Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

Baby Doll
by Hollie Overton


Summary: You've been held captive in one room, mentally and physically abused every day, since you were sixteen years old.

Then, one night, you realize your captor has left the door to your cell unlocked.

For the first time in eight years, you're free.

This is about what happens next ...

Lily knows that she must bring the man who nearly ruined her life - her good-looking high-school teacher - to justice. But she never imagined that reconnecting with her family would be just as difficult. Reclaiming her relationship with her twin sister, her mother, and her high school sweetheart who is in love with her sister may be Lily's greatest challenge. After all they've been through, can Lily and her family find their way back after this life-altering trauma?
I wanted to read this book because it popped up on Netgalley after I'd just finished watching the BBC miniseries Thirteen which had really similar subject matter and I thought I'd love it as much as I loved the show. And, well... It's a difficult one to review because my thoughts on in are so conflicted. On one hand, there was so much about the book I didn't like but on the other, I read it in two sittings and was kind of hooked.

I'm going to be talking a lot about the negative stuff, so I want to preface that by saying this: in spite of all the bad points, I liked it in the end and would rate it 2.5 stars out of 5. And most of what I didn't like really was just down to personal preference.

In the beginning, what I didn't like about the book was the writing -- the style just wasn't my cup of tea. It was quite bland/dry in the beginning and very tell instead of show. It would skim over scenes that would've been interesting to see more in depth while giving more time to stuff that was annoying or was less interesting. A lot of scenes were very contrived and unconvincing, particularly the dialogue which, in the beginning, was very clumsy and unrealistic (sort of like the dialogue in dramatic scenes of daytime soap operas).

I noticed that stuff less as the story progressed, but by then I was really annoyed by the plot.

I took a long time to warm up to Abby's character. It was just really difficult to understand why someone would love her enough (romantically) to put up with all her bad behaviour (again: so much of it was very tell instead of show) and that made it so frustrating to read, especially when she had done something that was hurting Lily and it was hard to figure out why and sympathise with her when the Wes stuff didn't make sense for the majority of the book beyond having two shared experiences (the loss of Lily, and the baby).

It did improve a bit later in the book, but it was still one of my least favourite things (which is one of the main reasons why my feelings are so mixed because it was a big part of the story).

With the subject matter, I should've been a wreck -- it should've been one of those gritty novels that makes you feel emotionally raw from reading it...but it never quite managed to get under my skin that much.

Basically, I don't think it portrayed the aftermath of that sort of trauma as well as it could have and I'd have probably liked the book a lot more if that aspect of it was given more attention instead of the more soap opera elements of the plot (particularly if the POV chapters were just Lily and Abby's -- Eve's POV felt kind of redundant half the time and Rick's just added to the kind of soap opera feel the book had at times and it could've worked without it).

Onto the positive stuff: like I said in the beginning, the book had me hooked. There may be a lot I didn't like but the fact that I couldn't put it down, couldn't quit it, it must've done something right.

My favourite part of the book was the relationship between Lily and Abby... I mean, Abby frustrated the hell out of me and a lot of what I didn't like plot-wise was relating to her, but I did still really love that the sisterly relationship got so much focus. The very best part of the book was the last quarter (loved the last few chapters) and that was when the things that annoyed me were put on the back burner and it was just about the sisters and their healing and how they were moving forward.

Anyway, like I said, I would say I liked the book in the end and would rate it 2.5 stars out of 5. It's worth checking out if it sounds like your kind of book.

Later.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Alice by Christina Henry

Alice
by Christina Henry


Summary: In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful. And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
This book really is dark and twisted -- often when books are described that way, they either try too hard to aim for shock value or they actually turn out to be quite tame. But this one? This one really delivered on the dark and twisted and I kind of loved it.

I loved the characters most of all, especially Hatcher. It feels weird to love that character because a lot of the dark and twisted I mentioned was down to him -- he murders people without so much as blinking an eyelid...and yet I adored him and wanted him to be safe and happy with Alice at the end of the story, he was kind of like an adorable murderous puppy of a character (and those descriptors should maybe be mutually exclusive but it's the best way I can describe him).

I really liked Alice and the way she grows as a character, and I loved the bond she had with Hatcher, it was really odd but I loved it and they're one of those literary pairs that shouldn't make sense and yet they make total sense.

And the plot... It's definitely one of the most interesting retelling's I've read in quite a while. The last Alice in Wonderland retelling I read was The Looking Glass Wars and I really liked that one but something about the way it was written felt like it was sacrificing character development for the action, but this book? This book got the balance right. It included all of the gritty and action stuff but never let that overshadow the characters or their relationships.

The only issue I had with the book was the sexual violence, but I think it was more just that it bothered me personally rather than the way it was written? It was such a common thing in the world the story is set in that it seemed like the characters became quite flippant about it, like they were so desensitised to it...which fit with the tone of the book, but I didn't particularly like reading that part.

Basically, I really enjoyed this book, it wasn't at all what I was expecting it to be and I liked it even more for that. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5, and I can't wait to see what Christina Henry comes up with next.

Later.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Problem With Forever
by Jennifer L. Armentrout


Summary: For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.
Jennifer L. Armentrout being the author of this book was the whole reason I wanted to read it -- I've read a few of her books so far and I've really enjoyed all of them. And this one? This one was probably one of my favourites of hers so far and I am so glad that I read it -- I adored it so much.

I loved the characters and the story -- it's one of those ones that's just really cute and while not much happens plot-wise, it never bored me, I was just content to read about the characters and see how their relationship evolved. Mallory and Rider... I loved them individually, but together? I really, really loved their relationship, it was such an adorable bond that they had and I couldn't help but root for them.

The main reason I loved the story though was the way that it dealt with mental health issues. It didn't trivialize anxiety issues and it showed the way that people who have anxiety are sometimes judged or misunderstood (i.e. people assume we're just shy) and it showed that it's not always something that can easily be "fixed" by taking a pill or a few therapy sessions.

And the best part was, it didn't romanticize it either... so many books that have characters with mental health issues (e.g. depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, etc.) romanticize them in shockingly bad ways. They turn them into quirks that the love interest finds cute or a way to make them "not like other girls" (eugh)... This one didn't do that. Rider never seemed to like her because of her issues or in spite of them, he just liked her as a person -- he's accepting and understanding of her limits and doesn't judge her for them, and he's so supportive and that was one of the things that made me love their relationship so much.

The only thing I didn't love about the book was Mallory's relationship with her adoptive parents. It had its moments of being great but sometimes it felt a little off, a little weird, like she was just their project rather than their daughter -- but I think that was intentional (to an extent), rather than a flaw in the writing, because their relationship does change and evolve. A big part of the weirdness was tied to the way Mallory acted with them, like she was trying to be perfect for them, like she didn't feel their love for her was unconditional...which makes total sense within the story.

So...yes. Jennifer L. Armentrout is definitely on my insta-buy list now -- in fact, I'm going to need to buy this book just so I can have a physical copy on my shelves because I loved it that much (I read it as an e-ARC). If you've not read any of her books yet? Maybe do that now. This one is a good place to start.

I'd rate it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Later.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

The Leaving
by Tara Altebrando


Summary: Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story.
Well then. This was an odd little book, and I (mostly) loved it.

It was one of those books that's just really addictive and hard to put down. The writing was really good, although I had a love/hate relationship with some of the stylistic choices the author made because the little quirks in the way Lucas and Scarlett's chapters were written (hers in particular) were really distinctive and original...but sometimes a bit distraction too and would interrupt the flow of a chapter (maybe that was the point though, I don't know).

The plot was really interesting. I'm still not sure what to make of it -- it was weird, but I liked it and I mostly liked the way it all played out.

The reason I said I "(mostly)" loved it was because there was one part of the story I pretty much hated: Avery. One of the POV characters.

She was just so annoying (most of the time) and awful (a lot of the time) and I'd get so frustrated whenever it would switch to her POV because she'd drag the whole story down. I think there was maybe one or two paragraphs in the entirety of her chapters that didn't irritate me. Plus, the romance storyline with her is so, so contrived and didn't work at all -- they didn't make sense together, it was so forced and rushed and insta-lust portrayed as love.

I'd have much preferred another one of the five kids be the POV character, or Lucas's brother or something. I could have tolerated her as a side character without the silly romance (and normally I love the romance parts of books, just not this one).

So yeah...I loved the book, except for Avery and anything relating to her (it'd probably be on my favourites shelf if it weren't for that). I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5 and I'm really looking forward to reading more of Tara's books.

Later.

Monday, 6 June 2016

London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

London Belongs To Us
by Sarra Manning


Summary: Seventeen-year-old Sunny's always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she's sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she's got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London - starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can't even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she'd have anything in common with - least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French 'twins' (they're really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it's the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone - from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers - is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution..
This book was kind of like London's lighthearted answer to Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and I pretty much adored it, it was so funny and fun and cute.

When I compare it to Nick & Norah, what I mean is that the city itself almost becomes a character and it's one extraordinary night in the city for a character who sets out searching for something but ends up finding so much more and unexpected along the way...and I love that.

And Sunny? She was awesome. I haven't liked a character so much in a long time, she's the kind of girl that I could see myself being friends with. She was funny and fierce and brave, and I appreciated the bravery even more because it wasn't something that just came naturally to her but she made choices to put herself out of her comfort zone. And her friends were great too. Particularly Emmeline and the French boys (loved Jean-Luc, and Vic made me laugh). And there was so much positive female relationships and it acknowledges the silly ways we (girls) judge each other sometimes, especially when we're younger.

It is the type of story that can be frustrating in the beginning though, because Sunny is in such denial about her crappy boyfriend to start off with and everyone (literally pretty much everyone) tries to get her to see the truth... and it's realistic and understandable, but because I liked Sunny so much (seriously, right from the first page) it was kind of like that feeling you get when you're friends with someone and they're dating someone who isn't even close to being good enough for them and you have to sit there and wait until they figure that out for themselves.

It's one of those books that has laugh out loud moments and makes your face hurt from smiling and occasionally makes your heart ache from cuteness. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5. I really need to read more of Sarra Manning's books now.

Later.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls 
by Patrick Ness 


Summary: The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth. 
I feel like I'm in the extreme minority in being really underwhelmed by this book. I didn't hate it, I just didn't particularly like it either and it's one of those ones that left me a bit baffled by the hype about it.

I mean, it is a very aesthetically beautiful book -- I adored the artwork so much. But the story? It was well written but it was quite forgettable. It made me cry a few times, but that's purely because it was pushing buttons that would make anyone cry, especially someone who knows how it feels.

Maybe that was the problem for me though -- I know how it feels to lose a parent, I've been that kid, and I know how horrible cancer can be and this story? It was just another story about loss amongst thousands of other stories about loss and the only thing that stood out about it was the artwork while the story itself was just bland and didn't stand out as being better--or even as good as--most of the others I've read.

I don't have anything else to say about the book really. I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5 -- not good, but not bad either. But, like I said, I'm in the minority in not loving the book so I'd still really recommend checking it out and perhaps you'll find you're one of the many that love it.

It has been made into a movie though and based on the trailer, I think it might work better in that format seeing as its strongest point was the visual aspect of the book.

Later.

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