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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-08-05 21:22
Solitary by Alexander Gordon Smith
Escape from Furnace 2: Solitary - Alexander Gordon Smith

Solitary by Alexander Gordon Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Delving further into the bowels of Furnace Penitentiary, Alex Sawyer desperately tries to hold onto his fleeting sanity. After a failed attempt to escape the underground horrors, being thrown into solitary confinement is a fate worse than death. A hole in the rocky earth becomes his coffin, yet it won't save him from what roams the corridors, in search of warm flesh to eat.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

With this second installment I desperately tried to overcome my primary issue with the series - the suspension of disbelief that it relies so heavily upon. Unfortunately I just can’t get behind the all important plot point of how this prison even exists; world building has been pretty unremarkable in that regard. I mean, how could parents just be okay with never seeing their teenage children ever again, no matter what crimes they’ve apparently committed? I digress. I promised myself this wouldn’t be a rant-review, because in actuality, I enjoy the struggles of Alex quite a bit. Smith adds such raw emotion to the dire situation, and good, descriptive writing I can appreciate. Rather than Alex and his friends emerging into the light of freedom, they’re thrown into solitary confinement in this addition. Who knew general population would be greatly missed? I have to give credit where it’s due; the unpleasantness of solitary at times made my skin crawl. Despite the main protagonists being in their teenage years, little detail was left to the imagination - even their toilet habits were voiced. This is the sort of book I would have loved as a younger reader; pushing the boundaries of the young adult genre with its bleak themes. Perhaps I would have even dismissed the implausibilities in favour of enjoyment, but my mind doesn’t work that way these days.

I can’t say that Alex, as a character, developed a great deal. His way of thinking was much the same as the last - feeling helpless and doomed, followed by a sense of hope and determination. One thing in particular became very much apparent, and that’s the fact his actions wholly depend upon his companions. Without them, and I believe he’d be a very lifeless person. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I am a fan of independence. I often wondered what, if anything, he would have achieved if truly without anyone. He hinted once or twice about suicide, but again I think his relationships give him his every bit of strength. Perhaps he’ll find himself all by his lonesome at some point, as his allies are dwindling in number. A new character was introduced however, and I liked Simon and what he represented.

As for the plot, it was thoroughly entertaining, even if it was a recycled escape and fail trope. By now I know that Smith favours the action-packed scenes that keep readers on their toes, and together with the turbulence of Alex’s mind, it was enough to keep me invested. I enjoyed the change of scenery, and especially the horrors of the infirmary. Questions arose about the mystery behind it all; the black substance that transforms the subjects, the overall goal of creating monsters. There’s an endless supply of prisoners, after all, so what’s the point? To build an army?

In conclusion: Even though I preferred Lockdown a bit more, this one showed no signs of the series slowing down. It’s grim and frightening at times, and I appreciate the expressive way in which the story's told. If only more information was given to properly quench my concerns.

Notable Quote:

I wondered how many voices there were living in my head, and how they could all have such different opinions.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/08/05/649
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-07-22 22:02
The Shatter Point by Jon O'Bergh
The Shatter Point - Jon O'Bergh

The Shatter Point by Jon O'Bergh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Asher wants nothing more than to impress his girlfriend, whilst she wants nothing more than to gain esteem through social media. Then there's Donna and Phil, new to Acacia Lane and eager to embrace their love of Halloween and all it represents, much to their neighbour's displeasure. Unknown to them all, something will inevitably bring them together, and possibly even bring chaos to their uneventful lives.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Jon O'Bergh for giving me the opportunity.

It was quite apparent that this one was going to differ from my usual fright-fest reads, but I wasn’t aware of just how much until I delved right in. Whilst there were subtle elements of the paranormal, which related to some very brief ghostly activity, it certainly didn’t try to induce discomfort or fear. Instead, it used the haunting aspects as a tool to express loss and perhaps even as an attempt to foreshadow what was to come. The story focused entirely on the characters and how their lives, in one way or the other, became inexplicably connected due to one very interesting establishment; Horror Place. The concept of Horror Place became of interest to me, as I recall seeing something quite like it on the internet - extreme experiences people actually sign up for, that can include very authentic forms of abuse. At first, I was under the assumption that Horror Place and the spirit would have been interconnected, but that was not the case; in actuality, only a small portion took place within the confines of Horror Place itself, despite it being of utmost importance overall. I found myself a little disappointed at this, as I wanted to read more of the creative yet harsh encounters that spurred its popularity, but I understand it wasn't that sort of book.

Each person that O'Bergh introduced differed largely in personality and intentions - some were likeable, whilst others resided upon the other end of the spectrum. I liked that, throughout the plot, every single one of them were forced to overcome obstacles, and even though the book itself was rather short, I believe I was able to get to know them sufficiently well. What made them relatable were their many flaws that took centre stage; the obsession with social media where likes equal happiness, family troubles relating to money, and the secrets a neighbourhood can hold. My favourite had to be Asher, followed by Donna, as they both were legitimately nice people that were ultimately ruined by others. There's no mystery behind my least favourites, as the way in which they were written portrayed them to be the most problematic individuals.

Despite getting to know the array of characters, I couldn’t help my interest dwindling just after the fifty percent mark. I suppose I just expected a bit more to happen, other than the mundane of everyday life. I was aware it was all leading somewhere, possibly to something going severely wrong, but it felt like an impossibly long time before it came about. It’s what I would call a slow burn, and I can’t say it kept a tight grip on my attention.

The ending certainly did surprise me, I'll give it that. I really didn't see it coming and I'm usually quite perceptive of hints and suggestions along the way. Despite the initial shock, I can't say it made much sense to me, as after much contemplation I found myself questioning the likelihood of such crimes going unsolved. I won't go into specifics, and maybe it's just my tendency to overthink, but I feel it could have been better.

In conclusion: A story that spotlights the pushing of limits and the consequences related to such. It did have its charm, but it fell a little short in some regards. Perhaps not what I'd normally read, but I thought I'd give it a chance.

Notable Quote:

Hands could create achingly beautiful melodies that stretched the rules of harmony, but they could also enact savage vengeance. Asher chortled at the paradox.

© Red Lace 2018


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/07/22/the-shatter-point-by-jon-obergh
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-07-07 03:43
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
The Butterfly Garden - Dot Hutchison

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

He's accurately named the "Gardener", as in his possession is a most enchanting garden, with its own collection of delicate butterflies. He cares for them; feeds them, grooms them, even mourns them when they perish, but he's also the reason they expire, for he is their captor. Taken from their lives and branded as property, the young women must endure their time as a beloved butterfly.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

Well, at least I more or less knew what I was getting into, as it was abundantly clear from the synopsis that this book would be chock-full of disturbing content. I mean, there was obviously going to be sexual abuse, right? However I can’t say that preparing myself for the inevitable made it any easier when it came around - the discomfort I experienced during some scenes was fierce, but I think it was worth it overall. I really enjoyed the format of the plot; the interview process and the accounts of certain events that took place within the garden. It was much of a beautiful nightmare; I say beautiful because the garden itself was a green thumb’s paradise. The writing clearly did well in expressing how exquisite the surrounding flora was - I would absolutely adore living somewhere like that, only of my own free will, of course. The darkness that lurked behind its exterior brought up the topic of ugly secrets hiding behind attractive fronts, which I believe can apply to a lot in today's world.

I found Maya to be extremely difficult to comprehend at times, and even like in some instances. Sure, I understood her hardships in life and the resulting effects on her mental state, but emotionally detached characters are generally harder for me to relate to. Her behaviour didn’t make much sense, even with the inclusion of the lacklustre twist at the end. I mean, you’d have to be a machine to just accept the fate of suddenly being a prisoner, and Maya was the definition of the perfect captive. This leads me to my biggest gripe that I couldn’t ignore about this book - the complete lack of self-preservation. The women were young and fit, and they never considered working together to overpower their much older captor? They even had access to a multitude of items that could have been used as weapons, such as sculpting tools and the likes. It does bother me when I need to question the plausibility of a story, as it’s the authors job to sufficiently build up a believable, consistent narrative. My suspension of disbelief can only go so far.

It's because of the absurdity of the characters that I didn't particularly favour any of them. Sure, one or two were likeable enough, just like the clear-cut villains were dislikeable, but none made their way into my heart. It was too bad, to say the least, that there was this constant barrier of doubt and incredibility that I couldn't bypass.

I need to mention the ending, or specifically, the attempt at a last minute revelation. I’m an enormous fan of plot twists, of those moments that force me to rethink, or surprise me to a large degree, but not every book needs one. In fact, I believe that, in this case, it was shoehorned in as a poor effort to try and explain Maya’s bizarre behaviour. In no way, shape, or form did it thrill or even interest me, and I considered it having little value. I won't outright state the details, but it was the wrong direction for the story.

This review reads significantly more negative than what my final rating displays. I think I should be clear that I was gripped, and it was difficult to tear me away from Hutchison’s grim tale despite the issues I had. I'm fond of dark fiction that touches upon horror aspects, and this really did tick a lot of boxes in that regard; there were many taboo themes, and the writing made it simple enough to become quickly absorbed. Perhaps it would have even been a top read, had some aspects been a little more logical.

In conclusion: It was remarkably entertaining, offering a twisted account of one man's obsession with beauty. Not for the faint of heart, as depictions of abuse were plentiful throughout. I had my problems with believability, and whilst I couldn't exactly dismiss those issues, I found it only right that I rated accordingly. Am I going to read further into the series? I can honestly say that it doesn't appeal, as I've glanced over numerous reviews that state it's more police / investigation work, and I'm not into that sort of thing.

Notable Quote:

Like beauty, desperation and fear were as common as breathing.

© Red Lace 2018


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/07/07/the-butterfly-garden-by-dot-hutchison
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-21 16:01
Immortown by Lily Markova (2015 Review)
Immortown - Lily Markova

ImmortownImmortown by Lily Markova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Famous actress Freya Auror suddenly finds herself in a very odd town where the townsfolk spend all their time consuming powerful substances and killing themselves. She soon discovers she's trapped, yet not all hope is lost. Maybe there's a way out for her, a way to escape the clutches of Immortown. Or just maybe she'll remain there until she fades...

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. My thanks goes to Lily Markova for giving me the opportunity!

In truth, I'm not a believer in life after death or anything like that, but Immortown definitely left me thinking and probably will continue to do so for a while to come. I didn't know what to expect and from what initially started off as serious confusion, turned to fascination as the story progressed and events were explained. I've never read anything quite like it before so, for me, it was certainly unique. Markova clearly has a lot of talent, from the way she writes to the overall tone of her work; the latter being how well she implemented the dark, disturbing feel yet could pull off the occasional humour. Despite that, I feel it took me a lot of effort to read it - I had to pay the utmost attention or I feared I'd miss something relevant; even minor distractions forced me to go over passages more than once. It was easy to lose place of what was happening amongst the lengthy narrative which whilst oftentimes beautiful, also dragged on in other areas. I struggled to rate it, but after some consideration I decided firmly upon the four stars; I really think it deserves such, given my overall enjoyment and the unmistakable thought that's been put into it.

Freya Auror was, in short, a troubled character. I know what it's like to lose someone extremely important and feel like letting go, so I could somewhat relate to her in the way that she lost herself to what she enjoyed doing; for her, it was the acting and the roles she played, such as Astra. She was also a woman enthralled by art, which in itself is characteristically attractive as it's so rare this day and age. I didn't particularly understand her connection to Kai, but I think she was the only one to truly see he wasn't the supposed villain everyone thought he was. Yes, perhaps he was a selfish man, but the burning of Immer wasn't exactly intentional. I actually really liked him, even though he wasn't perfect; quite the opposite in fact. He held an air of mystery and attitude that I found appealing. The childish India, her husband Remy and Chace were also good characters and of course, "Dude", who added some comic relief yet still succeeded to be a haunting figure. I wasn't fond of Kristle, but I suppose that was the whole point.

Indeed, the entire book was about death and suicide, but it was an intriguing take on things. It wasn't just a typical, simple purgatory tale, but something I found original. As I've already mentioned, the beginning had me scratching my head several times, but I'm glad I didn't let it scare me away. Eventually, it all clicked and that, when you sit back and realise all the ties are coming together and making sense, is a great and satisfying thing to experience. The two PoV's complimented and fit together nicely and the plot itself, whilst not action-packed, still greatly entertained.

In conclusion: A very deep and thoughtful read; one I found myself impressed with. I can't help but wonder about the aftermath of Immortown. Will there be a sequel? It surely looks like it could be continued, so fingers crossed! I'd be very interested in reading more just like this.

Notable Quote:

"You know, when people lose someone, they are horrendously hypocritical. They don't pity the ones gone; they mourn themselves for being left without something familiar or loved."

© Red Lace 2015


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/21/immortown-by-lily-markova-2015-review
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