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Review: The Hanging Girl

The Hanging Girl - Eileen Cook

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

A fun twisty YA mystery novel.

 

The heroine, Candi “Skye” Thorn, goes by her middle name “Skye” (can’t say I blame her there) does tarot reading for her classmates at school as a way of making some extra cash. She and her best friend Drew have this idea that when they graduate they’ll finally be able to ditch their small home town and head off to New York and live in an apartment together. BFF comes from a wealthy family, Skye lives in a crappy apartment with her mom and money is an issue.

 

So Skye has a regular job and reads tarots for extra cash. Skye is fake, she reads off intuition and good guesses. She’s not part of a crowd, pretty much a loner and has a somewhat blunt personality I quite liked. She’s a lot more down to earth than most girls her age, and has a fairly logical sense of reality. (I.E. not all convinced that this dream of going to New York is really going to happen) Skye does come across as rather cynical. But given her circumstances it’s believable for her character arc. Her mom is actually convinced she is a real psychic. And appears to be kind of a flake.

 

When a popular, rich girl of a local very important Judge, Paige goes missing, Skye starts having “psychic” visions relating to Paige and her disappearance. She winds up working with the police one really grumpy and dismissive detective and one who seems a lot nicer and more inclined to listen to what Paige has to offer. Especially when some of Skye’s “visions” start panning out and yielding actual results. Basically the old good cop, bad cop routine. And of course Skye’s mom is thrilled her daughter is exhibiting “psychic” abilities.  And eventually Paige’s parents come into the plot.  Along with an angry ex boyfriend of Paige’s who doesn’t believe a word of what Skye says and is convinced there is more going on.

 

He’s not far wrong.

 

Skye has gotten herself involved in something that turns out to be darker than she had ever imagined. Initially it seemed like a good idea to make a bundle of money. Only the drama has escalate and things are going badly wrong and people are turning out to be nothing like she expected. Nothing goes according to any sort of plan and then a dead body turns up. And now Skye is thrown into a murder investigation.

 

Which reveals even more twists. It was quite a tense and fast paced plot, and very well written. Interesting characters, and I will say I didn’t actually guess what was going on in this one. The last few sort of twists were pretty damn good, and I liked the way it all wrapped up and concluded.

 

I’ve liked everything I’ve read by this author so far so this is definitely one that will be going on my auto-buy list.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bonnier Zaffre/Hot Key Books for approving my request to view the title.

Review: Bad Girls with Perfect Faces

Bad Girls with Perfect Faces - Lynn Weingarten

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

A dark YA thriller about friendship, obsession and jealousy taken over the top and everything going horribly wrong. Sasha and Xavier have been best friends for years. Sasha is not the most likeable character in the world, she’s cold, blunt and frankly, kind of a bitch. The only person who gets her moods and can handle her is her BFF Xavier. Who this reader found kind of dull and rather bland. But he and Sasha connect pretty well, they hang out, have their own sense of humour and inner jokes. They get each other.

 

It’s worked for years, they live in a small town, are outcasts at school and pretty much just have each other. Until Xavier got a girlfriend, Ivy. Ivy was even more of a brat than Sasha. Ivy came from a very wealthy family, she has an outgoing personality, but she’s also the type of manipulative bitch who knows how to push people’s buttons and wrap them around her finger and make them think everything she does is okay, no matter how wrong it actually is. She plays with Xavier pretty much breaks his heart.

 

At the start of the novel what Sasha doesn’t know is that Xavier has started seeing Ivy again. What Xavier doesn’t know is Sasha has fallen for him and has no idea how to tell him. Naturally she’s worried that if he doesn’t feel the same way their friendship would be ruined. And it doesn’t help that Ivy is now back on the screen.

 

Sasha and Ivy can’t stand each other. Not surprising really, their personalities clash and they are both epically jealous of the other’s relationship with Xavier which in a way is kind of understandable as both girls get different sides of him. Only made worse by Sasha’s feelings now boarding on obsession as she worries over what Ivy’s going to do to him this time.

 

So Sasha comes up with a plan. She invents an online profile of a guy to trap Ivy and convince Xavier finally that she is a cheater and no good for him. Which is sort of cringe-worthy to read and with the feeling of malice and foreboding in the story, it’s clearly all going to go wrong at some point. The novel is told in three different viewpoints – Sasha’s, Xavier’s and Ivy’s. Then when a plot twist happens another mysterious view point appears with no name, someone else who knows something has gone wrong and is doing their own investigation.

 

The psychological mind sent of the three different characters was quite interesting over how Xavier, and Sasha both displayed obsessive behaviour, while Ivy was obsessing over the fake profile guy she was getting to know and revealing sides of herself she usually keeps hidden.

 

Of course everything goes hideously wrong and Sasha finds herself in a very bad situation she doesn’t know how to handle at first. It all gets a bit ridiculous here. Xavier ends up tagging along without realising what’s really going on, Sasha’s got another secret she knows she’s never going to be able to keep for long without giving some sort of explanation and that it could potentially ruin her friendship with Xavier. To make things worse someone else has figured out Sasha is up to something and is on their trail.

 

The drama is a bit over the top but there is a definite rise in tension in this bit. Nerves are stretched to breaking point and it comes through clear in the writing and makes things very uncomfortable. I was quite impressed with the ending. Didn’t see it coming, and the way it concluded was actually quite believable.

 

It’s definitely a page turner, and while a little silly in some of the plot twists, there’s a compelling element about it that makes you have to keep going to know what’s going to happen. It’s a great example of a good book about unlikeable characters. The characters are well fleshed out and well written even though they are mostly horrible people.

 

I wasn’t overly impressed with the first book I read by this author, but I really liked this one. I bought a finished copy from iBooks.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Electric Monkey/Egmont Publishing for approving my request to view the title.

 

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Review: The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black - Emily Barr

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I’m somewhat ambivalent on this one. On the one hand I actually finished it, (I barely got 20 pages into the last book I read by the same author) the plot was interesting enough, but at the same time repetitive and unbelievable. Yet there was something in the story telling that made me interested enough to want to know how it all ended.

 

Will be spoiler filled as there is so much in this plot that I want to rant about.

 

It’s a UKYA novel. Ella lives a pretty normal life, goes to school has good friends, but has a secret darker side of herself, a voice in her head that she sees a separate personality that takes over from time to time she calls Bella who makes her do bad things. Get violent, talk back to authority figures, etc. The Bella side of her personality seems to be getting worse and coming out more and more and nice docile Ella seems to have a hard time controlling Bella.

 

Then one day while she’s in school she’s pulled out of class and into the Head Mistress’s office where her mother is there, and her mother is pulling her out of school for a few weeks without much of an explanation, the grownups seem to know something they’re not saying. Ella’s mum is taking her to Rio for an extended vacation. It’s always been a dream of Ella’s to go to Rio. And everyone seems okay with just going. Her parents don’t tell her anything, just whisk her off to the airport and to a hotel in Rio. They’re worried and suddenly very protective. Ella wants to explore.

 

Naturally she wants to know what the hell is going on. Why now? They’ve taken her phone, her passport, and locked them away in a safe in the hotel room. She’s confused. Who wouldn’t be? Exploring and doing touristy things with her mum and dad Ella catches sight of a gorgeous boy, Christian, in the lobby of her hotel and after several passes at making gooey eyes at each other they finally meet.

 

And it’s a very annoying case of instalove. After one night of partying together Ella’s obsessed with the boy, she knows nothing about him, just that he’s gorgeous and fun and can make her forget about her weird circumstances of being in Rio. It’s eye rolling and irritating. Ella gets herself alone in her hotel room and manages to open her parents safe and finds a shocking secret that her parents had kept from her.

 

Spoilers but a huge part of the plot.

 

Ella is adopted. There’s a letter from a lawyer going about legal changes for adopted babies when they turn 18. (Ella’s 18th birthday is coming up very soon). Her birth mother is looking for her.

(show spoiler)

 

 She freaks out. She doesn’t know how to handle this information at all. Her reaction to me seems a little over the top, drama for the sake of drama to add to the plot. I can imagine it would be a bit of shock discovering something like this type of secret and you would most definitely have all sorts of questions. I can understand being angry that no one actually told you this secret. There is probably a valid reason for it. In the heat of the moment and anger Ella is clearly not thinking logically. The angry Bella side of her personality is coming out.  In a fit of rage she breaks a beer bottle and attacks her dad and a waiter, cutting the waiter. So she runs.

 

She’s confused, angry and frightened. She has her phone, her passport and a credit card she helped herself to from her parent’s safe. She figures out the PIN and can get cash to start. Her thoughts are going round and round in circles as she tries to escape from them and loose herself in the depths of Rio.  There are some wonderful descriptions of Rio and you really do get a great sense of place and Ella’s confusion as to who she is. She’s lost her identity and has no idea how to react and what to do. Unfortunately, it’s so repetitive, it’s the same worries over and over again.

 

Ella can be quite manipulative, she’s charming when she wants to be and works out quickly how to use people to get things she needs when she starts running low on cash. She’s not stupid, she know that her parents will be looking for her, and possibly the police as well. (And of course while all this drama is going on she’s moping over Christian who she’s still desperately in love with). She sweet talks her way into borrowing a boy’s laptop where she looks up some of the info she found hidden in her parents safe. The name in the lawyer’s letter.

 

And the plot gets even more ridiculous.

 

Ella’s real parents are serial killers. Her father was the killer, her mother used to chat up the victims, young women, befriend them and lure them back to her boyfriend who tortured and killed them. Her mother never actually killed anyone, but was convicted as an accomplice and is now out of prison. She was pregnant when she was arrested.  Ella is horrified but sort of makes sense to her as to where the nasty, cruel Bella side of her personality comes from.

(show spoiler)

 

She can’t face anyone. She decides to lose herself in the slums of Rio, where no one will look for her. Her passport and credit card are stolen. So she resorts to a little self-help. She learns to take advantage of people’s kindness to a struggling young girl. After sleeping rough a few nights she talks her way again into finding places to say and sees her picture on the news. She can’t speak a word of Portuguese but knows she needs to run again. Eventually she finds herself at a school teaching English to local children and adults. She makes friends and finally starts to develop a sense of self again.

 

The second half of the novel I found to be stretching the sense of belief a bit, this 17 year old going around Rio with no funds of her own.

The school she starts working at is a volunteer organization where people come from all over the world to work and help but they pay the school. Ella has no funds, no identification. She got into the programme because one of the residents found her sleeping on the step and was kind to her. Ella managed to talk her way into a position there, despite having no experience. Then all of a sudden her fees are paid off. And another ridiculous twist – the birth mother shows up and has been watching her the whole time Ella has been in Rio. The woman who just got out of prison for helping her serial killer boyfriend find his victims. Urg.

(show spoiler)

 

To be fair, while it’s stretching my sense of belief, there was a quite uplifting feeling when Ella starts settling into a regular routine at the school she starts teaching at. She’s making friends and you get the sense she loves the job, she’s teaching art which she has a knack for and is really good at working with the children. She’s making friends and learning the local culture and language. Definitely something she could make a future and a career out of. She’s starting to feel grounded again after so much running around and drama.

 

Then the drama starts again. Oh, and Christian, the boy Ella’s still pining for is the only one from her old life who can find her and is completely understanding when Ella tells him everything that happened.

 

The plot was interesting enough even though a little silly in parts. And in some parts the writing as weird and repetitive as Ella falls apart. The descriptions of Rio from party town to beaches to slums was brilliant, very atmospheric and easy to picture. The romance with Christian and Ella was just annoying instalove. I did have trouble connecting to the characters. Too much over the top reactions and drama with Ella and everyone else seemed very one dimensional. Something was missing from this one for me.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s books for approving my request to view this title.

Review: Breaking

Breaking - Danielle  Rollins

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I initially requested this one because I liked the previous book I’d read by the same author. I had no idea it was actually a companion novel to Burning until I was half way through and looking up something else on Goodreads.

 

This was an interesting book, after reading the first two or three chapters slowly, I read the rest in a couple of hours one evening. I just couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t completely blown away with the book, I can’t even say I really liked all the characters that much. There was just something about the story and the way the plot unwound that made me want to keep reading and just had to know what was going on and how it all wound up together.

 

Trigger Warnings: Suicide.

 

The novel tells the story of teenager Charlotte, starting off when she’s a very young child, her mother who is some sort of doctor giving her genius tests (which Charlotte is not very good at) her mother has certain expectations of what sort of girl Charlotte should be.  You get the impression that Charlotte doesn’t really care about her mother’s expectations, even at a very young age. Skip ahead to a teenager in a posh prep school. Charlotte is in the principal’s office one of her best friends Devon, has recently committed suicide in a very short time since her other best friend Ariel also committed suicide. Both were bright, smart and popular.

 

Charlotte doesn’t seem to fit the bill with the other smart kids in the school. The kids in the school are all very smart to genius. She’s struggling in her classes and not making the grade. Her mom is a very prestigious (and very rich) alumni. She’s about to pull Charlotte from the school on the principal’s advice, failing grades and the sudden deaths of her two best friends very close together and Charlotte’s attitude seems to be very blasé about everything.

 

Whilst packing her stuff Charlotte finds a package left by one of her deceased friends containing a strange note and a tiny bottle saying “Drink me”. Charlotte realises there must be something more going on, she can’t stop thinking about the note. She realises she wants to find out what it means and will have to be at the school to do that. When almost overnight her physical appearance improves and her (really bitchy) mom notices too. She uses this and manages to convince her mom to let her stay at the school for the rest of the semester contingent on her grades rapidly improving.

 

 

 

 

Charlotte notices quickly that her grades are improving as well, she’s answering questions in class without studying, acing essays and vastly better at her fencing class than she’s ever been. And she’s not the only one who noticed. Her BFF Ariel’s former boyfriend Jack for one, when they start talking again over what happened it turns into more than talking and flirting. And a rival in Charlotte’s fencing class, Zoe, who is not happy at all when Charlotte kicks her ass in fencing.

(show spoiler)

 

The plot is fairly fast paced and there’s enough intrigue that kept me interested when Charlotte finds more notes and more clues left by Ariel and realises at one point that she found the notes and clues left for her in the wrong order. The mystery deepens, Charlotte’s relationship with Jack is getting more and more intense and she’s got the added irritation of fending off Zoe who seems determined to make things difficult for her.

 

The characters were kind of flat, I couldn’t really identify with Charlotte much, she was cold and aloof and had a sort of above it all vibe about her. There was an interesting morality grey area to the plot as it developed as well. It definitely takes a darker twist towards the end, and that’s where it ties in with the previous novel Burning. It can be read as a standalone, there’s very little that gives away anything to do with Burning’s actual plot but if you’ve read Burning there’s an “ahhh” moment when you realise the connection.

 

I also have issues with Charlotte and her two best friends, Ariel and Devon, the reader learns some pretty unsettling things about the two girls as Charlotte delves into the mystery as what caused them both to commit suicide within weeks of each other. These girls were supposed to have been the tight knit group that everyone wanted to be part of, yet there was a sense of underlying threat rather than close female friendship with Ariel as the ring leader and Devon following with Charlotte trailing behind. There was a sense of rivalry and tension that was supposed to be uncomfortable but more annoying than anything else.

 

There was an eye rolling side plot revolving around Ariel’s former boyfriend Jack who was close with Charlotte and Charlotte had always had a thing for but never did anything cause Ariel got there first even though it’s completely obvious Charlotte liked him. Jack is a typical nice guy, good looking with rich parents. His dad has an important job – senator or judge or something along those lines (can’t remember which) but Jack doesn’t seem interested in following those footsteps and like Charlotte doesn’t seem that interested in the classes at the prep school. He and Charlotte redevelop their friendship which of course develops into something more. She (of course) gets to see the side of him that no one else really gets to see.  Then Charlotte notices Jack starts rapidly improving in grades and stuff like she did. The romance angle was irritating.

 

It was a fairly quick read and definitely interesting, not something I would call a favourite but definitely worth a go if you like prep school mysteries and are intrigued by unlikeable characters.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.

Best/Worst/Honorable Mentions + 2017 wrap up

 

Best Books

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

Frostblood + Fireblood by Elly Blake

How To Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

The Bourbon Kings by JR Ward

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

Spindlefire by Lexa Hillyer

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Dark Breaks The Dawn by Sara B Larson

The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

 

Worst Books

Bad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews

Wintersong by SJ Jones

Moon Chosen by PC Cast

The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison

The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

Guilded Cage By Vic James

After The Woods by Kim Savage

 All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

The Ravenous by Amy Lukavics

The Mirror Sisters by VC Andrews

This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGuiness

Revenge by Nigel May

 

Honorable Mentions

The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

This Adventure Ends + First and Then by Emma Mills

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurt

Dorothy Must Die, Yellowbrick War, The Wicked Will Rise, The End of OZ by Danielle Paige

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

Burning Glass by Katherine Purdie

Godblind by Anna Stephens

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

 

Most Anticipated Book: Of Fire and Stars. It’s YA fantasy with lesbian princesses! I’ve been dying for YA fantasy with a lesbian themed romance. So naturally I was exceptionally excited for this book. Only it was kind of a let down. The romance was cute but it took so long for anything to actually happen, the plot was no different than a thousand other fantasies I’ve read, and the names in this book were just ridiculous. I gave it a three star rating and I’ve already pre ordered the prequel. The writing definitely showed promise so I’m still looking forward to the prequel and I believe there’s a second book coming out which I’m sure I’ll wind up reading at some point.

 

Series: I read a whole series this year!! I started Dorothy Must Die when it first came out some years ago but dropped it half way through. Then at some point earlier this year I went through a stage of retrying some books I had previously tried and hated and this series was one of them. I’m glad I gave it another chance cause second time round I got really hooked and read the series one book after the other and finished. (The only complete series I read this year so I’m quite proud of myself there. I have a terrible habit of starting series, loving them, buying all the available books and never getting around to finishing them). The heroine is snarky, spunky and delightfully crass and has a tone of voice that’s very easy to connect with. The romance is a little eye rolling, and there’s definite problems with the series (books 2 and 3 were both really short and book 2 nothing really happened right until the end and book 3 picked up right after. These two could have been put together to make a trilogy). But it was a fun magical series with a unique take on OZ and a psycho bitch queen Dorothy who was awful and completely full of herself.

 

Favourite Book of the Year: Long May She Reign which was YA high fantasy for CSI fans. This dealt with the sciencey side of things when a poison massacre happened in a castle leaving only a handful of people alive including a distant heir to the throne now suddenly finding herself queen. Brilliantly original and a flawed heroine.  Twisty plot and a surprising end. And a standalone as well.

 

Most Surprising Book: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Mass. I’m still reading this one and surprised at how much I actually like it considering on reflection I hated Empire of Storms and I haven’t liked Chaol since Crown of Midnight (still think he’s a moron). Best book by far in the series for me is Queen of Shadows, but I really love the new characters and the new countries in this one and it’s definitely reminding me why I fell in love with this series.  

 

Second Chance Books: Rebel of the Sands trilogy, Tearling trilogy, The Sin Eater’s Daughter Trilogy, A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy.  For some unknown reason I decided to by new copies of all of these (after giving away my originals) and will be reading them again at some point throughout the following year.

 

Controversial Books: I read The Black Witch. My twitter feed blew up over this one and it was trashed on Goodreads. I normally avoid books with that sort of reputation like the plague but I decided to try this one for myself. Frankly I can see why it caused such an uproar. On the other hand, having read it while there were times I wanted to punch the heroine and throw the book out the window,  I did actually quite like it. I will be doing a full review of this one.

 

Netgalley:  I am shamefully behind on reviews. I’ve got 8 or so to write (the plan was to get them done before the end of the year but I’ve been terribly lazy and still not gotten round to it. I will, eventually. I seem to have lost some of my reviewing enthusiasm this year. I still like reading the reviews I see posted between Goodreads and Booklikes from all the bloggers and reviewers I follow). I’m running out of things to say that haven’t been said in different ways already. May pick up again next year. We’ll see.

 

A huge thank you to everyone who’s still following or a new follower (even though I’m slow at updating and the worst at responding to comments – blame my terrible social anxiety). And Happy New Year!!

Review: The Roanoke Girls

The Roanoke Girls: A Novel - Amy Engel

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I snagged a copy of this one when it was a read it now for the first 100 members. It promised some of my favourite tropes in novels – rich family, idyllic setting, dark twisty secrets.  This book has one of those annoying boats in the title tag line saying the most dark twisty shocking plot! However, this one did deliver on the dark twist.

 

My biggest issue with this (side from the really nauseating disturbingness of the plot twists) is that it was predictable. I’d guessed the Roanoke family secrets almost immediately. Anyone who’s ever seen Law and Order: Special Victims Unit could probably guess what’s going on here. I also guessed correctly who the killer was.

 

That being said, there was something utterly compelling about the story telling. I really liked Lane, the main character. Told in a then and now format, what happened when Lane was a teenager and went to live with the Roanokes after her mother committed suicide. Her grandparents and her cousin the same age as her Allegra. And the now chapters of what happens when Lane goes back as an adult after Allegra disappears.

 

Lane was by no mean a good, nice person. Not as a teen, nor as an adult. She was a flat out bitch, she was blunt and cold and didn’t even bother to hide the fact that sometimes it was easier to be cruel than to be kind. Despite her personality flaws, she made a very interesting character, and I kind of loved her. While her cousin Allegra was your typical spoilt rich girl. She could manipulate people easily, and wrap boys around her finger. She could convince you to do anything, regardless of consequences. She had a certain charisma about herself, despite the fact Allegra could be stroppy selfish and childish. She tells Lane about the sordid history of the Roanoke girls before them. All the girls in their family line - including both their mothers  - all got pregnant young and either ran away or committed suicide.

 

The Roanoke household is a big mansion and a farm run by its patriarch Yates Roanoke Lane and Allegra’s grandfather. He has an old world charm about him. Firm when needed without being overbearing, yet very witty, charming and always with a kind word and encouragement, while grandma is your typical blue blood grandma. Beautiful but cold and kind of passive.

 

In the summer in their teens Lane learns about farm life and meets Allegra’s current boyfriend Tommy, and his best friend Cooper. Tommy is your average small town good boy from a nice family while Cooper is the good looking dude with the shady family and bad history, he and Lane hit it off immediately and begin a relationship, more hooking up when they can than anything else.  

 

When Lane comes back to town as an adult she reconnects with Tommy, now married and a police office and Cooper, now a mechanic. The Roanoke house is still the same as it was when Lane ran away in her teens. With one exception. Allegra is gone. Lane searches for answers to what happened to her. Flipping back and forth between what happened that summer when she arrived and her investigation on return.

 

Also flittered into the novel is chapters on various Roanoke women and what happened to them either when they ran or when they died.

 

The writing is top notch, even though none of the characters are particularly likeable. The story telling makes you want to know what’s going on, what happened back in that summer, why did Lane run away, what did she learn about the Roanoke secrets. And when she comes back what happened to Allegra. Did she finally leave – was she murdered? What happened? It’s twisty and very disturbing in parts. The answers to the Roanoke secrets are actually in the text if you look between the lines. And it is sick. It’s stomach wrenching and utterly utterly wrong in very way possible.

 

It’s a pretty fucked up book but it’s excellently written.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for the review copy.

Review: My Sister's Secret

My Sister's Secret - Tracy Buchanan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I came across this book whilst browsing Netgalley looking for something different to read. The synopsis caught my attention, and if I was flipping through channels and this was a movie I would have watched it.

 

I can’t say I found it particularly gripping or emotional. By half way through I was bored with the plot. I’m usually wary of books that claim things like “the most emotional gripping thing you will ever read!” (or along those lines) in a title headline. It’s always seemed unnecessary to me. Let the novel stand on its own and let the readers judge. Don’t bombard the title lines with crap like that. It’s annoying! (Certainly is to me, anyway). I don’t remember seeing that bit when I initially requested the title).

 

The story focuses on a then and now method of telling. There were initially three sisters, Hope, Charity and Faith who lived in a small English village by the sea, where they hung out with their mate Niall. In their late teens Faith is tragically killed in an accident, Niall the guilty driver. In 2016 Charity’s daughter Willow has returned to the cottage where Charity lived with Hope looking for some answers about her mother’s past. Charity had an interest in diving looking for underwater forests. So does her daughter. Aunt Hope is stingy with information and comes off as quite cold. Charity is deceased as well now and Willow has mostly been raised by Aunt Hope. Clearing out the cottage Willow finds some things about Niall and Charity and sets off to find out more, especially since Niall is now a big name in underwater forest diving and photography.

 

The then chapters tell the story taking place in the late 1980s of when Charity and Hope are living together running a little café in the same town they’ve always lived in. Charity still wants to do her diving, but it’s more a hobby these days, she’s a social worker whilst Hope is a budding poet/writer. The town is captivated by dazzling rich new comers David and Lana when Charity inadvertently winds up rescuing Lana from a car accident. Getting to know the couple, Niall winds up coming back into the picture and before long sparks are flying.

 

The novel flips between the stories of Charity and Niall, David, Lana and Hope in the past, whilst in the presence Willow is following in Charity’s footsteps going along what appears to be the same route Charity took in her youth.  There seemed to be a lot more going on in Charity’s storyline. She’s developing strong feelings for Niall which brings up a mess of emotion due to Faith’s tragic accident, which is Hope is furious about. Then there’s David, there’s intense chemistry between them, not helped by ditzy Lana who’s a total lush by this point with her own problems.

 

I did find the plot got a little repetitive. It’s the same troubling feelings for Charity over and over. I can understand where she’s coming from. Some of the little twists in Willow’s chapters are trying to be deep and emotional, and again I can understand why but there was just something missing for me. To be fair the twist at the end revolving around some secrets before and after Faith died were quite a surprise I didn’t see coming. One character was considerably more twisted than they appeared.

 

There was an awful lot of it about underwater forests and diving which kind of made my eyes gloss over a bit. Though there was some interesting info in the author’s note for those interested in looking into more about the subject.  I did like the sense of family and togetherness between Charity and her sister Hope, and later on echoed in the relationship between Willow and Hope. Though there was just something kind of “meh” about the whole thing for me.

 

It wasn’t really a bad book, just not my taste in the end, I guess.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for granting my wish to view the title.

DNF: The Mirror Sisters

The Mirror Sisters - V.C. Andrews

No stars.

 

Possibly one of the worst books I've read from the VC Andrews ghost writer. 22% in and the thought of anymore makes me want to cringe. It's about identical twins. All I'm getting is how identical and how special they are. And I'm fed up already. The mother is an overbearing bitch who wants her super speshul twins to be identical in every way down to thoughts. She's not allowing them to play with other children because they might disrupt the twin's special identicalness. It's the same thing over and over and over. It's ridiculous and I can't stomach any more of this book.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery Threshold, Pocket Books for the chance to view the title.

Review: Fireblood

Fireblood (The Frostblood Saga) - Elly Blake

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This is one of those delightful fantasy series that the plot twists are actually pretty ridiculous and kind of laughable, but it’s just SO GOOD you can overlook how silly it really is because it’s so exceptionally well written and the characters are excellent. Definitely one of my favourite fantasy series of this year.

 

Review contains spoilers for the first book.

 

Picking up shortly after where the first book ended, Arcus is now King of the Frostbloods and Ruby is now a Lady living in his court. She still has the hideous Minax monster hiding in her mind and is on a quest to figure out how to destroy it. Her friend from the first book, Lady Marella is helping her with court etiquette. Despite the fact that the Frostblood curse and throne is gone, and the evil king Rasmus along with it, not all the nobles are over joyed with the changes Arcus wants to implement, giving the regular people more fair trade terms for farmers and such. And treat the Firebloods better. Ruby is still met with scorn and suspicion. But she handles it a lot better.

(show spoiler)

 

She’s definitely got a spark and attitude and a delightful snarky manor about her, given everything Ruby went through in the first book, she’s an incredibly strong and well-adjusted character and is definitely (in this reader’s opinion) entitled to her moments of moaning and temper. She’s smart enough to know and understand that everything isn’t going to go smoothly.

 

During a fancy ball, after an assassination attempt Ruby makes the acquaintance of a strange but handsome boy Kai, who has an interesting offer for her. He’s a Fireblood like her and can take her to the Fireblood island to meet with the Fireblood Queen. One of the new ideas Arcus is after is a peace treaty between the Fireblood lands and the Frostblood lands. The Queen didn’t respond to his invitations to the ball and talks. Ruby figures if she takes Kai up on his offer then she can be the emissary for peace talks. And she’s also learned that the book she needs to destroy the Minax in the library at the Fireblood palace. So another reason to go.

(show spoiler)

 

Of course there is naturally some suspicion there. Wouldn’t be that simple. (And of course if everything went according to the plan there wouldn’t be much of a book.) There’s a lot of arguing between Ruby and Arcus on this point which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. There’s not a lot of information on who Kai is, or if he’s really who he SAYS he is. Or what he’s really doing there. Is she just going to blindly trust him and believe what he says? You can understand Arcus’s reasons against it.

 

 

 

At the same time Ruby has the chance to learn more about her own people and her own powers, she’ll be with others the same as herself – Firebloods. You can understand as well why Ruby wants to see the Fireblood lands. It’s a well reasoned argument with good points from both sides, made more frustrating by the deep attraction and the love that the two have for each other. And it’s almost painful to read about for the two of them clearly care deeply for each other but both are damned stubborn.

 

So Ruby heads off for the Firebloods lands across the sea. Where she’s met with some disturbing home truths about how the Fireblood Queen really is. Kai of course has kept his own secrets and reasons for bringing Ruby to the island. She’s pissed, naturally, but that doesn’t stop the fantastic bantery flirting between the two of them. Leading to internal conflict inside Ruby because she still has strong feelings for Arcus. <

(show spoiler)

 

Ruby has to take trails to become a Master before she can get access to the information she needs. And nothing goes according to plan. As the training increases and the tests she has to pass become more and more difficult, she’s hit bit a number of startling revelations about who she really is and who her own deceased mother was.

 

The twists are a bit silly to be perfectly honest, but like I said earlier, this is such a brilliantly written book, the daftness of the plot which can be eye rolling at times, doesn’t particularly matter because it’s so much fun to read. Left at a cliffhanger (of course) for the final instalment. Which I am really looking forward to.

 

This is a fantastic series I can’t recommend enough. I’ve already pre ordered the last book.

Review: There's Someone Inside Your House

There's Someone Inside Your House - Stephanie Perkins

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I was so excited for this book. It was one of my most anticipated releases of this year. I had pre ordered months in advance. I did a happy dance when my e arc request was approved early. Only to find this is one of my biggest disappointments of the year.

 

I really just didn’t like it much at all. Didn’t particularly care about the characters, wasn’t really that invested in the plot and the big reveal for the why of the whole thing was dull and anticlimactic.

 

It tells the story of Hawaiian teen Makani who has moved in with her Grandmother in a small town in Ohio. She has made some new friends, has a potential new relationship. She’s dealing with difficult parents who are in the middle of a bitter divorce, and is clearly hiding something bad that happened in Hawaii, the main reason she’s moved in with her grandmother.

 

A girl from the drama club has been viciously murdered, the small town is in shock and everyone’s gossiping about what could have happened and why. Before long another teen is murdered, a boy from the football team. So it continues. Random kids are dropping like flies in increasingly gory and violent murders. But there’s seemingly no connection between the victims. The novel focuses on Makani and her friends and her new love interest trying to figure out what’s going on, suspicions abound.

 

I just didn’t care. About any of it. I was bored. Teen slasher movies are one of my favourite things. Maybe I’m just jaded from having seen so many slasher movies raging from good to bad to what the fuck was that? It’s hard to compare not to compare this novel to a movie. That’s the feeling it gives.

 

Unfortunately, this book just didn’t work for me. Which sucks because this is one of my favourite authors.  

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Pan MacMillian for approving my request to view the title.

Review: The Hawkweed Prophecy

The Hawkweed Prophecy - Irena Brignull

I received a copy from Netgalley. An interesting quick read with a switched at birth plot with a magical twist. A UK based YA paranormal romance.

 

Teenager Poppy has always been awkward and never seemed to fit in anywhere. Whenever she gets stressed, angry or upset, strange things just seem to happen. And as a result Poppy keeps getting expelled from school. Even though she has no idea what happened most of the time. Doesn’t help that her dad is a workaholic and almost never home. Her mum had some sort of breakdown and is an institution convinced that Poppy is not her daughter.

 

Another teen, Ember lives with a coven of witches in caravans who live off the grid and by their own female only society rules. Ember is really pretty, sweet and innocent and made fun of by the other girls. She’s by far the worst witch in the group and seems to have little to no magical talent whatsoever. Her cousin Sorrel is the meanest of the mean girls. Sorrel’s supposedly destined to be the next Queen of the Witches. Sorrel’s mom Raven is the sister of Ember’s mum Charlock. T

 

here’s some sort of prophecy and Raven has interpreted it to her favour. The witches only take normal men as lovers in order to become pregnant, only the girls are allowed to live. They seem to know when its going to be a boy and the mother is given a potion which kills the baby in the womb before it can be born. Raven’s been manipulating Charlock with potions and spells to make sure if she gets pregnant it’s only ever boys that she knows will never be born. Until something changes and Charlock finds herself pregnant with a girl. Raven is furious at this, she wants her daughter to be the next Witch Queen so the two of them to conspire to make Ember as miserable as possible.

 

Which sucks because not only is it unecessarily cruel, Ember is really nice. Very naive, but good and pure and wants to believe the best in everyone. Ember has a secret little hang out just on the edge of the witch’s property. By chance Poppy finds her way there one afternoon and meets Ember. They become fast friends, a connection sparking between them immediately. I really enjoyed the friendship between Ember and Poppy. How they connected with each other, Poppy tells Ember about her normal ever day world and even though she’s not supposed to tell, Ember tells Poppy about hers. Poppy’s world suddenly starts to make sense. She becomes obsessed with magic and witches and convinced that that is why the things around her happen as they do.

 

While all this is happening Poppy meets homeless teen Leo when a couple of nasty men try to mess with her. Leo intervenes and saves her. I can’t say I really liked Leo all that much. Compared to Poppy and Ember he didn’t seem to have much of a personality, he seemed like a generic love interest with a tragic background, and didn’t do much, while Poppy and Ember and the other background characters all seemed to leap off the page and to life. Leo has an instant connection with Poppy and feels like they were destined to meet. It’s eye rolling YA insta-love at it’s best. Sometimes insta-love works, sometimes not and for me, this one was just annoying.

 

Poppy starts spending more and more time with Leo, and eventually brings him to meet Ember, who of course having never actually met a boy before is fascinated with him. Meanwhile, Sorrel has noticed Ember’s been sneaking off to hang out with Poppy and blabs to her nasty mother. So Raven has Sorrel spy on Ember to find out where she’s going. And Sorrel spots her with Leo. Next thing you know, Sorrel is suddenly consumed with jealousy. She’s falling for Leo as well.

 

The plot takes a few darker twists as Poppy learns more about magic and some home truths are revealed. Silly love triangles aside, this was actually quite a good read with some interesting takes on magic. I really liked Poppy and Ember as main characters, both were quite unique and full of life. She makes some interesting choices towards the end of the book. Some of the plot twists were kind of obvious right from the start, but either way, it was a well written book and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story is going.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hatchette Children’s Books for the review copy.

Reading progress update: I've read 100%.

— feeling big smile
The End of Oz - Danielle  Paige

I finished a series!!!!!

Review: Zenn Diagram

Zenn Diagram - Wendy Brant

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I snagged a copy of this one when it was a Read it Now on Netgalley. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I wound up enjoying this book. Early on I very nearly DNFed, the concept just wasn’t getting through to me, and I found Eva’s young siblings incredibly annoying. As the novel progresses, the depth of the two main characters and emotional connection between them was pretty amazing.

 

Eva is math genius. She has a bizarre condition (possibly as a result of a car accident when she was a baby) where when she touches people, she can see patterns in the form of mathematical fractals that tell her things about people. She can see feelings in the form of colourful mathematical patterns that show her emotions about a person. She can learn things about someone by a touch. Which makes her very uncomfortable about touching people. With a gift like that you never know what you’re going learn. It’s understandably quite scary. And beyond uncomfortable to have this happen every time you accidentally touch another person.

 

She has a best friend, Charlotte, but doesn’t really interact with other people much. She lives with her mum and dad, her dad is a Pastor for a local church, and she has four quadruplet siblings all of whom are very young, very lively (and very very annoying at least to this reader).  Eva makes some money by offering to tutor kids failing in math.

 

One of the guys she tutors is popular sports star Josh whom her BFF Charlotte has an epic crush on. There’s a sweet little side plot about Eva fixing the two of them up. Which turns out to have a not so great impact on their friendship when the fix up is a success.

 

The second guy she tutors is moody but very hot artist Zenn. Zenn and Eva connect pretty well. They find themselves getting to know each other a bit more, helped along by an incident where Eva decides the church van her family drives needs repainting - Zenn is an artist. Zenn agrees to repaint the van. Zenn’s a really good artist.

 

As they get to know each other and Eva’s feelings deepen, at the same time she’s dealing with her friendship with Charlotte deteriorating. Now she’s dating Josh, Charlotte is instantly more popular than she’s ever been and doesn’t really seem to have much time for Eva anymore. There’s still conversation, but it’s sparse and not as frequent and they’re not hanging out or having lunch together as much as usual. Eva’s naturally disappointed but at the same time this allows her the opportunity to spend more time with Zenn.

 

Eva and Charlotte’s friendship is actually very well written and quite realistic, it’s not all over the top drama, there’s a certain amount of emotional turmoil, but also some really sweet bits as well.

 

Likewise with Eva’s growing relationship with Zenn. They take time exploring their feelings, Eva gets to know Zenn’s home situation which isn’t all that great. Parents divorced, Dad just come out of long term prison sentence, Mom is an alcoholic who goes from bad boyfriend to bad boyfriend. The mom was actually quite nice but not very bright.

 

Both are struggling with decisions of what to do after high school. Zenn doesn’t really see much option other than to work to support his mom who can’t really take care of herself, while Eva wants to go to college. But with four small children and herself, Eva knows money is tight, and unless she can get a scholarship or something, her MIT dreams are just that – a dream. As fun as the flirting and growing romance is with Zenn they have some serious discussions as well.

 

There’s a really surprising twist as well which impacts both Eva and Zenn’s parents greatly. Which also has a big consequence for Eva and Zenn as well, but they both have to decide whether they love each other enough to get past it. Eva’s touch ability works differently with Zenn as well, opening her to sensations and experiences she never thought she would have. It’s not all swoony romance, there’s some pretty serious drama.

 

A really excellent contemporary YA. I would definitely read another book by this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Kids Can Press.

Review: Love and Other Man-Made Disasters

Love and Other Man-Made Disasters - Nicola Doherty

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I snagged a copy of this one from my Hatchette Children’s auto approval at some point last year. It’s a cute light hearted contemporary, easy and quick to read, but only okay for me. There was nothing particularly outstanding about it.

 

It wasn’t a bad book by any means, just a little bland for my tastes.

 

It tells the story of 17 year old Juno who’s on a skiing trip with her family, her mum and mum’s second husband and her two annoying twin step brothers. Juno’s very nervous and seems to be freaked out about everything. She’d much rather spend her holiday at home with books and studying but her mum has decided she spends too much time studying and needs to get out into the real world. Juno would rather be anything else.

 

After a disaster at beginners skiing mum gets her private lessons from a good looking instructor who appears to be around Juno’s age nick-named Boy. The bulk of the story is Juno and Boy getting to know each other and become something more than friends. They have some nice snarky banter between them, Juno struggles with developing feelings for a romance that will probably go nowhere. At the same time she finds herself making friends with Tara, the young woman assigned to look after their cabin – cooking and cleaning, etc.

 

The novel deals with Juno’s worry at the increase of adventure in her life as she makes new friends and has new experiences at the same time dealing with her mum and her added new family. It had some fairly good emotional depth. Juno was a likeable enough character and the family interaction was quite believable.

 

Boy just irritated me, that name for one thing drove me up the wall. I’m guessing it was meant to be cute, but it was really just annoying. He wasn’t a bad character either, just had stupid name. You do actually learn his real name right at the end of the book and considering you can understand why he would have a nickname. But I didn’t like the nickname and that sort of sapped my enjoyment of the story whenever Boy was in the scene.

 

A quick contemporary read. Only okay for me. Not something I would read again.

Review: All The Missing Girls

All the Missing Girls: A Novel - Ms. Megan Miranda

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This will be short review because I read this some weeks back and to be perfectly honest I remember very little about the book other than I really didn’t like it much. The mystery itself of what happened to the two missing girls so many years apart under the circumstances was interesting enough that I actually did finish the novel.

 

From what I remember about the plot the main character is coming home to help her brother with the sale of their family home after their father has moved into a nursing home. The first girl who went missing some ten years ago when the MC was a teen was her best friend at the time. Sometime after she’s arrived a second woman goes missing, this woman had always been on the fridge of the MC’s group of friends when they were growing up.  The first missing girl, the best friend, was outgoing, lively, popular and a colossal bitch who knew how to push everyone’s buttons. The police investigation was limited as it’s a small town and she’s an 18 year old girl with a reputation. Possible she just said to hell with everyone and ran off.  But her legacy is still present in the town as a few of the friends of the MC and the girl are still living there.  The second woman who went missing has a faint connection to the first girl and to the MC. There’s connections there, and the MC finds herself digging into what happened to the second one, bringing up memories of the first girl and figuring out the connection between the two disappearances. And managing to ruffle some local feathers while doing so of those who would rather just forget about the first girl. Getting herself reacquainted with old friends and people she’d put in the past as well.

 

The actual writing itself wasn’t bad at all, nice and descriptive, the area and the setting were easy to picture. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything about the characters that really stood out. In fact I can’t even remember their names. I certainly didn’t like any of them.   The biggest problem I had with the novel was that the method of storytelling was immensely confusing, told in a backwards fashion, counting backwards in chapters. Which I didn’t get at all. To be fair the actual reveal of what happened was fairly surprising, I didn’t guess at all before-hand.  

 

While I do like mysteries, this one just didn’t work for me at all. Thank you to Netgalley and Corvus, Atlantic Books for approving my request to view the title.

Review: Bad Girl Gone

Bad Girl Gone: A Novel - Temple Mathews

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Oh dear. This was a hot mess of a book. I really didn’t like it much at all. For the post part it was okay, but then something at the end made me really want to throw something at it.

 

This book tells the story of teenager Eileen “Echo” Stone. Echo has a pretty decent life. She has two loving parents, and her boyfriend of 2 years, Andy, practically worships the ground she walks on. Then one day Echo wakes up in a mysterious location after blacking out, a sort of boarding house/orphanage surrounded by weird and mean kids of various ages and a strict matronly type lady over seeing everything.  

 

Echo is very confused and tries desperately to convince everyone she’s not an orphan. So with the help of the good looking Cole, the only person being nice to her, Echo manages to escape and runs home. Only to discover to her shock and horror – a car passes right through her. She’s dead. And has no memory of how she died or the last few months of her life.

 

The plot of the novel revolves around Echo solving the mystery of her murder and coming to terms with her memories of her life – she’s not the good sweet girl she seems to think she was.  She also has to learn how to be a ghost. The place she’s stranded in is a sort of a half way point, the other kids staying there are all ghosts like her, who have been murdered. They have to find their killers and dole out justice before they can “pass over”. Each ghost has a unique ability. Echo learns this quickly on her first revenge outing with the other ghosts. Echo’s power is (unsurprisingly) the rare and unique ability to take over human’s bodies and learn their memories and secrets. Only one other ghost has been able to do this in the last ten years or so.

 

The plot doesn’t actually sound too bad. The different abilities of the other ghosts and their backstories were mildly interesting. The actual story telling came across to me as kind of bland and rather boring. And I can’t actually say I liked any of the characters. Echo was a brat. She came across as moody and entitled and more often than not I found myself wanting to slap her. Granted, it can’t be easy seeing people you used to know and discovering you’re not as well liked as you thought, and discovering disturbing things about yourself you had forgotten. But I really just had no sympathy for this girl.

 

The boyfriend was madly in love with her and is understandably heartbroken. Echo is watching him go through this, she can’t communicate with him. And his parents and everyone else are already telling him she wasn’t so great – get over it. Hard to do when you’ve been crazy in love for some time. And of course the really popular mean girl who snubbed Echo has her sites on him and Echo is jealous. Again, understandable. But after two or three interactions, she finds herself enamoured with Cole.

 

At the same time she’s feeling very guilty about it. You can sort of see why she might feel conflicted. She’s had the same boyfriend for years, he’s still alive and grieving, but she’s sharing smoochies and new experiences as a ghost with a hot new guy. It’s a fairly interesting predicament, love triangle with a paranormal twist. Problem for this reader is I just hated the characters and as I said earlier due to my severe dislike of Echo I had little to no sympathy for her.

 

The actual plot itself as Echo uncovers what happens to her, is quite intriguing and to be fair, quite surprising and disturbing when the truth about what happened is revealed. I didn’t actually guess or see it coming. The investigation is really what kept my interest as Echo and Cole with the help of the other ghost kids dig into Echo’s past and look at the suspects.

 

This is a bit of a big spoiler for the end of the book but it really pissed me off and I want to rant about it.

 

After solving the murder, Echo still hasn’t moved on. She’s decided she needs to say goodbye to the people who loved her. Mom and dad and boyfriend Andy. Okay. Makes sense. However, she’s decided the way to help Andy move on without her is find him a new girlfriend. Not to say her goodbyes, leave him alone and let him grieve, hopefully in his own time he’ll accept things, deal and move on. It’s only high school, he has his whole life ahead of him. No, Echo decides that he needs a girl to help him. He’s been flirting tentatively with Dani, the mean popular girl. So Echo decides she’s going to “help” them get together with her ghost powers.

(show spoiler)

 

Dani and Andy have a date. Dani has a more out-going style of dress and makeup tastes than Echo. So Echo spies on Dani as she’s getting ready. Dani’s really excited – but Echo knows Andy likes her to dress a certain way, do her make up a certain why. This really really pisses me off to no end. Why should any girl have to change their appearance to suit what their boyfriend likes if they like things done a bit differently? If he doesn’t like the way she dresses or how she does her make up, then it’s his fucking problem and he can deal with it or find someone else.

(show spoiler)

 

 

 So Echo hides the clothes and makeup she knows Andy won’t like. And Dani doesn’t seem to freak out or anything. She goes on the date in the clothes and the subtle make up Echo left for her. And it’s a success. So successful that Echo with her ability of possessing people has finally hit on the idea of possessing Dani so she can be with Andy again.  Why this didn’t idea didn’t circulate before in Echo’s mind is a bit beyond me. Especially since she’s been possessing people throughout the story to learn their secrets. Which would have made for a more interesting plot, with the moral implications of this decision. Which she deals with fairly rapidly.

(show spoiler)

 

 

This particular part made me really hate the book, which I already didn’t like much. It was definitely an interesting idea, the story and characters just didn’t work for me at all. It’s concluded but left with a possibility that it could be a series. I certainly wouldn’t read any more of this.

 

Not for me at all.

 

Thank you Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for approving my request to view the title.