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review 2018-07-16 14:09
The Butterfly Garden
The Butterfly Garden - Dot Hutchison

A serial killer called the Gardener captures young women, tattoos intricately detailed butterfly wings on their backs, gives them new names, keeps them in a secluded, secured location with a lovely garden and their own personal rooms. He clothes them, feeds them, rapes them and on their 21st birthdays, does something completely horrific to them.

 

The only other person who knows of this place of horrors is his son, Avery. Avery is allowed access to the girls and may come and go as he pleases. He is not kind to the girls at all, and enjoys causing pain and torturing them. This is a disturbing story told from the point of view of one of the surviving girls as she reveals to two FBI agents all that happened from beginning to end. Maya's depictions are not overly graphic despite all she had to endure, but explained in a matter of fact manner.

 

The biggest issue that I had with this book was being unable to understand why none of the girls attempted to escape. Not a real attempt outside of trying to peek at the door's security code. It is explained that they were afraid that if they failed and were caught, the Gardener would murder them sooner. Each of the girls seemed to be resigned to their fates, and even when they were taken off to be killed, they were terrified, but never put up much of a struggle.

 

I cannot imagine knowing that a psychotic man was taking me off to end my life and not fight tooth and nail! Not once did he use any sort of weapon. If they were going to die anyway, why not die fighting? Not only did the Gardener come to the garden alone, he was an older man and grossly outnumbered by the girls. I felt that the girls had so so many options and opportunities, but didn't even try.

 

They had a cave they could talk privately and devise a plan of action, they had access to the kitchen, they had trinkets and things given to them by the Gardener, surely they could have used something as a weapon. One girl was even granted a pair of scissors which had only been used for embroidery and to cut the hair off another woman for the sake of revenge.

 

There was a woman who had gained the Gardener's trust to the point where he did not kill her, instead he stopped visiting her bed, and even allowed her to come and go as she pleased. This woman was loyal to the Gardener and not once so much as considered going to the police to save the rest of the girls! In fact, she envied the girls and wanted the Gardener to love her.

 

The book, for me, had a satisfying ending. The twists and turns were interesting and despite the frustration of all the wasted opportunities to escape (many of which I am not even discussing in this review due to spoilers), kept me invested. Due to the subject matter, I would not recommend this book to everyone. It is a story that will stay with you long after you've finished reading it.

 

 

-Shey

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review 2018-07-16 13:00
The Romanov Empress
The Romanov Empress - C.W. Gortner

Princess Dagmar of Denmark or Minnie is a daughter to Denmark's King Christian IX and sister to Alexandra, who would marry Edward VII and become Queen of the United Kingdom.  Minnie knows she too must marry and would rather marry for love.  When she meets Nicholas Alexandrovich,  or Nixa, the Tsarevich of Russia, Minnie is taken.  However, as fate would have it, Minnie marries Nixa's brother,  Sasha, Tsesarevich Alexander of Russia, and eventually becomes Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna of Russia.  Minnie must adjust to Russia, a new religion and rules of royalty.  Minnie exceeds in her role and is a driving force within the Russian government.  Although, times are changing in Russia and things become dangerous for Minnie and her family.  Minnie sees that the government also needs to change.  When her beloved Sasha passes, Minnie's son, Nicholas becomes Tsar.  Nicholas' wife, Alexandra is not as diplomatic as Minnie and finds herself in a war of wills with Minnie.  As actual war finds its way to Russia's door, Nicholas heeds his wife's opinion and that of her mystic Rasputin over Minnie's and brings the downfall of the Russian empire with him.


With historically accurate detail,  The Romanov Empress gives an  in-depth and entertaining look at the amazing woman behind the storied last Tsar of Russia.  Told from Minnie's point of view from the time she was a teenager through her son's death, we get a full view of her life.  I went into this book not knowing much at all about this time in Russia's history and I was very pleased that I was able to learn about Russia through her eyes.  As Minnie came to love Russia, she saw the faults as well as its amazing features.  Minnie wanted Russia to grow, change and survive, but as a woman she could only offer so much guidance to the men in her life.  I enjoyed seeing how Minnie was able to affect change in the government, even if the men did not always listen.  I also took to heart her and her sister, Alix's motto of living to the next day: "You will live,...You can do nothing else." It was  very insightful to see Minnie's relationship with her son Nicholas and his wife Alexandra especially when Rasputin came into the picture.  I did not know the breadth of Rasputin's influence on Russia at the time and his relationship with Alexandra and her children.  Maria's story brings us through the fabled deaths of her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  While I knew of this story, I was unaware of the reasons behind it and the political climate of Russia at the time.  Overall, an astounding and epic tale of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna.

This book was received for free in return for an honest review.

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text 2018-07-16 03:43
at 100 pages, hmmmm
The Witches of Eastwick - John Updike

I thought I'd try something by Mr. Updike that wasn't Rabbit Angstrom-y.

 

This is the single worst writing from women's point of view that I've ever encountered. These women are the least believable I've ever encountered, and I've read some really bad books. I understand these witches are fantasy, but I can't believe witches would be so ridiculous. Nor can I imagine grown women who complain about getting their periods for a full five (5) days! Or women who think the way these "women" do about their bodies. Men, apparently, believe women are nothing but our bodies and our relationships to men. He gives them interesting professions, then he reduces them to insipid caricatures. 

 

Dear Male Writers - Woman Have Breasts and Vaginas. I'm going to write a book where the man's balls are all I talk about if I run into this again. Shockingly, our bodies and fear of aging are not the only thing we ever think about.

 

Argh. I'm very tempted to stop reading this. It's making me irritable. 

 

However, now the man has entered the picture, so I may try to continue, since I'm almost a third of a way through. But not tonight. I need some female comedy -- on to Netflix!

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review 2018-07-15 23:01
Audio/Book Review of The Assassins of Altis by Jack Campbell
The Assassins of Altis - Jack Campbell

Trapped within the dead city of Marandur, Master Mechanic Mari and Mage Alain must escape both merciless barbarians and the pitiless Imperial Legion. Beyond those dangers lie the mightiest and most unforgiving powers in the world of Dematr: the Great Guilds that rule the world with iron fists.

 

Mari's Mechanics Guild and Alain's Mage Guild have always been enemies, but they are united in wanting to kill their rogue members before Mari can fulfill the ancient prophecy of being the one who will finally overthrow their power. Mari and Alain must risk those dangers because halfway across their world lies a place where truth has long been hidden. A place that could explain why their world's history begins abruptly, with no hints of what came before. A place where they might learn how the Mechanics Guild came to control all technology and how the Mages manage to alter reality temporarily. A place that might tell them how to achieve a task that appears to be impossible.

 

Never before have a Mage and a Mechanic worked together, and their combined talents offer their only hope. But she and Alain must first survive the deadly and implacable Assassins of Altis.

 

Review 5*

 

This story is the third book in a fantastic epic fantasy series called The Pillars of Reality. I absolutely loved it!

 

Mari is a fantastic character, and I liked her from the moment she was introduced. I love her determination to do the right thing, even at the cost of her own life. She is now a nineteen-year-old Master Mechanic, though her guild is determined to take her life as she poses a threat to their hold on the world of Dematr. Mari has been foreseen by Mages to be 'The Daughter of Jules' and fated to free the world of Dematr from the tyranny of both the Guilds - Mechanics and Mages - and to unite the Mechanics, Mages and Commons against said Guilds. As she tries to accept her role, she finds herself on another dangerous mission while trying to avoid death at the hands of assassins.

 

Mage Alain is also a fantastic character. I liked him a lot from the start. He was one of the youngest Acolytes to achieve Mage status at the age of seventeen. He has been taught from a young age not to show or feel any emotions and that the world he lives in is an illusion, where nothing is real. I love how this character has grown as the series has progressed. He tries to show more emotion, even though his Guild had virtually beaten it out of him. He hides a dry wit under that emotionless mask.

 

I listened to this story in audio format, rather than read it. The story is once again narrated by MacLeod Andrews. He does a fantastic job of bringing the story to life. Even Alain, who's voice is meant to be flat and emotionless comes across with subtle hints. You would think that Alain's voice would be monotonous, but it's not so. I love the way he brings all the characters to life with different accents, inflexions and tones. He even makes the women's voices sound perfect for each character. As for his narration, he read the story clearly and concisely, and his pacing was perfect. I would definitely listen to more books read by this narrator.

 

This book continues a few weeks after the end of the second story and sees Mari and Alain travelling to the island of Altis, where a long-hidden secret has been kept. With both the Guilds chasing them and now the Imperial Legions for their incursion into Marandur, Mari and Alain face many dangers, including a deadly snow storm. However, what they find on Altis will change everything.

 

This story introduces a couple of new characters into the series. One is Mechanic Caylou (not sure of spelling as I listened to the story so have no reference and have spelt it phonetically - it could be Kayloo or another variation). He is one of Mari's friends from the Mechanics Guild, along with his girlfriend, Ally (who is mentioned in book two but not introduced). Another character introduced is, Mage Asha; this is a character who is hard to explain without giving spoilers. Suffice it to say, she was a friend of Alain's from their early acolyte days, before all the emotion was beaten out of them.

 

I love the world building in this series. It is familiar though strange at the same time. The reason for this becomes apparent as this story unfolds. The story is full of action, adventure, and danger and I found myself an emotional wreck at times. Have you ever read or listened to a story and felt completely emersed in it? This happened to me as I listened to this book. These characters have come to life for me and have become my friends. This book ends with a slight cliffhanger, and the audio version has a preview of the next book in the series, which I am now looking forward to reading/listening to. I will be listening to The Pirates of Pacta Servanda as soon as I can.

 

Jack Campbell has written a fantastic science fiction series. I have added him to my favourite author's list, as he's found a fan in me. I love his writing style, which is fast-paced and descriptive, and the flow of the story is good too.

 

Although there is now some mention of scenes of a sexual nature, it’s not shown. I do not, however, recommend this book to younger readers under the age of 15 due to some violence. I do, however, highly recommend this book if you love dark or epic fantasy, steampunk or action/adventure and supernatural/paranormal romance genres. - Lynn Worton

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review 2018-07-15 20:44
Literary horror novel 'The Grip of It' leaves me with too many questions...or does it?
The Grip of It: A Novel - Jac Jemc

This book was a pick for my Litsy horror postal book club, and the second in a row that had the theme of a haunted house (this came on the back of the classic 'The Haunting of Hill House', which almost isn't fair, since that book is so well-known, and it was hard not to think of it).
'The Grip of It' was on my radar for a while after I noticed its cover, which is covered in the 'drawings' that show up mysteriously inside the house that the young couple, Julie and James, buy when they move to a small town outside of the city. There are lots of things that mysteriously go on inside the house (or do they?), after they move in, and the couple learns of the family that used to live there (or was it next door?), and they have so many questions that they start to run together...and largely are unanswered. ALL the way through to the end of the book. That was ultimately my biggest problem with 'The Grip of It': not ever feeling like questions were answered. The two main characters were also so similar (and weak, in my opinion), that their perspectives ran together, so the storytelling device of different chapters being their alternating different voices was ineffective. Whether or not this was intentional or not as a device to show that they were becoming of 'one mind' as the house took over, it was very confusing to read as the book continued.
I mostly enjoyed the literary prose and new approach to a 'horror' novel but occasionally I was a annoyed with the short sentences, which broke up some very beautiful writing, and very quotable prose.
And like most horror stories, the couple, Julie and James do frustratingly keep going back to this house that is obviously causing them to drift apart and for Julie to become ill (ergot poisoning? seizures?), yet the house sells quickly, so even though it seems that in general we have a no-nonsense 'literary' horror novel, we still have these silly tropes that don't make sense after all.
And what on earth happened to Rolf? ?
Still, I read this quickly, and it was a page-turner, it kept me engaged. It just could've been so much better.

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