Once Upon A Gif: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Once upon a gif is a feature by Hafsah and Asma at Iceybooks, where a pre-review is written with gifs. My full review of LIARS, INC. will come out on February 20th, 2015. 

liars, inc. by paula stokes

For fans of Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, and TV’s How to Get Away with Murder.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called “Captivating to the very end,” Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

Description taken from Goodreads.

LIARS, INC. impressed me from the very beginning. It wasn’t stand-and-shout-to-the-world-how-much-you-love-this-book good, but it was exciting, well-written and with great descriptions.

so beautiful much nice Gandalf gif

Max is one of the more out-of-the-box characters I’ve read. There were so many times when I felt bad for him, or I cheered him on, or he completely disgusted me. For the most part, he was a hero that.. isn’t really a hero at all. Someone could/should do a complete post on the many faces of Max Cantrell. It’d be worth reading. Despite that fact, Max still very much retains who he is at the core (not in a Rob Swanson way, but in a Max way) and it was something I loved about him throughout LIARS, INC.

the many faces of rob swanson gif

I loved how flawed each of the character in this story are, and it was easy to keep track of the cast because not too many people show up in this story.

small crowd gif not being social

Stokes take us into a world spun of lies and everything that leads up to Max in a cabin in the middle of the woods facing two FBI agents. The world-building is beautifully done and everything is well organized so that the mystery remains a mystery but it’s easy to understand.

And the romance. I will say, Parvati isn’t my favorite YA girl. Far far away. Like where Shrek lives far away. But at the same time, I did like her at times, and I didn’t hate her in the end. In fact, I rather liked her romance with Max, and I LOVED how this book turned out. Parvati tries to act tough and cool in the beginning, but as time went on I began to see more of a different side of her. It took way longer than Preston and Max and the other characters, but I came to like her. When she does show vulnerability eventually, it makes it more important to the story.

ouran high school host club haruhi and tamaki gif

Then everything blew up. Not literally, but quite figuratively. The villain was definitely not who I thought they were, and I got so confused (in a good way!) about who was what. Things get more and more messed up, and I came to finally see how perverse it all is.

this is the best gif

no no no no gif

what the heck emma stone gif

Then something happened that truly threw me over the edge, something I wrestled with for awhile and debated not reviewing this book over.

space brothers what the heck gif

Check back on February 20th to see my full review!

pg count for the hardback: 368


ARC Review: Gone Too Far by Natalie D. Richards

gone too far by natalie d. richards

Keeping secrets ruined her life. But the truth might just kill her.

Piper Woods can’t wait for the purgatory of senior year to end. She skirts the fringes of high school like a pro until the morning she finds a notebook with mutilated photographs and a list of student sins. She’s sure the book is too gruesome to be true, until pretty, popular Stella dies after a sex-tape goes viral. Everyone’s sure it’s suicide, but Piper remembers Stella’s name from the book and begins to suspect something much worse.

Drowning in secrets she doesn’t want to keep, Piper’s fears are confirmed when she receives an anonymous text message daring her to make things right. All she needs to do is choose a name, the name of someone who deserves to be punished…

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be released January 6th, 2015, in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own.

Shall we say… Death Note?

Okay, no.. just, no. But GONE TOO FAR can stand on it’s own.

Probably my favorite thing about GONE TOO FAR is the characters in it. When I first opened this book up, I expected it to be at least as good as Six Months Later, but it wasn’t.

It was so much better.

The mystery was the very first thing that I noticed I was enjoying much more than SIX MONTHS LATER (not that SML was bad, it just wasn’t my favorite book. I actually really enjoyed it). The mystery goes by at a fairly fast pace. It isn’t too hard to figure out, but it kept me occupied the entire course of the story. I enjoyed watching every aspect of the book play out, especially when I saw where everything was going.

The fact of the matter is that in the beginning, Piper just wasn’t very likable to me. Sure, there were plenty of strong points about her. She was never so unlikable that I thought about not reading the book the whole way through because of her, just irritating in many ways, especially when faced with the ups and downs as well as consequences of what she brings about in the aftermath of Stella’s death. In fact, Piper is likable in a lot of ways. She’s smart, she knows what her weaknesses/strengths are, she’s realistic and she’s relatable.

But she’s also reckless at times, and dives straight into the idea of revenge without looking at the mysterious texter seriously sideways even once, what her actions could mean for other people. I also didn’t love how she handled the realization that the so-called vigilante had “gone too far”, to bring in the namesake of this book.

Things got way better after Piper realized that she had to do something about the situation at hand, to reverse things and make them better instead of worse. After that point, she came to genuinely think about the assumptions she’d made to get her to that point and help her out of it. Then an awesome character change came into place. The development that happens here, because of the events that have happened and the people around her, Richards highlights her characters at their very best and very worst in a way that shows how nuanced and real GONE TOO FAR is.

I think my greatest disappointment with GONE TOO FAR was that at the end, it struck me that this book could’ve been more. There were a few scenes that were spent on petty drama that I especially wanted to stick out more, to reach farther, to dig deeper into the mystery and the mess Piper got herself into, or get into the emotional weight of certain scenes more.

Overall, I really enjoyed GONE TOO FAR. The observations by Piper are vivid, well-drawn and allowed me into her world. Richards shows the relationships, growing, broken and the way they are in the beginning/end extremely well. They’re not just kind or mean, they’re everything in between. GONE TOO FAR has a complicated villain, a great mystery, an endearing heroine and writing that completely transported me into the middle of it all. I would recommend this book for people who liked DEAR KILLER by Katherine Ewell but wanted more. For people who have read GONE TOO FAR already and wanted more from it, I would recommend LIARS, INC. by Paula Stokes. 3.5 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 304

Review: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

the madman's daughter by megan shepherd

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

Description taken from Goodreads.

People told me this book was disturbing. They didn’t tell me how disturbing.

There’s a quote from Paula Stokes that goes, “When you care about someone, you can’t just turn that off because you learn that they betrayed you.” That is exactly the feeling I get when I read this book. I can’t even begin to explain the madness that is this story and the goodness in the evil of the characters, especially in the villains. Shepherd created this story with some pretty amazing and complex characters, and that is just the first of the things she should be commended for.

One of the biggest conflicts in this story is the self-conflict that Juliet feels as well as the conflict she feels with the people around her. This book has a fairly small cast (bordering on medium) that Juliet is constantly questioning at one point or another. That makes it sound like a bad thing, but I didn’t think it was. None of the characters of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, including Juliet, are goody-goodies who are completely for or completely against what Dr. Moreau and Juliet started.

All of the characters in THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER are strong in one way or another. (Speaking of characters, I would’ve loved to see more of Lucy and Adam). Juliet is bold and brave, a very strong heroine without having to prove anything about herself–refreshing after books that point out time and time again how the heroine doesn’t need anyone and is strong all on her own. She’s not someone who is really cute in any sense. She’s not busy focusing on herself, but more of others, in her own way. She has her own insecurities as well as strengths. And she’s got a brain, by the way, and she uses it. It’s not one she just talks about. Like I said, refreshing.

I won’t say I was entirely okay with Montgomery or Juliet’s father or even Edward. They all have their own flaws, just like Juliet does. Montgomery is trapped in this eternal cycle of worshipping Juliet’s father while still knowing at heart that what he’s doing is wrong. Juliet’s father is delusional and utterly insane, but he’s still Juliet’s father. Edward… I don’t even know where to begin with Edward. For most of the story, I was set against him, but Shepherd completely messed that up too (in the last 50 pages of the book, no less). I was just as confused as Juliet about each of these characters, which I’ll say was a pretty impressive move. I hated some of Juliet’s reactions to how the people around her acted, but I could understand her at the same time.

There are lots of questions about morality, abnormality, madness, and how far is too far to go under the pretenses of science. Shepherd addresses all of these taboo topics skillfully, in a way that the reader can see just how multi-dimensional these ideas are. It’s not hard to understand the different dissection parts and there’s not a lot of vocabulary to learn over the course of the story.

For those of you who are wondering which book the quote is from, that’s from her upcoming book (that I read and think is fantastic) Liars, Inc. Add it to your TBR! 

Let’s talk characters. Juliet. Edward. Cymbeline. I can blame school Shakespeare studies for my recognition of these names. The very first thing I think of when I hear the name Juliet is Romeo & Juliet, a story that I think is massively overrated–but that’s for another time.

Find out about the No Fear, Shakespeare SparkNotes series and The Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

As soon as I saw the groupings of names, I figured something was up. I can understand slipping in a few references, but there was way too many characters for it to be just a simple admiration of Shakespeare.

This book and the gruesome secrets behind what Dr. Moreau has done–closer to the main characters of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER than I ever thought in the beginning–were something I never saw coming. Fans of THE MONSTUMOLOGIST by Rick Yancey or anyone who thinks Virals by Kathy Reichs meets the “pursuit of science” would be interesting to see, this book is for you. I would strongly caution animal lovers or animal (even human) rights activists against reading this book.

THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER…. I really would not agree with everything that is in this book. I don’t mean that I disliked parts of it (I actually did dislike the romance. All of it.) but what I mean to say is that there are so many controversial topics in this book that it’s hard for me to have a strong opinion. One thing I can say–I do believe this book is one of those truly fearless books. I do think it’s very well-written. There’s amazing descriptions and prose. The horror is horrifying without being too scary. The topics are covered in a way that doesn’t cover up anything, but instead shows all the complexity to these issues.

All in all, I would recommend this book. 9 out of 10 times, I most likely would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of 15/16. Of course, there are exceptions to that–but this book is graphic at times and kind of creepy at others. For the right person, this book is brilliant in many aspects. I totally did not expect the ending and I can’t wait for the next book. 4.3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 420

Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

She has everything she’s ever wanted. But not her memory…

When Chloe fell asleep in study hall, it was the middle of May. When she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can’t remember the last six months of her life.

Before, she’d been a mediocre student. Now, she’s on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now he’s her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now her best friend won’t speak to her.

Description taken from Goodreads. 

To say the least, SIX MONTHS LATER has a great mystery. Sure, the whole book is a little drawn out, but I loved the mystery here. For some reason, I kept on comparing it to the feel of Far From You by Tess Sharpe (maybe because that was the last hugely mystery based book that I’ve read…) but the mystery here was far better done than FAR FROM YOU. I do have to admit I cared more about the supporting characters in FAR FROM YOU than I did here, but I did like the main character in SIX MONTHS LATER more than in FAR FROM YOU.

When it came down to things like plotting and the whole memory loss scheme, the poor pacing brought the whole book down–but not too much. I did like the way that the plot unfolded and the way that I was able to clearly see just how broken Chloe’s life had become and how different it was. One thing about that–I really wished that her friendship with Maggie was focused on a little more around the time that they got back together, because I wanted to know a little more about them, why they broke up, why Maggie was so upset that even as an ex-best friend, she wouldn’t call back her old best friend the first time when she sounded so panicked and out of it.

And Maggie. I liked her, but I mean–the visual I had of her was the stuttering girl from Good Luck Charlie. Seriously. That’s not a good image to have.

I did like the ending though and I thought that Adam’s crucial role in this story not only as a love interest but also as a person and a friend was awesome to see. It made me enjoy his character even more. As for Blake though, I wished there was a better dynamic between him and Chloe. Even for a second I wished that Chloe could act like Blake is the guy she thinks he is, the guy of her dreams. She’s been crushing on this guy since forever and all of a sudden she has him and can’t even act like his girlfriend?

Other than the indifference and coldness when it came to Blake, I think that Richards did a good job with the whole memory loss scheme. I don’t think it was pulled off as cleanly as J.A. Sounders’s RENEGADE, but it was done well and I liked the fact that Chloe wasn’t alone in it and that she was able to tell a few people. I also appreciated that fact that she does eventually get her memory back and the reasons for losing it, as well as the suspense and mystery themes, were well-done, creepy and believable.

This mystery ties up nicely and there wasn’t anything spectacularly bad about it, which was nice to see and I enjoyed Richard’s writing. If anything, I wanted the pace cleaned up a little bit and made a bit faster, but overall this was a good read and a good mystery. I didn’t love the cover, but for those interested in reading it, it doesn’t disappoint. 3 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 323

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her?

Description taken from Goodreads.

This was a DNF for me, somewhere around 240 pages.

First thing that’s annoying about this book. This book is narrated in Sophie’s point of view, and she basically repeats the sentence “I’m stuck here and Mina’s killer is walking free.” over and over again before Sharpe finally gets to the actual issue of Mina. The entire book is slow paced and drags a little bit, which was disappointing for a murder mystery, but that part especially was annoying. I can only hear Mina’s killer is walking free. Mina’s killer is walking free. Mina’s killer is walking free. so many times before I start to get really annoyed.

Then there was the thing I didn’t know before going into this book. Don’t worry–it’s not any kind of spoiler since it’s blatantly apparent and the entire point of this book. Mina and Sophie were in a relationship. This is an LGBT story. Sophie’s bisexual and Mina’s a lesbian. Mina wanted to hide because she was scared of what people would think, but Sophie was totally okay with coming out.

And Mina’s killer is walking free.

I don’t usually seek out LGBT stories, so this was a surprise.

The real issue I had with this book having to do with the LGBT issues in it though really wasn’t connected to the LGBT side to it at all. To read about my preferences when it comes to LGBT stories though, you should read this review from my friend Alyssa @ The Eater of Books about FAR FROM YOU. I have the same opinion as her when it comes to the romance of these stories. It was the fact that while Sophie was acting like some sort of brave, awesome, I-love-Mina-and-I-don’t-care, in reality she’s just a coward and a real jerk to Trevor, who’s Mina’s brother.

Oh, and Mina’s killer is walking free.

Trevor is the an awesome and cool guy–not to mention sweet to both his sister and Sophie–but she keeps leading him on, even going so far as to say that it *air quotes* would’ve been him, if not Mina.

No. No, no, no, no, no. That’s not how it works. You choose one or the other. You don’t just keep leading people on, toying with their emotions and who they are.

Oh yeah, and I have I mentioned that Mina’s killer is walking free?

You could say that I had a problem with the entire romance of this book. Yeah, you could say that. And you’d be right.

Since I DNFed, I have no idea who the killer is when it all boils down to it. That’s the thing though. I should know, because I should be having this burning desire to know, just for the sake of knowing. To figure it out. But I don’t want to, which speaks for how weak this murder mystery is. Sharpe makes too many mistakes drawing out scenes. The flashbacks between every single chapter were helpful, but boring. The mystery was weak here and there was too many plot opportunities wasted. I do have to say that I did like some of the characters–Macy, Trevor, a few of the supporting characters, but other than that I couldn’t stand this story. The premise was good, but the execution was terrible.

1 star.

pg count for the paperback: 352

Venom by Fiona Paul

Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Description taken from Goodreads. 

This was my first book from Fiona Paul and there were things I liked and didn’t like.

First of all, insta-connection with Falco. *cue internal screaming* The minute they get more than five seconds to talk, he starts flirting with her–in a graveyard, no less. And you know what’s funny? Or rather, really not funny… Cass’s want to know (healthy desire to know) what exactly Falco is doing in a graveyard in the middle of the night dissipates as she spends more and more time with him, the clues all saying that Falco has secrets he should probably be telling Cass. I also wish that Cass had focused more on the fact that, she is ENGAGED. Emphasis on the ENGAGED.

On to some of the things that I did like about this book–the Luca and Cassandra dynamic. I really do hope that Cass can come to like Luca as well, because I was not a fan of Falco. Falco’s just this wishy-washy half-character who’s always popping up everywhere and drawing things and keeping secrets from Cass. Going on with the good things though, I also enjoyed how the plot line was easy to follow. I wanted to come into this book and find a complex mystery, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I actually enjoyed the straightforward prose and plot. Things were fairy realistic and I did appreciate the historical setting. I didn’t always think Cass was a realistic heroine fitting the setting she was in, but I did like many aspects to her personality such as how she learned quickly, didn’t waste time and wasn’t all charmed by Falco.

I did like this book. It really wasn’t quite as… anything, really, that I thought it would be. It was entertaining, but in an entirely different way than I had imagined. It is a book that I would recommend for 15+ historical fiction fans. Overall, it was a good read. Not as good or bad as I imagined. Different. While Falco and Cass annoyed me at times, it had good writing and all in all, a good story. I’m looking forward to reading the next book. Everything seems like it’s coming together… 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 435

Series: Secrets of the Eternal Rose

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman

Shayne Blank is the new kid in town–but that doesn’t stop him from getting into a lot of trouble very quickly. The other kids don’t understand him. He’s not afraid of anything. He seems too smart. And his background doesn’t add up. But when he walks into the police department to confess to a murder, it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems. There’s more to Shayne–and his story–than meets the eye. As the details begin to fill in, the only thing that becomes clear is that nothing about Shayne’s story is clear at all.

Some of you reading this might’ve heard me grumble about it on Goodreads and Twitter. Blank Confession

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Now, I know that some people appreciate having questions unanswered at the ends of stories. Well, I only like unanswered questions when the future is held open. When the author makes it clear that everything is a possibility in the future. Sort of like the ending of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. In every other case, I like a clean-cut, solid, realistic ending. And that’s why I couldn’t fully appreciate the ending of this book. Maybe I’m just not clever enough to figure it out, but this book made me really mad because of what happened.

As for the writing itself, I have no complaints. Pete Hautman was able to write hard-hitting scenes, brutality in it’s simplest, most horrible forms. That takes skill. Format was what got to me. In the beginning, I thought it was really cool how the POV went from Mikey to the investigation room. I don’t know if this is just me, but I got a real THE USUAL SUSPECTS feel to it. Later on, the book lost that cool feeling and was replaced with tiredness because what ended up happening for me was that Mikey’s POV got really boring and the investigation room POV got really interesting.

Now, you might say that that makes no sense because Mikey’s POV has all the action in it and the investigation room POV is just boring, but that wasn’t accurate in my case. The investigation room POV was not really the investigation room POV, if you get what I mean. It was Shayne’s narration. And to me, that was more interesting than what Mikey had to say. Because of this predicament, the pacing felt really off to me. It would speed up in Shayne’s narration, and slow down in Mikey’s, or vice versa. Like when, in Shayne’s narration, they ordered pizza. Or, in Mikey’s narration where Marie, Mikey and Shayne were just talking. It got boring in some parts, compared to the rest of the book.

All in all, two stars. It was an okay story, there was just so much that I didn’t like about it, especially how it ended and how it was formatted. I think it just wasn’t for me. To others, this book may prove to be really, really satisfying. If you like Pete Hautman’s voice or this book just piques your interest, you should try it. It’s an interesting book, just not suited to my taste.

pg count for the hardback: 170