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review 2016-07-25 22:01
Dearest Clementine by Lex Martin
Dearest Clementine - Lex Martin

Tropes: 17

“God, you make me hot when you talk grammar.”

I wish I could partially blame myself for going into this book with hopes too high; I'd heard great things about Dearest Clementine. 'Not like other new adult.' 'Independent heroine.' 'No asshole hero.'

But no, Dearest Clementine is just like all the rest.

Clementine, or Clem, has hardened her heart. After asshole boyfriends in the past, a family that barely acknowledges her these days, she's not keen to trust anyone. Her best friends (and her roommates), Jenna and Harper have helped her out of the worst anxiety and depression.

I don’t know what they saw in me, but their friendship helped pull me out of the darkness to the point that I don’t need to take anxiety meds anymore.

Still, Clem won't trust people, and she most certainly do not need a boyfriend. When she meets Gavin, he's the new member of her roommate's boyfriend's band. And, like Clem, he's a writer. Well, a journalist student whereas Clem, under a penname, is a bestselling YA author (a fact very few of her friends know of). Gavin is intersted in Clem from the start, and he tries to get under her skin, and slowly, he does.

For the past three years, I’ve ignored every guy who flirted with me. Every single one. But Gavin is different somehow. Sexy but sensitive. Strong but gentle. Easygoing but somehow intense. He can turn me inside out with one look, one touch, one kiss.

One of the biggest issues this book has is that it doesn't present any realistic development, neither for the characters or the plot. This quote above is the entire reason for why Clem is able to let Gavin in, and it's unrealistic in itself. Gavin is literally perfect (in Clem's eyes, and he's supposed to be to the reader as well, but I'll get to that soon). But back to the character development. Clem's development relies solely on Gavin, and his ability to be "perfect". It's thanks to him she's able to trust again, it's thanks to him she steps out of her bubble, it's thanks to his presence she's able to confront her own brother. It's unrealistic that she goes from not trusting anyone to letting Gavin in without any trouble at all, to opening up to the world. If her friends had played a bigger role, it could've been realistic, but since Clem's friends (only) purpose is to make her engage in sexual activities, or flirting, or trying to attract men, it's just a sad representation of female friendship.

When I say there's no realistic character development, what I'm really saying is that Clem's character isn't offered any realistic development. Gavin, the love interest, doesn't get any at all. He's perfect from the go, and, like other NA heroes, has about as much personality as a shoe box. He's sexy, every girl wants him (and every girl who does is somehow shamed for it even the heroine wants the same thing (eventually)), he's smart, kind, strong, manly, possessive and jealous, good at sex, etc.. (He's also prone to drop casual sexism from time to time.) Sounds familiar? It's because he is. He is all this from the start, and he's the same at the end.

When it comes to secondary characters, Jenna and Harper, Ryan (Jenna's boyfriend), Jax (Clem's brother), and a few others, they have no personality either. Jax especially should've been more fleshed out as it could've helped make Clem's progress more realistic (and the support coming from somewhere beside Gavin). He gets his own book (second in the series) so maybe that's why he didn't get as much time or development, but that was a big mistake. Jenna, Clem's best friend, is a joke. She's the stereotypical sex-obsessed friend whose purpose is to push the heroine toward hot sex (and hot men), and not much else. As said, a poor representation of female friendship.

Moving on to the plot. The overall plot is Clem learning to trust Gavin. Which is the problem, because the story is focused on making Clem trust a guy and not people in general. It's also focused on that Gavin himself makes her trust him, even when she's said she doesn't want him (but of course, in her mind, she wants him since all women wants it even when they say no, right?). You'd think that the friends that helped Clem to the extent of her not needing her anxiety medicine would play a part in helping her trust people, but no. It's all about Gavin's perfect persona that makes Clem trust people. A very troubling message: a woman can (with the help of her friends) get only so far in her progress, but in the end it's a man's assurance that will complete her progress.

The secondary plot is about a missing girl. Gavin is covering this for the school's newspaper, but after several months the police is out of leads. The mystery is put into the plot around 25-30%, and it's quite obvious who's behind it, since there is literally only one character that could possibly be the offender/kidnapper. I will discuss it more, but it's inside the spoiler:


You see, Clem, during her first year at uni is stalked, and then harassed and assaulted, by one of her professors. He took her under his wing and helped her write her first book. As time went, he began coming on to her, and when she said no, his obsession began. It ended with him moving away, and she got a restraining order on the professor. Now the professor is back and teaching at the uni again (which, is unrealistic as well, an quite offensive toward the university as the author uses a real one for the setting). He's also taking a new student (it appears) under his wing. Clem realizes this, and is worried, kinda, about the student. Yet, she doesn't say anything to her, because there is no good timing. Yup, Clem doesn't tell another (female) student that the professor stalker, assaulted, and tried to rape her, because Clem can't find the right time to tell her. Clem quickly found a way for the reader to lose all respect for her. Given all this, it's obvious who the offender/kidnapper, is. It's a poorly written mystery as more or less anyone will realize who's behind it from the go.

(spoiler show)

Basically, it's a poor attempt to bring some life into the story, and it adds nothing to the overall arc. It should've been left out of the story.

Dearest Clementine never had the chance to be something unique, or new, in the NA genre. It's full of sexism, misogyny, poor plot, no character development, and the usual carbon-cut characters. The writing overall is decent, nothing spectacular, but definitely readable. Unfortunately the book (and story) focused on all the wrong things, ending up in a mess.

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review 2016-06-27 09:12
The Secret Side of Emptu by Maria E. Andreu
The Secret Side of Empty - Maria E. Andreu
People always talk about fighting being the brave thing. But maybe the bravest thing is knowing when to stop. Knowing when you are beat. It is such a simple answer. It almost makes me happy.

The Secret Side of Empty is a touching story about M.T., an undocumented immigrant. (M.T. describes herself as an 'illegal immigrant'.) When entering her senior year of high school it is becoming clearer than ever for her how different her life is from her peers' lives. They have grand plans to head off to college, to travel, and what else they may choose. M.T. believes she does not have the same choices, that her life will come to a standstill. We follow her life through this period of uncertainty.

The author takes inspiration from her own life as an (formerly) undocumented immigrant, which is quite clear throughout the novel. There are moments that is clearly drawn from experience or watching it closely, such as M.T.'s life at home, especially the strained - abusive - relationship with her father. These moments and scenes were the best ones, due to their honest narration, painful as it was to read it. Overall, the portrayal of the mundane - if you can call it that - life of a family of undocumented immigrants; the struggles of finding jobs and make it financially, what risks to take and what to stay clear of.

The story is, however, quite uneven. The pacing and writing are uneven. For long periods of the book, nothing ever really happens, and we're stuck in M.T.'s head, whose voice is so dull. It's understandable though; as the story progresses, M.T. sinks into what can only be depression, but right from the start there's nothing exciting about her voice and narration, so the long stretches of time when nothing happens are downright boring despite the hard situation she's in. The writing suffers from a similar problem; one moment it flows and is a delight to read, and the next moment there are lines like these:

I feel electricity shooting from my hand to him, like those glass balls you put your hands on and the plasma makes shooting purple streaks to your hands. I can feel him, the cells of him.

Call it nitpicking if you'd like, but these two lines made me cringe for quite some time. I mean, 'I can feel the cells of him'? What does that even mean?

Would I recommend this book? Well, yes. Despite the uneven writing and vague plot, it's a decent story. It is especially a story that the YA genre needs to tell. The parts with M.T.'s family are wonderful and painful, heartbreaking and heartwarming. So yes, in the end, I'd recommend reading The Secret Side of Empty despite its flaws.

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review 2016-06-20 15:24
Tailspin by Raquel Valldeperas
Tailspin - Raquel Valldeperas


That's the best word to describe Tailspin. Like it's succeedor,Toxic, it's never quite clear what kind of story it wants to be. A heartfelt story about loss or a about a young man having to shoulder his parents' place when they die in an accident or a romance between a young man and a troubled young woman.

Tailspin is the story told from Nathan's POV, and the reader learns more about how his parents died, what happened within his family upon this loss, and how Nathan life was after it. Much like the first book, it's a little of all the above mentioned, but it's not enough of any of them for it to be compelling. The story is still perfectly fine (as I said in my review of Toxic, with all themes dealt with sensitivity. But it still lacks any depth in the characters' development and the plot. Add in that many of the chapters are retelling of exact scenes, just from Nathan's POV. This is rarely - if ever - interesting as the reader has already seen this scene, knows where it's going. Shortly: the tension is gone.

It's said this book can be read as a standalone, and I agree, but it's not in the book's favor. Without reading the first book there's a good chance the reader won't understand Lo, the heroine. It's clear she's an addict, but it's hard to get a grip on her as a character, as a person, so it's even more difficult to care for her. Which is exactly how Nathan came off in the first book. And perhaps here is the issue, the character development suffers from the rough transitions and (what felt like it) skipped scenes that would add another layer to the story, and the characters.

Undecided. Undecided in what the story wanted to accomplish with its plot and characters.

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review 2016-06-18 14:05
Toxic by Raquel Valldeperas
Toxic - Raquel Valldeperas

New Adult Tropes: 10

“Maybe you’ll tell me your story one day.”
I shrug my shoulders and say, “Maybe,” but I know that I never will. It’s a selfish story, full of ugly things that no child should ever have to witness and truths that no person should ever have to learn.

Toxic is indeed a story full of ugly things. We follow Logan - Lo for short - through her early youth through her teenage years. Years where she's put through what no human being should have to endure. Growing up with an absent father and a mother who's always looking for the next hit, Lo early on learns that she's "toxic". Or so her mother says, and so the mother of Lo's best friend. The latter causes Lo to lose her first real friend quickly, and when she's alone again, Lo's world takes another ugly turn. For years Lo is put through domestic abuse by her boyfriend. It doesn't take long for Lo to fall into a downward spiral filled with abuse and drugs. When Lo finally lands a job of her own as a bartender, things are looking up when the handsome owner, Nathan, takes an interest in her well being.

This is a perfectly nice story, despite the heavy topics (all dealt with sensitivity), and yet, it's hard to tell what kind of story this is. Is it a romance between Lo and the handsome owner of the bar? Is it the story of a struggling young woman? Is it a story about the world of drugs and abuse? It's hard to tell. It's a little of everything, but at the same time not enough of any. In theory, it's all good. The portrayal of Lo's childhood is dealt with well, but certain points are skipped over, and these are the moments that would showhow Lo descends into addiction. How the man who abuses her (sexually) turns into her boyfriend. While it's no long stretch to imagine these events, the reader misses insight into the mind of Lo, which, given the first POV narrative, is a big part of the story. And Nathan, he's a perfectly good guy - in theory. But here again, some parts seems to be skipped, and Nathan's character development takes the strongest hit. It's almost impossible to get a grip on him beyond what is told. So when a kiss occurs between Lo and Nathan, it's suddenly, a shock. There's almost no build up to their romantic relationship, again, because it felt as if certain scenes were left out.

As said, it's all perfectly fine, but it lacks a certain depth that would make these characters stand out, become complex identities that pop off the page. Instead they are rough at the edges, and not in a good way, but in a sense they feel unfinished. Which goes for the story as well. Each chapter is a date, so the reader knows how much time has passed, but there is a rough quality in the transition from chapter to chapter: scenes are left out and questions are unanswered.

This is the author's debut, and it's a good one. A solid one, but the best way to describe it is that: rough at the edges, just like it's characters.

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review 2016-05-09 17:30
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
Language does this to our memories--simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is the perfect book for a book club. It raises question about our society, how we see animals and how we treat them, family, and ethics. It's prefect for discussion. It's clever and insightful. Funny at times, yes. A good read.

But it made me feel absolutely nothing.

Which most likely is due to my own views on certain themes in this story. All it did was remind me of an assignment my sister once had where they had to write a paper about whether a monkey should have human rights or not. When she first told me about it I laughed out loud. For a while, I have to admit. It sounded ridiculous. Not that we should treat animals with kindness, but I kept thinking that we have animal rights (not all over the world, but where I live). And yes, I believe there should be a distinct line drawn between human rights and animal rights. Which, more or less is what this book resolves around. What differs us humans from animal? How great are the differences?

It's also about family. About Rosemary, Fern, and Lowell. This part was easier to relate to, if you eliminated the big surprise element. If we're focusing solely on the family aspect, it's a story one can relate to. We're shown several characters who could use therapy (for a long time). Rosemary and Lowell the most, but also Rosemary's friend Harlow. They are interesting characters but Rosemary's narrative brings the story down.

The narrative is meant to show off Rosemary's unstable mind, but some of the choices of structure and style were constant frustrations while reading. The writing gets choppy and pretentious for a great part of the story, causing me to almost not finish this book. As said, the narrative is meant to show off the unstable mind of Rosemary, but it doesn't quite come across the way it was intended, unfortunately.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is, for all purposes and intents, an interesting story that raises certain questions that should (and are) discussed today. At the same time, while doing this it loses some of its ability to connect the reader to the characters, making it seem more like a chore to read than reading for the interest of the characters and story.

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