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review 2018-01-13 15:02
Review: Bad Girls with Perfect Faces
Bad Girls with Perfect Faces - Lynn Weingarten

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

A dark YA thriller about friendship, obsession and jealousy taken over the top and everything going horribly wrong. Sasha and Xavier have been best friends for years. Sasha is not the most likeable character in the world, she’s cold, blunt and frankly, kind of a bitch. The only person who gets her moods and can handle her is her BFF Xavier. Who this reader found kind of dull and rather bland. But he and Sasha connect pretty well, they hang out, have their own sense of humour and inner jokes. They get each other.

 

It’s worked for years, they live in a small town, are outcasts at school and pretty much just have each other. Until Xavier got a girlfriend, Ivy. Ivy was even more of a brat than Sasha. Ivy came from a very wealthy family, she has an outgoing personality, but she’s also the type of manipulative bitch who knows how to push people’s buttons and wrap them around her finger and make them think everything she does is okay, no matter how wrong it actually is. She plays with Xavier pretty much breaks his heart.

 

At the start of the novel what Sasha doesn’t know is that Xavier has started seeing Ivy again. What Xavier doesn’t know is Sasha has fallen for him and has no idea how to tell him. Naturally she’s worried that if he doesn’t feel the same way their friendship would be ruined. And it doesn’t help that Ivy is now back on the screen.

 

Sasha and Ivy can’t stand each other. Not surprising really, their personalities clash and they are both epically jealous of the other’s relationship with Xavier which in a way is kind of understandable as both girls get different sides of him. Only made worse by Sasha’s feelings now boarding on obsession as she worries over what Ivy’s going to do to him this time.

 

So Sasha comes up with a plan. She invents an online profile of a guy to trap Ivy and convince Xavier finally that she is a cheater and no good for him. Which is sort of cringe-worthy to read and with the feeling of malice and foreboding in the story, it’s clearly all going to go wrong at some point. The novel is told in three different viewpoints – Sasha’s, Xavier’s and Ivy’s. Then when a plot twist happens another mysterious view point appears with no name, someone else who knows something has gone wrong and is doing their own investigation.

 

The psychological mind sent of the three different characters was quite interesting over how Xavier, and Sasha both displayed obsessive behaviour, while Ivy was obsessing over the fake profile guy she was getting to know and revealing sides of herself she usually keeps hidden.

 

Of course everything goes hideously wrong and Sasha finds herself in a very bad situation she doesn’t know how to handle at first. It all gets a bit ridiculous here. Xavier ends up tagging along without realising what’s really going on, Sasha’s got another secret she knows she’s never going to be able to keep for long without giving some sort of explanation and that it could potentially ruin her friendship with Xavier. To make things worse someone else has figured out Sasha is up to something and is on their trail.

 

The drama is a bit over the top but there is a definite rise in tension in this bit. Nerves are stretched to breaking point and it comes through clear in the writing and makes things very uncomfortable. I was quite impressed with the ending. Didn’t see it coming, and the way it concluded was actually quite believable.

 

It’s definitely a page turner, and while a little silly in some of the plot twists, there’s a compelling element about it that makes you have to keep going to know what’s going to happen. It’s a great example of a good book about unlikeable characters. The characters are well fleshed out and well written even though they are mostly horrible people.

 

I wasn’t overly impressed with the first book I read by this author, but I really liked this one. I bought a finished copy from iBooks.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Electric Monkey/Egmont Publishing for approving my request to view the title.

 

 

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review 2018-01-03 21:02
Review: Breaking
Breaking - Danielle Rollins

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I initially requested this one because I liked the previous book I’d read by the same author. I had no idea it was actually a companion novel to Burning until I was half way through and looking up something else on Goodreads.

 

This was an interesting book, after reading the first two or three chapters slowly, I read the rest in a couple of hours one evening. I just couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t completely blown away with the book, I can’t even say I really liked all the characters that much. There was just something about the story and the way the plot unwound that made me want to keep reading and just had to know what was going on and how it all wound up together.

 

Trigger Warnings: Suicide.

 

The novel tells the story of teenager Charlotte, starting off when she’s a very young child, her mother who is some sort of doctor giving her genius tests (which Charlotte is not very good at) her mother has certain expectations of what sort of girl Charlotte should be.  You get the impression that Charlotte doesn’t really care about her mother’s expectations, even at a very young age. Skip ahead to a teenager in a posh prep school. Charlotte is in the principal’s office one of her best friends Devon, has recently committed suicide in a very short time since her other best friend Ariel also committed suicide. Both were bright, smart and popular.

 

Charlotte doesn’t seem to fit the bill with the other smart kids in the school. The kids in the school are all very smart to genius. She’s struggling in her classes and not making the grade. Her mom is a very prestigious (and very rich) alumni. She’s about to pull Charlotte from the school on the principal’s advice, failing grades and the sudden deaths of her two best friends very close together and Charlotte’s attitude seems to be very blasé about everything.

 

Whilst packing her stuff Charlotte finds a package left by one of her deceased friends containing a strange note and a tiny bottle saying “Drink me”. Charlotte realises there must be something more going on, she can’t stop thinking about the note. She realises she wants to find out what it means and will have to be at the school to do that. When almost overnight her physical appearance improves and her (really bitchy) mom notices too. She uses this and manages to convince her mom to let her stay at the school for the rest of the semester contingent on her grades rapidly improving.

 

 

 

 

Charlotte notices quickly that her grades are improving as well, she’s answering questions in class without studying, acing essays and vastly better at her fencing class than she’s ever been. And she’s not the only one who noticed. Her BFF Ariel’s former boyfriend Jack for one, when they start talking again over what happened it turns into more than talking and flirting. And a rival in Charlotte’s fencing class, Zoe, who is not happy at all when Charlotte kicks her ass in fencing.

(spoiler show)

 

The plot is fairly fast paced and there’s enough intrigue that kept me interested when Charlotte finds more notes and more clues left by Ariel and realises at one point that she found the notes and clues left for her in the wrong order. The mystery deepens, Charlotte’s relationship with Jack is getting more and more intense and she’s got the added irritation of fending off Zoe who seems determined to make things difficult for her.

 

The characters were kind of flat, I couldn’t really identify with Charlotte much, she was cold and aloof and had a sort of above it all vibe about her. There was an interesting morality grey area to the plot as it developed as well. It definitely takes a darker twist towards the end, and that’s where it ties in with the previous novel Burning. It can be read as a standalone, there’s very little that gives away anything to do with Burning’s actual plot but if you’ve read Burning there’s an “ahhh” moment when you realise the connection.

 

I also have issues with Charlotte and her two best friends, Ariel and Devon, the reader learns some pretty unsettling things about the two girls as Charlotte delves into the mystery as what caused them both to commit suicide within weeks of each other. These girls were supposed to have been the tight knit group that everyone wanted to be part of, yet there was a sense of underlying threat rather than close female friendship with Ariel as the ring leader and Devon following with Charlotte trailing behind. There was a sense of rivalry and tension that was supposed to be uncomfortable but more annoying than anything else.

 

There was an eye rolling side plot revolving around Ariel’s former boyfriend Jack who was close with Charlotte and Charlotte had always had a thing for but never did anything cause Ariel got there first even though it’s completely obvious Charlotte liked him. Jack is a typical nice guy, good looking with rich parents. His dad has an important job – senator or judge or something along those lines (can’t remember which) but Jack doesn’t seem interested in following those footsteps and like Charlotte doesn’t seem that interested in the classes at the prep school. He and Charlotte redevelop their friendship which of course develops into something more. She (of course) gets to see the side of him that no one else really gets to see.  Then Charlotte notices Jack starts rapidly improving in grades and stuff like she did. The romance angle was irritating.

 

It was a fairly quick read and definitely interesting, not something I would call a favourite but definitely worth a go if you like prep school mysteries and are intrigued by unlikeable characters.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2016-08-22 11:41
Review: Pasadena
Pasadena - Sherri L. Smith Pasadena - Sherri L. Smith

 

I received a copy through Penguin First to Read.

 

I loved this one. This is a gritty novel set in Los Angeles with one of the most unlikeable characters I have come across in a long time. It’s one of the rare cases where in spite of the fact that the main character Jude is an unapologetic bitch, her characterization is so good it works brilliantly and as a reader it didn’t even bother me how rude, bitchy and obnoxious this girl is. Usually I hate characters like this. But I still kind of liked this girl.

 

I can’t really say how well the noir homage was done as it’s not a genre I’m familiar with (I don’t think saying I saw LA Confidential once counts).

 

The novel tells the story of the sudden and unexpected death of Jude’s best friend Maggie. Set during summer in LA you really get a sense of the uncomfortable sticky heat of LA in high summer, with the tense atmosphere of the novel it was really visual and I could picture everything going on so clearly, like watching a TV show or a movie. Jude races back from her vacation at her dad’s house (her parents are divorced and she spends the school year in LA with her mom and mom’s string of less than reputable boyfriends). Her good friend Joey picks her up from the airport and the novel progresses from there.

 

Jude meets with some of Maggie’s other friends – just because they all knew Maggie and were friends with her doesn’t mean any of them like each other much. Jude is still in shock from this news – it’s pegged as suicide – Maggie is found floating face down in a pool with a glamorous swimsuit on. Jude’s convinced it’s murder. She’s flat out cruel to almost every other one of Maggie’s group of friends – Dane, Tally, Hank, Eppie, Edina, Luke. Dane and Tally are a couple as are Hank and Eppie.

 

Luke turns out to have a huge crush which boarders on flatout stalking. (Luke’s stalking/crush thing turns out to be a huge plot point that becomes very helpful in Jude’s investigation into Maggie’s death later on in the novel)/

 

Edina and Jude seem to be competing for the BFF spot, though Jude clearly thinks she’s the only one that counts and Edina is a hanger on wannabe and a poor excuse of a person. Most of these people are pretty awful with the exception of Joey (who was awesome) and Hank and Eppie, who were actually nice. Maggie managed to bring all these people together and make them feel special.

 

Maggie herself was rich and extremely popular and desired. Yet of course, had a cruel drama queen streak of her own. As Jude starts digging to the days before and up to Maggie’s death she stars digging into these people who knew Maggie in ways she didn’t. She begins learning some uncomfortable home truths. She speaks without thinking and doesn’t give a crap about what she’s saying or if it will hurt anyone’s feelings. Throughout it all Joey seems to be the only one who can tolerate Jude’s attitude problems enough to stand by. But even he has his limits. His strength to stick with Jude is pretty damn admirable.

 

Of course Jude has her own drama to deal with, digging into Maggie’s friends and her death brings up some uncomfortable home truths of her own she had long thought was buried and stuff she never really dealt with herself.

 

A really diverse cast of very well put together characters who were well fleshed out and believable even if most of them weren’t particularly likeable. Brilliant sense of place and setting, visually striking. It’s a brilliant mystery and completely unpredictable.

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review 2015-08-07 15:53
Review: Ruby Red (Precious Stone Trilogy #1)
Ruby Red - Kerstin Gier

This was a bit of cover lust for me. The cover is simply gorgeous. 

 

The story...not so much. It was slow, with irritating characters, very confusing, a annoying misogynistic tones. Its a time travel novel, so the overbearing misogynistic tones were true to the period, but it was still annoying.

 

The main character, Gwen, comes from a family with a tie to a secret society of time travels. The next female in line to supposedly receive the gene  and go on secret wonderful time travel adventures is her cousin Charlotte, who has therefore been training her whole life. Gwen's mum keeps her family away from this until unfortunate circumstances make them move to London to life with Charlotte and her family.

 

Gwen is a pretty normal 16 year old. She loves films, and gossips with her BFF Lesley. Gwen sounds more like 12 than 16 and came across to be as immature and annoying. She had a few amusing snarky moments, but I didn't feel anything particularly likable about about this character. As it turns out, Mum lied and Gwen is really the time traveler. So Gwen has a few trips back in time. She's freaked. Naturally.

 

Then she finally comes clean and everyone in the family is in an uproar. She's taken to the secret time travel head quarters where everything gets very confusing. Gwen has a habit of comparing things to movies....if this was a film this would happen. Which got annoying. (Though to be fair, if I found myself in the same situation, my immediate thoughts would be, well it wasn't like this on Dr Who)

 

I didn't have a clue what was going on in this novel. It took so long to get anywhere, by the time things started happening,  I just stopped caring. It felt like it was all over the place. Gwen can't understand why Charlotte, the cousin, is being mean and bitchy. If you'd been preparing for something your whole life and its your cousin who gets the prize, not you, then its completely understandable that Charlotte would be beyond furious. 

 

We're also introduced to Gideon, a very good looking but arrogant boy who is also a time traveler and has been helping with Charlotte's training. He's rude to Gwen and bossy when they go on their time travel excursions. The whole thing seems to revolve around some sort of prophecy featuring different people in time who are named after gemstones and the current society needs their blood to get some special device to reveal a great secret. The previous two time travelers got lost in time and took the device with them but a second one was found. Gwen and Gideon need to get the remaining blood to get the secret from the second device. 

 

That was my understanding of it. There's a rush of action right at the end which leaves a lot of untied threads. And it just sort of...ends. Very very frustrating. Its the first of a trilogy, so I'm guessing answers come in the next books. But I'm not interested enough to find out. Disappointing. 

 

As much as I love my YA, I think I might be too old for this one. 

 

Time Travel Square crossed off for Summer 2015 Bookish Bingo

Primary Color Cover Square crossed off for Story Sprites Round 1

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review 2015-05-23 13:33
Review: Vampire Diaries: The Awakening & The Struggle
The Awakening and The Struggle - L.J. Smith

I've gushed time and time again over how much I loved the first three books of this series. (I found the fourth book kind of unnecessary and even though I've read it as much as the first three I just don't like it as much) I first read them when I was 14 or 15, (many many years ago) and love them and over the years since read them again and again. 

 

Elena Gilbert was just the type of girl I wanted to be - queen of the school popular, with great friends, and lived in an awesome town full of Civil War history. Then in comes sexy mysterious Stefan who Elena becomes entranced with but he's just not returning her interest. Its a complete shock to her system. Stefan's Italian history background is captivating. And of course there is the swoon worthy bad boy Damon. Its all very silly really. And Stefan's somewhat stalkery behavior is of course questionable. Damon is a killer with no conscience and no remorse and not above using vampire powers to get what he wants. This should not be sexy. But it kinda is, even though logically its just wrong. Elena does some insanely stupid things. She can be very selfish and stubborn.

 

I've read series where all these things happen and its driven me up the wall. However, logic does not really apply to reading this series. At least not to me. In spite of the silliness, the friendships, the town itself, the history, the vampires, the magic, the bitchiness of certain characters, the epicness of the romance....I love it as much as grown up as I did a teenager.

 

I will never get tired of reading these books. 

 

Reread Square crossed off for Spring 2015 Bookish Bingo. 

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