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review 2018-01-14 18:13
Highly British YA thriller about boarding school elites; quick entertaining read
S.T.A.G.S. - Bennett D. Hill

As soon as I find out there’s a book about boarding school to read, I’m there. I’m just a little bit spurred on by the fact I went to boarding school myself at the age of 11 (encouraged by reading books by Enid Blyton, in fact), and so I’ll eat up any book on the subject. Harry Potter was quite a thing, after all.
S.T.A.G.S. is far from being Hogwarts, however.
The main character, Greer, is at a prestigious private school (St. Aidan The Great School, which doesn’t in real life exist), on scholarship, among many wealthy kids from aristocracy. She feels out of place and is both somehow reluctant and desperate to fit in.
She gets invited on a fancy ‘hunting, shooting, fishing’ weekend by the top group of kids at the school, known as the Medievals, and led by the dashing but snobbish and rather repugnant Henry de Warlencourt.
Greer is both blown away by the lifestyle of these wealthy young elites, who are used to being tended on by servants, and somehow as if they are grooming her to be one of them, along with two other ‘Savages’ like her. The whole weekend is filled with fine foods, and the activities of Old, (the hunt, shooting pheasant, and fishing), and connection to the outside world is abandoned. The three of these invited students suddenly seem like the hunted and the weekend turns very sour.
While the story was exciting to read in general, I have good things to say about this book and few misgivings. The premise of these three invitees being trapped with these Medievals, these kids who are sometimes so nauseating (and I’ve met some of them in my past) is spot on, and becomes frightening. The hunt and the shoot can be hard to stomach (I am dead set against these antiquated ‘sports of Old) and can’t stand the glee taken by the wealthy in thinking that these pasttimes that connect them to the past should be glorified. But I really relished how the author depicted life in the stately home, and loved how Bennett also wrote about Greer’s connection to
her father through watching old movies together (especially since I’m a film buff).
The ending was pretty clever and wound tightly in a neat bow, and overall this is a entertaining read. I think especially so for American readers, since this is highly ‘British’ in its approach and plot.
While this is already out in the UK, thank you for the early release from NetGalley for the book here in the US.

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review 2018-01-11 18:45
After the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard
After the End of the World (Carter & Lovecraft) - Jonathan L. Howard

 

At the end of the excellent CARTER & LOVECRAFT there was a major cliffhanger and I felt compelled to request an ARC of the next book. I have to admit I was disappointed with AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD.

 

The things I loved most in the universe that Jonathan Howard has created was the weirdness of it-the mysterious Mr. Weston who started everything off by showing up and awarding Dan Carter ownership of a bookshop, run by Emily Lovecraft. (Emily is black and you can almost hear Lovecraft turning over in his grave.) I also enjoyed an area called Waite's Bill, an isolated place on the shore where creepy, mysterious people live. (Not to mention the large amphibian-like creatures emerging from the water!) Unfortunately, other than Dan Carter and Emily, most of the mysterious fun things I liked from the first book were not here. 

 

The world has unfolded, (the major event which ended CARTER & LOVECRAFT), and we're now in a universe where we are great friends with Germany and the Holocaust never happened. A group of Germans working at Miskatonic University are trying to build a machine that will provide unlimited power without draining any natural resources. Mr. Weston makes a brief appearance and Carter gets involved as a security guard at MU.

 

From there, I feel like the tale crept away from the components that I enjoyed and veered into the area of weird science-fiction, with the entire group of scientists, (as well as Carter and Lovecraft),  traveling to the Aleutian Islands to continue their work on the power machine. The pacing slowed way down and I really couldn't have cared less about the machine, the Germans, or anything else for that matter. Events degenerated until the story was more like an action movie than the dark fiction horror story I was expecting. I don't care for action movies.

 

I still love Dan and Emily and am fascinated by Mr. Weston and the weird creatures, but I'm not sure I'll continue with the series if there is another book. This case is one of those "It's me, not you" situations, I think, because everyone else seemed to love this book. While I admired the world building and the banter between my favorite characters, the meat of the story just didn't appeal to me. 

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it. I'm sorry it's a little late.*

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review 2018-01-06 03:50
A unique novel that questions the afterlife (and so much more), and has left me speechless
The Afterlives: A Novel - Thomas Pierce

This book almost defies description and I'm still basically 'speechless' upon finishing. Yes, I can say it's a fictional novel (unless author Pierce knows things we don't!), but then I can tell you all the different genres and subjects it touches: fantasy, the supernatural/ghosts, sci-fi and aliens, relationships, religion and the question of God, conspiracy theories, and the biggest question of all - what happens to us all when we die.
The novel begins when Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes, but he is left with no experience of seeing an 'afterlife', ie, no 'tunnels with lights'. This leaves him with huge life questions and starts seeing the world in a whole new way, along with his new 'HeartNet' to keep his ticker beating safely. The world in which this novel is set in, is even filled with holograms, and so many questions for Jim, and consequently for the reader. I didn't read this as quickly as some books because of that, and I was often putting it down to digest and think about what I'd just read because of everything I just had to absorb. There's actually a lot of humor in the novel too, so even though there are huge topics on the table like life and death, the tone of the book remains light, even when big events happen.
Originally I was put off by the fact that Jim's romance and subsequent relationship with his wife Annie, would be central to the novel, but it ended up being such an original journey that they were on, that I was absorbed by their story within the bigger story.
This is such a unique and intelligent novel, one that will get your brain thinking and your heart thumping. I know I won't read another quite like this in 2018, and it's got to be read to be fully appreciated. Fabulous.

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review 2018-01-01 17:04
Green: A Novel by Sam Graham-Felsen
Green: A Novel - Sam Graham-Felsen

 

Every once in a while, I choose or wish for a book on NetGalley solely due to the description and GREEN was one of those books. 

 

12 year old David Greenfeld, aka Green, is nearly the only white boy in Martin Luther King Middle School in the early 90's. As such, he is subject to harassment, and not only because of his color. He's Jewish, even though his family doesn't practice, he doesn't have the right clothes or shoes, and he has few friends. 

 

Marlon, a black teen that lives nearby, comes to Dave's aid when he's bullied and they become fast friends. Bonding over Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, (the curse of Coke!), and playing basketball, (or nasketball), the two are nearly inseparable.

 

Mar and Dave's friendship occurs during a tough time in Boston and in our country. Amidst the tumultuous race riots and the rise, (and fall) of Boston Celtic Reggie Lewis, (the importance of sports teams in Boston cannot be underestimated), these boys face racist bullies and the threat of bodily violence every day. Coming of age is never easy, no matter the era in which it takes place. Dave is trying hard to better himself, find his inner self, (Is it Christian? Is it Jewish?) and survive the day to day without the right clothes or shoes. Will his relationship with Marlon survive too? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

While I enjoyed GREEN, I had some problems with it. I know the language had to be of the time and setting for the tale to ring true, but I'm not quite sure that it did. To be honest, at times it seems that the author was trying too hard to make the slang real. Every single time clothes were described it was "so and so rocked this or that", every time they went somewhere they "rolled." It irritated me a little but your mileage may vary.

 

Another problem I had with the story is the lack of information about some of the characters and their backgrounds. Green's brother Benno, for instance,  hadn't spoken to anyone in over a year and had other issues as well. I would have liked to have known more about that. Also, Green's Jewish grandfather, (Cramps instead of Gramps, because he was grouchy), had a lot of background that was only briefly glimpsed in this tale. I would have liked to have known more details about that and about the effects they had on Dave's father.

 

Lastly, as the mother of a young man I know that masturbation is a big part of a boy's coming of age. I just don't need to know the details.  I know it happens, I know the hormones are raging, I get it. I just want to give the head's up to others that this occurs. A lot! (This was the era of Baywatch, after all.) 

 

GREEN was a good coming of age story and I wonder how much of it was autobiographical because most of it did ring true. (As much as it could to a middle age white woman, anyway.) Bullying, religion, racism, having the right clothes and shoes-these are all things that are still problems to this day. It's how we deal with these issues that defines us. David Greenfeld was not the perfect boy and certainly not the perfect friend, but I couldn't help but root for him anyway. I think you will too. 

 

Recommended!

 

*Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

 

 

 

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review 2017-12-30 06:23
Fast paced read that centers around a Ted Bundy Unsub; exciting stuff!
Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel - Meg Gardiner

I totally enjoyed this, and read it at a break-neck speed, which matched the fast pace of the novel. I hadn’t read the first ‘Unsub’ novel, but the cross between a ‘Criminal Minds’/Behavioral Analysis Unit at the core, with a familiar ‘Unsub’ as the basis for the plot (in this case, someone quite similar to Ted Bundy), made for a compelling read. I liked Gardiner’s writing style, and that she kept a step removed from the real Bundy case. Fun read!

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