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review 2019-02-10 15:04
The Flower Girls
The Flower Girls - Alice Clark-Platts

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Interesting (albeit disturbing) theme: that of ‘the Flower Girls’, two children suspected of the murder of a toddler. The elder girl, Laurel, went to jail, where she’s still rotting many years later; the younger, Primrose, was considered as too young and traumatised to stand trial, and given a new identity. The story follows the two women nineteen years after the gruesome murder, when on New Year’s Eve, 5-year old Georgie disappears from the hotel where she’s been staying with her parents. A host of other characters quickly get tangled with the case: DC Lorna Hillier, writer Max, Hazel Archer and her boyfriend Jonny, the cook who was the last person to see the little girl alive, but also Toby Bowman, Laurel’s uncle who was the only one to stick with her, and Joanna Denton, the aunt of the murdered toddler. Of course, during the investigation, revelations start to surface, hinting at something else going on.

The first part of the novel was pretty engaging, as the search for Georgie takes place, and DC Hillier starts suspecting that the truth is not so nicely packaged as it seems. We’re also given to see snapshots of Joanna’s fight to keep Laurel behind bars, as well as Laurel’s relationship with Toby, who’s trying to get parole for her.

However, after that, the story started to peter out for me, and I found the ending rushed and lacking. I get the later twists (predictable, but I get them), and that novels don’t all have to end up tied with nice little bows, but I felt that too many characters were either ushered out the easy way, or left hanging to dry. Those I liked the most, all in all, were Laurel herself; Toby, who in spite of being reviled in the eyes of the rest of his family for helping his niece, was probably one of the most human ones; and Hillier, who wouldn’t let go and really tried to figure out the real truth behind it all. Unfortunately, they were all part of these characters who were left out in the cold, with their storylines “unfinished”. (Yes, I know, that’s how it often is in real life; but see, the thing is, when I read a thriller/mystery, it’s not to see a mirror of real life: I want an actual resolution at the end.)

So I reached the last page thinking “wha, that’s it?”, and that’s how it remains, which is too bad, because there was a lot of potential in this story.

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review 2019-02-10 08:51
Vox - Christina Dalcher

Something like 2.5 stars, as I'm on the fence with this one. It has powerful messages, including a reminder that often, all it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing. Not that you always have that much of a choice (I've spent all my voting life picking the lesser evil candidate for president in my country, because there's just no 'good' candidate at all), but nvm. And while these messages are delivered in a not-so-subtle way, well, at least that makes them easy to see and to contemplate. The book is also a fast and easy read, with short chapters, and the first 100 pages are quite anger-eliciting, which is good in a book IMHO regardless of its other flaws—when the book leaves me indifferent, that's when I have a problem.

The issues I had with "Vox" were more of the literary kind. For starters, the characters weren't so likeable. Some are definitely not meant to be, of course, and that was not the issue; but for a story where women should be the ones reclaiming power, Jean relies so much on the men around her, including at the end, and that was disappointing. Plot-wise, the scientific premise demanded too much suspension of disbelief (one week to develop a medication, that kind of thing), and the ending was very rushed, which weakened the story for me.

In spite of my rating, though, it is a story worth reading for its message.

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review 2019-01-30 20:13
Child of Nod
Child of Nod - C. W. Snyder

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

The story of a late teenager/young woman who finds herself stranded in a strange land, not knowing if she’s alive or dead, “Child of Nod” is sort of a retelling of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, although it gets far enough from it that it’s not -that- close. It also draws on famous fairy tales and on mythology in general, but here, too, more as an inspiration than for full retelling purposes, so that the book stands on its own here. There’s madness, and horror, and memories, and strong imagery (like the Queen of Blades—this one screams to be drawn), and side characters, too, that I found oddly endearing, such as Dog.

The tone is overall quite dark, in that who and what Alice meets are usually not friendly, and even when she meets people who help her, the latter also have their own darkness to contend with: one suffers from leprosy, another is very likely dying from cancer, the Hunter himself didn’t exactly have a shiny childhood, etc. Nod as governed by the Red Queen is clearly not an enchanting place and there’s always something ready to devour something else around the corner. So, not a story for kids.

The story was definitely interesting, but I had trouble at times with the style (some sentences being abrupt and repetitive), and with the pacing. 90% of the book is spent on Alice’s travels through Nod, with brief insights into the lives of a few people she meets along the way, and by comparison, the final scene and the aftermath got very little screentime, and the ending felt rushed. I would’ve preferred something more balanced here, as well as seeing Alice’s journey and the other characters’ stories more solidly interwoven.

Conclusion: 2.5 stars

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review 2018-12-21 20:31
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved - Gregory Scott Katsoulis

[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]

Good premise here—a future where, as soon as people turn 15, they are charged for every word they say, and other forms of communication such as many gestures. Pretty much a legal nightmare, in which lawyers have all the power, where people can slap each other with instant lawsuits, and where everything is monitored through cuffs and eye implants, all connected to the ever present Wi-Fi.

In general, I enjoyed reading about this world, for all its chilling technology that may not be far off the corner (such as the Black Mirror-esque “Blocking” tech, preventing people from seeing specific faces, for instance). It was a little hard to follow at times, but it nevertheless made it for a quite unique setting.

I had more trouble with the characters, unfortunately. Speth, especially, struck me as overall rather dumb.While her silence stemmed from a shocking event, it became apparent very quickly that there would be a price to pay—in many ways, literally, as her family gets slapped with lawsuits, her sister is prevented from working, and so on. Yet it took her an extraordinary long while to finally figure out what to do about it all, instead of remaining mute and passive for most of the story. Not passive as in not going out and not doing anything at all, but passive when it came to thinking hard and making decisions about her silence… which, in the meantime, led to several problematic events, one of those being so scarring that I can’t reconcile the shock of it with someone standing her ground for… no reason? Had she been truly convinced of her role, of the importance of her silence, and trying to achieve something meaningful, this sacrifice could’ve been somewhat “understandable”, plot-wise; the way she still behaved at that point (some 60-65% in…), it just made for cruel and unneeded scene.

As another example, one of the characters, at some point, tries to communicate with her in creative ways, pointing at words in a book, and she does… nothing? There was no mention anywhere of people being unable to read, and she can read the warnings on her cuff well enough, so, I don’t know, perhaps pointing at specific words and letting the other character do the math would’ve helped her communicate, and been the smart thing to do. Because the deep issue here is that she doesn’t communicate. At all. She can afford a few shrugs, but conveying everything through just that and glances is, in general, quite difficult, and this leads to exactly the kind of plot twist I mentioned above, because she can only make other people follow her while racking their brains to try and understand what exactly she’s trying to do.

And so, Speth keeps making one poor decision after the other. And when she finally wakes up, there’s been so much destruction in her wake that it’s difficult to suddenly empathise with her.

(Interestingly enough, throughout the whole story, sign language is never mentioned. Are there no hard-hearing/deaf people in this world? Was it banned, as subsversive communication method? Or is it charged, like nodding one’s head. This would’ve made for a formidable loophole.)

As far as characters go, at least I did enjoy the three Product Placers. Although they weren’t too developed, they and their missions were interesting and fun to read about.

Conclusion: Interesting setting, stupid main character. I do have an ARC of the second book, though, so I’ll still give it a chance.

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review 2018-12-05 21:26
Munmun - Jesse Andrews

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I admit I skim-read the last 25%; I tried to read more carefully, but at this point, either I skimmed or I DNFed, and I don’t like DNFing.

It is not without good ideas and potential, and it delivers good criticism of a society based on money: in this case, money literally defines your weight in the world, since the poorest people are tiny and get squished by just about anything and anyone, while the richest ones are so big that they tower over everyone and take a lot of space. The plight of the characters, too—the way they have to fight, the desperate schemes they come up with, are (unfortunately, realistically) close to reality, in that when you don’t have much, no matter how you try, your attempts are conditioned by the little means you have. (I do agree that “you have to make efforts to achieve your dreams”, but let’s be honest, it’s very easy to give lessons about how you managed to buy the house of your dreams when you got a nifty inheritance from your grandparents. Prayer’s plan to find herself a husband, as harebrained as it is, does reflect a desperate attempt at doing something with nothing.)

However, I couldn’t really connect with the characters, nor get into the writing style, which tends to combine words together. I get it, I get why it’s done, but for me, it’s jarring (took me a bit of time to realise that the “munmun” of the title is money, although that was because I wasn’t pronouncing it, only reading it at first). It’s like all those cutesy words like ‘preloved’ and ‘choccy’ and all that stuff which, for some reason, is considered as witty, but just falls flat as far as I’m concerned. After a while, I lose interest.

More like 1.5 stars for me, however, I do acknowledge that there are good ideas in here.

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