Tag: Mystery (page 1 of 15)

BOOK REVIEW: The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz

BOOK REVIEW: The Midnight Dance by Nikki KatzThe Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

When the music stops, the dance begins.

Seventeen-year-old Penny is a lead dancer at the Grande Teatro, a finishing school where she and eleven other young women are training to become the finest ballerinas in Italy. Tucked deep into the woods, the school is overseen by the mysterious and handsome young Master who keeps the girls ensconced in the estate – and in the only life Penny has never known.

But when flashes of memories, memories of a life very different from the one she thinks she’s been leading, start to appear, Penny begins to question the Grand Teatro and the motivations of the Master. With a kind and attractive kitchen boy, Cricket, at her side, Penny vows to escape the confines of her school and the strict rules that dictate every step she takes. But at every turn, the Master finds a way to stop her, and Penny must find a way to escape the school and uncover the secrets of her past before it’s too late.

I’m… not quite sure how to feel. On one hand, the writing was absolutely lovely, but I think the story was a bit of a miss for me personally, though that might be due to personal preferences! But let me say this first- this would make an incredible film! Can someone please make this into a movie? Thanksssss.

Penny is one of many dancers held up in the Master’s estate. At the beginning, she starts to realize her memories are off kilter and something is very wrong. Despite being drawn to the (very handsome) Master (the owner of the estate), Penny discovers he’s doing something to manipulate all the girls. (Sounds cool right?)

I was super into the first few chapters. The plot takes no time to dive you in deep, and I was totally into the whole Master concept. So much in fact, that I think it set my hopes too high for the end. I was expecting some majorly cool plot twists and while there were a few small ones, nothing really caught me off guard. So that’s probably my fault-my expectation levels with the whole mystery thing were sky high, so I was sad when there were no big surprises. I DID like the few small ones though. I also felt like there were quite a few loop holes, but it could be that I missed some important details.

The concept was strong, but the characterization fell a bit flat for me. The focus was much more on the present circumstances and mystery vs the character’s pasts or personalities, so I had a difficult time connecting to anyone, especially at the beginning. I get it, everything was supposed to be a mystery, but since the mystery aspect didn’t have many surprises, I just had a hard time with it.

The Master totally had ‘Darkling’ vibes, and I LOVED that bit, but he kinda disappointed me in the end. It was cool that we saw bits of his story in the past but it didn’t feel like strong enough motivation for him to become who he was. I’m SUPER particular about my villains though, so I doubt anyone else will feel the same.

Now I know that all sounds a bit negative, but trust me, those are all personal opinions that I doubt others will share. This book had MANY redeeming qualities. For instance, the setting was SO COOL and the writing (which I mentioned earlier) was absolutely lovely. While the mystery aspect was a bit of a let down for me personally, the story was still really cool and I really enjoyed several bits. I would definitely read another book by Nikki because she’s an extremely talented author.

So all in all, If you’re in the mood for a mystery/semi-thriller with hints of romance, check out this book!

BOOK REVIEW – The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison

BOOK REVIEW – The Killer in Me by Margot HarrisonThe Killer in Me by Margot Harrison
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She’s intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims’ bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert.

Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico.

But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she’s had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief?

Let’s have a minute of silence dedicated to everything that was missing in The Killer in Me, okay?

RIP, suspense. You almost tricked me in the beginning, but soon it became clear that I’d entered a magical place where somehow, I am Sherlock (I am not). Not to be mean or anything, but I feel a little baffled by the fact that I’m supposed to acknowledge the existence of twists in there. Twists there aren’t, but rather long, laborious passages in which I know what’s happening and the MC just can’t FIGURE IT OUT. Did I mention that I was no Sherlock? Me guessing almost everything at 25% shouldn’t happen in a Thriller. Ever.

RIP, suspension of disbelief (SoD). Again, buddy left too soon. Look, I am not one of these readers who ask for scientific accuracies in Science-Fiction, but even me have a hard time accepting fantastical explanations in contemporaries. I mean, where do we draw the line, then? If everything is possible, why bother finding believable plots? The Killer in Me abandoned any pretense of caring about logical reasoning early on, and in my opinion it weakened grandly the book – I call bullshit on this.

RIP, coherence. Hey, look at SoD’s buddy trying to survive its friend! Of course it’s a fail! You cannot give up everything that makes a contemporary and hope that somehow it will keep working. It doesn’t. Each and every one of Nina’s doubts just does not make any sense, because she keeps forgetting facts that would destroy them :

View Spoiler »

RIP, showing. This one speaks for itself, or, rather, TELLS for itself.

RIP, climax. I was expecting a thrilling descent into hell – what I got is a little hike in the mountains. Don’t be fooled, the atmosphere is dark, but my feelings stayed muffled and when the ending came, I just didn’t care anymore. There was no dilemma as far as I’m concerned, no nuances.

► Although I did like Warren and his loyalty to Nina, and that the writing, if unpretentious, was pretty compelling, with vivid descriptions sometimes, unfortunately The Killer in Me wasn’t the great book I’d been waiting for my come-back into reading. Disappointing.

PS. It feels so GOOD to write a review again. I’M BACK! WOOT! EVEN IF I’M IN THE MINORITY ON THIS ONE! I DON’T CARE! sorry, got a little excited here

*arc kindly provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

BOOK REVIEW – In The Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) by Tana French

BOOK REVIEW – In The Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) by Tana FrenchIn The Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1)
by Tana French
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
Richly atmospheric and stunning in its complexity, In the Woods is utterly convincing and surprising to the end.

“Not any more. In ways too dark and crucial to be called metaphorical, I never left that wood.”

I know that I ought to gather my thoughts to organize them or whatever I usually do before writing a review, especially when the last page let me shell-shocked as In the Woods did. But I can’t. I’m leaving tomorrow and I’m not one for writing reviews weeks after having read the damn book. I’m actually in awe of people who manage to do just that. I think that it says something about me : in the end, I’m an emotional reader, and I’ll always hold to the bewilderment and wonder I feel when fictional stories get to me in such a strong level.

And I just began too many sentences with I. Ugh. Bear with me, would you?

In the Woods affected me in a way that I didn’t expect, slowly enveloping me in its sickeningly sweet lure. Little by little, I’ve been rocked by a false sense of safety, by the discreet and uncertain laughs, proofs of Rob and Cassie’s complicity. Of course I saw the warnings, the insights, yet I chose to ignore the bad taste in my mouth, the inexorable growth of my doubts and then the pang of betrayal and sadness. God, this book let me so fucking sad. Hollowed. There’s nothing, really, that I could say to convince you to give it a chance, and many reviewers did it before me and with much more eloquence.

So I’ll only say this : rarely did I feel that the character’s personality – whether they’re likeable or not – was so besides the point as when reading this book. Is Rob a jerk? Maybe, but I don’t care, he’s real, all of them are real to me. I care so much, og my god, do I care for him still. Did I guess some clues before he did? Yes, actually, I did, but again, it changes nothing to the way I feel right now, to the sheer awe still palpable in me when I’m writing these (clumsy) words. View Spoiler »

I am frustrated, does that show? I’m just so sick of writing that, it’s not perfect but – god, I’m so fed up with that sentence and I write it way too often. Nothing’s perfect. Life is far from perfect (or everybody would look at populists and say, What The Hell, do I look like an idiot to you?!). Tana French pictures the unfairness and imperfection of it all perfectly. It’s enough for me. Of course it’s enough.

PS. One day later and I’m still dazzled and yeah, so very much sad. It will linger, I just know it.

BOOK REVIEW – Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

BOOK REVIEW – Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay RibarRocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Twin Peaks meets Stars Hollow in this paranormal suspense novel about a boy who can reach inside people and steal their innermost things—fears, memories, scars, even love—and his family’s secret ritual that for centuries has kept the cliff above their small town from collapsing.

Aspen Quick has never really worried about how he’s affecting people when he steals from them. But this summer he’ll discover just how strong the Quick family magic is—and how far they’ll go to keep their secrets safe.

With a smart, arrogant protagonist, a sinister family tradition, and an ending you won’t see coming, this is a fast-paced, twisty story about power, addiction, and deciding what kind of person you want to be, in a family that has the ability to control everything you are.

I’ll be upfront with you : If you can’t stand unlikeable MCs, you may want to steer clear of this book.*

While we’re at it, I need to point that the Paranormal label is misleading in my opinion : Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies (how’s that for an awesome title?!) reads more like a coming-of-age/mystery novel with important magical-realism elements (I know, it looks complicated XD). Look, I’m the first to say that genres aren’t important and that we shouldn’t choose our books because of some marketing categorization, and I still stand by it, but going into this book expecting some action-packed plot and detailed world-building would only lead to disappointment.

What is it about, then? Well. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies primarily deals with Aspen’s character growth and what it means to be who we are. All the tiny traits that define us…. What if they’d been stolen? At which point do we stop being ourselves?

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies (I do love this title, sorry) can also count on its captivating mystery to keep the tension growing.

But mostly, it’s about following Aspen while he’s busy being an asshole. No, really. Trust me on this. At first I thought, oh, hey, he reminds me of Cassel**, arrogant but sarcastic and I love his voice? Then he did something and I was all –

DON’T YOU DARE!!!

*Yell and throw my hands out in a frustrated fashion*

But then, his voice was still compelling? Sorry? Still, every time that *insert swearing terms* decision was mentioned I felt icky. I mentioned character growth, and yes, there is, but don’t go in there expecting that Aspen will become a nice guy at 20%. Or 50%, for that matter. I’m not even sure he is a nice guy in the end – but I’ll come back to that.

If I take a close look at his flaws, I genuinely can’t fathom how and why I was able to stand him. The guy pushed All. My. Buttons. Every time I thought that I would be able to get past some shitty decision he took, he had to go and – Ugh. Facepalm and swearing ensued.

Yet the thing is, his behavior was believable : it rang so, so true.

See, Aspen’s family has an original power : all of them are able to reach into someone – anyone – and steal a part of them for their own benefit : their sight, their ability to do Math, their sadness, their memories – you name it. Grade-A thieves, the bunch of them. Granted, the first purpose of their power is to prevent the cliff from Three Peaks, their town, to fall and well, kill everyone. But would they be humans if they didn’t use this amazing power in their everyday life? Of course they wouldn’t.

We love reading about magical characters who are so selfless and genuine and martyrs and nice and kind and… really? Who are we kidding? No matter how insufferable Aspen was, oh my gosh, that was so much more believable and – hate me for this but – so satisfying. A teenager, who grew up with the ability to (basically) manipulate people, ever since he was a toddler?! Of course he’s an arrogant asshole! It doesn’t mean that I love these parts of him, but they make sense, even if the guy is an hypocrite piece of shit.

Yet more and more along the way, we start getting the impression that something… isn’t quite right. Is Aspen genuinely clueless, delusional or a damn SOCIOPATH?

What? The guy can’t be bothered with empathy, or so it seems.

About that : (do not read before finishing the book) View Spoiler »

Most of all, I loved that Aspen’s character development was slow and incomplete, because no matter what romance novels tell us, a complete 360 in someone’s personality isn’t really a thing. Also, he really made me laugh. Oops.

The relative predictability – I guessed one major plot point early on – actually HELPED me to enjoy the book better, but that doesn’t mean that I saw everything coming : I did not. So many lies, really : the questions surrounding Aspen’s family made for the most unsettling mystery, keeping me eager to turn the pages, because I really, really needed to know if I was right. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies was thoroughly engrossing and fascinating, albeit disturbing. As I said, though, it was certainly not an action-packed novel, and there were many random everyday life events pictured (including romance, but…). I couldn’t stop reading all the same.

The ending wasn’t wrapped in a neat bow but I thought that its honesty suited the book perfectly : Some readers can find it unsatisfying, but for me Lindsay Ribar couldn’t have taken a better decision.

Add a compelling writing, and you get an unputdownable book. A weird, but thought-provoking one, for which I developed a strange fondness.

*Yes, in the end, I cared about him anyway. Sigh.

**There were similarities with White Cat, by the way. They didn’t bother me, but they were here.

BOOK REVIEW – The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

BOOK REVIEW – The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1) by Carlos Ruiz ZafónThe Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #1)
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

2/2.5 stars. Look, it’s not my thing to mince my words, so I’ll give you my opinion and ultimately, you’ll decide what to make of it anyway : as far as I’m concerned, The Shadow of the Wind is overrated and, to say the truth, a bit of a smokescreen. Despite its obvious qualities, I have to admit that I’m a little baffled of its status given that all the flaws, if found in some random YA book, would be called out without any doubt.

Caricatures as characters, from Daniel the Romantic whose constant whining reminded me of some 18th Century hero (someone saves me from François-René de Chateaubriand, please), to the twisting-moustache villain whose mother, you guessed right, was a crazy bitch (mwahahahaha). As for the women (OMG, the WOMEN), they’re either sexual creatures (often vile and manipulative, because of course *roll eyes*) or solely conceived for the Great Goal of Bearing children (or assuming their care). It’s pretty simple, actually : the good girls are those who get pregnant or are desperate for it, and all women are portrayed through their looks. All of these characters were flat and forgettable in my book.

Blatant sexism pouring through every page, and before you mention it, I KNOW, the society in 1945/1950 wasn’t kind on women. I do know that, yet I don’t believe that the portrayal of sexist behavior had to be so IN YOUR FACE. In the past I’ve read historical novels that let me furious about the way women were treated and categorized into little boxes (mother, virgin, whore, if you’re asking) but in The Shadow of the Wind I never felt that the issue was handled or acknowledged, or barely. It was just THERE. All the time, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to care about characters – Fermin and Daniel, for example – who constantly objectify women, when they’re not busy expressing stereotypes like, “women can’t do Maths”, or, “women who let you touch them the first time are whores”, etc, etc. I read the French translation, so I’m not going to write down the quotes, but they are EVERYWHERE. I felt like drowning.

The instalove, anyone? Far from me the intent of spoiling the story to you, so I’ll just say this : there are three couples in this story, and the THREE OF THEM suffer from major instalove (the kind where people see each other once, talk twice, and share iloveyous). What the hell?! Again, if this book was called The Storm and The Thorns, and some generic YA bullshit, it would have annoyed me, because I cannot feel invested in a romance if there’s neither growth nor depth. Why in the world should I feel differently this time? I do not. Honestly? I couldn’t care less.

The resolution of the intrigue did not satisfy me, because I found the way it was revealed rather lazy. Sure, I did not expect it, but after having remained in the dark during 80% of the book, I was a little disappointed by the avalanche of information that was thrown in my face, in a info-dumping fashion. Even with the interesting (view spoiler), it felt like such a cop-out.

The atmosphere is darkly enticing, captivating, even, and for me the real MC is Barcelona. Indeed I couldn’t look away from the fascinating picture Carlos Ruiz Zafón created, from the vivid slices of life put into black and white letters. I wish the descriptions of Paris would have reached this level of brilliance, but I didn’t really mind. Albeit the difficult times described, reading The Shadow of the Wind made me want to come back there, and I probably will very soon.

The writing, if not free of some cheesy figures of speech – but it could be the translation – is addictive and compelling. From the first page I was hooked, and my interest didn’t falter before reaching the second half (but I already explained why).

► All in all, The Shadow of the Wind was a disappointment for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but in the end, the story didn’t convince me, and even the message – no matter how great it was, or wanted to be – felt a bit superficial because spoiled by the lack of depth of the characters.

*shrugs*

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