, good on the author to make sure all the loose ends were tied together. Nothing was left unanswered.

I liked this book but it would have been better without all the extra bits and pieces here. More intrigue and plotting within. It’s what makes it so much better. Otherwise, it was a short quick read and worth it. Just remember this is an alternate history of events.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

 

Slow moving plot in different character views #bookreview #mystery

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A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return. With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present. Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath. (From Goodreads)

First thing: I haven’t read The Girl on the Train so I picked up this book and just went in because I felt like a good mystery.

So was it any good?

Yes and no. There were several story arcs going on in this novel which was alright and easy to follow. I’d rather enjoyed reading most of them. I didn’t enjoy reading about Julia though. It’s not because I don’t sympathize with what she went through, it must have been horrible. I just didn’t really like her much as a character. There were moments where she was completely weak and useless. However, I’m glad of her outcome and of her development. Of all the characters;  Lena and Julia developed the most.

In the beginning of the novel, I found it a little hard to follow at first. Each chapter is told in the point of view of another character and rotates all throughout the story. So you have to be aware of who’s who early in the story. There’s also flashbacks involved (those aren’t hard to follow though.)

I’d have to say, the character I enjoyed reading the most was Lena because of her fiery personality and her attitude (typical teenage angst but it was well done.) The rest of the characters were all right to read but don’t really produce enough of a presence to make such a huge impact on the book. Patrick, Mark, and Sean make your teeth grind though. The three of them being odious spineless bastages who need to get their due. Unfortunately…well…one of them gets their due. (Won’t spoil it any further.)

Plot wise, it’s a subtle slow moving mystery. The reader is kept guessing and although it may seem obvious as to who has done it, there’s more to just a whodunit. There’s a reasoning behind the deed that has taken place. There were few elements of some sort of supernatural characteristics in the plot but it’s nothing to be in awe about and it doesn’t really put any depth into the story or make the plot go further. It could be considered as just to fill in the blanks into the novel. Which I wasn’t too crazy about.

I ended up finishing it because it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t the best I’ve read either. Would I recommend it? Not really. Worth the read? It’s all right. Some people may like this type of story some might not. (It has a feeling of a TV movie to it, in my opinion.)

I give it a 5 out of 10.

 

 

 

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

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

Envy by Gregg Olsen

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

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

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.

Empty by Suzanne Weyn

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….