Review: Savage Island
I received a copy from Netgalley.
This started out pretty good. A fairly interesting premise, it's a UK based horror novel - a group of teens enter a contest where the prize is one million pounds - each. The group will be whisked off to a reclusive billionaire's private island for some sort of survival contest where there will be a number of tasks to complete and other teams to compete against. Last team standing who complete all the tasks win the prize. Sounds pretty good, right?
If however, you're a horror movie fan like me and have seen more horror films than you can count or remember red flags should be going off immediately and the obvious question that should be on anyone's brain - what's the catch here? There has to be something that's going to go hideously wrong very quickly.
The characters are pretty ordinary teens, told from the point of view of Ben who lives with his younger brother Will and their divorced mum, pretty girl Lizzie, Ben's long time crush, and friends, Lizzie's BFF mouthy Carmen and smart guy Grady. There's something uncomfortable right off with Will, told in flashbacks - he's got some personality problems and is very manipulative, and cruel especially when he doesn't get his way. Ben's a people pleaser. The peace maker. Will manages to convince them to bring him along. He's very smart and resourceful and could be useful. Despite his sociopathic behaviour issues. Or I'm guessing all part of said personality disorder.
For a horror novel it's not scary in the slightest, (but that could be a personal feeling really as I may be rather jaded from having seen so many movies and read a fair amount of Stephen King which seems to be the yard stick I measure horror against). And while the novel was pretty silly there was something in the narrative that was enough to make me as a reader keep going to want to know what the point of it all was. To be fair it did manage to be pretty tense.
When the kids get to the island there's a list of tasks to complete, a riddle to be solved and a tithe to be paid before getting the instructions to the next point. The first team to clear the checkpoints, pay all the tithes and get to the final checkpoint by a certain time is the winter. The first tithe is a little gross, and if that's the first...how bad are the rest going to be? And what about the other teams competing? How far are they willing to go to win?
It all starts getting pretty despairing as things get more violent and go from bad to worse. It has some pretty eye rolling for fuck's sake moments, the plot manages like I said earlier to at least keep the interest alive. It is quite visually striking - it's very easy to picture what's going on as if it were a movie on the screen. Despite some eye rolling moments, the kids aren't stupid, they're fairly logical regardless of the growing panic and fear the worse the situation gets and the more threats that approach.
Problem was the kids had in my opinion zero personality to make them remotely memorable or likeable, with the exception of Ben and Will. We get flashbacks of their complicated relationship and unpleasant family history. They are the only ones who seem to get some sort of fleshing out.
What really let this novel down for me was the end. It was...stupid. The whole reveal of what was going on and the final body count....was like what the fuck did I waste my time on this for and was really disappointing.
While this is a standalone novel it's part of a group of UK YA horror called Red Eye, and despite the crappy ending, I sort of would recommend it if you like cheesy horror, which is pretty much what I gather the Red Eye series is. Or at least what I'm guessing I will find this series. I have a number of other titles to try in the series. While this title was by no means somethingI I will read again I do look forward to trying the Red Eye series.
The writing did show promise, so I would probably try something else by this author.
Thank you to Netgalley and Stripes Publishing for approving my request to view the title.
book shopping - today’s new book haul
Sequel - Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garber
Blue Cover - The Dazzling Heights (The Thousandth Floor #2) by Katherine McGee
Pirates - The Unbinding Of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara
Religion - The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oaks
I'm changing my pick for Metallic letting because my Uk paperback of Children of Blood and Bone only has shiny silver lettering down the side not on the front. I'll use Children of Blood and Bone for the freebie square and the UK paperback of Renegades by Marissa Meyer for Metallic letting, (the uk paperback is covered in shiny metallic blue writing and decoration)
A book you've been putting off: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
LGTBIA+: Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst
2018 Debut: The Window by Amelia Brunskill
Red Cover: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen
Scifi: Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda
Magic: Onyx and Ivory by Mindy Arnette
Review - Look For Me
I received a copy from Netgalley
This was something I received from one of those read it now for the first 100 members or so. Is usually like murder mysteries and police procedurals so this one caught my eye and I was lucky and quick enough to get in on the read it now.
However, I didn't realise at the time it was book 9 in an on going detective series. I did flit through some of the mixed reviews on Goodreads and it looks like each book can be read as a stand alone, but of course, coming in on book 9 there's background history to the characters and things about on going relationships you're just not going to know.
And frankly, the whole thing was kind of bland. The mystery itself was intriguing enough, a family is found murdered, working mom and her boyfriend, and two young children, the teenage daughter and the family dogs are missing. Is the daughter a victim for is she the suspect? And as the investigation continues the narrative is twisted so it could be either one.
It's a tough case, and the family and the teen girl in question were the only characters I really felt anything for. The mom was a recovering alcoholic who lost her children and worked really hard to get them back. The oldest daughter was the one who took care of the family until CPS got involved and the kids were forced into care. The two sisters stayed together but they were separated from the youngest child, a new kind of hell to deal with. The girls went through a nightmare in the foster care group home they were assigned to. The mom pulled herself together met the legal requirements for having her kids returned to her. Life wasn't easy but it was getting better. They moved and started fresh.
Then mom met a new boyfriend. A decent guy, but he lived in the area where the nightmare group home was.
And now there is a tragedy. The two detectives have to piece together what happened to the family. I didn't get much feeling for either of the two detectives, everything felt - at least to me - two dimensional, boring and wooden. The emotion came from the family drama, and some of the history of what happened to them learned through a series of essays written by the missing teenager about what family means to her.
There's a second non-official investigator on the case, a woman called Flora, who seems to be some sort of victims' advocate. She survived a horrible tragedy herself (the plot of a previous book in the series) linking her with the detectives. She's struggling to cope but getting on with her life by running a support group for other victims. She was an interesting character, I am actually kind of interested in knowing more about Flora. She became a key part in solving the mystery and helping unravel the case.
The end was a bit eye rolling and over dramatic for my tastes . I'm not interested in going out and get all the other books in this series. I may try this author again in a different series. While the characters were a little dull, there was enough intrigue in the case itself to keep reading to know what happened. And I didn't actually guess what happened.
Thank you Netgalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for the opportunity to view the title.
Someone Else's Pick for you - Time Shifters Episode one of the Chronicles of the Harekaiin (recommended by Lora's Rants and Reviews)
Adventure - Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
Set During Wartime - Reign the Earth by A.C.Guaghen
Travel - Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier
Metallic Lettering - Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
So that leaves
LGBT+ (I have so many books for this square I just need to pick one)
Blue Cover - possible pick The Dazzling Heighs by Katherine MgGee (second book in the Thousandth Floor trilogy, UK paperback has a lovely shiny blue cover)
A Book You've Been Putting Off - possible pick - The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (I've had this as soon as it came out but I've been putting it off forever worried I'll be the black sheep - it's a very important book, what if I don't like it? Or Illuminae - I have this entire trilogy but never got round to reading it. Illuinae would work for sci-fi too. Always and Forever Lara Jean - I love this series to pieces but if I read the last book the series will be over.
Review: Undead Girl Gang
I received a copy from Penguin's First To Read.
This. Book. Was. Awesome.
I absolutely loved it, from start to finish. I loved it so much I bought a finished hard back. There are some books you know from the tone of the first page if you're going to love them and the main character, and for me, this was one of those books.
I felt a connection with Milla right away. I loved her don't give a fuck snarky tone. She's clearly grieving, the book opens with her best friend Riley's funeral. She has quite an interesting perspective on the funeral itself, a bunch of people from their school wailing and crying who would never have given Riley the time of day. Riley died in mysterious circumstances. The third death to happen to students from their class recently. Two of the schools most popular mean girls June and Dayton were also found deceased recently in what looked like a suicide pact.
Neither Riley nor Milla fit in with the other students, they were heavily into Wicca, spending all their time at the local new-age magic shop or an abandoned house they found where they practice their spells and hang out. Riley's family own the local funeral home and Riley found herself a outcast, she and Milla connected and became best friends and have been for years. Though she'll never admit it Milla has an epic crush on Riley's hot, popular older brother Xander.
He's actually talking to her after the funeral. Milla is struggling with school, mandated meetings with the school shrink, and certain people (namely her chem lab partner) being a dick about her weight. She has two annoying younger sisters who don't seem to get 'personal space' and is generally miserable.
It's well written and believable without being over the top with the goth Wicca scene. The characters are well fleshed out as well. Milla's voice, despite her attitude problems, is easy to connect with. Her family drama, her school problems, it's not surprising she's not coping as well as she's saying she is. It's a sort of read between the lines thing.
So she decides she's going to perform a spell to bring Riley back from the dead, find out what happened so she can bring the person who killed Riley to justice. It's not a simple basic spell, there are things she needs to get, certain times it can be performed. Kinda complicated. The method she received the volume of spells in which the actual spell to cast came to her is a little spooky.
And of course when she heads to the magic shop with the book, the lady who runs the shop tells her its a very old book and a dangerous one. Naturally of course, she doesn't listen to a word of warning. Hardly surprising then, when the spell works it not only brings back Riley, but June and Dayton too.
No one knows how it happened and it's not so much fun anymore with the two mean girls back again. They're all still dead, and discover some less than pleasant things about being a sort of zombie as they go along. No one remembers what happened before they died. The book from then on focuses on figuring out what happened to June, Dayton and Riley.
Some secrets come out as the novel progresses. And it has moments where it's very entertaining and quite funny as well. Though it has it's fair share of deep emotions and a few surprising twists to boost. Hints at something that could finally start to progress between Milla and Xander when they start developing a friendship of their own.
One thing I did like was there wasn't really much romance involved. Hints and teasers, but it was more about the friendship with Milla and Riley and dealing with June and Dayton than about hooking up with the hot boy.
A few more twists by the end when things start going wrong. Though when the truth is finally revealed, it's one of those why didn't I see this coming thing? It was quite clever. A tad over dramatic, maybe. Also, a standalone. Everything wrapped up decently and there wasn't any well what happened about so and so and no unanswered questions.
I loved this book through and through and would definitely read it over and over.
Review: More Than We Can Tell
I received a copy from Netgalley.
I loved the predecessor for this book Letters to the Lost, which introduced one of the main characters in this one. There was clearly so much more to Rev than was explored in Letters to the Lost so I'm so pleased he got his own book.
Major trigger warnings for abuse - mental and physical.
This book was a tough and very emotional read. I could only cope with about 100 pages at a time. (Same way I had to read the first one) On the one hand we have Rev, an apparent tough guy who keeps to himself. He lives with his foster mother and father (who are some of the best YA parents ever).
On the other hand, we have Emma, a girl in Rev's class. Up until now they've never had reason to cross paths. Emma is a gamer who loves to code, she stays up late into the night gaming. She even created and launched a game of her own, which seems to have a lot of players. It's a secret she keeps from her parents, particularly her mom who doesn't seem to approve of her habit of locking herself in her room and spending all hours on her computer. Mom is an overworked doctor and kind of a bitch. Emma's father is a computer programmer for a big computer game company. Yet Emma seems almost embarrassed to tell him about her own coding skills.
There's tension between Emma's parents and it's really uncomfortable, so it's not surprising at all that Emma's on edge, especially with her own drama going on. She runs into Rev one night whilst walking her beloved dog, Texas (Texy). They have a brief conversation but there are clear sparks (even though neither realise it until much much later) they've started a dialogue.
Both he and Emma continue to meet and talk, both in person and via texting and email. They have developed a friendship in which they can talk to each other about personal stuff and things they have difficulty talking about to other people. And of course the friendship turns into something deeper and more romantic. It's a slow burn romance and it's wonderful. They're both so considerate of each other.
Things are going wrong and darker in both their lives, eventually the other's families learn of the friendship. Emma's so frazzled with her family troubles and online harassment she's taking it out on her best friend, who doesn't know what's going on. Her relationship with her parents hits rock bottom. She picks fights over stupid things with people who haven't really done anything wrong.
And when something really bad happens to Emma towards the end of the novel, it's those people who figure it out and turn up and save her. While the danger Emma finds herself in is quite frightening, its a little predictable as to how it's going to turn out.
That being said, it's a really good read. It's a tough one that deals with some hard subjects yet manages to be uplifting in its own way. Brilliantly developed characters. This is the second book I've loved by this author which puts her on my auto-buy list.
Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.
A Reaper At The Gates, Sabaa Tahir for June July Aug release
A List of Cages, Robin Roe for realistic fiction
The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton for reread
The Thousandth Floor, Katherine MgGee (UK paperback) for yellow cover
Another one for the DNF pile.
Just not interested in finishing this novel. It's certainly a very relevant novel, it's about a graduate from a very exclusive private girls school who starts a job with a local newspaper and decides to write an expose on a teacher she had a fling with. The teacher seduced her, made her feel special and then dropped her when she started realising what a mistake she'd made. Something she had been shamed into keeping silent for years. And once the bomb drops...she's not the only victim. Other students from past and present start coming forward and it looks like there's a giant cover up by the school.
Problem is while it's got the markings of an interesting plot, the characters are so flat and uninteresting. There's very little emotion involved, or at least for my tastes, for such a deep subject. I'm finding myself not wanting to pick it up and not really caring about how it ends anymore.
So another one for the DNF pile it is.
Thank you Griffith Moon Publishing for approving my request to view the title.
so far I've got
Lies They Tell Gillian French for Summer Thriller
Memories Wake Omnibus Selina Fenech for Illustrations
Cruel Summer by Juno Dawson for Water on Cover
Siren's Call by Devyn Quinn for Over 5 years Old
American Panda Gloria Cho for Asian Author
I decided his morning to out my currently reading list on hold to participate in Pretty Deadly Reviews Summer Bookish Bingo Card. I haven't done one of these in ages and usually really enjoy them. So let's see how it goes.
Not for me. Don't like the main character, plot is choppy and irritating enough to DNF at 6%, not interested in anymore.
I received a copy from Netgalley.
This for me was a case of interesting premise but boring execution. I can’t say it was a bad book, but this reader was just meh about the whole thing really.
Carnivals/Circuses with hints of a magic are a recent favourite of mine. So the premise of this book caught my attention right away. Teenager Emma has gone to the carnival with her friend. Emma across as likeable from the tone of the writing. She’s more fascinated by the artwork murals she spots than making out with cute boys like her friend Juliet.
A strange encounter for Emma when a weird boy gives her a coin. She and Juliet find themselves trying the fortune teller – The Boy in The Box. Emma soon finds herself alone. And shortly later hanging out with the Boy in the Box. And going on the Ferris wheel with him, drinking a bottle wine provided by the boy, kissing the weird boy and falling off said Ferris wheel.
When she wakes up Emma finds herself unable to feel anything and is shocked to discover she has been cursed. The Boy in the Box, Sidney, tricked her into taking his curse which can only be taken away with a kiss. She can try and get someone else to drink the mysterious wine and kiss them and shove them off the Ferris wheel.
Naturally, Emma is completely freaked and completely furious. (Who wouldn’t be?) Her reaction to the sudden change in her life is well written and completely believable as she realises her whole life is changed. She can’t go home, she has to stay with the Carnival while she is under the curse. The curse is a little more complex than first it seems but like anyone in this situation, there’s only so much information you can take in.
The Carnival people turn out to be pretty awesome (with a few exceptions of course) but most of the supporting cast were fantastic. The other acts who were around Emma’s age start to become real friends and help her deal with the situation. There are a few people who are absolute assholes and creepy (who turn out to be the baddies of the story).
None of this was too bad. It was really unique and interesting and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen. I like Emma as a character and I loved the supporting characters. What really spoiled this book for me was the romance.
Dual narrated the novel is from the point of view of Emma and Benjamin, one of the carnival workers who strikes a friendship with Emma which quickly becomes something more. Initially when we’re introduced to Benjamin it appears he’s working with the carnival along with his cousin both are hoping to save enough money to leave and start their own lives. But as soon as Emma comes into the picture he’s fascinated. Ben’s mother Audrey who also works at the carnival is livid about the idea of him hanging out with Emma who is now trying to get used to her new role as The Girl in the Box. Though the reasons for Audrey’s unnatural dislike and distrust of Emma become clearer later in the novel it just seems weird.
Of course being teenagers who are in insta-love they completely ignore the warnings about the two of them being together. The curse is a little more complex than Emma first realises and things are happening at the carnival, accidents are occurring that haven’t happened before and Emma is getting the blame. There’s a mystery to solve as to why all going back to the origins of how the curse came into being in the first place.
The novel is well written and the plot is interesting enough to want to know what’s going on but the romance between Ben and Emma is just so eye rolling it spoiled the whole book for me really. Even when they finally figure out what’s going on and what to do about it.
Good idea, but in the end just not for me.
Thank you to Netgalley and Entangled Publishing LLC for approving my request to view the title.
I received a copy from Netgalley.
First time I’ve ever been approved by anything from Flux...and sad to say I really didn’t like the book. The cover caught my eye on this one and it sounds like the kind of cheesy kind of YA paranormal romance I usually really like (even if the plot is rather silly).
The premise of this one was interesting enough, study mad Lainey is attending some sort of convention with her pop culture obsessed best friend, she has a strange encounter with seeing someone - a woman in what looks to her like a costume - starts feeling sick and dizzy, and decides to bail. Also, an encounter with a cute guy she just brushes off.
Her parents are deceased so she lives with her uncle Gareth and his odd new agey wife. Heading home Lainey has another encounter with the strange woman, who calls herself Josephine...and seems to be drawn into her memories.
The idea was fairly interesting. Lainey was a reasonably likeable main character, there was nothing particularly off about her. She’s fairly smart, quite logical. The writing itself isn’t bad. The story picks up and starts taking shape with chapters from Josephine’s point of view several centuries ago.
Josephine is last in a line of very powerful witches tasked with protecting an ancient Grimoire the bad guy really wants to get his hand on and isn’t afraid to kill or do whatever he has to do make sure he gets it. Josephine is having none of it. Lainey through some bizarre connection is watching all this unfold...and finds her own life getting stranger and stranger. The cute guy she had a brief encounter shows up again, Ty, and she finds herself getting to know him quite well.
A fair amount of action, not too much focus on the inevitable romance. There’s a battle between good and evil, and an ordinary girl thrown in who discovers she may be the key to everything. I didn’t find there was much emotional depth (at least not for my taste) but there’s enough mystery and enough questions to keep the reader interested and wanting to know what’s going on.
What really spoiled this book for me was the romance angle, Ty, who was flat and boring as hell and completely uninteresting. Though of course with twisty REASONS for his actions. The other thing that drove me up the wall was Maggie, Lainey’s best friend. Maggie was constantly spurting out pop culture references - comic books, TV shows - ALL. THE. TIME. It was fucking annoying. And every time something happens she comes out with her signature phrase “Holy crapkittens!” Which pissed me off to no end. Every time she said it - which was a lot - I wanted to slap her silly and tell her to shut the fuck up.
Though to be fair, Maggie did stick by Lainey’s side throughout the whole thing, when Lainey discovers secrets about herself and her family that her Uncle had hidden from her, was on hand to listen and be there. (She must really be a good friend - she’s the one who’s magic/paranormal/superhero obsessed and her best friend is the one who gets the superpowers? And she’s not even a little bit put out or jealous?) Just such a shame she had such an irritating personality. Combined with her and Ty who were a major part of the story it really let it down for me.
The revelations were kind of silly and eye rolling as the novel got to the end. It’s left quite open but it doesn’t look like there’s a sequel. There could be. I’m not sure I will be rushing out to get it if it does come.
It was okay, the novel had it’s moments and a fun concept, but in the end just not to my taste I guess.
Thank you to Netgalley and Flux for approving my request to view the title.
I received a copy from Netgalley.
Another case of really good book but I’m not all that sure I really liked the main character much. The novel is about dealing with deep depression, and grief after the suicide of a parent and learning about said parent’s cultural heritage.
One thing I really loved about the book was the look into Taiwanese culture, something I know nothing about. Main character Leigh is half white on her dad’s side and Taiwanese on her mother’s side. She’s never known her mother’s parents who live in Taiwan, when her mother left to marry her father it caused a big split in the family.
Leigh has a huge crush on her best friend Axel, over time her feelings for him have developed and she’s super jealous of Axel’s girlfriend. (This was really annoying. There weren’t many females Leigh’s age mentioned in the novel other than Leigh’s one other friend Caro and anyone girl who wasn’t Caro Leigh doesn’t seem to like, from what I remember, it got annoying fast.)
Leigh is an artist, she loves drawing and sees the world and her emotions in color. She and Axel have a thing where something is happening and Axel will ask her “what color?” and she will respond with whatever shade she sees at that particular moment. I don’t think it was synesthesia just her way of looking at the world. Initially this came across as kind of pretentious. I very nearly DNFed this book several times at the beginning. It felt very long winded and over written, and maybe there was something about it I just wasn’t getting.
The description for the book hinted and magical realism which is one of my favorite things, so I stuck it out to see where it would come in.
Leigh’s world changes, starting with a defining moment with Axel to the sudden shock of her mother’s suicide. She’s completely numb and devastated. Her emotions are all over the place and it’s completely understandable. While I could empathize with Leigh and could understand the massive trauma and shock such a horrific thing can do to a person, as a character I found her flat and hard to connect with.
She finds herself heading to Taiwan to meet grandparents from her mother’s side she never knew while her dad throws himself into his work for the summer. The grandparents don’t speak much English and Leigh doesn’t speak much Mandarin though she is learning. There’s a lot of foreign language spoken in the book which sometimes can be very jarring when you don’t speak the other language (or can be for me which sounds terrible and very white privilege, I know) though in this book it just fit in the narrative and was really interesting to learn some new words and phrases.
Leigh has an experience before heading to Taiwan where she thinks she sees her mother in the body of a red bird and becomes convinced she has to find the bird and the bird has now turned up in Taiwan with her. There is a cultural legend revolving around the reasons why.
A young lady called Feng, a friend of the grandparents shows up to help with the cultural differences and language barriers. Leigh learns about Spirit Week and some of the festivals taking place at the time she is visiting. While thanks to her mom’s influences Leigh is fairly well versed Taiwanese cooking, but there’s a whole host more to learn when she’s there. The descriptions of the food sound absolutely divine.
The narrative is in a then and now format - what happened with Axel and Caro before and what’s happening in the present. This also ties in the magical realism aspect when Leigh starts accessing her memories of her mom and not just her memories. There’s a really fascinating element where she can see her mom’s past memories as well. Leigh learns some things she never knew about, and has to come to terms with some things she did but couldn’t really bring herself to accept.
There’s a wonderful family dynamic as hard as it can be for one family, when she meets her friend Caro, Caro’s family is so different and vibrant from Leigh’s own more sombre one. The difference is kind of heart breaking but interesting at the same time.
Leigh and her family visit all her mom’s favorite places in Taiwan. Which again is completely absorbing. It’s beautifully described and beautifully written. Though Leigh can be quite a bitch to Feng who’s only trying to be nice and help. Feng has a really unexpected back story and there’s a twist to her character as well.
The other focus of the novel is Leigh’s plans for college and her future. She desperately wants to follow art but her dad is pressuring her to find something more practical. Leigh has to figure out whether she wants to do something that’s right or follow her heart to find something in the field that she really loves.
And then there’s her relationship with Axel. (Kind of predictable and bit eye rolling) but did make me smile at the end.
Despite a rocky start, I’m glad I stuck with the novel as it really did get better and by the end I loved it, and it made me quite teary in places. While sad in some respects, there were some uplifting moments. An honest and believable novel, at times hard and unflinchingly difficult in the narrative. But definitely worth a read. And most certainly an author that is going on my auto buy list. I loved this so much by the end I did buy a finished copy.
Thank you to Netalley and Hatchette Children’s Books for the review copy.