Review: The Elizas by Sara Shepard

theelizasThe Elizas by Sara Shepard

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: April 17th, 2018

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 352 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness. 

Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it? 

The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Though I’ve known about her work for years, this is the first novel by Sara Shepard that I’ve ever read—and I ended up being pleasantly surprised by this particular story. It is a pretty solid young adult thriller. Being quite a huge fan of suspenseful mysteries—particularly any type with unreliable or biased narrators—this caught my attention immediately. I am much more used to reading adult psychological thrillers, and this is not quite on par with the plot structure and intensity of many of those. As it is a young adult novel, it is a bit less complex and much lighter, so it’s important to note that going in. However, The Elizas is an entertaining and heart-pounding story that is sure to hook its intended audience.

In this novel, we follow a young woman named Eliza Fontaine, a debut novelist whose book release date is rapidly approaching. But life takes a strange turn when she is pulled from the bottom of a hotel pool. Her family believes it to be just another suicide attempt—she insists it was an attempted murder. With only one person on her side, and what seems like the whole world trying to convince her she’s just insane, Eliza must investigate the attack herself.

However, as she struggles to regain lost memories, every avenue she explores only ends up raising even more questions. And suddenly, her novel is starting to sound less like a story and more like her life. Told in chapters that alternate between Eliza’s point of view and excerpts from her book, The Dots, the parallels become undeniable, and the line between reality and fiction becomes increasingly blurry.

I’ll admit, it took me quite some time to fully immerse myself in this novel. The first half of Eliza’s story plays out very slowly, and is often times extremely repetitive. This makes sense in the grand scheme of things, since we are primarily dealing with her attempting to regain memories she cannot seem to unlock. But I still feel that her plotline is in need of more events—however small—to help us become more invested in her as a character. For awhile, I found myself being much more interested in the excerpts from The Dots instead of the main storyline, though both are equally important.

The narrative came across as a bit choppy to me in the beginning—it feels like things are repeating and going nowhere, there is a sudden heightening of the tension, and then we are back to the same circumstances. This is obviously congruent with the situation of someone dealing with memory loss, so I completely understand the effect that Shepard is going for. However, I do wish there had been a tiny bit more added to Eliza’s experiences, just to gradually pull the reader deeper into her life throughout the novel as a whole.

Unreliable narrators are, by nature, inconsistent, and always add a good amount of confusion into the process of getting to know who they are, as well as what is truly going on. Eliza is especially unpredictable all the way through—but at the start, her personality comes across like Shepard can’t decide what to do with her instead of what might be naturally erratic for her mental state. In general, though, I do think Shepard really captures and deals with all the physical and mental health aspects of this novel clearly and believably.

Even with the initial lagging of the main plotline, Shepard manages to build quite a lot of suspense in both stories. She sprinkles just enough intrigue into most of the early chapters, and I was always at least a little curious to find out what would happen next. The switching between Eliza’s point of view and the excerpts from The Dots added a great deal to the tension building up as things progressed. And, despite it being a little rocky at first, I did consistently become more and more hooked.

That second half though—oh boy. I was absolutely riveted to every page. Every aspect of the story escalates so quickly, and even though I had predicted some of the ending, it still had me on the edge of my seat. For me, Shepard ended in the strongest way possible—she made every last bit pack a punch, and threw in a few surprisingly powerful twists. Though it is not hard to guess most of what is going on and roughly how things will shake out, there are plenty of details that you most likely will not see coming. That, coupled with the strength of the overall reveal, truly enriches the novel as a whole.

Shepard also does a relatively good job with her character creation. They are all very clearly described and, aside from Eliza, have static personalities the whole way through. This means that not all of the characters are very multi-dimensional, but they are still depicted well and fit very nicely into the plot. Eliza is definitely a dynamic character—our view of her is constantly changing and building until everything is fully revealed in the end. And the majority of the relationships between Eliza and the others are highly realistic and comprehensible.

The one element that I never got fully on board with was the romance. In the first place, it was a severe case of insta-love. When they first meet, Eliza goes from describing him like he is sort of gross and creepy to abruptly feeling incredibly turned on basically by her sudden thought of them having sex. Over the short time they initially spend together, she goes back to showing little interest in him, while he is awkwardly proclaiming his undying love for her. And voila, they are now a couple. Though their relationship was sweeter toward the end, I spent most of it trying to comprehend how it happened, while occasionally feeling mildly disturbed.

I found Shepard’s writing style to be fairly strong. It didn’t particularly stand out or completely captivate me, but it flows well for the narrative she weaves and is very easy to read. She crafts a good mystery, following up on all the various threads to the point were I couldn’t personally think of anything left completely unexplained. Shepard also writes very cinematically—her descriptions are vivid, and the interactions between characters were stellar. We are able to clearly visualize everything playing out, and distinctly feel the clarity that Eliza is slowly experiencing.

Overall, if this sounds good to you—or if you’re looking for a quick thriller—I would highly recommend giving this novel a try, especially if you are a young adult reader. While, like I said, it’s not going to have the intensity and depth of an adult psychological thriller, and it isn’t entirely unpredictable, it really does have a lot going for it. It is gripping enough to pull a mystery fan in, and just chilling enough to make for an entertaining read. As for me, I ended up enjoying this story more than I thought I would, and I am definitely interested in reading some more of Shepard’s work.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: Remember, Remember by Anna Elliott

rememberrememberRemember, Remember by Anna Elliot

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mysteries #3

Date Published: April 21st, 2017

Publisher: Wilton Press

Pages: 357 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A lovely American actress awakens in London on a cold morning in 1897 – lying face down on the concrete pavement outside the British Museum. She has no memories. She does not even know who she is, although she has a vague recollection of the name Sherlock Holmes. What she believes is that she has may have just killed someone, and that someone is definitely trying to kill her. As she searches for clues to her true identity, she will learn that she is not the only target. Unless she can defeat her evil adversaries, the people most dear to her will die.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I’ll admit I went into this book a little bit hesitant. It’s no secret that I love retellings or novels that use classic characters in modern day literature—these are some of my favorite types of novels. However, the hesitation I experience comes from my love of the original stories and characters themselves. I’m always a stickler when it comes to keeping true to the most essential and definitive aspects, even while the author is forming his or her own unique story. And I am especially picky when it comes to my all-time favorites. This particular novel, I’m pleased to say, does a reasonably good job paying homage to the incredibly well-loved characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless tales of the great Sherlock Holmes.

In this novel, we read from the perspective of the main character, Lucy James, a young woman who wakes up on the steps of the British Museum with amnesia. Once woken up, she realizes she has lost all of her memories, including her name. All she knows is that she was hit in the head and that someone is most likely out to kill her—and that she may in fact be a killer herself. This, along with the vague recollection of the name Sherlock Holmes, is all she has to go on as she attempts to remember who she is, where she’s from, and why she is running for her life. Her enemies are ruthless and willing to take down anyone who gets in their way. Navigating dangerous circumstances and forging new alliances, Lucy takes on her adversaries and works to prevent them from carrying out their nefarious scheme.

Despite my original wariness, I ended up enjoying this story quite a bit. I found the plot to be fast-paced and easy to get wrapped up in right from page one. Though this is actually the third book in the Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mysteries series, it functions extremely well as a standalone. The overall mystery of the story is not completely unpredictable or surprising, but it still made for a very fun and action-packed read.

The portrayal of the various characters, overall, is fairly well done, but also the area from which the majority of my issues with the novel stem. The characters that were original creations of Anna Elliot were by far the strongest. Lucy is a great protagonist—she is a strong, highly intelligent, and independent heroine. The only major issue with her characterization is that there isn’t much development over the course of the story or depiction of flaws. One of the reasons a character such as Sherlock Holmes is so interesting is the mixture of his tremendous intellect and cleverness with flaws that make him human. While Lucy is a likeable character that is still easy to connect with, she seems just a bit too perfect at times.

As for Elliot’s versions of Holmes and Watson, I had somewhat mixed feelings. While her portrayal of Watson, in my opinion, is quite accurate, I felt a little bit lukewarm about her portrayal of Holmes. We don’t really get to see all that much of him, and even though there are certain times that truly reflect the classic great detective, there are some moments and plot points that I felt strayed a little too far. Though it was a little hard for me to imagine at first, I believe she did a decent job of gauging the way Holmes would treat a daughter had he had one in the original stories. However, there were times—such as his offering Lucy dating advice—that just didn’t feel authentic.

I had one odd problem with one of the character’s names. I was reading from an advanced review copy, so this is probably the cause of my confusion, but I could not figure out Lucy’s love interest’s first name. It kept jumping back and forth between John and Jack every few pages, sometimes even within the same page. Again, I assume this was caused by the uncorrected proof, and it has absolutely no bearing on my rating of the novel. However, I’m still not certain what his name actually was meant to be.

Elliot’s writing style is solid and easy to become absorbed in. She gives Lucy a strong narrative voice, which caused the plot to both flow well and pack a punch. Her world building of 1897 London is vivid and skilled, making it a very high point of the novel. She unravels the mystery at a steady pace, showing her talent for creating a storyline that hooks her readers and keeps them wanting more.

In the first part of the novel, Elliot does a great job of presenting Lucy’s slow gathering of clues pertaining to her life. The transition between the two halves of the novel—where Lucy suddenly regains her memories—is a bit rough. We are thrown rather quickly into her rapid and high-stakes lifestyle. However, this still does not hurt the plot progression overall, and though it was a little bumpy, I found myself falling into this new twist fairly easily. In general, Elliot keeps the plot as a whole straightforward enough to follow, and just unpredictable enough to create a exciting mystery.

Overall, I found this novel to be a pretty enjoyable and fast-paced read that was quite easy to become swept up in. This wound up being a very fun story, and an inventive take on some very timeless classics. While I would have liked to see a bit more development in Lucy and the various other significant characters in the novel, they were still portrayed well in general. Despite its few flaws, this is a good addition to the ever-expanding world of Sherlock Holmes novels. I am definitely planning to go back and read the first two novels of this series, and will eagerly await and further installments.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

everyheartadoorwayEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Wayward Children #1

Date Published: April 5th, 2016

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 173 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children; No Solicitations, No Visitors, No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. 

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. 

No matter the cost.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I loved this novel even more than I thought I would. It feels like a modern fairytale, complete with a dark and gritty subplot that lingers in the background. It is a weird and unusual story—the perfect amount of weird and unusual in my opinion. It involves the types of worlds that we all grew up reading and daydreaming about, but the book centers around the aftermath of being in those places. It deals with the harsh contrast between reality and fantasy, and how difficult it can be to immerge from that perfectly constructed fantasy back into a rather unaccepting reality.

The concept for this novel drew me in immediately, as it is by far the most unique take on fantasy and alternate worlds that I have ever heard of. Reading it felt like reading a fairytale retelling—even though it’s not—and it took me back to my childhood love of fantasy worlds in literature. The atmosphere and tone is a perfectly executed mix of eerie haunting, and whimsical whit and humor. In other words, this novel was totally written for me.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Nancy during her first days at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. It is a special school that works to help reintroduce children who have visited fantastical worlds back into the real one. Nancy has a tough time adjusting to her new life, constantly believing she will once again find the door to her beloved world—the world where she felt that she finally fit in.

It is tough at first, but she realizes that the other students share many of her feelings, the only difference dividing them being their specific experiences and worlds. However, very soon after joining the school, a gruesome mystery begins to unfold—a darkness that has never fallen over this safe shelter. There is someone right under their noses with a malicious and twisted mind, carrying out horrifying acts, and Nancy and her friends are targeted as suspects by the other students. The group will have to work together to unravel this cryptic case before things get worse.

In a way, this novel feels sort of like a broken fairytale. It feels as if it is trying to subtly portray that transition in all of our lives as we grow into young adulthood. We always remain enchanted by inventive and mystical stories, but our world view is much less sugar coated. We can’t get quite as lost in fantasy, and at first, all we want to do is run back to that period of time where we could. Yet, however bleak it seems, we do come to terms with it, and find new life in those fantastical worlds.

I really liked the characters McGuire created for her story. Nancy had a solidly depicted personality right from the start, and she slowly evolved throughout the course of the novel, which is no simple task in a story this size. All of the personalities of the side characters were very well defined as well. They each reflected the world, the home, from which they had been pulled. It was a subtle detail that truly fleshed out the plot and made the story more tangible for the mind of the reader.

There was also some great diversity in this novel. For example, the main character, Nancy, is asexual, and one of her friends is transgender. The characters all come from different backgrounds and heritages, all joined together by a common experience. This also added further dimension and complexity into the characters and their parts in the plot as a whole.

McGuire’s writing style was very easy to read and flowed incredibly well throughout the entire narrative. Her words are deceptively simple. It was amazing how she managed to pack so much depth and feeling into such a small amount of pages. She delves into some important themes, like human behavior and how society deals with people they label as outsiders.

When writing a story that has a shorter than average number of pages, it is incredibly easy for characters to come across as bland and one-dimensional, and for the narrative itself to feel quite rushed and overloaded. At no point was this the case in McGuire’s story, which is a testament to her great writing talent. The novel is a short and fast-paced read that leaves you partially satisfied, but also extremely eager to spend more time in the world that she has created.

McGuire has produced a quirky, unique, and engrossing little story that is surprisingly captivating. It will come as no surprise that I highly recommend giving this novel a try. I don’t see how I will be able to stand the wait for the sequel, even though its release date is only a few months away.

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: Bitter Roots by C.J. Carmichael

bitterrootsBitter Roots by C.J. Carmichael

My Rating: 1.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Bitter Root Mysteries #1

Date Published: April 25th, 2017

Publisher: Tule Publishing

Pages: 174 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Dispatcher Zak Waller prefers working behind the scenes in the Sheriff’s Office of Lost Trail, Montana, but when a newcomer to the sparely populated town is brutally murdered—and the Sheriff is quick to pin the death on an unknown outsider—Zak starts his own private sleuthing.

On the surface Lost Trail is a picture-perfect western town, offering a simple way of life revolving around the local ranches and ski hill, but Zak knows the truth behind the façade. When his old school friend Tiff Masterson, whose family owns a local Christmas tree farm, moves back to town, the two of them join forces to get to the truth about the murder.

Bitter Roots is the first of four Bitter Root Mysteries.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This is my first experience with C.J. Carmichael’s work, and sadly, I really did not enjoy Bitter Roots at all. You could potentially say that it left a “bitter” taste in my mouth. The synopsis sounded fantastic when I first found this novel—and it was an extremely quick read—but the plot was rather poorly executed. There was no aspect of this novel that was particularly memorable or that made me feel motivated to continue reading. Thankfully, this is a short novel, so I did manage to make it to the end, but there was really no payoff for my efforts once I got there.

First of all, I will admit that I had the wrong impression of this novel from the very start. I believed it to be a mystery/thriller novel, however I did not realize that the author is known primarily for writing romantic suspense novels until I looked it up on Goodreads. At this point, I had already agreed to read and review it, so I decided to give it a fair chance. And I did in fact go into this novel with no bias, lowered expectations, or belief that I would end up disliking it. The overall idea sounded intriguing, so I was still eager to give it a try.

This novel is a third person narrative that predominately follows the lives of three characters—Tiff, Zak, and Justin—as they navigate their experiences and relationships in the small town of Lost Trail following the murder of a young woman. Tiff, an accountant, has just made the difficult choice of moving back to her family’s ranch after her life in Seattle falls apart. Zak is the dispatcher at the local sheriff’s office who seems content with his life behind the desk, but uses his talents to inspect the murder case on his own time. Justin is a lawyer who is settling down with his wife and her daughter, though there are many unresolved issues floating around behind the scenes of this seemingly perfect marriage.

Tiff is still struggling to find closure after the deaths of her father and brother years ago, and to come to terms with her mother’s mental health, which seems to be spiraling even more out of control than it was the last time they were together. Tiff becomes involved in the search to find the killer, as the murdered young woman had been under her family’s employment, working on their Christmas tree farm.

Zak, with his inquisitive mind, cannot help but work on the case of the murdered woman, even though it is really not his place to do so. On top of this, he is rekindling a friendship with Tiff and dealing with his confusing feelings toward the new deputy at the station. And lastly, Justin’s storyline mostly focuses on his home life with his family, leaving him less involved in the crime solving area of the novel.

Sadly, the murder mystery aspect of the story took a backseat to the troubles, fractured relationships, and sometimes perverted musings of the main characters. Now don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy some family drama in novels, but I hated the fact that everything overshadowed a murder and the obviously shoddy detective work surrounding the case.

The plot was exceedingly slow and repetitive as well. The main characters spent most of their time being suspicious of one person and never even considering anyone else. Tiff and Justin also met up every few chapters and basically recapped, in great detail, everything that had just been read. It felt like we were never getting anywhere, until the last three chapters when Carmichael slammed down on the accelerator and plowed into the conclusion.

Comparatively, the plot wrapped up uncannily quickly and was far too rushed.  The big twist was not very impressive—it was a surprise, but that was not enough to salvage the rest of the plot. It seemed very out of the blue, as the reader only gets to hear the most important information in these last few chapters. So while it is unexpected, it is unexpected due to lack of any information in prior points of the novel.

The characters and their personalities really fell flat for me. They were incredibly one dimensional throughout the entire narrative, and I found it hard to connect with almost all of them. I spent a lot of the novel feeling quite fed up with them and their choices. The only character I felt at all invested in was Justin. He was the most genuinely kind human being, and his relationship with his family really pulled me in.

Another positive factor of the characterization was the relationship between Tiff and Zak. Prior to even knowing there would be elements of romance to this novel (if you can even call them that), I assumed that this friendship between them would probably end up turning into something more. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they maintained a strong companionship throughout the narrative without falling for each other. This is honestly something that I personally see becoming much rarer in novels these days, so I commend Carmichael for making this choice.

One of the other positives about this novel was the writing. I didn’t have any real complaints about the style itself. I thought that Carmichael was a strong writer, and her experience and talent still shine through. This was one of the only things that pushed me to finish off the book. Her words flowed very well and this is what carried me so quickly through the narrative. Her descriptions, for the most part, were very detailed, but I wish there had been a bit more of them, and that she had gone about them differently.

There was a big downside to the descriptions, in my opinion. This was the aspect of the novel that left me feeling a bit offended. The only characters who really got any sort of detailed description were all the young and implausibly attractive ones. These people were mostly women, and everyone was “tall and slender” with unrealistically perfect appearances. This is another part of the novel that overshadowed not only the severity of the situation, but also the intelligence and capability of the females in this narrative. Overall, I was taken aback at this and quite unimpressed and annoyed.

I thought this might possibly be due to the fact that I am unaware of the common conventions of romance novels, but that is still something I’m unsure of. It doesn’t really excuse the moments of sexism and perverted thoughts that really angered me. For example, most of the men in this novel—especially Zak—were extremely focused on and judgmental of the appearances of women, and way too focused on leering at them.

Unfortunately, I would not recommend this novel or series. It was not at all what I was expecting given the promising synopsis. The story is very repetitive and lacks depth, and it is even mildly offensive at times—at least it was for me. Despite the writing itself being relatively good, there was nothing, in my opinion, redeeming about this novel, nor was there anything worth reading plot-wise. I would definitely be willing to try another one of Carmichael’s novels, but I don’t think I will be continuing on with this particular series.

1.5 TARDISes

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Review: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

thegirlfromthewellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: The Girl from the Well #1

Date Published: August 5th, 2014

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 304 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I am finding that giving voice to my thoughts about this novel is a far trickier task than I was expecting. I liked many aspects of the novel and had a pretty good time with it. However, I never got caught up in the plot the way I hoped I would. It took me forever to get through this novel because I was not overly motivated to keep coming back to read it, despite wanting to know the fate of the characters. At the heart of my struggles with the story were both the writing style and the fact that I was not at all scared while reading.

However, just because I personally didn’t find it scary doesn’t mean that it isn’t, or that others won’t. This may be exactly the creepy book you are looking for. There are some fantastic scenes with Okiku exacting her revenge on those who deserve it—parts that are very eerie and pretty gorey. Those were some of the best chapters to read as they were action-packed and fast-paced, while the rest of the novel went at a much slower pace.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed at not being too scared while reading. I don’t scare very easily at all, but I had heard plenty about how terrifying this book was. And I completely agree that it was much different than a lot of American “horror” or “thriller” novels—it was a very different sort of narrative. But unfortunately it still didn’t creep me out.

I absolutely do not want to focus completely on negatives either, because there was plenty to love about this book, and I really did enjoy it overall. It reads exactly like watching a horror movie—and not just any sort of horror movie, but the kind that I really love. Honestly, that was my favorite aspect of the whole thing. It reminded me of the scary movies I have watched with my family and friends over the years

In this novel, we follow the main characters—cousins Tark and Callie—through the eyes of Okiku, a ghost that has taken an odd interest in Tark. Okiku is a l300-year-old spirit, unable to leave Earth and determined to take revenge on those who murder innocent children. She moves around the world freely and frequently.

However, when she witnesses a malevolent spirt that appears to be part of Tark, related somehow to the strange tattoos that are scrawled all over his body, she remains. Though she has never taken enough of an interest to stick around any particular human for very long, there is something unusual about him, and that keeps her attention.

Okiku is a unique character, and makes an interesting narrator for the novel. The main thing I noted about her was how she referred to the people she was around. She counts everyone and everything she comes across in her environment, and always distances herself from the living by referring to them by something like a job title or a distinguishing physical feature. The only people she regularly refers to by their names are Tark and Callie. I thought this added a lot to the story, showing the importance of her connection to them.

I liked Tark and Callie, but will admit that they are very one-dimensional characters. In fact, pretty much everyone but Okiku is. There is not a lot development in their personalities, even after some of the painful and traumatic experiences they go through. It was highly unbelievable that they would not have been changed or affected more than they were. And though I liked Okiku, I also felt that she didn’t do nearly enough. She mainly just watched things happen—I was expecting her to intervene more than she did. This is part of what took away from the creepiness of the narrative.

I have always found Japanese folklore—in fact, folklore from any culture—extremely fascinating to study. That made it even more exciting when I found out that I already knew a lot about the story this novel is based off of, and the terms that are used frequently throughout it. Even if you don’t have previous knowledge of these things, they are addressed well enough throughout the story that readers will not be at all confused or be left feeling like they lack important information. I really liked the inclusion of Japanese culture into the plot—it added a lot to the atmosphere.

The plot progressed rather slow in my opinion, particularly toward the middle of the novel. I think this was due in part to the writing style, not just the overall plotline. It’s a bit difficult for me to pinpoint my feelings about Chupeco’s writing and narration style. On the one hand, it was very unique, but on the other hand, I felt that it did not flow well and was sometimes hard to follow. I believe that the choppiness of her writing style was suppose to add to the tone of the novel, but it was just challenging and sometimes tiring to get through. For me, it didn’t add anything to the story, it just pulled me further away from it.

The narrative style is different from anything I’ve read before, however—it is first person omniscient, which is a point of view rarely seen in novels. Okiku tells the reader what she observes, but she also has insight into people’s thoughts to a certain degree. This goes to the point where the narration takes on a third person omniscient feel, then pulls the reader back into Okiku’s point of view. There may have been some limits, making it first person limited omniscient, but I couldn’t quite tell. So while it was not my cup of tea, I do commend Chupeco for utilizing this unusual style.

Overall, this novel did not quite live up to the hype for me, but I still found it to be an enjoyable read. It was one of those novels that was simply good—not bad, not mind-blowingly wonderful, but good. I would definitely recommend giving it a go, and I’ve already picked up a copy of the sequel, so I do plan to continue on sometime soon.

3.0 TARDISes

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January 2016 TBR

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Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a fantastic end of 2015 and are having a wonderful start to 2016. It’s time to create the first TBR of the new year, and I am excited to get going on a new reading challenge! This year, I have some standalones and series that I am particularly determined to read, so I’m creating some bookish resolutions lists for myself. I have already posted my series/trilogies TBR (click here to check it out!) and I’ll be posting my standalone list sometime in the next day or so.

I am going to try to read at least one or two books from each list every month, so with those lists in mind, I created my (somewhat tentative) TBR. I am attempting to pull myself out of a slight reading slump, so I don’t want to make a TBR that is too overly ambitious. Many of these are roll overs from other months, so I apologize for the repetitiveness! I probably won’t be able to get to all of these, but they all sound fantastic so I think any of these reads will be a great way to start off 2016!

January TBR

1. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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This is one of my most anticipated releases of 2016, and it’s coming out in three days! I am so eager to get my hands on this one, and I am definitely hoping to read it before this month is out. There’s no way I can possibly resist any book about time travel!

2. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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This one is rolling over from last month’s TBR. Cinder was one of my favorite reads last year, but I never managed to get around to continuing on with the series before the end of the year. Now that the main books are all out, and with Stars Above coming soon, I really need to finish the rest of these novels. I am completely adoring these stories and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

3. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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I meant to read this back in October and never got a chance to. And now, with the movie coming out this year, it’s become a top priority on my reading list. In fact, I am hoping to read the entire trilogy this year, so I definitely want to get going on it.

4. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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This is another one rolling over from last month’s TBR. Once again, I must continue my quest to read every word ever written by Gillian Flynn. I am trying to pace myself, since there are only two novels left to read, but I can’t wait any longer. I have to read this one soon!

5. Alice by Christina Henry

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I blame Heather for this one! She’s gotten me so excited to read this book that I had to include it in my TBR for the month. I have not heard too much about this one, but what I have heard has been spectacular. From what I gather, it’s a very dark reimagining of Alice in Wonderland with a morally ambiguous villain. I think this book was written for me! 🙂

I am also hoping to start reading a few stories out of The Return of Sherlock Holmes over the course of the month.

Read in December

I had a rather unexpectedly slow reading month and, embarrassingly enough, only actually fully completed one book. However, that one book was absolutely incredible; it was definitely my favorite read of the year! And the second book that I started this month is shaping up to be another new favorite of mine as well.

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1. Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I read this in an incredibly fun buddy read with Heather from The Sassy Book Geek and absolutely fell in love with it. The writing, the plot, the characters, everything about this book was wonderful. As I said, this ended up being my favorite novel of the year, and having someone to read and discuss it with made it even more enjoyable. I’m so excited that I finally got a chance to read this book; I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to it! Click here to read my review!

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I started this toward the end of the month and I’m only just under halfway through it now, so this will technically be one of my first completed books of January. As expected, I am absolutely loving this novel so far, and I am incredibly eager to continue on and finish off the rest of it. This is another novel I’m so glad I’m finally reading, and I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner!

December Book Haul

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  1. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
  2. Wool by Hugh Howey
  3. Alice by Christina Henry
  4. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
  5. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  6. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken (Pre-order)

What books are you guys planning on reading to start off the year? Did you get any books or bookish gifts over the holidays? Let me know in the comments!

-Ariana

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Top 5 Wednesday – December 30th, 2015

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is your top 5 favorite books that you read this year. While I didn’t read nearly as many books as I had hoped that I would, this year was pretty fantastic in terms of quality of books read. It was difficult to narrow this list down to just five, but there were definitely a few novels that particularly stuck out this year. These have not only become some of my top favorite novels of all time, but all of these authors were new to me and are now on my favorite authors list as well!

5. Jackaby by William Ritter

jackabyThis was pitched as “Doctor Who meets Sherlock”, so of course I had to read this immediately—and thankfully, it did not disappoint!

Click here to check out my full review!

4. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinderThis was my first read of 2015 and an absolutely brilliant way to start off my reading for the year.

Click here to check out my full review!

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gonegirlThis was my first Gillian Flynn book, and by far one of the most intriguing and captivating novels that I read all year.

Click here to check out my full review!

2. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

thememoirsofsherlockholmesThis is my first time making my way through this series and I am kicking myself for having put these novels off for so long—they are fantastic!

Click here to check out my full review!

1. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

viciousThis was my most recent read and my last completed book of the year—and it was definitely my favorite of them all!

Review coming soon!

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