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review 2017-09-14 11:42
Review: Bad Girl Gone
Bad Girl Gone: A Novel - Temple Mathews

 

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Oh dear. This was a hot mess of a book. I really didn’t like it much at all. For the post part it was okay, but then something at the end made me really want to throw something at it.

 

This book tells the story of teenager Eileen “Echo” Stone. Echo has a pretty decent life. She has two loving parents, and her boyfriend of 2 years, Andy, practically worships the ground she walks on. Then one day Echo wakes up in a mysterious location after blacking out, a sort of boarding house/orphanage surrounded by weird and mean kids of various ages and a strict matronly type lady over seeing everything.  

 

Echo is very confused and tries desperately to convince everyone she’s not an orphan. So with the help of the good looking Cole, the only person being nice to her, Echo manages to escape and runs home. Only to discover to her shock and horror – a car passes right through her. She’s dead. And has no memory of how she died or the last few months of her life.

 

The plot of the novel revolves around Echo solving the mystery of her murder and coming to terms with her memories of her life – she’s not the good sweet girl she seems to think she was.  She also has to learn how to be a ghost. The place she’s stranded in is a sort of a half way point, the other kids staying there are all ghosts like her, who have been murdered. They have to find their killers and dole out justice before they can “pass over”. Each ghost has a unique ability. Echo learns this quickly on her first revenge outing with the other ghosts. Echo’s power is (unsurprisingly) the rare and unique ability to take over human’s bodies and learn their memories and secrets. Only one other ghost has been able to do this in the last ten years or so.

 

The plot doesn’t actually sound too bad. The different abilities of the other ghosts and their backstories were mildly interesting. The actual story telling came across to me as kind of bland and rather boring. And I can’t actually say I liked any of the characters. Echo was a brat. She came across as moody and entitled and more often than not I found myself wanting to slap her. Granted, it can’t be easy seeing people you used to know and discovering you’re not as well liked as you thought, and discovering disturbing things about yourself you had forgotten. But I really just had no sympathy for this girl.

 

The boyfriend was madly in love with her and is understandably heartbroken. Echo is watching him go through this, she can’t communicate with him. And his parents and everyone else are already telling him she wasn’t so great – get over it. Hard to do when you’ve been crazy in love for some time. And of course the really popular mean girl who snubbed Echo has her sites on him and Echo is jealous. Again, understandable. But after two or three interactions, she finds herself enamoured with Cole.

 

At the same time she’s feeling very guilty about it. You can sort of see why she might feel conflicted. She’s had the same boyfriend for years, he’s still alive and grieving, but she’s sharing smoochies and new experiences as a ghost with a hot new guy. It’s a fairly interesting predicament, love triangle with a paranormal twist. Problem for this reader is I just hated the characters and as I said earlier due to my severe dislike of Echo I had little to no sympathy for her.

 

The actual plot itself as Echo uncovers what happens to her, is quite intriguing and to be fair, quite surprising and disturbing when the truth about what happened is revealed. I didn’t actually guess or see it coming. The investigation is really what kept my interest as Echo and Cole with the help of the other ghost kids dig into Echo’s past and look at the suspects.

 

This is a bit of a big spoiler for the end of the book but it really pissed me off and I want to rant about it.

 

After solving the murder, Echo still hasn’t moved on. She’s decided she needs to say goodbye to the people who loved her. Mom and dad and boyfriend Andy. Okay. Makes sense. However, she’s decided the way to help Andy move on without her is find him a new girlfriend. Not to say her goodbyes, leave him alone and let him grieve, hopefully in his own time he’ll accept things, deal and move on. It’s only high school, he has his whole life ahead of him. No, Echo decides that he needs a girl to help him. He’s been flirting tentatively with Dani, the mean popular girl. So Echo decides she’s going to “help” them get together with her ghost powers.

(spoiler show)

 

Dani and Andy have a date. Dani has a more out-going style of dress and makeup tastes than Echo. So Echo spies on Dani as she’s getting ready. Dani’s really excited – but Echo knows Andy likes her to dress a certain way, do her make up a certain why. This really really pisses me off to no end. Why should any girl have to change their appearance to suit what their boyfriend likes if they like things done a bit differently? If he doesn’t like the way she dresses or how she does her make up, then it’s his fucking problem and he can deal with it or find someone else.

(spoiler show)

 

 

 So Echo hides the clothes and makeup she knows Andy won’t like. And Dani doesn’t seem to freak out or anything. She goes on the date in the clothes and the subtle make up Echo left for her. And it’s a success. So successful that Echo with her ability of possessing people has finally hit on the idea of possessing Dani so she can be with Andy again.  Why this didn’t idea didn’t circulate before in Echo’s mind is a bit beyond me. Especially since she’s been possessing people throughout the story to learn their secrets. Which would have made for a more interesting plot, with the moral implications of this decision. Which she deals with fairly rapidly.

(spoiler show)

 

 

This particular part made me really hate the book, which I already didn’t like much. It was definitely an interesting idea, the story and characters just didn’t work for me at all. It’s concluded but left with a possibility that it could be a series. I certainly wouldn’t read any more of this.

 

Not for me at all.

 

Thank you Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-09-07 11:40
Review: Daughter of the Burning City
Daughter of the Burning City - Amanda Foody

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I had no idea what to expect with this one, and was pleasantly surprised to find out I completely loved this book. Definitely on my top ten for this year so far. Its premise and characters are so unique and interesting, and it appears to be a stand-alone, which is rare in YA fantasy.

 

This fantasy novel tells the story of Sorina, an illusion worker at the Gommorah travelling circus. Sorina has no eyes but she can see. She creates illusions. The illusions she creates are so real they have become almost as real as real people, to her, they are her family, and together they perform the carnival freak show. Each illusion has it’s own special ability. Sorina has also the adopted daughter of the festival proprietor. She is the heir and will take over running the whole show one day.

 

The festival is travelling across their land, they are from Down Mountain and travelling Up Mountain. The Up Mountain people appear to be the rich snobby people. There’s a war brewing between the two factions hinted at throughout the novel. Sorina’s illusions are being murdered. Each stop a different illusion dies and the novel tells the story of Sorina’s investigation into the Murderers and the truth behind the Gommorah Festival.

 

The writing is incredible, it’s quite a dark fantasy really. Sorina becomes enamoured with another illusion worker – a poison worker, Luca who’s unique talents make him impossible to kill. His show involves festival goers paying to try to kill him. The characters are all so different and well written. The plot is very twisty and impossible to predict. I was very surprised when the truth was revealed.  Sorina learns quite a few shocking home truths as her investigation progresses. The family connection was brilliant, how they all came together, not without drama and plenty of emotion wound through as various family members were brutally murdered.

 

Not a lot to recap as it would be really spoilery. There was hints of a romance but it wasn’t the sole focus of the plot and the characters were all delightfully diverse as well. Really interesting world building as well. A political undercurrent later on as the war brewing takes alarming shape. Morally questionably acts. It was quite violent in parts.

 

Over all it was excellently written. A fantastic read. I loved it so much I bought a finished hardback.

 

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

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review 2017-08-31 16:25
Review: Words on Bathroom Walls
Words on Bathroom Walls - Julia Walton

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Never expected to get approved for this one and was quite surprised and pleased when I was. (I so rarely get approved by Random House). Really impressed with the book as well. (Always kind of makes me feel a bit guilty when I get approved for something by a publisher I don’t get approval from and then find I don’t like the book. Thankfully not the case this time.)

 

This novel tells the story of teenager Adam who suffers from schizophrenia. Adam has quite a unique personality, he knows he’s schizophrenic. He sees illusions, people who aren’t there but the interesting thing I found was while each of these illusions of his seem to have their own personalities and speak to him, he’s actually quite aware of the fact that these people aren’t real. They seem to be some form of emotion he can’t express.

 

The novel follows Adam as he struggles with his illness and a new experimental treatment drug and starting at a new private Catholic high school. Dealing with the bullies, the geek who winds up becoming a good friend and the girl he has a crush on who becomes a friend and something more.

 

The novel is told in diary entries through Adam’s therapy sessions – he refuses to speak to his therapist and writes down what’s been going on in his daily life. He’s got a brilliantly blunt tell it how it is attitude, and can be deliciously snarky. Added in some complicated family drama – dad not in picture, mom has new husband. The mom’s new husband was actually pretty decent if a bit dim. Though step dad’s mom was a nightmare.  Some interesting ideas on faith as well considering Adam attends a Catholic private school without being too preachy.

 

Quite realistically handled as well, I though. Some deep emotional turmoil, a sweet romantic storyline as well.  Well handled, without being sickly sweet, fair amount of drama, but not too over the top. Ups and downs, sad and funny. Likeable characters, believable parental involvement. A really good read.

 

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

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review 2017-08-17 11:28
DNF: Defy the Stars
Defy the Stars - Claudia Gray

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Another one I was really looking forward to but after about 100 pages turns out I just don't like it. I'm not interested in the plot, there seems to be a bit of a religious theme at the beginning which I really didn't care for at all. I'm not connecting to the characters, and after not being overly thrilled at having to read more, I called it quits. Just not for me.

 

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

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review 2017-08-16 11:47
Review: Be True To Me
Be True to Me - Adele Griffin

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I actually had a request wish granted for this one. An enjoyable read, though very meandering and almost no plot until right before the end.

 

The novel tells the story of two different girls on an exclusive island during the summer of 1976 and the boy they both want the attention of. I don’t quite get why it had to be set in 1976, the setting didn’t really do anything for the story. The setting didn’t really make much difference, the plot could have easily worked as a modern day summer story.  

 

Jean has been living in the shadow of her prettier, popular, older sister Daphne for her whole life. Only this summer Daphne is off to Europe, so Jean can have some fun without having to be compared to Daphne. She’s really looking forward to it. Jean comes from a very well to do family who are summering on the exclusive Fire Island. She has a couple of best friends and meets a good looking boy, Gil, the nephew of one of her parents’ snooty friends. Gil’s friendly and easy going. They share a night out in New York before heading to Fire Island for the summer, but it’s enough for Jean to be head over heels for him. It’s kind of insta-lovey and she’s obsessed pretty quick.

 

Jean was nice enough, if a little dim. She’s sheltered, spoiled and very naïve. Whether it’s a rich people thing or whether the drinking laws in 1976 were less strict, I don’t know, but there were lots of parties and everyone was drinking, even the teens. (Might be a rich people world thing, I vaguely remember something along the same lines in the modern day Gossip Girl series of the parents not caring too much if their teens drank at social functions).

 

Jean has a habit of shooting her mouth off and speaking no inhibition regardless of hurting anyone when she drinks. She does this quite a bit. She can also be very selfish, but I don’t think she realises this. This shows more towards the end, when she does something that appears on the surface to just be her wanting the cute boy for herself, but if she hadn’t done it, then an outcome that was tragic might have been different.

 

Fritz was the more outgoing, can’t remember her background, but she came from a family of lesser standing, army kid I think. There were definitely some class issues when Fritz got friendly with Gil and was given a cold reception by his family simply because she wasn’t from a family as well to do as theirs. Fritz joins her best friend for the summer on Fire Island, and hits it off with Gil too. Fritz had a lot more personality than Jean did. She was friendlier and more outgoing.

 

The novel is told in alternating points of view from Jean and Fritz as they both try to get Gil’s attention. I can’t say I liked Gil much at all. While he comes across all polite and friendly, charming and good looking with a great potential future, he was clearly playing these two girls against each other. Telling one something different to the other one. He gets them both pretty obsessed with him, even though he does eventually choose one over the other, the other can’t let go. There’s very little interaction with the two girls together, there’s hints that could be a rivalry but it’s not really explored.

 

It’s very slow and meandering. And as I mentioned earlier the plot is almost non-existent. Until the end when things take a rather surprising turn. Didn’t see it coming at all. I did think it was well written, and while I can’t see the point of the 1976 setting, the actual place the girls were summering in was lovely. The setting was well described, the characters were all well fleshed out. Despite being rather slow at points, I did enjoy the novel. Don’t know if this is something I would read again, but I would definitely read something else by this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Algonquin Young Readers for granting my wish to read the title.

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