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review 2017-06-13 11:45
Review: The Turn
The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death - Kim Harrison

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Since The Hollows is one of my favourite urban fantasy series, and probably one the series that got me hooked on urban fantasy in the first place, a prequel to the Hollows was a must have. I put in a Netgalley request as soon as I saw it. (Even though I’m only up to book 7 in the series).

 

Though after reading it, I can’t honestly say I liked it all that much. It was okay, somewhere between a two and a three star read for me. The first half of the book was full of science stuff that I found incredibly boring and a slog to get through. I’ve never DNFed a Kim Harrison book before, so series and author love made me determined to finish it.

 

 I found it quite confusing, it didn’t help also that I could have sworn there was a Trent Kalamak in the Rachel Morgan series. It was only when I was reading reviews on Goodreads and saw the questions about this book section that someone else had asked the same thing that was puzzling me. Not the same character, two different characters (though there was a ding! moment towards the end of the book that made me go aaaah, that’s why).

 

One or two familiar characters also popped up, demon Algaliarept (who’s name I can’t pronounce to save my life) was his usual delightfully obnoxious (and somewhat amusing in a snarky way) self and Quen.  One of the vampires makes an appearance towards the end as well.

 

This is all about two dark elf scientists who are fighting it out for funding, Trent and Trisk, both of whom hate each other, Trisk’s created a genetically engineered tomato that will supposedly end third world hunger. Forced to work together each have their own separate agendas. As I said, the first half was all very technical and the two of them playing off each other to get to their own goals. (I had to keep reminding myself this was set in the 60s as well). Favourite classic songs are on the radio as new music.

 

But of course, jealousy rears its ugly head and one thing leads to another, something goes hideously wrong. This resulting in a wide spread disease that nearly wipes out the human race, bringing out the fear and repercussions of a bunch of vampires, witches and other species trying their best to get head of it and survive as well.  While at the same time Trisk and a companion, the Dr who created the virus in the first place, there’s links to her genetic tomato, and Trent trying to keep on top of things.

 

The second half was much more exciting as things went from bad to worse and Trisk and her friends try to fix the problem. There’s something – satisfying is not the word I’d use – but there’s definitely a so that’s how it all happened feeling about now knowing how The Hollows all started, but it’s certainly not a favourite novel. Though I am glad I read it, and would certainly recommend to Hollows fans.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-06-09 11:52
Review: Letters to the Lost
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This was a gutwrencher of a book. I could only read it in short spurts because the emotional upheaval was so deep.

 

The novel tells the story of Juliet and Declan, both of whom are dealing with tough losses, both as results of tragic car accidents. Declan lost his younger sister, Juliet lost her mother.

 

 Declan appears to be your typical YA bad boy. Darkly good looking, grumpy yet possibly a lot smarter than everyone thinks he is. He’s sullied by a bad reputation. Whereas Juliet is a typical high school good girl. She has a run in with Declan in the halls one morning and accidentally spills her coffee on him running to class. However, when a teacher comes in a finds him moaning about it and yelling at her, he’s the one who’s carted off to detention.

 

Juliet has been spending a lot of time at the cemetery where her mother is buried and leaves her letters. Declan has community service with the grounds keeper at the same cemetery and one day he finds the unsigned letter Juliet has left her mother. And responds to it. Leading to a letter writing exchange without names. Where both parties explore their grief and guilt over their own losses and start to talk to each other in a way they can’t open up to anyone else.

 

The grief poured into the letters is raw and unflinching, mixing of guilt, anger and responsibility. Juliet and Declan are able to explore feelings they have never admitted to anyone else before, it’s much easier to talk to someone anonymous than admit these feelings their closest friends. The letters eventually become emails.

 

Yet in real life whenever Juliet and Declan have run-ins with each other, it’s unpleasant. They rub each other the wrong way. Yet keep finding themselves running into each other. He helps her out several times. And sometimes some of the things anonymous Declan says in his letters resonate deeply with Juliet, particularly when he talks about how unfair it is that with a bad reputation that wasn’t his fault he’s blamed automatically even when things aren’t his fault. This makes her start to try to open up.

 

Both have tough home situations, Juliet’s dad is trying but kind of absent and checked out. Juliet’s mom was a renowned photographer who was often out of the country in dangerous places. War zones and such. There’s a very hard hitting scene at the front of the book where Juliet’s dad asks her if he can sell her mom’s camera equipment to her mother’s agent, and Juliet falls to pieces. It’s tough to read and absolutely heart breaking.

 

While Declan’s mother is equally passive. His father is in jail after the accident that killed Declan’s sister, and his mom has since  gone through a patch of bad relationships and finally married a snotty man who has taken an instant disliking to Declan (bad reputation at fault again) and automatically assumes the worst. They argue a lot and Declan’s mom just won’t step in to defend her son.

 

Though Declan doesn’t help himself with an equally pissy attitude. Though it’s clear he loves his mom he’s obviously frustrated by her at the same time. His support system comes from his best friend Rev and his family. Who are all awesome.

 

Juliet and Declan keep finding themselves thrown together and start realising who the person they’re writing to might be. Which shocks both of them. But their feelings for each other are growing deeper and deeper despite their equal reluctance to admit the truth and open up to each other for real. Both find themselves dealing with some home truths in their own home lives which shock them to their cores.

 

It’s kind of obvious what’s going to happen in the romance department, but even you the way the story is written makes the reader want to get these two together. (Or it certainly did for me).

 

Beautifully written with some incredible characters. I loved it so much I bought a finished copy as well.

 

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

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text 2017-06-07 23:25
Books on Books

 

 

“Back at the fire circle, Jinny opened the book, cradling its worn spine in one hand as she turned the soft, crumbling pages with the other.  All the kids knew to be careful with the books.  They were swollen, faded, eaten by the salt air and the grit of sand, not to mention so many grubby, grabbing fingers.  When a book died, there was nothing to be done about it.  The kids could only bury it in the sandy earth beyond the book cabin door and try to remember the story.  They marked these little graves with the biggest shells they could find.  It made a funny sort of garden.”

Orphan Island
by Laurel Snyder
 
 
Loved, loved, loved this book so review to follow later this evening.
 
 
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review 2017-05-31 09:59
Review: One of us is Lying
One of Us Is Lying - Karen M. McManus

I received a copy from Netgalley

 

This is a brilliant mystery that keeps the reader guessing right until the end. I had my suspects, and still turned out to be wrong. I watch a lot of crime drama so I’m usually quite good and guessing the killer, but I didn’t see the twist in this one coming at all. (Admittedly by the time I got to 80% and all my guesses were still wrong I did skim to the last few chapters to find out who it was, then went back and read it properly). Still managed to really surprise me.

 

It’s not the fluffy “Breakfast Club” retelling with a mystery aspect I was expecting. It’s a gritty novel full of secrets. While it’s filled with your typical mix of high school clichés – the jock, the brain, the dangerous but hot dude, the nerd, the princess – each character has their own secrets and well fleshed out personalities behind the cliché façade.

 

All of these characters, who don’t really know each other, they may have one or two classes together but have different friends, and they don’t hang out really. They wind up in detention because a teacher catches them with cell phones in a class where cell phones are not allowed. The phones are not theirs. Of course the teacher won’t listen. By the end of detention, the nerd, Simon, is dead.

 

Simon was notorious for running the school’s unofficial gossip app, posting students secrets. As the police investigation deepens, posts are revealed that contain damning secrets about each of the students that could ruin their reputations and possibly chances of their futures for certain characters.

 

Each one reacts differently. There’s a great sense of diversity among the characters, and I love how they all dealt with things and showed immense emotional growth over the course and came together to defend each other and solve the mystery. Nothing is as it initially seems and truths slowly start to come out creating big changes for different characters. No one is really who they are first seen to be.

 

The twists are really good.   I’m being vague, I know, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

It’s a really good read and I definitely look forward to more from this author.

 

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

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review 2017-05-30 11:42
Review: Windfall
Windfall - Jennifer E. Smith

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

As soon as I saw this title pop up on Netgalley I put a request in. Delighted when I was approved.

 

An interesting enough plot, but I can’t say I really liked the characters all that much. Alice lives with her cousin Leo after the deaths of her parents, and has lived with them for some time. She’s got a hopeless crush on Leo’s best friend Teddy.

 

Alice is really smart and her dream is to go to college at Stanford because she believes that’s what her parents would have wanted. But when on Teddy’s 18th birthday, Alice buys him a lottery ticket, the ticket is actually winner and Teddy wins a humungous jackpot. Which naturally changes everything. Teddy lives with his mom in a crappy apartment, a downturn after his dad lost all their money due to a gambling habit. Now their lives can massively improve.

 

I don’t get Alice’s crush on Teddy. He’s self-centred and a jerk.  I didn’t like him much at all. Alice herself was too much of a goody-two-shoes for my liking. She had a fairly good emotional journey throughout the course of the novel, dealing with her feelings for Teddy, the huge changes that came about since Teddy’s lottery win, the impact it has on their friendship. And of course a hot new guy comes into her life as well, there may or may not be feelings there. Then there’s Alice’s college issues.

 

Spoiler, but this bit really annoyed me.

 

Teddy offers Alice half of the winnings as she was the one who purchased the tickets. She turns him down. SHE TURNS HIM DOWN. I just can’t imagine an 18 year old without parents turning down that much money. It could make a huge difference to her life. She volunteers at a soup kitchen and has a do gooder nature about her.  Good for her. But she’s so saintly it became across as very annoying, at least to this reader. I just can’t believe she turned the money down. She didn’t even take a small sum or anything.

(spoiler show)

 

Teddy of course achieves instant fame and does what any teenage boy would naturally do – splurge on himself and his friends. With Alice and Leo to try and get him to remain grounded. None of these changes seem to sit well with Alice, who’s still trying to work up the nerve to tell Teddy how she feels but they are arguing more and more. So she distracts herself when a new guy turns up working at the soup kitchen she volunteers at. They hit it off, and suddenly Teddy’s jealous. Insert eye rolling.

 

While this is going on Alice is trying to help Leo decide where he wants to go to college. Leo’s boyfriend is going to one college and Leo has a dream of going somewhere else, and he’s debating on following his boyfriend or trying a long distance thing. Leo is struggling with the decision, but he was a good friend to Alice. He was there when she needed someone to listen to and cheer her up.

 

There was some really good parental involvement in this one, from Teddy’s mom and Alice’s uncle and aunt. Likeable adults with good heads on who actually listen to what their kids are telling them. Alice’s aunt and uncle have some good listening skills, her aunt wants to make sure she knows what she wants when applying for colleges, making the choice for herself and not doing something just simply because this was where her parents went or what Alice thinks they wanted for her. To be in a city she barely remembers anymore, even though she may have lived there briefly when she was a kid.

 

This part of Alice’s journey was quite moving, and had a good emotional impact to it. There were a few scenes when Alice’s dealing with these issues made my eyes mist over. Particularly when she tries to talk to her uncle who was her dad’s brother about what her parents were like after she makes a trip to where she used to live. Quite bitter sweet and a definite tear jerker.

 

The romance angle was completely unsurprising. Kind of predictable really.  Teddy did make some personality improvements by the end of the novel, again, not entirely surprising.

 

Not my favourite novel by this author, can’t see myself reading this one again. Jennifer E Smith is one of my favourite contemporary YA writers, and usually an autobuy author for me. Though unfortunately this book was a miss for me.

 

Thank you to Negalley and Pan MacMillan for approving my request to view the title.

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