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 ~

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 ~

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 ~

Sunrise by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #3

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

As soon as I finished the second novel in this series, I immediately began reading the final installment in this series. I just wanted to know how everything would end, because this is a really addictive book series. It also helps that all of the books are out and I know I don’t have to wait to read the next one.

The Yellowstone supervolcano had devastating effects on people everywhere. Now, after a year, the survivors are barely able to live. Communities are waging wars against each other, there are gangs of cannibals, and every force of authority has collapsed.  Only sickness, cold, and starvation remain. When it becomes clear that home is no longer safe and the adults are not coping with the harsh reality of this new world, Alex and Darla must forge a new community that can survive this disaster. If they fail, it could spell the end for the remaining survivors, their loved ones – and themselves.

This last novel redeemed the previous book and made me love the series all over again. It was well-written, well-paced, and well thought out. It was just done so well! Everything that I consider as marks of a good book were in this novel: there was great character development, a good writing style, a perfect balance of adventure and romance and suspense, and just an overall strong plot. I loved how kickass Darla was, I loved that Alex became a strong leader and developed skills of his own, I loved the various characters that were introduced and developed in this story. Every conflict that was introduced was an interesting one that raised a powerful issue, and it was dealt with effectively by the characters. While this novel may not have been as action-packed as its predecessors, it was still interesting and riveting. All in all, this was a series well worth reading, and I’m glad that this last book did not disappoint! If you are looking for a unique dystopian novel, then definitely consider giving this one a shot!

Happy reading ~

Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin – Ashfall #2

After reading Ashfall, the first book in this unique dystopian series, I found myself eager to discover what would happen next in the lives of Darla and Alex. It took me some time to get to this next book, but once I got into the story, I finished the book in mere hours. So here is my review:

6 months after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, Alex and Darla are staying with Alex’s relatives on the farm. It’s also been 6 months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Enough time has gone by that Alex and Darla decide to venture on their own to find Alex’s parents and bring them to safety. But the landscape has changed since their last foray; things are more vicious, and settlements are more prone to violence as food becomes scarce.  As Alex and Darla try to survive, they begin to wonder if they will ever make it back at all.

Just like Ashfall, this novel is packed with adventure. There is not a boring minute in this story and I was racing through the pages as Alex and Darla find themselves in one dangerous situation after another. Like seriously. They go through a lot. To the point where I found myself overwhelmed by how terrible their journey was. While having a lot of action can be a good thing, it served to make me feel exhausted in this case. There was just a bit too much of it. I don’t need to have my main characters constantly getting in terrible situations; it’s okay for them to get a break or have some luck!

I also found that each chapter ended in a cliffhanger. I found that to be a bit irritating after a while. The story itself has so much going on for it, and I just want to get to the parts, without having this cliffhanger effect on every single chapter.

The last thing that I didn’t really like was Alex’s character. He is just a bit too good. He doesn’t want to do anything that is violent or terrible, and he has this righteous judgemental vibe going on that really bothers me. He just doesn’t seem to have adapted to the situation. It made me really not like him. Another thing I found weird was the steadiness and maturity of the relationship between Darla and Alex. And when I say weird, I don’t mean it as a bad thing, just as an unusual thing. Darla and Alex are both teenagers but their love for each other is portrayed as being very deep and very romantic and meaningful. I don’t know any teenagers who are capable of having such a strong and mature relationship with someone, but I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that they have just gone through a disaster.

While this novel had its high points, I didn’t like it as much as its predecessor. There was an overwhelming amount of action, and not enough character development for my taste. The story itself and the writing was still very good, so I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series!

Happy reading ~

The Stolen Lake by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicles #4

What I love about this series is that you never feel like you’ve missed anything when you wait before reading the next book. In the beginning of each book, the reader gets a chance to remember the particulars that led to this current situation, and then the story takes up and you get lost in all the action. With this particular book, the author mentions that it can be read as a standalone and has no bearing on the rest of the series. So if you are intrigued by this author but don’t have the time to read the whole series, this book is a good place to start! Anyways, enough rambling, let me get on with my review:

On her way back to London aboard the Thrush, Dido and the crew are summoned to the aid of the queen of New Cumbria. Her island has been a source of help for Britain in the past, and now she uses that connection to seek justice. When the crew arrives, they find that the island is a very unusual place, full of birds that are big enough to carry off men, and fish that eat human flesh and leave only bones as remains. The queen is greatly distressed because she believes that a neighbouring king has stolen her lake. It is up to Dido and the rest of the crew to face the many dangers that are present on this island in order to get the lake back.

In comparison to the previous books in this series, this one is definitely unique. While this novel continues in the style of alternate history, we also see unique fantasy and mythology elements. Once again, we see Dido as the star of the show. Her humor and quick wit save her time and again. I actually loved the adult characters that were introduced here as Dido’s companions; unlike the other books, most of them were quite ready to follow Dido’s directives and were a great asset to her! The plot, while not related to anything Hanoverian, was still delightfully sinister, and the evil characters were quite well drawn up! There are certain things that I found weren’t addressed fully in the book, but apart from that, this novel was just as fun and amazing as every other book in the series! I think this may be one of my favorite stories about Dido so far, but I’m going to read the next one to see if it can top this!

Happy reading ~

Black Friday by B.R. Myers – Night Shift #2

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

After absolutely loving the first book in the series, I was really excited to have the chance to read this one. It’s taken me some time to get here, but now I’m done! So here is my review:

It’s been a month since 19-year-old Daniel Gale survived a vicious attack at Willard’s department store. As the culprit waits behind bars for a court date, Daniel and Mary spend every night shift researching Willard’s history in order to find some clue to save Mary and the others from a life stuck in the department store. But when an ally passes away, it reveals a shocking letter filled with confessions that will make Daniel and Mary question everything they thought they knew.

After really loving the first book, I am sad to admit that this one left me quite disappointed. The magic and the glamorous vibe were non-existent, and the plot plodded on to the point where I simply couldn’t care. Most of this novel was filled with Daniel wandering around, moping because he wanted to spend more time with Mary. And there were so many impassioned moments where they declared their love for each other… and it was really cringe-worthy. I couldn’t really feel the “true love” angle that the author was throwing in, because it just seemed to happen so quickly and with no real development! There was so much focus on the romance that I felt that the actual mystery-solving aspect got very little attention. I was craving clues and the kind of intrigue and suspicion that were the focal point in the previous novel. But since the author just glazed over it, I didn’t really feel invested. There were so many things that the author left open-ended in the book and that really bothered me. I don’t want to reveal any of them now because I don’t want to spoil the story but I really hope she clarifies it in the next novel. The last 50 pages or so moved at a very quick pace, which was a bit startling to read. But the author did leave an interesting segue for the next book in the series. I will definitely give the next novel a chance because there is a lot of potential for this series… I just hope that the author focuses more on the plot than the lovey-dovey feelings between Mary and Daniel!

Happy reading ~

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes #2

It has taken me a while to get to this book. Mostly because I really enjoyed the first novel and I was apprehensive as to whether I would like the second book. There’s this thing I like to refer to as “Second-Book Syndrome”; the second book in a series sucks in comparison to the first. I was worried that that would happen and so, I hesitated. But I finally got to reading it, so here is my review:

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt them as they flee Serra and go on a dangerous journey through the heart of the Empire. Laia is determined to free her brother from Kauf, the most secure prison in the empire. And Elias is determined to help Laia, even if it means he loses his freedom. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

So…. this novel didn’t meet my expectations. I don’t know, maybe I set them too high? I really really liked the first novel, with its interesting Ancient Rome aspects and the dual storyline with Elias and Laia. In this one, however, the story plot was lacking. The story continued to be told in multiple perspectives but it started to get repetitive when it came to Laia and Elias because they were both together and going through the same thing. I really hated the fact that Elias had to go through so many issues in the novel; he literally never got a break. And Laia was super selfish. There was a love triangle and it made me feel really annoyed and upset, especially because it made the real “love” seem so fake. I really liked seeing Helen have her own perspective, because she was a character I had always been interested in and she was going through her own issues. Overall, the story was fast-paced but seemed to sacrifice on plot and character development because of this. I was quite disappointed with this novel and am probably going to have to give the rest of this series a pass.

Happy reading ~