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review 2018-08-09 20:18
Review: Give The Dark My Love
Give the Dark My Love - Beth Revis

Review - Give The Dark My Love

 

I received a copy from Penguin's First to Read.

 

Initially I had mixed feelings about this book, mainly as the beginning was rather boring and seemed to have some fantasy tropes that are starting to seem rather overdone.  However the latter half of the book took a darker turn and the end was pretty damn good and unexpected. 

 

It starts off with the story's heroine Nedra is leaving her twin sister and her parents to head off to a posh academy she has earned a scholarship to to study alchemy. She comes from a poor village, and despite her reservations about leaving her family they all tell her it's the right thing to do and of course she's destined for greatness. 

 

We learn there is a terrible plague sickness sweeping through the lands and there appears to be no cure, once the symptoms are spotted the sufferer is doomed. There are quarantine hospitals for the sick, the disease spreading mostly through the poor people. 

 

Nedra didn't seem to have much of a personality at all really. She was nice enough, ready and willing to learn, and of course all the fancy rich students who attend the school look down their noses at her. Right away she manages to make a friend with a very rich handsome boy, Greggori And gains the attention of one of the most difficult professors to please. 

 

It's just a tad bit eye rolling. And of course before long it's abundantly clear Nedra is far more talented than anyone initially thought she would. Much to the chagrin of some of the students. The plot is interesting enough as Nedra learns more about the plague and how alchemy can help the victims. The way the alchemy works a little stomach churning. But it seems to be the only thing doing some good. 

 

There's a subplot going on along the lines of some of the wealthy rich men (including Greggori's father and his best friend and their family) don't like the fact that the island they live on is under rule by one Emperor who governs countless lands and empires. They want the island to be free so they can make their own laws. Doesn't help that the emperor is only a teenager. Nor do they like the new governor he has appointed to rule their island is a woman. (This comes into play much more later on the novel).

 

Nedra finds herself caught up in a search to find the cause of the plague which is becoming worse by the moment, and not just affecting poor people throwing everyone's theories on the origin out the window. This is becoming the sole focus of the plot. Along with Nedra's relationship with Greggori is of course growing into something more than friendship. Greggori is slowly starting to realise there's more to Nedra. And his own views on the side plot are changing. 

 

The Governor makes a few appearances in the novel helping the sick at the hospital Nedra is working in and appears to be nowhere near as bad as the press and everyone else is making her out to be. 

 

Biggest problem for me was Nedra is just so dull as a main character. Both she and Greggori are so wooden and uninteresting. I had no interest in their barely there slow burn romance (which is usually one of my favourite romance tropes) Nedra becomes almost dangerously obsessed with stopping the plague. 

 

She finds herself using darker and more forbidden forms of alchemy - necromancy. This was where the plot really started picking up and I just didn't want to put the book down. I needed to know. Nedra becomes much more interesting and so meticulous and careful about her planning. Faced with a personal tragedy  that seems to define a turning point for her. 

 

I can't say I particularly liked her any more as a character but I could certainly empathise with her and completely understood her determination to find a cure, no matter where it took her. Though there is a fine line between using alchemy to help a greater cause but then finding something darker that works to a personal gain. There's definitely an interesting grey area that all logic seems to vanish over once things become more dangerous and intense. 

 

There were some pretty epic twists towards the end that I did not see coming at all. And left at one hell of a cliffhanger. At one point I wasn't even sure I was going to bother finishing this book, but now I have to know what happens next!

 

A bit of a slow start but definitely worth sticking with. 

 

 

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review 2018-06-14 20:53
Review: Undead Girl Gang
Undead Girl Gang - Lily Anderson

Review: Undead Girl Gang

 

I received a copy from Penguin's First To Read.

 

This. Book. Was. Awesome. 

 

I absolutely loved it, from start to finish. I loved it so much I bought a finished hard back. There are some books you know from the tone of the first page if you're going to love them and the main character, and for me, this was one of those books. 

 

I felt a connection with Milla right away. I loved her don't give a fuck snarky tone. She's clearly grieving, the book opens with her best friend Riley's funeral. She has quite an interesting perspective on the funeral itself, a bunch of people from their school wailing and crying who would never have given Riley the time of day. Riley died in mysterious circumstances. The third death to happen to students from their class recently. Two of the schools most popular mean girls June and Dayton were also found deceased recently in what looked like a suicide pact. 

 

Neither Riley nor Milla fit in with the other students, they were heavily into Wicca, spending all their time at the local new-age magic shop or an abandoned house they found where they practice their spells and hang out. Riley's family own the local funeral home and Riley found herself a outcast, she and Milla connected and became best friends and have been for years. Though she'll never admit it Milla has an epic crush on Riley's hot, popular older brother Xander.

 

He's actually talking to her after the funeral. Milla is struggling with school, mandated meetings with the school shrink, and certain people (namely her chem lab partner) being a dick about her weight. She has two annoying younger sisters who don't seem to get 'personal space' and is generally miserable.

 

It's well written and believable without being over the top with the goth Wicca scene. The characters are well fleshed out as well. Milla's voice, despite her attitude problems, is easy to connect with. Her family drama, her school problems, it's not surprising she's not coping as well as she's saying she is. It's a sort of read between the lines thing. 

 

So she decides she's going to perform a spell to bring Riley back from the dead, find out what happened so she can bring the person who killed Riley to justice. It's not a simple basic spell, there are things she needs to get, certain times it can be performed. Kinda complicated. The method she received the volume of spells in which the actual spell to cast came to her is a little spooky. 

 

And of course when she heads to the magic shop with the  book, the lady who runs the shop tells her its a very old book and a dangerous one. Naturally of course, she doesn't listen to a word of warning. Hardly surprising then, when the spell works it not only brings back Riley, but June and Dayton too.

 

No one knows how it happened and it's not so much fun anymore with the two mean girls back again. They're all still dead, and discover some less than pleasant things about being a sort of zombie as they go along. No one remembers what happened before they died. The book from then on focuses on figuring out what happened to June, Dayton and Riley.

 

Some secrets come out as the novel progresses. And it has moments where it's very entertaining and quite funny as well. Though it has it's fair share of deep emotions and a few surprising twists to boost. Hints at something that could finally start to progress between Milla and Xander when they start developing a friendship of their own. 

 

One thing I did like was there wasn't really much romance involved. Hints and teasers, but it was more about the friendship with Milla and Riley and dealing with June and Dayton than about hooking up with the hot boy. 

 

A few more twists by the end when things start going wrong. Though when the truth is finally revealed, it's one of those why didn't I see this coming thing? It was quite clever. A tad over dramatic, maybe. Also, a standalone. Everything wrapped up decently and there wasn't any well what happened about so and so and no unanswered questions. 

 

I loved this book through and through and would definitely read it over and over.

 

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review 2018-06-03 17:14
Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo
Reading with Patrick - Michelle Kuo

A special thank you to Penguin Random House First to Read for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Michelle Kuo is a recent Harvard graduate that finds herself in a rural town in Arkansas as a Teach for America volunteer.  Wanting to make a difference in her students' lives, she is full of optimism but soon discovers how broken the system is.  Kuo tries a different tactic—she  uses quiet reading time and guided writing exercises as a way to instil a sense of self in her students.

Throughout her tenure, Kuo loses students for various reasons.  Some are as simple as truancy and others are harsh and stem from violence.  She also is inspired by some, and one of those students is Patrick who is fifteen and is still in grade eight.  Under Miss Kuo's attention, he flourishes.  However, Michelle is feeling incredible pressure from her Taiwanese immigrant parents to pursue other opportunities and ultimately leaves Arkansas after a couple of years to attend law school.

On the eve of her graduation, Michelle learns that Patrick has been incarcerated for murder.  Murder?  Patrick?  Kuo has incredible guilt and thinks that she is partly responsible because she prematurely left the school.  Determined to right the situation as best she can, Michelle returns to teaching Patrick from his jail cell while he awaits trial.  It is here that we get a sense of both of their characters.  Michelle doesn't waiver in her dedication, even when it appears as though Patrick has forgotten most of what she taught him.

In this moving and inspiring memoir of a teacher that didn't give up on her student, Patrick, Kuo shares the story of her mentorship of Patrick Browning and his incredible journey of self-discovery through literature and writing.  Kuo is also taken on her own journey as she is forced to navigate through several broken systems, racism, social standing, privilege, and relationships.

Friendship can come unexpectedly sometimes, and you never know your impact on someone else's life.  I highly recommend this wonderful story.  

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review 2018-04-11 12:57
Review: Royals
Royals - Rachel Hawkins

I received a copy from Penguin’s First To Read

 

This book was like a giant rom-com cliché. The alternate history for the Royal family was eye rolling and cringe worthy. That being said once you over look those things, it was actually a very entertaining read. Irritating as hell, but fun.

 

(Especially like me if you have a guilty pleasure for Royal gossip)

 

In this alternate world there is a Scottish Royal Family, and the heroine Daisy’s sister Ellie has fallen in love with Prince Alexander, heir to the throne. They are getting married. Daisy lives in Florida with her mom and her ex British rock star dad. She lives a pretty normal life. She has a part time job at a local convenience store and is looking forward to a planned trip to Key West with her BFF Isabel where they will go to a convention to meet their favourite fantasy author and get their books signed. All pretty normal.

 

But all this is thrown out of whack when Ellie announces she’s marrying the prince and the Royal family have invited the whole family to Scotland for a few weeks for the summer to get a taste of what’s coming.

 

Every other chapter is a page from a magazine or a gossip blog/tabloid.

 

Daisy is fuming but agrees on the basis that the Royal assistant Glynnis who has come with Ellie and Alex can arrange for a singing at a book shop near where they are staying and bring Isabel along later.

 

So off to Scotland they go given a Royal treatment – first class flights, fancy cars, the fanciest hotels. To add to the chaos, Alex’s younger brother, charming, Sebastian (who is Daisy’s age, 17) the most eligible teen in Scotland is there as well with his group of fancy friends. Sebastian is an ass, crude, full of himself and flirts with everything in a skirt. Daisy finds herself getting into a snit with his best friend Miles when a drunken Sebastian decides to head into her room.

 

The dialogue is sharp and witty and as soon as Miles and Daisy start snarking with each other it’s completely predictable as to what’s going to happen. Daisy has to go to several royal events and dress the part (something she’s not happy about) and of course things go eye rollingly wrong (including a rather amusing incident where she finds herself getting looked down on by some of the posh women and does a delightful job of holding her own and insulting them right back).

 

It’s cheesy as hell. However, at the time, I did find myself reading this with a grin on my face most of the time. Daisy is struggling to cope with major culture shock, even when her best friend finally arrives (Isabel’s huge crush on Sebastian not helping) Daisy finds herself unwittingly creating a scandal that catches the eye of the disapproving Queen. And Miles to the rescue.

 

Which leads to a fake dating plot.

 

As a lead character Daisy was immensely likeable, easy to understand where she’s coming from. Easy to follow her story as she moves between the very different world and gets to know the real people behind the tabloid gossip and learns maybe Miles isn’t the stuck up ass he pretends to be. They have some quite interesting conversations about their differences.

 

The end is absolutely gag worthy. But kind of works.

 

Not the most brilliant book I have ever read, but certainly an entertaining one.

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review 2018-03-19 11:33
Review: Nothing Left to Burn
Nothing Left To Burn - Heather Ezell

I received a copy from Penguin First to Read.

 

I went into this book not really knowing anything about it. It flagged my attention because I remembered if from my TBR list. I wasn’t expecting such an emotional gut-wrencher.

 

It starts with teenager Audrey wakened by firemen knocking on her door and some ungodly hour of the morning informing her of mandatory evacuation due to a raging wildfire. Audrey lives in Orange County, California. Her dad is out of town on a business trip and her mom and younger sister Maya have gone somewhere (I can’t remember where) for some really exclusive ballet audition for Maya. Audrey stayed home and went to a party the night before. It’s clear something happened there and she may be a tad hungover.

 

Naturally she’s completely freaked out and running around trying to figure out what to save, to get hold of her dad. She can’t bear the thought of freaking out her younger sister before her big audition. Also extremely worried over her boyfriend Brooks who is a volunteer firefighter.

 

What follows is an emotional roller coaster as Audrey comes to terms with the raging fire and how it’s effecting the people in her life. Also with flashback chapters on how she met Brooks and how their relationship developed.

 

It’s excellently written and the emotion pours out of the characters. Audrey comes across as a bit of a shy loner, with one best friend Grace. She doesn’t seem to get out much and feels a little left behind since Grace got a girlfriend, Quinn. Audrey works with Grace’s older brother Hayden on some AP projects for a class they’re in together. They’re friendly but you also get an impression something happened there as well that Audrey’s trying to avoid dealing with.

 

She meets Brooks at a party and they strike an immediate connection. He’s a loner as well, there’s gossip about him Audrey’s heard throughout the school grapevine but Brooks is nice and she doesn’t want to listen to rumours. Especially since they seem to be getting on so well. They start hanging out more and more and develop a deeper relationship going from friendship to something more romantic.

 

Audrey misses some red flags when Brooks’s behaviour starts changing. He’s got a complex past, his beloved brother died, he’s struggling to deal with it. Understandable. He can get her to talk, but doesn’t always seem to divulge much information about himself and gets annoyed and angry when asked about it. That should raise a few questions on its own. He doesn’t seem to like Audrey hanging out with her friends. He makes a scene about it when her friends show up at a birthday celebration for Audrey. He also seems kind of pushy about sex as well, especially since Audrey’s made it clear she wants to wait until she feels ready. Yet at the same time he can be very romantic as well.

 

The chapters switch between what is happening the day of the evacuation and what happened over the summer leading to that point.  As Audrey gets closer to Brooks she starts ignoring her own friends, and there’s big questions about what happened to Brooks’s deceased brother. Audrey gets some pretty shocking information. Yet she still can’t seem to think of much else.

 

There’s also a really great family dynamic as well, Audrey and her sister are really close and their relationship with their parents is decently described as well. The parents are involved without being overbearing and not pushed to the background.

 

There was a surprising twist in regards to the wildfire as well.

 

Beautifully written and really emotional as well, this was a quick read but a very good one. Definitely an author I would read again.

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