Category Archives: contemporary fiction
These book reviews are going to be short and sweet because I did not like either of these books, didn’t even finish one, and I don’t want to waste time with books I disliked this much. So, here are some mini book reviews.
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Ecco
Format: Paper Book
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Family
Rating: 1 star
Goodreads | Amazon
The Plumb siblings are sure The Nest, the nest egg their father set up as a little gift for their later year that unexpectedly ballooned, will solve all their problems. At least, it would have if their mother hadn’t almost drained it paying for the elder brother’s rehab when he gets in a car accident while intoxicated, complete with 19 year old waitress in the passenger seat. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.
After about a 100 pages of people whining, I gave up. This was the book that I did not finish. Other people might find the train wreck that is the Plumb family interesting but I just could not stomach reading about the whining of a bunch of self-entitled, self-absorbed brats. The characters are vapid and lifeless and the entire situation is just laughable. I’m confused about the many positive reviews. This book wasn’t interesting at all. I guess you have to have more patience for morons than I do.
After the Woods by Kim Savage
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Paper Book
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Julia saves her friend Liv when they are attacked in the woods. Liv runs, leaving Julia at the mercy of their assalant. A year later, Julia is trying to puzzle out the details of her abduction while dealing with Liv’s self-destructive spiral down and a whole host of secrets.
I wanted to like this more than I did. It took me forever to finish After the Woods because I kept losing interest. Despite an halfway interesting main character and a sort of fresh angle on the mystery – the book takes place after the abduction and sort of moves backward with our unreliable amnesic main character trying to remember what really happened and unravel the spider web connecting everyone – but it just felt wandering and unfocused rather than suspenseful. I don’t know why the romantic interest was in there at all, as he serves no purpose and I’ve already forgotten his name. Plot points are added and then never brought up again and characters just seem wooden. By the end, I was rolling my eyes so hard they hurt. Savage was aiming for intrigue but fell flat with a messy plot and slow pacing.
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
Published: February 23rd 2016 by Penguin Canada
Format: Paper Book
Length: 244 pages
Genre: Adult, Memoir, Short Stories, Mental Illness
Rating: 2 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks— her weight affects every portion of her life, self-esteem, and makes her miserable. So she starts to lose. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?
I’ve read a couple of these fat lady memoir / autobiographical books. This one is a little heavy on the mental illness aspect for my tastes but otherwise ok. There is little ‘I’ve come to accept myself’ and a lot more ‘look how messed up I am because of society’. There is a tiny bit of dark humor and some clever turn of phrase going on but it is not a funny book and I honestly don’t know where people got that impression. If you are looking for something uplifting, look elsewhere. Honestly, the way Mona acts in this book is just short of horrifying.
Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published: April 26th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 355 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Magic, Horror, Murder, Funny
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Make a wish…
Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.
At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.
The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…
Talk with your kids about their secret wish granting powers, people. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn started out strong but lost its edge as it progressed. The dark and macabre mood we start out with is soon lost amid out of place humor and slapstick. Down with the Shine flip-flops between the two and ends up being kind of annoying with the different atmospheres. If you are going to be dark, then be dark. Same thing with silly. Mashing the two together just leaves me unsatisfied and unsure which way to go. The elements that were dark; Lennie’s psychopath father, murdered best friend, and string of accidently granted wishes that turn out rather horrifyingly, were all great, but sort of fell to the wayside as Down with Shine focused more on comedy in the middle portion. There were so many juicy elements to explore and we’re just let down.
The wishes that Lennie unknowingly grants at the party are played for laughs and the whole thing comes off as a comedy sketch with her uncles running around trying to contain teenagers suddenly stuck with bat wings, who were turned into Thumbelina, or turn everything they touch into Cheetos. Then there is the ridiculous drama of the budding romance between Lennie and Smith. I was frankly uninterested about those two. Dylan’s murder, mutilation, and decent into the dark side are unexplored. The disturbing kiss between Smith and his mother is left dangling. We’re left wondering about Lennie’s father. There are just so many interesting elements in Down with the Shine that aren’t focused on because of the humor. It’s like there are two stories going on here and both suffer from lack of focus. Pick one; dark or silly, and stick with it.
I’m especially disappointed by Dylan. The resolution at the end saves her life, granted, but then the underlying issue of why Dylan acted as she did, pretending to be Lennie and meeting with strange men, is not dealt with. Our main character, Lennie, is your basic sarcastic outcast character that I am frankly tired of in YA books. I love the premise and the majority of my enjoyment in this book was from the interesting storyline and magical elements. Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn could have been dark and gritty and fantastic but feels watered down.
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Published: March 22nd 2016 by Dial Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 247 pages
Genre: Paranormal, Magical Realism, Messed-up Teenagers, Mystery
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.
What really happened?
Someone is lying.
There is a Wicked Witch, a Wolf, and a Hero in Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke, in that order. Wink Poppy Midnight is a small book at 247 pages and POV jumps between the three characters named in the book’s title. Yes, they all have weird names. We never settle into one character for long and I found this kept me from really sinking into the story. I was never able to connect with the story or the characters. I also find it hard to really care about characters that are just all over nasty and Poppy’s cruel, manipulative, and sexualized behavior irritated me. I tend to not care about characters that have no redeeming qualities and thus didn’t really care if she was dead or not or what she was doing with her apparent cryptic letter writing. I found Poppy childish, like a toddler having an embarrassing tantrum in the middle of a store, and unappealing as a character. I also found it annoying that she was so obsessed with Leaf while he seemed to not care anything for her and was so ugly to Midnight, who might have genuinely cared about her if she hadn’t been so horrible to him.
I liked Wink, up until the end. She is just the type of witchy and interesting character I tend to like in stories. I don’t want to reveal too much but I was unhappy with the evolution of Wink’s character. Her motives turned out to be more selfish than I thought. Midnight is a little spineless and honestly needs to stop letting girls lead him around by the ‘you know what’. I was happy with the actions he takes at the end. Midnight needed to become his own person, away from Wink and Poppy. I loved the structure of the plot and the use of fairytales. Of course, every time I came across a new fairytale, I had to write it down so I could look it up later. I’m weak. The lyrical style to the writing was lovely and the imagery was whimsical and chilling. If the author had stuck with one POV or written third person omniscient, I would have probably loved this.
I don’t remember teenagers being such psychos – even when I was one! – but everyone in Wink Poppy Midnight is crazy cakes. I understand Poppy’s parents treat her like a doll, left up on a shelf until wanted, but her extremely destructive and hurtful behavior really makes me dislike her as a character. Wink’s manipulative actions are just the flip of the same awful coin. The only smart action Midnight takes is leaving; otherwise he is an uninspiring character. The plot was interesting but the constant jumps in POV kept me from really enjoying the story. The more the book progressed, the more scattered it became, leaving me slightly confused as to what was happening or why. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke was quirky and unnerving with hints of paranormal but was mostly just a bunch of kids whose parents really need to pay closer attention to what their off-spring are doing before the little nutters actually manage to kill someone.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Published: March 1st 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Mystery, Crime, Romance, Retelling
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.
From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.
A Study in Charlotte is the first in a trilogy.
I have a love for all things Sherlock Holmes. You can thank PBS and Jeremey Brett for that. I spent many a Saturday morning watching Holmes reruns when I was a teenager. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is not the first time I’ve come across a book inspired by the great detective and his faithful doctor or even the first time I’ve read one that changed one character’s sex to female. I always dread when this happens because, inevitably, the author uses it to create some sort of awkward and unappealing romance between the pair. Such happens in A study in Charlotte.
In this world, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were real. Arthur Conan Doyle was Watson’s literary agent. Both of the men have descendants and those (poor) descendants are where our story focuses. First of all, the characters themselves. I adored our female Holmes. Charlotte is everything you might want in a Holmes character and I love how Cavallaro works with young Charlotte, how growing up under the shade of THE Sherlock Holmes can leave a person worse for wear. The Holmes family grooms their children to be like Sherlock. For Sherlock, it was nature, but for Charlotte is was nurture. She was forced into this and that abuse (let’s face it, it’s abuse) has molded her into a strange homage to her ancestor but has left Charlotte herself with a bevy of mental problems. Can Charlotte deduce and reason crimes and murders? Yes. Is she mentally sound? No.
The Watson character has it no easier. James (for some reason his nickname is Jamie but it’s barely used in the text, confusing more than a couple of people reading the book jacket blurb) is basically manipulated into meeting Charlotte , has anger issues, and has the unfortunate fate of trying to save the heroine with the power of his love. (gag) James is really brainwashed into loving Charlotte by his father, who himself is obsessed with the Holmes family. Seriously obsessed. Watson Sr. is crazy cakes, people. Charlotte and James are two very troubled kids drowning under the weight of their famous predecessors. They are both so broken that it’s hard to look away.
I was enjoying A Study in Charlotte immensely until it became clear that Cavallaro was angling to have them end up in a relationship. Because a boy and a girl have no ability to be anything other than romantic lovers. (That was sarcasm right there.) I liked Charlotte and James’ friendship. They are both trying so hard (and mostly failing) to cope, that finding a kindred spirit is surprising to both of them. Then it derailed into relationship land. I did enjoy the rest of the book. The use of actual Sherlock Holmes stories to pattern the murders after was fun. The tongue in cheek bashing the characters do over the inaccuracies in the original stories was entertaining.
The actual mystery is so-so. It started out really tight and griping and then sort of peters out. Charlotte is touted as being really good at solving crimes, Scotland Yard asks her to solve crimes even though she’s a teenager, but then it turns out she’s really not all that great at it here. I don’t know. Maybe I was just frustrated and annoyed that the plot didn’t seem to be going anywhere about 3/4 of the way through the book. I don’t know how a non-Holmes fan will take this book. If you don’t know what to expect with a Holmes character, Charlotte will come across as unlikeable. Most of the draw here is the Sherlock Holmes angle. Other readers might not like this as much. I think most of my enjoyment of A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro was derived from my fondness for the Sherlock Holmes stories rather than any quality of this book.
WHO KILLED GRETCHEN MEYER?
Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?
At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?
With a friend like Gretchen Meyer, who needs enemies?
We have another murder mystery with Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth. We start the story off with our heroine running for her life from some unseen attacker and it goes kind of downhill from there. The beginning is exciting and interesting but the rest of the plot is repetitive and monotonous. It was frustrating and annoying. I was not impressed with Sonia’s lackluster Nancy Drew impression. The more we learned of Gretchen, the less I cared about her death. It seemed she’d fucked her way through every male in town and had blackmail material on everyone else. As more of Gretchen’s horrid personality was revealed, I was wondering why everybody was bothering to investigate her murder. The whole town was probably thinking “good riddance”.
So many freaking characters. Several times, somebody would pop up and I’d be like “Wait? Who was that again?” I had a theory about who the killer was before the half way point and was disappointed to find I was right. Hainsworth was trying for shock factor and originality but fell short. I had no sympathy for Gretchen and thus had no problem figuring out the killer. If Gretchen had not been so universally horrid to everybody in Hidden Falls, including her own sister and best friend, I might have been more mislead.
The first half of Take The Fall was enjoyable to read but as the book progressed, the plot became too circular and I became bored. An unsympathetic murder victim left me uncaring about finding the perpetrator. I did like the use of POC characters, including a Latina main character and a Middle Eastern supporting character. Take The Fall was dark and twisted, showcasing the worst of teenage humanity. Some may find the open-ended conclusion disappointing. I was fine with it but others disliked it. I didn’t love Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth, it lacked a spark to really make it fantastic, but it was an entertaining read. If you really like murder mysteries, you should give it a try.
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Published: Published January 20th 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
Format: Paper Book
Length: 291 pages
Genre: Magical Realism, Contemporary Fiction, Witchy Business, Chick Lit
Goodreads | Amazon
It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.
When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of the Waverley family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.
Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.
In some type of reader serendipity, we come to my second favorite author. If Neil Gaiman was magical nonsense, then Sarah Addison Allen is magical realism. In First Frost we return once again to the old Queen Anne style house on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina with its fruit tossing apple tree and clan of magical Waverley girls from Garden Spells. It’s been a decade since the end of the first book and the Waverley family is waiting anxiously for the first frost of the year, when the mysterious apple tree in their garden will finally bloom. It’s also a time of change and upset as the family endures the troubles and woes that always visit them while the apple tree is bare.
I’m going to be blunt; First Frost was not as good as Garden Spells. But, then, second books are rarely as good as first books. Most of First Frost had a rambling quality that had me waiting for something to actually happen. There is very little plot, hardly any conflict, and no climax. The whole story is flimsy. The majority of First Frost is focused on Bay’s teen angst over a boy. The ‘mysterious stranger’ that shows up to challenge the ‘very heart of their family’ in the cover blurb doesn’t interact with any of the Waverley ladies in a meaningful way until page 200 and by then we’ve already had several chapters from his point of view and already know the man is a charlatan and a con artist. So the tension of whether his information is true or not is kind of lost before the Waverley family even hears of it. Then there is Sydney’s preoccupation with having another kid, a situation that is handled in such a way as to make me cringe a little.
Allen’s books have always been more character driven than plot driven but this is probably the slowest book I’ve read from her. There was no depth to the plot or characters and the resolution of what should have been the main plot point was rushed and too simple. If I wasn’t such a diehard fan of her writing, I probably would have rated this book a little lower. Allen’s books are charming and elegant and her weaving of magical elements through everyday life is a writing style I’ve never seen elsewhere. I enjoyed seeing the Waverley girls again and while First Frost has the same whimsical, delightful quality that I love in Sarah Addison Allen’s books, the actually story wasn’t very entertaining.
45 Pounds (more or less) by K.A. Barson
Published July 11th 2013 by Viking Juvenile
Format: Paper Books
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Chick Lit, Humor, Coming of Age, Body Acceptance
Goodreads | Amazon
Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:
She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 8 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in two months.
Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, terrifying wedding dance lessons, endless run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.
And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin — no matter how you add it up!
I had only one reason for reading 45 Pounds (more or less) by K.A. Barson. There was a fat girl in it and that fat girl was the main character. She wasn’t the quirky friend who has a great personality, never mind what she looks like. She wasn’t the wallflower, background character that everyone teased and was the butt of jokes but only appears for a little while. Ann, age 16 and size 17, is the main character. I’ll come right out and say it; I am fat. By official measurements, I am in fact morbidly obese. I have been overweight all my life. That includes my teen years. 45 Pounds (and it kills me to start a sentence with a numeral like that) hit me hard and kept hitting me until the very end.
Ann was an awesome character. Barson encapsulated how overweight people think and feel in Ann. We do want to change, we want to be thin and healthy, and we’re frankly disgusted by ourselves sometimes. We make all the plans in the world to diet and workout but it’s hard and that end result is a nebulous, unclear idea somewhere in the future and the ice cream is immediate and delicious and right in front of us. We eat the ice cream and then immediately feel horrible for eating it. We’re hyper aware of the world and what other people might be thinking of us. Connecting with people gets harder because we are constantly wondering what they are thinking, how they are seeing us and our excess fat rolls, and sometimes it’s better to just not deal with it and hide. Ann’s thoughts and feelings were spot on and things I’ve thought and felt myself.
I liked how Barson dealt with all matters of weight issues, from being overweight to being underweight and even how our weight and looks obsessed society is affecting young children. It’s just as unhealthy to be underweight and yet it doesn’t attract the same negative attention as being overweight does. I thought showing both extremes was a nice touch. My favorite part is when Ann realizes what her family’s obsession with weight is doing to her little sister and how ridiculous both she and her mother are being about it. All the adults in this family have emotional problems and that’s reflected on how they see and treat food. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction or chick lit books but I made it a point to check out 45 Pounds because of the main character. Nothing annoys me faster than some pretty female YA character whining about their hair or skin or mildly fluctuating weight. Our society’s body expectations are ridiculous but I liked seeing an actual realistic girl dealing with a real weight issue.
Ann is hilarious and so real that it’s easy to relate to her. Readers will be reminded how awkward being a teenager was, even if they themselves didn’t have weight issues. Barson writes Ann’s emotions and thoughts so well that anybody will be able to empathize with her. There are a lot of subtle subplots and some excellent secondary characters that add richness and depth to the story. The little romance between Ann and the cutie-pie from the mall was nicely done. Ann’s aunt getting married to her girlfriend was awesome. Ann learns some tough lessons about family, true friendship, and about accepting yourself. I recommend 45 Pounds (more or less) by K.A. Barson to everyone.
They Said It Was An Accident…
Sawyer Dodd is a star athlete, a straight-A student, and the envy of every other girl who wants to date Kevin Anderson. When Kevin dies in a tragic car crash, Sawyer is stunned. Then she opens her locker to find a note:
Someone saw what he did to her. Someone knows that Sawyer and Kevin weren’t the perfect couple they seemed to be. And that someone—a killer—is now shadowing Sawyer’s every move…
Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne is a murder mystery. It is a whodunit and as more people die one after the other, it is a who-is-doing-it. I don’t care who you are, when you pick up a murder mystery we are all transformed into Sherlock Holmes. When I read a mystery I build and discard theories. That’s half the fun! You have to look at what clues the author is giving you and also think about what mystery clichés the author might be using. ? Is it an evil twin? The once childhood friend turned enemy? The confidant? The seemingly betrayer? What pattern is the author using to build their story? Nobody and nothing are what they seem. As my theories come and go, I try to pay attention to everything. Nothing pleases me more than getting to the end of a murder mystery and having my theory proven right. Unless, of course, I’m proven very wrong in a very original way.
What I Liked
I went through several theories while reading Truly, Madly, Deadly. About half way through, I settled on one theory that persisted all through the rest of the book. I was sure I knew what was going on. I was all pleased with myself for figuring it out. But when I reached the end, I was dead wrong. (Oh, look. A pun.) The killer turned out to be someone I wasn’t even considering and that is a mark of a great murder mystery.
Truly, Madly, Deadly is well crafted. I loved Sawyer and the rest of the characters. Sawyer’s voice and how she reacted to events were believable. Some people might see Sawyer as a bit of a wimp but you have to remember that she’s a kid. Sawyer is confused, doesn’t know what’s happening to her, if she’s losing her mind or not, has no support, and I think she reacts appropriately to events. That is, she freaks out and makes things worse.
This book is creepy. I felt the rush of anxiety as the notes kept coming and Sawyer didn’t know what was happening. I felt the fear as Sawyer was chased while out running and wonders who is watching her every move. Truly, Madly, Deadly is at its heart a stalker story and as a woman, I find that very upsetting and unnerving.
What I Didn’t Like
There was one point where I nearly threw the book across the room in disgust. Near the beginning, Sawyer gets talked into going to a party by Chloe and while there, mind you this is soon after her boyfriend dying and just after finding the note implying he was murdered and not killed by accident, she meets a boy she hasn’t given two looks at before and, suddenly unable to control herself, kisses him and has a lovely make out session in the backyard of the party house. You have got to be kidding me! This is what annoys me about the characters in YA books. Scenes like that make it seem like nobody can control themselves and just want to f*ck all the time. It’s ridiculous.
I have to express my righteous fury for how Sawyer’s parents deal with her depression. Tear a teenager’s whole life and family apart, her mother abandoning her and moving half way across the country, and popping down some stranger as her new mommy? Just buy her a new car and give her a bedroom with her own private bath! Kid still not acting like everything is hunky-dory? She must be broken! Send her to the shrink and put her on sleeping pills. Yeah, that’s A+ parenting there! Assholes. No wonder Sawyer has rock bottom self-esteem. Her parents are treating her like some sort of failed experiment whose existence is now nothing more than an inconvenience.
I would have liked some more explanation on how the killer accomplished what they did. How did they get into the house, into Sawyer’s locker, kill Kevin and the teacher? Details were a little thin on that. And I think with one of the murders, quite impossible for the killer to do.
I felt like some of the secondary characters were just there to give us other people to suspect as the murderer. They really don’t add anything to the story. They are merely functional. There are also a lot of high school character troupes in use. It made the book feel like the author had used a checklist for the characters.
This was a creepy and fun read. It was super quick. I read it in a day and really enjoyed it. It had a few problems and I was left with some confusion after the end but I still liked it. The romance between Cooper and Sawyer added nothing to the book and was actually slightly irritating. The messages to Sawyer really made the creep factor for me and I think it was what made the story so unsettling. I probably would have died on the spot if I found the ‘You’re Welcome’ message in my locker. As the deaths pile up, it seems like everyone is in danger and nobody is safe and all the evidence is pointing right to Sawyer. The reader is kept on their toes. Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne was a good murder mystery but just an okay YA book.
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
I can safely say that Neil Gaiman is my favorite living author. His writing is fantastic. His novels always have a wonderful turn of phrase and wit about them and are always somehow deeply magical. Gaiman’s novels are set in this world but it’s this world only if you kind of step a little to the left and squint. Because you can only see magic and the fantastical if you go a little out of focus. So, needless to say, I was very excited when news of a new book from him came out. (And completely bummed that his US signing tour wasn’t coming anywhere near me. Dang it.)
Honestly, I was a bit disappointed when I picked up The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s tiny. At only 178 pages long I was dubious of the book. There was no way a proper story could be told in such a small book, let alone one of Gaiman’s artful and whimsical creations. I was proven wrong. While The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not like most of Gaiman’s other books, it is still a complete story with excellent setting and characters. Gaiman’s greatest skill, I think, is in the creation of his characters. He writes children very well. He writes odd and weird very well. The Hempstock ladies are an example of that. Their oddness is so subtle that you’re not even sure you’re seeing it.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not the type of story I am used to seeing from Gaiman. This story is small and personal but the more I read the more the book became, not bigger, but denser. It had weight and is undeniably a story for adults and older teens. Gaiman has created something strange and peculiar and lovely here. It is childhood and how a child experiences and deals with several situations. (The loss of family wealth, his Father’s cheating and abuse, the childhood curse of being ‘different’ from other children.) He is a child and doesn’t understand but he has to deal with it just the same. To a seven year old little boy, magic is real and an eleven year old girl is powerful and wise. I was utterly fascinated.
Could a younger person read this? Well, yes. The story is exciting and scary fun. I’d have reservations about a kid reading this because of the scene where the main character’s Father tries to kill him (let’s not mince words here, the Father was trying to drown him no matter how our young narrator sees it). There is also one, tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sexual moment. But I also think that a young teen might not understand some of the underlying meaning. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is about a child’s world and how that world is so different from an adult’s but at the same time it has this deeper tragedy and creepiness that can make a reader uncomfortable. I think that is where the true greatness of this book comes from, along with being a really great story on the surface, and if you can’t understand that then you kind of lose something.
At the end of reading a Gaiman book I always feel this sense of nostalgia and longing for the world he created and the characters I’ve been introduced to. I miss them because it was a world we used to live in, long ago, when we ourselves were children and before we made that horrible decision to grow up. It’s part of the reason why I adore his books so much. My one gripe is that this small book costs $26. I’m sure the fancy paper edging was worth that much. (That was sarcasm.) The Ocean at the End of the Lane joins the host of other Neil Gaiman books that are my favorite.
The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson
Published August 15th 2012 by Fire & Ice Books
Format: Kindle ebook: freebie
Length: 194 pages (or 224 pages?) / 330 KB
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Fairytale
Reading Level: All Ages
Goodreads | Amazon
Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust. But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect — read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice — stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine years old?
Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.
Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.
Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school.
And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.
I first saw The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson during its blog tour and when I saw it was available as an ebook freebie, I snapped it up. I adore fairytale rewrites. A fairytale mash up is pretty much guaranteed to make me happy. The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back was fun and light and a nice, quick read. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It…ignited a fiery ball of rage in my chest that burned with the heat of a thousand suns. Let me explain my epic rage to you. (I’m about to be harsh. Sorry.)
Wilson used the biggest, baddest ugly stepsister/duckling cliché of them all. The world is being tricked, everybody! The ugly stepsister isn’t really ugly at all and with a little bit of effort, some hair styling, and a touch of makeup she can be utterly beautiful. The underdog is only some eyeliner and lip gloss away from being the pretty princess. Mattie’s style is punkish and funky, she’s got an attitude and a problem with stupid people, but none of that matters because she apparently has great boobs. In fact, we’re told that one of the first real meetings between Mattie and her object of obsession Jake is between lover boy, a skimpy robe, and her awesome boobs. It’s one of those ridiculous situations where if the nerd takes their glasses off they are suddenly pretty or handsome and as a certified ugly person, I am deeply insulted. Ella is just misunderstood and Mattie really isn’t ugly. The only problems these girls have are the ones manufactured in their heads. They are rich, beautiful, and hormonal and I want to gag.
[deep breath] Sorry if some of my indignation got on your clothing. I think I was the completely wrong person to read this book. Yes, it has a basis in the fairytale Cinderella. But it is also a teenage drama and teenage drama makes me want to scream. I have zero interest in teenagers’ petty problems. I would have dropped Jake like a hot potato after he asked me to do the school project on my own and then add his name to it. No excuses; I don’t care how much pressure your parents are putting on you. Instead, Mattie continues to chase after the ass. I think my eye started to twitch at this point.
Despite my displeasure with many things, I did finish the book. The Stepsister Strikes Back has some charming points and watching Mattie make a real connection with Ella and then stand up for herself against her mother was nice. It’s predictable but that’s just the nature of the creature when dealing with a fairytale rewrite. It would have been nice to see some sort of twist but the plot remains fairly straight forward. It would help if the book followed the blurb it has but it’s less about Mattie taking charge and coming into her own and more about everyone around Mattie teaming up to get her and Jake together. It’s a disappointing fake out, really. The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson was just ok in my opinion. I’m mostly just glad I didn’t pay for it.
Rating: 2.5 stars : Meh