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B. Ayala

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Broken Dolls
Broken Dolls
by Tyrolin Puxty
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars She has been dancing and watching old black and white shows on a crappy old TV for as long as she can remember, 28 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Broken Dolls (Paperback)
Short enough book I knocked it out in one sitting. The style of writing and the idea behind the story is extremely reminiscent of Neil Gaiman for me.

Ella is a doll. She doesn't know how long she's been a doll. She has been dancing and watching old black and white shows on a crappy old TV for as long as she can remember. She knows she used to be a broken human, and that the professor saved her life.

Until one day when the professor makes another doll, Lisa. A gothic double-crossing doll with a mean streak, who remembers her old life and is hellbent on beating the diabolical professor.

Only, it isn't always as it seems.

Since it's from Ella's point of view, it is all pretty simplistic and she makes irrational kid decisions. It's frustrating at times, but I enjoyed the pacing of how she discovered everything. Lisa's constant pushing for Ella to try and remember things was brutal but understandable, even if she was ruthless about it.

The big reveal was pretty darn cool, too. I realllllly liked what it amounted to at the end, and who Ella ended up being in real life. She is definitely better as a doll, even if she didn't deserve it. I find the forgiveness of the others in her life particularly impressive after everything was revealed.

by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.93

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars but how to evoke strong emotions in the reader based on characters you may not necessarily like. Here's what I mean by that, 6 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Firsts (Hardcover)
Firsts is really freaking accurate in all its sexified glory. Mercedes is the quintessential teenager, all angst and self-induced drama and willingness to go to extremes. It's a time I remember well since it wasn't all that long ago, and the author's ability to show the thought processes that Mercedes went through in each step was exceptionally well done. This is an author who knows not only how to write, but how to evoke strong emotions in the reader based on characters you may not necessarily like.

Here's what I mean by that. Mercedes and Angela both are probably not people I would have been close with in high school. I had a lot of friends, I talked to people from every stereotypical high school group that we had. I got along with most everyone, but even then I wasn't able to find common ground with some people.

The ones I had a hard time with were the ones who were completely closed off, like Mercedes. Mercedes, the girl who has only one friend and won't really talk to anyone else outside of that one friend. The girl who keeps to herself, rebuffs any attempts at conversation or friendship. This is works perfectly for her, because of her secret:

She has sex with virgins so that they can give their girlfriends the amazing "first time" they deserve, and what she never got. What's awful about this is her reasoning isn't too crazy to follow. Something bad and traumatizing happened to her. She compartmentalizes it, and instead of working through her anguish, she deflects it and decides another way to help herself is to help others. In this way, she justifies her choice to sleep with guys who have girlfriends. She's not doing it out of spite, or out of some need to show the girls that she can take what they have. It isn't that at all. She just wants to make sure the bad thing that happened to her doesn't happen to them too.

It's a lovely sentiment, if a little misguided. That's what makes this difficult for me to write about: I can't blame Mercedes for doing what she does because she believed she was doing a good thing. She didn't have a good influence she trusted to give insight and advice; someone to tell her it wasn't a good idea. On the other hand, I think it's pretty safe to say that having sex with someone that's already in a relationship is usually considered a no-no.

Mercedes' life goes up in smoke when someone reveals her double-life to the rest of the school. She made some idiotic decisions that didn't help her case (like keeping a log book of all the boys that came in her bedroom), and when the crap hits the fan, it REALLY hits the fan. Suddenly, she has to deal with the fall out of her well-intentioned (but poorly planned) volunteer work. And that is where the story really shines.

When Mercedes has to essentially pay reparations for the damage she's caused, she knows she's in trouble. She's public enemy number one, the cause for relationships falling apart, and the cause of her own life's implosion. And suddenly, she learns what she should have known all along--there were people she could rely on, people who wouldn't judge her for what happened to her and what she did after. People who love her and don't want to see her fall.

It's a beautiful story, all the more so because it follows an imperfect protagonist who makes the wrong decisions. I am stunned that this (debut) author was able to create such a real, viable character dealing with self-inflicted but tough issues. I'm happy I chose to read this, and I wholeheartedly believe you should read it too.

Meritorium (Meritropolis Book 2)
Meritorium (Meritropolis Book 2)
Price: £5.51

4.0 out of 5 stars This was all fairly easy to do with Meritorium, 24 Nov. 2015
As is becoming normal for me, I did not read the first book in the series before I jumped in on this one. I had to hunker down and concentrate in the beginning to make sure I knew who was who, what they were running from, and the dynamics of the relationships. This was all fairly easy to do with Meritorium, since the author did a good job of recapping what I missed in the first book.

There's a good chunk of reasons why this worked for me. The first was that I liked the dynamics between the characters. I liked that Charley was a hothead and too stubborn to like anyone else taking the lead, especially Sandy. I liked Grigor (who I kept picturing as the Mountain from Game of Thrones) and his unwavering ability to pull Charley out of trouble. Sven's desire for a name for himself, instead of just anonymity. Even cocky Orson and his father.

I loved the Roman/Greek themes. The gladiator fights. The reenactment of Scylla and Charybdis. The names of all these major cities. Since I love Greek mythology, I appreciated the effort it took for the author to stick all these things in a way that made sense with the story.

But the best best parts were the animal combinations. It is certainly bad enough to be faced with a crocodile. It is a thousand times worse to be faced with a vulture/crocodile mixture, or a frog/scorpion/bat combination that can fly and sting you. All the large cat mixtures were terrifying, like the bion or the lanther. And while I didn't totally understand the reason behind the score system or the animal mixtures, it made for an innovative backdrop for the characters. It was an entirely new way for them to show off their skills, and I appreciated that.

If I am being honest though, I am just always excited about monsters. Even if the monsters are animals spliced together. Monsters make everything cooler.

Nirvana (Nirvana Series Book 1)
Nirvana (Nirvana Series Book 1)
Price: £3.98

3.0 out of 5 stars There isn't a great deal of detail, 13 Nov. 2015
Nirvana's biggest strength for me is the world building. There isn't a great deal of detail, but what there was didn't seem too farfetched or unlikely.

In here, the world's population of bees has died, and with them almost all living plant life. When the plants died, the animals died. And when the world went to poop, people turned to virtual reality to escape it.

It's logical, it flows with what has been happening in real time, and it doesn't seem completely out of left field in reasonableness. Realllly strong there.

What I had a harder time believing: our main character is 17. Apparently she's a seasoned veteran at political activism, according to her. Like, years worth of it. So my automatic thinking is: I am meant to celebrate a 13, 14, 15 year old girl breaking into places and wreaking havoc in the name of justice. If anything, she sounds like a trouble-making teenager who thinks she's tough stuff because she does stuff a lot of teenagers do. She's 17, lives with her boyfriend of two years, is apparently a rock star, and her parents are just nonexistent. I know it said her dad died, but I don't remember much about her mom.

It just seemed so ridiculous for a girl that age. Maybe if she was 22, or 26, I'd believe it. That's plenty of time to actually build up a following. But as far as this girl is concerned, she was a genius/prodigy with music, had time to tour, had time to break in everywhere and stage elaborate showdowns, and also to have a researcher boyfriend. Suddenly the world lets a teenager do a LOT of things they couldn't do before.

It was very fast paced, which was both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it moved so fast I didn't feel like it was in real time, more like I'm being fast forwarded through the chain of events. But most of the time, it was perfect. There was a ton of action and Andrew's puzzle for Kenders was so enticing. Reminds me of when couples do those anniversary scavenger hunts--except, you know, more about life and death.

I liked how strong Kenders was, too. She didn't mope, she didn't shrivel at the first sign of hardship. When she had to hold her own against the conniving Paloma, she did so admirably. No whimpering, no outraged shouts, no losing control at all. I liked that. So many heroines are portrayed as brave and strong and then crack under the slightest pressure. Not here!

Good book, I think the characters should just be a little older. Especially with how seductive Lexie was being at 17 with middle aged men. *shudders*

Dead Ringer
Dead Ringer
Price: £5.53

4.0 out of 5 stars how I hate you right now, 12 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Dead Ringer (Kindle Edition)
Ohhhh Jessie Rosen, how I hate you right now. You sell me on this mediocre story, I putz along, meandering through the sights.

Then you drop this HUGE FREAKING BOMB of a twist, and suddenly I'm running along this winding trail trying to keep up with you, looking wildly at everything to make sure I don't miss anything else coming at me.

And then? When I'm all pumped up and waiting for the ending to end all endings?

You leave me with a cliffhanger. I giant, gaping cliffhanger that I can't cross and can't puzzle out and I am SO MAD at you for doing this to me. I didn't know this was going to be a two-parter. If I had known, I wouldn't have gotten so riled up and gung-ho about the whole thing. I wouldn't have been in such a rush to finish it last night when I could have been watching The Walking Dead instead.

Dead Ringer is intense and twisty and awesome. I still don't know the answers to two mysteries, and it's driving me crazy.

What I do know, though...holy crap. Laura's path through the muddied waters of Englewood's high school elite is one heck of a trip. It ends up being much more than you expect it to be, and for that I give a standing ovation to this author.

If you're REALLY dying to know.... read the book. Normally I'll stick the big reveal in a spoiler tag and then talk about how awesome it is, but in this case, you just need to read it. No spoilers here. You have to travel down the same path I did.

Fine Young Gentlemen: Volume 1
Fine Young Gentlemen: Volume 1
by C. W. Slater
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Puberty takes a dark turn, 29 Oct. 2013
Holy cow dude. This book just started fast and didn't let up at all. I loved it. It's the kind of book that sneaks up on you a bit. I knew it was going to have mature themes. It even told me there would be a budding sociopath. But I guess I wasn't expecting it to get so raw, and certainly not so quick.

Essentially this novel is a dark version of puberty. The boys at this private school are trying to deal with hormones and emotional baggage; it's absolutely a story about growing up. Just with a twist. With a plot surrounding sociopathy and molestation (among other, more mundane things such as boys trying to get laid) it definitely held me in thrall from the get-go. I got chills quite a few times reading the portions dealing with the kid who was a sociopath. I know the thought process he had is accurate to what sociopaths believe about themselves and others, but this author was quite good at expressing it in such a way that it still felt like it was coming from a teenager. It literally gave me that creepy-crawly feeling up my spine and the back of my neck.

The voice was very well done too. High school wasn't that long ago for me, but the inner dialogue these boys had totally brought me back to those days. It felt accurate to the age group and I was impressed.

Overall though I can't quite decide if I want to say this is a dark read or not. It certainly comes off that way sometimes. But really, these boys are (mostly) just trying to grow up.

But crap that sociopathic kid was creepy.

A Light in the Cane Fields
A Light in the Cane Fields
by Enrico Antiporda
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.22

4.0 out of 5 stars Honest, scary and beautiful, 21 Aug. 2013
"Tanaya and I never speak of those days anymore, those days of orchards and butterflies, of summer rains and typhoon clouds. The memories still haunt us, but they are faded now, like the pages of an old manuscript left out in the sun."

A Light in the Cane Fields is ultimately a story about heart and perseverance. A look into the darker aspects of Philippine history, it strove to show how sides in a war aren't always so cut and dry. Jando is thrust into a world where brutality and discipline is the way of life, and he's forced to learn to adapt.

His changing relationship with Maya was probably the most interesting relationship to develop within the pages. She was harsh and brutal, causing mental and physical anguish on a regular basis. It isn't until Jando spent more time with her that we began to see the actual person beneath all the rigid rules. The sensitivity she showed was good indication of how the people who were the villains weren't always the villains.

The events Jando was forced to endure were hard to read at times. Seeing family murdered in such a brutal way, and then to be forced to live with the people that did it is something I can't fathom. And then to renounce his family only to accept the rebellion as his family...

It still remained hopeful, though. I never felt as if Jando had no hope left, no reason to continue to keep living. I expected that, from a novel that deals with war-torn villages. Instead, I got the story of a boy who persevered through difficult odds and managed to come out of it a little stronger and a little better.

Eyes on the Bayou
Eyes on the Bayou
Price: £2.36

4.0 out of 5 stars deliciously dark and twisted, 15 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Eyes on the Bayou (Kindle Edition)
Twisted and dark. Such a great read. I finished it minutes ago and I'm just sitting here thinking about it.

Dahlia had to deal with some seriously traumatizing stuff when she was captured in combat. Rape and physical abuse most prevalent, in really harsh and disgusting ways. When she managed to escape, she's dumped in a mental hospital with a doctor who prefers to further abuse her with his power instead of trying to help her. Dahlia, with her superior military training, doesn't stand for that for very long.


The descent into madness that Dahlia suffers is spellbinding. The thing is, when we're getting a view inside her head she doesn't seem all that crazy. I mean yes, she seems crazy, but the logic makes sense in a twisted way. This was the same with Grave Digger; while I knew he was crazy and seriously seriously misguided, I could understand his logic. In a really weird way. And I think the author did an excellent job of this, of providing so many different views and beliefs that are so blatantly deviant yet still making them almost plausible sounding.

The deaths were brutal as well. and I found some sick pleasure in it. I love horror movies, and this satiated that desire. It's creepy and psychological and gory and just a touch supernatural. I was rooting for Dahlia.

I'm extremely impressed with this author, and I think with some editorial cleanup he'll be even better.
Overall though, an excellent story. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who loves a dark story.

Tanglewood Road
Tanglewood Road
by Elliot Arthur Cross
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.11

3.0 out of 5 stars Creepy beginnings and endings, 4 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Tanglewood Road (Paperback)
Tanglewood Road follows 16 year old Cody, a boy who ends up seeing some crazy stuff and has to deal with it. It's an extremely quick read--on my Nook it's 82 pages. It took me two days just because I was so tired last night I was falling asleep with the Nook in my hand.

It's got a deliciously creepy start, and I relished it. It easily could have been a Twilight Zone episode, albeit a particularly grotesque one. (In fact, there is actually an episode where a couple wakes up to a totally empty town.) However, it kind of went off in a totally different direction. The creepy demon took a backseat to romance and random meetings with new people. I got the chills when I read what Duarte had found out about Cody's neighbors, and then all the demon does is leave white yarn? Come on. I wanted to be freaked out. Instead, I got to know all of Cody's new friends. Which isn't a bad thing at all. They were good characters and each had their own issues they had to deal with.

But again, I wanted to see more demonic action. More of Cody and Adam's demon. Even Dominic's demon, because if I were him I'd be traumatized. But the one that got the most time is the one I was least interested in--a pervy old man. And even that had very little scare factor. And I think I'd built up my expectations too much after the initial encounter Cody had with his demon. The story started out fast and aggressive, with the fire happening within the first 20 pages I think, and then we've got a meandering middle of Cody avoiding showers constantly and eating junk food and watching his show to avoid falling asleep.

And with that, I loved the ending, and I'm also frustrated by it. Why wasn't THAT part of the whole book, now the last five paragraphs!? I wanted that the whole way through! It was an awesome way to end the book and I wish the whole thing had been like that.

Honestly though, I was still satisfied with it. It was a good story and had likable characters--actually, Cody was probably my least favorite. The ghostly and demonic interactions, when they occurred, were well done. I think there's a solid future in creepy stories here, and I'd love to read more.

Such Great Heights (A Novel)
Such Great Heights (A Novel)
Price: £2.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Gatsby with apps and drugs, 17 July 2013
Such Great Heights was a decent book up until the end. And then the ending made it so much better.

There were bits of it that I had a bit of an issue with at first. Maisey's speech was unnatural and didn't flow well at all considering the age she lives in and her own age. She was supposed to be what, 20? 21? And she spoke as if she was Daisy in the roaring 20's. Which was fine, if everyone else spoke the same way. And with the exception of Reed taking on Gatsby's "Old Sport," everyone spoke as if they were in modern times. So Maisey being the only one to speak with inflections and phrases from another time period didn't fit, especially as a 20-year-old from Malibu. Speculation would determine that she was probably doing it as a way to still have some freedom for herself, through speech, despite her father and Reed controlling her life.

I loved the updates to the story; Joss being involved with apps, a new revolutionary drug with no side-effects setting up the climax of the story. Reed's rants about the differences between the classes were offensive and biting and perfectly done; I only wish Joss had had the wit and more importantly the desire to say something just as smart back. I noticed that Lana Del Rey was mentioned in the novel a couple times and she also was quoted as saying this book was worth reading; I think it's safe to say she probably had something to do with it. Which didn't bother me at all, only something that I noticed.

I loved the views into Joss's life on the way to making his billions. It was a good addition that brought more to the story rather than detracting from it. It was nice to have that glimpse into his mindset, something we didn't get with the original Gatsby.

The ending was great. I was curious to see if the author would choose to keep the same plot, but was pleasantly surprised to find that he changed it and it worked. It was very different from the original work, and it still followed logically from the plot. I think there was a kind of poetic justice in the original story; and that isn't lost in this updated version. Different circumstances, same undeniable ending.

And I just want to say, I love the title and how it came to be, and I love the repeated line "It couldn't be helped." It obviously came to mean quite a bit in the end.

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