These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Abuse of any kind has been a topic that a lot of authors are writing about. It is a very sensitive topic that needs to be taken seriously and handled carefully. There have been many times when authors try to portray some scenario of abuse but end up over-dramatizing it to the point where it is no longer taken seriously. I really did not want that happening here, and I am happy to say that it didn’t. Here is my review:

Windemere School for Girls is an elite private school in America that boasts of its ability to nurture the young minds of its female charges. The school has various teachers, including Dr. Gregory Copeland, the chair of the English Department and everyone’s favorite teacher. Although he is married, he has its own agenda, namely teenage girls who are under his care. For years, he has been targeting girls – until a former student goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and 2 other Windemere alumnae who were Copeland’s students, these women unite to take him down.

I had recently read a book that dealt with domestic abuse and had not been too happy with the way the author had handled that subject matter. This author did not have that same problem. I felt that the issue of sexual abuse and abuse of power by authority figures was handled delicately and maturely. The story revolved around a former student who was interning at a newspaper and decided to share her incident through the news. This later led an investigative journalist, who was this student’s mentor, to help track down other women who had faced similar issues with this same teacher. The author really showed what investigative journalism is like. I also liked that the author did not shy away from difficult aspects of abuse. The story was also very real about the physical and mental damage that comes with abuse, as well as the negativity that comes when people accuse someone of perpetrating the abuse. It was very insightful. I will say that I don’t think this was really a story. From the way it was written to the actual events that were happening in the story, it felt more like a nonfiction book, which may throw off some readers. Either way, kudos to the author for doing a good job in chronicling sexual abuse in schools. I’m giving this a solid 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this premise so much that I had to request this ARC. I was so happy to have gotten my request approved and I’m even happier that I got the chance to read this novel because it was just such a fantastic read! Here is my review:

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey always knew he was different. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how special – and powerful – he really was. That tornado might have been the first event that had every happened to him … but it definitely wasn’t his last. Strange things seemed to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he tries not to take credit for them. While the powers seem amazing, they can also endanger Weylyn’s life and the lives of others. As Weylyn distances himself from his loved ones, those who care about him try to do everything they can to make him stay in their lives.

This story is told from multiple perspectives through various points of time. But every account centers around Weylyn and how he has changed that person’s life. I usually find that this kind of storytelling style can get quite complicated and murky. But the author handled it fantastically and I could not imagine this story being told in any other way. I love Weylyn; he is a sweetheart and someone I wish I could have met in my own life. He is conscientious and caring and always trying to be someone he is not. Every character that is introduced to him gets changed in their own way, and I love how each of these characters had their own unique voice and experience with Weylyn. Now, I usually prefer hearing things from the main character’s point of view but the author managed to give the reader a full appreciation for Weylyn through so many different perspectives that I was just as happy. I would not say that this story is plot-driven; it’s more about Weylyn struggling to deal with his abilities and finding himself. If you are looking for something more plot based, you probably won’t enjoy this story. I loved the simplicity of the motives behind Weylyn’s actions, as well as that of others. This story also pulled at my heartstrings; I didn’t realize how attached to Weylyn I had become as I was reading this book! Overall, this was just a lovely engrossing read that used an interesting style to shed light on a wonderful protagonist. I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of magical realism and sweet character-driven stories! I’m giving this novel 5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

 

 

Poison by Gail Niederhoffer

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

True to my promise on not shying away from books that have to do with marriage, I accepted this ARC. The premise was mysterious enough that I went into it with no idea as to the direction it would take, which is always exciting! Here is my review:

Cass and Ryan Connor are the perfect family, with 3 kids between them, a cat, and a home just waiting to be renovated and lived in. Their family, including Cass’ 2 children from previous relationships, has just moved to Portland to start their lives afresh. But trouble begins soon enough. First, there are the little white lies that happen daily in the marital bedroom. What starts off as insignificant soon spirals out of control into a madness that will change the family forever.

This novel was presented as a literary psychological thriller, which is an interesting mix of genres. Literary fiction is typically slower-paced and focused on character development whereas psychological thrillers are fast-paced and plot-driven. The story reads like a literary fiction in terms of the language used and the amount of detail that the author provides. It also has this weird mix of pace that I never really got a handle on; it felt like it was moving slowly because of the writing style but the events themselves were happening quite rapidly. It took me aback … and not pleasantly. I felt the pacing was very awkward and it didn’t allow me to get a good sense of any of the characters. The story is told entirely from Cass’s perspective, which was not an issue in itself but I found her boring. There were a lot of events happening in the book in a very random way, just to allow the author to make the conclusions she wanted to make. The entire concept behind the story was that women’s accounts are dismissed quite readily by the police and by court systems. However, I don’t agree with that premise 100%, and especially not when it comes to this story; no matter your gender, you have to have evidence when making accusations. I don’t think that should be considered a sign of prejudice or discrimination by gender. I also didn’t really get the purpose behind the crime. Why do all of this? How did so many people get involved? The ending was also very random and seemed almost too easy after all of the other things that had occurred in the story. It just all felt like a mess, what with events happening quickly and randomly while the author continues to ramble on and focus on inconsequential details, and there being no real motive or resolution to anything. Since there wasn’t a single thing I liked about this story, I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

How to Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather

I’ve always been fascinated by the Salem Witch trials. It was a time when paranoia and hallucinations ran rampant, leading to the death of many innocent women. I remember reading quite a few nonfiction novels to try to understand how this mass hysteria came to be. I haven’t had a chance to read a fictional book about this topic, and thought this would be a good novel to start with. Here is my review:

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials. It is also Samantha Mather’s new home. When Sam and her stepmother move to Salem from New York City, they don’t exactly get a warm welcome. Sam is a descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch trials. This automatically makes San the enemy of a group of girls who are descended from the witches that were hung by Cotton. If struggling to deal with these bullies wasn’t enough, Sam also finds herself face to face with a real ghost, one who wants Sam to leave the house she lives in. But soon, Sam discovers that she is at the center of a centuries old curse. Sam must now get help from the ghost and find a way to work with her enemies in order to stop the deadly cycle of the curse. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

I went in knowing that this was a YA fiction novel. I think having this understanding is what allowed me to enjoy this story. I knew not to expect too much depth or intricate plot lines; I assumed it would have similar themes to most teen fiction stories (albeit with witches). This turned out to be true. However, I quite liked this story. Sam is a sarcastic yet shy/vulnerable character who has a hard time trusting people and opening up. This makes sense when you consider the things she has gone through in her childhood. In fact, I wish this was expounded upon more in the story. I liked the way the author brought in the history behind the Salem witch trials; in fact, I wish there had been more of it. I felt as if the author would bring up important facts or mysteries about this time period in history but then either let it drop or resolve it too quickly. I feel like this was an aspect that the author could have spent more time on. I will say that there was a definitive plot for this story and I really liked the way it moved; there was a lot more witchy elements than I had expected, which is always a nice surprise. The Descendants, the name for the group of students who are descended from the accused witches, were pretty much your stereotypical bully/popular girl clique but I expected that from the start. I will admit the writing wasn’t anything to admire and the love triangle was a bit awkward and cringe-y for my taste… but the overall story was interesting. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars, and I would recommend this to teens around the age of 13-15 who like stories about witches.

Happy reading ~

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy

This was a book that I had kept my eye on since I first heard about it. It’s premise has this merging of technology and horror and I thought it would be interesting to see where that would go. Here is my review:

The Dark Net is a real and dangerous place, existing in the far reaches of the Web. Some use it to manage Bitcoins, pirate movies, or traffic in drugs. Now, an ancient darkness has decided to use this platform for its own agenda. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew: 12- year-old Hannah, who has just been given a visual prosthetic to combat her blindness, and is wondering why she can see shadows around certain people; Lela; a technophobic journalist who has found a story no one wants her to uncover; Mike Juniper who suffers from personal – and literal – demons; and Derek, a hacker with a streak of justice. They have no idea what the Dark Net really contains and what they are up against.

I really wanted to love this novel, and with its premise, it gave every indication that I would enjoy this story. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The story is told from multiple perspectives. In this case, I found none of the perspectives interesting. In fact, I didn’t really like any of the characters (especially Lela, who I found intolerable). Even though the author had ensured that he gave the backstory of the main characters, I had this constant feeling like the descriptions were just surface level; they didn’t have much emotional depth to them. Whenever I thought the author would get deeper into something, there would be a switch in perspective or scene that would throw me off. It also felt as if this book was trying to tie in all of these random aspects to make them come together and tell a cohesive tale; while it did all tie up, it just wasn’t done in an authentic way. Some things were put together in a way that was far too convenient to believe, and it made me fall out of the story. I wish there had been more depth to the entire story, not just random wikipedia facts to inform the readers about the Dark Net. In the end, this story just didn’t flow well and had characters that were hard to connect with on all levels. However, I did like the demonic aspects so I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – Pendergast #5

I’m staying up to date and continuing to work through this series. There are so many novels that this duo has written as part of the Pendergast series that it is daunting. But I feel like I will eventually catch up, especially if I keep reading one book from this series every month or so! Anyways, enough rambling, here is my review:

Behind the gates of a fabulous Hamptons estate, FBI Special Agent Pendergast comes upon the carnage of a gruesome crime: one that recalls the legendary horrors that befall those who make a Faustian pact with the devil. Surrounded by the choking stench of brimstone, the smoldering remains of art critic Jeremy Grove are found in a locked, barricaded attic next to a hoofprint singed into the floorboards. Unable to resist a case that defies all but supernatural logic, Pendergast reunites with police officer Vincent D’Agosta to search for a more earthly explanation. But their investigation soon takes them from the luxury estates of Long Island and penthouses of New York City to the crumbling, legend-shrouded castles of the Italian countryside, where thirty years ago four men conjured up something unspeakable.

Once again, the authors have produced an intense and intriguing read that had me in its grip from the first page. I love Pendergast and I love how he is constantly changing with each novel. There are so many aspects to him and I cannot wait to catch more glimpses of them! I’m glad that the authors brought D’Agosta back; he was a really interesting character and I hope that he continues to play a strong role in the series. There are two other characters who were introduced in this novel, but I’m not going to mention anything about them for fear of spoilers; I’m looking forward to seeing how the authors will flesh them out in the upcoming novels. I found the mystery itself to be very intriguing; anything hinting at paranormal activity will get me going! With the Pendergast series, I find that I’m always tricked into believing that something supernatural is the cause, only to find out I’m completely wrong. I will admit that this was not one of my favorites; the reveal was not as strong as it could be and the ending was a tad bit lackluster compared to other novels in the series. However, it was still an engaging read and I’m excited to see what the authors have in store in the next Pendergast novel!

Happy reading ~

Artemis by Andy Weir

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian, did so well that it was adapted to a movie. However, I neither read the book nor watched the movie. Why? Well, its not really my type of book. It’s kind of similar to my aversion to books on animals; it’s just not my scene. But this latest book had been getting a lot of notice, and its premise seemed different enough from The Martian that I felt it might be something I would like. Here is my review:

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. But she has her reasons. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is no cakewalk unless you’re working with tourists or an eccentric billionaire. By smuggling in harmless bits of contraband, Jazz is just trying to make ends meet. However, everything changes when Jazz is given the opportunity to make enough money to last her a life time. But pulling off this impossible crime is just the beginning of her problems, as she finds herself caught in the middle of a conspiracy to control Artemis itself.

The entire time I read this novel, it just had this very childish vibe to it. The crime and the consequences of it were serious, however it was delivered in such a childish, peppy manner that I couldn’t take it seriously. It was this weird mashup of a 1930s detective story with its mysterious characters and twists and turns, and some funny teen novel. And I didn’t really like it. I couldn’t get a handle on the mood or tone of this novel at all, and it just made everything seem like a big joke. Jazz’s character was also an issue for me. I have no problem with female characters who don’t act in a feminine way. However, it really felt as if the author was struggling to create Jazz. Every now and then, the author makes some really cringy assertion to make it clear that Jazz is a female. I also didn’t like the fact that Jazz talks to the reader sometimes in an attempt to add humor to the situation; it was just very awkward. None of the jokes were funny and the joviality of it all was just cringe-worthy. I didn’t actually mind the fact that the author included scientific information; I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know, and it wasn’t delivered in a heavy pedantic way. But the whole plot was just not intense enough for me to feel pulled into it and I really couldn’t care about anything in this novel. So far, I’m not really getting a great impression of this author’s work … but maybe, just maybe, when I have nothing left to read…. I’ll give The Martian a try. For now, this novel gets a 2/5 from me.

Happy reading ~

The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Corrine and her boyfriend, Dominic, have been trying very hard to conceive. But after 3 failed IVF attempts, it is looking like becoming parents is not in their cards. After Corrine’s sister, Ashley, loans the couple money for one last IVF treatment, there is finally a stirring of hope. Maybe, just maybe, this time it will work. When Corrine finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels like a positive sign. But as more pieces turn up, Corinne realizes that they are far too familiar; they look just like the ones she used to play with as a child. Someone knows about her childhood doll house. And they want Corinne to know.

Meanwhile, Ashley is struggling to keep her family in control. Her youngest baby, Holly, isn’t sleeping at night, her oldest daughter, Lucy, is running wild, and her husband never seems to be home. Just when things couldn’t get worse, she starts receiving mysterious phone calls. At first, she dismisses them as crank calls but eventually, they take on a more sinister role.

As these two sisters battle through their crises, they start to wonder who is targeting them? And what do they want?

The original synopsis of this story did not mention Ashley at all, so I went into this story thinking it would only be about Corinne. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this would be about both sisters. The story is told in their alternating voices, with brief interjections from Dominic, as well as moments from the past told in the voice of an unknown character. Of course, the unknown person was the most intriguing part of the story, and I was wondering the entire time who it could be. I found Ashley’s perspective to be a lot more interesting than Corinne; I also liked her better as a character, even though not much was really happening on her end as compared to Corinne. But to be honest, I didn’t really care much about what was happening with either one of them. There just wasn’t enough emotional connection or depth to them to get me interested; every time I felt I was connecting, the story would hurry on and it would be lost. I had pretty much guessed the ending of the story so there wasn’t too much of a thrill there. However, I WAS surprised by the identity of the unknown character; it wasn’t the person I was expecting it to be. For the most part, this story was lackluster, and I was just trying to get to the end to see if I was right or not. The ending was the only interesting part of the novel, but it ended in such a cliffhanger way that I wonder if there will be a sequel. Overall, this was an okay thriller with characters I didn’t really care about, and not enough thrill to keep me enthralled. I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

Literary fiction is a genre I don’t usually go for, mostly because I don’t have the time to get immersed in it. These aren’t novels you can quickly rush through. These novels must be read slowly, carefully; that’s the only way to fully immerse yourself into the world the author is creating. It is slow-paced and requires the reader’s attention at all times. It’s a commitment that I’m not always able to make. However, I made it this time. Here is my review:

Ada Sibelius’s father, David, is a brilliant and eccentric scientist who is single-handedly raising her. He directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy who knows everything about computers and coding but nothing about being a teenager. When David’s mind begins to falter, Ada is left in the care of one of David’s colleagues.  Soon she embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood. What Ada discovers on her journey into a virtual universe will change her life forever.

This book is beautiful. This is one of those times when I really don’t know how to come up with the right words to describe all of the wonderful things about this novel. But I’m going to try. The story is told almost exclusively from Ada’s point of view. She is a very interesting protagonist; she has an intelligent and analytical way of looking at interactions but she manages to retain her innocence. It is extremely difficult to achieve this type of voice and yet the author does so effortlessly. I felt like I was growing up right alongside Ada, feeling awe when around her father, wanting his approval, and feeling despair when he begins to forget. I feel her pain and her determination as she tries to make things alright, as she tries to find her place in the social hierarchy of high school. I find myself just as curious as she is, when she discovers that her father has secrets he has been hiding from everyone. This novel is slow in its pace but it needs to be in order for the reader to really connect with Ada and understand the magnanimity of her situation. I took my time with this novel, and it was definitely worth it. I would recommend this to anyone who likes literary fiction and coming-of-age stories. 4/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time because its premise is just the kind of thing I love. Here is my review:

Shannon Moss is part of a clandestine division within the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In Western Pennsylvania, 1997, she is assigned to solve the murder of a Navy SEAL’s family and to locate his teenage daughter, who has disappeared. Moss soon discovers that the missing SEAL was an astronaut on the spaceship U.S.S. Libra – a ship presumed lost to the darkest currents of Deep Time. Moss knows the kind of trauma that can occur when you time-travel and believes that the SEAL’s experience with the future is what triggered this violence. Determined to find the missing girl and driven by a troubling connection from her own past, Moss travels ahead in time to explore possible versions of the future, seeking evidence or insight that will crack the present-day case. To her horror, the future reveals that it’s not only the fate of a family that hinges on her work…

I wanted so badly to love this novel. It had such a fantastic story line and I’m a sucker for strong female characters. However, this novel and I just didn’t work well. I found it a bit slow at times, which stopped me from really getting into the story. I also found that the way it was written was very confusing; there were too many details and names thrown out there and it became hard for me to keep track of everyone. And that was just in the first few chapters! I really liked the concept behind this story, and the tie-in with the mystery and science fiction elements. However, the writing style made this confusing and hard to get into. A lot of other people have read this book and have very positive reviews on it, so I would encourage anyone who is a fan of this author or who likes mysteries/sci-fi to give this novel a shot!

Happy reading ~