Review: Tabula Rasa

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 @ 10:09
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Tabula RasaTabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

My rating:


The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this action-packed debut thriller with a Katniss-esque heroine fighting to regain her memories and stay alive, set against a dystopian hospital background.

Sarah starts a crazy battle for her life within the walls of her hospital-turned-prison when a procedure to eliminate her memory goes awry and she starts to remember snatches of her past. Was she an urban terrorist or vigilante? Has the procedure been her salvation or her destruction?

The answers lie trapped within her mind. To access them, she’ll need the help of the teen computer hacker who’s trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, and a pill that’s blocked by an army of mercenary soldiers poised to eliminate her for good. If only she knew why . . .


(I got a copy through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.)

Good idea and interesting beginning, but the second third kind of dragged in my opinion, and the ending was, well, wrapped up in a trope that made me really roll my eyes.

I liked the premise of PTSD victims being given a second chance (whether “true” victims or perpetrators) by having their memory removed—or at least, all the memories pertaining the trauma and/or crime. And in the beginning, nothing is certain as far as Sarah, the narrator, is concerned: was she so psychologically damaged and abused that she couldn’t function even with normal treatments? Or was she some hardboiled criminal, considering how despised she was by some of the hospital’s personnel? I thought the ambiguity was well-played here, because both reactions were present: nice doctors and nurses making small talk with her, while others would scowl and prevent her from having contact with other patients. Her skills, too, were ambiguous: they could be those of a burglar just as well as those of an acrobat, after all.

However, I found the pacing after that rather problematic, being a blend of action scenes interspersed with slow moments in which info was dumped and nothing really interesting happened. The mandatory YA romance subplot felt boring, too, and as is too often the case didn’t bring anything to the story. On the one hand, I get that it was part of Sarah’s development and return to her true self, something to make her feel like fighting and not give upt, but… on the other hand, does a person in such a situation really need some love interest to do that? Why did it have to be romance? One that sprang in a couple of days or so, no more. I don’t dislike romance plots; however, most of the time, they’re not really useful, and are of the marketing ploy kind, “because romance sells”, instead of being fully part of the story. Here, that was exactly my impression. Budding love? Sure. Full-blown romance with “I love you” and feelings that the person is/was The One, in less than 72 hours? Doesn’t work for me. In this type of setting, survival is key, and professing love just like that was kind of cheesy anyway.

Some of the plot points were fairly predictable, along with conveniently placed flashbacks and special snowflake syndrome (after a while). Add to this a few mind-boggling moments, such as soldiers not even taking someone’s pulse to see if that person’s indeed dead (huh?). Also, I didn’t like the ending—more specifically, the part where the Big Bad nicely explains what the plan was all about. I want explanations, of course, only I prefer them to be shown to me, not unveiled in a gloating villain speech. It’s been done too often for it to work, not to mention that the villain’s motives were… too basic.

On the bright side, somehow I still managed to like Sarah and Thomas. They had a “no bullshit” streak, in that they planned to get things done and acted on those plans, and didn’t mope around while being useless. I’m tired of heroines who don’t get anything done themselves, and Sarah was all but that. Which is why I’m leaning towards 1.5/2 stars here.

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Review: We Are All Completely Fine

Posted on July 21st, 2014 @ 20:55
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We Are All Completely FineWe Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

My rating:


Harrison is the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. Now he’s in his mid-thirties and spends most of his time not sleeping.

Stan became a minor celebrity after being partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara is haunted by the messages carved upon her bones. Greta may or may not be a mass-murdering arsonist. And for some reason, Martin never takes off his sunglasses.

Unsurprisingly, no one believes their horrific tales until they are sought out by psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer. What happens when these likely-insane outcasts join a support group? Together they must discover which monsters they face are within and which are lurking in plain sight.


(I got an ARC of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

This was an intriguing and gripping novella, tackling a question that is probably seldom asked: what of the somewhat normal people in paranormal/supernatural stories, the ones who aren’t the powerful mage detective or powerful vampire or whatever, yet have also dealt with their share of anything-but-normal situations? What of those people’s psyche, can they ever go back to a semblance of normalcy, and how? In an attempt to reclaim their selves, five people gather around Dr. Jan Sayer to talk through their problems, some more reluctantly than others, gradually revealing what exactly happened to them, and how it left them scarred. Because no matter what befell them, whether true monsters or human cannibals or other deranged kinds of minds, it was just the right amount of too bizarre for them to find solace in traditional therapy, which basically ended up in a bunch of souls suffering without ever being able to truly express how… until the group started meeting, that is.

The world building rests on a lot of common themes, some well-known (Lovecraftian mythos—the town of Dunnmouth being obviously reminiscent of Innsmouth), some vague enough that they could be placed basically in any series, and all morbidly fascinating in their own ways. The family of human cannibals that fed off Stan’s and his friends’ bodies, for instance, is pretty close to typical stories of that kind (like the Sawney Bean clan). The Scrimshander could be a regular psychopath touched with a bit of sight… or something else altogether. Greta’s fiery little problem could be interpreted as a variety of spirits. As a result, I felt it allowed the story to fit a lot of potential settings, and gain a kind of legitimacy.

Though overall, I liked it a lot, I remain slightly frustrated. I wanted this book to be longer. I loved its premise, but I felt that it sometimes came short, and wasn’t exploited enough (especially when the doctor was concerned). The ending, too, left me somewhat dissatisfied, in that it seemed to leave the characters too close to where they started. In part, its outcome fits the bleak theme of the book as a whole, yet I couldn’t help but wonder if it went “far enough”.

A note about the style, quite atypical: a blend of first person plural (highlighting the sense of a collective, of a group) and third person. I thought it worked, but it could just as well detract from one’s enjoyment of the story. Be warned.

Nevertheless, I’d still recommend this novel no matter what.

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Review: How To Date Dead Guys

Posted on July 21st, 2014 @ 10:08
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How To Date Dead Guys - Blog Tour





How To Date Dead GuysHow To Date Dead Guys by Ann M. Noser

My rating:


College sophomore Emma Roberts remembers her mother’s sage advice: “don’t sleep around, don’t burp in public, and don’t tell anyone you see ghosts”. But when cute Mike Carlson drowns in the campus river under her watch, Emma’s sheltered life shatters.

Blamed for Mike’s death and haunted by nightmares, Emma turns to witchcraft and a mysterious Book of Shadows to bring him back. Under a Blood Moon, she lights candles, draws a pentacle on the campus bridge, and casts a spell. The invoked river rages up against her, but she escapes its fury. As she stumbles back to the dorm, a stranger drags himself from the water and follows her home. And he isn’t the only one…

Instead of raising Mike, Emma assists the others she stole back from the dead—a pre-med student who jumped off the bridge, a young man determined to solve his own murder, and a frat boy Emma can’t stand…at first. More comfortable with the dead than the living, Emma delves deeper into the seductive Book of Shadows. Her powers grow, but witchcraft may not be enough to protect her against the vengeful river and the killers that feed it their victims.

Inspired by the controversial Smiley Face Murders, HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS will appeal to the secret powers hidden deep within each of us.


(I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Curiosity Quills, in exchange for an honest review, as part of the related blog tour. Thanks a lot for allowing me to take part in it.)

How To Date Dead Guys was a nice read, light enough and even funny in parts, while also more serious in others. The problems Emma ran into, trying to cover up for the several guys she accidentally brought back from the dead, sometimes made me smile. At the same time, the novel also provided interesting (if typical) questions about “what would you do if you had a second chance at coming to terms with something you couldn’t finish before your death?” Every single one of the drowned men left something behind them, something unfinished, whether it concerned themselves, a relative, or a lover; and those stories were all touching in their own ways. I couldn’t help but agree with them, with their choices to “make it right” or at least try to see what had become of their loved ones.

Emma as a protagonist was fine enough: painfully shy at first, but gaining confidence as she grew into her powers and was also forced to come up with lies to hide what she had done—this with a hint of being tempted in the future by this same power she’s acquired. It’s not the main focus of this first installment in the series, but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss her desire to keep the Book of Shadows even though it put her in this mess for starters. (First one guy, then another, then three, and all with their own issues? Definitely a mess.) I also liked Jake a lot: infuriating at first, and seemingly a jerk, but one with a heart of gold, who opened Emma’s eyes on more than one thing. He wasn’t even so much a jerk, in fact, than a sociable guy who enjoyed life and took it as it came to get the best out of it, even in death. The outcome of his own predicament was a bit predictable, but cute nonetheless.

And I guess the cuteness factor is one of the things that made me like this book (that, and necromancy—let’s face it, it is necromancy, and I’m always partial to such magic). Even though the novel sometimes bordered on the “too cute”, it was enjoyable. Sure, it might seem cheesy, and yet I just want to say: “So what?” Sometimes we need twee plots and characters. Sometimes we need twee plots and characters. Sometimes I like myself such a book, and considering I had a hard time putting it down for long, I’d say it quite reached its goal.

It’s also light on the romance: there are several men involved, so it stands to logics that Emma wouldn’t get into a relationship with all of them. She’s not immune to their different personalities, their qualities, their quirks, but she manages to remember that nothing can come out of this (them being obviously doomed to become dead again at some point), and in my opinion, such budding relationships, condemned from the beginning, actually helped her grow as a person, going from fickle, almost teenager-like “first attraction” feelings to a deeper understanding of life and love.

On the other hand, I found a couple of things too exaggerated (everyone blaming Emma for Mike’s death was like kicking the proverbial puppy, and Chrissy seemed just so terribly superficial and “me, me, me” that she became tiring—good thing she doesn’t appear much). Moreover, I found the plotline a little too over the place, in that it wove the stories of all those guys, along with Emma’s, Abby’s, Walker’s, and a few others, but didn’t seem to have a really definite plot. The part about the murders came a little too late to my liking, and almost felt like a kind of afterthought, as if the novel suddenly had to be more serious than it had been up until now. There are some hints here and there, but the characters just don’t seem that bothered about them, except perhaps for two (who don’t voice out their suspicions, though, so they’re only proved right later).

I’m giving it 3/3.5 stars “only” because of that, but I’ll still recommend it if you’re looking for a light read that is sometimes fun, sometimes mellow, and sometimes sad.

You can get this book from:

Amazon US:
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Review: The Girl From The Well

Posted on July 20th, 2014 @ 11:10
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The Girl from the WellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

My rating:


You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.


(I got an ARC of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.)

Not so much “terribly scary” for me in the end, in that I don’t scare easily, yet fascinating nonetheless for its depiction of ghosts, the appearance they have after death, and the imagery it conjured. I could fairly easily picture Okiku, the murderers she targeted and got revenge on in place of the dead children, said children literally latched onto those men’s necks and linked to their limbs by spirituals cords… And the woman in black… well, all right, that one I’d definitely attempt to draw someday, although I’m not sure I could do her justice. I think the way the story was told, too, contributed to this: somewhat cold and detached, and special, because it’s a strange mix of omniscient and first person point of view (the story’s told by Okiku herself, who’s able to observe other characters and their reactions, and sense their thoughts and feelings). In any other story, it probably wouldn’t have worked for me; here, it did, because it seemed to fit with the ghost’s paradigm. I don’t know if other readers in general would like it, but as far as I’m concerned, it partook the fascination I had for this novel, through descriptions that were just the right length and just suggestive enough (all the more for the intended YA audience), without falling into the realm of “too much”.

The Girl From The Well is loosely based on a well-known Japanese legend, that of a servant girl who worked for a lord, and was tasked with keeping ten precious plates; she was tricked into believing she had lost one of them, and was put to death for her “carelessness”. As a result, she became a vengeful spirit who drove her former lord to death—and the number 9 sends her spirit into a frenzy. This was nicely reflected in the book, in that Okiku tends to count whatever she sees (people, items…), and the accursed number indeed makes her react violently. Forever detached from both human world and and elusive afterlife, she can only watch, in between enacting revenge throughout the world on people who’ve killed children, but were never punished for their bad deeds. The Smiling Man, especially, was of quite a scary persuasion—I find smiles way more frightening than other expressions whenever such characters are concerned.

However, this isn’t exactly Okiku’s story. Hers was already written, already told, and this is more a “what would happen some three hundred years later, how would such a vengeful spirit evolve with time.” Partly to her own surprise, she finds herself drawn to Tarquin, a boy with strange tattoos, and whose fate is doomed to be a dark one if what plagues him isn’t destroyed in time. (Note: there’s no romance involved—a very welcome element in my opinion. It would just’ve been weird and misplaced in such a story.) Odd things happen around Tark, his own mother has been locked in an institution and has tried to kill him several times, and he just doesn’t understand much to what’s happening. But other people slowly start to notice the presence that haunts him, those people being mostly Okiku and his cousin Callie, and it’s up to them to try and understand what his problem his, and how to solve it, which involves going back to his roots.

On the downside, I wasn’t too convinced by the characters in general, in that they seemed more driven by the plot than people with their own lives. Okiku’s involvement was also somewhat problematic, since she was mostly a watcher and didn’t act as much as I expected her to. I think I would’ve liked her nature as a vengeful spirit to show through more than it did; for instance, one of the vengeance scenes made me feel like it had been put there as some kind of reminder, and not really as part of the plot. There was also one huge blunder that could’ve been easily avoided if only one of the characters had spoken out loud about a specific event, yet didn’t for… no reason? I don’t mind characters making honest mistakes, but not when the latter are the product of unexplained reasoning.

Overall, I had a hard time putting this book down, and remained fascinated, though with hindsight, those aspects I mentioned prevented me from rating it higher. (3.5 stars)

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Review: Sidekick

Posted on July 18th, 2014 @ 19:12
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SidekickSidekick by Auralee Wallace

My rating:


Bremy St James, daughter of billionaire Atticus St James, has been cut off from the family fortune and is struggling to survive in a world that no longer holds its breath every time she buys a new outfit. To make matters worse, her twin sister is keeping secrets, loan sharks are circling, and the man of her dreams — a newspaper reporter — is on assignment to bring down everyone with the last name St James.

Things are certainly looking bleak for the down-and-out socialite until a good deed throws her into the path of the city’s top crime-fighter, Dark Ryder. Suddenly, Bremy has a new goal: apprentice to a superhero, and start her own crime-fighting career.

Ryder has no need for a sidekick, but it turns out the city needs Bremy’s help. Atticus St James is planning the crime of the century, and Bremy may be the only one able to get close enough to her father to stop him.

Now all she needs to do is figure out this superhero thing in less than a month, keep her identity secret from the man who could very well be The One, and save the city from total annihilation.

Well, no one ever said being a superhero would be easy…


(I got a copy of this book throuhg NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

OK for the most part, in that it provided me with a fluffy, fast, light reading, but nothing I’ll remember much, I’m afraid.

I liked the basic idea of the ex-rich girl deciding to tackle on the role of a hero’s sidekick: I thought it held a lot of potential for funny situations as well as superhero gadgets à la Batman. However, those situations were either not exploited enough to my liking, or too ridiculous to be actually funny. I smiled a few times, but after a while, Bremy’s membership in the Too Stupid To Live club reached such epic proportions that I would just roll my eyes and wonder why anyone even bothered with her, from her shady landlord to Ryder and Bart. Smaller doses of such clueless behaviours would’ve been funny in my eyes; here, there were just too many for me to care enough to laugh.

The characters in general weren’t fleshed out, and remained at face value level. While normally, this could work in humorous stories, at least in my own reading experience, a little depth is still somewhat needed for me to fully appreciate a cast. There wasn’t much of an explanation for Queenie’s involvement, for instance, and the whole thing with Jenny indeed seemed to have moved way too fast (one month?). Some elements remained unexplained, some loose ends weren’t tied, making the novel seem like it’s begging for a sequel. The villain’s plan also felt too stale. The love interest sparked zero interest here on my part. Again, it was supposed to be funny, I know. Only it just didn’t work in my case, owing to Bremy’s TSTL quality and Pierce’s naivety. That combo was a deadly one (not in a good nor amusing way).

Overall, this novel felt as if it was trying too hard to be funny, and in the end, it became sort of… tiring. Much to my dismay, because it’s one of the genres (humour + loser heroes) I’m usually attracted to.

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