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Nyx Book Reviews

I love to read and to review. My favourite genres are fantasy, horror, YA, historical, and everything paranormal.

Joyland - Stephen King 3.5 starsWith certain names come certain expectations, and with a name like Stephen King everyone already has a set image of what they'll expect of a book. Especially combined with the notable cover of Joyland, I was expecting a different story then what I got.Devin Jones is a twenty-one year old student that has had his heart broken by his first love. To make some money, he starts working at an amusement park. Here he meets an eccentric cast of characters, and hears about the murder of a young woman in the haunted house ride. By the description, the cover and the publisher, I was expecting a noir, over the top kind of mystery story with some good old horror thrown in. Joyland is not that book. It does have mystery and ghosts, but for the main part Joyland is the story of Devin growing up. And I quite enjoyed it for that. Devin is a great character - he is honest and self-deprecating, and he just seems so real. Joyland is very character-driven, but this is what Mr King does best. For me he always manages to draw me into his characters that are all flawed (though some more than others) and keep me reading. Especially in the first part of the book, the mystery isn't what keeps you reading, the characters are.That's not to say that the mystery is exactly bad, but it does take the background for most of the story. The ending is pretty nerve-wrecking, but there aren't that many clues to figure it out by. I liked the mystery, but it didn't blow me away.Set in the wonderful carny world (with, of course, appropriate carny lingo), Joyland is an honest portrayal of a young man growing up into adulthood. It's shorter than Mr King's other books and would make a great introduction for people unfamiliar with his work, but it's not my favourite of his books; that particular spot in my heart is still reserved for Lisey's Story.
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green To be honest I think it was just a bit boring. It's been called "so much more than a cancer book", but it's not. It's a cancer book with romance, and that's it. It's not a bad book , just not one I was invested in.I mostly got annoyed by the characters. August and Hazel are some kind of uber-nerds that talk as if they swallowed a dictionary. I was okay with that, although I did skip plenty of parts when they went off on some existential discussions. Basically any part written by Van Houten (the writer guy) I completely skipped, because his writing was completely obnoxious. In the end I quite disliked Hazel, and I wasn't convinced their romance was more than a crush.
The Blue Castle - L.M. Montgomery This could have been boring and degrading. Instead, The Blue Castle is a lovely story that warmed my cold and bitter heart.Valency Stirling is the thirty-year-old product of living in a small-minded and snobbish family. She has never been courted by a man, no one has ever taken an interest in her, and she feels like she is going through life but not living. After unfortunate news from a doctor, she decides that she can't live like this any longer, and goes her own path.In its heart, The Blue Castle is a romantic story. But it's quite important to point out that the book isn't just romance. In the first half of the book, there are some small hints and some minor attractions, but the romance isn't the focus at all. The Blue Castle is about Valancy, and how she changes. And I loved that she didn't need a man to change - she her emancipation is all of her own doing. Only after she becomes her own woman, she finds love. It seems to me that in many books relationships are seen as miracle workers - once a man comes into your life you're cured of depression, anxiety, trauma... Men aren't miracle workers. They can be amazing at supporting you on your own road to becoming a happier or better person, but it's not just because of them. I loved how Ms Montgomery let Valancy stand on her own and be her own person, and didn't define her by her man.The story is set in Canada, and one of Valancy's passions is nature, and books about nature by her favourite writer John Foster. There are plenty of beautiful descriptions of the weather and the trees. I'm personally not much of a nature person (hate all the icky insects) but I do like reading about it. Ms Montgomery is a great writer, and it was great to see rural Canada through her eyes.The ending might be predictable if you're familiar with the genre, which is why it wasn't a five-star read for me. The ending didn't blow me away, but I enjoyed it in a quiet way. In the end The Blue Castle made me happy, and that's the only think I was looking for.
The Best Book in the World - Peter Stjernström, Rod Bradbury I'm not a frequent literary fiction reader, but when I do read lit fic I make sure it's like The Best Book in the World; readable, accessible but meaty in all the right places.The premise is simple. Two authors, one young and successful, one old and regressive, talk about the book of all books. A book that would be a best-seller in every category, from self-help to thriller. Not wanting to share the fame, they both set out to write the Best Book in the World.On the surface the book is an enjoyable romp through bizarre situations and crazy characters, including a rock-band filled with people suffering from Tourette's (including the singer) and a therapist that tried all of his alternative methods on himself first. Narratively speaking The Best Book in the World is very interesting and layered. I loved the frame within a frame within a frame, even though I get that it might get confusing. When reading a literary book I always make sure to keep an eye out for narrative techniques and small hints that will reveal what is really going on. Even though I was reading so attentively, I still thought the final chapter (the main source of confusion) could have been a bit longer. The characters were great, exactly like I want them. I love reading about eccentric and weird people, and the characters in The Best Book in the World certainly fit the bill. They might not necessarily all be three-dimensional, but their truthful ticks and habits made up for that. The Best Book in the World is a translated work, and sometimes translated works have stocky or unnatural prose. I didn't notice any unnatural turns of phrase in the book, and I thought Mr Stjernström's language translated beautifully. I also quite appreciated that all the Stockholm neighbourhoods were kept in their Swedish name. I loved the Stockholm setting; I've barely read any Scandinavian books, and I thought it was great to see Stockholm through a native's eyes. It might not be the best book in the world, but The Best Book in the World is a great book that I very much enjoyed reading. Recommended for lighter literary-fiction lovers. This book will make you think, but it won't pose you any unsolvable mysteries either.
Isolation (Partials Sequence #0.5) - Dan Wells Isolation is a novella set during the Isolation Wars, so before the happenings in Partials. I wouldn't recommend reading Isolation as an actual intro into the Partials Sequence world; it's much better enjoyed when you know the backdrop better.In Isolation we get an insight into the life of one Partial we already met, Heron. She's an espionage Partial, created without an empathy package. It immediately becomes clear though that even though she's bred inside a vat, Heron is more human than her developers would like. This novella was quite enjoyable, and I loved getting more information about the Isolation War since what exactly happened is never explained in Partials. I wasn't quite sure about Heron though - I felt she was sometimes inconsistently written. For example, at one point she sighs and mutters curses under her breath. This seems very out of character for a Partial, since they don't act on emotions as much as humans do because of the Link. To me it seems she'd rather just spew some annoyance-data into the air, instead of expressing herself in such a human way. Even though Isolation is rather expensive for its 75 pages, it gives a welcome insight into the world-building that has gone into the Partials Sequence.
Say Cheese - And Die Screaming - R.L. Stine Say Cheese - And Die Screaming is a very traditional kind of horror story - my favourite kind. Unexplainable happenings, an evil camera the main character just can't get rid of... awesome. Not sure why this cover has a skeleton on the cover. It does tie in with the story, kind of, but in my opinion it gives a wrong impression. Anyway, lovely scary story.

Life After Theft

Life After Theft - Aprilynne Pike Life After Theft is exactly what it promises to be: an entertaining YA book with some counter-heisting action in a high-school setting. It's a perfect read for a hot day on the beach. The story probably won't stay with you - but it will give you a few fun hours.On his first day at school Jeff meets ghost girl Kimberlee. She has died over a year ago, but can't pass on. To help he, he has to return all the stuff Kimberlee stole - a whole cave full.It's not immediately clear from the blurb, but Life After Theft is written from the male view of Jeff. I think Ms Pike did a great job with the guy narrative, giving him enough emotions, but not making him as angsty as teenage girl voices usually are. His thoroughly a good guy, maybe a bit unbelievably so, but it worked in the book. Kimberlee is his opposite in everything. She's snarky, a liar, manipulative, incurable kleptomaniac and popular in school. I enjoyed their interactions and their bickering. Even though Jeff is a good guy, he doesn't let Kimberlee trample all over him. As you might expect, Life After Theft has the same polished neatly-wrapped up shine Hollywood rom-coms have. Everything wraps up, every tread is followed up on, every character has a role in the bigger picture. It's something you either like or dislike - for me it worked, but it might not for everyone. There is no grittiness, and barely any meat to the story. There is a small attempt by Ms Pike to touch on metaphysical matters of the afterlife and purpose in life, but to be honest this was something I mostly ignored. In my opinion she didn't do a good job raising that sort of questions, and Jeff's whole "agnostic" thing wasn't very interesting to me. If you enjoy teen flicks (nothing wrong with that, by the way), you will probably like Life After Theft too. There is almost no darkness, even though it touches upon subjects like drug addiction and bullying. It never dives deep into the effects of these, but it's not as if they're ignored either. Life After Theft is just a rather up-beat story for when you're sick of negativity.
My Friends Call Me Monster - R.L. Stine Crazy story featuring teachers hatching people-sized eggs and one kid called Monster forced to save the world from being overrun with lizard-like creatures. My Friends Call Me Monster was weird but fun, maybe a bit over the top, but I didn't mind. At the Horrorland side, the plot thickens! What is this Panic Park, and why did it disappear? And more importantly, where did it disappear to?
The Thin Executioner - Darren Shan Terrible. Stopped at 187 pages.You know, I love Darren Shan's books. I fell in love with his vampire Cirque du Freak books when I was younger, and rediscovered my love for his writing with his Demonata series. From the title and cover of The Thin Executioner I was expecting a story about an unlikely hero, obviously quite thin, that's an executioner. I make a point not to read blurbs because they tend to be spoiler-ish, and I thought that it being written by Darren Shan I was safe to assume I would enjoy this book.And then I got this horrible concoction of over the top religious and political references set in some kind of Middle-Eastern post-apocalyptic medieval world. What the...?First of all, if you do choose an outlandish setting for your story you will probably use unconventional names. I'm fine with this - some semi-Arabic dude called Sir Stuart Harrison wouldn't fit, but you do have to make sure the common reader can actually remember the names, and make sure they're different from each other. Well, within the first few pages we meet the main character Jebel Rum's brothers, called J'an and Ja'l. Really? Are we supposed to think these brothers are actually different people when they have almost identical names? To add just an extra whiff of confusion, we are also soon introduced to another J'al, who we will just have to remember by his unpronounceable name. The setting was apparently inspired by the country of Jordan, so I assume the names were as well. Maybe J'al is as common there as Tom here, but I really doubt his choice to use the same name twice in a novel. Other names include Danafa Alg, Zarnoug Al Dahbbeh, Tel Hesani and other gems that slipped out of my mind the moment I read them. Another little annoyance I had while reading the book was quite a personal one. Jebel has a pet name for a girl he knows, Bastina. The pet name is Bas. Bas is actually a very common name in the Netherlands for males, and coincidentally is the name of my boyfriend. I wasn't that keen on seeing my boyfriend's name stuck on some whiny and annoying girl. But to be honest the names aren't the reason I stopped reading, and neither were all the stupid non-English words added for "people" and "land of the X" (which complicated reading to an unnecessary degree) or all the different tribes that you couldn't keep from each other without the help of the map provided. In my opinion, when you actually have to consult the map while reading, the author is failing in making the story come alive in the reader's mind. But to return to my main issue.Our main characters Jebel Rum and Tel Hesani meet two shady traders called Master Bush and Master Blair.Oh. My. God.How frigging obvious is that? Getting his political ideas into this book with the subtlety of a punch in the face was in my opinion, deal-breaking. I want to read a book about an executioner boy, I am not interested in Shan's political satire.Neither am I interested in his dumbed-down religious discourses. Really, these are gold. This was one of my favourites. "It's no secret, my... it's no secret," said Tel Hesani. "I have been thinking of the belieft of the Um Siq and the um Kathib." [inconsistent capitalisation original] "Why?" Jebel frowned. "These people and the snake worshippers are heretics.""We can all learn from the faiths of others," Tel Hesani disagreed."Learn what?" Jebel huffed. "If you think that you know the truth of the gods - or God in your case - why do you care what others believe?" "Only God knows the absolute truth," Tel Hesani said. "There is always more for men to learn. We grope towards understanding, revealing it a piece at a time. No one should ever shut off his mind to new ideas.""You're wrong," said Jebel. "My people know all about the gods, how the world was created, what's wrong and what's right. If you studied our beliefs, you'd know it all too."So, apparently we're getting all-religions-are-equals lessons jackhammered into our brains? In about the entire part of the story as far as I read (which was half-way), Jebel is the puppet with a "I don't care for other ideas" sticker on his head, while Tel Hesani is the understanding "but I will teach you the way, young padawan" dude. Oh, hell no. After two-hundred pages of this bull-shit I put The Thin Executioner down. I am fine with intellectual discussions about philosophy and religion, but I will not be talked down to in this mind-numbing manner. I will read Mr Shan's work again, but from now on I will stick to his vampire and demon fiction.
Who's Your Mummy? (Goosebumps Horrorland, No. 6) - Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine Oh, how I love crazy mummy stories! I have read a mummy-featuring Goosebumps book before, and I loved that one as well. Who's Your Mummy features tons of Egyptian paraphernalia, a creepy castle, mummies (obviously) and bat attacks (and the mention of a bat cave - I was SO expecting a bat mobile but sadly this book wasn't blessed with that particular bit of awesomeness). With plenty of twists and turns and a solid Horrorland bit, Who's Your Mummy is one of the better books in the series.
Dr. Maniac vs. Robby Schwartz - R.L. Stine Where the previous book in the Horrorland series was more aimed at girls, Dr Maniac VS Robby Schwartz will satisfy the boy-audience of the series. Robby draws comics featuring villains, and reality in this book is often twisted when you realise we were actually inside Robby's comics. I got a bit annoyed with this, and the moment something actually started to happen to Robby I didn't believe this time it was for real. Dr Maniac VS Robby Schwartz was a bit over the top in my opinion.
The Scream Of The Haunted Mask - R.L. Stine Liked The Scream of the Haunted Mask a bit less because it seems to focus a lot on horses. I'm not much of a horses girl sadly, and the mystery wasn't good enough to keep me interested. The Horrorland part on the other hand was nice. It's good to see some of the missing people actually come back, cause it felt like we'd soon be out of main characters!
Monster Blood for Breakfast! (Goosebumps HorrorLand, No. 3) - R.L. Stine Another enjoyable instalment in the Horrorland series. In Monster Blood for Breakfast we meet Matt, who was introduced to us in the second book, and his terribly annoying neighbour Bradley. I especially enjoy how well Mr Stine portrays children. They can be petty, annoying, clueless and weird, but they all seem like real children. Everyone has known a Bradley in their life, or had an infuriating younger or older sibling. I hope that the next book also gives some answers, instead of just making tons of people disappear.
Creep from the Deep - R.L. Stine Creep from the Deep features a brother and sister, a crazy pirate ship and the Dead Zone, the realm of the dead. I'm really enjoying how the Horrorland novels are tying up together, and the main character of the next book, Monster Blood for Breakfast is already introduced in the last part of Creep from the Deep. These books are so much fun! Plus, Slappy scares me.
Revenge of the Living Dummy - R.L. Stine Oh, how I missed these books. R.L. Stine is the writer that cultivated my love for horror, and his books are still as enjoyable now that I'm older. Yes, they're written for a young audience, and yes, they're full of classic horror scenes like hands grasping you from a tombstone. Yet Mr Stine always manages to give the story a twist to make it interesting. Revenge of the Living Dummy ends on a cliffhanger, and I'm looking forward to read more!
My Soul to Save  - Rachel Vincent It seems Rachel Vincent is just a hit or miss author for me. The first in her urban-fantasy series, Stray, I didn't like very much. But the first book in her YA series, My Soul to Take, was an enjoyable and engaging read. I was looking forward to reading the second book in the Soul Screamers series, My Soul to Save, but it seems that excitement was good for nothing.Kaylee's banshee powers are needed when Tod's ex-girlfriend has sells her soul, and they need to get it back from the hellion that holds it now. Together with her boyfriend Nash and his brother Tod, she has to venture into the Netherworld and get it back.The first problem is quite evident while reading the summary. Why in the nine rings of hell does Kaylee have to risk her life to help some random chick that sold her own soul. I don't care that she did it to provide for her little sister, but you know you could also get a job, or something else less drastic. The entire plot hinges on an unbelievable premise, and I didn't buy for a second that she'd risk her life just because she felt guilty over not saving those girls in My Soul to Take. Girls getting killed by a rogue reaper is something completely different than girls selling their soul for fame and fortune.Getting back to the selling of souls part, I feel the message of "celebrities have to give up their souls" very heavy-handed and repeated too much. Yes, we get it. The big media corporate CEO guy basically has a deal with the devil (and and Decker Media doesn't resemble Disney at all, oh nooo). Mrs Vincent also never explains just how the demons can provide fame and fortune. If they can have that much influence on the real world, why don't they create massive chaos and rampage?I was impressed by how My Soul to Take stayed away from a few common YA clichés. For example, the wiser and more experienced parents were involved with the plot. Kaylee had a best friend that was actually present throughout the plot. In My Soul to Save, these positive points are completely thrown out of the window. Parents aren't even told what's going on, for no reason whatsoever. Why wouldn't the parents want to help a poor girl that was facing eternal torture in the hands of a demon? Why wouldn't Harmony want to help the ex-girlfriend of her son? It makes absolutely no sense. Emma, the best friend, becomes nothing more than a convenient prop in My Soul to Save. She's only there to provide a ride towards an important plot point, and that's it. Kaylee has no other friends. She spends all of her time with Nash, and spends no time mentioned with her BFF, or any other person of her age. This is so unrealistic, not even to mention unhealthy. The characters take a turn for the worst in this book. Nash becomes even more picture perfect. He's extremely popular, plays footbal, is hot, has tons of friends, and it's just because he doesn't care but otherwise he'd be valedictorian. Really? He has absolutely no flaw (except that he keeps screaming at his brother - but apparently I'm the only one that finds that rude). I hope he's secretly a demon too, because I can't stand him as he is. Also, if he's a footbal player, how come he never has practice? To play competitions you have to at least train three times a week, yet there is never a mention of him actually attending a practice. He spends all his time with Kaylee. I smell bad writing. Kaylee, on the other hand, is the standard YA heroine. She has a omg-I-must-save-everyone-including-people-I-don't-even-know complex, feels seriously bad for herself, and thinks there is no way in heaven her boyfriend could be into her for herself. Blah blah, we've seen this before. There is nothing that makes her interesting. She doesn't even have a hobby, for god's sake. What does she do when Nash isn't around? Nobody knows.Kaylee and Nash's romance in My Soul to Save is easily abridged into one short paragraph. They cling to each other. Constantly. Spending ALL their time together. Smooching. Nash wants to have sex. Kaylee doesn't. More smooching. But does want to. Doesn't want to. They don't talk about it. Ever.Communication, people. Is that so hard?I will probably read the third book in the Soul Screamers series, My Soul to Keep, mostly because I already bought it. Plus, I've been told that things happen, so I'm interested to see what it is.One more thing before I end this terribly long review. These people shouldn't be allowed to drive. There are three scenes in which they swerve over roads, people gripping steering wheels because drivers can't keep control over them, people calling while trying to steer and failing and apparently they all want to get into a car crash. Worst thing is, they constantly joke about it, like "oh, I'd like to get out of this car alive! ha-ha! *swerve swerve, nearly avoiding uncoming trucks*. GEE, HOW FUNNY.