Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Review: Tell Me I'm Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

by Alison Rumfitt
Release Date: January 17, 2023
2023 Tor Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 263 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250866233
Audiobook: B0B1JKM1PL
Genre: Fiction / Horror / LGBT
Source: Review copy from publisher

2 / 5 Stars

Three years ago, Alice spent one night in an abandoned house with her friends, Ila and Hannah. Since then, Alice’s life has spiraled. She lives a haunted existence, selling videos of herself for money, going to parties she hates, drinking herself to sleep.

Memories of that night torment Alice, but when Ila asks her to return to the House, to go past the KEEP OUT sign and over the sick earth where teenagers dare each other to venture, Alice knows she must go.

Together, Alice and Ila must face the horrors that happened there, must pull themselves apart from the inside out, put their differences aside, and try to rescue Hannah, whom the House has chosen to make its own.
My Thoughts
Tell Me I'm Worthless had a very interesting beginning, one that I thought would set up this novel quite nicely, but unfortunately, it went seriously downhill from that point on.  I felt like I was reading an entirely different book; the only reason I kept going was because I wanted to actually find out if the haunted house played a bigger role in this book.
The actual horror stuff was few and far between, and although I get that the haunted house is a symbolism of fear and oppression and how easy it is for those things to control your world, that can also be a metaphor for what happened in this book.  I admire and respect the author for trying to use horror, in the shape of a haunted house and the events that occurred there, as a way to show oppression in a different light, but I feel like it got away from them and instead of a good story became more of a series of weird rants that made the story disjointed.   The messages/themes within the book become confusing because these rants are also confusing, dealing with things such as fascism and so on, trying to push their own political beliefs on the reader, something I wasn't having any part of. As someone who can think for herself, I would rather the ideas be there so I can think about them and form my own conclusions.  In some ways, it can feel demeaning, as if a reader can't think for themselves.  
The characters themselves were pretty one-dimensional and by the end of the book, I didn't feel like any of them had shown any growth.  Unfortunately, the political aspects of this book took away from the overall potential of character development.  If you took out a lot of those rants, this book would read really well as a short story; I thought the part with Hannah, in particular, in the haunted house was superbly done, despite the political tone to it, although I still feel like the author tends to give too much to the reader rather than let them figure things out on their own.     

Tell Me I'm Worthless suffers from some editing issues as well as marketing issues. Touted as a haunted house novel, I went in expecting that and what I got was a political novel using haunted house metaphor to explore political beliefs. Normally, this wouldn't be an issue as I don't typically mind that, but it's the direct writing/ranting that turned me off this story as I don't feel it contributed much in terms of plot or character development, but served more to explore the author's personal political views/angst. Yes, the message is important, but so is the delivery, and the delivery turned me right off this book.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Review: The Suffering by MJ Mars

by MJ Mars
Release Date: February 24, 2023
2023 Wicked House Publishing
Kindle Edition; 382 Pages
ISBN: 978-1959798064
Genre: Fiction / Horror / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publsiher
3.5 / 5 Stars
Recreating the séance that led to the infamous Victorian Suffering massacre seems like a good idea at the time. But Kyle Birbeck soon discovers that the ghosts his distant ancestor banished into the walls of Brackenby House in 1876 have been lurking, waiting for a chance to come out.

One by one the 5 terrifying ghosts latch onto each of the students who reside at Brackenby, preying on their deepest fears. They soon come to realise it isn’t Brackenby House that’s haunted. They are. And the ghosts will stop at nothing to continue The Suffering…
My Thoughts
The Suffering has everything that I love in a horror/paranormal novel; a spooky house with a chilling history, a seance that didn't quite work the way it was intended, ghosts, secrets, and so on. I enjoyed the overall story as it was interesting and the descriptions did manage to keep up a certain level of tension.  I did like the ghosts as well the action surrounding them, but felt it got bogged down by the author using lack of communication and secrets to move a plot point along which just made me shake my head.

Kyle and his friends live in a Victorian house that has been in his family for a very long time. Despite the sordid background and the tragedy that occurred there, the five students are overjoyed to be living in something that is cheaper than the usual student accommodations, and decide to have a seance on Halloween. Okay, this I totally buy as college students do silly things all the time and even I played around with this kind of stuff when I was younger. Unfortunately, they do release something horrifying and five ghosts attach themselves to the five of them feeding off of their self-doubts.  I did find this interesting in the beginning and liked what was happening, even if I didn't find it very terrifying. This could be my fault though as I went in thinking it would be scarier than it was, but it wasn't.  
Things kind of went sideways for me about one-third into the book as I got tired of the lack of communication between the characters and the big secrets.  Kyle wasn't very forthcoming with information and I just couldn't figure out why he wouldn't tell the others where he had been and why.  And why would he not have brought back protection charms for the rest of them?  And when things did start happening, why would you not call the police to check things out to make sure there were not pranks happening? And when things ramp up, do the kids try to split and run? No, not really. I would have been out of there in a flash.  
While the author can write, and there were definitely some interesting moments, I don't feel like I really got to know the characters very well. To me, they were pretty bland and I wish the story had focused on one of them rather than all of them as it would have added depth to the story.  I did like hearing about the ghosts, but the characters and their foolish decisions kind of pushed that to the background regularly and I found myself jolted out of the story.  It made me focus on the plot holes and lack of character growth a bit more than I normally would have.  
The Suffering had a lot of potential and I did enjoy the story, especially the parts where the ghosts were involved.  I did feel the characters were one-dimensional and bland, and their lack of communication and decision-making skills got on my nerves after a while.  There really wasn't anything particularly spooky about this book, but there were a lot of fun elements, so I would definitely pick up another novel by this author in the future.


Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Review: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

by Travis Baldree
Release Date: November 8, 2022
2022 Tor
Kindle Edition; 296 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250886088
ASIN: B0B3755RV9
Audiobook: B0B3G97QY1
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

After a lifetime of bounties and bloodshed, Viv is hanging up her sword for the last time.

The battle-weary orc aims to start fresh, opening the first ever coffee shop in the city of Thune. But old and new rivals stand in the way of success — not to mention the fact that no one has the faintest idea what coffee actually is.

If Viv wants to put the blade behind her and make her plans a reality, she won't be able to go it alone.

But the true rewards of the uncharted path are the travelers you meet along the way. And whether drawn together by ancient magic, flaky pastry, or a freshly brewed cup, they may become partners, family, and something deeper than she ever could have dreamed.
My Thoughts
Legends & Lattes is one of those fantasy novels I really needed to read at this time. A lot of fantasy that I usually read tends to be dark, vicious, emotional, bordering on grimdark, the type of fantasy that takes a toll on you after a while, so reading this was a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed it tremendously, realizing how much I really missed the more lighthearted and fun fantasy. 

Viv is the main character and I thoroughly enjoyed her development as she retired from her work as a bounty hunter and decided to open up a coffee shop. Just the thought of a warrior wanting to do this type of job made me giggle throughout the book and as the gems kept pouring in, I enjoyed her transformation from battle-orc to coffee-orc.  Due to a lifetime of bloodshed though, trusting people didn't come easily, and watching Viv learn to navigate friendships was interesting and it made me think a lot about retirement, especially as that is in the near future for myself.  Viv is joined by a multitude of interesting secondary characters, Cal, Thandri, and Thimble, all of whom I developed a fondness for, and I was glad to see the lightness continue throughout the book, with the various characters having to overcome trust issues and learn what it really means to be a family. And oh my, the descriptions of the food Thimble cooked up! All I wanted was a latte and a cinnamon roll as I read, and not just a cinnamon roll, but a big, gooey one, like they talked about in the book. How can you not smile when you read those descriptions?

That being said, it is really easy to overlook the themes in this book. The book comes across as light and fun, but there were some very deep themes underlying everything; friendship, loyalty, deception, trust, self-confidence, family, etc... The author definitely focused on family and community, but he also subtly included the idea of growing out of your comfort zone, to try something new. Even when Viv had to deal with the harsher realities of owning a business, she showed us that there was another way to do business than the traditional way if you are willing to try, but you have to realize there are risks and there are hardships as nothing comes easy.  And while I am a huge epic fantasy reader, and I like by battle scenes, it is easy to dismiss a lighter fantasy novel thinking it lacks tension, but there was conflict and the author never really lets up on the action; it's just a different type of suspense and action, something I enjoyed. 

Legends & Lattes was a treat to read. I knew very little about it when I started the book, so I was pleasantly surprised as the story progressed, pretty much reading it in one session.  A feel good novel about a warrior who decides to take a chance on trying something new with her life, and I enjoyed every step of her development.  For readers looking for something a bit lighter than your usual fare, I highly recommend this one.