The Roanoke Girls

Title: The Roanoke Girls

Author: Amy Engel

Genres: Mystery | Thriller

Length: 276 pages | 3877 locations

Source: Blogging for Books | Negalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

When she was 15, Lane went to live at Roanoke with her grandparents and cousin Allegra, from whom she discovers the gloomy fate of all Roanoke girls.
Over a decade later, Allegra disappears, and her granddad begs Lane to return.
What happened to Alegra? And can Lane resist Roanoke?

Review:

I am still not 100% sure how to feel about The Roanoke Girls.

It surprised me, that’s for sure, right from the description of Roanoke. It was not a beautiful, imposing mansion like in other novels. Instead, it looked like something an insane person would build, or someone who didn’t give a shit.

I was very thankful for the family tree in the beginning of the book because at some point I didn’t know who was who and how they were related to such and such.

The prose was extremely engaging. I never got tired of it and kept wanting to know what happened next.
However, there was something about the way that was structured that I didn’t find very appealing, for some reason. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the narrative alternates between now and then and the ‘now’ chapters announce things that happened ‘then’ in a somewhat anti-climatic manner. Stuff that is so powerful and is just dropped there. I don’t know.

Ultimately the ‘then’ chapters as well as the ones about each Roanoke girl served to form a picture of the hideousness going on in that house. And although the entire premise resting on a character being so charming to those around them that they get away with it seems a bit far-fetched, I could see how it would come to be, lest of all due to the isolated nature of the people living in that house.

Lane was the epitome of the unlikable main character, which usually doesn’t bother me. However, she came across as unnecessarily bitchy and whiny at times.
Again, I could see why she came to be that way but I guess I needed something to balance that constant nasty feeling out and the fact is every single character was quite depressing.
The ending was very predictable but I still appreciated how it was described.

This book really makes me wish for half stars since it is a solid 3.5 for me. I am very undecided about rating up or down but since ultimately I kept wanting to keep reading I will round it up.

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

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Read from Feb 28th to Mar 2nd, 2017
GR Review

Dark Matter

Title: Dark Matter

Author: Blake Crouch

Genres: Fantasy | Mystery | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction | Thriller

Length: 342 pages | 4988 locations

Source: Blogging for Books | Negalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

After a series of strange events, a man finds himself in a reality he does not recognize. As he puzzles pieces together, he finds out the terrifying truth.

Review:

Well, it is hard to review this book without giving away spoilers, but I will try my best.

Dark Matter could have been an amazing book. I really wanted to love it. However, there were a couple of things that made me not love it:

1. A large part of my enjoyment depends on the gradual discovery of what is happening, and here I figured out within a few lines what the main character did only at 42% of the book. As the events ensue, the narrative is filled with action interspersed by mental monologues of this character, trying to make sense of what happened. Throughout the whole thing I was like… ‘Really? You still haven’t figured it out? That’s the direction you’re going?’ It was quite frustrating.

2. The perfection. Jason and his life are much too perfect. He is a very good man who has never done anyone any harm, he has great stamina even though he is a teacher and it is implied he does not exercise, and he makes odd choices such as if you are short on money and have no idea how to get more do you prefer to spend it on a hotel room or save it for food? while other times he is extremely brave. His wife is perfect. His son is perfect. His job is not that perfect but he can deal with it because as long as he has his family he is perfectly happy.
So yes, all the perfection bothered me and I could never connect to the main character. However, I do get that it is a major point of the book, to make you value what you have and so what ticked me off will surely not bother other readers.

3. Some things just did not add up and here I cannot go without spoilers. The main thing was, if Jason 2 had four times the ampoules he had, doesn’t that mean he would have generated approximately that many more versions of himself? And yet that was never addressed, I never found out why it only happened with the narrator. Also, how the heck did Jason2 manage to send him to his world if the ‘driver’ chooses which world he or she ends up in?

Still, the story was intriguing enough and I wanted to keep reading. Right about the time where Jason figures out what is going on things improve by a lot. I was actually surprised and the descriptions were very enthralling. At times there was a parallel narrative which was also quite interesting and I kind of wanted to know more about that.

Even so, the way the story developed kept leaving me uncomfortable. The first time I didn’t know how the box or the drug worked worked so I kept wondering why they were walking so far away and were not afraid of not being able to get back. Then I knew well ok the box stays there and they have the drug but what if someone finds the box? What if the military finds out it? These questions and others kept gnawing at the back of my mind and I supposed helped me from fully enjoying the story.

So in the end I found Dark Matter entertaining but lacking. I still recommend it, though, and it is one of those books that makes for a great discussion.

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

Other info:

Read from Aug 14 to Aug 22, 2016
GR Review

The Library at Mount Char

Title: The Library at Mount Char

Author: Scott Hawkins

Genres: Fantasy | Horror | Mystery | Science Fiction

Length: 388 pages | locations

Source: Blogging for Books | Negalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4.75/5

Premise:

Carolyn has lived in the Library since she was a child, when her parents were killed. She and several other children are assigned their own catalog, under the tutorship of Father, a man they have grown to respect, fear and even hate. One day, Father goes missing and they are kept out of the Library. While trying to adjust to the outside world, Carolyn and the others strive to find out what happened to Father.

Review:

What a weird ride! This book had my eyebrow cocked from the first page. Just when I thought I finally figured out what was going on, the author would flip everything upside down again.

When I first started reading Library, it quickly became clear to me this was a brand new fantasy concept – at least new to me. I had a difficult time getting into the book because I could not tell what this elaborate concept was, nor who each character was, their particular skills and personality, because several were introduced at once.

As I continued reading, I found that these characters were taken to the Library as children, and each of them specialized on studying a ‘catalog’, which I suppose can be deemed as a particular subject. They are not supposed to talk about their catalog with anyone, but our main character Carolyn has an inquisitive mind and we end up discovering a bit about each of them through her eyes.

Carolyn was intriguing. She seemed to lack any sort of feeling or emotion, and some of the things she did chilled me to the bone. She was a creepy main character, in a refreshing, good way, because her detachment never once felt forced. I gotta tell you, I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed disliking and respecting a main character this much.
It was obvious that Carolyn struggled with keeping her plans a secret. I was always clueless as to what these plans were and felt content following her around.

About a third in, I started getting really excited. The inclusion of Steve in the story brought the realism I needed. Him and Erwin trying to figure out what the hell was going on brought some serious fun to the picture and I found myself muffling my chuckles on more than one occasion. Who am I kidding, I actually laughed out loud several times. The lions. The vet. And oh, so much more.

The book’s structure never ceased to amaze me. Once I was past that initial bemused state, I got really comfortable, even if I did not know what the heck was going on. Up to the final third, I had a blast. I laughed, I was excited, I simply could not put the book down. Then I felt the book started dragging a bit and that everything came too easily for Carolyn. It also seemed that the major plot twist came much too soon and what the heck could possibly go on during the rest of the book but you know what? In the end most of it made sense and was wrapped up nicely. So it was not the usual formula of set-up/development/plot twist/end. It was so much richer than that. I really appreciated it.

Well, there were a few things that did not make much sense to me, like how Steve could have been resurrected if his heart had been taken out to later give to the tiger whose name I cannot possibly pronounce or how Carolyn controlled the dogs if she hated them that much or why she allowed Dresden to die or why they could not find Father in the forgotten lands or anywhere else but, overall, this was the best time I had reading a book in a long, long time. It surprised me so much and I was able to forget my surroundings so easily, which always speaks volumes towards the quality of a book, in my opinion.

The ending brought me closure and, although the epilogue hints at a sequel, I was perfectly content reading this as a standalone. And alas, this is a rare occasion where the book’s content matches the quality of the cover or even surpasses it. I highly recommend The Library at Mount Char. Don’t miss it!

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

Other info:

Read from Aug 14 to Aug 20, 2015
GR Review

The World Before Us

Title: The World Before Us

Author: Aislinn Hunter

Genres: Contemporary | Historical Fiction | Magical Realism | Mystery

Length: 432 pages | 4833 locations

Source: Blogging for Books | Negalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 1.75/5

Premise:

Jane is tormented by an event which took place when she was 15 years old. She was responsible for minding 5 year-old Lily while taking a stroll through the woods, and the child was lost, never to be found. Since then, Jane has sort of been wandering through life, trying to find meaning for it. She comes across a story of a girl whose name she does not even know, only its initial (N), who got lost in the same woods as Lily and makes it her mission to find out what happened to her.

Review:

When I first started reading this book, I was curious. The story is narrated in present tense, first person plural; I don’t think I had ever read that before. From the start, I wondered who we were and although it did not take me long to figure it out, I did enjoy discovering who each individual was and their personal stories.

As intrigued as I was, I could tell I would have a difficult time with the prose. At first, I thought I just need to dedicate my full attention to this.
But then I realized that doing my best to focus was not going to be an easy task, or enough to increment my enjoyment of the book.

There were two main things that caused my attention to waver and my satisfaction to subside:
1) The prose was simply too dense; there were endless details in, well, everything. The sentences and chapters were much too long, filled with superfluous narrations that, despite being pretty, came across, to me, as utterly unnecessary and distracting.
2) The fact that there is more than one narrator managed to play against my enjoyment as well, since whenever something came up I would be presented with the myriad of ways to experience it. Example:

Ask us what shape certainty takes and we will all point to a different corner of the museum: to the pendulum of the long-case clock, to the black stones of the birds’ eyes, to the teacups in the upper gallery, to books, locks of hair, dress silk, to the computer in Jane’s office, or the cabinet of milkweed and wild strawberry glass models made in a factory between wars.

As you can imagine, these thorough descriptions convey the book an extremely slow place and, while pretty, the fact is not much was happening for a long time.
I also struggled trying to follow all the secondary stories and numerous characters, never really feeling connected to them. At some point, I had no idea who was who anymore.

There were good things, of course. I have not read much historical fiction, but following my brief experiences I did notice that writing accordingly to the time portrayed is not an easy matter. Everything seemed well in that stance, the context was quite believable, as was the language. Going through some instances of what happens in an asylum was eerily entertaining, as much as the attempt to rationalize the inmates’ thoughts and actions. The act of digging through archives, trying to excavate long past events drew me in. The mysteries were interesting and I did want to know what happened to Jane, I just got discouraged by all the endless descriptions. And I have to admit the last 20% or so gripped me.

Sadly, the good things were not nearly enough to bring the rating up. For me, the narrative style was just dreadful, and there were several unanswered questions in the end. Only a few examples: I wanted to know what happened to Lily, how she died; how exactly the ghosts became attached to Jane; what happened to them in the end, if they ceased or otherwise found peace; and I really wanted to know who the narrator was.

At the end of the day, I could not help but think this book was unnecessarily long and kept looking at the percentage progress on my Kindle, which is never a good sign. One thing that accompanied me throughout the read was the feeling that there was a really good story hidden underneath all that flourish and clutter. Shame, really.

I fully acknowledge that the writer is very talented with words and that this book is more than capable of bringing true enjoyment to readers who appreciate this sort of prose. It was just not my case.

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

Other info:

 

Read from Jun 16 to Jun 20, 2015
GR Review