Strange Ideas: Death, Destiny and Decisions by Louise West

Strange_Ideas__Death_Cover_for_Kindle Strange Ideas: Death Destiny and Decisions by Louise West

Published on May 18th, 2013 by the author

Buy this book at: Amazon

Disclaimer: The author provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you Louise!



Strange Ideas: Death, Destiny and Decisions- four brand new tales to creep you out and mess with your head, plus another chance to read the popular short story, Late: a ghostly tale.

A Flip of the Coin: Do you believe in Heaven and Hell? Jimmy didn’t, until a stranger appeared at his death-bed with a shocking proposal…

Stamp: Ben awakes from a one-night-stand with a hangover and an unusual souvenir. What does it mean? And what happened to the girl who gave it to him?

Rock God: Adored, idolised, worshipped. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, pop stars are treated like gods. But how far do their powers actually go?

Superstition: Laura knocks on wood, avoids black cats and never walks under ladders. Her husband calls her a freak. Maybe he’ll wish he had believed her…

Late: a ghostly tale: Long after the children have escaped for home, a lone schoolteacher is working late. But is she really alone? Is someone there that she can’t see? And, if so, what do they want?


Rating: 4 star



First a breakdown of how I arrived at my rating.  This book contains 5 short stories, the 4 stars is the average of how I felt about each story.  Individually I will discuss the stories here.

A Flip of the Coin: 4 stars.  This was a good story to begin with because it allowed you to dip your toes into this collection and get a feel for how things would proceed.  The story itself was very intriguing as well, which helped a lot.  It set the bar for the remaining stories in a good way.  It was very reminiscent to me of the “weighing of the heart” ceremony in ancient Egyptian religion.  They believed that when you died, you stood before Osiris and he weighed your heart against the weight of the “feather of truth”.  If your heart proved heavy then you did not go to salvation but if your weight proved light then you earned salvation in the afterlife.  This had the same idea behind it but with a more modern twist.  I really liked that.  The only place this story fell short was with the ending.  I appreciate that it’s a short story but I was hoping to not get left hanging quite that much.  But overall, I really liked it.

Stamp: 2 stars.  This story was something of a disappointment unfortunately.  It started off well and I was intrigued to see where it was going.  But once we were told about the stamps, my first thought went to “I bet it turns out like XYZ.”  Unfortunately I was right.  I was hoping there would be a twist in there someplace but it never came.  The story progressed (interestingly) in exactly the manner I thought it would from the beginning and ended the way I thought it would.  A good story but the predictability lowered the rating.

Rock God: 4 stars.  This little storyline was the most surprising for me.  I started off thinking that I wouldn’t really like it that much.  I suspected I knew where the story was going and I just wasn’t in love with the narrating character.  To be perfectly honest, she came across like a bit of a selfish bitch.  I didn’t really like her that much.  But then the story took a turn when things starting getting explained.  I found myself giving my book a sideways glance and thinking “No, you didn’t just do that did you?”.  The ending however is where this became so great.  I didn’t see it coming at all because I was so wrapped up in everything else that was going on.  Truly a great little piece.

Superstition: 5 stars.  This one was my absolute favorite of the entire collection.  It was interesting and intriguing but humorous too.  Usually when I find myself giggling in books like this isn’t because it’s so terrible but not so for this one.  I found the narrating character delightful and I was so amused by her that I forgot there was supposed to be something strange about this whole thing.  The story flowed so naturally and I just loved it.

Late: 1 star.  This last story just didn’t do it for me.  It started off alright and I was intrigued with what was going on but the novelty quickly wore off and I wanted something to happen.  And it did, but then went from exciting into rather mundane.  For some people this may be a great story, but it bored me after awhile.  I have to admit that I started to skim and considered going back to Superstition to read that again instead.



About the author:


Louise West is currently teaching and surviving in rural Lincolnshire, famed for its beautiful open sky and not much else. She dreams of rainy days and cups of tea. She and her faithful terriers love long walks on the beach, where they can bounce in the surf and she can paddle with her shoes on. She will only eat trifle if her Nan made it.

Sometimes she has Strange Ideas.

Sometimes she writes them down.




(Book website)

(Author website)

(Amazon UK)

(Amazon US)


Flash Point by Nancy Kress

flash pointFlash Point by Nancy Kress

Published November 8th, 2012 by Viking Juvenile

Buy this book at: Books a Million / Book Depository / Amazon / B&N



Reality TV meets a chillingly realistic version of America—and the fame game is on!

Amy had dreams of going to college, until the Collapse destroyed the economy and her future. Now she is desperate for any job that will help support her terminally ill grandmother and rebellious younger sister. When she finds herself in the running for a slot on a new reality TV show, she signs on the dotted line, despite her misgivings. And she’s right to have them. TLN’s Who Knows People, Baby—You? has an irresistible premise: correctly predict what the teenage cast will do in a crisis and win millions. But the network has pulled strings to make it work, using everything from 24/7 hidden cameras to life-threatening technology to flat-out rigging. Worse, every time the ratings slip, TLN ups the ante. Soon Amy is fighting for her life—on and off camera.


Rating: 1 star



Short version – This book sucked.  Nothing happens.  Not a damn thing.  Then suddenly the author seems to remember they are writing a book to interest people and something happens.  Then the book is over.  Save your money and buy a book where something, ANYTHING happens.

Long version – I was really looking forward to this book, it’s embarrassing just how much.  I wanted to love it so much that I pre-ordered it months before it was released.  Then I started seeing a lot of bad reviews and had an “uh oh, did I screw this royally?” moment.  The premise interested me because it sounded a tiny bit like The Hunger Games but in a more tame fashion.  Interesting, and I was willing to give it a shot despite my sudden misgivings.

I have seen people speculating that the grammar or spelling errors might be because they got an uncorrected ARC copy…it wasn’t.  There were many times when I did a double take and said to my book “what the hell is that supposed to say…because it definitely doesn’t say whatever it is!”.  I got annoyed that they kept calling Kaylie different names.  One paragraph its Kaylie, the next paragraph (no joke, literally the next paragraph) it was Kayla. It confused the hell out of me.  There were enough characters for me to keep track of, I didn’t need one with two names.

Amy was an idiot.  A irredeemable idiot.  First, she applies for a job without having any idea what the job is.  Who does that?  Idiot Amy does.  Then, she signed a legally binding contract for the mystery job without even bothering to read it…or even skim it!  It was at that moment that I knew Amy and I wouldn’t get along.  But not only was she a complete moron, she was boring too.  I sort of agreed with the emails she got later in the book that said she did nothing and was a waste of air time.  She was a waste of book time too.  And she treated her sister like shit, then I branded her total Grade A bitch status.

The plot was just so dull.  9 out of the 10 scenarios were laughably stupid.  The book jacket says that they kept upping the ante until Amy and the others are fighting for their lives both on screen and off screen.  Wait, hold on.  Where is THAT book?  Because it sure as shit isn’t the book I just read!  The scenarios were all boring and much the same.  I didn’t see any upping the ante at all.  Then suddenly we get to the last scenario and they are breaking the law and trying to kill people.  What the actual fuck?  Boring to illegal in 2.5 pages!  But by then I didn’t fall for the bullcrap because I’d seen the same tactic in the 9 other scenarios so that made it not only implausible but also predictable.

Stupidest love triangle….square….ever.  So not only did the love triangle suck but they tried to make it a love square, which was weird and made even less sense than the love triangle.  Naturally one of the guys was the pretty boy who everyone falls in love with.  The other guy I actually liked.  But only one of them ever seemed to be interested in Amy at all, but Amy was only interested in the other guy until he did something she didn’t like and then she was all over (literally) the guy who had been flirting with her from day one.  Then they tried to throw in another person and it just got weird and stupid and I didn’t believe any of it at all.  Amy was boring, the other girl was a manipulative bitch.  What’s to like?!

And now for some notes for other authors to learn from this train wreck:

1. When you are writing a dystopian novel in which everything has changed drastically from the way we know it, explain how that happened!  And exactly what happened!  Just referring to everything as “pre-Collapse.” isn’t helpful.  I don’t know what the fuck the Collapse was or did!?  Tell me for the love of almighty Goddess!  Just a few paragraphs to explain the backstory would have been sufficient, or a prologue.  Anything!

2. Stop with the love triangles already.  Seriously, it’s gotten old.  And if you have to do it, can you at least make it interesting?  A 3 girl love triangle?  A 2 girls, 1 guy triangle?  A 3 girl love triangle?  At this point I’d take just about everything other than 2 guys head over heels in love with the most boring girl on the planet.

3. Unless your book is a comedy, if I’m laughing to the point of tears you’ve failed….badly.  Take heed.

4. If you are going to give your heroine some kind of special power, at least tell me what it actually is.  I read an entire book and I have not a clue about what Amy’s phantoms were or what purpose they served.

5. If you are writing in a character who is giving your heroine hints about what’s to come as a warning, please make sure those hints make sense.  Maybe it’s because Amy was an idiot that she didn’t get it earlier, but I didn’t get it either.  Two vague words does not a warning make.  Make it clear or I really won’t give a damn.

6. Please, stop the endless lists of designer brands.  At a certain point I start thinking that they are paying you for product placement.  Then I start to giggle.  Then when I get tired of giggling, I just skim the rest of your shitty tome.

7. If your own characters tell me how much something sucks, don’t write it.  Otherwise I will sit there and nod and go “yep character A, you’re write that’s fucking stupid.”

Don’t buy this book, I beg you.  If you absolutely have to read it then get it from the library or a friend who already wasted their money on it.  It’s not worth it.  It’s not even worth the paper it’s printed on.

Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

magisteriumMagisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Published October 1st, 2012 by Scholastic Books

Buy this book at: Books A Million / Book Depository / Amazon / B&N



On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn’s only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn’t for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn’s mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father’s work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run—with only one place to go.


Rating: 2 star



This book was sooooooooo boring.  I really don’t have much to say about it, so this review should be short.  Admittedly, the book started off well.  I initially quite liked heroine Glenn, until I got to know her a little.  I liked her ambition and her dreams of a better future.  But I quickly realized that her “dreams” were nothing more than an excuse not to deal with her present.  That annoyed me. Yes, she has a father who has been distant since her mother’s disappearance but she seemed to make no effort to get him help or change the situation.  She just went along and then thought of the day she could escape.

Once we start to learn more about the Magisterium, I was hoping that the book would take an exciting turn.  I mean, what could be more exciting than being chased by the bad guys into a land that you never thought existed, only to discover that things aren’t much better over there either.  It sounds exciting, but it wasn’t.  Glenn made EVERYTHING boring and dull.  Her narration almost put me to sleep.  She seemed to have no feeling about anything that she encountered.  And the situations she was thrust into weren’t all that exciting to begin with.

Along with being dull and boring, it was also painfully predictable.  I knew about 100 pages before they told me what happened to Glenn’s mother. I knew how it would end about the time they crossed into Magisterium.  All I can say for this book is that it was a fantastic idea but never quite lived up to its potential.  And there was no insta-love or love triangles.  But beyond that, there was nothing redeeming about it either.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Sheperd

madmansdaughterThe Madman’s Daughter by Megan Sheperd

Published January 29th, 2013 by Balzer & Bray

Buy this book at (no seriously you need to buy it!): Books A Million / Book Depository / Amazon / B&N



In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.


Rating: 4 star



This book is awesome with a side order of fantastic.  I have not read the book that inspired this novel, although I know the premise and basic plot points.  I expected that to mean that I didn’t anticipate any of the plot twists, that was not exactly accurate but I still loved the book.  It was creepy without being even the slightest bit gory…okay maybe there was one tiny gory moment but not too bad.  It made my skin crawl without being traditionally scary.

Juliet is a character that I had to like.  She is tough, feminine, smart, articulate, creative, and curious.  Its been quite a long time since I read a book with such a kick ass heroine.  She gets a little doe eyed around Montgomery, but I expected that so it was not too terrible to endure. I was really interested in spending more time in Juliet’s head.  Her internal dialogue intrigued me immensely.  At first I thought that my immersion into the book was a result of exceptionally lovely writing.  But as I look back, the writing is very solid and descriptive but nothing exceptional.  The source of my fascination was Juliet.  I couldn’t get enough of her.

The plot was very tightly put together and proceeded at a decent pace.  Not once did I feel like things were moving too fast or that things were moving along at a snail’s pace.  It was the perfect pace for the plot.  It spent just enough time on certain portions of the plot that you started to feel uncomfortable.  You wanted the author to move on, but it didn’t until that discomfort achieved its purpose.  I really enjoyed that.  I like a book that uses the pacing and plot to evoke certain reactions or feelings out of me.  In our current environment of cookie cutter characters put into a cookie cutter plot, this felt different.  I also found that I guessed all of the different plot twists long before they actually happened.  When a twist would come up, I’d sensed it coming and wasn’t surprised by it.  Shockingly, I didn’t find this annoying, I kind of enjoyed it.

The only reason that I deducted a star was the love triangle.  In general, I am sick and tired of love triangles.  They are horribly cliche at this point and not interesting at all.  But the love triangle itself was not the reason I disliked it.  I actually liked the fact that the two men were so vastly different from each other.  I could understand Juliet’s attraction to both and why she would not be sure who was the best man for her.  My problem was that I couldn’t even tell it was supposed to be a love triangle until I specifically told.  I saw no attraction or interest from any of them and then it was kind of like, “Oh she kissed him, I guess she must like him.”  and then “Oh, she kissed him too, love triangle here we come.”  I should have been able to guess it.

And now we have come to the ending of this wonderful tale.  Oh, and what an ending it was.  This is the one twist that I didn’t see coming a mile away.  I was convinced that there had to be more pages that I was missing somehow.  It couldn’t possibly end like….THAT!  Where were the rest of the pages?  Maybe I got a flawed book and they left out a chapter or two at the end.  I still am dumbfounded that it couldn’t possibly end that way.  I need that second book right now to find out what happens.

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

hollowlandHollowland by Amanda Hocking

Published October 6th, 2010 by the author

Buy this book at: Amazon / B&N



“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way – not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.


Rating: 3 star



I don’t know about this book, I really just don’t know.  Obviously I have heard the rumblings about the author, you would think she was the literary Second Coming of Christ.  But I had never read any of her books.  This one intrigued me, I like zombie books.  But lately I have been frustrated with zombie books since they all turn out exactly the same.  Immediately I could tell, these zombies would be different.  The origination of the zombies is interesting and not something I remember reading before.  The beginning sequence of the book was also truly fantastic.  The book starts off with a huge burst of energy and I was sucked in right away.  These two things made me think, wow I am really going to love this book.  Well, now I’m at the end.  I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either.  Overall, I liked it but the problems with the book were so bad I just couldn’t ignore them.


As well as this book started, it quickly landed in the realm of the absurd.  Remy meets up with some other survivors at the beginning of her quest to find her baby brother.  That was not unexpected, it happens in every post-apocalypse book there is.  But certain things I just couldn’t get over.  For example, they find a lion chained to a truck who’s as gentle as a newborn kitten.  Yeah, sorry I’m not buying it.  Even lions that have been raised by humans since birth still have a wild streak that cannot be tamed.  Then there was this passage that made me scream:

“Over 200 pounds of jungle cat sat on my chest…”

AAAHHH!!  OMG, Google is your friend!  How on earth did that sentence ever get published?  Let’s just point out the two biggest problems with it.   First, lions live in the savanna of Africa, that is most certainly not a jungle.  Tigers or even panthers would be a jungle cat, but most definitely not lions.  Second, a two second Google search will tell you that an adult lioness generally weighs between 300 and 400 pounds.  That’s a hell of a lot more than 200 don’t ya think?

But anyway, once we move on from my annoyance with that badly crafted and factually incorrect sentence, we move on to finding out that one of Remy’s new companions is a world famous rock star.  Yes, I know, my eyes almost rolled out of my head too.  And he’s oh so hot, and immediately smitten with Remy.  Of course he is.

Then we travel to the now deserted Las Vegas.  I mean, what happened to the ingenuity of the first chapter?  EVERY post apocalypse novel features Las Vegas.  At this point I was so tired of this book that I wanted to give up, but I persevered to the end.

Remy bothered me.  The book was told from her point of view, and she is an emotionless, obsessive girl.  I don’t think she expressed a single emotion until the last handful of pages.  For a first person POV, this was awful.  If she didn’t care about what was happening then how could I?  The character played it off as being stoic and “doing what needed to be done” but it was boring.  Doing what needs to be done doesn’t mean you have no emotion about it.  It means you have emotion about it and quell it to get the job done.

Then we had the ending, it was actually pretty good.  It felt hurried and rushed, but I liked what we were left with in the end.  It was interesting and got me re-invested in the book and wondering just what the hell had gone wrong for the entire middle portion.  The only reason I am considering reading the next book is because the excerpt I got for it at the end of this book was better than anything I read in this entire thing.  It was alright, but only because the beginning and ending saved it.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

gone girlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Published June 5th, 2012 by Crown

Buy this book at: Books A Million / Book Depository / Amazon / B&N



Marriage can be a real killer.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.


Rating: 3 star



Small disclaimer, I am a huge Gillian Flynn fan.  I am the type of Flynn fan who keeps multiple copies of her books around the house just in case I need to loan a few copies out to friends.  Sharp Objects is easily one of my all time favorite books, I’ve read it more times than I can count.  Dark Places was not as amazing as Sharp Objects but I still loved it to pieces and have re-read it a thousand times.  I was so excited to get into this book that I was practically salivating on it.  Unfortunately, while I enjoyed this book, it was a slight disappointment for me.  It is with much sadness that I have to proclaim Gone Girl as my least favorite Flynn book to date.

The premise of this book is interesting because how many times have we seen this in the last few decades?  It seems like at least once a year a beautiful woman goes missing, the husband makes himself look oh so guilty, then it comes to light the husband is a no good cheater, then he’s a wife beater, then it comes out the woman was pregnant and he didn’t want it.  Oh the horror!  Everyone watching the television coverage sits back in satisfaction when the husband is finally carted off to jail for murdering his wife.  So to write a book about this very topic, I thought, would be fascinating.  What if it really wasn’t quite that simple?  And once you add in a Gillian Flynn twist, it can only be fantastic.

The characters in this book weren’t very likeable.  Which is common with this author, so I expected it.  Although, I will admit that while I didn’t like Nick my main emotion for him was sadness.  I felt bad for him.  I felt like we were only getting the side of the story that made him look like a shitty excuse for a man and a sugar coated version of everything else.  It wasn’t fair and I saw right through it.  I didn’t really like Amy from the start, I found her voice and character to be disingenuous at best.  Unfortunately that meant that most of the shocking twists in plot, I had already figured out well ahead of time.

The plot was tight and well put together, but it did drag in certain places.  I really liked the layout of the story and characters and it was clear that this was very well thought out.  But every now and then I caught myself thinking, okay I get it stop pounding the point home!

Up until the ending, I was really enjoying the book.  It definitely wasn’t my favorite of this author’s books, but I was still having a great time reading it.  But then the ending.  I don’t even know what to say about the ending because that’s how lukewarm I am about it.  It was a perfect ending from a character perspective.  It fit all of the character’s personalities perfectly and was exactly what those kind of people would do.  But it was also painfully predictable for me.  I suspected that’s how it would end starting around the middle of the book, and that disappointed me.  I am used to getting a huge and unexpected twist at the end from Flynn, and I didn’t get even a little bit of a surprise.  Maybe I just know the author’s style too well and so I got too good at predicting her plot.  I am not sure where the problem happened, but it left me feeling underwhelmed about the book in general.