Review: Dear Killer – Katherine Ewell

Dear Killer Katherine Ewell

Title: Dear Killer
Author: Katherine Ewell
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 359 pages
Opening Sentence: “Rule one. Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

Well, my dears, I have to admit I’m rather torn over this book. Dear Killer is a novel I was excited for from the moment I heard about it. I was watching Tea Time when they showed it and immediately went to Goodreads like OMGOMGOMG.

The thing is, I’m not sure if I particularly liked this novel. On the one hand I thought the story was unlike anything else I’ve read and that made it special. Before this one, I hadn’t crossed any YA books that had a straight up serial killer as the main character. Let alone a female serial killer. It seems almost a taboo topic in YA. That was the main thing that drew me in, and if I’m being real? That idea is still my favorite part about it.

Now onto the other hand… There was something off about the way the story was presented. For a lot of the time I was entertained, but in the back of my mind there was still the thought that it could have been done differently. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong, but around halfway through the book I started to get bored. When I had about 100 pages left to read I started questioning if I should even finish it. I did finish the book and it was good, but I still feel lukewarm about it. The story started to feel redundant after a while and the main character stupid. I’m trying not to hold this against the book though, because it’s sort of seems like it was done on purpose.

Anyway, it seems as though my own expectations about the novel are what ultimately made me like it less than I could have. It’s like this novel had a lot of hype–in my mind, at least–that basically ruined the reading experience for me. I had a very hard time reading the story and not thinking that I had expected it would be better or different or [ENTER ADJECTIVE HERE].

That being said, Dear Killer wasn’t a bad story or a bad book in general. I know a lot of people would really enjoy it, but if you pick it up I advise you not to go in with too many expectations. Those expectations will ruin it for you. Try to keep a clean-ish slate and an open mind.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Review: Born of Deception – Teri Brown

This is a review for the second book in the Born of Illusion series. So if you haven’t read the first, you might be spoiled. I suggest reading the first book and then coming back. 👍

Born of Deception Teri Brown

Title: Born of Deception
Author: Teri Brown
Series: Born of Illusion #2
Publisher: Balzer & Brown
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 326 pages
Opening Sentence: “A circle of children surround me, their bright faces turned upward, as if eagerly awaiting the cascading lights of a fireworks show.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Budding illusionist Anna Van Housen is on top of the world: after scoring a spot on a prestigious European vaudeville tour, she has moved to London to chase her dream and to join an underground society for people like her with psychic abilities. Along with her handsome beau, Cole Archer, Anna is prepared to take the city by storm.

But when Anna arrives in London, she finds the group in turmoil. Sensitives are disappearing and, without a suspect, the group’s members are turning on one another. Could the kidnapper be someone within the society itself—or has the nefarious Dr. Boyle followed them to London?

As Cole and Anna begin to unravel the case and secrets about the society are revealed, they find themselves at odds, their plans for romance in London having vanished. Her life in danger and her relationship fizzling, can Anna find a way to track down the killer before he makes her his next victim—or will she have to pay the ultimate price for her powers?

Set in Jazz-Age London, this alluring sequel to Born of Illusion comes alive with sparkling romance, deadly intrigue, and daring magic.

I adored Born of Illusion when I first read it. It was given a five star rating and I basically had nothing bad to say about it. I went into Born of Deception expecting to love this installment just as much as the first, or maybe even more. Unfortunately, I loved it less.

I somewhat feel like Born of Deception was a completely different story. I know the main characters were the same and some of the plot carried over, but honestly, what happened to the core of the story? The Sensitives were still there, the romance between Anna and Cole was still there, the magic was still there… but the continuity with Born of Illusion felt off. This story felt way less geared toward the Sensitives and more toward romance. EVERYTHING had something to do with Anna’s love life and it felt unnecessary.

I wanted to know more about Anna’s powers and all the other people’s powers. I wanted to see Anna doing magic and becoming even more independent and awesome. I wanted to see some real growth in the plot, but the whole thing was suffocated by a dumb twist in Anna’s love life. It honestly seemed like she thought about that more than the danger she was obviously in. Agh, so frustrating! The whole thing just failed to wow me.

I enjoyed reading the novel, don’t get me wrong. The aim of the story was absolutely frustrating, but I loved reading Brown’s writing. It draws you in and really makes you feel like you’re there. I just wish it had been paired with a good and balanced story.

But yeah, what happened to Anna?! She was so strong and independent in the first novel, but in this one she sometimes felt like a completely different person. I had an insanely rough time connecting with her or her life. And her romance was just, like, womp womp to me. I give no shits about Cole. Sorry. Also, was Anna always that superficial? I swear every chapter had her talking about someone’s beauty. WE GET IT!

Anna’s mother, on the other hand, won a little bit from me. I’m pretty sure I disliked her in the first book, but this one showed a different side to her that I could definitely get on board with. I would have liked to see more of her. Which brings me to her “father”. Where was Harry Houdini in this book?? I was really hoping to see more development in that plotline, but it was basically nonexistent. There were maybe one or two nods toward Houdini, but otherwise he had no part in the story. Sigh. He was kiiinda important to Anna in the first novel. How was he completely cut out in this one?

Moving on: is there going to be another novel in the series or is this the last one? The way this ended sorta makes it seem like there could be another one, but it also is wrapped enough that it could be the end. Not a very good end, mind you, considering how easily things were resolved—a topic I won’t bother touching on because this review would grow too much—but yeah. If there’s more: the end was fine. If this is the last book: the end could have been done with WAY MORE care. Someone let me know!

And breeeeathe!

This turned out to be a way more negative review than I had originally planned, but I feel so disappointed in the story. I adored Born of Illusion. I thought Born of Deception was going to win my heart as well, and when it didn’t I felt like I lost something. All in all, I could have written a kinder review. I liked the book enough to do that, but then the review wouldn’t have been completely honest. I definitely don’t regret reading Born of Deception because it was, after all, enjoyable, but I know it had more potential than this. That’s the biggest disappointment.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars


Reviews from the rest of the series:
Born of Illusion (#1)

Review: Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle – Bob Pflugfelder & Steve Hockensmith

Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle

Title: Nick and Tesla’s Secret Agent Gadget Battle
Author: Bob Pflugfelder & Steve Hockensmith
Series: Nick and Tesla #3
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Source/Format: Publisher / Hardcover, 256 pages
Opening Sentence: “‘It’s her,’ Nick said. ‘She’s the spy.'”
Author Website (Science Bob and Hockensmith) | Goodreads | Amazon

In this third installment of the series, 11-year-old whiz-kids Nick and Tesla discover that someone in the quiet town of Half Moon Bay has placed their beloved Uncle Newt under electronic surveillance—but who is spying on him, and why? To expose the secret agent, Nick and Tesla build all kinds of outrageous contraptions. Throughout the book, the narrative is interrupted by blueprints and instructions so that budding young inventors can follow along. Science and electronics have never been so much fun!

I want to get this out at the very beginning: I think the more I read Middle Grade the less I feel like most MG is for me. Maybe I’m getting too old in mindset, but I don’t know. This feeling, unfortunately, spreads to Nick and Tesla. That being said, I don’t think this review is going to be very long… because I don’t feel like I have very much to say.

For much of the novel I was entertained, but the bare minimum amount. If I’m being completely honest? The only reason I kept reading was because this book was given to me for review. Otherwise I don’t think I would have been compelled to keep going. I actually tried starting it once before and didn’t pick it up again for months because I wasn’t captured by the story.

This is why I think it’s Middle Grade + me, not so much Nick and Tesla + me. The simplicity of the story killed it for me. The dumb jokes would make children laugh, I’m sure, but they were filler to me. I craved a more in depth and complex story and I wasn’t getting it… So I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked. Maybe I’m becoming a bitter adult? I just was having so much trouble getting into the story from the POV of the target demographic (as opposed to the adult I am).

So yeah. I wanted to love this book, I really did. But I think maybe this series and I are reaching our end. Sigh. I’m going to read the next book (because I have that one for review as well), but if I’m still feeling the same way then I’ll walk away content with the feeling that I gave the series a fair shake.

All of that being said, if you’re a hardcore Middle Grade fan then I recommend this series. I’ve spoken to several people who loooove it. And, of course, the science projects included in every book are super cool and most definitely a selling point.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars


Reviews from the rest of the series:
High Voltage Danger Lab (#1)
Robot Army Rampage (#2)

Review: Dangerous Girls – Abigail Haas

Dangerous Girls Abigail Haas

Title: Dangerous Girls
Author: Abigail Haas
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: July 16, 2013
Source/Format: Library / Paperback, 400 pages
Opening Sentence: “Shots! Shots! Shots!”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.

As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…

Wait, what. I mean… WHAT?

I’ve heard so many great things about Dangerous Girls. And not even just from random people on Goodreads, but also people I talk to. Obviously I wasn’t going to pass up this novel.

Mystery is definitely not my favorite type of book to read, so I was wary coming into a book that is most definitely a mystery and spends a lot of time in a courtroom. I wasn’t disappointed though! Dangerous Girls is a book that just drew me in. I didn’t feel particularly compelled to keep reading, but I would fly through 100 pages and not realize I did it because it was interesting.

I don’t really want to talk about my feelings about the book because I’m afraid I’m going to spoil it. I see no way to talk about it without talking about it completely. I’m still somewhat confused. The ending lets you know the gist of the situation, but it still leaves a lot up for interpretation. That’s fine, but not for me. I like my books, especially mysteries, to lay things out for me completely and this one didn’t. That’s why it lost a star.

Anyway, I feel like I’m about to start saying too much. Would I recommend the book? Yup! But be prepared to be jerked around. This is nowhere near a happy story. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Rating: 3.5-4 of 5 stars

Review: Ink – Amanda Sun

ink amanda sun

Title: Ink
Author: Amanda Sun
Series: Paper Gods #1
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 21, 2013
Source/Format: Library / Paperback, 369 pages
Opening Sentence: “I made it halfway across the courtyard before I realized I was still wearing my school slippers.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

**NOTE! I WROTE THIS “REVIEW” LIKE A YEAR AGO RIGHT AFTER I READ THE BOOK. IT’S ALL MIXED UP AND NOT NECESSARILY ACCURATE ANYMORE. I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO SHOW HOW I FELT AT THE TIME, TOO, SO HEREYAGO!**

To be completely honest, I’m not too sure how I really feel about Ink by Amanda Sun. I was initially drawn to it because the concept is super cool—drawings that come to life? How cool is that?!—and it takes place in Japan. While I was reading, though, I found myself rolling my eyes a lot and generally just having trouble getting through the book. It wasn’t the story, but the execution. I can’t even figure out how to explain it. I’m afraid I was swayed by what other people were saying, though. If I hadn’t known what some people I follow think about it would I have liked/disliked it more? I can’t be sure. The thing is: after I finished reading it I found myself wanting more of the world. I think I started liking it more after I stopped reading it. It grew on me as time passed. I really do like the idea so I’ll definitely be waiting for the sequel to come out, just maybe not as excitedly as possible. I don’t know if I was expecting a lot from Ink and felt disappointed or if it was something else, but I’ll use this as a lesson in keeping my mind open while reading.

UPDATE: I don’t know what was going on with me when I wrote that review, but I don’t feel quite the same way anymore. Those feelings are still there, of course, but I remember liking Ink more than I think I realized. The story is fantastic and I’m super excited for the next book. Woo!

Rating: 2.5/3 of 5 stars

Review: We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 227 pages
Opening Sentence: “Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

There has been so much hype around We Were Liars since even before the book came out. I had read the synopsis before the hype started and decided I totally had to read the book, but then all these people came around saying how good and awesome it was and then I was just like “OHMAHGAWD, I HAVE TO READ IT!”

I feel like it took me forever to read this book. I mean, for as awesome as people said it was I was having some problems getting through it. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was definitely slow. In my mind there are two types of awesome book. 1: the awesome book that’s awesome from beginning to end. 2: the awesome book that you have to make an investment in, but eventually it proves how awesome it is.

I don’t really feel like We Were Liars was either of those. It was definitely an investment book, but it fell sort of short in the “awesome” category. It was a good book, but I don’t know… I was expecting more. Maybe the hype got to me.

Don’t get me wrong! The story was good and I definitely don’t regret reading the book. I would probably recommend it to people, but I don’t know that I would read it again. It’s one of THOSE books. Good once, but that’s it.

I’ll give it this, though: The story was absolutely original and interesting. I loved the story, but I like it more looking back on it then I did while I was reading it. I don’t know what it was, but something was keeping me from loving the story (and the book as a whole) as much as I could have.

If you like books that keep you wondering and have poetic writing you’ll probably want to give this one a try. I suggest jumping into it with as little knowledge about the story as possible. It’s fun not knowing what to expect. Why are they liars? No idea. That’s part of the fun.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: Waking Up Married – Mira Lyn Kelly

waking up married mira lyn kelly

Title: Waking Up Married
Author: Mira Lyn Kelly
Publisher: Harlequin KISS
Publication Date: December 1, 2012
Source/Format: Personal Library / Ebook
Opening Sentence: “Forced to listen to one heaving revolt after another reverberate off the polished marble, Connor Reed cursed his conscience.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

Her first thought: “Who are you?”
It’s the morning after her cousin’s bachelorette party in Vegas and Megan Scott wakes up with the mother of all hangovers. Even worse, she’s in a stranger’s penthouse having woken up with something else as well – a funny, arrogant, sexy…husband!

Up until now, finding even a boyfriend had seemed impossible – been there, got the broken heart, sworn off men for good. Then a few martinis with Carter…no, Connor Reed and she’s gone from first meet to marriage in one night!

Megan wants a lawyer. But Connor’s shocking bombshell?

“I don’t want a divorce.”

I hadn’t planned to read Waking Up Married by Mira Lyn Kelly. It was free on Amazon so I ordered it and started reading immediately. I don’t read adult fiction much anymore, so it was something of a change. I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

For the most part Waking Up Married was funny and enjoyable chick-lit. I felt like there was something missing though. I wasn’t invested at all and think anything could have happened and I would have been like “Meh.”. The idea of a marriage based around mutual respect and appreciation rather than love was interesting, but the outcome was totally predictable.

The humor is what really kept me reading. I would have given the book a higher rating if the humor had stayed through the whole thing, but it didn’t. Like halfway through things got “serious” and the humor sort of just evaporated. Bummer.

I don’t mean to make it sound like I didn’t like this book. On the contrary, I found it enjoyable and finished it fairly quickly. Did I love it? No. Will I read it again? Probably not. Was it worth it? Yes.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars