BOOK REVIEWS: ….uh, several

So I haven’t been reading a ton, but I’ve been reading enough that I feel bad not having put anything up here lately. I’ve been doing a lot more and haven’t quite found the balance I want between them all, hence the radio silence on here. As I always say, I’m hoping to get my life a bit more on track in 2019, but we’ll see how it goes. For now, here are some brief reviews on some books I’ve read lately, starting with one I should have reviewed like…two months ago.

PULLING STRINGS by Nick DeWolf – **** (Recommended)

Since I’d reviewed a previous book of his, Nick reached out to me to see if I’d be willing to read and review a new book of his if he gave me a copy of it. Since I’d really enjoyed FRIGHTFULLY EVER AFTER, I was more than happy to do such. (And so luck would have it, a writer friend of mine who knows Nick asked me to do the same thing just after I’d finished reading it. I was amused.) That being said, I’d really only read one piece of DeWolf’s before, so I wasn’t sure what I was walking into–but it sounded up my alley.

And sure enough, it’s just the right combination of supernatural whodunit and heart-pounding thriller to keep you on edge and not want to put the book down. I was absolutely fascinated by the psychic powers described in the book, and how all the different individuals used those powers either for good or ill. DeWolf has a hell of a way with words, and he’s not afraid to put down exactly the words he wants–a refreshing change from some authors I’ve seen. It’s intense, it’s nerve-wracking, it’s everything you want from a thriller. And it doesn’t give you a nice happy pat ending, which is again a nice change.

Nick DeWolf is definitely on my list of authors to watch, and he should be on yours as well. (Sorry this took so long!!)

THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James – *** (Worth a Look)

This one I had to track back down as a library book in one of my local places of book-finding after having let the NetGalley copy lapse and was perfectly content to try it on for size despite having forgotten it existed for some time. And luckily, I found something worth reading.

That may not sound like a glowing endorsement, and maybe it’s not. I had just finished reading an incredibly lackluster and confusing book, so my brain was already a little bit in shambles from that and THE BROKEN GIRLS does jump back and forth between time periods and characters, so at first I was a little nervous. I didn’t have much reason to be, I found rather quickly. The author does a nice job of keeping it very obvious who is telling what story, and in what time frame. And while the overall plot is fairly predictable, every twist and turn isn’t completely telegraphed three chapters in advance. There are just enough things to make you say “oooohhhh, okay” to outweigh the “well, obviously” moments.

Two stories running in parallel: the story of a group of girls trying to survive the horrors of the awful boarding school they’re at, and the modern-day story of a woman obsessed with her sister’s murder. The connecting point? Sister’s body was dropped on the grounds of said now-abandoned boarding school. But wait, there’s more. Some random person from not-locally (and in this small town, non-locals are The Outsider Who Will Not Be Tolerated) is going to rebuild this terrible school?? Something must stop this!

Fiona as our modern-day protagonist neatly walks the line between grief-stricken sister and completely obsessed unhinged person without ever being fully one or the other. Her romance subplot is…not unnecessary but feels a little forced, and he doesn’t have much of a personality other than “being the foil to Fiona.” The plot on her end of the timeline is interesting and doesn’t necessarily take all the easy ways out, which was nice. That being said, there aren’t that many surprises either.

The story following the girls of the past is an interesting look into what the world of 1950s boarding schools might have looked like, particularly for the type of castaway children who seem to inhabit Idlewild. There are some fascinating glimpses into moments in history, and while their drama may seem extreme, it’s never unbelievable. There do seem to be one or two more of them than the story needed, but that may just be me. The book didn’t seem quite long enough to give all of the girls their own needed personality and plot. Particularly when the plot narrows down to just a few of them. (Avoiding spoilers.)

The one outlier that I can’t quite decide what I think about it is that there is a supernatural aspect to the core of the story, and it seems to waver between unnecessary and integral to the plot. That is, they make it entirely the focus of portions of the plot…but I don’t know that the story needed it. I feel like it could have happened another way. That being said, I do rather like what they did, and it gave a spooky vibe that was able to carry through the entire book, and wrap it all together in a way that the other plot pieces couldn’t on their own. So maybe it was necessary in the end. Like I said, I’m a little torn on how I feel about it.

All in all, it’s a decent read. Relatively quick, and despite the dark themes it’s not going to bog you down in distress. I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to read it again, but if the author’s name crossed my path again, I’d be willing to see what she had in store.

A GUIDE FOR MURDERED CHILDREN by Sarah Sparrow – ** (Not Impressed)

Another one I got from NetGalley, and had to get a different library’s card just to check the dang thing out. Unfortunately, it did not live up to all the work it took for me to get it. This is a book with a really interesting premise that never manages to live up to its potential. It got very hyped up as a scary book, horror-esque, and what we get is a lackluster smattering of ideas with nothing to bind them together. Also didn’t have nearly high enough stakes for me to care as the book went on. We’re given the idea that crazy things are happening, but it’ll all be fine in the end at the start of the book. Kinda takes the wind out of anything we might see later. Too many plot lines, not enough plot. I had really been hoping for more.

THE MURDER BOOK by Lissa Marie Redmond – *** (Worth a Look)

It’s so refreshing to read a book set in a city I know–and clearly, the author knows the city as well. I grew up outside of Buffalo, and I could envision the action in this book perfectly. Not an easy thing to do, and not something most authors do. A good thriller if not great, with interesting characters and devious antagonists. Definitely an author I would consider picking up again.

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