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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-05 21:45
The Unlikable Character in a Bad Place
Girl in a Bad Place - Kaitlin Ward

Girl in a Bad Place is another one of those April Henry-esque type books, where it's a suspense/horror written for young, teen girls. A spice of romance, a suspected plot twist. But this one is not as good as April Henry's books. Really, it isn't. April Henry is, for what she writes, a pretty good author. One or two of the books I've read by her have been just bearable, but the rest have been quality enough I could read it again, and The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die is probably my favorite so far.  But anyway, this novel by Kaitlin Ward does not live up to Henry's standards. 


I first bought this book figuring it was by April Henry. I had just read one of her books, and was willing to spend more money to get another by her, because why not? The novel had been good enough to read again, so trying out another wouldn't be a bad idea. The story of Girl in a Bad Place sounded up my ally, being about a teen and her friends encountering - and communicating regularly with - a cult, and there being something fishy about it. A common horror movie trope, of a supposedly-good-guy-gone-bad and some mysterious things lying around a remote place. It didn't seem too bad. Boy was I wrong.


I read this for a project in school, because the theme was horror, or spooky, or something like that. But anyway, I had to read it in about a week's time. This was such a short read, so it wasn't worth spending a week trying to make a half-decent project out of it. During that time I was able to spend a while thinking over and analyzing the novel itself. One subject that I kept going over was the characters and their development, if there even was any. The characters are dreadful. There is one main character, Mailee, who seems like the perfectly unperfect popular girl, similar to every 90s/00s teen diva. She's lazy, unkempt, controlling, and self-centered. She makes her best-fried, Cara, clean up her room and help her plan things out, doesn't think to at least tidy up when her boyfriend comes over, gets possessive of Cara to the point of fighting with her, and always wastes time and other's patience by putting looks over ability, safety, or sensibility. But, she's pretty, has plans for the future with good grades, and the perfect boyfriend and best-friend. That totally makes up for her negative qualities, right? Then there's Cara, the book's play-thing, who does actually seem perfect. She's clean, sweet, patient, and forgiving. She puts her mind to something and does it, and looks after her friends. She's the victim of the book, truly, as much as the author tries to portray Mailee as the one getting the bad end of the stick. Cara is the one who is blamed for fighting with Mailee over her irresponsibility, and the one who gets dumped by her boyfriend. She is the one who intiates the story by urging Mailee to bring her, her boyfriend, and Mailee's boyfriend to the cult site. She battles with depression and uncertainty of the future throughout the novel, and the author makes it seem like this is a bad thing that isn't appropriate. Cara's true struggles are pushed aside for the story, and it's unfortunate, because her character barely develops. She goes from okay, to joining the cult and feeling better about herself, then pulled back into Mailee's world where she's just okay again. Granted, the cult was somewhat dangerous. Next we have Gavin and Brigit, the two that are obviously meant to be token characters, which is super unfortunate because they are two of the most sensible and well-developed characters, while being super minor. Brigit is a cult member who somewhat knows something is wrong. She helps Mailee, too. Gavin is Mailee's boyfriend, and obviously is annoyed by her. He is the most sensible,telling Mailee and Cara that, the nature is nice and all, but the cult is dangerous and they barely know the people there. He's even one of the first to realize something is wrong with Cara, even though his girlfriend annoys him. 


The story itself is fine. It's all fine. The plot, the development, the everything is fine. Overplayed by now, classic horror tropes that aren't even great ones. The writing is okay, basic and bland. The climax is probably the best part, and so is the beginning. The end is nothing special and really is lacking. The author, with this idea, could've written a book that was great. Something creative and a reminder of classic thriller ideals with a modern spin that made a remote cult something darker. But she didn't do that. That's why this book is only two stars. Maybe it would of been better if the main character was more likable or relate-able. Actually, scratch that, it would of been better. 


Maybe if you're a somewhat-immature and uncritical 5-8th grader, you'd enjoy it, but I'm in 8th grade and I did not. It's quick, so if you just want to see what it's like or experience a saltine-cracker type enjoyment, then go for it.




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review 2018-04-03 16:23
Not as Bad as The Likeness, But Not as Great as Broken Harbor
The Secret Place - Tana French

I thought long and hard about this one, but could not justify giving this above 3 stars. The best parts were the POV with Stephen Moran. The other sections going back and forth to the group of Holly's friends just took me out of the book every time. I thought showing how Stephen and Antoinette closed down a case in a single day was pretty cool, but other than that I had issues with the story-telling, the supernatural elements, and honestly the ending of the book just fell a bit flat. 


"The Secret Place" is the 5th book in the Dublin Murder Squad books that Tana French writes. Except for "The Likeness" (which I DNFed pretty hard when I got to the premise of that one) I have really enjoyed all of the books in the series. This one was still a three star read. Maybe if you excise out the sections with the girls you can get up to a five star read.


Stephen Moran is on Cold Cases in Dublin. His dream is to get to go work murder cases with the murder squad. He talks about taking his shot years ago (see "Faithful Place") and now he's worried that maybe taking his shot may have hurt him with some people (also see "Broken Harbor"). It's been about 7 years since the events in "Faithful Place".  Frank Mackey's 16 year old daughter Holly comes in looking for Stephen he wonders what she could possibly want. Holly informs him that she goes to the school where a young boy (Chris Harper) was found murdered last year. There's a special bulletin board at her girls school called "The Secret Place" where someone put up a photo of the boy with lettering saying "I Know Who Killed Him." Stephen thinks Holly may be his way into the Murder Squad and goes and meets with the lead detective on it, Antoinette Conway. Conway decides to allow Stephen to accompany her to the girls school and he starts working the case with her.


I initially didn't like Stephen. Reading things from Scorcher's POV the last book had me liking this character and thinking what a shit Stephen was. It didn't help that Stephen had comments about Antoinette (he heard she slept with someone to get to where she is today) and the other girls in the story. He seemed to be silently judging everything, but also looking down upon Antoinette for being too abrasive. I slowly came to like him though when I saw that he was working well and liking Antoinette in spite of his fight against it. He talks a lot about finding your perfect partner and realizing that she is that for him. It made me feel sad for Scorcher since he was wanting that too before he decided to retire from the Murder Squad. 


The secondary characters when told from Stephen's POV come alive a lot better. He sees better than most I think of other people. And he was better with the group of girls when interviewing. I do think that he was dumb enough to seem to be choosing to be on Holly's side when Frank Mackey eventually shows up. I was pleasantly surprised though when Stephen is shown that his prior actions that he took have consequences. He wants to be better and not some guy who will just do whatever to get ahead. 


I think the biggest issue for me was that I didn't like any of the girls. That includes Holly's group (Julia, Rebecca, Selena) and Joanne's group (Gemma, Alison, Orla). I was a teen girl, I know how brutal we can be so Joanne's group of sycophants didn't phase me at all. I agree with Conway that Holly's group was the more dangerous. Mainly because they were not seeing yet how things were going to change when they were adults and how foolish they were to make promises (no boys forever while we are at school) that I could see being a problem down the line.

Out of the girls I did like Holly the best. I thought Julia was foolish as hell when we get into what she did, I didn't like Rebecca and felt indifferent towards Selena. There is one scene with Holly and her parents and she gets a whiff of how things change from school. Her mother comes in from being out with her best friend back when she boarded and how things change in decades. And I think Holly was seeing for the first time you can't live in your friends pockets as much as you would want to. 


The writing was so so when we pull out of Stephen's POV. I think deciding to turn all of the other sections into third person POV was a mistake. It took me out of the story. Also the writing started to become repetitive in those sections. Thank you for constantly doing the countdown to how many days Chris Harper had to live (that's sarcasm by the way).

The supernatural elements with the girls was ridiculous. Sorry, I just could not take it seriously. 


The flow was wrecked going back from present to past. I started to get seriously annoyed anytime I wasn't reading Stephen's POV. I just wanted to know who did it and for them to be found out by him and Conway. I didn't care anymore about the group of girls. 


The setting of the book is mainly at the girls school (St. Kilda's School) over the course of a single day. I liked the whole aspect of the case being wrapped up in a day.


The ending didn't surprise me at all. I am curious what happened to all of the players in this one (well not the detectives) when this was all over. Why French jumped back in time to show you who put the photo up on "The Secret Place" I didn't think was all that great. I wish she had fast forwarded a year to the girls graduating to see how they were. 

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text 2018-04-02 20:35
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Secret Place - Tana French

Hmm will have to think on this one. The Stephen POVs worked, but honestly the girls third person POV sections were weak throughout. I guess I was thinking that for the why behind the murder to be better than what we got. I did love Stephen and Antoinette working the case together. Lucky me that the next book is available via interlibrary loan right now. 


Will say that it's good that Stephen had some consequences to screwing over Scorcher from Faithful Place. We do get Mackey showing up at the 3/4 point. I did not miss him seeing him in this book. Favorite books so far are book #1, book #4, book #3 and I think this is higher than book #2 (still the dumbest premise ever).


So fav detective is still Rob.


French tries to throw supernatural elements in all her books I noticed. It only really works for book #1. Rob never regaining his memory or any of us figuring out what happened to his two friends left a dark mark throughout that book and I loved how French doesn't tell us what happens either. 


Book two was nonsense.


Book three had some I think with Mackey dealing with the ghost of the girl who he thought left him behind. It was more real than book two was I thought.


Book four had the animal that only seemed to be heard by the father of the murdered family. Was it real? Or was it a hint of something darker coming for his family?


This pyschic mess with the girls turned me off. It just took me out of the book. I think it's interesting to compare the two group of girls. Though Joanne's group is in fear of her and nasty, they are more realistic I think. Holly's group though they are the same age I found to be naive. I can see why a lot of readers didn't care for this one. 

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text 2018-04-02 15:37
Reading progress update: I've read 37%.
The Secret Place - Tana French

French always likes to include a bit of supernatural in her books, but have a hard time with a group of girls getting pyschic powers. I think one of Holly's group killed the victim Chris. Mostly because the character of Becca seems obsessed with her and her friends staying best friends forever and no boys allowed. 

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text 2018-04-02 13:51
Reading progress update: I've read 10%.
The Secret Place - Tana French

Can't say I'm a fan of French going from first person POV from Stephen to third person POV in the chapters in between showing Holly, her friends, and the so called cool girls at the school. The back and forth is taking me out of the story. Hope French doesn't do this narrative style in the next book. 

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