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."


"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."


"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."


"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."


"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

Book Review — Crossed

Title:  Crossed
Author:  Ally Condie
Genre:  YA Dystopia
Pages:  Hardback, 367
Publisher:  Penguin Group
ISBN:  978-0-525-42365-2
Opening Lines:  "I'm standing in a river.  It's blue.  Dark blue.  Reflecting the color of the evening sky."


"Chasing down an uncertain future, Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky—taken by the Society to his sure death—only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons. On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion. But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again.

"Narrated from both Cassia's and Ky's points of view, this hotly anticipated sequel to Matched will take them both to the edge of Society, where nothing is as expected and crosses and double crosses make their path more twisted than ever."

~ Jacket copy

Matched has been sitting on the shelf in the classroom staring at me for quite some time.  It didn't help that the school librarian kept suggesting it.  However, it was a book I had already read and didn't remember particularly enjoying.  (A look back at my previous post shows that I was correct).  Despite my better judgment—while packing up endless boxes of books for my head teacher—I decided to give Matched another chance and then get further into the series.  It didn't help that Reached was on the book shelf in my mentor teacher's classroom.  It appeared as though I was . . . doomed!

At the conclusion of Matched, the readers see Ky sent to the Outer Provinces and Cassia on a train with her family as their being relocated for her mother's new job assignment—or so they've been told.  When Crossed starts, Ky is serving in what looks like the military and Cassia is in a work camp.  Through these limitations and no idea where the other is at, Cassia sets off on a trek to find Ky as he is trying to escape from certain death.

To be honest, the second time around, I actually enjoyed Matched more than I did the first time.  It might have been for the escapist value.  That being said, I cannot say the same for the second book.  The concept of the split narration gives an interesting spin on books and allows the reader a peak into the minds and rationale of the other main characters; however, it has been overdone.  In addition, it needs to be done well.  Granted, Ky had all the potential of being an interesting character in the first book, but narrating the story from his side did not add any depth.  Condie would have been better served by not splitting the narration.  As it stands, it detracting from the story.

Between the first and second book, something was lost.  I did not feel the same connection to the characters in this book.  They felt rather one dimensional and banal.  Cassia always was a tad bit vapid, but it felt as though this book turned her into a flat archetype of a heroine.  Not only that, there was little to no development and she fell into typical stereotypes.  The same can be said about Indie and Eli.

The book took too long building to the climax and then the "resolution".  Looking back at it, I wonder if there truly was a full climax in the book.  There was the possible threat of the Society swooping down and taking them away; however, it was never really followed.  The biggest problem they dealt with was the green pills and the chance of a flash flood.  Not only that, the end was rushed.  

All in all, this book was adequate as far as a sequel.  It left a lot to be desired.  Considering the previous book, I am not too surprised at how this one turned out.  I'm not sure whether I will take the time to pick up the third book.  After skipping large chunks of needless word vomit, I am happy that this was a library book.   

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. Registered & Protected