3:59 by Gretchen McNeil


3:59 by
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Balzer & Bray
I thought this was going to be another epic ghost story. Yes, I did not read the synopsis, and yes the cover looks creepily awesome.

Why I Didn't Like The Book:
1. No scare-factor. 
This book did not give me the creepy crawlies feeling. It was just meh. So what about the predatory Nox which enjoy killing sprees every night, you ask? I expected something of more substance - not much was said about the creatures other than they enjoyed human flesh. Well, isn't that obvious?

2. Lots of WTF moments.
  • Josie asking her fake dad to steal a government-secured machine for her, and he agreed easily. Turned out to be the biggest mistake ever! [What did momma say about not trusting anyone in this world, dear Josie?]
  • Josie making out with the other Nick shortly after a Nox attack, and she accidentally touched fake dad's severed leg. [Wouldn't the stench of blood and death hang in the air after the animals had their meal? Why would anyone make out in that situation?!! It was beyond my comprehension.]
  • Jo, Josie's doppelganger who was supposed to be a selfish girl, became good and helped Josie out on her quest the instant she asked it! [Where's the logic in this?!!]
  • Jo was happy and didn't care one bit after her dad got chewed into pieces by the Nox. [Even if she hated him, wouldn't she feel the slightest tinge of emotion on his passing?]
  • Dr. Bryne and Jo turned out to be good characters after all! [Again - logic please!]
3. It's sci-fi, but it doesn't sound like one.  

4. Flat, one-dimensional characters. 
The characters are boring if nothing else. 

Considering how I had loved McNeil's TEN, it is hard to hide my disappointment in 3:59. My advice to her? Don't venture into sci-fi if you don't know what you're writing.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Review: The Madman's Daughter by Megan Sheperd


The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Balzer + Bray

The Madman’s Daughter is a refreshing take on the YA genre. There are no vamps, demons, fallen angels or mystical beings, but there is something which is far more fascinating and repulsing –strange half-human, half-animal beings created by a scientist/surgeon gone mad.

I knew The Madman’s Daughter is something to watch out for from the very beginning. The story opens with young Juliet scrubbing her youth away at the King’s College of Medical Research. She used to live in the lap of luxury, but that was before her father’s scandal hit home and they lost everything – wealth, relatives, relations and home. Her mother had to become some rich man’s mistress to support Juliet and herself when her father went missing.

Then, by fate’s arrangement, she found Montgomery, a handsome young man who used to be their home servant. Aside the romantic feelings Juliet has for him as a young girl, she also found out that her father is still alive somewhere out there. What would a desperate girl do? Beg Montgomery to bring her to her Father, of course.

However, when she arrived at the island with a castaway they saved in the ocean, her instinct was to hide from her father. And perhaps reunion with her Father was not as exciting and happy as she had imagined.

The story itself is actually a retelling of a Wells’ classic, but new characters and twists in the storyline have made The Madman’s Daughter an enjoyable read. I witnessed the horrors a madman will do to challenge God’s power of creation, even to the extent of considering to use her own daughter as a specimen for an experiment. The story contains a few reference to Christianity, but the story itself is not religious or anything. I would rather say that the reference of religion is to act as a comparative to Dr. Morreau’s horrifying acts.

Read this if you like horror, Sci-fi or YA with a twist.

Rating: 4.500

About The Author
Megan Shepherd
Megan Shepherd was "born" into the book world, growing up in her parents' independent bookstore in Western North Carolina. She is the author of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER trilogy (Balzer+Bray/2013), and THE CAGE trilogy (Balzer+Bray/2015). When Megan is not writing, she can usually be found horseback riding, day dreaming at coffee shops, or hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. She is represented by Josh Adams at Adams Literary.

Book Review : Candy and the Cankersaur

Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Released: June 18, 2012

About The Book
This is the sweet and funny tale of a young girl named Candy and her Cankersaurus Rex! Candy receives a dinosaur as a gift and is determined to train him to be a good pet. This playful homage to Syd Hoff will make all dinosaur-crazy boys and girls happy! Enjoy!

As a bedtime story Picture Book it’s aimed for children ages 3-6.
As a read-alone Picture Book it’s appropriate for children ages 6-9.

Candy and the Cankersaur is a lovely children's book. It has a lot of beautifully-drawn pictures which will surely attract kids' attention and a storyline that is cute and exciting. It will also teach kids the value of friendship and the happiness that comes with it. Some kids might not be familiar with the 'big' words in the book, so I would recommend parents to go through with their children to guarantee a better understanding of the story. Candy and the Cankersaur will be a great bedtime story for kids too.

Glossary / Big words in the book:
1. purchased, globe pg 4
2. appreciate pg 5
3. pestered pg 6
4. spectacular, companionship pg 7
5. summoned, crate pg 8
6. Paleontologist pg 9
7. devoured, pg 13
8. sulk, Zoologist, pg 17
9. salamander pg 20
10. specialized, oddities pg 21
11. amused, thrilled, ferocious, terrifying pg 26
12. gasped pg 27
13. reuniting pg 28
14. intent, refund pg 29
15. conclusion pg 30

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Book Review : Strands of Bronze and Gold

Strands of Bronze and Gold (Strands of Bronze and Gold, #1)
Strands of Bronze and Gold
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 12th 2013 by Random House Children's Books 
Available on The Book Depository

Strands of Bronze and Gold has been on my to-read list for a while. The notion of a Bluebeard retelling really intrigues me, which is why I was very excited to read this book.

Sophia Petheram was invited to stay with her godfather Monsieur Bernard de Cressac after her father’s passing. She was at first jubilant about this, and deeply charmed by her debonair, handsome godfather. However, she soon discovered that things were not as idly wonderful as she first thought.

The story itself held much promises as it is a retelling of a hugely popular fairytale which contains streaks of horror and gore. The ending was good and the imagery was brilliant. I could actually imagine what was going on at the moment. However, I find the whole story a little too long, as most parts could be easily dismissed or cut, and there isn’t much surprise and suspense along the way. In short, it was quite boring - basically nothing really happened until somewhere near the end.

The heroine, might I say, was innocent to the point of stupidity. Did it never cross her mind that nothing in this world is free? Surely she did not expect a stranger to smother her with luxury beyond her imagination without asking for anything in return? And surely she noticed traces of inappropriateness and craze when her godfather behaved in such a way that could only be described as sexual harassment? (Imagine him licking her neck and kissing her forcefully on the lips)

Sophia’s reactions towards her godfather (and later fiancé, because the crazy old man finally decided she was too alluring to be only her goddaughter) were really frustrating. She never rejected his inappropriate manners until matters got worse. And no, I don’t think sacrificing your own happiness for the sake of getting money to help your sibling out of debt is a noble act, especially when he is a gambler!

I just hoped the story had been better.

Rating: 3

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

by Gretchen McNeil

Pages: 296 
Age Group: Young Adult
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Author Info: Blog | Website | Twitter | Facebook 
TEN is terrifying – imagine going to a supposedly party-of-the-year but ended up being trapped in an isolated island where the storms rage constantly and a killer is on the loose. I’m glad I didn’t read this at midnight, which would certainly have negative consequences on my sleep.

I particularly loved the way the author layered her story, starting out with a simple matter which hinted at ominous happenings and adding scare factors little by little until it builds up to a climax. In the White Rock Manor, murders are happening, and one of them is the killer, but who is it?

I enjoyed reading about Meg – her unselfish ways when it comes to her best friend Minnie, her secret crush on cute footballer T.J. who happens to like her back, her quick-thinking and observation skills. Meg always looks out for Minnie even though her best friend is paranoid, selfish and mean. And that really takes ounces of patience and determination. However, what makes me love her is the fire in her that comes out only in dire times, usually when she is determined to save a loved one.

As the story gets more sinister with someone new murdered each few hours, the remaining survivors get more panicked and frightened and starting accusing one another. Each death is caused by a different method, and the killer can be anyone of them. Mistrust is sowed among them and yet they have to stay together if they want to get out of this frightening mess. The question is how many of the TEN who entered the manor can come out alive?

Read the book to find out. 

Rating:  5

Double Review : The DUFF & A Midsummer's Nightmare

The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend 


Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him. 

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

The DUFF is my first Kody Keplinger novel. And surprisingly (in a good way), I loved her writing style. Although the storyline is quite usual, the narrative is downright honest and feels extraordinary real to me. I love how the characters come to live under her pen, especially our heroine Bianca. She’s bitter and uninterested in the notion of true love but at the same time she plays the role of mother hen to her two beautiful best friends Casey and Jessica. She hated the handsome playboy Wesley Rush in her school, but a series of problems and scenarios brought them together, not as a loving couple, but merely as partners, if you get what I mean.

The idea of Bianca having flings with Wesley as a distraction from her problems kind of threw me off at the beginning. I mean, it would appear inappropriate in the East, where (premarital) sex is a taboo, much less reoccurring ones with no formal ties between the involved parties. However, the real feelings of love and care that slowly developed between Bianca and Wesley were sweet in a way.

I like that the author actually sends out some thought-provoking messages through this novel. Sometimes we unknowingly hurt others - we think we are better than others and some insult them like they deserve it. But the truth is, everyone has their own problems, it doesn’t mean that you can judge others just because you think you are better. After all, no one is perfect.

After finishing with The DUFF, I’m certainly up for more novels by Kody Keplinger!

Rating :  4.000

A Midsummer's Nightmare


Whitley Johnson's dream summer with her divorcé dad has turned into a nightmare. She's just met his new fiancée and her kids. The fiancée's son? Whitley's one-night stand from graduation night. Just freakin' great.

Worse, she totally doesn't fit in with her dad's perfect new country-club family. So Whitley acts out. She parties. Hard. So hard she doesn't even notice the good things right under her nose: a sweet little future stepsister who is just about the only person she's ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn't "do" friends), and a smoking-hot guy who isn't her stepbrother...at least, not yet. It will take all three of them to help Whitley get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger is another book with lots of messed up characters. Our heroine Whitley is a wild girl, always doing booze, swearing and has a complicated love life. I started out not really liking her, but in the end, I loved her. Her devil-may-care attitude actually comes from her bad childhood experiences of having to see her parents fight and file for a divorce, her mother complaining about her dad all the time and her dad always busy to see her. Everyone seems to have forgotten about her, and she is attention-deprived. Sounds cheesy, but that’s really something that can mess with a person’s mentality and behaviour, especially a teenager.

The story opened up with Whitley waking up beside a stranger after a crazy graduation party. Obviously, they did something real passionate after getting drunk. And Whitley was adamant to get herself out of the scene and forget everything. But it seems fate has another idea on its mind. When Whitley’s dad suddenly announced that he was getting married again, she was shocked and upset. But the real problem arose when she found out that she was going to have stepsiblings... I don’t want to spill the beans, but I guess anyone of you who have read tons of novels might probably see what’s coming.

Kody Keplinger has a way with writing about messed-up characters that actually makes you love and hate them at the same time. I love it that Keplinger is able to write about everyone’s problems with such dexterity and depth that sometimes I actually laugh out and cry along with the story. I hate that most of the people are so focused on their own troubles that they fail to see what damage they are causing to themselves and others.

My favourite character in this novel would be Harrison, a surprisingly handsome, good-natured guy who became best friends with Whitley. He’s the one who really cared about her and offered her true friendship. He invites her to come to his house for a slumber party, he saves her from almost being raped and he always stands by her no matter what happens. Seriously, I would LOVE to have a friend like Harrison – who cares if he’s gay?

A Midsummer’s Nightmare is a pretty decent summer read, and I enjoyed it as much as The DUFF.

Rating :  4.000

 About The Author

Kody Keplinger
Kody Keplinger was born and raised in rural western Kentucky. She always enjoyed writing and began working on "novels" when she was eleven. She wrote her first published work, THE DUFF, during her senior year of high school. Since then, Kody has written two other novels, SHUT OUT and A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE.

Kody currently lives in NYC and writes full time. She enjoys Thai food, Converse tennis shoes, and way too much television.

Kody writes for YA Highway, a blog devoted to the young adult publishing industry. She is also a featured writer for Poptimal.com, a popular pop culture blog, where she reviews TV shows and movies.

You can find Kody on Twitter, Tumblr, or email her at kodykeplinger@gmail.com.

Book Review : Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap

Anastasia's Secret 
Available on The Book Depository

For Anastasia Romanov, life as the privileged daughter of Russia's last tsar is about to be torn apart by the bloodshed of revolution. Ousted from the imperial palace when the Bolsheviks seize control of the government, Anastasia and her family are exiled to Siberia. But even while the rebels debate the family's future with agonizing slowness and the threat to their lives grows more menacing, romance quietly blooms between Anastasia and Sasha, a sympathetic young guard she has known since childhood. But will the strength of their love be enough to save Anastasia from a violent death?

Anastasia's Secret is a book that adheres to the history with precision (besides Anastasia's budding romance with a barrack soldier named Sasha), but sadly I don't see much imagination and creativity. The familial ties were quite touching, though. They stayed together until the end even though they knew it may mean imminent death. There was little appearance of the mysterious "holy man" called Rasputin, and the author dismissed him easily by proceeding quickly to his death. 

I had hoped the author would take a more daring approach to the storytelling rather than sticking to the safe zone. As the fate of the Grand Duchess Anastasia is still a mystery, I would appreciate it if Susanne Dunlap had injected a portion of her wild imagination and ended the story with a twist.

I would say that Anastasia's Secret is rather well-written, but there is still much room for improvement. And a kind note of reminder, the summary at the back cover of the book should only describe happenings within 50 pages of the novel. You never want to give too much away - always keep your best card until the end.

 Rating: 3

About The Author
Susanne Dunlap
Susanne Dunlap is the author of six works of historical fiction. Two are for the adult market (Emilie's Voice and Liszt's Kiss, both published by Touchstone books of Simon & Schuster). Three are for the young adult market (The Musician's Daughter, Anastasia's Secret, In the Shadow of the Lamp, and the forthcoming The Academie, published by Bloomsbury). A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, New York and Northampton, MA. She now divides her time between Brooklyn and Northampton, has two grown daughters, two granddaughters, and is an avid cyclist and dog lover.

Book Review: Trust: A New Beginning by Cristiane Serruya

                      Trust: A New Beginning by Cristiane Serruya

Trust: A New Beginning
Author: Cristiane Serruya
ISBN 13: 978-1480236295
Format: Ebook and Paperback, 395 pages.
Genre: Contemporary romance.

Buy The Book (Like seriously, go get it):

They are beautiful. They are rich. They are strong willed and successful. They have everything, but love. And each one of them has a dark secret looming in their past.

Sophia is a 25 year old Brazilian widow. Intelligent and ravishing, she flees from her own country after a tragic incident. Hiding from everyone and everything, she remains alone, torn between the love for a dead man, the torment of living without part of her memory and the fear of moving on. 

Ethan is one of the most important tycoons in the steel industry. As the memory of an awful evening in his adolescence haunts him night and day, he keeps looking for an elusive woman whom he could love - and who would love him - as he never has in all his 35 years... Until he finds Sophia. 

Alistair is a 34 year old powerful banker, searching for one–night stands with women who will warm his bed. And that he can punish physically to abate his anger for his late wife's black deeds and his own guilt for being such a debauched man for so many years. Any woman will do, and he has many to choose from, as they all fall instantly for his manly, devilish charming ways.

In Europe, in the months after October 2009, their paths will cross and clash. Who will win the prize of love?

First of all, I’d have to say that this is definitely a great series. Never have I ever read a book with so much description in it. Everything was written with so many details that I was able to clearly imagine the scenes in my head. In my opinion, this is the kind of story that will keep a person reading all night long, not wanting to stop because you just have to know what happens next.

However, pages upon pages of what the characters wear, what they have for lunch and dinner, which does nothing to move the plot kind of made it feel a little bit draggy. But aside from that, I’d say that it was a pleasant read for me, especially after going through the second half of the book where the plot started to develop and I get to know the real story of each of the main character.

This is a story that revolves around three extremely rich, powerful and GOOD LOOKING people in search of the one thing they lack in life, which is love. And oh, not to forget, the hot sex scenes were finely written. It was very, very hard for me to read it in public as I’d have to stop reading it few minutes before I was able to get up of my seat and walk away, if you know what I mean. Hehe

Personally, I think that this story proves the saying that ‘Money can’t buy you happiness’ as although all of the main characters are ridiculously wealthy, there will always be that emptiness inside them that could only be filled by love.

Lastly, I do have to say that ending the book the way Cristiane did was a bit annoying as I was just starting to really get into the book. I do understand that it was a cliff hanger, though, and as I’ve told her before, if the next book is not going to come out anytime soon, I would be really really upset.

So yeah, I totally recommend all of you readers out there that are looking for a good romance series to get this book ASAP and start reading it because I assure you that it is definitely worth reading. 


                                            Note of Thanks
 Thank you soooo much Cris for the wonderful signed, paperback copy of Trust: A New Beginning! 

Cristiane Serruya

Cristiane Serruya is a lawyer living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with her husband and two daughters, who specializes in cases of sexual abuse and violence against children and women. She also have a Masters in Business Law and a BA in Fine Arts.
"I've always loved to read, write and listen to music. I lived and studied in England, France, Italy and Switzerland. Traveling is one of my passions - as is keeping fit and healthy. 
After twenty-two years of practicing law, I decided to give writing a go. And - amazingly - it was just the piece that was missing in my life."- Cris