Book Review–Into the Darkness by V.C. Andrews (Andrew Neiderman)

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This is the 21st book from my 115 in 2015 Reading Challenge.

 

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Into the Darkness by V.C. Andrews (Andrew Neiderman)
Published February 28th, 2012 by Gallery Books

 

Despite the brilliant sunshine, I felt a chill surge through me. I paused and looked at the house next door. Was Brayden just another one of my fantasies?

Bestselling author V.C. Andrews portrays her most romantic couple since Troy and Heaven in the Casteel series…in this twisting tale of desire and obsession, reality and dreams.

As lovely as one of the precious gems at her parents’ jewelry store, Amber Taylor is shy and introspective—qualities misread by others as being stuck-up and superior. Facing a long, lonely summer working at the family shop, Amber’s world lights up when the Matthews family suddenly moves into the house next door, a property that has stood neglected for the longest time.

And when she meets Brayden Matthews, an only child just like her, Amber soon becomes infatuated with this handsome, quirky young man who seems to know her innermost feelings almost before she does, who takes her places she never knew existed in her small town. Their connection is electrifying, unlike anything Amber’s felt before. But as quickly as he appears, Brayden vanishes into the darkness. And finding out the truth about him will push Amber Taylor to the edge of madness….

An atmospheric journey of passion and suspense that builds to a jolting, unforgettable finale, Into the Darkness showcases V.C. Andrews at her best.

 

 

 

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I’m a big fan of VCA novels. Well, at least I was until the most recent Neiderman books. I’m still trying to give new books a fair chance. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Plot:

The plot doesn’t make a ton of sense. It had great potential, but just fell really short. I felt like the author wasn’t sure where to go so he would quickly abandon one idea and switch to something else. That’s how it felt, anyway.

Setting:

This is one of the few things that I actually liked. The setting was neat. Little community with a close-knit neighborhood yet still had nature surrounding it? Sign me up. I’d love to be able to walk to town within minutes as well!

Characters:

None of the characters, except perhaps Amber’s parents, were well fleshed out.

I wanted to like Amber so bad but she just kept rubbing me the wrong way. She was all right in the beginning–minus the describing everything in jewel-tones/jewelry terms–but it didn’t take long for her to start wearing on my nerves. Mostly her obsessing over the same old things and acting in unexpected ways without an explanation is what did it for me.

Brayden wasn’t any more likable. His presence and behavior was confusing, even once the ending sinks in.

Surprisingly Shayne (who the hell uses that spelling, anyway?) was likable for a little bit but then for whatever reason he starts acting really weird as well.

Conclusion: I don’t like any of these people and don’t care what happens to them.

Relationships:

This book was touted as being the best love story since Heaven and Troy. Ha. What? Did we read the same book? While there was one scene in which Amber and Brayden had great chemistry, for the most part it fell flat. It certainly wasn’t even a quarter of the romance portrayed by Heaven and Troy in Dark Angel. Their relationship didn’t make me feel anything.

I liked Shayne and Amber’s relationship somewhat better until things fell apart. Though the third person thing did get on my nerves after a while.

In a way I liked the relationship Amber had with her parents, but in another sometimes they acted really strange with her as well.

Writing/Voice:

It seems that each time I pick up a new VCA novel, the writing gets worse. I couldn’t even feel sorry for Amber at all–that’s how little I cared for her POV. I’m glad the jewelry term descriptions stopped after the first chapter, though. It would have been very annoying if that had continued. So I guess that’s a plus.

Ending:

I already knew this was a ghost story, so the twist wasn’t really much of one for me. Even though I didn’t really much care for this book at all, the ending seemed very “Meh.”

Overall:

Had potential and a great setting, but I couldn’t care for any of the characters, relationships, or writing. I found the book to be boring for the most part.

 

1star

 

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–The In-Between by Barbara Stewart

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This is the 20th book from my 115 in 2015 Reading Challenge.

 

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

The In-Between by Barbara Stewart
Published November 5th, 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin

 

When Elanor’s near-death experience opens a door to a world inhabited by bold, beautiful Madeline, she finds her life quickly spiraling out of control

Fourteen-year-old Elanor Moss has always been an outcast who fails at everything she tries—she’s even got the fine, white scars to prove it. Moving was supposed to be a chance at a fresh start, a way to leave behind all the pain and ugliness of her old life. But, when a terrible car accident changes her life forever, her near-death experience opens a door to a world inhabited by Madeline Torus . . .

Madeline is everything Elanor isn’t: beautiful, bold, brave. She is exactly what Elanor has always wanted in a best friend and more—their connection runs deeper than friendship. But Madeline is not like other girls, and Elanor has to keep her new friend a secret or risk being labeled “crazy.” Soon, though, even Elanor starts to doubt her own sanity. Madeline is her entire life, and that life is drastically spinning out of control. Elanor knows what happens when your best friend becomes your worst enemy. But what happens when your worst enemy is yourself?

With her debut novel, The In-Between, Barbara Stewart presents a bold new voice in teen fiction.

 

 

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Plot:

The plot is very unique and has a definite creepy feeling. I had a good guess at what was going on a few chapters before it was confirmed, but it was still a very neat angle. I liked that the book seemed to be going in one direction only to completely change gears.

Setting:

Most of the book takes place in Ellie’s new house, though the town itself vaguely reminds me of the town I grew up in. The house felt very realistic, as well as what parts of the town were seen through Ellie’s eyes.

Characters:

It was very easy to connect and feel for the main character, Ellie. I’m still unsure on whether what happened was actually something supernatural or all inside her head. She was definitely flawed, which is a plus because sometimes it feels like not too many main characters have flaws. She felt very real.

I also felt that Madeline was an interesting character, though she felt more real in the beginning.

Aside from Ellie, I liked Audrey.

Ellie’s mother was also very far from perfect and while a few things about her annoyed me, I liked that she was pretty imperfect as well.

The only characters who didn’t seem well fleshed out are most of the external ones (kids at school, the shrink, and the dad) but in a way, it kind of makes sense that they aren’t.

Relationships:

The most intriguing relationship is that between Ellie and Madeline. While it seemed a little odd at first, when things started to make more sense, it got pretty interesting.

I also enjoyed Ellie’s relationship with her mother, and how it contrasted with that of her father.

Her friendship with Audrey was also interesting. Even though Audrey was definitely weird, she fit better with Ellie than any of the other friends Ellie had.

Writing/Voice:

The writing style was very enjoyable and went well with the atmosphere of the book. It was so easy to get lost in Ellie’s thoughts that sometimes I forgot I was reading someone’s words and not hearing their thoughts.

Ending:

The twist was a nice touch. I thought I had the ending figured out until then. In a way it was kind of sad, but it fit very well with the overall story. It was also kind of ironic in a way.

Overall:

Definitely a very easy book to get lost in, with a nice creepy atmosphere and intriguing plot. Not quite horror, but blurs the line between horror, fantasy, and reality.

 

4stars

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes

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This is the 19th book from my 115 in 2015 Reading Challenge.

 

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
Published December 31st, 2001 by Dial Books

 

When Wesley Boone writes a poem for his high school English class, some of his classmates clamor to read their poems aloud too. Soon they’re having weekly poetry sessions and, one by one, the eighteen students are opening up and taking on the risky challenge of self-revelation.

There’s Lupe Alvarin, desperate to have a baby so she will feel loved. Raynard Patterson, hiding a secret behind his silence. Porscha Johnson, needing an outlet for her anger after her mother OD’s. Through the poetry they share and narratives in which they reveal their most intimate thoughts about themselves and one another, their words and lives show what lies beneath the skin, behind the eyes, beyond the masquerade.

 

 

————-

Plot:

The plot reminds me a bit of The Freedom Writer’s Diary, only it’s about a class of kids who do slam poetry based on their life experiences. It’s done in different POVs, which was a little confusing at first but ended up being neat. Often each POV would end with that character’s poetry reading.

Setting:

The setting is not really mentioned too often, just hints to give away that it’s an area that’s either in or near the city and can be dangerous in certain areas. It would have been nice to have a little more insight to the area and how it affected the kids.

Characters:

There’s several different POVs of kids from all backgrounds and races, each going through their own situations. The book is pretty short so only a glimpse of their lives are given, but I felt they were well fleshed out not only from their POV but also from their poems. I especially liked Tyrone, Lupe, Janelle, and Devon.

Relationships:

Not really many romantic relationships to speak of, but some of the friend relationships were interesting. I particularly liked the one between Leslie and Porscha. All of the kids seem to come to an understanding that there is more to each of them than meets the eye.

Writing/Voice:

The writing took a little getting used to at first, but once I got into it, it was a fast and enjoyable read. There are several POVs going on, along with poems written by the different kids. For the most part they sound like they are from different kids.

Ending:

The book felt like it ended a little abruptly, but I liked the positive ending.

Overall:

Fast read with a good message, especially for those in high school. Fans of the freedom writers, positive educational stories, and slam poetry will probably enjoy this one. The only drawback I saw was that it’s really short.

 

 

3stars

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

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This is the 100th book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge. I didn’t make it to 114 this year, but I was pretty close!

 

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Published January 1st, 2005 by Square Fish

 

 

Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

 

 

——

 

Elsewhere is a book about death, but it is also a book unlike any other that I’ve read. The idea itself is intriguing but kind of depressing. I certainly hope that the afterlife is much different in real life. Still, an interesting idea. I especially liked how the animals could talk, though I have to admit the first chapter really threw me off at first.

I liked the characters well enough, though I didn’t connect to any of them as much as I would have liked. I felt like I was being held back from getting too close to them. The plot was fresh and somewhat unpredictable most of the time. Worth reading at least once.

 

 

 

3stars

 

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

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This is the 99th book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

 

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
Published March 16th, 2010 by Simon Pulse

 

 

Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don’t like your best friend’s boyfriend.

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He’s easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he’s paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna’s boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah’s best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she’s thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It’s wonderful… and awful.

Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can’t stop herself from wanting more…

 

——

 

***This review may contain slight spoilers***

The book started off really strong in the beginning, but kind of fizzled out for me about halfway. I like the characters of Sarah and Ryan. I am very against cheating but was able to understand (and feel for) Sarah’s situation. And while I was annoyed with Ryan’s inability to end things with Brianna, I could also kind of understand why he hesitated, given her situation with her parents.

While the situation was presented realistically, I did not like Brianna. While I felt awful about her parents, she was a terrible friend. While what Sarah did was wrong, Brianna was very hypocritical about judging her.

I like that the book ends with a less than happy ending–made it more real. Probably not something I’d read again, but Scott did a good job with the stereotypical “I like my best friend’s boyfriend” story.

 

 

3stars

 

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–A Time to Die (One Last Wish #1) by Lurlene McDaniel

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This is the 98th book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

 

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

A Time to Die (One Last Wish #1) by Lurlene McDaniel
Published April 1st, 1992 by Laurel Leaf

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Kara Fischer has cystic fibrosis  and only months to live. But the close-knit bond  she develops with Vince, who also has the disease,  helps her come to terms with her own illness.  Given one last wish, Kara wonders if miracles could  really happen.

 

 

——

 

I probably would have liked this better back when I was into paperbacks like this. The main character has cystic fibrosis, and while it was refreshing to see a character from this POV, it was also pretty depressing. The book had a nice sentiment, but really didn’t make me feel nearly as sad as I imagined I would be. Probably won’t be checking out anymore in the series, as these type of books are no longer my thing.

 

 

2stars

 

 

 

 

jncname

Book Review–Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

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This is the 96th book from my 114 in 2014 Reading Challenge.

 

Picture Source: Goodreads.com
Picture Source: Goodreads.com

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Published October 26th, 2010 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

 

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

 

 

——

 

Ended up just barely liking this one. Loved the initial idea, as well as the plot, but the characters and their pretentiousness constantly grated on my nerves. Even so, I ended up liking Lily and the relationship as a whole. It was a cute story overall. Probably wouldn’t re-read, but it ended up being a nice winter read.

 

3stars

 

 

 

 

 

jncname