Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Performers: Lauren Fortgang and Michael David Axtell
Length: 16 hr, 29 min
Series: Alex Stern, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 8, 2019 by Macmillan Audio
Review: Grishaverse fans beware…this is a complete departure from Bardugo’s previous work. Luckily for me, I am also a fan of the paranormal/urban fantasy genre, so there is some crossover appeal for me. This book was a little too gritty for my personal tastes, but the character development really impressed me. Alex’s character in particular is incredibly complex and multi-layered. People who enjoy stories about secret societies are especially in for a treat because Bardugo really has a knack for the intricacies of incorporating the paranormal into realistic settings. She makes it completely believable that this type of world could exist within the shadow of our own.
The dynamic between Alex and Darlington was a bit confusing to me, so I am really hoping for more page time with them in future books. I liked the readers chosen for both of their characters, so I will probably try to continue forward with the series in audiobook format.
Title: The Project
Author: Courtney Summers
Page Count: 352
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 2, 2021 by Wednesday Books
Review: Looking for a cliché and utterly predictable book about cults? Look no further, because this is your next read. Don’t get me wrong, the author is not a bad writer, but if you have seen any movies/tv series/documentaries or read any books with cults as a theme, then you know exactly how this story is going to play out. I wish I could say there was even one plot twist that caught me off guard, but I can’t. I have heard really good things about the author’s book Sadie, so this was a bit of a disappointment for me.
Title: The Call
Author: Peadar Ó Guilín
Performer: Amy Shiels
Length: 7 hr, 25 min
Series: The Call, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 1, 2016 by Scholastic Audio
Review: What a truly disturbing read. The twisted Grey Land that Ó Guilín has created is truly horrifying, but the capacity for human cruelty he puts on display is equally so. I have read several books recently with fairies as a theme, but none of them come even close to the darkness of this book. There were times when I felt my stomach turn while reading it, and yet I couldn’t put it down because I HAD to know what would happen to Nessa when she was called.
Nessa is a character to be reckoned with. She is intelligent, brave, and resourceful – with an indomitable will to survive. It is really refreshing to see a character with such a prominent disability reject the narrative that has been shoved down her throat by society. Everyone believes her disability is a death sentence, but she works harder and smarter to defy the odds by honing her strengths.
I was a little fuzzy about the history of the Sidhe and their banishment to the Grey Lands…I would have liked more information about that as context for their cruelty. Were they always so cruel? Was there ever a time they co-existed with humans? How was the Grey Land created? Maybe some of these questions are answered in the second book.
Amy Shiels was an excellent narrator for this tale. Her characterization of the Sidhe really upped the creep factor! I think the book got an additional 1/2 star from me for her performance alone.
Title: Cut Off
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Page Count: 384
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 11, 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Review: I was obsessed with the Lost series back when it was airing, so when this book was described as “Warcross meets Lost…” I knew I simply must read it. Unfortunately for me, it was just…meh. There were a couple scenes that creeped me out in the beginning, but overall it was not particularly exciting. The one thing it did have in common with Lost was that the final reveal was truly disappointing. I knew there was going to be a science fiction element to the story, but it was a bit more sci-fi-y than I was expecting. I also wanted to see more character complexity and development. The characters felt very formulaic to me: the brainiac, the deceiver, the loner, and the closed off beauty. Nobody really surprised me or made me question what I knew about them. I wasn’t really feeling the romantic angle either. In a story like this, I feel the romance should add more depth to the plot or characters, but it didn’t really serve to do so as much as I wanted. It was not a terrible read, but also not one I enjoyed enough to give a higher rating.
Title: Foul is Fair
Author: Hannah Capin
Page Count: 336
Series: Foul is Fair, Book 1
Review: I am shocked at the positive reviews this book has been receiving from early reviewers. All the characters, including Jade/Elle, were terrible people. I did not enjoy reading about them, and I found it very difficult to get behind the revenge story because it was so ridiculous. Although I can completely empathize with a sexual assault victim wanting justice, a murderous rampage certainly does not seem like the answer and I did not find it at all gratifying. I would be extremely hesitant to promote this book to teen readers, because it glorifies murder and manipulation through sex. None of Jade/Elle’s coping mechanisms for her assault were positive, and I personally feel this book would be very unhealthy to put in the hands of someone who has actually been sexually assaulted.
Title: The Butterfly Garden
Author: Dot Hutchison
Page Count: 288
Series: The Collector, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 1, 2016 by Thomas & Mercer
Review: Holy. Freaking. Wow…..There are some books that really stick with you, and this is one of them. From page one I was so completely engrossed that I would find myself staring longingly at the book during work, anxiously waiting for my next break. I so desperately wanted to know what would happen to the women in the story that I would be thinking about it constantly, even as I drifted off to sleep at night. The narrative is very well written, and the narrator of the story is so easy to trust and to like. The only reason I am not giving this story five stars is because there were a couple elements of the story that bothered me. For one, the FBI agents that were questioning the narrator kept insisting that she was not being forthcoming and that she was keeping secrets. I did not get this feeling at all from the narrator, and I think in a situation such as this, the victim would need to be allowed to tell the story in the way that is most comfortable to them. Secondly, they kept alluding to the fact that the narrator was hiding something, but when they had the big “reveal” at the end, it did not truly seem to fit with the rest of the narrative. To be honest I am not entirely sure why it was included in the story at all, as it didn’t really seem to add anything revelatory to the plot.
This book is what I like to call a “thinker” because it makes you reflect upon yourself and how you would respond if you were trapped in this type of situation. I would like to think that I would have the compassion of nurturing Lyonette and the strength of straightforward Maya, but to be honest I really don’t know who I would be. What really made this story intriguing was the women, and how each of them coped with the extreme trauma while still managing to carve out meaningful relationships with one another. In this sense, the story was as beautiful as it was terrifying. I highly recommend reading it.