BOOK REVIEW: The Picture Of Dorian Gray – by Oscar Wilde

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Title: The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde

Genre: Classics, Fiction, Fantasy
First published: June 20th 1890
Publisher: Random House
Finished reading: December 15th 2016
Pages: 254
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“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

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I have been neglecting my classics way too much this year, so I decided to try and make up for it in this last month of 2016. The Picture Of Dorian Gray has been one of those classics that has been on my radar for a while now, especially since so many fellow bloggers seem to have enjoyed this classic. Now I’ve finally read this novel by Oscar Wilde, I can understand why. Reading classics can normally tend to present quite a challenge, but I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to read The Picture Of Dorian Gray even though it has been written back in the 19th century. The first part is probably the strongest of the story, as the pace slowed down considerably in the middle with the appearance of a lot of long ‘pointless’ lists where Dorian went on and on about random things. Thankfully the pace picked up again later on and the final part is almost as good as the beginning. In general I had a great time reading this classics and it is without doubt a fast-paced and well written story that can entertain us even today. Recommended!

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When Dorian Gray sees the finished portrait Basil Hallward has painted of him, he has such a fear of growing old and unattractive he decides to sell his soul in exchange for eternal youth and beauty. Dorian seems to have switched places with the portrait; he doesn’t seem to age a day, while the portrait is affected by all he does is life… And it is something that might destroy him in the end.

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I’ve had mixed experiences with reading classics in the past, but The Picture Of Dorian Gray has turned out to be one of those exceptions. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this story, and how fast-paced and how easy it was to relate to the story. There is quite a strong message behind the beautiful prose and intriguing plot, and it is without doubt one that can be connected to the 21st century as well. If you are looking for an interesting classic that mostly reads like a train, The Picture Of Dorian Gray is an excellent choice.

BOOK REVIEW: Catacomb – by Madeleine Roux

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Title: Catacomb
(Asylum #3)
Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: YA, Horror, Paranormal
First published: September 1st 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: December 9th 2016
Pages: 352
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“Just because someone seems okay up close doesn’t mean they’re innocent.”

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I started reading this trilogy by Madeleine Roux last Halloween, and after reading the sequel this October I didn’t want to wait another year before reading the final book Catacomb. Combine that with the fact that I still had to finish my fifth and final series for a challenge, and it was the perfect excuse to dive back into Dan, Abby and Jordan’s world. And this third book is without doubt a solid ending to what has been a very entertaining horror/paranormal series! The photos that are used are a nice twist as always, although they are yet again not as strong as the first book. They are definitely creepy enough though, as well as the plot of this final adventure of the three main characters. Catacomb is without doubt a fast-paced and entertaining horror read that isn’t too scary and perfect for the Halloween and/or winter season. I don’t think I will read the novellas myself, but I can definitely recommend the three books of this trilogy to anyone who is looking for a creepy and entertaing read.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this trilogy yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Dan, Abby and Jordan decided to have one last road trip together after senior year is over. They don’t want to think about what will happen after summer yet, and just want to spend a normal summer together. But as they are on their way to visit Jordan’s uncle in New Orleans, they notice that they are being followed. And not only that, Dan is starting to receive messages on his phone from someone that is no longer alive. What is really happening and are the three friends in danger again?

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The Asylum trilogy is without doubt a fast-paced and entertaining horror/paranormal read in general and I really like how Madeleine Roux incorporates a bunch of creepy photos into her stories. Catacomb was yet another solid read and a great ending to this series. It’s easy to read with just the right amount of creepy and intrigue to make you want to keep on reading. Recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: This Savage Song – by V.E. Schwab

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Title: This Savage Song
(Monsters Of Verity #1)
Author: Victoria (V.E.) Schwab

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: June 7th 2016
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2016
Pages: 464
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“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”

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I think I have mentioned my love for Victoria (V.E.) Schwab‘s books once or twice already this year, and I still don’t know what took me so long to finally pick up this copy of her newest novel and first book of a new series This Savage Song. People kept telling me I should just read this one and that I would love it as much as the other books I had already read, and they were totally right. A Darker Shade Of Magic is still my absolute Schwab favorite, but this one came in a close second! Brilliant, just brilliant. The prose is just excellent and I love LOVE the worldbuilding. Like in Shades Of Magic, the worldbuilding isn’t all that complicated, but this simplicity just WORKS. The idea of Verity with its three types of monsters is intriguing, and I LOVED the main characters August and Kate. Both the dynamics between the characters and their development is very well done and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year. It’s going to be a long wait for sure… V.E. Schwab has definitely proven to be worthy to be in my TOP 10 of all time favorite authors!

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The world has become a dangerous place and the the violence in the city of Verity has begun to breed actual monsters. Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to this divided city… And they are both in danger. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who has made a deal with the monsters and makes the humans pay for his protection. And all August wants is to be human and play a bigger role in protecting the innocent, but he is actually one of the monsters. The two finally meet as August is giving the task to keep an eye on Kate, who has just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned to the city. Nobody can know about his secret, but it’s a hard one to keep…

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I have to admit I’m having a hard time writing something coherent about this book. I feel like a fangirl blabbering all over the place, but This Savage Song is just THAT good. The worldbuilding is quite simply, but excellently done and it makes it really easy to just dive into this story and relate to the main characters. Both Kate and August are well developed and I loved their characters, although August is my absolute favorite. I love the idea of the different monsters and the plot is excellent as well… The story doesn’t end with that big of a cliffhanger either, but I will definitely be waiting impatiently for the second book. It looks like it will be a duology, so I will be rereading this little masterpiece before the sequel next year. And in case you haven’t guessed it yet, I can more than recommend this book!

BOOK REVIEW: The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde – by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Title: The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Genre: Classics, Science Fiction, Horror
First published: January 5th 1886
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Finished reading: December 4th 2016
Pages: 96
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“I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both.”

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I’m ashamed to admit I have been mostly neglecting the classics this year, and I made a promise to myself to at least read a few before the end of 2016. It was the perfect time to read one of my pending classics on my kindle: The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. I was only vaguely familiar with the story, but this is the first time I’m actually reading the original version of this story. I had a bad experience reading another of Robert Louis Stevenson‘s books, Treasure Island, but luckily I found this classic to be a lot more enjoyable to read. Sure, it took me a while to get into the story, but the second half of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde was without doubt very entertaining. There is an interesting concept and message behind this story that will definitely make you think. I don’t think it’s my favorite classic ever, but I enjoyed it a lot better than I thought I would.

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Dr. Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug; a chemical that can separate good from evil and turn him into something else. The sinister Mr. Hyde is born, and is causing trouble all over the city. People wonder who Mr. Hyde is and why Dr. Jekyll would want to interact with such a shady character. But they do not know about the doctor’s secret… Will Jekyll be able to keep Hyde under control?

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I think most people are probably already aware of what this story is about, especially since so many references to it have been made ever since it was published back in the 19th century. The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde has an interesting concept and especially the second half is quite enjoyable to read. It took me a while to get into the story though… And I don’t think I will be rereading it any time soon.

BOOK REVIEW: The Butterfly Garden – by Dot Hutchison

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Title: The Butterfly Garden
Author: Dot Hutchison

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
First published: April 26th 2016
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Finished reading: November 26th 2016
Pages: 288
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“Some people stay broken. Some pick up the pieces and put them back together with all the sharp edges showing.”

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I’ve been intrigued by this title ever since I first heard about it a few months ago, and the Goodreads Choice Awards were the perfect excuse to finally pick up my copy of The Butterfly Garden. And boy I definitely got more than what I had expected! This book is mentioned in the horror genre for a good reason, because this is without doubt one sick and messed up story. I will never look at my butterfly tattoo the same way again… The Butterfly Garden is a well written story, although the beginning and ending were a lot stronger than the middle part. In fact, the pace slowed down considerably at one point, almost dragged and it took me longer that imagined to finish it. I’m not sure if all of it is all that believable either (for example: why don’t those girls ever fight back?!?!). That said, it is without doubt one hell of a horror story and both the Gardener and the Garden itself very well executed. The Garden even sounds beautiful when you read the descriptions, until you start to think about the true horrors the place is hiding… Despite its minor flaws, I would definitely recommend The Butterfly Garden to anyone who enjoys a good horror read and doesn’t mind shocking and sensitive details.

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The Gardener has build a beautiful garden nearby his isolated mansion, but his garden doesn’t only grow flowers and trees… A collection of ‘butterflies’ also live there; young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. The Gardener is a brutal and twisted man, obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens… Until one day the garden is discovered. A survivor is brought in for questioning, and the FBI has a hard time piecing together all the details of what has to be one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. And the girl isn’t making it any easier for them… She seems to be hiding something, but what is it? And can her story be fully trusted?

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This story definitely isn’t for the weakhearted: abuse, kidnapping and a very twisted story in general. For those who enjoy a proper horror story this will be an excellent read though. Sure, the middle part is a bit slow and takes a bit longer to read. Sure, the credibility of the plot might not be all that good. But there is one thing for sure: Dot Hutchison knows how to set the right atmosphere and create a pretty darn good creepy story.

BOOK REVIEW: Sanctum – by Madeleine Roux

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Title: Sanctum
(Asylum #2)
Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: YA, Horror, Paranormal
First published: August 26th 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 29th 2016
Pages: 343
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“Dan wasn’t sure which was worse – the idea that he was actually being haunted or possessed or whatever, or the idea that this was all in his head.”

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I actually read the first book Asylum back in 2015 and I remember planning to read the sequel soon after that. But other books got in the way, and somehow I soon completely forgot how good this series actually was. I’m regretting this now, because I really enjoyed reading Sanctum. While I don’t think it’s actually as good as the first book, it was still without doubt a solid sequel. It basically has everything I look for in a YA paranormal/horror read: almost no romance, a fast pace, well written, interesting plot and lots of creepy scenes. I’m not completely sure about the character development and some characters can come over as a bit whiney, but the new plot with the carnaval elements is without doubt excellent. There are a few photos included again this time as well, although I wish there would have been more or at least a bit more scary. I guess you can’t have it all… But if you are looking for an entertaining paranormal read that actually focuses on the creepy elements for once, definitely give this series a try.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Dan, Abby and Jordan are still traumatized by the summer they spent together during the summer program in the Brookline asylum. They would love to move on, but someone seems to be determined to keep the terror alive, sending them photos of an old-timey carnival without further note. They decide to return to New Hampshire College to find out what is going on, even though they promised each other to never go back… Under the guise of a weekend for prospective students, they start their hunt for the truth. Will they be able to figure out who sent those photos and what’s going on? And is it safe for them to be there again in the first place?

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While not as good as the first book, Sanctum is still quite a satisfying sequel to this paranormal horror series. The included photos are a nice touch, although they are not as creepy or numerous as in Asylum (or at least I remember it that way). The fact that it has almost no romance is a huge bonus though, and I really liked both the plot, carnaval and historical elements and the prose itself. Recommended if you like the genre! I will definitely move the third book right to the top of my TBR pile.

BOOK REVIEW: Bad Girls Don’t Die – by Katie Alender

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Title: Bad Girls Don’t Die
(Bad Girls Don’t Die #1)
Author: Katie Alender

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: April 21st 2009
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Finished reading: October 28th 2016
Pages: 346
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“Just say something real. Everyone just always tries so hard, and it all comes out the same. I just want someone to say something real.”

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I’ve had this book on my TBR pile for a long time… In fact, it was on last year’s Halloween list as well, but somehow I managed to neglect this book until now. I’m glad I finally decided to pick Bad Girls Don’t Die up though, because it is without doubt both a fast-paced and entertaining read. It’s not the first Katie Alender book I’ve read, and I have to say I really enjoy reading her prose. Both character development and plot are well done and it had just the right dose of creepy. The paranormal horror is mixed with contemporary romance and has its share of high school drama, but it didn’t distract too much from the main plot. I liked the horror element and Alexis is a great character as well. In short, Bad Girls Don’t Die is without doubt the perfect and entertainingly creepy read for both the October month and the rest of the year as well. I will definitely be continuing this series soon!

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Alexis thought she led a typically dysfunctional high school existence, but dysfunction is threatening to turn into danger. Her parents’ marriage is not really working, her twelve-year-old sister Kasey is doll-crazy and Alexis is not really social herself… But after a family fight and a night out taking photos, things are starting to get weird. Kasey is acting stranger than ever: her blue eyes go green sometimes and she doesn’t always talk likes she normally does… And on top of that, she doesn’t seem to remember everything about her day. Their old house is changing too, and Alexis soon realizes it’s too dangerous to keep thinking it’s all in her head. Will she find a way to fix things before it’s too late? And what is happening to Kasey?

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If you are looking for a fast-paced, well written, slightly creepy and entertaining story, Bad Girls Don’t Die is without doubt an excellent choice. Paranormal horror is mixed with contemporary romance and even though there is quite a lot of high school drama, the creepy scenes make up for it. The writing is excellent as well as the character development, and I liked the history behind the old house. Recommended!