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Review: The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant

The Wicked Awakening of Anne Merchant - Joanna Wiebe
(I received this title as an ARC from NetGalley)

In an effort to refrain from spoiling too much for you, I'll give you just the basics.

Anne is back on the island, back at the school, and face to face with a new headmaster who is scary as hell (no pun intended. Okay. Pun intended) but also, to Anne's extreme annoyance, devastatingly attractive. Things get weird when the charming, odd, headmaster takes a liking to Anne and asks to be her mentor. Like she has time to deal with another demon! She's already got her hands full trying to deal with Ben and his infuriating lack of will to survive the Big V.   With the fate of friends and foes resting uncomfortably in her hands, Anne has to get down and dirty to make sure that they all have a chance, especially Ben, no matter the consequences.

I read the first of the V trilogy books earlier this year, also as an ARC. My expectations were low for the first title, as I'd seemed to have had a string of so-so books right before then. After the first few chapters of "The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant", I guessed that I was in for a wild ride. I was not wrong.

When I got the chance to read this second book I wasted zero time. I expected this book to be as thrilling as the first, so it was no surprise that only the reality of 1am and an early morning the next day could force the book from my hands.

Intelligent, dark, and in some cases so disturbing or disgusting that I made faces my Mr. Darcy will not soon forget.

The meshing of mythology, philosophy, and the questions surrounding personal identity created a work that is thought provoking, entertaining, and creepy as an asylum basement.

There's a lot going on in this book, and I admittedly felt frustrated a few times with how slowly things are revealed to the reader, though most of it was well worth the wait, and the conclusion was a bit slapdash, but left plenty of space open for a third title.

I was a bit taken aback by how brutal this second book was, but the author made her points well and pushed the violence and sexuality just far enough make her point and have readers both grimacing and fanning themselves in intervals. 

An edgy, interesting, and compelling second book. Will definitely be reading the third.


Review: The Collector of Dying Breaths

The Collector of Dying Breaths: A Novel of Suspense - M.J. Rose

This work floored me.

I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting. Having never read any of M.J. Rose's works before, I believe I assumed from the synopsis and the cover that it was just another Romance novel with historical undertones and a bit of adventure to add some meat to the story.

There were, of course, Romantic elements that took up some huge real estate in the plot, but more than Romance there was an idea of loss, of accepting yourself and all of your personal oddities, of believing in something bigger than this single reality , and of realizing that there's always hope. Always.

This book was filled with complicated emotions, confusion about personal identity and self, and fear of accepting the unbelievable. I was overwhelmed with a sense of grief for the main character for nearly the entire first half of the book. M.J. Rose was so easily able to capture that intense sense of loss that one feels when someone they love is no longer there. Having experienced the grief of losing a loved one, as many readers will also have experienced, I could easily recall all of those emotions that the author mentioned in very vivid detail. I ached with and for Jac.

As a reader who flips through numerous books every month I find it very refreshing to get a hold of a book that is "intelligent". There's depth to this book, and things to be learned. I know very little about perfuming and, whether or not every aspect mentioned about the processes was accurate, I felt like I had learned something. I was curious. Fascinated. I wanted to learn more! The imagery was so rich, especially regarding the smells. I utilize essential oils on a daily basis and the scents that were described in the pages of this book called up some powerful memories. It was more than just saying "It smelled like this", M.J. rose created this incredible WORLD made of scents that created feelings and colors and sounds and memory.

I do have to say that there were a few parts of the book that went a bit slow. Also, by the time I was 70% though with the book and STILL had no idea what was going on, I was a little perturbed. I wasn't expecting to have everything given away all of the sudden, but I kept waiting for hints to be dropped that would help solve some of the mystery or build the suspense, and it never seemed to happen. More and more questions were being asked without answers to any of the previous questions. It made me a little anxious to finish, which I admit may have taken away some of the joy of reading towards the end because I was so ready to discover what was truly going on.

I also found the sexual tensions between characters to be more of a focus in many cases than the love they shared. The love aspects that were the most compelling were the love between a brother and sister, and the love between a mentor and student. I definitely appreciated the romantic love aspects, but felt those fell short in relation to the others in a few instances.

This work was vibrant, vivid, and absolutely fantastic. My brain didn't feel dull after reading it, which is how my brain usually feels after a Romance novel. Actually, I wouldn't call this a Romance novel. There was so much more to it than just that. I appreciate how love was represented in many more forms than just its Romantic identity. Included in this work was a nod to the love we feel for family, friends, and self. It was all there, making me think about and better appreciate the love in my own life.

This was a very enjoyable work. I will read more of M.J. Rose, and I would recommend her to others.

Review: "Asylum"

Asylum - Madeleine Roux

I wanted to absolutely love this book, I truly did. It was most certainly entertaining and it kept me reading late into last night and had me picking up my kindle first thing this morning. I was definitely drawn in, but I was disappointed by the ending which somewhat ruined the whole experience for me.

Not to say that I don't believe others will FLIP over this book. I can think of a few readers who would snap up this work and then talk about it... incessantly.... over the next few weeks.

Things I loved:

This books is most CERTAINLY creepy. I mean spooky to the point where I actually considered putting it down for the night or risk having bad dreams. I didn't listen to my own worries and read on until my eyes refused to cooperate a moment longer and demanded rest.

I did have nightmares last night as a result of reading the book. Nothing too horrifying, but I was forced out of sleep one or two times and I didn't exactly feel relaxed this morning upon waking.

The utilization of photographs in combination with the text WAS really hard hitting.

The author does an AMAZING job of setting everything up for one of the creepiest experiences you'll ever have reading a YA book.

I would not agree that this book is for fans of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children", as "Asylum" was much more disturbing and dark.

The author knows suspense. Absolutely. That tingly feeling you get when you know something's about to happen, but you're not sure what, and you're not sure you want to find out... readers will encounter that. Brilliantly done.

Things that rubbed me wrong:

The Images:

The pictures didn't always match the text. There were a few pictures randomly thrown in that I had to pause at and consider. "Does this have anything to do with what's going on right now?" When the answer was no, I skipped along and the creepy photo lost some of its punch due to its irrelevance.

Some of the images seemed manipulated. I was expecting every image in the book to be original and unaltered but I felt that there were a few that were altered in SOME form (even a miniscule one) to create a more startling effect. Feeling that I was looking at original images that had been faked up a bit for the shock or creepy factor took away from them somewhat.

The Ending:

Ghost story? Psych Thriller? I didn't know in the beginning and that was half the fun. As the book continued I settled in quite happily to the "Psych Thriller" aspect. What was real? What wasn't? Someone was crazy.... what was going on? I kept waiting for the answer. I was reading for the answer!

But wait... 85% through the book and suddenly.... it's ghosts? Or, hold on, some kind of metaphysical merging of energies? There wasn't enough information to explain what had happened or what was going on. I was left feeling thoroughly confused and not at all satisfied.

This was probably done purposefully as there's a second book in the series. What I'm saying is that the build up (the majority of the book) was phenomenal, but the climax and conclusions were somewhat of a let down.

At the same time "Occam's Razor" (mentioned in the book) may have been the moving force behind the somewhat simplistic ending explanations. Occam's Razor basically states that in the presence of exceedingly complex alternatives and possibilities, the simplest explanation is often the correct one. So... ghosts. Right? Wrong? I HAVE NO IDEA.

I'm just not so sure that (if it's meant to be a redirect to the original idea of Occam's Razor) readers would catch the connection or find it riveting enough for the feelings of "AHA!" to overshadow the disappointment of a somewhat dud conclusion.

Guess I'll just have to read the next one to find out what the heck is actually going on.....

Clever you Ms. Roux.

Review: "Fiendish"

Fiendish - Brenna Yovanoff

Not bad.

Unlike some of the complaints I've heard, I actually very much appreciated the personalities and dynamics of each character and feel like they didn't do too bad of a job reflecting the different elements each personality was supposed to represent.

Clementine was a decent heroine with a confusing past (if you can even call it a past) and an unsure future. Her mother is gone, her home is gone, nearly ten years of her life are gone and now she's come back to a brand new world and a brand new body to discover that, Other than her two childhood friends, no one seems to remember that she ever existed. Her world is unsure, strange, and a bit on the creepy side. A crazy man lives across the street, there's a "too magical for its own good" hollow just a few pastures away, and people seem to be pleased with themselves for hating her.

Some great inclusion (without being over the top) of "witchy" elements such as the 5 pointed star, what each point represents, and then the tarot deck. A bit of a grittier and less fantastical depiction of magic, or the "craft" as its called, without getting too outrageous.

A great depiction of how blind and ignorant hate can get people carried away to doing awful things.

Was hoping for something a bit more robust, and was interested in learning more about each of the "humors", how they effected their people, and what each individual was actually capable of all around, but it didn't expound on that. The author didn't go into much detail about the connection between Clementine and Fisher, either, though they dreamed about each other from a young age and for years.

Basically I would be expecting a second book, but I'm pretty sure this is a Stand-Alone, so I'm a bit disappointed not to get to learn more.

Review: "The Forbidden Library"

The Forbidden Library - Django Wexler

I was a bit disappointed in this book, though it's not bad at all (actually a good read) I was expecting a lot more. I'm very glad that our main character is a young girl who is pretty sure of herself and not all on about depending on others to help her figure herself out.

I wish there had been more going on with the Library itself. Everything was so dark and mysterious that I actually couldn't get a good minds eye view of what it looked like... it was just dark, dank, and full of bookshelves, and not even the intriguing kind.

I felt like this was more of a Middlegrade market, but it had YA elements due to some of its intense moments (drowning and otherwise killing mythical animals for example)

Really enjoyed the main character, and that cat. New twist on magical individuals being able to enter books.

This is definitely not a "feel-good" magic book. This is more of a "dark and not so sure I want this magic" magic book.

Bit of a confusing ending, not sure what's going on, and no hints as to what's going to happen next. Guess I'll have to read the next book to find out!

Next up!

The Dark Between - Sonia Gensler

This one's next on the list! 

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

The Stepsister's Tale - Tracy Barrett

Woo! Way better than I expected!!!

Reading progress update: I've read 26%.

The Stepsister's Tale - Tracy Barrett

Good so far bit a bit slow with getting to the point where events start actually converging into a forward moving storyline. Enjoying the new perspective on the Cinderella story and very anxious to see how it progresses! 

The Stepsister's Tale - Tracy Barrett

ARC- Just starting this one.

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

[ { HERO (WOODCUTTER SISTERS #2) } ] by Kontis, Alethea (AUTHOR) Oct-01-2013 [ Hardcover ] - Alethea Kontis

Done! And so unbelievably in love with these books I can't even get the proper words together!!! Full review to come. If you love Fantasy you MUST give this book a read!!!

Reading progress update: I've read 43%.

[ { HERO (WOODCUTTER SISTERS #2) } ] by Kontis, Alethea (AUTHOR) Oct-01-2013 [ Hardcover ] - Alethea Kontis

What?! I'm already nearly halfway done??? No no no! This book needs to be twice as long!  So absolutely wonderful! 

Reading progress update: I've read 44%.

Jane's Melody: A Novel - Ryan Winfield

Slow going. Not going to lie, I'm not a huge fan of contemporary romance and I'm really not feeling this one. I feel like I'm watching a very uninteresting life-time show. However, I'm not even half-way through yet so surely something interesting is about to happen. Surely.

Currently reading

The Dark Between by Sonia Gensler
Jane's Melody: A Novel by Ryan Winfield
Progress: 44%