Off the Shelf: A Review of A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

It’s a wondrous feeling when a book burns so brightly in your mind that it’s all you can think about for days and days. I’m especially drawn to books that combine fantasy and magic, and in particular, books that can do so with an exciting and unique premise. A Shadow Bright and Burning is exactly that kind of book. It has a wealth of intriguing characters, hair-raising battles with terrifying monsters, and an abundance of twists and turns which are sure to make this a series you won’t want to miss!

 

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RELEASE DATE: September 20, 2016

Summary (via Goodreads)
I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Things I Liked:
There are several things about Henrietta Howel that I absolutely admire. She’s strong, passionate, and will do anything to protect her friends. A lot of this book is Henrietta finding herself and coming to terms with who she really is. She also has to deal with a lot of discrimination based on her gender, her magic, and her low birth. Henrietta handles all of these with a head held high and efficiently puts those who look down on her in their place. Her interactions with the other characters are both witty and clever, and I found myself taking a screenshot of quite a few humorous quotes from Henrietta and the other characters just so I could giggle at them again later. I think I fell in love with every scene where Henrietta truly used her power, setting herself ablaze, because you get a sense of how fearsome yet beautiful she is, and you feel the passion behind her desire to save people. She’s obviously one of the only females in a cast of characters that’s mostly male, but while the interactions with her fellow trainees are fun (especially the charming and sarcastic Magnus), I really enjoyed her conversations with the older characters like Master Agrippa, who first discovers her power, and the magician Hargrove, who at first I thought I would dislike but then rapidly became one of my favorite characters.

There’s also what some might call a love triangle. In my opinion, I foresee it being a love square, but we will get to that. The romance doesn’t take a leading role in this book. There’s so many other things going on, that I would have been turned off to the book if Henrietta was solely focused on a boy(s) and his opinion of her. Luckily, the romantic moments take a backseat to the story, and what moments are mentioned actually do a lot to further the plot and Henrietta’s motivations. As for it being a love square, I have to say that there’s one of Henrietta’s fellow sorcerer trainees that stands out above the rest to me –  Blackwell. While the relationship between the two right now might not seem more than just a strained friendship, I picked up on some heavy Pride & Prejudice vibes between the pair. I think this is something that will play out more in the next book (hopefully), and it’s definitely the ship I’ll be rooting for.

The world building is another excellent factor to this book. From the first page to the last, I felt like I was living inside this alternate world in Victorian London, plagued by demons known as the Ancients. The descriptions are vivid, and the author makes clear distinctions between the types of magical people and how those inside/outside the protective ward live. I’m looking forward to exploring this world further in the next book.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I’ve seen a few people complain that this book uses the same old tropes, and if you’ve read one fantasy novel, you’ve read them all so you may as well forget this one. FALSE. I’ve read so many fantasy novels that take the idea of a “chosen one” and it plays out on repeat across the board. Nothing new or exciting. A Shadow Bright and Burning took that idea and twisted it, something I rather enjoyed, because it shows you don’t have to be “chosen” to do great things.

So, sorry, not going to hear any complaints from me. I loved this book the whole way through.

Overall Rating:

I reserve 5 star ratings for books that truly deserve it, and this book is a well earned 5 star for me. It’s exactly the book I’ve been waiting for, and it’s a magical adventure from start to finish! It’s exciting, empowering, and absolutely enchanting. You’ll race to the finish, be left stunned by the twists in the ending, and then we can all commiserate about how long we have to wait until the next book in the series comes out.  Add this one to your TBR list IMMEDIATELY. Seriously! You don’t want to miss out.

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My Waiting on Wednesday Reading List

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases. Normally, when I post my Waiting on Wednesday pick, I select only one book to feature. However, I have some pretty incredible ARCs in my reading list right now, and I thought that this week I would change things up and give you a little preview of some of the books I will be reviewing in the near future. Keep your eyes on these six books which are sure to be a hit when they reach the shelves!

shadowA SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING
By Jessica Cluess

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Summary (via Goodreads)
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?

Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Why I’m Waiting:
I’m currently reading this ARC, and I am about to hit the halfway point. Let me tell you this – I cannot WAIT to rave about this book! I’m completely enraptured by the protagonist, Henrietta, who is essentially a Victorian lady human torch! I know it’s going to be a series, and I’m already dreading the wait for a sequel.

Add A Shadow Bright and Burning to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads
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Continue reading My Waiting on Wednesday Reading List

Off the Shelf: A Review of Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh

One of my favorite things to do after finishing a book is to find out more about the author. I like knowing a little more about the person behind the pen. To me, it makes them feel more like an everyday person. Someone I might know. It also makes me think about how I’d want to describe myself to readers in the future (if I ever get on the ball and make my book happen). Reading Sarah Glenn Marsh’s bio on Goodreads, I feel like we would get along swimmingly:
Sarah Glenn Marsh writes young adult fantasy novels full of danger, mythology, and kissing. Sometimes she writes children’s picture books, too.
She lives, writes, and paints things in Virginia, supported by her husband and four senior greyhounds.
If she could, she’d adopt ALL THE ANIMALS.

See? We’d totally be friends, bonding over our favorite picture books while exchanging photos of all of our rescue animals. Speaking of adopting all the animals, guess whose fur family just got bigger? That’s right. We’ve added an abandoned husky to our pack, one who thinks she’s the same size as the pug and has just as much desire to be in your lap… which of course can be mighty distracting while trying to type, so let’s get this review going so I can get back to husky cuddles!

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Summary (via Goodreads)
Witch’s apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.

Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island’s witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water — stealing her heart in the process.

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle’s eccentric witch and the boy she isn’t sure she can trust — because if she can’t uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return.

Publication Date: October 4, 2016
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Things I Liked:

I’m picky when I request ARCs. My free time that I can spend reading at my leisure is limited, so I request only a few ARCs at a time, and only the ones that truly stand out to me as something different. For me, Fear the Drowning Deep hooked me not only with its mysterious description of the plot, but also with that absolutely GORGEOUS, haunting cover.

Once I got past that beautiful cover, I discovered that Sarah Glenn Marsh has a fantastic way with words. She paints such a beautiful, eerie setting and crafts her story rich with culture and mythology. I felt like a part of Bridey’s family. You get to know the ins and outs of their daily lives, their struggles, their customs, as well as their relationships with the other town folk.This book really delivered when it comes to immersing the reader in the location’s history. Bridey is a strong character, plagued with a fear of the sea that stole her grandfather, and her suspicions have plenty of merit. I loved that the monsters in this book weren’t the typical, overdone sea monsters, and instead had depth in mythology.

Fynn, the stranger who washes up on the beach without a single memory of his life before, was definitely a highlight for me. His voice and mannerisms were a delight, and he’s one of those characters plenty of readers will soon have a major “book crush” on. I was hooked on his interactions with Bridey and how he challenged her to overcome her fears. If Sarah Glenn Marsh ever plans to revisit this world in a sequel, I hope it’s one that is told in Fynn’s point of view.

Things I Didn’t Like:
I knew going into this book that Morag, the local “witch”, would be one of my favorite characters. Throw a witch into any story, and she’s probably going to be my favorite. It seemed to me from the summary though, that she would play a much larger role than what she actually did in the story. Bridey is supposed to be her apprentice, so I expected their encounters to be mysterious, creepy, and mystical. What they actually were was almost nonexistent. A lot of the time either Morag was avoiding Bridey, or Bridey had something else to do that made her avoid Morag. It was a little bit of a let down in that regard, but that’s what I get for coming into this book with preconceived notions from the summary.

The ending was unfortunately where this book hit a low point with me. The story had such a good build up that it was a shame that the final scenes weren’t treated with as much care and delicacy. It was a hodgepodge of loose ends and plot holes. To illustrate my point, I will try to describe one moment that bothered me profusely without getting too *spoiler-y*….While battling a deadly sea creature, Bridey drops the one item that could clinch her victory (an item that kept being stressed in the story for its importance) into the water. She also happens to be wearing a charmed necklace which will absolutely prevent her from drowning. This is where I would fully expect her to rise to the occasion, put her newfound bravery to the test, and dive in after the object. Does she? Nope. It’s never mentioned again once it drops into the water. The ending felt rushed and not as well written as the rest of the book.  I guess endings can’t be everything we expect them to be or it would just get predictable, but I was really hoping for more here.

Overall Rating:
Somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4, so let’s just go ahead and round up in regards to stars. I really enjoyed the story most of the way through, and would have definitely given it at least a solid four or more… but the ending just lost me. The book is a standalone novel, yet I still feel incomplete. It makes me wish for a sequel so that the loose ends may be tied up. Maybe we can all beg and plead for the author to revisit this world? It’s definitely worth a read though, so don’t skip over it just because I had some concerns about the ending. Not everyone is going to like every ending. Fear the Drowning Deep has enchanting characters, intriguing mystery, and shows that we are all capable of putting terror and uneasiness behind us when the things we hold dear are at stake. You shouldn’t miss out on this unique and exciting story, so be sure to check it out when it’s released! For that matter, be sure to keep Sarah Glenn Marsh on your radar as well. I’m greatly looking forward to future books from her!

“And with the melody came the unmistakable sound of water slapping against the rocks far below us, slowly eroding the foundation of Port Coire and everything I loved.”
  – Sarah Glenn Marsh, Fear the Drowning Deep

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Luna would like to know if I’m done typing yet.

 

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Off the Shelf: A Review of The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, & John Tiffany

I have been dreading writing this review, mostly because the words I’m about to write may seem to fellow fans somewhat blasphemous. To preface, I am a giant Harry Potter fan. I grew up with the books, aging along with Harry. I would anxiously await each book’s release, and then race through the pages with my friends to see who could finish first. A few years ago, I commemorated my childhood by getting Harry Potter themed tattoos with one of my best friends, on Harry’s birthday, no less.

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Mine is on top. Hers is on bottom.

 I even host a Harry Potter Birthday Bash at the library where kids can make their own wands, get sorted, and play games that I hope bring a little bit of wizarding world magic alive. Harry Potter is my passion, and I, like millions of other fans, was initially thrilled about the production of The Cursed Child and the play’s script being considered the long-awaited 8th book in the series.
Then, I read it, and all I want to do now is throw it as hard as I can into Myrtle’s toilet.

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Summary via Goodreads
The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I will caution that there are *spoilers* ahead. I went along with #KeepTheSecrets after reading, but I believe enough time has passed now, and it’s time to talk about the tragedy that is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Things I Liked:

Scorpious! Scorpious Malfoy is pretty much the best thing to happen to this script, and probably the only character I really cared for throughout the entire thing. He’s sweet, funny, and his scenes with Albus were what got me through this book. He’s a delight, and I needed more of him.

I will admit, there’s a really high point in the middle where Albus and Scorpious get to interact with a most beloved character – Snape. I cried (profusely), but hey, I’m totally biased. Snape will always have a spot in my heart, so I’m automatically going to be partial towards some Snape fanservice.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Where do I begin? I like to keep notes in my phone as I read when there are specific moments I’d like to touch on in my review…What do my notes look like for The Cursed Child? Well, here’s an excerpt:

-Harry wetting the bed……WTF?!?
-Scorpious better turn out to be gay, otherwise I’ve never seen ‘the power of friendship’ laid on so thick. All of this foreshadowing to his relationship with Albus better lead to something.
-Someone should probably explain to me why the Sorting Hat is now a person. Is he sitting on top of their heads still? I bet this either makes way more sense or looks absolutely ridiculous when performed on stage.
-PLOT HOLES!!!!
– Can we please just have a story about the Marauder years instead?
-Didn’t polyjuice take months to create? Well, heck, let me just whip up this complicated potion in a minute or two.
-It’s as if the writers have never heard of Harry Potter and someone just gave them the vaguest ideas about the characters. “Harry, yeah, he’s like, super brave, but he has a chip of survivor’s guilt on his shoulder….Hermione? Well, she’s like really smart…Ron? Oh….ummmm…just have him pop in every now and then with something corny to say.”

Not even joking. Trust me, I wish I was.

Coming into this book, I knew it would be a script instead of a fleshed out novel. I knew there would be shortcomings in terms of description just based on the format, and I was fine with that. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was a severe lack of authenticity. It called to mind really terrible fanfiction. Nothing about these characters made me feel like I was reading about the crew that I’ve been so fond of since picking up Sorcerer’s Stone over 15 years ago. Dumbledore professes his love for Harry like a son, Professor McGonagall starts sounding like she’s on I Love Lucy – “You’ve got some explaining to do!”, and Ron, well, poor Ron just feels like a prop no one cares about… at least he gets to appear more than Neville, which isn’t saying much. It’d also be nice if there was some clarification on voice inflection for certain phrases. I swear, there were lines that could be read at least three different ways, and the context didn’t provide any insight to their tone.

So, through a series of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey screw ups with a Time Turner, we discover that Voldemort had a daughter with Bellatrix, and that daughter is now set on making sure her father lives in the past to take over the world in the future. Yes, you read that right, that’s exactly the direction they decided to take this story. Why? The world may never know. There are a million other story lines that would have worked out better, but noooooo, we had to take the world’s most awkward epilogue (let’s just all go ahead and agree that Deathly Hallows would have been perfect without the epilogue) and expand it into a script that outdoes that awkwardness on every level. We didn’t need a story about the gang’s kids and every character we ever knew waxing poetic about who they are deep down inside now that they are older and the world has changed. No. Just NO. If anything at all, give us the Marauders. Harry’s tale was told perfectly in seven books. We didn’t need more of him, but a story where Harry wasn’t even a glint in his mother’s eye yet? That would have been acceptable… at least as long as no one let Jack Thorne and John Tiffany even remotely close to it. I refuse to accept that J.K. Rowling in any way had a major hand in Cursed Child. It is almost entirely devoid of her voice, of her characters, and of her magic.

Overall Rating:
2/5. Two reasons it’s at least getting a two – 1.) I actually did have an emotional response to something that happened in the story. 2.) I WANT to like it. It’s Harry Potter, so technically I feel like I SHOULD like it. Problem is, I just don’t. I don’t accept it as part of the canon, and the only way I’m consoling myself is by telling myself it was all just a bad, experimental piece of fanfiction. Besides, you should all know by now, A Very Potter Musical always has been and always will be the BEST Harry Potter stage show, and at least it’s one you are MEANT to laugh at. Instead of wasting your time with Cursed Child, you should probably head over to YouTube and give AVPM a watch. Or you could check out Inverse’s 5 Harry Potter Fanfictions that are better than Cursed Child.

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Well, at least I took a pretty picture of the book while getting to let my Slytherin pride show.

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Off the Shelf: A Review of One Was Lost by Natalie Richards

Do you ever get really excited when you read a book, and it mentions someplace you are familiar with, maybe even someplace you call home? While reading Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series, I bombarded my friends with photos of every mention of West Virginia, particularly when she talked about I64 and Charleston (which happens to be about 30 minutes away from my library). Well, I had the same excitement when I found out that Natalie Richards and I have something in common – we’re both from Ohio. I live in the southern half of the state, but I like to go camping around the areas that Natalie writes about. The teens are students from Marietta (a great little place to visit that’s right on the Ohio River and full of history). There’s also a hospital in Columbus that is mentioned, and I’d say most every Ohioan has visited Columbus at least a time or two. Let me tell you though, when you’re reading a story as frightening as One Was Lost, you don’t exactly get excited that you know the places the author is describing. You get creeped out. You start questioning visiting that part of the state again, especially to camp. You know it isn’t some made up fictional city. Knowing that makes every aspect of the story more real, and when things start to get scary, it makes your fear more real. One was Lost is a fast-paced, thrilling adventure about fighting to survive, and one that you will probably want to read from the comfort and safety of your own home.

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Summary (via Goodreads)

Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.

Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.

Suddenly it’s clear; they’re being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…

I received an ARC of One was Lost from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The current publication date for One was Lost is October 4, 2016.

Things I Liked:

This isn’t some cut and dry murder mystery. There’s a killer on the loose, and he/she is toying with a group of teenagers that wouldn’t exactly refer to each other as “friends”. Add to that, mysterious words have been drawn darkly onto their wrists which call into question the nature of each character. Damaged, Deceptive, Dangerous, and  Darling can all be heavy labels to bear, but there is a special reason why these words in particular were chosen for the group. Natalie Richards does a great job only revealing what she absolutely has to at any given moment, and she effectively builds the rising tensions. There may be a few moments where readers will feel like something was predictable, but it won’t be in regards to who is hunting the group nor will it be that person’s motivation behind the hunt. It will keep you guessing from cover to cover.

One was Lost has a great core group of characters. I felt attached to each of the four main campers, even when I didn’t trust them. I think this story would have benefited more if it included multiple points of view and still maintained the suspicions and possible unreliability of the narrators, something similar to what Laurie Stolarz does in the Dark House series. If we could have seen the situation from Lucas, Jude, and Emily’s points of view, I think we would have learned a great deal more about their characters and personalities. Sera is the soul narrator, we only receive her outlook, and so it’s hard to be 100% invested in her when she is surrounded by so many character’s with backgrounds that are more rich than her own. The other great thing about these characters is the fact that there’s an actual depth to each of them, one that as you can probably tell, I wish had been explored more…but that depth keeps them from coming across as corny or overly stereotypical teenagers.

The most important thing that I liked – the big reveal. So many thrillers cop out on an ending. It’s like they spend the whole book building up to it, and the second the bomb drops, everyone cleans up the debris neatly, and it’s all over. Not here. This was what I needed in an ending for this book. I needed it to be messy. I needed to know not only who but also why. I needed a motive, and I needed a thrilling confrontation between hunter and hunted. Not only that, but I also needed the characters that I spent the whole time getting close to to have a consensus about what happened between them and what the aftermath would be in the wake of their terrifying ordeal. This ending hit the mark and gave me everything I was looking for.

Things I Didn’t Like:

Honestly, I feel like the references to Sera’s mother slowed down the story. I loved the Sera and Lucas young love angle, but I kinda felt like I should make a drinking game out of it. Take one drink for every time Sera thinks about her mom in relation to her feelings about Lucas. No winners in that game. These mommy issue monologues felt very forced, and I just couldn’t get interested.
Beyond that, I feel like the built up animosity towards Lucas, especially in the beginning of the story, was unwarranted, and the slow-to-reveal reasons behind it didn’t really provide an acceptable explanation in my eyes.  This was the only real let down I had with this book.

Also, without spoiling anything, I still have a few unanswered questions about some of the circumstances leading up to this trip and an unexplained link between two characters, but maybe I just need a good reread. I could have possibly missed a small detail somewhere while playing the mommy issues drinking game.

Overall Rating:

I’m giving this one a solid 4/5. It had some predictable moments, and I wasn’t a fan of Sera’s fixation with not being like her mother, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book the whole way through. It was a thrilling ride from start to finish, didn’t seem overly corny, and had characters that I wanted to personally know. I raced through the pages because the tale gets very twisted, and it kept me anticipating how the ending would play out. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on this one come October and read it on your next camping trip.

Add One was Lost to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads
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Waiting on Wednesday #9

What if you could take part in dangerous and thrilling activities without ever truly being at risk? What would you do? Skydive? Chase tornadoes? The Running of the Bulls? Is it still just as exciting even if the danger element is taken away? In Paula Stokes’s upcoming release, Vicarious, we are introduced to Vicarious Sensory Experiences (ViSEs) – where, for a price, you can experience any enticing activity without the danger thanks to neural impulse recordings of digital stunt girls who are willing to take on the risks. For me, I wouldn’t be keen on experiencing some death defying exploit, but I have a feeling this book itself is going to be an adrenaline rush.

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Release Date: August 16, 2016

Summary (via Goodreads)

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you, for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

Why I’m Waiting

As if the concept of ViSE isn’t enticing enough, now there’s a murder thrown into the mix! And can you imagine having a recording of the brain activity of the person being murdered? It’s already making my skin crawl just thinking about it. I’m especially looking forward to finding out the history between these two sisters and what led to their employment as digital stunt girls. Some advance reviews praise the twist ending, so I’m going to go ahead and predict that the killer definitely isn’t Rose’s ex-boyfriend turned employer, but this futuristic whodunit already has me on the edge of my seat waiting to find out the truth.

Add Vicarious to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights highly anticipated upcoming releases.

Off the Shelf: A Review of Shutter by Laurie Stolarz

I’ve always revered my father as a master of foreshadowing. It never failed – we’d go to see a movie in the theater, and no later than fifteen minutes into the film, Dad would lean over and whisper to me how it would all end. Not because he knew any spoilers, but because he could pick up on the tiniest of details and already be five steps ahead of the plot. Now, it’s become somewhat of a game I play with myself whenever I go to see a movie or pick up a good mystery – I immediately start looking for those little ‘tells’. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten as good as Dad at my predictions, but then I happened to receive an ARC of Shutter by Laurie Stolarz…

28963881Summary (via Goodreads)
THE FACTS
• Julian Roman, age sixteen, is an escapee from the Fairmount County Juvenile Detention Facility.
• His parents, Michael Roman and Jennifer Roman, are dead.
• Julian is wanted for murder.

THE QUESTIONS
• Why is Julian Roman on the run?
• Just how dangerous is he?
• And who did kill Michael and Jennifer Roman, if not Julian?

Seventeen-year-old Day Baker views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she pictures and the truths she believes-neatly captured in black and white-begin to blur.

Julian is not the “armed and dangerous” escapee the police are searching for, but his alibis don’t quite add up, either. There is more to his story. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture . . . whatever it reveals. Did he? Or didn’t he?

Day digs deeper into the case while Julian remains on the run. But the longer her list of facts becomes, the longer the list of questions becomes, too. It’s also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels for him. Is it real? Or is she being manipulated?

Day is close to finding the crack in the case. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.

 

Things I Liked:

A lot of folks find their way to Laurie Stolarz care of the Blue is for Nightmares series or the Touch series, but for me it was the Welcome to the Dark House series. It was fabulous, frightening, and haunted my nightmares for weeks after I closed the covers. What really got me hooked is that Stolarz truly gets inside the minds of her teenage characters and brings out voices that are wholly believable as well as engrossing. While Shutter isn’t a book that will occupy my nightmares, it is one that has now spent several days occupying my thoughts. I’ve been turning over the mysteries of the story and the intricacies of the characters in my mind, and I am still rocked to the core that I didn’t see such a fitting yet shocking ending coming.

Julian (I have to just love that name, don’t I? I’m named after a Julian, after all.) is a teen on the run, escaped from juvie with the clothes on his back and a story full of holes. Day is a young girl taken in by his shy demeanor and mysterious circumstances, and her determination to find the answers in Julian’s case leads her to ask questions others might not. She’s desperate to prove herself, not only for Julian’s sake, but also for her own. Day is constantly trying to live up to her justice-seeking, do-gooding parents who seem to make everything work… except for a marriage and having time for their daughter.

Day also has a passion for photography, hence the name, and it doesn’t feel at all like a superficial character trait. Some authors might add it to make their characters seem more artistic but never really follow it up with much depth… Not here. Day has some beautiful concepts for projects detailed within the story that actually had me aching to see the photographs, however fictional they may be. Day’s photography helps to weave the story together and evoke some of the heavier themes, especially in relation to her feelings towards her mother and father.

I love the format of this book, told in alternate points of view between Day in the present and Julian writing in his journal. Julian’s journal entries are especially powerful because you glimpse more of his past, his relationship with his family and the tragedy that changed them forever, and also snippets from what really happened the day Julian found his mother’s body in the bathtub and was accused of murdering his father. These were my favorite parts of the book, the journal entries, because you really begin to feel for Julian and want to fight right alongside Day to vindicate him.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I’ve seen an early review or two that have mentioned some aspects being unbelievable. I’ll tell you what, the only part I found unbelievable was this:
“I must say, I’ve never had a customer take photos of items they purchased in the past. What is this really about?”
“A school project. Photography class.”
Come on! You know she wanted to say she was a writer doing research. This is actually how I feel anytime someone questions my Google history. I promise that “gruesome ways to kill a person” was totally just my research for something I was writing.
By the way, I am JUST KIDDING! It’s so hard to pick out things I didn’t like in a story that I really did love. I was so engrossed by the story that I didn’t really find anything about it unbelievable. Society can be pretty screwy, and I know plenty of kids that come from rough backgrounds. I also know plenty of intelligent kids with chips on their shoulders. For me, this story totally works.

If you really want me to nitpick and find something that I didn’t care for, I’d say Day’s friends. Well, mostly just Tori. I think the real reason she annoyed me is that we all know a Tori, and she’s just as annoying in real life as she is in fiction. Tori’s the taunting friend, the one that gives you a hard time about the things you like to do or a boy showing interest in you. She’s also the one that’s too preoccupied with her flavor of the week to really have any interest in anything else. Tori’s got her own issues going on, but that’s discussed briefly before she’s off to the next boy. Totally a believable aspect, but I did find myself trying to read faster through any part with her in it.

Overall Rating:
5 stars for getting the better of me! I thought that I had this one figured out at least halfway through, only to be completely, totally, utterly wrong. You’re going to race through the pages trying to piece together the truth, and meanwhile that little DUN-DUN sound clip from Law & Order is going to play on repeat in your head… I mean, at least it did for me. Laurie Stolarz has quickly become one of my favorites in the genre. She is masterful with chilling atmospheres, concealed mysteries, and characters that truly feel like people you would want to get to know (or in the case of some Welcome to the Dark House characters, I’d rather not meet them…not in a scary, horror house, nor anywhere else). She’s definitely an author you’ll want to check out!

The current release date for Shutter is October 18, 2016, and I definitely recommend picking it up before Halloween for a good, chilling mystery.

“Everyone has their own story – their own version of the truth, a rationale for how they act.”
“Because everyone has a unique perspective,” I say, thinking about my photo project.
“Exactly. In most cases, your mother’s political escapades aside, I’d say that people act out when they’ve lost their way, or when they aren’t getting the support that they need. They’ve fallen through the cracks and gotten desperate. I’m not saying that what they do is justified, but you have to wonder: if those same people were given different opportunities -“

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