Review of ‘Toward a Secret Sky’ by Heather Maclean

Toward a Secret SkyToward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Even the lush depictions of Scotland couldn’t bring me to fall in love with this book.
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Synopsis from publisher:
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.
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This book had me torn when it came to actually decided whether or mother I liked it. The idea this book is centered on is pretty cool, what with there existing a secret organization to keep us lowly ones safe, as well as the promise of some code-breaking. But the “romance” (I cringe even thinking of it) is so ridiculous to me, that it played a large part in why I disliked this book.

Why don’t I first start with the good?

Call me cheesy, but I loved the idea of the American girl having to start over in a foreign country. Living with family she doesn’t know, maybe she’ll be able to find out more about the father she’d never known, and explore the Scottish countryside as well. And of course, she’ll fall for the handsome some of a Scottish laird, and the two will live happily ever after – once all conflicts and whatnot are cared for, of course.

The whole ‘secret codes and mysterious organization’ thing was an interesting part of the story, too. The former actually ended up playing only a small part unfortunately, but I did feel that it was well done and more clever than I could have been, attempting to crack a riddle-like code.
When it comes to the mysterious organization, we do get an explanation of its existence, as well as learning of some of its members, but again, those moments are seldom, and I wish we could’ve gone deeper into its missions or pretty much anything interesting, really.

So…now on to the bad/annoying.

I usually am the biggest sucker when it comes to romance, typically loving even the super cheesy stuff, but Maren‘s infatuation/instalove when it comes to Gavin is so ridiculous! When she first meets him, she swoons, falling to her knees because he’s so good-looking. Then, whenever she’s in his presence, all she can think about is how hot he is, yadda yadda. This goes on for pretty much the whole book, to the point where I was actually cringing at her excessive descriptions.
Honestly, the “romance” was one of the worst things I had to deal with when reading this book.

Finally, when the book seems close to having a satisfying wrap-up, we’re given more conflict, and something terrible happens in Maren’s life. This terrible thing bothered me because I didn’t really feel it had to have happened, and of course it leads to more terrible things and me hating the last 2o% of this book. I’m guessing that the way this book ended, there’s going to be a book 2, though I hadn’t seen anything listed on Goodreads. Seriously though, if there isn’t a book 2, I’m going to really hate this book even more in the future.

I’ll only recommend this if you can get past the annoying instalove and really would like to read a book that has mentions of secret organizations and codes.

Thank you to the publishers at Blink via NetGalley for giving this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Book Jumper’ by Mechthild Gläser

The Book JumperThe Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The idea that you could literally jump in to a book and interact with the characters was really attractive to this bibliophile, but unfortunately, this story managed to fall flat for me.

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It’s not long after Amy Lennox and her mother Alexis leave Germany for Alexis’ childhood home in rural Scotland, that it is revealed Amy is a book jumper, as her mother had been, as well as the grandmother Amy had never before met, Lady Mairead.
For reasons I will not mention, Alexis had fled Scotland before Amy was born, therefore Amy had no idea her mother used to live in a castle, and never knew of the gift her prestigious family had either.
Being a book jumper, Amy is tasked (along with fellow jumpers, the Macalister cousins, Betsy and Will) with the job of protecting literature, basically making sure that a story plays out as it is supposed to, and not interfering unless an emergency situation should arise.
All appears to be going as it should, until Amy realizes ideas and key points are being stolen from the books she visits, and to top it off, her own life appears to be in danger as well! With Will’s help, Amy sets out to figure who is behind the missing items, and hopefully do so before entire stories are destroyed, or before she herself ends up a victim.
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Okay, so I wanted to expand on my earlier mention of book jumpers being able to interact with the characters from the books they jump in to.
A book jumper must stay in the background of a story and not bring attention to oneself when observing. But when a character’s scene concludes, and if not needed for the next, the book jumper is allowed to interact with the character. At times, Amy even brings a friend (named Werther, who belongs to some nondescript book) along to an area called The Margins, which was a no-man’s land where book characters liked to go and hang out with each other when not not currently appearing in a plot. So if I’m getting it right, the characters were only needed when their stories were currently being read by a reader, which otherwise left them free to roam, and free to chill with our MC.

Now, for our MC.
Amy is portrayed as the awkward, homely girl, yet she’s “special”. She’s able to do things unique to her, when it comes to book jumping, and therefore we have the stereotypical YA MC. I’ll admit that I can be a sucker for the stereotypes and most of the time, I am, but when it came to Amy, I just couldn’t be convinced. I think because this story progressed so quickly, and we didn’t really get to see much in regards of world-building or character-building, I felt she was pretty one-dimensional. She’d left behind a horrible incident in Germany, but though it’s mentioned a few times throughout the book, it seemed to only be included to show again how awkward and homely she is. You’re never given much time to really build any sympathy for her, and you’re never told how the situation came to be…it just happened. And honestly, even as the story progressed, I didn’t like her any more than before, which really ended up being a bummer.

Let’s Talk About Love
The romance was bleh. When Amy first shows up, Will is pretty indifferent towards her, but of course, Amy does, or says something that’s “special”, drawing his eye, and soon after, his heart. Will plays the part of the love-interest who has just experienced a tragic loss, so though he’s quite tortured and doesn’t want to book jump because of it, he agrees to help in the real world, because that’s what the main love-interest is supposed to do! He’s supposed to show that even when something horrible has happened, he’ll do whatever he can to show his girl how much he loves her! Bleh. Sorry, but no. I did not find their relationship to be interesting at all, and thought Amy could have had better chemistry with Shere Khan from The Jungle Book for all I cared…

Anyway, this book just didn’t do it for me. Story progression was strange, world-building pretty much non-existent, and the characters were just too dull and unlikable for me. Don’t even get me started again on that romance…

Sorry, but this is not one I’m going to personally recommend.

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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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Monday Edition of #currentreads

I’ve missed my last two Monday updates, had my cousin’s wedding to go in California, and was down there for a few weeks, though I did post at least one book review up on my blog during that time.

Anyway, since it is Monday and I am back home, here are the books I am #currentlyreading:

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Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz ~ I am only 3% in, having just started this book today. That being said, I still haven’t formed any opinion about this book, but I have been really interested in reading this to see how the author addresses one Filipino family’s illegal immigration status, and how it affects the kids, especially the MC, whose college goals are put in jeopardy when she finds out she’s not legal.

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(Not pictured):

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria (e-arc from Netgalley) ~ 13% in. I have been stuck on that 13% for the last two or three weeks, and I’m going to attempt to work on this some more but it’s been hard because I just can’t seem to find the interest to keep reading it. But, since I want to clear it off of my NetGalley shelf, I’ll probably be putting the work in soon to see whether or not I’ll have to list this one as a DNF.

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So there we are with my #currentreads, and I’d love to know what you’re currently reading and whether or not you’re enjoying it!

Review of ‘The Movie Version’ by Emma Wunsch

The Movie VersionThe Movie Version by Emma Wunsch

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I requested this book…obviously the title had me thinking it’d be something involving real-life, and then the “movie version” of this life would be the better, more exciting/interesting on. But this wasn’t the superficial fluff I’d excepted, though sure, it was still very superficial in that dramatic way that is stereotypically teenaged.

If I were to sum up the synopsis of The Movie Version, I’d basically just be telling you that it’s about MC Amelia (or ‘Meals as she’s called many times…cringe…I just couldn’t stand that nickname, and couldn’t imagine calling my friend’s daughter, also Amelia, by a nickname that would conjure up images of food…), who pretty much worships her older brother Toby. All she does is talk about how amazing and cool Toby is, and though she supposedly has a life outside of Toby, her all seems to be centered around him. But when Toby stars exhibiting strange, irrational behavior, Amelia doesn’t know what to do with herself. Amelia looks at Toby as the star of her life (mentions of movies and the like are very common between the two), so what is she supposed to do when the star isn’t playing his part?

Amelia was pretty annoying. She took out her anger on her friends and her boyfriend Epstein – whose status she took a million chapters trying to figure out. Seriously, she took about 40% of the book wondering if he considered himself to be her boyfriend, and when it’s FINALLY clear, Toby’s problems get worse, and instead of allowing Epstein to give her support, she pushes him away and treats him horribly. Or whenever her best friend or other friends would try to ask after Toby (who was friends with them as well), she’d shut them out, cause
no one
could ever understand what she was going through…at least, according to her. And then when it’s realized that Toby has a mental illness, Amelia gets embarrassed and continues to lament over how Toby was supped to be so cool, not this person he was now.

I get that Amelia is a teenager, and having relegated herself to sidekick status with Toby, she would have a hard time, but it got to be a whine-fest on her part, cause again, NO ONE could understand what she was going through. Not her father, mother, grandmother, or younger twin brothers, who are all related to him as well…I couldn’t help but think that if Toby really had that big personality in which he was easily loved by all he came across, then wouldn’t it make sense that others would have concern for him, so it wasn’t fair she was keeping everything to herself? Shrug.

I appreciated the author touching on the reality of mental illness, and the fact that it can affect anyone, but because Amelia didn’t want to learn more about what it meant or entailed, we don’t actually get to read much about Toby’s illness and basically have to work with any knowledge we may already have on it (I’m not going to be specific as to what he has, because I feel that it may be hard to go into the book unbiased if you already know). I wish it could have expanded on mental illness more, but I guess I’ll just have to read other books if I want to learn more.

Finally, when coming to the end of my review, I feel like I have to say that the ending of this book did not work for me at all; there were too many things left unresolved, and I strongly dislike unresolved “open” endings. Anyway, not sure I’d recommend this book…I don’t think I’ve spoken very positively of it in this review…

Thank you to Amulet books for this copy received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Graveyard Apartment’ by Mariko Koike

The Graveyard Apartment: A NovelThe Graveyard Apartment: A Novel by Mariko Koike

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had mixed feelings when it came to deciding how I wanted to rate this one…

The Graveyard Apartment: A Novel caught my eye because I love J-Horror, and the idea of a book centered around the occupants of an almost empty building, across from a graveyard??? Count me in! So here I am, assuming that that means I’ll get a lot of supernatural moments. Moments that typically start off small in that ‘did I imagine it?’ sense, building up to a full-blown haunting that terrorizes and terrifies all in its path.

Did I get this type of story?

Let’s say ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
‘Yes’ in the sense that the hauntings accelerated, but in a strange rapid rate. And ‘no’ being because it didn’t seem to have that middle area that has you finally deciding that maybe, just maybe the apartment building is haunted.

So what exactly is this book about, other than the somewhat obvious title? Let me tell you a little about it.

Central Plaza Mansion is a relatively new apartment building catering to the more budget-minded Tokyo residents who may be looking for an affordable, yet surprisingly spacious floor plan that would be extremely hard to find in a city where real estate is not at all cheap. There is one catch, though, the fact that it is built across from a graveyard with a Buddhist temple as well as a crematorium.
The Kano family, consisting of husband and wife, Teppei and Misao, and their young daughter Tamao, move into the building after putting all their money into purchasing it.
Initially, the place seems perfect though there are surprisingly few occupants scattered throughout. But Misao slowly finds herself being unnerved by the odd things she hears from her daughter, and the strange things she’s slowly being to notice about her new home. After several large terrifying incidents, we come to the conclusion that the place is haunted, and once we figure that, it’s a full-blown supernatural riot, and the terrified family must decide whether to stay or go.

Personally, the idea of living across from a graveyard doesn’t really bother me all that much, so I would probably be one of the people wanting to take advantage of a more affordable, spacious apartment in Tokyo (if they are anything like the small Okinawan homes I’ve seen when visiting family in Japan, then I definitely understand the desire for more space). But obviously, this story isn’t so cut and dry, so the building is haunted and being that I’ve never experienced anything ghostly myself…maybe I’d want to take back the idea of living in such a place.
That being said, I tried to imagine being in this building when the different encounters occurred. I tried to imagine the terror. But honestly, the scenes felt so flat and contrived. The escalating occurrences were just not scary to me. I did try telling myself that this book was originally written in 1986, so maybe it would be a bit old-fashioned, but I should be able to get past that and recognize something as scary, but I couldn’t, and really, it shouldn’t matter how long ago a story came out, cause if it’s scary, it’s scary. And this one just wasn’t.

The characters were annoying (view spoiler), the supernatural moments were subpar, and when it ended, all I could think was, seriously?! There were several things that were mentioned earlier in the book, but then we never hear anything about them ever again. What about Pyoko? (I’ll hide the rest of my unanswered questions, since they may be a bit spoiler-y unless you’ve read the book) (view spoiler)

I wanted to love this book so much, but unfortunately, I just couldn’t. Too many negatives, and I can only really give props to the fact that the premise is very interesting, though in my opinion, poorly executed.

I received this copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to both. 

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September Wrap-Up

Instead of a Monday Edition of my #currentreads (mostly because my books are pretty much the same reads as my last posted one), I am going to do my September wrap-up. I had a very good month, finishing 10 books! Here are my ratings for each one, and all reviews were previously posted unless indicated otherwise.

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Scary Out There by Jonathan Maberry ~ 2/5⭐️

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2) by Marissa Meyer ~ 5/5⭐️

White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements, #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout ~ 4/5⭐️

Half-Blood (The Covenant, #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout  ~ 4/5⭐️

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas ~ 5/5⭐️

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3) by Sarah J. Maas ~ 5/5⭐️

The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich ~ 4/5⭐️

The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse ~ 1/5⭐️

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron ~ 5/5⭐️ (Just realized that if somehow never posted a review of this one, so this should be up within the next few days!)

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig ~ 4/5⭐️

The Graveyard Apartment: A Novel by Mariko Koike ~ 3/5⭐️ (Review is not yet posted, but will be going up later today.)

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I would love to hear your thoughts on these books if you’ve read them, and let me know of any good ones you’ve finished or are reading!