And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Final Ruling: 4.5/5 stars

Here we go again with an absolutely phenomenal book! Now, I have heard so many things about this book from so many different people (probably because it was an option to read it in Freshman English class…) and, to be fair, I tried my very hardest not to let this influence me. However, opinions of this caliber are not easily cast aside. Again, in the name of fairness, I have to disclose that most of these opinions were negative, seeing as I inexplicably surround myself with so many non-readers.

Okay, now onto the actual review part of this (and here, as expected, is your friendly neighborhood reminder that all of the spoilers are written in italics so if you would like to avoid the spoilers, please don’t read the italics).

And we’re off! After a lot of consideration, I have decided upon my favorite part of this book. Drum roll please…….the mystery! (as if that was a surprise…). So many murder mysteries nowadays are dull and predictable, and not to be that person, but I get irritated by the fact that I can usually figure out ‘whodunit’ before any of the book characters do. I am overjoyed to say that this was not the case here! I had absolutely no clue who the mastermind behind this horrific ordeal was, even when all was said and done. I didn’t actually figure anything out until the very last chapter which, I guess, was the entire point.

(Caution : Spoilers Ahead!)

I had seriously no clue that it was the Judge! NO CLUE! It totally caught me off guard. I had to read the epilogue thing twice over before it actually sunk in. Because he had died, I had thought, “oh, there’s no way he could have been the culprit because why would he do all that just to die before his entire plan was even carried out??” In hindsight, it was a stroke of genius on Christie’s part to do that, because I doubt anybody else figured it out so early on either, especially because the characters kept saying that those who had died were the only ones they knew were innocent… well they were dead wrong (pun absolutely intended!). Speaking of genius, Wargrave’s plan was also most definitely that. It was extremely clever and even more twisted (especially when it came to the nursery rhyme). Okay, now let’s talk about that rhyme because it has haunted me ever since I read this. It is seriously so messed up that he used that like he did, putting out all of those little soldiers and taking one away every time someone died, it was downright eerie. Eerie enough to send chills down my spine, which is quite a feat, because I read creepy things a lot and have built up a rather large tolerance for scare tactics. However, this one really really worked. Everything pertaining to that rhyme sent chilled fingers of dread up and down my spine. It really was phenomenal. 

(spoilers over)

The one thing I really didn’t love was the beginning. It was slow and difficult to get into, and the list-like descriptions of the characters did very little to make me care about them. Thus, I give this book a 4.5 star rating.

I really do recommend this book to everyone in my life, especially those in need of a good, quality ‘whodunit’ mystery. Believe me, there’s a reason this book is considered a classic; it is definitely worth the read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Final Ruling: 5/5 stars (of course)

With this book, it’s official, Sarah J. Maas is a goddess that I will gladly sell my soul to in exchange for more books even half as good as this one. Queen of Shadows was everything that I hoped it would be and more. Because I’m me, the thing I loved the most about this book was the characters, oh my sweet goodness, the characters. Going into this book, I already loved the preexisting characters, but the new ones and the development of those preexisting ones was absolutely and completely spectacular. All of the characters were so three-dimensional and realistic that they seemed to leap off of the page and into my reality, I sure do care about them as if they were real people. It takes a lot for me to get that attached to people, even fictional ones, so kudos to Miss Maas for creating a cast that will be impossible for me to ever forget.

(as we get into the nitty-gritty of it, please remember that italics mean spoilers, so if you want to avoid the spoilers, please don’t read the italics. Thanks a bunch!)

So, since I finished this book, I have been trying my best to figure out the one specific thing that I liked most about this installment in the Throne of Glass series. I find myself torn between two minor character arcs that really stood out to me: Lysandra and Asterin. I now realize that I tend to fixate on minor characters instead of major characters like I’m supposed to. Oops.

(CAUTION! Spoilers ahead…)

Lysandra is quite possibly my new favorite character in the whole entire series, regardless of the fact that we are first introduced to her in this book. She is strong, she is beautiful, she is selfless, she is brave, she is breathtaking. At first, I really did love to hate Lysandra, seeing as she seemed like an uppity prostitute concerned with nobody but herself. However, by the end of the novel, I was so incredibly attached to her, it pained me to close the book and let her go. Her love for Evangeline is unexpected and took my breath away. The things she does for that little girl are amazing and seriously do bring tears to my eyes, the way that she essentially sold herself into Clarisse’s service for another lifetime so that Evangeline didn’t have to be a part of that world. It adds a whole new layer to her character, one of selflessness, nobility, and maternal instinct. Not to mention the fact that she is a freakin badass shape-shifter. She is a wild thing hidden in a beautiful human body, someone who prefers living in a body with fur and fangs to living as a fragile human. Her soul is that of a snow leopard and she is not afraid to show people that. Yes, she can be manipulative, but nobody can be absolutely perfect. She does have intense character flaws, but still I adore the sassy, blunt, beautiful, and wild girl that is Lysandra. Aside from her character, the relationships she has with other characters are so great, especially her unlikely friendship with Aelin. Together they are badass, beautiful, and absolutely unstoppable. I can’t wait for her to kick some serious Valg behind in EOS. 

Next up on my favorite character arc of this particular book we have the bloosthirsty and brutal Asterin Blackbeak. (at first I was going to say Manon, but then I realized that though she is phenomenal, Asterin is the one who really shined in this particular book). Oh goodness, my darling Asterin. Hearing about her great human love and what happened afterwards literally split my heart in two. She is beautiful, she is powerful, and she is quite possibly the strongest character I have ever read. Her character arc was phenomenal, and made me love this wildfire of a girl even more (not to mention that it made me hate the Blackbeak Matron even more as well…). She literally clawed her way back from certain death, after miscarrying and literally being branded “UNCLEAN” by the same person who was supposed to support her and allow her to heal after the tragedy that was losing her witchling. Now, she did have a support system outside of the Matron, and that really did make me love The Thirteen even more than I already do (which is a lot). Despite basically being told by the Matron to crawl in a hole and die, she healed and proceeded to waltz right back into Manon’s life (and into the Matron’s), and growing to become a reckless force of nature who really did adore life. She is strong and stands up for what she believes in, and fights with everything she has to do what is right, even if it means losing her life in the process. She is admirable and even though she has done things that cannot and should not be excused, she really is a phenomenal girl. I really do adore her

(spoilers over)

Yes, the plot is breathtaking, the twists and turns tugged on my heartstrings, the character development was amazing, and the ending was just…. okay, I’ve run out of words of praise so I’m just going to call it amazing again. I could literally go on for the rest of my life about these characters and these books, but alas, this is all the time I have for now. Feel free to message me if you want to chat more about this series, because it is seriously the best in the whole world ever.

I would recommend this book to anybody with even the smallest preference for fantasy and kickass characters. I would love for all y’all to join me in my worship of the wonderful Sarah J. Maas.

The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

Final Ruling: 4/5 stars

(If you want to avoid the spoilers, please avoid the italics)

Okay, so let me preface this with the fact that I read this book a long long long time ago, like when I was in elementary school; but that doesn’t really mean much because I also read novels meant for adults at that age too (yes, I was that kid). Anyways, I adored this book just as much as I did when I was young, probably because I still have this morbid fascination with science gone wrong, genetic experiments and the like. Maybe that makes me a freak in turn, but I can’t help what keeps my eyes glued to the page. The characters were beautifully developed and remarkably unique, by the end of the book I felt like I had a personal and emotional connection to each and every one of them. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know that the characters and their growth are the most important part of any book for me, so to find a book that has both an interesting premise and captivating characters is absolutely phenomenal. So I tip my metaphorical hat to Mr. Patterson for making me a part of the twisted and remarkable world of Max and her family. But aside from all of that, there were some serious drawbacks that forced me to lower my overall rating.

Let’s get right into explaining the negatives, in order to get the heartbreak of writing these words over with. Now, I know that this is a book for younger kids so keep in mind that this is something I also kept in mind while I was reading. However, the fact that this was meant for people younger than me does not completely excuse the childish prose and anticlimactic reveals. Yes, the book was written for children, but it was not written by a child, which is frankly what it felt like some of the time. At some points, it even felt like Patterson was trying way too hard to sound like a child. Yes, the book was written from the point of view of a teenage girl, but let’s be honest, no teenager’s inner monologue sounds as childish as Max’s.

(CAUTION: spoilers ahead)

Speaking of childish, can we PLEASE talk about that awful, over-dramatic, and trite revelation that Jeb is actually Max’s father. Yes, the book does build up to this, but the way it is revealed was very very anticlimactic and nearly made me laugh out loud at the means of revelation: Jeb literally yelling to Max down the hallway thing that she had just killed her brother, Ari. There were so many ways that Patterson could have revealed this, ways that would have made more sense, would have had a much higher shock factor, and would have improved the quality of the whole book itself. He had such a good thing going, too, with Max starting to see through Ari’s facade. But alas, Patterson didn’t feel that he could stave off the reveal, and thus killed Ari and ruined the interesting dynamic between the two. 

(spoilers over)

Now onto the positive parts of the book which, in my opinion, do outshine the negatives. First of all, the characters; the characters are fantastic. I fell in love with each and every one of the flock in turn. I adored Max’s dedication and love for her family, Fang’s intelligence, Nudge’s badass innocence (if that makes sense…), Iggy’s refusal to let his disability limit him, Gazzy’s strength, and Angel’s compassion. How amazing it is to finally see a book with such strong familial bonds, I really don’t see that enough. Family is so so so important and it is wonderful to see somebody acknowledge that in a young adult book.

In addition to the characters themselves, the book is so captivating because of what has happened to them. The whole idea of genetic experimentation is so fascinating to me, and I adore reading about it, no matter how sick and twisted that makes me. It gives me a morbid sense of curiosity as well as a broken heart to read about the

(CAUTION: spoilers ahead)

School and the Erasers and the other experiments on children that Patterson described, especially the ones that Angel came in contact with during her time back at the school. She read their thoughts and found that not only were the children physically deformed, but they were mentally compromised as well, unable to form coherent thoughts. Some of them died mere minutes after she encountered them. The scientists that work at the School and the Institute make me sick; I cannot even fathom the fact that anybody could treat another person, no matter how little humanity is left in them, like they treat the children they experiment on. They keep them in freaking dog crates, as if they have no thoughts or feelings. They are horrific human beings for doing something like that (Jeb in particular). Speaking of that, let’s talk about Jeb for a hot second. He disgusts me, seriously disgusts me. He pretends to be a friend to the flock, pretends to save them, to take care of them, makes himself their father figure, and then abandons them to return to the School and the white-coats, who he was working for the whole time. He has a stupid head and a stupid face and does not deserve to even be in contact with the flock. He took literally everything from them, making him impossibly more horrible than he already is for condoning what the School and the Institute are doing. Ugh, I have so many feelings about him I can barely form coherent sentences. 

(end of spoilers)

I would recommend this book to anybody who desperately wants to be whisked away to a world existing just underneath our noses, a world of twisted science, a world in which the primary goal is to find the humanity in the not-quite-human.

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina

Final Ruling: 3/5 stars

This book is so incredibly cute, it was a super cute, light read. But it wasn’t much more than that. It was fluffy and cute and pretty, but lacked any sort of depth, the kind of depth that keeps me turning pages. Don’t get me wrong, it was super precious, but I was really expecting something more, I don’t know… magical.

My sweet goodness, I don’t even know where to start with this book. Huh, well, how about my favorite part? That would most definitely be the characters, most notably Pancho *serious heart eyes*. He is the epitome of the romantic hero: the brave, quiet, lovely poet pining for his childhood love. It warmed my heart and made it flutter a bit to see him and his quest to win Sonia’s heart with his lovely words. Another character I really liked was the other half of that relationship: Sonia. When Sonia was born, in the middle of a hellish storm, the wind abruptly stopped, and the people of her small mountain settlement immediately believed that she had some kind of magic. After a while, she believed it too, making it all the more painful when she realizes that it isn’t true, that she really is ordinary, she has no better standing with God than any of the rest of them. It was heartbreaking to see her realize it, but very sweet and inspiring to see her recover from that, and become strong all on her own, without any sort of magical powers for her to lean on. Her strength truly is admirable.

Other than that, I was kind of disappointed after reading, as I expected much more from the little blurb on the back of the book. I expected more mountain fables, more storytelling, and more ethereal writing. But alas… anyways, it was cute, if a bit too shallow, and I really did like the fact that the characters weren’t white which, let’s be honest, is really hard to come by.

I would recommend this to anybody in need of a light fluffy read to occupy a rainy day or a long car ride.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Final Ruling: 5/5 stars

Oh my sweet goodness I absolutely loved this book! I am such a sucker for a good gothic Victorian story, à la Edgar Allan Poe or H.G. Wells, which is exactly what this book was. It was haunting, mysterious, sweepingly romantic, and precisely what I was looking for. This lovely retelling of H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau” is gorgeous and unexpected, I didn’t even know I was looking for this book until I picked it up on a whim and fell in love completely.

Juliet is the heroine I have always wanted to read about. She is gorgeous, strong, spunky, and absolutely phenomenal. She completely defies all of the preconceived notions society, and more specifically her father, have about the role of women. She repeatedly states that, regardless of what everybody thinks, she can do anything a man can do; and not only does she say it, she shows it with her dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and her unwillingness to depend on anybody other than herself. In the end, she chooses the object of her affection based purely on feeling,  not on whether or not they could provide for her. In addition to all of this, she is not necessarily a good person. She has this morbid fascination with all things medical, and unlike even the male medical students around her, she does not shy from killing, from death, or even from blood. She is remarkably brave and unapologetic in her dark interests, refusing to hide who she is for anybody else’s benefit. Ugh, her list of attributes is absolutely  endless, I could seriously go on forever about how much I love Juliet Moreau. She is compassionate, she is remarkably brave, and she is wonderful in such a beautifully twisted way. I identify very greatly with Juliet, and it is so refreshing and comforting to read a heroine who isn’t sweet and perky, who instead is dark, intelligent, introverted, and does not apologize for any of it. She is quite possibly my new favorite when it comes to book characters. Words cannot properly express how much I adore her.

Okay, enough about Juliet. Now for my second favorite character: Montgomery *cue heart eyes*. He is absolutely positively perfectly imperfect. So, he does help Dr. Moreau with his grotesque surgeries, which makes me cringe. However, he has such a big heart; he cares impossibly deeply for the animals around him as well as the creatures of the island. He diligently takes care of the horses and the stables (which makes me happy, being a horse person myself), loving them and brushing them and speaking to them and taking care of them like nobody else on the island would. He acts the same way towards the island creatures, treating them like the actual people they were designed as, which touches my heart. He looks after them and understands them and cares for them as if they were his children (some of them he actually did create, like sweet shy Alice). It astounds me that he actually partakes in Dr. Moreau’s procedures, which obviously harms the animals being worked on. Montgomery is my everything, I love him just as much as I love Juliet, and more than either of them, I love them being together (then again, I am such a sucker for a childhood sweetheart story).

The entire premise is so amazingly cool and twisted, I can’t even handle it. Now, I know that it is based upon another story written by another man in another time, but still. My sweet goodness, I love love love all of the island’s creatures, even the ones that aren’t the kindest. Of course, I hated Dr. Moreau from the beginning, but his twisted experiments made him irredeemable in my eyes, no matter the fact that the results were something to be cherished. Now, this book did get creepy, so much so that I had to put it down and shudder quite a few times. The creatures devolved rapidly, morphing into rage-fueled monsters, rebelling against their creator and those who allied themselves with him. For example, my heart broke when the village creatures mutilated their devolved elk-hybrid priest, gouging at his eyes, cutting out his tongue, and ripping his antlers from his head, as his hands curled and hardened into something akin to hooves and he had to waste away, every day slipping farther and farther away from humanity.

That was another really really interesting part of this book, the humanity combined with animal instincts, which Dr. Moreau believed to be the recipe for an ideal and violence-free person. His creatures were kind and intelligent (for the most part), and I thought them to be precious and absolutely worth taking care of. However, the mad Dr. Moreau believes otherwise, and even when one of the creatures goes rogue and starts killing creatures and endangering the camp itself. Now, here comes the absolutely crazy plot twist. (if you haven’t read it all yet, please skip the following paragraph, in italics)

OH MY SWEET GOODNESS. Okay, so from the beginning I thought that Edward was a little quirky, a little strange, but I truly did think that he cared for and understood Juliet (even though I was rooting for her to end up with Montgomery, which she technically did). However, I knew that there was something wrong with him, something that didn’t quite add up. I thought he was connected to the attacks in some way, but until the reveal, I had absolutely no idea what. The fact that he was one of Dr. Moreau’s creatures completely blindsided me, the fact that he was the three-toed monster responsible for all of the murders blindsided me even more. Like what. And the fact that Juliet still contemplated forgiving him was a huge huge huge testament to her character, because what he did was truly awful, but somehow his love for her overcame. Now, of course, he is presumed dead, as is Juliet’s father, but still. If he had lived, perhaps I would have favored him over Montgomery. The ending also just broke my heart, with Montgomery in all of his kindness, takes it upon himself to stay on the island instead of leaving with Juliet like he said he would in order to look after the island creatures. Even then he felt some kinship and almost paternal concern for them, it was actually really sweet, that he cared enough about his creatures and enough about Juliet to stay with them and let her leave. It was heartbreaking; I LOVED ITI am beyond stoked to read the second book in the series, fingers crossed that it is even half as good as this one.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is a fan of feminism, Edgar Allan Poe, and/or a good spine-tingling scare; as well as pretty much anybody else, this book was absolutely breathtaking in its composition.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Final Ruling: 3/5 stars

The one word I would use to describe this book would be… “underwhelming”. The book had a wonderful premise and was written in a very very interesting way, but it had the potential to be so much more than what it actually turned out to be.

Okay, let me begin by saying that overall, I totally loved the whole ‘vintage vibe’ of the book. The diner and the cassette tapes and the Walkman and the old Mustang and the milkshakes were all totally to die for, they were super cute and quirky and added an enchanting feel to the whole story. It made the whole thing seem really ethereal and very very much a ‘token young adult novel’. But what can I say, I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories. The premise of ‘reasons why’ after a girl kills herself is very very intriguing and allows the reader to step into Hannah’s mind, to truly begin to understand the impact we have on other people’s lives, and the unforeseen repercussions of what we believe to be harmless actions. Hannah’s struggle, and her reasons, were very beautifully conveyed, with light humor and an overall sense of non-reality, making the discussions within the tapes (which held the heaviest kind of reality) emerge in stark contrast to the method of communication. It makes you wonder, who else is thinking these same things? Have I unknowingly impacted somebody’s life in a negative way? What were the consequences of my past actions? Is someone close to me actually going through something unthinkable? Am I missing the signs? And the most haunting question of all: Could I have saved them? If I had looked closer, would I have been able to prevent this tragedy from occurring? Now, these really really hit close to home for me, because I have had multiple friends attempt suicide, with only one being successful, making Thirteen Reasons Why resonate all the more with me.

Okay, now onto the icky part: why I just could not bring myself to give this book more than 3 stars. Drum roll please…… it was the main character, Clay. When Clay first got the tapes and found out what they were about, I was very curious, wanting to know the secrets of his soul, what he did to affect this girl so very deeply. Instead, he was the one thing on the tapes that was not negative, a totally pure ray of sunshine who has done nothing wrong. His angelic soul was a major put-off for me, and quite frankly, a main character who is so clean cut and moral is agonizingly boring. Seriously, reading about Clay and his reactions in between Hannah’s tapes was downright painful, some of them I even skipped over, because they really weren’t necessary; all they did was familiarize me with a character that I really did not want to know more about. Now had he been on those tapes for a reason other than being kind and pure, I would have been intrigued, I would have gobbled up the descriptions of him and begged for more. But alas, that was not the case. Instead, Clay was a 2-dimensional character not interesting or complicated enough for me to make a connection with. I really wish that it were different, words cannot express just how much I wanted to love this book. I just couldn’t.

I would recommend this book to younger folks (or the young-minded) who seek to open their eyes to the world around them, and truly understand how their actions impact the lives of others.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Final Ruling: 5/5 stars

There are seriously not enough words to describe just how much I adore this author. Her books are seriously my lifeblood. Okay, so for this book in particular really hit home for me, and her depiction of so many things went straight to my heart, earning this book a place of honor in my heart, right alongside her other books. So let’s get real here, because I’m not one to just hand out five star ratings all willy-nilly. Let’s get down to it, there are so many reasons for my adoration of this book.

The most important thing about this book, in my opinion, are the characters. Oh my sweet goodness the characters. Now, for me, the characters are the most important part of any book, the souls that are written into them make or break the story for me, no question. So let’s begin (I’ll go along with the points of view from which this tale is told).

First of all, of course, there is our beloved Celaena Sardothien or, as we come to know her in this book, Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. During the course of this story in particular, we get a glimpse into her soul which, in the words of one of my favorite guilty pleasure TV shows, is quite dark and twisty. Heir of Fire contains what is quite possibly the best representation of a character with depression that I have ever read (well, other than in Sarah’s other phenomenal series, which is not the point). Throughout the text, Aelin frequently references her feelings of drowning, of numbness, of unadulterated agony, that comes along with depression. It warmed my heart to see this representation, and not only did she represent the dark depths of the worst times, but she also showed Aelin fighting tooth and nail against it, and winning. She rose from the depths of depression back into the light. But the most important thing about this representation is that she shows that depression is an illness, a terminal one, and though it may get better, it never goes away. Aelin will have to live with her depression forever, and Sarah J Maas shows that that is okay, that that is what happens. And that is so unbelievably important. Aelin is, without a doubt, a personal light of mine, someone that I admire for her fight against the darkness, and one that I look to to remind myself that even the worst darkness can be overcome.

Whew, now other than Aelin, my absolute favorite character in this entire series is Manon Blackbeak. She is my morally ambiguous queen and the absolute love of my life. Morally ambiguous characters are my absolute favorite and, in my opinion, there are not enough of them. Now, it’s true that Manon has done some horrific things, but she also does have a heart, and does care. For instance, sweet Abraxos is the love of her life and he is a big mighty wyvern who is supposed to strike fear in the hearts of the public that is absolutely obsessed with wildflowers. Like he sniffs them and rolls around in them and it is so precious. They are two peas in a pod, two morally ambiguous beings who care deeply for one another as well as those around them. That right there is exactly what I love about them, that their morals are not strictly black and white, that things are not strictly right or wrong, no matter what their superiors claim. I actually have come to admire her, or at least certain parts of her; for instance, she is so unapologetically herself, following her own moral compass, no matter the consequences. For this, she is exceptional, and for this, she rises to become my favorite character in the series; from her introduction in this book, she stole my heart and my mind, and somehow Maas managed to make this cold, stony, and morally ambiguous woman into somebody phenomenal.

Other than them, of course, there are other characters that deserve and honorable mention. Rowan, who knows exactly how to correctly pull Aelin out of her fog of depression (and helps her do so) because he went through it himself with the loss of his mate; Sorscha, who so lovingly looks after Dorian in the wake of his father’s ruthlessness, and pays the ultimate price for it; Chaol, who fights for Aelin even after he discovers who she is and what she has done; Aedion, who would do anything for his cousin, whose ties of family are stronger than anything in this world; Asterin, who lives with her entire body and soul, whose loyalty to Manon is  unmatched; and Dorian, who, in this book, becomes a king in his own right and suffers unimaginably for it.

Okay, enough about my character obsession. Another amazing aspect of this book is the plot, oh my sweet goodness, the plot. This book is filled with the stuff of nightmares, chasing the main characters all around; but it also shows these characters coming into their own, growing up, making their own decisions, becoming who they are supposed to be. Yes, some refer to this book as a ‘filler’ in the Throne of Glass series, but it is anything but; it is incredibly necessary. No, it does not have all of the action of the other books, but the character development is breathtaking, and the action it does have is intense and mess-with-your-heartbeat kind of good. The Valg are truly terrifying, and the princes that Aelin fights at the conclusion of the novel are pure nightmare, and I honestly was not sure who would prevail, I thought the darkness would swallow Aelin once and for all. Instead, she rallies, and finally accepts her role as the Queen of Terrasen, in a scene that seriously brought tears to my eyes.

I would recommend this book to anybody in desperate need of an epic fantasy to sweep them off their feet and take them to all new heights.