Review for ‘The Art of Hiding’ by Amanda Prowse

The Art of HidingThe Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like The Art of Hiding had me engaged from the very start! In only a matter of pages, Nina McCarrick goes from being a stereotypical Stepford Wife and mother, to becoming a widow who is now all alone in raising her two children. But, things go from bad to worse when she finds out that not only is her husband’s company in debt, but she now is, as well. Forced to leave the immense and beautiful family home and move back to the small town she’d left behind, she eventually must learn what it is to take control of her life as well as make sure to raise her children to be successful and upstanding citizens. Not that she doesn’t have a lot on her plate already…
I can’t say that I was happy with Nina at first. I do know that it’s because she chose to be the perfect stay-at-home mom – she chose her role and chose to allow her husband Finn to control everything financially – that she ends up facing the repercussions of not knowing how badly things had become within the business. They were in major debt! She had no idea because she’d wanted to believe that her husband was doing what he’d promised to do, take care of her. So then she’s sitting there, not knowing what to do. She’s even unable to access bank accounts because she has no idea what the passwords and pins are, because that was Finn’s job. Ugh. I just couldn’t stand how…small, she appeared to be, and I hated that she didn’t seem to care! In a day and age when women are stronger than ever, it’s sad to see a character be the complete opposite. So, though I was initially unhappy with Nina, I kept on reading, and am glad I did, because I really ended up like this, and even Nina herself!

Moving to the small town she came from (not sure what the name of it was) with her two children, we learn from Nina’s sister that once upon a time, Nina was a dedicated worker who was able to make her own money. I feel like it’s somewhat stereotypical to have a character essentially “go home” in order to “better themselves”, but I really did enjoy reading this story. I liked seeing Nina’s growth, and seeing her finally relax and actually allow herself to make friends and appreciate that she doesn’t have to do everything on her own.

When it comes to Nina’s relationship with her children, I really felt for her in those times when the two didn’t seem to appreciate her in the way they did their father. The eldest, Connor, pretty much worshipped his father in the way boys are prone to do. Connor happens to be a talented rugby player who wants to impress his father and become a successful, professional athlete one day. His father isn’t at all his matches, but though he’s disappointed, he accepts these moments. Now that his father is gone, though, he lashes out at his mother, because the other parent isn’t exactly there to pin any blame on. Nina is quite patient with the anger, and does all she can to help ease the pain, though honestly, she’s hurting, as well. Her second child, Declan, doesn’t come across as being as difficult, nor moody, as Connor, but that could be because he’s not a teenager, possibly. I don’t remember exactly when and what it was, but I do remember an instance in which Declan somehow didn’t feel that something his mother did was as good as his father, but I honestly can’t quite remember exactly what it was. It only stayed with me because I know Nina reacted with hurt, and I felt bad for her. All in all, I couldn’t help but feel sad that Nina wasn’t treated very well by her children, and feel that they took her for granted.

Thank the lord, though, that Nina’s character finally has some real growth when she gets a job and when she allows herself to meet and speak to other people. Even her children notice the change, and appreciate her hard work and attempts at making a better life for them, even with the family’s new limitations.

But not only is their growth for her, but her boys, as well. I can appreciate the changes in the boys, especially in Connor’s case, but I won’t delve into that, since some things still need to be left for you to discover.

I really did like this book in the end, and feel that it overcame the annoying stereotypes that I’d originally thought it would be, so for me, this was definitely a successful read, and I would gladly recommend it!

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing, via Netgalley, for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Random Review of ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

The Retribution of Mara DyerThe Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’d originally read this book closer to it’s original publication (which was around two or three years ago), and for whatever reason, I remember liking it more than I do now. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve read the same cliches so many more times since then, but this book (this series, really) is so stereotypical, that I could’t get past how annoying it really was the second time around.

I’ll admit that I did enjoy the first two books–cliches aside–and even rated them fairly well, but man, this last book underwhelmed me, and honestly, if I hadn’t already known the series continued with The Becoming of Noah Shaw, I would have probably hated the ending more.

Why did I feel this way?

Because the first two books seemed to have all this build up, all this mystery, that promised what would be some very interesting answers, but when the answers came, seriously, I was so disappointed by how unfulfilling they were. They were revelations, sure, but I personally thought them stupid, and oh-so-typical of YA, in the sense of needing to make things more “tragic” than necessary…more “over the top”, so that our emotions will be more invested. Well, I’m pretty sure the emotions the author was hoping for probably weren’t annoyance and disappointment, but that could just be me, and I can’t speak for the general population.

Anyway, what else could I mention…? There was a good amount of purple prose that I was okay with initially, but started disliking when events and the people involved in them started annoying me. Because they’re tied up with spoilers, I won’t pinpoint particular moments, but let’s just say there were moments where I was rolling my eyes, or cringing at the cheesy, overly flowery writing…

At this point, what did I like? Right? I liked friendships…I liked getting answers (even if the answers themselves sucked)…and…?? I think I’ll just end it there, since I’m not sure there’s really much more for me to mention, in regards to things I actually liked.

If I was going to rate the trilogy as a whole, I’d probably rate it a 3.5, because of my liking the first two well enough, but as a whole, I don’t really like it all that much, so on that note, not one I will be personally recommending.

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Review of ‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’ by Stephanie Perkins

There's Someone Inside Your HouseThere’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Synopsis provided by publisher:

Love hurts…

Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.
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Okay, so though I’m a fan of horror, it tends to be more along the lines of supernatural. I love me a good, ghostly thrill! But when it comes to slashers, I’m not really the biggest fan. Most of my experience obviously comes from films involving teens being murdered by either the undead, out for revenge, or by other teens, who also may be out for revenge. If I were to pick one slasher film series I’d enjoyed, it’d have to be Scream, and that’s likely showing how inexperienced I am when it comes to slashers.

So, knowing this about me, I’m not sure I’m the best judge when it comes to this book, but I’ll go ahead and give the reasons as to why I didn’t really care for this one.

1. The Main Character:
Makani has to be the one of the most boring/annoying MCs I’ve had the (dis)pleasure to read about, ever. She’s brought forth as a biracial girl from Hawaii (check out her name! It’s Hawaiian! *please note the sarcasm) with a dark past, who ends up in cornfield-ridden Nebraska. While I appreciate that Perkins introduced an ethnic girl as the MC of this novel, I just didn’t really end up caring about her all that much. I didn’t feel like enough was given in regards to character-growth (and that could have been intentional on Perkins’ part, due to wanting to give the story a sense of right now in terms of the plot), but this ultimately led to my not really feeling compassionate for her, in her tumultuous times.

2. The “dark past”:
Seriously, when I find out the reason Makani moved to Nebraska, I couldn’t help but feel like it just didn’t really make sense. Sure, what happened was wrong on many levels, but I was sort of expecting something…different. I can’t really say more without giving anything away, but I will say that what happened just feels disappointing, and not really menacing enough for a slasher.

3. The reveal of the serial killer:
I’d made it maybe 70% of the way through the book – and the killer is revealed.
I’ll admit I had no idea who the killer would turn out to be, but I feel like it could have possibly been more suspenseful if the reveal had been put off till the end. Then again, I’m not sure that would have really made a big difference, since I wasn’t impressed with the reveal in the first place…

4. The murders:
Okay, so yes, we have the stereotypical stabby deaths, but the way the serial killer menaced the victims was really cheesy. Like, for example, the first victim, who is unsettled by an egg-timer (yes, an egg-timer), because not only is she finding it in strange places, but it’s described as ‘smooth, white, and innocuous’…obviously I find this description to be so terrifying! (Insert eye roll here.)

And finally:

5. The stupid romance:
I didn’t really care for Ollie, and didn’t find him to be all that interesting, though the way he’s described, I feel like we’re supposed to feel that he’s interesting. Because yeah, dyeing your hair pink and having a lip ring is really all it takes to be edgy these days.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book. It wasn’t the worst I’d read, thus the generous rating of 2 stars, but it was just not what I’d hoped for when it comes to a slasher/thriller. Besides the descriptions of each of the murders – and the moments leading to each death – there really aren’t any true, horrifying moments in this book. And honestly? I’m not sure the murders were all that scary, either.

I will not be recommending this one.

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Review of ‘Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)’ by Cinda Williams Chima

Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1)Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To start off, I have to admit that I hadn’t read the Seven Realms series that proceeded this one, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s still readable without prior knowledge from the former–though I’m sure you’d probably have more ‘A-ha’ moments if you had…
Anyway, even without having read the former series, I have to say that I really enjoyed this book and will likely be delving into the Seven Realms books in the near future.

Flamecaster was everything I could have wanted in a fantasy novel (not that I’ve actually read very many), and I’ll go ahead and list a few reasons why:

1. With my first reason, I’ll say that I can be pretty simple at times, and I think one of those moments came into play with the fact that I could actually read a majority of the characters’ names!! I tend to be a bit put off by so many authors and their inherent need for characters to have the most ridiculous names you can think up, so it was refreshing to read a book where Ash (Adrian) and Jenna were the names of the MCs! Sure, there are names like Taliesin, and Ash’s last name is sul’Han, but they’re still considerably easier to pronounce than some of the names I’ve come across before… Now that I’ve gone off on a tangent about names, let’s move on!

2. This being my first read from Cinda Williams Chima, I have to say that I really loved reading about this world she’d created. It was easy to navigate through, and you end up learning bits and pieces about the different kingdoms as you’re reading, leaving you both curious and excited to learn more as the series continues on. I’m not going to go into detail about what I found to be interesting, because of spoilers, but I will say that it concerns a certain geographic area called the Northern Islands… All in all, I just loved this magical world, and really look forward to learning more about the different realms.

3. MCs that I actually liked! Ash is awesome in his role as an ‘assassin hiding in plain view‘. He’s bent on revenge, but the revenge is extremely hard to follow through with when it’s against a king who is very well-guarded. So of course he must take on a role that can earn the king’s trust–that of a royal healer. He’s very skilled, but it’s his magic that first draws the attention of the king, and though I won’t go into that, I will say that the way he does so is very interesting and I can’t wait to see more from him.
Then we have Jenna. I loved Jenna’s intelligence, and I loved the fact that she knew all sorts of things when it comes to blowing things up! She ends up being imprisoned in the aforementioned king’s castle, and that’s when a lot of the exciting things really start happening!!

*The one thing that I didn’t quite care for:

4. The romance was a little meh. It’s a bit too ‘insta-lovey‘ to me, but since it doesn’t happen till later in the book, it didn’t overwhelm, so I’m able to forgive and move past it. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t end up becoming cringe-worthy in the next book!

In conclusion, besides the meh romance, I really liked this book and would recommend it if you’re looking for a well-written fantasy starring characters with beautifully normal names.

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Review of ‘Caraval (Caraval, #1) by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Caraval by Stephanie Garber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Though I have several reviews I should be doing before this, I figured since it’s a popular one right now, I’ll go ahead and write one up now.

As I’d already mentioned, popularity-wise, Caraval was a highly anticipated read that seemed to have cropped up everywhere. The ARC seemed to be on everyone’s social media pages.

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In Caraval, Scarlett Dragna – protagonist and protective older sister – is desperate to leave Trisda the island she’s grown up on with her sister Tella, as well as her abusive father, and she’s finally going to be able to, due to an arranged marriage with a Count from another land.
Before this engagement, Scarlett had always dreamed of being able to attend Caraval with her sister. Caraval, run by the mysterious man only known by the name Legend, is known to be a spectacular performance that involves their audience in the play, and this show only happens once a year, making it even more special.
Though Scarlett had written to Legend every year, hoping for him to bring Caraval to Trisda, but there was never a reply, so she eventually concedes to moving on.
But this year, the invitation has finally come, and though Scarlett initially has no plans of going, Tella convinces her to, so with the help of a young sailor named Julian, someone they only recently had become acquainted with, they make their way to the island Caraval is being staged on. Then, not long after arriving, Tella is kidnapped by Legend, and Scarlett finds out that this years performance is centered on Tella, and each participant is tasked with finding her.
Scarlett, though, is just desperate to find her sister, and hopefully be back in time for her wedding. So she begins the search, soon finding out that Caraval, with all its mystery and splendor, is really quite devious, and clues aren’t always what they seem. The dangers she experiences may be real, but then again, they may not be, it’s up to Scarlett to decide for herself.
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I’ll begin with saying that I found this book to be pretty exciting. I enjoyed how fast-paced it was, and how something seemed to happen in every chapter, which definitely helped in keeping me enamored.
I also enjoyed reading about the magical dress that could transform according to one’s mood.
Another thing I liked, was reading about the different performers involved in Caraval, and the different things that made these performers so mysterious, sometimes even scary (not in the ‘BOO’ sense, but in the ‘walking down a dark alley at night with a stranger following you’ type of way).

Now, when it comes to Scarlett, I’m a bit torn. I liked her. I liked that she cared so much for her sister, that she would go ridiculously above and beyond to find/save her. But then again, I also kind of disliked her. I disliked that she cared so much for her sister, that she would go ridiculously above and beyond to find/save her.

Tella is obviously the more impulsive sister, and tends to do things without thinking much of consequences; whereas Scarlett takes more time thinking the matter over, and ends up bailing her sister out of many nasty situations. So, though I said I liked the way Scarlett cared about her sister, it also got to be a bit obnoxious for me. It soon became annoying to hear Scarlett risking so much, including her own chance at happiness, because she had to take care of her little sister. I feel like maybe I should be a bit more apathetic about Scarlett’s feelings, but honestly, I just don’t want to be. I’d rather be annoyed and tell myself I can’t deal with characters being so self-sacrificing for my own selfish reasons.

As I’m closing in on the end of this review, I feel I should mention a little in regards to the romance part of this book.
At times, it was subtle, then at others, it was – boom! – in your face. Now let me remind you that there is still that fiancĂ© of Scarlett’s, so whether anything flourishes or not, I won’t say, you’ll just have to read the book.
And yes, I recommend you do so.

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Review of ‘Vicarious (Vicarious, #1)’ by Paula Stokes

Vicarious (Vicarious, #1)Vicarious by Paula Stokes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vicarious was the unfortunate victim of a reading slump, but though it took longer than usual for me to read, I actually did enjoy this book.

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In Vicarious, we have MC Winter Kim (so cool seeing an Asian protagonist!!!!) one of several employed y Gideon to record Virtual Reality (think Samsung VR) experiences for those willing to pay for something they’d likely be unable to, or never do.
Rose, Winter’s carefree sister, disappears one day, and a VR recording shows up with what appears to be her murder. Winter, who survived human trafficking with the strength and aide of Rose, can’t allow Rose’s death to go unanswered, so it only makes sense that she’d want to find justice.
But as she’s discovering different clues, they seem to conflict with each other, and Winter is left to wonder what’s real, and what isn’t.
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Set in a futuristic St. Louis, I like that this was a more realistic dystopian. The VR devices, called ‘Vicarious Sensory Experiences (ViSE) for the fact that your own senses are triggered to make the experiences all the more real.
I feel like it is entirely possible we may see such devices one day, considering there are similar devices already in existence (though not as complex, obviously). I think a lot this realism is what helped me like this book all the more.

Next, I’d like to touch upon how much I loved the diverse characters!!! We have an Asian MC, and a Hispanic love-interest. Jesse Ramirez is also a ViSE recorder, and he happens to very much like Winter, though she doesn’t exactly give off approachable vibes. But considering her past, it’s understandable why she wouldn’t want people getting close. With Jesse, I liked how he was so kind and patient towards Winter. He never tried to pressure her to feel anything for him, though it’s obvious he really really liked her. *Gushing* He’s such a a good guy.

Anyway, in conclusion, Vicarious was a good book, and I’m happy to recommend it.

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Review of ‘Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames, #1)’ by Julie Cross

Chasing Truth (Eleanor Ames, #1)Chasing Truth by Julie Cross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are looking for a suspenseful/contemporary/mystery/romance (check out all those adjectives…), then definitely check out Chasing Truth from Julie Cross!

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In Chasing Truth, Eleanor Ames is attempting to live the normal life of a teen, having left behind her con artist past. But then her best friend Simon(the only real friend she’s ever really had) commits suicide after their school’s homecoming dance, Ellie is sure there’s more to his death.

It’s while she’s doing some investigating that she finds herself repeatedly bumping into Miles Beckett, and though she finds herself annoying attracted to him and his slightly cocky attitude, she’s suspicious of the fact that he also appears to be investigating Simon’s death.

With all her suspicions, Ellie knows it’s not wise to trust Miles, but she also knows that it’s smart to keep him close so she can keep an eye on him, though she may be falling for Simon’s possible murderer.
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I have never read any of Julie Cross‘ books before, but if the humor in this is indicative of what to expect from her other books, I’ll have to check out more from her!

I also have never been shy about my love of characters with quick wits, and Ellie is definitely quick-witted. She’s funny, subtle at times, and not cheesy, since I typically hate cheesy humor. I loved how quick she was with comebacks (a lot of times at Miles’ expense, ha ha), and she was very clever – which you’d sort of expect of someone whose life had revolved around cons – the cleverness being handy whenever she’d needed an out from a situation, or whenever she needed to explain her suspicious actions.
Honestly, I think it’s because I’m jealous of these quick-witted types, and that’s why I tend to like them so much.

I really enjoyed the character of Miles as well. I loved that he was this hot, smart guy who could still get embarrassed or shy when coming up against our clever heroine. His interactions with her were so fun, I loved how she could annoy him with her constant jokes and teasing, but he still wanted to be around her, it was super cute.

Can I also say how much I really liked Ellie’s sister Harper’s secret-service agent boyfriend Aiden?? (Did you get all that?) Aiden was such an awesome guy. He obviously cared a ton for Harper, but it was so nice seeing how much he cared about Ellie and her well-being/safety. He was very protective and played a large part in Ellie’s investigation, though it wasn’t really by choice, but more so because he really was like an older bother to her.

Now, the mystery itself was well done in my opinion, and Ellie being a former con artist really brought two very different worlds together. I mean, whoever thought a con man/woman would ever really care about seeking justice? Sure, you can think it’s because she just wants to make up for her past, redeem herself in a way, but it’s mostly because of how much she had grown to care for Simon, so she couldn’t stand to see his death go down as a suicide, when it just couldn’t have been. The different lessons she’d picked up in the past did help her out, so it did actually work in her favor, giving her an advantage when it came to figuring out clues and a criminal’s mind, making for a more rounded story and explanations as to why a teen would know so much, or be able to even think she could possibly investigate anything.

Anyway, I really liked this book, not enough to ‘five-star it’, but enough that I’ll be sure to check out the next Eleanor Ames book whenever it comes out, and possibly more of Julie Cross‘s books as well.

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