Review: The Lost Girl

The Lost Girl
The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Growing up, summer wasn’t complete without a trip to the beach and a handful of Fear Street novels. I can’t even express the wave of nostalgia that came over me was I started in on this ARC- it felt like being in middle school all over again. “The Lost Girl” was just like the R.L. Stine Fear Street novels of my pre-teen-hood, creepy, gruesome and fast-plotted.* While by no means realistic, these books hit the sweet spot of being entertaining but still with some substance. I’m so glad that this author continues to write, and I can’t wait to add his newest works to my collection and one day pass them along to my own children.

“The Lost Girl” takes readers back to Shadyside where the mysterious arrival of a new girl in town is (of course) tied to a series of strange accidents and occurrences. Main character Michael, finds himself drawn to Lizzy, not realizing that a past tragedy from 60 years ago will come back to haunt them. Just as in other Fear Street novels, Shadyside’s dark history has a way of always rearing its ugly head. That said, you won’t really need to know the background of the other books to enjoy “The Lost Girl.”

While as an adult reader I had an inkling of where the story was going to go, I was still pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns of the plot. Clocking in at just under 300 pages, “The Lost Girl” should keep you busy for a few days if you can put it down.

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves September 29th, 2015.

*Even now, some of the awful deaths/accidents in his novels still creep me out majorly.

Disclaimer: An ARC of this novel was provided to me for the purpose of review by the publisher.

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Review: The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

The Night Sister
The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun, creepy read for summer!

THE NIGHT SISTER is told in alternating narratives set in the past and present, but centers around the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a teenaged girl, Sylvie, in the 1950s and a motel in rural Vermont. In the 1980s, three high-school girls stumble upon the missing teen’s suitcase- a discovery that will continue to haunt them into adulthood. When Amy, who is Sylvie’s niece, as an adult stands accused of a horrible crime, her friends, sister Margot and Piper, must return to the Tower Motel to face the secrets they unearthed that long-ago summer.

Nicely paced and well-written, I found myself sucked into the story very quickly. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I was not expecting this book to go in the direction it does. That said, despite not being what I thought it would be, the conclusion/ending kind of worked out well.

Definitely recommend as a good, slightly creepy, book for summer travel or the beach/pool!

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves August 4th.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel for the purpose of review via the Publisher.

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Review: Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

Wildalone
Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I really wanted to like so much, but fell painfully short of expectations.*

WILDALONE by Krassi Zourkova is a modern re-telling of Greek mythology set against the backdrop of Princeton University. Following in her deceased sister’s footsteps, piano prodigy Thea arrives on campus in search of the facts behind her sister’s untimely demise. She becomes involved with two mysterious brothers, Jake and Rhys, who seem to be somehow be tied to her sister’s death, and clearly have secrets of their own. Incorporating themes of magic and myth, WILDALONE tries ever so hard to successfully land in the same realm as A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, but fails due to poor execution. While the author’s first language is not English, I was surprised that the editors did not address some of the awkward phrases/wording. In fact, I often got so tripped up by the way a sentence or passage was delivered that it totally distracted from the rest of the novel.

Though the premise of WILDALONE initially was enough to suck me in, I struggled to finish the book and finally powered through this past weekend (I think I started it back in Feb?). It feels like the start of a series, but I can safely say I won’t be continuing with it. The mystery that is setup is not intriguing enough, and I don’t think I can struggle through another 300 pages of the writing.

Available now from Amazon.com, but it may be one you want to get out of your library instead.

*Honestly, the first tip off should have been all of the other novels it’s compared to… THE SECRET HISTORY, A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, JANE EYRE… it’s never a good sign when you have to use so many other books to describe what you’re trying to sell.

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Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A solid 2.5 out of 5 stars.

To start, I brought this one on myself – I keep telling myself to stay away from YA as it will only disappointment… but alas, I was sucked in by the synopsis. This book starts off with a strong premise, but ultimately is not well-executed and kind of a disappointment. A re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast story with hints of Greek mythology, Rumpelstiltskin, and Blackbeard, CRUEL BEAUTY is the tale of Nyx, who is betrothed to the Gentle Lord (i.e. Beast), to pay for a debt owed by her father.

Set in a world that incorporates a variety of different influences (magic, the elements, demons), Hodge does a great job of creating an engaging fantasy world. I particularly liked the mythology she creates for her world. Unfortunately, she does not do as well when it comes to the characters. While Nyx reads more complex than the rest of the cast, I found that all of the main players were rather one dimensional. I also felt a complete lack of chemistry between Nyx and the Gentle Lord which made it hard to stay interested as the story progressed.

I think this may be part of a series, but I’m honestly going to opt out after reading the first one… Sorry.

Available for purchase from Amazon.com, but I fortunately found this one at the library.

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik – A Book Review

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Bottom line: Definitely add to your to-read list.

It’s been a crazy few weeks at work, and with the holiday weekend my goal was to unplug and do nothing. I’ve been in a book slump of late, and finding something to capture (and hold) my attention has been hard. Fortunately, while cruising Goodreads, “Uprooted” appeared as a suggested read.

I do enjoy a dark fairytale, and Novik’s “Uprooted” definitely delivered. Set in a world full of magic and an evil mysterious “Wood,” “Uprooted” is the tale of a young woman whose life changes when she is chosen by the kingdom’s magician, the Dragon, to become his companion. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but needless to say the protagonist, Agnieszka, soon finds herself part of a larger battle of good vs. evil.

Though the summary may sound predictable, I was pleasantly surprised with the direction that Novik takes. The tale captured my attention, and I appreciated that this book stands alone (no awful cliff-hanger ending)… that said, Agnieszka is an awesome heroine, and I secretly hope there may be a sequel as I enjoyed her as a character. The Dragon… not so much – honestly, he felt a little bit flat. In fact, he’s the reason that i found it hard to give the book more than four stars- Agnieszka deserved a stronger foil.

Clocking in at 350+ pages, it’s a solid read, but I wouldn’t have changed/edited out anything. The writing is lovely for the most part, but there were some passages where the wording/grammar was a little befuddling. Glad I bought a physical copy of this book as I know I’m going to re-read it eventually.

Available now from Amazon.com.

Second Life by S.J. Watson – A Book Review

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Two things:

First, I was not a huge fan of SJ Watson’s first novel, “Before I Go To Sleep.”
Second, if you feel like you’re having a hard time getting into this novel, STICK WITH IT. Totally worth it.

Julia is a 30-something suburban mother in London who leads a rather unexciting life. When her younger sister is found murdered in Paris, Julia is compelled to solve the crime and discovers that her sister lived a rather adventurous online life. Soon she finds herself pulled into the same world, and quickly realizes that is possibly much more dangerous than she thought – especially after she meets the enigmatic Lukas.

Though the first third of the novel/setting up of the story is slow and Julia really got on my nerves, once Act Three begins you won’t be able to put this book down. Watson does an excellent job of pulling the reader into the story, and its twists and turns kept me guessing (I’ll admit, my initial thoughts on why Kate was murdered and by who were totally wrong!). Julia is not the most enjoyable protagonist- she second guesses herself on EVERYTHING. Literally. Watson has her questioning/debating almost every decision/thought/assumption. However her personality improves once she realizes the amount of danger she is in.

The secondary characters are for the most part bland (ugh, Hugh… seriously, what a wet blanket, and Adrienne is the worst best friend), but once the story between Lukas and Julia picks up, it’s easy to stop caring about them. I also didn’t feel the connection between Julia and her sister – Watson repeatedly tries to remind the reader that they was almost a psychic connection between them, but it feels pretty hollow.

While I started out not sure I would complete this book, the fast-paced plot kept me glued to the pages and made it easier to overlook the weak characters.

Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves June 9th, 2015.

Disclaimer: I received advance access to this book for the purpose of review.

“Luckiest Girl Alive” by Jessica Knoll

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4.5 out of 5 stars

Whoa. Jessica Knoll’s “Luckiest Girl Alive” was not what I was expecting in the best way possible.

Ani FaNelli is that New York girl you hate- skinny, pretty, huge engagement ring and designer handbags – she leads the kind of life that every small town girl dreams about. Bitchy, pithy and not exactly the nicest girl around, she’s done her best to distance herself from a life-changing event in her teens. However, when the anniversary of those events approaches… it becomes clear that the truth can’t be buried forever.

Will you hate Ani? Most likely yes. She reminds me of Curtis Sittenfield’s protagonist in Prep. Annoying, self-centered and shallow, she can be difficult to relate to, but by the end of the novel at least you’ll understand her and perhaps have some empathy. The novel is told from Ani’s perspective which can be a little trying at first, but don’t fight it- just give in.

I don’t want to give away anything from the plot, but I will say I was totally caught off guard and had no idea the direction that the story was going to go in. Again, while you may not love all of the characters, the writing is sharp and clean, and creates a delightful sense of unease. It may start off a little chick-lit, but the plot quickly becomes much deeper and darker. If you like Gillian Flynn’s novels, you’ll most likely enjoy “Luckiest Girl Alive.”

A definite must read for 2015! Also, it looks like the movie rights to this book have been snapped up by Lionsgate! Available for pre-order from Amazon.com and on shelves May 12th, 2015.

Disclaimer: I received and an ARC of this book for review.