Review: Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror, #1), by Karina Halle

Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror, #1)Darkhouse by Karina Halle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been wanting to read this story for a long time. I have had the Audible edition sitting on my shelf for months, if not years. Finally, I decided to give it a shot.

Unfortunately, this book ended up being a disappointment for me. It ended up being kind of “meh”. I just couldn’t ever connect with the characters or the story.

I’m beginning to think that I need to stick to Karina Halle’s dark romance/dark erotica. I love many of her other books that fall in those sub-genres. However, every book of hers that I’ve tried outside of those sub-genres has been a let down for me. Maybe this is related to my expectations for the author, based on her other works that I’ve loved. Who knows? What I do know is that this one didn’t work for me.

The heroine, Perry Palomino, is a young twenty-something that works a dead-end job and seems to lack much of a social life. She is trying to prove herself responsible after having problems with drug use and mental health issues in her teen years. She seems to have gone from one extreme to another, going from out of control to pretty boring.

Dex Foray, the “hero”, is mostly just a douchebag. He rubbed me wrong right from the start. I love an “a$$hole” leading male as much as the next girl, but somewhere along the way there has to be something appealing about the guy thrown in there to keep me hoping. There has to be a glimpse of a redeeming quality provided every now and again. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen in this book until it was way too late. He remained an insulting, demeaning a-hole for pretty much the entire book. I couldn’t stand him!

These two cross paths one night at an old, abandoned lighthouse that is owned by Perry’s uncle. The lighthouse is rumored to be haunted. When Perry and Dex have a very creepy experience, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

Perry shares the experience on her sister’s blog and it goes viral. Next thing she knows, Dex is proposing that the two of them do a “ghost hunters” web show. It sounds like a nice break from her boring day to day life, so Perry agrees.

Before long, Perry and Dex are traveling around together, visiting haunted places. Along the way, there are a few spine-tingling encounters. They keep running across an old “clown” lady that delivers cryptic messages and forecasts for their futures.

What hung with me more than anything else was irritation with Dex. I kept wondering why he had to be such a degrading jackass to Perry. More importantly, I couldn’t figure out why she kept putting up with his nastiness. Sure, he was supposed to be hot, but that was no excuse.

If I had to hear one more snide comment about how NOT hot Perry was, or how his girlfriend was so beautiful, I was going to throw up or punch something. I got it. Perry was nothing special in a superficial way. Why did it have to be brought up every other minute?

In the end, there was a twist or two. Admittedly, I didn’t see them coming. However, I’m not sure if that is because it was especially surprising…or if it was due to the fact that I had kind of tuned out a lot of this story.

This is one of those times when I find myself in the minority. I didn’t love this story like I expected to. It ended up just being kind of “meh”. In fairness, I was in a bit of a reading rut at the time and there weren’t too many books that appealed to me when I started this one.

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Review: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1), by Amie Kaufman

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! This book certainly took me by surprise. I’m still digesting exactly what transpired in this book.

‘Illuminae’ was unlike anything that I’ve read before. For starters, I’m not a big Science Fiction fan. However, this story had a strong romance element and so it managed to draw me in and hold my attention. That being said, I was definitely stepping out of my comfort zone with this book.

The writing style was also very unique. The story is told through the transcripts of recordings, e-mails and other communications between various characters. Admittedly, this style took me quite a while to get used to. Yet, once I adjusted to this unique perspective, I was completely hooked on this story.

‘Illuminae’ tells the story of battling mega-corporations in the future. They are fighting over a speck of a planet at the edge of the universe, with little regard for the lives of the people that are caught in the crosshairs.

Kady Grant and Ezra Mason are two of those people. High school sweethearts, the two had just broken up the morning that their worlds would be turned upside down. They find themselves under attack and fighting for survival.

In the wake of the attack, the world that they knew is changed irrevocably. A virus has broken out amongst the survivors, turning friends and neighbors into murdering zombies. Kady and Ezra are separated, but work together to try and save everyone.

As the story progressed, there were plenty of twists and turns. Every time that I thought I had everything figured out, the story would turn in a completely different direction. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

It did take me a little longer to get into this story, but once I did, it had me completely focused. I even found myself liking AIDAN, the ship’s artificial intelligence that was arguably a “bad guy” for much of the book. This book ended up being surprisingly good for me.

I listened to the Audible edition and I have to give kudos to the narrators. They did a fantastic job of keeping this story engaging and keeping the multiple characters straight. This was a great audiobook selection.

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Review: Caraval (Caraval, #1), by Stephanie Garber

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a surprisingly captivating world Stephanie Garber has created in ‘Caraval’! I listened to the Audible version of this book and I was mesmerized by the beautiful and vivid imagery that ‘Caraval’ contained. I was drawn in by the world that Ms. Garber created and it held my attention right to the very end.

Every once in a while, I love a great paranormal romance. I love to leave reality behind and take off on a journey to a place where magic and fairytales exist. This was the perfect story to do just that.

Scarlett, aka “Crimson”, and her sister Tella have lived under the oppressive rule of their father. His cruelty seems to know no bounds and he takes satisfaction in tormenting his daughters. Knowing how close the girls are to one another, he uses their love against them. When one of his daughters breaks a rule, it is the other one that will receive the punishment.

Awaiting her arranged marriage to a Count that she’s never met before, Scarlett is just biding her time until she can get away from her sadistic father. She’s literally counting down the weeks until she will be married and can take her sister with her to her new home. Unlike Scarlett, Tella is skeptical of the mysterious fiancé that seems to say all of the right things but whose identity remains shrouded in mystery.

Before Scarlett can be married off, she receives an invitation from Legend, the famous mastermind behind the Caraval. Despite writing to Legend ever since she was a young child, Scarlett has never received a response before. Now, with the clock counting down to her wedding, it seems like fate that she would receive her first ever response and an invitation to participate in the Caraval.

With the support of her sister, Scarlett sets off for the mysterious island where Legend has indicated that the Caraval is taking place. Along with Tella, she sets sail with Julian, a young sailor, to participate in the forbidden game. Both sisters know that they are risking their lives by sneaking off against their father’s wishes. However, they are willing to take their chances in order to seize a once in a lifetime opportunity.

From that point forward, the girls are caught up in a magical and dangerous world. Appearances are not what they seem and even time moves differently in this new world. Caraval is a game where the stakes are very high and not everyone will come out alive or unscathed.

I don’t want to give anything away or ruin the surprise for others. There were many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming while listening to this story. Just when I thought I had everything figured out, something else would happen that made me question everything again. This story held my attention and kept me guessing right to the very end.

If you like adventure/fantasy/paranormal stories with plenty of twists and turns, this is a great choice. There is some romance, but it took a back seat to the magical world of Caraval. For me, the adventure and mystery of Caraval reigned supreme. Of course, there is a love story weaved into this fantastical story as well. Just, don’t plan on a super-smutty type of story where the focus on the romance is paramount.

All in all, I thought that this was a wonderful story. I was enchanted by the world that Ms. Garber created and cannot wait to read the next installment. This book filled my head with some beautiful and vibrant imagery that will hang with me for quite some time. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a paranormal/fantasy/adventure to read. It was fantastic!

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Review: The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy, #1), by Joe Hart

The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy, #1)The Last Girl by Joe Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘The Last Girl’ is not my usual type of book, but I’ve been branching out a little more lately and trying different genres. I’ve been lucky enough to find some gems recently as I’ve explored other genres. Unfortunately, ‘The Last Girl’ is not one that was a big hit with me. If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be “underwhelming”.

A dystopian-themed book, ‘The Last Girl’ centers on Zoey, a girl that has been held captive by a militarized, government “research” group. There has been a “plague” that has caused only male babies to be born. The few females remaining are hunted, to be used as guinea pigs…or far worse. Zoey is one of those girls. She has been raised in a research facility as a test subject, in the search for a cure.

Zoey and the other girls at the center have been lied to for all of their years of captivity. They’ve heard rumors about the horrible things that await them on their twenty-first birthdays, but most choose to believe the fairytales that they are fed. Zoey doesn’t believe the lies. She knows that something is amiss and begins to plan her escape.

Eventually, Zoey succeeds and manages to break free of her captors. She joins forces with a group of rebels that want to free the remaining girls at the center. Against all odds, they plan their attack.

While there was plenty of action and suspense in this book, I never really connected with Zoey or the other characters. The story just lacked that special something that pulls you in and holds your attention. I can’t think of any one particular thing to point to, but it just didn’t work for me as a whole. It was okay, but failed to elicit any real emotion from me.

Overall, this was a mediocre read for me. This wasn’t at all my usual type of story, which may have something to do with it. I need a lot more romance and emotion in my stories. This just wasn’t that type of story…at all.

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