Review: The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, #2) by Maureen Johnson

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the madness underneathTitle: The Madness Underneath
Series: Shades of London, #2
Author:
Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA Supernatural
Source: Gifted (Signed Hardcover)

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When madness stalks the streets of London, no one is safe…

There’s a creepy new terror haunting modern-day London.
Fresh from defeating a Jack the Ripper killer, Rory must put her new-found hunting skills to the test before all hell breaks loose…

But enemies are not always who you expect them to be and crazy times call for crazy solutions. A thrilling teen mystery.

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So I’m kind of in love with Maureen Johnson. She has such a wide range of stories that I never know what she’s going to come up with next! I had actually started reading her stories with her Shades of London series and loved the characters so much that I had to see what other characters she had come up with. The great thing about Maureen is that even though she’s writing horror, she works in humour and other elements as well. Makes for a very enjoyable read!

While I loved the first book in this series, The Name of the Star, I have to say that this one was lacking just a little something. It might have been due to the fact that the main character, Rory, isn’t in school for a lot of the story, therefore not around characters like Jazza and Jerome, or maybe the scares just aren’t there as much as they were in the first book. Still, this was a fun installment, full of some scares and creepy settings.

One thing I really disliked with this story was how in The Name of the Star, we’re given a resolution at the end, with an opening for another story in the series. This one ends by setting up the next story — with really no resolution. To me, the story just didn’t seem finished, especially since I started reading it after finishing the first book, thinking how great it was that each book would be a story all on its own, rather than a set-up story. Boy, was I wrong! I almost wish that I had held off a little longer, reading this one when the third book was available because cliffhangers like this one suck.

Maureen Johnson is still tops in my books when it comes to awesome YA authors, so I’m still super excited to see where this series goes next with The Shadow Cabinet. There was still plenty of unexpected moments, which was great, but I kind of wish that the boarding school had more prominence in this story. Still, I do love the London atmosphere and the creepy elements that Maureen worked into the setting.

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Review: Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak

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come barbariansTitle: Come Barbarians
Author:
Todd Babiak
Genre:
Political Thriller
Source:
Purchased (Paperback)

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In the south of France, a man trying to leave his past behind is caught in a shadowy web of political ambition and violence.

Christopher Kruse has moved to the south of France with his wife and daughter to become a better man—to escape his past as a high-priced security agent and his guilt over old wrongs. But when death comes crashing into their newly idyllic life, the Kruses find themselves drawn into a web of political gamesmanship and murder. When his wife disappears, Christopher must draw on his old instincts to find her, ahead of the police and two sinister members of a Corsican crime family. As Christopher’s desperate search leads him closer to his wife, it pulls him deeper into the dangerous machinations of the most powerful leaders in the country.

Come Barbarians is a gripping novel of murder, revenge and high stakes, balanced by moments of love, loyalty and loss. Todd Babiak has created a complex, magnetic character forced to confront his bleakest hour and his darkest impulses.

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There are certain books that I generally don’t ever buy — or read, really — because I know for a fact I’m not going to like them. Usually, it’s anything to do with politics (since my eyes tend to glaze over the details) or mysteries. Sometimes I’m okay with a mystery book, but that might be because of Sherlock Holmes. Regardless of the reasons, when I saw that local author Todd Babiak was releasing a new book, I knew I had to get my butt to the release party and grab a copy. One would think that I would catch that bit about the book being a “web of political ambition and violence” in the synopsis, but I was too damn in love with that cover. And this video:

TODD BABIAK – COME BARBARIANS from Tom Gunia on Vimeo.

I mean, really — can Todd make book trailers for all books from now on? Because this one was awesome.

Anyway, when I started reading the book I felt slightly disappointed. With myself. It was very political and I felt my eyes glazing over, BUT this doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the book. I’m sure there’s a part of me that didn’t quite get the book and what Todd was trying to do, but it was still a good read. I didn’t find myself feeling forced to read it (despite the fact that I picked it up to prepare for a book club that Laura was throwing, with Todd in attendance) and I didn’t find myself completely lost in the details (key word: completely). Instead I tried to lose myself in the scenery of France, picturing Kruse as a Matt Damon figure by my side, kicking butt the whole way.

I understood the search for Kruse’s daughter, and the violence (though, really, Todd? A vegetable peeler?), and I loved the setting. When we got to the discussion of the book at the book club, I realized that a lot of it went over my head. Including the year the book took place. Apparently I’m terrible with details since I just assumed that the book took place at the present date because France just wasn’t like us, wrapped up in social media and whatnot. To me, it’s a foreign place which means it’s nothing like what we see in Canada — it’s almost old fashioned in its ways. Of course, my thoughts were wrong since the book took place in the 90′s, purposely set before social media comes into play.

You see? While I enjoyed the book, I can’t say that I loved it, BUT I do plan on trying out more of Todd’s work. He really is a stand up guy and quite hilarious, if I do say so myself. In my eyes, he’s done the city proud with his work and I hope that he has more great hits to come. He did mention that he’s writing the sequel to this book and I will honestly say that I don’t intend to read it, but if French politics are your bag — or if you love politics in general — you will probably love the crap out of this book. Me, on the other hand, well, I’ll probably just continue to adore that cover and the book trailer and feel confident that this just wasn’t the Todd Babiak book for me. And you know what? That’s okay. He has a few other books that look pretty darn wonderful to read that I know will be the better books for me.

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Review: Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer

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smart girls get what they wantTitle: Smart Girls Get What They Want
Author:
Sarah Strohmeyer
Genre:
YA contemporary
Source:
Bought (ebook)

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Gigi, Bea, and Neerja are best friends and total overachievers. Even if they aren’t the most popular girls in school, they aren’t too worried. They know their real lives will begin once they get to their Ivy League colleges. There will be ivy, and there will be cute guys in the libraries (hopefully with English accents)! But when an unexpected event shows them they’re missing out on the full high school experience, it’s time to come out of the honors lounge and into the spotlight. They make a pact: They will each take on their greatest challenge—and they will totally rock it.

Gigi decides to run for student rep, but she’ll have to get over her fear of public speaking—and go head-to-head with gorgeous California Will. Bea used to be one of the best skiers around, until she was derailed. It could be time for her to take the plunge again. And Neerja loves the drama club but has always stayed behind the scenes—until now.

These friends are determined to show the world that smart girls really can get what they want—but that could mean getting way more attention than they ever bargained for. . .

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First things first, can I just say how much I love Sarah Strohmeyer’s covers? Between this one and How Zoe (Almost) Made Her Dreams Come True, I’m not sure which one I like more! Something about the colouring, I think …

Anyway, this was such a cute read! Right off the bat, I loved Gigi and how rigid she was — not to mention, how hilarious. I just knew that something had to give with her and who better to help her with that than a certain schoolmate of hers. Gigi was one of those people who had her entire life planned out, not really something that I had for myself but I can totally get where she’s coming from. We all have these ideas of where we’re pretty sure we’re going to be, but like my dad says, “life is a journey,” and Gigi definitely went on a journey! High school is one of those things that you can experience or not and it was fun to see Gigi and her friends really start to experience it.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the love triangle in the story, but I felt that it worked. Really. The two male characters couldn’t be more different and while it was slightly predictable what was going to happen, I couldn’t help but smile and yell (simultaneously) at Gigi when she did super dumb things — for being someone who was so smart.

I’m really glad I gave this one a go and will definitely be reading more of Sarah’s work in the future. Her books are cute and fun, the perfect light read for a summer day, or to pass the time in the dead of winter (when you just need something fun to pick you up!). Her characters are real and have flaws, so it’s easy to relate to them no matter where you stood in the midst of high school. Really, there’s something for everyone in this story.

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