historical fiction · mystery · sci-fi

Review: A Murder in Time

Author: Julie McElwain
Genre: Mystery, Historical, Science Fiction
Series: Kendra Donovan

Summary from Goodreads:

Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates.

While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place – Aldrich Castle – but in a different time: 1815, to be exact.

Mistaken for a lady’s maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there’s some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

Comments:

When I read the title for the first time, all I could think about was a Wrinkle in Time. Would this be related to that well-known classic? It somehow was.

I wasn’t entirely sure if I would like the story since I’m not a fan of fantasy, especially time-travel. However, I have to admit that this element has added more interest and color to the story.

Kendra Donovan is an FBI agent set to seek revenge when an operation for a high-profile criminal killed her teammates. Despite careful planning, things didn’t go as planned due to some unforeseen circumstances. The most surprising factor was when Kendra was sucked into a wormhole and was ushered into a different time period.

As this book so openly pointed out, evil is ever present and that’s what Kendra realized when a serial killer hunted young girls. It was up to her to use her skills, deduction, and training to identify him and put an end to his crimes.

I’m always up for a good mystery and crime book so I really enjoyed this one. I must commend the author as I didn’t have the slightest idea who the killer was. It was also a breath of fresh air to see how criminal procedures were done during that era, where technology did not exist. I will definitely read the next book as I need to know how Alec and Kendra would turn out!

“Whoever had said that appearances were deceiving was only partially right; they could also be deadly.”

My Rating: ★★★★ (4)

chick lit · romance

Review: Remember Me?

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Genre: Chick Lit, Romance

Summary from Goodreads:

When twenty-eight-year-old Lexi Smart wakes up in a London hospital, she’s in for a big surprise. Her teeth are perfect. Her body is toned. Her handbag is Vuitton. Having survived a car accident—in a Mercedes no less—Lexi has lost a big chunk of her memory, three years to be exact, and she’s about to find out just how much things have changed.

Somehow Lexi went from a twenty-five-year-old working girl to a corporate big shot with a sleek new loft, a personal assistant, a carb-free diet, and a set of glamorous new friends. And who is this gorgeous husband—who also happens to be a multimillionaire? With her mind still stuck three years in reverse, Lexi greets this brave new world determined to be the person she…well, seems to be. That is, until an adorably disheveled architect drops the biggest bombshell of all.

Suddenly Lexi is scrambling to catch her balance. Her new life, it turns out, comes complete with secrets, schemes, and intrigue. How on earth did all this happen? Will she ever remember? And what will happen when she does?

Comments:

Oh yay! My first Sophie Kinsella book! Can I just say that I actually like the simplicity of the cover which looks really cheery and matches the humor of the book? I thought it was something random, but somewhere in the story, there’s actually an explanation behind the sunflower.

So imagine having to wake up to a life that’s completely different from what you remember…

At least that’s how I imagined Lexi Smart felt after being confronted that it’s year 2007, instead of 2004. From loser to boss, there has been a total change of how things are going for her. The problem is, she can’t remember what happened in the past 3 years. Why do I look different? How was I able to afford such expensive things? I know how to drive? And…. I’m married? She may have been living a perfect life, or so she thinks.

Although there were some instances where I was a bit annoyed with Lexi, I liked her personality. She’s funny, loyal, and was willing step up especially for her family. There isn’t much information about the other characters; it was mostly Lexi’s struggle living at the present even though she had no idea how she got there. Yes, she made mistakes and I didn’t really like the part where it seemed very convenient that things went her way – breaking up with Eric, reconciling with friends, getting that good deal for business. I had to keep in mind that it’s just fiction.

The air of mystery kept it interesting, but of course you could very much predict most of the things that happened. I did feel it was a bit prejudiced at some parts, like the richer people being more shallow than Lexi’s old friends, the seemingly perfect, modelesque husband, and the wayward sister who is a product of negligence. Again, all of these would conveniently end well.

I’m looking forward to reading more of Kinsella’s books!

“All this time, I wasn’t hungry for success, I was hungry.”

My Rating: ★★★★ (4)

fantasy · ghosts · paranormal

Review: The Ghost and the Goth

Author: Stacey Kade
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal
Series: The Ghost and the Goth

Summary from Goodreads:

After a close encounter with the front end of a school bus, Alona Dare goes from Homecoming Queen to Queen of the Dead. Now she’s stuck as a spirit (DON’T call her a ghost) in the land of the living with no sign of the big, bright light to take her away. To make matters worse, the only person who might be able to help her is Will Killian, a total loser outcast who despises the social elite. He alone can see and hear (turns out he’s been “blessed” with the ability to communicate with the dead), but he wants nothing to do with the former mean girl of Groundsboro High.

Alona has never needed anyone for anything, and now she’s supposed to expose her deepest, darkest secrets to this pseudo-goth boy? Right. She’s not telling anyone what really happened the day she died, not even to save her eternal soul. And Will’s not filling out any volunteer forms to help her cross to the other side. He only has a few more weeks until his graduation, when he can strike out on his own and find a place with less spiritual interference. But he has to survive and stay out of the psych ward until then. Can they get over their mutual distrust—and the weird attraction between them—to work together before Alona vanishes for good and Will is locked up for seeing things that don’t exist?

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY

Comments:

I’m glad I enjoyed this book even though it’s a genre that I’m hesitant to read. I might be a bit biased with my rating but this book totally deserved it because it helped me get out of a slump.

Alona Dare, the most popular girl in high school got hit by a bus and died unexpectedly. Problem was, she never got “into the light” and was stuck in the in-between. Little did she know that Will Killian, resident loser and goth, is able to see dead people. She needed answers on how she could move on and the only way to do that is through Will, who also has enough problems of his own.

The story featured a typical high setting – popular kids are the cheerleaders and jocks, different cliques depending on your intellect, talents, sense of fashion, losers get bullied.. You know the drill. I enjoyed the premise of having to make Alona and Will work together although they come from so different worlds. Of course, Alona would eventually bring out that good side of her, while Will had to break through stereotypes that he isn’t really a goth. Although some would agree that the characters are a bit shallow, I did like the part where we understand more of Alona’s background and that she has not led the perfect life everybody thinks. I thought there should have been more focus on the reconciliation part with her mom because that scene seemed rushed just so the rift would be over.

I’m not sure if I’m totally digging this couple’s love story. I mean, it would be impossible to work out, right? I thought about the parts where they kiss and how a normal person would look at Will and just see him kissing the air. It was cool that the story somewhat took the ghost part lightly, considering most people would find it scary to be able to see them all the time.

I liked the writing style which was funny and light, perfect for someone who just wants to enjoy the story without having to overthink. Cute story indeed. Recommended for anyone who needs a quick and fun read.

“Trust me, you see the dead walking around, you learn not to scream, laugh, or piss yourself pretty quickly.”

My Rating: ★★★★ (4)

fiction · horror

Review: Tales of the Lost

Author: Richard Howard

Publisher: Matador

Genre: Horror, General Fiction

Summary from Netgalley:

“Something in that magical atmosphere had subtly changed as if the previous stillness had been merely a portent to some mysterious event… He tilted his head to catch whatever sound it was that suddenly made him feel that someone, or something, was watching him.”

Tales of the Lost is a book of short stories for adults, ranging from realms of fantasy to modern-day settings. Richard Howard’s stories are born out of a lifelong love of ghost stories and ‘curious tales’, which he read as a child. Some are ghost stories, others are simply scary, and most have a twist in the tail. In each story, there is a character who, one way or another, feels lost.

One story, Flora’s Return, takes its main character from Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw, which was filmed in 1960 as The Innocents. Richard takes this story, which he believes is one of the finest ghost stories ever written, and continues it with an exciting new twist.

Richard’s stories are based on his experiences of growing up in a house with its own ghosts during his childhood. Ghosts created by the author M.R.James, the many aspects of horror and disquiet by William Hope Hodgson, the dark humour of Saki and the relationship between man and the forces of nature in Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood have all inspired the author to contribute to the short story genre.

From science fiction to fairy tales, stories have been written that allow us to enjoy feeling scared in a safe environment. This collection will not disappoint.

Comments:

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

I don’t usually read a book of short stories so this was a welcome change. I got to admit that I also was drawn to this because of the pretty book cover. After finishing the book, I think the cover could be more interesting and could perhaps be more connected with the stories.

The short stories in this collection varies in length and introduces different creatures from ghosts, to folklore, to even Greek mythology. I enjoy the horror genre, but not particularly some of those which were presented in this book. Still, it was an enjoyable read. I did have a couple of favorites – Flora’s Return and Outrage. There was an air of mystery on both accounts and although they were predictable, still made me excited to have the whole plot revealed.

Overall, I would recommend this to those who would delight in short and easy reads, mostly on fantasy-horror.

My Rating: ★★★ (3)

adventure · historical fiction · retellings

Review: Cleo


Author: Lucy Coats
Publisher: Orchard Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Retelling

Summary from Goodreads:

Her precious mother is dead – and it isn’t an accident! The young Cleopatra – Pharaoh’s illegitimate daughter – must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis’s power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis’s power – on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the über-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo’s powerful destiny is about to unfold…

Gorgeous and evocative, this captivating new YA novel imagines the life of the teenage Cleopatra before she became the icon we think we know.

Comments:

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

I wanted to like this book so bad! After all, it’s ancient Egypt and it’s Cleopatra! Unfortunately, all I could settle for is 2.5 stars.

I want to start off by congratulating the author for such a wonderful idea of retelling Cleo’s life. The cover looks awesome and catchy. I also loved all the references to ancient Egypt (and Greece) incorporated in the story – the gods, the pharaoh, even the embalming process! After all, Egyptians are well-known for embalming the dead and mummification. That list located at the end was helpful because Egyptians names and terms weren’t easy to remember.

The characters were a different story. Maybe they were destined to be interesting characters but there was nothing striking about them that would make them unforgettable. Cleo was a bit whiny. Yes, she put a lot of trust into the goddess Iris through her silent pleas for help, she was stubborn and childish. She claimed that she wanted to serve Iris, but when told of what was expected of her, she wasn’t willing. I did like the portrayals of loyalty. It was a very admirable trait for those who wanted to protect Cleo.

The major hurdle for me was the copy I received. It somehow omitted some letters, e.g. finger became nger, the was e, left was ft, and it was harder to read! I would have given up at some point but decided against it since the book deserved a chance and it wasn’t the author’s fault. I hope this gets fixed.

My Rating: ★★ (2.5)

contemporary · death · realistic fiction

Review: Tease

Author: Amanda Maciel

Summary from Goodreads:

Provocative, unforgettable, and inspired by real-life incidents, Amanda Maciel’s highly acclaimed debut novel Tease is the story of a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide. With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.

Emma Putnam is dead, and it’s all Sara Wharton’s fault. At least, that’s what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma’s shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who’s ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment–and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she’ll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY

Comments:

It is interesting to note the inspiration behind this story.
Nine Massachusetts teens were indicted Monday for driving a pretty 15-year-old “new girl” from Ireland to suicide in a case that has become a symbol of high school bullying.

The sweeping charges – which come after months of complaints that the bullies weren’t being punished – include statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, criminal harassment and stalking.

Phoebe Prince, a new arrival at South Hadley High School from a tiny seaside hamlet in County Clare, was mercilessly tormented by a cadre of classmates later dubbed the “Mean Girls” by Massachusetts newspapers.
– From NY Daily News, March 2010

This book is a reminder that bullying is real and its effects can be ugly.

I rated this 3 stars because it was a bit lacking. We view the guilty party as shallow and immature but we weren’t really able to see the whole picture. What was this “pain” that Emma had? Why was she always transferring schools? Did the boys really sleep with her or was that just for show? We didn’t really know who Emma was. To what extent really were her faults?

I’m glad the ending was a bit of redemption for the book. I really like how Sara thought about Brielle and what she could have done better to be a good friend. Although she felt sorry in the end, her actions remain unjustified and should serve as a caution for us to be less judgmental of others.

“Don’t add silence to your list of regrets.”

My Rating: ★★★ (3)

adventure · fantasy · paranormal

Review: Poison Study

Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: The Chronicles of Ixia

Summary from Goodreads:

Choose: A quick death and hell or slow poison and hell.
About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | BOOK DEPOSITORY

Comments:

Actual rating is 4.5

It all started out with Yelena’s chance for a new life.

I love the setting the of the story. I was never into fantasy or magic, but somehow this novel made me reconsider. The pace of the story was slow, with memories of Yelena strewn along the pages. As the big picture was slowly presented, I was able to empathize with Yelena for the choice she made. The themes of loyalty, betrayal, thirst for power, and even romance worked together to create this intriguing novel. I have to agree that this is a welcome break from the usual YA.

I love the characters in the story. They were realistic in their reactions to different situations presented to them. Yelena’s distrust and survival instinct came because of all the harsh experiences she had. Valek’s loyalty to the Commander was also explained. There was Rand who was torn by his good nature and debt. The evil characters were driven by their lust for power and greediness to the extent destroying other people. The only confusion I got was from the Commander’s past which was actually weird for me.

I was a bit disappointed with the romance between Yelena and Valek. Although it was very obvious that Valek liked her, I’m not sure how Yelena came to reciprocate the feeling. Maybe it was because she finally decided to trust him by recounting her past but I am unconvinced. I feel like all she views Valek as a protector and a teacher, which somehow leveled up to be a lover. Again, that’s just my opinion.

Will definitely read the next book in the series when I have a copy!

My Rating: ★★★★ (4.5)