Book Review — The Hunger

Title:  The Hunger
Author:  Alma Katsu
Genre:  Horror, historical
Pages:  Hardback 373
ISBN:  978-0-7352-1251-0
Opening Lines:  "Everyone agreed that it had been a bad winter, one of the worst in recollection.  Bad enough for some of the Indian tribes, Paiute and Miwok, down from the mountain."

Rating


"Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere. That is the only way to explain the misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party.

"Depleted rations, butter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the drink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy . . . or the feeling that someone—or something—is stalking them. Whether it's a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through the uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.

"As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains . . . and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along."

~ Jacket copy


If you've been reading my blog on and off in the last several years, you know that I always try to read horror novels all throughout the month of October.  While my husband and I were back in Laramie at the end of September, I decided to do a little research on the latest and greatest horror novels of 2018.  This book popped up on every. single. list!  Since I was a teenager, the Donner Party has always been rather fascinating.  When you combine a true story of cannibalism with a supernatural twist, I'm in!


Basically, it's the Donner Party!  If you don't know the story, I highly suggest doing a little research.  In my opinion, it has become pseudo American folklore and lives in infamy akin to Roanoke.  This novels takes that story and adds disappearing children, hushes whispers from Native Americans, and rumors of creatures stalking the party.



The last few years, it has been exceedingly hard to fully dig into a novel.  Something about this book was able to pull me in and keep me reading.  Katsu did an amazing job building a growing sense of dread.  At points, I found myself turning on every light in the house and jumping when my kitten sneezed.  However, I couldn't point to one thing or one issue that was necessarily creepy.

The Hunger starts in April 1847 with a rescue mission to find survivors of the failed wagon train.  After some gruesome discoveries, the author pulls the readers back to June 1846 near the start of the Donner Party's ill-fated journey.  The reader follows Tamsen Donner, Charles Stanton, Mary Graves, Elitha Donna, Edwin Bryant, and a few other characters.  Each chapter is written from a different character's perspective and follows the party until January 1847.

While the story had an interesting premise, I felt as though it fell short.  Katsu was able to keep me reading and engaged in the novel; however, she spent the majority of the book building to a climax that fizzled out at the end.  At many points during the novel, I found myself wondering whether she was going to use the wendigo.  The Native Americans are a big deal at the beginning of the novel; therefore, it would stand to reason that she would pull on their ancient belief.  Unfortunately, that was a loose end.  When the audience finally does get a glimpse into the possible connection between the strange happenings and the cannibalism, Katsu never explains it.

In addition, I felt the pacing was rather slow.  Katsu spends an inordinate amount of time introducing the readers to these historical people and giving us access into their personal thoughts/lives.  However, it doesn't truly amount to anything.  Why did we—the readers—have to spend so much time invested in Charles Stanton?  The same goes for Mary Graves.  The slow pace makes it even more frustrating when the ending is extremely anti-climactic.

Please do not get me wrong!  This was was enjoyable and made me jump in noises in a new house.  Unfortunately, once I finished it, I felt a dissatisfied.  If you love history, cannibalism, and horror, The Hunger is worth a shot.

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Fragile

Title:  Fragile
Author:  Lisa Unger
Genre:  Crime fiction, thriller
Pages:  Hardback, 323
ISBN:  978-0-307-39399-9
Opening Lines:  "When Jones Cooper was younger, he didn't believe in mistakes.  He thought that every road led you somewhere and wherever you wound up, that's where you belonged."

Rating


"Everybody knows everybody in The Hollows, a quaint, charming town outside of New York City. It's a place where neighbors keep an eye on one another's kids, where people say hello in the grocery store, and where high schoo cliques and antics are never quite forgotten. As a child, Maggie found living under the microscope of small-town life stifling. But as a wife and mother, she has happily returned to The Hollows's insular embrace. As a psychologist, her knowledge of family histories provides powerful insights into her patients' lives. So when the girlfriend of her teenage son, Rick, disappears, Maggie's intuitive gift proves to be useful to the case—and also dangerous.

"Eerie parallels soon emerge between Charlene's diappearance and the abduction of another local girl that shook the community years ago when Maggie was a teenager. The investigation has her husband, Jones, the lead detective on the case, acting strangely. Rick, already a brooding teenager, becomes even more withdrawn. In a town where the past is always present, nobody is above suspicion, not even a son in the eyes of his father.

"'I know how a moment can spiral out of control,' Jones says to a shocked Maggie as he searches Rick's room for incriminating evidence. 'How the consequences of one careless action can cost you everything.'

"As she tries to reassure him that Rick embodies his father in all of the important ways, Maggie realizes this might be exactly what Jones fears most. Determined to uncover the truth, Maggie pursues her own leads into Charlene's disappearance and exposes a long-buried town secret—one that could destroy everything she holds dear. This chilling novel is about one community's intricate yet fragile bonds will leave readers asking How well do I know the people I love? and How far will I go to protect them?"

~ Jacket copy


Since the start of last fall semester and moving into student teaching, it has been nearly impossible for me to get into a book.  Even if some shred of it happens to grab my attention, nothing is able to keep me from putting it down.  Coming home after being at the high school from 7:30am-3:45pm five days a week, lesson planning, ceaseless grading, and attending to school work, mind-numbing TV was far more appealing.  However, that did not stop my desire to read.  Oftentimes, I found myself crying in my couch to my poor husband about the deep depression I was sinking into because I couldn't read.  All the while, Pinterest kept telling me about the best horror, thrillers, and suspense books popping up all over the place.  In one last effort to force myself to read, I picked up Bone and Ink by Lisa Unger.  Even though it took me nearly three months to finish, it really grabbed my attention while I was reading it.  After that, I decided to give her other books a chance!  Since this book takes place in the same town and shares a few of the same characters, it was the one I brought home.


Charlene is a desperate, lonely girl who is struggling to find her place in the world.  Preyed upon by her stepfather and spurned by her mother, she puts on a false front of bravado, claiming that she is going to ditch town, move to New York, and make it big in the music scene.  Marshall Crosby is a troubled boy who happens to be caught in a vicious cycle of paternal abuse.  Even when he is taken out of it, he willingly goes back in one last attempt to win his father's approval.  Ricky is doing everything he can to live outside of his father's shadow—the police detective, Jones Cooper.  Unfortunately, he is doing nothing more than driving a wedge between his parents, Jones and Maggie.  While Maggie desperately tries to reunite father and son, something far more nefarious is happening in The Hollows.  Everything comes to a head when Charlene disappears.



Sitting in front of the blinking cursor and blank page, I find it extremely hard to find the words to explain this book.  As I mentioned before, reading has been nothing short of arduous on the best of days.  Something about the character driven plot of Ink and Bone was able to draw me in when other books failed.  I felt as though Lisa Unger's unique writing style, use of words, and command of prose might be the key to demolishing this blockage. 

In many ways, Fragile is very similar.  Unger takes time to artfully craft her characters and flesh out the town of The Hollows through characters' memories, small asides, and anecdotes.  The town is turned into as much a character as Jones or Charlene.  Even the secondary characters have more depth than you would expect because of the hinted backstories and history with the main characters.

When Charlene—a seemingly rebellious teen—disappears, the outwardly idyllic town of The Hollows is shaken to its core as it is forced to remember the disappearance and murder of another girl several decades before.  In an effort to right a wrong, Jones Cooper sets out on a quest to save Charlene and prove she is not merely a girl running away from a troubled home.  As he races against the clock to save her life, long-buried secrets are brought to the surface.  These secrets weave a web connecting  both parents and adults.

Looking back, I felt as though parts of this book were a bit haphazard and were possibly lost in translation.  As an example, Tommy Delano seemed a bit random.  I fully understood what Unger was attempting to do; however, she was a bit sloppy in the execution.  Also, Eloise was rather out of place.  If I had not read Ink and Bone before this, I wouldn't have been able to fully understand why she was even mentioned. 

The complex, interconnected backstories make this book a slow burn.  Yet, Unger is able to show the curses and blessings of living in a small town.  Fragile walks away with four stars because it was able to draw me in and keep me reading just to determine whether my predictions were correct.  And, if I'm honest, it gave me the chance to take my mind off of the uncertainty in my own life.




Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Ready Player One

Title:  Ready Player One
Author:  Ernest Cline
Genre: Lit. RPG/Sci-Fi/Dystopia
Pages:  Paperback, 579
Publisher:  B/D/W/Y
ISBN:  978-1-5247-6328-2
Opening Lines:  "Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest."

Rating


"In the year 2044, reality is an ugly placce. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

"But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape."

~ Jacket copy


When we were still dating, my husband told me about this "great book" that pulled on our childhood and mutual love of all things geeky.  His roommate just so happened to be reading it and raved about its epicness.  Needless to say, we raced to pick up a copy before the movie came out.  Yes, I am that person who tries to read the book before watching the movie.


In the year 2044, everyone lives their meager life plugged into the OASIS.  Business is conducted in online store fronts, children attended simulated schools, you work virtual jobs, etc.  Provided you have enough money, you never have to leave your trusted haptic rig.  However, all of that might change when the creator of the OASIS levels a challenge on his death—find the hidden Easter Egg to inherent his entire estate and controlling shares in Gregarious Simulation Systems.  Basically, to the winner goes the OASIS.  After years of searching, no one has been able to solve the puzzles.  When an unlikely teenager from the stacks in Ohio manages to master the first puzzle, he pits himself against a huge mega-corporation to find the Egg.  With only his knowledge of '70s, '80s, and '90s trivia to guide him, Wade must master all three gates in order to save the OASIS from corporate control.



As a preface to this review, I was born in the early '80s and grew up with a deep-rooted love and nostalgia for the decade.  I have fond memories of watching The Breakfast Club, Lady Hawk, Willow, Goonies, and other iconic '80s movies with my brother.  These movies colored my childhood and earliest memories.  In fact, I remember believing that I would marry Michael J. Fox and be swept away in The DeLorean.  I cut my gaming teeth on my grandfather's Commodore 64 and learned the fine art of platforming with the original Mario Bros.  My parents raised us to love Star Trek, be avid readers, and embrace the things that others thought weird.  To be blunt, I am a geek. (This is our current set-up minus the CRT and old-school consoles.)



After listening my husband's roommate praise Ready Player One, I was excited to delve into its uncharted depths.  Sadly, it broke my heart.

Where do I even start with this book?  It is nothing more than one big cluster-fuck of trivia and "Ooo, look at me, I'm the most epic geek of all time because I know so much stuff!"  Before I even address how Ernest Cline tried to single-handedly ruin my childhood, I will put on my English teacher/editor hat.

Let me begin with the story.  Aside from movies like Tron, The Matrix, Gamer, etc., this book has a very interesting premise.  Using '80s trivia and geeky-awesomeness as the vehicle for the plot made me geekgasm.  It is also interesting to note that this book seemingly gave rise to Lit. RPG as an actual genre.  Honestly, some amazing books have come out of it.  Unfortunately, that is where it ends . . . This book lacks originality at its core and borders on plagiarizing myriad '80s movies.  While it can be argued that there are no more original stories, Cline takes that to another level by hijacking everyone else's ideas, bastardizing them, and dumbing them down to spoon feed them to the masses.  This is evident in his characters.  Cline has never met a stock character that he didn't like.  Not only are his characters extremely one-dimensional and severely underdeveloped, Wade is no more than a badly written copy of Luke Skywalker.  As well as being an orphan raised by his aunt, he was the only one who could go against IOI (*couch* the Empire *cough*) to save the OASIS.  And, let me not forget, Wade—like Ernest himself—is the G.O.A.T.


At no point can he fail.  Even if he does not have the skills or necessary knowledge, Wade always has to succeed.

In addition to the stock characters, the whole story of Halliday and Morrow was a two-bit copy of the formation of modern day computers.  In fact, Halliday and Morrow mirror Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.  It was easy to figure out how the relationship would play out if you watched Pirates of Silicon Valley or know anything about that dynamic.

Moving on, Ernest either needs to invest in a good editor or fire the one he has.  The glaring inconsistencies in this book were outrageous.  For example, on page 161, Wade approaches the replica of Halliday's childhood home and notes, "Two late-'70s Ford sedans were parked in the driveway, one of them up on cider blocks."  However, as Wade makes his great escape from the house after cleared the first gate, he grabs "The keys to the Halliday family car were on the pegboard next to the refrigerator.  I grabbed them and rushed outside. The car (the one that wasn't up on the blocks) was a 1982 Ford Thunderbird." (p. 178). Um, a 1982 Ford Thunderbird is a not a late-'70s sedan.  To add insult to injury, the continual run-on sentences, fragments, and incorrect grammatical structure for a list series nearly made my eyes cross.  I am almost too terrified to ask what the original, unedited manuscript looked like.

Ready Player One is chock-full of frivolous details.  If the book was distilled down to the story, it would probably cap out around 100-200 pages.  Instead, Cline spends the majority of the book inundating the audience with pointless movie references, incorrect geeky trivia, and pages of detailed explanations of why Wade is the G.O.A.T.  Cline relies too heavily on several bad plot devices such as the dreaded deus ex machina, hidden knowledge, and the Mary Sue.  All of these elements are characteristics of immature writers. Unfortunately, these elements work together to create a book that is nothing more than a name-dropping info dump and testament to Cline's belief in his own "geek prowess".

The lengths to which Cline goes to incorporate all geekdom from the past several decades is laughable.  In his attempt to show his godlike knowledge of all things geeky, Cline—surprisingly—got many things wrong.  First of all, a Bag of Holding is a pocket dimension that is larger on the inside than the outside.  It does not get heavier as you put more objects into it.  Therefore, I am unsure why Wade could no longer fill the bag with gold or loot as he worked through the dungeon.  Second, he cannot study the map of the dungeon to know where every single monster is located.  In many of those old D&D books, wandering monsters were common and could not be predicted.  Aside from the bosses and larger battles, it was a roll of the dice and up to the DM to decide what players would encounter.  I don't even want to address what he did to the DeLorean or the Serenity . . . It made me weep and my husband homicidal.  (Ernest Cline, if you are reading this, you do not deserve to have your picture taken in front of the DeLorean nor do you deserve to be lauded at ComicCon.  Can the shit, you're not a geek or a nerd!)

Cline's desire to create the magnum opus of geekdom did nothing more than alienate true geeks and nerds by bastardizing what they love the most.

Even though I do not condone book burning, here is our final opinion of the book:

   
         

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — The Women in the Walls

Title:  The Women in the Walls
Author:  Amy Lukavics
Genre:  YA horror
Pages:  Hardback, 278
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
ISBN:  978-0-373-21194-4
Opening Lines:  "Walter the cook killed himself in his little bedroom downstairs, just a few hours after saying good-night."

Rating


"Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three.

"Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.

"When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she beings hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy in her family for generations."

~ Jacket copy




After reading Daughters Unto Devils, I desperately wanted to get my hands on Lukavics next book.  While there were unanswered questions in her first novel, it managed to leave a chill in my bones and kept my light on for many nights following.  The concept of this book sounded interesting, and it reminded me of myriad ghost stories I heard growing up.


Lucy Acosta has always grown up with the image of what an Acosta is: "An Acosta must never lack control.  She must keep her back straight, and her clothes ironed, and her expression placid.  She must refuse to be seen unless her hair and makeup have been set . . ." (277).  Even though she has always strove to follow her aunt's impeccable example, her composure beings to slip when her aunt disappears and her cousin begins a fast decent into madness.



Where do I even begin?  I had high hopes for this book.  The beginning grabs the reader's attention and draws them in with promises of mystery and a sinister story.  However, as the book progress, everything falls apart and fails to deliver.  

In some ways, the story was anti-climactic.  The book built and built and built without a true resolution.  Further, many of the details were undeveloped and felt haphazardly thrown into the story.  For example, not only was Lucy's cutting predicable, it felt as though it was included merely because it seemed right.  Maybe the author felt it added depth to the character, but . . . It felt like a failed attempt.  In addition, most of the supporting characters left me with the impression that they were nothing more than an afterthought that provided filler.  The isolation might have been a plot device, however, Lucy barely had any interaction with them.  

Looking at Lucy for a moment, she mentions that she just knows her aunt could never be a killer (p. 214) and—after systematic emotional abuse—deep down, she knows her father cares (p. 219).  I found this to be quite problematic.  Not only is her father's care completely outside of the character we've seen up to this point, Lucy spends too much time inner-focused up to this point, the bold statements—while too vague—belie everything the audience is shown and hints at some watchfulness on her part. While that may be completely within the realm of possibility, why were we not shown this side of her before?  For the most part, Lucy only sees her father through a specific Margaret-filtered lens.  These comments felt as though they were the author's way of trying to rectify our previous views of characters like her father or as a failed lead in to something more sinister.  

Furthermore, Margaret is a far more compelling character.  While abrasive, she had a vibrancy that Lucy lacks.  It was hinted that the girls were no longer in the school system because of Margaret and possible fights.  That is seen in her treatment of Vanessa.  At some level, I wish the author had switched the characters.  Lucy lives too much in her head, spends her time being pulled every which way by Margaret, and agonizes over whether she should cut herself.  Further, her behavior toward her father is incongruous with her response to Margaret and everyone else (mousy vs. bitch). 

The beginning of the book was quite engaging, yet it quickly dwindled and died completely.  The ending left me with more questions than it sought to answer.  Why was Lucy's mother given the estate?  Why was her father so distant?  How much did he know about the Mother?  Who is the Mother?  Why did the women choose an Acosta as the caretaker of the estate?  What fully happened to Penelope when she was gone?  Who was/is Clara?  Aside from bringing in more acolytes, what is the roll of the Daughter?  Etc., etc., etc.

There were some good parts to the story and the imagery was amazing.  Sadly, however, this book failed to delivery on all counts.  

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall

Title:  The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall
Author:  Katie Alender
Genre:  YA horror
Pages:  Hardback, 329
Publisher:  Scholastic Inc.
ISBN:  978-0-545-63999-6
Opening Lines:  "Every fairy tale starts the same: Once upon a time.  Maybe that's why we love them so much."

Rating


"Delia's new house isn't just a house. Long ago, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females—an insane asylum nicknamed "Hysteria Hall." However, many of hte inmates were not insane, just defiant and strong willed. Kind of like Delia herself.

"But the house still wants to keep 'troubled' girls locked away. So, in the most horrifying way, Delia gets trapped.

"And that's when she learns that the house is also haunted.

"Ghost girls wander the halls in their old-fashioned nightgowns. A handsome ghost boy named Theo roams the grounds. Delia finds that all the spirits are unsettled and full of dark secrets. The house, as well, harbors shocking truths within its walls—truths that only Delia can uncover, and that may set her free.

"But she'll need to act quickly, before the house's power overtakes everything she loves."

~ Jacket copy



Lately, I have been scouring Pinterest for the latest and best horror novel.  For some reason, there has been a bug up my rear end as it pertains to horror and the quest to find the best.  Several of the pins I found suggested this book was up there.  The mention of a haunted asylum had me quivering with excitement!  Sadly, this book was another in my growing list of duds.  

To be honest, I do not want to spend much time discussing this book.  It was not horror nor was any aspect scary.  There were many elements that could have been extended or explained, which would have made it an excellent read.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the author chose not to follow them.  

Following the cliched format of a haunted asylum story, the book ended up a predictable snooze-fest.  The characters were one-dimensional and showed zero originality.  Once finishing the book, I felt unfulfilled due to the unanswered questions.  

If you're interested in a tired, kiss-your-brain-good-bye read, this is for you.  It doesn't require too much thought and can easily be read in a few sittings.  It provided some nice respite from the endless textbooks, so it ended up squeaking by with two stars.  
Much love, Sinn

Book Review — A Court of Mist and Fury

Title:  A Court of Mist and Fury
Author:  Sarah J. Maas
Genre:  New Adult, retelling
Pages:  Hardback, 624
Publisher:  Bloomsbury
ISBN:  978-1-61963-446-6
Opening Lines:  "Maybe I'd always been broken and dark inside.  Maybe someone who'd been born whole and good would have put down the ash dagger and embraced death rather than what lay before me."

Rating


"Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Sprint Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart Book Reviewremains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

"Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, HIgh Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be the key to stopping it. BUt only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of the world torn apart."

~ Jacket copy



 After the conclusion of A Court of Thorns and Roses, I wanted to see if my suppositions were correct.  Thankfully, my local library had a copy, which meant I was not forced to buy this trite, cliched drivel.


Sadly, this book is easily summed up: boy—in an extremely predictable manner—drives girl away, girl runs to new boy, figures stuff out, falls in love with new boy, and is the key to saving the known world.  Oh, yes, there are some over-the-top, poorly written sex scenes that nearly plagiarize every other sex scene that has come before it in romance and erotica alike.  Basically, there was nothing original.
 

Before I even attempt to review this book, please do not bother reading it if you don't want spoilers.  It is hard to address the epic failure of A Court of Mist and Fury without looking at the book as a whole.

First, I want to address the very disgusting language running throughout the book.  At many points, Feyre, as well as others, make the comment that her human heart cannot come to grips with the atrocities she was forced to commit Under the Mountain.  They claim this is why she can never heal, why she is plagued with nightmares, and, basically, why she is "damaged".  BULLSHIT!  Human heart or no, at no point could anyone deal with that torture—both physical, emotional, and mental—without breaking.  (Well, I suppose, if you're a sociopath, you might be perfectly okay.)  The fact that she mourns the deaths makes her NORMAL.  In addition, continually calling her "damaged" feels quite abusive and manipulative.  Her lack of self-esteem in this book is shocking!  At no point did any of the characters attempt to correct the issue.

Tamlin is not suffering from PTSD after his experiences Under the Mountain.    His character completely changes from one book to the next.  Based upon the fact that he could so callously murder Rhys' mother and sister in cold blood, he must be a sociopath after his performance in the first book.  Honestly, I wish Maas had taken half a page to explain the rationale behind that one.  Additionally, if she had wanted Feyre to end up with Rhys, wonderful!  However, you do not need to turn Tamlin into a raging, controlling, ABUSIVE asshole.  Sometimes people just fall out of love.  Given the circumstances, it makes sense that Tamlin might feel threatened after Feyre saved all of Prythia.  Further, after needing to feel someone protect her, finding that Tamlin was unwilling (or could not) to do so, Feyre might seek to find it elsewhere.  There are any number of reasons why their love was doomed.  Maas did not need to be over dramatic (hmm, much like teenage girl drama) in their breakup.  I absolutely despise when authors decide to turn much-loved characters into raging assholes (*cough, cough* Laurel K. Hamilton *cough, cough*) as their pseudo Deus Ex Machina.  After reading the first book, the audience had to know that it was a foregone conclusion that Feyre would end up leaving Tamlin for Rhys; however, try to be an adult about how you handle it.

The minor characters in this book could have been interesting.  Unlike the first book with Lucien, Maas didn't spend anytime fleshing them out and they all had traumatic backstories.  When every single character has a traumatic backstory, the audience ceases to care about them.  Ugh, Feyre was starving, Tamlin's family was killed (rightfully), Lucien was abused and nearly killed by his brothers, Rhys was a half-blood and despised for it, Mor was beaten and left for dead, blah, blah, blah!  It is the author's job to craft a sympathetic character and garner a connection with the audience, yet using this tragic backstory over and over and over again is a sign of an immature author.  Sometimes I am most drawn to the characters who are just real people trying to deal with real circumstances.  I don't need my heartstrings pulled with every character.

Speaking of characterizations, Rhys moved from extremely interesting in the first book to flat and one dimensional.  Thank you, Maas, for showing that you know what a Byronic Hero is, and I am extremely upset that he lacked the dimensions of greater Byronic Heroes like Mr. Darcy.  It was nice to see that Rhys had a backstory and treated Feyre better, yet one has to wonder whether he is truly better than Tamlin.  His explosive anger toward Mor's father, as well as his response after the mating hints at repressed issues.  Also, what happened to Feyre?  In the first book, she was a kick-ass-take-no-prisoners-tough-as-nails heroine!  Yes, she is dealing with harrowing stuff; however, she never fully bounces back, sulks in corners, and pulls the "woe is me" card.  I wanted to slap her!

Half way through the novel, Maas developed a keen interest in "indeed".  It made me wonder what happened to her editor.  Close to 95% of the times it was used, it should have been removed.  It changed the entire meaning of the sentences or had not relevance whatsoever.  And if that isn't bad enough, she similarly gained an odd fascination with "barked".  "He barked my name", "my muscles barked after training", "I approached the dais, my knees barking" . . . Seriously, what in the world does that mean?

Since editing was mentioned . . . Why was half of this book not chopped?  I am almost terrified to see the length of a pre-edited version *shudder*  This book is 624 pages, and it could have easily been hacked down to less than half of that.  The majority of the book revolves around cliched dramas and episodes of "does he love me, does he not", crises of character, and so on.  The real plot of the book is probably less than 300 pages.

I'm not even going to address the ludicrous, corny sex scenes.  Heh, that might take a whole review in and of itself.  Let's say that 50 Shades of Gray was better.  Not by much, mind you, but it was better.

So, what did I like about this book?  Honestly, Amren was an amazing character!  I am beyond thrilled that Maas didn't flesh her out and allowed her to be shrouded in some sort of mystery.  My imagination has run wild with theories about her, how she came to Phrythia, etc.  She was a rare gem and an excellent success.  Unfortunately, I am terrified to see how Maas will destroy her the way she did Rhys and Lucien.

To put it bluntly, this book was banal, vapid, and unimaginative.  For a 600+ page book, I expected better, especially after loving the first book.  It would have been nice to see the old Feyre start to emerge and show older teenage girls that they are strong enough to overcome horrible adversity.  Regrettably, she decided that the cliches were easier to write.  



Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Bird Box

Title:  Bird Box
Author:  Josh Malerman
Genre:  Horror, thriller, post-apocalyptic
Pages:  Kindle, 211
Publisher:  Harper Voyage
ISBN: 978-0-06-225965-3
Opening Lines:  "Malorie stands in the kitchen thinking.  Her hands are damp.  She is trembling.  She taps her toe nervously on the cracked tile floor."

Rating


"Something is out there . . .

"Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

"Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

"Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?

"Interweaving past and present, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking debut is a horrific and gripping snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page."

~ Jacket copy



Lately, it has been hard to find a book that will fully catch my attention.  Whether it was due to the combination of classes and work or something else, it has been an issue for several months.  In an endeavor to correct the problem, I spend hours scouring Pinterest for new bool suggestions.  Many of the pins I looked at dealt with horror.  Usually, I save the horror for the fall, colder weather, and longer nights; however, it has been ever-present in my mind lately.  On all of the pins, this book kept coming up over and over and over again.  I decided to give it a chance.  Luckily, my local library had it available as an electronic rental!

(Yes, yes, as many of you will remember, I vowed never to become a Kindle user.  However, my wonderful Viking gifted me with a Kindle a few months ago.  Knowing that my textbooks would be approximately $50 cheaper in electronic format, he found a wonderful Kindle Fire . . . USED!  Since then, I have decided to embrace the idea of ebooks a bit more . . . )


This book is extremely hard to describe without giving it away completely.  As suggested by the jacket copy, this book is a post-apocalyptic horror/thriller.  After strange occurrences in Russia, people are starting to seemingly go insane and kill themselves/others after seeing something.  While there are many theories circulating about the nature of the thing, no one truly knows what or why people are losing their minds.  They only know that people are dying and no one is safe.

After several years living alone in a house, Malorie has decided to take matters into her own hands and try to give her children a future beyond the four walls.  However, with sight being dangerous, she must find safety using her other senses.  



Close your eyes and think about walking to your mailbox blindfolded.  Now consider preforming other mundane tasks with a blindfold over your eyes and taking away your sight.  If you take the blindfold off and open your eyes . . . Insanity . . . Death.  Yet, you do not know from what.

Malorie is the mother of two four-year-old children who live in a house with covered windows, locked doors, and old blood stains on the walls and floors.  When they leave the house to collect water from the well or empty the "shit bucket", it is all done with blindfolds covering their eyes.  Malorie lives under the constant fear that she might see something that will cause her to go insane and ultimately kill herself.  This is a fear she has been living with for approximately five years when the first people died in Russia.

After living alone with the children for four and a half years, Malorie has decided that she is willing to risk their safety in order to find a future for her children.  She has trained them to be acute listeners and not rely on their vision.  With blindfolds on and strict instructions not to open their eyes, Malorie embarks on a 20 mile trip up the river to find possible salvation.  However, the trip could prove to be harrowing, as well as life threatening.

The story is told mostly in flashbacks with occasional jaunts to the book's present-day on the river.  The most terrifying thing about this book is the unknown.  Like the characters, "sight" is taken from the reader.  Using limited third-person POV, Malerman is able to build the growing fear in the readers.  Like the characters, the audience has no idea what the novel's antagonist truly is, what it looks like, or why it is causing people to go insane.

There were many times throughout this novel that I found myself jumping at known noises in my house.  The novel was able to bring back the idea that, if I just closed by eyes, I would be safe.  It was engaging a played on the fear of the unknown, as well as adding an element of human nature/survival.

This was an excellent story and a rather unique idea.


Much love, Sinn

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"If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag! If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass! It’s our time now, To let it all hang out!" I am a recovering English major, closet bibliophile, breve addicted, zombie lover with a rockabilly and heavy metal fetish.