April 2015 Wrap Up

I have seen quite a few monthly wrap up posts for the past couple of months (ever since I created Ana’s Lair) and have been toying with the idea of doing one.
This will be my first try. I hope this format is visually attractive and has enough information. The covers link to the GR book page and the text links will forward you to that book’s review.
If you have any suggestions, please post below!

So… April.

I started the month reading Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman.

I had ordered this paperback a while back and it was just what I needed to recuperate from a dreadful reading slump.

It was a nice, light read, full of imagination, and I rated it 4/5 stars.

 

 

The First (The Returned 0.5) by Jason Mott was my second audiobook experience and it was a pleasant one, although since I had only listened to one other short story I did not have much of a basis for comparison regarding narrators. I think I struggled with the whole doing different voices thing the most, as well as the pace and figuring out when the narrative jumped to another timeframe or character.

Since then, I have listened to one and a half other short stories, also prequels to The Returned, and now believe this book’s narrator (Victor Bevine) was pretty good. The story was nice as well.

I rated The First 3.5/5 stars.

 

I then moved on to Lake Of Sins: Secrets In Blood (Lake of Sins, #2), by L.S. O’Dea.

It is the sequel to Lake Of Sins: Escape (Lake of Sins #1).

I did not enjoy it quite as much as the first book, although I can tell why a lot other folks would, especially younger ones.

It was still a great reading experience and I rated it 3.5/5 stars.

 

 

The fourth book I read in April was Edge of End.

It had some highlights, particularly the dream-like quality of the narrative and the setting it took place.

I thought the idea behind it was pretty good, but I was not a fan of the execution.

The story was too riddled with clichés, certain subjects were not addressed enough in my opinion, and the ending felt rushed to me, so I ended up rating it 2/5 stars.

 

 

My third audiobook, The Sparrow (The Returned 0.6) by Jason Mott, was quite enjoyable.

I prefered this story to The First‘s. Though not fast paced, I felt completely enthralled by the narrative because it was all very real.

I rated it 4/5 stars.

 

 

I then read a 100 page preview excerpt of Where: A Novel, by Kit Reed.

It had some editing errors which needed to be addressed and the writing style was completely different from anything I had read before. I could not tell in such a small preview if I would get used to it and actually feel taken away by the story.

It showed lots of potential but, since I could not really tell if I would enjoy the book, I ended up rating it halfway at 2.5/5 stars.

 

 

Next, The Bone Wall, by D. Wallace Peach.

This book had the potential to be a great fantasy epic. It had some really good things but I kept getting this uneasy feeling throughout the narrative of wanting certain things to be explained. When the explanations finally came, they did not give me enough closure, so I rated it 3.5/5 stars.

It was still a terrific experience and we did a buddy read of this book on Book Lair, so it was even more fun.

 

 

Line of Descent by James Derry was quite a treat.

There were certain things which I had loved to see tweaked but overall it was a lot of fun.

It had some unique concepts and the story had depth.

I rated it 3.75/5 stars.

 

 

Last but not least, The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari.

By this point I felt that I needed to take a breather from my usual genres and boy am I glad I chose this one.

It was a thrilling crime novel which I thoroughly enjoyed and I could not think of a better way to end the month.

I rated it 4.25/5

 

 

Where I got the books:

 

Book Depository:

  • Fortunately, the Milk (paperback)

 

Audible:

  • The First (The Returned 0.5)
  • The Sparrow (The Returned 0.6)

 

Author:

  • Lake Of Sins: Secrets In Blood (Lake of Sins, #2)
  • Edge of End
  • The Bone Wall
  • Line of Descent

 

Netgalley:

  • Where: A Novel (excerpt)
  • The Doll Maker

 

Favourite covers:

Book of the month:

The Doll Maker

 

Conclusion

So all in all I would say this was a pretty great month, although some if not most of my reads were quite short.

I still managed to get plenty of variety in both genres and formats. I usually only read from my Kindle Paperwhite these days, so reading a paperback and listening to audiobooks on my phone was a great change.

How was your month?
And what do you think of this format?
Do you think I should keep doing monthly wrap ups?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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The Doll Maker

Title: The Doll Maker (Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne #8)

Author: Richard Montanari

Genres: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Length: 496 pages

Source: Negalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4.25/5

 

Premise:

Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano investigate the murder of pre-teen Nicole, posed in a fresh painted bench. Soon, more children are found murdered and posed, along with mysterious looking dolls. As the investigation proceeds, the detectives find all sort of macabre clues and links to other cases left unsolved.

Review:

Even though I love crime investigation shows – my personal favourite being Criminal Minds(and I even recall a similar themed episode!) – for some reason I was never attracted to books of this genre. I guess I prefer more quick closure, I don’t know. The fact is I felt that I needed to catch a breather from the genres I usually gravitate towards and, after reading Lynn’s review of this book, and looking at that gorgeous cover (shallow, I know!!), I ended up requesting this from Netgalley. The reading experience was different, for sure.

Even though it is the 8th in a series, it works just as well as a standalone. We get to know a bit of the two detectives and that was good enough for me.

The author obviously performed a thorough investigation for the subjects addressed in the book – I particularly liked the bit about calligraphy. However, it also caused me to feel that the book dragged on in some parts, particularly the ones explaining police procedures and some scene descriptions; it struck me as info dumping, and I can see why other readers skimmed through large sections of the book. I just wanted it to move on to juicy parts, you know? Not necessarily action packed but just more exciting.
There were a few things I tended to see repeated that, personally, I didn’t enjoy much but didn’t cause a dent in my enjoyment of the book, like the good question pat on the back from the different units agents involved in the investigation and certain expressions like not the least of them (…) or some variation.

The story itself is quite eerie. To be frank, when I first read the prologue and the first two chapters I felt I was reading three different books – but then it all came together. In those first two, when murders are being committed, the imagery is vivid and gruesome. Then it tones out on the gore side for the rest of the book and focuses more on the psychological/psychopathic aspect. You see, the perps have a language and world concept of their own. They are so scary because they are able to hide in plain sight and even sound adorable and those are the worst type of criminals in my book – you would never say they are, well, evil. It was very interesting and engaging and creepy all at once.
On the other hand, the detectives are real people with real and even ordinary issues and that allowed me to connect with them. And they actually follow procedures and they don’t engage romantically! That was so refreshing and made everything more real.

A couple of things I remember at the moment of not finding very believable or wanting better explained:
I am not sure how viable it is to be able to pull up a 15 year old print from such a small object, particularly one who had to have been handled by several people since then (they were in foster care, after all).
I also wish I had known how Valerie and the kids got money in the first place – that lifestyle had to be expensive. I thought I read that Valerie’s aunt didn’t have much after her stardom came to an end and no jobs were mentioned that I can recall (I only remember groceries being explained).
I wish I had gotten to know a bit more about the development of Mr Marseille’s skills, like with car theft for instance. It is clear that he was the mastermind behind everything, after all, and I would have love to find out how he came to be who he was.
I still don’t get if Anabelle and Mr Marseilles really were brother and sister. We are told they are the same age and might look similar enough to be siblings, but don’t really look like twins.
And finally, I would like to know who were the other 8 victims, since the numbers on the victims’ scalps started at 9. Were they all children? If so, this twisted game started a while before…

All in all, I had a very good time reading this. The last 25% or so was much faster paced and I was really engaged. The two main villains chilled my bones. I don’t know who scared me the most – Mr Marseilles with his ruthlessness or Anabelle being so cut out from the real world and her past. I think one of the things that impressed me the most, besides their platonic love towards each other, was that they were so young. It put me off in the beginning, particularly because of the language they used, such controlled behaviour and sophistication of the crimes (I think part of me still wishes they had been older), but the fact is the story flowed well and I got plenty of closure in the end.

I recommend The Doll Maker to all fans of crime novels and psychological thrillers.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from April 25 to 28, 2015
GR Review


Buddy Read – The Troop

The fine folks at Book Lair are doing a buddy read of the book The Troop, by Nick Cutter.

I won’t be participating as I don’t own a copy just yet (shame on me, I know!) and have plenty of stuff to read and review, but feel free to join them, just click the link above.

Happy reading, hope you have a great monday!

 

The Troop
by Nick Cutter

Synopsis: Boy Scouts live by the motto “Be Prepared.” However, nothing can prepare this group of young boys and their scoutmaster for what they encounter on a small, deserted island, as they settle down for a weekend of campfires, merit badges, and survival lessons.

Everything changes when a haggard stranger in tattered clothing appears out of nowhere and collapses on the campers’ doorstep. Before the night is through, this stranger will end up infecting one of the troop’s own with a bioengineered horror that’s straight out of their worst nightmares. Now stranded on the island with no communication to the outside world, the troop learns to battle much more than the elements, as they are pitted against something nature never intended…and eventually each other.

Day 68 – New book review format

As you may have noticed in my most recent review post Line of Descent, the new format for book reviews is now operative.

I took the feedback from the different polls and came up with a simple way to show the cover (still linking to the GR book page) on the left and, on the right, all sorts of info like title, author, genres, format, length, source and rating. All the other information and way to present it remains the same.

Old format

Old format

New one

New one

I am always open to suggestions, so feel free to post your thoughts below!

Line of Descent

Title: Line of Descent

Author: James Derry

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Thriller

Length: 248 pages

Source: Author

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.75/5

 

Premise:

Following her mother’s funeral, Elise finds that, due to the betrayal of those she considered closest to her, she is in the process of being taken over by an entity. During the course of the 7 days it takes for the transcendence to occur, she can only count on her very recent best friend Mallory, who does not even know about Elise’s ability to see auras. Can Elise get through this and save Mallory in the process?

Review:

Line of Descent has some very unique elements, like the way Elise views auras. She does not only see colours – they are flower shaped and accompanied by smells and it is all exquisitely complex. Add that to a secluded environment (an estate on a peninsula owned by her filthy rich family), an eight thousand year old plot to maintain the entire family heritage alive, a perfectly normal human with plenty of baggage of her own and this book has a plethora of ingredients to make it a thrilling experience.

Throughout the book we follow mostly Elise and Mallory around, but we get to know a bit of a few secondary characters as well. And you’d think that being able to see auras – basically discerning what people are really feeling and thinking no matter what they say – would make it pretty clear who Elise can trust, but no. The author was very skilled with this. You see, it’s not really lying if you actually believe it. And there is no way to tell what people are hiding or lying about unless the conversation steers in that direction.

I had never read a book where the main character was utterly alone in her struggle. She cannot trust a single person in her life, even her own father. Sure, there is Mallory, but she does not even know what Elise is capable of or what she is going through. That was so daunting!

The writing was extremely approachable but absolutely superb. I particularly loved the analogies the author used, since I could connect with them. The simplest lines would resonate within me, like There was something about beaches in general that made the sky seem bluer. I had actually never thought of that. Simple things throughout the book that made me go that’s right! and feel like I was right there. My personal favourite: Think about the world the way it is now. Each generation mourns for the golden years of their youth. Each generation weeps that times have never been so bad. Then their children grow old and wail that things have become even more unbearable. Their golden years are the previous generation’s worst days. Absolutely brilliant!!
But please don’t take this as the writing being flat or something, there was plenty of excitment throughout the narrative. The sceneries described were just gorgeous. And some imagery was absolutely stunning, like Simona getting out of the pit. How eerie!

I kind of wish I had got to know a bit more about Elise, other than that she can see auras and that made it hard to make friends. And there were things we got to know through Mallory’s perspective that I would like to know Elise’s take. I found it a bit hard to connect with her – I could do it better with Mallory (her insecurities regarding boys made her very real) – but the narrative was so enthralling that it didn’t make much of a dent in my overall satisfaction.

I had a bit of trouble figuring out the extent of the entity’s power over Elise. She can obviously take over her body entirely (the visit to Mallory’s room is an example) but she does not even realize what Elise is up to. That revelation in chapter 32 lacked progression and was too easy – I get that that is the whole point but, really, it came out of nowhere, or at least it felt that way. I had not even realized that Elise had assimilated the knowledge to make people forget something – the transcendence was not complete, after all. Besides, the entity is used to living as a swarm, so how could it not notice that the swarm was gone?
I would have also liked to see the narrative referring to The One instead of Elise when that was the case. I suppose it contributes to the whole they are one and only thing but it just got confusing.
And finally, I would have liked to know what exactly Elise forgave Marta for and what made the Gardeners so special that they had those abilities.

So there were a few things here and there regarding plot and character development that I would have liked to seen further elaborated. I have to say my favourite part of the book were the first few chapters, I was completely engaged by the way Elise saw the world and that scene with Naomi was particularly remarkable. I really got an idea of what it must have been like for Elise to try and maintain a conversation with someone who says one thing but is screaming the exact opposite on the inside.
The ending left me sad but was appropriate, and there was absolutely no romance – yay!

Overall this is a very enjoyable work of fantasy which I am sure will stay with me for a while. It was not a linear story, it had depth. We are not only given a great fantasy adventure where the main character fights to get posessed, but are also made to think about important things like what kind of person do you want to be when confronted with such dreary situations and decisions. Would you care to keep someone innocent safe?

I highly recommend Line of Descent.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from April 22 to 24, 2015
GR Review

New book review format up for voting/discussion

Dear followers,

As you know, I have had the poll regarding what you would like to see in my reviews up for a while now. Considering your suggestions and my very my very limited html skills (I just could not get a table to work!!), this is an example of the best I could do:

 

Title: The Bone Wall

Author: D. Wallace Peach

Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy, Paranormal, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Thriller

Length: 320 pages

Source: Promotion on Amazon

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Premise:

Rimma lives in Heaven, as have many previous generations of God’s descendants. Heaven is a garden where two thousand people live, covered by a shield which protects them and keeps the broken world outside. Everyone living in Heaven thoroughly believes in God and abides by His laws, because they are his descendants.
When the shield protecting the haven starts failing and ultimately extinguishes, the questions come. What will become of this population? Is the world outside really dead? How are they going to deal with the savages out there? And how was the shield created anyway? And why does no one seem to be able to distinguish between Rimma and her twin sister Angel, even their own mother?

Review:

(…)

 


 

What do you think of this compared to what is currently shown?

How is the information displaying? Is it easy to view? Does it appear aligned?

What about the content, too much info? Not enough?

Please vote for the poll and post your thoughts and suggestions. Your opinion matters!

 

Pre-ordering books

Up until very recently, I had not even considered pre-ordering a book.
But my opinion changed, and in the past couple of months I pre-ordered a few from Book Depository, namely:

So why did I change my mind?

1. Pre-ordered books are generally cheaper.

2. The fact that they won’t be out for at least a couple of months and that the (free) delivery itself takes a while makes it feel a little like christmas when you finally get the book.

3. Quite often the cover isn’t even disclosed, so that’s a surprise as well!

And before that, I preordered A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass: 100th Anniversary Edition by Lewis Carroll and Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman. I was very happy with all three.

Do you pre-order books as well?
Why?
How often?
Have you had any nasty experiences?

Please leave your comment in the box below!