The Enchanted by Rene Denfield

The EnchantedThe Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

“Inside, the lies you tell become the person you become. On the outside, sun and reality shrink people back to their actual size. In here, people grow into their shadows.”

This is a book about monsters. And the stories they have to tell.

Set on death row in a maximum security prison, this book is narrated by a man whose name and crimes we are not told. Through him, we see the lives of men inside the prison – those who long for death, those who would do anything to escape it, those who came to prison for petty crimes and ended up paying far more than their crimes were worth. We also see the lives of others – a priest who wonders about redemption, prison guards who believe that some men deserve to die, and a lady who wants to save them all even though she isn’t always sure why.

The Enchanted is about humanity at its worst, at its most monstrous. It’s a gritty, highly disturbing read that contains all manner of sexual abuse, violence and drug use. But it is also a beautifully-written debut novel that will haunt me for a long time. I thought it managed to pack many experiences into a short amount of pages without seeming over-burdened by them, introducing many different characters and developing them all into interesting – albeit often despicable – human beings.

I admit that the death penalty is an area that I like to steer my mind away from and I’m glad I live in a country where it isn’t up for much debate. My initial instinct is always to see it as a bad thing, to decry it as being a violation of something fundamental… but perhaps I am a hypocrite, because I’m certain I wouldn’t feel so forgiving if the victim was someone I loved. Then again, what if the culprit was? I don’t even know. Most people, when asked, would say they’d go back and kill Hitler if they had the chance, so I guess nearly all (if not all) of us are willing to cross the line sometimes. We all just define the line differently.

But, despite what I initially wondered might be the case, this isn’t a book about pushing a message. Or that’s not what I took from it. I don’t think this is about whether or not the death penalty should be used or whether or not people deserve to die, it is far more complex than that. If there is any message here, it’s that everyone – even monsters – has a story.

“A woman who let men come and go through her door for years, to molest her baby. Not out of evil but for a reason that’s harder to accept: she didn’t know better.”

The ending surprised me and has continued to leave me feeling hollow and haunted – in a good way, I might add. I understand that this won’t be a book for everyone and I don’t want to play down some of the vivid descriptions of vile acts and upsetting scenes, but if you think you can stomach it, I highly recommend this book. It was a simultaneously beautiful and ugly story, based on the author’s own experiences as an investigator on death row, and I really hope Denfield writes more in the future.

The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret PlaceThe Secret Place by Tana French
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

“If I’ve learned one thing today, it’s that teenage girls make Moriarty look like a babe in the woods.”

Tana French takes on the world of teenage girls. This book was 100% worth waiting for and, though I’ve loved all of French’s mysteries, I think this could actually be my favourite. It was just so wonderful to get back into a book full of great characterisation, intricate relationships, clever red herrings and a writing style that so wholly fits my tastes. French writes the only kind of lengthy, descriptive books I can get fully absorbed into – because her description is so engaging and interesting that I just want more, more more. Nearly 500 pages and I didn’t want it to end.

Maybe the reason I read so much YA is because I find teenage girls some of the most interesting, scary, complicated, ridiculous, obsessive and crazy of characters. With French’s trademark well-developed characterisation that delves deep into the minds of nearly everyone the novel introduces us to, the insane world of teenage girls becomes an intense bubble of hormones and insecurities mixed in with a spot of murder. Could an angel-faced, upper middle class girl of 16 really murder someone in cold blood? It won’t take you long to be convinced.

Teen girl politics fascinates me. The strength and/or fragility of friendship ties, the capacity for evil and bitchiness, the unspoken rules that have to be learned. If you think this book can’t be frightening, then you had a better time in high school than I did. French makes school even more creepy and terrifying, and breaks it up with her usual life insights that I always enjoy reading.

As always, this book is as much about the detectives as it is about the suspects and the crime. When Holly Mackey brings a photo to Detective Stephen Moran, he sees an opportunity to get out of Cold Cases and play with the big guys over at Murder. The photo – of a murdered boy with the words “I know who killed him” written on it – could change everything. Teaming up with Detective Antoinette Conway over in Murder, Moran heads into the world of private school girls and attempts to uncover the truth about what really happened to Chris Harper. It soon becomes apparent that more than one girl has skeletons in her closet.

Moran and Conway work so good together. They both come from poor backgrounds and have worked their way up, but Moran longs for the flawless beauty of the wealthy, whereas Conway resents it. They bicker and they bond. The relationship between them is crafted excellently and I’d love to see them working together in future books – though, knowing French, that seems unlikely.

“Things don’t make sense, when you’re that age; you don’t make sense.”

I’ve always said that the best kind of mysteries are those where the reveals don’t matter so much. Those where the story and characters are fascinating enough to carry the book regardless of whodunnit. Tana French ALWAYS writes those kind of books, IMO. This latest addition is as wonderful as always and is a really great look at the bittersweetness of youth, friendship and growing up. And it has a captivating cast of crazy teen girls (as if there’s any other type). French does have the odd habit of introducing a few things that never get solved; red herrings some might say, frustrating others will tell you, but I like it. I like the constant mystery of not knowing whether this is an important clue for the murder or just another crazy part of life. Now I just need her to write more.

After the End by Amy Plum

After the End (After the End, #1)After the End by Amy Plum
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

Well… colour me surprised.

I don’t know what I expected from After the End (though probably not much after reading the reviews of Die for Me) but I definitely didn’t expect a book that had me glued to the pages, awake most of the night reading, and laughing out loud on almost every page in the middle section. I had braced myself for “yet another dystopia” and got something more like an entertaining, fast-paced urban fantasy.

Survival. That’s all that’s important. My own survival, and that of my father and clan. I will do anything to guarantee it. And I will use whoever I need to achieve it.

This book starts in the Alaskan wilderness where Juneau has spent her entire life in a small, isolated community. World War III has completely destroyed the world we know and left only this small group of survivors who have managed to stay alive by being at one with nature. Or… that’s what Juneau has always been told anyway.

But one day she returns from a hunt to discover that her clan has completely disappeared. Using the powers of nature that she has been taught, Juneau sets out to find them. However, she soon discovers that there is more to the world than what she’s always been told. Finding out that the people she trusted the most have been lying to her is a hard pill to swallow, but Juneau has even bigger problems. The people who kidnapped her clan members are after her and she has no idea why. Chased down everywhere she goes, Juneau is forced to team up with an unlikely companion in order to find her family.

I have to be honest: I can see straight away why this book won’t be to everyone’s liking. Almost all of the exhilarating action occurs in the first and last quarters of the book – this is the heart-pounding, ohmigod-how-will-they-get-out-of-this portion of the book. Despite dystopias being forced down our throats left, right and centre, I found this story extremely compelling and I loved how different the two main characters were. But, yes, the biggest chunk of the book in the middle is about a road trip full of bickering, basic survival/camping skills and the development of the relationship between Juneau and Miles.

And I loved it.

I am so not a big romance person. Or at least not in books that are supposed to be action-packed science fiction. But I found the banter between Juneau and Miles truly hilarious. I had to cover my mouth to avoid waking the whole house up with my giggling. They’re just such different people. She’s a hardcore hunter who’s grown up in the wilderness and knows all about survival and taking care of herself… and he’s a guy who got kicked out of high school for cheating on an exam. She thinks he’s stupid. He thinks she’s crazy. Their conversations were a delight to read.

“The guys who are following you . . . are they dangerous?” Miles asks finally.
“Well, normally I would say that Whit wouldn’t hurt a flea. But from what Poe here told me—”
“Poe?” Miles interrupts.
“The raven,” I say.
“You named the bird?” Miles asks, his voice tinged with a note of hysteria.
Yet another reason for him to think I’m crazy, I think, and wonder again if that’s not actually a good thing. “Back in Alaska, we named all our animals after literary figures. It was something our teacher Dennis started, so I was thinking that with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem about the raven—”
“Yes, thank you . . . I got the reference!” he snaps. His face is flushed red, but he does this deep-breathing thing and calms down a little. “Okay, first of all, we’re not keeping the bird. So don’t name it. I am not driving you to wherever it is we’re going with a wild animal in my backseat.”
“He’s not wild,” I protest.
“Has it shit on my shirt yet?” Miles asks, his nose wrinkling like he doesn’t really want to know the answer.

I ship them so hard.

And more than this, I really liked the idea behind the story. No spoilers, of course, but I just thought I’d mention how pleasantly surprised I am to find that I can still fall in love with a dystopian book. For me, this book was incredibly addictive and the characters shone with a rare level of personality. My only real issue was with the ending, which seemed a little abrupt. But, oh well, who cares? I really enjoyed it.


Blog Tour: Tragic Silence

Tragic SilenceTragic Silence by E.C. Hibbs

Synopsis:
When tragedy strikes Bianka Farkas one night in her native Hungary, she loses more than a friend and her mobility. Some things are harder to understand. Waking up in a hospital, Bee struggles to remember exactly what happened the night she was attacked and witnessed a brutal murder. Memories of a mysterious figure plague her as well as bizarre and terrifying changes in her over the next few years. Facing this new horrifying reality with a surprising ally, Bee finally has the chance to take her revenge but at what cost?

Purchase from Amazon.



AUTHOR BIO


E. C. Hibbs has lived all her life in Cheshire, north-west England. A lover of stories from an early age, she wrote her first ‘book’ when she was five, and throughout school was a frequent visitor to the younger classes to read her tales to the children.

Living so near the coast, she loves anything to do with the sea. She studied Animal Behaviour at university and longs to work with marine mammals in the future. As well as nature and animals, she also has a soft spot for history, and loves paying visits to castles, cathedrals and museums.

There are many things she could be without, but writing isn’t one of them. She carries a pen everywhere, in case an idea appears, and takes pride in still seeing the world as brimming with magic. Besides writing, she reads obsessively, her favourite genres being the classics and all kinds of fantasy. She also enjoys Disney and horror films, practising Shotokan karate, drawing, archery, and playing with her very cheeky kitten.

Author links:
https://www.facebook.com/echibbs
https://twitter.com/echibbs



Giveaway:


Tour wide giveaway
Open INTL
—$15 Amazon gift card

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Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always

Sometimes Never, Sometimes AlwaysSometimes Never, Sometimes Always by Elissa Janine Hoole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was absolutely phenomenal! I loved everything about it, from the chapter format, to the characters, to the storyline itself. I read it one sitting and it’s been a while since I’ve done that.

The story is about Cass and her struggle to find herself, and there are a lot of hard issues brought up as she goes along. Her brother is gay and being tormented, her family is extremely devout and she doesn’t believe, her friendship with her best friend is crumbling, and the awkward girl who goes to her youth group attempts suicide after being badly bullied.

For such heavy topics I don’t feel that book was too dark or hard to read at all. I related to Cass more than any character I’ve read in quite some time, and one of my favorite things about her was her love for her brother. Her whole situation was just so authentic that, even though I’ve never gone through what she did, I feel like I could have been reacting the way she did. I would want to protect my sister too if she was gay and we lived in such a close minded community; I would be just as lost without the one girl I was best friends with during my school years, and I would feel just as torn over having the most unpopular girl want to be close to me. I wasn’t a popular kid, far from it actually, though it would be a lie to say I was the least. I was somewhere in the middle and trying hard to just maintain that fragile hold. I wasn’t skinny and beautiful like the popular girls, and I wasn’t as smart or driven as the ambitious girls, or as funny, or as…anything. I was just there. In this way when I was reading Cass’ feelings about what did she have that was just hers, I could have been reading about my younger self.

I don’t really know what to say about this because it spoke to me on such a personal level, and touched me the way only things like that can. This is a story about self discovery, but it’s so much more. It’s about love, respect, friendship, boundaries, family, and choices. Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always is a very relevant story about the world we live in now, and is very authentic to the dilemmas that becoming your own person brings.

Read this.

Blog Tour: Perfectly Broken

Perfectly BrokenPerfectly Broken by Prescott Lane

Synopsis:
Even after years of trauma therapy, Peyton still believes she’s broken. She has little desire to date or show off her natural beauty, content simply to hang out with her best friends and run her pie shop in New Orleans. But her world turns upside-down when a handsome architect and self-confessed player shows up in her shop and thinks she’s perfect, much more than the usual hook-up. While Peyton does her best to resist his charms, believing she could never be enough for him, she can’t deny the obvious heat between them.
With Reed determined to have her, Peyton must decide whether to continue to hide behind her apron and baggy clothes or take a chance and share her scars with Reed, a man with a playboy reputation and scars of his own — a dark past he can’t possibly share with Peyton, not after learning the horrors she’s endured. But if they can find a way to trust each other, and themselves, they just might be able to heal, to save each other, to live perfectly broken together.

Purchase from Amazon.

AUTHOR BIO

Prescott Lane is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, and graduated from Centenary College in 1997 with a degree in sociology. She went on to Tulane University to receive her MSW in 1998, after which she worked with developmentally delayed and disabled children. She currently resides in New Orleans with her husband and two children.
Author links:
https://www.facebook.com/PrescottLane1
https://twitter.com/prescottlane1

Giveaway:

Tour wide giveaway
Open INTL
—$50 Amazon gift card
a Rafflecopter giveaway