Book Reviews

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth HouseTitle: Ninth House: Alex Cross #1
Series: Alex Cross
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Macmillan: Flatiron Books
Publishing Year: 2019
Edition: Hardcover
Purchased: Barnes & Noble (Brick and Mortar)
Image and blurb attributed to Goodreads

Blurb:

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

 


My Thoughts: Ninth House has many conflicting reviews. I will go on record as saying I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Bardugo’s newest novel. The bevy of characters fascinated me, especially since the author consistently added to each of the characters’ stories. Every turn of the page brought surprises, shocks, and awes. My heart pounded, pulse raced, and head ached from the whiplash unleashed.

Major Character Overview:

Galaxy Stern (AKA-Alex Stern): An odd addition to Yale. At 20 years of age, one of the deans found her in a hospital and insisted she go to Yale on a full scholarship. When she enrolled she had only a GED, but she possessed other skills the university desperately needed. Her past was littered with trouble and inconsistencies. As the narrator, she proved to be unreliable. Secrets encased her, hiding her self-apprehension. All Alex’s mysterious enigma slowly fades as her reality is unveiled, piece by piece.

Daniel Arlington (AKA-Darlington): As the leader of the Lethe House he had a duty to watch over eight other houses, all possessing some type of paranormal abilities. His official title: the Virgil. A perfect specimen of Yale University’s college life. He spoke many languages, learned everything possible about the Lethe, took his duty as a student and a Virgil seriously, and resented Alex.

Pamela Dawes (AKA-Dawes): Dawes served the Lethe as the Oculus, according to Darlington, “[She] keeps everything running and ensures I [Darlington] don’t make too big a fool of myself.” Dawes and Alex have a tenuous relationship throughout the book. Dawes’s occlusive ways and her attachment to Tarot cards helped separate her from others.

My Thoughts: While there are many other important characters, these are the three that advance the mysterious plotline throughout the chapters. Ninth House was my baptism into Leigh Bardugo’s writing and reading this around Halloween built the suspense and the horror of the prognostications performed by the eight other houses. The cast of characters each has secrets and you can never think you know anything about anyone. Their personalities and anything assumed can change with the flip of a page.

There are a few flaws in the writing and I’m not particularly fond of the back and forth from present to past and past to present because it muddles the clarity. Especially since you are dropped into the middle of the action and are then forced to look to the past, the present, and the future. As one fellow bookstagrammer said, “it was completely unnecessary.” Once I acclimated myself, the story flowed and I became invested in the characters, the houses, the Lethe house history, and the grays. More than one mystery is presented, a few are solved, and many more are left unanswered.

I thought of a million things to say about this novel, but all of them are cliche. Ms. Bardugo’s writing beguiled and enraptured me within the pages of this wonderfully dark, mysterious, and horrifying suspense. While this author’s other novels are strongly categorized as Young Adult, Ninth House is for mature readers due to violence and vocabulary.

A definite 5/5 star read for me. The hype behind this book was huge. If you’ve read Ninth House leave me a comment and tell me how you felt about this crazy story.

Buy Links:

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Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls
Title: Pretty Girls
Author: Karin Slaughter (website)
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Williams Morrow
Genre: Adult Thriller
Source: Audible
Synopsis (Goodreads):

Twenty years ago Claire Scott’s eldest sister, Julia, went missing. No one knew where she went – no note, no body. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart.

Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And it seems that she might not be the only one.

Claire is convinced Julia’s disappearance is linked.

But when she begins to learn the truth about her sister, she is confronted with a shocking discovery, and nothing will ever be the same…

My Thoughts: I went into this book not knowing what to expect. To say the craziness of this extended dysfunctional family was seemingly normal within their separate nuclear families would be pushing boundaries and shows a great deal of denial. One sister went missing, another covered her pain with booze and pills, and the last lived a lavish, kept-woman life. All oblivious to the danger surrounding them.

The novel is written from a limited third-person point of view. While I love audiobooks for convenience, sometimes shifts in POV happen when I’m in the midst of cleaning or driving and I miss the character shift. When a single narrator attempts to take on several characters, the subtle changes in tone can be imperceptible. This fallacy is something I bypassed with relative ease and continued to be fascinated by the story.

Thriller reviews are difficult for me because it’s so hard to avoid spoilers. This author is a master of ratcheting up the suspense just when you think you might catch up and get a grasp on the story.

World-building: Pretty Girls is a thriller. It is meant to keep the reader wrapt in suspense. The world-building in this novel proves to be a very complicated and intricate design. The descriptions caused me to shiver, shake, and squirm. Gore, violence, and sexual content added a sense of truth to this mystery. Karin Slaughter, the author, proved to be an expert sociopath… or, at least, she writes like one.

Character-building: My favorite aspect of this story was the complicated characters. Each had dramatically different lives with one common denominator–they were family. Over the course of my reading, I enjoyed watching them grow, and suffer, as individuals and reunite as a family.

Audiobook rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Warning: This suspense novel delves into rape, drugs, and vulgar descriptions and vocabulary. I would suggest for mature reading only.

Outside of possible triggers, if you love dark suspense, Pretty Girls is the novel for you.

Buy Links:

Amazon     Audible     Barnes & Noble     Books-a-Million     IndieBound

The Girl the Sea Gave Back

the girl mv4Title: The Girl the Sea Gave Back
Author: Adrienne Young (Website)
Source: Amazon
Publish Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Summary: Via Goodreads

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

My take: While I enjoyed Tova’s story, I felt the book started slowly and it took me a few chapters to become invested in the characters. Point-of-views shifted between Tova and Halvard, each written in first-person. However, a few chapters were written in third-person and it proved a bit confusing.

 

Main Characters:

Tova: In the beginning, I found her annoying. She was found by the Svell after her mother believed her to be dead. Tova’s attachment and dependence upon Jorrund, the tribes Tala, felt codependent. She had great abilities, though she had never learned to hone them correctly. The saving grace for my ability to like her was the ability of the author to show fierce character progression.

Halvard: Strangely enough, I liked him immediately. His character was forced to mature quickly as he would come to lead his people at an early age.

 

Passages I loved:

          “The All Seer had seen what lay inside the heart of Vigdis and had come in warning. But the Svell didn’t know the language of the future the way I did. They didn’t understand that there was no such thing as a secret. The truth was everywhere. It was in everything. You only had to open your eyes to see it. The Spinners sat beneath the Tree of Uror, watching. Listening. Weaving away at the web of fate.” Zova, page 91

          “‘The stones? You don’t listen to the stones!’ I flung a hand toward the blood-soaked glade, my voice rising. ‘You want to believe that you can carve fate into a river that leads you where you want to go. It doesn’t work that way, Jorrund.'” Zova, Page 96

I love a story involving fate and destiny. I love the way characters embrace their own beliefs. This story is firmly defined by fate and there wasn’t much of a debate between fate and free-will, which I wished to see.

Overall, The Girl the Sea Gave Back interested me and held my attention. The world-building could have been better for a fantasy novel, in my opinion. The author’s writing, while there was a little too much telling, was concise without grammar or spelling errors.

 

Rating: 3.5

 

Buy links:     Amazon    Audible    Barnes and Noble     Kobo     GoogleBooks