Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

When you have twenty-nine books to review, you cry uncle and resort to short reviews. Plus, after all this time, I’m not certain I remember enough about any of them to write a full-length review. We will be breaking these into five parts. This is part six. There may be some spoilers within these short reviews; readers, consider this your warning.

The Betrayed by Kiera Cass
With The Betrayed, I had no idea where Kiera Cass was going to take this story of a princess in the making who leaves it all for love, only to have that love cruelly taken from her in what has to be one of the most shocking and brutal twists ever written. As Hollis adjusts to her new life in a foreign country, there are the typical gaffes. I found the sequel a bit squirmy at times, only because it seems that everyone falls in love with Hollis immediately upon meeting her. The adoration Hollis receives from Silas’ family is a bit much, as are some of the more predictable plot “twists”. Still, Ms. Cass did manage to surprise me again with the ending. I was not expecting Hollis to make certain choices given what we know of her character. I particularly like the character growth Hollis displays throughout the two novels. As such, I do believe I enjoyed this duology much more than I did The Selection trilogy!

Capture the Crown by Jennifer Estep
As a huge fan of the Crown of Shards trilogy, when I saw that Jennifer Estep started another trilogy set in the same world, I requested that review copy as quickly as I could. I regret nothing. Capture the Crown has everything I loved about the Crown of Shards trilogy. It’s sexy, clever, and violent. Best of all, it never follows the easy path. Ms. Estep is not afraid to do terrible things to her characters or put them in impossible situations, and I love the frisson of fear you get while reading it knowing that there is the potential for much violence. Gemma is not the spoiled princess she appears to be, but neither is she the greatest at spycraft. There are so many mysteries and hidden agendas at play throughout the story that the future stories should be just as stellar.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
The Final Girl Support Group is another strong novel by Grady Hendrix. While not quite as terrifying as some of his earlier novels, the premise is refreshingly different. After all, horror fans know who a final girl is, but we never find out what happens to final girls once the cops arrive on the scenes. So, Mr. Hendrix shows us what happens to them as they struggle to put the gory events behind them. As expected, some final girls have a better time adjusting to their lives post-horror events, while others find those events dictating their every waking moment. As is true in every Hendrix novel, the characters are deliciously messy and complex. You find your sympathies waxing and waning in each scene depending on the actions. Add in someone who seems to be stalking the remaining final girls, and you have something that is equal parts mystery, thriller, and horror story.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig
I wanted to love The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig after he wrote one of my favorite novels from last year. Unfortunately, in my opinion, lightning did not strike twice, and the entire story fell flat. The jagged storytelling – different points of view and different timelines without any indication of who or what is telling the story – makes The Book of Accidents a difficult story to follow. The characters are mediocre at best. There is the inclusion of one particular minor character who becomes another baddie, which bogs down the story and doesn’t add anything to it other than another layer of complexity to a story that is already so complicated that it requires a chart to keep track of who, what, and when. Sadly, I was more confused than scared at any point in time. Hopefully, this is simply a one-off, and future books show the same brilliance I know Mr. Wendig is capable of producing.

The Turnout by Megan Abbott
Folks, I finished reading The Turnout by Megan Abbott at the end of July, and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about it in some way. It is one of the most haunting novels I have read. On the one hand, I could say that it haunts me because of my familiarity with the dance world, and yet, the dance world she depicts is not really like the one I know. Anyone who is familiar with dance, especially ballet, knows that there is most definitely a dark side to the art form. The blood, sweat, and tears that go into dance are no joke. Yet, what Ms. Abbott depicts in almost lyrical fashion is almost disturbing in its intensity. And this is only the dance aspect of the novel. The Durant family is all sorts of messed up, which you sort of know at the start but don’t realize the extent of it until the end. By then, Ms. Abbott has you almost hypnotized with her writing style that is one step shy of being unintelligible. The overall effect is a story that is disturbing but ethereal, painful but somehow beautiful. When I finished the novel, I didn’t think I liked it at all. After a month of reflection, I realize that it is a masterpiece.

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