Category Archives: fiction

Book Review: Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

heroine-complex-by-sarah-kuhnHeroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn
Published: July 5th 2016 by DAW
Format: Paper Book
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Superheroes, Comical, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.

Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.

Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.

But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right… or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.

Adult books but not erotica. Supposed to be ages 18 and over but I’ve known mature teens to be fine with adult books. Adult books have mature situations, maybe non-graphic sex, and are not meant for young kids.

If you want something fun to read, then Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn is right up your alley. This book is entertaining and packed full of action. The characters kick-ass and are incredibly diverse. It was a pleasure to see characters that break out of the mold, especially for superheroines. These girls were not secondary characters or love interests to the main male character. I loved the focus on female relationships, either between sisters or best friends. I did have a bit of a problem with Aveda/Annie’s behavior through the first and middle sections of the book. Her attitude made me want to reach in and slap her. Thankfully, she progresses and realizes how she is treating Evie and her other friends is unacceptable. I also adored Evie. Everything from her quirkiness to her fire power made me love her. She was an extremely likable character.

Heroine Complex can also be a little cartoonish and a tad drawn out. It felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, full of color and silly but a little jarring to read. Especially since this is an adult book, not YA. This is accomplished by dropping a fair amount of sexual situations into the plot and some nice cursing. Neither which I had a problem with. If anything, it made the characters more believable. It was just out of place with the tone of the writing. The ending also felt drawn out. Kind of like a ridiculous comic book situation that you have to roll your eyes at. It’s campy and outlandish but so much fun. As long as you don’t take the book too seriously and are looking for something comical, Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn is a good pick.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

thissavagesongbyvictoriaschwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published: July 5th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 427 pages
Genre: Dystopia, Supernatural, Horror, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

Young Adult Book Review

I’ve only read one other Victoria Schwab book several years ago. It was The Near Witch and I was very unimpressed with it. I received This Savage Song in my OwlCrate box last month and figured, since I had it, I might as well give her another try. I must say, she’s gotten better over the years. While I still found This Savage Song a bit slow at the beginning; the world building is fantastic and the writing superb. In Schwab’s dystopian world, violence spawns physical monsters as consequences. Simple violence breeds Corsai; murder breeds Malchai; while the most heinous crimes, like mass murders, breed Sunai. The best aspect of This Savage Song is the world building because in most other ways, the story is rather generic.

The city of Verity is split in two, with each side ruled by a different man. In North City is the mob boss like Hawker, giving protection to the citizens who can pay for it and keeping the monsters under his control at bay with harsh punishments. South City is run by Flynn, whose task force is barely keeping its head above water. It’s all very West and East Berlin like, with the empty Seam between the city halves acting like the Berlin Wall. Then there are the characters. I liked August but I found Kate to be your typical cookie-cutter YA tough girl who is really a mess inside. She really wasn’t interesting. August was your usual tortured emo boy but at least he had his interesting aspects. The plot is also pretty dull as well. The first half of the book is just Kate and August circling each other until Kate figures out August is a Sunai and even when the action picks up in the second half, there were no surprises. It was obvious what was going to happen and who was behind it. I felt like the whole book was just setup for the next novel, where, hopefully, more interesting things will happen. Over four hundred pages is a lot of setup, though. I kind of felt like I was wasting my time.

The novel’s saving grace is the excellent world building and the writing. I applaud Schwab’s choice to leave out any romance between Kate and August. I often find the romantic tropes between two characters detract from a story and was pleased to find it absent here. I liked the juxtaposition of the monster hierarchy. The more horrendous the violence, the more human looking the resulting monster. The Sunai looked completely human but were spawned from the worst violence. I would have enjoyed even more world building. We never learn why violence started creating physical monsters. It’s just called the Phenomenon but we’re never given details. In all, I felt like This Savage Song by Victor Schwab was good but not perfect. There were no surprises in the plot and the characters are overdone tropes but it was entertaining for the most part.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi MeadowsMy Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Published: June 7th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 512  pages
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy, magic, shapeshifters, royal drama
Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

Young Adult Book Review

I was prepared to give My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows a pass when I first heard of it. I usually find period historical royal drama books dull and pretty cringe worthy. Then a copy of My Lady Jane arrived in the June Owl Crate subscription box and I figured since I had it, I should give it a read. I’m glad I did. I expected something stuffy and sluggish but My Lady Jane is a hilarious, clever reinventing of English history with a heavy helping of magical highjacks. It was so much better than I could have anticipated.

Ah, the Tudors. Never a more dysfunctional royal family will you find. In case you need a refresher, this is the period of time where Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church just so he could marry 6 different women. (His wives kept ending up dead, for some reason.) His son Edward VI, by Jane Seymour (wife #3), was brought up a Protestant, while his half-sister Mary, by Catherine of Aragon (wife #1), was brought up a Catholic. Both were struggling for control of the English throne. It is into this political stew pot that our story unfolds. Our authors take the religious tensions of the day and switch them over to a magical prejudice system between shapeshifters, the Edians, and those who despise them, the Verity. Our story is set in 1553, just as young King Edward was about to die from tuberculosis (as history tells us). Only Edward doesn’t die, much to everyone’s frustration. Throw in a royal coup d’état, other dastardly plots, and a horse and you have My Lady Jane in a nutshell.

For the amount of political drama that is the setting, My Lady Jane is a silly historical comedy full of puns and mockery of the sexist attitudes and ridiculous social graces of the time period. It’s funny and tongue-in-cheek. It’s entertaining. My Lady Jane is the type of easy, undemanding book that you can relax with. The romantic relationships, especially between Jane and G, are done spectacularly, with a believable evolution. The humor is clever and sarcastic. It is the exact tone I love to read. The characters are interesting. I especially like Jane. I really identify with her. She has so much book smarts but it’s hard to translate that usefully into the real world. The plot is well-written and the blending of history and fantasy is splendid.

My only real complaint is that it jumps between three POV’s, making it slightly irritating when we switch over to another person and have to backtrack to cover what was happening to them during a time period we’ve already covered from a different POV. I find changing POV’s incredibly jarring to the reading experience, making it hard to really settle into the flow of the narrative. However, I would have never guessed there were three authors. The writing style doesn’t change throughout the book and the tone never shifts. Our authors blended seamlessly together. I have to assume they wrote different parts but you could never tell. There are some portions that drag but the action picks up quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by how NOT annoying the romances were. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows is a fun, witty rump through Tudor history turned on its head that I recommend anybody looking for a good chuckle and some sweet romance should read.

Thank you for reading!

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Mini Book Reviews

Mini Book Reviews

These book reviews are going to be short and sweet because I did not like either of these books, didn’t even finish one, and I don’t want to waste time with books I disliked this much. So, here are some mini book reviews.

The Nest by Cynthia D'Apria SweeneyThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Ecco
Format: Paper Book
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Family
Rating: 1 star
Goodreads | Amazon

The Plumb siblings are sure The Nest, the nest egg their father set up as a little gift for their later year that unexpectedly ballooned, will solve all their problems. At least, it would have if their mother hadn’t almost drained it paying for the elder brother’s rehab when he gets in a car accident while intoxicated, complete with 19 year old waitress in the passenger seat. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

After about a 100 pages of people whining, I gave up. This was the book that I did not finish. Other people might find the train wreck that is the Plumb family interesting but I just could not stomach reading about the whining of a bunch of self-entitled, self-absorbed brats. The characters are vapid and lifeless and the entire situation is just laughable. I’m confused about the many positive reviews. This book wasn’t interesting at all. I guess you have to have more patience for morons than I do.

After the Woods by Kim SavageAfter the Woods by Kim Savage
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Paper Book
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Julia saves her friend Liv when they are attacked in the woods. Liv runs, leaving Julia at the mercy of their assalant. A year later, Julia is trying to puzzle out the details of her abduction while dealing with Liv’s self-destructive spiral down and a whole host of secrets.

I wanted to like this more than I did. It took me forever to finish After the Woods because I kept losing interest. Despite an halfway interesting main character and a sort of fresh angle on the mystery – the book takes place after the abduction and sort of moves backward with our unreliable amnesic main character trying to remember what really happened and unravel the spider web connecting everyone – but it just felt wandering and unfocused rather than suspenseful. I don’t know why the romantic interest was in there at all, as he serves no purpose and I’ve already forgotten his name. Plot points are added and then never brought up again and characters just seem wooden. By the end, I was rolling my eyes so hard they hurt. Savage was aiming for intrigue but fell flat with a messy plot and slow pacing.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Penguin Canada
Format: Paper Book
Length: 244 pages
Genre: Adult, Memoir, Short Stories, Mental Illness
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks— her weight affects every portion of her life, self-esteem, and makes her miserable. So she starts to lose. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?

I’ve read a couple of these fat lady memoir / autobiographical books. This one is a little heavy on the mental illness aspect for my tastes but otherwise ok. There is little ‘I’ve come to accept myself’ and a lot more ‘look how messed up I am because of society’. There is a tiny bit of dark humor and some clever turn of phrase going on but it is not a funny book and I honestly don’t know where people got that impression. If you are looking for something uplifting, look elsewhere. Honestly, the way Mona acts in this book is just short of horrifying.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

Down With The Shine by Kate Karyus QuinnDown with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published: April 26th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Magic, Horror, Murder, Funny
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Make a wish…

Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.

At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.

The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

Young Adult Book Review

Talk with your kids about their secret wish granting powers, people. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn started out strong but lost its edge as it progressed. The dark and macabre mood we start out with is soon lost amid out of place humor and slapstick. Down with the Shine flip-flops between the two and ends up being kind of annoying with the different atmospheres. If you are going to be dark, then be dark. Same thing with silly. Mashing the two together just leaves me unsatisfied and unsure which way to go. The elements that were dark; Lennie’s psychopath father, murdered best friend, and string of accidently granted wishes that turn out rather horrifyingly, were all great, but sort of fell to the wayside as Down with Shine focused more on comedy in the middle portion. There were so many juicy elements to explore and we’re just let down.

The wishes that Lennie unknowingly grants at the party are played for laughs and the whole thing comes off as a comedy sketch with her uncles running around trying to contain teenagers suddenly stuck with bat wings, who were turned into Thumbelina, or turn everything they touch into Cheetos. Then there is the ridiculous drama of the budding romance between Lennie and Smith. I was frankly uninterested about those two. Dylan’s murder, mutilation, and decent into the dark side are unexplored. The disturbing kiss between Smith and his mother is left dangling. We’re left wondering about Lennie’s father. There are just so many interesting elements in Down with the Shine that aren’t focused on because of the humor. It’s like there are two stories going on here and both suffer from lack of focus. Pick one; dark or silly, and stick with it.

I’m especially disappointed by Dylan. The resolution at the end saves her life, granted, but then the underlying issue of why Dylan acted as she did, pretending to be Lennie and meeting with strange men, is not dealt with. Our main character, Lennie, is your basic sarcastic outcast character that I am frankly tired of in YA books. I love the premise and the majority of my enjoyment in this book was from the interesting storyline and magical elements. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn could have been dark and gritty and fantastic but feels watered down.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Young Adult Book Review

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve TucholkeWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Dial Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 247 pages
Genre: Paranormal, Magical Realism, Messed-up Teenagers, Mystery
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

There is a Wicked Witch, a Wolf, and a Hero in Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke, in that order. Wink Poppy Midnight is a small book at 247 pages and POV jumps between the three characters named in the book’s title. Yes, they all have weird names. We never settle into one character for long and I found this kept me from really sinking into the story. I was never able to connect with the story or the characters. I also find it hard to really care about characters that are just all over nasty and Poppy’s cruel, manipulative, and sexualized behavior irritated me. I tend to not care about characters that have no redeeming qualities and thus didn’t really care if she was dead or not or what she was doing with her apparent cryptic letter writing. I found Poppy childish, like a toddler having an embarrassing tantrum in the middle of a store, and unappealing as a character. I also found it annoying that she was so obsessed with Leaf while he seemed to not care anything for her and was so ugly to Midnight, who might have genuinely cared about her if she hadn’t been so horrible to him.

I liked Wink, up until the end. She is just the type of witchy and interesting character I tend to like in stories. I don’t want to reveal too much but I was unhappy with the evolution of Wink’s character. Her motives turned out to be more selfish than I thought. Midnight is a little spineless and honestly needs to stop letting girls lead him around by the ‘you know what’. I was happy with the actions he takes at the end. Midnight needed to become his own person, away from Wink and Poppy. I loved the structure of the plot and the use of fairytales. Of course, every time I came across a new fairytale, I had to write it down so I could look it up later. I’m weak. The lyrical style to the writing was lovely and the imagery was whimsical and chilling. If the author had stuck with one POV or written third person omniscient, I would have probably loved this.

I don’t remember teenagers being such psychos – even when I was one! – but everyone in Wink Poppy Midnight is crazy cakes. I understand Poppy’s parents treat her like a doll, left up on a shelf until wanted, but her extremely destructive and hurtful behavior really makes me dislike her as a character. Wink’s manipulative actions are just the flip of the same awful coin. The only smart action Midnight takes is leaving; otherwise he is an uninspiring character. The plot was interesting but the constant jumps in POV kept me from really enjoying the story. The more the book progressed, the more scattered it became, leaving me slightly confused as to what was happening or why. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke was quirky and unnerving with hints of paranormal but was mostly just a bunch of kids whose parents really need to pay closer attention to what their off-spring are doing before the little nutters actually manage to kill someone.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins

Young Adult Book Review

The Great Hunt by Wendy HigginsThe Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins
Published: March 8th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 416 pages
Genre: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Magic
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

“Aerity…” Her father paused as if the words he was forming pained him. “I must ask you to sacrifice the promise of love for the sake of our kingdom.”

She could only stare back, frozen.

When a strange beast terrorizes the kingdom of Lochlanach, fear stirs revolt. In an act of desperation, a proclamation is sent to all of Eurona—kill the creature and win the ultimate prize: the daughter of King Lochson’s hand in marriage.

Princess Aerity knows her duty to the kingdom but cannot bear the idea of marrying a stranger…until a brooding local hunter, Paxton Seabolt, catches her attention. There’s no denying the unspoken lure between them…or his mysterious resentment.

Paxton is not the marrying type. Nor does he care much for spoiled royals and their arcane laws. He’s determined to keep his focus on the task at hand—ridding the kingdom of the beast—but the princess continues to surprise him, and the perilous secrets he’s buried begin to surface.

Inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Singing Bone,” New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins delivers a dark fantasy filled with rugged hunters, romantic tension, and a princess willing to risk all to save her kingdom.

I’m going to start screaming and I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop. I really wanted to love The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins but it commits one of my biggest pet peeves in the YA genre. Nothing drives me up the wall like a male love interest who is an asshole to the female main character but the girl still has feelings for him because, oh my god!, he’s just the hottest thing ever! This type of bullshit belittles women and I hate it. No woman should put up with any type of abuse and the fact that this type of trope relationship is used so much in YA books frankly sickens me. I don’t care how handsome, how mysterious, or how fuckable a man is, if he’s a jerk, for whatever reason, that is it. Knee to the nuts, drop dead you asshole. Crap like this just perpetuates the idea that men can do whatever they want and women should just accept it and not complain and, gag me, even find it appealing. #notromantic #notsexy #stopit

Beyond that, The Great Hunt is bland and a slog to get through. It is repetitive and dull. We all know where the story is going and Higgins’ attempt to use sexual tension between freaking everyone to spice things up is just painful. The more interesting characters are kind of underdeveloped. I would have loved to see more about the Amazonian like Zandalee but they drop out of the story just when it could have gotten interesting. Aerity, our resident princess and prize, is lackluster. There is some attempt to make her interesting but it just comes across as weird. The king, Aerity’s father, fell in love and married a commoner, a circus performer. When she has children… she teaches them circus tricks? (It’s Cirque du Soleil in Scotland!) Aerity’s little sister, Vixie, does horseback tricks and Aerity does aerial gymnastics. It was just off putting and out of place. It’s used as a plot device at the end to allow Aerity to do her part to kill the beast but, honestly, it wasn’t needed.

Every man in this story is an asshole and the ones who aren’t, are background noise. This book is plagued by cardboard characters and predictable plot. It had an interesting concept but I was expecting more. I did enjoy some of the world building. I always find magical systems in fantasy books interesting and Higgins’ Lashed were a fun concept. But most of the book is spent languishing around the castle and I never feel the urgency of the threat of the beast or any of the dark atmosphere we were teased with in the blurb. What little action there is, is short lived and then we return to the castle so our characters can wallow in their emotions and lust. The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins had some potential but was derailed by slow pace and irritating romance tropes.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary

middlegrade

The Night Parade by Kathryn TanquaryThe Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
Published: January 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Format: Paper Book
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Spiritualism, Mythology, Religion, Japan, Journey
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.

I adore Japanese culture and was very excited to read The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary. Spiritualism for Asian cultures is a bit different than anything Western society usually deals with. For them, spirits are close at hand and a part of everyday life. It’s hard to explain the duality of the world in Asian cultures and how they see the spirit world and the human world very close together. Modern society and the youth are a bit removed from this but their spirituality is much closer to their daily lives than Western society would experience. It helps if you watch a lot of anime. (points at self) I’m rather surprised Tanquary did not use the word ‘yōkai’ to describe the spirits. Yōkai is a blanket term for the spirits like the ones found in The Night Parade, although it loosely translates into ‘demon’ or ‘monster’. Other Japanese vocabulary is sprinkled around the text, so it seems odd to me that ‘yōkai’ wasn’t used. The foreign vocabulary is probably going to confuse younger readers. No young kid is going to be culturally savvy enough to know what a torii gate is but I digress.

The Night Parade is your standard ‘journey’ plotline. The main character goes on a journey and becomes a better person for it. Saki is a brat and just the type of kid I would have smacked across the mouth if I meet them. It’s with her journey through the spirit world and dealings with the creatures there that she is able to grow up and overcome her selfishness and gain respect for others. My real enjoyment of The Night Parade came from the Japanese mythology and creatures. I adored the imagery and the descriptions of the spirits. Most of the reviews I’ve read compare The Night Parade to Spirited Away, and I guess if that is your only source of Japanese culture, then it’s pretty accurate. I much prefer xxxHolic or Mushishi or even Natsume Yuujinchou. All of them deal with the spirit world interacting with the human world and how each affects the other.

The plot is familiar and unoriginal. It is the Japanese setting and culture that elevates The Night Parade above merely mediocre for me. Our main character can be annoying but the supporting cast, especially the three guides and the other spirits, are interesting and appealing. The Japanese setting and culture is fascinating and beautiful. The book’s atmosphere and environment were better than its execution, in my opinion. The novel feels slow in parts and I really wanted to know how Saki was going to handle the return to Tokyo after defying her horrible best friend Hana but we are left hanging in that respect. Most of my enjoyment of The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary came from the Asian culture, rather than the characters or the writing. It’s nice to see more diversity but the story still felt kind of jumbled.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Young Adult Book Review

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany CavallaroA Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Published: March 1st 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Romance, Retelling
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy.

I have a love for all things Sherlock Holmes. You can thank PBS and Jeremey Brett for that. I spent many a Saturday morning watching Holmes reruns when I was a teenager. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is not the first time I’ve come across a book inspired by the great detective and his faithful doctor or even the first time I’ve read one that changed one character’s sex to female. I always dread when this happens because, inevitably, the author uses it to create some sort of awkward and unappealing romance between the pair. Such happens in A study in Charlotte.

In this world, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were real. Arthur Conan Doyle was Watson’s literary agent. Both of the men have descendants and those (poor) descendants are where our story focuses. First of all, the characters themselves. I adored our female Holmes. Charlotte is everything you might want in a Holmes character and I love how Cavallaro works with young Charlotte, how growing up under the shade of THE Sherlock Holmes can leave a person worse for wear. The Holmes family grooms their children to be like Sherlock. For Sherlock, it was nature, but for Charlotte is was nurture. She was forced into this and that abuse (let’s face it, it’s abuse) has molded her into a strange homage to her ancestor but has left Charlotte herself with a bevy of mental problems. Can Charlotte deduce and reason crimes and murders? Yes. Is she mentally sound? No.

The Watson character has it no easier. James (for some reason his nickname is Jamie but it’s barely used in the text, confusing more than a couple of people reading the book jacket blurb) is basically manipulated into meeting Charlotte , has anger issues, and has the unfortunate fate of trying to save the heroine with the power of his love. (gag) James is really brainwashed into loving Charlotte by his father, who himself is obsessed with the Holmes family. Seriously obsessed. Watson Sr. is crazy cakes, people. Charlotte and James are two very troubled kids drowning under the weight of their famous predecessors. They are both so broken that it’s hard to look away.

I was enjoying A Study in Charlotte immensely until it became clear that Cavallaro was angling to have them end up in a relationship. Because a boy and a girl have no ability to be anything other than romantic lovers. (That was sarcasm right there.) I liked Charlotte and James’ friendship. They are both trying so hard (and mostly failing) to cope, that finding a kindred spirit is surprising to both of them. Then it derailed into relationship land. I did enjoy the rest of the book. The use of actual Sherlock Holmes stories to pattern the murders after was fun. The tongue in cheek bashing the characters do over the inaccuracies in the original stories was entertaining.

The actual mystery is so-so. It started out really tight and griping and then sort of peters out. Charlotte is touted as being really good at solving crimes, Scotland Yard asks her to solve crimes even though she’s a teenager, but then it turns out she’s really not all that great at it here. I don’t know. Maybe I was just frustrated and annoyed that the plot didn’t seem to be going anywhere about 3/4 of the way through the book. I don’t know how a non-Holmes fan will take this book. If you don’t know what to expect with a Holmes character, Charlotte will come across as unlikeable. Most of the draw here is the Sherlock Holmes angle. Other readers might not like this as much. I think most of my enjoyment of A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro was derived from my fondness for the Sherlock Holmes stories rather than any quality of this book.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

Adult books but not erotica. Supposed to be ages 18 and over but I’ve known mature teens to be fine with adult books. Adult books have mature situations, maybe non-graphic sex, and are not meant for young kids.

The Children’s Home by Charles LambertThe Children’s Home by Charles Lambert
Published: January 5th 2016 by Scribner
Format: Paper Book
Length: 210 pages
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Gothic, Creepy
Rating: 2 stars
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For fans of Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey, a beguiling and disarming debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor, and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.

In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up.

Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind.

The Children’s Home is a genre-defying, utterly bewitching masterwork, an inversion of modern fairy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Golden Compass, in which children visit faraway lands to accomplish elusive tasks. Lambert writes from the perspective of the visited, weaving elements of psychological suspense, Jamesian stream of consciousness, and neo-gothic horror, to reveal the inescapable effects of abandonment, isolation, and the grotesque – as well as the glimmers of goodness – buried deep within the soul.

Have you ever felt like you’re are just too dumb to understand a book? The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert made me feel like that. The first half was interesting. A disfigured recluse, Morgan, suddenly finds his home full of mysterious children, who come to him in ways he can’t quite figure out. They offer Morgan acceptance through their innocence and a connection to the world beyond his estate and the high walls that surround it. But the children are peculiar and seem to have an objective that Morgan cannot figure out. They do not act as he thinks children should act and have an uncanny ability to know when their noise is not wanted and when danger is near. Then the story takes a sharp left into weirdville and lost me.

The Children’s Home had a lot of elements that I enjoyed. I really loved Morgan. He is an interesting main character. He drifts through the house like a ghost until events force him to reattach to the world. The kids are creepy. We’re not sure if they are or aren’t a product of Morgan’s lonely imagination. It has a gothic setting in a world apparently ravaged by some disaster or war, a world we’re not sure still exists outside the estate’s walls. There was a period where I thought the world had ended and Morgan was the last person alive, everyone in the manor a product of his mind. The tense and eerie atmosphere is chilling and a delight. But the second half is incomprehensible.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the second half is supposed to mean. Is there a wider meaning to the vague World War 2 gas chamber reference? Is it commentary on how we are (literally in this case) sucking the life out of the younger generations just to keep functioning as a society? Is there something with parallel universes going on that is in no way explained at all? Is David some sort of messiah? Are the children some work of a magical source? As Morgan asked himself many times in the story, who are these children?

The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert has some compelling and violent imagery. The events are unsettling and memorable. It is a sinister gothic horror but lacks resolution into a satisfying whole. The reader becomes impatient with the children’s evasiveness and we have no resolution by the end. We are left just as clueless as we started. We are given no context during the story and learn no details of the state of the world or the source or purpose of the puzzling children. In all, The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert left me confused and unsettled, wondering, like the characters, if I had somehow missed the point.

Thank you for reading!

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