Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Well, this was a colossal waste of time. It pains me to say that, but Ninth House was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not even come close to meeting my expectations. I’m going to go the list route for the rest of this review.

-Let’s talk about those expectations. Ninth House is Bardugo’s first adult novel. However, it pretty much read exactly like all of her YA novels. Plus, it’s set in a college, so the main character is a freshman (though she’s 20 instead of 18, so I guess that’s supposed to make her more adult?) and it still follows a basic YA formula – the dumb adult doesn’t listen to the young main character’s concerns, so she goes behind their backs to figure things out on her own.

-Almost every review I’ve read described this book as DARK, but it wasn’t really. Maybe slightly darker than her YA novels, but if we’re comparing to similar adult novels, I wouldn’t describe it that way. It wasn’t even very creepy, which was disappointing.

-If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen some trigger warnings and debates about a rape scene. I was really preparing myself for something graphic and horrible and don’t get me wrong, it’s a sensitive subject and is always awful to read. But the scene was very brief and not graphic and didn’t leave much of a lasting impact. I don’t think there needed to be that much of a fuss kicked up over it. I also don’t think it was necessary to include in the story since there were other traumatic things that happened to her that had a bigger impact on the overall story.

-This book was several hundred pages longer than it needed to be. It took over 300 pages for the plot to actually move forward. Before that, the book is mostly made up with descriptions of Yale, New Haven, magic, and the secret societies. It was really a chore to get through and I almost DNF-ed it so many times, but I pressed on because it was Leigh Bardugo and I thought she would pull through in the end. I wish I would’ve DNF-ed it.

-I was really interested in the whole secret society subject. When I first started reading, it reminded me a little bit of the movie The Skulls which was one of my favorite movies as a teenager. However, the societies never really lived up to their potential. They ended up coming across as nothing more than boring covens.

-The characters weren’t really that likable. I don’t know how the author that brought us characters like Kaz Brekker and Sturmhond/Nikolai could fill this book with such flat, forgettable characters. I feel like all of her energy and attention went into creating the atmosphere and the magic and the characters were left as afterthoughts. While Darlington was my favorite character of the book, I found myself wanting to like him, more than I actually liked him.

-The story did start to pick up for me towards the end, where there was actual plot that focused on the murder mystery and I even started to enjoy it a little bit. However, the ending made me really not want to read the next book. It’s something straight out of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and was such a lame way to end the story.

Overall, Ninth House left me incredibly disappointed. It focused way too much on the “let me show off the research I did for this book” descriptions and not enough on plot or on creating credible, likable characters. I am obviously in the minority here, though, so fans of Bardugo might find it much more enjoyable than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Reviewing the Unreviewed: October 2019

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. Reviewing the Unreviewed is my monthly post where I share my few thoughts on all the books I didn’t formally review.

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The Long Call (Two Rivers #1) by Ann Cleeves. Read September 28-30 (yes this was September, but it was after I posted my September installment of Reviewing the Unreviewed). 3 Stars. 

I found this a pretty average mystery. It was very character driven, which is fine, but the pace seemed soooo slow. It did pick up towards the end, though. The main characters were likable enough, but not really memorable. It was a decent read, but I’m not sure if I’m interested enough to continue the series.

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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James. Read October 4-6. 3 Stars. 

This was ok, but not what I expected. I didn’t think the alternate timelines were used that well, nor did I think we really needed POVs from all four girls in the past. I thought the story was a little too long and large parts of it were too unbelievable. And the most unbelievable wasn’t even the ghost parts (which made me take the whole book way less seriously, as well)

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Reveal Me (Shatter Me #5.5) by Tahereh Mafi. Read October 13-14. 2 Stars.

Did we really need another novella full of Kenji’s feelings? Honestly, getting his POV just makes me like him a little less.

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The Bridal Party by J.G. Murray. Read October 15-16. 2 Stars. 

There was so much potential for this story, but it failed to reach it. The events weren’t very feasible and the big reveal wasn’t at all surprising. I was still holding out for a fun twist at the end, but there wasn’t one and it was just kind of depressing instead.

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The Burning Shadow (Origin #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout. October 17-19. 3 Stars. 

This was ok, but I can’t really say much more for it than that. It was much too long and repetitive and I was bored for large parts of it. There were also thinly veiled political analogies between unregistered Luxens and undocumented immigrants and I found it a little annoying. There were multiple scenes of the main character yelling at protesters that just kind of felt like wish fulfillment from the author. And I’m not saying that’s bad, but I feel like everything that is wrong in the country comes down to two sides yelling names at each other instead of trying to talk and work things out. It’s so unproductive and I get enough of that in real life. I did enjoy getting more Luc, though, and I liked the romance, which is what JLA is always good at. I also liked the cameos from the Lux series. There was more of all the characters I love than the last book had, so that helped make up for some of the boredom.

*****DNF*****

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After the Flood by Kassandra Montag. DNF at 9%. I wasn’t too impressed after I started this, so I set it down to read something else. Two weeks later and I just have no interest in picking it back up again.

Rain Will Come by Thomas Holgate. DNF @ 4%. Sometimes you know right away if you’re not going to click with a story and that was my experience with this book. The first chapter was enough to make me not like the main character – mainly because some of the events remind me a lot of my father. The writing style didn’t really mesh with me either. However, I will say that the reviews I’ve seen so far for this book are pretty positive, so this is probably just a case of not being the right book for me.

*****Books with Future Reviews Scheduled*****

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Lake Season (Bluebell Inn Romance #1) by Denise Hunter – 2.5/5 Stars

Meet Me on Love Lane (Hopeless Romantics #2) by Nina Bocci – 3/5 Stars

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1) by Leigh Bardugo – 2/5 Stars

The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters – 2.5/5 Stars

Reputation by Sara Shepard – 3.5/5 Stars

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher – 3/5 Stars

Yours in Scandal (Man of the Year #1) by Lauren Layne – 4/5 Stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall 2019 TBR

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is: Books On My Fall 2019 TBR. My list is comprised of ARCs, anticipated fall releases, and a couple others that I’m hoping to just be able to make time for soon.

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1. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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2. The Burning Shadow (Origin #2) by Jennifer L Armentrout

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3. Lake Season (Bluebell Inn Romance #1) by Denise Hunter

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4. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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5. Marriage on Madison Avenue (Central Park Pact #3) by Lauren Layne

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6. The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters

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7. Endgame (Fawkes and Baxter #3) by Daniel Cole

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8. The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts

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9. Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower

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10. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

What are you reading this Fall?

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019.

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1. Shamed (Kate Burkholder #11) by Linda Castillo. Publishing July 16, 2019.

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2. Dark Age (Red Rising #5) by Pierce Brown. Publishing July 30, 2019.

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3. Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins. Publishing August 6, 2019.

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4. The Killing Tide (Coastal Guardians #1) by Dani Pettrey. Publishing August 6, 2019.

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5. The Last Widow (Will Trent #9) by Karin Slaughter. Publishing August 20, 2019.

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6. Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay. Publishing September 17, 2019.

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7. Where Do I Begin? by Elvis Duran. Publishing October 1, 2019.

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8. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. Publishing October 1, 2019.

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9. The Burning Shadow (Origin #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Publishing October 8, 2019.

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10. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. Publishing November 5, 2019.

What are your most anticipated releases?

Reviewing the Unreviewed: March 2019

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. Reviewing the Unreviewed is my monthly post where I share my few thoughts on all the books I didn’t formally review.

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Shadow Me (Shatter Me #4.5) by Tahereh Mafi. Read March 5. 2 Stars. 

Honestly, I thought this was kind of pointless. It doesn’t really add anything to the series, other than that Kenji is a sad little bird who wants loooooove. I wanted to buy him ice cream and sign him up for a dating app. Warner is once again the only saving grace.

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Read March 5-7. 2.5 Stars. 

This was one I was really looking forward to, but I found it pretty disappointing. I really liked the beginning and appreciated the short chapter lengths, but as the story went on I felt it dragged and the twist wasn’t exactly surprising. I felt the end was really anti-climactic, as well.

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The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker. Read March 8-9. 4 Stars. 

I liked this. Calla took me a little while to start to like, but I eventually did. I liked the slow burn romance between her and Jonah. I liked her new relationship with her father – even though I felt like their reconnection was just a little too easy. I really liked Calla’s stepfather, Simon, and I found myself pretty annoyed with the way her mother treated him. This was a good, character-driven story and I definitely want to check out more from K.A. Tucker.

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The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren. Read March 9-10. 3 Stars.

This was pretty depressing. I was kind of in the mood for something sad and depressing, though, so it was ok for me. I can see where this would be helpful for people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. For the average reader, though, I thought it focused on the sadness for longer than it should have. It’s not until the very end that the characters really start to feel any hope and then it’s only because the romance is finally working out. I definitely enjoyed Biren’s Cold Day in the Sun much more than this one.

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In the Dark (DI Adam Fawley #2) by Cara Hunter. Read March 17-20. 4 Stars. 

I loved this. If you have not been reading this series, you are really missing out. Cara Hunter is a fantastic writer. There are so many twists and turns and I just never knew what to expect. The main characters are really likable and I thought their development was balanced perfectly with the mystery. This is probably my favorite book of the year so far.

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Run Away by Harlan Coben. Read March 25-29. 3.5 Stars.

Well written and good character development. I loved the little cameo of Nap from Don’t Let Go. I thought it was a little too slow-paced, though. It wasn’t until the end that I felt any suspense. The twist at the end was good, but it wasn’t mind-blowing like I was expecting. I had guessed most of it long before it was revealed. The ending honestly just kind of pissed me off. I wished I would have liked this one a little more since this is the book I got from his book tour.

*****Back on the TBR*****

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Homecoming (The 100 #3) by Kass Morgan. I got about 20% of this and just couldn’t get into it. I’ll try it again, though.

One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase. This is an ARC I was excited for, but I am definitely NOT in the mood for it right now. I’ll still give it another go since it’s an ARC and I think if I am in the right mood, I will probably enjoy it.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. I was towards the top of the list for library holds, but it ended up expiring before I got to it. I just haven’t been in the mood for Fantasy lately. And while Nikolai will always hold a special place in my heart, I’m not thrilled with the other POVs I’ve heard this book includes. I’ll get to it eventually, though.

*****Books with Future Reviews Scheduled*****

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Summer by the Tides by Denise Hunter – 4 Stars

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda – 4 Stars

Trust Me When I Lie by Benjamin Stevenson – 3 Stars

The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman – 1 Star

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019.

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1. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus. January 8, 2019.

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2. Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills. January 15, 2019.

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3. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, January 29, 2019.

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4. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. January 29, 2019.

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5. Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West. February 5, 2019.

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6. Huge Deal by Lauren Layne. February 12, 2019.

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7. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon. March 1, 2019.

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8. Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett. April 16, 2019.

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9. The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth. April 23, 2019.

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10. Fumbled my Alexa Martin. April 23, 2019.

What books are you looking forward to this year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Backlist Books I Want to Read

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl, is: Top Ten Backlist Books I Want to Read. I’m not sure how everyone else defines “backlist”, but I’m going to use it as any book currently published I haven’t read yet, even if they came out recently.

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor. I bought this book from the bargain shelves a couple years ago and still haven’t started it yet.

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The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. I got Shiver as a free e-book a couple years ago and I started it once, but never finished it. I’d like to go back and give the series another try.

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Speaking of Stiefvater, I haven’t read All the Crooked Saints yet, either.

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I’ve only read the first two books in the Helen Grace series by M.J. Alridge. I did enjoy them, but somehow it just fell off my radar and I’d like to go back and pick up where I left off.

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The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White. I remember being really excited for this series (mostly due to the beautiful cover, if I’m honest), but I started it once and couldn’t get into it. I’ve read so many great reviews of this series, though, and I want to try it again.

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My brother, who is not a big reader, is obsessed with the Mitch Rapp series and I’ve read the first couple books and enjoyed them, but need to get to the rest. One interesting thing about this series, it recently picked up with some new books written by a different author after the original author (Flynn) passed away.

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Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo. This was one of my most anticipated books last year, but I have yet to read it. I did actually start it once, but didn’t get past the first chapter or two.

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From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon. I love Amy Harmon books and this is one of the very few I haven’t read yet.

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All of the Rosato & Associates and Rosata & DiNunzio books by Lisa Scottoline. I’ve read the first book in each series (one is a spin-off of the other, but really I think is just a continuation?) and I need to get to the rest of them.

What backlist books do you want to read?