The Night Shift by Alex Finlay (ARC Review)

Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

To be frank, I am disappointed.

The Night Shift reads a lot like a knockoff of Riley Sager’s Final Girls, only with three points of view and a focus on the legal side of things. I had high hopes; it’s undoubtedly a good premise, and when I began, I felt a glimmer of hope. But it was quickly extinguished by the mediocre manner of storytelling and somewhat boring cast of characters.

I typically like stories told from multiple points of view, which is why I was, yet again, so surprised by this book. Two of the main characters narrating the story are varying levels of unlikable, and the other is enjoyable but a bit boring. I truly did not care what happened to any of the three of them. The only character I truly felt anything for was a side character who was discarded in the most boring way possible by the end.

On top of that, (and I’m not usually one to complain about this), but the writing of women was just offputting. The female FBI agent was the only tolerable woman of importance in the story, and she referred to an abortion as “taking care of the baby.” Yuck. Just use the word “aborting,” please.

The plot, on the other hand, starts off a little hard to follow because of the jumping from one character to another. Or maybe it was just because I was bored. But it eventually resolved itself to a pace I could enjoy a little more, with plot points that I was able to follow and even be intrigued by. The conclusion was pleasant, though it didn’t address a number of important issues displayed earlier in the book.

That said, there is more good than bad to The Night Shift. I did eventually find myself wondering what would happen. But it’s not one I would recommend to people with my similar taste in thrillers and mysteries. (If you’re more interested in the legal side of things and you don’t mind some odd writing of female characters, this might actually be the perfect book for you.) The best explanation I can give for The Night Shift is how I started this review: a slightly disappointing retelling of Final Girls with a less-than-sympathetic cast.

Elektra by Jennifer Saint (An ARC Review)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

For many, it was Percy Jackson. For me, it was Elektra that made me fall in love with Greek mythology. I’m a little late to the obsessing-over-Greek-myths club, but better late than never!

Following the story of three different but interconnected women, Elektra takes an insightful look at the complex, rich, albeit sometimes tragic relationships between mother and daughter, as well as the devastation of war on both sides of the battle. While I didn’t know much of the stories of Elektra, Clytemnestra, and Cassandra before reading, I was able to catch on easily to their roles.

Each character was written with the utmost care, particularly the three main woman, in such a way that I was able to discern one’s emotions and actions from one another early on in the story. This is something I find particularly important in books including multiple viewpoints; I could tell one woman from another, and I wanted to hear every perspective in turn. None of the women’s stories were a disappointment, and therefore, none of the chapters became boring. Admittedly, I didn’t particularly like Elektra, as a person, but her story was just as interesting to me as the others’.

Next comes the writing: beautiful and poetic, yet not forced. The creative language used in Elektra only made the story richer, and didn’t feel like a tool to fluff up an otherwise disappointing author’s writing.

I was also impressed that Saint was able to include such a long span of time in just one book, and then make it flow naturally. But that’s just what she did.

I don’t say it often, but this is an easy five-star book for me. Jennifer Saint is truly a talented writer, and I will definitely be picking up more of her stories in the future.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My entire synopsis in three words? Another great thriller.

And for any of you who know me and my reviews well, you know I love a great thriller. Even better, a great thriller including characters with whom I empathize; and a step up from that, a twisty ending. Final Girls included all of the above. Now, I’m not going to call this my perfect book, hence the four and a half stars instead of five, but it’s a short step away from being everything I wanted. Riley Sager just did so much right.

The main character, Quinn, is truly a well written individual. I understood her. I felt for her. And above all, I wanted to read her story. And without that itty bitty final element, a book tends to lose me really quickly. Sager was able to write Quinn as a potentially unreliable narrator while not irritating me with the fact that she might not be totally trustworthy at all times, and that is truly a talent.

As far as the side characters went, they were all over the place: big hit or big miss or completely blah. For me, the hit was the officer, Coop. I thought he was just offputting-yet-trustworthy enough to be of interest. I understood why Quinn felt the way she did about him; it would be hard to help after the situation she’d been in.

The miss was the friend whose name I won’t mention for spoiler purposes, though I ended up gaining a bit more appreciation for the character as the story went on. Finally, the blah was the boyfriend, Jeff. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great. Just there, which somehow worked for me.

Now, there is something about this story that I deeply appreciate but I don’t see often enough in the books I read. I think it’s only right to acknowledge it fully here. Two of the important side characters have very different but very controversial jobs: a police officer and a defense attorney. I love how the topics of their jobs are handled. There are moments where their controversial jobs are brought into question, and here’s what is so genius about the writing:

Sager is so completely true to the story and the character, I saw no flicker of the author’s out-of-the-blue opinions in those moments, just the characters’. In the brief times one was made out to be the bad guy, it was entirely due to believable reasons from the character’s standpoint and the story’s plot. For that, I commend you, Mr. Sager.

There is something so special about reading a story and never thinking “oh, there’s the author’s opinion awkwardly shoved in where it feels strange and wrong!” You know what I mean?

All in all, I can say I will likely pick up another of his books in the future. I am impressed by all aspects of this book and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a thriller to keep them guessing.

My Second Book Release!

I am so happy to announce the release of my second young adult suspense novel and sequel to The Half Theft, Better Luck This Time. I’ve spent more than a little time stressing over whether it is the perfect book and whether I am ready to hand it over to the eyes of the world. I think I finally am.

I can’t ever say thank you enough times for any of you to understand how much your support means to me. To those of you who visit my blog posts, to those of you who read The Half Theft, to those of you who leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and say you can’t wait for the premiere of Better Luck This Time: thank you. I love you guys endlessly.

Please consider picking up a copy of Better Luck This Time (or The Half Theft, if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience the killer city of Collinswood for yourself.)

ICYMI

The Half Theft follows the journey of my main character, Charlie Riverson, as he sets out to find his missing best friend, Elle Vikander, and solve a crime committed under his nose, all while combating the city’s most infamous criminal family, the Ducartes (who may or may not hold some very valuable information regarding Elle). As Charlie digs his way deeper into the family’s schemes, he builds something of a team, determined to get to the bottom of things and recover the person he loves most in the world.

Better Luck This Time picks up the same night its predecessor leaves off and follows the team’s journey to protect Charlie and save the city from a threat greater than they ever could have imagined.

Who might be interested in these books?

Anyone with a love for:

  • Morally gray characters
  • Friends to lovers
  • Cats (not the musical, but rather appearances by an actual animal)
  • A story to keep you on your toes
  • Young adult and suspense genres (obviously, haha!)

Where can I buy your books?

Cover + Release Date: Better Luck This Time

Hello, fellow bookworms! Brooke here. I just changed the domain and name of my blog, so don’t be too confused. This is the new and improved older sister of my books and brooke blog.

While my blog focused originally on reviewing books, I now plan to share more about myself and my own writing in addition to the reviews. I will definitely still be writing reviews since, as I suspect you all know, I love reading and sharing my opinions.

Now onto personal book news…

I’ve written and set a release date for my new YA suspense novel and sequel to The Half TheftBetter Luck This Time. The story begins just minutes after the conclusion to the first book. There is nothing I love more than picking up right where we left off!

For those of you who read the first book, you might understand the title of The Half Theft sequel already, but I promise I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t given it a read yet.

I am in the process of reading through my (hopefully) final draft of the book, and I’ve set the release date to October 1st. What better day to release a book than my birthday?

The Blurb:

Separated after their lethal night inside the museum, the team flees from Collinswood to seek shelter and tend to their wounded. Surrounded by allies, running from their enemies, things appear clear enough on the surface, but nothing is quite as it seems. As years-old lies are uncovered and trustworthiness is questioned, friendships must be put to the test.

When Charlie and Elle find a clue to the next step in the Ducartes’ schemes, they also dig up a darker fate and the truth behind the criminal family’s actions—one whose aim is much larger and much deadlier than ever before.

The fight against the Ducartes, a fight in the family’s own arena, becomes a race against time, as their own goal finally becomes clear: revenge.

I am so, so excited to share with you the second and final half of my duology.

I’ve spent years putting excessive time and effort to make this not the perfect story, but my favorite story with my favorite characters, who I only hope you’ll fall in love with as much as I have.

If you’re interested in Better Luck This Time but haven’t read its predecessor, feel free to click here to check out the thrilling (says me, the author) first chapter in the fight for the city of Collinswood.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Let me start by saying this is easily one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, and I’m beginning to think I may like the Shadow and Bone trilogy even more than the Six of Crows duology, which is really saying something. I think I could probably go on for a week or so telling you everything this book did right, but I shan’t waste your time. Here is a condensed version of my absolute adoration for this series and, above all, this book in particular.

First of all, I’d like to thank Alina for actually being likable. It is so very rare for me to find a main character I like and feel like I can relate to. They usually feel like too far a stretch from being regular people, especially in the case of YA and fantasy. But with Alina, I instantly liked her. She’s rather ordinary, but not so much that she’s boring. And her thoughts and feelings are always understandable. As much as I like to be confused by a character, it’s sometimes nice to feel like I just get someone.

Then, there’s Mal, another (extremely ordinary but in his own strange way not at all ordinary) gem, and really another thing that makes these books so worth reading. As often as I see complaining about poor writing with female characters in a variety of series (and believe me, I often agree with the critiques), I think there is also so much room for improvement in the writing of men. The Kaz Brekkers of the world provide just the right amount of spice, but the Mal Oretsevs help to ground their stories in reality, which I adore.

I know I have a whole lot to say about the characters today, but can we quick hit on the topic of the Darkling? Because quite frankly, he scares the hell of me. Really, how could I ask for a better villain? While he’s generally horrid in the first book, I like that his utter lunacy and murderous nature are ramped up even further in Siege and Storm. I always like the villains best when they seem truly unstoppable, which is exactly what he appears to be at this point. I can’t even guess where Alina’s headed next to actually take him down. (I mean, I do have a guess, but I’m not going to spoil it because that wouldn’t be very nice.)

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there’s Nikolai. Once I got a bit of the way into Siege and Storm, I suddenly couldn’t even remember what the books were like before he came along. What a boring story the first book must have been without him! (I’m only kidding. I love them both.)

I guess the moral of the story here is that Leigh Bardugo has unstoppable character-writing skills, and we all owe her an immense debt of gratitude for providing us with such an amazing series. I just started Ruin and Rising, so I’ll be sure to leave a review once I finish that one as well. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everybody who talked about these books so incessantly I couldn’t avoid hearing about them (mostly my sister because we’re in the same house). I owe you all big time.

I Wrote Another Book!

As any of you who have followed my blog for a bit know, it is only on a very rare occasion that I make a post exclusively about my own writing. My main goal with this blog is to write my thoughts on others’ books and find readers who share my interests (or who have totally different thoughts and recommendations of their own, as they’re even more fun to hear from sometimes). That being said, this is one of those rare occasions where I have something to say about my own work.

Last November, I published The Half Theft, my debut YA novel, featuring a missing best friend, an almost stolen clock, and mysterious family of criminals, who might not all be completely evil to their very cores—unless I’m lying and they are…

Today, I am beyond happy to announce that I am well on my way to completing its sequel, the final installation in the duology! As it stands, I have one more draft to go until my currently untitled work is ready for publishing, and I couldn’t be more excited.

When I released my debut, I, quite frankly, had almost no information on the publishing process, and I ended up not really talking about the book at all until it was out. While I’m still certainly no expert on indie publishing, I have a whole community of amazing, supportive people to share my work with this time around—which is, for lack of a better description, super cool, and makes me even more grateful to have this novel nearly complete.

Now, onto the juicy stuff… I’ve been dying to spill my guts on this so here goes:

What I liked most about the writing process for The Half Theft‘s sequel was the fact that I allowed myself to experiment with a wider range of character interactions as well as characters’ emotions and responses to their surroundings. In The Half Theft, I certainly played around with (and truly kind of messed with) the traditional ideas of “good” and “bad” people and actions, as well as the ugly truths that can lie beneath the surface. This time around, I’m going a step further and turning my attention toward everybody’s favorite:

Morally gray characters.

Okay, so maybe they’re not everybody’s favorite, but they’re certainly mine, and I can’t wait for you to see what I have in store for you this time around.

I’ve also structured this book a bit differently, in terms of POVs, which adds something of a whole new layer of mystery and emotion. While the first installation focused on Charlie, with a bit of Maeve, the sequel will focus mainly on she and Elle. And believe me, Elle Vikander’s thoughts are something to behold.

Since it’ll still be a little while before I publish, I don’t want to let you in on too much just yet. But I can say I’m even prouder of the way this story turned out than the last, and I’m way too attached to my own fictional characters. As in, I would do anything for Maeve Roman, even though she only exists within the confines of my own mind. Does anyone else do that, or just me? (Hopefully someone.)

All I can say is, buckle up and prepare thineself for the chaos ahead.

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh, The Ask and the Answer. How I love thee.

Words can hardly express how much I adore this series, most of all its second installment. I only regret not knowing these books existed before last year. Still, I can’t complain. Better late than never. I’m happy to say I’m finding that, even at twenty-one years old, young adult books are still so enjoyable for me. When I was younger, I never quite understood the appeal, but I totally get it now. It’s not really an explainable thing. They just have a different sort of vibe to them than the rest of literature, something that makes them enjoyable no matter your age.

After reading the first Chaos Walking book, The Knife of Never Letting Go, back in January, I wanted to read the next one instantly, but as any good reader should, I had an excessively long TBR list and thought I should wait a bit and go to some of my other choices first. Even after a few months’ wait though, this book made me feel like I could pick up right where I left off and not miss a beat, one quality I love most about it. Ness managed to include enough reminders of the events from its predecessor that I was never confused, while being sure not to retell the whole thing.

I must say that something about the way the returning characters were written in The Ask and the Answer made me love, hate, or even pity them far more than I did in the first book, even though that one was also spectacular as well. This book just evoked a whole new level of emotion in me, even for characters I previously didn’t have any strong feelings toward.

Another aspect of this book that made reading it ten times more enjoyable was the constant movement. Yes, I know that may sound funny, since TKONLG actually included nonstop physical movement, but this one is different. While it is physically, location-wise, more concentrated in one area, the action truly never stops. Every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence pulled me in and made me want to know more.

This leads to the magic question: who would I recommend this book and this series to? And the answer is pretty simple. Almost anyone. If you like action, a character and story driven plot, and a main character who deserves that title, then Chaos Walking is the series for you. But of course, I’m going to say that, after reading one of the best books of all time.

What are you currently reading, and do you like it? Let me know in the comments.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The only sensible way to start this review is to acknowledge that Children of Dune was a wild ride from start to finish. It is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read in the recent past.

At the very base level, there was a huge change in how much I cared about these characters in this book compared to its predecessors. While I loved Dune and Dune Messiah–I would not have kept reading the series if I didn’t–I certainly read those books more for the plot than the individual characters. With this third installation, however, there is just as much to love about the characters as about the story.

Perhaps what I liked most was that there were more understandable human thoughts within their heads. Even with characters like Leto, Jessica, and Alia, who are far from ordinary humans, I felt I could understand their motivations and what molded them into the individuals they were.

Yet another aspect of this book I love even more than those that came before it is the understandability factor. This is purely personal opinion and comprehension, but I found this book a whole lot easier to keep track of. I’m not quite sure what it was–since it took place in just as many different locations, with different people, as the others–but there was something about the writing within Children of Dune that made everyone and everything exceedingly easy to keep track of.

Admittedly, there were a couple chapters within the first Dune installation that had me at a bit of a loss as to what I was supposed to get out of them–their point. I never felt that once during this book. Everything served a purpose, and I feel I have a fair understanding of what purpose it all served.

I also found myself greatly enjoying the excerpts that begin each chapter. I’ve always thought the setup of Frank Herbert’s books is incredibly creative and makes the Dune stories stand out from the rest. But I developed a new appreciation for them with this book–especially with the name change at the end, though I won’t go further into detail lest you be reading this to decide whether or not the book is for you. I can tell you though, it came as a bit of a surprise!

Have you ever read or found yourself interested in the Dune series? Will you be watching the film this year?

Crocs vs. Old Men in the Woods

Guess who has a new podcast episode up today?

This girl! And this girl’s sister!

This week, we read Chapters 1-6 of The Knife of Never Letting Go (the first installation in the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness) and recorded our first ever book talk.

We discuss a wide variety of topics, ranging from the benefits of talking dogs, to Todd’s two dads (we think?)

You also get to listen to me entirely forget how to say the name “Ben” for a hot minute.

I hope you’ll check it out. Click here to choose your favorite way to listen!

Let me know in the comments below what you’re currently reading!