Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Of Monsters and MadnessOf Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think the writing here was top notch, the only problem is that the story was very bland and boring. It didn’t feel like a Gothic tale, nor did it give off an Edgar Allan Poe type feeling. I’m not even sure why he was the inspiration for this story, when it was very much a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tale.

And even then, it’s fairly obvious to anyone who is reading Of Monsters and Madness that this is the route the story is taking. We meet Allan Poe and then Edgar Poe, who is the cousin of Allan but only appears whenever Allan isn’t around…get it. Edgar Allan Poe. Allan Poe. Edgar Poe.

……

The plot is fairly simplistic, which isn’t a bad thing, but there wasn’t that spark to make me really like this. I did finish this in one sitting, which is why I’m a fan of the writing, but I kept waiting for a proper payoff that never came.

In Of Monsters and Madness, Annabel Lee travels to Philadelphia to live with her father. Her mother has passed away back in Siam and now Annabel has to live with a man who she didn’t know existed. There, she meets one of her father’s assistants, Allan Poe, and immediately falls for him.

A series of murders are happening in town and the more Annabel learns of them, the more she starts suspecting her father and his ghastly assistant Edgar Poe. Other stuff happens and then the mystery is solved.

When I read the synopsis and saw the cover, I was really excited for this. I love Edgar Allan Poe’s works and I love retellings, but I don’t think I got a good representation of either of these things. Poe’s works felt heavy handed, instead of seamless. And this isn’t a retelling of Annabel Lee, it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

I know a lot of people complained about how Annabel seems to care more about her father’s opinion of her and how society might view her, instead of being more driven about her dreams. But to be honest, this sort of character trait made sense. She doesn’t know her father and is from a place that places emphasis on elders. She also wants to fit in, because her father is all that she has left.

She’s the same person who keeps saying, “Mother this.” And “Mother that.” So her behaving in that manner never bothered me.

I did have a bit of an issue with her old home though. Siam seems like it’s present day Thailand, but it has a mishmash of other Asian cultures as well. For example, Annabel has a kimono from there, even though kimonos are from Japan. Her father also remarks that she bows like a man, but bowing in Thailand is a bit different than say Korea or Japan. You bow, but you place your hands together. You also don’t bend down so much; just a dip of your head with your hands in the praying position is enough.

Overall: The writing is the best thing about the novel, but sadly nothing else really works here. The characters don’t really come alive and the retelling is seriously lacking on all fronts. This isn’t a retelling of Annabel Lee, it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I know this is the third time I’m mentioning it, but I can’t stress that enough. If something is billed as a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe, then it needs to include some of its original flavour. I feel like if I this was marketed properly, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I’d probably give it a better rating too. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here.

The mystery can be seen a mile away and even though Edgar Allan Poe is here, he never feels like the same Poe that we know and love.

The ending made it seem like this was the start of a series. I don’t think I’ll be reading it, but it will be interesting to see if another classic story is “retold.”

Despite my complaints, the writing is good so I might check out the Hollow books. Just nothing from this series though.

Of Monsters and Madness was provided by netgalley

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Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Tabula RasaTabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

My rating: 3.5 or 3.75 of 5 stars

Tabula Rasa takes place in a hospital like facility near the Canadian border (Oh Canada!). There, some doctors run experiments on patients by drilling holes into their heads as they try to wipe their memory. The patients don’t know who they are, what they are there for, and have no idea how they look like.

For Sarah, her time in the facility has been a blur of nothing. She doesn’t remember her past, her present is bleak. All she has is the hope that her surgeries, which she has to be awake for, works so she can be blessed with a new life.

But Sarah feels like something is missing and she isn’t just talking about her memories. It isn’t until her final surgery is cancelled that everything slowly comes back to her. When she gets back to her room, she finds pills, some clothing, and a piece of paper. Naturally, she takes the pill after reading the paper and thus starts her journey in getting back her lost memories. Memories she may not want back.

Aided by her fellow patients, a genius hacker, and some PTSD soldiers, Sarah will find the truth about her life, the hospital, and a few other secrets that could change everything. She’ll have to work fast though, because someone wants nothing more than to see her dead and they’ll stop at nothing until that happens.

Sarah isn’t your typical YA heroine. She’s tough, she’s resourceful, and she’s vulnerable without it seeming over the top or contrived. I mean, some of it may be, but it doesn’t ever feel forced. They do refer to her as a special snowflake, but as the story continued it did start to make sense why. It wasn’t because of some grand prophecy or anything, just other things.

And even though this sounds shallow, I liked that she was Mexican, yay, for having visible minorities as main characters. I feel weird pointing this out here and in other books where this happens, but as someone who is also a visible minority it’s nice seeing someone different as the lead character.

I also loved the hospital that Sarah was from. In the beginning we get to meet another patient, Jori, who seemed interesting and depressing all at the same time and the scenes with the soldiers, was my favourite part of the novel. The patients were great and the general feel for the institution was creepy and off. I loved reading about it and liked how the story mainly took place there.

In fact, the plot (for the most part) and the characters (all except one) were well written and fleshed out nicely.

Surprisingly, I didn’t even mind the romance subplot here. It is a bit of an instalove, especially since only 48 hours passed and they were into each other, but it was so small that it never really took away from the story. There was an attraction between the two of them and the high intensity of the situation made their hormones flare up once, so it was understandable. Plus, Sarah never let her feelings stop her from remembering the bigger picture. Staying alive and trying not to get shot at.

Did the romance have to be in the story? As someone who isn’t big on YA romance, I don’t think so. But I also understand that this genre will almost always have it as a plot point, so I would rather it be done well than to have a love triangle, instalove, cheating romance instead. Thankfully, I feel like it was done well here, so I was fine with it.

There are a lot of great things about the book, but it does have its downsides too. One of them happened at the very end of the novel, in the epilogue sort of chapter. I was with it, but then I felt a bit meh about what happened. Without spoiling anything, I feel like the beginning portion of the chapter wasn’t really needed if a paragraph undid everything. I didn’t really like that as I felt like it was a cheap way to add some emotional distress, only for it to not really matter.

I also didn’t like the main bad guy. They seemed to have no redeeming qualities and were bad for….what exactly? Some things were mentioned, such as being poor and having a hard life, but I don’t think it justified a lot of the stuff that happened here. The hatred made sense, the extremity of it didn’t. At the end of the day, the bad guy was a stereotypical, one dimensional, crazy person who despite meticulously planning every single detail of their plan was still foiled by a couple of teens.

Not that I’m a villain or anything, but if I was I’d shoot first, then a couple of times after that before moving on to other things. Then I’d make sure that the person I want dead is actually dead, by checking their pulse and then shooting a few more times for good measure. I know this sounds excessive, but considering the amount of ‘dead’ but not really dead proclamations in this novel, you can never be so sure as to who is dead without making sure that they are really dead.

Now granted, the bad guy could have the personality type where they are so egotistical to the point that they think nothing can stop them, but that goes against what we learned about them. They climbed their way to the top and were willing to do whatever it took to get there. Even killing people in cold blood to make sure that happens. So an elaborate plan that doesn’t involve a few headshots or even some poisoning seems to be bit out of character for them.

Also, their rant in the end explaining why they did what they did kept going on and on and on.

Overall: Tabula Rasa is exciting, suspenseful, and really, really cool novel. Sarah is a strong character and when she isn’t, it’s understandable due to what has happened to her. She’s not weak though and doesn’t let her experiences and past stop her from fulfilling her tasks. The other characters, save one, are also fleshed out well.

Despite this, there are some downsides that kind of ruin what would have been an otherwise amazing novel. I do think that this was a wonderful debut though and can’t wait to see what Lippert-Martin comes out with next.

Tabula Rasa was provided by netgalley

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The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco + Giveaway!

The Girl from the WellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved the Ring. I loved the Grudge. I love Asian horror movies, because not only does it have screams but it doesn’t always rely on gore to sell a scary scene. Not that I get scared, of course, but I love the feeling you get after when you’re looking around and wondering if something just might pop out and say, “gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” That’s the sound Sadako from the Grudge makes, in case you were wondering.

So when I heard about the Girl from the Well, I was super excited to get my hands on it and read. There’s not a lot of YA fiction like this and I was looking for something new. I think this helped make me like the book a lot more than others, because it was so different to what I’m use to. That doesn’t mean it’s the best book, because there are problems here, but it’s different and I enjoyed my time reading it.

The Girl from the Well is a ghost story about Okiku, a vengeful ghost from Japan who kills people who hurts children. One day, while looking for her next target, she sees a boy no more than 15 named Tarquin, aka Tark. For some reason she feels drawn to him and soon enough we find out why. Tark has a spirit trapped inside of him. The spirit is vengeful, out for blood, and wants nothing more than to take over the boy’s body and make it her own.

If I was an evil spirit, I might do the same thing. I mean, it’s what they do.

Tark, along with his cousin Callie, try to get rid of the spirit without killing him in the process. While they do this, Okiku is there to provide commentary and a helping hand when needed.

Is this book scary?

To me, not really, but then again I don’t get scared easily so I don’t know if I’m a good judge for this. I did enjoy reading the scary scenes and watching Okiku take down the bad guys. It was reminiscent of Asian horror movies, so I enjoyed it. The way she took out the enemies of child was gruesome, but fitting for a vengeful ghost.

I mean, if I was a vengeful ghost with time to kill, I might be inclined to do the same thing. Like before, it’s what they do.

One thing I absolutely loved was that there was no romance. That might sound weird, but after reading stories where the romance took over or love triangles and what have you, it was really refreshing to see a book forgo that and just have the story. Tark did develop a bond with Okiku and they did start to care for one another, but it was nothing more than friends and I appreciated that. For it to turn into a romance or anything would have hurt the story, so I’m really glad that it wasn’t there.

The writing style, unfortunately, is the only downside to this wonderful novel. The book is written in Okiku’s voice, which is why it’s in first person, but there were times when it would go into third person without any sort of notice. Once you get use to that, it switches back to first person and Okiku takes over once again. This happens more than once and each time it left me confused. There were scenes when Callie would notice Okiku and instead of saying something like, “Callie turned and noticed me standing on the ceiling…” It would say, “Callie turned and noticed the girl in white standing on the ceiling…” (Neither of these are taken from the book, it’s simply an example of what I was talking about).

For me, this didn’t really work. You do get use to it after awhile, but I never really liked these sudden shifts in view. Okiku is a bystander and watches a lot of stuff that happens, but I don’t understand why we kept switching from first to third to first again, if she’s meant to be the narrator for everything.

Some of the characters also did feel a bit underdeveloped, but the ones who were meant to be the stars, or had important roles, did have some depth to them. I kind of wish Tark’s dad was more available, but his absence did make sense since he’s a single dad with a stressful job.

Overall: Other than the writing style, I did like a lot of stuff about this novel. I did find that despite this being a story about Okiku and Tark, it’s mostly Callie that takes center stage and steals the scene whenever she shows up. There were times when things were a bit convenient and clichéd, but I think because The Girl from the Well is so different from other YA books out there that it’s just felt refreshing to read.

Giveaway is now Closed:

I really liked this, which is why I’m happy to announce that SourceBooks is giving a lucky reader a chance to win a copy of The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco. If you are from the US and Canada, then all you need to do is comment below with your name and you’ll be entered to win.

Good luck!

The Girl from the Well was provided by netgalley

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Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson

servants of the stormKindle Edition, 384 pages
Expected publication: August 5th 2014

Hmmm. I feel bad, because Servants of the Storm should be a book that I love. It has a beautiful cover, the synopsis promises some creepy mystery, and the main character is biracial, which is something you don’t see in a lot of YA.

And when I first started to read this book, I was really into it. The first two chapters were great and really helped set the scene for this creepy tale. Billie Dove, aka Dovey, and Carly are at home alone when hurricane Josephine rages through their small town. During this encounter, Carly is swept away and dies. Dovey is obviously heartbroken. She not only lost her best friend, but she lost her in a horrible way.

After a few episodes she experiences, Dovey is forced to take some anti-psychotic pills to help her calm down. It’s been a year since Carly died and Dovey hasn’t been the same since. She’s loopy and tired due to the pills, and her once bright outlook on life comes to a screeching halt. Her popularity, her friends and her grades all fall as she’s now known as the crazy one. All that changes when she sees Carly at their favourite coffee shop. Carly, who died a year ago. Carly, who shouldn’t be alive at all.

Dovey decides that in order to find out the truth, she needs to stop taking her pills. Her pills keep her loopy and she needs to be as focused as possible in order to solve this mystery. This helps make Dovey an unreliable narrator, as the reader constantly asks themselves, “Is this all true? Or is she just having another episode?”

All of this sounds great, which is why I’m disappointed that I didn’t like it as much as I should have. Despite some really well done scenes, I found the story to be lacking. And even though I liked that Dovey was unreliable, that didn’t stop me from finding her insufferable and TSTL.

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Teaser Tuesdays

tteTeaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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Hmmm, haven’t done this in awhile. Anywho, here’s my teaser:

Out of the corner of her eye, Josie thought she saw an object pass by in the darkness outside the kitchen window.

It was just a split-second image, as if something had been illuminated by a camera flash before fading back into the darkness of the night, but Josie could have sworn she saw what looked like a large wing soar past the window. Then in the distance, another animalistic scream.

~ 3:59  by Gretchen McNeil

The quote is taken from chapter 11, which is also the chapter I just finished. So far, things have just been about Josie dealing with life, but I think things are going to take a much darker turn now. Ooooh, I can’t wait!

Book Blurb:

15836516Josie Byrne’s life is spiraling out of control. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend Nick has grown distant, and her physics teacher has it in for her. When she’s betrayed by the two people she trusts most, Josie thinks things can’t get worse.

Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.

Jo’s life is everything Josie wants: she’s popular, her parents are happily married, and Nick adores her. It all seems real, but they’re just dreams, right? Josie thinks so, until she wakes one night to a shadowy image of herself in the bedroom mirror – Jo.

Josie and Jo realize that they are doppelgängers living in parallel universes that overlap every twelve hours at exactly 3:59. Fascinated by Jo’s perfect world, Josie jumps at the chance to jump through the portal and switch places for a day.

But Jo’s world is far from perfect. Not only is Nick not Jo’s boyfriend, he hates her. Jo’s mom is missing, possibly insane. And at night, shadowy creatures feed on human flesh.

By the end of the day, Josie is desperate to return to her own life. But there’s a problem: Jo has sealed the portal, trapping Josie in this dangerous world. Can she figure out a way home before it’s too late?

From master of suspense Gretchen McNeil comes a riveting and deliciously eerie story about the lives we wish we had – and how they just might kill you.

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So, what’s your Teaser Tuesday? Please leave a link so I can visit your blog.

Poor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend

Poor Little Dead GirlsHardcover, 288 pages
Published December 18th 2013

Sadie Marlowe never knew much about her mother. When she was young, her mother suffered from an illness and the only thing Sadie remembers is that her mother was really sad before she killed herself.

When she receives a letter of scholarship to Keating Hall, the school her mother use to go to, Sadie isn’t sure what to expect. She’s not rich like everyone, but this is the place to be if you want to succeed in life. The connections one can get from here are like no other and if she can get scouted for her lacrosse playing, then she’ll have a better chance at getting a full scholarship to play at a top tier university.

So Sadie leaves her home in Portland and heads to Keating. At first, she’s overwhelmed at everything and notices just how different she is compared to everyone else. She doesn’t wear the right kind of clothes, her tomboyish ways doesn’t really mesh with the parties the school throw, the team practice is a lot tougher than what she is use to, and wearing jean skirts to a dance doesn’t seem like it will work here.

Things all change when Sadie is introduced to the Sullas. A secret society, of sorts, that decides to bring Sadie into their little group. Normally, Sadie wouldn’t mesh well with this sort of group, but she since her mother use to be a Sulla, Sadie reluctantly joins them and hopes to find some sort of connection to her mom through them.

Through the Sullas, Sadie experiences what the 1% feel on a daily basis. The lavish parties, the way you can seem to get away with anything, and she even meets the president. Sadie knows that all of this is too good to be true and when she finds out what they are really doing behind the scenes, she starts to wonder if her mother’s suicide wasn’t really a suicide. Maybe, just maybe someone was trying to hurt her and the same people may be coming for Sadie next.

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Champion by Marie Lu

Champion by Marie LuHardcover, 384 pages
Published November 5th 2013

The final book of the much hyped and much loved Legend series is officially out and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Now that I’m finished, did it live up to my expectations? Or did it crash and burn?

It’s been over eight months since the end of Prodigy. Day, who is now dying, has finally been reunited with his brother and moved to Frisco where they’re both getting treatments. While June has taken her place by Anden’s side and is officially training to be the Princeps Elect. Anden’s right hand (wo)man and leader to all of the Senates. The two still think about each other often, but after Day broke things off they haven’t really had a chance to speak since then.

All that changes, when the Colonies decide to end their peace treaty and attack the Republic. It turns out that the plague has hit them and they feel like the Republic is responsible. The Republic could fight back, and they will, but the Colonies has a strong ally with Africa and if the two join forces then the Republic will be destroyed. The only chance to stop this from happening is to find the cure. Only then, will the Colonies stop attacking. And only then, will there be peace again.

But the cure lies in Eden’s blood and after everything Day’s been through, he’s not about to let his brother be taken in for more experiments. The last time Eden was experimented on, he lost his sight and almost died and Day’s not about to let the same thing happen again. So, in order to be a champion to the people, will you sacrifice a loved one to save an entire country? Or do you turn your back to a nation that has done nothing but caused you pain?

Decisions, decisions….

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Prodigy by Marie Lu

Prodigy by Marie LuHardcover, 371 pages
Published January 29th 2013

After reading a lot of dystopia and being disappointed in some of them, Legend was a breath of fresh air. It was action packed, had a great plot, and the romance between June and Day never took over the story. I really enjoyed it.

So much so that I went and picked up Prodigy. So was it as good as Legend. Short answer: No. Long answer: It wasn’t better than Legend, but it was still enjoyable. I think some of the things I overlooked in the first novel, really manifested itself here. It was still a fun read though, just not as good as Legend.

Prodigy picks up right where Legend ends. June has just betrayed the Republic and helped free Day. In order to move forward, they’ll need the help of the Patriots, a group of rebels who want to bring change in the Republic. After a trip to Vegas, June and Day meet up with the Patriots and agree to work with them. The mission is simple. June will go back to the Republic and lead the new Elector to a certain spot and Day, who will be with the Patriots, will kill him. This will spark a revolution and the people will finally be free from their oppressive state. Both June and Day have their own reasons to destroy the Republic, but are they willing to kill someone for this change and are they even sure that change will even happen?

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