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review 2017-04-18 20:59
Review: Last Seen Leaving
Last Seen Leaving - Caleb Roehrig

 

I snagged a copy of this one from Netgalley when it was a Read It Now title. I do rather enjoy YA mysteries. I’m a sucker particularly for missing person mysteries. The plot of this one drew me right in. The mystery aspect was what kept me reading.

 

Overall, I just didn’t like the main character Flynn much. I found him annoying and boarding on obnoxious. He had zero personality, and seemed kind of self-absorbed. Which is not exactly unusual behaviour for a teenage boy. He was so wrapped up in his own issues he barely noticed the problems his girlfriend January was having.  January had a friend at the toy shop she worked at, Kaz, who was a few years older. All of course the reader hears from Flynn in the beginning is what an ass Kaz is.

 

Kaz actually turned out to be my favourite character in the whole novel. Who is nothing like Flynn first assumes. As the novel progresses I found as a reader I had a lot of empathy for January, who has lived most of her life in the same town, has the same friends as Flynn, and then her mom married some up and coming Congressman who was fabulously rich and had a certain image to maintain and an asshole of a wayward son of his own, Anson. January was forced to move from her comfortable existence into this new world of fabulous rich political people where January and her mom were supposed to dress and act a certain way. While her mom lapped it up, January not so much.

 

As the novel progresses through flashbacks of conversations and moments that happened between January and Flynn, the reader learns about some of the problems that January was having with her situation, the ones that she told Flynn about. As Flynn starts looking deeper into January’s disappearance himself, he learns about a side of her he never really knew. Which makes him feel confused and guilty.

 

There are lots of questions and very little answers and information and everything new Flynn learns is something surprising. Flynn’s other major conflict throughout the novel is he’s gay and struggling to deal with it. He doesn’t seem to want to really accept it. Kaz is a big help here, and part of what makes Kaz such a wonderful character. He was a voice of reason and someone who really seemed to want to help Flynn and cared about him.

 

While Flynn himself…urg. I just found Flynn dull and boring and hard to connect with. He seemed very two dimensional.

 

The mystery of what happened to January was enough to keep my interest to the end of the novel, and to be fair, I didn’t guess who the bad guy was. There was a twist at the end – which was kind of a bit unbelievable to me, but left a possible question hovering.

 

Just an okay one for this reader.

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review 2017-04-12 14:28
Review: The Edge of Everything
The Edge of Everything - Jeff Giles

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I think this was something I requested on a whim. It was quite some time ago, I remember only glancing at the synopsis on Netgalley. Admittedly I went into this one remembering nothing on what it was about. I had it in my mind for some reason it was a dystopian.

 

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Starts off with teen Zoe at home at the start of a snow storm looking for her younger brother who’s gone out to play with their two dogs. But he doesn’t appear to be answering her calls to come inside before the storm really gets going. The storm is getting worse by the minute so Zoe goes out looking for him. During her search Zoe stumbles into the path of nasty piece of work Stan who is robbing their neighbour’s house. The neighbours having died recently. The confrontation is bad. Warning – Stan really hurts the two dogs. It’s brutal and unpleasant.

 

Zoe and her brother are rescued by a mysterious figure who arrives and kicks the crap out of Stan. The mysterious benefactor is hell bent on destroying Stan for his evil deeds and seems to have some sort of superpowers. But of course nothing goes quite so smoothly. Not once he starts actually interacting with Zoe.

 

The figure, who later becomes known as X has come from a sort of hell dimension known as The Lowlands and is a bounty hunter sent to reap souls of evil doers. Stan is his target. Though Zoe’s interaction with him is brief, he learns something of mercy. Which sets in motion a big ass chain of events.

 

X has very little concept of how to interact with Zoe. Not completing his mission has left him in dire-straights and great pain until the job is done. He collapses in a nearby house –which just happens to be Zoe’s. With the help of Zoe, her mom and her younger brother they help X pull himself together.

X’s dialogue is quite stilted and almost boarding on cheesy, but there’s something quite fascinating about how he copes with Zoe. He’s grown up in this hell dimension with only other damaged souls to guide him, so has very little sense of morality or anything.

 

While Zoe is your average teenager – she lives with her mom and younger brother and is struggling to cope with the recent death of her father. Zoe’s mom is one of the more likeable, believable adults of YA fiction. She’s involved without being over the top involved, and seems to know when to back off. The mom has some secrets which come out later on in the novel, while it’s not of the pleasant nature, it’s doesn’t actually make her any less likeable as a character, I thought the twists added dimension and believability to the mom character.

 

Zoe herself is an immensely likeable character, there was something delightful about the way she was written that made me as a reader connect with her immediately. I liked her tone of voice and her dialogue.

 

She handled the increasingly weird situation very well. Her relationship with X grows, and as they became equality fascinated and enamoured with each other can be described as instalovey, although the novel is so well written and both characters are so interesting – it’s instalove but instalove that actually works.

 

And they’re both smart enough to know there will be consequences for their actions. X has to deal with the Lowlands and the consequences of revealing his secrets and not completing his mission. There appears to be a hierarchy of demons or “Lords” who are the rulers and X has royally pissed off one of the worst who is determined to make an example of him. This particular Lord is a real asshole and his actions and dialogue is so over the top in the vain of I’m so evil and you’re so crap and you must suffer because I say so. It’s almost like a cartoon villain and kind of ridiculous but at the same time kind of amusing in a weird way.

 

Zoe learns some uncomfortable truths about her father’s past and certain things she was never meant to know. It’s quite emotional. Her dad was a caver and taught her how, and there’s an incredibly moving scene where she goes caving with a friend as a result of some of the secrets she learns. Exceptinonally moving and very tense in parts.

 

A wonderful mix of action and romance, a very unique plot and not at all what I was expecting. I really loved this one.  I loved this one so much I bought a finished hardback.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ).

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text 2017-01-25 11:26
DNF: The Fall of Butterflies
The Fall of Butterflies - Andrea Portes

I feel sort of bad for DNFing this one as this was a book I picked for a giveaway win. It sounds very much like my sort of book - average girl goes to super fancy boarding school and becomes friends with the most unattainable girl on campus - the one everyone wants to be friends with but it's this girl from a regular background that gets her attention. Things start to go great but then go very wrong.

 

Trigger Warnings for suicide and drug use.

 

I made it 265 pages and frankly just don't care anymore. I don't quite get what the point of this book is. I don't like the characters enough to care to want to finish to find out.

 

The style of the writing is bizarre. It's like the main character is chatting to a friend as she's telling the story, it's almost like - so I did this and that happens and you know that sort thing that you never think would happen to you? That totally happens to me and I know what you're thinking and don't think like that! Paraphrasing obviously. But it's sort of like that and disjointed and weird.

 

The main character is supposed to be very intelligent and sometimes it clearly shows and she can be very deep and insightful in surprising way. Other times the rambles are pointless. She starts off by describing her only friends with their disabilities and character flaws, she talks endlessly about wanting to kill herself, almost like it's just something to do. Which is annoying because of the almost blase way she talks something so serious. Then the plot sort of trails off and nothing really happens with it. It's never addressed. Only when she needs to use those emotions to manipulate something to her own advantage to change dorms. She pretends she's so stressed she'll want to kill herself and then remembers like - oh yeah, I sort of really wanted to do that so play off those emotions. Kind of disgusting. She uses the word "spastic" a lot when describing how her best friend is acting strange. And that pisses me off. No need to use that word.

 

The main character is horrible and annoying, and almost nothing has happened plotwise. Other than she's made friends with a very rich but flakey girl and now both girls are doing drugs - popping pills. One can get away with it because she's rich and everyone wants her to like them, but the other one is a scholarship student and can't afford to be strung out on drugs and not keep her grades up. It's blah and boring as hell. One is having an affair with a teacher and the other thinks it's a spectacularly bad idea. There are two potential boys the main character could be interested in.

 

Yawn.

 

I just have no desire to read anymore of this.

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text 2016-12-16 15:44
One Was Lost
One Was Lost - Natalie D. Richards

I received a copy from Netgalley.

The premise of this one sounded interesting enough, a group of teens on a senior field trip wind up stranded in the woods, spooky things start happening, teachers go missing and they're being stalked by an unknown figure who writes strange things on the arms of four of the kids. Dangerous. Darling. Damaged. Deceptive. With no clue what's happening, stranded from their classmates by bad weather, and suspicions mounting, the kids must pull together and figure a way to get to help and safety.

Kind of reads like a cheesy teen survival movie. It's certainly got all the right elements, and the plot was fairly fast paced. Only once it got to the reveal it was more eye rolling than shocking, at least for me anyway. The other problem I had with it was there are no depth to any of the characters. The main character Sera is sensible enough with a snarky tone, and clearly has some sort of a past with one of the boys on the trip, Lucas. Rich boy Jude has a clear attitude problem, ditzy Melanie and Hayley seem to be into drama, and quiet Emily doesn't seem to say much at all.

But there's no real reasons explained for anyone's attitude. We get a little insight into Jude as the novel progresses and there are a few flashbacks as to what happened with Sera and Lucas, some sort of a potential romance that didn't go very far, and Sera backed off. All that's mentioned is something to do with her mother and not wanting to repeat her mistakes.

More questions than answers. Once the spooky things started happening, the suspicion and tension builds fairly quickly, though it seems everyone is quick to point figures without much evidence. And while they're trying to figure things out with scary shit going down Sera and Lucas seem to be inexplicably drawn to each other. Cue more eye rolling from the reader. The romance felt forced and unnecessary, though in a way I can understand wanting someone to cling to in an increasingly dangerous situation.

There is a fair bit of background on Lucas's character, but almost nothing on Sera herself. Though to be fair, stupid romance decisions that can be blamed on teen hormones aside, Sera is pretty logical and fairly sensible for the most part.

Spoilers, but these bits really irritated me

 

There was one stupid scene where she hears something at night whilst in the tent and thinks it might be bears in their camp. And she goes OUTSIDE in the pitch DARK to see what's going on. Leaving her tent-mate Emily asleep inside the tent. For fuck's sake.

 

One teacher is missing, presumed dead after an icky find and the other is alive but appears ill, and all they want is a grownup who can help get them sorted, so it becomes all about waking the teacher and getting him on his feet. Sensible, no? Though once the teacher is awake enough to get his bearings and not being sick, once he doesn't immediately believe every word they tell him they start thinking he's the one responsible.

(spoiler show)

 

There's also a story about a girl who died in the woods many years ago on a trip similar to theirs.  Deemed an accident when kids went partying in the woods, but there are hints there may be more to the story. Never really explored until the end.

Which in typical teen horror movie fashion, turned completely stupid. At least, it did for me.

Kind of a blah read for me in the end. Interesting premise, not so great execution. Would have liked some more character depth and background info filtered into the story.

Thank you Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2016-11-29 20:11
Review: The Space Between
The Space Between - Michelle L. Teichman

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I’ve said it before and I will probably say it again, I’m all for lesbian relationships in YA fiction, as there isn’t nearly enough of it. Yet this is the second I’ve read I’ve found that the romance was beautifully written but the over all story was very disappointing. Also the second with an overwhelming religious theme causing major distress and upset. I found it preachy to the point of obnoxious. It was also incredibly repetitive, and I did find myself skimming through certain bits. 

 

The story is set in a high school in Canada, Harper Isabelle is going into her freshman year of high school, she’s always been pretty and popular, thanks to the help of her beautiful older sister Bronte, who is the most popular girl in school. Bronte has always been there to teach Harper about fashion and how to date and what to do with boys, how to smoke, how to be cool, how to pick the perfect friends and fit in. (Bronte is supposed to be the coolest thing since sliced bread but frankly she’s a horrible spoiled bitch). 

 

Starting high school Harper is in the perfect position to make herself popular right off. She’s got it made. Until one class where she finds herself noticing another girl, Sarah, who wears all black and is immediately branded a “loser” before she can even answer her name in roll-call.

 

Yet in answering questions in class on To Kill a Mockingbird, Sarah comes off as quite intelligent, but very shy, Harper picks up on her train of thought in answering questions. Of course, Sarah notices Harper who is drop dead gorgeous, but has already suffered the indignities of Harper’s mean girl friends (in which Harper did nothing tp help) decided Harper is not worth her time. 

 

Sarah has a twin brother Tyler, who’s hot and on Harper and her mean girl cronies radars. Sarah and Harper find themselves inevitably getting to know each other. Harper appears to have a little more of a mind than her hive and a  nicer personality than she initially shows herself to have. It seems like she's been living in her sister’s shadow trying to live up to an almost impossible reputation and hasn’t really been able to explore what she wants in her life. Her parents are lawyers and workaholics and never home so she and Bronte have always had money and the means to do pretty much whatever they want. 

Where Sarah’s father is a pastor, she and her brother live by very strict rules and even have to say grace over snacks. Of course Tyler has broken every rule and managed to get away with it, and Sarah the quieter of the two, has always been “different” because she’s not outgoing. Her parents chalk it up to “eccentric artist” type things. 

 

As Sarah and Harper get to know each other their feelings start to change and this slowly developing thing from tentative friendship to romance is actually very believable. Though it doesn’t help that Harper is actually dating Tyler by this point. Sarah is worried that Harper is using her to get to Tyler, and finds herself becoming more and more included in Tyler’s activities and hanging out with Harper and her friends and finally becoming more popular. 

 

One part that really really pissed me off was one Sunday morning when Sarah and her family go to church to listen to her pastor father’s sermon, he’s preaching about sins and how wrong it is to be gay and what a horrible horrible sin it is and how those people should go to hell forever (along those lines) and how those righteous should pray for those poor doomed soles. It is frankly disgusting that people are preaching this kind of ignorant bullshit.  

 

Problem is this hangs over Sarah for the rest of the novel. When the romance finally happens its very compelling. What lets things down for this book, at least for me, was how repetitive it was. Harper’s worried about her reputation, Sarah goes down the same spiral over and over, - I’m finally popular, what if its only to get to Tyler, my religion says this is so wrong. It’s the same thing. Again and again and again.  Though out of the two of them, Harper to be fair, was less annoying. She became more sure of herself, and what she wanted, her thoughts, her feelings without giving into what everyone expected of her. 

 

Though I was let down by the ending of the book, which I found to be overly dramatic and unrealistic. It seemed to want to sum everything up, while some aspects were dealt with - others were glossed over or barely mentioned, and then it’s an epilogue of four years later. Which just seemed overly sickly sweet and made my eyes roll.

 

Boring. 

 

I gave it two stars because some of it was well done, but over all I just didn’t really like this one much at all.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Book Enthusiast Promotions for approving my request to view the title. 

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