Welcome to my train of thought. Just a warning, there might be turbulence. I'm a little eccentric, but hopefully you'll find something here that'll make the crazy worth it. Stay tuned for book reviews, ramblings on random things, and all sorts of stuff that tickles my fancy. But keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. My brain is a scary place!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sleepwalkers by Ross Ellis

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013) 

Alistair, Ruby, Sean, and Meganne are all "Sleepwalkers" -- kids with the ability to control their dreams and, as they've discovered, enter the dreams of others.  Each belonging to a different school group/trope (nerd, girly girl, tomboy girl, etc), they've bonded into a tightknit circle of friends (and left their other cliques behind) after finding each other in the world of dreams.

Then they meet Chester, another kid who, as it turns out, has the same gift they do.  Chester's home life isn't fantastic, and in a sad turn of events, Chester is thrust into a coma by a tragic accident.  Our Sleepwalkers decide to enter his dreams to wake him up, but what they find there isn't a dream... it's worse than a nightmare.

Wow, GREAT story idea.  You can see the author's background in screenwriting seeping through the writing as he very much understands fast-paced action.

There are a few problems I have with it though:  First, the transitions are non-existent.  Sure, there are chapter changes, but most of the time, within chapters, when a scene switches or it's later in the day or whatever the case, there is NO transition.  Not even a few spaces between paragraphs to signal the flow has jumped along.

Second, the beginning is a little confusing.  I felt like they were just meeting Chester, then at later points, their relationship with him seems much deeper and it seems like they've known him a while.  Needs some clarification or some more detail.

Lastly, I feel like the whole story needs to be expanded.  It's a relatively short story (less than 200 pages) and it could use some thickness to it.  Add more action.  Make the journey/quest to save Chester longer, more obstacles, harder challenges, bigger scenes.  It felt... incomplete.

I must say though, that the kids and their abilities were well done.  And the dream worlds were interesting, especially once they got into the nightmare coma land.  I feel like this world was epic, but the amount of story we got for such a huge and scary place was minimal. 

The pros:  Great story, fun, creepy, good characters, fast pace.

The cons:  over way too quickly, needs more fleshing out, confusing intro stuff, more action please!

Overall, I very much enjoyed this novel.  It has a lot of potential for greatness, especially if it was fleshed out a bit.  I could definitely see this made into a film.  I'm giving it a four because while it could use some work, it was entertaining enough to keep me to the last page, the world and idea was great, the characters were good, and I would definitely read a sequel (or a fleshed out rework or something).  Very entertaining.

Thanks to the author for his generous gift of a copy.  I hope my honest review and feedback helps!

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013) 

I absolutely adored this book! It was different enough from the film (one of my absolute favorites) to say I loved them equally and similar enough to help me imagine the world more easily.
I will definitely read more Neil Gaiman novels. I regret that it has taken me this long. :)

Inferno by Dan Brown

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013) 

I loved this book! In typical Dan Brown fashion, I was swept up along with Robert Langdon and Sienne Brooks as they raced against time to follow one of Brown's signature plot devices: a code set in art, architecture, literature, etc.

Rapid pace, global scope, detailed history, lots of fun.

If you like any of the other Robert Langdon books (Angels & Demons, Da Vinci Code, Lost Symbol) then do yourself a favor and pick up this most recent installment of the series.

Dark Passage by Griffin Hayes

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013) 

Dark Passage is the first book I've read by Griffin Hayes.  I read this book on the recommendation of a Goodreads friend, and dear Mallory was right -- this book was totally worth the read.  This may have been my first Griffin Hayes book, but it certainly won't be my last.

Let's start with a RECAP:  Tyson is a man of suffering.  For the past six months, he's slept so very little that he's hanging on by a thread.  His marriage has fallen apart, his career is spiraling downwards, and little tidbits of a horrendous childhood are peeking through in the form of night terrors way beyond the norm.

So, when the opportunity arises for him to get some sleep by joining a drug trial of a new "fix-it" drug pending approval from the FDA, he chases that chance as a man on a mission.  Soon enough, he's sleeping like a baby and, even better, some amazing things are starting to happen.  Good things from his dreams are starting to bleed through the line that separates reality from the dream world.  His problem of sleep isn't the only thing that looks like it's finally made a u-turn for the better.
But once his history starts to rear its ugly head in his dreams again, evil begins to seep through and a dangerous evil begins to manifest... as he recalls that dark hallway in his childhood home (the titular dark passage), death and darkness, evil and insanity, and a past he thought he'd left behind arises to claim him and everyone he loves.

REVIEW:  Wow... just wow!  What an original story with twist after twist, turn after turn.  Gory, but not too gory.  The perfect level of darkness.  Good characters. A sympathetic main character.  A disturbingly creepy creature.  A scary mother.  A doctor losing his mind slowly.  This story is a fun read for anyone who likes a little horror and creepiness in their reading.
Take a trip down the Dark Passage... you (unlike Tyson) won't regret that you did. :)

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013) 

It wasn't terrible, but the actual ghost is on like 7 pages in the whole book, and it really wasn't scary. I enjoyed the story and felt like, had it been fleshed out and made scarier, I would have liked it more.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013)

After multiple attempts to read Tolkien, I've finished one!

I think my love for the movies and the epic scope of the story (combined with my recent foray into actually enjoying fantasy) let me not only READ Tolkien, but actually LOVE Tolkien.

I WILL read the Lord of the Rings... eventually. :)

Cemetery Lake by Paul Cleave

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013)

I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review... which follows!

RECAP: Former cop (turned Private Investigator) Theo Tate, struggling to overcome his rough past few years, has just been handed the biggest can of worms he'll ever experience, and he's about to open that can. He's having the body of a man exhumed to check and see if he didn't actually die of natural causes, but instead of poisoning (in light of new evidence in a related case that begs the question). Here's the rub: the coffin doesn't hold an older man. It's not empty though... there's a young girl in there. Ummm, strange, right? Yeah, well, not quite as strange as the lake a few meters away from the grave being dug up. Why, you ask? Perhaps the bodies rushing to the surface and bobbing like fishing tackle!

From this point, Theo sets out to put a name to the nameless girl, and it snowballs into a massive case with multiple deaths -- and one ruthless evil.

REVIEW: While it took a bit for me to adjust to present tense from the first person perspective, I really enjoyed this book. It was full of twists and turns, and some pretty shocking moments. The plot was grand and risky, but I think Cleave pulled it off. With a flawed anti-hero who makes poor decisions, a terribly evil villain, and a cast of morally questionable characters, Cleave has turned his hometown of Christchurch into a gritty noir world, ripe for more stories.

I'll definitely be reading more Paul Cleave.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013)

I SERIOUSLY enjoyed this book. All the hype around Gone Girl got me wanting to read Gillian Flynn, but I wanted to start with one that wasn't the most hyped...

I am very impressed. Great story, great reveal moments, and the characters... ugh, how to express just how well you get to know the characters?

I will definitely be reading more of Gillian Flynn's books: next up, Sharp Objects!

Of course, I might have liked it so much because I kind of pegged the killer early on. I say "kind of" because of a pretty good twist that I should have seen coming!

Light of the Moon by David James

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013)

I don't even know where to begin! This story was so completely different than what I expected. It's a love story, sure, but it's a story about power and family and depth of character and loss and gain and oh so many other things.

Sure, there are supernatural elements, but this isn't your typical supernatural young adult novel. Don't go into it expecting werewolves or angels or anything like that... expect witches and stars and blood curses and mass murder and redemption!

I'm looking forward to reading the short stories that build on the story AND the upcoming sequel.

ETA: Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Eye of God by James Rollins

 (Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013)

Of course, I loved this book... I love everything he writes. I am saddened and upset at the losses resulting from this book... but in the end, perhaps those losses aren't forever.

I can't believe I have to wait another year for the next one. Sigh.

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon's Fury

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013)

With themes like honor, truthfulness, integrity, responsibility, loyalty, and duty, this book offers a lot for parents to share with their kids -- including a link at the back of the ebook to the author's website, where the author has provided tips and activities and ideas for parents to help their kids apply the lessons they learn in this book. Dragons and magic and adventure await... and this book is perfect for a middle-grade reader, before he or she "graduates" into young adult. I'm interested in seeing where the story goes in the next one, and even though I'm way past the intended audience age, I'm pretty sure I'll pick up the next one to get more of the story of this sword-weilding curse-breaker. :) I kindly thank the author for gifting me a copy for review purposes.

When She Woke by Hilary Jordan

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013)

I very much enjoyed this futuristic thriller/drama by Hilary Jordan.

When Hannah fell in love with the wrong person and terminated a secret pregenancy, she didn't know that getting caught would change her world... for the better.

She gets branded as a Chrome... in her world, people who commit crimes are chromed, or forced to undergo therapy that changes the color of their skin based off their crime.  Hannah is branded red for taking a human life.

She is then forced to live in a mirrored room, with cameras showing her every move, for a month.  This time is supposed to make her focus on what she has done and come to grips with it, become penitent for it, weep for her mistakes.

After this initial period, she must wear her "scarlet letter" for a set period of time as punishment.

Along her journey to true freedom, she meets people who rock her worldview and change her perspective on the truly important things in life.

The end was a little abrupt, but overall, I loved this book.  Definitely recommended reading.

The King's Deception by Steve Berry

(Originally published on my blog Your Rainy Day Reading List on 7/12/2013)

I received (with immature, unadulterated, dance-around-my-living-room delight) an advanced copy from Netgalley for review. The mere mention of King Henry VIII sends historians and lovers of Tudor fiction into wild meanderings on the twisted and tangled life that was the monarch’s. Wife after wife, child after child, this man redefined not only what it meant to be regent and religious leader in Britain, but also the place of the Tudor family in the history books. His daughter, Elizabeth I, reigned over England and Ireland for decades. She created a golden era, full of dramas and adventurers. She never married, claiming virginity until her death. Her paintings are all mysteriously and specifically done, surrounded by rules of what could be painted. Steve Berry’s latest in the Cotton Malone series takes us back not only into British history, but also into the Malone’s family history. It is a tale of two years past, of how their family changed yet again. Lies and secrets marred the three Malones, and it took truth and honesty to heal. Funnily enough, lies and secrets altered the lives of the Tudor family as well. What if she remained The Virgin Queen, unmarried, for a reason? What if she was part of what would be the greatest fraud in British history? What if all those rules about painting the Queen were necessary to veil an imposter? What if this secret could reignite a war that would change Elizabeth’s legacy from beloved queen to thief of her sister’s title of “Bloody?” Take a ride down memory lane with Cotton Malone in his latest (well, perhaps not chronologically) adventure as a simple favor for a friend turns into a quest for truth and a battle for the lives of all involved. Just be prepared, as the secrets of the past are not the only dangerous mysteries mixed up in The King’s Deception.