Book Review — Daughters Unto Devils

Title:  Daughters Unto Devils
Author:  Amy Lukavics
Genre:  YA Horror
Pages:  Hardback, 231
Publisher:  Harlequin Teen
ISBN:  978-0-373-21158-6
Opening Lines:  "The first time I lay with the post boy was on a Sunday, and I broke three commandments to do it."

Rating


"When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner's family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

"When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn't right on the prairie. She's heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda cant's be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul."

~ Jacket copy


As we near October every year, I spend weeks on Goodreads, Google, and Pinterest trying to find the best horror novels that have recently been released or that I've missed.  It made me extremely ecstatic when I found a whole board devoted to new, terrifying horror novels!  I was even more excited when I was able to find the vast majority of them at my local library or available via InterLibrary Loan!  And this lovely gem happened to end up at the top of the pile.  It might have had a little something to do with the cover, but . . . Well, I prefer not to judge a book by its cover . . .  


The jack copy does a far better job explaining the story than I could.  However, in an attempt to add to it, Amanda is a young girl struggling with her demons, as well as dealing with the growing tensions in her family and herself.  And, by the end of the book, you are left wondering whether she truly did find respite from the voices in her head.



This book was chilling.

The story opens up with a young girl dealing with the residual shadows of cabin fever, a sister who was born deaf and blind, and possibly her place within her large family.  As a form of escapism—and maybe a little bit of rebellion—she enters into a torrid affair with a post boy.  What she thought was love and romance changes quickly with the discovery of pregnancy and the threat of another hard winter.  On the heels of that revelation, Amanda's pa decides to move them out of their tiny cabin in the woods to the warm prairies full of larger cabins ripe for the picking.  And that is when things turn sinister . . .

When I first started reading this book, I wondered whether it was taking awhile to get going and to catch its stride; however, after taking a few days to dwell on it, I feel as though the author fully intended it as a literary mechanism.  Throughout the beginnings of the story, the author kept dropping little details about the previous winter and what Amanda saw in the woods.  You are told that her pa has treated her differently since then and won't even look at her the same.  Her ma even has a wary on on her.  Nonetheless, the author doesn't divulge that information until later.  It was small things like this that made the overwhelming sense of dread build, and it had me feeling as though something sinister was waiting on the periphery.

There were many times that I found myself not wanting to put it down and then being forced to leave my bedside light on.  The author did an amazing job with the internal and external demons.  And the book truly has stayed with me since I finished it on Thursday.

Even given the great nature of this book, I felt that a few things were lacking and made me ask questions.  I felt as though she didn't fully answer how Pa got the map.  Amanda has a theory—which I think is correct—but it was left too ambiguous for me.  In addition, she needed to flesh out the whole backstory behind Zeke and his father.  I wanted more information about their role in the whole story, how long these issues had been going on, and even a little more about the other cabin.  And was everything inevitable?  Aside from the solution the doctor presented at the end, was there a way to keep all of this from happening?

All in all, it was chilling and terrifying on many different aspects. If you're looking for a quick, good horror story, this was should definitely be on your list.
 

Much love, Sinn

Book Review — A Court of Thorns and Roses

Title:  A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author:  Sarah J. Maas
Genre:  YA/New Adult Fantasy, retelling
Pages:  Hardback, 416
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA Childrens
ISBN:  978-1-61963-444-2
Opening Lines:  "The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice."

Rating


"When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a breast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once rule their world.

"As Feyre dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility to a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever . . . "

~ Jacket copy


If you haven't guessed it by this point, I suppose it is only nice to tell you . . . I am back in a retelling kick.  Wasting Spending time on Pinterest, I stumbled upon a great list of retellings.  It told me that "they are a must read', so—as any good reader should do—I decided to find them at the local library.  And—ding, ding, you guessed it!—this book was near the top of the list.


At its basic level, this is a re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast with the "evil" faeries as the backdrop.  Young Feyre is out hunting for food during the long, grueling winter.  Spying a wolf about ready to take her quarry, she decides to kill it before it has the chance.  It doesn't hurt anything that she is convinced it is one of the Fae rumored to sneak through the Wall and hurt people.  After killing it, skinning it, and then selling its fur for a pretty penny, a large beast bursts into their house demanding penance.  According to a treaty signed by the humans and Fae, her life is forfeit.  Offering her an alternative to death, Feyre is taken to live across the Wall in Prythian.



Before I start, I loved this book!  It kept me up reading into the night, kept me anti-social during my lunch breaks, and consumed all of my time once I got home from work.  I could not put it down, nor did I want to finish reading it.  That being said, however, I could not give it five skulls . . .

Within the first few pages, I wanted to put the book down.  Feyre's voice is insipid and whiny.  Yes, she was the only person willing to feed her family; however, she spent more time complaining about her lot in life and a promise she made to her mother than much of anything else.  In addition to which, the attitude taken toward her sisters was infuriating!  It was understandable . . . To a point.

Aside from setting the stage, I felt that the story didn't truly start to come into its own until after she was taken into Prythian.  The audience wasn't given too much of her backstory until she started relating things to Tamlin and having moral quandaries with leaving them.  In addition, the scene was better written and fleshed out once she crossed the Wall.  That could have been an intentionally planned writing tool; however, it made everything before seem lackluster and unimportant.

The characters in the book were quite interesting, and the author really could have done some amazing things with them.  Sadly, she really failed to make them very three dimensional.  I felt that Lucien was one of the better characters.  He had a great presence in the book and tended to just fill the room with it.  Tamlin was our typical Byronic hero—broody, tall, dark, and handsome.  He was not a beast nor did Feyre truly transform him out of a beastly alter ego.  Despite my better judgment, I did like Tamlin and found myself really cheering for him . . . Even though he was a two dimensional shell of a cliche character.

She could have been a complex, sinister evil queen.  Maas has all the markings of a remarkable villain; yet, she failed to grasp onto that and run with it.  She was so cold and malevolent, it was jarring.

The ending and how Maas has set up the next book with Rhys upsets me.  Going into it would ruin the book.  That being said, for me, it negated the premise of this book entirely.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to other people.  Maas had an intriguing idea to bring a classic story into the realm of the Fae.  She did a wonderful job bringing some things to life and adding a new spin on the story.

(As a side note, I did find it interesting that this is a New Adult novel!)



Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Furiously Happy

Title:  Furiously Happy
Author:  Jenny Lawson
Genre:  Humor/Non-Fiction
Pages: Hardback, 329
Publisher:  Flatiron Books
ISBN:  978-1-250-07700-4
Opening Lines:  "This is where I was going to put a simple Mary Oliver quote but instead I decided to replace it with the idea I had for the cover of this book because I'm pretty sure it'll never get accepted and I don't want it to go to waste."

Rating


"In FURIOUSLY HAPPY, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jenny Lawson explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea.

"But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

"As Jenny sayd, "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that 'none' is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.

'Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked up but you'd never guess because we've learned to bare it so honestly that i becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, "We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it." Except go back and cross out the word "hiding."'

"Furiously Happy is a book about embracing everything that make us who we are—the beautiful and the flawed—and then using it to find joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. Because, as Jenny's mom says, 'Maybe "crazy" isn't so bad after all.' Sometimes crazy is just right."

~ Jacket copy


This was a book club book.  To be quite frank, I never would have picked this book up, and I very nearly put it back down again when I started reading it.  But, sometimes, things are than they first appear.


This is another instance when the jacket copy does a far better job than I could describing this book.  Putting it very, very simply, this is a book about being mentally ill and choosing not to be a victim or letting society put you into a box.



As I previously stated, I almost put this book down.  Soaking in a warm bath after a long, hard day at work, I had high hopes that this book would lift my mood, make me laugh, and just forget about the stress.  Sadly, I found it starting to ratchet me up and piss me off.  Jenny is very upfront and honest with the fact that she's mentally ill, and that was kind of a draw for me.  I've struggled with OCD and severe anxiety since my early 20s, so the whole concept was intriguing.  However, after getting a few pages past the first chapter, she made me irate.  First of all, she was setting my own anxiety off.  In addition, it felt as though she was letting her mental illness define her and using it as an excuse.  But, considering that it was a book club pick, I persevered.

In some ways, this book was just a series of random stories thrown together.  Most of them were ridiculously funny and had me reading long into the night.  Digging deeper, however, they were all little pieces that went into showing the reader just who Jenny is, how crazy she is, and be able to see her illness through a different lens.

This book is extremely hard to describe.  She is all over the place, over the top, intensely crazy, and, in some ways, extremely brilliant!  If you struggle with mental illness or have dealt with it in you life, give this book a chance.


Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Cuckoo Song


Title:  Cuckoo Song
Author:  Frances Hardinge
Genre:  YA fantasy, horror, historical fiction, mystery
Pages:  Hardback, 408
Publisher:  Amulet Books
ISBN:  978-1-4197-1480-1
Opening Lines:  "Her head hurt.  There was a sound grating against her mind, a music-less rasp like the rustling of paper"

Rating


"Following a mysterious accident that left her sopping wet, Triss awakens to a world that's eerily off-kilter. Her memories are muddled, her sister despises her, pages have been stolen from her private journal, and her appetite is insatiable. Confusion quickly turns to dread as she begins to see and hear things she shouldn't. Her dolls reveal themselves to be deceitful, living creatures; she's suddenly and inexplicably afraid of scissors; and when she brushes her hair, out sprinkle crumbled fragments of leaves.

"Then she stumbles across evidence that hedr beloved brother, killed in the war, is actually alive—and she begins to suspect that the secrets lurking within her home are even more shocking than her twisted new reality. Is Triss going mad? Or did her accident trigger a nightmarish chain of events? In her quest to learn the truth, Triss ventures from the shelter of her parents' protective wings into the city's underbelly. There she encounters strange creatures whose grand schemes could forever alter the fates of her family."

~ Jacket copy




One of the joys of my current job is the bi-annual book fairs!  On my short lunch breaks, I would take the time to just wander through the displays of books.  Some of them really didn't look appealing.  Others, however, really caught my attention.  This was one such book.  Sometimes YA horror can be awful and painful to read, so I was curious whether this one would be different.  Honestly, the cover also really drew me in.  Imagine my surprise when I saw it sitting on the shelf at the local library several months later!  And thus began my journey with this book.

Hmm, that is truly a hard question to answer.  The jacket copy does an amazing job giving tantalizing details without giving away the huge twist of the book.  At a basic level, it is about a family torn by the death of their son during WWI and how they cope.  However, it is so much more than that!  It centers around Triss—the sick daughter of well-to-do parents—and her struggle with her identity, the strange occurrences after her accident, and her relation with her family (especially her younger sister, Pen).

This book was excellent!  It has all the elements of a fairy tale while using the guise of post-WWI England as it's backdrop: the start of the post-war feminism, the birth of Jazz, and the very real effects of war and loss.  In addition, it also has all of the workings of a Gothic novel: gloomy settings, supernatural creatures, curses, and heroes.    

One of the things that really struck me in this book is the fact that the author didn't pull any punches.  She tackles a lot of major and complex issues.  Not only is she dealing with a family struggling hard to maintain the last vestiges of what they once were after an intense loss, but she dares to even show the socio-economic crisis after the end of the war.  In some ways, while the Jazz clubs seem lively, they are shown as escapism in the very real face of things like hunger.  It is also fascinating that the author uses a lot of the terminology from that time period, locale, and culture.  In addition, spurning the typical YA romance and veiled references to sex in favor of a strong relationship with her little sister was a very surprising and welcome addition to this story.  

It is really hard to fully address everything in this book without giving away Triss' full plight and the mystery surrounding her accident; however, it is definitely worth the read.  Despite the gloomy, war-torn setting, this book is beautiful and full of hope and wonder.  Even though Triss is only 13-years-old, this book has very complex themes, so it does not ostracize adult audiences.  Do not pass this one up!


Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Crimson Bound

Title:  Crimson Bound
Author:  Rosamund Hodge
Genre:  YA Fantasy/Retelling
Pages:  Hardback, 436
Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
ISBN:  978-0-06-222476-7
Opening Lines:  "'In all your life, your only choice,' Aunt Leonie said to her once, 'is the path of needles or the path of pins.'"

Rating


"When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But when Rachelle was fifteen she was also reckless—straying from the forest path in pursuit of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting foes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

"Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forced Armand to help her hunt for legendary sword that might save their world. Together, they navigate the opulent world of courtly elite, where beauty and power reign and no one can be trusted. And as they become unexpected allies, they discover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?"

~ Jacket copy



Working as a nanny this summer, I had the "privilege" of reading The Land of Stories book one and two (please, do not ever subject yourself to that drivel!).  In many ways, there is a lot of re-imaging in that series, which was one of the few reasons I continued to read the books to my charges (their steadfast love for the horrible books was the other).  While the series was terribly written and juvenile at best (in the worst possible way for a 20-something year-old author), it reignited by love for retellings.  Doing a search on Pinterest for them, I stumbled upon this one.  Being given Rose Daughter when I was 14 opened many doors into that world.  Even though I have read some interesting and obscure retellings, this was my first venture into Little Read Riding Hood.


At the very basic level, this book is an apocalyptic story.  More years ago then can be counted, fraternal twins (a boy and a girl) stopped the Devourer from rising.  Since then, on the fringes of society, woodwives have been weaving charms to protect the villages from him and his forestborn.  As an apprentice woodwife, Rachelle's duty is to carry on in the long tradition of walking the path, never entering the forest, and weaving charms to protect her people.  However, that changes when she meets her first forestborn and her feet dare to venture off of the path.


This book had everything you could hope for in a retelling, a YA fantasy, and a book concerned with the end of times.  The author created an absolutely rich and vibrant world!  She was able to do a wonderful job showing the difference between the decadence of court—the chateau later—and the villages on the outskirts of society, closer to the forests.  It was obvious to me that she studied Medieval literature in school.  The dichotomies she presented are very prevalent in that time period.  It gave a more fairytale-esque air to the story, and, in some ways, made it far darker.

The characters were well thought out and sympathetic.  In more ways than one, she was able to help me, as the reader, get inside of Rachelle' struggle.  Erik is very much akin to a person in my own life, so it made the story truly engrossing and all-encompassing.  Even the secondary characters had depth to them!

It is hard to fully talk about this book without giving away too much.  Suffice to say, it was beautiful, magical, romantic, and dark all at the same time.  It was hard to put this book down, and I found myself wanting to burn the midnight oil despite work the following morning.  This is definitely a book that stays with you.


Much love, Sinn

Book Review — 14

Title:  14
Author:  Peter Clines
Genre:  Sci-Fi
Pages:  Oversize paperback, 350
Publisher:  Permuted Press
ISBN:  978-1-61868-052-5
Opening Lines:  "He ran.  He ran as fast as he could.  As if Hell itself were chasing him.  As if his life depended on it."

Rating


"There are some odd things about Nate's new apartment.

"Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn't perfect, it's livable. The rent is love, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don't nag at him too much.

"At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela's apartment. And Tim's. And Veek's.

"Because every room in his old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends.

"Or the end of everything . . ."

~ Jacket copy




My bother has been pestering me to read this book since he got it on Audible.  Honestly, I wasn't sure what the hype was about.  After listening to the first 20 minutes of it and the ceaseless pestering, I finally decided to ILL it from the local library.  And once I started, the book would not leave my hand!


This book is hard to quantify without giving away the entire plot.  In a nutshell, it is a mystery!  After finding a fairly cheap apartment with a good view in downtown L.A., Nate keeps his head down and just plugs away at his life as data entry.  However, he starts noticing odd things about his apartment building . . .


Wow! This book is amazing, time consuming, and ineffable!  My brother did a great thing forcing me to read 14.  Being an avid reader, it is easy to pick up on a plot because, at some level, you've seen it before.  Clines was able—at some level—to keep me guessing and on the edge of my seat.  However, when I was able to put the pieces together, it felt akin to an Earth-shattering accomplishment and a little surprise just for me.  And the reward was great!

Clines created a well crafted story with a unique plot line, believable characters, and a good all around mystery.  While it encompasses the sci-fi genre perfectly, it is set in modern-day L.A.  At the onset, it has the elements of a classic horror novel; however, little things like the cockroaches make the reader start to wonder.  He does a marvelous job making his audience question what's really happening along with the characters.

This book is extremely hard to discuss without giving away the surprise.  It is similar to discovering your Christmas presents in mom and dad's closet and trying to feign surprise when you finally open them.  It would be wonderful to talk about, but ruining that mystery for future readers is inexcusable.  This is a book you should not miss!


Much love, Sinn

Book Review — Dead Heat

Title:  Dead Heat
Author:  Patricia Briggs
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Pages:  Paperback, 305
Publisher:  ACE Fantasy
ISBN:  978-0-425-25628-2
Opening Lines:  "The fae lord stalked back and forth in his cell of gray stone.Three steps, turn, four steps, turn, three steps."

Rating


"For once, werewolves Charles and Anna are not traveling because of Charles's role as his father's enforcer. This time, their trip to Arizona is purely personal. Or at least their visit starts out that way . . .

"Charles and Anna soon discover that a dangerous fae being is on the loose, replacing human children with simulacrums. The fae have started a cold war with humanity that's about to heat up—and Charles and Anna are in the cross fire."

~ Jacket copy


I got it in my head to finally read further into the Alpha and Omega series.  The first two books floored me, and I loved them.  Sadly, when I grabbed one of the newer ones, I couldn't fully remember what came before.  This started on a quest to read through the first books and finally catch up.  So, there you have it, that's why I picked this one up: it was the next in the series and I had to get my hands on it!

Anna has been plodding along on a gelding that she was given when she first moved to Montana.  While the worse is a good, solid animal, Charles feels that it doesn't fit her.  After receiving a call from an old friend, he decides her "need" is a good excuse to visit Arizona on the pretext of buying her an Arabian.  That, however, causes them to stumble upon a sick fae who could be threatening the Arizona pack.

This book was on par with the others.  I found myself tearing through it and enjoying it just as much.  Briggs did a wonderful job showing that Charles and Anna are finally getting to a point of being comfortable in their relationship.  In addition, it was nice to see that Charles had a life outside of being Bran's enforcer and pack treasurer.   
Even though the book was as engrossing as the others, something felt a little off and forced about it.  I loved the concept of the fae Briggs created and the inherent tension after the events of the last book.  However, Briggs' love of horses seemed to overpower the actual plot.  Joseph's character and everything surrounding the Arabian ranch wasn't a vehicle that was used well.  In some respects, it felt forced and almost as though it was a side thing.  The other books felt completely seamless and all the elements blended together smoothly.  For me, this was one did not.  The characters were great, the felt fairly well developed, but . . . 
My reservations aside, it was a good book and a fun read!  It helped continue to story and gave good introduction into the new issues with the fae.  It will be quite interesting to see how that turns out in later books.  It makes me wonder whether the new focus will be the publicity of the werewolves, or whether that will be completely glossed over by everything else!  


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.