Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review: Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty

Broken Dolls Broken Dolls by Tyrolin Puxty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: Ella doesn't remember what it's like to be human; after all, she's lived as a doll for thirty years. She forgets what it's like to taste, to breathe...to love.

She watches the professor create other dolls, but they don't seem to hang around for long. His most recent creation is Lisa, a sly goth. Ella doesn't like Lisa. How could she, when Lisa keeps trying to destroy her?

Ella likes the professor's granddaughter though, even if she is dying. It's too bad the professor wants to turn Gabby into a doll, depriving her of an education...depriving her of life.

With time running out and mad dolls on the rampage, Ella questions her very existence as she unearths the secrets buried in her past; secrets that will decide whether Gabby will befall the same fate...


  What a unique little book.

Broken Dolls is a fairly quick read, coming in at only around 150 pages, but it still packs quite a bit in to a short space.

We're introduced to Ella in the midst of her excitement over getting a new friend - another doll to join her, and share the little space that the Professor has carved out for her to live her life in. She's not a perfect doll, but she can dance, and that's all that matters... At least, that's what she had always thought, until Lisa comes into her life and everything starts to change.

This book seems to skew a little younger than most YA, both in length and subject matter, but I still really enjoyed it. The concept is original and fascinating - the idea of a doll who used to be human, but who has forgotten what that was like... The struggle that she faces as she wavers between wanting to remember and not, wanting more and being terrified of it.

Woven into this is the mystery of her past, and that of Lisa, and the mysterious Professor. Who is she? Who is the Professor? How did she come to be a little dancer doll, living out her life in a dusty little attic, never seeing the outside? Is the Professor just a mad collector, wanting more and more dolls, or is there something more to it?

All of this makes this an intriguing little book, especially as the ending unfolds and we start to learn some of the truths that Ella discovers - and remembers - along the way. It's a mystery with a hint of dystopia, with a little foray into what it means to be human, as well. I see that there's to be a sequel, and I would definitely check it out.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

The Witch Hunter The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just got this as a Read Now on Netgalley... I hope it's good!


Ohhh, I liked this.

Now, just as an aside, I do wish that publishers would stop with the book comparisons! This book is nothing like GoT, and the comparison is honestly kind of weird. I understand why the comparisons are made, but I still wish that it wasn't so common.

I quite liked how this book went against my expectations. There are moments in this book where you expect the usual tropes to appear and annoy you, but the author seems to have mostly resisted them, which I quite liked.

Elizabeth is strong, stubborn, quick-thinking, with a strong sense of right and wrong. This book is very much about all of that getting up-ended and the fallout of that, with some adventure, magic, pirates, witches and spells along the way.

In case I haven't made it clear, this was a lot of fun to read.

I really enjoyed the world-building in this. The book is set in our past, but an alternate one - a universe where there actually is magic in the 1500's, and we meet a society dealing with trying to stamp that very magic out. It's recognizable as 'our world with a twist', but it's also very unique - I really enjoyed the little touches that the author has brought in as she's built this world, and carved out places for each character and how they fit into that world.

The plot flags for a bit in the middle, but overall it was an enjoyable ride. It's as much about self-discovery and choices for Elizabeth as it is about anything else, but that doesn't mean that we're stuck in her head as she daydreams about it - there's a lot of action, and we meet an interesting cast of characters along the way without getting bogged down, either.

The book does stumble a bit when it comes to coherency, however. We're told that Elizabeth is one of the best witch hunters alive, yet we see very little of this. We learn her background in bits and pieces throughout the book, and while I'm guessing that that was in an effort to avoid an 'infodump', unfortunately the execution is lacking a bit. There are also a few things that I'm still not entirely clear on - whether that's due to poor reading on my part or whether it legitimately wasn't explained, I'm not sure.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this. The romance is sweet, not overly in-your-face the way so many YA books are lately, and I like that the characters seem real, and there are consequences for Elizabeth's past actions and decisions. I'm pretty sure I'll be checking out the sequel when it comes out!

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Review: Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Need Need by Joelle Charbonneau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary: What do you really need?

One by one, the teens in Nottawa, Wisconsin, join the newest, hottest networking site and answer one question: What do you need? A new iPhone? Backstage passes to a concert? In exchange for a seemingly minor task, the NEED site will fulfill your request. Everyone is doing it. So why shouldn’t you?

Kaylee Dunham knows what she needs—a kidney for her sick brother. She doesn’t believe a social networking site can help, but it couldn’t hurt to try.

Or could it?

After making her request, Kaylee starts to realize the price that will have to be paid for her need to be met. The demands the site makes on users in exchange for their desires are escalating, and so is the body count. Will Kaylee be able to unravel the mystery of who created the NEED network before it destroys them all?


This book had so much potential, but unfortunately it came up short for me.

First, I'm going to say that the premise of the book is definitely interesting. It's something new that I hadn't come across, at least, and I found the idea compelling. What do you need? What would you be willing to do to get it? Combining that with being a teenager leads to a certain sort of desperation, because I remember feeling on more than one occasion that my life was going to be over if things didn't go a particular way, and that I might never recover.

All of this is a potent mix, and it certainly does lead to compelling moments in the book. At the forefront is Kaylee, a teenager with heavier burdens than most - an absent father, a sick brother, a distant mother. She's the main character, and though she is easy to identify with, her presence doesn't quite offset the rest of the mess that is the characterization in this book.

See, this novel has no less than ten different people who we follow throughout the course of the plot. This is a mistake mainly because it makes it so very different to emphasize with these people and their hopes, wishes, needs and the ensuing fallout. There's so much going on that it's hard to keep track, and without the connection some of the plot points that should have been a big deal just kind of become a jumble instead, lost in everything else that's going on.

There's also the tenuousness of the plot - you definitely have to suspend your disbelief a little bit when reading this one. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, I want to point out - I'm not really one to fuss over that sort of thing. As long as it's at least somewhat believable, I'll be happy. People who really dislike wondering about the mechanics of things and what's going on behind the scenes might find that this book rubs them a bit the wrong way, however. The behaviour of some of the adults in this book will definitely make some raise their eyebrows, and I think it was a bit too much at times.

That being said, this book was still fun to read. There are a lot of thrills, and I think that younger readers will love it. Social media, friendships, romance, thrills - it's a pretty slick combination, and it's something that will seem very familiar to some, I think. It's a cute, fun read, I just wish that it had had a bit more depth.

Disclaimer: I recieved a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Review: This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

This Is Where It Ends This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unlike most of the people who I know who have read this, my review is not going to be overly negative. I will say that I understand a lot of the criticisms but this book still had aspects that worked for me, so I am not going to be overly negative in my review.

Part of this may be because one particular character really resonated with me, keeping me turning the pages throughout the book. Sometimes a book does that to you - in spite of the flaws that you are aware of, or issues that are present - a character is still compelling, and you want to know more, you have to know what happens. This is what happened for me with this book, and with Tomás - a bright and beautiful character for me, at least, one that kept me interested.

As a Canadian I am incredibly aware of the United States, and as such I am very aware of the spectre of mass shootings. So when I saw this available on Netgalley I had to go for it, though I was aware that the spectrum of how this could be handled in a book was pretty vast.

This book is definitely not without its issues. Fareed is a caricature in many ways. Some of the relationships could have used more exploration, particularly since the author chose to have one particular relationship be a primary driver for the conflict of the book. If an author's going to do that, there should be more attention paid to fleshing it out.

The other, bigger issue is that the antagonist could have used more depth - not once do we get insight from his side, which might have helped to cover the chasm between villain and victims. The trail that he must have followed is traced out, but we have to connect the dots and speculate as to what his motivations and reasons were. In some ways that's fitting, I guess, because so often these tragedies leave us doing just that when it comes to real life and the tragedies we see play out on the news. And honestly, I think this book is less about understanding the villain than it is about getting to know the victims and the survivors, and while I understand why that doesn't work for some, it did for me.

In spite of that, though, this book gutted me. Sometimes all it takes is one or two characters to draw me in, and that happened in this book. Tomás, and Autumn and Sylvia - they carry the past on their shoulders, and their fear, yet love and strength carry them forward, and that's what kept me reading, along with the rawness of their emotions. And there are other things in that book that added to it, for me - the sense of the predatory nature of the media, the terrible curiosity and fascination of the public. It stands in contrast to the fragility and enormous pain of the victims.

In the end this would be a book that I recommend, in spite of its issues. Whether it be a stepping stone to other books (I'm going to check out Hate List next) or just as a brief foray into this topic or to get you thinking, I think it's worthy of some time.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is so many things that I didn't expect when I first opened it, and all of them are amazing.

I'll admit that when I first cracked open this book and read the first few pages, I was distinctly reminded of the Hunger Games. It was almost enough to make me set the book aside, since I don't particularly like reading books that are too strongly like others that are very popular in any one genre. This book happily surprised me, though, which is why I mention this here - if I'm making this comparison I'm sure that I'm not the only one, and I wouldn't want anyone to turn their backs on this book needlessly!

This book is both lyrical and painful in the way that good dystopians are, and surprised me in more than one instance. Our heroine is a Princess and a 'Child Of Peace' - or more succinctly, a hostage of peace. The threat of war is an axe-blade that forever hovers above her neck, for if her family chooses war, then she will die. She's not the only one, either - she and her friends are all in the same predicament, their lives balancing on the whims of man. They all feel that burden, and this book is an exploration of how it feels to live like that as a teenager, and the choices that she makes - because that's what makes us who we are, in the end.

There will be things that readers will think are obvious as they start into this book, and they will be wrong. There will be events that they are sure are certain, and they will most likely be wrong about those, too. That is what I loved about this book, along with the lyricism and the emotion that is conveyed in the writing, that drew me in and kept me wrapped up in this book until I finished the last page.

If there is one complaint that I have it's that the history isn't quite conveyed as well as I would have liked. There is still a lot to be learned at the end of this first book (yes, it's a series), and that's something that I hope is delved into a lot more in the next book, because dammit, I'm curious!!

But overall, nnngh. That is my reaction to this book. The romance, the themes, the plot - just fascinating and lovely, and definitely worth the read.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 25, 2015

Review: Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden

Dead Ringers Dead Ringers by Christopher Golden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: When Tess Devlin runs into her ex-husband Nick on a Boston sidewalk, she's furious at him for pretending he doesn't know her. She calls his cell to have it out with him, only to discover that he's in New Hampshire with his current girlfriend. But if Nick's in New Hampshire...who did she encounter on the street?

Frank Lindbergh's dreams have fallen apart. He wanted to get out of the grim neighborhood where he'd grown up and out of the shadow of his alcoholic father. Now both his parents are dead and he's back in his childhood home, drinking too much himself. As he sets in motion his plans for the future, he's assaulted by an intruder in his living room...an intruder who could be his twin.

In an elegant hotel, Tess will find mystery and terror in her own reflection. Outside a famed mansion on Beacon Hill, people are infected with a diabolical malice...while on the streets, an eyeless man, dressed in rags, searches for a woman who wears Tess's face.


 Ahhh, this book.

I'll start off by freely admitting that I was approached to read this book since I previously read Snowblind by the same author. I quite enjoyed that one, so I was more than happy to give this one a shot, and I'm glad that I did!

I've always been fascinated by way that the human brain works. Body Integrity Identity Disorder is both terrifying and interesting when you consider that your own brain can convince you that parts of your body aren't actually yours. So if you start off with that in mind it'll probably be easy to see why this book appealed to me, with its exploration of both doppelgangers *and* horror - (I am a sucker for horror, as well!)

One thing I really liked about this book is how we get into the heads of the characters. We know how conflicted Tess is over the slow fracturing of her marriage to her now ex-husband, her guilt over balancing work and life and being a mom to her precious daughter. We know the anguish of another main character, Frank - a man who has turned to alcohol and despair, but has reason to want to hold on to his life after all when he finds himself facing the prospect of having it stolen away.

Beneath all of this runs a thread of horror, a slowly building edge of creepiness and terror that intrigued me and kept me reading, wanting to find out what happened next. I couldn't help thinking how I would react if I suddenly found myself facing my doppelganger and it turned out that having a twin wasn't so great after all, or that even worse, their existence threatened my own. There's a unique sort of horror to the idea of that - it's one thing to fear the 'other', so to speak, and another to fear something and see it looking back with your own face.

Woven with all of this are other aspects that are sure to please many - magic, demons, a sense of the thrill of the chase so to speak -  as the pace and the sense of danger builds throughout the book, right until the very end. A nice contrast to the Christmas season, I have to say!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews