- Sanctum by Madeleine Roux
Sanctum is the second book in a series, which really shouldn't be a series. Asylum, the first book, reads like a standalone novel and this extra story feels like it was very thinly connected to the first one. The same three cast of characters are back for another adventure at the college/Brookline Asylum. They decide they need to have some closure in their lives from the summer trauma and return to college for the prospective students weekend. On their quest to figure out more about the Warden of the asylum, some creepy events occur. The story centers on Dan, the blandest protagonist ever created, whose thoughts reflect that of a middle school student and not a senior in high school. Then there's Jordan, the walking gay stereotype who usually pops up with random important information to continue the characters' quest. Then there's Abby, the most cardboard-like character I've ever come across and who functions as the love interest. You could replace her with a lamp and it wouldn't make a difference to the story (This is an actual theory by the way. It's called the sexy lamp theory and you should totally look it up).
I rated this book three stars on Goodreads because of their sad lack of half star rating capabilities. I rated it 2.5 stars here because I just don't quite know how to feel about this series. On one hand the story is kind of interesting and innovative (the story, not the photos of course. Those are a Ransom Riggs copy). On the other hand, the characters are so ridiculously underdeveloped that it hurts the plot and it prevents me from connecting with them. This is also another one of those books where the so called "villain" only shows up once or twice in the whole story. I just feel like the series has so much potential that it isn't quite living up to. Granted the story is interesting enough that I would recommend it with the added caution that you not expect too much from it. Apparently, despite the fact that this book did wrap up neatly, there is a novella and a third book after this one. I'm not really quite sure if I'll be picking them up, at least not any time soon.
- Just One Night by Gayle Forman
If you've been reading my blog posts for a while, you probably remember how upset I was after reading Just One Day and then how very upset I got after reading Just One Year. I was convinced that I was never going to get my hands on this e-novella and it irked me not to have closure. Now I have it and I'm just disappointed. This book should have been the last chapter to the first book. End of story. No useless series, just a great standalone contemporary romance novel. It's been a few months since I read the previous books, so sitting down to read this chapter length book didn't feel the same. The build up wasn't there anymore, which made the bad writing glaringly stick out. Not to mention all of the creepy instances of Willem's apparent foot fetish...ewww.
- Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
This, dear readers, is what happens when you take an interesting story concept and then cram it so full of poor writing and ya lit cliches that you feel cheated, let down, deceived even. I wanted complex characters struggling against their fairytale destinies. What I got was a whole lot of insta-love, a terrible main character that everybody thinks is perfect, and a gaggle of love interests that borderline abuse the main character, Mira. I could go on, but ehhh I'm not in the mood to be overly negative today.
- The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Normally I'm not a huge fan of prequel novellas, but The Assassin's Blade cured me of that opinion. This collection of five novellas details some of the time Celaena spent under the tutelage of the king of the assassins, Arobynn Hamel, and the problems she encounters under his not so benevolent ruling. These novellas also address her relationship with Ben, a character vaguely mentioned in the regular Throne of Glass series as an important part of her backstory. Normally I would say that all of this information about Celaena's backstory could be integrated in the regular series through flashbacks, but the novellas allowed for a more continuous narrative. I don't know if Sarah J. Maas intended it, but the novellas really built off of each other and read more like an actual novel. I also really enjoyed learning about how Celaena became the character so many of us know and love (or at least I do anyway). I almost wish there had been another novella somewhere in the middle because it felt like there wasn't enough interaction between Celaena and Sam, nor between Arobynn and Celaena. That was the reason why I didn't give the book a full five stars. All I can say is if you're reading the Throne of Glass series make sure you don't skip over this book/the five novellas. If you haven't read the series and you're a fan of ya fantasy, you seriously need to check this series out. I can't recommend it enough!!!
- Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Next, I decided to read something not on my monthly TBR list (what a rebel...not really). I am one of those people that loves to read books with unique formats. I feel like the publishing industry doesn't embrace all of the possibilities that the print format can offer, so when I come across a book like that, even if it isn't in the genre I normally read, I have to read it. Case in point: Horrorstor. For those who haven't heard about this book, it is a horror/mystery novel that comes in the form of an Ikea catalog, as you can probably tell from the picture on the left. The beginning of every chapter features a furniture graphic and description similar to those in catalogs. Aside from the formatting, the story centers around some the employees who work at Orsk, a company again very similar to Ikea. The main protagonist of the story is Amy, a woman in her mid-twenties struggling to make ends meet, while trying to find a more fulfilling life. The story really kicks off when the store randomly starts to get vandalized and her boss asks her and a co-worker to stay with him overnight in the store to see what has been causing the damage. I don't want to tell you any more about the story because I'd rather not spoil it. Let's just say the horror elements are similar to that of a haunted house story.
When I sat down to read this book, I didn't intend on finishing it in one sitting, but the story was so captivating that I couldn't put it down, which sucked because I had to go to my internship early the next day. What I'm saying here is you should probably only start it when you have plenty of time to read. The one problem I had with the book, maybe...kinda...not sure...was the intense tone shift halfway through. On one hand I liked that Horrorstor blended comedy and sarcasm with horror elements, but on the other hand, the comedic elements only happened in the first half of the book. After that it was straight suspense and horror. Honestly, when I finished this book I was kind of hoping for a sequel. The story ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and I'm so interested to know what happens next. Even if you don't normally read in the horror/suspense genre, you should definitely check this book out.
- A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
I feel like the hype surrounding A Darker Shade of Magic oversold the book just a little bit too much. I'll admit that it took me longer to actually sit down and start it because of all of the great things people have been saying. It took a 5 hour car ride to New Hampshire and the 5 hour ride back to get me to read it. Granted most of that time was actually spent having some great conversations with one of my favorite college professors. The biggest problem I had was that I had so many expectations that the book just seemed average in comparison. It wasn't a terrible book, nor was it mind-blowing. A Darker Shade of Magic tells the story of Kell, a magician, who has the ability to travel between the different versions of London, which are shaped by their apparent abundance or lack of magic. Kell is the adopted prince of Red London, but his relationship with his family is a little more complicated than that. His life changes when agrees to carry a package into a different London for someone and when he meets Delilah Bard, a thief.
I'll definitely admit that this is one of the better fantasy/magic books I've read in a long time. The idea is wholly original and the story is very action packed. This book has an incredible amount of world building as well, which works for and against itself. I felt there was so much time spent on the setting and back-story that the characters felt a little bit flat in comparison. Strangely, this is the one book where I'm eager for a sequel, pronto! So much of A Darker Shade of Magic felt like an extended prequel of sorts. I'd love something with diverging narratives where I can follow both Kell and Delilah because she was personally my favorite character.
Those were the books I read for the month of April! Don't forget to check back in the next day or two for a list of the books I hope to read in May.