Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her borther’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?

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Dark Places

Writing
This woman is seriously amazing. In case you don’t know, she’s the author of Gone Girl, which was probably my number one read of last year. So I was super excited to pick this up and get back into her amazing writing style! Every single sentence had me on the edge of my seat, desperate to know what was happening next. She writes with a brutal honesty that, no matter how strange the situation, makes you identify with everyone. Yes, there’s a lot of swearing. With some writers, that can be annoying, and there just for the sake of being there. With Flynn, it makes her books more real. I can’t explain it properly until you’ve read one of her books – just trust me, her writing will have you thrown brutally into whatever dark, twisted thing she’s trying to show you.

Plot
Just like Gone Girl, this was dark, gritty, and violent. I was in love. I’m not a big fan of mysteries, but this wasn’t at all your typical mystery. Libby, our main character, had such a personal connection to the deaths, since she almost witnessed her family’s deaths. Plus, there was already someone in jail for it – Libby’s brother, Ben. So Libby was a lot more involved in trying to solve this case than a regular person might be, or even the people from the Kill Club that she met. It wasn’t at all professionally done, and there were a lot of scenes full of emotion.

There were also a lot of flashbacks, which I think really helped. I couldn’t work out who was guilty, but I could work out who wasn’t guilty. I got furious at everyone who believed it was Ben (not a spoiler – we can assume that pretty early on). I got furious at all the maddening evidence pointing at Ben. I got mad at Ben for being so stupid, and not realising how terribly all his actions were going to blow up in his face. Basically, there was a lot of anger going on. BUT, good anger. The kind of anger that left me dying (bad choice of words?) to know who had done it!

Ultimately, I wasn’t happy with the ending. I was happy with half of the mystery being solved. The other half… I don’t know, I like the option to be able to work it out. This was basically impossible to solve. I almost got it, but very near the end, and I wasn’t entirely right anyway. With Gone Girl, I put down the book, and almost instantly wanted to pick it up again to find all the little clues that had been scattered through the book now that it all made sense. With Dark Places, I knew there was nothing there to find. If anyone guessed it, please let me know – I want to know how you did it!

Characters
Ben - Dark PlacesNone of the characters were lovable, but that wasn’t what this book was about. Libby, our protagonist, had ‘witnessed’ her family dying, like I said before. So, as you’d expect, this was one messed up adult. She acted like a kid a lot of the time, being spoiled, having tantrums, having the attitude that there would always be someone there to fix her mistakes. There wasn’t, of course, and I think she knew that, but it meant that so many things were left undone. She never had someone to teach her how to be a grown-up, and it really showed. This would usually make me hate a character, but it made so much sense with Libby. No, I didn’t like her, but I wouldn’t have her any other way.

Ben was a whole different kind of person to read about. You were never exactly sure where you stood with Ben, because everyone had some sort of strong opinion on him. He was a Devil worshiper, an innocent, a murderer… Even reading from his point of view, it was hard to work out how you should feel about him. Like I said, he didn’t exactly make himself look innocent. Just like Libby, though, the story wouldn’t have been right if he was any other way. The plot wouldn’t have worked if Ben was a nice character! Again, he wasn’t likeable, but I wouldn’t change a thing about him for the sake of the story

Have any of you read this book? What did you think? How did it compare to Gone Girl for you?

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Step by Step by June Francis

Set in Chester at the beginning of the 1900s. As Alice tries to escape from her father’s clutches, Hannah is struggling with the consequences of her mother’s accident. Torn apart through circumstance, can the two girls ever be free of the weight of the past?

Step by Step

To be completely honest, I had really low hopes for this book. The person who bought it for me isn’t a reader, and non-readers are really bad at picking for books for readers. Sorry, but it’s true! The other book she got me was pretty terrible, so I expected this one to be the same. So really, we should be pretty excited this got a three star rating!

I read a fair bit of historical fiction, and the history part of this was writtenHistorical Fiction really well. Hannah (or Hanny) knew a girl fighting for women to get the vote, Alice was desperate to get married, and had an alcoholic/abusive father, etc. It was those little touches that made this book seem really real to me, and I love a book that gets me into their world. Most of the historical touches were pretty small though, it definitely wasn’t a major part of the book.

According to the blurb, the most major part of the book was the friendship between Alice and Hanny. But for a lot of the book, they weren’t actually speaking to each other… Always for good reasons, but still! Then it was always a big deal that they’d fallen out. If you’re going to write a book centered around friendship like that, you need to develop the friendship quite a bit first. I felt pretty let down by this book knowing that the friendship had so much potential. The friendship between their mothers was a lot more prominent, and one of them died, and the other was severely injured…

No EmotionsThe other thing that let me down was the lack of emotions. This book talked about some really serious topics – rape, incest, abuse, alcoholism, death, physical trauma, etc. And physically, they really affected the characters. Kenny was mute because of his abusive parents, Hanny thought she was pregnant because her brother raped her, and that caused her to run away. Hanny’s mother had physical trauma so bad she nearly died, and that took up a lot of a focus from the book. But not for one moment did I actually care about the characters affected. I was interested in the events going on, because they’re interesting topics to read about! Except in most books, I would have cried. I should have cried! I should have been worried about these characters, terrified for their sanity and well being. In reality, though, I was bored. I had to force myself to pick this book up and keep going, for the sake of knowing how the events would all pan out. If you choose to write about emotional topics, you need to write emotionally.

I’m disappointed, because the writing wasn’t bad at all. It was just the characters that were one dimensional. Maybe Francis should stick to the history side of writing?

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling Review

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Book #3) 

Average Rating: 4.49

Author: J.K Rowling

Pages: 435

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

Publication Date: September 8, 1999

Goodread’s Synopsis: “For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort.

Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well; and the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts . . . he’s at Hogwarts.”

Harry Potter isn’t safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.”

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling Review

Title: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets(Harry Potter #2)

Author: J. K. Rowling

Pages: 341

Publication Date: 07-01-1999

Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books

Average Rating: 4.33

Goodread’s Synopsis: “All Harry Potter wants is to get away from the Dursleys and go back to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby – who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects… Harry Potter himself.” 

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Betrayal by Danielle Steel

At thirty-nine, Tallie Jones is a Hollywood legend. Her work as a film director is her passion and the center of her life; one after another, her award-winning productions achieve the rare combination of critical and commercial success. With no interest in the perks of her profession or the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, Tallie maintains close and loving relationships with her college-age daughter and her aging father, and has a happy collaboration with Hunter Lloyd, her respected producing partner, confidant, and live-in lover. Rounding out the circle and making it all work is Brigitte Parker, Tallie’s devoted personal assistant. Friends since film school, they are a study in contrasts, with Brigitte’s polished glamour balancing Tallie’s artless natural beauty, and her hard-driving, highly organized style a protective shield for Tallie’s casual, down-to-earth approach.

As Tallie is in the midst of directing the most ambitious film she has yet undertaken, small disturbances begin to ripple through her well-ordered world. An outside audit reveals troubling discrepancies in the financial records maintained by Victor Carson, Tallie’s longtime, trusted accountant. Mysterious receipts hint at activities of which she has no knowledge. Soon it becomes clear that someone close to Tallie has been steadily funneling away enormous amounts of her money. In the wake of an escalating series of shattering revelations, Tallie will find herself playing the most dangerous game of all–to trap a predator stalking her in plain sight.

Blurb from Goodreads

Photo of my personal copy

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Sometimes, I’m really in the mood for a romance where you don’t have to think at all. So I thought this would be the perfect book to pick up! It probably wasn’t the best choice…

Yes, I wanted to not think. But there’s knowing what’s going to happen, then there’s so predictable you want to punch everyone who can’t see the ending. This fell into the second category. Our main character, Tallie, was the one who needed to be punched. She was too trusting, and too lazy. Tallie is a fantastic director, and for some reason that means her entire life revolves around movies. I mean, to the point where she doesn’t shop for presents for her own daughter because her assistant does it for her. Then, someone steals a bunch of money from her. Gee, I wonder who that could be? It never occured to this idiot that never checking her own accounts might be a mistake. I worked it out in the first few chapters, and the FBI that got involved knew straight away too. Literally everyone with a brain knew, except Tallie. I think Steel was trying to make the thief seem mysterious, and that was why Tallie didn’t know a thing. Unfortunately, that didn’t work one bit.

The other thing I didn’t like about this book was the way it was set out. There were very distinct sections of the book, without it being split into actual sections. The first part was the introduction to our characters. Nothing happened in this part except for a rundown of Tallie, Brigitte and Hunt’s lives up until the beginning of the book. I get that it’s good to know our characters, and know what their lives were like. But it could have been done a lot more subtley, or at least woven into the story more. The second part (the biggest chunk) was Tallie’s life falling to pieces. This included the “mystery” of the embellzement, a death, and a ruined marriage. We were also introduced to the single, attractive FBI agent. Hmm, I wonder where this is going? The final part was her happily ever after. This part involved the agent (surprise, surprise), and also a weird death. But it was definitely my favourite part. After everything Tallie had gone through, she deserved that happy ending. Yes, it wrapped up a little too conviniently. But in this sort of book, that’s okay! It was just the other two parts that let it down for me.

But wait, there’s one more thing I didn’t like! Steel tried to hard with her writing. She was really anxious to get all the important info accross, and it showed in her writing. This included quotes such as:

She was the opposite of Tallie in every way. Everything about her had been carefully thought out to catch the eye, as opposed to Tallie, who preferred to think of herself as invisible. Her whole business was to show off others, not herself. Brigitte Parker loved the attention she got and had none of Tallie’s subtlety and shyness. The two woman had similar looks… but did entirely differet thing with the attributes nature had given them. Tallie hid them, and Brigitte shone a spotlight on them. Tallie honestly didn’t care how she looked and never thought about it. Brigitte put a lot of thought and effort into her appearance.

Yes, that was one paragraph. It easily could have been cut down into just a couple of lines. And then, a few chapters later, we get reminded of the same thing again. And again. And again. I think Steel just isn’t confident enough in her writing. You have to trust that people will remember what your character looks like, instead of trying to drill it into your reader’s brains.

I’m mad, because this book had a lot of potential. The romance could have been cute, the theif could have been a shock, the deaths could have made me cry. But the writing just couldn’t pull it off, and that upsets me. Maybe her other books will be written better? I just don’t know if I’m brave enough to try

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Have any of you read this book? Or anything else by Danielle Steel? Let me know what you thought!

The Reluctant Sacrifice

First, I’d like to say a huge thanks to Kerr-Ann Dempster for giving me a free copy of her book for review!

Holy moly this book! Honestly, I was not expecting to love it as much as I did.

This book is full of fantastic world building, and amazing supernatual elements. It’s written from the point of view of a Jumper – someone who can make her soul jump from body to body. That on it’s own is a great idea! Then, she’s being seen as the “sacrifice”, someone who will save the world once she’s killed. Funnily enough, she’s not super keen on letting herself be caught. So, of course, she’s being chased. Not by regular bad guys, of course. By bad guys who can turn into hawks, and have a whole variety of other powers. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! Part of this gang includes her own sister, and a boy she once considered her best friend. Who she may or may not be in love with. Could it be any more cool? There was so much magic going on, but it was all really well explained. I felt like you could drop me in that world, and I would be able to fit in and understand it all.

Straight away, we were thrown into action. I was concerned that I was missing the first book somehow, since there was so much going on on the first page. And not in a “I’m so confused, help!” way. In a “I need answers now” way. Which is a good thing! The action was what kept me hooked on this book. Every time you thought there was going to be a lull, we had a surprise bad guy pop up, or a fight between the already existing bad guys.

There was one thing I really didn’t like about this book – the romance. You know the ex-best-friend I mentione before? Well, we had a love triangle with him (Joshua) and Coy, another guy on Joshua’s team. Neither of them were very appealing, and I think Aubrey can do a lot better. Unfortunately, she didn’t agree, and her best friend Tessa was always there to remind her how very hot they both were. Without the romance, I could have really loved this book. Instead, I found myself skipping through those parts to get back to the action.

I’m actually not sure if this is a series or not. To me, I felt like there were some unanswered questions. Yeah, the epilogue gave us a little happy ending. But not enough for me to be satisfied. I really want to get back into that world. For now, I guess I’ll have to satisfy myself with reading her other book…

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And tell me your thoughts on this book! Have you read it, or anything else similar? Do you think you want to read it?

The Kill Order (Maze Runner #0.5)

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

Blurb from Goodreads

Kill Order

I read the Maze Runner series a while ago, without realising there was a prequel. When I discovered the prequel, I was SO EXCITED. And yes, it lived up to my expectations.

Dashner is an amazing author. He describes things so that you’re having nightmares weeks after. Well, okay, maybe he isn’t THAT good. But trust me, when he wants you to be scared, you’re scared. I could picture absolutely every little thing that went on while reading this book. And man, were there a lot of things going on! There was a new exciting twist every other chapter, leaving me on the edge of my seat for most of the book. Sure, it lagged in parts, but what book doesn’t? I was dropped right into that world with Mark, and I didn’t want to leave.

Okay, maybe I didn’t want to stay with Mark as such. He was a bit flat to me. I wanted him to have a purpose, not just wanting to survive. The romance was sweet, but he’s a teenager. These two acted like they wanted to get married, but I couldn’t see them being together outside of this life-or-death situation. The same goes with Alec’s “romance”. They were all focused on surviving, with occasional loving each other in between. Sorry, but that isn’t a romance. That’s basic survival instincts, and it doesn’t make for any exciting character development.

I did like how it set up the Maze Runner though. I think that was one of the main focuses of the book, so it was done really well. I liked getting an insight into all the confusing things that happened through the trilogy. It left a lot of loose ends, but reading this prequel meant some were tied up.

With a better cast of characters, I could have really loved this book. Unfortunately, I need someone to be in love with for me to love a book, no matter how good the setting and plot are

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Have any of you read this book, or the rest of the series? What did you think?

~Victoria (I’ll make a name thing soon, I promise!)