Thursday, November 20, 2014

Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

I adored this book!! It was dark and atmospheric and utterly enthralling.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Everything is in ruins. 
A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them. 
So what does Araby Worth have to live for? 
Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all. 
But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does. 
And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

First off-- side note-- I was under the impression both while I was reading and when I finished the book, that this was a stand-alone so let me just say I was SO excited that there was a sequel.

But what was amazing was that even though this book had an open ending and the future was very vague, I still enjoyed the ending because it fit the book. I was completely satisfied with this book as a stand-alone. This book ends at a bleak place where the fate that awaits the characters is very uncertain, so I completely get why there is a sequel. Yet, at the same time I thought that this ambiguous ending perfectly suited the mood of the book and the whole premise and world that is established in this story.

The Romance. Oh. My. God. Now, while in some cases love triangles can be awful and agonizing affairs, I think when they're handled correctly they can really work. This book was definitely one of those times. There was no time where Araby spent any effort thinking about who to choose or pitying herself "poor me! I have to choose between two guys!". Nope. None of that, THANK GOD. And there were no ultimatums from the guys. And, honestly, I couldn't pick a "team". Each male lead was completely unique and had both good traits and serious flaws. When Araby was talking to Will, I was totally for Team Will, but then Elliott would show a crack in his carefully constructed armor and I'd want Araby to just love him.

Okay, so while I haven't picked a side (yet), I will say that I particularly enjoyed the development of Araby's relationship with Eliott. It was rocky, to say the least, but they really got to understand each other more over the course of the book and the feelings (on both sides) seemed more genuine due to the fact that at first they had no trust or respect for one another.

Will was a bit more difficult. I would not say that by any measure Araby experienced insta-love with him. It was more that she had an immediate infatuation with the mysterious, dark stranger who worked at the club. I mean, Araby is seventeen in this book, it would be utterly ridiculous if she didn't appreciate hot, brooding boys. Who doesn't? But all Araby felt towards Will was a crush. And neither she nor the author pretends it's more. Araby's feelings don't become deeper until she actually gets to know Will and spends some time with him and even then I don't know she is ever completely in love.

But, like I said, this is a love triangle, so Araby's romantic fate is very unsure. But as a reader, I very much appreciated the absence of insta-love and the time spent developing relationships.

The only problem I had with this book was that at times the narration and descriptions were lacking. There were holes in the continuity of the story. There would be times when Araby would mention that she sees a carriage pull up and in the next sentence she will be gazing out the window at the street, and I'd have to go back and re-read to figure out where Araby was and with whom, so on. This type of gap in the writing happened a fair amount, which is why I thought I'd mention it. There would be places where I was reading and I'd have to stop and try to figure out who Araby was with or how she got there, because it felt that there were descriptions missing. But overall, I don't think this hurt the story.

In the end, this book was everything I wanted. It had complex characters, a dark, shadowy world full of fear and questions and evil. It was fast paced, the plot was engaging and I loved reading it, I could not put it down. This book was the perfect book to curl up under a blanket with. Highly recommend.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Synopsis via Goodreads:
The first night after Caroline moves into her fantastic new San Francisco apartment, she realizes she's gaining an intimate knowledge of her new neighbor's nocturnal adventures. Thanks to paper-thin walls and the guy's athletic prowess, she can hear not just his bed banging against the wall but the ecstatic response of what seems (as loud night after loud night goes by) like an endless parade of women. And since Caroline is currently on a self-imposed dating hiatus, and her neighbor is clearly lethally attractive to women, she finds her fantasies keep her awake even longer than the noise. So when the wall-banging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts Simon Parker, her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. The tension between them is as thick as the walls are thin, and the results just as mixed. Suddenly, Caroline is finding she may have discovered a whole new definition of neighborly...
In a delicious mix of silly and steamy, Alice Clayton dishes out a hot and hilarious tale of exasperation at first sight...

Okay, this book surprised me. I mean really surprised me. I was expecting a raunchy, badly-written romance with barely developed characters. I was expecting to feel "Eh" about it, enjoy it for the quick read and move on.

But this book was AWESOME.

Now, I know that (unfortunately) the majority of books out there marketed as rom-coms are pretty lousy. Whether they are catering to young-adults or an older audience. And, though, in the past I have indulged in my fair share of cheesy romances, that's all they are to me: cheesy romances. Guilty pleasures that I know don't hold much value, and that I don't go around announcing that I read. THIS book, however was good.

It made me constantly laugh out loud...

...and if I wasn't laughing, I was grinning ear-to-ear. This is a romantic-comedy at its finest. With a confident, hilarious main character and a guy who is totally swoon-worthy (and not just because of his looks). I loved it!!

The banter...

The story follows Caroline, a twenty-six year old interior designer. One of the strongest aspects of this novel is the protagonist. This book would definitely not be the same if Caroline wasn't, well, Caroline. Let me explain... Caroline is awesome in that she happy with who she is. She's pretty, but she is not "perfect". She loves her job and is really good at it. Simply put, she is confident in her own skin. Shocking! I know. But she isn't cocky or obnoxious about it. She doesn't put herself down, or focus on her flaws, or need a man to tell her she is beautiful. And her friends are the same way! I found that very refreshing. It happens too often that girls in novels can't "see their beauty" until someone else sees it for them (*cough* Bella Swan *cough cough*). Caroline is also fucking hilarious. And she knows her way around a kitchen (this book will seriously make you crave zucchini bread).

The love interest and the secondary characters in this book are also great. They have their own stories and I loved seeing all the different relationships unfold. The other characters weren't just "the best friend" or "the hot guy", they (like real people) were more than just their relationship to the main character. Hell, even the cat had personality of his own, and if you've ever had cat, then you know that is completely true to life.

And yes, this book deals with sex, the title is wallbanger after all, but it wasn't about sex. It was about relationships. And sex is a part of relationships. This is the 21st century people, sex shouldn't be taboo. This book was a really well done romantic comedy, those aren't that common unfortunately, so if you're interested in a well-executed read from that genre, I strongly urge you to try this one.

I mean seriously, Wallbanger was...

The author did a fantastic job of mixing humor, romance and interesting characters... So, if you enjoy chick-lit, romantic comedies or just smiling non-stop, pick this book up! Don't let the title turn you off!!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Synopsis via Goodreads:
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

This novel got off to a pretty good start. It had some laugh-out-loud moments and both the premise and the setting intrigued me. I mean... a mystery surrounding a Jack the Ripper copy-cat set in a boarding school in London? Count me in! And although I liked the eerie feel and premise of the novel, the execution was a major let-down.

The main flaw was the writing. The plot was slow. Somehow, the author managed to make a ghost murder mystery a snooze. There were so many long unnecessary anecdotes that really bogged down the flow of the story. Did we really need to hear that many stories of Rory's wacky Louisiana relatives, each of whom got at least a half a page reminiscence of their quirks. It was completely irrelevant to the story!

Not to mention that the "secret ghost police" the synopsis mentions don't come into play until over halfway through the book. And once they do, we have to sit through pages of information dumps. The second half of the book is where most of the "action" takes place, but it was also the most boring.Very counterintuitive. Rory would just go from place to place not doing anything just having people explain different things.

And don't even get me started on the characters. Every character, including the protagonist, was dull. There was no development and I felt no connection to any of the characters or relationships in the story.

I couldn't even really call what happened between Jerome and Rory a romance. I have no idea why they even hung out. They seemed to have nothing in common and it even felt sometimes like there was a language barrier. Basically 90% of their interactions consisted of misunderstandings, awkwardness and then kissing, followed by more awkwardness. All they talked about was the Ripper murder, which, yes, would be at the forefront of their minds, but they never had any other topic of conversation, EVER. The romance felt like it was just there. It didn't add anything to the story, there was no connection and no chemistry.

I enjoyed Rory's sense of humor at the beginning of the book, and she made me laugh a few times with her awkward encounters or witty observations, but later on the humor became much less present and the times when the author did try to make what I assume was supposed to be a joke, the context was inappropriate and Rory just seemed insensitive and obtuse to be making that kind of remark at such a bad moment. For example:
When fellow ghost-seer, Stephen, opens up to Rory about how he developed the ability to see ghosts after he tried to commit suicide, something he hasn't told ANYONE before, and Rory responds:
"You tried to kill yourself, ... You must have failed. Because you're here. Wait. You're not a ghost, are you? Because that would totally destroy my mind right now."
Oh. My. God. Was that supposed to be funny? I'm sorry how is turning a very personal, serious and difficult moment for someone into not only a joke, but into something about YOURSELF not the most INSENSITIVE and OBNOXIOUS thing you could possibly do.

Furthermore, Rory doesn't DO anything. First off, she develops the ability to see ghosts because she was talking with her mouth full and choked on a piece of meat (the LAMEST near-death experience ever if you ask me. Not only is it unrealistic, but are we honestly supposed to believe that it would take the classmates surrounding Rory so long to notice that she is choking, that she would see the light and almost die? REALLY?).

Not only does Rory develop this ability purely by stupid chance, she can't even figure out that she has any ability to speak of. She has no idea! None. Zilch. She does not have even an inkling that what is happening to her is beyond the normal. It takes someone else's decision to tell Rory about her newfound skill to her for Rory to finally realize she can see ghosts. She then goes on to contribute NOTHING to the investigation of the Jack-the-Ripper murders.

THEN, when Rory finally comes face-to-face with the Jack-the-Ripper impersonator, we have to sit through PAGES of him explaining his backstory and his motives and reasoning... blah, blah blah.
 These long-winded constant explanations were so aggravating to read. Isn't this what editors are for: to shorten and cut out unnecessary over-writing?!
Oh, and did I mention that the ghost has the DUMBEST reason EVER, for committing these Ripper-style murders. He does it to get the attention of the ghost police, so he can destroy the devices that could potentially harm him, even though he was in no way under threat and the ghost police weren't even aware he existed before he started killing people.

After the ghost accomplishes his stupid-and-honestly-unnecessary goal, he decides to still commit the final Jack the Ripper murder by killing Rory because "he has to finish his masterpiece". And what does Rory do when the murderous ghost tells her that he is still going to kill her? She agrees. NO PROBLEM. Because... wait for it...
Maybe we were always going to finish this. Maybe he was the person I'd always imagined by my side in England- a star-crossed pair, the slayer and the victim, tied together by fate.

So Rory goes with the murdering ghost into another room WILLINGLY with no plan of attack or escape, and no plan to even try to stop the murderer or even delay him. She lets him slice her open while she watches doe-eyed only to then be saved, BY PURE LUCK, by another ghost who sacrifices herself for Rory (Lord knows why). Oh and, luckily for Rory, it turns out that this ghost, who has SURGICAL TRAINING, and has GRUESOMELY BUTCHERED over TEN people by this point made a cut that is too shallow to actually kill Rory. WHAT? THAT IS THE LAMEST CLIMAX AND CONCLUSION EVER. NO. JUST NO.