review: Hanover House (Hanover House Chronicles 0.5) by Brenda Novak

25394138

{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. Greatly appreciated, as always!

Official Synopsis
Welcome to Hanover House….

Psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot has dedicated her life to solving the mysteries of the psychopathic mind. Why do psychopaths act as they do? How do they come to be? Why don’t they feel any remorse for the suffering they cause? And are there better ways of spotting and stopping them?

After having been kidnapped, tortured and left for dead when she was just a teenager—by her high school boyfriend—she’s determined to understand how someone she trusted so much could turn on her. So she’s established a revolutionary new medical health center in the remote town of Hilltop, Alaska, where she studies the worst of the worst.

But not everyone in Hilltop is excited to have Hanover House and its many serial killers in the area. Alaskan State Trooper, Sergeant Amarok, is one of them. And yet he can’t help feeling bad about what Evelyn has been through. He’s even attracted to her. Which is partly why he worries.

He knows what could happen if only one little thing goes wrong…

Review
So, you’re Evelyn, right?

And when you were a teenager, your lovely boyfriend viciously murdered your friends and then for kicks, kept you in a shack in the woods, tortured and raped you and then sliced open your throat… because he’s just that kind of guy.

You escaped, natch (or there wouldn’t be a book) and you’ve decided the best thing to do with your remaining days is set up camp in the Alaskan wilderness and study serial killers and psychopaths, right.up.close.

Scared-gif

Evelyn…

tumblr_inline_njq2sl0UhV1s1wrjn

Seriously though, this was really entertaining! Especially for a prequel AND a novella, two things I normally don’t enjoy in the slightest.

I understand that a prequel is simply meant to set the stage, rather than delve too deeply, so I won’t dock this one too many points for what I see as missed opportunities – greater depth for Evelyn’s character, more of a sense of ‘place’ (the Alaskan wilderness has to be one of the most scenic and interesting places in terms of ambiance in the United States) and perhaps a touch more development as to the idea of Hanover House and its purpose in the world.

However, I expect to see all those things and more in Whiteout, the first book in the series, which comes out in September of 2016. I can’t waiiiiiit. The premise is just so fascinating.

While I think Evelyn’s plans have a whiff of whackadoodle, I can still understand and sympathize with her. Raped and within a breath of being murdered by the guy you trust the most? That has to mess with a girl’s head. And Evelyn seeks some semblance of control by attempting to talk to, reason with and understand these men who commit these hideous crimes. She wants to find out why she didn’t see Jasper’s madness, why she didn’t even have the faintest hint that he was as black as night inside, as black as the deepest holes in space.

The book largely concentrates on Evelyn’s past, and her uncertain future. Her romance with the dashing Sergeant Amarok is a non-starter, given Evelyn can’t bear to be touched, but she’s still drawn toward the state trooper because let’s face it, he’s a total babe, and she wants him baaaad.

When Evelyn’s past becomes present in one sickening rush, she’s forced to confront her own scars in a way she hasn’t had to for decades. Taut and electrifying (if a tad too quick for my tastes), the end of this novella is a definite page-turner. I’m looking forward to reaping the benefits of Novak’s extensive research into psychopathy. Recommended…. and can’t wait for the series.

review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

20455343.jpg

{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciated the chance to read this book!

Official Synopsis
In a forest in Denmark, a ranger discovers the fresh corpse of an unidentified woman. A large scar on one side of her face should make the identification easy, but nobody has reported her missing. After four days, Louise Rick—the new commander of the Missing Persons Department—is still without answers. But when she releases a photo to the media, an older woman phones to say that she recognizes the woman as Lisemette, a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago.

Lisemette, like the other children in the institution, was abandoned by her family and branded a “forgotten girl.” But Louise soon discovers something more disturbing: Lisemette had a twin, and both girls were issued death certificates over 30 years ago.

As the investigation brings Louise closer to her childhood home, she uncovers more crimes that were committed—and hidden—n the forest, and finds a terrible link to her own past that has been carefully concealed.

Review
From the very first words —

Gone is coming. Gone is coming! The words pounded in her ears as the rocks and branches of the forest floor tore her feet and shins. Her head was whirling and fear made her heart constrict.

I was riveted by this compelling mystery.

The Forgotten Girls is Sara Blaedel’s seventh in her Louise Rick mystery series, translated from her native tongue to English – much to my delight! I haven’t read any of the others (I will be rectifying that quite quickly) but had no issues in picking up the book and diving right in. There are minimal references to other cases / characters, but this novel is the beginning of a new career for Louise, so it’s in some ways a natural starting point.

Louise is heading up a new agency, searching for missing persons. Her new partner, Eik Nordstrom (who I kept picturing as Eric Northman from True Blood… delicious!) has to be picked up from a bar the first day, and she quickly realizes that her boss wants her to close cases quickly, without doing the necessary and crucial police work that Louise so loves.

When the case of Lisemette crosses her desk, Louise expects that she will be able to solve it before dinnertime. After all, the dead girl has a large and grotesque scar down one side of her face. Surely someone will recognize her and come forward?

But no one does, and Louise begins to learn of the forgotten girls… and all that has befallen them since they were institutionalized many, many years ago. In between searching for Lisemette’s twin sister, Louise and Eik also deal with the very real and very present-day threat of a vicious rapist and murderer, attacking women as they walk through a nearby wood.

Are the cases related? Will Louise be forced to confront the very painful realities of her past?

I could not put this book down, and read it in one evening. Sara Blaedel has the refreshing style of many Scandinavian writers – succinct, raw and often disturbing. What happened to the girls is so revolting as to be almost unfathomable. It presents uncomfortable questions of morality and cruelty – and surely echoes what must have gone on in many of these institutions in the past.

These girls were for all intents and purposes, dead to their families, and suffered because of it and beyond it. Truly forgotten in the darkness, as if they slipped into an oubliette, out of reach, out of sight, but trapped in their own terrorized bodies.

review: Down London Road by Samantha Young

downlondonroad {Source: GoodReads.com}

So.

Down London Road is a puzzler. In terms of On Dublin Street (which I gave 4 stars), I liked the heroine much better, I thought the characters were a bit tighter and at least things actually happened to the heroine in this one – compared to Joss whining because she has to fuck a hot, rich guy all the time.

But I gave this one 3 stars, and I need to untangle why here. I’m not even sure myself.

The Good

1. Jo. Weirdly, I liked her a lot. Her one main flaw was her refusal to accept help from friends, while banging rich guys for money/dresses AND THEN getting offended when anyone dared point out it might be better if she just … ya know, let her loved ones help her out? Every.single.time Braden said, “I can get you a job in my office” and she was all self-righteous and refused, and then ran off to hang onto her boyfriend Malcolm’s arm at a party and simper at him, well, my blood boiled. I’m all for female agency, but I think she just FELT like being contrary.

All the players from On Dublin Street are back and Jo is suddenly best buddies with all of them and invited to Sunday lunch at Elodie’s. I have decided Elodie is my favourite. The way Young describes her as tipsily asking everyone if they’d like a refill and then spilling the wine while drunkenly saying, “Oopsie” makes me want to be friends with her immediately.

Anyway, back to Jo. I liked her. She worked hard, she tried her best and her circumstances were horrible. Her Mum especially – whoa. I couldn’t imagine living with that.

2. The sex was decent. I was comparing it to Joss and Braden, and I think the sexual tension itself just didn’t measure up. But it was still pretty hot. I do wish everyone would step out of the box a bit. It’s a little vanilla, and while I don’t mean I want them to get all Christian Grey/Bella Swan or whatever her name was, I just think maybe… well, you probably know what I mean.

3. Cole. He was a darling and Young has a talent for writing teenaged boys. I fully believed everything he said, including all the shrugging.

4. Malcolm. He was a nice guy, he was attractive and he won the Euro Millions!! I’LL MARRY YOU!!

The Not-So-Good

1. Cameron. I wasn’t a fan. It wasn’t simply that he didn’t measure up to Braden (he didn’t, by a long shot), or that I kept picturing him as Adam Levine (who I don’t find attractive), it was his disgusting attitude toward Jo in the beginning. I couldn’t, for the life of me figure out how he got into her pants after the things he said to her. He was beyond a dick – and it was all based on ridiculous assumptions that barely meant anything (his Uncle married a gold digger? Cool story, bro. Nobody cares.) And his treatment of her after she spends the night at Malcolm’s and he has to help Cole out? OMG I felt RAGE. RAGE.

description

2. It took them forever to have sex. And then all they did was have sex, argue about nothing and NOT TALK ABOUT ANYTHING. All their worries could have been cleared up in a 2 second conversation.

3. They made a serious relationship decision about 3 seconds after they started dating, which I won’t spoil here.

4. Cam’s moronic reaction to seeing his ex-girlfriend. I didn’t buy FOR A SECOND his reasons for acting weird. Not for a second. Sorry, guys don’t work like that.

5. The set-up to Young’s next book. I guess I just feel like not everyone is going to get along all the bloody time. If Elodie invites any more people over for Sunday lunch, there won’t be enough room for her.

Sigh. Still anxiously waiting Jamaica Lane or whatever the next one is called though. Young had me at describing Olivia as “slightly overweight”… can’t hate that. Not even a little bit. No matter how much I complain, I can’t seem to NOT read Samantha Young’s books.

description

review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

harry1 {Source: GoodReads.com}

Oh, Harry.

I resisted reading this series for a while when it first came out, mainly because it was so popular, and you know that feeling of, “well it can’t possibly be good if so many people like it”? Thankfully, I did end up reading this book and anxiously awaited the final installment when it came out in 2007.

It all begins so innocently and so wonderfully, with Harry living in The Cupboard Under the Stairs with his horrendous “family”, the Dursleys, until one day, funny things start to happen. Harry finds he has a specific set of abilities that scare the Dursleys, owls begin appearing, letters come through the fireplace and there is something that no one is telling him. Something big.

When Harry does finally find out the truth –

You’re a wizard, Harry.

– it’s pretty magical. He discovers Diagon Alley, Gringotts, Hogwarts and makes friends with Hermione and Ron. Over time, darker forces threaten his happiness, and he learns the truth about his parents’ death, the mysterious scar on his forehead, and ultimately, his own destiny.

JK Rowling perfectly captures every child’s dearest fantasy – that they will discover that they are actually a wizard, destined for amazing things and whisked off to wizarding school where they will learn to do magic and escape from their humdrum lives.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone isn’t the strongest of the series (I give that to Azkaban but it is the beginning of a beloved tale that will stand the test of time (given it’s been made into a theme park and all…), and introduced us to a cast of characters that I will never forget.

review: Murder in Paradise by Francine Pascal {Sweet Valley High Super Thriller #6}

412141 {Source: GoodReads.com}

This is an awesomely cracked-out volume in SVH history.

Elizabeth, Jessica, Mrs. Wakefield, Enid, Lila and Mrs. Fowler all head to a spa for a “retreat”. While there, they notice that absolutely everyone on staff is stunningly beautiful. All but the actual owner of the spa, a Dr. Mueller, who is thoroughly creepy, looks vaguely like a frog, calls Jess and Liz her “beauties” and fawns over Alice Wakefield like a lesbian who hasn’t gotten any in about a dozen years.

Dr. Mueller ends up taking Enid beneath her wing, because boo hoo End isn’t as pretty as her friends and her Mom couldn’t make the trip because GASP she had to WORK (the nerve!) and Elizabeth is about as sympathetic about this as you’d imagine.

“Oh Enid, shut up, you’re adequate enough and you have a cute body… I guess. Sorry though, no time to chat, I have to go cheat on Todd with this guy I just met!” Liz trills, flipping her perfectly silky blond hair over one tanned, sculpted shoulder.

Yes, the twins are as insufferable as ever and Lila isn’t much better, interrupting what seems like a gorgeously relaxing mud bath to chase after some asshole she thinks is a celebrity… or something. It’s a sub-plot not worthy of Lila’s usual devilish glee over other people’s misfortune. She should be cackling about Enid’s ugliness, not passing up the chance to be wrapped in hot towels with her lover, I mean best friend, Jessica. (I can’t be the only person who thought Lila and Jessica were secret power lesbians, can I?)

Eventually, the truth is revealed! Tatiana Mueller is bat-shit crazy and she wants to steal Alice’s face so she can be beautiful at last! MUAH HA HA HA HA…

description

Seriously satisfying romp, with enough of Liz being a total dick to please any Wakefield hater.

review: Lord and Master by Kait Jagger

lordandmaster {Source: GoodReads.com}

This is such a lovely book – smart, sexy, atmospheric, detailed and with a heroine who actually has *bottle*, imagine that. When he tells her what to do, she throws it right back at him. Without simpering or tripping over her own feet or lamenting at having a rich, sexy-as-fuck guy after her. All the tired tropes of these kinds of books are beneath Kait Jagger, and for that I’m thrilled.

I especially love Jagger’s sense of place, which is especially evident when the main characters spend a short sojourn in Florida. Everything from the mangrove trees, to the swampy water, the crystalline sand, cheap n’ tacky restaurants and the club scene – it’s so accurate. She’s as much at home there as she is in the chilly remains of the British upperclass. It’s a specific talent, and she uses it so well – I felt like I was present with Luna at every twist of the tale.

Everything was well developed, from the anterior characters to the slow burning love story between Luna and Stefan. Highly recommended, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

review: On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

ondublinstreet {Source: GoodReads.com}

So here’s the thing.

This is the thing.

On Dublin Street gets four stars because the sex was crazy hot. The hero was also crazy hot.

BUT.

Let’s do a list, shall we?

The Good

1. The sex. Again, it was just molten. I don’t normally get at all excited by sex scenes in books because well, I spent my teen years reading Harlequins and after one penis-in-vagina moment, they’re all pretty much the same. But I could spend a few days reading about Braden dirty talking and not get bored. My only quibble was Joss’ ability to orgasm purely from penetration, which I think is a myth perpetuated by New Adult books and I just hope young girls don’t feel odd when they need a little hand or oral action during sex. It’s NOT ODD, ladies. It’s NORMAL. Yes, some lucky souls can come purely from intercourse, but they’re honestly not the norm and we can only envy them and move on.

2. Braden, in a way. He was slightly alpha (and the scene in the break room was right up my alley, rawr…) and I also enjoyed how he pretty much made fun of Joss constantly. I understood his initial interest in her, because she was a challenge, but after that… not so much. The guy is hot, rich, smart and owns half of Edinburgh. Not to mention he was actually pretty… nice? In other words, he’s a catch. He’s not going to put up with constant mind games, drama and (excuse this phrase, but it’s apt when it comes to Joss) cock teasing, without peacing out. He just isn’t.

The Not-so-good

1. Braden’s girlfriends. It’s always interesting to me in books when we’re supposed to still like a hero even though he dates vapid Barbies who are cruel to his sister and friends. What does it say about Braden that he dates these girls for months? What do they talk about? It’s just the kind of plot black hole that I loathe.

2. Joss. Straight-up, she’s pretty much a foul bitch to everyone she meets (including Ellie – and although Ellie is a Mary-Sue at heart, I still thought she seemed like a nice person and she had ACTUAL problems going on right that second, and yet Joss STILL couldn’t be there for her) and yet we’re expected to believe she has tons of friends and people love her and Braden just can’t stay away from her? It doesn’t compute.

I GET that Joss has issues – who wouldn’t with what happened to her. BUT it just doesn’t give her a free pass to be heinous to everyone.

Not to mention, she’s got piles of money but she pretends she doesn’t spend it (oh please, are you enjoying your $5,000 a month apartment and your designer dresses?), she works at a bar because she ‘wants to’ (suuuure, everyone loves menial service jobs), she can’t “love” Braden because… oh no, wait, she didn’t really have a reason beyond manufactured drama… ehhh, she’s just a pill. When she FINALLY gets a little self-awareness toward the end, it’s nice, but too little too late. She even manages to make Ellie’s crisis about her… how did she do that?

The only thing I really liked was how Samantha Young had Joss at the gym pretty much every day, because if there’s anything I hate more than slut-shaming in books, it’s a girl who eats like a truck driver but tee hee doesn’t work out. It’s unrealistic, it’s insulting, it makes girls feel like shit, and it’s beneath female authors to write about. Joss having to work for her body was refreshing.

3. Again, Joss and Braden’s relationship. The sex – yes. The relationship. I just don’t know. I didn’t believe he would stick around long enough to actually fall in love with her. She was way too hot and cold, way too mind gamey and way too bitchy. I feel like anyone would get tired of that eventually – girl or guy. And when she basically abandons her supposed best friend – his sister – when she’s found out life altering news? Yeah. Goooooodbye.

It sounds like all I did was complain about this book and yet I gave it four stars. It’s interesting – I really couldn’t put it down, and Braden was exactly the kind of hero I like… kept picturing Logan from Gilmore Girls for some reason…

description

No idea why since he’s blond… I guess it’s that smirky rich boy thing.

Anyway, I’m not knocking On Dublin Street – it’s sexy hot, Braden’s smokin’ and it’s immensely readable. I guess it says it all that I ran to buy Down London Road doesn’t it?