Review: City of Bones – Cassandra Clare

4

The Mortal Instruments #1

SYNOPSIS: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…  – via Goodreads

You know, for years I have wondered about these books, figured I would one day get to them, kept forgetting about them, seeing them and remembering them again, and then forgetting about them. You can see the cycle, right? Anyway, recently Natasha started these and I was in a dark place, looking for something to read that would spark excitement in me again, as it had been too long. Naturally, she pushed these on me and I was like yeah alright, let’s do it. No. Regrets.

I thoroughly enjoyed the world that Cassandra Clare wove for us with the Shadowhunters. I must confess, early on in the start of the book, I was wondering how it would go. It was weird for me that there were sixteen year old kids out clubbing at midnight on a Sunday, but I figured this is some dystopian/futuristic YA (by the way, totally not, it seems the story exists in the same world we are in now, which makes me question parenting skills here). It started in a club and it didn’t really get any better, and the dialogue was a little cringy, but next thing I know? BOOM! Gotcha! I got dragged down this rabbit hole of fantasy that didn’t let up and I didn’t want it to.

We are introduced to a lot of characters, but not an excessive amount. A lot of them don’t really grow much or feature too much (though I would love to see more of Alec, for example). There are things I didn’t like about some of them – like the immediate and total dislike between Clary and Isabelle. It just felt weird. Then there was also that stupid love triangle (what is it about YA that insists there must be some form of a love triangle? Be Tris and Four, people!). It was stupid not only because it was a love triangle, but because the one player in it (Simon) felt like he was always just being dragged in and brought up so that there would be a love triangle, not because there was actual shared interest. Then there is Jace, who is a jackass but you gotta enjoy the guy, and I really like how he and Clary are with one another. Yep, Jace all the way. WOW.

Anyway. The book gets rolling and I really liked how easy it was to read (even though it may have been a tad long), and this read more like mature YA then really young YA, and I liked that. The world doesn’t ever feel too ridiculous (demons, warlocks, werewolves, vampires) it all just flows with the book, and that is cool. Clary also didn’t chap my ass like a lot of the heroines in these types of books do, though her name did grate on me. It feels uncomfortable to read it and to say it. I don’t know, I didn’t like it, though her full name is Clarissa and that is just fine. The book also brings in an interesting villain, and I would really like to see what Clare does with Valentine.

Anyway, City of Bones is a pretty solid introduction to what could potentially be a fantastic story, and I will certainly continue with it. It reads easily, has an interesting, dark world it has woven, and has a lot of characters that are well worth reading. I would definitely recommend this. I won’t lie, there was a development in the book that had me throwing my toys out of the cot in the extreme. Anger. Frustration. Denial. These were all strong feelings to be had. So we will see where it goes.

Review: The Stone Monkey – Jeffery Deaver

0

Lincoln Rhyme #4

SYNOPSIS: Famed criminologist Lincoln Rhyme and his beautiful protege Amelia Sachs have been recruited by the FBI and the INS to help perform the nearly impossible: track down a cargo ship carrying two dozen illegal Chinese immigrants and the notorious human smuggler and killer known as the Ghost. – via Goodreads

Meh. This one just wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t expect it to be, really, but it just didn’t work out. Guess I should have seen that coming, but still disappointing seeing how much I have been enjoying this Lincoln Rhyme run I’ve been on.

The story just had so many twists and turns, and this time the finale twist was super predictable, which was disappointing for me because I like how Deaver always keeps you guessing. This book had good intentions, sure, but just didn’t deliver the goods. The characters brought into this story were a solid mix of interesting and frustrating, so there is that.

Deaver returns a litany of characters to us that we enjoy – dear Fred Dellray, Lon Sellitto, Thom and Mel Cooper all take up space here again, and as always, the entertain. Some of the new characters, such as Sam Chang and Sonny are also pretty cool. Rhyme and Amelia continue to deal with the struggles in their relationship, pertaining to everything from children to operations to help Rhyme’s quadriplegia.

The Stone Monkey isn’t a bad read, it just felt a little lacklustre to me, especially compared to some of the earlier books. I wanted more Rhyme as we have come to know him. I am looking forward to reading more in the series, but I truly hope this doesn’t mark a crazy downturn in the quality of the work I have come to expect.

Review: The Secret History – Donna Tartt

6

SYNOPSIS: Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil. – via Goodreads

I absolutely adored The Goldfinch. I was so complete hooked on that when I read it a few years ago. I should give it another read, I would love to. I saw The Secret History recently and decided to give it a go because, years ago, I ended up reading The Goldfinch because a fellow blogger, Joseph, loved this book and we decided to read her latest together, and I said I would get to this someday. Well, that was years ago, but I can finally cross this one off my plate. And honestly, I didn’t love this one, and I had high hopes for it.

That is not to say that The Secret History is a bad read, per se, but I felt that it was way longer than necessary and filled with hateful characters. Also, the first half of the book is filled up wonderfully and keeps you reading, keeps you hooked, but after that fateful fall of Bunny, the story sort of starts falling apart, and the writing doesn’t come across as as genuine as before. Wow, so much”as” in that sentence.

Anyway, Bunny is a truly horrific character, so I almost struggled to feel bad about how it ended. It’s like Tartt tries to bring you around to him a few times, and I just couldn’t. He was cruel and insufferable. Not that the rest of that twisted friends group was really any better, but for real. Ugh. Henry is an odd character, and so is Francis, and eventually you are reading about these people in a confused kind of way, because where, exactly, is this story going? Well, nowhere, really. It is just a story about a crappy thing that happened which led to another crappy thing happening, and the whole affair is cold and calculated but still completely devoid of reeling you in completely.

There is also the issue of “under the influence of their charasmatic professor” – I expected a totally different type of story. I thought Julian would be involved up to his neck in the goings on of this group, and instead he hardly appears in the book at all. Anyway, while The Secret History is not a terrible read, it certainly isn’t The Goldfinch. It’s just a really long read for an okay book, though the first half is really good.

Review: End of Watch – Stephen King

2

Bill Hodges Trilogy #3

SYNOPSIS: In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city. – via Goodreads

And so ends the Bill Hodges trilogy, and that’s sad, too, because I enjoyed the trilogy. This one definitely had me drawn in because I wanted to see Hartsfield and Hodges have their showdown again, for them to go toe to toe and all that, and I was not let down, though I honestly was hoping that Hartsfield was more Carrie than an electronic handheld device, but no matter.

End of Watch is, of course, well written, and brings Hodges, Holly, and Jerome back together, and I always like it when the trio teams up and gets to it. This is definitely the first of the three books that goes back to a typical strange, supernatural King story as opposed to the simple, clean investigative mysteries so far, which I like, as it marries this current series with a style of his we are more familiar with, and he does it successfully.

This is a fast, easy read, and I must say that the story was engaging. A little more predictable than some of the other work we are more used to from King, but well worth it. I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this, other than I enjoyed it.

End of Watch is a solid end to a good trilogy, and I enjoyed it. Well written, good pacing, characters we have come to love, I would recommend this trilogy for anyone wanting to check out King, especially if they are looking for his work that is not firmly rooted in the supernatural horror.

Review: The Bat – Jo Nesbø

5

Harry Hole #1

SYNOPSIS: Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case. Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case. – via Goodreads

You know, I have been interested in reading these books for years as you always see Nesbø books around the bookstore and all that, then there was the movie that came last year that people got excited about and it apparently let them down. Well, I saw this one at the library the other day and figured I would give it a shot, even though I have it on my Kindle because there is nothing like reading a physical book.

I believe that the first two books in this series were translated long after the subsequent novels, which is interesting. I also understand that the original two offerings are the weakest of the lot, so let me get into it. The translation is really good, you don’t get hung up on the fact that the book is translated. Maybe it is because Harry is a Norwegian man in Australia, so you are constantly in Australia as is, and not in his native hometown, so there is no constant reminder that English is not the first language of the book. Now, that being said, there are some issues.

For one, there aren’t a lot of likeable characters, and this includes our main peanut. I was also not super impressed with Harry’s relapse, and how he somehow managed to solve a case he had no business being in anymore. Also, the villain is a total let down. A complete and utter let down. There were times where I felt that the book was trying to be too smart, and ultimately ended up too confused for its own good, but it is what it is. The direction and pacing also felt a little strange to me, but yeah.

The story itself moves quickly, though the characters are quite meh, and it feels like its running in circles. The mystery had more potential than it ultimately delivered. I do think that the book takes more heat than it deserves, and that may very well be because people started later in the series and got a more complete man to follow as opposed to this one. Anyway. I did like the scattered premise, and I did like that it was a quick and easy read, and I did like reading about Aboriginal history in pieces here and there as well as some of the cultural stories, I thought they were some of the strongest and most fascinating pieces of the book.

I liked that Harry as such a flawed protagonist, so while The Bat might not be the most solid book I have ever read, I am willing to get through the first two to see what Nesbø does with Harry Hole. He is interesting and has loads of potential, and even though people say that the first two are weak and can be skipped, I cannot start a series a few books in in good conscience.

Review: Calling Major Tom – David M. Barnett

0

SYNOPSIS: We all know someone like Thomas.

The grumpy next-door-neighbour who complains to the Residents’ Committee about the state of your front lawn. The man who tuts when you don’t have the correct change at the checkout. The colleague who sends an all-company email when you accidentally use the last drop of milk.

Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems.

But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world. – via Goodreads

So, it did take this book a while to actually become something to me, but it finally did ramp up from the slog it was initially. While it did not hit the heights of the claim of being “the feel good novel of 2017”, it certainly was a decent read, and it was a quick one, too.

The plot is absurd, and it is good. A lot of time is spent in the beginning of the book telling us a little bit about Thomas and then the Ormerod family, and it isn’t happy, pleasant stuff. Not super dramatic either, it just feels like filler, even though it is important to set up the remainder of the novel. Necessary, though. Then the novel just dives in. The whole story is built on a wrong number call made by Thomas Major, and from there, things snowball.

I really like Gladys. She is sweet and endearing and it is really sad to know that she has knowledge of the fact that dementia is taking her. Ellie is a character that did not grow on me, not at all, no matter what was happening. James is a cute and confused little boy, and Delil is the comic relief we need in this whole thing. I really enjoyed the interactions between Major Tom and James, super sweet.

The book is a bit predictable though, not going against anything in the heartwarming formula, and that is okay. Once you accept the premise, it gets rolling, and when you start wondering when the humour is going to start kicking, you get some particularly juicy Taxi Driver, ninja granny moments, and it is great. Calling Major Tom also plays heavily on Thomas Major’s name and mission in connection to David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and it works for this. It is just enough to not be too much. It also has a pretty decent message it presents, never too heavy handed about it, either.

While not my favourite book, Calling Major Tom is a decent read and is very sweet. Characters you don’t expect to grown on you do (like Craig), and the story is fun to follow. I liked it, even though I didn’t love it. Others will likely enjoy it more than I did if this is their genre – let’s not forget mine is mind games, gore, and twisted killers.

Review: Bitter – Francesca Jakobi

0

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out?

It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son. – via Goodreads

Bitter is a really strange book. When I read it, I initially disliked Gilda intensely. She is nasty and cruel and reminded me of someone, and I didn’t like how obsessed she was with her son. Like really, it is unhealthy. She is not a likeable character at all. And yet she is the main character of the book and we need to follow her story, and as we do, we slowly learn more about her.

Gilda has a fantastic friend she treats like dirt but who loves her enough to stick around, though why anyone would put up with that for as long is beyond me. Then there is her obsession with her son and jealousy of his wife. It is pretty intense when a mother cannot see her son (child) as an individual, something more than just a title, a person who has hopes and dreams, but instead has a concept for them that they must adhere to, but still insists that they know their child better than anyone.

Anyway, let me not get caught up in that. It really seems that Gilda needs some serious mental health help, and the book goes on to show you the disturbing things she does, and as it does so, you learn more about her, that ultimately you can understand how Gilda got to the place she is in life, and you really hope that she will be able to overcome it. Bitter is not an easy read, though it reads fast. It is a decent one, one I am glad that I read. I could definitely recommend Bitter to anyone interested in darker books that are more of a character study.

Review: Haunting the Deep – Adriana Mather

3

How to Hang a Witch #2

SYNOPSIS: Samantha Mather knew her family’s connection to the infamous Salem Witch Trials might pose obstacles to an active social life. But having survived one curse, she never thought she’d find herself at the center of a new one.

This time, Sam is having recurring dreams about the Titanic . . . where she’s been walking the deck with first-class passengers, like her aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, in Sam’s waking life, strange missives from the Titanic have been finding their way to her, along with haunting visions of people who went down with the ship.

Ultimately, Sam and the Descendants, along with some help from heartthrob Elijah, must unravel who is behind the spell that is drawing her ever further into the dream ship . . . and closer to sharing the same grim fate as its ghostly passengers. – via Goodreads

So I devoured How to Hang a Witch and loved every second of it. When I saw that Adriana Mather had a second book, I didn’t even hesitate to order it, and as soon as it arrived, I sunk my teeth into it. I didn’t read a single thing about this book before buying it, so I was beyond thrilled to see that we got to continue on with Sam’s story. This is a great example of a sequel not ruining all that fantastic groundwork laid in the first novel.

Sam’s dad is back in action, and he is actually a character I thoroughly enjoy. The setup between the Meriwethers and the Mathers is adorable, too, and I am impressed with how Mather handled the whole Jaxon/Elijah/Sam triangle from the first. Speaking of, having Elijah pop up made me way happier than I can say. For reals, the interactions between him and Sam are fantastic.

While the villain of this book was not surprising or shocking, the read is a super fun journey to undertake again. There is magic, romance, teens with their issues, friendship and personal growth, so Haunting the Deep hit all the same highs as the predecessor, which is rare. It’s cool that the Descendants are back, and we get to learn a bit more about them here, too. Salem is also the perfect town for the backdrop for this world that has been woven, so that is really cool.

Adriana Mather writes well, has given us characters to love and a world eager to be returned to, and there is not really much more you can ask for. There is heart, humour and fun to be had. Again, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Go out. Read them now. You won’t regret it!

Review: How to Hang a Witch – Adriana Mather

4

How to Hang a Witch #1

SYNOPSIS: Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself. – via Goodreads

I stumbled on this randomly recently, thought it looked alright, bought it, let it languish. I mean really, isn’t that what readers do? Then I saw it in my library and was like “it’s time”, and man, I have no regrets. This book is absolutely fantastic! It is so much more than I thought it would be, and it really does tick like all my boxes. I think one of the blurbs was something like “Mean Girls meets the Salem Witch Trials”, and dammit, it really is just like that.

I need to back up a minute and find a way to articulate myself. There is just so much going for this book that had me thrilled every step of the way. Uhm, let’s see… I really enjoyed the characters. They are not super deep characters or anything, but they all have their little quirks and things, and they really give the story some oomph. The author gives a great, authentic vibe throughout the book, too. The story flows and doesn’t ever feel forced or unnatural.

I was super swept up by this, as you can tell. Everything just worked in it, and I particularly enjoyed Elijah’s character, and Sam, too, is a fun protagonist to follow. Mrs Meriwether is a lovely lady, and Jaxon (despite that spelling) is worth reading about. The book is steeped in history, but not like historical fiction. It has most definitely been modernised, and you can tell the author has put a lot of research and time into the history (not surprising when you see she is a fourteenth generation Mather).

I think that How to Hang a Witch has it all. We have romance, fun, the supernatural, a mystery, magic, everything you would need. I really felt like a young kid reading this again. It’s awesome because while this is probably directed at young adults, it totally works for adults, too. The book speaks of bullying and alienation and other themes, too, but I am really not going to get smack involved with discussing the hell out of that. Know that there are a lot of themes in this and they are all handled really well.

The book is really well written with some super fun characters and a great story to sink your teeth into. I raced through this and was heartbroken when I got to the end because, well, then it was over. I can see how this is something I am going to revisit again in the future. I loved this and highly recommend it, and will calm down now and put a sock in it.

Review: Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager

7

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 

SYNOPSIS: Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.  – via Goodreads

You know, last year I read Final Girls by Sager and quite enjoyed it, though I didn’t quite love it like most people did. When I saw he had a new book, I thought I would definitely have to check it out, and boy, this time I loved it, not just like.

Last Time I Lied slowly (read: excruciatingly slow) reveals Emma’s story. The book constantly flips between Emma as an adult, returning to Camp Crystal Lake Camp Nightingale as an instructor, and fifteen years before when she was a gangly young teen who was present when something awful happened, something that coloured every aspect of her life. Now, this flipping between the past and the present totally sets up the reveals, but is also so gradual that it gets under your skin because you just want the damn story already. Clever, because even as the fingers of frustration claw at you, the atmosphere wins out and you can totally deal with the mystery unfolding painstakingly.

I won’t lie, I got a super Pretty Little Liars vibe while reading this. Like, something awful happened at this camp, something terrible, and it is laced in secrets and people incapable of just revealing something and dealing with the consequences. Vivian also made me think of Alison diLaurentis, which is a cruel but accurate description. I quite enjoyed reading about all the suspense, the theories, the conspiracies, as well as digging into this mystery with Emma, because soon I, too, needed to know exactly what happened to Vivian, Natalie, and Allison (no, that is not lost on me).

There are some snags along the way, but nothing that detracts too heavily from the experience. A touch of predictability tossed in here and there, but nothing that made this eye-rollingly obvious and cliché. I truly enjoyed the characters as well as some of the feelings that were conveyed successfully here – the guilt, the confusion, the childishness at times, the betrayal, the anger, it all worked quite well.

All I have to say when all is said and done is that I was so hooked while reading Last Time I Lied. Sager crafts a mysterious, suspenseful story that will take you hostage. I raced through this book, and even thought about it when I was denied reading it because I have to adult and hold down a job (speaking of, what utter nonsense is that?!). I would highly recommend this read, especially if you enjoy Sager’s work. It is solid, thrilling, entertaining, and this is something I might very well return to in future.