Karen

There is No Light in Darkness (Darkness, #1) - Claire Contreras

Never before has a book made me want to set my local library on fire, but, dear reader, I give you There Is No Light In Darkness. That 4+ average rating drew me into a Twilight situation: loads of tweens love it, despite the overall lack of sense being made. I ranted about this and its bogus high rating until my friend interrupted me to say, "You are so livid."

Firstly, the main thrust of the synopsis holds only the barest relation to the actual content of the book. Upon reading the description, we are led to believe this girl is is actively searching out answers concerning the mysterious murder and disappearance of her mother and father, respectively.

It starts out promisingly enough, with the reader being taken through the scene of Blake's recurring nightmare, in which she wakes in a dark house to find her mother dead in a pool of her own blood, and strangers carrying her father away, who then take her and a boy she knows (who is there for no reason other than it furthers a future angle, and if one of you has another explanation then please tell me) to be raised in separate foster homes.

In the present day, Blake Brennan is blonde and pretty while interning at a law firm. She has one friend from law school that she supposedly keeps close because her godfather happens to be Blake's own lawyer that she has never met, and who is in control of the estate that her beloved first foster mother left her upon dying during Blake's teen years. She manages to meet and recognize this lawyer very easily, very early on. She has a boyfriend she doesn't really care about, seeing as how some hot guy from her past that she's in a weird non-relationship with keeps showing up to sleep in her bed and call her baby every thirty seconds, causing me to want to vomit upon the pages of the book as I read the word for the umpteenth time in a row only so far in.

In a letter left by her foster mother, Blake discovers that her birth name is Catherine Blake Brennan, and that she is not to use said name unless she wants very bad people to find her. Wait. WHAT? YOU'RE SAYING PEOPLE MAY HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR A CATHERINE BLAKE BRENNAN FOR TWO DECADES, AND THE FACT THAT SHE HAS GONE BY BLAKE BRENNAN HAS KEPT HER SAFE FOR TWENTY YEARS? YOU'RE SAYING IF A CRIMINAL MASTERMIND GOOGLES ANY COMBINATION OF THE WORDS 'CATHERINE' AND 'BLAKE' AND 'BRENNAN' AND FINDS ONLY A BLAKE BRENNAN THEY WILL SAY, "NOT HER. KEEP SEARCHING"?

The plot holes are big enough for a great white whale to jump through, but forget all that noise, because we have to talk about Cole, aka the actual reason for this book's existence. Y'all knew by the first few chapters in that this thing wasn't actually about discovering the past or the truth or murder or mystery, right? It's about boning the love of your life while he calls you baby on repeat, baby. Cole and Blake aren't officially a couple, but he's on her pretty hardcore as if he owns her. It turns out they grew up together in her second foster home, and Cole is one fifth of the family that Blake has gathered around her and seeks to protect.

As Blake's memories start to be filled in by helpful evidence that falls right into her lap, more of the mystery surrounding her parents comes to light, but not by much because, remember now, this isn't about a woman's journey toward the light, it's a sex romance with flimsy plot to hold it up. Don't get me wrong, I truly love a romance, but I hate false advertising.

Three quarters through, Blake gives us an epilogue. She lists all the ways things have changed since the epic nonevents that took up the bulk of the book, such as who lives with whom now, what relationships are going where, and all of their happy rosy plans for the future. Then comes an ominous meeting with a handsome scary stranger, a surprise murder, another premature epilogue, and a cliffhanger thrown in at the end because it just wasn't sloppy enough.

To put it in a nutshell: The relationship swallows the book whole, and what could have been a thrilling mystery about a strong intelligent heroine turned into a soap opera about a sad sack who needs saving. It's bogged down by a metric fuckton of filler, like detailed descriptions of how Blake gets dressed for dinner in a chapter that does nothing to further the plot whatsoever, right down to the anti-frizz serum she puts in her hair. It also suffers from insufficient editing, from the confusing mixing of tenses in a single sentence to plural words made possessive, and the fact that no one involved took a second to google whether Bob Marley actually sang Don't Worry Be Happy before letting it go to the printers. I had high hopes based on that killer synopsis. Whoever writes all those should be proud of their Don Draper-level sugarcoating skills.

A Thousand Days in Venice - Marlena De Blasi Marlena de Blasi's style is startlingly intimate, like a person you've just met who proceeds to lean in too closely and assail you with deeply personal anecdotes. Of course, it is a recounting of her life, so the feeling of over-share is a given, but I've read many a memoir written by a person who seemed to have put themselves at a cold distance to their own story. de Blasi is present in every word on the page and periodically it was intimate to the point where, at times, I felt almost a voyeur to the scenes of her life.

It's a well-articulated story, with enough informational depth to begin to understand what a leap like hers might feel like, and despite her especially purple prose, her depiction of every day Venetian life for an outsider trying to find her place should be a comforting reassurance to many a lonely expat who ever thought they'd never feel at home in their new international hometown.
In the After - Demitria Lunetta In The After is so much more than an alien invasion story. The big secret becomes obvious the closer you get to it, but already knowing doesn't take away from the impact of the truth at its reveal.

Add to that the fact that Amy Harris may be my favorite female character of 2013. She makes decisions that make sense, she pushes and fights and asks questions, and doesn't just let things happen to her. She isn't a delicate flower who needs haunting beauty and two men to vie for her attentions in a played out love triangle (No triangles, please. I will die.) She's a no-nonsense survivor who loves books and kicks ass.

Aside from Amy, I hope we find out whatever it is that makes Baby so special, and that we get to see more of Kay and Gareth in the future. Once you get past the whole 'aliens have attacked' premise, you'll realize this is definitely a series to follow.
Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi Felt incredibly uneventful for a book filled with murder, madness, and cannibalism.
All Our Yesterdays - Cristin Terrill I can't rave enough about this book. I described it to my husband and he gave me a dubious, "Sounds like Back To The Future." And when I stop to think about it, yeah it actually kind of does. But it's completely different, and not at all funny. In fact, it's quite a tearjerker.

It isn't perfect. Some bits had me scratching my head and a few scenarios seemed patently ridiculous. I can't think of one time travel book where readers haven't clawed an author's logic to bits, so rest assured that dead horse won't be beaten by me.

I'm a little disappointed that this is the first of a series. I actually like not knowing where a character's future leads at the end of their journey, but I understand the need to milk a successful thing. And we all just know this one's gonna be a movie. It's written so clearly and cinematically. Every scene is easily imaginable and the love that Em feels for her past self is the most beautiful thing I've read all year.

And her last self isn't of the YA special snowflake variety. You know the type: quiet and beautiful and admired by every male who sees her, but thinks she's not worth having. Em knows that her younger self was shallow, childish, and blinded in her love for James. She was just an average girl, but entirely worthy of love despite not being such a special snowflake.
The Passion of the Purple Plumeria - Lauren Willig Along with transforming my previous image of Miss Gwen from a Nanny McPhee-looking harridan to Catherine Zeta-Jones with her hair pinned up, The Passion of The Purple Plumeria is the best of the last several books in this series. It's a definite return to form, and its ending makes me want to see The Pink Carnation go dark. I adore the light, fun, romantic, and slightly silly tone of this series but I absolutely must see Miss Jane Wooliston get in too deep and go full Bourne (or as realistically Bourne-adjacent as possible for a woman in 1800s England). I want steamy verboten enemy spy romance that breaks her careful facade and sends her into reckless rogue territory. That may be exactly what just happened here. I don't know. I just know that I desperately want more of it.
Six-Gun Snow White - Catherynne M. Valente Six-Gun Snow White makes me want to go reign in all the other stars I gave to lesser books in previous reviews.
Abandon - Meg Cabot Previously, just about everything from Meg Cabot was pure perfection, which leaves me seriously confused as to why Abandon is so unbelievably terrible. The opening is convoluted and important plot detail is revealed way too slowly, which is one of my biggest pet peeves and which happens way too often in ya novels lately. Nobody seems to realize how obnoxious their book has become when it's six chapters in and we, the readers, have no real idea of what in hell is going on.
Mistress of Rome - Kate Quinn This is exactly the kind of book that I love, and sadly, don't see all that much of anymore. It's rich in historical detail (both factual and tastefully embellished) and full of enough scandal and intrigue to keep you reading. I read it through in one night. I could not put it down.
The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith I don't think I've ever enjoyed a crime novel so much. Right off the bat, the writing style feels comforting and familiar, the mysteries satisfyingly mysterious, and the sweetness of Robin and Cormoran's endearing partnership adds fresh possibility to the detective's lonely sounding life. I'm very curious as to how their odd-couple pairing is going to turn out.
Once Upon a Prince - Rachel Hauck I had no idea this was Christian fiction until I got about thirty pages and several dozen mentions of god into it, and had to quit the thing soon after for sheer annoyance at being so misled. If you're looking for a light, distracting, nondemoninational romance, this isn't it. But if religious romance is what you want, then you'll have to deal with the unoriginal and unnecessarily convoluted plot, which is another problem entirely.
Boomsday - Christopher Buckley I wanted to give this book 4 stars. It made me laugh and had a great weird tangential vibe, with a nice solid build-up that led to... nothing. The story revolves around Cass and her big ideas for social security reform, and then all the events that I thought were leading to a flashy finale ended in a quiet revenge on her bastard of a father.
Threats - Amelia Gray It's indisputable that Amelia Gray can set a tone. The disturbing mood of this book was so overwhelming that I really just did not want to finish it, despite its relatively short length. The threats themselves were more than just unsettling, sending a sick, disbelieving feeling through me each time a new one was discovered. Maybe this one's more for people who enjoy the truly weird on a deeper level than I do. I just couldn't take it.
The Painted Girls: A Novel - Cathy Marie Buchanan "It is about being born downtrodden and staying that way. Hard work makes no difference, he is saying. My lot, the lots of those around me, were cast the moment we were born into the gutter to parents who never managed to step outside the gutter themselves."

The Painted Girls is a story about fighting inevitability, whether it is in the bones of our faces or the gutter some of us are born in. Marie van Goetham believes that she carries the "physiognomy of a criminal", a heavy shell that surrounds the soul inside of her that seeks to rise, and in trying so hard to distance herself and her sisters from the darkness of the slums of Paris, she brings to fruition a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“I want to put my face in my hands" she says, "to howl, for me, for Antoinette, for all the women of Paris, for the burden of having what men desire, for the heaviness of knowing it is ours to give, that with our flesh we make our way in the world." The real-life Marie van Goetham is rumored to have fallen from the stage to the taverns, and it's unknown whether she climbed back up from the streets. Her happy ending in the novel is a bittersweet tribute to the lost girls of Paris who, like the original Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, may have failed to rise completely from the gutters and disappeared from history.
Vain - Fisher Amelie Vain is about a spoiled rich girl who gets what she wants and does what she wants until she goes too far one time too many, but instead of being sentenced to harsh punishment, is sent to work at a Ugandan orphanage as part of a plea bargain to rehab her life.

I liked this one a lot, it was a great break from books about werewolves and magic. It suffers from a lot of editing problems, and a weird mystery (Who the hell is Jerrick, how did he/she die, and how did it relate to Sophie's first drug arrest?) that's mentioned but never gets any follow-through. Despite those issues and a few others, the main story is what shines through, with its positive message of love and redemption.
Requiem - Lauren Oliver Requiem was good, just not as good as I thought it would be. More exciting than Pandemonium, but way less perfect than Delirium.