No Exit

Rating: ⭐⭐
Author: Taylor Adams
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pub. date: Jun. 2017 (read in Jul. 2019)

Oh boy… I don’t know how to rate this. It’s a fast-paced, dark psychological thriller. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, but it was so exhausting to read. The premise was interesting, as the name suggests, this is a closed room mystery thriller where are protagonist is trapped in a snowstorm nightmare with no way out.

Darby Thorne is on her way across the Rockies to visit her dying mother for Christmas when the snow forces her to stop at a rest stop to wait out the weather. There’s 4 other people at the rest stop and no cell service. While there, she discovers one of the others is concealing a massive crime and her attempt to right the wrong ends in a nightmare of epic proportions.

So I wasn’t sure how much of the plot to reveal in my review, but apparently I never read the synopsis before reading this book because Darby discovering a child trapped in a dog cage in the back of one of the vehicles at the rest stop was a total shocker to me, but is actually revealed right in the book synopsis. I wish I’d known this going in because it might have greatly influenced my decision to read this book. I hate stories that mess around with children and find them difficult to read, so had I realized that earlier, I might have opted out of this one. But my book club picked this as our July read, so I stuck it out.

Overall, I do think this was quite a good book and I can see why people might like it. It’s super fast-paced, the stakes are high, the setting is claustrophobic, and our protagonist is relatable. But I personally struggled with it because it includes child violence and graphic depictions of torture and other violence. I find all these things extremely disturbing and hate reading anything with torture in it, particularly if child violence is involved. I had to give up Game of Thrones after season 3 because I couldn’t deal with the torture.

Which is why I’m unsure how to rate this. I don’t think anyone is going to argue that this is outstanding literature. It’s a mindless thriller book that I think pretty much accomplishes what it sets out to. There’s very little character development and it didn’t make me think that much; there are no hidden meanings or deep themes weaved into the story. Mostly it just made me anxious for the entire week that I was reading it. I propelled through it, but mostly just because I wanted it to be over.

I do think the book was dragged down a little bit by the setting and timeline. Any book that takes place in a span of 8 hours with a setting this small will face a challenge in keeping the reader engaged and I don’t think Adams really overcame that. The story started to feel repetitive and towards the end it was really dragged out. There are several false endings and I feel like the author kept dragging it out to make a large enough page count to call this a proper book. Despite the tense nature of the story, I started to get bored towards the end as the same trauma kept repeating itself. Plus, a lot of the drama was unbelievable and I think the author relied on a lot of what I would consider lazy plot devices to carry the story (i.e., the never-ending cell battery and repeatedly using the same escape route).

Beyond that I don’t really have a whole to say about this one. The idea held a lot of promise, but I don’t think the author quite delivered. As a mystery/thriller, I’d give it 3 stars, but I’m going to give it 2 stars overall because it just wasn’t for me. It’s not a reflection on the book or the writing, just that it wasn’t to my tastes.

Ruined

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Amy Tintera
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Jan. 2018

Omg, I LOVED THIS!

Everyone seems to have really mixed feelings on Ruined – the reviews are all either “1 star I hated it” or “5 stars I am obsessed”. But I definitely fall into the latter category. I guess I could maybe see why some people might not love this and think it has a recycled plot, but it was such a fast-paced emotional, fantasy, thriller that I just didn’t even care.

I actually wasn’t that intrigued by the plot, but EpicReads seems obsessed with this one and I was in the mood for some action, so I decided to give it a try. The idea is that there are 4 different kingdoms and they’re all at war with each other in some way or another, with everyone trying to seize the most power. Our main character, Emelina Flores is from Ruina, a kingdom of magic wielders who are slowly being exterminated by the Kingdoms of Lera and Vallos because of their fear of the Ruined’s magic. Even though Emelina is a princess of Ruina, she didn’t inherit the Ruined’s powers. Her parents were murdered by Vallos and her sister taken prisoner by Lera. She is determined to get her sister back and take her revenge on everyone who opposes her.

Mary, Princess of Vallos, has been betrothed to Casimir, Prince of Lera. Emelina hatches a plan to kill Mary on her way to Lera, impersonate her, and infiltrate the castle to find out the location of her sister, Olivia. She’ll have to marry Prince Casimir, but it’s just another unfortunate event on her way to revenge. It’s fair that it’s pretty easy to guess the direction of the plot from there, but there were still so many surprises in this novel. It’s incredibly fast-paced, surprisingly humorous and a lot of fun!

Sometimes I really don’t like romance in my fantasy novels, but I loved it in this one. I can definitely be a sucker for a good romantic side story and I loved the slow build romance in Ruined. I loved the characters and their development throughout the novel and I loved that Amy Tintera basically wrote this story in the morally grey areas. There’s no obvious good guy. Lera and Vallos have done some shitty things, but so have the Ruined. Nobody really knows where to point the finger of blame of who started the whole thing and I really enjoyed watching the main characters trying to navigate these ambiguous ethical areas.

In a way Emelina is your classic female heroine; she’s incredibly skilled in swordplay and she is bloodthirsty and unforgiving. But she’s also a 16-year old girl being married off to the son of the man who destroyed her family. She was very vulnerable. I can’t imagine any 16 year being so ruthless and still being emotionally stable. I liked that she was able to be powerful, but still show emotions and vulnerability. Same with Cas. He was never emasculated by Em, but I liked Tintera’s portrayal of him as a boy who has had power and responsibility thrust upon him and how overwhelming that feels.

I pretty much inhaled this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the next one. Ruined has the perfect cliffhanger in that it answers all your questions, but still leaves your mouth hanging out wondering what kind of crazy shit is going to go down in the next book. I need it ASAP!

Side note, I love that Amy Tintera actually says the word “sex” in this book. YA fantasy authors tend to sidestep their way around explicitly talking about sex and use all these really weird innuendos and double entendres to describe their sex scenes (looking at you Sarah J Maas), it was refreshing to see a YA author just call it what it is. Let’s all be grown-ups about it so actual teenagers can be too.