Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

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

Sometimes, I like to take a break from reading heavy books and switch it up with something lighter. I find that books aimed for little kids are just adorable in the way they portray the classic good-vs-evil story with a whole host of cute characters; they can definitely be appealing if you want something light-hearted. With that, let me start my review:

Warren the 13th comes from a long line of hotel owners. He is the sole bellhop, waiter, valet, and groundskeeper for his family’s ancient hotel. Once, it was a glorious place that was always booming but now it’s more of a shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and musty rooms. However, the hotel has a secret: it just might be the home for a magical object called the All-Seeing Eye. Can Warren make sense of all of the clues to find the treasure before his evil Aunt Annaconda does?

What a cute book! Warren is such an adorable character, and he is the sweetest kid you will ever read about! The story reminded me a little of The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken (which I’m still in the process of reading) because of its wackiness and weird plot twists. The ebook ARC version that I read had some illustrations in it but they were not always in the best format; I think the final completed version of this book has made the illustrations a lot clearer so that will be another element that kids will enjoy. This is definitely a story I can see middle schoolers enjoying because it’s got great elements, great pictures, and a great theme!

Happy reading ~

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone – The Hatching #2

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

When I read The Hatching, which is the prequel to this novel, it made me terrified of spiders. It was an amazingly freaky novel that had so many elements that worked so wonderfully and I just loved every minute of the adventure, while also being horrified with every page I turned. I was super excited to read this sequel and I have been holding back for a long time on writing this review, so here you go:

Since the discovery of the spiders, millions of people around the world are dead. No country is safe, and the mysterious flesh-eating spiders are running rampant all through America. Scientist Melanie Gruyer is hoping that the spider situation will change and finally become easier to deal with. However, Japan has just noticed the presence of a giant glowing egg sack that threatens to break that illusion, at the same time as survivors in Los Angeles begin to panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are bored out of their mind and decide to invent a weapon to defeat the spiders … but it may all be in vain because President Pilgrim has just enacted the Spanish Protocol. America, it’s every man for themselves.

I didn’t think the sequel could be as good as the first book. It was. Once again, the author seamlessly tied in multiple events and characters in a way that worked. Every single person was important in depicting the mass destruction and chaos wrought by these spiders. It was spectacular to see this large-scale disaster being orchestrated so beautifully by the author …. while also creeping me out! The author kept the tension high and raised the stakes with new revelations about these spiders and the way they attack people. What I loved about this book was that the author managed to tease out various emotions while also writing such a fast-paced novel. I could literally see various different characters going through so many complex emotions and I was really able to connect and live this experience through them. The novel ends in a cliffhanger and I seriously need the author to write the next novel ASAP because I HAVE to know what’s going on! If you are looking for a fantastic thriller with loads of adventure and spiders, then please please please do yourself a favour and give this series a try! It’s definitely worth the effort!

Happy reading ~

Limbo Lodge by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicle #5

It may have seemed as if I had forgotten about this book series… but I did not! As I mentioned previously, I have just had zero time for myself and that has led to a decline in my reading time, but I am working fast to make up for it. So without further ado, here I go:

In her latest adventure, Dido Twite is searching for Lord Herodsfoot, who is scouring the globe for new and interesting games. It’s up to Dido to bring him back to London, where an ill King James is in need of a distraction. Dido’s search takes her to a spice island called Aratu, where foreigners seldom venture due to the presence of the deadly pearl snakes and sting monkeys. When Dido lands on this island, she learns of something far more sinister than the poisonous snakes: there is a plot to overthrow the island’s king at his place on the Cliffs of Death. With the help of the Forest People, Dido rushes to the Cliff … but will she make it in time?

I have to admit, this has got to be one of my least favorite books in the series so far. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some positives and I still enjoyed the ride. Let me begin with what I liked:

  • the magic elements were super weird and cool. I liked the mysticism and the way in which those who could use magic were able to even convince the skeptics in the story.
  • Talisman and the Forest People were by far my favorite characters in the story. They were so different and I think Aiken did a fantastic job in creating them and giving them the ropes.
  • the plot against the King was typical Aiken and I loved it because it’s everything I expected and love about this series!

So clearly, there were some positives. However, there were some flaws that made this book drop below my expectations.

  • Dido lacked that charm I’ve become so accustomed to seeing. In this novel, she was quite flat and had no real purpose; this novel would have still moved fine without her presence.
  • Lord Herodsfoot and King were really blah characters. I just didn’t like their complete helplessness in every situation. I understand that Aiken created them specifically to be this way, but I just don’t like useless characters.
  • there were a lot of holes in the plot that didn’t make sense (and that’s saying something since most of the books in this series are wacky!) and the introduction into this adventure was very awkward and stilted. The transitions could definitely have been better!

Overall, the novel still maintained its wackiness and had an awesome fantasy element to it. However, it didn’t tie things as well as it could have and Dido really didn’t shine. I’m hoping that the next book in the series will be better; for now, this novel gets a 3.5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

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

I am a big fan of Andrew Pyper. I have absolutely adored every single book he has written because they truly scare the living pants off of me! I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of his latest novel, and I was very happy to have my request approved so here is my review:

Dr. Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in evaluating the mental state of the most dangerous psychotics in the country. But her newest client – a man with no name accused of a very twisted crime – is different from the rest, even with the two ridiculous claims he makes: first, that he is more than 200 years old and has inspired notable Gothic authors like Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker; and second, that he is Lily’s father. To discover the truth about her client, her mother’s death, and herself, Lily must go on a journey that will threaten her career, her sanity, and ultimately her life.

This novel was not at all what I expected – and not in a good way. I’m trying to decide where to start with this book:

I really did not like the protagonist in this novel. She was just so off-putting. Her personality wasn’t likable at all and there was nothing about her that made her stand out. It felt like the author made her a distant character so that it would explain the trauma she suffered in the past, but it really didn’t work. There was nothing very unique about her, and she also did not behave or think in a very intelligent manner as befit her education and job status. To sum up, the protagonist was terrible.

There were a lot of unexplained elements in the plot. How did this monster just go from one place to another? What are all of his different powers? How can he suddenly talk to people in their heads? It was all very confusing and there was a desperate need for more detail. For every chapter, there should have been at least another one to segue the events. The author presented the story as both Lily’s journey as well as journal entries/letters by the monster that explain his past. I would have preferred if there had been actual scenes recounted rather than this format as it would have eliminated some of the holes in the story.

The interactions and relationships between various different characters was really not well done. Lily has some very weird feelings about her “father” and it made me quite uncomfortable. There were quite a few other characters that interacted with Lily and it all seemed so fake and forced that it ruined the story for me.

Finally, this novel didn’t deliver on the horror as much as I would have hoped. Instead, it took on a more psychological thriller view. While I have no problems with psychological thrillers, this novel wasn’t really a good one as it didn’t dig deep enough to back up the conclusions that it made.

Overall, this novel was a bit of a mess. It had so many different elements thrown together that it failed to maintain any semblance of cohesiveness. The protagonist was quite stupid and had no real personality, the interactions between various characters were awkward and fake, and there were gaping holes in this plot that made the whole story collapse. Unfortunately, this was a highly unsuccessful novel and I would have to rate it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – Hogarth Shakespeare

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

When I first requested this novel, it was because I really enjoyed reading Tracy Chevalier’s earlier work. Imagine my delight when I discovered that this novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series! So far, I’ve loved every book that has been part of the Hogarth concept, so I was very excited to give this novel a shot!

Osei Kokote has not had it easy. The son of a diplomat, it is his first day at his fifth new school in as many years. He knows that in order to survive his first day, he needs to find an ally, and he is lucky enough to find a friend in Dee, the most popular girl in school. For her part, Dee genuinely seems to like Osei and soon their budding relationship takes flight. But there is one person who is not happy to see this and is determined to wreak havoc on this friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. BBy the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The Shakespeare play that served as inspiration for this novel is Othello, which is one of the few works by Shakespeare that I actually don’t like too much. I’ve never been a fan of tragedies, especially ones that deal with the whole concept of misunderstandings. I was quite impressed by the originality of this novel, in taking a serious adult tragedy like Othello and transplanting it into a Washington school playground. It reminded me of my cringe-worthy days in elementary school, struggling to fit in with my peers, facing the social hierarchy that was constantly shifting, and dealing with betrayals and crushes. The author did a great job of giving each character a unique voice and exploring the playground politics in a serious tone that went beyond the surface. This novel speaks at length on the issue of race in an unusual setting that is really just a microcosm of our own society; it both surprised and delighted me to see this concept work out as well as it did! Was this novel a complete success? No. It had its flaws and the ending, while tragic, was a bit too dramatic for the setting the author was trying to maintain. However, this is still a powerful rendition of Othello, and I appreciate its uniqueness. Overall, an interesting novel!

Happy reading ~

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

You may expect that an idyllic community of wealthy California families would be the perfect paradise. Instead, when a middle school tragedy occurs, it becomes a nightmare. The reverberations from that tragedy still shake the community … and the privileged students involved in it. Now, new teacher Molly Nicoll enters the scene, hoping to inspire her pupils and understand them, not knowing the effects that the disaster has already had on them. At every turn, there is a child hiding under high school stereotypes: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents’ expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own; and Abigail, the girl who has her life charted out but makes a rash decision that will change her world.

The first story that this novel opens up with is emotionally-charged, and it is what got me into this book. It reminded me a lot of my own middle school and high school days, and every miserably memory that I had from that time. It was powerful and showed the very dark side of adolescence. However, the rest of the novel didn’t really work for me. Each chapter is like a vignette into a character’s life, and reading this novel, it began to feel as if I was reading short stories instead of a cohesive novel. The characters were also a bit too flat for me because they didn’t always get enough time in their chapter to be explored and developed; I ended up not really caring about any of them. At one point, I began to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters, which took my attention away from the main message. It’s clear from this novel that the author is very passionate about the drama and bullying and difficulties that arise in adolescents who are in high school. And she did a great job of exploring the various issues. That passion is evident throughout the novel and was the force that propelled the plot forward. However, this passion wasn’t enough for me to like this novel. If you like novels that deal with these issues, then you should definitely give this one a read. However, I will be giving this novel a 2.5/5 (the 2.5 is for the passion).

Happy reading ~

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine – The Great Library #2

After the spectacular journey in Ink and Bone, it was all I could do to not rush out and get this next novel. I wanted to read it leisurely, when I knew I would have enough time and energy to devote to this series. As soon as I finished my last final, I put everything else away and began to read this book. Here is my review:

Jess Brightwell survived his introduction to the Library, but serving in the army is nothing like what he imagined. With his best friend lost and Morgan, the girl he loves, locked away in the Iron Tower, his life and the lives of his other friends has changed forever. After embarking on a mission to save a friend, Jess and his group of allies make one wrong move and find themselves being hunted by the Library’s automata, forcing them to flee Alexandria and head to London. But London is no longer safe. The Welsh army is approaching, London is burning, and Jess must decide where his loyalties lie.

Did this novel live up to the standards of Ink and Bone? Not a chance. To be quite honest, this novel was so lackluster in comparison to its predecessor. Nothing happens. Seriously, it’s just a lot of talking and conspiring. Almost all of the novel was spent with Jess and the rest of the gang trying to figure things out. It was quite annoying to continually read about this, especially once it became clear how things were headed. The craziness and the intrigue and the characters that had me so fascinated were very dull in this book. Jess had almost no personality, and none of the other characters sparked my interest like they did in the previous novel. There was just no growth and no forward movement except in little jerks. This book was definitely a disappointment, especially following the amazing quality of the first book. I hope that the next installment redeems this series!

Happy reading ~

Fyre by Katherine Bogle – Chronicles of Warshard #0.5

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

I was unaware that this was a novella when I first began reading but considering that I also received the ARC for Haven, the first novel in the series, I thought it would be a good idea to start with this prequel novella as it would give me an understanding of the major players!

Haven has never felt comfortable in royal gatherings and jumps at the chance to sneak away and race her brothers on horseback. But when the young princess is injured, her identity is called into question.

As heir to the Rythern throne, Lucian has a heavy weight on his shoulders. But when he is forced to leave the warfront by his father, he does so reluctantly. Little does anyone know that this decision would prove costly.

The battle for Helms Keep has disastrous consequences for Marcel. Soon he finds himself fighting both enemy forces and his own memories.

For her own safety, Astrid is sent to the family cottage in the Cinder Mountains. However, the cottage is less than cozy what with the frigid temperatures and knee-high snow. With only a few guards to protect her, Astrid must find a way to dig deep into herself and find a way to survive.

This novella served as a sneak preview for the story that comes ahead in Haven. I found the premise intriguing, but the short stories here were a bit too abrupt in the way they end. I liked reading the first story about Haven, but her other siblings weren’t all that interesting to read about. Hopefully, that isn’t the case in the first book! Either way, this novella has me interested in reading this series!

Happy reading ~

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

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

Sports has never been my thing. I’ve never understood the sports culture and many of the rules of the various games just flies over my head. I’ll admit part of it is because I’ve never really given it a fair shot. This novel was me giving it a chance to win me over!

Beartown is a tiny community nestled deep in the forest. But down by the lake, there is an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. This ice rink is the only thing that makes people believe in a brighter future. Beartown’s junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Naturally, this is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match acts as a catalyst for a violent act that will leave a girl traumatized and a town divided.  When accusations are made and the truth threatens to come out, the reverberations  travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

You do not need to know anything about hockey in order to understand this novel. That being said, you’d probably enjoy this novel more if you are a fan of the game. There is A LOT  of hockey talk in this game. I don’t mean that the author puts in useless jargon or anything; it’s just that every other sentence has something to do with hockey. Now, you may think that I’m saying this as an off-putting thing but it actually wasn’t. It allowed me to understand and appreciate the hockey culture. This novel actually helped me see what the hype was all about and how people can make hockey the center of their lives, a fact I’m sure my boyfriend will be very happy to hear! This novel is very well-written and involves a whole host of characters, some adults and some teenagers. Each one has their own unique perspective, their own backstory, and the author does a fantastic job of making them relevant without bogging down the story. This novel is emotionally engaging, which was a happy surprise for me as I wasn’t expecting it. There is so much to this novel, so many issues that it highlights, and I could keep talking forever and ever on them…. but I won’t. I’d rather you read this novel and form your own impressions instead. This novel was something that I approached warily but by the end of the story, I was an absolute fan of this book and author!

Happy reading ~

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

I read the premise of this novel months ago, but it was not available anywhere in Canada for a while. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this novel, which has been hailed as a YA version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which is one of my favorite series!

Lumikki Andersson is a loner and she likes it that way. She knows all too well the trouble you can get in if you don’t mind your own business. But Lumikki’s rule is put to the test when she discovers thousands of washed Euro notes in her school’s darkroom – and 3 classmates with blood literally on their hands. With people now determined to get the money back, Lumikki finds herself on the run. At the center of all this chaos is Polar Bear, a mysterious drug lord with a notorious reputation for getting what he wants. If Lumikki hopes to make it out alive, she’ll have to uncover the entire operation before it’s too late.

This was a book that I had high hopes for but it ended up letting me down. To be frank, it was boring. In the beginning of the novel, the author alluded to a fairy-tale; however, the reference soon became obsolete as it literally did not have anything to do with the actual story. The plot itself was quite simple and the main character kept putting herself in situations that she could have easily avoided. While I understand that this is needed for there to be an actual story, the author should have at least included strong motivating factors that led to such decisions. I can see where the author was trying to go with a Lisbeth Salander vibe with the main character but it didn’t really work too well; instead of being intrigued by Lumikki, I just couldn’t care less. The other characters were nothing special, and this added to my indifference towards this book. At the end of the day, this story started off with a premise full of promise but it delivered on nothing. Perhaps I’m being unfair. I must mention here that I read a translated version; maybe the original is better! However, since I will probably not be in a position to read the original work, I’m going to have to pass on this series.

Happy reading ~