Book Review #79: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (Review Copy from Hachette Australia)

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“Vowing to discover the fate of her missing cousin, a woman returns to her family’s Kansas estate where she spent one haunting summer as a teen, and where she discovered the dark heart of the Roanoke clan that left her no choice but to run.”

Title: The Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
ISBN: 1473648394
Pages: 277
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery
Format: Paperback
Date Published: March 14, 2017
Publishing House: Hodder and Stoughton
Goodreads Rating: 3.73
Personal Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact that her mother ran away years before and cut off all contact with her parents. Allegra, abandoned by her own mother at birth and raised by her grandparents, introduces Lane to small-town life and the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But there is darkness at the heart of the Roanoke family, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull she has no choice but to run, as far and as fast as she can.

Eleven years later, Lane is scraping by in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls with the news that Allegra has gone missing. “Come home,” he beckons. Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to Osage Flats, determined to find her cousin and assuage her own guilt at having left Allegra behind all those years ago. Her return might mean a second chance with Cooper, the boyfriend whom she loved and destroyed that fateful summer. But it also means facing the terrible secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between the summer of Lane’s first arrival and the summer of her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart. [Goodreads]

My Personal Thoughts

Wow! This book is very controversial, dark, and twisted; and I don’t know where and how to start this book talk (face palm). I rarely read stories that are unconventional. I actually had no idea that this is one of them when I requested for a copy to read and review here on my blog. However, despite the fact that it is somewhat disturbing, I found myself being thrilled to find out more about the characters and how the story will progress.

The story took place in Kansas; a small town where the population is just few and everybody knows almost everyone’s secret. It is perfect for the story because every family has a secret and the Roanoke clan was able to preserve their most precious one; not until it’s already too complicated to hide all their skeletons in the closet.

The main character is Lane, the only remaining Roanoke girl. She had a troubled childhood because she did not really have an amazing relationship with her mother. I feel sorry for her because she went through a lot and suffered too much because of the Roanoke family’s curse. All the women in the family underwent through a lot of struggle because of this. Lane’s love interest is a man who also happened to be a person with a tragic family history. I guess misery loves company. Lane’s cousin, Allegra, is the main reason how she was able to unravel all her grandparents’ secrets. She did everything she can to find out how and why her cousin suddenly went missing and she did not stop until she finally discovered the truth; the shocking and horrifying truth. Lastly, Yates, the Roanoke girls’ grandfather is the antagonist in the story. I don’t know what to say regarding his character because I despise his existence. I’ve read one particular story like this before but this is the most disgusting so far. I don’t want to get into details because it will spoil you if ever you’re interested to read it. Overall, the characters are all well-crafted and the masks that they were all wearing made the story even more enticing.

The writing style is pretty fine. I was able to finish the story in 6 hours and I was really hooked (not in a very positive way though). I did not put the book down (literally) because I was full of rage towards the antagonist. I wanted to find out more and be done with it. It was a nice ending but that does not make the story great and impressive. The story is uncommon and I find it creepy. Maybe it is not my cup of tea. In addition to this, everything was also very predictable. When I just started, I already made a guess as to how the story will go and what in the hell is going on. And I was right. I hope the author made it more mysterious so readers will crave for more. But still I liked the way it was executed, all the other elements are good especially how the characters made a connection to each other. I also like how it ended, it is the proper ending but I was hoping that other than the person who was convicted, the actual person who has been committing a crime decades ago should be the one behind bars. It was a story where the sinner was not able to accept that everything was his fault. Right until the end, he was firm that he was just doing the best for everyone and that is bullshit. Sorry but things as delicate as the controversy involved here should not be discussed as if it was right and natural and needs to be accepted. However, I still gave this story a four because like what I always say, psychological thrillers always excite me. Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you are an open and mature reader because I know that you will appreciate what’s within. But if you are a conservative reader, I suggest that you stay away from this book. Young adult readers can also read this as long as you don’t let it get to you because I was not kidding when I mentioned that it is “DISTURBING”.

Thank you, Hachette Australia, for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest and fair review. This, however, does not affect my views and opinions.

~JaNnA

 

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Book Review #71: Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1) by Elly Blake (Advance Reader Copy from Hachette Australia)

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Title: Frostblood
Author: Elly Blake
Pages: 320
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Date Published: January 12, 2017
Publishing House: Hodder and Stoughton
Goodreads Rating: 3.86
Personal Rating: 3/5
Synopsis

The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

My Personal Thoughts
Elly Blake’s first installment in the Frostblood series is gripping and a real page-turner. I liked the story and the characters, including the plot twists and everything about it, but I just have a few rants. First, while reading the story, I thought I am inside Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series because it is somewhat similar to having a King’s champion, and where the antagonist sort of fell in love-ish with the badass female protagonist. I dunno, I thought it was Celaena Sardothien or something. Young adult fantasy novels nowadays are all the same, and it’s not cool. There should be a distinction, a wow factor, a genuine thing where your novel will stand out and not be mistaken as a copycat. But I am not saying that this one is, it’s just that some similarities are present with other YA novels today. Second, things just turned out all in favour of Ruby and I find it annoying. Yes, during the first chapters she was belittled and tortured and what happened to her mother was horrible but as the story progresses you will notice that everything seems to be falling into place for her, love interest, allies, savior, it is so trying hard to please the readers which in return is not appealing for me. Third, that’s it? The ending is already a conclusion. You will not look forward to the next book because everything’s already there and the protagonist was defeated without blood and sweat. Oh come on, you can’t expect an evil king to just meet his end that easily. Anyway, despite all my rants I still enjoyed reading this fantasy novel and I was impressed with the idea of ice and fire together in a series. I like the first person narration (which is obviously my personal preference). The twist is surprising, I honestly did not see that one coming although some parts were really predictable like when the Mad King had a thing for Ruby or like when the snobbish Arcus finally gave in and admitted his feelings for Ruby. It’s just all the same and pretty common. But I like Ruby and Arcus’ pair, I ship them. Arcus is swoon-worthy despite his physical appearance, I like how badass his grand entrance was during the last match and when all the secrets were unraveled. Overall, I recommend this series for fantasy readers and I’m giving it a 3/5 rating.
Thank you, Hachette, for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

~JaNnA

Book Review #64: Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber (Advance Reader Copy from Hachette Australia)

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Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Pages: 401
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Paperback (Advance Reader Copy)
Date Published: January 31, 2017
Publishing House: Hachette Australia
GoodReads Rating: 4.0
Personal Rating: 3.5/5

Remember, it’s only a game…

Synopsis

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

My Personal Thoughts

I would like to thank the generous publicity department of Hachette Children’s Books, for sending me an advance reader copy (ages ago) in exchange for an honest and fair review. You still send me books despite being behind with my reviews. Moving on, this book is quite intriguing and mysterious! When I read the synopsis last year, I was already so eager to have my own copy. Surprisingly, the abovementioned publishing company sent me an ARC even though I did not request for one (again, thank you!). The cover of this book is screaming awesomeness and class! I think the UK version is also very gorgeous and hardbound-worthy. The book’s cover is merely enough for a bookworm to grab a physical copy of this novel.

First, the story’s setting is so commendable! It is well-described and the island is perfect for the caraval’s set up. I just love how the story and the setting matched! The island is so mysterious and creepy. It will make you cringe! Every scenario will have you clueless and in deep awe. There’s just something so magical about the place that even as a reader I was mesmerised (or rather should I say, hypnotised?). Second, the characters are so-so. Sorry if you are a huge fan of this novel but Scarlett just annoys the hell out of me. It would have been better if Donatella (Scarlett’s sister) was the one who portrayed her character. She is so scared, needy, and stupid, and I wanted to strangle her personally multiple times. Donatella, on the other hand, is the fierce one, the badass one, the loveable one! It’s too bad that her role just made few appearances and the story revolved around Scarlet. The leading man, Julian, lacks the swoon-worthy factor. He is adorable and handsome, but no, sorry, it’s not enough. He is full of shit and lies, and crap. In the end, I don’t even know who Julian is, or if he is also lying with me (and with the readers). It’s just so frustrating and confusing when a character lies and deceives repeatedly. Legend, the mysterious game master, is an asshat. I don’t know! I just couldn’t say anything positive about the characters. And lastly, the governor (Scarlett and Donatella’s father) is a freaking moron. I couldn’t even stomach all the things that he did. WOW! This story is just so full of crappy characters, I can’t believe it. Third, the writing style is just not for me. I don’t have a thing or patience with slow-paced stories. I fell asleep twice last night while reading. Maybe I lost interest the moment everything got so mixed up. The scenes, the characters, it’s just full of mysteries and deception; and in the end, I was left confused, hanging, and questioning my own comprehending capability. Am I stupid to understand or get a hang of it or it’s just too lousy and boring? Don’t get me wrong, the magic and all are so amazing and electrifying! I will give it credit for that! It is so magical and one heck of a rollercoaster ride, it’s like being in Alice in Wonderland. I love how it made me feel but there are just some things that made it really messy. Lastly, the story undeniably contains a lot of life and love lessons to think about. I am impressed! There are plenty of memorable lines and quotes that are heart-warming and inspirational. Will I still read the next book? Of course! Even though here I am ranting like crazy, I still want to know what will happen next especially with that CLIFF-HANGER (rolling my eyes right now). I still want to find out who Legend is, where their mother is, and what will happen to their lives. I am still interested, and YES I do recommend this book if you want to read and devour on something new and intriguing. I’ll give it three and a half out of five stars for making me want to continue ‘til next book.

~JaNnA

Book Review #61: Ragdoll (Detective William Fawkes #1) by Daniel Cole

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“One body.. Six victims…”

Synopsis
A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.
Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.
The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.
With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?
My Personal Thoughts
Ragdoll is a story that will give you the feels as if you are watching the tv series CSI. It is about a detective and his journey towards unraveling a case that has been haunting him for quite a long time. It is a heinous crime where six victim’s specific body parts were stitched together to create one dead body for the police and the media to talk about. My reading experience is so fantastic that I cringed a couple of times while the characters are trying to piece together all the clues that the murderer was giving them. It was a topsy-turvy escapade because 6 victims will also be killed on designated dates and the last victim is detective Fawkes himself. The writing style is good but not that appealing, although the author caught my full and undivided attention. I was able to finish the book in 2 consecutive days. It is a decent and nice crime fiction story but I find the scenarios too TV Series-ish. All that was included in the book were also scenes that a reader can find in some tv programs nowadays so I wasn’t really that surprised with the ending. In addition to this, the Evil-ish thingie in the end is not my thing. I find it off and not too appropriate with the plot line. Overall, it is recommended for readers who enjoy crime fiction but don’t expect too much because it is a conventional type of story and writing and nothing will surprise you that much. The characters are easy to like and relate to but not that impressive when action-packed scenes are involved. The setting matches the genre, kudos to that. I am just not sure with life lessons because I don’t think it contains a lot where the readers can reflect to. I was honestly kind of disappointed, not that much but just a bit, I was so excited to read this book once it arrived because of the synopsis but once I was able to finish it, it made me think. Is it okay or not? Anyway, I am still giving it a 4/5 rating for being able to finish it that fast which means that it is gripping and a page-turner.
Thank you, Hachette Australia Books, for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest and fair review.
~JaNnA

Book Review #42: The Silence between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe

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Title: The Silence between Breaths
Author: Cath Staincliffe
Pages: 263
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781472118004
Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery
Date of Publication: September 22, 2016
Publishing House: Constable
Goodreads Rating: 4.2
Personal Rating: 4.5 / 5

Synopsis

Eight people, one deadly secret.

Passengers boarding the 10:35 train from Manchester, Piccadilly to London, Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.

Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. On board customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . . .

(Credits to http://www.goodreads.com)

Personal Thoughts

The Silence between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe is a story about life, death, and second chances. I honestly find it difficult to give my thoughts about this book because it discussed a very sensitive topic which is terrorism. I don’t want to say things that might offend any nationality and religion so I will just give my opinion about other things that occurred in the story. I absolutely enjoyed reading this masterpiece because it is action-packed and thrilling. I received this copy from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

The story took place in Europe. All the eight characters mentioned in the book’s synopsis are riding the train going to Euston. The first part of the story basically occurred inside the train then after the incident that changed all of their lives, the story is scattered into different places where the survivors reside. London… Why London? Maybe because it is full of life and fun. There are people who are very busy with their responsibilities in life. This scenario is not impossible; it happened a lot of times before to different places where there are plenty of people who might be affected, die or incur massive injuries. It is very sad but a story like this is an eye-opener for everyone. The setting is perfect for the plot.

There are eight characters so there is an alternation narration. I liked it! I was able to understand every character; their life, sorrow, ambitions, and everything. This is the same in our everyday life; we get to meet a lot of people in the street, on our way to work, in the bus station, etc. Each person out there has their own dose of happiness and fear. We all have our problems and shortcomings. We may judge other people based on their appearance but the truth that we don’t know anything about them will still remain. This is very heartbreaking, each person in that train is undergoing some major difficulties in their lives but sadly the incident still took place. Naz is very brave and helpful. Jeff is a promising employee. Holly is an independent woman. Nick is a jackass husband and father. Meg is sick. Caroline only wants to relax and rest for a while from her responsibilities. Rhona is a desperate mother. And Saheel, Saheel destroyed each and every one of them including a hundred more people on the same train.

The writing style is impressive. I am hooked on the story and I am able to finish it in three days. You will never put the book down once you start reading it. It is very intriguing and mysterious. Terrorism is one of the major problems that the world is facing today. We all have our different opinion about it. It is excruciating to know that some people who became victims of tragic incidents like this even from the past are still not yet over it. The story is about a train explosion caused by a university student named Saheel. He believed in his religion so much that the thought of sacrificing himself crossed his mind. He believes that if he washes away all the immorality in this world by committing suicide through hijacking a train, then he will be considered a hero in their sector. He idolized a lot of people who did it before. He resents his own family for not abiding in their religion wholeheartedly. Saheel is a very nice student who excels in school. He is a good brother and son. He thinks that homosexuality is a major sin and that people who commit it should repent. I will definitely never understand why he did it and why some of them actually want to do it. I feel sad for the people who lost all their loved ones; those who were injured, the ones who were amputated, the scars, the trauma, and all the shit that they went through. Their lives will never be same again. They will always carry the horrifying incident that happened to them. The first person narration is okay with me, I like how the way it was written. This is one great book is highly recommended to every reader out there. I am impressed by how the author presented the problem and eventually made a solution for each and every one of them in the end.

I made a lot of realizations here. Moving on and forgiving are two things that are very hard to achieve when you lost someone you love. Surviving a terrifying incident is a challenge. People who were able to make it alive after the explosion are left not just with scars but hatred and pain. Dealing with what’s left is the most difficult part especially the ones who had their limbs amputated. The most important thing here is to appreciate that you are still alive; that God gave you another chance to live. Some people died but here you are, you are alive and you can still be with your family. There a lot of things to be thankful of despite all the difficulties. Forgiving someone is a process and it will take time.

~JaNnA (@BibliophileMom)~