2 stars · adult · mystery

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton: should I have DNF’d?

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Baby Doll

author : hollie overton

pages : [hardcover] 281

summary :

For fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, Baby Doll is the most tense thriller you will read this year.

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next…

…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

review :

I reeeeeally wanted to love this book. I started it and the concept was really interesting, the characters were gripping, and I was invested in the story. Baby Doll begins with Lily trying to escape from where she’s been held captive for the past eight years, tormented and raising a child with her captor. But this is just the beginning for her.

Baby Doll  . . . tried. I’m not sure at what point I realized that the writing was just terribly not for me. Maybe when it was the pages and pages of whenever Abby, Lily’s twin, would appear and all we would hear about her was that she was “so fat” (though at one point they said she’d put on twenty pounds which, okay, would make a difference, but they harped on it over and over). Abby had real psychological problems that were all hidden behind these vain ramblings. It wasn’t as if the author was trying to keep a little mystery for us to piece together what exactly has been happening to Abby. There is so much telling and not showing, it’s ridiculous.

Things started going downhill pretty quickly. The dialogue was very stilted, the scenarios that came up didn’t seem very realistic. Random things would come out of nowhere–the kind of stuff that could tear families apart or cause real devastation–and be mentioned for only a few pages and then never discussed ever again.

Rick, the captor . . . He was suitably crazy. Because the book rotates between several different POVs, at some points we were able to actually get inside of his head. But during the most important moments of the book, that I won’t spoil in case you want to read it, we get nothing from him. And then it’s over, wrapped up way too neatly in way too few pages.

I was really frustrated with Baby Doll because I started out thinking that I was going to love it. I ended it pretty much rushing through the pages so I could move on to another book instead.

2/5 stars

 

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4 stars · horror · mystery · paranormal · young adult

Servants of the Storm blew me away

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Servants of the Storm

author : delilah s. dawson

pages : [hardcover] 376

memorable quote:

I miss the days when I could wake up from a nightmare and call out, and someone would hold me close, make me feel warm and safe.

favorite character : baker

summary :

Dovey learns that demons lurk in places other than the dark corners of her mind in this southern gothic fantasy from the author of the Blud series.

A year ago, Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction—and taking the life of Dovey’s best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she’s started to believe she’s seeing things that can’t be real…including Carly at their favorite café. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah—where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk—she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

review :

I went into this book basically knowing nothing about what might happen and think that I liked it more from not having any expectations, from wondering alongside Dovey what could be true or hallucinations. So, if you’re interested in reading this book, I’d say dive right into it without too much reading from summaries/reviews.

When I started Servants of the Storm, I expected a mystery with a little intrigue. I expected everyone to think that Dovey was crazy and to spend the entire novel trying to figure out whether or not she really should go back to taking her medication. Somehow I missed the big old ‘horror’ sticker stuck to the copy of my book, when I took out a few novels that have been on my TBR list for ages (so long that I don’t even remember where I got the recommendations from in the first place!).

If you’re into paranormal, demonic, mysteries, this is the one for you. It creeped me out to the core. It really is like reading a horror movie, once you get about 50 pages into the book, and I never saw it coming. The things that the demons in Savannah like to do are horrifying, yet oddly fascinating, and you just can’t look away. I really like the world that Dawson constructed in her book because all of the rules about demons, their servants, and everything in between was easy enough to understand. I’m not learned enough in more demon novels to know if this is typically how they’re dealt with, but it was enough to give me shivers at night. I don’t mind things that can hurt you, even kill you–but once some creature starts messing with immortal souls? Nuh-uh. Goodbye.

Still, as much as it horrified me, I loved it for what it was. Except for the ending. Um, this book was published two years ago, ends like it’s setting itself up for a sequel, and then . . nothing. No sign of a sequel that’s even being written, let alone set to be published. Which is incredibly frustrating!

4/5 stars

 

3 stars · fiction · mystery · Uncategorized · young adult

Forget Me by K. A. Harrington

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Forget Me

author : k. a. harrington

pages : [hardcover] 288

favorite character : evan

summary :

An edge-of-your seat psychological thriller with a romantic twist

On the three-month anniversary of her boyfriend Flynn’s death, Morgan uploads her only photo of him to FriendShare to get some closure—but she’s shocked when the facial recognition software suggests she tag him as “Evan Murphy.” She’s never heard of Evan, but a quick search tells her that he lives in a nearby town and looks exactly like Flynn. Only this boy is very much alive.

Digging through layers of secrets and lies, Morgan is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her boyfriend, her town, and even her parents’ involvement in this massive web of lies.

review :

I’ve picked up a few different young adult mysteries lately and have been really interested in getting more into the mystery/thriller genre. I think it’s interesting to see how stories like these can really grip you, shock you, and pull you into the narrative. Unfortunately, though Forget Me had a great start, it ended up being a big disappointment.

Morgan’s boyfriend, Flynn, was killed in a hit-and-run. Worse, she witnessed the accident. But when she uploads a picture of him as a memorial to a website and is asked to tag his picture with some other boy’s name, a boy who looks exactly like Flynn, she wonders if he’s really dead at all. Or if the accident wasn’t what it seemed.

Throughout the book, there are all of these hints at some bigger picture story happening and the pieces don’t fall into place until the finish. Which, y’know, is expected in the mystery. But Morgan’s town has been run into the ground because the big company that used to employ so many townspeople has shut down. I thought that there was going to be a whole conspiracy surrounding that, because it seemed like most of the people working there were scientists. I figured there was some genetic testing going on there or a crazy answer like that would be found in the mystery. What the plot really builds up to, though, is less satisfying.

I won’t give away the ending. But I will say that Forget Me really fell when it came to pacing. So much of the middle of the book fell flat while Morgan was navigating the mystery. And then, in the last 20 or so pages, so much information was randomly packed into them. Pieces that had no build-up to them whatsoever and seemed much too convenient, and unsatisfying, an answer to all of the intrigue and quirky clues we’d been getting throughout the novel.

I’m going to keep on reading mysteries, but won’t be recommending this one.

3/5 stars

5 stars · Fantasy · mystery · paranormal · Uncategorized

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

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Beware the Wild 

Beware the Wild #1

author : natalie c. parker

pages : [hardcover] 327

memorable quote :

Secrets are never so dangerous as when they’ve been forgotten.

favorite characters : lenora may

summary :

It’s an oppressively hot and sticky morning in June when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp—the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn’t return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance—and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her.

This debut novel is full of atmosphere, twists and turns, and a swoon-worthy romance.

review :

I checked this book out of the library because I’ve been trying to methodically cut down on my TBR. To be honest, I’m not sure how long this one has been sitting patiently waiting for me to finally track it down and read it. I’m glad that I didn’t let it disappear in a sea of good intentions for reading because Beware the Wild is a 5 star book.

The mystery. The paranormal elements. The horror. It all blended together perfectly in a story that captivated just as much as it rattled me. The swamp that borders Sterling’s home has always held its secrets and she’s been content to keep away from it, until the day her brother runs into the swamp and Lenora May runs out . . to take his place. Things only grow stranger from there, as Sterling realizes she may be completely alone in unraveling this mystery before it is too late and she loses her brother to the swamp, forever.

I think it’s interesting, in stories like these, when nature itself seems to be a predator to humanity. The people in town like to pretend that the ‘swamp stories’ (their personal ghost stories) are all myth, though on the side they do as much as possible to superstitiously protect themselves from the swamp. There’s always the thought that maybe the swamp is nothing but normal . . . But I’ll pray for the evil to stay inside of it where it belongs, just in case. As the mysteries deepen and more questions arise, it becomes even more difficult to discern what is real and what is myth.

The characters were amazing, especially Lenora May. As soon as she emerged from the swamp I knew that I was going to be intrigued by her. Sterling was fascinating, too, because she needs to learn to come into her own to save her brother, after he’s basically saved her throughout her entire life. I also found this book interesting because Sterling has an eating disorder but this isn’t a book about eating disorders. It’s about the mysteries of the swamp. I loved how it was just one aspect of her character and how it was handled throughout the story, though I’d have liked to see more of what happened with that aspect after the paranormal excitement died down.

This book was amazing–and it turns out that there’s a sequel? If I’d known that before reading, I may have been disappointed, but because this book was so surprising and hooked me in, I definitely need to get my hands on book two.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

 

 

2 stars · fiction · mystery · young adult

The Shadow of Seth by Tom Llewellyn

 

The Shadow of Seth 

author : tom llewellyn

pages : [paperback] 174

summary :

Sixteen-year-old Seth Anomundy is a product of his environment: in this case, Tacoma, Washington. What L.A. was to Chandler, Tacoma―a working-class port city now undergoing urban renewal―is to author Tom Llewellyn. Seth has grown up in Tacoma’s tough neighborhoods, where he’s perfectly at home in Choo-Choo’s boxing gym and Miss Irene’s soul food palace, the Shotgun Shack. With his mom working nights as a cleaner, Seth goes to high school, gets decent grades, and makes money where he can: filling in as cook at the Shotgun Shack, working as a sparring partner, and running errands for Nadel, the clock repairman. Life is hand-to-mouth, but okay―until he gets the news that his mother has been killed. The police don’t care about the death of just another drug addict, so a bewildered Seth takes it upon himself to find the killer. On a clock delivery run, he meets a beautiful rich girl named Azura Lear, who encourages Seth and tries to help track down the killer. But instead of finding answers, Seth finds only trouble. He faces down a gang of baseball-bat-wielding high school jocks and deals with the contempt of Azura’s suspicious father. And then there’s King George―a teenage thug Seth has previously managed to avoid―who has for some reason let it be known that he wants Seth dead. Right now.

review :

I’m not much of a reader of mysteries but do love YA novels and think that there should definitely be more of a mixture with those genres. Unfortunately, The Shadow of Seth didn’t quite hit a homerun for me.

Seth has led a rough life. Growing up on the poor side of town, he hasn’t always had what he’s needed much less wanted. But he’s always had his mom there, looking after him, and Miss Irene as a second mother. Good people who want the best for him. That all changes when one night his mother is found dead and the police aren’t interested in investigating what seems like an accident or even suicide. Seth knows that something is wrong and takes it upon himself to investigate.

The characters in this book were interesting, diverse, but somehow fell flat for me. I wanted to feel emotional alongside Seth when he realized that he’s lost his mother, but I just couldn’t connect with him. Azura Lear, love interest, was just . . . infuriating. Nothing she did ever made sense–like traveling to the bad side of town to let herself into the apartment of a guy who only stopped by her house on a job he had to do. Basically, stalking Seth to his home, and then not giving a second thought to the danger she was putting herself in by walking around alone with all of her privileged belongings. It made no sense and she contributed nothing to the plot aside from giving Seth someone to pine after.

The mystery was kind of flat, too. There weren’t many twists and turns; it wasn’t hard to figure out. It seems like there are going to be more of these mysteries, so I’m curious to see if maybe this case wasn’t as clean-cut as suspected (though there wasn’t a hint in the ending that that could be so) or if Seth is going to find more cases the police aren’t interested in to solve himself. Whatever the case, I think I’m going to end up skipping those books.

2/5 stars

5 stars · fiction · mystery · young adult

Held by Edeet Ravel

Held

Author: Edeet Ravel

Pages [hardcover]: 252

Summary:

What happens when the source of your worst fears becomes the object of your affection?

Seventeen-year-old Chloe’s summer vacation in Greece comes to an abrupt end when she is suddenly bound, gagged and whisked away to an unidentified location. Waking up from a drug-induced sleep, she finds herself in a squalid warehouse. Chloe can only imagine the worst.

After several days of total isolation and utter despair, Chloe faces a new threat when her kidnapper appears, but she also feels a sense of relief. His revelation that she is being held as ransom for a prisoner exchange, however, does little to allay her fears.

The weeks pass and, haunted by terrifying dreams and with only her thoughts to keep her company, Chloe fights to remain calm in an impossible situation. At least her kidnapper, although cold and distant, visits frequently, often bringing gifts. Before long, Chloe begins to have feelings for him that take her by surprise. Though still fearing for her safety, she now fantasizes about a life together. And is it her imagination, or does her captor share those feelings? Even when she is finally released, Chloe vows to protect her captor at any cost.

This powerful psychological thriller, written by renowned novelist Edeet Ravel, leaves readers wondering at every suspenseful turn: Is Chloe experiencing Stockholm syndrome

Review:

I really loved this book! Not only was it impossible to put down, it also really made me appreciate everything that I have today and every day. Maybe people shouldn’t take the things they have for granted. Not that everyone will be kidnaped and held like Chloe, but it poses a multitude of ‘what if’ questions. Chloe’s time in captivity presents a mystery that haunts a majority of the pages. Is what she feels for her hostage-taker real, or not? Is she just a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome? Are they just trying to brainwash her? Or does she actually see something in him worth appreciating?

And, most importantly-can you trust anything that she says? She makes herself into an unreliable narrator, making it so that the entire thing could actually be a well fabricated lie. A fantasy world. And if that doesn’t mess with your mind . . .

Chloe is an awesome character, and not only because she’s the only one the book fixates around for a while. You see everything purely from her perspective as she reflects back on her time in captivity. As soon as I started the book and realized that right on the first pages we are told she is saved, I figured that was a horrible move by the author. I was so glad I was proved wrong. Every page was addicting, because it was more a representation of psychological struggles and survival than one of how she actually physically got away.

This is one YA novel that will stick with me for a long, long time. I hope to read more by this author soon. Held was brilliantly crafted, and anyone who thinks a book with so few characters and settings will be boring can prove themselves wrong by giving this a read. You won’t regret it. At all.

5 stars · fiction · mystery · young adult

Envy by Gregg Olsen

Envy

Author: Gregg Olsen

Pages [hardcover]: 352

Empty Coffin #1

Favorite Characters: Taylor & Hayley

Summary:

Murder is such a dirty word…

New York Times bestselling adult true crime author Gregg Olsen makes his YA debut with EMPTY COFFIN, a gripping new fiction series for teens based on ripped-from-the-headlines stories…with a paranormal touch.

Crime lives–and dies–in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen–and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town’s victims and culprits.

Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins’ old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out–and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.

Based on the shocking true crime about cyber-bullying, Envy will take you to the edge–and push you right over.

Review:

Because I’m just starting to get into crime writing, I wondered whether I’d like Envy, even if it was young adult. But I shouldn’t have doubted that gorgeous cover (the greatest mix of creepy/mystery/curiosity I’ve seen in a while) because from the first page, I couldn’t put this book down.

The novel switches points of view several times, mainly focusing on the twins, Taylor and Hayley, as they look into their not-really-a-friend, Katelyn’s, death. There are a host of original, interesting characters to back them up, from the reporter that seems intent on stalking their lives to the woman next door who never leaves her house. Even the most minor ones seemed to have something gripping and real about them.

The plot twisted and turned in ways that I could never have expected, and I loved that! I wanted to figure out what had happened to Katelyn, and what was going on with the twins, but only began to suspect about a page before I was actually told what was going on. With so many books easily predictable, Envy definitely different in that respect. And what makes it even more interesting is that nearly all of it is based on a true crime.

The only complaint I have is that sometimes it felt like the writing was strained into being some representation of what someone who isn’t a young adult thinks that young adults talk like. Or text like. One of my favorite parts of the book was that it showed text conversations between some characters. Yet the words were abbreviated so much, it was obvious that it was more work to figure out how to not spell out a word than to actually do so. No one I know would text like that.

Despite that tiny detail, I loved Envy, and give it 5/5 stars. I really hope to continue on with this series, and see where it goes from here! I recommend this to anyone, even those who haven’t read crime/murder mysteries. I haven’t, and I ended up enjoying it immensely.

Envy is set to release Sept. 6, 2011! Look for it in stores then, or preorder it now!