1.5 star, YA

ARC Review: All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation.

Summer 1958—a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes—even in their beds—their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere. 

September 19- the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.

Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to. 

As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?



**All These Bodies come out September 21, 2021**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

TW: extreme violence, potential abuse from a father figure

I’m as shocked as anyone that this is how it went for this book, but it just did not agree with me. All These Bodies is less of a thrilling mystery than it is an ill-conceived horror. With little plot that comes to the actual crimes themselves, it solely relies on the paranormal nature of these murders to create an air of suspense and thrill.

I came into this book thinking it would be a (rather gruesome) mystery. Unfortunately, it was less a mystery than a wild chase for a story from the girl left at the last crime scene.

Michael Jensen is a solid protagonist to follow. He has a good head on his shoulders and learned to deal with the consequences of being the sheriff’s son a long time ago. With his fascination for journalism and plain ol’ being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is roped into the string of serial killings that has swept the few states around his hometown.

The girl, Marie, sees him once and is instantly fascinated. Maybe it’s because he is around her age, against the backdrop of lawyers and police officers that are insistent on her story. Or maybe, as Michael himself believes, it’s because he’s the only kind of person who would potentially believe the story that she has to tell.

If you’re looking for some supernatural criminal and are oddly excited to read about the ramifications of explaining such a thing to rational minded people, then you’re luck because this is the book for you! But if you’re not interested in these things, then I don’t know what you’re left with in this novel.

Was it creepy? Yes, I will admit that. Kendare Blake knows how to set the environment and write with vagueness around this mysterious killer. Did I think the paranormal aspect added to the story? No, not really. I would’ve thought it could be as interesting without a paranormal angle.

At the heart of this book, it is trying to challenge belief and how people see the world, but I find that the characters were either on one side or the other the whole time. They weren’t persuaded to think otherwise no matter what “truths” were uncovered during the investigation. Which left me feeling frustrated for Michael who is the only one on the fence with belief and is therefore isolated in his struggle to make sense of everything.

In fact, I was frustrated during most of this book. People can be so awful and hypocritical. The townspeople were upset at Michael and his family for keeping the “criminal girl” in their town for questioning and investigation, so they harassed the poor family incessantly, even those who were once considered friends. But when the investigation took a turn, they were the very first to say (in a super sexist manner) that they didn’t believe she could’ve committed such crimes because she was a girl. So not a lot of warm fuzzy feelings in this book at all.

I will contend at least that I blew through this book super quickly. It’s rather short and in a manner, I just wanted to get to the end to see how it would all turn out. Would Marie tell Michael the whole story for how she came to be in that house with the murdered family? Would we, as readers, fully believe what she has to say?

However, any warm fuzzies I hoped to gain from a good ending was also shattered. I am not adverse to open endings where much is left to one’s interpretation and scope of the imagination. But, this was more than just open-ended. It was abrupt and lacked closure. It was the precipice of a reckless choice. I half couldn’t believe it ended there, but then when I thought about the set up of this whole book with its supernatural aura, I suppose that’s the only kind of ending that would work. But this is a fair warning to you all that this is DEFINITELY not for everyone.

It definitely was not for me.

Overall Recommendation:

All These Bodies comes across as a true crime mystery in its synopsis but is most definitely classed as a paranormal horror. With a fascinating premise about a serial killer on the loose and a girl left behind at the last crime scene, I came into this book thinking one thing and leaving with something else entirely. While the protagonist, Michael, was rather enjoyable to follow (I totally agreed with most of his thoughts), everything else was a let down. From the lack of plot surrounding the crimes to the lack of closure in its ending, it was hard to invest in. What little I did invest emotionally, I was left with disappointment. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, or those with high expectations. But if you enjoy paranormal horrors, then I suppose you are the exact audience this novel is meant for.

5 star, YA

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Series: Shadow of the Fox #1

shadow of the fox -julie kagawaOnce Every Thousand Years…

Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns…and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near…and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret.

Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune shapeshifting powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has…and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

A wish will be granted and a new age will dawn.


5 Drink Me Potions


**Shadow of the Fox comes out October 2, 2018**

Thank you to Indigo Books & Music and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Finally, another masterpiece by Julie Kagawa. I haven’t felt such admiration for her work since the first book of The Iron Fey series came out a decade ago.

A piece of art steeped in Japanese folklore and legends, Shadow of the Fox was a delicious, sometimes even creepy, romp into a Japanese-centric world of samurai, honour, and a refreshing heroine who doesn’t have the answers to everything right off the bat.

Initially, I will admit, the Japanese words and terms can get a little bit confusing, but eventually they become a part of your vocab like you naturally use them. Fans of Japanese animes and mangas may be a little more accustomed to how individuals refer to each other, or the words for demons, ghosts, and other supernatural beings that are a part of Japanese legends. Our protagonist, Yumeko, is a kitsune. A type of fox demon. Regardless of the negative connotation that the word demon normally brings out, this girl was raised in a temple by monks. Yes. Monks. You would think that those wouldn’t go together, right?

If you thought she made for an unlikely heroine, meet our other protagonist. Kage Tatsumi, an infamous member of the Shadow Clan with a dark burden he carries in the form of a sword, is otherwise known as the demonslayer.

Half fox demon and a demonslayer. Unlikely allies. My book senses are already tingling.

But wait! That’s not it at all.

These individuals meet due to strange circumstances. A time is drawing near where the possibility of great evil may emerge. And the only one to stop it from destroying everything they know of this world? A half-kitsune fulfilling a vow she made. Yumeko embarks on an adventure she never asked for, bringing along Tatsumi as they search for a piece of a scroll that could NOT fall into the hands of evil.

For a book this length, there were surprisingly few names that we meet. Yet it works well for this kind of story. A good portion of the book was just the alternating POVs of Yumeko and Tatsumi as they venture towards their next destination in their quest. Other individuals come along, both good and bad, and their company may even grow as they continue. But at the heart of it, this novel really spends a good amount of time developing our 2 protagonists and the main supporting characters. At the end of the day, I felt like I knew this company of unlikely allies and friends. They may each come from different backgrounds, and different secrets or motives may abound between them, yet there is loyalty and might I say, even friendship, that ties them so strongly together.

Romance wasn’t an important part of the book, although those of you who enjoy some elements of it should still be pleased with the little moments between Tatsumi and Yumeko. I personally enjoyed the individual growth each displayed. Yumeko was a naive girl who never knew what the world outside the temple was like. From fighting demons (oni) and ghosts (yurei) and other awful evils intent on preventing them from fulfilling their mission, she learned more of what she could do as part kitsune but never let any of this evil change the caring and trusting heart that she had. Tatsumi is your mysterious, emotionless guy that is quite typical in YA writings. But he’s not as simple as that statement sounds. Throughout the events that unfold, there’s this anticipation building as we watch him balance this fine line of controlling the inner demon inside of him (quite literally).

The depth of world building was by far my favourite. Japanese folklore brought to life, Kagawa really described this land and the magical, mystical creatures that are just a part of Japanese culture. It’s not just your simple samurai (whoop-dee-doo) either. One may be tempted to make comparisons with Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist series, but I personally think this book goes into it a lot more. The protagonists aren’t your honourable samurai warriors, but rather a ragtag group of people who are normally on the outskirts of this kind of Japanese society. Kitsune, shinobi, ronin.

While the plot was a mere adventure towards the first stop in fulfilling the mission and completing the Dragon scroll everyone is searching for, it sets the foundation for a lot more excitement. The climax of the story answered a few things, although many more questions were opened up. I wouldn’t say it was a cliffhanger but there are definitely teasers hooking me in for more of what’s to come in book 2.

Shadow of the Fox is the book I’ve been waiting for from Julie Kagawa since I read her debut novel. This is the piece of work that I feel describes Julie maybe even more than The Iron Fey books did. And I cannot wait for whatever is to come from what was set in motion here.

Overall Recommendation:
Shadow of the Fox is a remarkable adventure through Japanese legends of spirits, gods, demons and other supernatural entities. Julie Kagawa has drawn us into this Japanese-centric world with unique characters on a mission for pieces of a scroll that hold the key to great wonders or evil. Following unlikely allies Yumeko and Tatsumi on their quest, secrets abound, dangers unfold and more questions open up about who to trust in this world of samurai and oni. I would recommend this book to anyone in search of a book that piques a sense of adventure and amazing world building.

book vs movie, musings, YA

Book vs Movie: Before I Fall

Hey everyone,

In the midst of so many book-based movies coming out in the last while, I’m trying a new segment on my blog that pits these movies with their books. Who comes out the winner on top?

This month’s BOOK vs MOVIE is Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. Note: this post does not provide any major spoilers for those who have not read the book or seen the movie in case you wish to do so in the future.

before i fall -lauren oliver

Image result for before i fall movie poster

 

 

VS.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Synopsis:

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

Named to numerous state reading lists, this novel was also recognized as a Best Book of the Year by Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, The Daily Beast, NPR, and Publishers Weekly. It has been optioned for film by Fox 2000 Pictures.


Pros for the book:

  • it dived into more details about each repetition of that Valentine’s day that Sam had to live through, garnering more understanding about her situation and the events she witnessed (and ultimately changed)
  • the relationship with Kent was better explored – ah be still my beating heart
  • having explored the toxic emotions that you’d expect Sam would go through with every repetition (from anger to rebellion to eventual resignation/hope)

Pros for the movie:

  • stellar audio and visuals to really drive home the impact of Sam’s emotions as she learned more about her situation
  • Zoey Deutch’s acting (as Samantha Kingston) has always been amazing in my opinion and she really captured the transformation of Sam’s personality as the same day keeps repeating
  • Halston Sage (as bestie Lindsay) was spot-on for what I’d always imagined a mean girl with some hidden depth would look like. Either way, she was perfect for this role

Cons for the book:

  • uh, the length of the first day took FOREVER to get through – why can’t everything be condensed to movie-length sometimes?

Cons for the movie:

  • No depth into the true motives and characterizations of Sam’s 3 best friends (including the vast amount of information about Lindsay and her relationship to the girl they bully)
  • Emotional insight into Sam and Kent’s relationship, no matter how one-sided it got sometimes with Sam remembering everything but Kent having no recollection each time the day reset

I thought the movie overall followed the book well enough (and it shouldn’t be surprising if author Lauren Oliver was given room to help produce this movie). The tidbits into emotional depth and further character development in Sam would be hard to achieve on screen no matter what kind of movie as that’s the beauty of a book – the first hand experience of the protagonist’s experiences.

However, there is clearly still a winner in this. And that of course goes to the BOOK.

before i fall -lauren oliver

I recommend you read it, especially if you’ve watched the movie. For a full review on the book, you can find that here.

Feel free to comment below on your thoughts/opinions on the book or the movie! Are you a fan of Zoey Deutch as I am?