The Dolan Girls Review

The Dolan GirlsThe Dolan Girls by S. R. Mallery has it all. Set in Nebraska during the 1800s, whorehouse madams, ladies of the night, a schoolmarm, a Pinkerton detective, a Shakespeare-quoting old coot, brutal outlaws, and a horse-wrangler fill out the cast of characters. Added to the mix are colorful descriptions of an 1856 land rush, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Annie Oakley, bank/train robberies, small town local politics, and of course, romance. Two, in fact!

Cora is in love with Thomas, and they are planning on getting married soon. Then, his horrible stepbrother rapes her and leaves her with a child. Thomas goes into the military, so Cora is left with her sister Minnie to raise her child by herself. They own a brothel for money, but Cora is worried that her daughter will not learn how to be a proper woman in this environment.

Ellie is never really close to her mother, and when she is ten years old, her mother sends her away to a girl’s boarding school. She returns and it is like nothing has changed. Neither her mother or her aunt have found love, and the brothel is still succeeding. Ellie’s rebellious streak never truly ended though, and things are about to change in her life forever.

I don’t read that many Western romances, so this was a new thing for me to enjoy. Actually, even though I thought it would be mostly about romance, by the time I got to the first time-skip, I realized that it was going to be mostly about family growth. This was actually a better way to tell the story, as Cora needed her sister and daughter more than she needed a husband or another man in her life. Mallery does not show her getting attacked one minute and being fine the next, because this simply is not realistic for victims. She needed the support so that she could heal herself, and her sister gave her that support.

I also love that this story showed successful women owning a business in the “Wild West.” Of course, a brothel is usually not considered a business. But in this version of the brothel, Cora and her sister run a “respectable” business. Well, not necessarily “respectable,” but it was just a way for women to earn a living not some sort of slavery that the workers were forced into. They ran a tight ship, and it was a successful business. The more I learned about Cora and Minnie, the prouder I was that they didn’t just succumb to their circumstances and instead decided to be successful.

Even though I usually dislike and get lost with time skips in novels, I loved the time skips in this book. It allowed us to see the times when Cora and Minnie were young adults, see Ellie’s childhood at different stages, and then see the group when Cora and Minnie are older and Ellie is a grown woman. These made for such an amazing reading experience, as the plot moved slowly enough to truly see the family grow closer together. The character development was intense, and I loved every second of reading this novel.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves genuine historical fiction and stories about strong women.

I received a copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.

Overall Rating: 6 out of 5 stars

Tokyo Ghoul Volume 1 Review

Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 1 (Tokyo Ghoul, #1)Shy Ken Kaneki is thrilled to go on a date with the beautiful Rize. But it turns out that she’s only interested in his body—eating it, that is. When a morally questionable rescue transforms him into the first half-human half-Ghoul hybrid, Ken is drawn into the dark and violent world of Ghouls, which exists alongside our own.

To be honest, horror/dark action manga are not really my thing. I much prefer romance manga or slice of life that might have a side action/adventure story. Nevertheless, an old friend recommended this manga to me about a year ago, so I decided that I might as well try it over the summer.

Within the first few pages of this story, I knew that it was going to be one of the darker stories that I might not like. I decided to finish the volume, and yes, it definitely was darker and gorier than I usually read. It was very interesting though.

Ken was not a ghoul. He was a normal human boy, until he went on a date with a mysterious girl and was almost turned into her food. When he is rescued, he needs an organ transplant, and the dead girl seems to be the most viable option. Now, he is both human and ghoul. He doesn’t want to eat humans, but if he doesn’t, then he will end up randomly attacking people.

I think that this manga does a good job of discussing the issue between good and evil. Ken always thought that the ghouls were the villains, but he never thought of things from their point of view. Sure, they have to eat human flesh, but no one truly desires to be a ghoul. I feel like the details of the ghoul world will also be expanded upon in future volumes, but this book does start to delve into some of the main issues.

Also, it was almost scary to see how many ghouls inhabited the human world. Some ghouls were too loud about their killings and made the news, but most ghouls live with humans in the normal world. They still eat human flesh, but they have learned how to control their other ghoul traits.

The one thing that I didn’t like in this story was the fact that the ghouls were not very welcoming to Ken. If they wanted to continue living in general secrecy and making peace with the humans, they should have explained to Ken the details of his new life. If Ken had just gone on a killing spree and revealed the ghouls that he had met in regular life, it could have been horrible for the ghouls who had been trying to live peaceful lives. Instead, most of the ghouls hated Ken, and then only a few helped him in small ways. I could understand that they don’t have pity on him because he got to be “partially” normal, he’s still stuck as a ghoul, and they needed to help him for their own safety.

Overall, even though this story was dark, I liked it. I think that I might even continue with this story, just to learn more about the other ghouls in Ken’s world. I think I could even get over the goriness if this story continues to be so interesting!

I would recommend this book to lovers of dark manga with strong stories.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

S.T.A.G.S Review

S.T.A.G.SNine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…

Even though this book was fiction, I could connect some of the themes with today’s reality. Greer and his friends don’t completely fit in at her boarding school, but when she invited to the country manor she believes that she might be able to make friends. Then, she realizes that she wasn’t invited there for fun, but to be targeted by the privileged students that attend the school.

I flew through this story, and I thought that the plot twists were dark and entertaining. Nevertheless, I thought that the world could have been expanded just a little bit more. Some of the descriptions seemed basic, and I couldn’t connect with Greer and her friends that much even though they were supposed to be the normal underdogs.

The character development was also nothing super special, but it was interesting to see the true sides of certain spoiler-y characters. I also wanted to be able to see how the world changes after the weekend, and this book does allow you to see a little bit of that.

The plot moved smoothly, but because the majority of it occurred over the time period of three days, it seemed to be packing as much content as possible into that three-day story timespan.

My favorite part of the story was definitely learning more about the true history of S.T.A.G.S. I won’t spoil anything, but it definitely surprised me in some ways. Again, I could relate it to how some colleges or even high school boarding schools have issues with rich kids and whose parents basically pay them through school pretending to befriend the underdogs and then hazing them horribly or bullying them constantly. It’s tough going to a school where the wage gap for parents can be steep, as I have seen on reviews for colleges and such. This book highlights some of these issues.

I would recommend this book to someone looking for a new action-mystery novel.

Overall Rating: 3.75/5

Dark Communion Review

Dark Communion (Godswar Chronicles Book 1)

I’m going to be honest here. I forgot that I downloaded this, and I don’t even know where I got it from. All I know was that one day I was looking down the list of books on my EPUB reader app on my phone, and there it was. Looking at the cover and the name, I couldn’t even remember what had possessed me to download it. I usually don’t enjoy horror novels, and this seemed like a recipe for one.

Minotaurs have enslaved the human race. They are stronger than humans, which allowed for them to easily overtake them. Now, they keep them living on large farms for their own personal gain, and control every aspect of their lives. The most despicable thing is that they cannot reproduce on their own because they are all males, so they must impregnate a human woman in order to continue their line. The women are too weak to survive birthing a minotaur, so the women do everything they can to not become pregnant with one. The minotaurs are allowed to do whatever they want to their slaves, so they often simply take women and rape them to have children. This has been the last straw for the human race as they constantly see their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters being killed while giving birth to a minotaur, or dying from the abuse of the minotaur masters.

Ayla has already seen her mother killed by giving birth to a minotaur, and now that she knows that she faces the same fate, she has nothing left to live for. One time in her sleep, a woman speaks to her and says that she is her mother, and she is a goddess. Ayla trades her soul to this goddess in order to start her journey of breaking the curse of the Minotaur. She an a mixmatched group of humans, including her closest ally and fellow slave girl Deetra, must find a way to defeat the minotaurs themselves, with the help of the Goddess. Along the way, they must battle the unfaithful, the minotaurs, and the Furless or humans who are secretly working with Minotaurs.

This book was dark, this book was not a fairytale, and if this book was made into a movie it would be considered horror. But as a story itself, I read an amazing dark adventure story. I loved all the characters, especially Ayla. She was a strong survivor of unspeakable horrors, and she never faltered in her faith towards her Mother. This book has LGBT representation as well, something that is often forgotten in the medieval-esque adventure/dystopian stories.

The story’s plot was fast paced, but not to the point where I felt as if I was missing something. Several plot twists occur but it felt quite linear, which I enjoy in a story. Even though it is the first book in a series, I felt satisfied after reading this story, not feeling as if I had to go and run to read the next book because so much had been left unfinished.

Overall, I loved this book. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an in depth fantasy story, but who isn’t squeamish about a bit of extra goriness or violence.

Overall Rating: 5/5