"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin. But you can't help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family."
After a handful of really fantastic YA reads, I wanted to get back to my roots: Thrillers. I've mentioned a few times that, before I began blogging, the majority of the books I read were mysteries and thrillers. Lately I haven't read nearly as many as I would like and the ones I do read are typically my go-to comfort reads during snow days or when I'm not feeling so great. I've made a conscious effort to have 2014 be the year I get back to the basics, the year I fall in love with reading again, and I knew that it would include my favorite genre.
Sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane has no idea what happened to her mother and those who were around back then aren't saying much. When Lila arrived in town, folk immediately disliked her: she was an outsider and her too-short shorts weren't doing her any favors in winning over Henbane. It wasn't long before she was labeled a witch, an evil seductress, and when she disappeared there weren't many people in town who were upset. Were it not for the neighbors - more like family - Lila's baby girl would hardly have survived; the moment she vanished, Carl shut down and hid away inside their bedroom with a bottle of Southern Comfort, in no way fit to raise a baby. Fifteen years have passed since then and Lucy finds herself experiencing loss once more.
One of Lucy's only friends, a girl named Cheri, is discovered in a tree down by the river. It wasn't a secret Cheri had a terrible homelife and no one was all that surprised when word got out Cheri ran away. The only person who suspected there might be more to the story was Lucy and Cheri's body leaves her with more questions. Lucy's determined to uncover the truth, even if that means striking against her own family.
For a debut novel to be compared to Gillian Flynn's works is pretty high praise and despite knowing better I gave in to the hype. I've never read any of Flynn's novels and, to be honest, if they're anything like The Weight of Blood, I don't think I'll be picking one up anytime soon. This novel wasn't bad, but it also wasn't great. Nothing about it wowed me, at no point did I feel the need to stay up late or rush to squeeze in just one more chapter. When it comes down to it, The Weight of Blood was an entertaining story while it lasted, but it's ultimately forgettable. I won't be gushing over the characters or excitedly pushing this book on customers and I already know there will never be a re-read in my future.
That's not to say there weren't things about it I really enjoyed! I'm a big fan of plots involving similar murders/disappearances/crimes committed a decade (or more) apart. I absolutely love the trope and it's what initially put this book on my radar. Small towns and their secrets are also instant winners for me and this aspect was incredibly well done. Bravo, Ms. McHugh! And my love for multiple narratives is blatant at this point - another plus for The Weight of Blood. While Lucy and Lila are the central figures, many others lend their voice and it was fascinating seeing the story play out through the secondary characters' eyes.
Sadly, it's there that my praise ends. The Weight of Blood isn't a terrible book at all and I truly was invested while reading, but nothing about the novel left a lasting impression. I can't imagine thinking back on this book a month from now. The Weight of Blood is a fairly bland story - it would make for a decent rainy day read, but I just don't see it becoming a book people are rushing out to buy.(less)
One of the first reviews ever posted on the blog (back in August, 2011!) was Don't Breathe a Word, a deliciously creepy novel about the disappearance of a little girl who went off to marry the King of the Fairies and never returned home. That novel was my introduction to Jennifer McMahon and has stuck with me ever since, a perfect combination of horror and reality and how blurred the lines separating them really are.
Two years later I've got another McMahon novel under my belt and I'm itching for a third (and fourth and fifth...). Going off the two I've read so far it's clear McMahon has something of a formula, a recipe of sorts, that she uses when writing. Don't Breath a Word had a cop-out ending that I didn't care for at all - the final destination made the entire journey feel a bit worthless - and was a little worried the same would hold true for The Winter People. Despite my worries, I jumped right in and discovered a novel even better than the first.
She remembered her parents' warnings when she was little: Stay out of the woods. Bad things happen to little girls who get lost out there.
The first thing you should know about me: I love dual time periods in novels. I live and breathe multiple eras so right off the bat The Winter People was looking good. The second thing you should know about me: the more character perspectives there are, the happier I am. The Winter People had a huge cast of characters, and the story played out over many of their points of view. Giddy from the get-go, I only came to love this book more and more the further I read.
An old farmhouse in West Hall, Vermont holds its share of secrets (some, literally). In the late 1800s, Sara Harrison grew up in the house with her siblings, father, and Auntie. Auntie's strange and otherworldly beliefs ostracized her from the rest of the townsfolk, yet when they needed a surefire way to win the eye of someone or needed a remedy the doctor couldn't provide, she was the person to go to. While growing up, Sara had heard whispers of sleepers, those returned from the grave, and on one occasion saw a classmate in the woods not long after having attended her funeral.
Now grown and with a child of her own, Sara Harrison Shea still lives in her childhood home. Unfortunately Gertie is in a terrible accident and her untimely death is too much for Sara to handle. As she sinks deeper and deeper into depression (or, as her husband and brother-in-law believe, madness) she faithfully pens her diary, filling it with knowledge Auntie had passed down.
Since then, multiple families have come and gone, and now Alice and her two daughters reside in the old farmhouse. As far back as the girls can remember, Alice has made it clear they are never to go into the woods, especially not the Devil's Hand as the locals call it, and if anyone should ever knock on the door they are never to open it. Never. Alice's sudden disappearance one morning sends the girls on a manhunt through states and decades as they discover hidden diary entries and realize the town's legends might be real after all.
The Winter People had me thoroughly creeped out in the middle of the afternoon! I think that's a pretty good testament to McMahon's skill as a writer, don't you? Broad daylight with the sun shining through my windows and there I was, jumping at every sound. More than once I steered clear of the closets, fulling expecting to be greeted by a sleeper. This novel is very much a winter read and not just because of the title. There's a stark coldness that's ever-present, and a resounding sadness that left me thinking in shades of blue and grey. Death is also a key theme and the novel explores the lengths some people would go to in order to see a loved one for one more day - or, in this case, one more week.
It's been a while since a novel has captivated me from beginning to end, but The Winter People did just that. In one case I was reading well into the night (not my best decision!) simply because I could not put the book down. I came to know and care for these characters: Ruthie and her little sister Fawn; Katherine and her anguish over the loss of both her husband and son; Sara with her sorrow and excitement. Despite the number of characters and eras, McMahon wove the story together flawlessly.
Again, however, the ending loses a bit of its magic. Ruthie doesn't so much make a decision as accept what's thrown upon her. While it does leave room for a possible sequel, I had hoped for more. Despite that minor bump I absolutely loved The Winter People and highly recommend it. If you're in the mood for a quick and compelling novel that will keep you guessing, this is it.(less)
After an extremely impressive streak with YA Thrillers (Find Me & Dead Girls Don't Lie are two of my favorite 2013 releases!) I was feeling pretty confident about Poor Little Dead Girls. A boarding school's secret society has ties to the deaths of two girls - what's not to love?
Unfortunately, Poor Little Dead Girls spectacularly crushed every single expectation I had, including the hope of actually finishing (spoiler alert: I did, but it was a fight on both our parts).
Sadie is a star lacrosse player on her high school team back home in Portland. When she receives a scholarship from the elite Keating Hall - students of the school are all but guaranteed acceptance to Ivy League universities - she doesn't hesitate for a second. She quickly becomes fast friends with Jessica (seemingly the only other student who isn't uber wealthy) and her royal roommates. After their hard partying habits brought shame upon Britain's royal family, Trix & Gwen were shipped off to America where they'll hopefully stay out of the public eye. Don't worry about getting to know these two though - their presence is only acknowledged in passing and piles of dirty laundry until the very end when Friend pulls out the shocker: Gwen is into girls! Really now? Gwen's sexuality added nothing to the story, particularly since it came about at the very end, and felt tacked on simply to bring some sort of life to an otherwise dead story.
In the very (and I mean very) beginning, things looked promising. Sure, the characters were little more than stock personalities (particularly the Mean Girls), but that was something I could live with. Within a few chapters, however, I realized this book and I weren't going to become bosom buddies. Chapter 6 - an entire chapter - was devoted to discussing all the ~hot boys~ on the football team. An. Entire. Chapter. Also - and this should come as NO surprise - it is in this chapter that Sadie falls head-over-heels for a boy she has yet to speak to, and when she finally does, this is the conversation they have:
"Is yours [a test] on Monday?" "Yeah." "Ours, too."
When Jeremy turns to walk back to his own school, Sadie's stomach was 'now flipping around like a kid three doses behind on his Ritalin.' I suppose I could overlook this if the scene took place in the middle of the day after a class or something. Instead, this happened in the middle of the night after Sadie had been chased. Ain't no thang though - she simply forgets all about that now that there's a SUPER HOT BOY!!
Once Jeremy shows up, classes are no longer a priority. Instead, she obsesses over his jawline ("A part of her - the same part that led her subconscious through the same cheesy dreamscape every night - wanted to lean in and lick it"). Riveting stuff, guys.
But, Leah, I thought this was a murder mystery I hear you say. Turns out there's a SOOPER SEKRET SOCIETY. More than once Sadie wakes to find bruises on her body and doesn't think anything of it. Later - much, much later - we discover she was being drugged and kidnapped this entire time. Those bruises are from having her blood taken and analyzed to prove she's ~worthy~ and of course she passes. Believe it or not, here's where the crazy comes in. This society is two hundred years old - Thomas Jefferson founded it. Its members are among the richest people in the world and they plan on creating a new world power. Sadie's mother (who had died when Sadie was a child) was a part of this group although she broke all ties with them and her family to marry Sadie's father (see, to make sure genetics are pure, the society arranges marriages for its members). The other girl who had died at the school was also in the society - and also related to Sadie. At one point its revealed SADIE'S EGGS WERE HARVESTED. Just in case Sadie were to die or run away, another heir could be created.
Poor Little Dead Girls tried to pack WAY too much into a tiny story. There were multiple story lines that were introduced and went nowhere: Sadie witnessed a rape and shrugged it off like it was nothing and a fellow student (and one of Sadie's friends!) was being beat by her boyfriend but he's hot so it's okay. There was no consistency or coherency to be found and all of the action happened off-screen: "An hour later she finally stopped talking [explaining basically the entire plot to Jeremy - but not the reader]" "The next three hours were so much fun she started to get nervous."
The author couldn't even get the ending right. Sadie receives hush money ($1M is all this group could come up with? These are supposed to be the richest families in the world.) and begins applying to college with her bestie Jessica and looks forward to spending more time with Jeremy. ...and that's it. There isn't any kind of resolution or closure. Much like with the rest of the story, Sadie shrugs it off, leaving a very unsatisfied reader.
Other readers have mentioned Friend at least succeeded in nailing the voice of these girls, but I have to disagree. Instead of calling each other by, you know, their names, Sadie and her friends refer to one another as hooker, skank, hobag, etc. Yeah, I've never called my friends any of those. This name-calling caused some serious eyebrow-raising once the rape & abusive boyfriend plots were introduced.
Poor Little Dead Girls isn't a book I would force upon anyone. Trust me on this: stay as far away from this book as you possibly can. I SUFFERED SO YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO.(less)
Everyone has their personal brand of comfort read, be it a fluffy romance, realistic fiction, or a beloved childhood favorite. For me it's thrillers. Prior to jumping back into YA (and blogging), 95% of what I read fell into the thriller genre and I love revisiting favorites and discovering new ones. Louise Millar's sophomore title, Accidents Happen, definitely classifies as the latter (spoiler alert?).
After a series of tragedies - the sudden death of her parents on her wedding night, the murder of her husband, and a recent break-in - Kate is more than a little protective of her son. Statistics begin to take charge of her life and her cautiousness quickly delves into paranoia and obsession. The iron gate encompassing the entire second floor is the final straw for Kate's in-laws and they begin to wonder if her son might not be better off living with them. Jack is 10, old enough to walk to the convenience store on his own and not worry about monsters in his closet, but Kate's fear has kept him sheltered.
Five years since the death of her husband and Kate is still not ready to move on. It's only at the thought of losing her son that Kate agrees to seek out a therapist and their first meeting couldn't end fast enough. Now each week Kate lies to her sister-in-law about where she's going - anywhere but that therapist.
One day she stops into a cafe and notices a book lying on a nearby table. Beat the Odds and Change Your Life by Jago Martin, Professor at the University of Edinburgh. Kate wastes no time in flipping through the chapters. Topics on how to improve the chance of avoiding car accidents and selecting the best airline ring loud and clear and when the owner of the book returns to his table, she has to force herself to hand the book back. The two strike up a conversation and she realizes he's the author: Jago Martin. More out of necessity than anything, Kate wants to know where he came up with his numbers, his facts.
Back at Kate's house, Jack's closet door opens. It seems his monsters aren't so imaginary after all.
To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. To say I really enjoyed this book would be putting it lightly. For four days I lived and breathed Accidents Happen, fully immersed while reading and when I wasn't I was thinking of nothing but getting back to it. Right from the start you learn Kate's fears are very real, there actually is someone entering their home any time she's gone. A hole cut into the back of Jack's closet is the perfect passageway from the other side of their duplex. Magnus is free to come and go as he pleases and doesn't hesitate to help himself to some of Kate's lotion or whatever is in the fridge. Logic (and her mother-in-law) tells Kate that perhaps she used a little more lotion than she thought or maybe Jack wanted a midnight snack, but the truth is far more frightening. More than once I was so overwhelmed with emotion I had to set the book down. Despite Kate's alarm system and other precautions, Magnus still found a way to enter her home and that terrified me.
As the story progressed I quickly figured out who the Bad Guy was but it didn't dampen my enjoyment at all. Accidents Happen is a little on the longer side, but the pace is so blindingly fast I actually had to slow myself down in an attempt to stay with this wonderful book as long as possible. Whether you're a long-time thriller fan or a YA fan looking for something new, I highly recommend Accidents Happen. This book was intense and riveting with plot twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat.(less)
Following her successful The Orphanmaster, Jean Zimmerman returns with a marvelously detailed - and at times, downright gruesome! - tale of the Gilded Age, high society, and a feral child.
In 1875, the Delgate family, among the upper crust of Manhattan society, takes a tour of the American West. While in Nevada, they stop for a local sideshow attraction, Savage Girl. It's said the girl was raised by wolves and is presented on stage for the curious audience to gawk over. Mr. and Mrs. Delgate are collectors of a sort. Mrs. Delgate has in tow two helpers, or servants, that she refers to as her pets: a Chinese woman named Tu Li and a Zuni berdache ('two-spirit', identifies with both genders). Nothing would make Mrs. Delgate happier than adding a feral child to her brood, particularly since this girl is around the same age her own daughter would be had she not died as a baby. For Mr. Delgate, the social experiment - is it possible to teach and mold this girl, to debut her - is far too exciting to pass up.
Almost immediately from the start the plan begins to crack, but the Delgates press on, teaching this girl - Bronwyn, they discover she could write her name - to write and read, the proper way to eat, and how to curtsy. Back in Manhattan, Bronwyn meets all the right people, learns all the correct dance steps, and soon becomes a media darling. Her debut was a Must See and any dress she wore immediately set the current trend.
Bronwyn had a power over people and no one was immune - not even her 'brother,' Hugo Delgate. Hugo was studying anatomy at Harvard and had a promising career ahead of him until Savage Girl came along. After one murder too many, Hugo's suspicions are tested and it's Hugo who tells this story as he's sitting in a holding cell. Savage Girl is his confession for murders and mutilations stretching the length of the United States.
From the opening chapter I knew I was in for a good time. Savage Girl's imagery is so rich and detailed I had no trouble at all believing I was in the newly-settled West or mingling with millionaires in New York. It certainly didn't hurt that Zimmerman included many historical figures as cameos (my favorite was a college-aged Teddy Roosevelt)! Although I wasn't quite sure how I would enjoy having Hugo narrate the story, my worries quickly vanished. Hugo had it all before Savage Girl came along. His studies were going well and everyone was waiting for the moment he would finally propose to Delia Showalter. Once Bronwyn appeared, however, everything fell apart. So strong was his infatuation that he confessed to a series of murders he didn't commit - although his near-descent into madness and worry that perhaps he did murder all those men was fascinating and morbidly enjoyable.
When she was discovered, Bronwyn had a few items: a Bible and Vanity Fair, both with many missing pages, and a dirty doll. It was clear that at some point before losing her family she had been taught to read and write, and under the Delgates's wings, she quickly picked up where she left off. Her story, once she decides to share the details with Hugo, was heartbreaking. She remembered bits and pieces of her childhood: her parents and a baby, she possibly came from Wales. She had been taken by the Comanche and it is this tribe that she considers to be her true family. They raised her as their own, taught her how to ride horses and hunt, gave her a new name. When settlers came along Bronwyn found herself alone once more, this time she truly had to fend for herself. For years she lived in a cave with a jaguar cub until a severe illness led her to being discovered and taken into town as a new attraction.
There were only two minor issues I had with Savage Girl. The story takes place over the course of a single year. In that time, Bronwyn was able to transform from a feral child to a debutante fully capable of holding her own in a philosophical debate. That this happened in such a short time frame seemed a bit unrealistic to me. My other issue was that, as the reader, I was constantly being told things that I'm perfectly able to figure out myself. On multiple occasions Hugo would pause his narration to explain what a snide remark was supposed to mean. In one case Delia spoke and the following sentence read: "This was Delia's pointed reference to the evening she saw..." This hand-holding became slightly aggravating as the novel wore on.
Despite my minor quibbles Savage Girl was a wonderful read. It's 400-page length kept me engaged and invested until the end and whenever I had to stop reading the book was constantly on my mind and I couldn't wait to get back to it. The best part of the story, however, was that I was kept guessing until the last page. Bravo, Ms. Zimmerman! If you're a reader who enjoys historical fiction and doesn't mind getting down and dirty (remember, these murders involved mutilation), I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Savage Girl! I loved it and am now interested in reading Zimmerman's previous novel!(less)
I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been having insanely good luck lately with Young Adult Thrillers. Before I beg...moreReview goes live on the blog9/20!
I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been having insanely good luck lately with Young Adult Thrillers. Before I began blogging, thrillers were my go-to reads, but I never thought to try them in a YA flavor.
Wick Tate doesn't have a whole lot going for her: her felon father is on the run, cops are trying to squeeze information out of her, she's on her fourth set of foster parents, and her best friend acts like Wick no longer exists. The two bright sides to Wick's life are her little sister Lily and her hacking business - women hire her to get the dirt on their cheating boyfriends/husbands.
The morning following a detective's usual late-night stakeout, Wick finds a diary on the doorstep. Flipping through she recognizes the handwriting of her former best friend, Tessa. Scrawled on the cover however, are the words find me. That day at school Wick learns Tessa died - jumped off a building - and Wick refuses to believe the story ends there. The diary entries talk of more: a man Tessa was seeing, someone who learns Wick picked up his scent and now he's after her.
YA Thrillers might just be my new favorite thing. Find Me captivated me from the very first page and didn't let go until well after I finished. There's a sense of foreboding throughout the novel that I found riveting and more than once my breath caught and I lost myself to the scene. When I read thrillers or mysteries, I like to guess at Who Did It and I tend to be right. The same can be said for Find Me, but the way the mystery was revealed was so expertly done that I didn't mind one bit! I had actually been hoping for a different character to be the killer and was disappointed I was wrong, but the truth came out and when it did I immediately changed my tune; the bad guy was truly awful and I began to panic and had to set the book down. Having your reader experience such intense emotions takes some serious talent and Ms. Bernard let hers shine.
As per YA there's a romance involved, but what sets Find Me apart is that there was NOT a love triangle nor was this a case of instalove. Their relationship blossomed over time and it was such a welcome sight. Even better: the romance didn't take center stage. In the hands of a lesser author, this book about a killer-going-after-the-younger-sister could easily have turned into a starcrossed romance with a hint of an actual plot. No so here!
That this is Ms. Bernard's debut novel both impresses and excites me! Find Me enveloped me in its mystery - Who was this man Tessa was seeing? Will he get to Wick's sister? - and its hold refused to give. I highly recommend this book and you can bet I'll be waiting to see what Romily Bernard writes next!(less)
He once thought his own family dysfunctional, but the Tudors proved that there was always something worse.
Cotton Malone, Justice Department agent-turned-antique bookseller, is still reeling from the news of his ex-wive's betrayal. The revelation that Gary is not his son cut deep and hurt Gary even worse. The two plan to spend Gary's Thanksgiving break together - Gary will fly out to Cotton's shop in Copenhagen - but life never goes according to plan.
It seems the job of an agent - even an ex-agent - is never done and, as a favor, Cotton was asked to escort another teenager back home. 15-year old Ian Dunne witnessed a murder and fled the scene with a flash drive containing an unimaginable secret. Now the boy is in grave danger and only Cotton can save him.
Steve Berry is one of my go-to comfort authors and I was ecstatic to receive a copy of his latest. I first discovered Berry shortly after high school when I was coming off my Da Vinci Code high and looking for something similar. Somehow I came across one of Berry's books and haven't looked back. Guys, any of his books are perfect beach reads: blindingly fast pace, super short chapters (a few pages at most with multiple scenes per chapter), intriguing plots. Also, he helped fuel my Romanov obsession.
Don't be intimidated by the length of his Cotton Malone series: one of the best things about Berry's books is that you can jump in anywhere and not feel confused or lost. There are lots of details provided that will catch you up to speed without being overwhelming or bogged down with backstory.
Like his other books, The King's Deception is jam-packed with characters but, apart from a few really minor ones, I never had any trouble keeping them straight and each had a distinct identity. Also in true Berry fashion, there are numerous plots that initially seem unrelated, but by the end, you're left in awe of Berry's mastery.
The main bulk of the novel questions Elizabeth I's identity. Legends have circulated for centuries that the Virgin Queen wasn't quite who she claimed to be and that flash drive Ian Dunne stole? It's all the proof needed to show the monarch was a fraud. The ramifications of such a discovery would be immense: because the monarch was an impostor, any law or creed created during her reign now becomes void. Essentially this means that a good deal of Ireland was handed over to English colonists under false pretenses. This is HUGE and would ultimately lead to war.
Throughout the novel are multiple diary entries and letters describing how the switch happened and how the court ensured its secrecy. When Elizabeth was thirteen, she contracted a fever and died shortly after. A replacement was found - though at that time no one could have foreseen Elizabeth's rise to power (she had been a few places down in the list of heirs). These chapters were SO fascinating and kept me glued to the book.
The only downfall to Berry's writing is that you know from the start who the bad guys are. I like being shocked by a character's double-cross, but here you know everyone's motives from the start. A little more surprise would have been nice.
If you're a Steve Berry newbie and want a good book to take on vacation, pick up a copy of The King's Deception. While reading I kept pausing to look up so many portraits or historical tidbits (the Mask of Youth, for example!). All of it was so wonderfully researched and interesting; don't be surprised if you see an upcoming History 101 post!(less)
Mobile Intel Lifelike Android. MILA. Until a shocking secret changes her life forever, Mila never had any reason to doubt she was anything but a normal 16-year old girl. After her father's death and Mila's subsequent memory loss, Mila and her mother pack up and leave Philly behind for a quiet and unassuming town in Minnesota. Her mother takes care of a ranch and the horses while Mila goes to school, makes friends, and meets boys. Until the accident.
Mila is thrown from the bed of a truck and only has a scrape on her arm to show for it. Unfortunately, that scrape reveals wires and no blood and later Mila's mother confirms her suspicions: she's a military-build android. A weapon. Once her secret is out - and word gets out at school - Mila and her mother find themselves on the run.
MILA 2.0 was enjoyable, but not nearly as exciting as I had anticipated. I wanted edge-of-your-seat non-stop-thrills and instead got Teenage Girl Obsessing Over Boy She Barely Knows. Now we've all dealt with Instalove, but Mila 2.0 takes it a step further: the new boy at school (Hunter) takes to Mila for a matter of minutes one day at lunch and suddenly they're planning a date at the fair. There's not even a kiss; it's an almost-kiss (which Mila constantly refers to throughout the novel). These two hardly know each other, yet Hunter is all Mila thinks about while she's on the run. Even after a HUGE death the only thing that crosses her mind is Hunter's ~lop-sided smile~ I have to admit though, I was pleasantly surprised there was not a love triangle. Yay!
The other problem I had was the cookie-cutter personalities. Kaylee and Parker are Mean Girls, General Holland is Evil, Hunter is the Mysterious New Boy. Even Mila herself couldn't quite escape the stock personality she was given - and no, her blandness was not her android self shining through.
I've been seeing a lot of Team Lucas love and was intrigued. Having read the book I'm left to wonder what I missed. Sure he was an okay character - perhaps my favorite in the book - but I just don't see where all the love comes from. Lucas is an MIT grad working for the military in order to help his brother (?? it's never fully explained). His purpose in Mila 2.0 is to administer Mila's tests. And to have his car stolen. Sorry guys, I'm not seeing where all the love comes from.
On the plus side, I thought the fight scenes were really well done as well as the entire military compound arc. Everything else fell flat and left me wanting more.
Overall Mila 2.0 was an okay read. I found my focus wandering a few times and the lack of excitement was disappointing. However, I seem to be in the minority and from what I hear the book is being turned into a television show. Personally, I think this would work a bit better as a show than it did as a book.
As for whether or not I'll continue the series, I'm still undecided. Mila 2.0 wasn't awful at all, just boring.(less)
If you're a long-time follower of The Pretty Good Gatsby, you know I basically adore the Romanov family. Tsarist Russia holds a special place in my heart and the end of the Romanov dynasty is both fascinating and heartbreaking. For decades rumors surrounded the survival of one of the royal children - Anastasia in particular - and it was only a few years ago that the rumors were finally laid to rest when, in the summer of 2007, the final two skeletons were discovered. Despite evidence confirming the deaths of the entire family, we remain a society full of What Ifs. One of my favorite mystery/thriller 'sub-genres' if you will, is the survival of one of the children (and name me a little girl who watched Anastasia and didn't fantasize about being a long-lost princess). Naturally, when I came across The Romanov Cross, I zeroed in on it and needed it in my life.
"If any relation to your family takes my life, then woe to the dynasty. The Russian people will rise against you with murder in their hearts."
Grigori Rasputin knows his time is coming to an end. He utters a prophetic message to the Grand Duchess Anastasia and shortly after, he is murdered. The Imperial Family's days are numbered and the political climate in Russia is chaotic. Numerous factions are vying for control and once Nicholas II abdicates, the family is carted around the country before a swift execution and careless burial - if it can be called that - in a large grave in a forest.
In the present day, Dr. Frank Slater's days are also numbered. After recklessly punching a superior officer, he's stripped of his Major rank and declared an average citizen. It's only because he's among the best in his field (Epidemiology - the study of diseases and how they're distributed) that he's kept on and soon finds himself taken from the hot desserts of Afghanistan to a frozen tundra in Alaska. St. Peter's Island, home to a long-forgotten Russian colony and a pack of wolves, is suddenly one of the most dangerous places on the planet. When the loose soil released a coffin into the sea, it was discovered Spanish Flu had claimed the body. Worried that the virus might still be alive and well - albeit in a frozen state - Slater quickly arranges a team and, with the utmost secrecy, heads to the tiny island.
Unfortunately for Slater, Port Orlov, the closest town, is home to Harley Vane, disgraced fisherman and petty burglar. It was one of the crab pods on his boat that hauled in the coffin and when Harley peeked inside, he saw a nice prize: a silver cross with giant emeralds. The rocky shoreline of St. Peter's Island sunk the boat and as the sole-survivor, Harley found himself an instant celebrity. The citizens of Port Orlov, however, know the reputation of the Vane brothers and aren't quite buying Harley's story.
The Romanov Cross was a chunkster of a novel. The past few books I've read have been quick, easy novels barely over 300 pages. This one clocks in at 500. Despite it's length, the book chugged along and I got through it without any difficulty. Three main storylines: the Romanovs imprisonment, Slater and his team, and Harley Vane, all converge on the small coastal town of Port Orlov, Alaska. The community is rich with history and many of the citizens are descended from the original Inuit tribe who called the land home. Those same Inuits were said to be among the only survivors of the Spanish Flu, a deadly 1918 pandemic that claimed the lives of an estimated 100 million people. A few of the townsfolk have suddenly developed coughs and it's looking like history will be put to the test once more.
While I enjoyed this novel, there were a few things that bothered me: for a novel about the Romanovs, their chapters were few and far between. I had expected alternating chapters, or at the very least, every few chapters. Sadly, there were only a handful of Romanov scenes. Also, I was a bit confused. Was this supposed to have supernatural elements? Granted, you can't mention Rasputin without entertaining the notion that he had otherworldly powers, but Anastasia is alive and well on this island. Anastasia was born in 1901. She's well over 100 in the book and living on a desolate island in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. It was mentioned in a chapter that Rasputin said she was unlike the others and gave her a cross to protect her. Was it enchanted or somehow able to prolong her life? That part confused me, as well as the wolves (the souls of the other Russians who had died on the island) and the multiple appearances of ghosts. If The Romanov Cross was intended to be a supernatural or paranormal novel, okay. If not, I'm left scratching my head.
This book has a huge cast of characters and, surprisingly, they're all very well developed! It always worries me when books have such a large amount of characters, but The Romanov Cross put my fears to rest. Each character - whether they were a central figure or minor townsfolk - had a distinct personality and individual traits and strengths. I really enjoyed that.
The ending definitely seemed rushed and a bit too tidy. However, The Romanov Cross was still an entertaining read and definitely one to spread out over a relaxing weekend.(less)
New York City was a quick-change artist and the good old days were always six minutes ago.
I had received an ARC of The Chalk Girl from the publishers (thank you!!) and couldn't wait to dive right in. The summary instantly had me hooked, but until I sat down and started reading, I hadn't realized just how much I'd like this one. One thing that originally worried me was that this is the tenth book in the series. ...and I had never read a single one. I wasn't sure if I'd be completely and utterly lost, but that wasn't the case one bit. There's a bit of Mallory's backstory that I'm sure I'd understand more about had I followed the series, but apart from that, this is one where you can jump in at any time.
The late Louis Markowitz had once described his foster child as a world-class thief, born to steal, and the policeman had said this with some degree of pride, adding, "What a kid."
Kathleen Mallory - known strictly as Mallory - is a NYPD detective and she's definitely an interesting character. She returns to the squad after an unannounced three-month leave. No one knows where she went nor why and Mallory isn't telling. My feelings about her were very conflicted. Overall, I really enjoyed her! She's so different than characters I normally read and that was a very welcome breath of fresh air. However, some of her actions didn't sit well with me. She truly plays by her own rules.
When the doors open, we run like crazy so we can grab chairs at the end of a corner table, a safe place with two walls at our backs. We call it the Fox Hole. Everyone else calls it the Losers' Table. Even losers new to the school know to come here. They see kids in glasses or braces, the lumpy, shapeless ones and the pencil-shaped uncool, and every loser says to himself - These are my people.
The book opens with the discovery of bodies strung up in trees. Coco is a tiny eight year-old girl with Williams syndrome (there was an episode of Law & Order SVU that featured a young girl with the same syndrome and the entire time I read this book, I thought of her and that episode). She was the sole witness to the murder, but her disability makes it difficult to pin down a suspect.
Ultimately, it becomes known that this is a murder fifteen years in the making. Although the book is entirely in the present day, there are flashes of the past told through a diary of a boy who was brutally murdered, Ernest Nadler. Despite being dead the entire novel, Ernie was one of my favorite characters and one I felt I really got to know. There was such a large cast of characters, at times I lost track of who's who - Is that person a bad guy? Am I supposed to be cheering you on? More than once I felt the need to create a list in order to remember everyone and the role they played. That was the book's sole downfall for me, the sheer number of characters.
The entered the private office of the hospital administrator, a man with a very large desk and a small moustache, a man who amazed one and all by the act of walking upright in the absence of a spine.
Ms. O'Connell is a wonderful writer. Her wording is absolutely beautiful. When I read I like to keep a small notepad by me (unless I'm reading on my Nook, in which case, I take full advantage of the highlight function) in order to jot down passages I love. This book had a ridiculous amount. Gorgeous, gorgeous, writing. ♥
And there was one other difference between Toby the child and his grown-up self: He had found a way to be still. His feet did not tap, and there was no tabletop drumming of his fingertips. He had lost his music.
Although I blindly went into this book, I devoured it. The entire time I read it I couldn't stop talking about it to family and friends. I've never read a book with a character quite like Mallory - and it was fantastic. Even though I love mysteries, I can normally figure out who the killer/thief/etc is long before it's revealed, but it wasn't the case with this novel. It's so complex and so many characters and motives are intertwined; I loved it. The enormous amount of characters became a little confusing at times, but in the end I adored The Chalk Girl and will definitely be picking up more of Carol O'Connell's books!
Quotes I liked:
The man was built like a refrigerator that could walk and talk; the five o'clock shadow of his bear appeared at nine every morning; and he had the most brutal face that God ever gave to a detective - all of which made him invaluable during interrogations.
And now they were off on a wild ride with a cabbie from the school of Oh-was-that-a-red-light?
Apart from the kitchenette, every bit of wall space was lined with books. These volumes had been accumulated by generations of Driscols in hiding. They were all works of fiction - escape hatches.
Spacey was his state of mind and Toby Wilder floated through his days in the lighter gravity of Mars. Silent days. Airless. Sounds of the city were filtered through the cotton wadding of his brain on painkillers, and a waitress from his homeworld had to ask him twice-"Same old thing?"
I've mentioned time and time again that I adore Berry. I think he's simply fantastic. His books are always so interesting and the pacing is perfect.
That said, this book took me over a month to finish. I have no idea what happened. It wasn't bad, but there was something about it that stopped me from plowing through it in a weekend.
Berry always does such in-depth research and The Amber Room is no different. There were times when I was reading where I'd have to stop and head to the Internet to read more about a specific person/place or look at images. I love that about his novels; I'm always continuing the research long after the book has ended.
One of Berry's downfalls is the sheer number of characters he includes in his books. I couldn't keep track of all the bad guys and a few times I'd wind up confused while reading. I had no idea who was who.
It upsets me to make such a lackluster review. Steve Berry is a really great author who has some excellent books. Unfortunately, this wasn't my favorite.(less)
Twenty thousand years ago, when man crossed the land bridge to North America, creatures called They Who Follow made the great trek as well. But once in the new continent, the giant beasts disappeared, whether into hiding or extinction, no one knew.
Centuries later, a battered journal–the only evidence left from the night of the Romanovs’ execution–turns up in a rare bookstore. As the U.S. and Russians vie for the truth, and the lost Romanov treasure, they collide with a prehistoric predator thought long-extinct.
It’s up to the Event Group to lay to rest the legends. On an expedition into the wilds of British Columbia, Colonel Jack Collins and his team make a horrifying discovery in the continent’s last deep wilderness, where men have been vanishing for centuries.
This book. Just…no. I made the mistake of buying two of Mr. Golemon’s books – at full price, no less! I’m a sucker for books like his: thrillers dealing with ancient legends/conspiracies. Basically anything Dan Brown-esque. Also, the Romanovs. Anything involving that family instantly captures my interest, particularly novels where the Tsar’s children escape (thus began my starry-eyed love affair with Steve Berry). Unfortunately, the summary was extremely misleading. Apart from the prologue, the Romanovs play no part in the story & are only briefly mentioned again at the very end.
Instead, the book revolves around a tribe of Sasquatch. Sasquatch who carry around 50lb. clubs that they use to bang on tree trunks. …no joke. So many random, unnecessary subplots are thrown in (including one where Amelia Earhart’s remains are planted for an archaeology group to ‘discover’). It got to the point where I continued reading just to see what on earth could happen next. Each page was more ridiculous than the last.
Giving Mr. Golemon the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the sheer number of main characters would have been easier to keep track of if I had started the series from the beginning. Even after finishing the novel, I still have no idea who is who. This seems like a book that works fine on its own, but there were a few passages that specifically referenced events from previous books.
There were a number of factual errors and a surprising amount of spelling/punctuation errors. In one instance, holy became holly.
Were it not for the other book I bought, I wouldn’t give this series another look. As the case may be, however, it looks like I’ve got another book to force my way through. Ugh.(less)
On a soft summer night in Vermont, twelve-year-old Lisa went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother, Sam, about a door that led to a magical place where she would meet the King of the Fairies and become his queen.
Fifteen years later, Phoebe is in love with Sam, a practical, sensible man who doesn’t fear the dark and doesn’t have bad dreams—who, in fact, helps Phoebe ignore her own. But suddenly the couple is faced with a series of eerie, unexplained occurrences that challenge Sam’s hardheaded, realistic view of the world. As they question their reality, a terrible promise Sam made years ago is revealed—a promise that could destroy them all.
From the first moment I heard of this book I was intrigued. It seemed like a fairy tale for grown-ups. I was finally able to read it over the weekend and completely devoured it.
The chapters alternate between Pheobe (present day) and Lisa (fifteen years ago) which I thought was neat, particularly how the events relate and intertwine. I will admit I wasn’t expecting such a dark story (don’t pick this book up thinking you’re in for a light-hearted tale). It’s not often I come across a book that I will happily sacrifice sleep for, but Don’t Breathe a Word was one. Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a baby and the trapdoor-under-the-bed/shadow-figures-in-the-corner seemed all too real in the middle of the night.
When I read mysteries, I love trying to see if I can figure out Who Did It. I had my suspects, but in the end, I couldn’t have been more wrong. (I was a little disappointed with the big reveal. It just didn’t seem fair for readers playing along at home.)
Even though I absolutely loved Don’t Breathe a Word, I still have lingering questions that were not answered.
Glancing at the rest of Ms. McMahon’s books, it seems the covers are all very similar: close-up of a girl’s face. A bit uninspired, yes, but this one was perfect. The girl on the cover of this book was Lisa in my eyes. She looks every bit the part of a girl who wanted to be whisked away by the King of the Fairies.
I couldn't do it. I had to force myself to make it to the end. It reached the point where I was desperately wishing a bear would eat her just so there...moreI couldn't do it. I had to force myself to make it to the end. It reached the point where I was desperately wishing a bear would eat her just so there would be something happening.(less)