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text 2018-02-01 00:56
January in Review

January in Review

(Read: 5 / Reviewed: 9)

It's certainly been an interesting, if not a long, month! Phew, I thought January would never end! Fortunately I got through some great books and was able to write two reviews each week. This new routine really helped me stay on top of things. Let's take a look at all the bookish goodness, shall we?

Read

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Splatterpunk Fighting Back by (multiple) - This analogy has eleven individual stories written by different authors. Going in, I was only vaguely familiar with Duncan Ralston, having previously finished Woom. I never would've discovered this had it not been for Horror Aficionados on Goodreads, of who appointed it the January group read with author invite. I was lucky enough to ask some of the authors questions whilst trying to gain more insight into their brutal tales, and I had a blast! The best thing, though? All proceeds of this book go to charity! (Rated: 4/5)

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay - Another one I wouldn't have picked up if not for the Horror Aficionados group. Being the January group read, I was pleasantly surprised by this one! (Rated: 4/5)

The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter - I started this long-running series in 2011, and it's still ongoing. Whilst I really enjoyed it at the beginning, my enjoyment waned several instalments ago, however I can't just give up without finishing it, can I? Ludicrous! (Rated: 2/5)

What Hides Within by Jason Parent - I found this on Netgalley, and I'm glad I did! Bloodshot Books accepted my request, and I promptly read and reviewed it. (Rated: 4/5)

Morium by S.J. Hermann - I was requested to read and review this novel by the author. Being my last read of January, this one takes priority and will be the first review of February. See my request information here. (Rated: 3/5)

 

Reviewed 

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Blood Song by Cat Adams (WORST READ)
Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith
The Taste of Night by Vicki Pettersson
Stephen by Amy Cross
The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards
Blood Moon by Graeme Reynolds (BEST READ)
Woom by Duncan Ralston
What Hides Within by Jason Parent
Dark Space by Kevis Hendrickson

Other than that, January was a decent month for me personally. I'm enjoying reading more, getting out more, and generally trying to put more effort into my day-to-day life. I thank everyone who made this past month all the better, including the wonderful authors I had the chance to speak to! Here's hoping for a book-tastic February!

Red xx

Source: redlace.reviews/2018/01/31/january-in-review
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-11-28 13:00
Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith
Lockdown - Alexander Gordon Smith
Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alex Sawyer finds himself in Furnace Penitentiary; a pit in the ground, its sole purpose to cage away the youngest of offenders. The thing is, Alex may be a thief, and he may have broken the law, but he certainly doesn't belong in Hell. Facing a lifetime underground, of never seeing the sun again, Alex is determined to escape. Good thing he's made friends, for he'll need all the help he can get.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

This wasn't a bad book (the Escape from Furnace series is five instalments long); I actually quite enjoyed it on some level, however certain questions got in the way and became an obstacle I unfortunately couldn't bypass. Without sufficient world-building, I just couldn't fully appreciate the premise of the plot; it seemed too far-fetched to me, lacking in any form of realism. But this is a book, right? It doesn't need to be realistic, it's fiction, after all. Well, if a story's told correctly, if sense is made through the writing, then the author makes you believe, no matter if it's about elves and goblins or whatever else. Words are a tool to be used, to transport us to new worlds that in themselves need to work. This didn't work.

Sure, there was a bit of background on the world, and it touched upon why society believed it imperative to lock away children, but it was minimal and certainly not enough. Logic and reason just kept worming its way into my mind, asking why. Why create the most horrific prison for teenagers? Adults commit appalling crimes just as much, if not worse in comparison, yet this prison - this hell - isn't for them? Let's get the important facts out of the way, shall we?

- Each and every prisoner is there serving a life sentence. LIFE. I recall there being kids younger than fourteen.
- Inmates have zero rights. No visitation, no health checks, nothing regarding the law.
- They're killed and / or transformed into monsters regularly. Basically guinea pigs for the warden and his experiments.
- Oh, and they're all male. No females in sight. I can't say I agree with the exclusion, but I get this is supposed to be a book catered to young boys.

They're thrown away, forgotten about, and whilst I understand the "Summer of Slaughter" may have been a horrendous thing, the plausibility was severely lacking.

Moving on, before I just keep on repeating myself! Another thing that occurred to me throughout the chapters - this series is labelled as "young adult", however I found there to be sensitive material that younger readers could very well find disturbing; including the murder and abuse of minors. This isn't something that bothered me per say, but even I felt a chill or two down my spine at the horror elements Smith included with vivid description.

Despite my complaints and belief that it's extremely flawed, I didn't hate it. I kept wanting to read more, to see what would become of each and every character introduced. I found it interesting to read about Alex's range of emotions; from desperation, to fear, to that spark of hope. The place had an effect on the boy; weighing upon his shoulders until he felt he'd been trapped there a lot longer than the mere days in which was reality. Alex may have made mistakes throughout, but I found him likeable. He had spirit, and despite his mistakes in life, he had a good heart. He wasn't my favourite, though, as Donovan took that position. Older, more mature, he strived to take care of the group. I believed it was completely reasonable for him to question Alex's ideas, and for his mindset to be cynical. I actually felt something when he was taken - some sense of sadness.

Whilst some things got repetitive in regards to the writing (the same thing would be described in different ways, over and over, such as the voices of the "blacksuits"), it worked for me. A lot was able to be conveyed; the sheer ugliness of Furnace itself. The dogs, the "wheezers", and in general the frightening side of the plot, were all written superbly. I felt entertained until the very end, and the cliffhanger promptly made me buy the next one. I guess that was the intention!

In conclusion - I found it to be entertaining, however it failed in convincing me how Furnace could be allowed in any country. I'll be continuing on with the series, with the hopes of having a history lesson.

Solitary is the next instalment of this series, and was first published in 2009.

Notable Scene:

The monster was standing outside my cell, staring at me with eyes so deeply embedded in its shrivelled face that they looked like black marbles. The contraption that covered its mouth and nose was coloured with rust and verdigris, and this close I could see that the ancient metal was stitched permanently into the skin.

© Red Lace 2018

Wordpress ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter

 

Source: redlace.reviews/2018/01/05/lockdown-by-alexander-gordon-smith
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review 2017-08-21 00:07
Fall Into Darkness by Christopher Pike
Fall Into Darkness - Christopher Pike

Sharon McKay is on trial for her best friend Ann Rice’s murder. Never mind that there’s no body, no real witnesses, and no evidence. Sharon and Ann’s friends saw them hike up to the cliff that night and heard Ann scream “Don’t!” before she either fell or was pushed off the cliff. Everybody seems to be convinced that Sharon killed Ann.

Scenes of the trial from Sharon’s POV alternate between scenes prior to the accident/murder from Ann’s POV. What Sharon didn’t know was that Ann was obsessed. Ann’s brother, Jerry, had loved Sharon and had killed himself after their relationship ended. Ann blamed Sharon and wanted her to suffer. What better way to do that than frame her for murder, thereby ruining her bright future? (I’m sure you can think of better and less risky ways she could have gotten her revenge, but just roll with it.)

I loved Christopher Pike’s books when I was a teen. They haven’t held up quite as well for me now that I’m an adult, but I can understand why Teen Me loved them: they almost always have shocking revelations and riveting banana pants moments.

The first half of this book was a straightforward murder...story. I can’t really call it a mystery, because everything was laid out for readers to see: Ann’s motive, her plan, who she decided to involve. All of it by page 32. The main question seemed to be “Did Ann survive her regrettably complicated plan or not?”

However, I trust Pike to always find a way to complicate things, and about halfway through the book he did just that. Bad things happened during Ann's plan. A character I hadn’t paid much attention to did something unexpected. Yes! Great fun up ahead!

Except not so much. Honestly, this book could have used more banana pantsery. Pike used up what little there was too quickly and put everything out in the open too fast. The ending was just...boring. And a little too silly to take seriously. I couldn’t help but laugh at all the kiss-related dialogue at the end. Paraphrasing: “You’re a bad kisser!” “No, you are!” “That was the best kiss I ever had. Really!” Oh, just stop it.

I almost missed the epilogue because the last couple pages were slightly stuck together. If anything, the epilogue actually made things worse, adding “depressing” to “mediocre” in the list of words I’d use to describe this book. I was not a fan of the implication that Sharon might have to pay her lawyer back with sexual favors, or settle for a lesser lawyer. I suppose the “it’s going to cost you” could have been referring to money, but there were a few lines earlier on that suggested otherwise. In general, I’m not surprised that the ending was changed for the made-for-TV movie (although Wikipedia’s description of the changed ending makes it sound like more of a mess than an improvement).

One more thing: I imagine the courtroom scenes would make actual lawyers and judges cringe. I’m pretty sure that real lawyers can’t get away with telling objecting lawyers to shut up (yes, he actually said that out loud, but the judge was so dazzled by the story he was laying out that he didn’t say anything).

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-07-18 01:20
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Naturals - Jennifer Lynn Barnes

(Whoops, the character I kept calling "Derek" is actually named Dean. I think I fixed all the instances.)

 

The Naturals is YA Criminal Minds with some of the usual “secret school for special teens” mixed in. I read an ARC copy I picked up at a conference several years ago (yes, I'm terrible about reading ARCs, which is why I rarely request them).

When Cassie was 12, she entered her mother’s dressing room only to discover a bloody crime scene, but no body. Her mother's body and murderer (because how could she still be alive after losing that much blood?) were never found. Cassie is now 17 and living with her father’s family. She doesn’t feel like she fits in, but she also doesn’t want to be the focus of her family’s often overbearing love and concern.

Ever since she was little, Cassie has had a knack for noticing little details about people and figuring things out about them using those details. She used to use her ability to help her mother, who worked as a psychic. Since her mother’s death, she hasn’t used her skills for much beyond privately guessing things about customers at the diner where she works, so she’s both intrigued and suspicious when a handsome boy gives her an FBI agent’s business card.

The agent presents her with an offer she can’t resist: she can become part of his “Naturals” program, a team of teens with natural skills that take most adults years of training to learn. Because the program members are all minors, they only get to deal with cold cases, but Cassie still jumps at the chance to do something good and useful with her abilities. However, she and the other program members can’t resist getting more and more involved in a difficult, and possibly personal, active case.

Although this book made for smooth and easy reading, I felt like I’d already seen/read a lot of it before. The school-like setting and characters reminded me of books like L.J. Smith’s Dark Visions series and Kelley Armstrong’s The Summoning. As for the serial killer/criminal profiling aspects, I’ve already mentioned Criminal Minds, and one particular revelation probably won’t come as a surprise to fans of Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent books. Dean’s self-loathing and efforts to push Cassie away reminded me strongly of Stephenie Meyer’s Edward Cullen.

It wasn’t bad; it just didn’t feel terribly original. It didn’t really help that a lot of this book was geared towards setting the stage: introducing the characters, the lingo, and a little of the criminal profiling thought process. The really interesting stuff, the active case, didn’t come up until fairly late in the story.

Still, the Naturals and their abilities interested me. Lia was a natural liar and lie detector. Sloane was a walking collection of statistics who couldn’t help looking for patterns. Michael could read people’s emotions via tiny details in their body language and facial expressions. Dean, like Cassie, was a natural profiler. Sadly, because of the book’s first-person POV, only Dean and Cassie’s abilities received much detailed attention, and Lia and Sloane nearly faded into the background once the love triangle between Cassie, Dean, and Michael was introduced. This was especially awkward considering that Michael had an on-again, off-again relationship with Lia.

I’ll probably read the next book in the series at some point, but I sincerely hope that the love triangle either disappears or fades into the background a lot. It felt like the boys were snapping over Cassie like dogs over a bone. I got the impression that she was leaning more towards Dean, so the kissing scene with Michael near the end really bugged me - it was stupid and seemed entirely intended to add just enough fuel to the love triangle to make the collection of characters in the final showdown more possible. Here's hoping that future books also give Lia and Sloane more of a chance to shine. Sloane seemed sweet, in an awkward sort of way, and I really wanted Lia to be more than the snarky girl potentially standing between Cassie and Michael.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2016-05-17 12:06
Good Story and Characters
Chosen: Brink of Dawn (Young Adult Fantasy Thriller) - Jeff Altabef,Erynn Altabef,Lane Diamond,Whitney Smyth

Juliet/Jules left Arizona to find someone like herself . troy is her best friend and by her side. Then Juliet goes to an inn where she has been summoned to go. Juliet can hear people’s thoughts, read people’s emotions and she can possess animals for a short period of time. She also has increased strength and speed. She can also move things with her mind. Akara is good with a sword but rather use her power to create fire and comes from Japan and on her journey had to escape a seeker. Troy is with Juliet and helps her a lot but she has a problem expressing how grateful she really is. Stewart acts like the innkeeper but he is a strange person. Juliet finds out she and the other Chosen have to battle the Deltaite and restore the world to a normal state. There is also Blake who has a big heart and Connor who when you need him he is there. The four Chosen have to work out their own issues but also to stop fighting with each other. They also must face their flaws and overcome them.

This is a very good story , it is written in such a way it makes you feel like you are there with the characters. There is also a lot of action and mystery I liked that. But I do suggest you read the first book to this set as that just makes everything come together and a lot easier to understand. I loved the twists and turns in this story as well as the characters. I recommend.

I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.

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