Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











The String DiariesFrom Goodreads: A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night–her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?

Stephen Lloyd Jones’s debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion–a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.

If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.

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Imagine being hunted by a shape shifter–you’d never know your enemy, they could silently become a loved one at any moment, getting close to you without sparking an inkling of suspicion until it’s too late. Imagine a life where you’re forced to constantly pay attention to every small detail and validate everyone who crosses your path, being on the run to stay ahead of a crazed killer intent on reuniting with his love from so long ago… so is the story of Jakab, a sociopathic shape shifter obsessed with the female lineage of one specific family. Of Hannah’s family.

This novel opens in a whirl as Hannah drives recklessly towards an abandoned farmhouse, her husband bleeding out in the passenger seat while her nine year old daughter sleeps in the back. Fraught with danger, this novel exemplifies the creep factor, and as I read it late at night, I was constantly on watch as Jakab sent fear coursing throughout my body as I turned the pages.

Told in alternating timelines, both present and past, the novel sucks readers in from the get go. The characters and events within the story are puzzle pieces waiting so patiently to be put together, and as the tale weaves in and out, readers learn of what hunts Hannah, how Jakab came to be, what lore resides behind shape shifters, and the faction that plans to finally finish wiping the seemingly immortal shifters from the world.

Intense and amazing, this is a must read novel that kept me on my toes as it unfolded. I loved putting the pieces together, learning about Hannah’s current story, that of her parent’s in the 1970s, and that of Jakab as he became the sinister, sociopathic enemy that he truly is. You wont be able to stop reading once you start, and I highly suggest you pick up this amazing read stat. Five stars.

5 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley, prior to its republication, in exchange for an honest review.

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The Forgotten OnesFrom Goodreads: Allison O’Malley’s plan is to go to grad school so she can get a good job and take care of her schizophrenic mother. She has carefully closed herself off from everything else, including a relationship with Ethan, who she’s been in love with for as long as she can remember.

What is definitely not part of the plan is the return of her long-lost father, who claims he can bring Allison’s mother back from the dark place her mind has gone. Allison doesn’t trust her father, so why would she believe his stories about a long forgotten Irish people, the Tuatha de Danaan? But truths have a way of revealing themselves. Secrets will eventually surface. And Allison must learn to set aside her plan and work with her father if there is even a small chance it could restore her mother’s sanity.

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If you love stories that involve mythology, then The Forgotten Ones is definitely for you. Howard brings to life the mythology of Ireland in this enticing story, with The Tuatha De Danaana taking forefront, a sect I knew nothing about going in, but learned so much about throughout the story.

The Tuatha De Danaana means “People of the goddess Danu” in English, and Howard’s story mixes these gods and goddesses in with the fae, creating an intricate story of otherworlds while focusing on Allison’s fight to save her mother.

Pregnant and suffering with schizophrenia upon her return from Ireland, Allison’s mother has never really been there for her save a few years when she was very little. Seeing the burden both she has her mother have placed on Allison’s grandparents, Allison has vowed to so everything in her power to take over the care of her mother, and that means forgoing her own wants and needs in the process. Selfless and driven by a sheer sense of protection, Allison will stop at nothing to protect her mother, and all those she loves, making for an intense novel as the Danaana and Fae make themselves know, and Allison is sucked into the world—a world that could easily kill her.

I really enjoyed the characterization of this novel. Allison is no wimp, and though hard pressed to believe the stories her long-lost father spins, seeing is believing, and she soon accepts the truth for what it is. I can’t imagine being in her shoes, first warding off the man I believe to have broken my mother’s soul, and then joining him on an adventure through perilous worlds, against tricky fae and gods and goddesses in hopes of saving my loved ones. Part of my thinks I would be up for the challenge, but the better half of my thinks I would run away and hide…

Howard is a great writer, and the story itself was interesting and action packed, and I really enjoyed it overall. With some awesome twits and turns, this novel is sure to keep readers glued to the pages. Four stars.

4 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.

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{February 27, 2014}   {ARC Review} Panic by Lauren Oliver

PanicFrom Goodreads: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

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Initially, this story started like any other, and while interesting, it took a while for it to build, but build it did, and by the end I was on the edge of my seat in fear and anticipation.  Oliver knows how to pack a punch, and I was taken with this story as the characters went deeper into the game, as their secrets came out, and as the stakes went higher and higher.

While some of the situations in Panic may seem a bit far fetched, I have no doubt that, given the proper setting, they could indeed be very real.  It is said that the brain does not fully develop until around age 25, so it is no surprise that our teens in this novel make many rash decisions—some spurred on by the want of money, others by revenge, and still others in anticipation of finally breaking free of their provincial lives—paying no attention to the risk factor, or thinking through the actual consequences of their actions.  As the stakes rise, I found my stomach coiled in knots, yelling at the characters through the pages as they make ill decision after ill decision, and I just couldn’t tear my eyes away.  As an adult, it’s easy to say I’d never ever play in these games, and I feel that, as a teen, I wouldn’t have either, mainly because I just wasn’t a risk taker, and I wasn’t wild, but there is something about mass hysteria, or the mob mentality, that makes me wonder, just what would I have done had something underground like the game Panic been going on in my town when I was a teen.

I’m not sure how I feel about Heather, Dodge, and all the other characters in the book (and there are many).  Their choices at times drove me batty, but I was rooting for them the entire time, especially as we learn more about the tragedies that has befallen them both.  Overall, I found this to be a great read that I highly suggest to anyone who likes intense competitions and novels like The Hunger Games. Four stars.

4 starsIn exchange for an honest review, HarperCollins Children has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Edelweiss, prior to its release on March 4, 2014.

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Be sure to pre-order this one now–you don’t want to miss it!



White SpaceFrom Goodreads: In the tradition of Memento and Inception comes a thrilling and scary young adult novel about blurred reality where characters in a story find that a deadly and horrifying world exists in the space between the written lines.

Seventeen-year-old Emma Lindsay has problems: a head full of metal, no parents, a crazy artist for a guardian whom a stroke has turned into a vegetable, and all those times when she blinks away, dropping into other lives so ghostly and surreal it’s as if the story of her life bleeds into theirs. But one thing Emma has never doubted is that she’s real.

Then she writes “White Space,” a story about these kids stranded in a spooky house during a blizzard.

Unfortunately, “White Space” turns out to be a dead ringer for part of an unfinished novel by a long-dead writer. The manuscript, which she’s never seen, is a loopy Matrix meets Inkheart story in which characters fall out of different books and jump off the page. Thing is, when Emma blinks, she might be doing the same and, before long, she’s dropped into the very story she thought she’d written. Trapped in a weird, snow-choked valley, Emma meets other kids with dark secrets and strange abilities: Eric, Casey, Bode, Rima, and a very special little girl, Lizzie. What they discover is that they–and Emma–may be nothing more than characters written into being from an alternative universe for a very specific purpose.

Now what they must uncover is why they’ve been brought to this place–a world between the lines where parallel realities are created and destroyed and nightmares are written–before someone pens their end.

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I absolutely adore most of Ilsa J. Bick’s novels, but this one was just so hard to read. It begins with Lizzie’s story and, truth be told, it doesn’t make much sense. Readers get the feeling that Lizzie lives in an alternate world, especially with all the made up words and strange references, but then Lizzie references London, and you have to wonder if she’s living in our world, or an alternate one, because her story with the white space and her father bringing characters to life just seems so surreal. It isn’t until Emma’s story begins that some semblance of a story begins to protrude, and it was here that I had my first “aha” moment! Emma lives in what I consider the here and now–a University student, I could easily connect with her and she made sense to me, unlike Lizzie and her family. As we learn about her and her odd life, we realize that she is connected to Lizzie in a way, but readers really have to read slowly because the connections are minute to begin with, and truth be told, you have to think a whole lot while reading this book. If you’re just looking for a fun story that you can sit down and read, well, this isn’t it. As the story progresses, and more and more characters are added to the mix, the reader knows they’re all connected, but may struggle a bit to follow everything because the points of view jump from one to another often–leaving many “stories” with cliffhangers until the next time. While I love this style of narration, and Bick is a master at it, employing it in all her novels, this time I had to work extremely hard to keep the stories straight, and though I loved the twist and putting everything together, and my mind was racing with possibilities connecting Lizzie and her family to everyone else, this was more like homework than a pleasurable evening read. If you miss any of the finite details that produce a connection, then… you’re lost for quite some time. And so, reading this extremely long work of fiction became more of a chore than a leisurely activity.

I was really into the story until about 30%, when Emma enters the house. From here, I either missed something extremely crucial, or it just became too weird, but I stopped really enjoying the book at that point. Nothing made sense any more, and while I think that the point is to keep readers guessing, at nearly 600 pages, it’s just too much for too long–without making sense. Around 60%, Bick drops a bombshell that I wasn’t expecting–in fact, I thought just the opposite the entire time I was reading, but even so, it wasn’t enough to bring me back into the novel full circle. I think this is a great idea–I LOVE Matrix and the idea of Inkheart is extremely interesting, but this was just too long and drawn out. I know Bick’s novels are generally long, but this one could have definitely dropped about 300 pages, in my opinion.

Note: This is a horror story with some exceptionally horrific tales and twists, so readers should beware. While it doesn’t start out all that horrific, Bick definitely takes readers there with her descriptions of blood and gore as the novel proceed.  I actually liked that part, but the rest was just too dense.  Two and a half stars.

2.5 stars

Egmont USA has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read and ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on February 11, 2014.

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et cetera
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