Review: Crimson Bound

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Crimson Bound
by Rosamund Hodge
★★★ ½

I really, really wanted to love this book. I’m actually kind of angry at myself for not liking it as much as I wanted to. There were so many incredible elements of this novel – from the powerful writing, to the sheer emotion and the tingling eeriness that I’ve come to expect from Hodge – but in the end, while I definitely enjoyed it, I didn’t feel as utterly captivated as I did while reading Cruel Beauty.

I think most of this lack of engrossment came from my inability to connect with the main characters. For me, if I have difficulty connecting with the main characters right off the bat, I’m unable to really get into and appreciate the rest of the novel. Which is one of the reasons why I’m so upset – honestly, I think if I loved Rachelle and Armand as much as I did Nyx and Ignifex, this book would’ve been an out-of-this-world favourite for me. But it’s not as if Hodge didn’t give me enough opportunities to connect with Rachelle –

Every day for the last three years, she had thought she deserved to die. She still didn’t want to. She wanted to live with every filthy desperate scrap of her heart.”

 She’s utterly complex, both viciously dark and haunted by her past yet still unbroken and fighting to save the people she loves. However, in the end, I just couldn’t get past the bitter self-hatred and self-pity that she puts herself through. I understood it and my heart went out to her for the horrific things she experienced but I just couldn’t read it over so many times.

Armand was also a character I had difficulty liking. There was nothing wrong with him necessarily – other than being a bit predictable, but I couldn’t find anything spectacular about him either.

The writing on the other hand, was absolutely dazzling. The descriptions of the Château de Lune made me swoon with giddy delight while the Great Forest made me sit up straighter and hold my book tighter with anticipation every time it came into play. The back story with Zisa and Tyr was enthralling, both bone chilling and heartbreaking, a combination that Hodge employs perfectly. Usually I’m not a huge fan of a story within a story but I couldn’t get enough of this one!

“Zisa would have gladly lost hands and feet and eyes and tongue for her brother. But she knew that if she waited for him to pick up the sword, he would refuse and die beside her, and his death was the one thing she could not endure. So she picked up the sword and cut off his right hand.”

All in all, I enjoyed reading Crimson Bound and loved the darkness it lent to the beloved Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale but I just wanted something more out of the characters!

sheryl

Review: Inside the O’Briens

Inside the O’Briens
by Lisa Genova

★★★ ½

“But Huntington’s isn’t the absence of moving, thinking, and feeling. This disease is not a transcendental state of bliss. It’s a complete freak show – ugly, constant, unproductive movements, uncontrollable rage, unpredictable paranoia, obsessive thinking. “

After reading and absolutely loving Lisa Genova’s debut novel, Still Alice, I had high hopes for this book.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as her first novel. Inside the O’Briens focuses on the effect of Huntington’s Disease on a family. HD is a genetic, neurological disease that will slowly kill you, and once you are gene-positive, there is no cure. If your parents have the gene that codes for HD, you have a 50/50 chance of inheriting this disease. This novel centers around the O’Briens family, where Joe O’Brien, a 44 year old police officer, husband and father of four is diagnosed with Huntington’s. Throughout the novel, we read about his daily struggles and the progression of the disease and how it affects not only his life but his family and those around him.

There are multiple points of view, which are mainly Joe and Katie, his 21-year old daughter. Katie is a yoga teacher and always feels like the shadow to her older sister Meghan, who performs with the Boston Ballet. We follow her constant internal struggle of choosing whether or not to take the test that will tell her if she has the Huntington’s gene.

“When I was a kid and we played truth or dare, I always picked dare”, says Katie.
Truth: Find out whether she is going to get Huntington’s disease or not.
Dare: live without knowing , wondering every other second whether she already has it.
She never liked that game. She still doesn’t want to play it.

Reading about the stages of denial, helplessness, anger and grief were really well written and I did feel empathetic towards the characters. With that being said, personally I felt this book lacked a stronger emotional pull towards the characters and at times it felt like reading a medical report on Huntington’s. (I am a pretty sensitive person,  and cry easily, but this book didn’t get me emotionally invested enough to the point where I shed even a couple tears…) Each of the characters could have had more complexity and I wish there was more interactions between them, as this novel focuses on family. I wanted to see Joe’s relationships with each of his individual kids, with dealing on how they were reacting to the news and how they are coping with the possibility of them being gene positive. I also wanted to see more interaction between the kids in the family, especially how each of them reacted when they found out the results from their tests.

In my opinion, I didn’t find the ending frustrating because ultimately Katie made a decision on getting the test, which she was struggling with in the first place. SPOILER – highlight to read(In this case, the actual results of the test don’t matter, and I believe that the author purposely omitted this for a reason, and it worked well with the ending as it ended with love and the acceptance of herself to live life to it’s fullest regardless of the results.)

Overall, this book did give me a broader understanding and more insight on Huntington’s disease, which is what the author aimed to do.  Although fictional, I believe it portrays realistically a family who is battling this cruel and merciless disease, but gives words of hope and encouragement for the future.

priscilla

Review: Of Metal and Wishes

Of Metal and Wishes 
by Sarah Fine

★★★★☆

Of Metal and Wishes is a profoundly poignant, bittersweet retelling of The Phantom of the Opera that I suspect will stay on my mind for many, many nights to come (or until the sequel, Of Dreams and Rust releases for which I am counting down the days!).

I found that the main character Wen, was not terribly remarkable. She’s likeable for sure and I found her brave and defiant but in contrast, her relationships with the people around her, namely Melik, Bo and her father, are absolutely dazzling.

I’m a sucker for forbidden romances – especially those between different classes, and Fine executed this one gorgeously. It was more than just cute, it was raw and vulnerable and reading it, I felt stripped down to my bones with sorrow and despair and quiet, poignant moments of joy. The kind of love that can transcend years and years of cultural prejudice, that stands upright against everything society  dictates – that’s the kind of romance in this novel and I loved everything about it.

I am so tired right now, and the chill has crept into my bones and made them ache. But I will not fall asleep; no, I will sit here with this boy who does not know his place, and I will be with him until our time runs out.”

Bo is perhaps the most captivating character of the novel. He’s a perfect, terrifying blend of childlike cruelness and utter loneliness but so absolutely lost that I just wanted to cry reading about his tragic past, how he feels for Wen and how absolutely fervently he dreams for the future. Seriously, I can’t help but want to give him the biggest hug ever.

I do wish however, that there could’ve been a stronger female-female relationship and a more positive portrayal of women.  I feel as if Wen gave up on her relationship with Jima far too easily, especially when she realized that Jima had been forced into prostitution after losing her job at the factory. Society and Wen’s earlier perceptions that prostitution is shameful was a bit irritating to read – especially when it was implied several times over in the novel. Similarly, I thought that Wen could’ve put more effort into her relationship with Vie.  She says that they had been friends since childhood, going to the First Holiday together every year but she never truly tries to explain her actions to Vie or to convince her that the Noor are not what they have been propagandised to be.

The writing is beautiful – as expected when the story is set in a slaughterhouse, there is a lot of gore but Fine has this way of describing it that makes the carnage more chilling than grisly or bloody which vastly heightens the atmosphere. Normally, I’m not a fan of horror or thriller  by any means but in this case,  I couldn’t get enough of the eeriness it lent to the words. I definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone looking for their next spectacular read!

sheryl

Review: Love Show

Love Show
by Audrey Bell

★★★★☆

Wow, this was one of those books that I could read over and over again and it would never fail to put a smile on my face! Love Show is a New Adult novel that centers on the romance between Hadley Arrington and Jack Diamond, two of my favourite MCs (like ever).

Hadley Arrington is a senior college student who is the Editor-in-Chief for her school’s newspaper, which basically is her life. She rooms with her gay best friend, David, and they have such a fun and honest relationship with each other.  (#realtalks everywhere)

“You have a 4.0 GPA. You are the last person in the world who needs to study. Here are some people who need to study. Me. Tara Barnes. Kim Kardashian. Miley Cyrus. You do not need to study. You need to take a nap, a Xanax, and a two-year vacation.”

On a dare from David, she kisses a stranger in the rain at tailgate. This stranger turns out to be Jack Diamond, a good-looking, laid back, vice-president of his frat house, who doesn’t have a clue what he wants to do in the future. Their chemistry together was instant, but Hadley doesn’t want to be in a relationship (with anyone – ever) so they agree on being friends with benefits. They set up a bunch of rules to follow, and over time get to know each other more and rely on each other.

He chuckled. “Dinner? Would you want to go to dinner sometime? Can I ask you out?” “Ah, look, I’m at the bookstore.” “Oh, I got it. I heard about that law. You can’t agree to go on a date with anyone when you’re at a bookstore.” “I don’t think I’m available,” I managed to say. He didn’t sound at all displeased. More than anything, he sounded amused. “Ever? You are never available for dinner? Wow.”

Hadley’s resistance to trusting other people stemmed from her six-time divorced mother who constantly craves love, and her absent career-driven father.

“It made one thing very clear to me: being afraid to be alone made you dependent on someone else. Someone you hadn’t met yet. A stranger. And a stranger was an incredibly stupid and unreliable thing to depend on.  I promised myself I would never do that. And I never did.”

This book was essentially a really good chick-flick movie, complete with all the references too. It made me laugh out loud, aww at cute moments, smile at the witty banter and tear up in the emotional parts. There was no angst or insta-love; whenever there was an argument, they communicated with each other or apologized (something people don’t seem to do in many books.. or in real life) and it was resolved. The chemistry between them was so real and genuine and their character growth in the novel was done really well. They didn’t compromise their own values but still pursued their own dreams; Hadley’s being pursing a career in war combat journalism. Although David and Hadley’s relationship was secondary, it never felt that way. Their friendship was something that was so real and heart-warming in this novel. She supported him through his rocky relationship with a jock that was still in the closet (UGH Ben…) and they stuck by each other through thick and thin. And can I just say the banter between Jack and Hadley was so on point? (it was so hard just to pick out quotes.. honestly I could copy and paste the whole book here gah)

“So, this is the library, huh?” Jack said, as we approached the building so I could work on a paper for my Arabic class. “You realize I am a library virgin, right?” I opened the door. “You need to be quiet.” “Thank you for that valuable bit of information, Hadley Arrington. I will treasure it all my life.”

Even though this was a NA book there was nothing too graphic, but it had just the right amount of steamy-ness don’t worry. 😉 Besides a couple grammar and formatting errors and the fact that this book is not available in paperback (UGH I NEED A HARD COPY PLEASE) this would be a 5 star book. Honestly, this was absolutely one of my favourite books  that has a special place in my heart so I hope you’ll give it a try! priscilla

Review: The Stars Never Rise

The Stars Never Rise
by Rachel Vincent

★★★★☆

I could read this book for breakfast, lunch, dinner…and then reread it for dessert. It was action-packed (seriously, this one is a real page-turner!), had a kick-ass heroine and a cute romance that didn’t detract from the wicked world-building. I mean, what more could you ask for out of a book??

Not much, would be the correct answer! Nina Kane, sixteen-year-old heroine, lends a genuine, honest voice to the novel – I literally got chills down my back a few times while reading. I admire her tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds, both with her mother and at school. She’s willing to sacrifice everything she has for her family, even deciding to pledge herself to the Church to give her and her sister the best possible chance for survival.

Having a sister of my own, strong sibling relationships are one of my favourite things to read about. Nina and Mellie have a sweet, genuine relationship that really gave strength to the novel. When Mellie’s secret is revealed and when Nina’s mother reveals that Nina uses her body to help her family, there is zero judgement between the sisters, just the need to help each other and lean on each other’s strength.

I like that Nina’s strength doesn’t necessarily come through in her physicality, (becoming an exorcist definitely didn’t come easy to her – she didn’t magically become a super-star exorcist overnight but had to struggle, sweat and bleed to exorcise the demons she encountered) but through her tenacity and grit.

..they could come at me with scalpels and sutures and sever my bloodline along with my fallopian tubes, but they could never cut out my thoughts, and they could only kill my dreams if I let them. I still had worth. I still had hope. My future was whatever I wanted to make of it.”

Having been oppressed by the Church her whole life, sterilized at fifteen for having allergies, flat feet and mild myopia, it’s commendable that she hasn’t broken down and is still fighting for the people she loves and the values she believes in. It was really refreshing and engaging to read about a heroine that was so steadfast and resolute throughout the entirety of the novel.

The romance gave off a few instalove vibes and took me by surprise. It’s mentioned a few times from the members of the Anathema that Finn really likes Nina but why?? Sure, he admires her strength, but I wish there was just a little more relationship development. Nevertheless, the quick romance was definitely offset by how much I loved Nina and Finn. They were just so darn adorable that the romance actually turned out to be a huge plus for me – especially after the fascinating plot twist with Finn.

I’m a sucker for green eyes and cutesy smiles just as much as the next girl but even I will admit that the “green eye” description felt like beating a dead horse for the first third of the novel, although the reasoning for this did become clear eventually! Finn is absolutely charming and undeniably, an easy character to love. Although his situation sucks – it must be so emotionally tolling and difficult to live how he does and to finally meet a girl he likes but be unable to offer her the things a normal person could! I just feel so horrible for him – but he never comes across as bitter but is instead hopeful and spirited. A totally swoon-worthy character.

Although it was most definitely a page-turner, I can’t help but wish that even more stuff had happened. I want more Nina, more Finn, more time to get to know the rest of the Anathema (especially Reese and Maddox – whom I found a little harder to connect to, the main reason probably being that they had to share their screen time with someone else) and more relationship and character development! I’m beyond excited to read the next novel in the series and will be anxiously awaiting its arrival!

sheryl