Alive by Scott Sigler

alive

Author: Scott Sigler
Rating: 3.5/5
Protagonist: Savage
Other Character(s): O’Malley Bishop, Spingate, Bello, Aramsovky, El-Saffani, Latu, Gaston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis: What will you do if you wake up in the dark, immobile and alone? Will you wait for help or fight your way through? This is the story of a group of young men and women who woke up and their fight for survival.

Review: I haven’t been in mood to write reviews lately, they’re very tedious and so grueling to write especially since it’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but I think they’re the most important part of being a book blogger since it does allow me to recommend great books to book lovers, plus its a great way to advertise great writers!

Since I’ve just read this book and it’s pretty much fresh from my mind I decided to write a simple and honest review. Now it’s no secret that I’m part of a Goodreads group and one of our challenges this year is to read ‘hidden gems’. Basically, instead of having a monthly read that is held by vote, 12 volunteers are picked to recommend a book that is not overly popular/mainstream and the group will read that for the said month. For August we were recommended to read Alive by Scott Sigler. Now usually before I get into any book that I haven’t heard a lot about I try to do as much research on it as I can: read reviews, check out the author, etc. For this one, however, I just decided to get into it with a blind eye and I’m really glad that I did. When reading this title I was very certain this was going to be a post-apocalyptic novel, to my surprise it wasn’t. Yes, dystopian is part of the sci-fi genre, but I would not have suspected this to be more on the science-fiction theme. I’m not complaining though. I have nothing against sci-fi novels, I was just taken aback. I’m not really sure how much I want to reveal of the story because it was the mysterious aspect of the book that made me keep on reading.

In all honesty I had a rocky start with this book. I had a huge problem with the characters and their portrayal. I felt that for their ‘age’ it wasn’t realistic enough. I understand that there needed to be some type of dependence that needed to happen for story purposes, but I feel that Sigler didn’t really capture the younger ‘age’ of his characters. I also had problems with the main character. Usually I’m the type of reader who enjoys a tough, kick-ass female heroine, but for me Em was too dull. She acted on behalf of her people, but she was too predictable. She did eventually get better, but I still didn’t feel the connection. As for the other characters, I felt that her two right-hand men were written with a lot more dimension. I enjoyed seeing their growth and their maturity as the story progressed. Although, Sigler didn’t really talk a lot about his other characters in depth, I enjoyed the variety of people he does choose. Hopefully in the next book we will see more of everyone and learn more about their history. I also want to see where Sigler will go with their leader.

Off the bat I wasn’t in love with this book. There were times that I wanted to quit and DNF it, but since many of my Goodreads friends enjoyed it I figured it was worth finishing, and it was. I admit it was difficult for me to get through the first half of the book, but once the climactic event happened I was hooked! I enjoyed the concept of the book and Sigler did a great job in creating a world that makes you question life and humanity. I’m not really sure how I stand on the religious aspect of this novel, and I feel that it’s out of place in the setting. I have nothing against religion, but with this type of novel I really don’t think that it was worth including, unless the author has plans for it in the second book. Even though it seems like I complained way too much about this book, it is actually a good read and worthy of our ‘hidden gem’ category. Hopefully the second book will be just as interesting and enjoyable to read.

***********************SPOILER ALERT!!*********************

Ending: As much as I love including endings in my reviews, I feel that this one needs to remain a secret. I enjoyed reading this with no knowledge of anything regarding the book and I think it would make a difference on your reading experience.

 

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Screaming Staircase
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 3.5/5
Protagonist: Lucy Carlyle
Other Characters: George Cubbins, Anthony Lockwood, Annie Ward, Sir John Fairfax

Synopsis: In London, where its citizens equals its paranormal activities, many companies opened their doors to help silence the dead. Anthony Lockwood, along side his friend, George Cubbins, is one of the agencies that was established in order to meed the needs of the people. Newcomer Lucy Carlyle, helps the two investigate and rest the restless spirits. Unfortunately for them, their reputation and size, leaves them with the smaller and less desirable cases. As an unplanned incident occurs during one of their investigations, they must now embark on a dangerous case were previous agencies has failed. Will they be able to free the house of its ghosts and create a name for themselves or will they be the next victim of the deadly house.

Review:This was a “hidden gem” monthly group read winner in one of my Goodreads group for the month of August. I’m so glad that one of the members decided to share such an awesome read because I highly enjoyed it. I listened to this in audio so my audiobook review will be before the spoiler section. As for the actual review itself, this is a MUST for those who enjoys ghosts stories. There were times in the book where I was scared out of mind and listening to it at night, didn’t help my situation. Stroud did such a good job portraying his characters and creating vivid details of his settings. I will definitely check out the other books in this series.

There were many things that I like about this book. The characters themselves are very well done, but its mainly the way Stroud writes his scenes. Its very detailed and it allows you to envision the protagonists surroundings. I especially love his description of Annie Ward, one of the spirits haunting an old house, it not only gave me goosebumps, but it also left me sleepless for that night. I always have a hard time finding YA books that fits this category, where its for younger readers, but at the same time it still sends chills down your spine, so I’m really glad for Stroud not sugar coating his book. This was also a great break from any romantic pairings. I tried to see if any relationship will form, but the main focus was the investigation and I was ok with that. Something different in the YA genre.

As for the characters, personally, I didn’t really connect with Lucy. I don’t hate her, but I did find her idiotic at times. I understand her ‘mistakes’ was essential in solving the case, but what if her actions led to a more sinister outcome. I admit, she’s brave, in a dumb way, and she’s just as kick-ass as many of my favourite female protagonists, but her lack of critical thinking was aggravating. That being said, I did enjoy her banters with George. It was a burst of laughter during times of great stress for them. We don’t really see more of him until the end, but we do learn that he is the brain in the group and was a previous employer of a rival company. Now, my favourite out of the three is Anthony Lockwood. He almost gives me a Sherlock Holmes vibes, with his quick thinking and attention to details. He’s young, just like the other two, but he seems to hold the group together. His quick thinking allows dire situations to be handled efficiently. Even if we do get a glimpse of Lockwoods personality, there really isn’t much that was discussed about him. His past is a mystery and it seems like it will remain a mystery until the next book.

Even with the slow start of the book, I’m glad that it eventually did pick up. I understand that the first half was filled with important information regarding this very different, paranormal filled London, and the history of our narrator. It was also important to introduce the group and the problem that they were facing. So the slow beginning wasn’t a problem for me. I did have a problem with then ending though. As much as I like the whole case finished and wrapped up nicely, their was a tidbit in the end that made it a slight ‘cliffhanger’. Usually, I don’t get all hyped up by cliffhangers, but the way Stroud did it makes you want to pick up the next book ASAP. That being said, there really isn’t much that I have to complain about with this book. There’s action, there’s mystery and laughter, a great cast and everything else I enjoy in a book. So I totally recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading the paranormal.

Audiobook Review: I love the audio. The voice of the narrator is spot on and the voices that she use for the other characters are all very well done. I especially love how she narrates the scary parts of the book. Those parts always gave me the chills and it was wonderful! If you get the chance to listen to this on audio, then take the chance.

***********************SPOILER ALERT!!*********************

If you do not want the ending to be revealed, please do not read any further.

The first half of the book was a mystery including a girl, Annie Ward, that died in a horrendous way, therefore, she tends to attack violently. Being dormant for a few years no one knew she existed until a family moved in and disturbed her slumber. As Lucy and Lockwood exterminate Annie, the former attains the locket she is wearing and accidentally burns the house to the ground. As punishment, they must pay a fine they could not afford. At the same time, Lucy starts getting haunting from the same girl. Realizing that her spirit is still restless, the group investigate further to uncover the mystery that surrounds her death. Unfortunate for them, the looming threat of the fine forces them to take on a dangerous tasks, that previous agencies has failed. A wealthy man, Sir Fairfax, hires them to investigate and exterminate the spirits in his home, Combe Carey Hall, with the Red Room and the Screaming staircase.

As they investigate the house. The group finds out that a group of monks were savagely murdered in Combe Carey Hall, and it is their spirits that is haunting and killing the ‘intruders’. The Screaming Staircase, was where the monks were lead to be executed and you can hear their screams and moans as the ghosts replay the murderous event. As for the Red Room, blood covers the walls, and it is were the murders took place. Now the actual mystery is not this investigation. We learn earlier on that these are the disturbed spirits that the groups needs to silence. The actual mystery is John Fairfox. As he hires the team of Lockwood & Co. he sets restrictions on them that will be difficult for them to survive the investigation. It is revealed in the end that Fairfax and Annie Ward was a couple when they were younger. The Locket is a significant evidence that will incriminate him to the murder. As a way to preserve his innocence, he hires the team, that found the locket, to his home knowing that the team will be killed by the violent monks. As Fairfax tries to handle the locket, he is viciously attacked by the ghost of Annie who is seeking her revenge.

The ending we see the three celebrating their success. As Lucy tries to get more drinks in the basement, she accidentally uncovers the ghost in the jar, where he tries to communicate with her. Telling her that there is a bigger and more sinister spirit that she and her comrades will have to face.

Shatter Me

Shatter ME

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Dystopia, Paranormal, YA
Rating: 4/5
Protagonist: Juliette Farrar
Other Characters: Adam Kent, Warner, Kenji Kishimoto, James Kent

SummaryAs long as Juliette remembers, her life has always been isolated. Her classmates hates her, the teachers are scared of her and even her parents thinks she’s a monster. Imprisoned for a crime she was unwilling to commit, her only hope is to survive the four cells that surrounds her. For almost a year, all she knew was the weather from her small window and the unnerving routine that has been keeping her sane. For almost a year, she hasn’t communicated and hasn’t touch another human being, until she was introduced to her new cellmate.  Plunged into uncertainty, Juliette must learn to open herself up to another person and to trust again. Shatter Me has a dystopian backdrop where Mafi introduce us to a different earth, where the sky is the wrong color, animals are dying, the human population is slowly diminishing and a girl, who’s life is going to be shattered by revelations.

ReviewI really enjoy reading mainstream books because I like knowing what everyone is reading and get in on the hype. I recently, meaning a year ago, started following booktubers (that’s youtubers with book related accounts, for those who doesn’t know) and this series was popping up on everyone’s reviews and *gushes*. So being a nosy book reader, I decided to eventually start the series. Unfortunately for me, it took me almost a year to buy the book and a few more months to actually read the book. I was very hesitant to buy Shatter Me because there were many instances where I bought the first book in the series/trilogy of new authors, and I ended up hatting it. Being burned so many times, it was an internal battle. I’m glad that I ended up buying it since I did enjoyed reading Juliette’s story, but there are things that irked me along the way.

Although I did enjoy the book, there were times when I just couldn’t stand it and had to put it down for a few hours. My main problem for the most part was the writing. Don’t get me wrong, Mafi is a pretty good writer and she brings life to her characters through her words, but I just couldn’t stand some of her writing style. Especially the way she uses numbers to describe Juliette’s thoughts. I wouldn’t have minded as much if it was used once or twice, in fact I even enjoyed the first few. I just don’t understand why she kept using them, especially when Juliette and Adam are together! For me, it didn’t make the sentence better, in fact it did the opposite and after a couple of times it started becoming cheesy. Since I’m already ranting about Mafi’s writing, I might as well mention the repeated words and sentences. I feel that this would have made an impact, if it was only evident when Juliette was still in the asylum and her constant acknowledgement of certain words and sentences show how she’s struggling to keep her sanity. Seriously, I could deal with the strike through all over the book, but with this, it eventually got to me. Like I said before this would have worked for the first half of the book, but I think Mafi should have kept her writing simpler. There were too many unnecessary forms in her way of writing that it really bothered me during the slow moments of the book and I eventually found myself jumping from one sentence to the next just to skip the pattern.

I know I ranted a lot about Mafi’s writing style, but I really did have a great reading experience overall and I feel that for this book the good outweigh the bad. The relationship that blossomed between Adam and Juliette was the main reason this book was a hit for me. I was skeptical about his intentions in the beginning, especially after the incident in the asylum, but I eventually got over it. His thoughtfulness, caring nature and just the way Mafi describe his gentleness towards Juliette, would make anyone’s heart melt! I’ve heard that there is going to be a love triangle in this series, but as of right now, I don’t see how Mafi can pull off the Juliette and Warner pairing. Maybe I’m just being close-minded, but Warner seems so evil, too evil. I like my share of bad boy exterior and softy interior, but Warner brings the “bad boy” image in a whole new creepy level. As for our protagonists, she was different, in a good way. Mafi weaves a tale of such sorrow and sadness that it made me cry for Juliette. Having such a horrendous childhood and being forced into a place of such awful conditions made my heart break a little. After all the tribulations she went through, Juliette was still able to stand-up and care for those who almost destroyed her. She represents a new kind of kick-ass heroine, one who doesn’t physically fight, but rather her strength lies within her and this made me like the book so much more. As much as I enjoyed our heroine, there were other characters that I enjoyed even more. One of them is Kenji. I know, very random, but I find him to be hilarious during times of such conflict and that’s what some books needs. I understand there are serious moments, but its also nice to laugh such gripping scenes. I really wish that he will be a good guy until the end of the series.

Although I found the ending to be rushed, I seriously didn’t mind. I’m glad that it ended the way it did. Cliffhangers doesn’t really bother me, but I like things to be tied together in a pretty little bow. Even if there are questions that still need to be answered, I feel content with knowing what Shatter Me reveals.

***********************SPOILER ALERT!!*********************

EndingComing into this book, I really didn’t know much about it except for Juliette’s deathly touch. Other than that, I didn’t even know it was dystopian. I actually thought this was suppose to have a similar setting as X-men. I’m glad I was wrong. I like that Mafi introduced a world different from my imagination, the desolate and grim background on Juliette’s world made her powers even more exciting. Her super strength was a total surprise, with her powers being opposite of her physical appearance is a nice touch. I do wish that Mafi made either Warner or Adam immune to her, but not both. I just think that’s too convenient, which made me a bit wary.

I’m not really sure what to think of Omega Point. I like the idea of a resistance to the Reestablishment, I just don’t want it to be a District 13 copy-cat. That being out of the way, I’m glad that Juliette found a haven for herself and Adam. Plus, its nice to have a place where she can be accepted and loved for who she is. After all her hardship, she really deserves to be happy and comfortable of herself. I want to read more of the different powers that the other 36 others like Juliette. We do get to see Winston, the doctor that heals Adam, who can stretch his body in different directions, of course there’s also Kenji, who can turn invisible and the two girls, who I think can heal people. Just meeting them, made me excited to see what everyone else can do.

By end of the book, I half expected people to just fly off like the Avengers. Especially, when Juliette wore her special skin tight clothes with gloves and ankle high boots. Seriously, the image of that leaves me in a fit of laughter. Being serious, though, the ending was acceptable, with Adam and Juliette facing the world together hand in hand.

Fangirl

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Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: YA Contemporary, YA
Rating: 3/5
Protagonist: Cath(er) Avery
Other Characters: Wren Avery, Levi, Reagan, Mr. Avery

SummaryCath is not your typical university freshman. While everyone is out having a good time, partying, dancing and getting drunk, Cath is content with staying in her dorm writing fanfiction. For years, Cath and her sister, Wren, wrote dozens, if not hundreds, of stories about Simon Snow and are even well known in the fanfic world. As the two approach their freshman year, Wren dropped news that she will not be living with her sister. Thrust in a world foreign to her, and without the comfort of her sister’s shadow, Cath must come to terms with the changes around her or succumb further into the fantasy world that is slowly taking over her life.

ReviewYA Contemporary is not a genre that I’m usually drawn to. It’s not my least favorite, but I probably only own a handful of such books. The main reason I picked this book was because of the hype in both goodreads and youtube. So, with all the talk about such a great read, I just had to pick it up and find out for myself. As I flip through the book, page after page, all I kept thinking about was “It’s going to get better, it has to!” Eventually, as I got to the last page all I felt was disappointment. I cannot phantom why everyone made such a big deal about this book. Its a very typical “growing of age” book and besides the fanfic aspect, it really wasn’t that original. I understand this genre is not my forte, but even I have read amazing YA contemporary books. Don’t get me wrong, Rainbow Rowell can write very well and she does so with fluidity. I gave her 5 star on her writing style and character development, but the problem is that’s really all I liked about the book.

As I said previously, Rowell can write and write she does. As much as I enjoyed her style I felt that Fangirl went on far too long. There were unnecessary parts in the book, example, Cath reading Levi one of her short stories. I understand that many enjoyed that part of the book, but I wish she just added that as an appendix. At least she could have given people a choice. Now, if the actual short story was an integral part of the book then that’s understandable, but to those who have read it, we all know it wasn’t. Just like the length of the book, I just couldn’t handle Cath. I thought as I get further absorbed in the book I will eventually love her, or at least like her, unfortunately that wasn’t the case here. Although she does get less annoying, I still can’t get past her whinny nature. I understand social anxiety and an introvert personality, but I think the way Cath was portrayed was over the top. I had such qualities entering University for the first time, but I didn’t deliberately push people away, especially those who want to befriend me. For the first half of the book, as she wallow in self-pity on the loss of her sister’s attention, I felt like I was reading a middle grade book, who’s character is entering middle school and has to go through this process of growing up. I just couldn’t deal or connect to Cath’s level and that for me is an important part in loving a protagonist. I do have to say that Cath becomes a more tolerable protagonists in the end, we see her grow from a child-like teenager to a more independent person.

The actual saving grace for me with this book is Levi. I totally enjoyed his character and although we really don’t see an internal character growth from him, we do get to see that he’s got his sh*t together. Anyone who is as dedicated to listening to lectures over and over again shows that he is trying to achieve more for himself. Levi is just the best through and through. Maybe some will find his sunny personality exhausting and annoying, but for me its different. Where we are all being bombarded with brooding and dark male characters in many other books, Levi is a breath of fresh air! His mannerism almost reminds me of Peeta from The Hunger Games. Totally different setting, but I feel if Peeta and Levi ever met each other in normal circumstances, they would love each other, not in a Simon and Bass context. Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was all the different relationships that Rowell included. We have parent relationship, sibling relationship, parent hate relationship, best friends relationship, etc. you get the drift. Rowell does a really good job in writing and developing each relationship. I especially enjoy the development in the friendship between Reagan and Cath. I love how they barely tolerated each other, and then they grew to tolerate each other and eventually grew to tolerate each other’s company. I just found their relationship so hilarious and uncommon, since they are polar opposite of each other. It also doesn’t hurt the fact that I love Reagan’s character.

I understand that many will totally hate me for this review, since a lot of readers love this book, unfortunately its just not cut out for me. Although there are aspects to the book that I love, I feel that my dislikes outweighs the likes, so I probably won’t buy a copy of this for myself since I won’t have the urge to re-read it. Although I will miss Levi and Reagan, I just don’t have the energy to read Cath and Wren all over again. Even if this book left me with bitter disappointment, I won’t swear off Rainbow Rowell’s books altogether. I did enjoy her way of writing, so I might eventually, in the future, read her other works.

***********************SPOILER ALERT!!*********************

EndingCath and Wren had a wonderful relationship growing up, but eventually one needed to move on. I felt that Wren’s decision to separate herself from her sister was a good idea. Each needed to find themselves and who they really are as an individual. I just don’t think she needed to be self destructive about it. While reading all of Wren’s shenanigans, I already felt that she was heading on her path to destruction, I actually half expected her to die in the book. I just don’t understand the rebellion of Wren. From what I gathered in the book Wren and Cath had a free childhood. They were able to party with their friends, have slumber parties and even date and have boyfriends. At first i thought it was an outcome of their mom’s abandonment, but she accepted her mom’s olive branch! If her actions was to “separate” herself from her sister, then the actions itself is a bit dumb. We really don’t get an explanation on her actions, but Wren’s ending was acceptable. After being admitted to the hospital for over drinking, it was a wake-up call for a future she wouldn’t want to have a part of.

Cath eventually found her own self. She still loves fanfic and she still loves Simon Snow, but at least by the end of the book she has learned to let people through. Cath already was true to herself. Besides the fact that she was  more involved in a fantasy world than the reality, she knew who was important to her and who she is as a twin. Although I do hate her whinny personality, I do love how she takes care of the people she loves. I was rooting for her and Levi to get together. Anyone who is willing to walk back and forth from their dorm to the library is worthy of someone’s heart and I think that the two will compliment each other. Even if I feel that their relationship is TOO perfect, I can look past that and just like for what it is.

As for the actual ending of the book. I totally hated it. I get that everything is tied up neatly and everyone “lives happily ever after” I just can’t grasp that Rowell ended the book with Levi and Cath in his room reading Simon Snow. It was so uneventful. I feel that Rowell should have just ended at the part where the two sisters finally got hold of the last book of Simon Snow and the four head back to their dorm. That would have left more of an impact, a sense of finality and the renewal of the sister’s bond.