Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Assassin Game by Kristy McKay



This is something I've always secretly wanted to try. A murder mystery game where you fight to "stay alive" and rock out your own personal detective skills (though admittedly I'd probably be the first one out). But I'm too antisocial for such things so I got this instead! The ultimate high school appropriate game of cat and mouse goes too far in this mystery thriller. Let's dive right in.

Cate has longed to become part of the Guild at Umfraville private school since she first came there. Now, she finally has her chance to join and become a player in "the game". The game is "Killer". One Guild member goes around "killing off" other players in thrilling yet harmless pranks until they are caught or one remains. It's a daring adventure full of secrets and suspicion...until the pranks take a seriously dangerous turn for the worst. Kids are getting badly hurt and the school itself is in jeopardy and Cate must figure out who the "Killer" is and put a stop to him...or risk becoming his next victim.

The concept of "Killer" is a lot of fun and a great idea...even if it would never really pass in a real school. That's what the creation of Umfraville is about. It serves as both an isolated (it's a private school on an island in the Irish Sea) area where any good murder mystery can take place as well as being probably the only location where such a game could exist. Something like this game would never go by in a public school (in America anyway) and so the author gives us a great location for such events to take place, but also a place where immediate help is hard to come by. There's a big stretch of water keeping you isolated from cops and hospitals so it's just the creepy setting we'd want for a story such as this.

The quality of the characters in this story...vary. While Cate is a bit bland, she never outright bothered me or made me angry. She often makes a point of saying how she's average and insignificant (despite a whopping THREE guys wanting to date her) but it never got pretentious or annoying. She was just okay. The Guild members...honestly, I think there were too many of them. Certain ones I remember clearly like Alex, the Game Master, and Vaughn, the computer whiz, and Martin the overeager one. The rest, however, just kinda start blurring together and I had a tough time keeping track of who was who. This is particularly vexing when you're trying to solve a mystery and can't even remember who all the players and potential suspects are.

But the best aspect of this book was the mystery. I was genuinely stumped for a good portion of this book. There was a nice amount of red herrings, twists, and the kills were both interesting and inventive, even the dangerous ones. Honestly, I could have done with more pranks. They come pretty far in between each other and I would have liked to have seen what else the killer had up their sleeve. That does, however, lead to another downside in that it takes over half the book for things to get really serious. There are some vague threats but things don't really go down until well into the book. A bit more intimacy was needed for the first bit, but it does lead up to a good reveal and intense climax, so I'm happy overall.

Final Verdict
Just the type of murder mystery I like to read. Creepy, dangerous, thrilling and fun. A bit slow in places and not quite enough action, but overall a good idea and a story that I'd say, is worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: I really hope this isn't an instruction manual....

Friday, October 13, 2017

Court of Vampires by Megan Linski




I tried. I tried! I really, really tried, you guys! It's been five years since the last Twilight movie came out, all those rumors about a TV series turned out to be crap, it's time to give vampires a second chance. And I want to give them a second chance! I liked vampires when I was a kid. There's so much potential with them. They're classic creatures of darkness capable of extraordinary things. But...*sigh* it seems that we're still not done ripping off that ridiculous franchise and coming up with ridiculousness like this thing!

Lysandra Romanova-Dracula is revered among her family as The Chosen One, who will defeat their great enemies, the shifters (werewolves), once and for all. After years of learning how to hunt wolves in Moscow, she's ready to return home to Romania and earn her place amongst her brutal father's court and marry her betrothed. But when a pack of wolves attacks her home and she finds an injured shifter among the rubble, she... takes him in, hides him, and nurses him back to health....okay. As she tries to hide the wolf from the vicious vampires that live in the castle, Lysandra and the wolf, Lisar, form a bond that could reshape the destinies of the two races forever....or something.

Yes, my friends, this story deeply, deeply suffers from all the tropes of the paranormal romance genre. Or, as I like to call it, the-same-piece-of-crap-story-over-and-over genre. Everything in this book, everything, is predictable, lazy, and asinine to the tenth degree! It's like the author didn't even try with this book! Every tried line, every exhausted self-insert pandering trick, every done-to-death cliche you can think of is in here. We have the forced love, the brooding third wheel (but not evil, no, because that might hinder the shipping war), the ridiculously over-the-top villains, it's all here.

We are told, over and friggin' over again, that this broad Lysandra can take care of herself. That she's been training for years to get ready for this war and she even wins a fight right in front of everyone's eyes. Yet, whenever there's fighting going on, the hot men all have to protect her and shove her in her room until the danger is past. And helping this werewolf (I don't give a crap what they call them), even when she's supposedly trained for years to fight these things and even has some force-fed backstory about wolves killing her mother (which I don't buy for a second), she does because "I don't know why." Yeah! Every time she questions why she' doing contrived, stupid things her response is "I don't know why." I'll tell you why. BECAUSE THE FRIGGING SCRIPT SAID SO! There's no other reason! She just does whatever the script tells her to do, taking NO action herself, and spews exposition that could get her whole family killed because, again, "I don't know why." There's a direct quote in here that says, "I told him everything he needed to know and practically fed him specific instructions on how to end the vampires for good." She openly admits it! Having a character never take action, make ridiculously stupid decisions, and just meander through the plot of their own story doesn't make them interesting or likable. It makes them look like a FRIGGING MORON! How are we supposed to take such a brainless bimbo seriously? WE CAN'T!

The borrowed details and terrible writing in this thing stick out like a sore thumb. From the fact that Lisar, our hunky werewolf character, doesn't like shirts (wonder where that little tidbit came from) to a "Paint me like one of your French girls, Jack" scene (okay, that wasn't a direct quote this time but if they'd thought of it they'd have thrown it in and you know it!) everything is tired and forced. Everything in this book is borrowed or forced and I just hate it all! Her father, Csar Dragomir, is your typical, cartoony bad guy who tortures and hits his daughter in the face because "pride" and is just a massive douche for absolutely no reason. We get these ugly vampires and you know they're evil because they're ugly and they frigging admit it, who do absolutely nothing for the story except give Lysandra and excuse to be saved yet again. And, yes, I've admitted that I'm not the biggest romance fan but even a genuine romance fan would gag at some of these "love" scenes. Frolicking in the gardens, cuddling up and watching TV, using words like "spellbinding" and "passionate love affair rivaling the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet", to the addition of this books version of imprinting just adds to the painfully cliche tone of this thing.

Funny enough, one of my biggest gripes in this book doesn't even have to do with the special-kind-of-stupid heroine or the cringe-worthy attempts at "romance". Lysandra lives in this huge castle lavishly decorated with expensive, gothic attire. She has designer clothes, a bathroom with a waterfall shower and a Jacuzzi tub, a fully stocked armory and gym, a gorgeous ballroom, custom made cars worth millions of dollars and just about everything else you can think of. Now, here's my question: where the heck did all this money come from? The answer....there is no answer. They're just rich for no reason. They're descended from Romanian and Russian royalty, sure, but both those lines went extinct and have no money or privileges left to their names! As far as the world in which they live knows they have no right to anything! I can march up to a bank and claim to be the long lost descendent of some ancient royal line, heck I could even have proof of it, and y'know what I'd get? A PAT ON THE BACK AND SHOWN TO THE DOOR, THAT'S WHAT! These vampires have no jobs, do nothing except sit around and talk about their stupid war with werewolves that makes no sense, and do NOTHING that would earn them the rights to live in the lap of luxury. This is just another example of pandering to the readers so they can think, "wouldn't it be nice to be a modern day princess living in my dream castle with everything I could ever want and hunky boy toys vying for my affection?" If I didn't already think that this book was absolute garbage, this tidbit tips the scales.

Final Verdict
Do you even have to ask? This book is HORRENDOUS! It's pandering, brainless tripe and, for the first time in a year, we have found our second ever entry into the FURNACE OF EVERLASTING TORMENT! Vampires deserve better than this. Literature deserves better than this. YOU deserve better than this. Spare yourself the pain.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: All fun and games until someone gets fatally poisoned or thrown to their deaths....

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sabriel by Garth Nix



While this is technically more of a fantasy story than a horror one, I definitely felt that it counts as a good Halloween book, mostly because it deals in horrific creatures of the undead. A typical quest but spiced up with grim creatures, rotting corpses, and magic of death and the undead...yeah. I'd say this counts.

Sabriel has lived most of her life at a boarding school in Ancelstierre. She's top of her class, a prefect, and has learned everything from Charter magic to table manners. But her roots lie in the Old Kingdom across the Wall, a medieval world full of magic and mystery. When her father, the Abhorsen and master of the dead, goes missing it is up to Sabriel to find him and save him. Armed with several enchanted bells and a sword bestowed with magic, Sabriel sets off to take on the terrible evil that threatens, not only her father, but all the world.

Already the make-up of this universe is just great. The wild, untamed Old Kingdom is a great setting for an adventure. Full of magic and mystery, the universe just comes alive. The undead creatures, which vary from wolflike beings that stalk your every move to waves of rotting hands clawing toward you, sent genuine chills down my spine (granted, I am reading this all alone in the dead of night). The slightly more advanced world of Ancelstierre is interesting too and made me genuinely curious at how the Wall was created and how things came together.

Sabriel is a fantastic main character. Slightly older than most protagonists in this genre, she's very mature and thinks things through. While she is still very compassionate and does get emotionally invested in certain matters, she knows what's best and is capable of making the hard decisions rather than barging in without thinking. The inclusions of the hilarious Mogget and the strong yet emotional Touchstone make a great cast of characters that you do care about and want to see things through. Even Sabriel's father, the Abhorsen, while dark and brooding and we don't see too much of him, is still a likable guy who truly cares about his daughter. It has truly threatening baddies, a great cast of heroes, it all comes together very nicely.

While classified as Young Adult, it never gives in to the typical tropes one finds in the genre. I didn't know where things were going most of the time, and I was thrilled with that. Even the budding romance between Sabriel and Touchstone is kept very minimal. They have genuine chemistry and I liked them together, but it wasn't in-your-face-make-you-want-to-puke-over-the-top like we've seen it done before. There are a couple of moments that might be a little risqué (including a surprisingly detailed event taking place on the other end of a wall at an inn) but other than that I can see high schoolers, and maybe even slightly younger, getting through this without issue.

Sabriel's powers as a necromancer are also very fun to read about. Each of the bells she uses has a name and unique power, very concepts of Charter magic and Free magic, it's all very well thought out and interesting. I really wanted it to dive into the mythology and lore of this universe but it mostly just stuck to the main story. Not necessarily a bad thing, as it left the audience yearning for more which is always a good sign.

Also, if you get the audiobook...Tim Curry.

Enough said.

Final Verdict
A very fortunate find! Great action, good characters, chilling suspense, everything comes together in a great story with an interesting set up and a satisfying end. All in all, I'd say that this book is totally worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: I will not judge. I will not judge. I will not...(gets three pages in)...DANGIT!

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn



Admittedly, I'm only vaguely acquainted with Ms. Autumn and her works. I bring this up so most can understand where I'm coming from when it comes to this book. Yes, I've heard of Ms. Autumn and know a couple of her songs but I don't know much about her or even deserve to call myself a big fan of hers. Therefore, my attitude in going into this book is that of someone who recognizes the name and thought to give it a shot. As I have no solid opinion of Autumn as a musician, I can go into this venture with a clean slate, as a book critic plain and simple. Let's dive in.

Emilie's suicide didn't exactly go as planned. Now she's sent to a mental institution where she's granted very little freedoms and is watched over by the creepy Dr. Sharp. But Emilie starts to receive messages from another time, another place, similar to her own. Emily with a "y", a young woman living in the Victorian Era, has been bought and sold and abused only to find herself in the Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls for her efforts. Both girls document their misfortunes in the hopes that they will once again see the light of day and form a bond between time and space.

One thing that you've got to just accept with this book is that it is exaggerated. While parts of it are, at least, semi-autobiographical (the segments with Emilie with an "ie" are anyway), it's definitely pushing the boundaries of what's real and what's going on in our protagonist's head. This hospital takes away everything she has, including paper and books, because she's suicidal and yet lets her keep her very long, I-could-totally-hang-myself-with-these stockings? Hm. Also, the horrors of electro-shock therapy are described in this (a rarely-used-anymore technique they numb you for) and how another young woman never returned after receiving it and placing her with the violent patients instead of the depressed ones...like I said, it might be a little exaggerated. Still, I can't exactly fault the book for this. There's a reason I chose this book to be read for October, my month of scary books, and not just because of my own discomfort with the topic of asylums. While "asylum" and "mental hospital" are essentially the same thing, people are given certain expectations about what the book entails. People pick up books about asylums to be grossed out and horrified by man's inhumanity toward man. If you wanted a book talking about how a person was actually helped in a safe, clean environment, they'd pick up a book about a mental hospital and learn about how a person was successfully cured of mental illness. This is not that book. The cover and title alone are enough to let you know about that.

On the subject of "man's inhumanity toward man", which we expect from an asylum book, this book delivers it in spades. Someone once described Autumn's works as being "not for the faint of heart." The "Emily with a y" story arc features all those lovely things that one expects in an abusive asylum story. Experimental treatments unfairly done to young women in the hopes of "curing" them which involve surgically removing their uterus, bloodletting, and (everyone's favorite) lobotomies. It even goes a step further into a twisted scheme to create a plague and the deeply discomforting process of prostitution. Yeah, "Emily" goes through some serious crap in this book and it's enough to make anyone cringe (granted you are supposed to). Yet, there's a whimsical edge to the story that doesn't entirely leave the reader, or Emily for that matter, without hope. Whether it's the talking rats, the sharpened spoons, the dwindling will of the asylum's matriarch, or the colorful gathering of patients that makes the reader want to keep going. You want to see them get through this. You want these women to find freedom and justice. It all comes together in an admittedly satisfying, mic drop of a climax that I actually quite enjoyed.

While I was satisfied with the bittersweet conclusion of Emily's story, Emilie's story...not so much. It doesn't even really end it just kind of...stops. Granted, this could all be further pushing the idea of "how much of all of this was in her head the whole time?" that is hinted at in this book but I'd rather it came to an actual conclusion instead of twenty pages of diary excerpts going on and on about how unpleasant depression is and how cutting yourself makes everything better. You can read about these things and learn from them but...I'd rather you finish the story. But, that's just me and what do I know?

Final Verdict
Kind of on the fence with this one, people. There's no arguing that this is a bit romanticized and not everybody (especially mental health professionals) is going to appreciate that. That being said, I enjoyed the story and liked the main character(s) and carried on reading in morbid fascination about where it would go and what would happen. If you're someone who can stomach the extreme grossness that comes from ancient mental remedies and uncomfortable themes portrayed in this book, feel free to check it out just maybe wait for it on paperback.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: It's not often that you find a book where the necromancer is the protagonist....

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Merciless by Danielle Vega



If you took the movies Mean Girls and The Craft and mixed them together, you'd get this book. It was actually pretty impressive. The book reads just like a movie with similar pacing and atmosphere and keeps you invested up to the very last word. Let's take a look at it.

Sofia Flores is the new girl in Friend, Mississippi and already she's caught in the midst of high school drama. She finds herself drawn to two potential friends, the popular and deeply religious Riley and the wild, adventurous Brooklyn. But when Sofia confides in Riley about Brooklyn's behavior, Riley and her friends come up with a plan to save Brooklyn's soul by preforming a violent exorcism...and Sofia will either help them or be next.

The story is a desperate little tale of survival and extremes. Most of the book takes place over a single night and possesses all you could want in a horror story. Things get violent pretty quickly in this thing, and it's pretty cringe inducing. You find out pretty quickly that there's a lot more going on than an attempt to save a girl's soul and the line between trying to save someone and hurt for the sake of causing hurt are quickly crossed.

The girls in this story are all kept wonderfully mysterious. At first glance, you think you have these girls figured out but they all have secrets and pretty messed up lives. Sofia, the one we're following throughout this story, is not immune to this. She comes off as being likable and pretty much the most reasonable person in this story, if not the only one. But she's far from perfect and there's much to discover about her as the story progresses, leading us to wonder just if anyone in this book is truly who they say they are. It's that untrustworthy atmosphere and knowledge that you don't really know any of these people that makes this story work as a horror. You have no idea who to trust and, therefore, no idea who to root for.

As I said earlier, the book reads a lot like a traditional horror movie. The pace is fast yet gripping and filled with uncomfortable and gory details to keep the reader engrossed and desperate for more. There are close calls and sheer brutality all throughout the book, but it does take just enough time to breathe and let the reality of these situations sink in. It also takes place in mostly the same location as well, an abandoned house on the outskirts of town where nobody goes and there's no way out. This claustrophobic environment just adds to the feeling to dread. It was masterfully done.

That being said I'm not entirely sold on the ending of this book. While it did have the satisfyingly horrific climax and crap-your-pants scary moments, I don't know if I really understood the twist they threw in at the last second. But, then again, I guess you could say it's all part of the sequel fodder and, yeah, I'd pick up the sequel to this book. It's well written, well executed, and if the sequel is the same as this, I'll be adding it to my list.

Final Verdict
A wonderful way to kick off October! Genuinely scary, violent, gripping and well put together piece that horror fans will enjoy. If it sounds like your cup to tea, then I'd say it's totally worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: Asylums....why did it have to be asylums.....

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases by Nisiosin



I'm starting Halloween a day early and bringing you the second Death Note novella: the Los Angeles BB Murder cases! Seeing as I really liked L: Change the World. I was eager to give this one a try. However, where the previous book was an action story, this one is a straight up murder mystery with all the complicated twists and turns you'd expect from Death Note. Let's begin.

Naomi Misora, an off duty FBI agent, never could have expected her time off would be interrupted by a message from none other than the world famous detective, L. L has taken a peculiar interest in a certain case going on in her home of LA, three suspicious and violent murders all taking place within the span of a few days, with the promise of a fourth on the way. Unable to turn down the offer to get back into the field, Naomi agrees to be L's eyes and hands on the case and get it solved before the next murder takes place. Her efforts aren't exactly helped (or are they?) by the appearance of a very strange private investigator who calls himself Ryuzaki.

This book, like Change the World before it, knows just the right amount of balance between what to bring in from the source material and what to make original. It's already noticeably darker than Change the World and, indeed, maybe even more than Death Note itself. The murders depicted in this book are very violent, something the manga didn't actually have despite all the death that took place in it. However, it knows better than to make the story a gore fest and keeps it on what made the source material such a success: the intelligence. Each murder is a puzzle that needs to be solved and the story does a good job at bringing the reader along for the ride. Naomi Misora is a great character to serve as our lead. She was a promising character from the manga (who was sadly underused) who makes quite a comeback in this story. She's savvy and smart and has a very likable personality. The book is also pretty good at not giving too much about her away, helping us to rediscover her as the story goes on.

The puzzles in this story are incredibly complex and, at some points, I did kind of wonder who would be able to even begin to solve these but then I thought: of course. L would. This really does give you an idea of what L's career was like before the events of the manga and you come to really believe that he'd be capable of solving a case as complicated as Kira's. The book is also written from the point of view of Mello, another favorite character, and one I was glad to hear more from. You get to know Mello a bit more from this book, how much he looked up to L and what being his successor meant to him. There's also the killer of the book, the mysterious Beyond Birthday, and the secret that binds him to both L and Kira. He makes for a great villain, and a deeply intimidating one.

While it is a pretty serious and violent book, it doesn't shy away from a bit of fun every now and then. This is L we're dealing with and his personality and mannerisms come through all throughout the story. Mello's commentary is riddled with interesting facts and tidbits from the Death Note universe as well as a lot of hate thrown at Kira and Near. Probably the only thing that kind of bothered me about this book, and I'm seriously nitpicking here....what the heck is with these names! Seriously, the names of these victims are just silly! Who in their right mind would name their child, their girl child Backyard Bottomslash?! You're just asking the other kids to make fun of them! I don't know if this was a translation thing or what but I seriously don't think that these could ever be real names of real people. But...then again...what do I know?

Final Verdict
Gripping, complex, entertaining, and just the perfect little gem for Death Note fans. With sinister twists leading up to the very last line of the book, this story is thrilling, fun and defiantly worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: These ladies make Regina George look like a sweet angel....

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch




The idea of worlds or kingdoms based on the four seasons is actually a neat idea and can open up a lot of possibilities for stories. This one, however, doesn't really utilize the idea and just kinda jumps all over the place. We barely even see the Season kingdoms in this friggin' book. Well, before I go off on a tangent, let's just dive right in.

Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee after her home of Winter was devastated and defeated by the neighboring Spring kingdom. With their numbers dwindling by the day and the rest of their people enslaved, Meira and her group of refugees, which includes Winter's future king, must seek help from one of the Rhythm kingdoms, the enemies of the Seasons. Meira is quickly thrown into a world of politics, secrets, and betrayal as she does everything in her power to restore Winter and see her people set free.

There are times in this book where I thought it had potential. Meira, as the main character, actually is a good representation of this. She can be cheeky and has some good one-liners in here that got a genuine chuckle out of me and there are times when she does what she knows is best, even if it's not what she wants. Other times, however, she just throws it all out the window and throws an enormous tantrum and almost spoils everything. She also often balances between doing things and just having things done to her and reacting to it. And she definitely suffered from Special Snowflake Syndrome (kinda fitting actually) with being just so good at all kinds of things (including mastery of a really complicated, doesn't-work-like-you-think-it-does weapon like the chakram) and being just an amazing super someone instead of someone normal that the audience might actually relate to (although it is nice to have a main character who isn't just the biggest lover of books ever, as you so often find in these stories).

Now, the plot does move along pretty well. The political aspects of the story hold up pretty well. But most of all this story has...dare I say it...a good love triangle! (*le gasp*) Both boys, Mather and Theron, make for a potentially good match for Meira. In fact, she could end up with either one of them and I don't think anyone would mind either way. Unfortunately, the YA-trope-curse rears it's ugly head here as well, leading to a couple of really unbearable cock-fights between the two boys. Thankfully, those don't last too long as the plot sticks to what's important, that being the restoration of the Winter Kingdom.

Some of the things in this book kind of left me scratching my head. Apparently there's a big pit of magic just sitting around somewhere in the mountains that everyone wants. Okay...why? Where did it come from? How does it work? And there's an evil force called the Decay that infects the Spring King and makes him evil. Again, where did it come from? Why does it need the king? There's just a lot of unanswered questions. Also the big twist at the end could be seen from a mile away (the foreshadowing in this book isn't very good), the ending is kind of vague, and the fact that all the people from all the seasons all have matching hair and eye color seems a bit too on-the-nose. Still, the characters hold up okay, the pace is good, and there are things in here that people will enjoy.

Final Verdict
There are some who will like this book, but for me it was just kind of meh. While there is stuff to enjoy, some of the flaws are pretty prominent but if you don't mind them then go ahead and check it out but maybe wait for it on paperback.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: It's almost October! Let's get the month of fear started off with a tale of murder...and the return of the world's greatest detective.