Allgemein, K - O, N, Reviews

Review: Ninth House (Leigh Bardugo)

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Book 1 on My Book List 2020

”The Ancient Eight have yielded some of the most powerful men and women in the world. People who literally steer governments, the wealth of nations, who forge the shape of culture.

Okay, I’m going to be honest here (am I ever not?! *lol*) and I’ll admit that this was my first foray into the genre of “dark academia”. I’ve never read in this genre before and if I ever did I obviously can’t remember it. So this said the entire concept of “Ninth House” was super intriguing for me. I know a lot of people who already read in this particular genre and most of them apparently were bored and found too many typical tropes in this book. As someone who’s new to this sort of thing I can’t complain though. I mean for me as a newbie it totally worked.

As for the book and the plot itself: It’s a slow one and the story takes quite some time to develop and to gain traction. At the beginning there is a lot of info dump and for me it felt like the start of Sarah J. Maas’s “House of Earth and Blood”. There are many details and an entire hierarchy and system you have to understand in order to be able to continue with the storyline. All the different student unions (secret societies), their special brand of magic and how they are imbedded into the well-oiled machinery named Yale were just a part of it though. We also get a thorough look into Lethe House and how it works as a controlling body for the Ancient Eight. Not gonna lie, it was A LOT to take in at first, but once you get the hang of it the magical world starts to spread out in front of you. 😉

Another thing I’ve to mention are the characters in this book. Alex Stern is probably one of the most unlikely heroines I ever came across. Well, in fact she’s actually an anti-hero, but this only makes her even more likable. Darlington is such a darling (pun totally intended) and Dawes is some sort of quiet force that works in the background. Those three make up Lethe House and it was super interesting to find out about how it works. I think it’s safe to say that the book is very character driven and lives from their complexity, which is always a plus in my book. Still, there were a couple of very disgusting and graphic scenes so if that’s not your cup of tea I wouldn’t recommend reading “Ninth House”.  I’ll definitely make sure to write them all in the trigger warnings below! Anyway, before I write another essay I’ll just leave it at that and jump right into my characters section aka the spoilery parts! XD

2

Welcome to Yale Campus and all the secret societies it harbours. If you don’t want to dive into this dark chapter of history and don’t want to get spoiled you better head my warning and don’t continue to read. For all the brave of you who don’t mind spoilers: Be my guest and go ahead! ;-P

trigger warnings (and there’s a whole list!): violence, gore, rape, blood, drug use, drug dealing & addiction, overdosing, death, abuse (mental and physical), rape of a child, sexual assault after making people compliant with a magical drug, drowning, suicide, blackmail, self-harm, forced consumption of human waste

Galaxy “Alex” Stern:

”The idea that there could be hot food just waiting for her three times a day was still shocking. But it made no difference what she ate or how much of it; it was as if her body, starved for so long, was ravenous now.”

Where to start with Alex?! Well, she’s definitely not your typical heroine. Alex’s past is pretty messy and there happened a lot of heavy stuff that’s still haunting her. She could always see ghosts (they are called Greys in here) and even got attacked by them. Not just physically but she was also sexually abused by one as a child. And yes I think it was actual abuse and not just an attempted one. The way the scene was described she actually got assaulted. Alex was just a child when it happened and she could not explain the things she saw because no one else could see the ghosts as well. So in the end she lost her way and started to hang out with people that used drugs. Which led her into addiction until her friend died and she was offered a job at Lethe House in Yale. What I really liked about Alex’s character was that she wasn’t one of those super strong characters. She was afraid and she tried to stay out of trouble, but as the book continued she realized that she needed to stand up for herself in order to live her life the way she wanted to. Everyone already believed her to be that tough girl so she finally decided to actually become one. XD So at the end of the book it was revealed that Alex is a wheel and I’m very curious to find out what this actually means. Guess I’ll have to wait for book two though. >_<

”Take courage. No one is immortal. Do you know what it would have meant to me to know those words when I was a kid? It would have taken so little to change everything. But no one bothered. Not until I could be useful to you.”

”What do you want? Belbalm had asked her. Safety, comfort, to feel unafraid. I want to live to grow old, Alex thought as she pulled the curtains closed. I want to sit on my porch and drink foul-smelling tea and yell at passersby. I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.”

”Mors irrumat omnia,” Alex whispered. Death fucks us all.”

”What could she say? Help me. Protect me. Except no one could. No one could see the things hurting her. They might not even be real. That was the worst of it. What if she’d imagined it all? She might just be crazy, and then what? She wanted to start screaming and never stop.”

Daniel “Darlington” Arlington:

”I c-c-class p-p-profanity with declarations of love. Best used sparingly and only when wholeheartedly m-m-meant.”

Mhmm… I’m having a difficult time to say something about Darlington because we only got to see flashbacks of his character. He disappeared when he went to that house with Alex and we have no idea where he actually went or if he’s even still alive. Alex believes him to be in hell so I’m not sure if I should hope that he’s still alive. I’m pretty certain he’d suffer in hell so yeah… Anyway! Darlington seemed to be a really nice guy, yes probably too posh and refined but deep down it looks like he had a good heart. He was like the golden boy of Lethe House and everyone was drawn to him. Throughout the entire book we get to see more and more of his past and what caused him to end up at Yale and Lethe House and why he’s bound so tightly to Black Elm. Still, we only get little bits of his life and the rest is a mystery. So I’m very curious about Darlington now! Especially because Alex thinks he became a demon and the only way to become one is if you killed someone. Maybe he killed his grandfather? I dunno. I really want to find out though because nice and friendly Darlington didn’t seem like he could hurt a fly.

”He saw the city differently because he knew it, and his knowledge was not casual. It was adoration. But no amount of love could make him see Grays. Not without Orozcerio, another hit from the Golden Bowl. He shuddered. Every time was a risk, another chance that his body would say enough, that one of his kidneys would simply fail.”

”Beyond that, he had nothing. But he couldn’t let go of Black Elm, he wouldn’t, not so someone could put a wrecking ball through its walls. Not for anything. This was his place. Who would he be untethered from this house?”

”This was why he had done it, not because of guilt of pride but because this was the moment he’d been waiting for: the chance to show someone else wonder, to watch them realize that they had not been lied to, that the world they’d been promised as children was not something that had to be abandoned, that there really was something lurking in the wood, beneath the stairs, between the stars, that everything was full of mystery.”

”I don’t know,” Darlington had said meditatively. “Suffocating beneath a pile of books seems an appropriate way to go for a research assistant.”

Dawes:

”Alex has indicated her own concerns regarding her assault, and instead of hearing her out, you’ve chosen to question her credibility. You may not have meant to imply anything, but the intent and the effect were to silence her, so it’s hard not to think this stinks of victim blaming. It’s the semantic equivalent of saying her skirt was too short.”

For a long while Dawes was just a side-character that only appeared every once in a while but as the plot picked up pace she became a bigger part of the book as well. I really liked her and I was very thankful Alex had her on her side! Who would have thought shy Dawes would give Dean Sandow a sermon about victim blaming! XD I really loved that and Dawes totally grew on me! She’s a fierce bookworm and we definitely need more of those in our books! *lol*

Turner:

Turner shook his head. “And let me guess, it isn’t a regulated substance because no one’s ever heard of it to regulate it.” He had the same nauseated expression he’d worn when he saw Alex healed by the crucible. “All you children playing with fire, looking surprised when the house burns down.”

Turner is also a character that grew on me and I really like him. He’s just doing his job and trying to make sense of all the magic and craziness that is Yale campus. *lol* Not easy if you’re a man that believes in facts and the things he can see. I guess Alex will teach him a lot of things in the next book and I’m sure he’s going to regret the day he started to work for Lethe, that is, of course, if he isn’t already doing it. XD

3

Alex & Darlington:

”Alex would have liked to be immune to it – the pretty face, his lean frame, the easy way he occupied space as if he owned it. He had a way of distractedly brushing the brown hair back from his forehead that made you want to do it for him.“

And here is the one million dollar question: Was there something between Alex and Darlington or not?! I have no idea! I think they were attracted to each other but nothing ever happened? At least I got the feeling that there was some chemistry but that they didn’t get a chance to give into it. I’m kind of scared to find out how Darlington is going to be once he returns from hell. I’m pretty certain he won’t come back the same way he went into it and I’m sure it will bring an entirely different dynamic to his relationship with Alex. Also there is still North the ghost. He bonded with Alex in the most particular way and I don’t know how this is going to affect Alex in the future. Since the thing with Daisy happened he obviously steered clear of her, but they are bound now and I think he’ll be a part of the next book too. Mhmm.

”Either way, Alex didn’t like that it would be so easy for Lethe to close Darlington’s chapter. He had been a lot of things, most of them annoying, but he had loved his job and Lethe House. It was cruel that Lethe couldn’t love him back.”

Alex & Mira (her mum):

”They would ingest a little bit of arsenic every day. It made their skin clear and their eyes bright and they felt wonderful. And all the while they were just drinking poison.” When Mira turned her eyes back to Alex, they were sharper and steadier than Alex ever remembered them being, free of the usual determined cheer. “That’s what being with your father was like.”

Alex’s mum really seemed to care about her and I couldn’t help but wonder how it even happened that they got so estranged. I suppose Alex didn’t want to explain that she could see ghosts and what they did to her and therefore sought her relief in drugs instead. I had the feeling like her mum tried to reach out to her but Alex just couldn’t accept the help? Maybe I’m wrong. I think as a parent her mum should have been more persistent though. If my kid would go through some stuff and I knew she was falling apart I’d do everything possible in order to reach her. But then again maybe Mira did exactly that and it just wasn’t shown in the book. >_< What caused my ears to prick up though was that little bit when Mira spoke about Alex’s father. To compare him with poison already says enough and I’m pretty certain that Alex inherited her ability to see ghosts from him. Maybe he was some sort of demon? I dunno. All the little bits we got about him indicate that he wasn’t entirely human. I’m definitely ready to solve that mystery in the next book. xD

4

“Ninth House” was my first time reading “dark academia” and even though some of the scenes in this book were pretty repulsive and disgusting I still found myself wanting to know what would happen next. If you don’t have a tough stomach I certainly wouldn’t recommend you to read this, but if you like intriguing characters that are morally grey and enjoy a little bit of mystery this book could be for you. I definitely don’t agree with all of Alex’s actions but she was an interesting MC and I’m curious enough to go for the second book whenever it hits the shelves. =)

Allgemein, P - T, Reviews, T

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Michelle Hodkin)

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Rating: 4 Pfoten

Book 3 on My Book List 2021

”I wanted to scream, but I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe. Claire was dead. She was not in my bathroom, and there was nothing to be scared of. My mind was playing tricks on me. I was going to go to a party tonight, and I needed to get dressed. One thing at a time.”

I heard so much about the “Mara Dyer” series before I picked it up and because I’m always curious about books that seem to be so controversial I decided to satisfy my curiosity by just reading it. So what did I think about it? Well, the book was published in 2011 and obviously was on the hype train with all the other YA books that were released back then. The interesting thing about this book was that it might have been full of the typical clichés but it actually kinda made fun of them? For me this was a really refreshing approach and I found myself enjoying it even more because of that. I mean we have the “not like other girls” trope and Noah Shaw having that “bad-boy with a heart of gold” vibe going for him. *lol* Plus: Mara is the only girl he’s interested in even though he’s mysterious and drop-dead gorgeous. And of course Mara is the new girl at their school.

There was an edge to his voice that I didn’t like. „My God, you’re like the plague.“
„A masterfully crafted, powerfully understated, and epic parable of timeless moral resonance? Why, thank you. That’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me,“ he said.
„The disease, Noah. Not the book.“

Still, there’s something disarming about Noah’s charm and I couldn’t help but love his character. We all know I love MCs that know their literature and it’s almost impossible to resist a character that has his own library and can quote books by heart. XD I know a lot of people think that Noah is very demanding, arrogant and full of himself. Which admittedly he is, but of course he is hiding his true self behind his attitude. 😉 So yeah, this is as stereotypical as it can get. *lol*

”Noah drove girls crazy, and I was already crazy. I needed to let it go. Let him go. As Jamie had so astutely said, I had enough problems.”

As for Mara: She’s one hell of an unreliable narrator and I really loved that! Mara has no idea what happened and why her friends died in an accident. She was the sole survivor of that night and the asylum they visited turned into dust while it took the lives of her friends. At first it seems like Mara lost her best friend, boyfriend and his sister, but the more she remembers and the more memories come to the surface, the more we realize that things weren’t as amicable and easy between them as we might have thought. So Mara Dyer isn’t only suffering from a severe memory loss and PTSD but also has flashbacks and sees her dead friends and things that aren’t real. Add a lot of strange happenings and sudden deaths into the mix and you get the basic idea of the plot. XD

”Dark thoughts swirled in my mind and time slowed to a crawl. I stood up from the chair, knocking it over, but my hands trembled too much to pick it up. This was – this whole thing was beyond unfair. And I was becoming unhinged.”

The mystery element in “Mara Dyer” is strong and I’m very curious what is going to happen next. The ending of the book kind of left me in shocked surprise because I certainly didn’t expect it to end like that. I have no idea how Noah fits into all of this and what is happening exactly but I’m definitely ready to find out by reading the next book.

”If you do this,” he said slowly, “you’ll become someone else.”
I looked up at Noah. “I already am someone else.”

4
All told “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” was an interesting start to a new series and I’m intrigued enough to continue with it. There might be a lot of stereotypes and inconsistencies at the moment but I hope that as the series proceeds some of them will be addressed and challenged. Plus I want to know how Mara’s character arc is going to play out. The same goes for Noah of course! I have so many questions, let’s hope book two will be able to answer them. 😉

Allgemein, K - O, O, Reviews

Review: One of Us Is Next (Karen M. McManus)

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Rating: 4 Pfoten

”Phoebe Lawton, you’re up first! Text back your choice: Should I reveal a Truth, or will you take a Dare?”

Guess after “One of Us Is Lying” we all know that you better take the dare, right? Well, if you want to find out what Phoebe did you’ve to read the book, because this review is going to be spoiler free. ;-P
So this out of the way, what is “One of Us Is Next” about? It basically plays one year after Simon’s death and the events that followed. This time around there are three different POVs though. One of them is Maeve Rojas (Bronwyn’s sister that already was a side-character in book one) and the other two are Knox Mayers (Maeve’s best friend) and Phoebe Lawton. In this second instalment the plot is all about Truth or Dare. There is a mysterious person named Unknown who threatens to expose a secret of the chosen people if they don’t take the dare. So you either take the dare or your secret gets spilled and everybody and their grandma will talk about it.

”And then I remember why About That was so popular for so long. Because even though I hate Unknown, and it freaks me out that they revealed a secret I thought would never get out, and the idea of another Simon Kelleher prowling around Bayview High is straight-up nauseating – I can’t help being curious.
What’s going to happen now?”

Well, and that’s basically the concept on which this book is built. Who is going to be next and will they choose truth or dare? I’ve to admit this was an intriguing concept and that I really liked the characters. I already loved Maeve in “One of Us Is Lying” and Knox and Phoebe were two really likable voices as well. I loved that Phoebe was a very unapologetic and straight forward character and that she challenged the narrow-minded perception of people. She’s actually a feminist and I loved that about her. XD

”Really? Let me see if I have this straight. If I do what you want, I’m a slut. If I don’t do what you want, I’m a tease. What I want doesn’t count, but you’re the big man at Bayview no matter what. Does that about sum it up?”

Another thing that made me happy was to see more of the Bayview Four and how they did after all the events that happened in the first book. It was so wholesome to see where they are standing now and that despite everything that happened they were all doing good and leading a happy life. =) Also Bronwyn and Nate!!! AHHHH! Still, I kinda wish I would have reread the first book before this one though, because I couldn’t really remember Luis and had a tough time to place him in the events of “One of Us Is Lying”. But that’s just personal preference and doesn’t take away any of the enjoyment. 😉

”I was thinking about this stupid game last night, and how it has everybody dancing like puppets on a string. Whoever’s behind Truth or Dare is on a massive power trip. And the thing is, we’re giving them that power. By caring. Reacting. Spending all our time worrying about who’s next and what’s true. We’re feeding the beast and I, for one, am done.”

4
All told this book was great and entertaining. What made me like it slightly less than its predecessor was the mystery element, though. While I could guess and rack my brain in the first book I didn’t really get a chance to do that in here. I was able to unfold about 50% of the mystery but I would have never been able to discover the other 50%. There just wasn’t enough information to reveal everything properly and this was kind of a letdown. Still, “One of Us Is Next” was a nice book to read in between and I don’t regret it. I just wish I would have gotten a chance to wrack my brain a little more. *lol*

Allgemein, P - T, Reviews, S

Review: Sadie (Courtney Summers)

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Rating: 4 Pfoten
 

”For some people, the future ahead is opportunity. For others, it’s only time you haven’t met and where I lived, it was only time. You don’t waste your breath trying to protect it. You just try to survive it until one day, you don’t.”

My first reaction when I finished this book was:

THIS BOOK WILL HAUNT ME FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

And I still stand by my initial response. Never in my entire life have I read a book that haunts me as much as “Sadie” does and quite honestly: I hope I’ll never ever read another book like it ever again. >_<  This book was so tough to read and whenever I picked it up I found myself taking a deep breath before I could dive back in. I had to prepare for this story because it’s such a heavy one and believe me when I say that I barely made it through the entire book.

Not because it wasn’t good, but because it felt like I’d choke on my own feelings whenever I read it. As a loving parent “Sadie” was exceptionally hard to digest and it’s eerie and haunting atmosphere only made it even harder to continue. I’m going to be honest here: I hated almost all of the adults in this book because they JUST DIDN’T CARE!!! Who lets a young 19 year old girl run around in the world without any guidance? So many people crossed Sadie’s path but almost none of them tried to help her and even less tried to convince her to stay, let alone to get some sort of aid.

”I can’t undo everything that’s already been done. How do you forgive the people who are supposed to protect you? Sometimes I don’t know what I miss more: everything I ‘ve lost or everything I never had.”

I for my part can’t forgive the people who were supposed to protect Mattie and Sadie. They all failed and none of them, none of them was there for those two girls when they needed it the most. Yes, May Beth tried and true, West McCray did his best to find Sadie but the rest of them? Caddy, Silas, Marlee, Ellis, Clair Southern (Sadie’s and Mattie’s mother I may add!!) they were all horrible adults and I really hope that karma will bite them in their asses.  XD Sure, some of them might have been overtaxed with their own lives and troubles, but they all had a chance to do what’s right and none of them went for it. >_< When given the choice they always chose themselves.

”I forget that at times, I was a kid, that I did kid things. That I read about the girls I dreamed of being.”

And because of actions like that, because of their neglect, Mattie died and Sadie went on a journey to revenge her sister’s murder. She left everything she ever knew behind because she was determined to kill the man who murdered the only person that meant the world to her. Sadie isn’t on a quest, she’s on a mission and it’s to find the bastard who killed her sister and to put him six feet under, no matter the consequences, no matter the cost. It’s a road trip of sorts, and Sadie is driven by anger and revenge. By a sheer insatiable hunger to get rid of the one thing that destroyed her entire world; to stop him from doing the same to others. To end him before he ends anyone else.

”In Mattie, Sadie found a sense of purpose, a place to put her love. But love is complicated, it’s messy. It can inspire selflessness, selfishness, our greatest accomplishments and our hardest mistakes. It brings us together and it can just as easily drive us apart.

It can drive us.”

I was with Sadie every step of the way. I suffered with her, I bled with her, I hurt with her, I despaired and cried with her, and I felt her profound and all-consuming grief! I felt what Sadie felt and I admired her resilience. This girl! This girl is one of the bravest I ever read about. The guilt that consumed her, the conviction that she could have done something, anything to save her sister’s life… Gods, at times it was so overwhelming the ink spilled from the pages and punctured my heart. T_T

„Thirteen, Mattie.
I kept you alive for thirteen years.
Waking her up in the morning, making her meals, walking her to the school bus, waiting for her at its stop when the day was over, grinding my bones to dust just to keep us holding on and when I lay it out like that, I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know where, underneath it all, you’d find my body. And I don’t care. I’d do it all again and again for eternity if I had to.
I don’t know why that’s not enough to bring her back.“

Sadie wasn’t just Mattie’s sister, she was her friend, her partner in crime and most of all… she was her mother. The love she felt for her sister, it was the purest thing and it was taken away from her. Violently and brutally. It’s no wonder Sadie harbours vengeful thoughts. Every mile hurt, every second was painful and with every city she leaves the inevitable pinnacle draws closer. And all the time West and May Beth are retracing and following her steps, trying to find a girl that is close to come unglued. At the risk of repeating myself: It’s haunting, it’s eerie, it’s urgent and it’s insistent in its intensity.

„I’m going to kill a man.
I’m going to steal the light from his eyes. I want to watch it go out. You aren’t supposed to answer violence with more violence but sometimes I think violence is the only answer. It’s no less than he did to Mattie, so it’s no less than he deserves.“

I’m still not over “Sadie” and I get the feeling I’ll never be. This book was unlike anything I ever read and its vehemence will stick with me for years to come. As will one of the first sentences of this book:

”I can’t take another dead girl.”

Neither can I. >_<

trigger warningsmurder, paedophilia, sexual abuse, child abuse, violence, addiction & drug abuse, parental negligence, assault