Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent

Summary: Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.
I both loved and hated this book. It took me over a year to read it. Granted, I was listening to it on audiobook and I am a lot slower with them than I am with regular books, but still, it took a long time to get through. It was one of those books that was really, really easy to stop reading and difficult to pick it back up again.

What I loved: It was a really, really beautiful book. The writing was wonderful and so atmospheric. The way Hannah Kent wrote the setting turned Iceland into almost a character itself. And the actual characters? They were very real and complex and I loved that.

I found the story of Agnes really interesting, and the book made me care about her. Made me frustrated by her and angry on her behalf, but mostly just really sad for her. She was written so convincingly that sometimes I forgot I was reading a fictionalised version of a real woman, rather than a book about the real Agnes.

My problem with the book was that it was very, very, very slow.

Nothing much actually happens in the book until near the end. It's very much a character driven story. We go into it knowing how it's going to end, and it's just this slow build up to that, and we learn the Why of it all at a snails pace, little details of Agnes's life before her arrest dripping into the story, taking forever to get to the part we (or I) actually wanted to know about: the night of the murders, the reason they happened at all.

As for the took me a really long time to listen to it on audio, but I'd still recommend it. The narration was fantastic (and, if you're like me and stumble over pronunciation of Icelandic words and names, it really helped hearing them said out loud by the narrator rather than trying to figure them out on my own).

Basically, the book was beautiful in so many ways and really interesting (the real story of Agnes is fascinating and haunting), and if you're the type of person who loves character driven stories then this is definitely one worth picking up, but if you like your stories fast paced and plot-driven, it might not be for you. I'd rate it 4 stars out of 5.


Monday, 28 November 2016

Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas

Punk 57
by Penelope Douglas

Summary: “We were perfect together. Until we met.”

I can’t help but smile at the words in her letter. She misses me.

In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever... And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us. Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.
We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?

Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances? I need to meet her. I just don’t expect to hate what I find.


He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch. Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his number or picture or something. He could be gone forever. Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.
Do you ever read a book that you kind of love, but you hate that you love it? This was one of those books for me.

What I loved about it was purely that it had me completely hooked. It was addictive and had a lot of tropes that simultaneously bug me and thoroughly entertain me. I loved the idea of the story from the moment I read the summary, and had the same concept been written differently, it could've easily become one of my favourite books.

The problem I had, and the reason I'm so torn, is because even though it had me hooked and I read it in one sitting, it also pulled a lot of crap I really, really, really hate in books. It was slut shame-y, there was a lot of that awful catty girl hate going on and there was literally no positive female friendships/relationships until almost the very end (and even then, it was so insignificant to the story that it barely registered).

Through most of the story, the main female character was a bully at worst and someone who stood there doing nothing while others were being hurt at best -- and while she did have a sort of redemption arc going on, something about the way it was done bugged me. I can't put my finger on why.

And the romance? I admit, that was one of the parts that hooked me. I love those opposites attract, love-hate type relationships. They're addictive, and I find it hard not to root for those couples. My issue with this one was that the dude was such a judgemental asshat and could be so manipulative and borderline emotionally abusive (sometimes even toeing the line of physical abuse too). And there was a lot of "you're not like other girls" kind of attitude thrown in there. There were definitely good parts to it too, but there was a lot that bothered me about it.

Basically, the book was kind of an extremely problematic fave. There is so much about the story and the characters that wasn't okay with me, but a book that can make me feel for the characters and has me so gripped that I read it in one sitting obviously did something right. I'd rate it 4 stars for how entertaining it was, 2 for subject matter, so overall I'd say it gets 3 stars out of 5.


Monday, 21 November 2016

No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

No Virgin
by Anne Cassidy

Summary: My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.

Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. She does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down. This is Stacey's story.
Before I start this review, I just want to warn you that there will be some spoilers. I can't really explain my thoughts on it without them.

I'm not really sure how to feel about this book to be honest. It wasn't a bad book, but I finished it nearly two weeks ago and still haven't been able to review it -- so, this is me winging it and we'll see if I can form some sort of coherent opinion.

To begin with, the format wasn't really my kind of thing. The writing style was quite mediocre through a lot of the book and I'm not sure if that was intentional or not because it is written in a journal-ish sort of format. It was easy to overlook that once I got caught up in the story, but I didn't like it in the beginning.

And the story? I think that's why I've had a hard time thinking of what to say about this book. The story is really quite bleak -- it's this raw and awful thing that happens to this character, and the story doesn't gloss over anything that happens to her. The details never seem gratuitous or like they were done for shock value (which, unfortunately, many books about rape are)... It just seemed honest. But it wasn't really hopeful. The bleakness persisted almost right to the end, there were maybe one or two scenes of hopefulness but the end still felt quite abrupt and unsatisfying.

When I read stories like this, there's always that part of me that wants to see justice done (which, I know, isn't the reality for many cases). That wants to see the part of the story where things are okay again, where the character has made it through this storm that has wrecked them and they're on the other side of it. And that was not this book. We don't get that -- we just get the reality and the tiniest hint that the character will get there, then the rest is left to the reader.

Books about rape are never easy to read, but I found this one particularly difficult because of that lack of closure. Again, that doesn't make this a bad book -- just one that is hard to read (and hard to review).

The book also wasn't at all what I was expecting it to be. Based on the title, I thought it was going to be about the slut shaming that some rape victims go through, the way some are made to feel like they're less of a victim or the wrong type of victim if they're promiscuous but it wasn't like that. It barely even touched on that, which wasn't a bad thing, just unexpected.

This book instead offers something that I've not really seen done before in YA stories about rape. There's many stories about date rape, about stranger rape, about acquaintance rape, but this is the first I've seen about grooming. About how a girl (or anyone really) can be manipulated into situations and forced to do things they don't want to do, how the circumstances can make them feel that what happened was their fault and they would be blamed or not believed, and how their abusers use that. The book did show that really well.

So...that's all I've got. I did not like this book. But it wasn't a bad book. I didn't hate it either, though I hate what happens in it. It's an important one, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to someone even though I do think it's an important story.

I'd rate the book 3.5 stars out of 5.


Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Amateurs by Sara Shepard

The Amateurs
by Sara Shepard

Summary: When Aerin Kelly was eleven, she idolised her seventeen-year-old sister, Helena, and they did everything together. They made Claymation movies and posted them to YouTube. They made fun of Windmere-Carruthers, the private school they attended, they invented new flavours for their parents' organic ice cream shop, and they dressed up their golden retriever, Buster. But when Helena went into senior year things started to change. Rather than being Aerin's inseparable sister, she started to push her away. Then, on a snowy winter's day, Helena vanished.

Four years later, Helena's body is found. Wracked with grief and refusing to give up on her sister, Aerin spends months trying to figure out what exactly happened to Helena and who killed her. But the police have no leads. A young, familiar officer named Thomas wants to help and suggests she checks out a website called Case Not Closed. Hesitantly, she posts, and when teenagers Seneca and Maddox show up on her doorstep offering to help investigate she accepts in desperation. Both have suffered their own losses and also posted to the site with no luck, so they are hoping this case might be the one they crack. But as their investigation begins, it seems that maybe it's no accident that they are all together, and that maybe the crimes have something - or someone - in common.
This is the fourth Sara Shepard book I've ever read, and it's my least favourite so far. It wasn't a bad book and there was a lot about it I enjoyed, but it's one of those stories where the idea of it is way better than the execution.

I don't have a lot to say about the book really. I liked the characters, but there was just a spark missing to bring them to life. The plot required a lot of suspension of disbelief and was a bit trope-y at times, which didn't bother me too much but it did hold me back from really getting into the story.

The most disappointing thing for me was the friendships really, particularly the female friendships. I've found in Sara's other books I can forgive a lot when it comes to the plot or the writing if the relationships between the characters was done well and in this one, there was something lacking there. She usually excels at writing friendships but not in this one, they felt really underdeveloped -- the whole thing did really.

Basically, I love the idea of this story (a group of teen sleuths getting together to solve cold cases? awesome!) but the whole thing felt rushed. The bones of a good book were there, but it needed to be fleshed out more.

I was surprised by the final twist at the end and I do want to see the characters developed more so I'll definitely pick up the sequel, but this one was just an okay read for me. I'd rate it 2.5 stars out of 5.



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