Book Reviews

these wicked waters (arc) / emily layne

Publication: October 22nd 2019.
Genre: YA / Fantasy / Supernatural / Retellings
Series: ?
Edition: Advance Reader copy ebook provided by Netgalley.
Date finished: October 14th 2019.

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
A centuries-old curse plagues the island of Viaii Nisi and an ancient enemy lurks beneath the depths of the surrounding water.

Annie Mayfield has heard all the stories and rumors about the island that is now home to the brand new Mayfield Villa resort, and she is definitely not psyched about having to spend her summer working there. The island’s name alone—Viaii Nisi, or violent island—is enough to make any sane person seriously reconsider it as a vacation destination. Then there are the mysterious deaths of every previous owner! It’s a history Annie’s mother is quick to shrug off, but when a guest goes missing on opening night, Annie really starts to get the creeps.

And then Annie makes a truly terrifying discovery: ruins filled with bones and one skeleton that seems to be half human and half fish. Intrigued by the strange remains and determined to help find the missing guest, Annie channels her inner Nancy Drew—minus the skirt and pearls, of course—in an attempt to uncover the truth about Viaii Nisi. But that truth is beyond anything she could ever have imagined. With her mother in complete denial and local officials unconcerned, Annie finds she’ll have to face her biggest fears if she’s to attempt to save everyone she loves.

Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Before I say the only negative thing I will write, I will first say this: I loved the originality of this story and I thought Emily Layne did an excellent job of making this story unique and true to its own, despite the retelling aspect (it’s minor, regardless). It grew tremendously with its progression and became better with every chapter and I enjoyed it very much.

First impressions: the fiercely independent, rule-bending millionaire teens who scoffs at her mother’s success and fantasizes about her rich caretaker of all-her-life is my first impression of Annie, and therefore, I hate her. The forced description of the MC coming from Benny’s mouth came out as way too try-hard, and Annie’a disdain for her mother, while the roots are unknown, are irritating at best, especially while the point must be made that “most babysitters don’t make 200,000$ a year like Benson does”— stop. Cliche cliche cliche. Like, of course there’s a limo waiting for scornful Annie. Noooooo.

I don’t usually like to start any review with a negative so early, but my first impression was important to me. That doesn’t mean I hated this book. I actually really ended up enjoying the story for the most part, and it became more of a page-turner once more characters were introduced and more substance made its way into the story. The resort staff were mostly endearing, some people had just enough mystery to make you “wonder”, and the switching storylines between Lorelei and Annie were woven strategically enough for me to have to really wrap it up together for myself before I was positive about what happened and when. It was actually quite lovely!!

Now that that’s out of the way: the writer has good style. I thought her pace of show & tell was even and wasn’t lacking in the imagination department. She left enough to imagination but also showed what she wanted me to see at a good tempo. The atmosphere was unique and created well for the plot. The mythological references and classic story borrowed references made for an incredibly interesting idea, and I thought how well it must have been planned out reflected easily.

This book got better as it continued. I thought that while Annie was super predictable, it was with the understanding that you knew her, not because the plot was predictable. I enjoyed almost every character fully, and while I wish there was more backstory (sister, Annie’s past excluding delinquencies, her parents relationship) I thought it was solid and well-written. I began to dislike her less and understand her more, though as I said before I would have appreciated more backstory to really be able to grasp the dynamic of Annie and her very messed up family.

I believed whole heartedly that this would be a stand-alone book until the very end, which was interesting. I have no idea if it will be a sequel— I read this before it was released so nothing has been announced, as far as I know, but the author left it open enough to expand in an entirely different direction.

There’s one thing I’d like to add, that made this book better for me and I think it would make it worth the time for readers looking for something at little bit different. While this was clearly a slight retelling in the way of the classic Anderson Little Mermaid (kind of), the author did something ambitious and brave- something I’ve tried to master (and someday you can tell me if I’ve succeeded if I’m lucky enough to be published). She took a paranormal fantasy story and turned it into a paranormal magical realism world-clashing everyone’s-included smash of reality. I thought it was meaningfully well-delivered and really brought home the maybe-magic-like-this-could-be-real feeling, which I think all of us are looking for.

If there is a sequel, I’m looking forward to reading it. Annie’s growth through this story was admirable and the storyline became more interesting with every page-turn. Well done.

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Book Reviews

then she was gone / lisa jewell

Publication: April 17th 2018, Atria Books.
Genre: Thriller / Mystery
Series: Stand-alone.
Edition: Audio provided by Libby.
Date finished: October 1st 2019.

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone. 

NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.

And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet. 

Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter. 

Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away. 

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back. 

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go? 

Who still has secrets to hide?

Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫

Page-turning, addictive excellence.

Ellie, the perfect 15-year-old daughter of Laurel, has her entire life ahead of her. She has the highest marks, a perfect boyfriend, and a loving family who are all equally enthralled by her. Then one day, she disappears, and is never seen again.

Laurel is our main protagonist and we spend most of our time in her POV. Her life has been turned upside down by the disappearance of her beloved daughter, Ellie, and now after ten years, she is still trying to pick up the pieces for her broken existence. Her ex-husband has moved on, but lovingly, and her two children are detached enough to border on estranged. This is, until Laurel meets a man at her favorite bakery who invites her to share his carrot cake.

This mystery was riveting and completely entertaining. While there were some things I thought should have been addressed, the continuity was clear and I was glad to finish it knowing that despite all of best guesses, I wasn’t exactly right about what had actually happened until the author told me. The mystery, intrigue, and suspense drove me to spend every free moment I had devouring the pages of this story. I was actually happy to have been listening to an audiobook, for fear that I may have tried to turn the pages faster than I could have read the words had I been holding an actual book.

Poppy, daughter of the new love interest (Floyd), is a spitting image of Laurel lost daughter and despite her innocence, creeped me out for most of this book. While I’m not sure this was intentional or not, I was happy for the experience. I was deeply confused when I should have been and there were plenty of times where I wasn’t sure who was actually crazy and who wasn’t, so it made it all the more enthralling to blow through. There were even moments when I thought 10-year-old Poppy was the crazy one (is she?) and it was a fun ride.

This book was an excellent work of fiction, and much appreciated especially in a world obsessed with mystery. It’s an easy read and it the perfect companion to a rainy day off. 🙂

Book Reviews

the perfect mother / aimee malloy

Publication: May 1st 2018, Harper.
Genre: Mystery / Thriller.
Series: Stand-alone.
Edition: Audio provided by Libby.
Date finished: October 7th 2019.

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives.

When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media.

Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫

This book was one of the most addictive reads of this year for me. I was is obsessed with it that I left it playing on my Bose speaker even while I showered because I actually couldn’t bare to turn it off.

Here’s the thing about this one: about 70% of the way through, I wasn’t sure who the most crazy person was and who was to blame for everything, so it became incredibly suspenseful and, incredibly, more interesting. Winnie’s friends become so obsessed with her situation that it actually starts to make you believe that they’re crazier than she is.

I usually read YA as a standard. It’s always been my favorite genre. It’s what I write, so it’s been what I’ve read primarily because of that. However, books like Then She Was Gone remind me of why I love thrillers so much.

The characters? Such real people you can relate with some kind of quirk with every one of them. There wasn’t even a “main character”, unless you count Winnie, which I guess so, but I feel that you spend such an equal amount of time with most of them that it’s irrelevant. To think— I though this would annoy me! I LOVED it.

The plot? Perfect.

The mystery? Genius. Beautifully executed. I couldn’t have asked for more from any one of the people I spend time with in this story, and I was so shocked by how things turned out one moment after another that it make me believe it more instead of less. A lot of the time with mystery thrillers like this, you’re rolling your eyes into the back of your head like, “yeah right, this would could never, ever happen like this, but it’s a book, I guess”. This was such a flawless execution.

THE COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED REVEAL OF THIS STORY MAKES THE ENTIRE BOOK A THOUSAND TIMES BETTER. This is coming from someone who loved it from the start. I had literally *no* idea what was going on, and the author does an absolutely phenomenal job of leading you down the path she wants you to take. You have no choice— you feel like you’re so far ahead of all of these women trying to solve this abduction that when it’s actually revealed it’s entirely mind-blowing. I’m not even going to spoil this in a “click-here”.

If you love a goos suspenseful mystery thriller, this is the one to pick up. You’ll finish it in a day or two and spend the next several days trying to find a synopsis that compares to the intrigue of what this story makes you feel.

Awesome. Highly, highly, highly recommend!!

 

Book Reviews

nemesis / brendan reichs

Publication: March 21st 2017, G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.
Genre: YA / Science Fiction
Series: Project Nemesis, book 1.
Edition: Audio provided by Audible.
Date finished: September 28th 2019.

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

He killed me. He killed me not. He killed me.

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.

For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders.

Review: 🌟🌟🌟💫

I’m unsure of how to write an honest review of this book without it having at least some minor spoilers, so if that’s something you don’t want to see, I’d suggest skipping this post of mine.

All in all I thought this was a solid story, but I’m going to be honest, as always— the whole first part (two-thirds) was so much better than the last third of the book.

This is a sci-fi the-world-is-ending story with a bit of supernatural magic and a bunch of incredibly naive teenagers. Ever since Min attended a strange school event when she was very small, where she received an injection, every even year of her birthday she has been murdered. Without fail, on her 8th, 10th, 12, 14th, and now 16th birthdays, she has been murdered in a number of different ways by a terrifying man in black who has haunted her since she was eight years old.

My issues: The characters and the patchwork plot. The characters, especially Min’s BFF, are largely irritating and almost completely not relatable. Even Min herself was difficult to connect with because she came across as a typical against-the-grain heroine with a chip on her shoulder and a huge secret she’s told absolutely no one. This fact makes her totally unapproachable and kind of a bitch, so she’s hard to root for even in her more glowing moments. Tack is irritating and replaceable, and I was actually disappointed both times he survived his doom because I was so disgusted by his typical teenage boy behavior. Maybe I’m being too harsh, because these characters are teenagers, but I wasn’t a fan.

I thought the Anvil would play a larger role in this story. I didn’t expect that part of the plot to die out within the first handful of chapters, and it was actually remarkably disappointing. It becomes a what’s-the-point moment, and when Min and Tack started to explore and investigate, I actually felt like the plot of Min’s deaths and the end of the world belonged to different stories. I felt tenfold this way when we are finally thrust into the world of “the after”.

What I loved: The entire idea of the Nemesis Project and, really, I am a huge sucker for any type of world annihilation aversion or pandemic evasion or any type of apocalyptic story. I thought the idea of the Nemesis Project was wholly original and absolutely fascinating, and besides the fact that I’ve already purchased the book, this simple thing would be most of the reason I choose to read the second book. I am hopeful that when I do get around to reading the sequel that more will be explained and there won’t be such a choppy plot line. It seems like it has no choice but to become a bit more linear, so I am anxious to see what happens.

Conclusively, I loved the first part of this story and the last part of this story. Parts One & Three. The entire midsection of this story that was more of a Lord of the Flies ripoff and to be honest, it made the characters I thought were mostly likable and/or tolerable FAR more unattractive. I guess that’s the point of a desperate survival situation with young people, but it did get to the point where I started to disagree even with Min. I was absolutely shocked by Noah’s light switch turnaround, and I am waiting to see if this is some kind of flaw in the Nemesis system, truly— because any other explanation would actually be completely unacceptable. It was the weirdest this to watch happen, ever, and I had read thousands of books in my life.

Let’s see what the next part of the story brings. I’m hoping this ends up being a Carve the Mark redemption.

Book Reviews

the hive (arc) / barry lyga & morgan baden


Publication: September 3rd 2019, Kids Can Press
Genre: YA / Dystopia / Science Fiction
Series: Stand-alone.
Edition: Advance reader copy provided by publisher & from Netgalley.
Date finished: September 26th 2019.

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

Cassie McKinney has always believed in the Hive.

Social media used to be out of control, after all. People were torn apart by trolls and doxxers. Even hackers – like Cassie’s dad – were powerless against it.

But then the Hive came. A better way to sanction people for what they do online. Cause trouble, get too many “condemns,” and a crowd can come after you, teach you a lesson in real life. It’s safer, fairer and perfectly legal.

Entering her senior year of high school, filled with grief over an unexpected loss, Cassie is primed to lash out. Egged on by new friends, she makes an edgy joke online. Cassie doubts anyone will notice.

But the Hive notices everything. And as her viral comment whips an entire country into a frenzy, the Hive demands retribution.

One moment Cassie is anonymous; the next, she’s infamous. And running for her life.

With nowhere to turn, she must learn to rely on herself – and a group of Hive outcasts who may not be reliable – as she slowly uncovers the truth about the machine behind the Hive.

Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I was struck with interest immediately when I read the synopsis for The Hive. To me, the idea of social media becoming out of control has been irritating for quite some time, so the idea of people banding together to (harmlessly) punish someone who is trolling another or trying to ruin someone’s reputation is interesting. Disturbing and likely to become out of control— so impossible— but intriguing nonetheless.

Cassie is our protagonist. She’s an only child who lives with her mother and mourns her father, making herself invisible intentionally. I just want to point out that when I started reading this, very early on there is an observance made by Cassie that was quite alarming and hit home— she acknowledged how she’d made extended eye contact with another person for the first time in x-amount of time, and it really exemplified the social impact of the internet and social media. We don’t make eye contact with people anymore. We don’t talk to each other the same anymore in a public setting. It’s a disturbing revelation I talk to patients about at my job quite frequently. It’s a “rare” opportunity to connect, in those minutes, and we are losing that every day. This book really highlights the near future of that reality and it’s just as disturbing as you would expect. Unfortunately.

It also should be noted it’s edgy for YA, so if you’re sensitive to language/swearing or inappropriate joking about real problems, it might not be for you. These things are note super extreme by any stretch. I think they actually make it way more believable and feel more like reality. We all know YA covers a pretty broad range of genre, so…

Here’s the deal with this book: it’s a slow start. There’s a lot of information put right up front and it’s hard to really connect with Cassie at first. She’s and angsty teenager who hates people and her mom and only loves her dead father and is extraordinarily gifted in code but has given it up because her dad is gone. The one thing about Cassie, though, that was bothersome was her constant revisiting of the “rage” inside of her. I understand she suffered a terrible tragedy, but I thought it was kind of dramatic and unbelievable at times. The idea that she had to literally make a conscious effort to shelf her rage to accomplish anything was borderline annoying. In any case, she makes a poor decision in getting involved with the popular crowd at her new school and then makes a stupid mistake and posts something online.

This is where I began turning pages quickly. PLEASE KNOW that if you can blow through the first 100 pages, the story becomes better, faster, and more addicting as it goes on. There are some loose ends that probably should have been cleared up and a few why-would-he-or-she-do-thats and continuity issues, but all in all it was a super solid read and I really enjoyed it once the pace picked up and the info dump was over.

This story was a fast-paced thrilling and seemingly impossible scenario that is thought-provoking enough to make a reader understand exactly how viral internet works and what the inevitability of social media’s control could perhaps become. It is current and relevant, and most certainly recommended.

I will say that it was a little unbelievable— the reason for Cassie’s condemning is almost silly in nature (I don’t think the joke is funny on a literal level) and it’s actually crazy the level (lol) is was taken to. I think that’s the point, though. It’s part of the captivation.

Super fun ride that keeps you guessing and never knowing who to trust. Excellent!

Bonus: if you have a political sense of humor in the most dry sense, you’ll appreciate a few PR speeches, as the president in this story is remarkably similar to our current president.

Book Reviews

the last conversation / paul tremblay

Publication: September 17th 2019, Amazon Original Stories.
Genre: Science Fiction / Dystopia
Series: Forward Collection.
Edition: Audio provided by Audible, narrated by Steven Strait.
Date finished: September 22nd 2019.

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

What’s more frightening: Not knowing who you are? Or finding out? A Bram Stoker Award–winning author explores the answer in a chilling story about identity and human consciousness.

Imagine you’ve woken up in an unfamiliar room with no memory of who you are, how you got there, or where you were before. All you have is the disconnected voice of an attentive caretaker. Dr. Kuhn is there to help you—physically, emotionally, and psychologically. She’ll help you remember everything. She’ll make sure you reclaim your lost identity. Now answer one question: Are you sure you want to?

Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟💫

Welcome to the super creep show, courtesy of Paul Tremblay, as per usual.

If I could give only one word to this short story/novella, it would be haunting. I don’t know if anyone who read/listened this can relate to me here, but I was actually dreading what the title of this story meant the entire time I was listening to the point that it was almost distracting.

The beginning was slow and almost hypnotic (the hypnosis is continuous, which suits the story). The mono drawl of the narrator added to this feeling, of course, but if I had to guess having read Tremblay’s writing before— this was likely intentional. The relationship between X and Kuhn is odd and mysterious, and we are learning about the main character through his own “eyes” (he can’t see for the first part, so…).

One of the things I liked most about this experience was how easy it was to be empathetic of X. When he was annoyed or frustrated with Dr. Kuhn, I often felt that way too. The relief of finding out something about him or witnessing him become stronger was palpable. How could you not feel all of these things with him? Who am I (who is he?)? Where is he (where am I?)? What happened? Who are you?

Let’s talk about second person POV and how it was made for this story in particular! I cannot even remember the last time I read something from a second person POV, but I can’t think of a more perfect story to have used it in as this one. I’m not going to destroy the semi-shocking ending by telling you exactly why this is, but it definitely adds to the overall feel and revelation of the observer.

What a haunting little tale of hopelessness. A super fast read that leaves you thinking.