Some excellent books, with endings that weren’t entirely satisfying!  I’ll start with the usual general overview, then get deeper into the endings for anyone who doesn’t mind spoilers.

5Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

What it’s About:  Sarah, an orphaned Jewish girl, is enlisted to infiltrate a school attended by the daughters of prominent Nazis.  Her mission is to get close to the daughter of a prominent scientist, in order to steal the blueprints for a bomb that could change the course of World War 2.

What I Thought:  I’m usually not much for period pieces, but this one caught my eye.  It’s a tense, gripping narrative that I mostly liked.  The one problem is that while there is initially a lot going on at the school, once Sarah actually gets close to her target everything else seems to pretty much disappear.  Which makes sense from a realism standpoint, she was focused on her mission and everything else is unimportant, but it’s a bit jarring from a narrative standpoint.  I kind of thought there would be a sequel, but so far it appears to be a standalone.

4Through to You by Emily Hainsworth

What it’s About:  Cam is grief stricken after his beloved girlfriend dies in a car accident.  Things take a strange turn when he meets a mysterious girl named Nina, who turns out to be a parallel world.  He follows her there and is thrilled to find his girlfriend Viv, is alive in this world.  But he quickly learns that there are secrets that could turn this seemingly wonderful discovery on its head.

What I Thought:  I really liked this.  It might be a bit slow moving, and the main character is (understandably) rather miserable throughout much of the novel, but I was still hooked.  But once again, this is a book that seems to really need a sequel, and with more than five years having passed since publication, it seems this will stand alone forever.  I’ll get more into the ending in the spoiler half of the article.

3.  Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

What it’s About:  Jane Eyre in space.  Humans live on ships orbiting the uninhabitable Earth, and Stella is thrilled to get a new job as a governess on the mysterious ship Rochester.  When she arrives she is immediately intrigued by this ship’s inhabitants, especially the young captain Hugo Fairfax.  But is the ship haunted?  And is someone trying to kill Hugo?

What I Thought:  It’s been a while since I read Jane Eyre, but Brightly Bringing seems to mostly do a good job of retelling the story in a new setting.  I mostly enjoyed it, though the romance felt a bit forced, but the book features one of my big pet peeves as an important plot point.  More on that later, but I would still recommend this book to anyone who likes the concept of a science fiction Jane Eyre, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for Donne’s next book, another science fiction retelling that takes place in the same universe..

2The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

What it’s About:  Every year, three sisters who were executed for witchcraft return to possess the bodies of three girls, and lure unsuspecting boy to their deaths.  Local Penny and newcomer Bo must overcome mistrust in order to survive as the town falls into paranoia.

What I Thought: Overall, this is an excellent story with a great atmosphere.  My main issue was the ending, which I’ll discuss in detail later.  For now I’ll just say that it is not in any way a bad ending, just a bit abrupt in my opinion.

  1. Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson

What it’s About:  In Portland, Elyse is shocked and thrilled when the new drama teacher casts her as Juliet instead of her best friend Brynn.  In Austin, Gabe is fed up with his controlling girlfriend Sasha.  They have never met, but they both fall for someone they shouldn’t, sending their lives into tailspins.  Elyse embarks on a forbidden relationship with the drama teacher, while Gabe becomes intrigued by the mysterious quiet girl in school named Catherine, but Sasha has no intention of letting him go.

What I Thought:  This is a book about unhealthy relationships, and I was really drawn into it.  I had somewhat mixed feelings about Elyse, who seemed very quick to get snippy towards Brynn, who is very supportive as Elyse struggles to become the best Juliet she could be.  The book does ultimately writer a misunderstanding between them to make their conflict more organic, but Elyse seems to turn on Brynn even before that happens.  I also wasn’t sure about how Sasha started trying to look and act like Catherine when Gabe showed an interest in her.  Wouldn’t the queen bee try to accentuate the differences between her and the mousy girl?  And once again, there was a bit of a problem with the ending.  All that said, overall this was still a very engaging read, and I will definitely be waiting to see what Donaldson comes out with next.

 

Now, onto the endings

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Okay, so in Through to You Cam was a football star until he got hurt, and Viv supported him in walking away from the sport.  He put her on a pedestal for this, and then she died in a car accident.  When he follows Nina into the parallel universe, he is thrilled to find Viv alive.  But it turns out that in this universe, he made a triumphant return to football, and Viv was actually upset about it since it meant she had to share him with the rest of the community instead of having him all to herself.  They broke up and Cam moved onto Nina, until Viv killed him.

The climax comes when Cam and Nina return to the portal between worlds and say goodbye, and Viv shows up with more death on her mind, but Cam manages to talk her into just leaving, perhaps in large part because Cam and Nina aren’t going to get to be together anyway, what with being from two different worlds and all.  But just because he talked Viv down that night doesn’t mean she isn’t still a danger to Nina once Cam is gone.  She’s clearly unstable, and could change her mind and strike at any moment.  Or, if she realizes that Cam is likely to try to find the Nina in his world, she might become determined to find her own way through the portal and make sure they don’t get together there.

As for Brightly Burning, the thing is, I generally hate when an utterly unlikeable and selfish character makes a last minute turn to good for not discernible reason.  Whether it’s a high heel face turn or Draco in leather pants, it’s a pet peeve of mine.  In Brightly Burning, we have an entire family who seem to be completely selfish and are hated by everyone.  Then suddenly one of them steps up and provides a huge helping hand in the climax.  Honestly, many people might like that the character was given more depth than just the mean girl rival, but I just didn’t entirely buy her turn.

In The Wicked Deep, one of the leads is actually one of the returned sisters, in her possessed body.  She is actually trying to protect people from her sisters, and ultimately she brings the curse to an end.  Which isn’t a bad ending at all, except that the other sisters pretty much just drop dead instantly.  It just seems a bit abrupt.

In Lies You Never Told Me, I was probably slow on the uptake, not realizing where the story was going until about 200 pages in.  The mousey girl Gabe is falling for with the scary father, Catherine, is actually Elyse, as her story of her falling for her teacher is actually happening in the past.  The scary father is of course the teacher, who she runs off with at the “end” of her story. 

The climax comes when Gabe helps her escape the teacher, and they are then confronted by Gabe’s ex Sasha.  By this point she had threatened to kill Gabe’s sister, placed a camera in his room, and done numerous things to make it look like he was the violent and crazy one.  Gabe eventually gave in and agreed to be Sasha’s boyfriend again as long she stops the madness that is hurting him and everyone around him.  She then treats him like her personal slave, which he takes until Elyse/Catherine sends him a desperate text for help.

Thus, when Sasha shows up to confront Gabe and Catherine with a gun at the end, I was ready for the bitch to go down hard.  She ends up threatening suicide, then just dropping the gun and sulking as the police arrive, in time to see that she is actually the crazy one, not Gabe.  I was just hoping to see her pay the piper a little more.

Published by Andrew Clendening