Goodreads Review: Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

I finished this book during my recent trip up north to the Minnesota Yarn Shop Hop for some hardcore yarn shopping and friend time. You know it’s a good weekend when you get to chill with cool people, buy a ton of yarn, and finish a good book. This one reminds me of my mom, but only because it reminds me of Val McDermid’s crime novels, and my mom got me hooked on those. I think she’ll really enjoy this one. My mom, I mean. Not Val McDermid. Though maybe Val will enjoy it too. The book comes out on June 2, 2015, so put in a request at your local library. 

Eeny Meeny (Helen Grace,#1)Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Mystery/crime drama isn’t my first choice of genre, but the premise of Eeny Meeny intrigued me, so I requested it and am so glad I got approved.

It starts with a young couple, then a pair of work associates, then a mother and daughter – people are disappearing in twos. Days later, one of them emerges, starved and sick. During their captivity, the victims are given a gun and a choice: shoot the other and be set free or die a slow, painful death from starvation. It falls to Helen Grace and her team to solve the mystery and apprehend the criminal. Pretty straightforward, right?

There were a lot of things that made this book enjoyable for me. I tend to give simplified plot synopses anyway, but in this case I’m doing so because I don’t want to give too much away. However, the writing and plot were solid. The author details the captivity of the victims in horrific detail (some of that detail made me uncomfortable, which raises its “awesome” factor) but not so much that the story drags. It keeps its pace with the main plot and the side plots of which there are a few, all of which intertwine through the main story with ease.

The characters were great. Helen Grace is a strong female character, but she’s also strongly damaged and comes with some painful quirks. The side characters, while taking a backseat to Grace and those involved in the crimes, are given their own personalities and lives that emerge throughout the book. By the end, I had a sense that I knew them, was involved with them, and even shattered with the ones who get dealt the trauma. My investment in this group was worth it…the payoff at the end of the book is good and sets things up for more in this series.

The writing was strong and the story well-paced. There were only two things I took issue with. The first was in the formatting more than the writing. There were no breaks when the scene shifted, so it was sometimes hard to easily discern when the setting and characters had changed. However, I think that was more an ARC format problem than a problem with the author’s presentation.

The second thing was the weirdly added romantic/sexual aspect to the story. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and I had to go back to make sure I hadn’t missed a chapter or two leading up to when it starts. As someone who loves a good romance and tends to prefer romantic interludes in all the books I read, I actually didn’t feel like this one was needed. It seemed a little forced and out of place, though not jarring enough to throw the whole story off.

If you like crime novels, definitely give this one a try. It reminded me of Val McDermid’s novels, and that’s a good comparison. Helen Grace could be the new favorite read of gritty/graphic crime lovers.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Review: Last Kiss

I have been reading like a mad woman lately, and so I haven’t been spending time on writing or knitting. And while that’s okay, I really need to try to get some projects finished, including a couple gifts before my trip to Michigan in June. However, between book blogs and podcasts, NetGalley, and opportunities to read great books like this one, it’s really hard to tear myself away from my e-reader. Reader problems, I guess. This one was so good, and I’m thinking about using the other books in the series as incentives to get back into a routine and start getting my self back on track. 

Last Kiss (Hitman, #3)Last Kiss by Jessica Clare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ARC for an honest review. Minor spoilers below.

To prove he can lead his Bratva, Vasily enlists the aid (i.e., kidnaps) a computer hacker known as the Emperor to help him find a painting. The Emperor is Naomi, a young woman with Aspergers, who is brilliant, self aware, and seems to take no issue with Vasily’s profession or the bodies he leaves behind (don’t worry…they’re all bad guys).

I’ve been pondering reading the Hitman series for awhile, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be something I’d enjoy. I was excited to get a chance to read this one, the third in the series (it can be read as a standalone), and I confirmed that I definitely need to read the others.

The plot is full of hitman/assassination action, but it’s balanced perfectly with the romance between Vasily and Naomi. The start had me a little worried, as Vasily comes across as extremely cold-blooded, but the plot reveals so many interesting things, and it doesn’t do it all at once…it spreads it out over the whole narrative. The pacing is good, and I never felt a place where there was a lull in action. There were a few places where I thought there were continuity errors, but I was consuming this book, and I might have just missed some details.

Vasily and Naomi are high on the list of my favorite couples. Vasily is cold, but he has his reasons to be. Naomi understands her autism and is frustrated by it, but she continues to be who she is, and though she’s hurt by the unkind words of others, she also knows what she’s good at (hacking computers). The interactions between them go from sweet to sexy and back. I think one of the reasons I loved these two is that Naomi understands that people find her weird. She doesn’t like it, but she knows what it is, whereas Vasily only comes to terms with his own quirks after being around her. He also seems like a contradiction…a ruthless killer who accepts Naomi for who she is and even starts to adore her for it.

Romance Factor is a serious 4/5 on this one with a few Heart Feels and Aw Moments. Their relationship wasn’t quick, starting out as mutual lust. The way it developed between them and then developed them each as a character was very well written. The Sex Factor gets a 5/5. This one doesn’t let up, but neither is it overpowering to the story. Be warned though…there are sexual themes in this book that are not of the romantic kind. They are few and far between, but they’re there and they add to the mood of the story, which is dark and dangerous (and sad).

There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about this book, but I will say that while things in the present end well, the book doesn’t give everyone a bright future. I thought this would disturb me more, but it fits with the somber tone of the story, and really, it just means the authors have to write more so I can read more. I’m excited to read the first two in the series now. If you like graphic, dark, Stockholm Syndrome type stories, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Review: Love on the Ledge

Usually when we go out of town, I don’t get to read much, but this weekend was an exception. We visited my in-laws near Wichita, and they’re pretty low-key. Also, I tend to let J go do stuff with his brother while I take some downtime, so after we watched the new Avengers movie, they went gaming and I went back to the house to read (btw, Avengers was awesome!). This was one of the books I finished. This one comes out in just a couple days, and while it wasn’t one of my favorites, it wasn’t bad. It also seems to have some really good reviews over on Goodreads, so give it a shot. And if you’ve read the first one in the series, let me know how it stacks up. 

Love on the Ledge (On the Verge #2)Love on the Ledge by Zoraida Córdova

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review will contain minor spoilers.

After catching her long-term boyfriend cheating on her, Sky quits her job and returns home, using the planning of her uncle’s wedding to distract herself and figure out what she wants the next step of her life to be. This proves difficult, however, with a mother who wants her to date a plastic surgeon, a bunch of meddling family members, a jealous cousin, and a friend who is in desperate need of rehab. On top of that, her ex won’t stop calling, the plastic surgeon won’t leave her alone, and she’s afraid to let herself pursue the guy who really does it for her…Hayden, the roofer who literally fell through the roof while she was trying on her bridesmaid dress.

I found the first part of the novel boring, but it got better when I started reading it as woman-finding-herself novel instead of a romance novel. Because while there is a touch of romance here, the first part of the book is Sky dealing with her own issues, mourning her lost relationship, and trying to get her head and emotions together. The romance is kind of an afterthought. Once I stopped waiting for the romance, I found that it read well, though the end turned into kind of a jumble of thrown-in minute conflicts. I like there to be romantic conflict, but other than two minor issues between the main characters, there was very little.

While Sky is fun and Hayden is likable, I wasn’t feeling the chemistry between them. The meddling/disapproving family trope is one that always carries with it some of the worst secondary characters, and this was no exception. The mother’s actions are justified with “she just wants what’s best for her daughter,” but that doesn’t make her any more likable. While Sky’s friends are better and more willing to accept what Sky wants, the one friend is a hot mess. I have a feeling this might have been a set up for a later novel? I didn’t care much for her. The ex and the plastic surgeon are complete jerks, which serves to highlight how great a guy Hayden is, which is fine, but again, I prefer there to be a little bit of romantic conflict to build up some sexual tension, and there was none of that.

Romance Factor gets a score of 2/5. There was no romantic conflict, not enough romantic chemistry between the characters, and only a secondary relationship story. The romance was there, it just wasn’t enough to make me feel warm and fuzzy. The Sex Factor gets a 3/5, because while not very frequent, the author didn’t shy away from detail when there was detail to be told.

Overall, I liked the story, but there was one part I really didn’t like. Sky has an unsettling run-in with one of her pursuers, one that involves her getting physically hurt. Yet later, instead of telling her mother what happened and insisting she not be put into a dangerous situation again, she says nothing and goes along with what her mother wants. It drove me nuts to read about someone acting like that sort of behavior could be easily overlooked and handled with no further repercussions.

This book is technically well-written, with good dialogue and good flow, though the romantic pacing seemed a little unsure of itself. It was good for a light and quick read.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Review: Everly After by Rebecca Paula

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I managed to finish three books, all of them for NetGalley. Of the three, this one was probably my favorite. It reads like a romantic indie film, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s a little bit darker than most of the romances I read, and it draws attention to mental illnesses like depression and PTSD. It’s not erotic, but the writing is sensual. 

Everly AfterEverly After by Rebecca Paula

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for a review.

This novel was not what I was expecting. I expected a light contemporary romance. What I got was something darker and sadder than I’d been prepared for. In truth, I think the romance aspect took a backseat to a story of a man and women dealing with different mental illnesses and how those illnesses came into play during their relationship.

The writing was really good, and the word that springs to mind is “sensual.” The author uses every sense to describe what’s going on. Because of the detail she puts into these scenes, the story moves slow enough to indulge the reader, but for the most part, it was paced well. At times, the writing and the scenes were also gritty, with just enough detail to paint a dark, sad picture without going overboard into detail, another writing technique that I enjoy.

The characters are flawed, at times likable and at other times really annoying. I thought Everly’s character was slightly cliched at first, as the broken party girl who shows a quirky side when she’s sober. Later, she made me angry in her choices to pull away from Beckett and to keep returning to the party life. However, my reaction to them has no bearing on the fact that they were still realistic. I liked that there was some expression of their mental illnesses and how it affected them and those around them. Those parts felt especially real and were very poignant.

Towards the end, the pacing seemed to change a bit and things seemed to drag. I felt that some of the end scenes were a little scattered, and though I think their purpose was to draw attention to the relationship Everly had with her parents, some of those could have been taken out.

That was a fairly minor detail, though, in what was otherwise a good book. Even though it wasn’t a feel good novel, it was still enjoyable and ended on a note of hope and optimism. I think the author is a solid writer, and I’d like to read more novels by her in the future.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Burning (by Jane Casey)

If you’ve ever seen “Wire in the Blood” or read the book series the show was based on, the Maeve Kerrigan series reminds me of those. Granted, I’ve only read this one, but I kept going back to those. Having said that, this one stood on its own as an entertaining novel, so while there are similarities, don’t let those dictate your decision to read…or not to read…this. 

The Burning (Maeve Kerrigan, #1)The Burning by Jane Casey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Someone recommended the Maeve Kerrigan series to me awhile back, but I already had a long reading list. So when this one came available for me on NetGalley, I only realized after I started it that it was the series a fellow reader had said was good.

In this first book of the series, Maeve Kerrigan is trying to find a serial killer dubbed The Burning Man, so named because he sets his victims on fire when he’s done with them. But something seems weird in the latest murder. Though it matches the MO of the killer, Kerrigan believes the circumstances are different. She sets out to solve the mystery behind the murder of a young woman with a strange drug problem, a possessive ex-boyfriend, and an idolizing best friend.

Though it takes extra effort for me to pick up a mystery/crime drama, I’m planning on reading more books in this series. I really enjoyed this story. The writing was good and not dense with legal jargon. I enjoyed the way the author told the story, using the points of view from several different characters in different chapters.

I solved the mystery quickly, but that didn’t mean the read wasn’t fun. It was still a good book that kept me engaged through to the reveal. I also enjoyed many of the side characters, and I’m interested to see how relationships develop in later books. This reminded me of a lighter version of the books that inspired the “Wire in the Blood” series, and while there wasn’t a great deal of gratuitous violence, there was enough disturbing imagery to deliver some reader chills.

I’m giving this four stars since the mystery was apparent and because I think there’s definitely room for the author to grow with the characters. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Second Star (by Alyssa B. Sheinmel)

After I wrote this review, I read some other reviews and realized how funny it is that different readers pick out different things about books to focus on. There is a lot in this novel I didn’t write about, but I usually try to just give a brief synopsis and my opinion. If any of my reader friends read this after its release in May, I’d be interested to hear what things stood out to you. 

Second StarSecond Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story of Peter Pan was never one of my favorite childhood stories, but I’m a sucker for retellings, so I was intrigued by the synopis of this book when I was given the chance to read the ARC copy from NetGalley.

Wendy Darling can’t shake the idea that her two brothers, missing and presumed dead, are still. In fact, she can’t let the idea go, despite the pleadings of her best friend and parents to come to terms with it. Under the pretense of a road trip, she heads down the coast to look for John and Michael. On her search, she comes across a group of surfers, runaways who spend their days catching waves and stealing from the area’s empty houses to feed themselves. Her search starts to reveal things about her brothers, the people she’s spending her summer with, the pull of the ocean, and her own strength.

While the characters aren’t original (obviously), they are well written and good interpretations of the original characters, at least from what I can remember. A few liberties were probably taken, but that’s the nature of a modern reinvention.

I thought the writing was strong. The cadence of the prose is slightly disjointed, not because of bad technique, but because it lets the reader feel the dreamlike grief state that Wendy is in. Parts of the book become sharper and lighter, and those parts correspond to the parts of the storyline where Wendy comes out of her grief, even for short periods of time.

I doubt if I would have chosen a book about surfing, as it’s not a topic that interests me, but I enjoyed this book. For me, there were only a few issues. Some of the surfing talk got a little boring, so I found myself spacing out. The romance aspect of the book is weird and takes a different twist from both the original Peter Pan story and in general. I mostly liked it, but it was different.

Though I think this is a slower, sleepier read, it was also a good one. The narrative itself was enjoyable, and it’s the type of story that lends itself to dissection and discussion about grief, growing up, and psychology. I recommend this one to people who enjoy fairy tale retellings and coming of age novels.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Here and Now (by Ann Brashares)

This book was a NetGalley pick. All opinions are my own. Please note that the end of this review contains spoilers, so if you’re going to read this, you might want to skip this, or at least stop reading when I say “Spoiler Alert.”

The Here and NowThe Here and Now by Ann Brashares

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I started reading this book (a pick from NetGalley), I was really excited about the premise. I’ve read some good time travel novels, and the idea of immigrants from the future seemed like a great premise. Unfortunately, it fell a little bit short of expectations.

Prenna is part of a group who has immigrated to 2014 from a future where the world is overrun by a sickness they call the blood plague. The colony is run by counselors who force the group to follow a specific set of rules, most focusing on keeping their origins a secret and discouraging relationships with “time natives”.

This is difficult for Prenna, however, when she forms a relationship with Ethan, a boy who witnessed Prenna’s arrival in his time and has been a bit obsessed with her since…even though he doesn’t form a relationship with her until four years after her arrival when circumstances put them in the same class. Prenna and Ethan are then sent on a mission to prevent a major incident from happening. In order for them to fix the future, they have to change something that happens at a fork in the time stream.

Time travel is a hard concept to really write well about. As a reader, I can often suspend my need to question everything in order to enjoy the plot. But there are some glaring time travel plot holes here, and nothing is truly explained to account for why some things change and others don’t.

As a character, Prenna is awkward at best and ignorant at worst. She comes across as helpless, meek, scared, and sad. She’s annoying, sure, but that’s who she is. And you eventually get used to it. Until suddenly, she’s not all those things. Except sad. She’s always sad. Ethan is a better character, but the relationship between the characters is hard to buy. If written chemistry is a thing, these characters lacked it.

The book had some redeeming values though. The writing was solid, though I think the story itself could have been fleshed out a bit more. While the execution failed, some of the concepts were interesting with regards to timelines and what might happen should a time traveler have relations with a time native. I also liked some of the questions it raised regarding the environment and where priorities lie with regards to the future of the global climate and the welfare of people right now.

SPOILER ALERT: so stop reading here if you don’t want to know anything about the ending….

…eyes closed….? Okay.

I very much appreciate that with the somber tone of this book, the author didn’t suddenly turn it around for a happy ending.

I wanted to love this book, but in the end, I found it to be just okay.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

I may have been a little bit hard on the first book in the series, but I loved this one. I’ve failed at keeping up with the Stephanie Plum books, but I’m thinking this might be my current Evanovich go-to, though it also reminds me that I really do want to go back and read all of the Plum series again (and catch up on the ones I haven’t read yet). So many series, not enough reading time!

The Chase (O'Hare and Fox, #2)The Chase by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first book in this series was okay, but it hadn’t been what I was expecting. Even so, I was excited to review this second book in the series through NetGalley. First books never quite hit the five star mark for me, but if I’m going to enjoy the series, I generally find a sweet spot in the second book. This one definitely gave me the sweet spot.

Kate O’Hare and Nick Fox are tasked with retrieving a piece of stolen art to return to its foreign owners. What could have been an easy job turns out to be a little more complicated due to the fact that the owner of the stolen art is a government big shot with his own ruthless security entourage and no conscience when it comes to taking what he wants. Kate and Nick bring together their group of talented misfits for another heist full of twists and turns in order to set things right.

As is the case with many second books, I felt there was a higher level of comfort and familiarity between the authors and the characters. The plot flowed easily, and the dialogue was amusing and quick. I liked Kate much more in this book than in the first one, but the characterization really shined when the rest of their group showed up to help with the heist.

I think part of my problem with the first one was that I was expecting a romance. Sure, there’s a little bit of sexual chemistry between Kate and Nick, but it’s taking a mini-van backseat to the action and the plot twists. I’m guessing the romance will be a slow burn over several novels, and I’m okay with that. Knowing what to expect lessens any disappointment over the lack of steam and kisses. The added humor throughout the book helped as well.

I hope Evanovich and Goldberg continue this series. It’s entertaining, and I want to see what happens next.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Don’t Even Think About It

Netgalley approved me to review another book from their library, this one coming out in the next couple of months. Opinions are my own, of course. Reading this makes me want to go back and read some of Mlynowski’s adult novels, so those are now on my to-read list for the coming year. Original review and book information can be found at Go sign up for an account.

Don't Even Think About It

Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s been years since I’ve read a book by Mlynowski, so I was pleasantly surprised when gave me the opportunity to read this one, especially because the premise sounded so interesting.

After a group of high school students gets a “bad” batch of flu vaccines, they find they can read minds. For some, this is a pretty good deal: they can ace tests, know what the guy they like is thinking, and get over their fears about what other people think about them. For others, it brings about more painful side affects, like having to hear the boy they like lust after another girl and knowing way too much about their parents. It’s also the catalyst that brings together a group of students who have a common bond and who have to navigate the ins and outs of suddenly having “super powers.”

The premise of this book is interesting. High school is a tough time anyway, and this story poses the question of whether telepathy would make it harder or easier to get through those years. Each character their own unique experience, and the author maintains the awkwardness and angst of high school while keeping with the stereotypes: the brain, the nerd, the jock, the perv, the popular girl, the shy girl, and so on.

I believe the book is supposed to be humorous, and there were parts that made me laugh. Overall, though, I thought it was a little bit creepy. The point of view starts as first person plural (we and us). Because the individual anecdotes switch to mostly third person, it’s a little unsettling when, in the middle of third person narrative, a line from the group pov reminds the readier of who is actually telling the story. And some of these lines sound a little evil.

For me, the creepiness works better anyway, since I find the concept of mind reading to be a little unsettling.

The writing was good and most of the characters were likable. It was fun to “see” what other people were thinking through the ears of the Espies (as the group eventually calls themselves). There were a few scenes that seemed to go on a little longer than needed (the lunchtime meetings). I’m also not entirely sure what the changing of their eye color had to do with anything other than a convenient way for people to tell they’d been dosed with the bad vaccine (unless this is the start of a series, in which case it makes for good set up for more intrigue in later novels).

This was an entertaining quick read that I think other readers, especially fans of YA Fiction, will enjoy.

View all my reviews

Lars Von Trier Double Feature

Last weekend I watched two Lars Von Trier movies off Netflix streaming: Antichrist and Melancholia.  Lars Von Trier does strange work, which is probably why I like his stuff so much.  I saw a comment on GetGlue that likened him to David Lynch. I think that might be mostly true.

The first LVT project I ever watched was The Kingdom and The Kingdom 2.  These were actually two miniseries. If you’ve seen Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital, you’ve seen something that was inspired by the these films.

I haven’t seen an overabundance of his work, but I was excited to see both of these movies on Netflix streaming. I’d tried to watch Antichrist before and  failed, not because of the movie but because I’d tried to watch and knit at the same time. It didn’t work. This is the kind of movie I needed to pay attention to.

Warning: I tried to avoid spoilers, but read at your own risk.

Antichrist stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple who lose their infant son when he falls out of a window while the couple are coupling. After the child’s death, the woman falls into a deep depression. Instead of allowing her to see a doctor, her husband decides to treat her himself.

Pic from via Google Images

This treatment leads them to Eden, their cottage in the woods where the woman had spent time with the child.  As the movie unfolds through three chapters, new truths are uncovered, including the woman’s belief that nature is evil.

The movie is dark and some of the imagery is disturbing, but I thought it was well done and scary on a psychological level.   Some of the scenes are painful to watch, though, so be warned, and the movie is sexually graphic.  It’s also fairly depressing, but I enjoy LVT’s cinematography, and while not as visually striking as Melancholia, it was still interesting.

Melancholia is another depressing movie, but so beautifully done that after I thought about it, I realized how much I actually liked it. After a prologue of dreamlike images, the story opens on Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst, on the day of her wedding.

Photo from via Google images

Though very much the happy bride at the beginning, you soon realize that she’s anything but happy, a fact that angers her sister and brother-in-law who can’t understand what her problem is.

In the second chapter, we’re introduced to Melancholia, a planet hidden behind the sun that is anticipated to collide with the Earth. Justine’s sister Claire fears this, but is assured by her husband over and over again that they have nothing to worry about, that it will simply pass by and be one of the most beautiful things they will ever see. It is around this time that Justine comes back to stay with him, her depression now worse.

Though this movie is visually brighter than Antichrist, the theme is still dark. There are similar concepts, including the evil of nature (in this case, Earth itself), and some psychological concepts of how one might react knowing something no one else did (the first one dealt with this along the lines of guilt).

I can’t guarantee I’ll watch Antichrist again, but I’m already planning another viewing of Melancholia. I’m also hoping Netflix adds more movies from Von Trier. If anyone knows of other movies similar to his style, I’d be interested in recommendations.