Review for ‘House of Ash’ by Hope Cook

House of AshHouse of Ash by Hope Cook

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.
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For whatever reason, I hate the word ‘copse’. There’s no real reason why I should hate word, but I do, so that didn’t help when reading a book that keeps identifying a ‘copse’ of trees as the place where strange things begin to happen to one of our MCs, Curtis. The word just kept being used, and I kept cringing whenever it’d pop up on the page. I really do not like the word copse.

Why don’t I move on from that…

House of Ash is one of those books that you can’t help but feel like you’ve heard the story before, maybe not in this exact sense, but in some form or other. For instance, the idea of a boy and girl, both on opposite sides of time, who happen to see each other in some way (a mirror, in this book), fall for each other, and feel the need to save one or the other. Then, there’s the very real potential that one may be actually suffering from a mental illness, imagining things, because a parent of said one may be suffering themselves. Oh, and did I mention that there’s an evil house? A house that listens, and must be stopped at all costs?
Yup, same ol’, same ol’.

Even though the author’s bio says she has drawn from her personal experience with mental illness, I don’t feel like this book was meant to really address what mental illness really does to people. If it was, then I didn’t quite get that from this book. Curtis’ father is mentally ill, and his illness seems to only exist to explain why Curtis might be suddenly hearing things like voices, and to possibly explain why his home life is so rough, leading to his having some extreme behavior in a variety of circumstances in this book. Yeah, so if you’re looking to really read up on mental illness, this is not the book for that.

Moving on from the very real problems that mental illness can invoke, we should now talk about the supernatural aspect of this book. The girl in the mirror. Is she real, or is she a figment of Curtis’ imagination? This is where the supernatural part comes into play. Curtis is seeing the image of a girl who was very real, but how? Especially since we know that the girl, Mila, perished in 1894 in a fire that descimated a very large estate to the ground, along with anyone else who may have been in the home. So we have a ghosty mirror, along with a ghosty girl, and therefore we have ghosty-ness, though it all plays out to be on the bland side. I mean, Mila’s step-father is supposed to be a large reason behind why things ended up the way they did when it comes to her death and the fire, but honestly, he is such an absent villain. It’s like he appears at times, goes BOO!, then heads off to wait till the next time he’ll come around again to instill some sort of fear into Mila. His villainy is pretty boring, and the explanation for why he does the things he does is also pretty boring.

I feel like I should also mention the characters in regards to what I thought of them in general. Starting with Curtis, I’ll say that he is a very angry person, as well as someone who’s very torn as to address issues with others. He doesn’t want to confide in his best friend, and being that there’s no one else for him to do so to, he’s pretty much screwed. So, yeah, this just leads to him being angry all the time. He finds some drive in his research of Mila and the burned down estate of Gravenhearst, but even then, he’s mediocre at research, so his best friend has to help him, but still, he’d rather not confide in the guy, humph. Now that I’ve given you a sort of condensed description of him, I’ll say that I find Curtis to be boring/annoying. Seriously, one day he happens to come across a clearing of strange trees, hears weird voices, and that’s how this book comes about. Not sure if there was absolutely no chance that he wouldn’t have come upon said clearing anytime before in his life, but now is the time for everything to happen, it would seem. Okay, so even if I were to accept that and move on, I still can’t stand Curtis’ personality in general. He just seemed kind of douchey to me, and I’m not a fan of such people.

Now for Mila. Mila’s account begins with her journey/arrival to Gravenhearst, originally with her mother and sister, as well. Yadda, yadda, her mom disappears, then her sister, and now Mila is left to figure out what her step-father, and the evil house, wants from her. Mila isn’t awful, and I found her to be more tolerable than her male counterpart, but that doesn’t really mean anything if you dislike the guy so much, so I’ll leave it at that.

Finally, when it comes to the way this book ended?? It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t really that entertaining. There are no cliffhangers, so the end is the end, but maybe this book could have benefited from a horror movie-style ending? Shrug, we’ll never know.

I gave this book two stars because as much as I didn’t really care for it, I felt it was readable, and it didn’t take me too long to read, so that’s definitely a plus in my book. Being that I didn’t really care for this book, I won’t be personally recommending it.

Thank you to Amulet Books, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Boyfriend Swap’ by Meredith Schorr

The Boyfriend SwapThe Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary provided by publisher:
Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flakey actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.
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When I had first stumbled onto this read, I was intrigued by the idea of two women swapping boyfriends, and honestly, how it was that they could even get to such a point. You’d assume that at least one person in this quartet would object—because they’re normal—but no, not in The Boyfriend Swap. In fact, the one who initially objects is surprisingly easy to convince, and soon enough, the two women are off on their holiday trips home, fake boyfriend in tow. Which seems ridiculously easy, right? But I’m happy to say that I don’t care, because I really ended up liking this book, and happily accepted anything Meredith Schorr threw at me.

Like, for example, the fact that Robin’s boyfriend would happen to be Lucy’s childhood crush?? I live for coincidences like these that throw people together! It makes it all the better when Lucy brings Will back to her childhood home, and she’s having to pretend she’s in a relationship with him, all while having to pretend that she doesn’t have actual feelings for him… Yes, I just couldn’t help but love the easy way Lucy and Will got along with each other, and the plain fact that it was just easy.

Robin and Perry (Lucy’s boyfriend) were interesting in a different way. Perry was supposed to be someone her parents would easily forget so that when Robin “broke up with him”, it wouldn’t matter. But Perry doesn’t do forgettable, so instead, the whole family ends up falling for him when they meet him, and that leads to Robin trying to find ways to sabotage this growing relationship Perry seems to be having with her family, though things don’t go quite how she expects them to.

I did find the characters to be endearing, and enjoyed their interactions with each other. I especially liked Perry’s character. He was surprisingly kind and thoughtful when you least expected it, and though I won’t go too deep into his role due to spoilers, I will say that he was definitely a big part in helping Robin figure some important things out.

In conclusion, I really did like this book (though I had to knock off a star because of how long it took me to finish this book because I’d had a hard time wanting to get back to it when I’d put it aside for the day) and the whole rom/com aspect of it. I really feel like this book would be the perfect screenplay for a chick flick, and being that I’m a sucker for chick lit and chick flicks, I’d totally watch it.

I would definitely recommend this to you if you’d enjoyed the movie The Holiday, since it invokes similar feels.

Thank you to Henery Press, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Mini Review of ‘Julia Vanishes’ by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes (Witch's Child, #1)Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time.

I really hate to say this, but this book really wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe something along the lines of Witch Hunter, because of the whole ‘magic being outlawed, witches will be killed’ theme they both shared, but unfortunately, Julia Vanishes just didn’t interest me as much as the former had.

Because the character of Julia has the ability to go “unseen” by those around her, I was kind of assuming there’d be some life or death situations that would really highlight that ability. Sure, there were some instances when she had to go “unseen”, they just weren’t really all that exciting to me. I’m personally a sucker for characters with cool abilities, and seeing them use these abilities in really cool, epic ways, but Julia just fell flat for me, and just plain annoyed me. She also annoyed me because of her infatuation with a boy (whose name I can’t even remember right now) who never seemed to give 100% to their relationship–or even 50%. The guy was just lousy when you have so many better guys to compare him to in YA books.

Moving on from Señor Douche-face
(Okay, so he wasn’t that bad, I just happen to use the term ‘douche’ pretty freely when it comes to people (or characters) I do not care for.)

I feel like there was an attempt to make the world in Julia Vanishes unique, which was good on the author, but I feel like there was just too much info dumping going on. The information given just bored me, and when it went into the history of some magical beings and their crazy, fantastical names–I was ready to toss this book aside. The only reason I finished it is because I’d come too far to back out, and kept secretly hoping it’d get better for me. Nope. It didn’t.

I think at this point it’s safe to say I’m not personally going to recommend this one.

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Review of ‘Daughter of the Pirate King, #1’ by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King (Daughter of the Pirate King, #1)Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fun, action-packed adventure that show that strength can come in any form!

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Alosa, daughter of the infamous Pirate King, has been sent on a mission to find a map that should lead to a historic, almost mythical, treasure trove, but in order to complete this mission, she’ll first need to search the ship the map is supposedly on – that of the young Captain Draxen – and leading to her capture.
Once on the ship, Alosa has no problem getting around the crew whenever she needs to search the ship, but she doesn’t count on the first mate Riden, who is able to hold his own against her, nor does she count on the attraction she seems to be feeling towards him…
But Alosa is determined, and being who she is, she has no plans to allow for anyone to stop her from completing such an important mission.
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This really was an entertaining read for me, and I absolutely loved the character of Alosa! She was strong, smart, and oh-so-clever! This cleverness helped her more than a few times in this book, and was very much needed when Alosa and the crew of Captain Draxen’s ship come up against a very dangerous predicament. I really can’t wait to read the next book and see more of her cause she’s just so cool!

Riden was also fantastic in his role of First Mate, as well as his part when it came to infuriating Alosa. He is also very smart, and this attributed to some fun conversations with Alosa, as well as a few different incidents that definitely were entertaining.

I really enjoyed the progression of this book, and even though it didn’t actually take place over a large period of time, it felt as if a lot was going on! A good majority of the story took place on Draxen’s ship, so though we’re working with one setting over this short period of time, Alosa was constantly on her toes doing all kinds of things – especially to Riden – to keep me entertained. I loved it!

All in all, I loved this book and definitely am looking forward to book 2!

Obviously I’m going to recommend this!

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Review of ‘Fiona’ by Meredith Moore

FionaFiona by Meredith Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I’d originally rated this book, I’d given it 5 stars, but after some time to think about it, I changed it to 4; though it probably doesn’t deserve even that much, I did finish it in one sitting, so that must mean I found it to be interesting, right? And being that it is supposed to be loosely based on the story of Jane Eyre, I couldn’t resist reading this.

Fiona, or Fee as she prefers to be called, is the Jane Eyre of this story. She is an American girl, product of a a deceased Scottish mother, and a musician father she has never known.

It’s while she’s living with her father’s uncaring sister, and working at a restaurant just to make enough money to get out of Dodge, that she is contacted by her late mother’s best friend in Scotland, Lily Mackenzie, and asked if she would like to go there and become the nanny of her daughter, Poppy. Fee accepts, and soon after makes her way to Scotland. Upon arriving, she learns that Lily and her husband have very recently died in a car accident, and her new employer is Poppy’s older brother Charlie.

Nothing interesting really happens (that I can remember) until Charlie shows up, and pretty much right away you can see the chemistry between him and Fee, but obviously we had to have our Blanche Ingram counterpart in the form of Charlie’s Blair, who is obviously up to no good as soon as she shows up and informs Charlie she is pregnant with his baby. Being the responsible guy he has decided to become after his parent’s deaths, he gets back together with Blair. Fee is heartbroken, but attempts to move on and a lose herself in doing her job.

Of course, we can’t forget that in Jane Eyre, there was the spookiness of the strange laughter at night, and the overall eeriness of Rochester’s home, so in this, Fee begins to hear strange whispers at night that appears to be coming from the walls. Now Fee is left to fear the strange things that have started to plague her, all while fighting her feelings for Charlie…who also appears to be fighting his as well.

Being such a fan of Jane Eyre, I was really interested in the idea of a modern retelling, and since it was a modern take, I’ll admit that I was relieved that Charlie was at least closer in age to Fee, because though the age difference may have worked in Victorian times, in these days, I can’t help but think of Hugh Hefner and that just does not interest me.

Right, so Charlie shows up, and being a reformed bad boy, he seems so wonderful of a love interest, but with Crazy Blair’s appearance, I grew frustrated with him. I don’t think he ever went on any baby appointments with her…mostly because I don’t think I remember her having any? I don’t know, but either way, how disconnected must you be if you don’t find it the least bit strange? I know he doesn’t care about Crazy Blair like he does Fee, but since he did resign himself to being with Crazy Blair (sorry, can’t think of her any other way), I feel like he should put forth some kind of effort, even if I incredibly dislike her. He’s the idiot who dated her.

Now, when it comes to the whispers in the walls, Fee’s reasons for not telling anyone about them is because of a secret she doesn’t want to reveal, but it only makes things worse for her. These parts frustrate me as well, and I can’t say I agree with the reasoning behind her need to keep silent.

Fee and Charlie, and especially Crazy Blair (!!!!) were all frustrating in their different ways, but I still did enjoy this book. I was surprised by a few things closing in on the end, which is another thing I couldn’t help but like about this book.

Overall, I did like the author’s interpretation of one my favorite books ever. There were a few things I could have lived without, but I ended up enjoying it enough to forgive those imperfections. I’d recommend this to any who were fans of Jane Eyre, or any who would like to read a modern, gothic romance.

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Review of ‘The Sun Is Also a Star’ by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a StarThe Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unpopular opinion time.

Okay, so I’ll be honest and admit that at times while reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel that it just tried too hard to be this amazing, transcendent love story. Sure, I did enjoy this book, but I just couldn’t stop thinking how unbelievable and over the top it could be!

Natasha and Daniel are our MCs, but included at times were the stories and outcomes of others who happened to come across either of the MCs.

Natasha is originally from Jamaica, having lived in America with her family long enough to have lost her accent, and feel that it is her home. But a mishap caused by her father now has them being deported back to Jamaica. It is while Natasha is attempting to find a way to stop her family from being sent away, that very night, that she meets Daniel, a first-generation Korean American on his way to an inter for what his parent’s call second-best school (first being Harvard, the school his perfect, but douchey older brother was a student of), Yale.

But it is by chance (a fluke, serendipity, they were meant to be, yada yada) that they meet, first intro being due to both catching Natasha’s ex-boy’s new girl and her thieving self in a record store, second when Daniel saves Natasha from getting hit by a car.

Theirs is not a mutual infatuation to start. Daniel is the one who decides he likes Natasha at first sight, while Natasha needs to be convinced he’s even worth getting to know.

Of course, it weighs heavy on her mind, the fact that her family are leaving that very day, but due to Daniel’s poetic, romantic heart, he’s able to break down her walls and soon we’re submerged into the ridiculous over the top romance I mentioned earlier.

Honestly, how many teenage guys are out there waiting to use poetry to combat a weary heart? Obviously it’s not impossible, I’m just cynical, so i have a hard time with this one.

Anyway, I just wasn’t really sure about Daniel and Natasha as a couple, not because of cultural or racial differences, but because their personalities were so radically different! Sure, we can use the old adage about opposites attracting, but I can’t help but personally feel it to be so unrealistic.

Then again, did I already mention I am somewhat a cynic when it comes to romantic love?

After all that, let’s try for some positivity now!

I do think that Nicola Yoon is a very good writer, and there’s definitely an intelligence in the way she puts her stories together, but maybe I’m just not a fan of sappy, contemporary romances? Or maybe it was just this book in particular that managed to rub me the wrong way? Shrug, I guess I’ll never know.

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Review of ‘The Creeper Man’ by Dawn Kurtagich

The Creeper ManThe Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So this book is described as a ‘spine-chilling psychological thriller’ and I have to say I somewhat agree.

Honestly, I couldn’t really make heads or tails of this book for most of it. I tried to picture what we’re being told, that the trees appear to be “creeping” closer to this house that MC Silla, her sister Nori, and her Aunt Cath live in. This was supposed to be a safe haven after the girls leave London (which is on the brink of a supposed World War 3) and an extremely abusive father, for the country home Aunt Cath lives in.

Now, back to the woods.
How is one to explain the fact that they are closing in on the home?
The same woods the girls are forbidden by Aunt Cath to go in?

I guess you’d have to imagine that house, or the trees, and they are slowly inching their way towards the other, though it’s likely when we’re not looking…like a Weeping Angel statue… (Kudos to those who get the reference 😉.)

Anyways, Silla soon has to deal with the knowledge of the creeping trees, and then there’s the fact that Aunt Cath has now locked herself away in the attic, and all she does is pace. Just paces…

Silla attempts to take care of her younger sister, but she’s slowly coming to the realization that food is running low, and being that they are cut off from the rest of the world, they’re likely not going to be getting any more any time soon. But if that isn’t bad enough (could it get any worse? (just channel Chandler Bing when asking that question) Yes, it can.), Silla is now all aware of a someone, or something, that Aunt Cath had warned her about… Something that Cath and her sisters had created as children… Something that was meant to be a savior, but quickly proved to not be…and it is in the woods, yes, the very woods with the trees that creep ever nearer…

I feel that I can now say that this book does reside in the psychological category in the way that you keep wondering, what the heck is going on in this story?
Why does Silla leave Aunt Cath alone to pace the attic?
Why does Silla wander the house and grounds with no discernible purpose?
And why doesn’t Silla take her sister and leave?

Sure, there’s the fact that she’s afraid of the woods, doesn’t want to leave her aunt, and has no idea if World War 3 had in fact erupted or not – oh, and the Creeper Man in the trees – but as you read, you find that there must be something else tying her to the house, and that is one of the main reasons I was so enthralled with this book.

Silla was by no means a likable character for me. But there was something intriguing about her so I had to find out why she did the things she did, and the reasoning behind her thoughts.
Then, when I got to the end and found out…it blew my mind! Mostly because I felt like I should have known how this story was going to end. But since I didn’t, I was pleasantly surprised, and really have to say that I liked this book!

I did dock a star because sometimes I would get annoyed with the way the typeset was being used to express Silla’s feelings and thoughts, so if she was thinking it, the same words could be repeated, taking up an entire page that I would obviously have to skip. Or a variety of sizes would be used in the font, making me feel like I do when people use all caps to stress (or yell) their points. Something of which I’m finding I’m not very fond of. Basically, I’m just not a fan of aggressive font and wasted pages.

Anyway, overall I did very much enjoy this book, and will gladly recommend it to fans of creepy, psychological thrillers!

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