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review 2017-05-26 06:02
Review: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
The Whole Thing Together - Ann Brashares

Quick review for a somewhat quick read for me, though it felt like I had to push myself through this novel several times. "The Whole Thing Together" has many issues, but I would echo concerns that much of this novel suffers from rampant cliches, insensitive references in the measure of racial attribution (considering it uses a racial slur casually and struggles constantly to accurately and sensitively portray the multiracial character who struggles with her identity) and sexism (slut shaming and odd fixations on physical details of the characters). In addition to those issues, I think the biggest downfall of this novel really came in that I just couldn't find a space to connect with the characters. Not as much as I wanted to, because there were parts of the narrative that had the potential to go interesting places, but never quite reached that point and abruptly halted in places where the development could've provided more intimacy than the narration allowed.

At its heart, "The Whole Thing Together" is a family drama, showcasing teens as well as young adults in a separate sections of the same family struggling through multiple phases and revelations in their lives. Think "Parenthood" or "Brothers and Sisters" in terms of TV dramas, only I think the characters in this novel were far less fleshed out. As ambitious as this narrative sought to be, it tried to take on far too much in a narrow scope, to the point where nothing really worked well. The narrative voices blended far too much for me to truly connect to them (I don't mind third-person omniscient POV, I read it quite often in many genres). I would hesitate to call this YA, it feels more like it straddles the line between YA and New Adult (at least if you think about certain themes tackled in this book).

The surprise revelation towards the ending was emotional, but I honestly think that it could've had more impact if the character constructions were stronger. In the end, it's a narrative with strong intentions, but the execution leaves an unmemorable and sometimes offputting portrayal that doesn't showcase the best of what Brashares can do, and as someone who liked the Sisterhood series, this left me greatly disappointed.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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review 2017-03-15 04:15
Review: Summerlost by Ally Condie
Summerlost - Ally Condie

Quick review for a quick read. I was first introduced to "Summerlost" through a snippet offered on NetGalley, but I later checked out a full version of the book from my local library. This definitely satisfied my longing for a quick read in the form of a fulfilling MG/teen summer story. It's Ally Condie's middle-grade debut about a girl named Cedar who's coping with her first summer after her father's and brother's tragic accident. She returns to the town of Iron Creek for the summer, meeting a boy named Leo and volunteering her time at a theater festival called Summerlost. It is also a chance for her to join Leo in a side job directing tours surrounding the 2oth anniversary of the death of a Hollywood actress whose life was cut short due to tragic circumstances as well.

This proved to be a very quick read in the audiobook form, and I found Cedar's voice to be cheerful and easy to follow. The story provided some nice turns of showcasing the strong bond between Leo and Cedar, as well as illuminating and valuable showcases of Cedar with her family, though in brief spells. The setting was probably the strongest part of this narrative. I did feel that some parts of the narrative left much to be desired for deeper emotional development and narrative styling, but I liked the theme and enjoyed the overarching story for what it offered.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

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review 2017-03-02 03:30
Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

Quick review for a quick read. So I have complicated feelings about this book. I liked it, but that's not to say that I didn't feel like there were issues that needed addressing more thoroughly (and the fact it has quite more than enough problematic points to articulate in the mix of things). This book skirts the issues of mental illness as well as having an all consuming rare sickness far too lightly for my liking. I think it needed much more depth to really sell the story and could've potentially done so in a much better way than it did, even considering this is written for a teen audience. For a while, despite some cheesiness and some significant plot holes, I was enjoying this novel, enough to rate it at a 3.5 to 4 stars. It's a story with cute romantic chemistry, easy to read banter, and beautiful illustrations. But then the ending...eh. I'll get to that in a bit.

Maddy is a young woman who's been sick all of her life. She's allergic to the world around her, as diagnosed by her mother, a doctor who hires a nurse (Carla) to tend to Maddie when she's away. Maddy doesn't question her mother's dedication or words to her, hence she's in a bubble. I don't blame her for not knowing any better about the situation she's in, and I like the fact she's a bookish girl who has a natural curiosity about the world around her. When Olly moves into the house next to Maddy's, the two of them hit it off relatively quickly. ("Ba-da-da-da, I'm an instalove machine, and I won't work for nobody but yooou...") I thought I'd be annoyed with this, but surprisingly, I was flying through this novel - the chemistry between the leads does feel real (if a bit fragmented). I liked Carla's character too, she seemed a really compassionate character and I liked Maddy's interactions with her.

I flew through the narrative admittedly because of the narrative style and the illustrations within the book - it was a cool way to present the story. Yet, as the story went towards the ending, my suspension of disbelief only extended so far. The revelation about Maddy's situation didn't make the twist in the story all that strong to me, because I was left wanting more and feeling like the center of that twist was relatively unaddressed and skirted over. While I was relieved for Maddy herself, I still felt this story dropped a hard ball, missing developing the characters and situations in order to make it work and just feel like it used its very serious issues just as convenient plot points.

It's a story I liked for some experiences, but I feel it left me wanting much more from it than what it told. It wasn't "everything" to me.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher.

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review 2017-02-25 06:33
Review: Only Ever You by Rebecca Drake
Only Ever You: A Novel - Rebecca Drake

Quick review for a quick read. "Only Ever You" by Rebecca Drake is the first novel I've read in this author's bibliography. It was definitely a page turner. I found it difficult to tear myself away from this book wanting to know what happened next in the overarching mystery. The story centers around the disappearance of a girl named Sophia, causing a downward spiral on an already testy household for her parents Jill and David.

Jill is one of the narrators in this novel, and one can tell how flawed her character is from the beginning of the book. She has a hectic time as a mother and trying to make ends meet in the career she's set for herself while her husband's job keeps him away for long stretches of time and social engagements. She's at her wits end in some respects. A near miss kidnapping involving Sophia has Jill and David on high alert, but there are other secrets that keep their tentative relationship on its ends.

It's when Sophia disappears that everything falls apart. The second perspective in the novel is Bea, a woman whose identity isn't clear from the beginning, but the reader can tell she's the one who abducted Sophia. The question remains as to why. Combine that with confessional letters that are interspersed through the narrative from an unknown source, and you have the three perspectives that compose this novel. It flows very smoothly, and the tension between the characters is very palpable. There were quite a few times when I found it hard to suspend my disbelief in the way certain things happened (not so much in that they might occur as it was the WAY they occurred in succession). I suspected that someone close to Jill's family had something to do with Sophia's disappearance, but the narrative threw a number of curveball revelations, some of which did quite well in the context of the novel. But I think the number curveballs were one too many in the end, to the point where the story somewhat suffered under the weight/mass of them.

I did like the novel on the whole though, and it makes me curious to read more of Rebecca Drake's work.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley from the publisher.

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review 2017-01-25 04:28
Review: So Tough to Tame (Jackson #3) by Victoria Dahl
So Tough to Tame - Victoria Dahl

Quick review for a quick read. I read this in a matter of hours, but all I really got out of this story was a "meh" read, unfortunately. Walker and Charlie definitely had chemistry and some fun flirtations in the mix (though there were some sensual scenes that made me cringe because they were awkward), but on the whole, I wasn't really taken into this story very much even with the quirky personalities and side-characters this narrative had to offer. Walker and Charlie respectively come from really difficult places, disgraced and fired from their jobs for former relationships that involved cheating with married spouses and nursing assumptions against their reputations. They were once childhood friends but grew apart and eventually reconciling as they work at the same ski resort in Jackson Hole. I could believe in Walker's insecurities about his educational background/learning disability and his complicated relationship with his father and brother. I found it harder to believe Charlie's particular conflict in the narrative, because it seemed to be one set of conspiracies/betrayals after another in a deliberate unfolding. Add to that a bit of a rushed ending for resolution to the conflicts, and you get me scratching my head wondering where both the time and the story went. At least it was a very fast read, but it's not a story that would stick with me for much longer than the moment. "Too Hot To Handle" I thought was a much better offering in the Jackson series than this.

Overall score: 2/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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