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review 2017-08-04 11:48
Review: Lost Girls
Lost Girls - Merrie Destefano

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Oh dear. This was a bit of a train wreck of a book for me. It started off quite good, fairly intriguing mystery. Can’t say I cared much about the characters really, but there was enough of a what the hell happened mentality to keep me interested in the plot. Rachel wakes up with no memory and finds out she had been kidnapped and managed to escape. She only remembers up to about a year before this happened. Only to find when she gets home with her family she’s ditched her best friend, and the ballet she loves, got a new boyfriend and become a really mean bitchy goth.

 

The novel centres around Rachel trying to figure out what happened to her. She has flashes of memory and learns she can fight like a pro but has no idea how she learned. She has a whole set of new friends including some of the most popular kids in her school. A hot boyfriend she doesn’t remember getting together with. And learns she’s been sneaking out fighting and getting high.

 

As Rachel gets used to going back to school and being at home, she finds secrets about herself in her room connected to a load of other missing girls. The mystery deepens. The problem I had with the characters was they were all kind of flat. I didn’t really care about any of them, it was only curiosity on the mystery aspect that kept me interested. But as the plot progressed and secrets were unravelled, the more ridiculous the plot became.  

 

It was trying to be a dark gritty thriller and it did deal with some rather dark themes – dead girls, assault, underground fight clubs, drugs, criminal activity, all involving teens. At some point near the end there was a bizarre twist that could almost suggest human trafficking. The problem I had with it was the story line became so farfetched and ludicrous it was more eye rolling than shocking. It was certainly uncomfortable in parts. The writing was weird as well, it was trying to be deep and intense and at some points became almost waxing and poetic.

 

The main character was a ballerina and there was a lot of references to Swan Lake, which just got annoying.

 

At the start of the novel I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, but by the end I definitely didn’t like it at all. Not for me.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Entangled Publishing LLC for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-07-31 11:48
Review: When I am Through With You
When I Am Through with You - Stephanie Kuehn

I received a copy from Penguin First To Read

 

I really loved the last book I read by this author, and was really looking forward to this new one. After reading it, initially I gave it a four star rating, I really liked the main character, but found the twist in the novel quite disappointing. And after thinking about how to review it for more than a week after I finished, I realised I just didn’t like it that much at all. So I’ve lowered the rating to a two star.

 

The main character Ben is in jail for killing his girlfriend Rose. There’s something really compelling about Ben’s voice. He makes no apologies for his actions. He’s quite blunt in some respects, but in others almost quite passive and pessimistic. Calls himself a realist, but it’s almost quite depressing. He’s from a small town he never sees himself getting out of. He spends most of his time taking care of his mother who suffers from injuries from a car wreck and depression. He doesn’t see much prospect of ever getting out of his small town, thinking he’ll be stuck taking care of his mom for the foreseeable future and being stuck with minimum wage jobs.  Though you do get the impression he could be quite intelligent if he puts his mind to it.

 

When he meets a girl called Rose who decides she’s going to be his girlfriend, things change for him. Can’t say I really liked Rose much. She’s a drama queen who has to have things her way. When this book started I had plenty of ideas for how he may have killed her and the why was almost understandable.

 

The bulk of the story is a camping trip gone wrong. Ben and a group of other students heading up to a local mountain range. Ben suffers from debilitating migraines as a result of the same car accident that injured his mom. There’s also hints of something he did to cause the accident, also that he killed his step-father. This is all explained in context as the novel progresses. It goes to explaining some of his pessimistic personality.

 

There’s a handful of other kids on the camping trip, two stoners/drinkers, Rose and her brother, a girl Ben is sort of friends with, a few others and a nice teacher who seems to be the only adult encouraging Ben to do something with his life. At some point while separated from the main group Ben, the other girl and the two stoner/drinkers stumble across another group of campus. A creepy old man and two weird women with him. Someone’s heard a story about escaped convicts and boat loads of hidden cash. The weather is getting worse.

 

And things start going wrong very quickly. But it takes an incredibly long time (or it seems like) for anything to actually happen. It’s very slow and when things finally start happening, it’s…like…eh. The actual killing of Rose was nothing like I had been picturing when thinking of the start of the novel. It felt rather anticlimactic.

 

Despite Ben’s shifting personality from pessimistic to passive aggressive, I did find his tone of voice incredibly compelling. Even though the story was gloomy and rather boring, there was something about Ben’s telling of it that made it a quick read to want to know what happened but in the end it was all rather disappointing.

 

Looking forward to the author’s next book, but didn’t really like this one much.

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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 2017-04-18 20:59
Review: Last Seen Leaving
Last Seen Leaving - Caleb Roehrig

 

I snagged a copy of this one from Netgalley when it was a Read It Now title. I do rather enjoy YA mysteries. I’m a sucker particularly for missing person mysteries. The plot of this one drew me right in. The mystery aspect was what kept me reading.

 

Overall, I just didn’t like the main character Flynn much. I found him annoying and boarding on obnoxious. He had zero personality, and seemed kind of self-absorbed. Which is not exactly unusual behaviour for a teenage boy. He was so wrapped up in his own issues he barely noticed the problems his girlfriend January was having.  January had a friend at the toy shop she worked at, Kaz, who was a few years older. All of course the reader hears from Flynn in the beginning is what an ass Kaz is.

 

Kaz actually turned out to be my favourite character in the whole novel. Who is nothing like Flynn first assumes. As the novel progresses I found as a reader I had a lot of empathy for January, who has lived most of her life in the same town, has the same friends as Flynn, and then her mom married some up and coming Congressman who was fabulously rich and had a certain image to maintain and an asshole of a wayward son of his own, Anson. January was forced to move from her comfortable existence into this new world of fabulous rich political people where January and her mom were supposed to dress and act a certain way. While her mom lapped it up, January not so much.

 

As the novel progresses through flashbacks of conversations and moments that happened between January and Flynn, the reader learns about some of the problems that January was having with her situation, the ones that she told Flynn about. As Flynn starts looking deeper into January’s disappearance himself, he learns about a side of her he never really knew. Which makes him feel confused and guilty.

 

There are lots of questions and very little answers and information and everything new Flynn learns is something surprising. Flynn’s other major conflict throughout the novel is he’s gay and struggling to deal with it. He doesn’t seem to want to really accept it. Kaz is a big help here, and part of what makes Kaz such a wonderful character. He was a voice of reason and someone who really seemed to want to help Flynn and cared about him.

 

While Flynn himself…urg. I just found Flynn dull and boring and hard to connect with. He seemed very two dimensional.

 

The mystery of what happened to January was enough to keep my interest to the end of the novel, and to be fair, I didn’t guess who the bad guy was. There was a twist at the end – which was kind of a bit unbelievable to me, but left a possible question hovering.

 

Just an okay one for this reader.

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review 2017-01-23 18:22
City of Saints and Thieves
City of Saints & Thieves - Natalie C. Anderson

I received a copy from Penguin's FirstoRead.com

 

The initial premise of this novel is nothing particularly original. Tina’s mother has been murdered, the police haven’t done anything and she’s hell bent on revenge. What gives this book an edge and makes it stand out in the YA mystery genre is its setting. The novel takes place in a city in Kenya and villages in the Congo. It’s raw, it’s violent and scary and incredibly well written.

 

Tina’s mother is a maid in the house of a very rich man who lives in Sangui City in Kenya. Tina lives there with her baby sister Kiki, and finds herself befriending the rich family’s son, Michael. When Tina’s mother is murdered, Tina runs away. Kiki is safe in a convent school, while Tina is on the streets and becomes part of the city’s most ruthless gang, the Goondas. Her quick thinking and small physique and some other talents make her a great thief and she toughens up, surviving in hard circumstances. The scary leader of the Goondas, a mysterious and very dangerous man, offers Tina the chance at revenge and blood against the man she believes murdered her mother.

 

As Tina puts her plan in motion, nothing is as it seems as she uncovers secrets and lies, and finds herself working with her old friend Michael – she believes it is his father who is responsible while Michael swears blind it’s not. Michael inserts himself into Tina’s investigation which yields more questions than answers, more danger and thing about Tina’s past and her mother come to light, things of course Tina never knew, which takes Tina, Michael and Tina’s technical whiz friend Boyboy who’s also helping out of Sangui City into the jungles of the unbelievably dangerous Congo.

 

It’s unflinching and brutal as Tina digs into her mother’s history. She’s smart, tough and wiry and never gives up no matter how hard or seemingly impossible everything looks. She’s just as brutal as the boys and men she has to work with, yet at the same time, she does have some softer moments. Just little things that make her human rather than just hell bent on revenge. Her resolve never really waivers until some really hard truths come to light about the truth of what happened to her mother in the villages in the Congo. There’s war and atrocities going on around them, and people who could be trusted may not be what they seem.

 

It’s very twisty turny, I never guessed who the killer was. I had several theories and all were wrong. Though in a way when the truth is revealed, you kind of find yourself thinking (or I certainly did) should have seen that one coming! but never did. It’s very harsh and not a comfortable mystery read at all.  But it’s so different in its setting and characters and it’s certainly a very compelling read. It did drag a bit in parts of the plot, and some of the characters weren’t as fleshed out as Tina was, but the slowness of the plot does pick up.

 

Lots of dark secrets and lots of emotional impact.  Tough, but very good.

 

Definitely an author I would love to read more from.

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