A Modern Day Sherlock Holmes Fail

review

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Lock and Mori

Lock and Mori #1

Heather W. Petty

2stars


 

In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students—one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James “Mori” Moriarty—meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.

Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more…


FACT: Someone has been murdered in London’s Regent’s Park. The police have no leads.


FACT: Miss James “Mori” Moriarty and Sherlock “Lock” Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.

FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.

FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock’s one rule—they must share every clue with each other—Mori is keeping secrets.

OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can’t trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

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I’d first like to say that this book was 245 pages and it took me 3 days to read it.  I should have been able to finish it within a single afternoon, so that’s saying something.

I’m not a super huge Sherlock Holmes fan. I’ve only ever read The Hound of the Baskervilles, but I do watch BBC Sherlock and the American Elementary. And I really like retellings, both fairytales and classics. So I thought I would really enjoy Lock and Mori, a modern day retelling focusing on Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty, who happens to be female in this version.

But almost right away I felt like something was off. Again, I don’t know that much about the characters beyond what I’ve seen portrayed in shows, but neither one felt true to what I’m guessing the original would be.

Obviously authors have the right to change things, but I was just not a fan. Not only were they almost nothing like the originals, but they were so bland. There was nothing exciting about them. Plus, John Watson has 2 lines and I’m sorry, but there is no Sherlock without Watson.

And the instalove! Now I’m almost positive that Sherlock and Moriarty are nemeses of sorts, so to have them fall in love could be controversial to begin with, but this was just a bit ridiculous.  They’ve known each other like 3 weeks and Mori claims that she will always love him. Give me a break.

And the actual plot? Lame. You find out almost right away who the killer is and then it’s just Mori hiding facts from Sherlock. Also, she is a fucking idiot for how she handled things. I kind of understand why she thought she should do things that way, but no. She was so stupid.

This was a fail and I will not be continuing with the series.

ARC Review: The Girl Who Fell by Shannon M Parker

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Thegirlwhofell

 

The Girl Who Fell

Shannon M. Parker

Publication: March 1, 2016

Source: Netgalley, e-ARC

4stars

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

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His obsession.
Her fall.

High school senior Zephyr Doyle is swept off her feet—and into an intense relationship—by the new boy in school.

Zephyr is focused. Focused on leading her team to the field hockey state championship and leaving her small town for her dream school, Boston College.

But love has a way of changing things.

Enter the new boy in school: the hockey team’s starting goaltender, Alec. He’s cute, charming, and most important, Alec doesn’t judge Zephyr. He understands her fears and insecurities—he even shares them. Soon, their relationship becomes something bigger than Zephyr, something she can’t control, something she doesn’t want to control.

Zephyr swears it must be love. Because love is powerful, and overwhelming, and…terrifying?

But love shouldn’t make you abandon your dreams, or push your friends away. And love shouldn’t make you feel guilty—or worse, ashamed.

So when Zephyr finally begins to see Alec for who he really is, she knows it’s time to take back control of her life.

If she waits any longer, it may be too late.

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I have been interested in this book since April 2015 when the only description it had was :

A YA debut in which a high school senior mistakes her boyfriend’s physical and mental manipulations for devotion, only to discover the truth when it may be too late.

That right there hooked me and I knew I had to read it.

There are a plethora of examples in YA Lit of unhealthy and borderline, if not straight up abusive relationships. And the majority of readers rarely acknowledge them. Instead the asshole love interests are lauded and adored and the relationships are set as standards of true love. And it’s bullshit.

This book is so important because it shows just how wrong relationships like these can end up.

Personally, it was an extremely hard book to read. I saw SO much of my 16-year-old self with her first boyfriend and her first love in Zephyr. Of course, my relationship wasn’t as abusive as the one presented in this one, but still. It has taken me over a decade to recognize that a lot of what happened in that relationship was incredibly unhealthy. Anyone who has experienced the all-consuming, need to spend every second with someone, type of first love that usually manifests in high school students will be able to connect with Zephyr.

It was also hard to read just because you already know how it ends. The synopsis and the opening chapter sets up how things turn out, so you go in knowing that shit is going to hit the fan and it is so hard to see Zephyr realize that for herself. The entire time I just wanted to jump into the book and shake her and make her see what was so obvious to the reader.

The writing was superb. Parker did a wonderful job of slowly building up to the climax of the book, subtly showing how unstable Alec was, but was also able to make it seem so reasonable that Zephyr didn’t recognize it for what it was. Alec’s emotional manipulation was so ingrained in the text that sometimes I had to even reread a few sections to see it myself. Honestly, the writing was the highlight of this book.

Zephyr’s friends Gregg and Lizzie were interesting characters. They weren’t nearly as developed as Zephyr or even Alec, but they added an interesting touch. 500 points for a great female friendship, and a great friend who sticks by Zephyr even when she is ditched multiple times. Gregg was a bit of a jerk at times, but he was still a good friend.

There was also the subplot with her father who walked out on her and her mother the previous summer and it was interesting and totally played into the overall plot, but I was really just here for the “romance”.

My only real complaint is that the ending seemed a tad rushed, but honestly, it’s fine. It didn’t detract from the powerful message. I read this in one sitting. I was hooked from the moment I started, and only took a few breaks when my anxiety was about to hit the roof and I just couldn’t read anymore. This book reminded me so much of a tamer Fear, the 1996 movie with Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon, minus the iconic rollercoaster scene. So if you’re a fan of the movie and you like YA, I would say that this is a must read (And you aren’t a fan of the movie, you’re wrong because it’s a cinematic masterpiece. JK. But really…NICOLE 4EVA.)

Sailing Through Time: Review of The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

review

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The Girl From Everywhere

The Girl From Everywhere #1

Heidi Heilig

2/16/2016

Source: Netgalley

3stars

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.


Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times – although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix’s father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix’s existence rather dangerously in question…

Nix has grown used to her father’s obsession, but only because she’s convinced it can’t work. But then a map falls into her father’s lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it’s that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever.


 

Again I should point out that time travel books are my favorite so they are probably already always guaranteed at least 3 stars.  Or maybe I just haven’t read a really bad time travel book yet.

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The Good

The Storytelling

The Girl From Everywhere was a beautiful blend of history and mythology. On top of time traveling, which they call “navigating”, to the far off past, they can also go to mythical places, since it’s based on maps, and the belief that these places/things existed. That means if they found a map of Atlantis, there is a strong possibility they could actually go to Atlantis.  Kashmir, actually might even be from a mythical location that people once believed existed.   So to learn about Hawaiian mythology was really cool and I think Heilig did a wonderful job of weaving it into the story.

Plus, a lot of what happened was inspired by actual events! I definitely don’t really have a huge grasp on time travel science, but I like the theory that you can never really change the present/future.  Everything you do in the past has/will already happen in the present, simply by you going back to the past.  Does that make any sense?  Who knows if that’s a real theory, but it’s the one I like most.  So to find out that some of the events actually happened added to my favorite time travel theory.  Plus I just really love history.

The Familial Relationships

Nix’s dad is a huge jerk.  He’s obsessed with getting back to 1868 so that he can save Nix’s mother’s life, even if it includes endangering his daughter’s existence, only really cares about himself, and is an opium addict.  But I actually really enjoyed Nix and his relationships, her frustration over wanting to leave and feeling obligated to stay, and the growth their relationship undergoes.  It actually isn’t very often where a parent is a pretty prevalent secondary character in a YA novel.

The Lack of Romance

Ok, so there are not so subtle hints of romance, and even the briefest glimpses of a love triangle (although I don’t actually think it was one, but I’ll come back to that later), but this book was so much more.  The relationship between Nix and Kashmir was so perfect because that’s all it was: hints. They developed on their own and together. There is nothing better than when you can completely remove the romantic storyline and nothing changes.

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The Not So Good

Nothing in this book was bad per say, but there were some issues

Backstory/Worldbuilding

While Heilig did a wonderful job bringing Hawaii to life, not so much with explaining the science/magic behind the ability to navigate.  It involves maps, which you can only use once, doesn’t have to include ships and you have to believe it, but that’s basically all we know.  While I would prefer the information to be woven throughout the storytelling, I would much prefer an massive info dump to a lack of information.  It didn’t really ruin the book for me, and maybe it’s good that it’s a bit vague because it does seem magical.

The Actual Lack of “Navigating”

Ok, for a time travel book, they stay in one place for a good like 80% of the book.  We do get to see some of 18th century Calcutta and ancient (I think) China, most of the story takes place on one island of Hawaii. And to be honest, it made the plot a bit slow.  Usually with time travel books I’m always excited for the next location, which speeds up the pace a lot.  The Girl From Everywhere is over 400 pages long, and while it was still a quick read (for me anyway), there were some times when I was a bit bored.  While it was wonderful learning about and visualizing Hawaii in 1884, I wanted more action and adventure.

The Fact that This is A Series

Honestly, this book is a perfect standalone.  While I would love to learn more about the science/magic behind the navigating and actually see more traveling, I would prefer this not to be a series.  Maybe it will be a companion novel series, which I would enjoy more, because Nix’s story just seems to have ended perfectly.  It was open and free and anything can happen, and I kind of don’t want to see that. Especially since I suspect a series would definitely involve a love triangle and I’m not here for that.  So unless it is a companion novel, I don’t think I will be reading the next one.

 

Overall, I enjoyed this book enough to look past the lack of explanation/navigating.  I will probably even reread it (probably in preparation for the sequel which I say I won’t read but totally will).  If I wasn’t on a 6 month book buying ban I might even buy it.  Check back with me in 5 months.

 

*This is a scheduled post. I am currently on vacation*

DNF Report: Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Jade Lange

DNF

rebelbullygeekpariah

Rebel Bully Geek Pariah

Erin Jade Lange

Publication: 2/16/2016

*No Rating*

Goodreads


“The Breakfast Club” gets a modern, high-stakes reboot in this story of four very different teens and a night that changes them forever.

The Rebel: Once popular, Andi is now a dreadlocked, tattooed wild child.
The Bully: York torments everyone who crosses his path, especially his younger brother.
The Geek: Tired of being bullied, Boston is obsessed with getting into an Ivy League college.
The Pariah: Choosing to be invisible has always worked for Sam . . . until tonight.

When Andi, York, Boston, and Sam find themselves hiding in the woods after a party gets busted by the cops, they hop into the nearest car they see and take off—the first decision of many in a night that will change their lives forever. By the light of day, these four would never be caught dead together, but when their getaway takes a dangerously unpredictable turn, sticking together could be the only way to survive.

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DNF at 42%

I’m going to be honest: I started reading this book a long time ago and put it down.  I tried to pick it back up but within the first 5 minutes of reading I was annoyed again at how stupid these characters were.

For some reason all four teenagers think that it would be better to steal an SUV than to either a) hide in the woods and wait for the cops to be gone or b) just let the cops find them and get a ticket for underage drinking, which THE MAIN CHARACTER WASN’T EVEN DOING.  Nope. Instead they steal an SUV, run from a bunch of “cops” who are shooting at them, and wind up with a bunch of heroin in their possession.  And they let the kid who has been drinking drive them around, and he HITS SOMEBODY. Like What the HELL? And then when Sam, the MC, is given the chance to leave, does she take it? Nope. She sticks around and they all run off to Boston and York’s mansion cabin in the woods.  What an idiot.

There are plenty of other books I can be reading instead of wasting my time on something that is making me angry.

Review: Up To This Pointe by Jennifer Longo

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Up to This Pointe

Jennifer Longo

Publication: 1/19/2016 

Source: Netgalley, e-ARC

3stars

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


She had a plan. It went south.

Harper is a dancer. She and her best friend, Kate, have one goal: becoming professional ballerinas. And Harper won’t let anything—or anyone—get in the way of The Plan, not even the boy she and Kate are both drawn to.
 
Harper is a Scott. She’s related to Robert Falcon Scott, the explorer who died racing to the South Pole. So when Harper’s life takes an unexpected turn, she finagles (read: lies) her way to the icy dark of McMurdo Station . . . in Antarctica. Extreme, but somehow fitting—apparently she has always been in the dark, dancing on ice this whole time. And no one warned her. Not her family, not her best friend, not even the boy who has somehow found a way into her heart.


This might contain spoilers, but I thought the reason for why Harper wound up in Antarctica was obvious from the synopsis alone, so I’m going to talk about that within my review. 

I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary YA.  I used to be way more into when I was a teenager myself, but now I often find that I feel way too removed from the trials of being a teenager that it doesn’t end up working.  So I was very pleasantly surprised by this novel.

I am secretly obsessed with ballet, even though I only took lessons for 2 years when I was 5.  There aren’t too many books that are about ballet, but I am always looking for more.  Up to This Pointe, isn’t exactly really about ballet, but more about the dancer and what happens when the plan you worked for your entire life is dashed right before your eyes.

Harper and her best friend Kate have had a plan in place since they were young.  They are both going to dance with the San Francisco Ballet after graduating high school.  Except, as Harper soon learns, although she has more love for ballet than possibly anything else in her life, she does not have the skill to make it as a professional dancer.  She feels an obvious sense of loss and confusion and ends up running away to Antarctica to figure out what to do next.

Before I go into anything else, I want to talk about the fact that NO ONE, especially her ballet teacher, tells Harper that she does not have the talent to make it as a ballet dancer until it almost too late.  Her teacher waits until a few weeks before the audition to break it to her that there is no way she would ever be picked up by a company.  Now, that might seem harsh, and it is, but that’s ballet.  And this should have been relayed to Harper years before the story takes place.  She probably would have still auditioned, because that’s just who she is (and she still does) but at least she would have had years, not weeks to come to terms with the fact that she will probably not be selected.  It just made me angry, and doesn’t seem realistic that a ballet teacher wouldn’t have informed her of this.

I liked Harper.  I loved her love for ballet, her students and her city.  This book was a beautiful homage to San Francisco.  I understand her need to go away to find herself after such a devastating loss. But I think the best part of this book was the friendships.  SO MANY FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS.  Kate, Vivian and Charlotte are the main women that Harper interacts with and each relationship was different, and I think wonderfully portrayed.  The friendship with Vivian might have been a bit rushed, but I still really enjoyed it. And there was a moment where I really hated Kate, but for the most part I understand her as well (I, personally, wouldn’t have forgiven her for saying what she did, but that is just me and I’m petty and I can hold a fantastic grudge).  The relationships weren’t always perfect, but they were realistic and that means a lot more.

Another plus was the family relationships portrayed in this book.  A huge hell yeah for present and pretty awesome parents and a positive sibling relationship.

The romance, although not really entirely a love triangle, wasn’t my favorite part, but I’m really happy with how it ended.  It might seem like it, but I don’t think the romance was even really a huge focus of the story.  A lot of it was just Harper trying to figure shit out and what to do now that she can’t be a dancer.  The answer was right in front of her all along and I’m happy with the ending.

There are just some things that weren’t fully addressed and I have some issues with.  As a dancer (and one who wants to be a professional), Harper obviously has to retain the right body weight (I say obviously because ballet is brutal).  She is constantly dieting, and there were some points where it seemed extremely close to anorexia.  If it’s not anorexia, she has some serious issues with food and eating and they were hardly addressed.  Also, what’s with her nails always being blue (not painted blue, just blue).  Does she just have bad circulation?  Is it because of her weight? WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS BLUE?  You tell me this but don’t explain it.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading it.  A win for contemporary YA, which I haven’t had the best of luck with recently!

 

My first “Nope” Review: Beautiful Creatures

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Before I even started my blog, I knew I wanted to set a few challenges for myself in 2016.  There were a bunch of series I wanted to start and a bunch to finish.  I also wanted to actually take a second look at books that I had previously labeled “Nope” for some reason or another.  Usually due to others reviews I decided not to read certain books, and I decided that simply wasn’t fair and I wanted to give the books a try, because maybe I would find a book that I actually really enjoyed.  You can check out the original post here.

My first book in this “Nope Challenge” was Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

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Beautiful Creatures

Caster Chronicles #1

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

2009

2stars

Goodreads


Is falling in love the beginning . . . or the end?

In Ethan Wate’s hometown there lies the darkest of secrets . . .

There is a girl. Slowly, she pulled the hood from her head . . . Green eyes, black hair. Lena Duchannes.

There is a curse. On the Sixteenth Moon, the Sixteenth Year, the Book will take what it’s been promised. And no one can stop it.

In the end, there is a grave.

Lena and Ethan become bound together by a deep, powerful love. But Lena is cursed and on her sixteenth birthday, her fate will be decided. Ethan never even saw it coming.


 

Obviously since this was on my “Nope” shelf, reviews had warned me against it.  But I really just had to see it for myself.  So where should I start?

The writing is really bad. Honestly, I recognized this on the second page. I can sometimes look past bad writing if I’m invested in the plot.  Hell, I’m not winning any awards for my writing.  But, it was really, really bad in this. And, on top of bad writing, the pacing of the plot is too slow, yet oddly jumbled and confusing at many points.  I mean, I enjoyed the overall plot.  I thought the world Garcia and Stohl created was interesting and deep, if only a bit confusing, but this book did not have to be 500 pages.  There are some books that do.  There are some books that NEED to be 800 pages long and every single word is important.  This is not one of them.  Again, take 200 pages off, speed up the plot and it probably would have gotten a better rating, bad writing and all.

I liked the setting.  I haven’t read too many “Southern Gothics” and this book really made me interested in them, mainly because it didn’t do that great of a job creating the South for me. I mean, I know the South can still be pretty backwards (well America can just be pretty backwards sometimes, so it’s wrong to just point to the South), but I have a real hard time believing that this book is supposed to take place in the present day with how they treat Lena.  Totally not believable.  But I am totally interested in reading more Southern Gothic stories.

I did like that it was a male POV, except for the fact that it was so hard to remember that Ethan was a dude.  He didn’t sound like any 16 year old boy I ever met.  I’m not trying to say that he wasn’t manly enough, I just think that the authors don’t know how to write from the male perspective.  I wasn’t a huge fan of Ethan, but he wasn’t half as bad as Lena.

Lena, hmm I don’t even know what I can really say about her except I hated her. Like if there is nothing you can do about possibly going dark, then get the fuck over it.  She was so god damn melodramatic I wanted to rip my hair out.  Honestly, Ridley was the best character and it made me realize that I am sick of reading about the “good” side.  The dark side might be a nice place to set a story.

Both Ethan and Lena are extremely stupid. I mean they have this whole conversation over what the clue “Claim Yourself” means.  That’s when I lost it.  I would have thrown the book across the room if I hadn’t been reading on the computer or if I hadn’t been at work. Their romance was so disgustingly gag-worthy.  It’s insta-love of epic proportions, even if they don’t admit it right away.  The way Ethan thinks about Lena makes me want to throw up.  Not even my high school boyfriend was that cheesy.

The ending was entirely too convenient and it made me pretty angry.

This would have been a great book. If not for the characters.  Or the pacing.  Or the writing.  Obviously I finished it. I read 567 pages, so it gets 2 stars because I just need to prove to myself that I didn’t waste my time.

nopechallenge

Why I didn’t want to read it:      Reviews

Why I changed my mind:    Popularity

Do I regret reading it?:    Not exactly

Will I continue the series?:    Probably not

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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This is Where it Ends

Marieke Nijkamp

Publication: 1/5/16

Source: Netgalley, e-ARC

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Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

*I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.*


 

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03
The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05
Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.


 

I don’t like to read books about serious subjects. When I read I want to be taken to a place where I don’t have to face problems and issues that we already see too much of everyday. That is why I don’t like books about disease/death, rape/abuse or even really mental illness or suicide. I get that these books are important and totally support them being written and other people reading them, I would rather just read a book where all of the worlds problems are disguised in terms of magic and whatnot.

So, for the life of me I don’t know why I requested This is Where it Ends, a book where the plot is told over 54 in the midst of a school shooting. I had no plans on actually reading it. And then I decided to make a blog and to dedicate myself to reading all of the ARCs I was lucky enough to be granted (future ARCs, that is. The ones from last year will probably continue to sit on my kindle).

So I went into this book knowing it wasn’t a subject I wanted to read about. I’d like to add that when I do decide to venture into the realistic, difficult topic type books, I expect to be destroyed. I want to be sobbing in a ball by the end of the book. Or I want to be so angry that I could rage for hours. Or my head to hurt from all the thinking the book forced me to do.

And all I feel right now is indifference. Ok, my eyes got a bit blurry at the end, but the rest of the time I was reading? I felt nothing. Actually, I was bored. Every time I “turned” the page, I had to tell myself not to DNF it. That a book with such a delicate topic deserved to be read. That these voices deserved to be heard.

But I kind of wish I DNFed it around 50% when I first wanted to.

I didn’t exactly expect it, but the synopsis told me this would be the ultimate game of survival. And while it was, because it was told from the POV of 4 different victims, it was still boring. It was basically a bunch of flashbacks so that readers can understand what made these four narrators special and their relationship to, Tyler, the shooter.

Autumn: Tyler’s sister. An aspiring ballerina with an abusive father.

Sylvia: Autumn’s girlfriend. POC. Mother is very ill. Tyler has it out for her for “stealing” and “corrupting” his sister

Tomas: Sylvia’s twin brother. Has gotten into fights with Tyler and knows Tyler did something that made his sister terrified of him. Is a lovable troublemaker.

Claire: Tyler’s ex girlfriend. ROTC member, does her duty. Has a brother with Lupus.

See these characters are so wonderful. And so, so boring.

Obviously a book with such an important topic doesn’t have to be non-stop action for it to be worthwhile, but I just couldn’t get over how bored I was.  I could barely tell the characters apart and there wasn’t a single one that I actually connected with.  Maybe I can’t connect with them because I have, thankfully, never experience anything as harrowing as this, but I should feel something for them.  And I didn’t. If I didn’t have their names right up there I probably wouldn’t even remember them.

There was quite a bit of romance that I was not expecting for a book about a school shooting.  Half the time the characters were going on and on about their love lives. And yeah, I’m sure it’s impossible not to think about the people you love in times of crisis, but it just went a bit too far in this book.

I have seen a few other reviewers mention that Tyler is presented as almost entirely evil .  And I would kind of have to agree.  It wasn’t my main issue with the book, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice it and that it  didn’t detract from my overall feelings for the book.

Sidetrack here, but the thing I love most about the Game of Thrones series (ASOIF) is that there are such wonderfully complex, morally grey characters. Every time I read it, it reminds me that we don’t live in a world of Good vs Evil. It’s human vs human. In the wise words of some character in Harry Potter (can’t remember for the life of me): “the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.” And this book doesn’t take either of those ideas into consideration.

So if there was ever a time to see someone like Tyler’s POV, this book would be it.  Instead we are presented with pretty much just an evil kid hellbent on revenge. Actually, just go read  Nenia Campbell’s review. I agree with everything she says and she does so  way better than I can.  Presenting the shooter in this way does nothing to help us understand how/why school shootings happen or how we can help prevent them.

Also, a lot of what bothered me about this book was that I couldn’t get a clear image in my head of what was going on. And it has nothing to do with the fact that in times of crisis things blur together. I think it had less to do with the fact that it was told from 4 different POV, and more to do with that it is told within 2-4 minute increments, with each character retelling the same events in some cases. An example is when Autumn is walking towards her brother in the auditorium, and it goes on for like 15 pages where he hasn’t noticed her and she is still walking.  I’m probably not explaining it right, it just bothered me.

So I gave this book a 2. I was strongly in the 1 camp for the majority of it, but it did make me tear up and I did end up finishing it, so I didn’t exactly hate it. I was just disappointed.

Sanctuary Bay by Melinda Metz and Laura J Burns

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Sanctuary Bay

Laura J, Burns & Melinda Metz

Publication: 1/19/16

Source: Netgalley e-ARC

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Goodreads | Amazon |The Book Depository

*I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.*


 

 

This was my WOW post a few weeks ago. I love boarding school stories and I was really hoping for a creepy, atmospheric read.   While it wasn’t exactly creepy, I think the authors did a great job at bringing the setting to life.

Sanctuary Bay Academy is the most elite prep school in the country. Located on an island off the coast of Maine, once you arrive, there is no leaving. Total immersion is how the school describes the situation. There is no contact with the outside world until you graduate. But when you graduate you are almost guaranteed a spot, and probably a scholarship, to your pick of Ivy League colleges. And for Sarah Merson, a foster kid who has been tossed around the system, the school is a godsend. It is her best shot at securing a better life for herself. So she goes all in and decides there is nothing she wouldn’t do to better the chance of achieving that future. But she soon discovers that not everything is as it seems. There are secrets within the walls of Sanctuary Bay and it is up to Sarah to find out the truth.

For the most part, I liked Sarah. She’s bi-racial, half black and half white. In fact, a lot of the characters in the novel are POC, which is a nice change. They didn’t seem to be tokenized either. Sarah’s had a rough upbringing. Thanks to her eidetic memory she is able to remember in full detail her parent’s brutal murder and sometimes suffers from flashbacks where she is totally immersed in memories from the past. There are brief mentions of sexual abuse at the hands of foster families, although it’s brushed over pretty quickly. I said for the most part I liked her, because her poor-me attitude did get a bit tiresome. She of course has every right to be angry with her lot in life, but she has a hard time recognizing that other students, even the rich, more privileged ones could have hard upbringings too.

There was a little bit of romance, and even a possible love-square situation, but it’s not really focused on that much. In fact, around 30% through the book things get weird and any real romance is set aside.

It’s hard for me to talk about the other characters without giving away plot details, but I will say that I did like Ethan, her roommate’s boyfriend. Yeah he comes off as an ass, but sometimes those are my favorite types. Plus, he’s not really as jerky as he seems.

It’s a “psychological thriller” but it’s also a lot more than that. There were many different turns in this story. It started off as one thing and ended up somewhere completely different. Towards the end I kind of guessed where it was headed, but if you had told me within the first 20% of the book I probably would have been shocked.

The writing style kept me engaged throughout all of it. I gave it 3 stars, so I did enjoy reading it, but there was a lot that felt off. There were a lot of questions I had that were kind of answered, but also not really at the same time. And the ending is definitely set up for a sequel. In fact, if there isn’t a sequel, and I haven’t seen anything to suggest that there will be, I would totally move this down to a 2 star rating. If there ends up being a sequel I would probably feel better about that nagging feeling.

 

 

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

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Belle Epoque

Elizabeth Ross

2013

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When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new “friend” is the hired help, and Maude’s very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.


I understood something I will never forget: how I wished to arrest all the beauty that came before me. Not the classical beauty of symmetry and exact proportions or the fancy of fashion, which is ever-changing with the seasons, but the beauty of a soul, that inner life that reveals itself so seldom, just for an instant, and only if you look closely and learn to see with an open heart.

When she discovers that her father is planning to marry her off to the butcher, a man 20 years her senior, Maude decides to run away. After years of wanting to see the world and all it has to offer, she takes the train to Paris. She envisions herself working in a shop, and being the independent young woman that was becoming popular in the late 19th century. But with no references and her village upbringing, her dreams are soon dashed.

Desperate for work, she finds herself applying for a job with Monsieur Durandeau. Once she discovers that she was hired as a repoussoir, an ugly women rented by high society women in order to make themselves look better, she is rightfully horrified and humiliated. She leaves and tries to find “honest” work but when things get desperate she finds herself on Durandeau’s doorstep once more asking for the job.

She is hired by the Countess Dubern, to be her daughter’s companion through the Season. The Countess hopes that by having Maude next to Isabelle will only work to highlight Isabelle’s beauty and help catch a husband.

This was more of a quiet story than a slow one. Not much really happens plot wise. It is much more just Maude slowly getting caught up in the world of high society and her internal conflict. But that didn’t stop me from reading it really quickly. I love when books remind me that they don’t have to be non-stop action to be enjoyable.

So much emphasis on beauty in society, whether today or in 1888. That has not, and probably will never, change. And most stories are told from the POV of the beautiful. Yeah they might consider themselves plain, but there are always people there to remind them how special they are. But not Maude. She is plain, and has it pointed out to her on a daily basis. (although if you put a picture of a girl on your cover, I automatically assume that that girl is the MC, so Maude is far from plain).

I felt for Maude though. I understood her shame, but was also happy how she never really lost her dreaming spirit. Even when I wanted to shake her to remind her of her situation so she wouldn’t get hurt, I kept rooting for her. I wanted her to have a better life; the life she deserved. I enjoyed seeing how Maude’s opinions changed and shifted over the course of Season.

I was much more interested in Isabelle’s character though. She doesn’t really go through character development so much as we see the already developed layers of her character unfold. Like Maude she doesn’t wish to be married off to the highest bidder and fights her mother’s will for a successful Season. She has her own dreams, and like with Maude, I wanted to see those come true.

The ending wrapped up very neatly, which sometimes I have an issue with, but not this time. It was just so wonderful and I don’t think I could have asked for a better ending for all these women.

The writing was beautiful. It was so descriptive and I felt as if it really brought 19th century Paris to life. As much as I enjoyed reading about the “Season”, I wish there had been more focus on the Bohemian aspect then on high society. The discussions of art and music were an added bonus and it actually made me want to learn more about the culture of the period.

And, another bonus is that this story is very light on the romance. It is always refreshing to find a book in which the plot survives if you remove the romance entirely.

So if you’re looking for a low-key, character driven historical novel that is light on romance, I recommend you give this a shot.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

I’m trying to find a balance between reading and reviewing ARCs and new releases, and older books, especially ones I already own.  So I decided to pick up Monstrous Beauty, which has been sitting on my shelf for far too long.

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Monstrous Beauty

Elizabeth Fama

2012

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Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.


Mermaids. Ghosts. Murder. Curses. Sounds great right? And it was.

For awhile.

You know what annoys me more than not liking a book? Is loving a book and then having it go down hill. There’s nothing worse then thinking “Wow. I’ve found an amazing book and I can’t wait to rave about it” only to have your hopes dashed. It certainly wasn’t a bad book, but it could have been so much more.

When I started reading Monstrous Beauty I loved it. It was quiet and a bit slow, but with the right amount of mystery to have be flying through the pages. It was dark and haunting and my heart broke a little as it slid down into something slightly higher than a paranormal romance. I really thought this was going to be a 4 star book.

At first, I loved that half the story was told in the present day and the other half in the past. It was wonderful learning the truth as it unfolded and watching as Hester figured it out for herself. And then the whole truth unraveled for the reader and Hester is still in the dark and that’s where the book lost me. Since I knew the truth, I lost patience with Hester for being such an idiot and not understanding. Plus, I wasn’t really as interested in the present once I had figured out the mystery aspect of it. I think the historical setting should have been presented a bit more slowly. That way, as a reader, I could have continued to figure things out with Hester instead of wanting to yell “IT’S SO OBVIOUS!”

It’s 3rd person POV which definitely kept me at a distance from connecting with Hester. Skilled writers can pull it off, but I just don’t think it worked in this case. She was so…blah. I know next to nothing about her besides the fact that she lost her mother as a baby and loves history. And she’s pretty rude to her best friend and former crush, who she stops liking as soon as she meets Ezra. And it didn’t help that the romance was dull and reminded me of Twilight. I mean after reading I understand, but MAJOR instalove. And it doesn’t even make sense because there didn’t seem to be anything remarkable about him.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a mermaid book before. I’ve read plenty of vampires, some werewolves, fairies and even a dragon. But I don’t think I’ve ever actually finished a book about a mermaid. And I was so sad. They are dark creatures and it should have been exciting learning about them, but the mythology isn’t explained properly. When it became a bigger focus it took away from the story because I didn’t have a firm understanding. They have magic? They can become human? Humans can become mermaids? I’m told some of it, but there is very little explanation. And then towards the end there is some “big bad” that was barely mentioned throughout the previous 220 pages so I had no connection to it. It was just like, “Oh here is the real evil” and nothing. It was a bit disjointed.

The ending was satisfying, but everything was explained to the reader through dumbass Hester FINALLY understanding what I understood 150 pages earlier. I was majorly disappointed in this. I wanted to love it so much, and the beginning had SO much promise. This was just another example of poor execution.