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review 2017-06-27 11:50
Review: Royce Rolls
Royce Rolls - Margaret Stohl

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I was really looking forward to this one. I’m actually not interested in reality television. (With the exception of Judge Judy and court TV)  I pretty much loathe the type of reality TV this book is based on. But I do actually like novels about reality TV.

 

Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me at all. The satirical nature of it was almost too over the top, it seemed to be going one minute like it was making light of all the ridiculous drama that this scripted reality family go through, then tried to be deep and meaningful as the main character tried to do whatever it took to keep her family together.

 

The biggest problem I had was the main characters, the Royces,  were all horrible horrible people. The mother Mercedes is the worst type of all about me showbiz mother who only seems interested in keeping the show on air, the eldest daughter Porsche, who was an attention seeking bimbo, focused only on her own fame and her own product line of cosmetics. The sixteen year old daughter Bentley is the one the reader is supposed to be routing for, nothing like the vapid character she supposedly portrays on the show she’s really quite deep and smarter than anyone ever imagined. Problem for this reader was I just didn’t like her. And then there’s Maybach, the youngest brother, who’s sole purpose seems to be the cute gay brother. Though for Bach, he seemed to just have a gambling problem that was used as plot point later on rather than give him a romance or something.

 

The premise of the novel is the show is on the verge of cancellation, the family want to keep it going, Bentley wants out and wants to go to college instead. So they keep coming up with more and more ridiculous antics to keep the public watching. So the older sister comes up with an idea for making a wedding, which would give her new product lines and sponsorships and things. Of course it’s all a big fake.

 

But when the chosen groom makes an appearance it all goes wrong very fast. The drama is ridiculously increasing throughout the novel. And to be fair, Bentley does a pretty good job of playing her role as the brattiest daughter of the bunch, managing to ruin planned events and become the worst sort of paparazzi fodder. It’s told with a tone that’s meant to be humorous, but it’s the type of humour that I found got very old and very tiring quite quickly.

 

Bentley finds herself stressed more than she wants to be, she finds out a pretty shocking secret about her sister’s so-called fiancé. She can’t talk to anyone about it. She’s also dealing with constant bickering between her mother and Porsche who seem to be trying to one up each other in antics meant to get attention. And then there’s annoying network executives to deal with and producers and such.

 

She does get a little bit of freedom when she can sneak away and hang out at the library, where she chats to a boy named Venice who appears to be a vagrant. She can talk to him like herself, she doesn’t have to play a character. And Venice listens to her. He was actually one of the decent characters. He had a huge secret of his own as well.

 

Again to be fair, the twist at towards the end was pretty damn epic.

 

There was just too much annoying stuff about the book in general to care by then, too much of Hollywood image crap, the body shaming was really irritating. While there were some decent scenes of the family coming together, finally, when the answers to the twists are finally revealed. There just wasn’t anything really redeemable by the end for my liking.  Reading it was a bit like even though it’s terrible there was still a need to know how it all turned out.  

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)

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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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review 2017-05-17 00:23
Incoming Rant
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

You know, I'd read in some posh literary review that Jake and Brett were two of Hemingway's most lovable characters, but I really can't see how that could be. I get he was painting an era, but I had the same difficulties I had with Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby": I was bored by the characters misery (first world high class problems, people, that's what you have!); and I was enraged by the chaos and destruction they sowed all around themselves with their callow carelessness. Stupid egotistical brats.

And that's the other thing: they ARE reacting like brats. "Our parent's culture and ideology crumbled down and betrayed us! Let's rage and get drunk, and screw everyone around!" Except, you know, they are in their middle thirties. I don't say you have to have your shit together by that time or any other, God knows you never really do, and life has a marvelous way of sucker punch you when you think you have it balanced, but the over the top woe-is-me shit you are supposed to learn to manage after the hormones of puberty stabilize.

Every generation has challenges, and I reckon those that were born around the turn of the 20th century had a suck-fest of a raw deal, but what I saw inside this book was not just depression and insecurity over lost direction and of self, but a total lack of care for other people. I saw the phrase "moral bankruptcy" around, and I think that's and exact description, but it was treated as an excuse for how these particular characters act, because apparently it was a pervasive thing all around. News-flash: if everyone is a terrible person, and you act like everyone, you are still a terrible person.

 

So no, I have no love for these characters. Now, do I have any use for this book? *sigh* Thorny issue. If it was an accurate representation of the generation, I have to loose any surprise at seeing them fall right back into war; they all felt suicidal to me, and self-centered enough to blow up the world along with themselves.

 

So here's what I think: maybe it's useful, but I did not like it.

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review 2017-04-19 18:50
Hmmmm..
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Jay Rubin,Haruki Murakami

I received this book as a Xmas present and started reading it in early January. For one reason or the other, I put it down, and only recently picked it back up again. Today I finally finished it! I must admit that this was a very strange read, perhaps even stranger for me than 'An Invitation to A Beheading' by Vladimir Nabokov. Needless to say, I found it very eccentric and to be honest this is my first time reading anything by Murakami. So I could just not be used to his writing style. But based on what I've read from this title, this is what I think. From the beginning, I was fascinated by what was happening, charmed even. Even if some of the events going on in the book were a bit odd, it was enduring. However, that eventually grew old and I found myself not being able to pay attention.

 

A lot of the book dragged on and on and was very long winded. I hated to say there were several parts that I active was saying 'Get to the point already!' Yet at other parts, I would find myself drawn in and there I was immersed once more. But the same feeling would return and I felt like this continued to be an endless cycle. I'll be the first to admit there were several times, that I didn't have a clue about what was going on. Whether it is mine lack of understanding of what the author was trying to bring forth, or whether it truly just filler, I don't know. But the overall book felt very manic pixie dream to me. But I can't dislike this title either because there were parts that I thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe someday I'll go back and re-read and change my stance, but for now, I'm not totally in love with this title.

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review 2017-04-19 11:31
DNF: Wayfarer
Wayfarer (Passenger) - Alexandra Bracken

I didn't like the first book in this series much, but this is one of my auto-buy authors, and I snagged a copy from Netgalley with my Hatchette Children's auto approval. And even bought a finished hardback (despite the fact that this is not a series I really like, the hardback is really pretty). Sometimes I've found second books better than first books. 

 

Unfortunately, I only made it 250 pages or so before calling it quits. Following on from Passenger, Nicholas and Etta are now separated and struggling to find each other and deal with the changes brought about by the events of the end of Passenger. More secrets are revealed, more plot twists. However, I just can't seem to get into this series at all. 

 

It's beautifully written, plus points for diversity in the characters, and there is clear attention to detail and a phenomenal amount of historical research must have gone into plotting the novel, but I just don't like it. It's long winded and boring and not capturing my interest at all. 

 

Not for me. 

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