The Merciless (Merciless #1) by Danielle Vega

 

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Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank ba sement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
 
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

(via Goodreads)

Mean Girls meets The Exorcist, The Merciless looks at the evil within everyone, and the nature of evil.

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Throughout this entire book, I kept wondering ‘why?’. Why did no one report this? Why did no one thinks this weird? And it was frustrating. The main character of Sofia moves between likable and unlikable. She seemed too naive to be real.

I wanted more from this book. I felt all supporting characters were cardboard cut outs and I wanted to see something more from them too.

2/5

 

 

 

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S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

S.T.A.G.SIt is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school… 

(via Goodreads)

STAGS was an obvious story, derivative of Skulls and Hard Target. I don’t know whether the author felt enough time had passed (or only old people like me would remember these stories), but I kept waiting for a twist to the story. It never came.

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The main character, Greer, is naive. I didn’t understand why she was so quick to believe Henry was not like the others when everything that was occurring was happening in his home. I also didn’t really believe the obsession with pre-internet days the STAGS people had. They obviously had mod cons and used them.

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I won’t spoil the story but I finished the book feeling ‘come on!!!’ Having said that, some lovely people in my book club really liked this story, so it may just be me 🙂

2.5/5

 

Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

28116714Celestine North is Flawed.

Ever since Judge Crevan declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick, the only person she can trust. 

But Celestine has a secret—one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing. 

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.

(via Goodreads)

Perfect is book two in the Flawed series by Cecelia Ahern. Directly following on from book one, Perfect rejoins Celestine on her mission to have her brands removed and sentence overturned. There is not much telling when catching us up on the story, which was good. Despite the events of the first novel, I feel like Celestine is still naïve. She is still relying on others to tell her what to do. And it takes until two thirds of the way through the book before she starts relying on herself.

Celestine’s feelings for Carrick are slightly obsessive. And her feelings for Art interfering in her relationship with Carrick just turned it into a somewhat love triangle, which I loathe. I got tired of her constantly saying Art was a good person, when his actions consistently showed he wasn’t. The last minute turn in his character was too convenient. I think Celestine would have grown more as a character if Art had been a bad guy.

During the book we meet a number of evaders who are in hiding from the Whistle-blowers. I got a ‘Stepford Wives’ vibe from them. The confessions of the flawed, and Carricks’s parent’s admission that they were found flawed because they were anti-vaxxers, I didn’t feel endeared to them or sympathetic. I perceived the author put this in there to make a point about accepting people’s different opinions, but it failed for me. It is a stupid and dangerous thing to even be perceived as supporting.

I felt the end was too neatly wound up. For something so big, it just seemed to end with a wrap up and it was over. With that said, I don’t think there would be enough material for a third book, unless the guild kept going, or there was an uprising. Although, I did like Celestine in the last quarter of the book. I liked that she marched to her own drum and did what her gut told her. It made for a much better character.

3/5

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

23308087The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

(via Goodreads)

Despite its size, Flame in the Mist was a quick read. Mariko was an interesting character, but I found her to be quite naïve – to the point of distraction on some occasions. She is described in the book as being a careful study and knowledgeable, but I didn’t really see this play out in the novel. I felt Mariko to be a slightly ‘feminazi’ character in places, especially when she’s punching the soldier. It was just a little too much rage against men in general, rather than directing it to where it’s called for.

It was never really clear why they wanted her dead (to me). No spoilers, but there is an attack on her convoy and she is forced to go into hiding, to hunt for those that tried to kill her. But even when the perpetrators are revealed, there is no clear reason why. I wonder if book two will be a little clearer. There was some great supporting characters that live in the background, Prince Wu and the consort were a couple that I wanted to know more about. I hope they expand these characters in the next book.

SPOILERS BELOW

I had two problems with the book. The first, when Okami realises Mariko is a girl, why did he not wonder where she came from and put two and two together, and realise she was the princess that was attacked? It takes him ages! Also, when she falls out with the Black Clan and returns to the forest to find them, they just accept her without question. There was no bridge. She wasn’t there, and then she was. And it was just accepted.

END SPOILERS

Mariko’s brother was a little misguided. I felt like his chapters slowed the book down. He seemed to intend to find her, go out, not find her and then come home. I would have believed it more if he had gone on without the soldiers to find her. That would be a more believable character action of a brother. And as an aside, funny that Prince Raiden was this strong cute guy until the very end and then all of a sudden he’s a jerk?

Overall, it was a good read, and I am hopeful that book two will answer questions and bring these smaller characters into play.

3/5

History is all You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Image result for history is all you left meWhen Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

(via Goodreads)

I felt so-so about this novel. It is a beautiful story of love and loss, coupled with tolerable teen angst. HIAYLM tells the story of the loss of Theo, and the impact his sudden death has on his ex-boyfriend Griffin, boyfriend Jackson, and best friend Wade. The grief and guilt is perfectly captured, it’s very real and very believable. With it, the complex feelings people may experience when faced with this type of tragedy.

What bothered me is the main character Griffin (or is Theo the main character, and all the others revolve around him? Food for thought!) is so reliant on others for every aspect of his self-worth and self-love. When he doesn’t seem to move past that through the book, it became frustrating to read. I know [SEMI-SPOILER AHEAD – JUMP DOWN TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH] at the end we have the intimation that he will seek counselling and he will get better, I would have preferred the story to have a little more growth from Griffin as a character.

The story is told in dual timelines – ‘today’ and ‘history’. We see how Griffin and Theo got together and how they ended their relationship of firsts. The book teased a big reveal but by the time I got to it, I felt it a little predictable and anti-climactic.

With that said, this was a very accessible book with very a very important message beyond the surface of the death of a friend/lover. The more books produced by authors that represent LGBTQIA life, the better.

3.5/5

 

Gemina (Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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The saga that began with breakout bestseller Illuminae continues aboard Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station commander’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station crew one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon, Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

(via Goodreads)

I really enjoyed this book, as much as Illuminae. I think it has a lot to do with the female leads in the stories. Not to say the men aren’t entertaining and relateable, but these books have such a strong female lead that is refreshing compared to some other YA novels I’ve been reading of late (I’m looking at you, Lily from Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares!).

Onto our main Image result for gemina hannah donnellycharacter Hannah Donnelly. The daughter of the Captain, she is thrust into saving her world from infiltrators and a wormhole with it’s own issues. I was very pleased she wasn’t a carbon copy of Kady  Grant (Illuminae). Where Kady was tech-savvy, Hannah has a physicality about her that makes her actions in the book believable.

Her counterpart, Nik Malikov, is an alleged gangster who is always in trouble. But as we expect, there is more to him than meets the eye. Gemina does a good job of unravelling his back story slowly. And I liked the outcome. It wasn’t a cop out, or frustrating.

Kaufman and Kristoff have built an amazing and intricate world for this series. Gemina and Illuminae, though focusing on different characters and ships, do tie in to one another.  And we can’t have a review without mentioning the original text layout, the art work, the dossiers. It makes a very large book a quick read. And it’s always fun to have to turn the book upside down to read the next line 🙂

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I recommend this to lovers of YA and Science Fiction. A well written ‘space opera’ and I am looking forward to Obsidio (what’s going to happen??!!).

4.5/5

Seeker (Seeker #1) by Arwen Elys Dayton

20911450The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor.

As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world.

And she’ll be with the boy she loves–who’s also her best friend. But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes.

Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought. And now it’s too late to walk away.

 

(via Goodreads)

This was such an interesting concept that was poorly executed. World building was minimal and the story line confusing. Throw in a predictable love triangle and you have ‘Seeker’.

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I couldn’t finish this book. I couldn’t even resort to skim reading to finish this before book club. And I’ve decided to no longer force a read if I am not liking something. Life is too short and there are so many books I want to read.

1/5