The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin

34818163The Room by the Lake
Emma Dibdin
Goodreads

When Caitlin moved from London to New York, she thought she had left her problems behind: her alcoholic father, her dead mother, the pressure to succeed. But now, down to her last dollar in a foreign city, she is desperately lonely.

Then she meets Jake. Handsome, smart, slightly damaged Jake. He lives off-grid, in a lakeside commune whose members practise regular exercise and frequent group therapy. Before long, Caitlin has settled into her idyllic new home.

It looks like she has found the fresh start she longed for. But, as the commune tightens its grip on her freedom and her sanity, Caitlin realizes too late that she might become lost forever…

Review:

Though I finished this book in two days, I wasn’t very impressed by it.  The summary intrigued me and I always do enjoy fictional accounts of cults and those ensnared by them but I wanted this book to be different and it wasn’t.  It was same old ‘character wants a different life, character gets taken in by a charismatic man, character thinks she’s found her life, character realizes that this is not a good place, character escapes.’

I was waiting for the sense of ominous foreboding that I expected with a book like this and I just didn’t get it.  Everything was serene and strange but nothing stood out to me as being a precursor to the bad stuff I knew would be coming.  It was fine and then it wasn’t.  Everything seemed to happen in like twenty pages which made the journey up to that seem pointless.

It didn’t help that the author went for a huge cliche with the main male bad guy in regards to what he was using his power for.  I was disappointed and didn’t really feel anything when he got his comeuppance.

This book was merely all right.  A good fast read for when you need something to do but nothing that I’d highly recommend.

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Warcross by Marie Lu

29385546Warcross
Marie Lu
Goodreads

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I’m upset that I’m no longer reading this book.  I really am.  Marie Lu’s always been a consistently good author but this is probably my favorite of all the books of hers I’ve read.  It was high octane, fast paced and speeding towards a satisfying resolution from the get go.  I wanted to get to the end to see if some of my guesses were right but I didn’t want it to end.

I was, at first, worried that Emika was going to fall into the ‘quirky, whimsical, too cool for her own good’ trope that some main characters are, unfortunately, slotted into but she wasn’t.  She was layered and complex, full of dark places and flaws that made her all the better in my eyes.  I could have done without the frequent mentions of her rainbow colored hair but it’s a small quibble that’s easily forgiven.

Hideo Tanaka’s my new boyfriend.  I’m gonna write my name and his all over my slam books.  But, then again, maybe that’s not the best idea.

The twist (one that I don’t want to go too far into to avoid outright spoilers) left me both incredibly surprised and incredibly deflated (because it involved a character I’d come to love).  I’m intrigued to see how this all plays out in the sequel (that’s too far away) but I’m definitely in this series for however long Marie Lu wants to write it.

 

Waste of Space by Gina Damico

28473381Waste of Space
Gina Damico
Goodreads

Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

Review:

Waste of Space is a harmless, fun little book.  I’ve always enjoyed Gina Damico’s brand of humor and heart so I was pretty excited to read her latest.  This book is a little heavier on the humor and lighter on the heart.  It’s still good but I think the  book suffers just a bit from having such a large cast of characters that you can’t really fall in love with any of them.  There’s just not a lot of background on any of them.  You get brief insights, little visits to their pasts and some slivers of their backgrounds but no one is really fully developed.

Still, I laughed quite a bit.  The book takes the reality television craze and shoves every single stereotypical character into it and revels in how cliche and predictable reality television can be.  There’s the requisite villain, the quiet one, the disabled one, the minority, etc etc.  Everyone is a caricature of their ‘trait’ and, thankfully, the book moves fast enough and doesn’t focus too much on that to make it offensive or boring.

The ending of the book threw me for a bit of a loop because, up until then, it had been a funny and superficial romp.  It had been funny and witty and, at times, poignant but the ending was actually very serious and sad.  It wasn’t bad by any means and I could see where it was coming from as I thought about the whole novel once I’d finished reading but, at the time, it made me tilt my head.

Still, it’s a good, funny book.  Perfect for a quick read or to decompress after reading something heavy and angsty.

Want by Cindy Pon

32333174Want
Cindy Pon
Goodreads

Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

Review:

What a good, good book.  I wasn’t sure, at first, how what read as a light plot (boy from the streets is given a chance to infiltrate the ranks of the rich in order to bring them down from the inside) could sustain a three hundred plus page book but Cindy Pon wove a beautifully poignant story with vivid characters and evocative, gorgeous prose that really brought Taipei to life.

One of my favorite aspects of this (and any book, really) is the found family trope.  This book centers around a close knit group of friends who truly care for each other, who love each other and support each other.  There’s no angst, no drama within their circle and nothing that threatens to rip their family apart.  They all need each other for different reasons and I felt those emotions to the bone.  It was beautifully written.

This was one of the few books I’ve read where I wanted it to be longer. I  would have loved a few hundred extra pages that focused on Pon’s stellar cast of supporting characters (Iris and Lingyi specifically) but I was glad to get what I got and I’m even more pleased that a sequel is in the works though it’s far out.

 

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

30226723King’s Cage
Victoria Aveyard
Goodreads

In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

 

Review:

The third installment in Aveyard’s Red Queen series, King’s Cage starts fast and never stops.  I’m pretty much biased because I’ve really enjoyed this series since book one but this was a tense, violent, heartbreaking edition to the series.  While I really do like the characters of Mare and Cal, I was so so so excited to see my favorite character, Evangeline Samos, getting a much expanded part in this book.  With the way the book ended, it looks like she might be an even bigger part of the fourth book which is, sadly, set to be released in 2018.  That’s such a long, long wait.

I really enjoyed the exploration of Mare and Maven’s relationship.  It’s an awful, horrible, codependent thing (more so on Maven’s side than Mare’s) but there are also those very, very brief flashes of softness and, strangely enough, love that makes me want them to kiss and make up before realizing what I’m hoping for and slapping myself in the face.

The battle scenes were vivid and visceral, putting me in the midst of the chaos at Corvium.  My only quibble there was that it ended very abruptly as I would have liked to see the effect House Samos, House Iral, and House Lerolan had on the battle.

But, there’s another book coming so I’ll hope for more there.  More Evangeline too.  And hopefully much more of Maven getting his comeuppance.

 

 

Ill Will by Dan Chaon

30687788Ill Will
Dan Chaon
Goodreads

Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves,” Dustin Tillman likes to say. It’s one of the little mantras he shares with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to symbolize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients gets him deeply engaged in a string of drowning deaths involving drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses talk of a serial killer as paranoid thinking, but as he gets wrapped up in their amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.

From one of today’s most renowned practitioners of literary suspense, Ill Will is an intimate thriller about the failures of memory and the perils of self-deception. In Dan Chaon’s nimble, chilling prose, the past looms over the present, turning each into a haunted place.

Review:

What a shit pile.  Honestly, I struggled through this book to the point that I thought about putting it down several times and not finishing it.  There were no characters that I connected with, the plots were convoluted and unnecessarily melodramatic and there were chapters where the writing was written in stupid columns that made it hard to read and just pissed me off.  I’m sure it was done to be cutesy and different but it just annoyed me and I was already annoyed with the book at that time.

The only thing that got this book two stars was one of the twists at the end of the book.  Of course, said twist went unresolved so the author could give an ~ ambiguous ~ ending on EVERY SINGLE PLOT LINE HE SHOVED INTO THIS STUPIDLY LONG BOOK.

I think I probably would have been more satisfied putting the book down and marking it DNF than to muddle through and ending up with the denouement I received.  Just boring and dull and dumb.

 

 

Silent Child by Sarah Denzil

33984070Silent Child
Sarah Denzil
Goodreads

In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son’s red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year – a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned. 


His body was never recovered. 
Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She’s married, pregnant, and in control again…

… until Aiden returns. 

Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken. 
As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime?

It’s Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable.

This dark and disturbing psychological novel will appeal to fans of The Widow and The Butterfly Garden.

Review:

I think this book could have been a lot better if it was about fifty pages shorter.  It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination but the climax was dragged out a bit and really didn’t need to be as I’d guessed the culprit about a hundred pages prior.

The book also suffered from nearly making Emma, the protagonist, unlikable to a degree that I wanted to kick her in the face.  Luckily, the author dialed back some of the things she did that made me want to punch her but I still didn’t very much care for her by the book’s end.

Despite all the things that didn’t work for me about this book, the overall mystery was intriguing enough that it kept me interested enough to continue reading.  There was one small twist at the end that caught me off guard, made me mutter ‘oh fuck me’ but everything else was pretty predictable in a harmless sort of way.