Monday, November 13, 2017

The Holtur Curse by Cameron Wayne Smith



Daily monster attacks, brutal killings, rough slayers eager to slice through any challenge...yup, we must be in Holtur! It was great returning to this place, the harsh winter coming forth and the fabulous monsters on the prowl, and this time we encounter whole new challenges that Holtur has never faced before. I know I'm excited so let's dive right in!

Sonja Bluwahlt, Captain of the Holtur slayers, has a lot on her plate. Her brother's illness is getting worse, new never-before-faced creatures are starting to attack the village, and one of her slayers (whom she was particularly fond of) has gone missing. On top of all this, an army of men known as the Brothers of Eternity threaten to invade Holtur seeking something they call the Eternity Grail. Threats the likes of which she'd never dealt with and new challenges leave Sonja genuinely wondering: could Holtur truly be cursed? If it is, how can she and her band of slayers hope to defend its people in the face of these new horrors?

This book is just the kind of thing a sequel should be. Instead of repeating the first story, it carries on the story and expands the world surrounding it. Sonja, who was a supporting character in the last book, is a great choice for a new lead. She is, without a doubt, one of the best strong female characters I've found in a long time. She knows when to be tough and when to be kind. She can slaughter monsters, brandishing a claymore and coating herself in monster blood, but she can also sympathize with others and get along well with her men and the villagers. When she needs help, she'll accept it, none of the I-can-do-everything-myself crap that we can often find with women trying to be strong. She's a great leader, just the same person she was in the last book, and she makes the perfect lead for this story.

What this book has that sets it apart from the first book is the very interesting theme of "who is the monster?" In this book, Holtur deals with a threat that they've never encountered before: other men. Now, the slayers of Holtur have killed some of the most complex and deadly monsters this world has ever known and yet they've never had to fight against people before. These men are clearly a threat. The Brothers of Eternity have openly admitted that they're going to destroy their village and hurt whomever gets in their way if they don't get what they want. Still, the slayers have a real dilemma on their hands. The idea of killing other people and what it will do to their souls is a really good question. Not to mention that, this time, Holtur has some monsters actually helping them. It makes the characters actually wonder if what they're doing is right and are they really doing the right thing and, if they resort to killing people, would that make them monsters themselves. These are some really complex ideas and it's really well thought out.

The hostile environment of this book is exactly what we'd expect from the previous installment and it comes with lots of fighting and violence. The action is pretty intense, leading to some brutal kills and some genuinely sad moments. That's what this book is good at, it makes you care about these people, these slayers and even the flame wyverns who are helping them out. Every loss makes an impact and you feel each one. It's also one of those few times my mouth actually dropped open once or twice, the kills coming as a genuine shock. While you know some of these slayers are going to be cannon fodder, you're still concerned for them and their personalities are still likable enough that you want them to get out okay, even if you know they're not. Also, some of the tactics used in this book are just great. Holtur uses its curses as blessings and uses them to their advantage. That's a great idea and I was glad to see it used.

If I had to nitpick, I'd say that the villains of the story were a smidge on the shallow side. While they did pose a genuine threat and they were certainly scary, their personalities weren't much to rave about. I also wasn't too sure about the direction they were taking with the Moongate community and what was going on there, but there is a third book coming up so I suppose we'll get the answers we're looking for there.

Final Verdict
This book, like the first, is just a great horror/action adventure with lots of death, gore, an awesome lead, and great creatures and ideas. I enjoyed this one a lot and, if it sounds like your thing, it's definitely worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Please make sure to Follow Midnight Readings for instant updates. 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: Dirtyhands returns....

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Solaris Seethes by Janet McNulty



Nothing warms the heart like a good, campy sci-fi story, am I right? While it's not my absolute favorite genre in the world, once in a blue moon I'll find a science fiction story that I find I can just relax and enjoy. Mind you, this story is one you really have to shut your mind off to appreciate fully and, as a critic, I can't really do that. That being said, there's still enjoyment to be found in this story of adventure, revenge and recycled plot details...I mean, cliches...I mean...let's just get right to it.

Rynah's home has been destroyed. The man she'd come to love, Klanor, has betrayed her and all of her people by stealing the powerful crystal that controlled the planet's magnetic fields. As Rynah escapes the destruction, she comes across a gift from her departed grandfather, an old-fashioned spaceship named Solaris. Armed with a unique artificial intelligence, Solaris has been prepared for this event and explains to Rynah that the crystal is one of six that are said to have the power to destroy whole planets, even whole solar systems, and that Klanor plans to unite them and rule the galaxy. In accordance to an ancient prophecy concerning the crystals, Rynah summons help aboard her ship from a planet so underdeveloped it had gone unnoticed before, Earth. From this planet she calls forth four heroes,  the philosopher Solon from 751 B.C, the warrior Alfric from 1163, the inventor Tom from 2099, and the Mary Sue...I mean, lover Brie from 2014 to stop Klanor and save the galaxy.

Yeah...it might seem like I'm being kind of harsh about this one, but hear me out. This book is silly. And it knows it's silly (or at least I think it does). There are a lot of things that this book is trying to be. Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, basically, if it has the word "star" in the title, this book is trying to be it. Whoever, if you can get past that...it's actually kind of likable. It reads more like a fan fiction might but...a good fan fiction. It doesn't read like a quick cash grab, it reads like a labor of love. What it wants to be is an homage to the great sci-fi stories and capture what they had instead of trying to cash in on what they think will sell the most. The problem is... it is still pretty silly.

The characters in this book are just what you'd expect them to be. You have your no-nonsense captain, Rynah, with an impossibly bad attitude who acts tough but really she's just scared. You have the philosopher who spouts out fortune-cookie comments whenever it's relevant and the massive hulking warrior who is all about pride and honor and fight-to-the-death and MAN! things. Possibly the only one who actually has some depth and I actually believe to behave like a real person would is Tom, the inventor. He really seems to pull his weight, takes everything in stride, is excited to learn and explore but is also terrified when he needs to be. He can pull of being excited and frantic at the same time. And then...*sigh*...you have Brie. There's no doubt about it, she's a Mary-Sue. A teenage girl from about the right time who can't do anything but has so much love in her that she's essential in saving the galaxy. She contributes very little and but everyone babies her and tells her how strong she really is, with the exception of Rynah who rightly calls her out at times. However, because Rynah is such a jerk to Brie that we can't get too mad at Brie for this. It's rare that a Mary Sue is called out for what she is and that is a little refreshing, but it's marred when Rynah's criticisms make her out to be a terrible person we don't want to listen to. By making Rynah look bad, it makes Brie look good by comparison and that's just manipulative. I didn't care for that detail too much.

Now, with sci-fi stories you are allowed a fair amount of creative license when it comes to planets. Here, however, we just have your basic serving of Zelda planets. What do I mean by that? I mean your typical environments that you'd encounter in almost every Legend of Zelda game. We're talking a jungle world, a water world, and ice world, a desert world...stuff we've seen a million times. At least make the water red or the ice green or...or something! It's the same basic planet set ups that we've seen in tons of different science fiction stories. You should branch out with your planets, have fun with them. Do a little research and find out what plants or animals could live in these places. Along with the planets, the plot is pretty typical too. It's a quest story. Find the things, save the world, stop the mustache-twirling villain...all of that. The villain is super boring in this thing too. He has no motivation, no reason for what he's doing beyond "I want power!" and he's extremely forgettable.

Now, that being said, there is heart in this book. It's supposed to be an homage, as I said before. A story where you can just turn your brain off and not have to think about it too hard. It's fun for the sake of fun. And I did have fun with this book. It wasn't a chore to get through at all, I actually found myself enjoying it. Solaris has a great personality to make up for Rynah's terrible one, Alfric is a riot, Tom's a pretty well developed character...there is stuff to like in this book. It's just too bad that some of it is only enjoyable ironically. Like the ending. I'm not going to spoil anything but...once you see the direction they go with the end...oh my gosh. So hilarious when it's not supposed to be. Enough out of me. Look it up for yourself.

Final Verdict
If you're a sci-fi fan, or someone looking into sci-fi for the first time, this book is fine. You'll like it okay. But this is definitely a book for the heart and not for the mind. It does have some serious flaws, some generic plot details, and not quite enough new material. If you want to check it out, feel free to do so just maybe check it out at your local library.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Please make sure to Follow Midnight Readings for instant updates. 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: Man, this town can NOT catch a break....

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Night Bird by Brian Freeman



For one last scary, post-Halloween hurrah, we have a murder mystery where being afraid kills you. Nice. The concept of phobias is always an interesting one and getting to the bottom of what drives peoples biggest fears is a fascinating idea. Mix that in with some typical yet fun mystery characters and you've got this book. Let's dive right in.

Dr. Francesca Stein's made it her goal to help those with life-crippling phobias. Her special treatments and use of hypnosis to make people's bad memories go away have worked wonders on hundreds of patients. However, her patients start dying in horrific suicides and Frankie is being stalked by someone called the Night Bird. Now homicide detective Frost Easton is on the case, and together he and Dr. Stein must catch the killer before he strikes again.

As far as mysteries go, this one is handled really well. It never gets overly complicated and readers can follow along just fine, picking up clues and figuring things out as they go. I admit, I didn't know where this was going most of the time. I was genuinely interested and didn't figure it out too soon, which is how mystery stories are meant to go. Admittedly I did figure it out a bit earlier than I was probably supposed to, but for the most part, I was intrigued. The story has just the right amount of elements in it to keep the reader's inner detective curious. It drops just the right hints at just the right time, it has red herrings to fool the readers onto the wrong track, and there's just the right amount of threat and urgency in the plot to keep the reader invested. In this department, it was quite a success.

I also got to really like the character of Frost Easton...despite his rather silly name. Most of these detective-types in mystery novel tend to fall into Gary-Stu territory, what with being overly perfect, knowing things they couldn't possibly know, and being able to knock out opponents twice their size. Frost, however, is very human. While he does have the traditional tragic backstory and he does brood about it from time to time, he's still comes off as likable. He's not the "don't get in the way of my investigation" kind of guy, he wants to help and doesn't judge. He has useful friends he relies on, he has a brother that he gets along with and loves, he doesn't jump into bed with any woman he meets, he's just...human. Also, he rents his home from his cat. You read that right.

Now, admittedly, the rest of the characters in this book are...a bit cookie-cutter. You know all these stereotypes from other mystery novels: the self-absorbed sister, the criminal that got away, the flamboyant gay guy, the husband who doesn't get enough attention, yada yada. Then again, this is mystery fiction, so it's kind of hard to blame them for this. You know who these characters are within five minutes of knowing them and can pretty easily picture what their role is and what place they have in the story. They're mostly just there to get the plot moving. The stuff involving Dr. Stein's personal story is probably the worst part, that tidbit I actually could guess and it's resolution left me a bit peeved, but the kind of peeved you get when you're invested so...there's that.

With this being a fictional story, you do have to allow for some creative license. For example, I'm not sure how sound some of the science is in this book, as in I don't know if this is something someone can actually do. There are times when both Frost and Dr. Stein make decisions that probably wouldn't work in real life...such as entering places without a warrant (yeah, that happens). However, it doesn't happen very often and, in one instance at least, there could be an argument for probable cause so it does check out.  Frost stays mostly by the book, but it's Dr. Stein who ends up making some of the dumb moves. But, again, it's to move the plot along so most of it is pretty forgivable, it didn't really bother me. The only thing that really did bother me, aside from the thing about Stein's forgotten past, is that the author really likes to wax poetic about the surrounding area during tense moments. When people are about to die and things are getting really intense, the last thing I wanna hear about is what the trees look like! There's a time and place for such things.

Final Verdict
A creepy baddie, a cool cop, and an interesting mystery are all pros this book has to offer, while stereotypes and poor decision making are its cons. Still, I was pretty entertained and nicely intrigued by this book and it did its job by bringing me along for the ride and letting me figure things out on my own. Overall, I'd say that this creepy tale is worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Please make sure to Follow Midnight Readings for instant updates. 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: Sassiest...spaceship...ever.

Monday, October 30, 2017

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux



Let's close out the month of October with the latest YA Horror phenomenon, House of Furies. The hype around this book is pretty real. Lots of people were telling me that this book is super scary and the best/scariest book to come out this year. Naturally, I was pretty excited to get a chance to read it and seeing as I liked Asylum pretty well, I found myself really looking forward to it. How did it hold up to my expectations? Let's find out.

Louisa Ditton is down on her luck. Shipped off to school by her family, running away from said school, and now living on the streets telling fortunes just to get by. But she's then offered a place at Coldthistle House, a boarding house run by the mysterious Mr. Morningside. But more goes on at Coldthistle House than Louisa could ever have imagined. Those who visit the house are sinners who receive their just desserts at the hands of the House's otherworldly staff. Louisa soon fears for Lee, a young man boarding at the house with his uncle, and hopes to save him before he, or herself, is next to suffer the wrath of those within the house.

First things first, I actually really liked Louisa as a character. Much like Roux's last protagonist, Dan, Louisa is more than meets the eye and is a mystery even unto the readers. She's a very complex character as well and nicely flawed (yes, flaws are a good thing). She's short tempered but never to the point where it became annoying. She steals and can come off as selfish at times, but she's not a bad person. She's a product of her circumstances and yet manages to genuinely care about Lee. She keeps her head a lot of the times, even when faced against terrible creatures of darkness. She worked really well for me.

Now...for the big problem. The pacing in this book is slow! Very, very slow. So much so that, for me, it kind of kills the mood of the book. It's hard to be on edge and scared of what's to come when there's page after page of nothing scary happening! She gets to the house, nothing happens. She meets Morningside, nothing happens. She starts working at the house...nothing happens. Then, when things do get started, you have to wake yourself up and realize that it's finally happening. Granted, when the scary moments finally come they are pretty intense. Running into a group of wraiths that chase you through the house, witnessing the aftermath of a ritualistic sacrifice, and a rather nasty encounter with a cannibal all manage to do their job in scaring the reader. The problem is that they are too far in between long stretches of nothing happening that does little to capture the reader's interest. The pace really killed a lot of this book for me.

But the pace isn't the only problem with the book. Mostly, outside from one of the boarders at the house, there's almost no threat to Louisa in this book. They make it pretty clear right away that everybody in the house, all the staff that live there and are supposed to add to the horrors of the place, are all very friendly and kind to Louisa and do their best to help her. If we know she's safe, then the reader is comforted instead of nervous. Even when she attempts to flee the house, she's met with little in the way of obstacles. And she's so desperate to flee the house yet...she keeps going back of her own free will. It's hard to sympathize with her inability to get away when she get's away but goes back on her own. Now, when she does go back, she does so for unselfish reasons so, there is that, but it's marred when she just goes back to the house and is already plotting to get away again.

The book also includes hints about what is to come in this story. This comes in the form of pictures and excerpts from Mr. Morningside's book about rare dark creatures. Now, the pictures I don't mind as they're vague enough to leave you guessing, but the excerpts feel like overkill. Plus, the excerpts come right out of nowhere, meaning the actual story has to take break while we're spoon-fed information that we probably didn't need. Instead of telling me what these people can do, how about you show me. That's what they do, they tell instead of show. Aside from some Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark-esque illustrations, I could have done away with them all together.

Final Verdict
I was a bit disappointed in this one. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be and it wasn't as good as Roux's other works. Still, there is some good stuff to be enjoyed and, if you like it or want to read it, feel free to do so just probably wait for it on paperback.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Please make sure to Follow Midnight Readings for instant updates. 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: We're not done with horror stories yet. Try to banish your worst fears, they'll just come back...with a vengeance.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Tales from the Haunted Mansion: The Fearsome Foursome by Amicus Arcane



I sometimes find I have little patience for "scary" stories for kids. Why? Because they're never scary! Finding kid friendly material that actually delivers scares is pretty rare these days. They usually either try too hard or don't try at all. Luckily for us, we have a collection of tales that both the young and the old can enjoy and be perfectly scared by. Let's proceed.

Tim, Willa, Noah, and Steve are known as the Fearsome Foursome, a group of kids from the same school who just love to make up and tell scary stories. One night, they find an invitation at their usual meeting place...an invitation to a creepy old mansion in the Louisiana bayou. It is within this creepy mansion that the Fearsome Foursome meet the mansion's librarian who wants in on the fun. He then proceeds to tell them four frightening tales featuring the Foursome...an they're not allowed to leave until theirs stories are finished.

One thing I really appreciated about this book was its voice. The narrator of the book, presumably the  Mansion's Ghost Host, is a riot! The sarcastic wit and hilarious jibs are just perfectly timed, giving this book an admittedly dark sense of humor but a good one. It often breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader, pointing out flaws the characters make and cliches. While it is funny and very well done, it doesn't shy away from the scares either. That same tone of voice that makes you laugh can also make you shiver and never mixes the two, keeping everything in tone. As the stories get more intense, the jibes lessen and you really feel the urgency and fear the stories. It was brilliantly well done.

I also like the four heroes and the stories that went with them. While the plots to each of these stories isn't exactly unique, they help to build the kids as characters and give us an idea of what they're really like. Tim gets possession of a demonic baseball glove, Willa longs for a dead pet back, Noah tries to spite his stepfather with poor results, and Steve makes a dare that goes too far. As each of their situations gets worse, you feel for them and you want them to come through from the horrors they're facing. They felt like real kids and I appreciated that about them.

The peril that the kids face in these stories is, while fantastical, intense. Will kids find this scary? Well, I hope so because that's what the book is for. Scaring kids! Even so, the humor in the narration and the fact that this is a kids book soften the blow just enough to where I don't think anyone will be psychologically harmed. I mean, come on, this is Disney's Haunted Mansion, remember? It's not going to scar somebody for life. Kids can read this and be enjoyably afraid. I would feel perfectly comfortable letting a kid read this. Just the right amount of tension, high stakes, and otherworldly creeps come together in just the right amount of terror, which everyone can appreciate.

As this is based on the Disneyland ride, it did have to include several references scattered throughout the stories and not just in the framing device. These are most noticeable in Steve's story, but they can be found all over. Sometimes these are nicely integrated and other times they stick out like a hitchhiking ghost's thumb. But this is an extreme nitpick and my trying really hard to find something wrong with the book and that's saying a lot.

Final Verdict
Ghoulishly delightful and just the right amount of scary with a sharp sense of humor, this book had it all. I really enjoyed this one and it got me eager to read the books that come after it (this is the first in a series). And it is with a grim grin that I welcome this book to the Shelf of Recommendation!

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: Now this is a haunted house of epic proportions....

Monday, October 23, 2017

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather



Written by the actual descendent of Cotton Mather, we get a story of the fake descendent of Cotton Mather! Yeah. Inspired by the infamous Salem Witch Trials, we have a story of curses, accusations, spirits, and high school. Should be interesting. Let's dive right in.

Samantha Mather didn't mind the move to Salem at first. Vaguely interested in the dark history her family has there, she looks forward to seeing what the mysterious town has to offer when she moves in with her stepmother. But Sam quickly learns she's not entirely welcome in Salem. A clique at school known as the Descendants, whose ancestors were the victims of the trials, have singled Sam out and make her life miserable. It doesn't help that mysterious occurrences are taking place around Salem, and people are dying. Now Sam must break an ancient curse set upon the denizens of Salem before she, or her father, are the next to die.

Now the concept of a curse in Salem and using the actual people descended from the victims is actually not a bad one. There's a lot of potential here and that's where some of the highlights of this book shines through. The fact that the situations are reversed, that the family of the accusers is now being victimized, is also pretty clever. The author is trying to relate the trials with modern day bullying and, while that may seem like a stretch to some, the themes have much in common. While there are times when it isn't exactly handled well (I'll get to that in a bit) it is a valiant attempt. The messages of speaking up and refusing to continue the cycle are good ones and I did appreciate that in this book.

What doesn't work, unfortunately, is that this book relies on a lot of typical YA tropes to tell the story. The additions of things like a love triangle with the boy next door and a magical convenience fairy...I mean...ghost just kind of feels forced and doesn't help the story overall. There's no denying that Sam is a self insert character (they have the same last name and heritage for crying out loud!) and her personality is a bit...lacking at times. While she's certainly not perfect and does have natural reactions to situations at times, her general reaction to most paranormal scenarios is "Seriously?" There was no real spark of life to her. Also, she doesn't do much to help her situation and can make matters worse for herself at times. For example, there's a scene when she goes to a local coffee shop and the barista asks for her name to put on the cup and, knowing full well that her name is going to get her grief from the other patrons, she just gives it to her. Here's an idea, Sam. If you don't want a barista to shout out your name to the whole world...lie! It's a freakin' coffee house, they don't care if you tell the truth or not. You can tell them your name is "Batman" and they won't question it. You could have just given a fake name and avoided the grief but no, you just had to make things worse for yourself. Little touches like that make Sam come off kind of stupid and that's the biggest problem with her character. It's hard to convey her as a victim being bullied when she's not really doing anything to help herself.

The supernatural elements to the story can be interesting, but those are often ruined because, again, YA tropes. That ghost boyfriend I brought up before is by far my biggest complaint. He's available at her beck and call (he only complains about being summoned once and is totally fine with it the rest of the time), he does all the hard work and research the story requires so she doesn't have to, he's able to magically produce a picnic feast with yummies from all over the world to cheer her up, and he's corporeal, so they can make out. He's strictly there for wish fulfillment purposes and it was just silly! While there were fun things like curses and a truly interesting mystery for most of the book the resolution of the mystery...was a bit of a let down. I really didn't like what they ended up doing. I saw it coming, for starters, and the villain's motivations were...head scratching. I won't give it away but I was just underwhelmed by the big reveal of the story.

Finally, what kind of bothered me about the story was some of the historical inaccuracies. I liked studying the Witch Trials when I was in school and so some of the stuff that was changed around or excluded was...irksome. Now, sure, creative license is a thing and I understand and respect that. I liked Stalking Jack the Ripper a lot even though that was pretty inaccurate too. The problem here is that this is written by the actual descendent of Cotton Mather. I just feel like, if anyone should get the facts straight, it should be this person! But no. No, we just throw details away for the sake of a pretty story with the world's most perfect undead boyfriend. Such wasted potential.

Final Verdict
If you're just looking for a typical YA story, Mean Girls in Salem, or what-have-you, this book won't bother you and you'll like it just fine. I ended up disappointed but that doesn't mean you will. If this sounds like your cup of tea, go ahead and give it a shot but maybe check it out at your local library.



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:(singing) Grim, grinning ghosts...come out to socialize....

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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Silver Portal by David J. Normoyle



Now, here's something I've been missing for a long time. No cliche dystopian worlds, no boring love triangles, no rebellion plot lines we've read a hundred times...just adventure. A straight up, classic-style adventure with good characters and cool ideas. Let's begin.

In an attempt to thwart the plans of the evil Lord Protector, who plans to bring powers untold into the land of Mageles in order to obtain an army, the Soylant wizards created the weapons of power that together will destroy him. But the spell to create the weapons goes array and they land in the hands of five youths. A street rat named Twig, a so-called "adventurer", a pampered noble girl, a sinful passivist, and a boy without a tribe are all granted great power by the weapons and are thus thrust into  a quest they do not understand, or do not want. But only their combined powers can stop the coming evil and close the silver portal once and for all.

The book's greatest challenge was that if followed the story of not one, but five (and at one point six) protagonists. What's brilliant is that I remember them all, each of them is well developed and I had no problem recalling where they come from or what their story is. It's also pretty well spaced out between them. We never sit for too long with one character and nobody feels neglected. It's also wonderful that these characters are all fun and interesting, but also perfectly flawed. None of them are perfect little Sues or Stus that just get away with everything they try and master the power of their weapons easily. One of them is kind of a playboy, one has difficulty understanding human emotions, one of them is very naive, you get it. Each of the five stories is pulls you in and makes you care about the characters and want to see them come out okay.

The set up of this world is also very well done. You get a feeling for each of these locations and how they differ from one another. You really get a feeling that this is a world. It has a multitude of cultures, religions, governments, etc. Each region is unique and feels organic and also helps to set up the kinds of lives our heroes have lived up until we meet them. There's also that fact that the weapons themselves are super cool. A sword that grants you speed, a ring that lets you hear people's thoughts, a bow that shoots arrows of pure energy, and axe that gives you inhuman strength, and a staff that creates portals. It's also kind of fun seeing which weapon goes to which character and how these affect them and drive them forward in the story.

The tone of the book is also very light and easy to follow, which is again an accomplishment when reading a book with so many points of view. It's light without being goofy and also allows quiet moments and intense scenes as well, balancing them all out nicely. It knows when to take things seriously and when it's okay for Lukin to crack a joke. It knows when it's time to start fighting and when it's time to sit down and talk. This made things flow very nicely and made the story feel well-balanced.

Now, it wasn't a perfect book by any means. There were a few character deaths that, I admit, I didn't really feel or didn't bother me. It's not that the deaths weren't sad it's just...we didn't know the characters that well and so when they died, I wasn't all that affected by it. Also the ending might rub some people the wrong way. Now, it's not a bad ending exactly. It has everything you want with fights and spells and slaying dragons and a ton of really cool stuff. It was really awesome but then it didn't end so much as it just stopped. Just...came to a screeching halt and left the audience hanging. Not the most endearing way to end things, guys. Still, I actually did get me hyped for the sequel so...there's that at least.

Final Verdict
A fun adventure with great characters and cool weapons and a straight-forward yet amusing plot. Any fantasy reader would like this book, would enjoy these characters and, if they want to read it, 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: Brace yourselves....Spring is coming....(wait, what?)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Breaking Light by Heather Hansen



Ugh. Let's get this over with. This one was really, really a chore this time people! I'm not kidding. It took force to get myself through this one. Not only is it painfully boring, not only is it contrived, but it doesn't even try to hide the fact that it's just a retelling of one of the oldest and most well known stories of all time...IN SPAAAACE! Let's begin.

Arden is a drug dealing gangster living in Undercity, the part of a colonized city on the surface of...I don't know, some planet that's not Earth, where the sun never shines and everyone is suffering. Dade is a privileged son of the Higher Levels, where he lives in the lap of luxury but has his fate controlled by his family. Both Arden's gang and Dade's family are caught in a desperate conflict for control of the city, destroying each other over the coveted sun drug VitD and both sides have vowed to destroy each other...which makes it most inconvenient when Arden and Dade fall madly in love with each other.

Yeah, you'll notice a lot of little things start to pop up in this story that seem oddly familiar. Two feuding families, a boy and a girl from each falling in love, a friendly holy man who tries to help them, them meeting up at a masquerade party....figure it out yet? Yup. This is Romeo and Juliet in space. The book does whatever it can to try and hide that too. This time it's Romeo who is running from an arranged marriage and Juliet who ends up killing people. Now, I wouldn't mind if this was just a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. I wouldn't mind it at all...if it weren't for the fact that the book would just admit that it was a retelling! I've looked at several different descriptions about this thing and nowhere does it just admit that this is Romeo and Juliet in space! Nowhere! Also, if you're going to make a retelling of a story this famous at least try and be subtle about it. I could never accept this as its own thing because it was so painfully, blatantly obvious that I just got distracted by the obvious rip-off scenes happening all over the place. Except for that piece of crap ending, but I'll get to that later....

Despite it being a rip off of Shakespeare of all things, this book has a ton of other problems. The instalove in this book is just laughable. Page one, page fricking one, she has a knife to his throat and all they can think about is how hot the other person is! Every second they are not in each others company, they are pining for each other. They constantly worry about each other and dwell on each other and think of how they can save each other...and they've only had one conversation in which they shared nothing about each other. Yeah, they know absolutely nothing about each other, they don't really have anything in common, and yet they are unbelievably and inexplicably in love with each other and go on and on about it ridiculously written, gag-inducing prose. Even as a Romeo and Juliet retelling this...does...not...work! It's silly and so unbelievably stupid that we can't take the main characters seriously. Nobody falls in love like this. In a play, you only have so much time to start a romance but in a novel you can take your time and develop them! This kind of crap just makes your characters look like idiots and we can't get behind their relationship.

Also, the plot tries to clash the play's story with that of a tired, deeply cliche dystopian story that we've heard a thousand times the same way. Plus, you knew exactly which roles certain characters play in the book. You have the sassy gay friend (or cousin or whatever), you have the muscle who helps the boy, you have the conniving mean girl, it's all so tired and I just couldn't give a crap about any of them. Heck, I don't think that the muscle guy even has more than five lines in this thing and we're still supposed to care about him. If you know the play, which everyone does, and you are familiar with YA cliches, which a lot of people do, it comes together to form a story that nothing but formulaic and boring! I was unbelievably bored looking into this book. Nothing came as a surprise. No plot twist or character death was felt in this thing. I didn't care about anyone or anything and that was the biggest problem with the book.

Now...let's get to the ending. I don't feel like this deserves it but, I'll put a spoiler warning up just in case anyway...

*SPOILER ALERT* So, death plays a big part in the story of Romeo and Juliet. Heck, everyone knows the iconic ending of the play. In the context of that play, the deaths of Romeo and Juliet is a bitter lesson for the two families and they see just how destructive their feud is and how the tragedy is a warning of the mixture of pride and adolescence. Here, however....all that significance is thrown straight out the window for the heroic and super dumb YA ending where the deaths were just fake outs and the two main characters brace themselves for an obvious sequel. That's right, this Romeo and Juliet retelling...has a sequel. That's stupid. It's all stupid! This book is so unbelievably STUPID! Romeo and Juliet is a TRAGEDY! It's right there in the frigging TITLE! It's not about ultimate love, it's about how pride and youth are a dangerous combination and, if not handled properly, can have horrible consequences! But this piece of tripe, it's bland love that saves the day...except not really because their families are still fighting and how they have nowhere to go. These two lovers still know absolutely nothing about each other except how frigging in love they are and I just...just...arrgh! This ending just pissed me off like you wouldn't believe! *END OF SPOILERS*

Final Verdict
I absolutely hated this book. I don't even like Romeo and Juliet all that much and this made it even worse! Seriously folks, it's a waste of time. If you have any interest at all in this thing, just pick up Shakespeare and throw this thing where it belongs in the Waste Bin of Despair!

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 have got to get me...one of each of these weapons because these are legit!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ruined by Amy Tintera



While I'm glad that Game of Thrones and other such stories have breathed new life into fantasy epics in this modern time, it can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is we get new and innovative ideas and brand new adventures involving politics and intrigue and danger, while the curse is getting boring tripe like this dished out to us. Let's just dive in.

Emelina Flores has lost her kingdom and her family to the neighboring kingdom of Lera. Hoping for a chance to save her only family left, her sister Olivia, she infiltrates the Lera kingdom disguised as the princess their prince is meant to marry. As the prince's betrothed Em can save what's left of her people, the powerful Ruined race, rescue her sister, and bring justice to the kingdom that caused her so much grief. It is unfortunate, therefore, that her new husband is kind and thoughtful and just a wonderful person and she starts to develop real feelings for him while also planning the destruction of his whole family.

Now, the concept has promise, it really does. That's why I picked this book up to begin with. There was hope for this book. Sadly, that hope just goes straight out the window because the entire execution of this concept is so horribly BLAND! I'm sorry but...I was very bored throughout this whole thing. Nothing came as a surprise. Everything was predictable. Everything just...fell short! Em as a main character was crazy forgettable. The book tries to make her this big deal by making her tough and have her kill people and constantly think up plans on how she'd kill everyone in the room...but her personality is as vapid as they come. Oh, and she's a terrible spy! She can't help herself from saying things that the person she's imitating would never say. She goes out of her way to defend the Ruined and practically announces to everyone that she's a Ruined supporter...in a castle full of people who want the Ruined exterminated. Real smooth, lady.  Cas, the prince, is as generic as they come. He's raised in this family that openly hates the Ruined and yet he sympathizes with them and totally agrees with everything Em says. How can he be such a person when raised in an environment that teaches nothing but hate towards the Ruined? Because the plot said so, that's why.

If bland is the first word I'd use to describe this book, the second would be vague. This book can be incredibly vague about everything from geography to what exactly the Ruined can do. What are the Ruined powers, what exactly can they do or can't do....I have no bloody clue. Is it like telekinesis? Kind of. Some can control elements...I think? Yeah, we're given no inkling about different types of Ruined there are, what stages of power they possess, what's possible or impossible for them...nothing. And Em doesn't have any powers and is labeled as useless...why? Why is she useless? We don't know. We're never told. Also, there's a lot of talk about these different countries and how they are set up but...there's no map with this book. This book needs a map. Because I have no idea where they're going or which direction there is or how the land is set up. They start talking about Lera being set up in a jungle and...they never even mentioned it was in a jungle before. How far south is it compared to Vallos, it's supposed neighbor that's a two day carriage ride away, when Vallos is apparently a forest and has snow? Like I said. MAP!

Lastly, there's just not anything new in this book. It tries to be edgy and dark by killing characters and describing violence...but the violence happens offscreen (or off page or whatever) and the characters that are killed are ones we don't care about. This book clearly wanted to be mature...but not too mature. I held itself back and fit itself into YA standards that said we can't make it too grown up and scare away the teenage girls who could be made into potential Em/Cas shippers.

Final Verdict
Far too tame to be taken seriously, too predictable to be interesting, too little and way too late. I don't know, some people might like it but it's just not for me. If you really wanna check it out...then save your cash and check it out at your local library.

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: For never has there been a tale of more woe than that of a drug dealer and her Shmomeo.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Circus's aren't quite what they used to be, what with the Ringling Brothers Circus closing down a few months ago and such acts becoming scarcer and scarcer as years go by. However, if they were more like this place, I think they might just make a comeback. Morgenstern builds a world in which magic not only exists, but it's available to be viewed by the masses.

Le Cirque des Rêves is a fantastical world in which eager patrons can come and witness true magic without ever really knowing what they're seeing. The breathing carousel, the Ice Garden that never melts, the human statues, the lingering smell of caramel and popcorn all creates an amazing experience which some people can't seem to get enough of. But there is more going on at the Circus than they might think. The Cirque is a battleground in which two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, are pitted against one another by their mentors in a test of endurance to see which of the two of them will be victorious. But the binding of these two magicians creates a bond far beyond that of competitors and the Cirque and everyone involved in it are put in potential danger as the game becomes more and more dangerous.

The prose in this book is just astounding. The author's voice perfectly depicts the amazing feelings of being in the circus and the feats you see within it. The black-and-white Burtonesque feel that the circus has is portrayed very well in several second-person chapters in which you take a personal journey through the circus and guiding you through the experience. The descriptions of magic and what it does and can do in this world are also very interesting. You can bottle the sensation of being in a certain place, you can have your future read in the stars and your past read off your face, materials can reshape themselves into animals and you can see just how much magic can influence the circus.

As for the plot, the concept of it is certainly interesting. Celia is brought up by her arrogant father and Marco by the mysterious Mr. A.H. (unfortunate initials, I know) and yet find themselves coming together despite being pitted against one another. You quickly get a knack for these characters and what they can do and how they become an intricate part of the circus. Celia is kind but stubborn (especially in regards to her father) and doesn't take crap from people. Marco is clever and charming and can manipulate the circus without actually being there. There is a large cast of performers and managers that add a lot of color to the black-and-white circus, including an enigmatic contortionist, a pair of twin kitten tamers, and the eccentric owner Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre. I also really liked the idea of the rêveurs, a kind of cirque fan club that makes it their goal to follow the circus as often as possible.

The one complaint I've seen about this book is that the pacing was a bit too slow and, while I see where people are coming from in saying that, I didn't really have a problem with that. It is very Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell-esque in that it takes its time and develops a lot of characters and not just our two leads. The story at large takes place over roughly thirty years in the lives of Celia and Marco, before the Cirque even exists, and expands through to the end of the competition. While some might have hoped that magicians fighting would be a bombastic event full of magical explosions and such, I'm going to warn you right now that you won't be getting that (though there is at least one explosion). The magic in this book, while impressive, is also very subtle. It's meant to be the kind of thing that amazes muggle eyes yet is quiet enough that they can believe that it is just another deception. The tension as Celia and Marco grow closer to one another is palpable and requires time and energy, which this book gives. While Marco is very impressed with Celia the moment they meet, their romance takes years to develop, which is something that I value having read as many YA instal-love stories as I have.

Note: I certainly hope that this review does not warrant knife-throwing.

Final Verdict
This book promises magic and it gives it to us. Descriptions and prose that are positively palpable, an eccentric cast, a subtle and complex plot make this book definitely one for the Shelf of Recommendation!

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: Sometimes, love can just Ruin everything....

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Winemaker of the North by J.T. Williams



Don't let the title fool you: this isn't about fantasy characters getting tipsy and having fun. This is thrilling, enchanting, nail-biting, and surprisingly heartfelt fantasy adventure about a man learning to let go of what he's taught and daring to believe in what is right.

Sviska is an assassin, raised by the Order, to carry out their wishes and execute whomever they send him to. When one such assignment is botched, he is then sent on a "succeed-or-die" mission to the mysterious city of Elianthrond. In this city, magic, something he'd been raised to believe is blasphemy, runs rampant and he meets dwarves, elves, dragon tamers and many more. Sviska learns that he's to pose as their new winemaker, who is really more of a potion-brewer, to create a special wine to save the inhabitants from a curse threatening to destroy them all. Sviska quickly finds himself torn, unsure if he is to serve the Order he's been bound to all his life, or save the one place in all the world that has ever felt like home.

With the main character being an assassin, I was glad to see that there is more to Sviska as a character than just a heartless killing machine. He's very human, something most characters in this profession don't tend to be. He's curious, he's jumpy, he's polite, and he allows himself to feel lost and no longer in control when put in a situation he doesn't understand. He's a very realistic character that way, he's capable of realistic emotion and you feel as he does. I really enjoyed Sviska's character and was happy to be going through this journey with him.

The city and inhabitants of Elianthrond are also very well written. These creatures and the people who live in this place make for a great community. When you see just how devastating this curse is that afflicts them, you really come to feel for them and want them to get the help they need. Not to mention that certain aspects of this place are actually really cool. Priests are warriors, dragons are pets, mermaids and sirens are surprisingly helpful (unless you cross them), dwarves make great drinking buddies, ogres make awesome barbecue (not as suspicious as it sounds), it's just a really fun place. As Sviska falls in love with it and wants to help those who live there, you do as well. There's also a great mythological set up to this place. The history and mythos are well-established and you come to really feel for this place.

Now, those things being said, there were times when the tone suffered in this thing. There were long stretches of just relaxing or traveling and then lengthy battles that just kind of pop up. Still, I never felt lost as I can sometimes do when there is too much action or feel bored when things slow down. I was also a little worried in the beginning because this story could very easily gone through a "liar revealed" plot line where the person who isn't who they say they are is outed and all of a sudden they're a traitor and nobody listens to what they have to say, even if it'll save their lives (looking at you, A Bug's Life). Thankfully, while there is a tiny bit of that, it is resolved very quickly and mostly forgotten by the next chapter. You have no idea how grateful I was for this. The "liar revealed" is a story cliche that just drives me up the wall so to see it handled well just makes me happy.

The ending of the book did come off as a little rushed, trying to establish what is coming next in the series while wrapping up a pretty intense battle. They try to throw in a long, lost friend/rival that they never brought up before which could have used a bit more attention or foreshadowing or...anything really because it kind of came out of left field but, overall I felt it was a solid start to a series.

Final Verdict
Great world-building, a sympathetic yet strong lead, a lively ensemble, and an action packed plot made for quite the adventure in this book. If this is your thing, I'd say check it out because it's 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: If this circus ever comes to town, shut up and take my money!