Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review: Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Beastly Bones by William Ritter 
Series: Jackaby #2
Published: September 22nd, 2016
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
296 pages (ebook)
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Mystery
Acquired this book: Won
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

 In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad's Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

Two years ago when Jackaby came out, it was being promoted as 'Sherlock meets Doctor Who'. Now, for someone who loves both those things, that was setting the bar pretty high. From my experience, comparing a book to another book/TV show/movie is rarely a good idea because it often sets impossibly high expectations for diehard fans. I was relieved and thrilled when I read Jackaby and discovered it was very much Sherlock meets Doctor Who, with its own unique and fun premise and characters. I was excited to carry on with the series and went into Beastly Bones with high hopes. While the book was mostly entertaining and had quite a bit going for it, I was disappointed.

Where Jackaby was fun, quirky, and fast paced, I found Beastly Bones dragged quite a bit. It started out well; the story picked up right where the last one left off, and we’re thrown into a world - Jackaby’s world - where paranormal happenings are commonplace. Abigail was getting used to her boss’s peculiarities and to the fact the world holds much more than most people are aware of. I still enjoyed Abigail’s voice and her observations, and thought she was a great match for Jackaby. There were some new character additions too, and they added a lot to the story.

There was nothing ‘wrong’ with Beastly Bones. The characters, plot, and premise were all great. There was just something about it that was underwhelming. The entire middle of the book dragged. Things happened at a very...slow...rate. There was too much technical talk. I kept thinking of it as ‘dino talk’ or ‘science talk’ - either way, it had my eyes glazing over more than once. There was also something lacking when it came to Jackaby himself. As I said before, as a huge fan of both Sherlock and Doctor Who, Jackaby appealed to me because he was a mixture of the two, with his own special, unique quirks thrown in. His social awkwardness and chaotic energy made for some hilarious dialogue, and I liked that he was a bit of a mystery. Those things were still the same, and while he did have some amusing remarks and observations, I didn’t find myself laughing as much or feeling as engaged or curious.

Overall, Beastly Bones was good but not great. With a bit more action, the book could have been great, but the sluggish pace affected my overall enjoyment. This could be solely a ‘me’ thing though, so I’d recommend reading it if you enjoyed Jackaby, and I’ll definitely be reading the third book, Ghostly Echoes. There was fantastic set-up for the third book throughout Beastly Bones, so I’m hopeful that it’ll have the magic and that special something that made me love Jackaby.  

{My review of Jackaby by William Ritter}

Have you read Jackaby or Beastly Bones? What did you think? If you haven't read them, do you plan to? How do you feel about books being compared to other books/movies/TV shows? Can you think of any examples where the comparisons were warranted?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: The Hill by Karen Bass

The Hill by Karen Bass
Series: Standalone
Published: March 31st, 2016
Publisher: Pajama Press
250 pages (paperback)
Genre: Young Adult Thriller/Supernatural
Acquired this book: Via Pajama Press in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo

Jared's plane has crashed in the Alberta wilderness, and Kyle is first on the scene. When Jared insists on hiking up the highest hill in search of cell phone reception, Kyle hesitates; his Cree grandmother has always forbidden him to go near it. There’s no stopping Jared, though, so Kyle reluctantly follows. After a night spent on the hilltop with no cell service the teens discover something odd: the plane has disappeared. Nothing in the forest surrounding them seems right. In fact, things seem very wrong. And worst of all, something is hunting them. Karen Bass, the multi-award-winning author of Graffiti Knight and Uncertain Soldier, brings her signature action packed style to a chilling new subject: the Cree Wihtiko legend. Inspired by the real story of a remote plane crash and by the legends of her Cree friends and neighbours, Karen brings eerie life or perhaps something other than life to the northern Alberta landscape in The Hill.

Jared is used to getting his own way and getting whatever he wants. He’s dependent on technology and would rather relax in comfort in his designer clothes than do anything in the great outdoors. When his private plane crashes in the wilderness, the first person on the scene is a Cree teen named Kyle. Despite the fact Kyle tells Jared there’s no cell service nearby, Jared is determined that if he climbs the nearby hill, he’ll get reception. Kyle has always been warned away from the hill, but when Jared insists on going, Kyle knows he can’t let him go alone. Once they’ve climbed the hill, both boys quickly realize why Kyle was always told to stay away from the hill.

The Hill isn’t a typical story of survival in the wilderness. The boys do need to fend for themselves, but there’s something far more sinister than wild animals and the elements in the forest - Jared and Kyle are being pursued by a Wihtiko, a Cree legend come to terrifying life. The pair need to learn to work together and overcome their differences in order to survive. The dynamics between the two were really interesting - they’re complete opposites and have nothing in common, but in a very short time and under extreme circumstances, they forge a strong bond. Jared especially learns a lot about himself through Kyle, which was interesting to see.

The Hill was different from anything I’ve ever read. I loved that it was written by a Canadian author, set in Canada, and used a real Cree legend. I was also really happy to see a main character who was Native. This is so (unfortunately) rare that it actually made me ridiculously excited! The Hill is a creepy, paranormal twist on a survival story. It has great messages about privilege, stereotypes, and friendship. I’d particularly recommend it to fans of the TV show Supernatural - the Wihtiko is similar to the Wendigo, which Sam and Dean fought in season one.


Have you read The Hill? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Are you familiar with the Wihtiko (or even the Wendigo) legend? Do you have a favourite story about survival?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Bookstagram Weekly Digest #11

Bookstagram Weekly Digest ~ Every Friday or Saturday I'll share the pictures I posted on Bookstagram the week before. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram and see my daily bookish pictures, I'm SweetMarie_83!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie

Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie
Series: Standalone
Published: September 15th, 2015
Publisher: Merit Press
223 pages (eARC)
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction/Mystery/Retelling/Horror
Acquired this book: Via Edelweiss in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Seventeen-year-old Bridget Sullivan is alone in Fall River, a city that sees Irish immigrants as nothing more than a drunken drain on society. To make matters worse, she's taken employment with the city’s most peculiar and gossip-laden family—the Bordens. But Bridget can’t afford to be picky—the pay surpasses any other job Bridget could ever secure and she desperately needs the money to buy her little sister, Cara, passage to the states. It doesn’t hurt that the job location is also close to her beau, Liam. As she enters the disturbing inner workings of the Borden household, Bridget clings to these advantages.

However, what seemed like a straightforward situation soon turns into one that is untenable. Of course Bridget has heard the gossip around town about the Bordens, but what she encounters is far more unsettling. The erratic, paranoid behavior of Mr. Borden, the fearful silence of his wife, and worse still…the nightly whisperings Bridget hears that seem to come from the walls themselves.

The unexpected bright spot of the position is that Lizzie Borden is so friendly. At first, Bridget is surprised at how Lizzie seems to look out for her, how she takes a strong interest in Bridget’s life. Over time, a friendship grows between them. But when Mr. Borden’s behavior goes from paranoid to cruel, and the eerie occurrences in the house seem to be building momentum, Bridget makes the tough decision that she must leave the house—even if it means leaving behind Lizzie, her closest friend, alone with the madness. Something she swore she would not do.

But when Bridget makes a horrifying discovery in the home, all that she thought she knew about the Bordens is called into question…including if Lizzie is dangerous. And the choice she must make about Lizzie’s character could mean Bridget’s life or death.


I’ve always been aware of who the Borden family were and that Lizzie Borden had supposedly killed her parents with an axe, but I didn’t know much beyond that. I was intrigued when I heard about Sweet Madness, a retelling of the Borden murders from the perspective of their seventeen-year-old Irish maid, Bridget.

Sweet Madness is a fascinating and creepy look inside the madness of the Borden house, the motives for a brutal murder, and the darkness that lives within some people. For anyone who knows a lot about the Borden murders, and even for those who know little to nothing, I think it’s important to remember this is a fictional retelling of real events. The authors used creative license to put forth their own theories and put a creative spin on what happened, since nothing was ever really proven. The reason I’m mentioning this is because I saw a few reviews that complained about how many inaccuracies the book had, but for me personally, going into a book like this I try to have an open mind and enjoy it for what it is, even knowing some things will be changed and the ending is pure fiction. 
Rumours about the Bordens had been circulating Fall River for years. People in town talked about how odd they were, especially Lizzie and Emma, homely spinster sisters with strange habits. Mr. Borden was a wealthy, successful businessman and yet his family lived in poor conditions and went without things. Bridget had been working for the Bordens for the past year and had stuck around, despite the rumours and despite the family’s strange behavior and demands, partly because the pay was good, partly because it allowed her to be closer to her boyfriend, and partly because she’d befriended Lizzie.

Sweet Madness had so many fascinating elements to it. Bridget had her own interesting story - coming over from Ireland, wanting to bring her sister over eventually, being in love with an Irishman and being part of his family, plus the whole ‘outsider view’ element of her being in the Borden house and being privy to certain things while still feeling this aura of mystery, tension, danger, and madness. Because Bridget had access to a lot of the house and spent most of her time there, she saw and heard a lot of what went on - the odd behavior, but also the cruelty and mind games. It was hard to know who to trust since things weren’t always as they seemed. While I was reading, I kept thinking this book would make a fantastically creepy movie.   

After I finished reading Sweet Madness, I pulled up Wikipedia and read about the Bordens and was impressed with a lot of the details, both big and small, that the authors worked into the story. They built up so much mystery and tension in the book that the spin they put on the murders seemed completely believable. That house was filled with madness - whether it was cursed or haunted, or whether the darkness and demons came from within its inhabitants, it all came together to make for something dark, disturbing, and thrilling. I would highly recommend Sweet Madness to fans of horror, historical fiction, and mystery.

Have you read Sweet Madness? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Are you familiar with the Borden murders? Do you think Lizzie killed her parents?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Review: Three Simple Words by AJ Pine

Three Simple Words by AJ Pine
Series: Kingston Ale House #3
Published: October 17th, 2016
Publisher: Entangled
238 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

She's holding out for a happy ever after.

I know where to find my happily ever after—between the pages of a romance novel. It’s why I sell books, why I blog about them, and why I’ll never get disappointed by love.

So what if my brother’s best friend from high school is now a bestselling author? Or that he just blew back into town on a Harley, filling out a pair of jeans like he never did before? Or that he’s agreed to do a signing at my bookstore on such short notice? Because despite all his adoring female fans, I kind of hated his book.

The last time I saw Annie Denning, she was a senior in high school, three years older than me and way out of my league.
Now I’m her last-minute date to a wedding, and what started as a night of pure fun has turned into something more real than either of us anticipated.

Annie is my muse. When I’m with her, my writer’s block fades away, and the words finally flow.

The only problem? She wants the fairy tale—her very own happily ever after—and anyone who’s read my book knows the truth. I just don’t believe they exist.

In the acknowledgments of Three Simple Words, AJ Pine refers to the book as a ‘love letter to romance’. That’s exactly what this book felt like: a love letter to the romance genre and to the people who love it. Three Simple Words has everything I love most about romance: a strong, smart heroine; a sexy, swoonworthy, and flawed hero; and plenty of banter, sexytimes, and real emotion.

Annie not only believes in happily ever afters, she wants her own. She wants the type of love she reads about in books...which just happens to be the type of love Wes doesn’t believe in and didn’t include in his best-selling book. His novel is loosely based on his own experiences with romance, sex, and his aversion to the whole concept of ‘happily ever after’. He and Annie seem like complete opposites, but there’s this spark between them they can’t deny. What ensues is a lot of familiar romance tropes rolled into something special and fun. While there were familiar elements, which was an added bonus to the ‘love letter to romance’ feel the book had, the story and characters felt fresh and unique, and I was captivated from beginning to end.

One of the things I liked best about this book was how involved the characters from the previous books were. Each book can technically be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend reading each of them, and in the order of publication. This book in particular is tied in more tightly with the others because of certain events. There was one truly lovely scene that made me cry, but I don’t think it would have as much of an emotional impact to people who hadn’t read the first two books. I loved seeing Jamie, Brynn, Holly, Will, and Jeremy be such a big part of Annie and Wes’s story. Pine has a knack for writing ensemble casts - I felt like I was part of the group from her If Only... series, and now I feel like I’m a member of the Kingston Ale House group, too.

Three Simple Words is a book I know I’ll be recommending often to people who are looking for well-written, fun, sexy romance. It made me laugh out loud, tear up several times, and swoon. The characters weren’t perfect - they were flawed and they made mistakes, which made them feel real and made me root for them even more. Three Simple Words is my favourite in the Kingston Ale House series, which is saying a lot because I loved the first two books!

Other books in the Kingston Ale House series:

Have you read Three Simple Words or any of the other books in the Kingston Ale House series? What did you think? If you haven't read them, do you plan to? Who are some of your favourite romance authors?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bookstagram Weekly Digest #10

Bookstagram Weekly Digest ~ Every Friday or Saturday I'll share the pictures I posted on Bookstagram the week before. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram and see my daily bookish pictures, I'm SweetMarie_83!

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada, so I did a thank-you post to the amazing people I've met and befriended online. 



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