REVIEW #69 | THE STRAIN by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (The Strain Trilogy #1) (Mini Review) (Audiobook)

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy, #1)

Title: The Strain

Authors: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Series or Standalone?: The Strain Trilogy #1

Pub. Date: 2 June 2009

Synopsis:

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing.

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city – a city that includes his wife and son – before it is too late.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • blood and gore
  • brief POV from an abusive parent
  • fat antagonism
  • animal death (pet dog)
  • racism and xenophobia
  • abuse
  • animal abuse
  • character death
  • infant and child death
  • suicide

Representation:

  • Mexican-American Latinx man
  • Jewish Romanian man
  • Haitian woman (small role, not a major character)

⭐⭐⭐ .5
3.5/5 stars

  • when a deadly virus breaks out in the United States, CDC scientist Eph has to figure out how to stop it. Problem is, it’s not just a simple virus — it’s something older, something darker
  • it was entertaining for the most part: it didn’t blow me away, but it wasn’t atrocious. It kept me mostly engaged, and I do want to see where the rest of the trilogy goes
  • the characters were kinda boring, though, and I didn’t particularly connect with anyone. They were all pretty dry, to me, though there were a few that popped out
  • speaking of characters, though, can we talk about how Nora’s (Eph’s co-worker/maybe partner in the future, who knows) only role throughout the entire book was to be the damsel in distress love interest for Eph? Because thanks, I hate it. Literally, before the big ol’ boss fight or whatever, she said she just had to stay with Eph’s kid to take care of him. Excuse me, but why couldn’t his actual father stay with him instead? Oh I get it, it’s because we can’t have any characters in this book get shit done if they’re women. For the record, Nora is the only major character in this book who’s a woman. So. That’s cool. I guess
  • anyway, I thought the vampires themselves were pretty cool, and they’re basically the only reason I plan on continuing the series. Everything else is kinda meh

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REVIEW #57 | THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Publishing Date: 13 September 2011

Synopsis (Goodreads):

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

“But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

“True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

“Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.”

Trigger/content warnings:

  • character death
  • abusive/toxic family relationship (I viewed it that way, but you may not)
  • blood

Representation:

  • sapphic side character

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

This book makes me want to scream, but in the good way. Seriously, no one told me that I was going to fall in love with this atmospheric, gorgeous piece of art.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern follows two people — Celia and Marco — from when they are children up through when they’re young adults in their 20s. They have been instructed by their guardians that they are part of a competition where they must use their magical abilities against one another in order to win. Most of the competition takes place in a circus that travels all around the world and performs at night. However, even though they both know little of the rules — or even the competition itself — they break one of the few rules: they begin to fall in love. The question, though, is who is going to win, and who is going to lose.

I’ll start the review off by saying this: what the f u c k, Erin Morgenstern, whose soul did you sell in order to write so dang beautifully? What the hell, y’all. I’m usually not one for heavy description (and The Night Circus has plenty), but not once did I feel like I was being dragged out of the story because of it. The writing was just that good: I found myself vividly imagining what everything looked, sounded, and tasted like in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. It was incredibly atmospheric, and I appreciate the craft and hard work that went into all of it. The language was simply amazing.

Going along with the writing, I thought that the plot (or lack thereof) is just….some good stuff. The reader gets sucked into the world and the characters’ minds, and it makes me so happy. As someone who adores character-focused stories/novels, The Night Circus is perfect for me. By the end, I felt like I really knew the characters, and I rooted for most (if not all) of them at one point or another. I enjoyed being on their journey, and honestly? I can’t wait to re-read it so I can experience it again. But yeah, if you’re expecting a huge action-oriented plot, this probably isn’t the book for you.

And now my favorite part of this entire book: the characters. For one, Celia and Marco are the only valid allocishet couple. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. On a more serious note, I truly didn’t think I was going to like them as a couple; it just seemed like yet another insta-love story. But I’m so glad I was proven wrong. While the relationship was a bit insta-love, it was executed in such a way that, at the end, it didn’t feel like that. I know that may not make a ton of sense, but like. Believe me. As someone who doesn’t like insta-love, their relationship throughout the novel was truly beautiful.

I mentioned this before, but the other characters were so fleshed out, and I absolutely loved that. They all had their own motivations and personality.

The only thing that may be considered a downside is that you never really find out why the competition happens outside of the two men, Alexander and Celia’s father, continuously going at it throughout the centuries. Or, at the very least, I didn’t grasp it as I was reading. However, the more I thought about it, the more I’m convinced that maybe not knowing their motivations is the point. Maybe the reader is supposed to grasp that they’re both so old that they don’t even remember why they partake in these competitions. Just something to think about, and I think I’ll keep it in mind the next time I read this book.

Anyway, that was just a small personal gripe I had out of the whole novel. Outside of that? This book is phenomenal, and I really do recommend it to anyone who loves character-driven stories.

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REVIEW #53 | THE GIRL IN THE LETTER by Emily Gunnis (Review Copy)

Title: “The Girl in the Letter”

Author: Emily Gunnis

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Publishing Date: 30 July 2019

Pages (paperback): 384

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Read her letter. Remember her story…

“Gripping. Mesmerising. Haunting. Heart-breaking. Once you’ve heard her story, you will never forget The Girl in the Letter.

“Perfect for fans of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore and Kathryn Hughes, this page-turning, moving novel of separation and long-buried secrets will stay with you for ever.

“In the winter of 1956 pregnant young Ivy is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a home for unmarried mothers in the south of England, run by nuns, to have her child. Her baby daughter is adopted. Ivy will never leave.

“Sixty years later, journalist Samantha stumbles upon a series of letters from Ivy to her lover, pleading with him to rescue her from St Margaret’s before it is too late. As Sam pieces together Ivy’s tragic story, terrible secrets about St Margaret’s dark past begin to emerge. What happened to Ivy, to her baby, and to the hundreds of children born in the home? What links a number of mysterious, sudden deaths in the area? And why are those who once worked at St Margaret’s so keen that the truth should never be told? As Sam unpicks the sinister web of lies surrounding St Margaret’s, she also looks deep within – to confront some unwelcome truths of her own…”

Trigger/content warnings:

  • Institutionalization

Representation:

  • N/A

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars

*I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis follows two characters: Ivy, a young woman who is institutionalized in a home for unmarried mothers in the 1950s and Samantha, a journalist from present-day who found Ivy’s letters. Sam is attempting to figure out what happened to Ivy before the home is torn down for remodeling.

While I did not enjoy The Girl in the Letter as much as I wanted, it was definitely more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” mentality. I ended up not finishing it and only reading about a third of the novel. However, I still gave a 3-star rating because I thought it had potential and because it seems like a good novel for those who regularly enjoy historical fiction. Though, I did have a couple issues that were mostly personal.

Most of the characters seemed one-dimensional, and I couldn’t connect to any of them. I am a person who needs to connect to the characters — if I don’t, it’s an automatic downside for me. It could have been because I wasn’t that far into the novel, but I didn’t really like Sam as a protagonist. She just seemed flat to me. And her mother, as well as…literally any other older “granny” type character? They all seemed to have the same way of talking, and it constantly reminded me of a stereotypical grandma from a children’s cartoon. I’m sure other readers don’t have a problem about the characters and are more invested in the plot, but it didn’t work for me. As for the writing itself, well…

Even though the initial plot sucked me in, I grew increasingly bored the more I read. I’m not quite sure if this is an example of just trying to read something at the wrong time, but. Eh. When I first read the book’s description, I was pretty excited, especially for learning about the horrific institutions that were apparently set in place to send single mothers away when they become pregnant out of wedlock. But while the first quarter of the novel was engaging enough for me to continue, I quickly grew bored the longer I read. Most of it, again, connects back to the fact that I don’t feel connected to the characters. But it is also because I thought Sam’s chapters were incredibly…bland? I suppose? I personally wasn’t getting what I wanted from the novel, and I grew bored. So, I decided to DNF the novel.

The book itself is probably pretty good within the context of the genre itself, and, again, I want to reiterate that it’s much more of a “me” problem. I’m going to be honest: I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. I usually gravitate more towards fantasy and science-fiction, along with contemporary if I want something that isn’t speculative. Historical fiction is a bit out of my reach, though I thought I’d try it out this time since The Girl in the Letter sounded intriguing. In terms of comparing the novel to others within its genre, it’s probably pretty average, if not better. It just wasn’t for me, and that’s why I still rate it three stars instead of something lower.

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REVIEW #52 | “One by One” by D.W. Gillespie (eARC)

Title: “One by One”

Author: D.W. Gillespie

Publishing Date: 26 September 2019

Pages (paperback): 240 pages

Synopsis (Goodreads):

The Easton family has just moved into their new fixer-upper, a beautiful old house that they bought at a steal, and Alice, the youngest of the family, is excited to explore the strange, new place. Her excitement turns to growing dread as she discovers a picture hidden under the old wallpaper, a child’s drawing of a family just like hers.

“Soon after, members of the family begin to disappear, each victim marked on the child’s drawing with a dark black X. It’s up to her to unlock the grim mystery of the house before she becomes the next victim.”

Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child sexual abuse (alluded to; not graphic)
  • Murder
  • Blood
  • Animal death (family pet)
  • Ableism in regards to mental illness

Representation in the novel:

  • N/A

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars

While One by One is a spooky psychological thriller and perfect for a crisp October evening, I was…not a huge fan of certain aspects, including how a character’s actions were excused, the protagonist’s age, and the ableism at the end.

One by One by D.W. Gillespie centers around 10-year-old Alice and her family when they move into a house in the middle of nowhere. It’s a fixer-upper with its own eccentricities, and outside of Frank, Alice’s father, and Alice herself, no one else in the family likes it. It’ll just take some getting used to, Frank says. But when Alice discovers a family portrait on the wall, drawn by a child who lived there in years prior, things start to get…weird.

While reading, I did find that the characters were either interesting, or just a bit infuriating for me. We have…

Alice: a deeply introspective 10-year-old girl; the protagonist. I really enjoyed her as the main character. She’s young enough where she still holds child-like innocence, but she also notices many things that her family either overlooks or refuses to see. Things that only she can put together…before it’s too late. However, while I did love her as a character, I think that she may have been too young, from the way she talked of others. She’s supposed to be 10 years old, but she says that her classmates are already talking about boys and sex. I mean, I’m all for kids experimenting safely, but at 10? From my experience (and I’m only 21, so I hope it isn’t too far off to today’s standards), it isn’t until around 12 or so that most students really start getting curious about “real” relationships. I am especially thinking this when there was a (fade to black, nothing explicit whatsoever) masturbation scene with Alice. At 12, I can totally understand this. But at 10? I don’t know. Just the way it was structured seemed like she should have been older.

Dean: Alice’s moody 15-year-old brother. Definitely my second favorite character, Dean did not want to move to the new house whatsoever. He’s angry at his parents, especially Frank, and sometimes he takes it out on Alice. However, I loved his and Alice’s relationship. While he does snap at her from time to time, he tries his best to protect her. And most of the time, they get along really well!

Deborah and Frank: the (arguably really horrible) parents. Honestly? Didn’t like them whatsoever. Deborah, as a whole, was okay. Like Dean, she didn’t want to move to the new house, so she and Frank constantly fight. She tried her best to protect her children from Frank, but I felt like she was still complicit.

And Frank? I hate him. I do. I don’t care if he’s stressed, you do not threaten and hit your children. If that was the end of it, storywise, I’d mostly be fine with it. He’d be a horrible character that I love to hate, and that’d be that. But no, we have some sort of convoluted “redemption” arc for him, where everyone forgives him for his “misgivings.” None of his abusive behavior (past or present) was ever addressed substantially outside of the first incident. So, yeah, wasn’t a big fan of his narrative/development.

Also! This whole family needs therapy after everything that happens. But do they get it? Nope. Which I find to be an…interesting choice by the author. Hm. Maybe that’s just me.

However, that doesn’t mean I absolutely hated the novel or that the rest of it wasn’t good. There were a few highlights, but also a couple things I could do without.

Need a spooky Halloween read? This might be for you! I really liked the eeriness in the beginning of the novel. It was unsettling, and I thought it was enjoyable. While it seemed to die down the longer the novel went, others who want a general spooky read may enjoy it. Overall, it was still unsettling.

Some story elements? Really cool. I won’t spoil anything, but there is a diary involved, and I thought it added a nice touch. My only complaint is that I wish there were more entries!

Can we do away with the ableist, “character goes ‘crazy’ due to grief/whatever else” trope? Seriously, I know it seems to be a staple to have an ableist portrayal of a mentally ill person in thriller and horror, but just think if it just..went away. Or, at the very least, subvert it in some way. But nope, all we got is this hot mess. This isn’t necessarily the author’s fault, per say, but it’s tiring to see it over and over again in horror and thriller media. Overall, though? It was a pretty solid book. While it did have its downfalls, I think that people who generally enjoy thrillers would enjoy One by One. The child’s perspective was unique, even if it seemed more probable if Alice was a couple years older. If someone can look past how Frank’s behavior was excused, as well as the ableism, they would probably enjoy this spooky novel!

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REVIEW #19 | “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising”

People's History of the Vampire Uprising.png

People's History of the Vampire Uprising

Title: “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising”

Author: Raymond A. Villareal

Pages (hardcover): 432 pages

Original Publishing Date: 5 June 2018

Synopsis (from the inside flap):

“This panoramic fictional oral history begins with one small mystery: the body of a young woman found in an Arizona border town, presumed to be an illegal immigrant, disappears from the town morgue. To the young CDC investigator called in to consult with the local police, it’s an impossibility that threatens her understanding of medicine.

“Then, more bodies, dead from an inexplicable disease that solidified their blood, are brought to the morgue, only to also vanish. Soon, the U.S. government — and eventually, biomedical researchers, disgruntled lawmakers, and even an insurgent faction of the Catholic Church — must come to terms with what they’re too late to stop: an epidemic of vampirism that will sweep first the United States, and then the world.

“With heightened strength and beauty and a steady diet of fresh blood, these changed people, or “Gloamings,” rapidly rise to prominence in all aspects of modern society. Soon people are beginning to be “re-created,” willingly accepting the risk of death if their bodies can’t handle the transformation. As new communities of Gloamings arise, society is divided, and popular Gloaming sites come under threat from a secret terrorist organization. But when a charismatic businessman, recently turned, runs for political office, all hell breaks loose.

“Told from the perspective of key players, including a cynical FBI agent, and audacious campaign manager, and a war veteran turned nurse turned secret operative, A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising is an exhilarating, genre-bending debut that is as addictive as the power it describes.”

(known) Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:

  • violence
  • blood
  • character death
  • ableism

(known) Representation in the novel:

  • N/A

(Since I DNF’d, I don’t really know all of the possible trigger/content warnings or representation)

⭐⭐⭐
3/5 stars
DNF @ 258 pages out of 432 pages (60%)

Continue reading “REVIEW #19 | “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising””

MONTHLY TBR #4 | July 2018

July TBR.png

I hereby dedicate this month to all the library books I took out at once… Which means those are pretty much going to be the entirety of my July TBR.

1. The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

Brightsiders

Saw this at my library, and decided to pick it up. I’m always down for some bi girl rep, so when I saw my library had this on the YA New Release shelf, I wanted to snag it. I guess it’s also a way to distract myself until Queens of Geek comes back so I can read that, too.

Continue reading “MONTHLY TBR #4 | July 2018”

BOOK TAG #4 | My Blog’s Name in Books

My Blog's Name in Books

Hey, everyone! This tag is brought to you by Lynne, AKA fictionophile; I found this tag whilst rummaging through WordPress, and I thought it was pretty neat. Here are the rules, as quoted from Lynn’s post:

“1.  Spell out your blog’s name. (this is where you wish your blog’s name was shorter LOL)

“2. Find a book from your TBR that begins with each letter. (Note you cannot ADD to your TBR to complete this challenge – the books must already be on your Goodread’s TBR)

“3. Have fun!”


S I X C R O W S B O O K S

S. “Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone

Continue reading “BOOK TAG #4 | My Blog’s Name in Books”

DISCUSSION #1 | Book Subscription Boxes

Hi, everyone! I wanted to try something new and decided discussion posts might shake things up! For any post, of course, I encourage you to comment, but now even more so. I want to know your thoughts on whatever topic it is for that particular post. As such, these posts are probably going to be slightly smaller because the purpose is for it to be more of a conversation instead of me just blabbering to you.

So for today? Subscription boxes! Particularly, the book variety.


I’ve never paid for a monthly subscription box before, but I like to search for them. I just don’t think I would have the money for them — I thought $5.99 for Hulu was a bit too much, mostly because I barely used it.

However, through my little excursions through the Internet, I’ve come across so many different kinds of book sub. boxes. There are all sorts for practically anything you can imagine: YA, science fiction/fantasy, adult fiction, classics, and even just book merch in general. A lot of them come in quite a few different sizes (and prices). One YA-themed box may have two books and plenty of different things related to them in the “large” size, and it’s smaller counterpart may be only one book and two or three different trinkets. There’s just so much variety.

Continue reading “DISCUSSION #1 | Book Subscription Boxes”

REVIEW #5 | “Odd Thomas”

Odd Thomas

Title: “Odd Thomas”

Author: Dean Koontz

Pages (paperback): 446 pages

Original Publishing Date: 9 December 2003

Synopsis (from the back cover):

“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Meet Odd Thomas, the unassuming young hero of Dean Koontz’s dazzling New York Times bestseller, a gallant sentinel at the crossroads of life and death who offers up his heart in these pages and will forever capture yours.

“Sometimes the silent souls who seek Odd out want justice. Occasionally, their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time, it’s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of hyena-like shades who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soulmate, Stormy Llewellyn, and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil. His account of these shattering hours, in which past and present, fate and destiny converge, is a testament by which to live — an unforgettable fable for our time destined to rank among Dean Koontz’s most enduring works.”

Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:

  • fat-shaming (throughout the novel)
  • ableism (particularly in regards to “psychopathy” and mental illness re: serial killers) (throughout the novel)

⭐⭐
2/5 stars
DNF @ 35% / 154 pages out of 446 pages

Continue reading “REVIEW #5 | “Odd Thomas””

MONTHLY TBR #1: April 2018 TBR!

Hi, everyone!

I decided to start doing monthly TBRs (TBR: to be read, for those who didn’t know)…we’ll see how these go, haha. I’m much more of an emotional reader, so I’m not sure if I’ll stick to this list, but I’ll try since it will be the first time I’ll be doing it. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!


1. Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone by Becky Blades and 1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know by Harry H. Harrison Jr.

Both of these books were gifts from my parents when I graduated high school back in 2016, and outside of flipping through them, I never actually read them. I decided I’ll just group them together since they’re really short books, and I’ll also review them together as well. They have similar content, so why not? Moving on to my (hopefully) second read this month:

2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows

I read Six of Crows twice before, but I just got my hands on Crooked Kingdom, its sequel, and I forgot what happened at the end of Six of Crows. So, here I am, planning to reread it in April. And since I just said I recently bought Crooked Kingdom, it seems pretty obvious what the next book is going to be…

Continue reading “MONTHLY TBR #1: April 2018 TBR!”