Book Review: The Curse of Sara Douroux by C.A. Wittman

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

In a remote island community, Sara lives with her deeply religious elderly parents. Discouraged from building friendships in school, she leads a quiet, secluded life, but when the family is forced to take in four mysterious young cousins, Sara’s life soon turns tumultuous.

C.A. Wittman has lived in Hawaii since 1993, explaining her decision to set The Curse of Sara Douroux in Hawaii. This choice of setting was multi-cultural, interesting, well-described, and original, as most Gothic novels I have read are set in either suburban American towns or Victorian England. However, a book full of multicultural characters was at times confusing because some characters regularly switched between grammatically-correct English, broken English, and regional language, which was hard to read and understand.

The arrival of Sarah’s mysterious, vampire-like “cousins” is Wittman’s attempt to create a new kind of Gothic monster. This is an admirable effort, but it could have been improved by providing much clearer information about these creatures much earlier in the book. For most of the time, I was left confused at who Sara’s “cousins” really were, who Sara really was, and the significance of any of this. When I finally began to understand the legend and the horror of Sara’s “cousins” – or rather, when I thought I understood – I was at least ¾ of the way through the book, if not more. Consequently, I thought  The Curse of Sara Douroux was a rather long read with little progression, which made it difficult to persevere and keep reading.

This was exacerbated by the many, many characters in this book which, in my opinion, “clogged” up the development of the plot. I struggled to remember their names, who they were, and what (if anything) they contributed to the story, and I think quite a few characters could have been removed entirely and the story would have remain unchanged.

The best part of The Curse of Sara Douroux is probably the ending, as it offers a more detailed, historical explanation behind Sara’s life and her supernatural “cousins”. However, I just wish we’d learnt these things sooner, as this would have provided clarity and suspense for the reader throughout the rest of the book.

Unfortunately, I was left disappointed by this book.

Star Rating: 2/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA).

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Halloween Book Review: The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Vampire Diaries is a series of young adult novels by L.J. Smith about, funnily enough, vampires.  The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening is the first in the series and follows Elena Gilbert, the popular high school student everyone envies, as she sets eyes on the broody and handsome new boy at school, Stefan Salvatore. Little does she know, Stefan is hiding a huge secret; he’s a vampire, as is his brother, Damon Salvatore, a dangerous and dark killer.

Arguably, The Vampire Diaries is more well-known nowadays by the TV adaptation. I used to watch The Vampire Diaries and quite enjoyed the thrills and drama of the earlier seasons. I thought it was fun enough as a TV show and more interesting than Twilight, at least.

I found The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening in a charity shop and decided to give it a go, seeing as I had enjoyed the TV series it was based on. I also thought, since I love L.J. Smith’s young adult thriller series called The Forbidden Game, I’d enjoy reading more of her work. What could go wrong?

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening was a disappointment.

Elena is simplistic and over-emotional, and her emotions tend to always revolve around boys. She falls in love with Stefan after about 2 minutes and they begin a relationship incredibly quickly. She adapts to him being a vampire quite easily too. A lot of the plot moves rather quickly, in a way that just doesn’t feel realistic at all.

Damon, the infamous “baddie” from the show, doesn’t even make an appearance in the first book, and when he does, it isn’t particularly impactful. Elena summons him at the start of the sequel, The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle as if he’s ready to do her bidding. This is a huge contrast to the TV show, in which Damon shows up unannounced on Stefan’s doorstep to wreak havoc. Almost immediately, and predictably, Elena falls in love with Damon, who is then established as an obvious villain with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I much preferred the way Ian Somerhalder played Damon as dark, sincere and dangerous, whilst simultaneously being sarcastic, witty, and (occasionally) emotional.

There were some events I recognised from watching the TV show  such as a haunted house themed disco and a Founders’ Day Parade but, again, because the book is so short, everything feels rushed. People are murdered yet it happens so quickly for me to even care.

If I had read these books when I was 10 years old, I might have enjoyed them a bit more or been more prepared to read the rest in the series. As it is, I took a chance and was left disappointed.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read these books? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Clone Secrets by Melissa Faye

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Clone Secrets is the second book in the young adult dystopian series: Clone Crisis Trilogy. I have already read and reviewed Clone Crisis, the first book in the series, which you can read on my blog. The Clone Crisis Trilogy is set in a 25th century world where cloning has replaced reproduction.

Clone Secrets follows on from the events of Clone Crisis. After Yami’s friends make some new discoveries about the fertility crisis and emerging birth rates, biological children from around the country are kidnapped by masked strangers. Yami and her friends embark on a journey to rescue the children and uncover the truth about the government’s involvement in cloning.

The strength of Clone Secrets were its dramatic ambush scenes or its violent fight scenes as masked soldiers – known as Gray Suits – attacked communities and ripped young children away from their parents. These scenes were gripping, and the aftermath of these fights was always suitably dark and bleak.

However, I felt the scenes that followed were slightly less engaging, as there was more dialogue and less action. This was a shame because it gave the impression that these scenes were “filler” until the next conflict.

The leader of the community in which Yami seeks refuge, Ann, reminded me a lot of President Alma Coin from Mockingjay. In terms of character building, this was great because I remember just how much she annoyed me in both the books and the films – not sharing her ideas, being tight-lipped and secretive, and acting generally suspicious.

I saw some of the plot twists coming, as they seemed to be referred to quite obviously, rather than the occasional subtle hint. At times, I felt there was a neon flashing sign screaming “all is not right”. Having said that, there were other moments in the book that caught me by surprise – introducing ideas or characters I hadn’t thought of or even considered could be possible. I liked these moments.

The ending of Clone Secrets works really well and leaves some plot elements nicely wrapped up and leaves other elements as utter bombshells, presumably to be resolved in the third and final book of the series, Clone Legacy.

To sum up, Clone Secrets has room for improvement, but was nonetheless an entertaining book in the series.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

I was introduced to How To Train Your Dragon, the animated fantasy film, and I loved it. I then watched the sequel, How To Train Your Dragon 2 (creative) and I loved it more. I’ve re-watched them several times. I didn’t even know there were books.  Until now. So, I finally read How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell.

Spoiler Warning: There will be some.

How To Train Your Dragon is the first in a series of twelve children’s books about Hiccup, the son of a Viking chief, as he overcomes great obstacles on his journey to become Heroic.

Visually, it’s a nice little book. It has childlike My Image [How To Train Your Dragon Book] handwriting and drawings throughout, so it’s perfect for Cowell’s target audience; the idea is that the book was genuinely  written by Hiccup – hence his illustrations and annotations – and she was just his Old Norse translator. A nice touch.

The descriptions are as vivid and not complicated – as you’d expect in a children’s book, and there are also some witty moments.

The key plot points are clearly identifiable:

  • Hiccup is a below average Viking boy who wants to achieve but struggles under the pressure of being the Chief’s son
  • Snoutlout is Hiccup’s cousin, eager for Hiccup to fail so he can become chief instead
  • Hiccup is concerned about not fulfilling his father’s Viking expectations
  • It is only when Berk is placed in danger, Hiccup’s usefulness and value is recognised

These are (no surprises here) “obvious” for an adult reader, but this the sort of good narrative structure a children’s book should have, so I wanted to point it out.

However, it is very different to the films. An enlightening comment, I know.

The characters are different, and their initial descriptions at the start of the book to remember who they are – I found it was hard to keep track of the long-winded Viking names.

My Image [How To Train Your Dragon 1]

Another striking difference between the book and the film is that in the film, Berk is an island scared of, and enraged by, dragons because they believe they are violent creatures that need to be destroyed. The community is only persuaded to think otherwise following Hiccup’s discovery of, and his blossoming friendship with, Toothless the Night Fury, one of the most legendary and fearful dragons in existence. However, in the book, Berk is an island that already believes that dragons can be, and should be, domesticated pets. It is only once the Viking boys in training are given the useless handbook How To Train Your Dragon, Hiccup must create his own, personalised, methods to tame his dragon Toothless.

A third striking difference is that in the book, the dragons can talk. This creates a new layer of characterisation because they can communicate thoughts and feelings with each other, and their owners. This means that, instead of the smiling but silent Toothless from the film, he is whiny and always back-chatting. This meant it was difficult to see him as the loveable, heart-warming, protective but powerful and incredibly rare Night Fury from the film – the Toothless I love.

I’m so clearly biased and, unfortunately, I preferred the films to the book. I can see exactly why children would love this sort of book though: it’s funny, it’s adventurous, it’s easy to read, and imaginative. Perhaps if I had discovered this series before watching the films, I might have a different opinion.

I won’t read the rest of the series, but at least I now have a flavour of the writing which inspired two films I greatly enjoy.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Intraterrestrial by Nicholas Conley

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This is a book review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Intraterrestrial is about Adam Helios, a bullied teenager who hears a voice claiming to come from the stars and fears he’s going mad. Following a terrible car crash, Adam is left seriously injured and his consciousness is abducted by the alien presence contacting him for months.

My Photo [Intraterrestrial].jpg

Intraterrestrial was decently written, although there were some frustrating uses of synonyms. As well as using the word ‘finger’, ‘appendages’ and ‘digits’ also get thrown around and this was just unnecessary. Synonyms can provide variation if you’re afraid of repetition, but sometimes the repetition of simple words is fine. No one says “I have hurt my appendages”.

My Photo [Appendages]
I am, of course, just poking fun at the situation.

Adam was a well-developed character; he felt very much like an ordinary kid – a sympathetic loser, if you will.

However, I wasn’t sure how to interpret Adam’s adopted status; the book makes it clear Adam was adopted as an orphan from India and Adam himself struggles at times to feel as if he belongs with his American parents. On the one hand, this is fair enough, and gives Adam some interesting background. On the other hand, the book also hints he may be abhuman or other-worldly in some way, and is thus contacted by aliens. Yet stressing Adam’s differences too much by making Adam both “other”, adopted, and Indian could be problematic for some.

I liked the open rebuttal of the “chosen one” stereotype and Adam’s genuine surprise that he is not The Chosen One; the way in which the expectations of Adam, and the reader, were challenged made it quite a witty scene.

I’m not a huge reader of science-fiction, so I preferred the chapters describing Adam’s mother, waiting for her son to recover in the hospital. These scenes helped provide some reality, in the midst of Adam’s alien experiences, and were easier to picture and understand.

I also couldn’t work out who Conley’s target audience is.

Concepts such as imagination-powered aliens, the importance of creativity, and Adam discovering more about his special identity, seem as if they would be best suited in a novel for children. Yet some the book contained explicit swear-words and gory, bloody details, suggesting Conley had an older audience in mind.

I did like the idea of being drawn into an alternative world inspired by your own mind – for example, the alternative world of Labyrinth is taken from Sarah’s childhood toys and stories – but I found the execution of this in Intraterrestrial slightly too abstract. I have a pretty active imagination, but I really struggled to visualise the aliens and worlds I was being told to imagine.

On a more positive note, Intraterrestrial has a proper ending! I’ll explain.

I find that often, especially in books sent for review, the narrative ends with a cliffhanger designed to make you buy their trilogy. Sometimes this is done well and other times, it isn’t. However, Conley doesn’t do this; instead he wraps up his story well by the end of the book and this was great to see.

Ultimately, I thought Intraterrestrial was okay, but probably not the book for me. If you’re a die-hard science-fiction fan though, you might want to consider giving this a go.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Starclimber is the final book of the Airborn trilogy by Kenneth Oppel, a series of young adult steampunk books, set in a world where the aeroplane has not yet been invented. You can read my review of Airborn, the first book, here and my review of Skybreaker, the second book, here.

As the title may suggest, Starclimber is an adventure into outer space. The protagonists Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries board the Starclimber ship and journey to the stars. Kate is determined to escape the constrictions of upper-class society, as well as prove there is life beyond Earth, and Matt wants to prove his worth both as an “astralnaut” and a man worthy of Kate’s affections.

Starclimber begins with another exciting opening – every start to the Airborn series has been full of action and interesting characterisation – but unfortunately, the plot was pretty much the same to its predecessors Skybreaker and Airborn. In my Skybreaker review, despite my praise for Oppel’s storytelling, I said my expectations were for the next book to breakaway from the same narrative, with the same character stereotypes and narrative arc. Sadly though, my expectations weren’t met.

There is danger, there is adventure, there is a traitor, there is conflict between Matt and Kate, there is a discovery of a new species, there is a friend to provide comfort and comic relief; all of which has happened before. This was a little frustrating because although I knew I was reading a new book, it felt like reading the same story again!

Speaking of Matt and Kate, Kate develops into a horrible young woman. She claims she is criticised for being independent and headstrong, and so joins the suffragette movement to empower herself. Yet, this is not the Kate de Vries which has been presented to the reader at any point. Throughout Starclimber, Kate is nothing but rude, haughty and selfish. Yet when Sir Hugh Snuffler, Kate’s scientific rival, displays these same characteristics, he is met with disapproval by the other characters, and is subsequently made the butt of all the jokes.

To me, this came across as if it’s perfectly acceptable for women to be rude … because of feminism, but men aren’t allowed to be rude … because the author said so.

In my first review, I criticised Airborn for using the word ‘tingle’ to describe absolutely everything Matt felt. In Starclimber, the word ‘chuckle’ was used far too frequently – 24 times to be precise – in a short span of pages, so I would read the word ‘chuckle’ every 3 pages or so. This is a word I particularly have a grudge against anyway, so it was really quite difficult to convince myself to continue reading the story!

However, despite my annoyances with the characters, and their incessant chuckling, I did really like the plot of Starclimber.

Its action sequences felt the most dangerous and exciting out of any of the series, perhaps because space is still so unknown to today’s readers; anything can happen, and the risks of space travel are still immense. I thought Oppel’s designed method of space travel, rising up a reinforced, electrified cable, was a really creative way of imagining old-fashioned space travel.

Furthermore, the ending was sweet, and tied up the series really well – so often nowadays stories get dragged out by unnecessary cliff-hangers and more sequels, so it was nice that this series had a definitive ending. In a way, I’m sad there aren’t any more books, but I also think the stories work well as a trilogy, and to add more would spoil that.

If you’ve read Airborn and Skybreaker, I recommend Starclimber. If I had to choose a favourite of the series however, I’d probably choose Skybreaker.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Enemies Rising by Paul Stretton-Stephens

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Enemies Rising is the first story in a series by Paul Stretton-Stephens.

The story is about Tacrem, a “Downsider” – an underwater creature who has the ability to run, swim and jump incredibly quickly. He lives in an underwater settlement called Cetardia, below the “Upsiders” – that is, humans. Tacrem must confront the threat of “Upsiders” who wish to discover and exploit Cetardia for personal gain.

The genre of Enemies Rising is a mix between young adult, fantasy, science fiction, and action, with a message about the environment added in too.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a young adult story without a destiny to fulfil, and so the reader is plunged into the action straightaway, following Tacrem, a teenage “Downsider” with a mysterious purpose.

Initially, the opening to the story made me hopeful for an unusual fantasy read – unlike anything I’d ever read before, but sadly, I was left disappointed. Whilst the opening was action-packed, it was slightly overpacked, making events feel convoluted and confusing; I wasn’t always sure what was happening.

The population of ‘Cetardia’ all have bizarre names – for the mere sake of it, it would seem – and bizarre species, with the city itself lacking in vivid description. I couldn’t help but imagine it as Otoh Gunga, an alien underwater city from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (and given how great that film was, it wasn’t exactly the best comparison to draw).

My Photo [Enemies Rising 1].png
Image via StarWarsWikia.com

Furthermore, these species, places and names were not explained. This was incredibly difficult to visualise anybody, or remember who they were, or their characteristics – a fundamental issue in science fiction or fantasy, where alien life is so often pivotal to the narrative; it is important the reader knows and understands what these new creatures are.

Having said that, the best parts of the story were when Tacrem’s narrative was blended with the narrative of two “Upsiders” – climatologist Professor Jack Berry and his daughter Jess. This grounded the story in a level of reality, so I could follow more easily what was going on.

Whilst the story lacked in places, as I’ve described, I actually liked the premise Stretton-Stephens had planned: A fictional underwater settlement faces challenges because of the impact of humans, a challenge used to reflect a message to the reader about the environment and protection of ocean life. This is exemplified by Professor Berry’s role in the story as a climatologist. However, the execution of this premise fell short, I thought, due to the lack of written style, flair, and proficiency.

A lot of the sentences felt “clunky” – they didn’t feel dynamic or natural, and Stretton-Stephens regularly transitions between reported action, reported speech, direct speech, indirect speech, and indirect thought, and these transitions were somewhat overwhelming. Although some readers may be able to overlook an interesting story told with poor writing, that is something I just cannot do.

In addition, Tacrem’s ability to ‘Mingle’ with a person – that is, to enter their mind telepathically to gain key information – was always described with oddly sexual language such as:

  • ‘In their short time together, Tacrem felt a rush of intense hear enter his body and a simultaneous tingling feeling that engulfed him from head to toe.’
  • ‘Sometimes they would thrust through him individually, and other times in pairs. Only at the end, after what seemed an age to Tacrem, did the three enter him together.’

This language jarred with the tone of the rest of the story, and I have no idea whether Stretton-Stephens intended this description to have these connotations, or simply didn’t realise.

The ending was also rather abrupt, which clashed with the apparent set-up of a “cliffhanger”, and I think where Stretton-Stephens chose to end the narrative was an overall odd decision.

To conclude, Enemies Rising missed the mark in a lot of places and unfortunately, I will not be reading the sequel, Enemies Rising Part 2.

Star Rating: 2/5 Stars 

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.