Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Queen of Traitors

Book: The Queen of Traitors
Series: The Fallen World #2
Author: Laura Thhalassa

They say I am a queen.
They say I married a monster. That I did so willingly.
They say he cannot die, that he does not age. That together, we rule a ravaged world.
They say I used to be one of them, but now I am a traitor.
They say many things, all which I cannot remember, but …

I fear what they say is true.

Then there is what they don’t say, what I see in their eyes—
The king terrifies them. He cannot be stopped. And, most worrisome of all …

He is coming for me.-Goodreads

Review: The Good: this was fast paced and overall fun. The Not So Good: the traitor among the king's staff was too easy to figure out. I found it highly unlikely they would find incriminating evidence so easily and then allow the person time to escape. The Really Not So Good: all the relationship progression from book 1 seemed to go out the window and Serenity and the King were almost back to square 1. I was also hoping for more background info on the King and it was lacking. 

I liked this but it was slightly disappointing. I have high hopes for the next installment. 

Grade: 3/5

The Queen of All that Dies

Book: The Queen of All that Dies
Series: The Fallen World #1
Author: Laura Thalassa

In the future, the world is at war.

For the last decade, King Lazuli of the Eastern Empire has systematically taken over the world. No one knows much about him other than a series of impossible facts: he cannot die, he has not aged since the conflict began, and he wants to rule the world.

All Serenity Freeman has known is bloodshed. War has taken away her mother, her home, her safety. As the future emissary of the Western United Nations, the last autonomous region of the globe, she is responsible for forging alliances where she can.

Surrender is on the horizon. The king can taste it; Serenity feels it deep within her bones. There is no other option. Now the two must come face to face. For Serenity, that means confronting the man who’s taken everything from her. For the king, it means meeting the one woman he can’t conquer. But when they meet, something happens. Cruelty finds redemption.

Only in war, everything comes with a price. Especially love.-Goodreads

Review: This is a post-apocalyptic love story that is ridiculous on many levels, but was oh so much fun to read. King Lazuli has waged warn on Earth. Serenity and her father survive a nuclear bomb that levels DC, in a basement (yes, you read that correctly). Okay, after shaking your head and wondering how all these bombs didn't destroy Earth, you just need to go with it. She has grown up in an underground bunker with a small group of people. Food is scarce, they rarely see sunlight and she is training as her father's apprentice as Emissary of the WUN (western nations). When they decide it is finally time to surrender to King Lazuli, Serenity and her father fly to Europe to negotiate the deal. Of course, Serenity is gorgeous, doesn't recognize her good looks, is uncomfortable in fancy clothes and has zero traditional negotiation skills. However, I couldn't help but enjoy her interactions with the king. I actually laughed out loud several times. The age difference between the two definitely creeped me out a little (the author could have made her closer to 30 and not impacted the story) and I wish there was more characterization of the king. 

Overall-fun and fast paced. 

Grade: 4/5

Follow You Home

Book: Follow You Home
Author: Mark Edwards

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down.

After a perfect start, Daniel and Laura’s travels end abruptly when they are thrown off a night train in the middle of nowhere. To find their way back to civilisation, they must hike along the tracks through a forest…a haunting journey that ends in unimaginable terror.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what they saw that night. But as they try to fit back into their old lives, it becomes clear that their nightmare is just beginning…-Goodreads

Review: A European adventure is cut short when British couple Laura and Daniel's passports are stolen and they are booted off a train in rural Romania. They come upon a spooky house in the woods and see something so frightening they cannot talk about it. Fast forward a few months and they are not coping well. Their relationship has fallen apart, Laura appears to be going crazy and the few people Daniel has tried to talk to about what happened have ended up worse for wear. 

While mostly predictable, this was a fun, fast paced thriller. Daniel was a sympathetic character while Laura was harder to warm to. Granted, most of the book was written from his perspective, but she was not overly likable. The episode in the spooky house is slowly drawn out and while I liked the writing style, I did scratch my head about why they would never talk about it. Don't get me wrong-it was bad, but I was expecting something far more sinister. This was a solid 3 star read for me until the very end-I didn't see that coming and boom! Great way to end the book. 

Grade: 4/5

Ugly Young Thing

Book: Ugly Young Thing
Series: Grand Trepass #2
Author: Jennifer Jaynes

Sixteen-year-old Allie has already experienced a lifetime of horror, having lost her mother and serial killer brother to mental illness.

Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana, Allie ends up in foster care and is placed with Miss Bitty, an eccentric but kindly older woman who shows her a new direction and brighter future.

But Allie's new life takes a devastating turn when young women in the area start turning up dead, and she discovers someone lurking outside her bedroom. As Miss Bitty grows inexplicably distant, Allie begins to wonder if death has found her yet again...or if it never really left her at all. -Goodreads

Review: Wow-Jennifer Jaynes is now an author on my 'to read' list. This was a strong follow-up to 'Never Smile at Strangers.' While Allie can be quite annoying at times, this was once again a fast paced, thriller that had me on my toes. I figured out only part of the mystery and I was seriously surprised at the very end. Can't wait for the next one to come out!

Grade: 4/5


Book: Insanity
Series: Insanity #1
Author: Cameron Jace

After accidentally killing everyone in her class, Alice Wonder is now a patient in the Radcliffe Lunatic Asylum. No one doubts her insanity. Only a hookah-smoking professor believes otherwise; that he can prove her sanity by decoding Lewis Carroll's paintings, photographs, and find Wonderland's real whereabouts.
Professor Caterpillar persuades the asylum that Alice can save lives and catch the wonderland monsters now reincarnated in modern day criminals. In order to do so, Alice leads a double life: an Oxford university student by day, a mad girl in an asylum by night.
The line between sanity and insanity thins when she meets Jack Diamonds, an arrogant college student who believes that nonsense is an actual science.-Goodreads

Review: "Sane is mundane. Insanity is the new black." 

Disclosure-I've never read Alice in Wonderland (other than the quick version in a book geared toward toddlers), I've never seen an Alice movie and I'm not familiar with the author of AIW, Lewis Carroll. That being said, I thought a retelling of the story could be fun. This was definitely a different read-very unique. We aren't sure if Alice, who is in an insane asylum for killing her classmates, is the real Alice in Wonderland or actually crazy. Professor Carter Pillar, who is also in the asylum with her, is a serial killer. Jack Diamonds appears to be a stalker and we meet the White Queen, masquerading as a nun. The premise of the book is that the Cheshire Cat is killing girls and Alice needs to try to stop him (and save a girl in the process). She runs around everywhere (it seems). She has to look at painting and writings by Lewis Carroll. 

I don't really know how to even rate this-unique? Absolutely. Characters? Overall, kind of flat. Cover? Stunning. Execution? It's a book about crazy people and it doesn't make a lot of sense. This is either pure genius or poor execution. I'm more of a linear thinking so this was a little challenging for me. I'll try the next in the series. 

Grade: 2/5

Never Smile at Strangers

Book: Never Smile at Strangers
Series: Grand Trepess #1
Author: Jennifer Jaynes

When nineteen-year-old Tiffany Perron vanishes without a trace, the residents of rural Grand Trespass, Louisiana, launch a desperate search to find her. But few clues are unearthed, and before long another young woman disappears.

As locals continue to vanish, residents begin to discover that they might not know those closest to them as well as they had thought. Lies and insecurities quickly surface, leading everyone to question one another…and their involvement in the disappearances.

Meanwhile, an unstable, twisted killer is hiding quietly in their midst. Ever since his mother’s murder four years earlier, he’s been forced to raise his disturbed teenage sister. He’s terrified of her—and of women in general—and his world revolves around his fear of and obsession over them.

In this USA Today bestselling thriller, debut novelist Jennifer Jaynes delivers a psychologically riveting page-turner that is packed with surprises and will have readers guessing to the very last page.-Goodreads

Review: This was fast paced, twisted and I couldn't put it down. None of the characters were particularly likable and I figured out part of the mystery-but that didn't deter from my reading enjoyment. Super fun (although it was disturbing how much these teens drank..seriously, I don't remember anyone drinking at much in high school and I'm from a small town). 

Grade: 4/5

The Magpies

Book: The Magpies
Author: Mark Edwards

When Jamie and Kirsty move into their first home together, they are full of optimism. The future, in which they plan to get married and start a family, is bright. The other residents of their building seem friendly too, including the Newtons, a married couple who welcome them to the building with open arms.

But then strange things start to happen. Dead rats are left on their doorstep. They hear disturbing noises, and much worse, in the night. After Jamie's best friend is injured in a horrific accident, Jamie and Kirsty find themselves targeted by a campaign of terror.

As they are driven to the edge of despair, Jamie vows to fight back—but he has no idea what he is really up against . . .

The Magpies is a gripping psychological thriller in which the monsters are not vampires or demons but the people who live next door. It is a nightmare that could happen to anyone.-Goodreads

Review: Jamie and Kirsty just bought their dream flat. Nothing can dim their happiness and they are able to shake it off when weird things start happening-like pizza's are delivered that they didn't order and fireman show up that claim they called them for a fire. When things turn more sinister, they try to handle the situation any way they can. 

Great premise and fantastic first half. I can see how people could write off a few weird things as pranks and then struggle to deal when things start escalating. This book fell apart for me in the second half. Part of the issue is that there was no suspense as to who the culprits were (we know very early on in the story) and Jamie became so stupid I was actually rooting for something bad to happen to him. It was just bad decision after bad decision. 

Grade: 2/5

The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust

Book: The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust
Author: Edith Hahn Beer

Edith Hahn was an outspoken young woman studying law in Vienna when the Gestapo forced Edith and her mother into a ghetto, issuing them papers branded with a "J." Soon, Edith was taken away to a labor camp, and though she convinced Nazi officials to spare her mother, when she returned home, her mother had been deported. Knowing she would become a hunted woman, Edith tore the yellow star from her clothing and went underground, scavenging for food and searching each night for a safe place to sleep. Her boyfriend, Pepi, proved too terrified to help her, but a Christian friend was not: With the woman's identity papers in hand, Edith fled to Munich. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi party member who fell in love with her. And despite her protests and even her eventual confession that she was Jewish, he married her and kept her identity secret.
In vivid, wrenching detail, Edith recalls a life of constant, almost paralyzing fear. She tells of German officials who casually questioned the lineage of her parents; of how, when giving birth to her daughter, she refused all painkillers, afraid that in an altered state of mind she might reveal her past; and of how, after her husband was captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia, Edith was bombed out of her house and had to hide in a closet with her daughter while drunken Russians soldiers raped women on the street.
Yet despite the risk it posed to her life, Edith Hahn created a remarkable collective record of survival: She saved every set of real and falsified papers, letters she received from her lost love, Pepi, and photographs she managed to take inside labor camps.
On exhibit at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., these hundreds of documents form the fabric of an epic story - complex, troubling, and ultimately triumphant. -Goodreads

Review: Edith Hahn was an Austrian Jew whose family was not overtly religious-they did not speak Yiddish and rarely went to temple. Edith was a law student when the war started and while her sisters and some family members were able to leave Austria, Edith chose to stay to be with her mother and boyfriend, Pepi. After being denied the ability to take her final law exam, she was eventually sent to a labor camp (farm work). She was eventually sent back to Vienna and told to report on a certain date to go to a 'Polish work camp.' Realizing this could be her demise, she was able to secure a Christian identity from a good friend, and she traveled to Munich. At this point she became a U-Boat, a Jewish woman hiding in plain site. She eventually attracted the attention of a Nazi party member (he is not initially an officer) and even after telling him the truth, they get married and have a child.  

I found this book absolutely fascinating. I've read a lot of WWII books and this was a different perspective. I think what Hahn really excelled at was capturing the 'shades of grey' so to speak, especially regarding her Nazi husband. He helped her, he helped her friends, but he was not a saint by any means. I loved the small acts of kindness by some of the people, especially the Nazi who explained exactly how she needed papers to hide in plain sight. And her friend who allowed her to use her identity papers-simply amazing. 

I wish there was an epilogue or some quick update with more details about her life after the war, but I understand this was a story about the war. She talked about her experience one time after it happened, and didn't discuss it again until her daughter found all her letters with Pepi (they kept in touch for years). 

Overall-great read. 

Grade: 5/5
Book: Soundless
Author: Richelle Mead

In a village without sound…

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

One girl hears a call to action…

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

And unlocks a power that will save her people.-Goodreads

Review: Soundless has a cool premise and incredible cover-unfortunately, I didn't care for too much else about this book. I was really excited to read something with  a Chinese setting....but other than the names, this book could have been set anywhere. There was very little world building. It's also a stretch to characterize this as 'fantasy.' The fantasy aspect was thrown in (literally) in the last few pages. 95% of the book was extremely slow and boring and the everything was quickly wrapped up at the end. In fact, I stopped reading this multiple times before I finally finished it.  

You may be thinking, what about our heroine, Fei? Mead's main characters are known for their strong and feisty personalities. There was nothing wrong with Fei-she was a talented artist trying to protect her sister and figure out what was happening with her village. She was brave, strong and...well, boring. The romance she had was also...boring. I could not understand the village dynamics-why the miners received low portions of food when they were physical laborers did not make sense on any level. There was no mention of teachers or healers in the village. I could not stop wondering if everyone was inbred since the village hadn't seen an outsider in several generations. 

Overall-my least Richelle Mead book to date, but I will keep reading anything she writes because I love most of it. 

Grade: 2/5