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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Title: Dollhouse
Author: Anya Allyn
Format Acquired: eARC 
Publication Date: September 30, 2012
Publishing House: The Studio
ISBN: 9781629210230
Source of Copy: Requested from publisher via NetGalley


When Cassie's best friend, Aisha, disappears during a school hike, Cassie sets off with Aisha's boyfriend Ethan and their best friend Lacey, determined to find her. But the mist-enshrouded mountains hold many secrets, and what the three teens discover is far more disturbing than any of them imagined: beneath a rundown mansion in the woods lies an underground cavern full of life-size toys and kidnapped girls forced to dress as dolls.

Even as Cassie desperately tries to escape the Dollhouse, she finds herself torn between her forbidden feelings for Ethan, and her intense, instinctive attraction to The Provider, a man Cassie swears she has known before...

Because Cassie's capture wasn't accidental, and the Dollhouse is more than just a prison where her deepest fears come true - it's a portal for the powers of darkness. And Cassie may be the only one who can stop it.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary courtesy of NetGalley)


What horror movie characters lack for depth and some interesting back stories, the actual psych-you-out stuff more than makes up for it. It is, after all, kind of hard to feel some sort of connection to someone who's either being wigged out by some paranormal, psychological stuff, or who ends up being killed just twenty minutes into the movie.

Dollhouse is like that, given that the creeptastic factor of the actual Dollhouse is actually the kind of flick Hollywood dreams are made of - if only its slew of characters weren't so darned caught up in their teenage drama, despite all the paranormal stuff that's been happening around them. (Come on, you guys. You can resume that catfight when you're outside, and not dead.)

When Cassie's best friend Aisha disappears, all fingers are pointed at Ethan, Aisha's boyfriend. Cassie knows that Ethan can't be involved in her disappearance, juvenile delinquent or no. The only way to clear Ethan's name is to find Aisha, and the only way to do that is to comb the mountains where she disappeared during the school hike. But these teens find more when they bargain for when they stumble across a decrepit house, with a different kind of horror awaiting them inside.

Earlier, I remarked upon the creepiness factor of Dollhouse. It's like this: Think about the last horror movie you watched that involved dolls (Child's Play? Annabelle?) and take note that since this is a book where everything is fleshed out and described in very attentive detail, everything is basically playing out in your mind. Which I think, is just as bad since it amps up the creepiness factor. Live, moving dolls that beat you up when you're misbehaving? Check. A girl who forces every teenager to act like a doll? Got it. Err, ancient Greek paranormal stuff? ...Yup.

While I was morbidly fascinated with how eerie and messed-up this whole scenario was, I was still iffy about the teenagers and their little romantic drama, given that they may not even make it out alive out of that house. The paranormal Greek thing was a bit out of sorts so while it did magnify the creep factor, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

Dollhouse is still a bit fresh in my memory simply because I was really surprised at how disturbing the whole shebang was. The actual dollhouse set-up was golden for macabre-fans like me, but the forgettable characters and random plot twists was too much for me.



Monday, September 15, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

Title: Rites of Passage
Author: Joy N. Hensley
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: September 9 2014
Publishing House:  Harper Teen
ISBN: 0062295195
Source of Copy: Edelweiss


Sam McKenna's never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She's expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She's even expecting the hostility from some of the cadets who don't think girls belong there. What she's not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won't risk her future, or the dare, on something so matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don't just want her gone - they will stop at nothing to driver her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active...and determined to force her out. At any cost.

Now time's running short. Sam must decide who she can trust...and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Normally, I wouldn't even bother to pick a book like this up. The cover wasn't exactly the most appealing and the genre? Contemporary. I rarely read contemporary. So I'm really thankful to whatever force made me download a copy off of Edelweiss because this book was amazing. I couldn't put it down (I tried) and read it late into the night. It was worth the loss of sleep.

Sam McKenna is incapable of turning down a dare. Especially not when it's the last one her brother will ever give her. So she packs up and hauls herself over to a prestigious military school, becoming one of the first girls to join the ranks. She's a military brat so she's expecting long grueling hours of rigorous training. What she didn't expect was the hostility towards her, the brutal hazing and the taunting coming from some of the cadets who think that girls don't belong in military school. Add to that her startling attraction to her drill sergeant and uncovering a secret society determined to force her out, Sam isn't sure who to trust and she's got to make it through the year.

I love this book to bits. Sam and I could not be more different but it was the easiest thing in the world to connect with her character. She's physically and mentally strong with a terribly pragmatic mindset. I loved her tone of voice and the glimpses of femininity that pop up once in a while. She might be in a male-dominated school but Sam can bring it just as much as the boys. When all that hazing started and some idiots started picking one her I just wanted to tell them all to stop. When she was left all alone, wondering just how she was going to push through I wanted to tell her that I was cheering for her. And that she should totally smack those boys around because I was pretty sure she could have taken them. 

Then there's Drill. The totally swoon-worthy drill sergeant whom Sam can not have a relationship with. He's the one person she can truly trust and they're so perfect for each other that sometimes I just wanted to reach in and bump their heads together and scream 'KISS DAMN IT. KISS.' The story isn't romance driven so savor the moments guys. Savor. Them. Also, while Drill may be macho and definitely alpha, he's no douche and he respects Sam's strength and determination and admires her for it. He doesn't treat her any different than the other guys.

You know what else I love about this book? The secret society. It didn't sound like a bunch of utter bull and Hensley managed to seamlessly weave it into the story which made it seem believable and totally creepy. The hazing was brutal too and I'm pretty sure I couldn't have survived that, even if I wanted to. 

So I'm giving this book a 4.5 and I really recommend this to everyone. I'm practically shoving it in people's faces. The book practically oozes tension and suspense, boasts a protagonist who's got a great character arc and the pacing was just perfect. I'm really, really hoping a second book happens because while the book ended well it's just one of those books I wouldn't mind seeing more off. Girl power please. 

Can't wait for my own physical copy of this book and I'm buying anything with this author's name on it, no questions asked. You have totally restored my faith in contemporary. 




Monday, September 8, 2014

NICOLE'S REVIEW: Feuds by Avery Hastings

Title: Feuds
Author: Avery Hastings
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: September 2 2014
Publishing House:  St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN: 9781250057716
Source of Copy: NetGalley


For Davis Morrow, perfection is a daily reality. Like all Prior's Davis has spent her whole life primed to be smarter, stronger, and more graceful than the lowly Imperfects, or "Imps". A fiercely ambitious ballerina, Davis is only a few weeks away from qualifying for the Olympiads and finally living up to her mother's legacy when she meets Cole, a mysterious boy who leaves her with more questions each time he disappears.

Davis has no idea that Cole has his own agenda, or that he's a rising star in the FEUDS, an underground fighting ring where Priors gamble on Imps. Cole has every reason to hate Davis - her father's campaign hinges on total segregation of the Imps and Priors - but despite his best efforts, Cole finds himself as drawn to Davis as she is to him.

Then Narxis, a deadly virus, takes its hold - and Davis' friends start dying. When Priors refuse to acknowledge the epidemic, Davis has no one to turn to but Cole. Falling in love was never part of their plan, but their love may be the only thing that can save her Avery Hasting's Feuds.

        (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Davis is a ballerina. Genetically enhanced since birth like all Priors are, she's smarter, stronger and basically just better than the Imperfects. Or Imps as they're called. She's about to qualify for the Olympiads and nothing will stop her from becoming a renowned ballerina like her mother. Until she meets Cole. Unbeknownst to her, Cole has another reason for bumping into her one night at a party - to sabotage her father's campaign through Davis. They never expected to fall for each other. Never expected to unveil secrets that the government is desperate to hide.

I have a bone to pick with this book. Truthfully. It has a gorgeous cover which I love love love but's basically a romance in a dystopian setting. Oh sure, there's a deadly virus sweeping through the Priors and Cole's attempted sabotage of Davis' reputation but it really just focuses on the romance. It's not the swoon-worthy kind of romance too, it's instant love. Th kind where a connection between them is forged through subtle glances and the mystery surrounding Cole's persona and the fact that he's major eye candy. Sometimes I'm okay with instant love. Sometimes. This is not one of them. 

It doesn't help that Davis was a damsel in distress kind of heroine. She has zero self preservation skills. When Davis and Cole first met he was a major creeper. I mean if a guy just so happens to put his had on my bare back at a party I'd run screaming for the other side of the room or maybe just hide behind my friends. Don't get drawn in by a pretty face and a grin. Seriously. Davis' friendships also seem superficial. I couldn't get a feel for the connection between her and the best friend. 

And you know, I might have forgiven the insta-love if the focus of the story wasn't on that. I didn't want to read about Davis wondering about Cole. Didn't want to see her swoon, or look forward to when they were gonna bump into each other. People are dying Davis, people you know. You should be scared.

And if that wasn't enough, the world building for Feuds was just...shoddy. There wasn't enough back story. Not enough details on their society. Like why the divide? Priors and Imps? Technology? Barely there. I want the details, the little things that come together to give me an image of what their society is like. It's supposed to be futuristic but the thing is, aside from the social divide? There's nothing here that really screams that. Aside from genetically modified human beings who are immune to all kinds of sicknesses. 

Half baked world building and forgettable characters? Not my thing. And while I do like my fair share of romance I expected this book to lean towards the sci-fi side more. My mistake. Looking for sci-fi that's actually science-y and believable? Try Insignia by SJ Kincaid or Proxy by Alex London.