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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! 2018-07-29 20:54
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
Dark Matter - Michelle Paver

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Top Read 2018

Five men and eight huskies make their way to the Arctic, specifically to Gruhuken; an uninhabited bay that the expedition will spend the next twelve months. As the last days of summer fade, darkness descends until the sun becomes a distant memory. Jack, eager to work, finds himself alone when his companions are forced to leave, one by one. Soon enough, the nightmarish ambience takes its toll, especially when a horrific figure makes itself known.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

There’s a funny story related to this book, and it all started with me initially purchasing it in my local secondhand bookstore. To tell the truth, I didn’t much pay attention to it, other than noting it was a ghost story, as said on its cover. I put it away with my mountains of other titles, and then some time passed. I got the urge to try Audible again, so I logged into my old account and found a random horror to try. Much to my surprise, it was truly amazing, and it surpassed my every expectation. After I finished it, I desperately wanted to get a physical copy, but I actually already had a hardback stashed away; indeed, the book I previously acquired in the store. Realising I had already had it, without even realising it, brought a sense of happiness I rarely feel; where everything feels just right. Paver’s hauntingly beautiful story will therefore always remain special to me.

I can only try and properly express my thoughts, but I’m unsure if they’ll do the masterpiece any justice. You see, in no way did I predict the emotion that rose to the surface as I progressed through the chapters. I didn’t foresee the ending that brought me to tears, nor the fondness that stuck with me thereafter. It’s tales like these that make reading an incredible experience - something that gives the days a sense of wonder. Okay, I could probably keep on gushing, or I could actually go into the all important details.

The structure in which Paver relied heavily upon is my preferred way of storytelling - deeply atmospheric, where the surroundings are used to add ample weight to the situation. I really could see every detail in my mind’s eye, and my imagination appreciated the brutality included. Let’s face it, the Arctic is just not a place for humanity, as literally everything about it can cause a big dose of death. Paver delved further into the uninhabitable environment by exploring the detrimental effects on mental health. Isolation played a major role, smothering the main character in all its depressive glory. Friendship and love were also prominent themes, and all together a remarkable concoction was created.

I honestly didn’t like Jack at first. His dog-hating ways were the total opposite of endearing, yet as time passed, I found myself warming to him. He developed a great deal, becoming someone I very much wanted to persevere. Due to bearing witness to his innermost thoughts, he was shaped into a very genuine person - he had his fears, desires, and most of all, an abundance of confusion that had him question his identity. I enjoyed his self discovery, as did I enjoy his struggle for survival.

The paranormal aspect was subtle, but it only made it all the more oppressive; its presence was constantly imminent, and I felt a considerable amount of dread. More than anything else, I was more worried for the dogs than any of their human counterparts. I knew from the first moment of their introduction that they would be used to pull the heartstrings. I mean, it’s not like Paver would have shied away from including animal cruelty, as there’s other instances where it’s present. Isaak in particular completely gained my love, for obvious reasons.

Since I listened to Audible’s version, I have to give credit to Jeremy Northam. His performance was brilliant; adding in just the right amount of despair.

In conclusion: What else can I say, other than I one hundred percent loved it?

Notable Quote:

Four months without the sun. Doesn't seem real.

© Red Lace 2018


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/07/29/dark-matter-by-michelle-paver
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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! 2018-07-21 00:14
Inquest by Kevis Hendrickson (2015 Review)
Rogue Hunter: Inquest - Kevis Hendrickson

Inquest by Kevis Hendrickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zyra Zanr is on a mission; to extradite the dangerous terrorist Boris Skringler from the planet of New Venus, and give him over to the InterGalactic Alliance, but nothing is ever so easy. Ending up imprisoned herself, Zyra must somehow fix her own mess and capture her target, who just so happens to be her ex-lover.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

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

I admit, I'm very particular when it comes to science fiction, especially space opera, whether it be watching or reading. It needs to have a certain punch to fully interest me, something more than flashy battle scenes or odd looking aliens, but a story that's got depth. Story is essentially everything and, of course, how it's presented. Hendrickson certainly impressed me with a number of things, from his world-building to his highly descriptive writing. Zyra Zanr was portrayed exceptionally well, her every emotion described in such intimate detail, it's as if I could feel her rage, or even her lust. Of course, Zyra wasn't the most wise of characters, as her issues were caused by her own impulsive actions, however after reading the author's note after the ending, I believe this was intentional. She's deeply flawed, but even so, she wasn't completely dislikeable. Perhaps she'll grow as the series progresses, become more careful, as such development is no doubt important. We all learn from our mistakes, after all.

Being a bounty hunter, Zyra is anything but a good person. Sure, she struggles with her decisions and thinks she's doing the right thing, but she's ultimately a killer for hire. At best, she's in amongst shades of grey. Mikaela, her lover, was the likeable sort; loving, understanding and Zyra's only hope of fitting into a normal life with a stable future. I wanted things to work out between them, I really did. I found Mika was trying to be an anchor for the troubled love of her life and it was lovely, yet perhaps destined to fail. (Yes, I'm a real sop sometimes.) Their first scenes were erotically charged whilst not going into the nitty gritty too much, which I actually loved; being able to convey such sexual heat without going into the act of sex itself. Not all writers can do this.

I didn't like Boris Skringler and I certainly didn't want a screwed up, abusive romance going on, so I'm glad Zyra got that out of her head. As a murderer, terrorist, former partner in crime, I found him completely undesirable and annoying. In fact, the few men introduced seemed to be the unsavory types, but that however added to the "girl power" aspect. I do hope in the proceeding instalments, men are given more of a chance. Although saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed the Venusian's and their all-female culture. It was fantastically done and held a very dark undertone that was even unnerving. Their past was pretty grim, with being experimented on, forced to have abortions and whatnot. I truly believe they should've been left alone to rule their world however they saw fit, even if Queen Karah was a nasty woman.

The space battles were an exciting bonus to the great storytelling. As Captain Edna Ajala made the difficult decision to sacrifice her own life, and those of her crew, to attempt one last blow to the Alliance, well that moment was emotional. I don't usually enjoy such battles, and yes I became confused at times with all the techno-talk, but Hendrickson really drew me in. I wanted to know the fate of New Venus, I wanted to know about the super weapon and just what the goals of the Alliance really were. It was truly great, with a shocking finish.

In conclusion: I feel that Zyra, as a protagonist, has a lot of potential. Despite the plot being highly political, I really enjoyed it; the differing cultures especially drew my attention. I know one thing for sure - I have to check out more works by Kevis Hendrickson.

Notable Scene:

Ajala turned around and looked directly into the faces of her crewmembers. But instead of fear, she saw their courage. It was invigorating to be surrounded by such proud women, women who were willing to give their lives to protect their world. She took strength in their nobility and felt a surge of confidence. Death was going to come to them all. But she was going to see to it that the enemy died with them.

© Red Lace 2015


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/07/20/inquest-by-kevis-hendrickson-2015-review
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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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