Amy R. (AmyMarie) - , - Reviews

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The Absence of Mercy
The Absence of Mercy
Author: John Burley
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 17
Review Date: 11/20/2017


I'm clearly in the minority here, but I didn't find this book to be interesting or well-written at all. It felt like maybe the author started out with a good novella, but the publisher wanted the book to be longer, so the author went through and beefed up his word count by adding huge chunks of pointless crap. I know descriptive writing is supposed to be good, but it shouldn't overpower the actual PLOT. Unfortunately, that's what happens over and over in this book -- pointless filler drags the reader away from the actual story.

For example, at one point, it takes three pages for two men to walk into an office and sit down because we have to hear about the sound of the key in the lock, the janitor who cleaned the floor and how often he did it and how much pride he took in it, how long ago one of the men stopped popping his knuckles, the sound the chairs make when they sit down, and the color of every single item in the room. We see the main couple argue because they both care about their kids? (Huh? I really didn't see how that conversation could possibly devolve into an argument.) We spend multiple pages being subjected to their perfect, Huxtable-esque parenting. There are multiple random flashbacks, just dropped into the middle of actual scenes, and whole chapters made up of dreams that don't really matter to the overall plot.

In short, this book would have been 50% shorter if the author had done what all authors are told to do and cut all scenes that didn't directly further the plot. I found myself skimming page after page after page, hoping to find the actual story again.


The Arnifour Affair (Colin Pendragon, Bk 1)
The Arnifour Affair (Colin Pendragon, Bk 1)
Author: Gregory Harris
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 9/19/2016


I'd have to agree with the previous reviewer who stated that the protagonist isn't very likable. He's constantly rolling a coin over his knuckles, lifting weights, polishing his knives, or randomly dropping to the floor to crank out ten pushups on a whim, and yet we never really get a feel for him at all. He seems like a rough stereotype of the big alpha male, but there's no real depth to him at all.

The other thing that drove me crazy was the author's penchant for using exaggerated verbs when simple ones would do. A boy "stabbed his hat back on his head," Colin "stabbed a coin from his pocket," and "plastered a brooding gaze out the window." Nobody walks in this book. They saunter, sidle, march, thunder (down the stairs), plod, or meander. It's even more noticeable in the dialog. In most cases, "said" would have worked just fine, or the author could have eliminated the dialog tag altogether, but it's like he jumped through hoops looking for other words to use. In one half-page of dialog on page 83, we have people growling, snorting, snapping, thundering, and bellowing (twice!) their lines. And that's not an isolated incident, by any means. Every verbal exchange involves howling, hollering, mumbling, snickering, snapping, scoffing, grunting, or groaning. (I almost wish I had it in ebook so I could see how many times the words "snorted" and "snickered" are used.) It's probably supposed to lend color to the narrative, but I found it very distracting. If the author had put the thesaurus away and devoted that energy to fleshing out his characters instead, the book would have been much improved.

In the end, not a terrible book, but I don't think I'll bother with book 2.


Arrowood: A Novel
Arrowood: A Novel
Author: Laura McHugh
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 6/26/2017


In my opinion, this reads more like a YA novel than adult "literature". The main character's parents seem to be in their mid-forties. The main character herself (Arden) is in her early twenties, but acts like an irresponsible teenager. In Arden's defense, that was sort of the point -- she never moved past the disappearance of her sisters, and therefore was emotionally stunted and immature. Still, it's hard to sympathize with her when she spends days lounging around in her pajamas, not working, eating spaghetti-Os and pop tarts, thinking about what a victim she is. (The drunken episode at the keg party was the icing on the proverbial cake.) I didn't find much about her to like. I sort of wanted her to grow the hell up.

But despite a rather unlikeable protagonist, I found the story itself intriguing. The narrative is compelling and well-written. I guessed the truth about the twins' disappearance pretty early on, but it didn't necessarily diminish my enjoyment of the book. Probably would have been a five-star read if I hadn't spent so much time wanting to slap the main character.


The Asylum
The Asylum
Author: John Harwood
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 2/5/2017


An engaging, well-written story, but with a very weak, anticlimactic ending. Also, the heroine has a habit of fainting dead away at the most convenient moments. At one point, it happens twice in the span of four pages. It made the ending feel excessively contrived. Still, the writing was good enough that I'll be looking for more by Harwood.


Asylum (Asylum, Bk 1)
Asylum (Asylum, Bk 1)
Author: Madeleine Roux
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 26
Review Date: 2/3/2016
Helpful Score: 2


This book is simultaneously compelling and annoying as hell. The premise has potential, and I kept reading because I really wanted to know the answer to the mystery. Unfortunately, once it's revealed, it's silly and only halfway explained (presumably leaving the rest of the explanation for the sequel).

But the worst part is the CHARACTERS. They're so erratic, never telling each other the truth, constantly bickering and second-guessing each other. Imagine if Harry, Ron, and Hermione did nothing but lie to each other and argue, and you'll have the three main characters in this book. And everything they do is straight out of a horror movie. "What's the stupidest thing we could possibly do?" "Go downstairs to meet a psychotic serial killer all on our own without telling anybody?" "Good idea! Let's go!!"

I wanted to smack them all so many times.

My advice: skip it.


Between Two Fires
Between Two Fires
Author: Christopher Buehlman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 1/6/2017


I'm sort of torn about this book.

On one hand, it starts out strong, and I felt compelled to keep reading. I had many instances of "just one more chapter before bed," and then two hours (and several chapters) later, I had to force myself to put it down for the night.

On the other hand...the whole thing is a bit weird. It reads more like a really long allegory than a novel. It shifts POV constantly. The first 3/4 of the book is fairly clear, but the closer it gets to the end, the harder it becomes to follow. Characters who seemingly have little to no purpose in the storyline suddenly have POV chapters. Characters are alternately called by their first name or their last name or a title, or sometimes by their title in French instead of English, and it becomes difficult to keep them straight. Certain things happen that don't really seem pertinent to the development of the story, or are poorly explained. There are also extended places where characters seem to be hearing voices, maybe arguing with those voices, but it's difficult to figure out whose voice is whose, or even how many voices are involved. By the end, I was incredibly frustrated with how scattered and unpolished the last part of the novel felt.

So overall, a fairly entertaining read, but the last 25% of the book was just such a hot mess, it really diminished my enjoyment of the story.


The Book of Speculation
The Book of Speculation
Author: Erika Swyler
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 7/20/2016
Helpful Score: 2


I saw a review on Goodreads that summed up this book by saying it's about a whiny character doing research. Yep. That's exactly what it is. Even though I wanted to like The Book of Speculation, I had to force myself through Simon's chapters, which mostly consisted of him making phone calls to other librarians, asking them to look up names for him. The other half of the story -- the story set in the past, which Simon's researching -- is more interesting, but not enough to carry the book.

In short, it has some intriguing ideas, but it's a pretty boring read.


Cold Skin
Cold Skin
Author: Albert Sanchez Pinol
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 9/7/2017


I'm not sure how this book ended up on my wish list, but it did. It's less horror, and more just a story of men behaving abominably. Very starkly written. A quick read, but not a very satisfying one.


Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, Bk 1)
Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, Bk 1)
Author: Danielle Paige
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 14
Review Date: 7/4/2015
Helpful Score: 1


Starts out strong, but quickly becomes a flat, tedious narration with no real depth or interest. It's like somebody ordered up a quirky Oz spin-off but didn't actually give a rip about story or quality, as long as it was marketable. Very disappointing.


Eeny Meeny (DI Helen Grace, Bk 1)
Eeny Meeny (DI Helen Grace, Bk 1)
Author: M. J. Arlidge
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 9/1/2016


This book started out with a bang, but became rather tedious by the end.

First off, the chapters are super short, jumping constantly from one point of view to another. This keeps the book moving, but makes it incredibly disjointed.

As the book progressed, I began to feel like the author was doing a whole lot of telling, but very little showing. There would be whole chapters that were just a summary of what somebody was doing, but with very little action or dialog.

I also began to notice timeline discrepancies. Days and days would pass for the victims, but it seemed that no time at all had passed for the police who were hunting the killer.

As seems to be common for the genre, the police are incompetent morons, constantly doing things that make no sense. Why not show the picture of the prime suspect to the surviving victim who supposedly spent hours with the killer before her imprisonment? Why rush off ALONE to face the killer rather than calling for backup? Give me a break.

Lastly, I felt the characterization was incredibly heavy-handed. Helen is just SOOOO ridiculously tough. The whole angle with her visits to the Dom felt forced. Her back-and-forth over her feelings for Mark just made her come across as a flake. And don't even get me started on the ham-fisted, predictable backstory for the poor, abused killer. I honestly don't think you could squeeze one more overused trope into this book.


Forbidden Magic (The Godwars, Bk 1)
Forbidden Magic (The Godwars, Bk 1)
Author: Angus Wells
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 20
Review Date: 1/26/2009
Helpful Score: 1


I found this book terribly tedious. I have to be honest - I only made it about 2/3 through before I gave up on it.

First, there are annoying inconsistencies in the writing. For example, in one paragraph, he says "still there was no sign of human habitation", and yet, only a few sentences later, there are suddenly buildings and a farm. Later in the book, they say that from now on, they will only travel at night. Yet one page later, it talks of rising at dawn to be on the road early.

This could probably be forgiven, if it weren't for the fact that the characters continue to have the same conversations, almost verbatim, over and over and over again. Calandryll and Bracht argue over Varent. Once, fine. Twice, okay. But by the third or fourth time, it's really old (especially since nothing happens in the meantime to sway the argument either way - it's literally the SAME argument each time). Calandryll ponders who could have sent the assassin, and decides it must be his brother. Three pages later, he debates it again, coming to the same conclusion. A little later, guess what? We get to hear the internal ruminations AGAIN, and yet still with no more information than we had the first time. Maybe the author thinks his readers can't remember what happens unless he hits them over the head with it at least three times?

After 300 pages, I felt like the plot had gone absolutely nowhere, and I realized I didn't really give a rip whether they saved the world or not.


Frozen Charlotte
Frozen Charlotte
Author: Alex Bell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 10/27/2016


I'm a sucker for the Scholastic book fair! I picked this book up last time I volunteered to help with the book fair at my daughter's school.

If you're my age (40s), you may remember a scary story that was often told at slumber parties about a little china doll that killed its owners in the night by stabbing them with needles. I'm quite sure this author heard that same story and decided to run with it! Add in a ouija board, a vengeful ghost, and a creepy, mysterious family, and this book is the result.

Frozen Charlotte is written for younger teens, so it's a quick, easy read for adults. Nonetheless, I found it to be a real page-turner. The story is creepy at the beginning, but with an ending that's tidy enough to NOT leave you (or your tween) with nightmares. (Unless you happen to have Frozen Charlotte dolls in the house, in which case, all bets are off.)

I'll definitely be adding some of the author's adult works to my wish list.


The God Eaters
The God Eaters
Author: Jesse Hajicek
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 18
Review Date: 1/26/2009
Helpful Score: 4


The God Eaters is incredibly well-written, and completely unique. It has action, and grit, and a strong love story, and a well thought out plot that is clear enough to be satisfying, but not overly complicated. If you're tired of Sword&Sorcery novels, or of the complex 'political intrigue' type fantasy novels that abound on the shelves these days, this book's old-west, gunslinger feel is really a refreshing change of pace.

I actually found the love story to be a little bit mushier than I usually like, but not unbearably so, and romance fans would probably not feel the same way.

I will warn that the love story is between two men. If that bothers you, don't read it. But, you'll be missing out on a great story! Can't wait to see what else this writer has in store for us.


The House of Small Shadows
The House of Small Shadows
Author: Adam Nevill
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 1.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 5/7/2017


The first 200-250 pages are fairly interesting and intriguing, although a lot of the "surprises" are pretty easy to guess. But the last 100+ pages, it goes downhill fast. The main character makes one inexplicable decision after another. And then... it just drags and on and on. With another 75-100 pages to go, it's pretty clear what's going on, and yet we suffer through the protagonist coming to the same realization in the most slow, agonizing, boring way. Overall, an interesting premise, but the execution fell apart in the final act.


The Hunger
The Hunger
Author: Alma Katsu
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 2.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 5/29/2018


It's hard to review this without giving away the end. Obviously, it's about the Donner party, so you know it isn't going to be rainbows and sunshine. Still, I found this to be a very unsatisfying read. The last third of the book feels rushed and unpolished. There are so many instances where characters do things that make no sense at all, or have some critical bit of information which they keep to themselves without an explanation as to WHY they wouldn't speak up. And when it's all said and done, there just isn't not much of a payoff for the reader. I was excited to read this one, but in the end, very disappointed.


Into the Dark (Brenna Spector, Bk 2)
Into the Dark (Brenna Spector, Bk 2)
Author: Alison Gaylin
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 23
Review Date: 6/23/2016


I didn't realize this was the second book in a trilogy, although I don't think it mattered all that much. I will say, Brenna's flashbacks got old really fast. Every other page, we had to visit the past. Brenna's "affliction" makes for an interesting premise, but we don't really need a detailed, vivid flashback that often. There are quicker, easier ways to sum up her memories. It got so that every time I saw italics, I started skimming.

Also, this is a small thing, but this author has a writing quirk that drove me batty: it felt like every page had at least one paragraph that began with "Brenna looked at him/her," or "He looked at her." Over and over again: "Brenna looked at him." In one two-page spread (pages 304-305), there were two "Brenna looked at him" and one "Brenna squinted at him." (Apparently her editor finally nudged her to stop using LOOK every time.) I swear, you could make a drinking game out of it. Once you notice it, you can't UN-notice it (unfortunately).

Admittedly, I'm nitpicking. Overall, the story was decent, but I doubt I'll read any more of the series.


Jane Steele
Jane Steele
Author: Lyndsay Faye
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 13
Review Date: 4/22/2016


Definitely my least favorite of Lyndsay Faye's novels. I absolutely LOVE the Timothy Wilde trilogy, and I enjoyed Dust and Shadow, but I was a bit disappointed in Jane Steele. I found the protagonist to be tedious and annoying and prone to really ridiculous decisions. Don't get me wrong. Jane Steele is still an entertaining read, but it really doesn't live up to the hype. (Nor does it truly highlight the author's unbelievable talent.)


Kids of Appetite
Kids of Appetite
Author: David Arnold
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/30/2017


A truly amazing book. Touching, sweet, brilliant, and laugh-out-loud funny. Also recommended for anyone who loves The Outsiders.


Little Face (Culver Valley Crime, Bk 1)
Little Face (Culver Valley Crime, Bk 1)
Author: Sophie Hannah
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 68
Review Date: 1/17/2017


This book is actually quite intriguing and (for me, at least) kept me reading right up until the end. But the end... that's where everything fell apart.

I won't spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, the person behind the swapping of the babies and their explanation made zero sense to me. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made. And when I thought back on the earlier parts of the book, things that were said and done -- in the light of the ending, they became truly ridiculous. I feel as if the author wrote herself into a corner, and then couldn't come up with a good reason for the primary conflict of the book. It just felt sloppy and illogical.

Not sure if I'll bother reading any more books by the author or not. Her style is good, but if this ending is indicative of her other work, I'd just as soon pass.


Melusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths, Bk 1)
Melusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths, Bk 1)
Author: Sarah Monette
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 41
Review Date: 1/26/2009
Helpful Score: 2


This book starts out a little bit slow, but do yourself a favor, and KEEP READING!! Like one of the other reviewers, I often give up on books that don't grab me right off the bat. But luckily this time, I stuck it out, and it was worth it!

Melusine doesn't have lots of action, and it's not a 'battle the scary monsters' type of book. This book is made by the characters. Felix and Mildmay are both so flawed, and yet, so intriguing. Partway through the book, they finally meet up, and once that happens, the story really starts to roll.

The second book, The Virtu, is even better!

I have read these a few times now and can't wait to see what happens next.


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