ARC Review: No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear

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description

A gripping reimagining of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and the brutal murders that inspired it

November is usually quiet in Holcomb, Kansas, but in 1959, the town is shattered by the quadruple murder of the Clutter family. Suspicion falls on Nancy Clutter’s boyfriend, Bobby Rupp, the last one to see them alive.

New Yorker Carly Fleming, new to the small Midwestern town, is an outsider. She tutored Nancy, and (in private, at least) they were close. Carly and Bobby were the only ones who saw that Nancy was always performing, and that she was cracking under the pressure of being Holcomb’s golden girl. The secret connected Carly and Bobby. Now that Bobby is an outsider, too, they’re bound closer than ever.

Determined to clear Bobby’s name, Carly dives into the murder investigation and ends up in trouble with the local authorities. But that’s nothing compared to the wrath she faces from Holcomb once the real perpetrators are caught. When her father is appointed to defend the killers of the Clutter family, the entire town labels the Flemings as traitors. Now Carly must fight for what she knows is right.

review

**** Huge thank you to Soho Teen for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!****

Well I’m disappointed because I thought the idea of a retelling of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood sounds extremely creative, however, the execution just wasn’t on. It wasn’t as gripping and suspenseful as I would have liked.

PLOT

The story starts out right after the Clutter family was murdered and the main character, Carly, tries to come to terms with what happened. There are also multiple flashbacks to when Nancy Clutter was alive and the time Carly spent with her. I didn’t like the flashbacks because they weren’t distinguishable enough from the current timeline (aside from Nancy being alive) and just felt messy and confusing at times.

The pacing is also pretty slow throughout the story, as I mentioned already there really wasn’t a lot of suspense. So the pacing was off the entire time and the plotting wasn’t much better, it just felt like there wasn’t a point to the entire story. Carly spends the entirety of the story trying to “solve” the murders by making a series of bad decisions such as breaking and entering as well as contaminating a crime scene. Does that seem smart? No. Does that seem like it’s “helping” anything at all? No. And why? What was the point? She also managed to pull all of this off herself and with the aid of other teens and it was all extremely unrealistic.

On top of all of the bad decision making it just felt like Carly’s reasons behind her “investigating” were selfish. She was extremely focused on making the murders about herself and her friendship with Nancy, which was kind of annoying because it’s not all about you Carly!

Then the ending just felt very rushed and too convenient as well, like the author had to hurry up and finish the story in the last two pages and try and tidy it up. Which in the end just made it feel unsatisfying.

However, I did find the writing pretty enjoyable it kept me interested enough to finish the book after all. I also liked that the chapters were very, very short which also helped keep my attention. I do think Amy Brashear has a lot of potential though!

characters

As I already briefly mentioned I thought Carly’s character was a bit selfish and besides that she also has talent for making stupid decisions. There were times where I felt other characters treated her very poorly in which case she had some of my pity but overall I just didn’t care all that much about her. She was very underdeveloped and remained the same throughout the story, no character arc whatsoever.

There were quite a few other characters but no one was developed at all and everyone just felt very plain and one dimensional. I didn’t really care for any of them either. As for some of Carly’s “friends” such as Landry and Mary Claire they seemed to only show up when it was convenient for the plot and then just disappeared and ignored Carly afterwards. It was odd.

One thing about the characters that I did enjoy was the occasional historical figures that would pop up here and there, of course Truman Capote was one but also JFK as well.

romance

There was sort of some romance in the story and also kind of a love triangle? It, like many other parts of this book, was very underdeveloped. Carly seemed to have fallen for two different boys but it also never really seemed like she cared about either especially by the end of the story since she didn’t really end up with anyone. It was all sort of pointless.

in conclusion

Overall the writing and story were okay but mostly forgettable. As I mentioned earlier the premise sounded great but the execution just didn’t cut it.

What I Liked:

  • Decent writing and short chapters
  • Historical figures added into the book

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Plot and pacing were off
  • Carly constantly makes bad decisions
  • Underdeveloped characters
  • Rushed, abrupt ending
  • Friends conveniently showed up and then disappeared
  • Romance was underdeveloped as well

RECOMMEND

I can’t really say I’d recommend this one, unfortunately since the premise sounded really interesting but the story itself was not.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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ARC Review: The Devils You Know by M.C. Atwood

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description

Plenty of legends surround the infamous Boulder House in Whispering Bluffs, Wisconsin, but nobody takes them seriously. Certainly nobody believes that the original owner, Maxwell Cartwright Jr., cursed its construction—or that a murder of crows died upon its completion, their carcasses turning the land black. If anyone did believe it all, there’s no way River Red High would offer a field trip there for the senior class.

Five very different seniors on the trip—Violet, Paul, Ashley, Dylan, and Gretchen—have reasons beyond school spirit for not ditching the trip. When they’re separated from the group, they discover that what lies within Boulder House is far more horrifying than any local folklore. To survive, they’ll have to band together in ways they never could have imagined and ultimately confront the truths of their darkest selves.

review**** Huge thank you to Soho Teen for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! ****

Trigger Warnings: Racism, Homophobia, Victim Blaming, and Statutory Rape

Sadly I was more than a little disappointed with this book especially since I’m always up for YA Horror books! Unfortunately this isn’t really a horror book, in my opinion it’s exactly like “Night at the Museum” with slightly creepier things running around. I was expecting to be creeped out and scared a lot more than I was but it still managed to hold my attention for the most part, so there is something to be said for that.

PLOTThe story starts out pretty slow with the set up since we are introduced to each character through their own perspective, which got to be too much to keep track of at times but they did have their own unique voices so it was manageable. After the characters are FINALLY in the Boulder House things start to get a little more fast-paced and a little more interesting as well. They must all now work together in order to escape this house of horrors but may not be able to manage it since they are all harboring secrets they wish to remain hidden.

I thought the “secret” aspect to the plot was pretty interesting since a lot of these kids had some pretty odd secrets but this is where a lot of the trigger warnings I mentioned come into play: racism, homophobia, and the victim blaming/statutory rape (which was the worst one) and that’s why the kids chose to keep their secrets. I won’t spoil any of it but just know that the majority of the plot twists have these triggers in them and they can be a bit over whelming.

As far as the rest of the plot went I just felt like it was a mess, honestly what the heck was even going on? These kids went from room to room and everything got weirder and weirder as they progressed through the house! There’s whales, unicorns, centaurs, vicious angels, and all kinds of odd things that they come across. It just felt like the plot was “trying too hard” to be entertaining and it just came off being strange and messy.

Then there’s the writing….it felt really immature. Granted it is told from the perspectives of high schoolers and I’m sure Atwood was aiming for a younger crowd but it was just too much for me. The phrases “douchemunch”, “asstroll”, and “fuck-a-doodle-doo” show up way more times than I’d like to count, do people actually talk like this? It really got on my nerves while reading.

charactersThe characters are all high school students and all fit into various tropes: shy girl, popular/mean girl, goth girl and her boyfriend, and the jock. They all act accordingly as well, aside from their secrets but as I said I’m not spoiling them! Aside from the fact that they all couldn’t be more different they do try to stick and work together, which I liked since it would have been very infuriating for them NOT to in the situation.

I also liked the dash of diversity among the characters since we do have a lesbian character, bisexual character, and African-American character.

Other than that I didn’t really care about any of them and their dialogue and actions could get really annoying at times, as I mentioned when discussing the writing.

romanceAnother really messy aspect of the story: the romance. Every character got in on this too which is why it got to be too messy and too much overall.

There’s a couple that starts out a couple but one is bisexual and doesn’t care for their significant other anymore, one is secretly gay and has a crush on another character, one is head over heels for their significant other, and two other characters secretly have crushes on each other but won’t admit it.

Too messy, right? I thought so.

in conclusionMy thoughts on this book overall were that it was way too messy and I was very disappointed. However, I did finish reading it so points for that.

What I Liked:

  • Managed to hold my attention
  • Relatively fast paced
  • Bit of diversity in the cast of characters

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Plot was very messy and over the top
  • The writing and dialogue were very immature
  • Overly complicated romantic sub-plot

RECOMMENDThis just wasn’t my cup of tea and that disappointed me. There just weren’t enough horror elements for me to seriously consider this a horror book and everything was too messy and downright weird.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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ARC Review: The Empress (The Diabolic #2) by S.J. Kincaid

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****SPOILERS FOR “THE DIABOLIC” BELOW!****

description

It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?

review

**** Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!****

**** All of my reviews are spoiler free but if you haven’t read “The Diabolic” you may not want to continue. If you have read it then continue as you will not be spoiled here!****

Right when I didn’t think S.J. Kincaid could blow my mind any more, she did it again! I think it’s safe to say my mouth was open, jaw on the floor the entire time I was reading and that I’m also dying for the third book now. I NEED IT NOW! Prepare for a review that will probably mostly be me fangirling.

This review will be a bit shorter than usual since I don’t want to spoil anything but you can read my full review for “The Diabolic” here for a little more information!

PLOT

If you were worried, like me, that “The Diabolic” should have remained a standalone and the sequel wouldn’t live up to it: don’t be worried. I was very satisfied with this book and now I’m happy that it turned out to be a series because what would I do if I didn’t have more of Nemesis?! I think this one is equally as enjoyable as “The Diabolic” but parts also weren’t as great, however, seeing as how we really waste ZERO time setting anything up it was better in that sense. Kincaid throws us right into the nitty gritty immediately.

Extremely fast pacing, I’m talking about the kind of pacing where you can’t turn the pages fast enough to keep reading! I am a sucker for fast pacing and “The Empress” did not disappoint whatsoever, as I mentioned we are thrown into a breakneck speed at the start and it doesn’t let up until the last page. There wasn’t a single dull or boring moment!

And the twists! The twists! There are so many ridiculously good twists in this book and I fell for every single one! At one point during the story I think there were about 3 major twists on ONE PAGE. So yeah you definitely will not be bored with this book! There is a ridiculous amount of action and I felt so many emotions while reading, mostly I got so enraged by the antagonist that I wanted to crawl into the book and pummel him…but hey that’s how you know they’re doing their job and the author is a fantastic writer!

I also really, really enjoyed that Kincaid expanded a lot more on the world building for this series, seeing as how in “The Diabolic” we didn’t get much. It’s definitely really interesting and also a bit of a shocker too!

If you’re a fan of political intrigue, you’ll definitely love this. Trust me. Trust me!

Kincaid’s writing packs the usual punch, and by that I mean it was fantastic and made me an emotional roller coaster the entire time I read this book.

Also that cliffhanger ending will destroy you so be prepared!

characters

Really the only characters I continued to love were Nemesis and Tyrus and that’s simply because they’re really the only characters with any substance. They’re complex and develop A TON during the course of this story and really learn their limits. They both continue to be badasses out smarting everyone, which is all I will say!

There were a couple other secondary characters that were okay and came into the story a couple of times but they weren’t very complex or developed, in my opinion. Still they were there and definitely progressed the plot…..a lot.

The antagonist was pretty dang good though too in the sense that I wanted to choke them out the entire time…..just means they were well written because that’s what the author wanted you to think!

romance

I burn. I pine. I perish for this romance! I will always and forever be a big fan of Nemesis/Tyrus especially since I’ve been rooting for them since “The Diabolic” so of course their wonderful romance continued on in this book and made my heart happy.

in conclusion

Overall, I was very impressed with this sequel! Usually sequels, specifically in trilogies, suffer from middle book syndrome in which they really drag on and are mostly there to set up the last book. However, “The Empress” suffered no such syndrome! It packed a huge punch and still managed to set up the last book magnificently!

What I Loved:

  • Can I say literally everything?
  • Twists and political intrigue
  • Fast pacing, non stop action!
  • Great writing
  • Great main characters
  • The romance
  • Did I mention plot twists?
  • Great additional world building

What I Didn’t Love:

  • I kind of wish the secondary characters were a bit more important, but they did serve their purpose! (hence the 4.5 instead of full 5 star rating)

RECOMMEND

If you read “The Diabolic” and enjoyed it but aren’t sure if you want to read the sequel…do it. Just do it! It’s fantastic and I promise you, you will not be disappointed!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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ARC Review: Gray Wolf Island by Tracey Neithercott

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Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.

review

**** Thank you to Random House Children’s for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review ****

I was absolutely blown away by how much I ended up enjoying this book, it was not what I was expecting at all in the best way! I’ll be giving it an odd rating at 4.5 stars because I loved it but for some reason it still isn’t a five star read for me.

PLOT

“Gray Wolf Island” is so much more than a tale of friends going to find a long, lost buried treasure, so, so, so much more! This is a very character driven book that focuses on the character’s self discovery, forgiveness, and coming to terms with their problems but still has a strong plot as well full of twists and adventure. It also has a very magical realism feel to it, there are certain elements of the story that are..well… magical. I loved it I thought it added so much atmosphere to the story and overall made it so much more fun.

The pacing should have been slower considering, as I mentioned, it’s more of a character driven book but it never felt like it was slow or dragging on at all. There was always something happening and always something to look forward too, plus there are some fantastic twists at the end of the story that you will not see coming at all!

The story is also told in two different perspectives one being Ruby the main character and the other being a strange boy who woke up on Gray Wolf Island with amnesia. I really enjoyed reading through both POVs as they were both interesting and important to the plot, I also thought the boy’s perspective added a lot of mystery to the overall atmosphere too.

One thing about the plot that bothered me slightly is that I felt the conclusion was a bit confusing and not really explained, which since it’s magical realism I can see why leaving it a mystery makes sense though. There were also a couple of plot holes with the character’s backstories but that’s all that bothered me.

Neithercott’s writing is also another amazing part of reading “Gray Wolf Island” it’s beautiful and lyrical which is perfect for the type of atmosphere she created for this story. Pretty writing and magical realism go hand in hand in my opinion. This felt similar to “The Raven Boys” and “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” so I would say if you enjoy Steifvater and Taylor’s writings you may enjoy this one as well.

It really is such a beautiful, heart-breaking story and prepare to get emotional!

characters

As I mentioned the characters are the most important part of this book and they were all wonderful, seriously all of them! Every character was complex and well developed, they overcame many things and changed over the course of the story. They were all truly fantastic and I loved all of them.

Ruby is the main character and one of the POVs, the whole reason she is undertaking this quest to find the treasure is that it was her sister’s dying wish. She keeps her secrets and feelings close to home and is trying to find herself as she moves on from her sister’s death. I really adored Ruby I thought she was a very complex  protagonist and she was actually pretty witty at times as well.

Elliot is a part of an old family that has been hunting the Gray Wolf Island treasure for generations and insists on helping Ruby find it. He’s very intelligent but tries playing “the bad boy”. He’s also a love interest for Ruby and I honestly shipped them so hard! Elliot was a great character, I adored him.

Then we have Gabe (Gabriel) who is the son of a virgin mother and the townspeople think him either a demon or divine claiming he has cursed them or helped heal them on different occasions. He’s very suave but there’s a lot more to him than he shows on the outside.

Charlie is the daredevil, fun loving character who likes to live every day as if it’s his last, which it may very well be since Charlie had a premonition of his own death when he was younger.

Lastly there’s Anne who doesn’t sleep, ever. She’s a very dreamy, eccentric girl but is more than excited to go on an adventure and make some friends.

All of these characters bond and create some very lasting friendships as they quest for their treasure. I loved how positive the friendships were portrayed as well.

romance

There is a bit of a side romance between Elliot and Ruby but I was secretly rooting for it the entire time, they were adorable! I also liked that it was slow burn and didn’t take over the plot whatsoever.

in conclusion

Overall I really did love this book so much, the plot was engaging, and I was 100% invested in the characters.

What I Loved:

  • The atmosphere with underlying bits of magical realism
  • Dual POVs that really added to the mystery of the plot
  • Good pacing
  • Fantastic plot twists
  • Beautiful, lyrical writing
  • Absolutely fantastic, complex cast of characters
  • I shipped the romance and it was slow burn!

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Some confusing elements of the story
  • Couple of plot holes with the character’s back stories

RECOMMEND

I highly recommend checking this book out, I thought it was just beautiful and very well done. If you want a good adventure/coming of age type of story then check this one out! I also recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of “The Raven Boys”.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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Book Review: Shutter (Shutter #1) by Courtney Alameda

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Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

reviewThis is a bit tough to rate because I did really enjoy this book but there were a lot of parts where I felt really bored and had to kind of force myself to read. So a middle rating is kind of perfect!

Trigger Warning: Physical Abuse/Child Abuse

PLOT

The cover on this is actually a little misleading as you would think it was a horror book when really it’s just kind of an urban fantasy featuring paranormal/supernatural creatures. There wasn’t anything super creepy or horrifying about it which, in my case, was slightly disappointing since I wanted to be scared out of my mind but that’s okay it was still pretty interesting. Was it completely non-creepy? No, there were a few parts that were awesomely creepy but I wouldn’t say this book is really scary.

I really loved the world building in this book and I was not expecting there to be any but it was a pleasant surprise. “Shutter” is set in a world where the existence of supernatural creatures is public knowledge and the descendants of the characters in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”, including Stoker himself, fight these creatures. It’s pretty badass and being the fan of “Dracula” that I am I was in love with all of the references! Unfortunately it was a lot to take in at first since there is quite a bit of info-dumping at the beginning of the story.

The pacing was pretty fast and full of action throughout most of the book but there were also quite a few parts that got really bogged down and I’m not sure why. It would just slow down a ton and I’d have to force myself to read through which wasn’t fun.

As for the plot itself it just kind of felt a little lacking? Plus the twists were utterly predictable and I was not surprised at all when they came to light because I’d guessed them right away, which isn’t any fun. I hate when things are predictable!

The ending is left with quite a few things unresolved leaving the way open for a sequel but one that I don’t think we are going to get. The ending also felt pretty rushed and big plot elements were kind of quickly resolved but not really in a satisfying way, in my opinion. It was all a little abrupt.

Alameda’s writing was pretty decent as well and a little heavy on the metaphors at times but I enjoyed it, looking forward to whatever else she’ll write up!

One last thing about the “plot related story elements” though, as you can see in the trigger warning I listed above there is an instance of physical abuse from a parent towards a child (teenager but legally still a child). I don’t like how it was skated over and the character didn’t want to mention it ever and deal with it even though it was child abuse, I also don’t like how easily the parent was forgiven.

characters

The characters were just kind of “meh” in which I mean I didn’t really love them or hate them. They were all kind of likable enough and there’s no denying that they’re good at their jobs which is pretty badass. However, I kind of felt like no one was really developed or complex and the characters didn’t really change at all throughout the story, at least not with reason.

There’s Micheline (the MC), Ryder, Oliver, and Jude that make up our main ghost butt kicking squad. Ryder is the love interest and honestly he’s just kind of there for that reason alone and never really grows as a character, boring and I didn’t get what was so great about him. Jude is extremely sexist and kind of annoying, also he “changes” by the end of the story but there really is nothing to justify why he did which annoyed me. Oliver was my favorite character but guess what? Hardly any “page time” for him which was a disappointment.

As for Micheline, our protagonist, I didn’t really think much of her at all, she wasn’t a terrible character but she was pretty self-absorbed and I didn’t like that. She runs headfirst into danger thinking only of how great it will be for her to exorcise this ghost and be the hero and instead she gets her team into a life threatening situation. Yeah, not my favorite kind of character.

There are a few side characters such as Micheline’s dad Leonard Helsing, Oliver’s dad Dr. Stoker, Father Marlowe, and Damien Drake which they were all pretty interesting in their own way and I would have liked to have learned a bit more about each of them. Especially Damien Drake who seems like a total badass and I would have liked to have learned more about his and Jude’s strange powers. That would have been awesome!

romance

The romance was another “meh” aspect for me. I liked that it was sort of a forbidden romance because that’s the one romance trope that I really enjoy but it just didn’t feel like there was any chemistry between the characters. It was kind of romance for the sake of romance. On the plus side the romance never takes over the plot and it’s more on the side lines which I appreciated.

in conclusion

Overall as I mentioned earlier there were both pluses and minuses to this book and I did enjoy it for the most part, it was definitely entertaining.

What I Loved:

  • Mostly fast pacing
  • Plenty of action
  • Great world building
  • Characters were okay
  • Good writing
  • “Dracula” references!

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Pacing slowed down in some parts
  • Not as creepy as I would have liked
  • Predictable twists
  • Rushed ending
  • Self absorbed main character

RECOMMEND

I would recommend this book if you’re looking for something slightly on the creepy horror side but you don’t want the crap scared out of you, it’s full of ghosties but wasn’t terrifying! I also recommend checking this one out if you’re a “Dracula” fan, like myself, because the references made reading through a lot of fun!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository / Book Outlet

The Sassy

ARC Review: This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis

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Sasha Stone knows her place—first-chair clarinet, top of her class, and at the side of her oxford-wearing boyfriend. She’s worked her entire life to ensure that her path to Oberlin Conservatory as a star musician is perfectly paved.

But suddenly there’s a fork in the road, in the shape of Isaac Harver. Her body shifts toward him when he walks by, her skin misses his touch even though she’s never known it, and she relishes the smell of him—smoke, beer, and trouble—all the things she’s avoided to get where she is. Even worse, every time he’s near Sasha, her heart stops, literally. Why does he know her so well—too well—and she doesn’t know him at all?

Sasha discovers that her by-the-book life began by ending another’s: the twin sister she absorbed in the womb. But that doesn’t explain the gaps of missing time in her practice schedule or the memories she has of things she certainly never did with Isaac. As Sasha loses her much-cherished control, her life—and heart—become more entangled with Isaac. Armed with the knowledge that her heart might not be hers alone, Sasha must decide what she’s willing to do—and who she’s willing to hurt—to take it back.

review

**** Big thank you to Katherine Tegen Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! ****

Trigger Warnings: Graphic description of injuries, medical procedures, and health issues.

I really don’t know how to rate this book because while it was still interesting I’m left feeling a little disappointed with it. I also just had some very personal issues with some of the content (which I will go into detail about below) so I’m left giving it a rating of 2.5 because I neither strongly liked or strongly disliked this book.

PLOT

I’d like to first go out on a limb and say this book really, really wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I was expecting something with a little more suspense and thriller style twists to it, but what I got was a pretty predictable plot line and a very unlikable main character. There is a bit of a twist half way through and the story takes a turn but it wasn’t very shocking and I really disliked the second half of the story because it was super slow.

The pacing was pretty even throughout the beginning of the book and I kept reading wanting to know more about Sasha’s situation but as I mentioned previously there’s a twist half way through that made the story take a bit of a dive as far as pacing goes. I thought it was considerably slower and even pretty boring all the way through to the end.

There’s hardly any plot twists which was really disappointing for a mystery/thriller and the big plot twist that makes up the entire story is very predictable and not at all a surprise. Also disappointing. I was expecting there to be a lot more shockers than that. PLUS a lot of stuff is given away in the synopsis! I hate that!

I do really like unreliable narrators and in this case the story was pretty good since Sasha is a very unreliable narrator. She actually makes the story very dark as her character flaws come to the light and we don’t know what to believe. That’s part of why I enjoyed the story and was able to finish it.

However, as much as I love an unreliable narrator and a dark plot the book actually got really, really…….weird. Usually I love weird but with this I just felt super confused and I finished the book thinking “What the hell did I just read?” and not really in a good way. I enjoy a good open ended book but with this ending I felt like a bit more explanation or plot development would have done it a lot of good. The only comprehensible thought I have on the ending of this book is it’s WEIRD.

The writing was really great though and I found it to be extremely readable, honestly it was probably one of the reasons I was able to read this through to the end. I will definitely be checking out McGinnis’ other books just for more of her writing.

Last but not least I’d like to address one of my biggest issues with this book which also happens to be a personal issue of mine. This may or may not affect your reading of this book but I’d like to throw it out there and that has to do with the trigger warning I listed at the start of this review:

I have anxiety and a big part of my anxiety is linked to my health (i.e. hypochondria) and therefore I cannot stand reading about or listening to in depth descriptions of health issues or medical procedures because it triggers my anxiety. “This Darkness Mine” really goes into great description of these things and it becomes a major part of the plot, if I had known this ahead of time I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read the book since reading through this triggered my anxiety to the point where I had to stop reading at times. This is a big part of why I didn’t rate this book higher, it’s a personal issue I understand but one I wanted to warn others about as well.

characters

The characters in this book are another drawback for me, while I liked that Sasha (the MC) was an unreliable narrator making the story a bit more interesting, she was extremely unlikable. We’re talking a downright crappy person and it was frustrating to read through and listen to her say rude things to and about people. I understand that these things were Sasha’s character flaws and were there to drive a point home about her and none of these things were portrayed in a positive way. However, this didn’t make me enjoy her any more.

There were actually quite a few side characters that I liked such as Sasha’s friend Brooke and Isaac who is the love interest. I thought Brooke was hilarious and her bits were worth reading and Isaac was actually such a sweetheart and I feel terrible about some of the things that happen to him.

romance

While I really liked Isaac and I wanted him to be happy I just felt that Sasha treated him like crap, plain and simple. It definitely isn’t a healthy or positive relationship but McGinnis doesn’t glorify this at all which I liked. Neither Isaac nor Sasha are physically or verbally abusive to one another but I just feel like it’s still unhealthy because of the way Sasha negatively treats him at times.

in conclusion

As I said there are a lot of mixed feelings on this book because while some things worked a lot of them didn’t for me.

What I Loved:

  • Unreliable narrator, dark atmosphere
  • Writing
  • Side Characters

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Slow pacing in second half
  • Predictable
  • Plot is given away in synopsis
  • Weird….just downright weird plot
  • Unexplained, confusing ending
  • Trigger Warning Material
  • Unlikable main character
  • Negative romance

RECOMMEND

I’d recommend reading this only if you like unreliable/unlikable main characters, strange plots with open endings, and if you aren’t triggered by anything I mentioned in the warnings. Otherwise I’d steer clear of this one.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

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Book Review: Mary: The Summoning (Bloody Mary #1) by Hillary Monahan

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There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her. Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them–Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna–must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go. A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: ‘Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY.’ A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror. Once is not enough, though–at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary’s wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered. A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary–and Jess–befo…

review

I honestly had to really sit and debate over what I wanted to rate this because while there were some things I didn’t like I really did enjoy this book. So instead of a 3 or 3.5 rating I’m just going to round it all the way up to a solid 4 because this book was FUN and definitely entertaining!

Just a word of warning though: Don’t read this in the dark or alone!

PLOT

This is actually very fast-paced and there is no messing around setting up the story for Bloody Mary in the beginning, Hillary Monahan wasted no time throwing us right into the nitty gritty! I thought the pacing kept up throughout the entire book as well with barely a moment’s rest, the characters were pretty much under constant attack by Mary. Plenty of excitement and scares, that’s for sure!

The plot mostly focuses on the summoning of Bloody Mary, the haunting of the girls, and the girls trying to defeat her for good. There’s plenty of action and scares that will keep you on the edge of your seat too! Plus there’s a pretty good twist towards the end of the book as well that just adds to the overall thrill factor. However, the plot doesn’t have as much “oomph” as I would have liked but that could be being saved for the sequel maybe.

Let me just say that I thought the book had some VERY creepy and scary scenes as well, I was pleasantly surprised! This book really passed my expectations on all fronts but especially on that one, I’m glad it was scarier than I anticipated! Although I will say in order to scare me all you have to do is have something scuttling and doing that creepy disjointed crawling and I’m done for (which ended up happening)! I think Monahan did such an amazing job writing and describing Mary and each creepy scene in great detail, and to make a book scary it really is in the details.

The only thing I had a slight problem with was the characters making some dumb decisions, such as investigating an abandoned building at night alone. Dumb. However, I will say that for the most part the characters were actually pretty smart especially considering the fact that they’re a group of teenage girls in a horror book! Plus this quote pretty much explains away any irrational decisions because it makes perfect sense:

“In the past, when I watched horror movies because I thought being scared was fun, I always got angry at the characters whose hands shook so badly they dropped the car keys when the monster was chasing them. If someone wanted to survive, she would keep it together long enough to get away. Now, standing in the locker room like a frightened lamb, I understood. Fear shut my body down…”

Also that ending was such a cliffhanger, it’s not fair! I need the next book immediately!

characters

I actually really liked the characters in this book and as I said while they did make some questionable decisions they were all pretty smart about their ghost situation for the most part.

Shauna and Kitty both came full circle throughout reading and I thought their characters developed well. Anna was okay as well but she didn’t really come into focus all that much and Jess didn’t change at all. I also just despised Jess’s character in general since it was her who insisted on summoning Mary in the first place! She was a great character for furthering the plot though, I will give her that.

Then I suppose there’s Bloody Mary herself and she was fearsome to behold let me tell you! As I mentioned earlier Monahan did a fantastic job describing Mary in great detail and she was terrifying! I also really enjoyed digging into Mary’s past as well, the background on her character was interesting.

romance

There is a bit of a side romance between Kitty and another character but it’s not a main focus at all in the story. Other than that there is zero romance which is nice not only for a YA book but also a horror in general!

in conclusion

Overall this book definitely isn’t perfect by any means but it’s fun, scary, entertaining, and great for reading this time of year!

What I Loved:

  • Plenty of creepy and scary scenes
  • Fast pacing
  • Great writing with lots of detail
  • No romance

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Plot needed a little more attention
  • Characters made questionable decisions

RECOMMEND

I highly recommend checking this book out if you’re a fan of horror or looking for a fun, scary book to read for Halloween! Otherwise if you don’t like being scared maybe skip this one!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository / Book Outlet (Best Deal)

The Sassy