You Won’t Forget This One…

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When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends — her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.  Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.  This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget. (From Goodreads)

It’s a quick, but extremely brutal read. This may not be for everyone.

You really do feel for ‘Alice’ throughout the novel and what she goes through. There’s a feeling of utter helplessness watching her suffer under the hands of Ray and his cruelty is hard to read. What’s worse is, as the novel progresses and Ray develops other plans to include Alice you feel horrible reading the book (almost like having a bad taste in the mouth).

Alice’s behavior is also hard to read. She’s been conditioned because of Ray, and some of her actions are the cause of it. You almost cringe because you start doubting her and wonder if she really will listen to Ray or not. She’s had various chances to leave Ray but her fear for her family kept her staying. It’s understandable as Ray is a manipulator and managed to twist things around to get Alice to be compliant.

There’s pieces here and there of Ray and his background. However at that point you don’t care anymore since he’s an awful scumbag and deserves any horrible thing coming at him. It’s a pretty straight forward plot, everything is done through Alice’s perspective, and it’s definitely the type of book that will stick with you for a long while.

I’m not going to recommend this, it may be too much for some readers. Definitely pick up something with a much lighter theme after this one.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

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Team Magnus and Lucia because Cleo stinks.

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In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface. As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love. (From Goodreads)

***Spoilers ahead you’ve been warned***

I rather enjoyed this one. Somewhat. The characters are really what drives this book (some of them that is) and while the plot moves at a medium pace, it’s understandable as this introduces you to the setting, the characters and what’s in store for us as readers.

World building is straight forward and there’s a handy guide in the beginning so you can figure out who is who and from which Kingdom (there are three). It pretty much centralizes on a small group that are central to the main plot and it’s easy to figure out who is who as you quickly start developing favorites 🙂

And this is where it starts getting interesting. I notice this happens sometimes with fantasy books. The good characters are downright annoying, nauseating (even more so when the love factor is involved) and induce eye rolling moments while reading. The not so nice characters are  more interesting to read, you quietly cheer for them and hope they turn out for the better because you don’t want them going down that path because most likely, they’ll end up being gone and you’ll have nothing else to read but the good guys.

I tried to like Cleo. I really did. However all I see is a little naive twit who’s annoying and I don’t really see her worth in this book and I wonder why Magnus just doesn’t end her so she can join good ol dependable Theon. I am hoping she turns out better in the later books but so far she’s not looking so good and her romance with Theon was so eye rolling inducing it’s characters like these that make or break the novel.

Thankfully, I love the Magnus story arc. He’s turned into a jerk but it’s not really his fault as dad isn’t really nice. The thing with Lucia is creepy and although they’re not blood related it still gives moments of queasiness (dude, you have like so many girls in the Kingdom come on). That being said though, I love reading about Magnus and Lucia. Their story lines are interesting, they have faults, and they deal with it (albeit, perhaps not in an all too healthy manner).

The story arc with Jonas was also interesting and I wish more was written about him (I think Cleo’s got way too much time in spotlight) as he’s gone through so much to get his revenge and only to find out it just opened a giant Pandora’s box and we’re heading towards more epic battling.

The latter third of the book gets really interesting. I’m only hoping there’s going to be a good outcome for everyone and I really hope Cleo’s character improves because she’s really what could make or break my desire to continue onto this series. Sometimes it takes that one character to ruin it all. That being said, I think it’s off to a great start and I’m ready for some more! Great for those into YA fantasy.

I give it a 7 out of 10.  

Grisly murder scenes and Mind Fawkery

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Troubled San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart is planning a rare weekend away from the job when she gets the call. A body has been found. A woman, brutally murdered. And the cryptic note left by the body is addressed to Valerie. The victim is unknown to her, but as Valerie analyses the scene, the clues begin to point in a deeply disturbing direction: to a maximum security prison where a woman called Katherine Glass is awaiting execution for a series of gruesome killings. And Valerie was the cop who put her there. The last thing Valerie wants to do is re-enter Katherine’s twisted world, but when a second body is discovered, with another puzzling clue, she realises she has no choice. Katherine Glass holds the key to the killings, and Valerie needs to find out what she knows before the murders come even closer to home. Even if it means playing a deadly game where once again, the psychopathic killer holds all the cards. (From Goodreads)

This can be read as a stand alone if you come across this book although it’s highly encouraged to read the first one only because it’s just as good!

This time around, Valerie doesn’t get pummelled all over the place and you don’t cringe as much when she gets hit by something (whether it’s a bullet or a hit to the head). The plot held up to the same standards as the first; fast paced, filled with scenes of gratuitous violence and some sexual content here and there. This may not be for some readers as it does get graphic but I think without it, it would be hard to describe how heinous the crimes are.

Throughout the novel, Valerie has these tete a tetes with Katherine and they’re well written. You feel the tension between them and the mind games Katherine plays are subtle and sometimes even frustrating because she’s maddingly brilliant and manipulative. You’re running along with Valerie trying to catch this killer and you follow through the chase filled with puzzles and cryptic notes and gifts (none very nice gifts either…). The killer is brilliant and when you think he’s this one person, he ends up being someone you didn’t realize and it’s  mind blowing considering who this killer ends up kidnapping.

And just when you think everything’s done there’s more extra twists happening. This is what makes this novel so quick and fast to read. You’re deeply engrossed in the plot and in the chase to find this killer but you forget he most likely has a plan B and you’re blindsided again. This is what makes this book so good!!!!!! I loved every minute of it!!!

The only concern I have is, how much more can happen in this series before this starts getting repetitive. I love the way it’s going and I hope the series can stay fresh and exciting like it’s been so far. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next, given there’s a bit of a teaser at the very last page of the book.

I give it a 9 out of 10.

 

Like a Reality TV show you can’t break away from…

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Welcome to Manderley Academy

I hadn’t wanted to go, but my parents were so excited… So here I am, the new girl at Manderley, a true fish out of water. But mine’s not the name on everyone’s lips. Oh, no. It’s Becca Normandy they can’t stop talking about. Perfect, beautiful Becca. She went missing at the end of last year, leaving a spot open at Manderley— the spot that I got. And everyone acts like it’s my fault that infallible, beloved Becca is gone and has been replaced by not perfect, completely fallible, unknown Me. Then, there’s the name on my lips— Max Holloway. Becca’s ex. The one boy I should avoid, but can’t. Thing is, it seems like he wants me, too. But the memory of Becca is always between us. And as much as I’m starting to like it at Manderley, I can’t help but think she’s out there, somewhere, watching me take her place. Waiting to take it back. (From Goodreads)

This is one of the few times where I enjoyed the book however the characters were so unlikable I was amazed that I stuck through and finished the novel. It was well written enough that I was super curious as to what happened to Becca and whether she was really around or if she had a horrible outcome. The mystery element was well done to keep you guessing. The point of views changes between Becca and Callie’s. There’s a good easy flow between the two perspectives so it makes the reading easy to follow and quick.

That being said, the characters were just awful in a sense not that they were unreadable (almost) but they were just horrible awful people. Even our main character wasn’t that likable. However I digress. Let’s break them down:

Becca; Oh darling. You horrible awful attention seeking harpy. Not only do you have issues of your own but because you aren’t happy you feel the need to destroy others and to make sure you drag them down into the mud and follow you through your misery. I had no sympathies. Even when it was revealed what happened. Except for …well you know.

Max: Another horrible creature and he’s pretty much meant for Becca anyway as they’re both rather terrible people. The “I like you but I don’t want to be together” spiel is ugh. On top of that after you say that you go and do the pursuing. You’re the emotional manipulative type just like Becca and it’s hard to figure out which one is worse. You emotionally  play with the main character and give her the yo-yo treatment then get mad when she’s talking with your best friend..oh wait sorry let’s re-write that: “Best Friend”. Dude, you’re like a horrible Tinder date gone wrong.

Dana: You’re a psychotic twit and holy mother mary do you have issues. I get what happened and you stood there and was an observer but you lashing out and being Queen Horrible to Callie (main character) was inexcusable. This behavior can’t even be blamed on grief, you’re just pure malice. Your obsession with Becca is creepy it makes you look like the type of fangirl nobody ever wants.

Madison and Julia: You have no spines and you follow Becca like she’s a Goddess. Stop being sheep and your condescension towards Callie was uncalled for. You each deserve a swift kick for treating her like that.

Johnny: You broke the Bro-Code. You should be banned for life.

Callie: Where do I start with you? You started off as a great main character and a lot of sympathies to you because you started off on the wrong foot and in a precarious situation. However then you did this yo-yo game with Max saying “Yeah I like you but I never said I was going to be with you” sure, that was a savage burn on your part but you keep *whining* about how you like Max so much and he’s not returning the favor because of Becca but he keeps coming back to you like you’re the side piece and you don’t seem to mind that treatment. You try to stick up for yourself with Dana (which was admirable) but then you shrink back into your turtle shell and you just *walk* into these situations even though YOU KNOW it’s going to turn out with potentially bad consequences. You’re like the friend that complains about how horrible your significant other is treating you but you’re still with that person but you don’t listen to advice. You have got to be one of the most frustrating characters I have ever read so far.

Well now! That sums up my opinions of the characters. I say go for reading this one. It’s almost like you’re watching reality TV and it’s such a guilty pleasure but you can’t help but not look away. Maybe because the characters were just so hateful you had to keep on reading. You just wanted to know what was going to happen next.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

 

A Subject to be Aware of. Definitely Recommend this one.

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In order to save her family’s farm, Roshen, sixteen, must leave her rural home to work in a factory in the south of China. There she finds arduous and degrading conditions and contempt for her minority (Uyghur) background. Sustained by her bond with other Uyghur girls, Roshen is resolved to endure all to help her family and ultimately her people. A workplace survival story, this gritty, poignant account focuses on a courageous teen and illuminates the value—and cost—of freedom. (From Goodreads)

This was a great eye opener albeit a sad read on what’s going on with the Uyghur and how they’re being treated by the Chinese government. They’re not a very well known group of people and after finishing this book it’s an eye opening experience.

Throughout the novel you follow the narrative of Roshen, who’s left her family behind and a potential fiance to work in a factory. As a reader you already have an idea on how this is going to go as factories over there are usually sweatshops with grueling horrifying conditions. What I was not expecting, and because I didn’t know much of these peoples is they’re on the bottom rung of the ladder everywhere they go. Since they don’t look like your average Chinese, they stick out as a visible minority and because their beliefs are very much different, they get treated horribly and are pretty much slaves.

You follow Roshen and a group of Uyghur girls as they toil through the factory under horrible conditions. You can feel their fear and mistrust, even amongst themselves because anyone can become an informant. What I was not prepared for, was for Hawa’s character. You already had an assumption about her because of her behavior but when she does something completely unspeakable on behalf of Roshen it was a complete blindside. The negative feelings you had towards Hawa disappears completely and is replaced with a kind of respect for what she went through.

Definitely recommended to read. It’s horrifying what these families and girls go through, and awareness is key.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Creepy House and a Scene not to be read at 1 AM…

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Evil doesn’t always look scary .Built at the turn of the twentieth century by one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, tucked away in the pristine Pocono Mountains, Summer Place, a retreat for the rich and famous, seems the very essence of charm and beauty, a scene borrowed from a wondrous fairytale of gingerbread houses, bright forests, and glowing, sunny meadows. But behind the yellow and white trimmed exterior lurks an evil, waiting to devour the unwary . Seven years ago, Professor Gabriel Kennedy’s investigation into paranormal activity at Summer Place ended in tragedy, and destroyed his career. Now, Kelly Delaphoy, the ambitious producer of a top-rated ghost-hunting television series, is determined to make Summer Place the centerpiece of an epic live broadcast on Halloween night. To ensure success, she needs help from the one man who has come face-to-face with the evil that dwells in Summer Place, a man still haunted by the ghosts of his own failure. Disgraced and alienated from the academic community, Kennedy wants nothing to do with the event. But Summer Place has other plans . As Summer Place grows stronger, Kennedy along with the paranormal ghost hunting team, The Supernaturals, sets out to confront and if possible, destroy the evil presence dwelling there. But sometimes in a paranormal investigation, the ghosts hunt you… (From Goodreads)

The beauty of reading horror books is this: even though you’ve probably read this same thing or read the same horror book with similar plots, cookie cutter characters, etc, what really matters at the end of the day is; does it provide you with enough chills and creep factor to get you reading?

Thankfully, this one delivers!

The plot is pretty standard; haunted house that is on the market but nobody buys it. It needs a super cleansing and a group of people are gathered and led by a Professor who’s looking out for redemption. It seems pretty much like a typical horror plot out there but it’s well written and the flow is consistent. That being said, the real action starts about the last third of the book. Think of this book as an introduction to a cast of characters, and what their ‘gifts’ are like. Their background stories are provided, and everything leading up to the night at the house is well done. It prepares to reader as to what to look forward to (with some creep factor in between)

So let’s get to the creep factor. It’s definitely there. The descriptions and events happening is enough to give the reader chills and leaves it to their imagination. There’s plenty of loud noise moments, evil laughter, and things going bump in the night to contribute to the enjoyment of reading this book.

One particular moment that got me on edge was this part:

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I thought this particular passage was perfectly written and it still clings to me even after finishing it. It gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about something coming at me via the stairs.

The characters could have been better now, perhaps because it’s an introduction to the group but there’s not much substance to them (at least to some) I was a bit disappointed in George and Leonard because they had a lot to contribute but it seemed to have fizzled out when it really counts. For the most part it’s mostly John, Jenny and Gabriel in the spotlight. They’re all pretty much likable and their own storylines are good to read to provide more ‘fleshing out’ of the character.

It’s a solid horror story with a good ending. Of course it looks like there’s a second book coming out and I’m going to go and read it. I enjoyed this one immensely.

I give it a 10 out of 10.

 

Rich Historical Setting in a So-So Mystery

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Oxford University, in 1264, the savage murder of a young girl kindles a frenzy of suspicion between privileged students and impoverished townspeople. And when one of Falconer’s students who may have witnessed the crime narrowly escapes being beaten to death by a lynch mob, the Regent Master rushes to his defense. (From Goodreads)

 

This is a pretty short mystery to read through. Looks can be deceiving though. Despite being short, it’s packed in with some heavy duty stuff.

The setting for example. Very rich in detail and gives you a sense on how it was back then in William Falconer’s time. Add in some political intrigue, a Jewish Quarter, and some rioting and it gets pretty exciting. I really can’t get over how great the setting is. It’s so descriptive you can feel the darkness and the dampness that permeates throughout the novel. Morson also does an excellent job to stay close to historical accuracy here in this novel as well. Forensic pathology is frowned upon, and you even get to see Falconer try on a strange contraption that looks a lot like Medieval opera glasses at the time. 🙂

The plot is pretty straight forward although there is not much of a secret mystery element in it. The suspect list is not extensive (thankfully! You’ll see why as you read further into this review) and when revealed it’s not much of a surprise or an a ha! Moment. There isn’t much personality to the characters except Falconer and his student Thomas. Thomas is a particular dolt. A Farmer boy who managed to be gifted and chosen to study and be a Scholar, well, for all the idiotic moves he makes, you have to wonder how the University chose this guy to let him attend their school. He fumbles and stumbles at the worst times and always manages to get himself into some life threatening situations (and doesn’t learn from it). It was funny the first few times, but after a while it gets annoying and you want to slap this boy upside the head. (You don’t deserve Hannah’s attention, you twit).

I’m going to assume it will get better with other books in this series, and this one serves as an introduction to the series. Since I really do love the historical aspect I will stick with this series and see where it takes me. Historical mystery lovers will love the setting and theme of this book, the mystery part, not so much.

I give it a 5 out of 10.