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review 2017-06-27 11:50
Review: Royce Rolls
Royce Rolls - Margaret Stohl

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I was really looking forward to this one. I’m actually not interested in reality television. (With the exception of Judge Judy and court TV)  I pretty much loathe the type of reality TV this book is based on. But I do actually like novels about reality TV.

 

Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me at all. The satirical nature of it was almost too over the top, it seemed to be going one minute like it was making light of all the ridiculous drama that this scripted reality family go through, then tried to be deep and meaningful as the main character tried to do whatever it took to keep her family together.

 

The biggest problem I had was the main characters, the Royces,  were all horrible horrible people. The mother Mercedes is the worst type of all about me showbiz mother who only seems interested in keeping the show on air, the eldest daughter Porsche, who was an attention seeking bimbo, focused only on her own fame and her own product line of cosmetics. The sixteen year old daughter Bentley is the one the reader is supposed to be routing for, nothing like the vapid character she supposedly portrays on the show she’s really quite deep and smarter than anyone ever imagined. Problem for this reader was I just didn’t like her. And then there’s Maybach, the youngest brother, who’s sole purpose seems to be the cute gay brother. Though for Bach, he seemed to just have a gambling problem that was used as plot point later on rather than give him a romance or something.

 

The premise of the novel is the show is on the verge of cancellation, the family want to keep it going, Bentley wants out and wants to go to college instead. So they keep coming up with more and more ridiculous antics to keep the public watching. So the older sister comes up with an idea for making a wedding, which would give her new product lines and sponsorships and things. Of course it’s all a big fake.

 

But when the chosen groom makes an appearance it all goes wrong very fast. The drama is ridiculously increasing throughout the novel. And to be fair, Bentley does a pretty good job of playing her role as the brattiest daughter of the bunch, managing to ruin planned events and become the worst sort of paparazzi fodder. It’s told with a tone that’s meant to be humorous, but it’s the type of humour that I found got very old and very tiring quite quickly.

 

Bentley finds herself stressed more than she wants to be, she finds out a pretty shocking secret about her sister’s so-called fiancé. She can’t talk to anyone about it. She’s also dealing with constant bickering between her mother and Porsche who seem to be trying to one up each other in antics meant to get attention. And then there’s annoying network executives to deal with and producers and such.

 

She does get a little bit of freedom when she can sneak away and hang out at the library, where she chats to a boy named Venice who appears to be a vagrant. She can talk to him like herself, she doesn’t have to play a character. And Venice listens to her. He was actually one of the decent characters. He had a huge secret of his own as well.

 

Again to be fair, the twist at towards the end was pretty damn epic.

 

There was just too much annoying stuff about the book in general to care by then, too much of Hollywood image crap, the body shaming was really irritating. While there were some decent scenes of the family coming together, finally, when the answers to the twists are finally revealed. There just wasn’t anything really redeemable by the end for my liking.  Reading it was a bit like even though it’s terrible there was still a need to know how it all turned out.  

 

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

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review 2017-06-09 11:52
Review: Letters to the Lost
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This was a gutwrencher of a book. I could only read it in short spurts because the emotional upheaval was so deep.

 

The novel tells the story of Juliet and Declan, both of whom are dealing with tough losses, both as results of tragic car accidents. Declan lost his younger sister, Juliet lost her mother.

 

 Declan appears to be your typical YA bad boy. Darkly good looking, grumpy yet possibly a lot smarter than everyone thinks he is. He’s sullied by a bad reputation. Whereas Juliet is a typical high school good girl. She has a run in with Declan in the halls one morning and accidentally spills her coffee on him running to class. However, when a teacher comes in a finds him moaning about it and yelling at her, he’s the one who’s carted off to detention.

 

Juliet has been spending a lot of time at the cemetery where her mother is buried and leaves her letters. Declan has community service with the grounds keeper at the same cemetery and one day he finds the unsigned letter Juliet has left her mother. And responds to it. Leading to a letter writing exchange without names. Where both parties explore their grief and guilt over their own losses and start to talk to each other in a way they can’t open up to anyone else.

 

The grief poured into the letters is raw and unflinching, mixing of guilt, anger and responsibility. Juliet and Declan are able to explore feelings they have never admitted to anyone else before, it’s much easier to talk to someone anonymous than admit these feelings their closest friends. The letters eventually become emails.

 

Yet in real life whenever Juliet and Declan have run-ins with each other, it’s unpleasant. They rub each other the wrong way. Yet keep finding themselves running into each other. He helps her out several times. And sometimes some of the things anonymous Declan says in his letters resonate deeply with Juliet, particularly when he talks about how unfair it is that with a bad reputation that wasn’t his fault he’s blamed automatically even when things aren’t his fault. This makes her start to try to open up.

 

Both have tough home situations, Juliet’s dad is trying but kind of absent and checked out. Juliet’s mom was a renowned photographer who was often out of the country in dangerous places. War zones and such. There’s a very hard hitting scene at the front of the book where Juliet’s dad asks her if he can sell her mom’s camera equipment to her mother’s agent, and Juliet falls to pieces. It’s tough to read and absolutely heart breaking.

 

While Declan’s mother is equally passive. His father is in jail after the accident that killed Declan’s sister, and his mom has since  gone through a patch of bad relationships and finally married a snotty man who has taken an instant disliking to Declan (bad reputation at fault again) and automatically assumes the worst. They argue a lot and Declan’s mom just won’t step in to defend her son.

 

Though Declan doesn’t help himself with an equally pissy attitude. Though it’s clear he loves his mom he’s obviously frustrated by her at the same time. His support system comes from his best friend Rev and his family. Who are all awesome.

 

Juliet and Declan keep finding themselves thrown together and start realising who the person they’re writing to might be. Which shocks both of them. But their feelings for each other are growing deeper and deeper despite their equal reluctance to admit the truth and open up to each other for real. Both find themselves dealing with some home truths in their own home lives which shock them to their cores.

 

It’s kind of obvious what’s going to happen in the romance department, but even you the way the story is written makes the reader want to get these two together. (Or it certainly did for me).

 

Beautifully written with some incredible characters. I loved it so much I bought a finished copy as well.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-05-31 09:59
Review: One of us is Lying
One of Us Is Lying - Karen M. McManus

I received a copy from Netgalley

 

This is a brilliant mystery that keeps the reader guessing right until the end. I had my suspects, and still turned out to be wrong. I watch a lot of crime drama so I’m usually quite good and guessing the killer, but I didn’t see the twist in this one coming at all. (Admittedly by the time I got to 80% and all my guesses were still wrong I did skim to the last few chapters to find out who it was, then went back and read it properly). Still managed to really surprise me.

 

It’s not the fluffy “Breakfast Club” retelling with a mystery aspect I was expecting. It’s a gritty novel full of secrets. While it’s filled with your typical mix of high school clichés – the jock, the brain, the dangerous but hot dude, the nerd, the princess – each character has their own secrets and well fleshed out personalities behind the cliché façade.

 

All of these characters, who don’t really know each other, they may have one or two classes together but have different friends, and they don’t hang out really. They wind up in detention because a teacher catches them with cell phones in a class where cell phones are not allowed. The phones are not theirs. Of course the teacher won’t listen. By the end of detention, the nerd, Simon, is dead.

 

Simon was notorious for running the school’s unofficial gossip app, posting students secrets. As the police investigation deepens, posts are revealed that contain damning secrets about each of the students that could ruin their reputations and possibly chances of their futures for certain characters.

 

Each one reacts differently. There’s a great sense of diversity among the characters, and I love how they all dealt with things and showed immense emotional growth over the course and came together to defend each other and solve the mystery. Nothing is as it initially seems and truths slowly start to come out creating big changes for different characters. No one is really who they are first seen to be.

 

The twists are really good.   I’m being vague, I know, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

It’s a really good read and I definitely look forward to more from this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-05-17 12:49
Review: Seven Days of You
Seven Days of You - Cecilia Vinesse

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I sort of liked this one and I sort of didn’t. I’m somewhat torn on what to feel about this book. It’s somewhere between a 3 star and 2 star read for me. The Anna and the French Kiss comparison is what made it snag my interest. Sofia has spent the last few years of her life in Tokyo at an international school with her best friends David and Mika. She has a gigantic crush on David. Her mom is a professor at a university in Tokyo. Mom has been transferred back to the United States. Sofia, her older sister Alison and her mom are leaving in seven days. Sofia has seven days to pack up her room and say goodbye to her friends.

 

Most of this book is pretty much teenagers being teenagers. Sofia is supposed to be packing, but she hangs out with her friends, enjoying the delights of Tokyo, partying, karaoke, staying out way late and lying to your parents about where you are, and crashing at her friend’s house, arguing and making up. And to add to the drama the friend Sofia fell out with years ago, Jamie, is back in Tokyo. She really liked him, but he was jealous over her crush on David and said something he shouldn’t have creating an argument that cost their friendship. Jamie’s good friends with her BFF Mika, and Mika insists on dragging Jamie along on their escapes. Friday is Mika’s birthday and with Sofia’s going away so there is a huge party. Not helped either by the fact that David’s sort of girlfriend Caroline has attached herself to their group even though no one really likes her that much. Typical teen drama.

 

Unfortunately, I found David and Mika to be some of the most incredibly annoying characters I’ve come across in a while. David is loud and arrogant, and I just don’t understand Sofia’s obsession with him. He nicknames her “Sofa” which is stupid and irritated the hell out of me. Mika came across to me as selfish. She’s very loud and foul mouthed, with a decent creative streak, she had her moments, but there were plenty of incidents where she and David were really crappy friends to Sofia.  Which lead to Sofia being really hurt.

 

While at the same time all this friendship drama is going on, Sofia is having family drama with her older sister Alison. Their parents are divorced, their dad lives in Paris with his new wife and new family. Sofia is given the opportunity to go and live in Paris with him for her senior year rather than go back to the US with Alison and her mom. Which causes major drama between Alison and Sofia as something like this has happened before and it didn’t pan out. Sofia was hurt and never quiet dealt with it.

 

When friendship drama with Mika and David hits a sour note, Sofia finds herself turning to Jamie, even though they had a massive argument years ago, they seem to have been able to move past it and grow closer, Sofia realises her feelings for Jamie may or may not be stronger than friendship, and she may not be the only one who feels this way. Made all the worse by the fact that the clock is ticking down to her leaving time.

 

Jamie was a much more likeable love interest than David. He was a nice, considerate boy, who talked to Sofia like a real person, he had his own problems and secrets, and tried not to let the drama have much of an effect on him. He was almost bordering on shy when he came in to the novel, he came alive more and more as the novel developed and showed more of a personality, particularly when he was hanging out with Sofia and their friendship became something more.

 

Sofia had a believable tone of voice and was actually quite likeable. She could be very immature and irritating, for sure. But she had some very deep emotional moments as she dealt with her feelings over leaving Tokyo, returning to the states, working out her true feelings about her father’s flakiness and if she still wanted the dream of living in Paris. The hurt she experienced when her friendships fell apart, and the romance as it developed between her and Jamie.

The constant drama did get a bit annoying, and I really did not like David and Mika at all. I did like Sofia. And thought it had a decent ending, a believable one as well, given the dramatics of the novel.

 

I can’t say this is a contemporary I would read again, but I would definitely read something else by this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hatchette Children’s Group for the review copy.

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review 2017-05-16 20:35
Review: We Come Apart
We Come Apart - Sarah Crossan,Brian Conaghan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I must admit I didn’t read the blurb properly on this book. It came through in a reader recommend thing from Netgalley on my email. I was at work at the time and just glanced it over, the premise was enough to peek my interest. So I put in a request. I didn’t actually read that it was a novel in verse.

 

I’m not a fan of novels in verse. I’ve never read one, the concept just holds no interest to me. While this was certainly a quick read, I read most of it during my lunch hour and finished it off at home, probably under two hours reading time in all. I can’t say I was blown away by the telling of a novel in verse. I find it distracting and annoying.

 

I can’t say I liked the story that much either. It’s a UK based novel, set in London.  I found the main character Jess very hard to have much sympathy for. Which makes me feel horrible because she comes from a really awful home situation. Very passive mother who has an absolute asshole of an abusive boyfriend who beats her and rules with an iron fist of fear and intimidation.

 

 It’s downright scary to read about. Especially must be awful for Jess who clearly loves her mum but can’t do anything about it.  Jess has a definite attitude problem and potty mouth, clearly puts a tough girl act on and has some bitchy tough girl friends. It’s not that I had no empathy for Jess, there were times when I felt terrible for what she was going through. Given her circumstances, her attitude is not at all surprising. But I just didn’t like her.

 

Jess finds herself arrested for shoplifting. Instead of juvenile detention she gets a community service sentence, clearing up trash in her local park.

 

The saving grace of this book was Nicu. I loved Nicu to pieces. He made reading this whole book worthwhile. Nicu’s family are Polish immigrants, looking to make money in the UK. They want to make some decent cash to take back home to their village to give Nicu a good start with a new wife, arranged by his parents and the parents of a girl from their village. Nicu gets no say in this. He has no interest in getting married at all.

 

He’s a decent boy, who in a stupid moment tried shop lifting and got caught. Because he’s an immigrant and because he doesn’t speak very good English, he gets caught and in trouble, but he’s given the same community service option given to Jess.  Nicu seems like a nice guy who generally tries to do the right thing. He just caved under pressure of a future he has no desire for and no options to really do something for himself. He made a bad decision and there were consequences for his action. Which he understands and takes responsibility for, by doing what is required of him. Unfortunately, this means attending English school too.

 

He meets Jess at the same community service programme. They have nothing to say to each other at first, but notice each other. And soon find ways of talking to each other. They also both go to the same school and of course notice each other there as well. Jess appears to be embarrassed to be seen talking to Nicu. Her friends are the popular kids, and they are bullies. Nicu suffers terrible bullying, and while Jess doesn’t take part in the name calling and pranks, she doesn’t exactly do anything to stop it either.

 

But Nicu has such a heart wrenching tone of voice, it’s solid and dependable, and as he struggles to cope with his situation he finds Jess to be his reason for going on. As far as he’s concerned the sun rises and sets on her. He’s completely infatuated. And she eventually starts to thaw, little pieces of her tough girl personality slipping aside as Nicu breaks through her layers of protection and starts to get to know a whole different side of Jess.

 

Of course given their respective parental situations, nothing is easy going. Jess’s friends don’t make I any easier, and neither do the boy bullies in their class. One bad decision leads to another and Nicu and Jess find themselves with a horrible choice to make.

 

While the novel certainly hit some rough emotional notes,

I didn’t really think much of the way it ended. While one character got a break, one didn’t. And…it just didn’t sit right with me, that one gets away clean and the other makes a huge sacrifice. They both should have got a new start.

(spoiler show)

 

I can’t say I will be reading another novel in verse any time soon. If either of the two authors wrote a contemporary YA that wasn’t in verse, I would be interested. This novel really didn’t work for me.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & AUS) for approving my request to view the title.

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