The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

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One bright spring morning in London, Diana Cowper – the wealthy mother of a famous actor – enters a funeral parlor. She is there to plan her own service.

Six hours later she is found dead, strangled with a curtain cord in her own home.

Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric investigator who’s as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. Hawthorne needs a ghost writer to document his life; a Watson to his Holmes. He chooses Anthony Horowitz.

Drawn in against his will, Horowitz soon finds himself a the center of a story he cannot control. Hawthorne is brusque, temperamental and annoying but even so his latest case with its many twists and turns proves irresistible. The writer and the detective form an unusual partnership. At the same time, it soon becomes clear that Hawthorne is hiding some dark secrets of his own.(taken from Amazon)

Murder, and suspects, and mayhem- oh my! Have you every started a book or movie and thought, “This is so great, I love it,” only to have the ending dim everything? That’s what happened to me.

It started so well. Author Anthony Horowitz wrote himself into this mystery, and it was brilliant. It made for some funny scenes, and allowed the author to explain things without condescending to the reader. Anthony was almost a Watson character. I found it highly enjoyable.

The mystery itself was an interesting one. I thought I’d called whodunnit, but I was wrong. Unfortunately, I was wrong because the culprit came out of left field. I like mysteries where- if you go back through the book after everything has been revealed- you can see the clues cleverly hidden in the writing. This didn’t happen, and it was very disappointing.

Another issue I had was the whole “why I did it” monologue. Because the culprit made so little sense, there was almost half a chapter of exposition. Blah. See why the ending fell flat for me?

If you’re the sort of reader who can ignore a rather lousy ending if the rest of the book is enjoyable, then you might like this one. The characters are interesting, the narrative very well done. The meta aspect added an extra level of enjoyment. However, it wasn’t enough to make up for the ending in my mind. Bummer, man.

Continuing On: Lesser-known sequels to popular books

Sometimes a book is so popular, and functions so well as a standalone, that I don’t realize there’s a sequel. This happened last year when I discovered that Richard Adams had revisited the world of Watership Down. Maybe I’m the only person who doesn’t always check for sequels, but here’s a list of sequels to popular books that may have been skipped over. Let’s give these books some attention!

Tales From Watership Down by Richard Adams: 

Image result for tales from watership downI’m one of those weirdos who actually really likes Watership Down. Yes, it’s odd, and the themes are harsh and rather upsetting, but I would argue that it’s an important book (even though the characters are adorable little rabbits). I have to be honest: I was disappointed by Tales From Watership Down. It felt like an unnecessary tack-on, which might be why it’s never talked about.

 Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott: 
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Here’s the thing: I really hate Little Women. Not the movie with Wynona Ryder, I like that one; I hate the book. I tried to reread it not too long ago, but the way the author beats the reader over the head with her life lessons was just flat-out annoying. I love Jo’s Boys, though. The lessons are still there, but they’re less in-your-face, and following Jo as she runs her school for boys is pretty cool. Don’t forget to read Little Men first!

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card: 

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Without discussing the author’s behavior in any way, I think it’s pretty common knowledge that Ender’s Game is fabulous. The series continues in several more books. The Speaker for the Dead is the sequel and it is brilliant. I highly recommend it. I’d also suggest Ender’s Shadow, which is actually a parallel novel to Ender’s Game. It’s written from Bean’s perspective, and it really fleshes out his character and adds a new dimension to the original book.

Twenty Years After by Alexander Dumas:

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I fell in love with The Three Musketeers when I was pretty young (who doesn’t love buckling swash?) and I reread it a lot. It’s one of those books that’s just fun. Twenty Years After feels a little more serious to me, but it’s still very well-written, and definitely one worth reading.

                                                       Sequels I haven’t yet read

The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
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I haven’t read this one yet. I plan to get to it eventually, but I also plan on traveling the world, and actually having a clean house while my children still live here, neither of which has happened yet. We’ll see what I manage to accomplish first.

Closing Time by Joseph Heller:

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How did I not know about this book? I must be slipping in my old age. I’m actually rather annoyed at myself for not having gotten to it yet. I will definitely have to read this one soon!

Have you read any of these? What are some other sequels to popular books that I’ve missed? Let me know. I love to talk books!

Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw

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There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories. It robs people of their lives as surely as if she killed them, leaving behind only the husk of who they once were. Since Sarilla is one of the few with the ability to transfer memories, she’s highly prized by the king. He makes her take them from his people to keep them in line. All Sarilla wants is to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon. He hopes to use Sarilla to help get his stolen memories back, whether she wants to or not. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on May tenth.

It’s amazing how much is packed into this short book. I was sucked in from the start. So many things were done well!

Sarilla is a memoria, meaning she has the ability to steal memories with just a touch. In this way, she’s sort of stealing identities. A lot of who we are is based on our experiences , so it’s really a dangerous power to have. In the beginning, she and her brother (who is a jerk with a capital ‘j’) are running from the king, who has been using her as a weapon to keep his subjects in line. Honestly, though, the A to B of the book is the least important part.

A good chunk of this book centers simply on Sarilla’s coming to grips with who she is and what she can do. There’s a lot of guilt and regret, as well as fear of who she could become. It’s interesting to see themes of choice vs. nature discussed in such a way. Sarilla was fully-developed, and I enjoyed her inner thoughts more than the rest of the book, although I liked the book as a whole.

The second part of the book takes place from the perspective of Falon, a man whose memories were taken from him. Add to that the fact that there is a bit of a romantic history, and it’s a fascinating combination. He struggles with (justified) anger, which added a cool dynamic. His attitude was horrible a good chunk of the time, but it was completely understandable considering what he was dealing with.

The fantasy world itself wasn’t fully realized, but I think that was done deliberately, leaving the Reader to make inferences based on glimpses seen in stolen memories. It was a risky move, but it worked. I was hooked. I quickly became invested in both the characters, and the feel of the book. It didn’t shy away from the ugly parts of the world, instead bringing them to light in a way that was both jarring and powerful.

It’s amazing how much of a wallop this shorter book packed. If you’re looking for action, this book won’t fill that itch. But if you like a fantasy that makes you think, one that deals with subjects like grief, loss, and the choices we make, this one is for you.

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella- ARC Review

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Cadence Archer arrives on Harvard’s campus desperate to understand why her brother, Eric, a genius who developed paranoid schizophrenia took his own life there the year before. Losing Eric has left a black hole in Cady’s life, and while her decision to follow in her brother’s footsteps threatens to break her family apart, she is haunted by questions of what she might have missed. And there’s only one place to find answers.
 
As Cady struggles under the enormous pressure at Harvard, she investigates her brother’s final year, armed only with a blue notebook of Eric’s cryptic scribblings. She knew he had been struggling with paranoia, delusions, and illusory enemies—but what tipped him over the edge? With her suspicions mounting, Cady herself begins to hear voices, seemingly belonging to three ghosts who walked the university’s hallowed halls—or huddled in its slave quarters. Among them is a person whose name has been buried for centuries, and another whose name mankind will never forget.
 
Does she share Eric’s illness, or is she tapping into something else? Cady doesn’t know how or why these ghosts are contacting her, but as she is drawn deeper into their worlds, she believes they’re moving her closer to the truth about Eric, even as keeping them secret isolates her further. Will listening to these voices lead her to the one voice she craves—her brother’s—or will she follow them down a path to her own destruction? (taken from Amazon)

                          Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on May fifth.

Hmm…where to begin with this book? I rarely give trigger warnings, instead describing books as harsh if they discuss heavier subjects, but in this case I think I need to add a trigger warning. Suicide is an ongoing theme throughout this book. It’s mentioned in the blurb, so it’s not hidden or anything, but if that’s something you don’t want to read about, you might want to skip this review.

I actually almost gave up on this book multiple times. Parts of it hit too close to home and brought up feelings from my own mental illness diagnosis (bipolar 1, diagnosed during high school. Fun times). I prefer not to think about that time in my life, so this book was difficult for me.

So, why did I finish it? Because Francesca Serritella is an extremely talented author. If she wasn’t, I would have had no problem reading this book. Instead, she made the characters easy to connect to. I felt for Eric as his illness was spoken about. I was heartbroken on his behalf when people felt “embarrassed” by him. I can’t say I understand fully how schizophrenia works, other than that it has some symptoms that overlap with bipolar, but I can absolutely relate to the feelings of loneliness a mental illness diagnosis can carry with it.

This book is about Cady (Eric’s sister) and her decision to follow in her deceased brother’s footsteps to discover what led to his death by suicide. She learns that things are much more complicated than she originally thought. He was a paranoid schizophrenic (as well as a brilliant young man with tons of potential: a diagnosis is not an identity), and as he came close to the end of his life, he began to think he was being followed and was in danger. As Cady learns more of who her brother was, she begins to wonder: was he right?

At the same time, Cady begins hearing voices that no one else hears. She starts to question whether she might have the same mental illness as her brother. Needless to say, this scares her. What made me sad about this is that she was so afraid to mention her concerns to anyone. Again, the stigma against mental illness rears its ugly head.

This book was very well-written, but I would never be able to reread it. And, honestly, I felt that the ending diminished the rest of the book a bit. It felt out of place and took me me out of the story. However, the author wrote a compelling story, even though it was most definitely a harsher one.

If you struggle with suicidal ideation, I strongly suggest you skip this book. It is a good one, but ultimately it wasn’t for me.

The Summoned Ones: Flight to Bericea by Darryl A. Woods

Image result for the summoned ones by darryl a. woodsFor nine long fighting seasons, General Darnon and his men battled the same foe. Once a mere upstart, Zybaro was now a powerful enemy. He raided village after village in Malabrim, conscripting the most able-bodied into his army. Almost all of the Western Realm was now under Zybaro’s control, his forces ready to challenge Bericea’s army in the Eastern Realm. Darnon faced a difficult decision. Should he listen to the clerics, controllers of magic, and risk more lives? The clerics believed the Summoned Ones of prophecy could save the realms and unite their tribes and kingdoms. Unfortunately, the magic platform the clerics needed to call forth these beings was located deep in Malabrim. The journey to deliver the clerics into enemy territory and bring the Summoned Ones safely back to Bericea would be a dangerous one. And Darnon knew the odds were not in their favor.

Join the Summoned Ones, college-aged friends from a small Kentucky town transported to a chaotic world dominated by magic and war. Their epic journey will push them to the limits of their endurance. This unlikely group will discover truths about themselves and experience another world beyond their imagination. (taken from Amazon)

                         Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available to purchase now.

Ah, the portal to another world kind of story! I’ve always loved that idea. Who wouldn’t want to walk into a wardrobe (or a cave, in this case) and discover a new world? As long as that new world is survivable, that is. In this particular book, four friends are transported to Bericea, a place torn by war. They are the Summoned Ones, part of a prophecy that marks them as saviors.

These friends are college buddies who have come together to carry the ashes of a common friend to his final resting place. Their friend had requested that his ashes be brought to an out-of-the-way cave, one that not many even know about. As the friends arrive at the cave, they find themselves thrust into a war in a strange place.

There were both things I loved about this book, and things that I didn’t. I loved that the Summoned Ones were college-aged, not children. It made it easier to relate to them. I also enjoyed the reason they were in the cave in the first place. A trip taken to honor a deceased friend was a creative idea.

The introduction to the main characters was a bit slow. There was so much information that my attention wandered a bit. It was very obvious that the author had put a ton of time into coming up with, not only the characteristics of each person, but their backstories, habits, likes and dislikes, etc. It made each character very three-dimensional, but I do wish the information had been delivered more throughout the book than all at once. Once they made it to the magical world, however, things quickly picked up.

The battle scenes were incredibly well-done. In fact, the entire world was well-developed and interesting. I’m a big fan of fantasy worlds in general, even more so when it’s in the midst of conflict (I’m kind of a horrible person like that), because it adds a sense of urgency that is fun to read.

I think Kail was my favorite character, a brilliant soldier in General Darnon’s army. He was brave and smart, and a lot of fun to read about. I also liked Pattie, one of the original friends. She was one of two female characters from Kentucky. The other- Gloria- bugged me to no end. She complained a lot and was very entitled. Thankfully, Pattie was pretty much the polar opposite.

This book is the beginning of a series that has definite potential. I’m excited to see what happens next.

Have you read this? What did you think?

If…Then: In Which You Get a Terrifying Glimpse Into How I Come Up With Book Suggestions

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed that my train of thought often jumps its tracks. Usually (but not always) these random jumps make perfect sense, but only if you’ve had a rather terrifying look into my thought process. Seeing as that can get a bit hairy, I suggest you proceed carefully, as I’m about to give suggestions of books to read next, based on books recently enjoyed. I will try my hardest to explain why, but…yeah.

If you enjoyed: The Starless Sea

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Find my review here

Then read: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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Find my review here

The reason I suggest The Ten Thousand Doors of January is that both Alix E. Harrow and Erin Morgenstern have an incredible way with words. Their prose is so gorgeous, it’s like enjoying a decadent treat. If you enjoy one of these two books, definitely read the other. Of course, other than that, the books are completely different. They make sense together to me, though. In fact, I seem to think that Alix and Erin went on a book tour together? All I know, is they didn’t come to a bookstore near me. Sad, sad, sad.

If you enjoyed: The Wheel of Time series

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Then read: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

Find my review here

The reason behind this recommendation is that they have a similar feel. Both are high fantasy, both have complicated characters, both take you on epic adventures. Both will keep you guessing. If you enjoy one, then you’ll like the other. Actually, this thought process kind of makes sense.

If you enjoy: The Invisible Library

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Then read: Jackaby

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Find my review here

Here’s where my brain goes a little wonky. I have no idea why The Invisible Library series makes me think of the Jackaby series. Jackaby himself channels a Doctor Who-meets- Sherlock type of vibe. At any rate, it’s really good and I think readers who enjoy The Invisible Library need to check this one out. Incidentally, readers who enjoy Jackaby should absolutely read The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters! Both Jackaby and The Crocodile on the Sandbank feature intelligent, incorrigibly curious female characters.

If you enjoy: City of Ghosts

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Find my review here

Then read: Anna Dressed in Blood

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The thing with both of these books is that they have a bit of a “fun ghost story” feel to them. Neither of them is actually spooky (although both of them would scare the living daylights out of my middle-grade reader), but they come across as Supernatural light.

If you enjoy: The Name of the Wind

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Then read: Master of Sorrows

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Find my review here

Justin T. Call is a wordsmith, the kind that only comes around once in a while. Just like Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind, Master of Sorrows drew me in immediately. This book is excellent, and definitely needs to be read by everyone.

There are several others that I’m not including because the way I’ve likened them will make absolutely no sense to anyone sober. Hopefully, the connections for these make pretty decent sense. Enjoy!

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold- ARC Review

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Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.2. My services are confidential.3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal–I’m human myself. But after what happened, to the magic, it’s not the humans who need my help. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on February 25th.

This book is noir-fantasy at its finest. It has all the trademarks of a good, gritty noir, with a dash of the fantastical thrown in for good measure. A hard-boiled P.I with a penchant for getting drunk? Check. A tragic backstory? Check. A talent for stirring up trouble and making everyone mad? Double check.

Fetch is an ex-soldier in a war that was basically humans vs. all things magical. He’s not proud of what he did during the war, or who it turned him into. He’s now a semi-talented P.I., who will take pretty much any case, as long as it pays and he’s not working for a human.

At the beginning of the book, he is hired to find a missing vampire, dead or, um…alive (?). Less dead? I honestly don’t know how to word that. Huh. Moving on. In Sunder City, either state of being is equally likely. Of course, things are brought to light that certain parties prefer stay hidden, and chaos ensues.

Now, on to the setting. Sunder City is a slum, but what a slum! The amount of detail the author put into it is astounding. I could easily picture the entire city, could hear rain drizzling, and could smell the “breakfast” being served at a certain restaurant.

Another thing I loved about the book is Fetch’s internal dialogue. It’s so deliciously old-school detective. He was perfect, the setting was perfect, the storyline was perfect. Basically, the entire book was phenomenal. The only beef I have: I have to wait to see what happens in the next book.

This one would be perfect for fans of the Dresden Files or Breaking Lore. I can’t recommend this one enough.

Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

Image result for blood of the fae by tom mohan                                Liza McCarthy has never known the love she so desperately craves. The illegitimate child of a broken marriage, the identity of her father and her heritage are a well-kept secret. When she receives a call from a mysterious woman claiming her life is in danger, she manages to flee just before two men break into her home.

She soon finds herself in the tiny midwestern town of Halden’s Mill. There she is taken in by the Finns, a mysterious family who claim to guard the entrance to the fabled land of the faerie.

Liza is slowly drawn into a world of monsters, dark magic and a host of peculiar townsfolk. Now she must rethink everything she’s ever known and seek her destiny before two worlds collide with a force that could mean the end of the human race. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

I’m rather apathetic about this book, to be honest. The description immediately interested me: weird doings in a weird town? Talk of the fae? I’m down. However, the book didn’t really go anywhere.

I spent this first third of the book really confused. Things seemed very choppy to me. I couldn’t connect with Liza at all. For example: at the beginning she gets a call to an unplugged landline phone where a stranger predicts a break-in and leads her out of the house safely. It’s all very Matrix. But Liza spends much less time being completely weirded out than I could believe. Another thing that felt odd, is that there didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency at all. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters or what happened to them.

That’s not to say the book didn’t have its strengths. I liked the darker tones throughout the book, and it seemed that the storyline was always on the verge of going somewhere really cool. Unfortunately, it just didn’t seem to get there.

Ultimately, this book wasn’t for me.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go: Books with Incredible Settings

One of the many things I love about reading is a book’s ability to take the reader somewhere new, different, or completely imagined. I’ve been to so many amazing places, and I haven’t had to sit on a plane with strangers for hours on end. I win!

Here are a few books that have stood out to me, in terms of settings.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: When I think of creative settings, I picture the Night Circus. Those black and white tents, with magic inside waiting to be discovered. The gorgeous clock. The midnight dinners. One of the things I love about Erin Morgenstern is her ability to evoke not just sight and sound, but smell and taste. It’s magical. She casts the same spell with her second novel, The Starless Sea.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: I think one of the reasons this odd little book has stood the test of time is the unapologetic weirdness of both the characters and the setting. I recently read this book to my children. My toddler loved it. My oldest thought it was “too weird”. That’s okay, I love him anyway (Ha ha!).

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Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman: I really love the Inn of the Last Home, and the town of Solace in general. It’s such a cool idea, and it’s done so very well. It’s such a homey place. I’d love to visit the Inn of the Last Home and eat some of Otik’s spiced potatoes. Yum!

Mass Market Paperback Dragons of Autumn Twilight Book

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Of course this series made the list. Rowling’s Wizarding World is so well-conceived that it’s very easy to picture. Oddly enough, it’s the Burrow that really stands out to me in terms of setting, though.

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The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold: I’m still in the middle of this book, but Sunder City is so well described that I had to include it in this post. A fantasy-slum town, it’s easily seen in my mind’s eye.

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Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: The enemy’s gate is down. Also, everything is so well-conceived and described that I never felt lost or disconnected from Ender’s world when reading this book, despite that being a slight issue I run into with sci-fi books.

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I’m a sucker for books with beautifully described settings. What about you? What books come to mind when you think of a good setting?

Paris Adrift by E.J Swift

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Paris was supposed to save Hallie. Now… well, let’s just say Paris has other ideas.

She’s linked to a hole in time and chosen by fate to prevent a terrible war. Tumbling through Paris’ turbulent past and future, Hallie changes the world—and falls in love.

But with every trip, she loses a little of herself, and every change she makes ripples through time, until the future she’s trying to save suddenly looks nothing like what she hoped for… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on February 4th.

What first interested me in this book was its comparison to Midnight in Paris, a movie that I love. I can’t say I see much of a resemblance, aside from the obvious (they both involve Paris), but I’m grateful for that blurb because otherwise this book might have passed me by.

Hallie is our main character, a woman who feels out of place in her own skin. She’s decided to travel to Paris, more to run away from something than to run toward anything. There, she gets a job at a bar and joins an eclectic group of friends. She finds a sense of family, a boyfriend, and-oh yeah- a time anomaly in a taproom. Soon, Hallie is traveling through both the past and future, making changes. Whether she’s fixing things, or causing irreparable damage remains to be seen.

On the surface, my description probably makes this book sound like a lighthearted romp. It isn’t at all. It explores the idea of small changes having big impacts, discusses problems in our present, and touches on themes of self-acceptance and change. It does all that in a fast-moving, unique way. I loved it.

There were several things that set this book apart from other time-traveling books. There wasn’t nonstop action, the futuristic gadgetry wasn’t everywhere, and a good chunk of time spent was actually traveling to the past as opposed to the future. I tend to shy away from books involving time travel because it’s hard for me to handle the problems that tend to arise when writing about that subject. This book handles those stumbling blocks with aplomb.

I liked the bohemian feel of the group of friends, how they were all dissatisfied with how the world works and desperately wanted to affect change, but were unsure how to start. I think many people can relate to that (and no, I’m not going to start a religious or political argument, I promise). I actually think the conversations Hallie had with her friends were some of the most interesting parts of the book. You know a writer is talented when the musings and dialogue are just as interesting as any action scene, if not more so.

While there was a climax of events, what I most enjoyed was how things got there. The ending, while good, almost didn’t matter because the meat of the story was so well done. I definitely recommend reading this one.