Tarry This Night by Kristyn Dunnion

I’m always fascinated by cults and I always grab any book that deals with this subject matter so that it might help me understand the mentality behind cults better. What could possess people to give everything up and believe in one person who claims they know the future? What could cause people to wholeheartedly give in to a completely different way of life? These are just a few of the questions that I try to answer through fiction and non-fiction on this fascinating topic. Anyways, I stumbled upon this book and thought it would be a great read for me. Here is my review:

As a civil war brews in America, there lies a cult ensconced in an underground bunker, waiting for the conflict to end. Father Ernst is the leader of this cult, and his “Family” depends on him to guide them through this troubling time and into the period of Ascension promised to them. But when “The Family” runs out of food, one among them must go out and forage for supplies, leaving behind the rest to the madness of Father Ernst. Ruth is a young girl but she is soon to come of age. Terrified of serving as Ernst’s next wife, she must choose between obeying her faith and fighting for survival.

I thought this was a very interesting cult fiction with dystopian elements thrown into it. The summary is quite apt: there is a cult with its leader living in an underground bunker waiting out the civil unrest happening above ground, but tensions are high and they are on the brink of starvation. It’s the perfect setting for desperation to settle in and for something climactic to happen. I really liked that the story was told from multiple perspectives; it allowed us to understand the main characters better, while also showing us the situation they were in and how being a part of this cult had changed them. There are characters across all ages, each with their own unique experience and viewpoints. This is a gritty story that explores many different themes: the divide between blind faith and the ability to make one’s own choice, the loss of innocence, the desperation to survive, and the meaning of happiness and freedom. I really enjoyed the story but I just wish it had been longer! A longer story would have given more tension, and would have made me feel more satisfied about the ending. Overall, a really good story that I wish had been longer so that I could have enjoyed it more! 3/5 star rating from me!

Happy reading ~

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The Child Finder by Rene Denfield

I’ve seen this book literally everywhere and it has been getting rave reviews. A lot of people who know my taste in mysteries and thrillers have been recommending it to me so I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

Madison Culver disappeared when she was 5 years old, as her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their daughter, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator who specializes in locating lost and missing children. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too. As Naomi continues her pursuit, her discovery of the truth behind Madison’s disappearance uncovers her own nightmares, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. By finding Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

This novel messed me up in a good way. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have started it at midnight and finished it in one go, but it was too good to stop! The novel is told mainly from 2 perspectives: Naomi and Madison. Both have their own unique voice, and both made me cry. Naomi has a quiet personality but it is clear both from the author’s depictions and from the way the character acts that she is haunted by her past. Madison is an unbelievably strong and resilient character whose journey is incredibly painful to witness. My heart went out to both of these characters. I think that the author did a fantastic job in showing the cyclic nature of abuse and the trauma that can continue to haunt a person for the rest of their life. This was such a complex novel and it forces the reader to feel every emotion being described. Powerful does not begin to describe this story. My one criticism (and this actually did not ruin the story for me) was that this was more psychological than it was investigative. Naomi’s tracking of Madison was secondary and there really wasn’t much searching going on; everything was just conveniently laid there. But the characters, writing style, and message of the story more than make up for this. This is definitely one of my favorite books out there and I’m so glad I read it. 5/5 stars from me.

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 ~

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst – Queens of Renthia #2

I loved the first book in this series Queen of Blood and I knew I had to get my hands on the second one. As soon as it came out, I went and bought it. But that’s where I made the mistake. You see, when I buy books, I get really excited to read them… but then they end up on my bookshelf and never get read. I get so overwhelmed by ARCs and books I’ve borrowed from the library so I prioritize those over books I’ve bought. I tell myself I’m going to get to it eventually … but I never do. This time, however, I tricked myself (sort-of!); I bought the book but also placed a library hold on it. When the library hold came through, I took the physical book from my bookshelf. I outsmarted myself …  I think! Either way, the book has been read so here is my review:

Just 6 months ago, Daleina used her strength and skills to survive the spirits and become Queen. Since then, she has worked hard at keeping the peace between the spirits and humans. However, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she dies before an heir is chosen, the spirits will take over her realm and kill everyone. Naelin is a woodswoman who could be the heir Daleina so desperately needs – but she doesn’t want to be Queen. Her world consists of her two children, her husband, and the remote village she lives in. But when Ven, the Queen’s champion, passes through, Naelin’s boastful husband can’t help but let slip of his wife’s abilities. For Ven, this is the best news; he can find someone to help Daleina through this difficult time. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

I really loved this sequel, perhaps even more than the first book. This novel had everything I have ever wanted from a fantasy story: adventure, magic, strong characters, and lack of cliches. I loved how the story was more mature this time; the characters aren’t children anymore. They’re adults making difficult decisions about life, death, safety, and duty. Everything was perfectly balanced: the adventure, the romance, the tension, the mystery. I loved all of the new characters that were introduced and I loved how well they interacted and played their part in this story. As a reader, I love when you get characters that have depth to them, and this was the case here. I also found the story itself compelling, and I literally could not put this book down for a minute! I think that this is a real gem of a fantasy series that more people need to be aware of; it is fast-paced, well thought out, and it will leave you wanting more! 5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

I will be honest here: I chose to read the novel because of its cover. It looked so interesting and beautiful and I just had to give it a shot. Now, I know I didn’t like Annihilation by this same author… but when has that ever stopped me from giving a book a shot? So here is my review:

In a city destroyed by drought and conflict, a young woman named Rachel tries to survive, scavenging through the ruins. The city is dangerous, littered with remnants of experiments gone wrong by the Company, a biotech firm now derelict. There is also a giant bear lurking around, attacking whomsoever it pleases. Rachel tries to make ends meet in a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick. One day, Rachel finds Borne and take him home. Borne is a mysterious green lump but there is something about Borne that grabs Rachel’s attention. Against her instincts – and against Wick’s wishes – Rachel keeps Borne and helps Borne grow. As Borne learns to speak and learns about the world, Rachel find herself feeling motherly feelings. She wants to protect Borne – even though she knows she can’t. But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. What Borne will lay bare to Rachel as he changes is how precarious her existence has been, and how dependent on subterfuge and secrets. In the aftermath, nothing may ever be the same.

The writing style may have been the same between Borne and Annihilation, but it worked for me here. This is a difficult novel to read because it is not only complex in its ideology, but also in the way it is written. It took me quite a bit of time to read and process this novel … but it was well worth the effort. Something that I found very unique about this book is that the author leaves the bigger picture vague; we don’t know all of the details that led to the ruined city. However, it is the emotions and the little things that the author expands upon. By doing this, he keeps the reader focused on the characters, as they grow, develop, and come upon their truths. The reader isn’t bogged down by useless details; everything that happens and everything that is described is relevant in painting this beautiful story. I loved the relationship that develops between Borne and Rachel, and I love how it affects various aspects of Rachel’s life, including her relationship with Wick. I wish I could say more but I don’t want to ruin the experience for others. Suffice to say, this novel is incredibly written and extremely deep. It is not something that you can read in a rushed manner; you have to take your time in order to go beyond the surface. This isn’t just a tale of survival; this is a story about identity and relationships. It is definitely a worthwhile read. 5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

 

Wytches by Scott Snyder – Wytches Volume 1

I read about this awesome comic in a newsletter where it was recommended for fans of science fiction and fantasy. I’ve recently become more interested in graphic novels and I love anything to do with witches and the supernatural so I was super excited to try this story! Here is my review:

Everything you thought you knew about witches is wrong. They are much darker, and  much more horrifying. When the Rooks family moves to Litchfield, they are hoping for a brand new start. They want to leave the trauma of their past behind and work on getting better together. But there is something evil waiting for them, watching them in the woods just beyond town. It is waiting in the trees. And it is ancient … and it is hungry …

This comic had a very interesting take on wytches. For one thing, they weren’t humans but more monsters that liked to eat people. While some people may not like this, I thought it was a cool take on the stereotypical view of what a wytch is. I also thought that the premise of the story was really cool. There was this whole father-daughter relationship that was beautifully depicted by the author, with this whole nightmarish horror story meshed in. And it worked! Both of these elements worked well together and complemented each other to create a well-developed story. I wish I had gotten to know more about the Rooks family, especially their daughter (since she was pretty much the main character); it felt like the end reveal could have been drawn out better to give a more tense feeling. I will say that this graphic novel wasn’t as creepy as I was expecting. It was still really good but I was expecting a little more horror; maybe if the story was drawn out more and I had had more of an opportunity to connect with the characters, it would have made the horror more heightened. This was a pretty interesting graphic novel and I will probably check out Volume 2! 4/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

 

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

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

I don’t know what is with this trend of giving vague blurbs for novels but it seems to be my weak spot! It’s probably because I love surprises so much … a book that doesn’t give me any clues is sure to surprise me! Anyways, here I go with my review:

In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z’s small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds. This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees.

See, when I read this summary, I thought there would be more to it than what was mentioned. Something about the actual environmental situation or about the actual dangers of the new world. There is not. This is literally what the novel is about. To be fair, I don’t even know if this should be considered a novel because it was so short. Not only was it short, it didn’t have much substance. The story is told from the mother’s perspective and she uses the alphabet to name everyone (there is a character named N, and another one named R). I really didn’t like the whole alphabet naming thing because it always took me a minute to realize who she is talking about. I had absolutely no connection with any of the characters because you don’t really know much about anyone except for the protagonist … but there wasn’t much to her, either. The struggles that she went through didn’t really seem like struggles because they weren’t described very well. And while I like babies, I don’t like reading about their normal development. Barely anything happens in this book and the only reason I got through this novel was because of how short it was. I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

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

So I’ve been trying to give high fantasy a chance, and I was told by a friend that this would be a good place to start. I was really happy to receive this ARC so here is my review:

For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war. On both sides are sorcerers who use the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemies. But, somehow, the Amikans have found a way to use the seventh Decimate, and it is a power that strips all lesser sorcery of its powers. Now, the Bellegerins are defenseless. Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, hates sorcerers with a passion. But it is he who is given the task of finding the book of the seventh Decimate and reversing the fate of his land. All hopes rests on Bifalt. But the legendary library that houses this book is in a dangerous place, where Bifalt has never been before. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn.

I really wanted to like this book. But I didn’t. The problem wasn’t with the concept but rather the way the author told the story – it just didn’t do it for me. First of all, I didn’t like Bifalt. As in, I hated him. And that’s never a good sign when you are reading a book. This led me to not feel as connected with him and to also not care about what was happening to him. I also found that the story was a little hard for me to get into. For some reason, I couldn’t get myself to feel interested in what was being described or the events that were happening. I found myself skimming through passages looking for something juicy… but coming up empty. I will say that the author was very good at describing battle scenes; he made it realistic and didn’t glorify death and carnage, which I really appreciated. Overall, this novel has the potential to be a really great fantasy series but it’s just not for me. 2/5 stars from me!

Happy reading !

 

 

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 ~

 

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

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

I love reading fantasy novels that have a different cultural influence. It adds a lot more intrigue and differnet perspectives for me to view the story in and it also gives me the opportunity to gain exposure to different cultural norms that are out there. I was super excited to get this ARC so here is my review:

In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages use their magic to bring out the sin from a sinner in the form of beasts. These sin-beasts are then eaten by sin-eaters, otherwise known as aki. However, it is a difficult livelihood and comes at a price. For every sin-beast killed and consumed, a tattoo appears on the skin of the sin-eater while the guilt of committing the sin stays in the mind of the aki. Taj is the most talented of the aki but he suffers the most, as his tattoos never fade in time. He knows his fate: most aki are driven mad by the process… but Taj must survive in order to provide for his family. When Taj is sent to eat the sin of a member of the royal family, he finds himself thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy. Now Taj must fight to save the lives of those he loves – and his own.

This novel had such an interesting concept. However, it suffered quite a bit in its execution. Many people were not able to finish this novel, but I chugged through. I will say that this novel has a great deal of description and the author does a very good job fleshing out Taj’s character. You really get to know him and understand him. However, there isn’t much happening. There are loads of moments in the story where nothing is happening and it can get quite boring to go through it to get to the good stuff. While the beginning was intriguing enough to give the story momentum, it didn’t continue all the way until the end. This is probably the reason that a lot of people gave up on this novel. It finally ramped up speed near the end, but I wasn’t too happy with the way it was done. For one thing, it felt very rushed and had not been built up too well. The other problem was that it was quite predictable, which was a bit disappointing for me. I felt like I had invested a lot of time into this story, but I got the short end of the stick. So while this novel had an interesting premise, it really suffered in its plot development. For this reason, I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~