Unleashed Review


Seventeen-year-old Claire Williams’ tough upbringing has taught her how to throw a punch or two to survive, especially when it involves a man’s unwanted attention. But her strength waivers when she visits Bodian Dynamics, a medical research facility, and stumbles upon classified information—someone has stolen a drug that not only changes a person’s appearance, but will also unleash a dark and evil alter ego.

After an intimidating security guard threatens the lives of her friends if she speaks to anyone about the incident, Claire pretends the drug never existed. That is until she meets Gage, a teenage boy who doesn’t seem to have a conscience and who is hell-bent on making her just like him by unleashing her dark side.

But Claire knows a secret—he can only die while in his normal state. And since Gage knows personal information about her, Claire thinks she knows who it is: either her best friend or her recent boyfriend. And once she figures out which boy Gage is hiding behind, she’s going to kill him, even if it breaks her heart.

I’ve always loved Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and I’m usually interested in YA takes on things, so of course I became quite eager when I learned of Rachel’s newest work. I must say, it didn’t disappoint me in any way!

C H A R A C T E R S  &  R E L A T I O N S H I P S 

Claire. I really like Claire! She’s a teenage girl who, on the emotional spectrum, isn’t exactly typical. She’s already had to deal with quite a lot in the years prior to the book’s beginning, and her life just gets more complicated as time goes on, it seems! In most regards, though, I think she’s an ‘average’ teen… She has her interests, she doesn’t get along with her mother much, and she enjoys spending time with her friends. Her passion for singing and for the band in general is quite evident. (Slight spoiler warning) One thing I really love is how, despite Logan’s interest in her, it never turns into what I consider a ‘love triangle’ —- she doesn’t return his feelings when he first brings it up, and this remains a solid stance throughout the book. Her feelings for Ethan are quite real, as far as I’m concerned. Logan’s her best friend, but that’s it. And I’m so glad for that.

Logan. Very real, ‘typical’ teenage boy. His feelings for Claire are important, and they do play a role throughout the story (as seen when he talks to Ethan and Claire on their date at the restaurant), but they don’t override everything else. It’s not in any way overbearing, and I believe him when he claims that his friendship with Claire is more important.

Ethan. He, too, is what I’d consider ‘average’ and ‘typical’. I like the chemistry between him and Claire! It’s enough to make me at least support the idea of them as a couple, though I was constantly aware of how I prefer them as friends. Either way, Ethan’s a real sweetheart, and I’m glad Claire has him in her life to help her along.

Kate. I was quite indifferent to her at first, but I found her a bit annoying as the story went along. Honestly, I can’t pinpoint the exact reason(s). Anyway, I do like her excitement and dedication to the band. She’s a pretty good friend to Claire, too, and I earnestly believe she’s a strong source of support for her.

Steph. There’s not really much to say about Steph. The only things I can readily remember about her are that she’s the band’s drummer and she has a famous growl/scream that she does at the beginning of the show.

Albert. All we know of him until the big reveal is that he’s someone very close to Claire, he has a seriously screwed up home life, and he wants things to be different…so he makes them different.

There are others in the story, of course, but these are the ones I recall seeing the most.


This story has a lot going on, that’s the first thing that one should note. I knew it going in, simply from the description, but I suppose it’s best to confirm! It deals with everyday teenage things as well as things that are darker, more complex, and much less common. McClellan does a great job of weaving these things together when it’s called for. As for who Albert/Gage is…well, you can guess… Until it was finally revealed, I bounced back and forth between the possibilities too many times to tally. McClellan’s absolutely fantastic when it comes to suspense; it’s never too heavy, but nothing was ever brushed aside as though it didn’t matter, as though it was nothing.

Great job, really. I was so excited about this book, and I was right to be! It didn’t disappoint, and it kept me on the edge of my seat, threatening to push me over. Rachel McClellan’s a great writer, and I hope to see more suspenseful books from her in the future.

I rate Unleashed  4/5 stars. Very well-deserved!


The Glass Casket Review

Death hasn’t visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders’ bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.

Rowan’s village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan’s door once again.

Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.

**I do not own a copy of this book, it was one among many plucked from the library’s shelves a week (or so) ago. Also keep in mind that, as always, these are my opinions as this is my review, and it should be viewed as such. 

Writing Style

Before anything else, I’d like to say that the first half or so of the book is very well-written. It’s in the same style as the above summary, and I am quite fond of it! I’m not certain what happened with the second half of the book, or if it’s perhaps only in my head, but the writing seems to have grown distinctly dull. I recall seeing glimpses of the more elegant writing throughout the second half, but it was sparse and, I must add, I missed it. I had to put The Glass Casket aside more than once during this time simply because the dullness was overwhelming. With the first part, I felt so much more engaged in the story. I had little trouble envisioning this world, these people that Templeman has written into being. With the second part, it felt like I was slipping from their world more and more, faster and faster with each page. I never considered leaving it unfinished, as I was already far too interested and I had to finish, but I wonder if it might be enough to throw others off. Considering I’ll return to this time and time again in my review, it’s certainly worth noting that I feel the idea of ‘Show, don’t tell’ is at least taken into account with the first half, but that seems to be tossed aside for the second part. I think I’ve made my view on the writing style clear, so onto other matters!

I should also mention that the book is quite slow at the beginning. Perhaps too slow for some, but it’s what I would generally consider a nice pace…when it serves a purpose. I don’t really have a preference as to whether that space is used for character-, world-, and/or relationship-building, I simply hate to see it wasted! The Glass Casket displays adequate relationship-building, and poor character- and world-building. Let’s start with the relationships.


Honestly, I’m borderline about calling the relationship-building adequate. Yes, we’re told of how close Rowan is with her father, Emily, and Tom. Yes, Rowan’s hatred of Jude (and the progression from that) is evident in Templeman’s writing. There are more relationships explored, of course, but I’m going to use these as examples. Please note how I stated ‘…we’re told…’, and ‘…in Templeman’s writing…’. Remember how I said I’d come back to ‘Show, don’t tell’ numerous times throughout my review? Well, here’s one! We’re hardly shown of Rowan’s relationship with her father, but instead told that they’re close. Told that they love each other very much. Told that they often work on translations together. We’re also told that Rowan and Jude hate each other. We’re shown, to some extent, how Jude’s relationship with her grows as their situation pushes them closer together, how his feelings aren’t what he’d have us (and Rowan) believe, but even then it all seems so very shallow and one-dimensional because things aren’t laid out in a believable way. (Minor spoiler ahead!!) When Jude confesses his true feelings to Rowan, I honestly read that three times but I still couldn’t believe it. Not that I doubt Jude, but instead I simply only recall being told of the supposed chemistry between. I have no reason to believe or doubt him! I can certainly see how they would have chemistry, yes, and I honestly want to get behind the pairing! But I don’t think Templeman gave us enough to make it real. I could support it, definitely, but I need good reason to. The possibility of chemistry is there, but it’s yet to be truly tapped into.

Tom and Rowan… Templeman certainly did a better job building and providing proof of their relationship! I still don’t fully feel the ‘best friend’ vibe they supposedly have, but I am at least convinced that they’re friends, and they want the best for each other. I was extremely glad to see the flashback to years prior where they played in the waters, brief though the recollection was. It’s by no means a great display of ‘show, don’t tell’, but it doesn’t fall completely flat! It’s obvious these two love and care for each other, and that’s a step in the right direction!

The one relationship I feel has a great amount of substance and backing to it is that between Emily and Rowan. We’re given, shown many times of the ways Rowan helps Emily around the house, of the ways they care for each other…it’s evident even in their words, and I absolutely love their relationship. Emily is certainly a form of support for Rowan, but Rowan is by no means wholly reliant on her. (Spoiler warning!!) Sad to say, though, that the only time I had even a sense of Rowan’s grief over Emily’s murder was during her confrontation with Merrilee. At least it’s something, though I would have liked more than one instance as proof of her mourning. Mind you, there were other attempts to prove this, but they were —- you guessed it —- only told of. Briefly, at that.


Well, it’s really the same thing here. We’re told how Tom likes to help the elderly, how Rowan’s father feels about the idea of witches and magic and the like, how Rowan feels a strange connection to Fiona, etc., but I never saw anything to actually back these things up. What I do remember seeing, however, is proof that Rowan is indeed passionate about her translations and someday visiting the City. I remember how Tom and Fiona affected each other from first glance onward, how the coin’s power and hold over all those within range was so evident… I recall how Rowan avoided the witches for the longest time, how she at least tried to hold scorn for them, though it wasn’t exactly easy to pick up on. I’ve been going on and on about showing and not telling, and I think it’s only fair that I give credit where credit is due for the times I can easily recall being shown what was happening. (Minor spoiler warning!!) At the very end, Rowan mentioned how Tom seemed to have aged by years in a few short months, how different he seems, and how she doubts he’ll ever be who he was. This is definitely one thing I’d have loved to see — perhaps a description of how his eyes have changed, if applicable. Or how lines now seem permanently etched into his face, etc. Whatever Templeman saw, I want to see that too.

(Spoiler warning!!) At the end, with Jude and Rowan heading off to the city together, I still couldn’t get behind the idea of them being a couple. It’s like the idea was just set before us, possible chemistry there but untapped, and we were told to accept it. That’s exactly what it felt like. And we don’t really get any sense of how they’ve changed after what they’ve gone through; I can’t imagine that they’re truly the exact same people they were! All I know is that Rowan mourns her father every day, but that was just one line…


I’m a record on repeat at this point, aren’t I? We’re given a bit of information about the world in which The Glass Casket takes place, such as an idea of what the terrain and the woods are like, the goddess that is worshipped by the villagers, how women are viewed and treated (we actually get a few actual examples of this!), how they handle those who’ve passed on, and so forth. Still, nothing ever felt in-depth. I felt like I was constantly flickering in and out of a rather shallow and incomplete world. I want to know more about this world! We can’t even be sure if it’s set in some parallel part of our own world or a completely different universe, and that’s one thing I was wondering throughout the book. Where exactly is Nag’s End?

A few things I didn’t address above:

The nods to fairy tales did not go unnoticed! I appreciate them quite a lot, actually.

The title…the casket itself was briefly mentioned a few times, and certainly not enough that I’d call the title fitting. It’s not a main focus of the tale by any means.

I mentioned that the beginning is slow… Well, the second half picks up good speed, then just…snowballs. Not in a good way. From the climax to the very end, it’s incredibly rushed in my opinion. Pacing from beginning to end, of suspense…all of that could’ve used more consideration.

I only recall seeing one typo —- a missing opening quotation mark. I forgot to mark the page number down, but that’s the only thing I saw!

I didn’t see the big revelation coming. Admittedly, there wasn’t much to go off of. I’m not saying it should have been obvious, only that I simply wasn’t surprised. I only found myself thinking, ‘Oh. That’s cool, I guess.’ I can’t say that, at that point, I really cared who the bad guy was. Even once the truth was out, there wasn’t much information given…just another instance of ‘This is how it is. Accept it.’

Okay…I should wrap this up! Overall, I think The Glass Casket has good potential, but it needs work. A lot of work, honestly. I want to know more about this world, about these people…I want to see them grow as they go through such trials…I want to see how the relationships change and merge with time and pressure. The writing style is horridly inconsistent, but I really like what I saw in the first half of the book.

I think with more time and editing, planning, and overall consideration, this could be a much stronger and better book.

As is, I rate The Glass Casket at 2.5 stars.

Periphery Review


“Ida Peck was nearsighted. REALLY nearsighted. She had been burdened throughout her life with wearing thick glasses, and was nearly blind without them. So when her best friend, Leonie Williams, suggested that she have laser surgery to correct her vision, she thought that was a pretty appealing idea.

And the surgery succeeded — perhaps too well. Because once Ida had her eyes fixed, and was able to enjoy something she’d never had before — peripheral vision — she began to see things out of the corner of her eye. Things no one else could see. Her friends and her eye doctor all tell her that this is no problem, that it happens to everyone, that she’ll get used to it, that the little shadows and patterns of light you see in your peripheral vision aren’t real.

Unfortunately, Ida finds out fairly quickly that even if her friends can’t see what she sees, the creatures in her periphery are very real indeed.

Even more alarmingly, Ida discovers that once she became aware of the creatures in the shadows, they became aware of her. And when one of them starts to follow her around, and causing trouble for her and her friends, she decides that maybe having laser surgery hadn’t been such a good idea, after all.

Set in the village of Broussard, Louisiana, “Periphery” is the story of three good friends, whose unflinching loyalty to each other leads them to take on the monsters that lurk in the shadows.”

Like half the books I have, I can’t recall how I stumbled across this to save my life. I do remember, however, that I found the cover and synopsis interesting. I often consider the things I see from my peripheral vision, wondering just how real they are in this world.

As for the book, what you see is definitely what you get in this case. By that I mean that it’s a short, fun read. If you’re seeking something of this nature that delves deep into the mythology at the core of it all, I don’t recommend this. However, if you simply want a fun story about the power of friendship and how even the best of ideas can have consequences, you just might enjoy Periphery! Personally, I’d love to read something with more depth and detail, but I did not dive in expecting such from this short tale.

As for the writing itself, it’s very easy to read and understand. The typos I saw were very small mistakes that, while still noticeable to me, did not distract from the story.

I’ve heard many people say that it’s impossible to become attached to the people in short stories. I think that’s bullshit; like with longer works, I’ve found it to be a personal thing with each story. In the case of Periphery, I didn’t become attached them. That’s not to say I didn’t feel something, but I think the strongest emotion I felt was annoyance towards Karen.

Above all else, I found myself very interested in the folklore, but, unfortunately, that was one of the most lacking parts.

Again, if you’re looking for a quick read, I think this might satisfy your taste.

Overall, I rate Gordon Bennet’s Periphery 3 out of 5 stars.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Review)


“Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.”

Jay Asher stated that the idea for his debut novel began to grow while he was listening to audiotapes. This has been stuck with me since I read it, as I find the idea of a voice, a fragment of a person, stuck in time, forever a memory, and an echo to anyone who will listen, very beautiful, haunting indeed, and bittersweet. This is exceptionally true in Hannah Baker’s case, in my opinion. These recordings are remnants of her soul, echoes from beyond the grave…they are reminders of the best and worst memories Hannah experienced leading up to her death. With that said, let’s talk about the reasons…the 13 reasons why Hannah killed herself.

Well, okay, I’m not going to spoil anything for anyone, but, rather, I want to talk about what I feel is necessary to be fully engaged in this book. You, dear reader, need to take a step back and, while still forming your own opinions and such in the back of your mind, tap into Hannah Baker. Of all the (mostly 1-3 star) reviews I’ve seen of this, there’s not a single one that didn’t at least mention, if only in a footnote of sorts, that Hannah’s reasons are ridiculous, no reason at all to commit suicide, etc. Folks, I cannot stress this enough, so listen up: do not look at this through your eyes. Do not go through the motions and assume that her reasons will make sense to you! Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter that you don’t think her reasons were enough, not in my mind. If you do not tap into her as she tells her story, as she explains the last impressions made upon her, than perhaps you’re just wasting your time. To put a finer point on it…this is not about you, me, or anything/anyone else! This is about Hannah Baker and her reasons. Tap into her, allow her echoes to fill your soul, and, for fuck’s sake, see through her eyes. It will help you understand a bit better. It will help you grow. I don’t think you’ll ever see the world the same…

Ah, I suppose I should include this so that my review isn’t just me screaming at people… Asher has done a magnificent job of combining descriptions of places, people, and events; I had no trouble at all seeing every single detail in my mind…just as I didn’t have a problem feeling even the slightest prick. This is a very emotional novel, and it left me feeling nothing short of raw. The pain (AKA most of the novel), the anger, guilt, the sparse moments of joy…everything came in tidal waves…I did not have to search for it.

If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts! If you have not, I strongly recommend that you do so. Sooner rather than later. This is an incredible debut, and it’s an outstanding novel in general. Read it, reread it, let it suck you in and rip you apart. It’s a very powerful tale, and I’m so glad I read it.

Well done, Jay Asher. You, sir, have a gift, and I truly hope you continue to wield it!

I rate 13 Reasons Why 4.5 stars!

*Two things… I read this in 2013, but, despite my efforts, could not post my review any earlier than today. Also, it should be noted that Hannah’s tapes can be found here. I just discovered this today, and my breath hitched in my throat. I know what I’m doing tonight!*

Happy New Year!


The Elf Who Saved Christmas Review

This is yet another tale by Rebecca M. Senese (shush), although this one isn’t near as short as the others I’ve reviewed. It is, however, definitely up there with my favourites, second only to Writer’s Block.

In her typical, engaging style, Senese spins a tale of love, sacrifice, corruption, greed, and hope as one elf races against the clock to save the North Pole and, ultimately, the world.

Several morals rest in these pages, one of the most prominent being sacrifice. Whether it’s for a friend, an employer, a family member, or the good of the world as a whole, most people have at least one person they’d give everything for. Those who live at the North Pole are no different. Whether you’re an elf, reindeer, the man in red himself, or one of the people waiting up for the man to come down the chimney, you likely have someone in your life that you’d do anything to protect in every way.

This is, as I’m sure you can guess by the name and the setting, a story about Christmas, but I don’t think this should stop anyone from reading it…whenever they want. I began reading it on the tenth, finished it on the thirteenth (co-reading A Monster Calls, which I’ve almost finished).

Senese combines her knack for horror with an ultimately sweet tale, and she does it very well! I enjoyed this story a lot, one of the best things, to me, was Senese’s dedication to the horror. She built the suspense very well and, when it came time for sheer horror, it was unrelenting.

If you have read this story or you plan to, I hope you enjoyed/will enjoy it as much as I!

Until next time,


The Art of Embalming and Family Business reviews

Is anyone getting the feeling that I’m a bit pushy with Rebecca Senese? Good, because I am.

I truly enjoy her work, and these next two aren’t exceptions.


The Art of Embalming by Rebecca M. Senese

Once more, Rebecca Senese does a phenomenal job with character-building and scene-setting. I really do love this short story!

The Art of Embalming is quite fast-paced, something that, if done right, certainly isn’t a bad thing. Folks, Senese does it right.

This is the story of a young opportunistic reporter who, at the beginning, is preparing to meet with a supposedly irritable sculptor. As the story progresses, the tension builds despite the predictable nature. It’s quite obvious that certain parts of the story were meant to hit us like falling bricks, but we’re still left to wonder if the energetic reporter will write another story or if she’s reached her final page. (No need to comment on the corniness.)

In the end, all questions are laid to rest.

As I said, this story is a joy. I give The Art of Embalming four stars!


Family Business

A father and son hunting trip ends with the realisation that, ready or not, you will eventually be asked to take the reins of your family’s business.

And yet again, I can only brag on Rebecca’s work. It’s true, however, that I’m rating this at three and a half stars, but it’s still a fun read and I was happy to find it included with my download of The Art of Embalming.

I didn’t come to care for the characters as much with this one, nor did I find the scene-building top-notch.. The plot itself is very enjoyable and I was, once again, very thrilled by the way Rebecca ended it.

A fun read overall, and it’s worth the time.


Happy Monday,


Mortal Abomination review

An underground internet reporter tells the story of a psychic condemned to prison when she fails to divulge her premonition concerning the assassination of our President of The United States. Set in the near future, Mortal Abomination, tells the story of psychic, Maria Torres, revealing her trials and tribulations as she struggles to convince our government of an impending doom. Is it lucid to persecute and incarcerate one for having a numinous ability to see the future? The story of Mortal Abomination is similar to the Salem Witch trials of 1692, as Maria Torres is persecuted and tortured because of her unique ability to foretell the future…

Mortal Abomination by Barbara Watkins

The first thing I should mention, for anyone who may not know, this is a short story. I enjoy reading them. I love seeing what someone can put together with such a narrow space.

Mortal Abomination is a short story that I enjoyed. It is, however, one that left my mind fairly quickly.
This is a story of a woman who, through her dreams, knows what is to come. She has predicted an attempt on the president’s life before, and therefore saved her life. When she has yet another premonition of such an act, this time the assassin being someone who should be trusted, scepticism begins to fly.

The synopsis drew me in immediately, but not without my casting a glance that, on Kindle, it’s only 17 pages. At least I had a fair level of expectation, right? So why can I only rate this as an average story?

First, it truly is predictable. Perhaps a lot of people think predictability is an issue with every short story, but that’s not true. With Mortal Abomination, though, the synopsis alone gives a fair idea of what will take place, although I will admit that, by the time I opened the book, I’d already forgotten the synopsis and therefore had no idea what was going to happen. Still, the ending wasn’t surprising in any way, nor has the story as a whole left an imprint on me.

With short stories, sometimes it’s hard, impossible, to really develop a character all the way. Sometimes you have to give the bare minimal, the only things that truly matter to the story in the long run. Still, even with the development present, I found myself unable to care too much what happened.

Overall, it is a very enjoyable story. At the time of my purchase, MA was available for free. It’s gone back up the 99 cents now. It’s definitely worth the short time it takes to read it as a free ebook, although I’m not sure that I’d tell people it’s worth the price now. While enjoyable, I can only give Mortal Abomination 3 and a half stars. Like I said before, it’s average.

If you have it and have not read it but plan to, or if you do download it, I’d love to hear what you think!

Happy Monday,