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review 2016-09-10 18:48
Entertaining but somehow unsatisfying
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs

I finished this on Thursday, but hadn't had a chance to do the write up!

 

I feel like this book was a little bit of a missed opportunity. I liked it fine, but I wasn't overwhelmed by it. It felt a bit like the author worked so hard to fit the quirky photographs into the book, that he ended up neglecting the story.

 

Don't get me wrong, it was an entertaining little tale. But when I compare it to The Graveyard Book, it is lacking in something that I can only call "heart." And maybe that isn't fair, because this was Ransom Riggs's first book, and for a first effort it is quite good.

 

I loved Miss Peregrine, and I liked some of the concepts behind the book. I bought the box set of the three books, and I'll definitely read them all, but I wasn't riveted enough to move right to book 2. 

 

The book is beautifully designed, though. And a solid adaptation of this little tale could be amazing. 

 

Adequate, but not amazing. And, it fills my YA Horror square!

 

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review 2016-09-06 14:52
Review: Nightstruck
Nightstruck - Jenna Black

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This is another one I’m not entirely sure what to make of. It’s described on Netgalley as “the start of a spooky yet romantic dark paranormal horror”. There is nothing romantic whatsoever in this book, at least not to this reader. It certainly managed the dark paranormal horror bit well. It starts off with a scary incident, and the dark creepiness doesn’t let up at all. Not even at the end. 

 

Becket lives in Center City in Philadelphia. She sees something strange in an alley, hears a cry that might be an abandoned baby whilst walking her dog Bob. All her instincts are telling her to run away and never look back but morality wins out. But that single incident is the start of a host of catastrophic events that change Becket’s world forever. It’s subtle changes that barely register at first. 

 

Her dad is the police commissioner and seems to be under the idea that all teenagers are vandals and morons and only out to do no good. Even his sensible daughter. Her best friend is Piper, one of the most popular girls at school. I loathed Piper. Piper is so popular that Becket practically has to make appointments to hang out with her when she can “fit into Piper’s schedule”. Not exactly my idea of a best friend no matter how nice they might be when you hang out. Piper comes from a very rich family and seems to do whatever the hell she wants to regardless of any consequences. 

 

She’s also dating Becket’s neighbor Luke, who unknown to Piper, Becket has had a big old crush on Luke, like, forever, just never done anything about it. She’s too shy. Becket follows the rules, is a good student and generally does what she’s supposed to. Even though occasionally Piper helps her rebel which usually goes wrong. Her police commissioner father is always harsh with the punishments (he doesn’t like Piper at all)

 

The city seems to be having a rash of violent crimes and bizzare incidents happening. A few of these are described in single chapters from the victim’s view points. Becket’s dad’s nerves are stretched to the breaking point. Becket starts noticing weird things herself and doesn’t know what to think, she’s either going crazy or something really really freaky could be happening. Since that baby incident. She rationalises every possibility that it could be, tries taking pictures of uncomfortable weird things she spots. Anything to prove that it’s not something supernaturally dark or weird. 

 

As a main character Becket is actually very likable. She’s strong, smart and despite bad taste in best friends, a capable girl who thinks things through and doesn’t jump to stupid conclusions. Even when things take a turn for the worst. Thankfully she’s not the only one who’s noticed things are weird and scary out in the world, particularly when the sun goes down. She’s hanging out with Luke at one point and points things out to him - he’s noticed it too. 

 

So what does it all mean? To make things worse Piper’s behavior is getting worse. She’s more callous, she flaunts the rules more than ever and speaks with little regard to what she’s saying or who she might be hurting. Luke’s fed up with her, even Becket is getting irritated. All the while at night things are getting more dark more scary and more violent out in the city.

 

It soon becomes a city wide epidemic of catastrophic chaos, violence, death, murder and darkness. Though once the sun comes up, things turn to normal. Becket is smart enough to protect herself when the chaos starts going down. I suppose the romance part comes from her feelings for Luke developing throughout, even though he’s supposedly with Piper, even after Piper’s personality hits rock bottom and she becomes part of the people involved in creating chaos in the night. (There are reasons for this of course). It’s a well done relationship starting off slow and a where are we going does this mean anything, what’s happening here? Despite the unravelling madness of the city, Becket has some pretty good teenage crush moments. Kind of a relief from the darkness and unpleasant atmosphere the novel creates. 

 

It has all the makings for a pretty good book, but there was just something about it that didn’t work for me. The unending parade of violence and bizarre acts just bothered me. I actually like horror novels, and horror movies. I’ve seen my fair share of very violent horror movies and read some very disturbing books where the horror and the gore just doesn’t let up. I actually really liked Becket as a main character, I even liked Luke. I even liked the grownups in this novel.

 

There was just something in this one I just did not like. I didn’t like the end much at all. I’m glad though I read that it was the start of a series according to the Netgalley page on this title because as a standalone I would have dropped the rating. While I wasn’t overly impressed with this book, if there is a sequel I’m still interested enough to know where this story is going. 

 

Thank you Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for approving my request to view the title. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-08-16 11:40
Review: The Detour
The Detour - S.A. Bodeen

Despite my initial absolute disdain for the main character, this turned out to actually be a pretty good read. It read very much like a teen horror movie.

 

It tells the story of 17 year old Olivia Flynn, who at such a young age has already become an international best-selling author with a YA trilogy. She has legions of fans, rich parents, and the means to do pretty much whatever the hell she wants. She's got her ticket written to a prestigious Ivy League college because her dad's alumni and her parents are wealthy so she's already got a room waiting in the best dorm on campus. She's completely and totally full of herself and a complete and utter pain in the ass bitch. I loathed this girl from the first page onwards. She flaunts her success and her wealth in the most obnoxious way possible and doesn't seem to give a crap about anyone or anything other than herself. She is absolutely the worst kind of over privileged author who thinks she utterly deserves all the fame and wealth and success right away. She has no patience for the "old women" she constantly sees at conventions and workshops who she thinks don't have a snowball's chance in hell to be as successful as she is

 

On the way to a writers retreat, her expensive car has a terrible accident. She spots a young girl with a flute who appears to have seen everything and shouts to the girl for help. Things go rapidly downhill from there. She wakes in a locked basement room, with the girl’s mother, clad in a “Mrs Daryl Dixon” t-shirt. And her nightmare begins.

 

As things go from bad to worse for Olivia as the mother and daughter team start to torment her, she’s suffering injuries from her car wreck (and constantly whining about her missing £300 Italian leather shoes that are no longer on her feet) she learns that the mother, Peg, seems to think Olivia is responsible for something bad that happened (to either Peg or the daughter, it’s unclear) and Olivia must suffer for it. Olivia clueless brat she is, has no clue what that something is. So she starts to think back.

 

We learn of her oh-so-traumatic childhood. Apparently she was bullied mercifully throughout her school years, to the point of where she developed that hair pulling affliction (which has a really complicated name I can’t remember or spell) no one noticed and no one helped her. The group of girls she wanted to be friends with had her be really mean to a new student who joined the class, but then turned on her the next day.

(spoiler show)

 

 

When her parents found out they pulled her from that school and her mom gave up her law career to home school Olivia who by then had decided she wanted to be a writer and had a talent for it. So instead of focusing on home schooling or even finding a new school to transfer the girl to, Olivia and her mom decide to focus on Olivia’s writing. She got a few hours of school in the morning and then she blabs on about how she worked really hard at her writing and got like, instant success.

(spoiler show)

 

 

Which personally, I didn’t agree with at all. Yes, it sucks horribly when people pick on you for seemingly no reason other than they can, I've been through that myself, so I know first hand just how frustrating and horrible it can be.  It’s really really had to be sympathetic at all to Olivia, even though what she went through as a child was horrible because she’s such a hateful know-it-all bitch at present.

 

Though I hate the fact that this little bitch had only a bit of school work in the morning and then got instant success for a writing career. I loathe Olivia so much I can’t find anything redeeming about her to be happy that she rose above the bullying and became successful. She didn’t deserve to be destroyed the way she was, but I do think her parents coddled her too much when they found out. They didn’t’ report it to the school or get anything done about it or send her to a therapist or anything like that. It’s let’s become famous and successful and then they’ll all see how awesome I am. Which just makes me want to gag.

(spoiler show)

 

 

 

As Olivia remembers she’s continually tormented by Peg and the daughter, and their horrible cousin Wesley who is a really slimy piece of work. Olivia starts to take in her surroundings and think about how she’s going to escape. What she’s seen on movies and TV and what not to do. To be fair, she’s actually pretty logical and shows some keen intelligence when we get to this point. Which comes with more reminiscing about her past and her oh so fabulous carer.

 

She remembers when a novel came out a few months after hers with a very similar plot. So similar that she blogged about it and her fans gathered up and called it plagiarism and actually went after the other author, verbally attacking her and pretty much destroying her career. Olivia doesn’t think she did anything wrong.

(spoiler show)

 

 

As much as I loathed Olivia, and rather enjoyed seeing the little brat desperately trying to preserve herself and figure it all out, it was actually a pretty good read. Though it still drove me up the wall when the red herrings came back in and the answers finally came to light and Olivia found out what it was she had done that was so terrible. And it was pretty fucking awful on her part. Yet of course, she manages to justify it to her benefit so of course can’t have done anything wrong at all and she deserved none of what happened to her. (Spoiler – she totally DID deserve everything).

 

At least by the epilogue she had finally toned her hatefulness down. The ending did make me grin. A totally and utterly deplorable main character, but if you can look past that, a pretty good read.

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review 2015-10-27 11:23
Review: Daughters Unto Devils
Daughters unto Devils - Amy Lukavics

I read this in a couple of hours during a long flight from London to Phoenix a few weeks ago. 

 

Once I started, I couldn't put it down. I'm not sure what I was expecting with this one, I certainly wasn't expecting to be anywhere near as horrific as it was. It tells the story of 16 year old Amanda and her struggling family in a historical setting. The story starts with Amanda having been seeing a boy, Henry for a while, they have been sexually involved for some time and she appears to be quite enamoured with him. Until she finds she's pregnant. Given the historical setting and the religious undertones in the novel, Amanda is quite freaked out. She's terrified of her family finding out...one more mouth to feed in an already full family and difficult situation. 

 

The setting is brutal, blunt and delightfully atmospheric. Amanda's father moves the whole family down from their mountain cabin, across the open plains to find a new homestead for them. There's a wonderful family dynamic in the novel, though not without problems. Something terrible has happened the previous winter, and is referenced a lot, though its not until much later in the novel that the reader finds out. All we know is something bad happened, and Amanda is very haunted by it. Also, her baby sister Hannah, was born that winter, though Hannah was born deaf and blind and screams and cries a lot and puts a host of added strain on the family. 

 

Amanda is torn between helping her family and keeping her pregnancy a secret and its a struggle. Not helped by the long journey down the mountain to the new homestead. The father's determination and resilience is quite impressive in the face of so many different troubles. He's very religious and seems to find strength in that no matter what. The younger siblings are best friends, and the other sibling not quite as old as Amanda but older than the children, Emily (I think or it might be Emma, can't remember off the top of my head) was always very close to Amanda, and their friendship is strained by the Amanda's secret pregnancy. Amanda can't tell Emily, but Emily knows something wrong. 

 

They find an unoccupied cabin to set up as their homestead. Right off there's something not right about it, the place is a mess and its got a whole host of bloodstains inside. Instead of saying a massive no and moving on, Amanda's father decides this is where they will stay and he will fix the place up. Which the family do. From them on things go from creepy to out right frightening.  Not recapping much as its too spoilery from this point on.

 

What the family go through is pretty horrific and it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between is this really happening or is Amanda simply losing her mind due to the move and the unplanned pregnancy which winds up having terrifying consequences. Family stress goes from bad to worse as things keep happening. Not helped by the arrival of a couple of new comers, as one would hope, a boy Emily's age and his father, a doctor. 

 

It gets gorier as the novel progresses. Though in spite of the terror, Amanda shows some remarkable strength as she has to pull it together to figure out how to save what's left of her family by the time the truth is revealed. Complete with an ending to send shivers down your spine as well. 

 

A fantastic spooky read. 

 

 

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review 2015-09-24 17:30
Review: The Lost Girl
The Lost Girl: A Fear Street Novel - R.L. Stine

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

actual rating 1.5 stars.

 

I think it was 90s nostalgia that made me request this title. RL Stine is a very familiar name to me, even though I never read any of the original Fear Street books or even any of the old Goosebumps titles. I did often like RL Stine's Point Horror titles which I read over and over as a teen. So I thought I'd give this one a try.

 

I don't quite know what to say on it. It had its moments. It wasn't scary in the slightest, at least not to me. It felt more like a Lifetime teen thriller movie, or at a stretch it reminded me very much of the old Nickelodeon show 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?'. It had some rather unexpectedly gory moments. But the downsides were the plot felt a bit too much at times like 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' and the end was utterly ridiculous.

 

Started out with a fairly intriguing premises, in the 1950s, with a seemingly likeable heroine, Beth, who had some unusual abilities. And an unwanted interest from local rich boy Aaron. She told him point blank she was not interested, but he was not the type to take no for an answer. Literally. Beth's abilities help her fight him off. But he screams "witch" and freaks. The dialogue is a little silly.

 

Then there's some rivalry between Aaron's father, who owns a big ranch, and Beth's father, who wants to start a new ranch. Competition is not appreciated by the reigning ranch and there are deadly consequences. This was the first surprisingly disturbing event. It was twisted and rather shockingly brutal and gory. Beth witnessed the event and had the makings of a strong, likeable heroine who thinks on her feet and wants to do something about the injustice. But she's caught and it all goes pear shaped.

 

Fast forward to modern day and in the same high school seventy years later, teens Michael and Pepper are hanging out. They're boyfriend/girlfriend, Michael's your average high school boy, Pepper is a feisty redhead with every redhead cliche. Something they poke fun at a lot in the book. This reader's eyes rolled a lot, but at least they seem to know its an overused cliche that redheads are temperamental and passionate and fiery etc. Michael wants to be a writer, he and Pepper run the school blog. He has a group of friends who seem like reasonably nice teens. Even if they do act dumb and say dumb things.

 

Then out of nowhere beautiful new girl Lizzy comes in. Michael is captivated by her right away noticing how pretty she is. Even though he sees her shoplift food from a grocery store and she knows his name before he's even introduced himself, he doesn't seem to see anything beyond how pretty she is. And suddenly, Lizzy is everywhere. Though weirdly enough has no contact info. No Facebook page, no phone, no email. No one knows where she lives or where her previous school was. Yet she waltzes around and inserts herself into Michael's group of friends.

 

No one seems to think this is weird. A terrible accident involving drinking and Snowmobiles is where things take a dark turn. Also, plotwise feels an awful lot like 'I Know What You Did Last Summer'. Something terrible happens but the kids cover it up. Then creepy phone calls start and Michael's friends start having horrible accidents. Its supposed to be scary and confusing but the dialogue in the phone calls is so ridiculous it just makes me snigger, along the lines of "you killed me and now every one of you is going to suffer terribly..." It just makes me think along the lines of "the call is coming from inside the house!"stupidity.

 

At least they finally have the sense to get the police involved, but as usual in this type of teen thriller, experienced law enforcement officers are useless and its up to Michael to figure it all out. But of course, that's sort of why as a reader, you tend to like this sort of thing, even if it is unrealistic and daft. Michael is zoning out by this point, and everyone else is finally clueing into the fact that there's something not right about Lizzy. Yet when Michael thinks on this, the sensible line of thinking he has goes right out the window when Lizzy mysteriously reappears.

 

It did have some fairly good moments while Michael figures out the truth about Lizzy and with Pepper's help finds the connection to the 1950s story at the start of the book. (It is very obvious, but whatever). The book was okay until this point. It wasn't the creepiest thing i've ever read, but certainly not one of the worst. It was fast paced and to be honest, once I started it was fairly impossible to put it down.

 

The end was so stupid though. Completely spoiled it for me. In fact, it knocked what would have been a three star book down to a 1 star rating. It was just absurd. Though the last page did give me a grin, so I bumped my rating up 1/2 a star.

 

Other than the end, a reasonably entertaining read.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for approving my request to view the title.

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