Tagged: revenge

Blood Blossom by Daryl Hajek

Blood Blossom by Daryl Hajek(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

After having been separated for twenty-two years, Vivian wants to reestablish ties with her younger sister, Christine. Instead, she is met with hostility and resistance. Christine wants one thing and one thing only—revenge. Fueled by rage and having a sadistic sense of humor, Christine will stop at nothing to go after their mysterious mother, Rose. No one better stand in Christine’s way—or else!

Julia Windom, a wealthy woman with selfish motives, concocts plot after plot to ensure her personal goal is achieved.

They all become embroiled in a battle of wits to stay one step ahead of the other. Lives are further complicated in a whirlpool of diverse events as they occur at breakneck speed. Overwhelming crises develop, strengths and weaknesses are tested, truths overcome lies, and shocking secrets are revealed that could push some to the brink of insanity.

[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through Masquerade Tours’ Reader Round-Up in exchange for an honest review.]

Only one word can really adequately describe Blood Blossom: predictable.

The plot was so ridiculously predictable, especially in the beginning.  Spoiler alert, Julia Windom is Vivian and Christine’s long-lost mother who abandoned them twenty two years ago!  I had already guessed that by the blurb but even after you get past the beginning the plot is so predictable that it’s actually boring.  It shouldn’t be boring because the premise of the book is actually quite interesting.  However, that does not help the fact that Daryl Hajek always seems to go for plot ‘twists’ that you’ll find in pretty much every thriller novel.  So if you’ve ever read a thriller novel or even watched a movie in the genre you’re pretty much guaranteed to guess the ending.

While the characters were not absolutely terrible, they were severely under-developed.  Vivian could have been interesting because she’s a widow living alone coping with the loss of her husband and the fact that her mother was an absolutely terrible human being.  The problem is that she doesn’t seem to own a personality; all she does is react to events in ways that are the most convenient to the plot.  Christine absolutely should have been an interesting character if not a likeable one but she was just as boring as her drab sister.  She goes from the Queen’s English to cutesy four-year-old in just a couple of sentences of dialogue and acts like a total jerk only to make up with Vivian, who stupidly continues to forgive this high-strung, clearly unstable stranger just because she’s her sister.  And Rose herself?  Well, she’s just a cartoonish villain with no real motivations other than a vague ‘get everything I want’.  Even though we get to see many scenes from her point of view, we never actually feel like we get to know her at all.

The most painful aspect of Blood Blossom was the dialogue.  As I mentioned, some characters like Christine go from proper upper-class English to cutesy four-year-old in just a few sentences or pages.  But all of the characters have hugely unrealistic dialogue that exists solely to forward the plot.  That in itself would not be a bad thing if it wasn’t done in such an obvious way, stiff way in great big long speeches: “I admit that I am selfish and I will say that I had been robbed of the finer things in life, thanks to you-know-who.  I refer to you-know-who the way I do because I absolutely refuse to utter that ol’ dame’s name.”  I could understand if one character spoke that way as part of their characterization but every character does the same thing.  They will say something and state their reasons for saying it which is completely unrealistic.

Essentially, while the concept for Blood Blossom showed a lot of promise it certainly failed on its delivery.  It was incredibly predictable even though I don’t read many novels from that genre and the characters were under-developed.  Not only that, the dialogue was stiff to the point of being unreadable and the points of view were all so similar that I had to check the names several times to make sure I was thinking about the right characters.   Like I said, although it certainly showed potential I can’t in all honesty recommend it to anyone.

I give this book 1/5 stars.

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Before They Find Us by Michelle A. Hansen

Before They Find Us by Michelle A. Hansen(Cover picture courtesy of Nicole Sobon.)

I’m going to make you wish you were dead.

Just a text. Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Hales tries not to worry. Probably a wrong number. Not really meant for her, and definitely not related to the crime she witnessed six years ago. Right?

Then two states away, a bomb goes off in her best friend’s locker. Soon Ryan is labeled a terrorist and runs to the safest place he knows—Rebecca’s house in small-town Wyoming. It doesn’t take long for the FBI to show up asking questions. Rebecca lies, of course, and says she hasn’t seen him.

Now she’s neck-deep in it with him, whatever “it” is. The only way out is to return to Vegas, where Ryan is a wanted man. The city of lies and illusion tests Rebecca’s wits as she struggles to find the person who framed Ryan and why.

Is Rebecca’s text linked to the bombing? And what does it have to do with a six year old murder? Rebecca needs to find out before she loses Ryan—and her own life.

[Full disclosure: This was a free gift to me from Michelle A. Hansen as a token of her appreciation and a review was not expected so of course, as always, this review is honest.]

There were more than a fair amount of clichés in Before They Find Us that any action movie fan will recognize, but overall I actually enjoyed this book.

The main strength of Michelle A. Hansen’s writing is her characters.  Rebecca is definitely well-rounded and you really feel that she has some psychological problems as a result of her witnessing a murder at the age of 11.  I like how her backstory is slowly revealed because it adds more depth to her character and it’s revealed at a more natural rate than if there was a huge info-dump at the beginning.  At first I was a little confused about her relationship to Ryan but then things sorted themselves out and I felt like I knew each character intimately.

I definitely liked the plot twists in this one.  There’s just twist after twist and the plot is so fast-paced that I couldn’t stop reading even for a moment.  Just when you think it’s all over and the plot is going to wind down for the conclusion Michelle Hansen springs another surprise on you.  Yes, there were some twists I could predict because I watch a lot of action movies, but for the main part I was pleasantly surprised at the plot twists.  They felt more organic than forced.

The only thing I’m sort of ambivalent about is the premise/clichés.  There wasn’t really anything completely unique in the novel and there was a heavy reliance on action/thriller clichés.  I would have liked to see some new twists on old tropes but there wasn’t really any of that within the story.  It was a good book, but with a few modifications it could have been a great book.

Still, if it sounds interesting to you I’d recommend giving it a try.  It’s a heart-stopping read!

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight by Gerald Morris

The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight(Cover picture courtesy of Rainbow Resource Center.)

Sarah knelt and cleaned her blade on the grass, then sheathed it.  Her stomach was tight and she was slightly nauseated, but she felt no emotion.

Ever since her mother and guardian were killed, thirteen-year-old Sarah has been living on her own, searching for the murderer.  Her quest for revenge leads to greater adventure when she witnesses Queen Guinevere being kidnapped.  Soon Sarah is accompanying Sir Gawain and Squire Terence on a remarkable journey to rescue the queen.  But as the plot thickens, Sarah begins to learn the true consequences of vengeance and what it really means to be a princess.

Well, this was Book 6 of The Squire’s Tales series and I can confidently say that so far I love the whole series.  There is no ‘bad’ book in Gerald Morris’ retellings of the Arthurian legends; they’re all great.

Although from the summary I expected Sarah to be a typical girl empowerment character, that was far from the truth.  Her actions make sense and her character arc is gradual, but very powerful.  Just as a warning to younger readers, let me say that this book is more graphic than the others and may offend sensitive readers.  After all, the reason Sarah is looking for revenge is based on real, very tragic historical events.  And the road to revenge is not without its victims, so just keep that in mind.

Once again Gawain and Terence show up near the end of the book, but it is Sarah and her Dung-Cart Knight that play a much more important part in the story.  Gerald Morris certainly has an interesting take on Lancelot, who shows up later on.  Lancelot has changed immensely from the first few books when he was a caricature of a proper knight: foppish, immersed in courtly love, etc.  He has actually acquired some depth in this book and I look forward to seeing him in the next few books, if only to see how these changes affect his new life at court.

With a fast plot, amazing characters both old and new and hints at the tragic ending of the Arthurian legends, you won’t want to put down The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight.  Even though it’s aimed at younger readers I loved it, which is why I recommend it to readers of all ages.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden

(Cover picture courtesy of Open Library.)

Genghis Khan was born Temujin, the son of a khan, raised in a clan of hunters migrating across the rugged steppe.  Shaped by abandonment and betrayal, Temujin endured, driven by a singular fury: to survive in the face of death, to kill before being killed, and to conquer enemies who would come without warning from beyond the horizon.

Through a series of courageous raids, Temujin’s legend grew until he was chasing a vision: to unite many tribes into one, to make the earth tremble under the hoofbeats of a thousand warhorses, to subject all nations and empires to his will.

While the blurb at the back of the book pretty much gives away the whole plot, Birth of an Empire is an amazing novel.  The name ‘Genghis Khan’ is practically synonymous for a cruel, bloodthirsty ruler, but Conn Iggulden has managed to put a human face on a legend.  Birth of an Empire starts off slow, but the tension slowly ratchets up until the reader flips furiously through the pages to get to the end.

This book is not for those of weak stomachs or faint hearts because life on the plains of Mongolia was harsh and cruel.  There are graphic scenes of violence (particularly after Temujin’s wife was kidnapped by Tartars) and a few sexual references, so this book is definitely intended for older teens and adults.  Birth of an Empire is a great book and Conn Iggulden does a fabulous job at describing life in Temujin’s time.  The only place this book falls flat is in the beginning, where the prologue starts of slow and is confusing until you read the whole prologue.  Despite this one little thing, Birth of an Empire is an excellent example of how historical fiction should be written.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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