Archive for 1 star

Review: Between by Cyndi Tefft

Jul
18
13 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 1 star

Book: Between
Author: Cyndi Tefft
Publisher: Self-published
Release date: June 1, 2011
Source: Ebook from author
Summary: (from Goodreads) It just figures that the love of Lindsey Water’s life isn’t alive at all, but the grim reaper, complete with a dimpled smile and Scottish accent.

After transporting souls to heaven for the last 300 years, Aiden MacRae has all but given up on finding the one whose love will redeem him and allow him entry through the pearly gates.

Torn between her growing attraction to Aiden and heaven’s siren song, Lindsey must learn the hard way whether love really can transcend all boundaries.

First impressions: The book opens with Lindsey in a car, kissing her boyfriend and not really enjoying it all that much. Hilarious and sweet, and it made me like Lindsey a lot. Then the action picks up and before you know it, Lindsey is dead. It’s a great beginning that keeps you glued to the pages.

Lasting impressions: What will stick with me the most about this book, unfortunately, is how offensive I found its moralizing.

Conflicting impressions: This book was full of inconsistency in the characters and their choices. The decisions made stretched the bounds of plausibility for me, so I wasn’t able to fully invest in what was happening.

Overall impressions: I really, truly wanted to like this book. It’s a Scottish boy who falls in love with his very own Sassenach (Outlander) and sort of time travels with her! Plus, Lindsey is a college student, and I’m all about more YA fiction for the college set. It had everything going for it, but just couldn’t deliver.

My first problem with this story was the insta-love. MAJOR case of it going on here. Lindsey dies in a car wreck, is whisked away by Aiden to this “between” place on her way to heaven. At no time does she seem overly concerned about being dead. She’s sad, sure, but not sad enough to miss the fact that Aiden is smoking hot and she kind of wants his bod. This didn’t really ring true for me. If I found out I was dead, I would not automatically be concerned with the attractiveness of my reaper.

Lindsey decides that she’s really upset about going to heaven still a virgin. And Aiden gets all uppity about deflowering a maiden and it really wasn’t working for me. Aiden came off as more jerky than chivalrous or old timey. I get that he would find modern female behavior strange, but when he gets Lindsey make believe drunk and she starts flirting with him he basically calls her a whore. And she doesn’t immediately tell him to eff off and run away to heaven. Bad move, Lindsey!

It touched a nerve. On the one hand, Aiden is skinny dipping and lusting after her, but on the other he doesn’t want to take her maidenhead or have her acting too much like a floozy. I mean, what a turnoff, right? (Insert eyeroll sprain here.) Similarly, Lindsey is supposed to be a college aged nice girl virgin, but yet she jumps in naked in the lake with Aiden and sleeps with him, and later practically gives him a lap dance after some drinking. Where is the conflict here? She has no qualms about giving up her virginity in the afterlife? It seemed inconsistent with my idea of Lindsey and so I couldn’t figure out who these characters were supposed to be.

I admit that I had a very personal reaction early on that may have colored my perceptions a bit. Cyndi Tefft really lost me when describing Aiden’s story. Aiden explains that the reason he’s spent 300 years transporting souls to heaven while not going there himself is because he committed suicide and God was mad at him. Later in the book, there’s another discussion of suicide with similar blatant moralizing about how all suicide victims are selfish and cowardly.

I realize that this is almost always true, but I don’t need it flung in my face. The whole concept was handled in a clunky way at best, and in an offensive way at worst. I have been personally touched by suicide, and so having the basis of Aiden’s position be a punishment for his suicide just didn’t sit well with me. At all. But that’s just me, and it may not bother most readers.

The time travel elements were fun to read, though I had a hard time getting into them knowing they weren’t actually happening and were memories instead. I did like the idea of “casting,” where the characters in Between can make their own reality by just imagining what they want. It was a cool world and an interesting story of two people facing the ultimate obstacle. The story does take an interesting twist into new territory about halfway through, but a lot of the side characters and backstory didn’t add much to Lindsey and Aiden’s tale. If I had been able to get past the preaching and really believe in these characters and their love I may have enjoyed this book, but in the end I couldn’t and I didn’t.

Rating: 1/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Read this rave review by Steph: Short & Sweet.



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Review: The Cellar by A. J. Whitten

May
03
8 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 1 star, Horror

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon

Book: The Cellar
Author: A. J. Whitten
Publisher: Graphia Books
Release date: May 2, 2011
Source: ARC from NetGalley

Summary: (from Goodreads) Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep – he may be an actual monster.

But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them?

First impressions: The book opens with a tense scene where Meredith’s sister, Heather, blurts that she wishes she had died instead of their father. This family is falling apart after a car accident that killed their patriarch, and this bombshell of a statement sets up a very complicated relationship between the sisters that really sucked me in.

Lasting impressions: Unfortunately, there were not enough likable elements in this book for me to recommend it.

Conflicting impressions: For me, the book was overly graphic with characters I didn’t like or didn’t care about. I didn’t understand who I was supposed to be rooting for or against, particularly in light of the misleading tag line from the cover.

Overall impressions: Okay, deep breath. This is the first one star review I’ve given out on the blog. Usually if I dislike a book enough to give it one star, I’ve stopped reading, at which point I consider it a DNF, delete it from Goodreads, and don’t write a review. So what makes this book different?

For one, I actually wanted to finish it. As stated above, the opening has a good hook, and by the time I got to the midpoint I decided I just had to see how it was all going to tie up. I can’t say I regret reading the book, but I would certainly not recommend it to others – thus the one star.

Let me try to break down my feelings. First and foremost, I was really excited about this book because A) it’s a horror tale, which I love, and B) it’s based on Romeo and Juliet. Or so the cover, and to a lesser degree, the blurb, would have you think. I quickly discovered that the R & J link is not really there, other than the fact that Heather and Adrien take part in the school’s production.

The first point of confusion for me was whether I was supposed to be focused on Meredith or Heather. The story alternates between their perspectives, as well as Adrien’s. Meredith is told in first person, Heather and Adrien in a close third person. Adrien is the boy who moves in next door, and is some kind of zombie looking for eternal love. His primary motivation to find love is his loneliness, and so he can get rid of his fellow zombie/maternal figure, Marie. He decides he wants Heather, so he starts using his magical effects to make her fall in love with him.

The only problem is Heather’s sister, Meredith. She sees right through his charms. They don’t have an effect on her. This isn’t really discussed, just mentioned. Meredith spends most of the book getting more and more suspicious of the creepy guy who never takes off his sunglasses, seems to be brainwashing her entire family as well as the town, and who she sees burying things in the back yard.

It felt like that old Tom Hanks movie, The Burbs. In that way, I kind of liked it. However, while that movie was scary and suspenseful and creepy, this book quickly became just plain gross. Chapter 7 takes us inside Adrien’s house, where we witness him and Marie torturing a man they kidnapped for food. It’s very graphic, very disturbing, and almost made me physically ill while reading it on the train to work. I ended up skimming those pages because I couldn’t get through them.

The thing is, I’m not against violence or disturbing imagery in books. I read and have read a lot of crime and horror books. I like things scary and dark and eerie and yes, even sometimes gory. Here there was a lot of violence that seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and then beat you over the head with it. There was a lot of flesh-eating, a LOT of bugs, and most of it was truly grotesque. This book is not for the faint-hearted, I promise you. That said, it seems like the kind of gross-out material that would be really popular with adolescent boys.

Once we become aware that Adrien is a Bad Man, the story focuses on his quest to steal away Heather, and Meredith’s half-assed attempts to stop him. Heather refuses to think this guy could be bad and thinks that Meredith just doesn’t want her to be happy, so bats away Meredith’s attempts to reason with her. Meredith, despite being convinced Heather is in real danger, never does anything other than try to talk her out of it. I found this ingenuine, as I can guarantee that if my sister were hanging around with a suspected serial killer, I’d physically restrain her if need be. On top of everything, the horrifying things Meredith sees (that spellbound Heather can’t) are explained away by an eye disease. Silly old Meredith, just seeing things again. It didn’t quite work for me.

At times it felt like we were supposed to think Adrien was really in love with Heather, whether because he was truly lonely or used to be a good person/zombie, I don’t know. He never seemed motivated by love until the last few chapters, but his insistence on being with her throughout most of the book wasn’t written as purely psychotic or obsessed. Adrien, more than anyone, could really have benefited by some fleshing out. In my mind, you can’t have it both ways. Adrien is either a good guy who wants to find love and happiness, or he’s really as awful as he is depicted here, in which case he shouldn’t care at all about Heather’s fate. When he pulled a complete 180 in the final scenes, it felt contrived and contrary to his character.

In the end, it seemed like the point of the book was for Meredith to stop Heather and Adrien, but the climax of the book involves intervention by a third party that, while leading to some resolution for the girls, ultimately deprives our heroine of the chance to tie up the story for herself. It confused the plot more than enhanced it, and it disappointed me as a reader.

Thank you to NetGalley and Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, but this just wasn’t for me.

Rating: 1/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this four star review by Palm Books Journal.



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