Freaks by Amanda Hocking

imageWelcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

 

I have to admit, I have discovered a love of circus books recently. That coupled with this amazing cover drew me to this book.  I want to say that I loved it as much as I love the cover, but I can’t.

I found the characters a bit flat and lackluster.  The plot was reasonable but you figured out who was behind it not far along into the storyline but really don’t get confirmation until almost at  the very end.  I didn’t find it all that engrossing and to be honest it was too long as well.  I found it dragged on and on and on.  Boredom set in and I was glad to see the end of it. I was also sad to see that the majority of the interesting action that did get me hooked was in the last few pages.  It wasn’t enough to save the whole book for me though.

I find it a hit or miss when it comes to Amanda’s books and I have to say that for me, this one was a miss.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

2/5 stars

Crash

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

23512999I started Reading Stephen King when I was 10. I dug out a copy of Salem’s Lot out of my mothers bookcase which was 99% dominated by bodice ripping historical romance books. I remember reading it in bed, way after my bedtime had come and gone, with a penlight flashlight hiding under my covers and jumping at every creak that the house gave up at 1 am. I fell in love. I devoured everything that he wrote afterwards. His books scared me as a kid and freaked me out at a teen and kept on freaking me out as an adult. I gleefully went for the rollercoaster ride and loved every scary minute of it.

I have found that as time went on and King got older his books became less and less frightening and scary. I started to see that instead of writing horror he was writing more normal stories with a slight paranormal bent that was on the side of normal more than not. 11/22/63 was one of those. Fantastic story writing but not the King I knew, loved and grew up with. Don’t even get me started on Under the Dome and Cell. There was one exception and that was Doctor Sleep, I felt that the old King had returned “Long Live the King” but that didn’t last. I enjoyed and am enjoying the Bill Hodges trilogy so far, again great story writing but not horrifying King.

When I saw The Bazaar of Bad Dreams for sale, and it was short stories, I eagerly bought it in the hopes that I would find some wonderful stories that I could sink my teeth into, but I was wrong. I found stories, well written ones, but ones that left you scratching your head wondering what you had just read and not in a good way. The stories seemed to have been cut off midway through leaving you wondering what it was supposed to be and did he forget to finish it. That poem…. What the hell was that about?!?!?! To be honest I like the story intro’s better than the stories themselves.

I will be honest here and say that I didn’t finish the whole book, I got to the 50-55% mark and gave up. I just felt sad at what was going on and felt that the stories were just put out there for the sake of it.

He started writing books that would grab you by the seat of your pants dragging you screaming into the night, then that gave way to pulling you by the arm down the road to see what was going on and now onto holding your hand strolling through the midday sun. The magic for me in a way is gone, the story writing is still amazing but just not doing it for me any more and it makes me sad as a ‘constant reader’ to see that the master has let me down yet again.

This should have been called The Bazaar of Meh Dreams instead.

2/5 stars

Crash

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Book Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

18812405 I hate to start off the year with a negative review but…I am. Can’t help it, I finished this book just last night and was so irritated I knew I had to write a review today. This is a book that has had good word of mouth and I’ve heard quite a few people talking about it and saying it was a good thriller. While I mostly read romance I also love thrillers, young adult, new adult, women’s lit, pretty much every genre there is. Which is great because generally if it’s a good book I will read it and enjoy it.

I went into this book not knowing what it was about. Just that it was a thriller and I’d heard some comparisons to Gone Girl so I thought I’d give it a try. My library luckily had a copy so I just got on the hold list – I LOVE my library FYI. It’s where I get a huge portion of my books that I read. This story is about the kidnapping of Mia Dennett, the daughter of a prominent judge. There are 3 alternating point of view – Eve, Mia’s mother; Gabe, the detective in charge of Mia’s case; and Colin, the kidnapper. The POV switches didn’t bother me at all and actually made the story more interesting to me. I really liked the addition of Colin’s points of view as I think that it adds a lot to the story and it also made it stand out from other dual POV books.

The basic plot of The Good Girl was decent and that kept me reading the full book. However my main complaint was that the overall pacing of the book was S-L-O-W. The book took place over a few months and I felt every one of those months. Gabe’s point of view was particularly boring to me and I was left wondering why his was even included. It seemed that we could have gotten all the information if it had just been included in Eve’s perspective. Colin’s story was the most interesting because that is where we got the gist of the kidnapping and I realized that I was pretty much skimming over the other perspectives to get to Gabe’s.

Overall, I did finish the book and thought the ending was unexpected. But it felt way, way too long to get there.

2 Stars

~Melinda

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Book Review: Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher

18246727 Some books get lots of hype. I try to avoid those books usually but I’m weak, I can’t help it! Especially when those books are hyped by a lot of people I follow. Mud Vein is a book that got a lot of hype about how great the book was, so I decided I had to check it out.

The book seemed to me to be separated into 3 sections – the first of which is that novelist Senna Richards wakes up, locked in a house, in the middle of nowhere. With her is an old friend, Isaac. They have no idea where they are or why they are there. The house is well stocked with food and clothing in their correct sizes but that’s about it. They linger there trying to figure out what’s going on but get nowhere and soon weeks and months pass by. There are many parts of this section that is kind of a mind f*ck.

The second section is a flashback of how Senna and Isaac know each other. Technically they aren’t really friends – they used to be something but not friends per se. Senna was raped a few years before the kidnapping took place and Isaac was the one who came along right after it took place and brought her to the hospital. Senna is also diagnosed with breast cancer almost immediately after and Isaac happens to be an oncological surgeon. She asks him to be her surgeon and he ends up becoming more and pretty much is her life line that entire year or so even though she tries to push him away the entire time.

The third section attempts to bring the first two sections together. Which seemed to be a pretty insurmountable task to me because the first two sections had such a huge disconnect to each other. I really enjoy a good psychological thriller and that’s what I was thinking I was getting going into this and even still when I was in the midst of the first section. But I found nothing all that thrilling about the book. I was vaguely wondering why Senna and Isaac were kidnapped but that was completely squashed by section 2. I thought that the second section would give us character development and insight into the two victims of this crime and their actions while in this bizarre house. But if anything, all the second section did was make me dislike the characters more and more and not care what happened to them.

The clincher of the book is the bizarre ending. I do not understand what that mess of an ending was about. It didn’t make sense to me and I felt like it was jumbled up – as if there were pieces from 3 different books.

Maybe I fell for all of the hype that this book got, I’m guessing that’s partly true. But overall I was just really not a fan of this one.

2 Stars

~Melinda

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Book Review: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

6224935 I found this book on one of those lists of “Books you need to Read before the Film”. It looked vaguely interesting so I got on the holds list at the library and waited. The plot seemed semi-interesting, although complicated – Judd Foxman’s father just died and he is heading home to sit shiva with his 2 brothers and sister. Meanwhile, he’s also dealing with his ex-wife who cheated on him with his boss and just announced that she’s pregnant.

Unsurprisingly, as the 7 days of shiva passes, the drama gets higher and higher between all of the players. The siblings are all coupled up and bring their own issues, both past and current. Judd in particular is trying to deal with his life pretty much falling apart around him.

I just didn’t like most of this book. Almost every character in it seemed to fit into a nice little Hollywood box – as if the author was writing it specifically to get it optioned for a film. One of Judd’s sisters-in-law is so desperate to get pregnant that she literally decided to jump Judd at one point because his sperm is “interchangeable” with his brothers. He has a kooky mother who is very in touch with emotions, a stressed out sister whose husband is too into his job – they all fit into nice little boxes. Everyone seems to reveal their true emotions at just the right moment in a nice and neat (yet kind of messy) way.

There was also extensive descriptions that were all looking down the author’s nose at people. How dare people be old and have wrinkles, or be overweight? I thought at first this was just me grabbing at certain things but no this was repetitive and unnecessary for the story.

This is one book that I should have skipped and went straight to the movie. Justin Bateman, Tina Fey and Dax Shephard – all of whom I love star in it so I’ll give it a chance and see if they can inject some heart into it because the book was severely lacking in that area.

2 Stars

~Melinda

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Joint Book Review: Yours to Keep by Serena Bell

imageThis is Serena Bell’s full length book debut. It is about Ana Traveres, who is an illegal immigrant. Her deceased mom let the visas of Ana and her siblings expire. Circumstances conspired against them that 1) did not allow them to return home to the Dominican Republic and 2) renew their visas in a timely manner. Ana works a couple of jobs as a Spanish tutor and as a teacher for an English as a Second Language (ESL) class. She requests payments by cash, of course.

Ethan is a widower with a teenage son, Theo. Ethan hires Ana to help Theo. Ethan’s a pediatrician who is trying to help one of his patients with a mysterious illness.

So that’s a quick summary. Let’s dig deep into this book. My friend, Clio from Random Book Muses, is here to share her thoughts too.

Ethan-
Vi: My main complaint against him is his thoughts on the “desperate mommies.”
“Generally speaking, there were two reasons women wanted to talk to Ethan: either they wanted to ask his advice, as a pediatrician, about a medical problem or they wanted to flirt.
“Desperate mommies were an occupational hazard, like parents who asked him pediatric questions as awkward moments.”
Ethan comes across as arrogant. I’m not sure if I liked him. His interactions with his distant son help humble him. Ana definitely helped humble him.

Clio: I’m sure I didn’t like him for the majority of the book. The “desperate mommies” was also the start of my dislike. He’s a Dr., isn’t it an understandable side effect of being one that you expect those kinds of questions? How exactly were the mommies desperate? I never got that from the descriptions in the book, I definitely got the dislike of the rich mommies but was unable to put my finger on why besides that they were rich.

Ana-
Vi: I liked her a lot. She was a pillar of strength for her family. She’s been saving money so that she can attend college. When her older brother, Ricky, wanted to buy a car to start a house cleaning business, Ana, unselfishly gave him the money. I felt her agony when she agreed to help Ricky.

Ana’s thoughtfulness and kindness led Theo to open up. This helped Ethan to re-connect with Theo.

Clio: I also liked Ana for the most part. I really enjoyed her interaction with Theo and seeing how she asked him questions that led him to talking about thing he never would otherwise. I wasn’t so sure about some aspects the author included – in particular the focus on a hot pink thong she wore to entice Ethan. It did not seem like something this character would do or like something Ethan would like.

The subplot of Ethan & his patient:
Vi: I really didn’t understand why there needed to be a subplot with Ethan’s patient who might have leukemia. If this is to prove that Ethan is compassionate, then it was not needed. I see that in his actions with his son.

If it was to prove his dedication to his profession, well, it was also not needed. His dedication led to the drift between him and his son.

Clio: Ditto.
This bothered me to the point of distraction during scenes that had nothing to do with this. I was left wondering what this had to do with anything else.

The subplot of Ana & her ESL class:
Vi: I also don’t understand why I needed to see Ana with her ESL class. If it’s prove that she’s an effective teacher, well, it was not needed. I got that with her interactions with Theo. Ana cooking with Theo showed well what a great teacher Ana was.

If it was to re-inforce how painful it was to be deported, I got the message. It sucks. By the time that her student’s daughter was deported, leaving behind a grandchild, I understood the plight of the illegal immigrants. Ana’s family was enough. Why bring in another example?

Clio: I disagree with this one. I liked the interactions with the ESl class. I thought it showed how much Ana enjoyed being with others that were like her and in similar situation but at the same time showed none of them felt comfortable in revealing all of their secrets. I liked the interaction with people besides her family and Ethan’s.

The romance:
Vi: I felt like the romance, the courtship, got lost amidst the subplots. They went on a date. Then they quickly ended up in bed. I wanted to see more of how they could sustain a relationship beyond the physical. Because so much happened externally, I felt that the declaration of love happened too quickly.

Clio: I was lost amidst the subplots! I wish the author had left out Ethan’s medical practice and anything to do with the desperate mommies. She also could have cut more of the ESL classes and concentrated on developing the romance more.

Grade:
Vi: 2/5 stars. This book could almost be women’s fiction. By the end of the book, I understand better what illegal immigrants were feeling than what Ana & Ethan were feeling about each other. I wish the focus was tighter so that the HEA was more believable.

Clio: I would give it a 2.5 stars if that makes much of a difference. I enjoyed Ana’s story of her home life and Ethan’s home life as well. I really liked how Ana dealt with Theo and how that in turn affected Ethan’s relationship with him. However, for a romance, it fell very flat for me.

Thanks, Clio, for joining me. Maybe we will have better luck with next month’s book.

~Vi

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