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Search tags: good-ideas-but
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review 2017-06-18 17:29
Bad Girl Gone
Bad Girl Gone: A Novel - Temple Mathews

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

This ended up being a very uneventful read for me. The premise felt really cool: a girl finds herself in a creepy orphanage, realises it’s actually a kind of purgatory for murdered kids, and tries to find out who killed her so that she can move on. The beginning was intriguing, especially since, like other ghosts in the orphanage, Echo first has to piece together memories of her death—reliving the trauma at once would be too shocking—, and investigating why you’re in an orphanage when last you knew your parents were definitely alive, well, that’s tricky.

The problem lied mainly in how all this was executed. Not particularly thrilling, for starters. Echo has a couple of culprits in mind, so she and the other kids go to ‘haunt’ them and see if they’re going to wield under pressure, or are actually innocent, but… it wasn’t anything scary or memorable, more like pranks, not like the really creepy kind of haunting you could get when adding children/teenagers to the mix (in general, I find kid ghosts scarier than adult ones). The mystery itself—finding the murdered—wasn’t exciting either, nor were the murderer’s reactions. Perhaps this was partly due to Echo’s power as a ghost: entering living people’s bodies in order to perceive their thoughts. The investigation part, in turn, was more about vaguely picking a maybe-potential culprit, scaring them, popping in their mind, then be gone. Then the story. And then Echo’s past as a ‘bad girl’ was revealed, and it turned out it wasn’t so much bad as introduced without much taste.

Definitely cringeworthy was the drama-addled romance. Echo’s living boyfriend, Andy, is all about moping and wanting to kill himself over her death, and… well, call me hard-hearted and callous, but you’re 16 and that kind of relationship is by far NOT the first one you’re going to experience in life, so pegging everything on it always feels contrived to me. Then there’s cute ghost boy Cole, who’s not about murdering the hypotenuse (thanks goodness), yet was strange, considering Andy is not aware of his presence, and so the triangle is… incomplete? (Its attempts at becoming a square later didn’t help either.) Also contains examples of stupid Twue Wuv/The One/soulmate 4evah/Doormat Extraordinaire. Such as Echo being so happy that her corpse was dressed in her favourite dress at her funeral… Favourite because her boyfriend Andy liked it. I still have no idea if Echo herself liked the pattern or colour or whatever. In any case, these are the kind of tropes I dislike in novels in general, and in YA even more. Why always make it look like couple love is the ultimate end, as if nobody (whether girl or boy) couldn’t have a good life in different ways?

In fact, I was more interested in the orphanage’s headmistress (whose back story plays a part for a chapter or so) and other inmates, all with their own murders to solve. These I would’ve liked to see interact more than just as Echo’s sidekicks. But we don’t get to learn much about them, apart from how they died. Too bad.

Conclusion: Nope

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review 2017-06-09 20:01
The Diabolic
The Diabolic - S.J. Kincaid

A lot of good ideas in this book, and I really liked the first part... but it started to go downhill when the Mandatory YA Het Romance plot waltzed in. I felt there were so many other ways the whole 'Diabolic without emotions may actually discover her humanity' could have unfolded, instead of romance (especially the boy/girl kind) being touted as the one means to everything and the main dilemma all at once. Also, NOT bonus points for the one LGBT aspect, considering how it turns out.

Too bad because the Empire in space/religious faith vs. technology revival side of the story, coupled with GoT-like politics, could've been really interesting otherwise.

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review 2017-06-07 20:38
One of Us Is Lying
One of Us Is Lying - Karen M. McManus

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I’m not sure how I feel exactly about this book. I did expect a lot clichés when I started this book (which the blurb makes clear anyway), and clichés there were, but I’m still not sure I liked or not? Sometimes I do want to see how they pan out; sometimes I want something different from the start. Here, I’d say that mostly they don’t really deviate from the usual outcomes (girl falls for the bad boy, girl/boy cheats on partner, etc.), and the plot is a little heavy on high school stereotype drama at times. I suppose I also expected that the four teenagers’ secrets would be ‘darker’ than ‘oh noes I cheated on my partner’, since this seems to be so very common in plots (and here’s a reminder about how everything feels like the fate of the world depends on it, at that age).

On the other hand, even though these things were predictable, and even though I had my suspicions about the murderer halfway throughout the story, I found myself reading fairly fast because I wanted to see if other secrets would pile up on the existing one, if other characters would help shed light on what really happened, or what other clues would appear. Not that many, it turned out, but... it still kept me entertained.

The mystery was... okay-ish? The story focused more on the characters and their lives unravelling than on providing lots of clues or red herrings—entertaining, but not thrilling.

I had trouble with the 1st person narrative: our four suspected murderers take turns to tell the story, but their respective voices sounded too much like each other, so at times I found myself not too sure of who was telling a specific part, and I had to re-read, or use the ‘chapter’s title’ to see who it was about. The style is somewhat juvenile, however it wasn’t jarring (and definitely -less- jarring than that trend of having teenagers speak like 40-year-old chaps!).

Conclusion: Probably a novel that will hold more appeal for younger readers, but not so much if one is already used to such themes/plots and want to go further than stereotypes.

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review 2016-12-31 14:47
All Darling Children
All Darling Children - Jaimey Grant;Wendy Swore;Rita J. Webb;Paige Ray;Jeanne Voelker;K. G. Borland;Gwendolyn McIntyre;Katrina Monroe;S. M. Carrière

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I read Barrie's book, as well as watched Disney's Peter Pan movie, so long ago that I honestly can't remember all details. Still, this retelling looked interesting, and so I decided to give it a try.

Madge, Wendy's granddaughter, lives a not-so-happy life with her grandma, and keeps trying to escape to find her mother who may or may not be in Chicago. One night, when she finally gets a chance to leave, she gets spirited to Neverland: another chance, one to learn more about her family, her mum, and everything Wendy never told her. However, Neverland quickly turns out to be more terrifying than an enchanted island full of fairies and forever-boys. Clearly not the fairy tale a lot of children and people think about when they hear the name of 'Peter Pan' mentioned.

There are interesting themes and ideas in this book: what the boys' rituals involve exactly, what happened to Jane, the slow disintegration of Neverland, what happened to Hook and Tiger Lily... I've always liked the "Hook as an ambiguous villain" approach, and here, he's definitely of the ambiguous kind, since it's 1) difficult to know if he wants to help or hinder, and 2) he's no saint, but Pan is no saint either, so one can understand the bad blood between those two.

I was expecting more, though, and had trouble with some inconsistencies throughout the story. The time period, for one: it seems Madge is living in the 1990s-2000s—welll, some very close contemporary period at any rate—, which doesn't fit with the early-1900s of the original story. I know it's not the main focus, yet it kept bothering me no matter what: there's no way Wendy could still be alive, or at least fit enough to bring up a teenager, and she would've had to give birth to Madge's mother pretty late in life as well. And since there's no hint that 'maybe she stayed in Neverland for decades, which is why Jane was born so late,' so it doesn't add up. Also, Michael is still alive at the end? How long has it been? He must be over 100 or something by then.

None of the characters particularly interested me either. I liked the concept of Pan as tyrant, but I would've appreciate more background on this. And while Madge was described as someone who was strong enough to make things change, her actions throughout the story didn't exactly paint her in that light; it was more about the other characters saying she was like that, or telling her what she had to do, and her reacting.

I found the ending a bit of an anticlimax. Things went down a bit too easily (I had expected more cunning, or more of a fight, so to speak?)... though props on the very last chapter for the people it shows, and for being in keeping with the grim underlying themes of Neverland (kids who 'never grow up', huh).

Conclusion: Worth a try, but definitely not as good as what I expected from a Peter Pan retelling.

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review 2016-12-30 22:42
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

The society and humans depicted in this book have fascinating sides: for instance, the subtle and complex social/political/cultural dance of 'shifgrethor'; or the fact that Gethen's inhabitants are sexually neutral most of the time, except during 'kemmer', where they get sexually active and can become either male or female, without any set rule here.

However, some things definitely bothered me:

- The negative qualities associated with female gender, openly or not. Genly tends to do that a lot, and while it may be part of his insight as the only alien on this world, I just couldn't reconcile this disdain for 'feminine characteristics' (don't start me on how everything feminine is so often associated to weakness/lazy/corrupting/and so on) with the image of broad acceptance conveyed by the Ekumen (a federation of dozens of diverse worlds) he represents. I mean, so you're willing to embrace a world in which everyone's basically a hermpahrodite, but you still can't get over Eve the Imperfect Temptress? Come on.

That's all the more surprising, coming from a female author. Although, to be honest, I've found that women can be often worse than men when it comes to disdain towards their own sex. Meh.

- Also, since Genly calls every Gethenian a 'he', it gives a male colouring to every character he meets. A 'zé', 'they' or whatever else would have been so much more appropriate.

- A quarter of the book or so is devoted to travelling for hundreds of miles on ice, in blizzard storms, etc. I'm really not for 'travel novels' anymore, if I ever was, and this was a pretty boring part for me.

- The basis for Gethen is, as said, fascinating, but not exploited enough.

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