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!

BOOK REVIEW: Dark Places – by Gillian Flynn

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Title: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary
First published: May 5th 2009
Finished reading: January 11th 2016
Pages: 349
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“I was not a lovable child, and I’d grown into a deeply unlovable adult. Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.”

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There has been a lot of hype around Gillian Flynn‘s other novel Gone Girl, but I honestly didn’t think it was actually worth it. I still decided to try her other novels though, and I picked up Dark Places first for no particular reason. I know a lot of people seem to love this read as well, but I can’t say I was impressed. There is no doubt Gillian Flynn was able to create a disturbing, dark and twisted story with many crazy plot twists and a somewhat surprising ending. That said, I had a hard time getting into the story and it took me a long time to actually finish it. I didn’t like the characters at all and the whole mystery around the death of the Day’s family actually reads a bit slow. How can such a disturbing story read slow? Imagine an event and have it repeated over and over with small details being changed… It’s like hitting the snooze button in the morning. I know the whole unreliable narrator thing has been used a lot lately, but I just couldn’t enjoy it in Dark Places. It didn’t help that I couldn’t feel no sympathy whatsover for the main character Libby Day. That is kind of the point in this story and she does feel ‘real’, but it didn’t help me like this story any better. All in all not my favorite read.

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When Libby Day was only seven-years-old, her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in the small town of Kinnakee Kansas. The murder scene was a bloody mess, and Libby only survived because she managed to hide outside in the freezing cold… The killer? Her own fifteen-year-old brother Ben; she knows because had heard him herself that night. Twenty-five years later, Ben is still in prison and Libby has grown up being a mess. She never overcame what happened that one night from hell, and lives off the money other people sent her. But the money is running out and she has to find a way to take care of herself… And just at that moment a secret society called the Kill Club offers her money to help discover proof that her brother Ben is actually innocent. Libby doesn’t want to, but cannot bring to find herself a real job and has no other choice than accept the offer. Libby soon has to face the ghosts of her past… Will she find out the truth about what happened that night long ago?

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The blurb sounded quite interesting and the general story itself is both dark, twisted and intriguing at the same time. Still, I can’t say I loved Dark Places. Maybe the book was just too disturbing for me, but what I can say is that it took me ages to finish it and the characters were a mayor turn off. If you ask me, I would stick with Gone Girl for now instead of Dark Places… But I’ve heard her first novel Sharp Objects is actually a lot better, so I’m going to try and read that one soon.

BOOK REVIEW: The Happiness Project – by Gretchen Rubin

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Title: The Happiness Project
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Genre: Non Fiction, Self Help, Memoir
First published: December 29th 2009
Finished reading: December 16th 2015
Pages: 315
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“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”

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I normally quite enjoy reading memoirs, but honestly I’m really not that into self help books. I decided to pick up The Happiness Project anyway since I got a free paperback copy at a book exchange earlier this month. I actually quite enjoyed the first part… The idea of investing time and start a project to bring more happiness to your life sounds interesting, but unfortunately reading about Gretchen Rubin‘s own experience started to turn into something annoying after a while. I mean, she pretty much already had a great life before the project: an according to her handsome and succesful husband, two healthy little girls, a job she loves and a great home in NY. I don’t mind her wanting to be happier, but she did come over as a bit hypocrite in some chapters. I know some people see her as a great example, but I personally would have preferred reading about someone with a bigger and more genuine challenge. As far as the prose: it shows that Gretchen Rubin did a lot of research for her project and I liked that she incorporated blog comments in her chapters. Do I agree with everything she said? No. But I do believe the right person might benefit from at least part of her message.

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Gretchen Rubin was taking the same city bus as she always did when she had the realization that “the days are long, but the years are short”. She also realized she wasn’t as happy as she could be and wasn’t focusing enough on the things that really matter. Hence the happiness project was born, where she wanted to try and focus on improving a different aspect of her life each month. Every chapter tells the story of her adventures during a specific month, giving advice and contemplating both the good and bad parts. Novelty and challenge turn out to be powerful sources of happiness, money can help buy happiness when spent wisely and small changes can truly make the biggest difference… All those conclusions and more can be found in the happiness project.

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Gretchen Rubin had some very interesting ideas in her book, but I can’t say I agree with all of them nor do I think her already almost perfect ‘before’ situation is the best example of a ‘proper’ happiness project. Everybody has the right to be happier and I’m not saying she was wrong doing the project OR writing about it, but I didn’t like her tone in some chapters. Would I recommend this read? Only if you like self help books and are interested in the theme.

BOOK REVIEW: I Am Not A Serial Killer – by Dan Wells

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Title: I Am Not A Serial Killer
(John Cleaver #1)
Author: Dan Wells
Genre: YA, Horror, Fantasy
First published: March 5th 2009
Finished reading: October 6th 2015
Pages: 271
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“Fear is a … it’s a weird thing, when you think about it. People are only afraid of other things, they’re never afraid of themselves.”

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I know it’s partly my own fault I didn’t enjoy I Am Not A Serial Killer that much, because I had really high expectations before I started reading it. Those who follow my blog already know I’m a big fan of Barry Lyga‘s Jasper Dent series and I was hoping to find something similar with this John Cleaver series. I guess I was wrong. Dan Wells‘ serial killer read has a supernatural/demon twist I wasn’t expecting and I’m not sure I could actually appreciate it. The main character John Cleaver is a seriously disturbed teenage sociopath who is both obsessed with serial killers and trying not to turn into one himself. His mother also works in a mortuary and he usually helps her prep the bodies… That sure sounds like an potentially interesting character, but I just couldn’t connect to him in the way I connected to Jasper Dent. Still, I Am Not A Serial Killer has a fast pace, lots of facts about serial killers and a prose that is easy to read, making me pretty much a happy camper up until the point Dan Wells decided to go supernatural on me. I won’t go into details because of spoilers, but let’s just say I probably would have enjoyed this book way better if it had been just an ‘ordinary’ serial killer.

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John Cleaver has been spending his whole life pretending to be normal, but he is not sure how long he can keep the monster inside him locked up. He is obsessed by serial killers and afraid he will turn into one himself… To prevent that, he lives by strict rules to keep himself under control. He helps his mother at the mortuary and has a hard time considering dead bodies as anything other than things. He has been diagnosed with sociopathy and doesn’t feel any empathy… It turns out that might just come in handy as a serial killer seems to have chosen the small town John lives in to do his killing. John is determined he is the only one that can stop the killer…  But will it be safe to set free the monster inside him?

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I don’t think that I Am Not A Serial Killer was that bad, but I do think it was a mistake to throw in the supernatural element into the story. The beginning of the story looked really promising even though I couldn’t really connect to the main character, but as soon as the story went supernatural I actually said WTF out loud. It might be original, but it wasn’t the story I was looking for and it just doesn’t go with the whole serial killer information overload and mortuary scenes the story starts with… Those make you expect a ‘normal’ thriller/crime story, not this demon/serial killer hybrid. I guess that if you start reading it knowing to expect the supernatural, you will probably enjoy this Dan Wells read a whole lot better though.

BOOK REVIEW: Shiver – by Maggie Stiefvater

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Title: Shiver
(The Wolves Of Mercy Falls #1)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fiction
First published: August 1st 2009
Finished reading: May 8th 2015
Pages: 390
Rating 3

“As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air.”

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I confess; this is my first Maggie Stiefvater read. Somehow I have never read any of her work before, which is strange because she is a very popular YA author. I had really high expectations for this first book in The Wolves Of Mercy Falls series, and to be honest I ended up being slightly disappointed by Shiver. It’s not like it’s a bad read, but it was just too… I don’t know, sappy?! I felt the story lacked action and the werewolves could have been made more dangerous. I mean, Sam isn’t supposed to be the ideal friend and boyfriend material right? There was too much focus on the romance scenes and the wolves weren’t scary it all. I had serious Twilight flashbacks and let me tell you: that’s not a good thing. I’m just glad Sam and his friends at least didn’t sparkle. 😉 The prose is easy to read and the pace is fast, so all in all Shiver is an easy and quick read. I own a copy of book two and three, so I will probably end up reading them at some point. Still, I think I prefer finishing other series first. Or maybe try The Raven Boys by the same author to see if I like that series better…

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Grace has an obsession for the wolves in the woods behind her house ever since some attacked her when she was little. One of them, a yellow-eyed wolf, rescued her and seems to be watching over her in the years that follow. The wolf turns out to be more than a simple animal… Grace is shocked when she meets Sam, a boy whose eyes are a carbon copy of the wolf.

Sam has lived two lives ever since I was attacked. During the summer he is like any other teenager his age, but as the weather turns colder he shifts into something else… He is a werewolf. During the cold winter months he is forced to live in the froze woods with a pack of fellow werewolves, and unlike others he doesn’t like living his life as an animal. He has been obsessed by Grace as well, and when he finally meets her he desperately tries to stay human so he can be with her. But will he be able to beat the cold?

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There was too much romance involved for my taste and the plot lacked action. Sure, Grace and Sam were cute together, but I wasn’t convinced by the general story. Then again, I’m not really a sucker for the romance genre. Still, it really shows that Maggie Stiefvater is an excellent writer and the prose itself was good. I just wished the werewolves would have been more… Animal. All in all Shiver was a good read, but I guess expected something different. Still, I would definitely recommend this read to fans of the YA fantasy and romance genre.

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Creatures – by Kami Garcia

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Title: Beautiful Creatures
(Caster Chronicles #1)
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: 2009
Finished reading: February 10th 2015
Pages: 563
Rating 5

“Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.”

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I picked up a copy of Beautiful Creatures a few months ago without exactly knowing what it was about, and I’m glad I did. I absolutely LOVED this first book in the Caster Chronicles! I have been having problems finding good YA fantasy series lately since so many sound quite similar and are packed with (cheesy) romance scenes. I’m not a big fan of the romance genre so I tend to avoid books that are classified as romance, but I’m glad I did read this novel by Kami Garcia and Margareth Stohl anyway. The dose of romance is just right and doesn’t distract you from the plot; the relationship between the main characters Ethan and Lena plays a big role in the curse that affects the Duchannes family. The prose is easy to read with many interesting book references that actually make sense. Historical facts about the Civil War are brilliantly mixed with the magical elements and the fast pace and plot twists just make you want to keep on reading. The Casters are surely a bunch of interesting people and I love the idea of them having a hidden library with all kinds of interesting books and secret passages. Beautiful Creatures is without doubt a must read for those who enjoy reading YA fantasy!

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Lena Duchannes is new in town, but that is not her only problem. There is a curse that affects her family and the consequences will be known on her sixteenth birthday… Then, the Book will decide her fate and show her if she is Light or Dark. Lena and her family are Casters and have special powers that they have to hide from the Mortals. Even before Lena gets to know the people in the Southern town she moved to, they already judge her. She is different than others and the fact that she is now living with her strange uncle Macon Ravenwood doesn’t help her fit in either. But Ethan Wate doesn’t seem to matter. He has been having strange dreams lately and when it turns out that Lena is in them, he is dying to find out more about her.

The story is narrated by Ethan and we get to know the Caster world through an outsider. Slowly, Lena and Ethan become friends and they are aware there is a special bond between them. Mortals and Casters aren’t supposed to be together, but they soon find out they were not the first in their family to fall in love… Their ancestors were in love with each other during the Civil War, but fate decided to end their relationship brutally and the curse was born. It is now up to Ethan and Lena to find a way to fight the curse and prevent Lena from becoming a Dark Caster… But they do not know the full story and things are not as easy as it seems. Meanwhile the clock is ticking… Will they find a solution on time?

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The historical facts, the male POV and the magical elements made Beautiful Creatures into one of my favorite reads this year and one of my favorite YA fantasy series in general. The Casters are not exactly witches and they have some very interesting supernatural powers; the intriguing part is that not all of them know exactly what they can do and you see them slowly discovering their potential. The growing relationship between Ethan and Lena is crucial for the development of the story and therefore it didn’t bother me at all. The main characters are interesting, the plot is great and the different elements are mixed brilliantly. Do I have to say more? I LOVED this novel and I would definitely say it is a must read.

BOOK REVIEW: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared – by Jonas Jonasson

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Title: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared
Author: Jonas Jonasson
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Contemporary
First published: 2009
Finished reading: January 25th 2015
Pages: 396
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann’)
Rating 5

“There are only two things I can do better than most people. One of them is to make vodka from goats’ milk, and the other is to put together an atom bomb.”

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The first time I saw this book mentioned, I was immediately intrigued by both the cover, title and blurb. I remember adding The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared to my wishlist straight away and wanting to buy a copy as soon as possible. But even though I was able to get a copy not long after that, I somehow never came around actually reading this novel by Jonas Jonasson… Until now. Now that I’ve finished it, I can easily say this one will end up being of my favorite reads in 2015. I loved everything; the main character, the humor and prose, the altered historical references… The novel takes you on a journey through Allan Karlsson’s long and VERY interesting life where he played a role in various key moments in the history of the 20th century. Not only that: on his one-hundredth birthday he manages to escape the old people’s home and find a suitcase full of money before he disappears. How awesome is that?! There are a lot of funny moments in the novel that will definitely make you laugh. And Allan is a genius. Definitely recommended!

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Allan Karlsson just reached his one-hundredth birthday, but he isn’t about to give up living and end his days in an old people’s home. Allan decides to escape his fate and climbs out of his bedroom window. Without knowing where to go, he ends up at the bus station. Just as he is about to take the first bus out of town, he decides to steal a suitcase that was left in his care by the only other passenger there. An unlikely journey starts where the old man is trying to escape the angry passenger, meeting a lot of interesting people on the way. The fact that the suitcase holds a lot of money does help…

We follow Allan and his new companies when they try to escape and hide from both the police and the owners of the suitcase. And not everybody comes away unhurt… We also learn more and more about Allan’s earlier life; a very interesting journey where he meets various important political leaders like Franco, Truman, Stalin and Mao. Allan doesn’t like politics and that is partly why he was able to survive for so long… That and the fact that he turns out to be an explosive expert and the different political leaders need his help. This way, he played a role in many key events of the 20th century.

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People seem to either hate or love this book. I guess it depends on how you decide to read The One-Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared. If you are easily offended by certain historical facts being altered or don’t like comedy, don’t pick up this title. I think Jonas Jonasson ment this book as an entertaining and feel-good book where the actual facts of Allan Karlsson’s life aren’t supposed to be credible. It is ment as a fiction novel, so who cares if Allan really met all those presidents or if an elephant really can fit into a big yellow bus? The fast pace and easy-to-read prose just make you want to keep on reading… You won’t regret picking up this title!