Review (revisited): One of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus

I guess I’m one of those people who don’t really mind fan-fiction. Hell, I guess I’m just not smart enough to see it in most books. Maybe because I’m not obsessed with many writings. Or maybe I think we all take inspiration from where we can get it, so I don’t really often see fan-fiction as a knockoff. Some people act like it’s a terrible thing and cheating. Other’s can’t get enough of it. I’ve never been bothered either way. If anything I should think it would be an honour. At the end of the day there are very few original concepts out there…and even then the artists still got their inspiration from somewhere!

Starting this book was like an eye opener. Two chapters in and I was like, “oh shite, I’m not sure I will like this.” I mean it was so obviously “The Breakfast Club”. I was like, “really? are you freaking serious?”

But then again, growing up in the 80’s who can’t say that TBC wasn’t just, the be all, end all of everything 80’s. Who doesn’t love that movie?

Then I got over it, and the book progressed. I won’t say I was shocked at the ending. Or surprised. I won’t say I had it all figured out, but I had a pretty good idea of what happened, just not how all the players tied in together.

At the ending, I wasn’t left feeling cheated. I didn’t feel the author took shortcuts or intentionally mislead.

I wasn’t blown away by it, but I did enjoy it once the novel moved on from TBC type feel. I did go back and forth about which character I liked best (this isn’t a bad thing!). I enjoyed them all. I could also relate to them all (just like in TBC). I wanted good things to happen for all of them.

If this is what McManus has to show us in her debut novel, I seriously can’t wait to see what her next one will be like.

Until next time…
Urania xx

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Review: When I Am Through with You

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This one didn’t go anything like I was expecting.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  However, it does make for a difficult task writing a review without giving too much away.

Teenagers, weekend hike in the mountains, somebody dies.  That’s the story in a nutshell.  There’s a bit more to it, of course.  Ben starts off the story by telling you that he killed someone.  Not just any someone, but his girlfriend while at the same time claiming to love her very much.  Just how and why he killed her remains a mystery for much of the story.  Along the way we’re introduced to a host of other characters with their own bits of intrigue.

While this was a good enough story, I feel like it could have been more.  I somehow felt cheated by the ending as I was expecting something a bit juicier.  Still, it’s suspenseful enough to keep you interested as you wonder just what’s going to happen with this ragtag group of teenagers out in the middle of nowhere.

Read it and let me know what you think!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  When I Am Through with You

Review: August, October by Andrés Barba

25074166It’s hard to write a review for a book that you cared nothing about. As with all books I read, I went into this one with high hopes. Having read the description I found myself intrigued with how the author would handle this story. At the end of the day, I wasn’t happy. Nothing about it made me comfortable. The fact that the main character goes back at the end to seek some sort of….I don’t even know….Forgiveness? Justification? Admission? Redemption? Repentance? Again….I don’t even know….the fact that he goes back in the end…and the way it was handled…it just somehow made it even worse in my eyes. Doesn’t matter if the girl saw no wrong in what he did….it WAS wrong….it doesn’t matter if he physically had intercourse with her or not….it WAS wrong…the fact that she was mentally challenged? That made it even MORE wrong (if that’s even possible).

I don’t want to bash this author. I don’t even want to make this an issue over rape vs ???? what could I possible insert here to replace what happened in *anyone’s* mind? I….okay….I’m just flummoxed as to anything to say about this book…I always try to stress to people who I believe a negative review from me or anyone else shouldn’t really detour someone from giving a book a try…that it might just be me that didn’t connect with the book….I often go away from a book that I didn’t enjoy and know just the right person that might love the book….with this one, I’m just hard pressed to find anyone that would enjoy it. I don’t like saying that…

After still pondering how I could write a review with at least one redeeming thought the day after, I can only come up with this…

When Tomas’ aunt is dying she makes it very clear that she has come to the end of her life and is very disappointed that she is quite *ordinary*. This theme is often seen throughout the novel. As Tomas reflects on how he viewed his parents and how he sees them the night as they sleep…again, no longer larger than life, but ordinary…

I am left with this thought….There are much worse things in life than to be *ordinary*. Tomas and his *friends* are a perfect example of this. Perhaps Tomas plays along to the tough crowd hoping to avoid this *ordinariness* that he is so afraid of becoming….but in the process he loses all hope for ordinariness, let alone greatness….

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by Edelweiss for an honest review

Buy it now August, October by Andrés Barba

Review: The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

25917801New Orleans is a city of excess. Music, food, drink…it’s all there to be had in abundance. Stories of the supernatural and paranormal are no exception. Ghosts, witches, voodoo queens, vampires…you name it and they’ve got it. One of the best known and most frequently retold legends centers around the Casquette girls of the Ursuline Convent. Walk by on a dark & foggy night and you can almost see the shutters rattling.

This take on the infamous tale picks up after the Storm of the Century. Katrina isn’t specifically mentioned but the implication is there. Adele is eager to return to the city she loves. She and her father are among the first to come home, the magical pull of the city being too strong for them to resist. It’s a city in ruins. Electricity is scarce, groceries are hard to come by, and there’s a city-wide curfew in effect. Still, it’s good to be back. Adele finds comfort in the little things such as walking the streets of the French Quarter in the mornings and evenings. It’s on one such walk that she happens to walk past the Ursuline Convent. She’s lived in New Orleans her entire life, and she knows the stories. When the infamous blood suckers are accidentally released, Adele and her friends must find a way to stop them from taking over what’s left of the city.

Did I love this story so much more because of my love for New Orleans? No doubt. The author writes with such depth and accuracy that I felt as if I was walking the streets of the French Quarter, waiting for one of the vampires to jump out and grab me. But I also know that I would have loved this story almost as much without that sense of familiarity. The vampires are dark and scary with just enough charm thrown in to almost make them likeable. Intertwined with their tale are stories of voodoo and witchcraft. To top it off, the human characters are fun and likeable. And Adele makes one heck of a leading character.

Grab this one, turn the lights down low, and get ready to be scared!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Casquette Girls

Review: Ghosting by Edith Pattou

20140629-124617-45977646.jpgWhere to begin with this review? First off, it was everything I expected while not being what I expected at the same time. Make sense? When I requested an ARC of this book, I had never heard of Edith Pattou so I wasn’t familiar with her work. The title of the book didn’t mesh with the description, so of course that made me curious enough to give it a try.

So exactly what is the story about? Think “butterfly effect” for the young adult audience. It’s a story about how quickly the world can go wrong, even if you’re young and have your whole life in front of you. Classmates, some friends and some not, thrown together because of a set of circumstances that all come together in one horrible moment. A night of partying, some drinking and drugs thrown in, guns where they shouldn’t be, a teenage prank gone horribly wrong, and nobody is brave enough to stand up for what is right.

My thoughts? In one word, wow. I was a bit thrown off at first because the story is written in free verse, which I wasn’t familiar with in narrative form. But once I got past that initial hurdle, I saw that this style of writing is part of what makes this story so engaging and easy to read. We hear from all of the main characters, almost as if we’ve been invited into their heads to hear their internal conversation. They’re not all likable. In fact, some of them are just plain horrible people. Still, we come to feel their pain and to see them as human as this tragic story unfolds. And this isn’t one of those books that leaves the reader wondering what happens, although those have their place on my bookshelf as well. We end the story with a good feeling of where everyone is, and where everyone is going after that final page. And we’re left thinking if only….

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Ghosting

Review: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

20140302-150145.jpgGiant mutant praying mantises that just want to eat humans and have sex. Mad scientists. Horny teenage boys. Horny teenage boys confused about their sexual orientation. By this point you’re either really interested in this book or completely turned off. Luckily for me, and for you if you’re still reading this review, I am not easily deterred by less-than-traditional story lines.

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Small town Iowa will never be the same after an army of genetically modified mutant bugs is unleashed on unsuspecting citizens. These bugs are big. They’re strong. And they’re either eating or reproducing, often at the same time. Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba, his girlfriend Shanna, and best friend Robby are right in the thick of things. It’s up to them to save Ealing, Iowa along with the rest of the world. If only it were that simple. Along with saving mankind from the ravages of the mantises, Austin is coming to terms with his relationship with Shanna while at the same struggling with his feelings for Robby, who also happens to be homosexual. Throw into the mix a cast of characters including a hot cheating mom, a masturbating sales clerk, a timid and oblivious stepfather, and you’ve got the ingredients for a true gem of a story.

Besides the fact that Andrew Smith writes one heck of a story, the narrative style blew me away. Austin goes back and forth between telling his story but at the same time providing history and background info on how everything is connected in some way. Six degrees of separation with a witty, rambling sense of humor.The conversations between the teenagers read true to life, and the other characters are weird but not so strange as to be completely unbelievable. A word of warning: This is a very strange book full of sexual innuendo along with the real thing as well as lots of foul language, drinking, and drug use. Not for the the faint of heart or easily offended. But, for those of you who are adventuresome enough to give it a try, you won’t be sorry. This is one book that you won’t soon forget.

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Grasshopper Jungle

Review: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

20140222-090030.jpgGabrielle Zevin’s debut novel, Elsewhere, is one of those once-in-lifetime books that steals your soul and sticks in your head forever and ever. So the bar was set exceptionally high when I decided to add one of her more recent stories to my list of books read.

When sixteen-year-old Naomi falls down and hits her head, the resulting amnesia causes her to examine her life and who she truly wants to be. Waking up in the hospital, she soon discovers that the past four years of her life have disappeared. She has no memory of her popular star athlete boyfriend Ace. Where is her mom and why are they no longer on speaking terms? Who are these people talking to her when she returns to school? Even her house is different from the one she remembers. Of course there’s a love story twist thrown in for interest. James is the mysterious new kid in school who was there when she fell and rode with her to the hospital. And then there’s Will, her quirky best friend who is probably the best character in the book. Lots of decisions to be made by Naomi as she comes to terms with what she remembers, what she wants to forget, and what she wants to change.

So did this one measure up to my admittedly very high expectations? Yes and no. It’s really not fair or compare it to Elsewhere as they’re two completely different kinds of stories. Whereas Elsewhere is a story full of mysticism and the afterlife, Memoirs is more of a true to life, coming of age story. Still, it’s an excellent young adult book with highly likeable characters and enjoyable dialogue written by an outstanding author.

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac