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Review: Keeper

Keeper - Kim Chance

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. 

Review: The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After - Emily X.R. Pan

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. 

Review: The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This is one of those strange conflicting books where I loved the premise, I loved the writing, the story but I hated the main character. Frankly, Alice was a giant bitch. (Narrative did reveal REASONS for her behavior but still.)

 

Alice has spent most of her life on the road with her mother, whom she refers to by name, Ella, rather than call her Mom. Bad luck seems to follow them where ever they go. They start settling down, things go wrong and they have to leave. Because of this Alice is never in one place for long so never really makes any friends or forms attachments to people. Which must be difficult but its the life she’s used to so it’s sort of understandable that she’d be cold and standoffish. 

 

She has an attitude right off. She lives under the shadow of her reclusive grandmother whom she’s never met, the author of a book of very dark fairy tales. The fairy tale book seems to have a sort of cult following. There is very little information about the grandmother. At the start of the novel Ella has received a letter telling her that the grandmother Althea, has died and she has inherited her estate, the mysterious Hazel Wood. Which she wants nothing to do with. 

 

The writing is quite dark and lyrical, the abysmal characters give the whole thing a dark murky feel to the story, when Alice starts looking into the grandmother and the book of fairytales, it fits as it turns out the stories are very dark. The book is now out of print and hard to find. Alice makes a connection with a boy at her latest school, Ellery Finch who has an interest in the fairytale book. Ella’s latest boyfriend is a very very rich older man with a daughter Alice’s age, so she and Alice attend a private school for very rich kids. Finch, is one of the wealthiest students there. 

 

Of all the characters in this book, Finch is probably the nicest and was one of my favorites. He offers Alice a tentative friendship and is nothing like the stereotypical rich boy you get at private schools. He’s kind of a nerd and adorable. 

 

Alice’s world is thrown into chaos when she goes home one afternoon to find her mother missing and her mother’s boyfriend in a fury after himself, his daughter and Ella were kidnapped. The two were let go, and he’s naturally furious. More for scared for himself and his daughter than Ella it would appear. The only clue Alice has is something to do with being told to stay AWAY from the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s mysterious estate.

 

Of course, with a bitchy teenager who is told not to go somewhere - it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going to happen. Alice completely ignores the warning and freaks. She finds herself calling on Finch to help her, since he’s apparently read the fairytale book. He’s got involved with the people looking for the estate. Finch is the only person willing to help. Alice is freaking and she’s really being nasty to him. Yet almost reluctantly seems to resign herself to the fact she needs Finch and the help he is offering. Her nasty attitude during these bits made me constantly want to slap Alice. I really did not like her at all.

 

Though this is where the fairytale darkness seeps into the novel and it seems that reality is mixing in with the world of the mysterious tome written by her grandmother, a strange fairyland called The Hinterland. Is this really happening or is it the influence of the Hinterland?

 

Things get stranger and scarier as Alice and Finch investigate, ignoring all warnings to stay the hell away. Alice can’t do it. The more she digs, the more questions she finds with no answers. Despite the unlikeable characters, there is something very compelling about the darkness of the mystery as it unfolds.

 

I won’t recap much more because there would be some serious spoilers but things get weirder by the minute and finally, things start happening and answers start coming. There were a few twists before the final revelations.

 

Some misgivings, but definitely worth a read. It’s somewhere between a fantasy and a mystery. Vivid and quite dark and sometimes dreary. At the same time it has a way of making you want to know what the hell is going on. It’s definitely very original.  And that book of disturbing fairytales sounds like something this reader would be dying to get their hands on. And according to Goodreads it looks like there will be a sequel (though I can’t imagine where the sequel will go) and the fairytale book from the first book will actually be written. I am certainly very intrigued to go. 

 

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

 

 

Review: Royals

Royals - Rachel Hawkins

I received a copy from Penguin’s First To Read

 

This book was like a giant rom-com cliché. The alternate history for the Royal family was eye rolling and cringe worthy. That being said once you over look those things, it was actually a very entertaining read. Irritating as hell, but fun.

 

(Especially like me if you have a guilty pleasure for Royal gossip)

 

In this alternate world there is a Scottish Royal Family, and the heroine Daisy’s sister Ellie has fallen in love with Prince Alexander, heir to the throne. They are getting married. Daisy lives in Florida with her mom and her ex British rock star dad. She lives a pretty normal life. She has a part time job at a local convenience store and is looking forward to a planned trip to Key West with her BFF Isabel where they will go to a convention to meet their favourite fantasy author and get their books signed. All pretty normal.

 

But all this is thrown out of whack when Ellie announces she’s marrying the prince and the Royal family have invited the whole family to Scotland for a few weeks for the summer to get a taste of what’s coming.

 

Every other chapter is a page from a magazine or a gossip blog/tabloid.

 

Daisy is fuming but agrees on the basis that the Royal assistant Glynnis who has come with Ellie and Alex can arrange for a singing at a book shop near where they are staying and bring Isabel along later.

 

So off to Scotland they go given a Royal treatment – first class flights, fancy cars, the fanciest hotels. To add to the chaos, Alex’s younger brother, charming, Sebastian (who is Daisy’s age, 17) the most eligible teen in Scotland is there as well with his group of fancy friends. Sebastian is an ass, crude, full of himself and flirts with everything in a skirt. Daisy finds herself getting into a snit with his best friend Miles when a drunken Sebastian decides to head into her room.

 

The dialogue is sharp and witty and as soon as Miles and Daisy start snarking with each other it’s completely predictable as to what’s going to happen. Daisy has to go to several royal events and dress the part (something she’s not happy about) and of course things go eye rollingly wrong (including a rather amusing incident where she finds herself getting looked down on by some of the posh women and does a delightful job of holding her own and insulting them right back).

 

It’s cheesy as hell. However, at the time, I did find myself reading this with a grin on my face most of the time. Daisy is struggling to cope with major culture shock, even when her best friend finally arrives (Isabel’s huge crush on Sebastian not helping) Daisy finds herself unwittingly creating a scandal that catches the eye of the disapproving Queen. And Miles to the rescue.

 

Which leads to a fake dating plot.

 

As a lead character Daisy was immensely likeable, easy to understand where she’s coming from. Easy to follow her story as she moves between the very different world and gets to know the real people behind the tabloid gossip and learns maybe Miles isn’t the stuck up ass he pretends to be. They have some quite interesting conversations about their differences.

 

The end is absolutely gag worthy. But kind of works.

 

Not the most brilliant book I have ever read, but certainly an entertaining one.

Between the Blade and the Heart

Between the Blade and the Heart - Amanda Hocking

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This book was fun. An action packed paranormal adventure.

 

First book I read by this particular author, and I enjoyed it. The world building was a little haphazard, in this world there are all sorts of supernatural creatures around, all governed by Norse gods, and kept in control by Valkyries. Seemed to be a vaguely futuristic kind of society. A little unclear on when it was set. A little bit of history on the species and the set the governing body and the jobs of Valkyries.  When your time is up, a Valkyrie is sent to dispatch you to the next plane of existence. Valkyries only go through the female line, Marin is training to follow in her mother Marlow’s footsteps and is in the final steps of her training to become an official Valkyrie as well as attending a supernatural academy for classes.

 

Marin was tough and spunky, relatively sensible and a likeable MC. Also extra points – she was bisexual. She had a relationship with another female Valkyrie, Quinn. Which didn’t end brilliantly but they remained sort of friends.  Marin lives with her best friend, witch Oona and her beloved pet, some sort of a hybrid creature a little like a dog but not quite.

 

Lots of action, though I did find some of the characters to be a little flat, there didn’t seem to be much back story to hardly anyone other than Marin herself. There was very little seen of the academy she attends, there’s a few classes mentioned, and a rivalry with a classmate she doesn’t get on with. Though later on in the novel they do have a fairly interesting discussion about fate and destiny – which was about as deep as the novel got.

 

Mostly it was all action packed. Marin’s world is thrown into chaos when a handsome stranger breaks into her apartment demanding information on her mother. Something that was supposed to have happened didn’t and as a result people are being killed. Marin is stunned and furious, and with the stranger, Asher, by her side sets off to confront Marlow about what happened.

 

She’s shocked at the revelations and she and Asher decide to try and put things right and stop the killings. The supernatural beasties Marin is hunting are getting stronger, she’s feeling pain when she shouldn’t and it could all be a result of what went wrong many years ago. She gets help from witchy Oona and Quinn appears a few times saving her butt and becomes part of the group who work to find the bad guy and solve the mystery.

 

Of course, Marin is starting to develop feelings for Asher and finds herself getting closer again with Quinn, trying to understand why their relationship failed – something to do with something that’s been ingrained into Marin about Valkyries and love and how it never works. So Marin is struggling to come to terms with her feelings on top of this manhunt for a bad guy getting nastier and stronger as the time goes by.

 

A surprise death half way through doesn’t help at all.

 

 

A surprising twist at the end as well, as it turns out the bad guy they’re hunting is small fries and there’s an even bigger bad on the way. Left at cliff hanger of course.

(show spoiler)

 

 

Not particularly moving, while the world building wasn’t brilliant (in my opinion) it was interesting and it’s been a long time since I’ve found a paranormal adventure I’ve liked so much. Decent characters, and a fun read.

 

Looking forward to the next one in the duology.

 

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

Review: Dear Sweet Filthy World

Dear Sweet Filthy World - CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This particular author is one of my favourites of dark and bizarre fiction. Most of the time I love her work, there are the odd ones that I really don’t like or get at all. This collection of short stories has been on my radar since I heard about it. I was thrilled when I got approved for it on Netgalley (a hardcover is nearly $30). After reading a few of the stories I knew I had to have a finished copy and  I did purchase a finished Kindle version.

 

Stand out stories for me were:

 

Werewolf Smile – a narrator’s flighty girlfriend posing for a series of disturbing photos based on a Red Riding Hood theme. There was something so dark and powerful about the prose that made this story stick with me more than the others. First story in the collection.

 

Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint – this is about a dude who picks up a random girl hitchhiking and finds himself sharing her memories of violent acts throughout history. Very vivid and uncomfortable.

 

The Eighth Veil – I loved this one, I wanted a full novel of this one. A group of weird people gathering in a bar to watch some sort of stage show which seems to be an execution.

 

-30- This one is about a woman who receives an anonymous photo of some sort of monster – is it real? Where did it come from? Who sent it? What is it? An intriguing mystery though was a little disappointed with the end.

 

The Carnival is Dead and Gone – This was another favourite, dude and has friend visiting a carnival of oddities and freaks head into a special area where the strangest of creatures are held including some sort of quivering mass with theatricals that resemble a giant vagina following some strange sex act. It was another one that was quite uncomfortable but utterly compelling and erotic as it was disturbing. It feels wrong but you can’t take your eyes away.  The audience of the show seemed to find it really erotic.  Something like this should not be erotic, but it was and what does that say about the state of my mind?

 

Interstate Lovesong (Murder Ballard No 8) Two sisters who pick up randoms and kill them on their journey get a shock of their own when they pick up a girl with an attitude of her own. Gory and fascinating.

 

These were the stand outs for me.

 

This collection is a host of stories from the strange, the weird, the bizarre, disturbing, erotic and sometimes just plain what the fuck was that? 28 of them. Some of them I loved, some of them I hated. Some of them were just bland. One in particular - Tempest Witch - I read the whole thing and didn’t get a word of it.  The writing is beautiful and lyrical, dark and dreamy.

 

A good mixed bag.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Subterranean Press  for approving my request to view the title.

Review: Nothing Left to Burn

Nothing Left To Burn - Heather Ezell

I received a copy from Penguin First to Read.

 

I went into this book not really knowing anything about it. It flagged my attention because I remembered if from my TBR list. I wasn’t expecting such an emotional gut-wrencher.

 

It starts with teenager Audrey wakened by firemen knocking on her door and some ungodly hour of the morning informing her of mandatory evacuation due to a raging wildfire. Audrey lives in Orange County, California. Her dad is out of town on a business trip and her mom and younger sister Maya have gone somewhere (I can’t remember where) for some really exclusive ballet audition for Maya. Audrey stayed home and went to a party the night before. It’s clear something happened there and she may be a tad hungover.

 

Naturally she’s completely freaked out and running around trying to figure out what to save, to get hold of her dad. She can’t bear the thought of freaking out her younger sister before her big audition. Also extremely worried over her boyfriend Brooks who is a volunteer firefighter.

 

What follows is an emotional roller coaster as Audrey comes to terms with the raging fire and how it’s effecting the people in her life. Also with flashback chapters on how she met Brooks and how their relationship developed.

 

It’s excellently written and the emotion pours out of the characters. Audrey comes across as a bit of a shy loner, with one best friend Grace. She doesn’t seem to get out much and feels a little left behind since Grace got a girlfriend, Quinn. Audrey works with Grace’s older brother Hayden on some AP projects for a class they’re in together. They’re friendly but you also get an impression something happened there as well that Audrey’s trying to avoid dealing with.

 

She meets Brooks at a party and they strike an immediate connection. He’s a loner as well, there’s gossip about him Audrey’s heard throughout the school grapevine but Brooks is nice and she doesn’t want to listen to rumours. Especially since they seem to be getting on so well. They start hanging out more and more and develop a deeper relationship going from friendship to something more romantic.

 

Audrey misses some red flags when Brooks’s behaviour starts changing. He’s got a complex past, his beloved brother died, he’s struggling to deal with it. Understandable. He can get her to talk, but doesn’t always seem to divulge much information about himself and gets annoyed and angry when asked about it. That should raise a few questions on its own. He doesn’t seem to like Audrey hanging out with her friends. He makes a scene about it when her friends show up at a birthday celebration for Audrey. He also seems kind of pushy about sex as well, especially since Audrey’s made it clear she wants to wait until she feels ready. Yet at the same time he can be very romantic as well.

 

The chapters switch between what is happening the day of the evacuation and what happened over the summer leading to that point.  As Audrey gets closer to Brooks she starts ignoring her own friends, and there’s big questions about what happened to Brooks’s deceased brother. Audrey gets some pretty shocking information. Yet she still can’t seem to think of much else.

 

There’s also a really great family dynamic as well, Audrey and her sister are really close and their relationship with their parents is decently described as well. The parents are involved without being overbearing and not pushed to the background.

 

There was a surprising twist in regards to the wildfire as well.

 

Beautifully written and really emotional as well, this was a quick read but a very good one. Definitely an author I would read again.

Love, Hate and Other Filters

Love, Hate and Other Filters - Samira Ahmed

This was a really good book. I found it fascinating to see something written from the point of view of a Muslim character. I found the author’s note at the beginning quite moving as well. Sometimes author’s notes can be annoying or preachy, but this didn’t feel like that at all. The harsh reality of it is an eye opener and something to make a reader more aware.

 

I can’t judge how accurate the representation is (I am a white lady) but I found it very interesting. Maya’s family is the only Muslim family in her small Ohio town. She is the only black student in her high school. Maya is bright and bubbly. She has dreams of being a film director. She makes her own movies, mostly family stuff, mainly weddings and big events.

 

The novel opens with Maya filming a big Indian wedding. Which seems fun and very colourful. Her parents are quite strict and have a set idea of what they want for her future  - go to college, become a lawyer, marry a nice boy from a good Indian family. Maya wants to go to film school in New York. She doesn’t quite know how to tell her parents. She has an ally in her aunt, her mother’s sister who never married and lives her own life quite comfortably. She’s more of a role model for Maya than her mother. Mother can be very overbearing and doesn’t seem to get the fact that her teenage daughter likes her privacy.

 

Maya actually meets a nice Indian boy at the wedding, a young man named Kareem, a college student, their parents are thrilled. One thing this novel had in abundance – descriptions of Indian food that makes your mouth water. I love Indian food. So these descriptions always made me smile and want to gobble whatever was being described. Maya also finds her long term school crush, popular boy Phil finally starts paying attention to her.

 

Phil’s nice and friendly, though he has a popular ex-girlfriend and her cronies who don’t seem to know that the relationship’s over which creates angst for Maya. She and Phil have great rapport and develop a believable friendship. At the same time she’s spending time with Kareem as well. Chatting with her best friend as well.

 

The dialogue is believable, the characters fleshed out well. Maya is likeable main character, and her struggles are easy to understand and identify with. While there’s some cultural differences as she has difficulty getting to grips with her parents expectations and her own desires. At one point it all seems like everything’s going to work out.

 

Then there is a terrorist attack. And Maya and her family have the same surname as the prime suspect. And is subjected to shocking treatment. Her parents’ business is vandalized, she is bullied at school.  Her parents start tightening the leash again. Her dreams are defeated. It’s just heart-breaking to see the treatment she gets and it’s awful. She’s done nothing wrong. Her family have done nothing wrong.

 

 

 At least the authorities in the town seem to be on the side of Maya and her parents. They don’t treat them as suspects and vow to protect the family from the violence they find themselves confronted with. Maya finds herself in a very dangerous situation during a school field trip, cornered by a bully intent on causing her harm simply because of her religion. Which is disgusting. Thankfully there’s a witness and she’s saved before something really bad can happen.

(show spoiler)

 

 

A wake up call for Maya as she finally decides it’s her future, and it’s up to her – not her parents. Her parents reaction is a little over the top (at least in this reader’s opinion) given their own history and how they came to be in the United States.  It’s sad as well, but at least Maya has her aunt there to support her and help.

 

Gut-wrenching at times, sweet at others, funny in some moments, this was a really enjoyable book.  Believable concluded as well. Definitely worth reading and an author I would like to read more from.

 

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

Review: One Moment

One Moment - Kristina McBride

 

An okay YA mystery novel. I read the first 20% or so then the rest of it in a couple of hours the following evening. It tells the story of Maggie who’s perfect boyfriend Joey dies in a tragic accident whilst they are hanging out with their group of friends. 

 

Joey was handsome, witty popular and friends with the most popular kids in their grades. Maggie was sort of on the edge for years and started becoming part of the group when she dated Joey. Maggie was with Joey just before he died, they were doing some stupid jump of a cliff into the lake below stunt, and something happened. Only now Joey’s dead and Maggie can’t remember what happened.

 

The group are interrogated by police and parents about what happened but no one has any answers. It all lies on Maggie who seems to be so traumatised she can’t focus or remember on anything that happened at that time. She can remember up to a certain point and then some time afterwards but is blocking the actual event. 

 

The focus of the novel is Maggie grieving over Joey’s death and trying to figure out what happened, reflecting on her relationship with Joey and her friends. Joey’s best friend Adam is by Maggie’s side and the most supportive, joker Pete doesn’t really seem to want to know what’s going on, party girl Tanna is there to lend a hand and popularity queen Shannon seems to be taking Joey’s demise harder than Maggie herself. 

 

Of course everyone is looking at Joey through rose-coloured glasses. This particular reader thought Joey was a dick. He was a massive douchebag. Cruel, manipulative and two faced. This came through as the story progressed and the reader learns of some of the things going on with Joey that Maggie never knew about. 

 

Maggie’s voice is believable, and she was a likeable enough lead. I didn’t get a particular sense of emotion or closeness to any of the characters or the story itself. It was a fairly fast paced read. It was interesting enough and the story was quite compelling and well written enough that I needed to know what happened. Given the events of the book when the questions are finally answered the were no overwhelming surprises at the end. At least not for me. 

 

I liked seeing Maggie finally getting the cloud lifted and realising she can move on with her life and finally seeing the truth about some of the people she thought were her friends.  Ultimately it’s a novel about dealing with grief when a loved one passes, and how friendships can change and how people can change and grow. 

 

Well written and while this particular book wasn’t necessarily something I would read again but I would definitely read something by this author again.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Sky Pony Press for approving my request to view the title. 

Review: Reign of the Fallen

Reign of the Fallen - Sarah Glenn Marsh
I received a copy from Penguin First to Read.

I finished this in December last year and I’m still struggling to put to words how to review it. I sort of liked it, I loved the diversity of the characters. This was one of my most anticipated January releases, but the actual book itself? Even after well over a month later I’m still undecided. 

I think my biggest issue with it was the whole the dead rule the world thing. In this novel you have a kingdom where Necromancers are the most powerful mages and when dead nobles die, it’s their job to go and retrieve their soul so the person can keep living and ruling as they have done. Maybe I’m getting too cynical but I’m struggling to grasp this concept. Mainly because from this reader’s point of view – it doesn’t teach anyone how to deal with the concept of death. Particularly the ruling class. Even their king is the living dead. I don’t get it. 

Best thing I loved about this book was BISEXUAL LEAD FEMALE CHARACTER!!! 

The novel starts with the lead female Odessa and her best friend/boyfriend Evander about to receive their commendation as official members of the Necromancer’s guild. As full Necromancer mages they can live in the palace and lead comfortable lives. Odessa sort of secretly wants to see the world, and you get the impression she thinks that Evander did too. Odessa has a friend (lady pirate) with a ship who can offer a passage out into the wider world. However, it’s forbidden to leaving their secluded comfortable little kingdom, even though the royals are mostly wise and seemingly well-liked and respected and everyone seems pretty comfortable. At least on the surface. There’s always going to be problems hidden in a kingdom like this which is never obvious to the people whom it should be. Which should raise questions as to why no one is ever allowed to leave. Why do the dead have to be brought back over and over? (There may have been an answer in the book I just can’t remember it).

The risen dead have certain rules to live by and there’s consequences, things can take a drastically bad turn and the risen dead can become murderous monsters known as Shades. On a seemingly routine job the kingdom princess Valoria accompanies Odessa and Evander and the reader gets their introduction into the land of the dead and the way things work.

Only a short time after the task is done there is a shock death. A loose Shade on the rampage. Odessa starts to question things about her relationship with Evander. The mystery in the dead lands is progressing, the Shade attacks are getting more frequent. 

Early on in the novel there was a really surprising twist I would never have guessed at.

The characters were great, I loved them all. A+ for diversity, a lesbian couple, a gay couple, and a bisexual lead female. The characters were well fleshed out, their emotions and actions believable. Though I did feel that Odessa could be a tad over dramatic. 

That being said, in the aftermath of an unexpected tragedy she falls apart. She breaks down. Completely understandable, but she also develops an addiction to a pain numbing tonic rather than dealing with the harsh reality and emotions. There was something very uncomfortable about this. I do understand and logical that it’s so much easier to give into an addiction rather than deal with the feelings when faced with something horrible.

I did find the pacing of the novel very slow, something would happen and then it would emotional turmoil and meandering and seemed like ages before anything else would happen. There didn’t feel like a whole lot of action going on. The second half of the novel picked up a bit, a new character is introduced who comes across as quite antagonising for Odessa and gives her more of a challenge, a new lead into the investigation into the increasing Shade attacks sets of a new direction which breathed more life into the novel. Also hinting at the possibility of a new romance angle as well. The character is mentioned in passing a few times earlier in the novel and comes in with her own agenda but finds herself becoming part of Odessa’s investigation. 

Meredy is a Beast Master, she can control animals as well as being a Necromancer. She’s smart, sassy and not afraid to call Odessa out on her bullshit. She doesn’t follow blindly, though she has some pretty misguided ideas of her own necromancy when she makes her appearance. She provides a good counter balance to Odessa.

When the force behind the Shade attacks is finally revealed there was a bit of eye rolling why didn’t I see this coming from a mile away? Kind of amusing in a way, should have been fairly obvious but actually it was quite clever that I never managed to figure out the twist to see it coming. 

While some of the novel I found slow and boring it did have its moments. I didn’t get some of the magical concepts. There were some of it I liked. It was certainly interesting and creative and not a fantasy type I’ve seen done a hundred different times. So plus points for uniqueness. I did buy a finished hardback, I may have to read this again at some point before the next one comes out. 
 
 

 

Review: Revenge

Revenge: A gripping and utterly addictive page turner that will have you hooked - Nigel May Barlow

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I must be a black sheep on this one. Most of the reviews I browsed through were fairly positive, there was a handful of one stars but no actual reviews. It caught my eye whilst browsing Netgalley because I like revenge themed books featuring famous people with glitz glamour and potential murder. When I looked it up on Goodreads and saw that the author was compared to the British equivalent of Jackie Collins that pretty much sealed the deal for me.

 

I thought it was one of the stupidest, most annoying books I have ever read.

 

I didn't find it glamorous or captivating or anything. The characters were unremarkable and annoying with maybe one exception and it was nearly 70% into the book before the reason all these people were brought together was finally explained. It started out okay, the frost problem I had with the book was that the review copy I was reading on my iPad kindle app had an appealing font which wouldn't go out of bold which annoyed the hell out of me. I ended up buying a finished copy with a sensible font I could read properly. At this point the book still had my attention to want to know the what was going on.

 

The premise was interesting enough, a bunch of people have been invited to the opening debut of a new snazzy restaurant by popular celebrity chef Dexter Franklin in St Tropez. It's all expenses paid as well. It becomes obvious immediately that bringing this particular group together is a disaster waiting to happen. It's also made clear right away that each person invited to the opening have history with Dexter and pretty bad history at that. The tag line hinted at murder so the interest for me was who do these annoying people is going to get bumped off first?

 

The characters:

 

Two members of a former squeaky clean girl group Crazy Sour, who had a massive career as pop idols for teen girls until one of them, Holly, fell into drugs and drink and ruined the band and destroyed everyone's careers. Holly wound up becoming a high class prostitute and raked the cash in until she got caught up in a scandal with a politician and the whole thing came crashing down around her, again. She’s an utter bitch, out for number one and doesn't seem to give a fuck about anyone else other than herself. Of course, she's got a few secrets of her own which sort of explain her deplorable personality and the defensive attitude she displays. She had a hot fling with Dexter at some point and it didn't end well.

 

The other girl band member Mew, I got the impression was supposed to be the sensible smart one of the group. She and Holly rubbed each other the wrong way. There wasn't much mentioned about the third member of the band or there than she wasn't all there. I think the only reason she wasn't brought in on this little trip was she didn't have anything going on with Dexter. When Crazy Sour failed Mew made her fame and fortune by winning a celebrity cooking show hosted by Dexter. There was a big scandal when it was discovered that Mew was screwing Dexter behind the scenes. Mew went on to have her own cooking career and wrote best selling cookbooks. Mew brings her assistant/agent Olivia along on the trip complexly oblivious to the fact that Olivia is head over heels in love with her. Of course, neither Holly nor Mew know the other has been invited.

 

Leland Franklin, Dexter’s older brother. The two brothers never got along. Leland is actor who made his name as a hunky TV action adventurer star who thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread and God’s gift to women. A better than thou jerk who thinks the sun rises and sets on him, and completely unfaith to his supposed long term girlfriend. To the point where he brings some fame hungry American girl he picked up and has been screwing on the side, the girl who was notorious for having once been a hooker on the trip. Leland’s supposed actual girlfriend is a Brazilian actress Rosita Velazquez. She's a huge star in her own country and wants to break into other markets and she's convinced that dating Leland will raise her profile. She's outlandish and takes over the top to a whole new dimension. Neither knows that the other has been invited to Dexter’s restaurant opening. Rosita has her own complex history with Dexter.

 

Finally DC Riding, a restaurant critic. Openly gay and friendly DC is probably is the only likeable character amongst this lot. He had a failed try at producing a big broadway production. He's had some not so pleasant things to say about Dexter’s restaurants before. He’s into really kinky sex stuff as well and doesn't seem to care where it comes from and is quite happy to pay for it.

 

A few other minor characters are introduced who wind up having fairly decent rolls as the plot goes on.

 

The bulk of the novel is all these characters arriving in St Tropez and their reactions to each other. Which in the most case are not happy reunions. It's drama drama drama. They've all worked out there must be something going on. Dexter hasn’t made an appearance yet. Most of his chapters up to this point are reflections on his relations with the other characters and hints of something big that's going to happen. By this point I am bored to tears with the book. I lost interest in the drama between the characters, the bitch fest between Holly and Mew, Olivia pining over Mew, Rosita and her ridiculous attempts at making a name for herself, Leland who I despised right from the start and remember very little about. The only fun chapters were the ones from DC Riding.

 

Opening night approaches and the reasons for bringing these particular people together were finally revealed. Over 70% in and no ones been killed. What happened to the murder hinted at in the tag line and why is these thing called Revenge?

 

 

 It turns out it's all involving a show girl Cher Le Visage. Dexter was madly in love with Cher, now Cher is dead and every person he has invited to the opening has a reason to want to kill Cher.

(show spoiler)

 

So…who did it? More secrets are revealed and more past information comes to light.

 

One thing I did actually like at the end was how the women came together to defend each other when found in a dicey situation with the killer.

Mew and Holly really came together and wound up with a new understanding and a budding friendship that allowed them to reconnect and come together in a way they hadn't before

(show spoiler)

.

 

Not enough to salvage the book for me, but something about it I actually liked.

 

There was a brief what happened afterwards conclusion detailing where each of the main characters when after the eventful opening night of Dexter's restaurant. Most of them had shown some sort of growth over the novel and some found new relationships, new friendships and new directions in life.

 

This wasn't a page turner for me, nor was it a gripping thriller at all. I found myself skimming a large portion of the middle. It had its moments but in the end just not for me. I’m not really interested at all in trying anything else by this particular author. Every now and then I try something different from my usual type of book but unfortunately this one wasn’t for me at all.

 

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

 

Review: Invictus

Invictus - Ryan Graudin

Review: Invictus

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I snagged this one as a read it now title. I'd heard a lot of buzz on this book and to be honest it didn't really interest me having seen a lot of Firefly comparisons and I've never seen an episode or been interested in the show. But then I saw it as a read it now and I've enjoyed the authors work before so figured why not give it a try?

 

I tried. It was certainly creative, an interesting take on time travel agencies. The hero of the novel is an anomaly who was born outside of time - his mom was a famous pilot and on a job when it happened - and the hero has gained a somewhat infamous notoriety. He’s charming, witty and snarky though appears to have an attitude with authority. Nothing particularly new there where YA heroes are concerned (at least not to me anyway). Dude has done his training and is ready to take his final exams so he can become an official part of the space and time program that run the show.

 

Left with little options he finds himself taking a risky job of basically going through time and retrieving select objects requested by the boss for huge sums of payment. He gets to pick his own crew and name his ship. Each crew consists of the captain, the historian, the doctor and the math guy. Bonus points for diverse characters. The only really memorable character for me was Imogen the historian who changed her hair colour every day.

During a mission a new comer hijacks the object the the crew are after sending the mission into a tailspin. And causing of course, all sorts of other problems. Something to do with parallel words comes up half way through and at this point I sort of lost interest and started skimming. The technical side and sciencey side of things were a little bit too much for me and I got rather bored.

 

I found the plot getting rather silly by the end as well and rolling my eyes a lot. Though one interesting thing about it was it was a standalone which is really rare inYA sci-fi. Everything concluded though it was left with a possibility that it could continue. Some times sci-fi with time travel works for me, sometimes not.

 

Unfortunately I just didn't like this one much at all.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Little Brown Books for Young Readers for the chance to view the title.

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.