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review 2020-02-09 07:28
There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
There's Someone Inside Your House - Stephanie Perkins

Makani Young used to live in Hawaii with her parents, but then something happened that she doesn't even like to think about, and everyone she knew turned against her. Her parents sent her to live with her grandmother in Osborne, a tiny town in Nebraska, and it feels like exile. She now has a couple friends and a crush she can't stop thinking about. It's not the life she used to have back in Hawaii, but it could be worse.

Then a girl from school winds up dead and horribly mutilated. As the body count rises and the police try to find and stop the killer, Makani knows it's only a matter of time before her own secrets are revealed.

I decided to read this because the cover caught my eye and I was in the mood for a YA slasher. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as gripping as I'd hoped it would be, and I kept getting distracted by other reads. So much time was spent on Makani's crush on Ollie and their developing relationship, and I just wasn't interested in the two of them as a couple.

The murder scenes were fairly spooky. They all started with the soon-to-be victim noticing that random objects were out of place, which tied in nicely with the way Makani kept noticing things that were out of place in her grandmother's home (was the killer in Makani's house? would she notice in time? why was the killer waiting to go after her?). The body count was surprisingly high, considering that the characters learned the killer's identity a little over halfway through the book. Knowing who the person was didn't seem to help much when it came to catching them, though, which I thought was a little difficult to believe. And yes, the mutilations got pretty gruesome. The first murder didn't really prepare me for a couple of the later ones, although the gamer one was, in some ways, the most disturbing of the bunch despite being one of the least gory.

With as many times as Makani's secret was hinted at, I thought it was going to be very different than it actually was. It made for horrible reading, but not for the reason Makani thought, at least not for me. She blamed herself for everything that happened, but I thought that the adults who'd known what was going to happen and played along were at least as responsible, if not more so.

The last 50 or so pages were frustrating. The people in this town were idiots - the killer was still on the loose, people were still dying, and these morons set up a "haunted" maze complete with at least one person dressed up as the killer who was terrorizing their town. I would have been in full support of the parents of the victims if they'd run through the maze screaming in rage. And the killer's motive was just stupid. It felt like Perkins really wanted to write something in which teens from a wide variety of cliques were killed but couldn't figure out a good way to tie all together.

The ending was abrupt and left me feeling unsatisfied. Prominent characters had bad stuff happen to them, and multiple people were seriously injured or killed, but there was no time set aside to process everything that happened. The book just stopped.

This had some nicely creepy and suspenseful moments, but all in all I'm glad it was a library checkout rather than a purchase.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2020-02-08 20:09
Misadventures of a Backup Bride by Shayla Black
Misadventures of a Backup Bride - Shayla Black

Carson loves Sweet Darlin', the candy company he inherited from his biological father. He and his father were never all that close, but Carson still wants Sweet Darlin' to succeed. In order for that to happen, he needs a loan ASAP. Gregory Shaw is willing to give him one...if Carson marries Kendra, Shaw's flighty sorority girl daughter. Meanwhile, if Kendra doesn't marry Carson, she won't get her trust fund.

Carson knows that he and Kendra would make an unhappy couple, so, two weeks before the wedding, he lies and tells Shaw that he can't marry her because he's in love with someone else. Shaw decides to call Carson's bluff - he says he'll still give Carson the loan, if he still gets married in two weeks to this other woman he supposedly loves. Carson calls up Ella, an actress he'd met at a party six months ago - at the time, she was dating a friend of his, but she's single now. He asks her to be his pretend fiancee and leave him at the altar. She agrees because her acting jobs have been few and far between and she needs the money. Unfortunately, the two of them have instant chemistry, and their fake relationship turns real, fast.

At Book Bonanza 2019, attendees got a bag with two free books in it. One of them was a random book from the "Misadventures" series, which seems to be a sort of sampler series of unrelated short works by different authors. I think my mom might have gotten M.F. Wild and Mia Michelle's Misadventures of a Valedictorian.

At any rate, after a bad day at work, I needed something fluffy, and this seemed like it might fit the bill. I read the description on the back and the "pretend relationship" aspect was appealing. I didn't bother to look up the author or reviews on Goodreads. If I had, I might have saved this book for another time, because I wasn't expecting erotic romance in which the couple couldn't keep their hands off each other during dinner, the second time they'd ever seen each other, and were having sex within hours of laying out the "occasional public kissing, no sex" ground rules of their pretend relationship.

Readers were supposed to believe that Ella was an actress who was serious about her work and acting future, and that Carson was a dedicated new CEO who'd basically become a workaholic. When it came to what they actually did on-page, though, what I got was that they were both completely driven by their hormones. A  large chunk of the beginning of this book was the two of them having sex. The first person POV made most of the sex scenes more stilted and weird than sexy, and the food sex scene, in which Carson ruined a perfectly good bread pudding by dumping it onto Ella's breasts, was downright gross. Other people's mileage may vary, but that was a "no" for me.

After a couple days of screwing each other's brains out, Carson and Ella finally remembered that they'd actually gotten together for a reason that wasn't purely sex. I had to laugh when they learned that Kendra had fallen for an ROTC guy and were doubtful that she could know that she was really in love with someone after only knowing them for two days. Ella had enough self-awareness to realize that this applied to her and Carson as well, but supposedly "we're different" (102). Sure, uh huh.

The more I thought about the plot, the less it made sense. If Shaw had really wanted to call Carson's bluff, he could have told him "Fine, if you aren't marrying my daughter, then no loan for you." Carson either had to get that loan or watch Sweet Darlin' crumble - he had more to lose than Shaw did. Carson and Shaw would sometimes act like they needed each other, and sometimes like they didn't. And there were a couple developments that just came out of nowhere. On the one hand, Shaw was supposed to be this coldly manipulative businessman who was willing to use his own daughter in his machinations. On the other hand, he was also supposed to be a caring father who just wanted what was best for his daughter. And as for Kendra...

Honestly, Ella's acting skills were nonexistent compared to Kendra's.

(spoiler show)


Everything came together too easily in the end, and I found it difficult to believe that Ella and Carson would last long. They'd spent most of their time together having sex, and staying together meant that Ella had to give up her acting career while Carson got everything he wanted (I'm sorry, but the attempt to make it look like he was sacrificing too was weak at best). Also, it bugged me that one of the first things Carson did when Ella arrived was try to dictate what Ella ate. On the advice of her agent, she'd been trying to lose weight, and while I agreed with Carson that she was probably fine as she was, they'd literally just met and  at that point he hadn't even known for sure that's why she was ordering a salad. Trying to bully her into ordering a steak just made him look like a jerk.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2020-02-02 17:16
Harlequin Violet: Blind Date (manga) based on the original novel by Emma Darcy, art by Mihoko Hirose, translated by Ikoi Hiroe
Harlequin Violet: Blind Date - Mihoko Hirose,Emma Darcy

Peggy Dean is excited to learn that she's a finalist on the Ross Elliot Show's special episode "Blind Date" contest. The first prize is a date with popular singer John Gale, but Peggy isn't interested in that. As a Media Communications major, she's primarily interested in seeing the set of the show. She's also hoping to win a stereo, the consolation prize given to the two finalists who aren't picked to go on a date with John. She attempts to sabotage her chances of winning by giving off-putting answers to John's questions, but instead she accidentally captures his interest.

The Harlequin Ginger Blossoms line fascinates me. As far as I know, they were all adaptations of 1980's Harlequin novels - Emma Darcy's Blind Date was originally published in 1986, while the Japanese manga adaptation was published in 2003, and the English translation of the manga was published in 2006. Wouldn't it have been a better idea to focus on newer romance novels? Was it a rights thing? The color-coding is also interesting. Harlequin Pink titles were printed in pink ink and aimed at younger readers - no on-page sex. Harlequin Violet titles were printed in violet ink and aimed at older audiences (ages 16 and up, according to my copy). They did have on-page sex, but, at least in the case of Blind Date, the nudity was of the Barbie doll variety (no nipples) and the sex scenes were sensual but not graphic.

I haven't read the novel on which this manga is based, so I can't comment on how accurate of an adaptation it is, although I do think it's interesting that, according to descriptions I've read, John's name in the original book was actually Adam Gale. I wonder why his name was changed while Peggy's remained the same?

The artwork is the best part of Blind Date. The character designs are attractive, everything is easy to follow and uncluttered, characters' facial expressions are well done (I laughed at Peggy's "deer in the headlights" stunned expression upon seeing all of John's gorgeous friends at the musical), and it's just generally a lovely looking volume.

The story...well. The first half is pretty solid. Peggy tries to sabotage herself and fails, and John admits that he chose her because he figured she didn't actually want to be chosen and therefore didn't have an ulterior motives. They eventually had a nice dinner, and he managed to convince her to let him buy her a stereo as an apology, since that's what she'd really wanted.

The problems started when they ended up in bed together. John realized that Peggy was a virgin and went from "oh no, what I have I done?" to "you were just using me so that you could sell your story about your first time with John Gale to the media" in two seconds flat. Both Peggy and I were stunned and wondering what the heck happened.

John eventually realized that he was an idiot and apologized, but that didn't stop him from acting like an idiot the next time they ended up in bed together. When Peggy got up first thing in the morning to go to class, John acted like she was completely rejecting him. Dude, she's a college student - you don't get to tell her which classes she can afford to miss and which she can't. I disliked that it was Peggy who apologized first this time, and not John. Peggy hadn't done anything wrong.

For some reason, Peggy continued to stay with John and even agreed to move in with him. All kinds of warning bells went off in my head when he told her not to worry about work ("I'll lend you money until you graduate"). Considering his behavior up to that point, I fully expected him to either remind her that he was lending her money and therefore deserved all her time any time she wanted to do anything on her own, or get mad at some point and accuse her of using him for his money.

I could see what the ending was going for, but it was missing a few key pieces...like an actual demonstration on John's part that he really understood why Peggy had left. A big bouquet of flowers and an "I love you" didn't cut it.

All in all, this was nice looking and decent for what it was, but there's definitely better romance manga out there.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2020-01-25 17:40
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
The Ghost Bride: A Novel - Yangsze Choo

This is set in Malaya in 1893 and is narrated by Li Lan, the sheltered daughter of a now bankrupt but still fairly respectable family. She would normally be expected to marry, but her father, grief-stricken after smallpox killed his wife when Li Lan was very young, withdrew from the world and began taking opium. Her family doesn't know a lot of eligible and respectable young men that she might marry.

Even so, becoming a ghost bride is not something she'd willingly do, so she's horrified when her father brings home news that the wealthy Lim family would like her to marry their recently deceased heir, Lim Tian Ching. Li Lan refuses, but that doesn't stop Lim Tian Ching from entering her dreams and trying to change her mind. Meanwhile, Li Lan pines for handsome Tian Bai, the man she learns she was originally arranged to marry if Lim Tian Ching hadn't died and her family situation hadn't changed.

I've had this on my TBR for ages, but I don't know if I'd ever have gotten around to reading it if it weren't for the new Netflix adaptation. I saw the trailer, thought it looked amazing, and decided I wanted to read the book first. The author had mentioned on Twitter that the adaptation would be a bit different, and now that I've read the book and have rewatched the trailer, I can definitely see what she was talking about. In this case, I think the changes might have been for the better, and I'm very much looking forward to watching the show.

It's weird: technically, all the things I most liked about the book didn't show up until later, but I actually liked Li Lan more, and was more intrigued by the story, in the first half. Li Lan's position as an outsider to the Lim family, and a sheltered girl who'd never even been permitted to leave her home without someone accompanying her and taking care of her, gave whatever was going on with the Lim family an extra air of mystery. I wanted to know what had really happened to Lim Tian Ching, and what his family was hiding with their smiles and vast amounts of money and influence.

One of my favorite things about the book was its depiction of the afterlife, particularly the Plains of the Dead. The rules for how everything worked, and the way the world of the dead overlapped with the world of the living, were fascinating. The messed up family politics became even more interesting after Li Lan entered the Plains of the Dead and found out that there was a lot more going on than she realized.

That said, I feel like Li Lan was the wrong character for Choo to focus on. Maybe it would have helped if other characters had also been narrators, or if the book had occasionally switched to a third person narrator. Li Lan, unfortunately, was on the outskirts of pretty much every interesting storyline - the situation with the Lim family, the corruption investigation in the afterlife, the story of her mother. This worked well at first but became more and more annoying as the story progressed. If readers had to follow any one character, I'd have preferred it to be Er Lang. His investigation had to have been more interesting than Li Lan's mooning over Tian Bai, occasional anxiety that she wouldn't be able to get back into her body, and work as a servant in the afterlife.

Li Lan struck me as shallow. As sheltered as she was, I could understand her becoming starry eyed over Tian Bai, a handsome guy who was nice to her, but the extent to which she longed for him seemed excessive considering she barely knew the guy. She'd spoken to him maybe three or four times before deciding that she was in love with him. Romance-wise, things only got worse from there. A love triangle was introduced near the end of the book, involving a character who didn't even have a speaking role until almost halfway through.

Again, Li Lan

fell for the guy she barely knew anything about (although at least she'd spoken to him more than she'd spoken to Tian Bai when she decided that she was in love with him). I mean, he told her that his family would be worse than the Lims, and she didn't know him and his family dynamics well enough to know whether he'd leave her at his family's mercy or fully support her and stand by her side during whatever objections his family had. Then there was what her decision would do to her own family. What would happen to Amah if Li Lan's father's opium addiction killed him? And would she really be able to keep tabs on her family as much as she thought she would? And surely someone like the guy she chose would have other better options than Li Lan? It wasn't like he knew Li Lan much better than she knew him.

(spoiler show)


Even though I wasn't wild about this by the time I reached its ending, I'm still very much looking forward to the show. I think the Plains of the Dead are going to look amazing on-screen, and some of the changes made to the storyline may smooth over or erase my biggest issues with the book.

 

Extras:

A "Notes" section on ghost marriages, Chinese notions of the afterlife, Malaya, straits-born Chinese, Malay spelling, Chinese dialects, and Chinese names (as well as the meanings of a few names in the book).

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2020-01-20 20:46
has promise - still free
Simone Visits the Museum - Dr. Kelsi Bracmont,Takeia Marie

The language is bit formal and the kids a bit too perfect. Also considering the title, NAAMHAC is not really in the book that much. It made me remember a Sesame Street I read when a kid about Groover visiting a museum, and it actually had references to the museum.  I understand that this is a self published book and that there might be legal issues, but considering that title mention, there should be more of a sense of the museum. 

 

 

However, the artwork is stunning. Additionally, the story features a loving and successful family, who aren't perfect but are wonderful.

 

Note- apparently there is a Spanish edition that is also free.

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