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



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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