Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Seek by Anthony O’Neill

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

I really like when authors take a classic story and put their own spin on it, or try to add onto it. The problem is this is not always successful. Sometimes, it can be amazing but other times, the attempt fails miserably. It’s a hit-or-miss situation… but I’m always game to try it out! I was super happy to have received this ARC, and here is my review:

It has been 7 years since Edward Hyde died, when one day a stylish gentleman arrives claiming to be Dr. Henry Jekyll. Only Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s faithful laywer and confidant knows that this man is an imposter – because only Utterson knows that Jekyll was Hyde. But as the imposter goes around charming all of Jekyll’s friends and reclaiming his estate, Utterson finds himself the only challenger. And as the bodies of others who really knew Jekyll start piling up, Utterson is left fearing for his life … and questioning his own sanity.

So I liked the concept here. But this one leans more towards a miss than a hit for me. The author jumps right into the story, and I really liked that because it immediately sets up the stage. For those who have never read the original class, fear not! The author gives enough hints that the reader can piece the whole thing together. The reason that this novel didn’t work for me was because it felt very rushed. Utterson’s panic and conviction are realistically portrayed but the madness of his behaviour and the flurry of events that occurred were sometimes hard to follow. It didn’t allow the story to develop deeply enough. I wish that the author had slowed down, had made Utterson talk to the imposter a few more times, so that we could have also believed that the imposter might not be Jekyll. I didn’t really have any impression whatsoever of the fake Jekyll because there were so few scenes that involved him! There was also other characters that were introduced but then they faded away, and it just made it a very confusing read. I also didn’t really like the ending, as it made the novel a moot point. At the end of the day, this novel showed that the original never really needed a sequel. While I appreciate the author’s efforts, it just didn’t work for me.

Happy reading ~

 

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Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff – Nevernight Chronicles #2

I loved Nevernight so much so that I bought it. I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this novel and I had to wait FOREVER to get my hands on it. But I did. And I kid you not, I put every other book aside so that I could devote all of my time to this novel. I even skipped out on doing work (sorry not sorry) to finish it and savour this amazing sequel. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is my review:

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church don’t think she’s earned it just yet. As she successfully completes one mission after the other, she finds herself no closer in her quest to kill Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo. And after a deadly confrontation with an enemy, Mia starts to suspect the allegiance of the Red Church itself.  When she finds out that Scaeva and Duomo will be making an appearance in the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia hatches a plan. She defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium in the hopes of reaching the conclusion level of the games and finally getting the chance to seek her revenge. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

This was one of the best sequels I’ve ever read. Usually, I find that in a trilogy, the second book is just filler. NOT THE CASE WITH THIS GEM! The darkness, brutality, and violence that made this story so believable in the first book carried over here. If anything, it was more intense than before! Mia is an amazing character and I love how sneaky and cunning she can be with her friends – and the reader. I love how she grows and changes, and I love that this novel showed a different side to her world than what we had seen in Nevernight. The gladiator battles were amazing, and I liked the new characters that were introduced. The writing style was just the same (meaning BRILLIANT) and it was great to see how the author flitted between past and present in the first part of the story. I think what really makes this story work for me is that the author doesn’t cheat the reader out of the experience. This book promises gore and then it delivers it. It promises an evolving and fast-paced story and that’s exactly what the reader gets. And there are so many surprising events that occur, which the reader could never have guessed and they just add to the intrigue and make you want to know more! Suffice to say, it was worth making all of the sacrifices that I did (like skipping work, and not studying or reading anything else). Now, I just have to wait in agony for the next book to be released!

Happy reading ~

 

The Visitors by Catherine Burns

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

If you follow my blog, then you know I love dark, messed up stories. It’s not just about it being a murder mystery or a psychological thriller; I am in love with stories that freak you out and make you cringe in horror because they are just that insane and diabolical. That was what I hoped to get from this book. And I did. Here is my review:

Marion Zetland is a timid spinster in her fifties who lives with her domineering older brother, John, in an old and decaying townhouse. Her only friends are her teddy bears and the imaginary relationships she makes up at night. These are the only things that help her shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar. As long as she never has to go down to the cellar, Marion can live with the slight twinge of unease that comes from knowing about John’s secret. But when John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down there, she has no choice but to face the gruesome truth. And as questions are asked and secrets begin to reveal themselves, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side …

This novel was advertised as a cross between Room and Grey Gardens. While I’ve never read Grey Gardens, I can definitely say that this is not at all like Room and making that comparison is a misnomer. In fact, it led me astray in terms of my expectations. However, that does not in any way mean that I didn’t like this novel. In fact, I loved it! This was a slow burning, tension-building story that seriously creeped me out by the end. If anything, I would describe this novel as more of a character study of Marion and John, told from Marion’s perspective. She talks about her life and how people view her as timid and plain. She talks about how much she depends on her brother, John, and how she never feels like she is good enough. She wishes for a great deal and in the beginning, she seems to have a simplistic mindset … but it becomes clear near the middle/end that she is much smarter than one might have thought. While there is never any doubt in the reader’s mind that John is the main villain, this story makes the reader question the responsibility and culpability of a “bystander” like Marion. The premise of the story reveals most of what this book about, but for once, that doesn’t bother me because the plot isn’t the real interesting aspect about this book; it is watching how Marion evolves and changes that is of real interest to the reader. To be quite honest, I think this is a really fantastic and dark read that looks at a horrendous situation in a very different light. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a slow but creepy book, and who is not wary of gruesome content.

Happy reading ~

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

I decided to give another poetry collection a shot. I’ve been seeing this one everywhere, and I’ve always been tempted to pick it up and go through it. I mean, it’s quite short and it’s been getting a lot of attention…. so I finally did. Here is my review:

This is a poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. The first 3 sections detail the life of the author, expressing love, loss, grief, healing, and empowerment. The section titled you serves as a note of encourage to the reader and all of humankind, to inspire us all to live life kindly.

Let me begin by saying that I liked this collection of poetry better than Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. I thought that this one discussed a lot of themes like suicide, eating disorders, self-harm, abuse, and of course, being brokenhearted and picking yourself up. The raw emotion was easier to feel and connect with in this collection and I really liked that there was a positive note at the very end. However, the same issue as with Milk and Honey was present here: meaningless lines that told nothing, and a great deal of wasted space. For every really good poem/entry, there were 3 that I barely glanced at. While I don’t require poems to rhyme, I do have a problem when it is literally just one sentence separated by spaces. That’s not a poem, that’s a sentence. Breaking it up that way doesn’t really do anything. And while I liked the first 3 sections, the last one, in which the author seems to be trying to encourage the reader to be brave and stand up for themselves …. well, it was lackluster. The content wasn’t anything that I hadn’t heard of, and that was expected, but I thought it would be presented in a more unique way. After having poured so much raw emotion into this poetry collection, I would have hoped some of that would be in the last section, too. Instead, you was very bland and frankly, could have been omitted. I think that, while the content was intense and the emotions poured into this collection should not be dismissed, I am not a fan of this form of poetry. There isn’t really any depth to it and it has no proper flow or form. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

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

This is one of thsoe cases where I chose a book simply because its title and cover looked interesting. I wanted to see if the story would match its outward appeal, and was very excited to have received this ARC. Here is my review:

Aviva Grossman is a bright and ambitious congressional intern… until she makes the mistake of having an affair with her married boss, the congressman. What’s worse is she wrote about her experience in an anonymous blog. When the affair comes to light in an unfortunate turn of events, it’s not the congressman who takes the fall, but rather Aiva. Suddenly, she can’t find herself a job anywhere, and she is slut shamed by everyone everywhere. Determined to get out of this unpleasant situation, Aviva leaves her home, changes her name, starts her own event planning business … and continues her surprise pregnancy. But when “Jane Young” decides to run for public office, that long-ago mistake comes back to haunt her.

This was a really interesting novel in terms of its premise. However, I’m still on the fence about whether it achieved its goals or not. This story is narrated from quite a few perspectives (all female), which I wasn’t expecting. Since this was Aviva’s story and the premise only mentions Aviva, I thought that this story would be from her perspective alone. While this made it interesting, it also made it a bit confusing. The novel begins with Aviva’s mother’s perspective, and while I loved her character, it took me a while to figure out where exactly the story was going. Then there was another switch in perspective, and again, I felt as if I had been uprooted from one story and put into another. This feeling was persistent for a large portion of the novel. However, I will say that I enjoyed reading from each perspective. All of the characters were wonderful and just so funny to read about. I also think that the author really makes a fine point of how unfair it is that a publicly drawn-out affair only affects the woman involved and not the man. However, I wish the author had elaborated on this aspect; while it is the main reason why Aviva takes such drastic decisions, it also never felt like it was fully addressed and resolved. This novel was a really enjoyable and funny read with great characters. However, it didn’t really address the elephant in the room and left me a bit disappointed. For that reason, I’m giving this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The House by Simon Lelic

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

I was very excited to read this thriller because its premise seemed to hint at a haunted house type of story. And I’m a sucker for anything to do with houses with a past. I was super happy to receive an ARC but because of my vacation, I wasn’t able to get to it until now. Anyways, here is my review:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime? When Jack and Syd find the perfect house, they can’t wait to put in an offer. They never thought they would get it – but they did. They moved in, excited to make it their forever home. When they made a gruesome discovery in the attic, they decide to ignore it. They’re willing to put anything in the past so that they can continue to live in their dream home. But that was a mistake. Because someone was murdered right outside their back door. And now the police are watching them…

So the story is written for the most part as journal entries between Syd and Jack. They are recalling the events that led them to a certain point in the novel. At first, I found this a cool concept. They keep hinting at some bad thing that happened to them, and every time they hinted at it, I became more eager to find out what it was. It was also weird/interesting how they responded to each others’ entries. However, that was probably the only thing I really enjoyed about the story. The themes that this story revolved around were sad but common ones in this genre so I wasn’t really blown away by anything. I also found the plot to be a tad bit predictable. I never felt connected to the characters, and I pretty much lost interest around the 30% mark. I kept reading because I didn’t find the writing style terrible and I just wanted to make sure that my predictions were correct (and they were). There was a lot of hype around this book, and quite a few people liked it. However, I wasn’t one of them. This really wasn’t much of a thriller for me. And the house didn’t play as much of a central role as I had hoped. This novel gets 2/5 stars from me, and only because I liked the writing style.

Happy reading ~

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

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

When I saw this novel on NetGalley, I knew I had to have it as an ARC. The story of Lizzie Borden is such an intriguing mystery, and I’ve always been fascinated by it. I really wanted to know how the author would go about presenting it and so, I was really happy to have received the ARC! Here is my review:

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. No one knows what to make of this: who would ever want to harm the respected Bordens? But there is a much darker story lurking beneath the surface and it becomes increasingly clear that the Bordens were not your typical family. Andrew Borden had an explosive temper, the stepmother was spiteful and moody in nature, and the two spinster sisters were stuck in the middle of it all. As the police continue to investigate, Emma tries to comfort Lizzie, whose memories of that morning are fragmented. Lizzie is an unreliable witness at best, as her story keeps changing every time she tells it. As the perspectives switch from Lizzie, to Emma, to the housemaid Bridget, and to the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are revealed.

I had really high hopes for this novel but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to all of my expectations. While I don’t think this was a bad book, it had quite a few flaws that made it an unremarkable read for me. For one thing, I found it very difficult to characterize Lizzie. She is clearly an adult but the way she speaks and acts is very childlike. If the author’s attempt was to make Lizzie creepy, well, it worked. But it also made it very confusing because I just couldn’t understand what went on in her mind. Perhaps the author was hinting that Lizzie might not be a fully-developed adult in terms of her mental acuity, in which case this characterization works. But it just didn’t work for me. Now, the author did a really great job of portraying how different the family dynamics were in the Borden residence compared to most other Victorian families. I mean, the fact that there are 2 spinster daughters was in itself unusual as families back then were very eager to wed eligible daughters. The controlling demeanour of the father and the stepmother’s attitude were also interesting details that the author put into the story. I think my favorite character in the entire story was Bridget – because she was the only sane person! At many points in the story, I found it an uphill battle to continue pushing through. There were certain details that I really found boring or unnecessary and some perspectives just weren’t that interesting to me. However, as the second half of the book progressed, I will admit that the author dialed up the tension and my intrigue came back. I quite liked the way the author ended the story, as it went along with my own thoughts about this case. Overall, this novel was an interesting retelling of the Borden murders but the characters felt off and some parts of the novel dragged on. I would give this a 2.5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

Prom by Hasan Minhaj – Season of Stories

Season of Stories is back!!!! For those of you who may not remember, Season of Stories is this opportunity where people receive one short story a week for the fall season to encourage readers to give the short story collection a try. Each day for 4 days, portions of the story are given until you finally have a cohesive story. It’s a really interesting project and I love getting this little treat in my inbox every morning. Anyways, this is the first short story of this Season. You may know of Hasan Minhaj from his comedy shows. He is a very funny comedian who has his own show on Netflix and is a senior correspondent on the Daily Show. This story of his is actually part of the Moth short story collection, and The Moth is an amazing podcast that I’ve listened to for AGES! They have some very interesting and diverse content there so I would definitely recommend people check it out if they love short stories. Anyways, enough of my blabbering, here is my review:

When you’re one of the few brown people in a town that is predominantly Caucasian, it can be hard to fit in. But when the new girl at school is actually nice to Hasan, he thinks that his luck might change. As they become closer friends, Hasan finds that it is easy to be himself around her. So when prom comes around, and his math teacher challenges everyone in class to attend, Hasan considers going with her. This decision leads to a night that he will never forget.

As someone who is a minority, I fully sympathized with teenage Hasan. He struggled to fit in just liked I did and he had his fair share of insecurities. This story, which started off funny enough, quickly revealed itself to be a lot deeper than expected. I loved that this story gave me pause and made me reevaluate my initial opinion. It made me see a different perspective from my own and it was quite insightful. I really enjoyed reading this story, and it reminded me of all of the wonderful stories I would hear on the Moth podcast. If this story is to be taken as an accurate representation of the kind of material in the short story collection, then I would recommend this book to every person I know. This story is a gem and I have no doubt that the rest of the collection will be, too!

Happy reading ~

Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

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

I don’t often read emotional stories. But when I do, you can believe that I become a hot mess. This novel made my heart ache so many times that I didn’t know if I would be able to finish it. But I’m glad I did because it was a very thought-provoking story. Here is my review:

When Simran’s mother dies, Simran finds her world crash down around her. As she tries to make sense of the grief she feels, she sees her marriage disintegrate in front of her eyes and faces estrangement from her own daughter. As the days go by, Simran is haunted by memories and her mother’s ghost. As her life starts to fall apart, Simran must confront one of her most painful memories – when her parents sent her younger brother away. As the past starts flooding in, she wonders what could have caused her parents to send away their only son. Now, facedAs the past comes flooding back, she wonders what could compel her parents to turn their backs on their only son. Now with her mother gone, Simran must find the answers to these painful questions in order to finally put her ghosts to rest.

This book looks at grief in a multitude of ways. Not only does it focus on the actual moment of loss, it also depicts the stages and transitions one makes in the days that follow. It is a long and painful journey, and the reader feels every emotion that the main character does. As someone who has been fortunate enough to not have experienced the loss of a loved one, this was an eye-opening journey. There are so many nuances, so many elements to this state of being that I would never have thought possible. And the author allows each one to manifest itself and be understood by the reader. I really liked that the author flitted back in time and even delved into Simran’s mother’s past. This novel showed me the different ways people deal with grief, and how some accept and move on while others struggle to do so. This story is powerful even though it has a quiet voice, as it makes the reader aware of the strength it takes to carry grief in your heart and yet, continue to live life. I’m so glad that I had the chance to review this ARC and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thought-provoking story.

Happy reading ~

 

Now I Rise by Kiersten White – Conqueror’s Saga #2

When I read And I Darken, I immediately fell in love with the unique protagonist. Lada is like no other in her ferocity and determination. The author stays true to her vicious nature and I loved that the author never made that aspect of Lada go away. It was no surprise then that I would be anxiously waiting for the sequel. So here is my review:

Lada Dracul is only after one thing: Wallachia. And she will do anything to get there. Filled with rage, she storms the countryside with her loyal men, terrorizing all those who defy her. But brute force isn’t working as well as it should. What Lada needs is her younger brother, Radu. But she left him – and Mehmed – behind. What Lada has yet to discover is that Mehmed has sent Radu to Constantinople – as a spy. Mehmed wants to control the city, and Radu would do anything for Mehmed. Radu longs for Lada’s confidence and bravery – but for the first time in his life, he rejects her unexpected plea for help. As nations crumble, the Dracul siblings must decide if they will make the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill their destinies.

I didn’t think the story could get any better – but it did. I loved everything about this book but let me try to break it into components. First off, I loved Lada (as usual). She maintained her ferocity, but also realized that she needed to change her style at times. She had her own unique way of deciding to govern her people, one that was influenced by her time with the Ottomans as well as by her memories of her father. She grows as an individual and the reader gets to see her vulnerable side (but not for too long!) This is the one character that does not require a man to complete her, or help her fulfill her goals and that is what I love about her. I’ve always been fascinated with the historical figure Vlad the Impaler but I never thought anyone would be able to reimagine him as a female. I’m happy to say that the author has succeeded! The next amazing thing about this novel is that the author made Radu a more prominent character. Before, he had been overshadowed by Lada, but in this novel he had his own moments. He also grew and changed as events unfolded. He became wiser, and struggled with himself at times. Was he my favorite character? No. But that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t well developed. In fact, he was an amazingly developed character, and the author kept him true to his original personality. What I actually liked about this novel was that Mehmed took the back seat. I was worried that this second novel would be more of a love triangle than a story filled with action and warfare, but I needn’t have worried. There was a ton of bloodshed and cunning in this story, enough to keep me satisfied. The story had a lot of twists and turns and it forced the reader to pay attention to all of the details (not that I had to be forced!) Overall it was a very compelling read and I really could not put the book down. And that ending? Well, it was fantastic and I cannot wait for what the author has in store for the Dracul siblings! Definitely a 5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~