Tuesday, July 29, 2014

review: the revealed by jessica hickam

Lily lives in fear of The Revealed, a group said to kidnap people during their 18th year. Because of that, parents typically keep their kids confined to their homes during that year. Lily’s parents do just that, but they have even bigger reasons than most parents—Lily’s father is running for president of the North American Sector which was formed after a devastating war. He’s running against a man he used to be friends with. That man is also the father of one of Lily’s former classmates—a boy Lily has come to hate after once being close.

Jessica Hickam spends little time on world-building which works both for and against The Revealed. The novel doesn’t get bogged down with lots of background information, but it also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The Revealed ends with so many unanswered questions that it seems Hickam was intentionally setting up a sequel. The characters and story are interesting enough to sustain a follow-up, but tighter writing could have wrapped up the story in one book.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Monday, July 28, 2014

review: this beautiful life by helen schulman

Helen Schulman’s This Beautiful Life opens with the provocative scene of a middle school girl creating a video to attract the attention of a boy who’s two years older. Schulman then shifts to the boy’s family before the video was created. They are a fairly typical wealthy New York City family. Unfortunately this setup does not make them sympathetic; the reaction Jake’s parents have to him forwarding Daisy’s emailed video further cements them as unsympathetic characters. Schulman does keep the fast-paced plot compelling and very relevant through sharp writing and a basis in reality (the story is based on a real life viral video at a New York private school). The ending is lackluster though and seems like an afterthought that provides no resolution.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Harper Perennial.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

review: what strange creatures by emily arsenault

What Strange Creatures begins fairly mundanely with the Battle siblings simply living their ordinary lives. This start illustrates how anyone’s life can be thrown into chaos quite unexpectedly. Theresa would have never expected her out of work, probably alcoholic brother to be accused of murdering his girlfriend, but that’s exactly what happens. Since Theresa will take any excuse not to work on her dissertation, she immediately sets out to prove Jeff’s innocence despite some damning evidence. Theresa quickly discovers that Jeff’s girlfriend has a secret past that could have led to a political scandal and may just be the reason she was silenced.

The dynamic between the siblings was excellent and the portrayal of the relationship became all the better once Theresa and Jeff’s parents arrived on scene. The murder mystery and political scandal elements kept up the intrigue, but What Strange Creatures dragged a bit when Theresa would wax on about her dissertation. Having an English degree, I’m somewhat familiar with Margery Kempe, who Theresa was writing about, but all the extra details were not very interesting though Emily Arsenault did well to draw parallels between Theresa and Margery.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

review: the walk-in closet by abdi nazemian

Kara and Bobby live on their own sides of a duplex purchased by Bobby’s wealthy parents. It’s a convenient arrangement as the best friends are able to pursue their own exploits (far more on Bobby’s side) while allowing Bobby’s parents to believe Kara’s his girlfriend. But while Bobby hooks up with a variety of men (and then panics about AIDS), Kara is stunted by the fa├žade and a devastating earlier breakup. While the first few chapters of The Walk-In Closet were a bit boring, the plot takes an interesting turn when Kara decides she wants to start behaving more like Bobby. She has some hilarious moments especially when her other friends spot her ad seeking no-strings sex. But that no-strings sex turns out to have plenty of strings when Kara can’t resist uncovering the real identity of her fling. The Walk-In Closet is not without vulgarity, but it’s also a touching story about the family one makes.
Review copy provided by BookSparksPR.

Monday, July 21, 2014

review: the heiresses by sara shepard

Despite the constant spotlight and rumors of a family curse, the Saybrook heiresses do pretty well for themselves. But when Poppy plunges to her death from the company’s headquarters, the gossip intensifies with someone devoting a website to all the bad. The cousins must work together to figure out who’s out to get them, but that’s hard to do when they’re all self-absorbed and keeping secrets.

The lesson here seems to be not to keep secrets from your family. If all of the Saybrooks had just been honest with each other, Poppy’s killer wouldn’t have had any power and possibly any motivation. The Heiresses is soap opera-esque with plenty of scandal, tragedy, and misdeeds mixing in with the mystery of who killed Poppy. Sara Shepard makes sure to include a lot of misdirection so that the reader is never quite sure who is seeking revenge on the Saybrooks. The Heiresses is a suspenseful, guilty pleasure ride.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

review: sisterhood everlasting by ann brashares

It took a while for me to get around to reading Sisterhood Everlasting as I was disappointed by the third and fourth books in Ann Brashares’s Sisterhood series. I shouldn’t have waited so long. Sisterhood Everlasting jumps forward to the girls as adults who have pretty much gone separate ways. They still get in touch from time to time, but aren’t as close as they once were. Tibby especially has been out of contact, so the others drop everything when she invites them to Greece. But when they get there, Tibby is nowhere to be found. Soon after, Carmen, Lena, and Bee receive the devastating news that Tibby has drowned. As they mourn her loss, they are pulled from the comfortable lives they created and must make decisions about their futures. While there was a bit of predictability, Sisterhood Everlasting provided a satisfying albeit incredibly sad conclusion to the series.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

review: the keeper of secrets by julie thomas

The Keeper of Secrets follows three plotlines all linked by a rare violin that was stolen by the Nazis. While the story of the violin starting in 1935 Berlin was interesting, the story surrounding the descendent in 2008 was quite mundane and seemed to serve only as a way to make the violin’s original owners seek it out once more. Daniel’s sudden refusal to play the violin felt contrived as did much of the modern-day story. The introduction of a third set of characters (those in current possession of the violin) further diluted the plot. Given how quickly the resolution came, it was wholly unnecessary to bring in so much background about the violin’s current owner.
Review copy provided by the publisher, William Morrow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

review: eyes on you by kate white

Is Robin Trainer crazy? Just as she’s getting her career back on track, someone seems set on taking Robin down. On the night of her book release party, Robin finds a nasty note scrawled over her thank you speech. The threats escalate from there with Robin being deliberately injured and drugged. Robin knows someone is out to get her, but she also accused her stepmother of something similar. Her tormentor clearly knows Robin’s history and uses it against her to destroy Robin’s credibility which leaves Robin to fight for her job and her life with only a few trusted people. But is her trust misplaced?

Eyes on You immediately appealed because of Robin’s job in television, which was accurately portrayed. Beyond that, Kate White created a compelling character who is both vulnerable and strong and capable but fallible. Even as doubts about Robin’s sanity crept in, she remained a rootable protagonist. The plot moves quickly with plenty of intrigue and enough misdirection to keep the reader guessing.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Monday, July 14, 2014

review: panic by lauren oliver

Lauren Oliver’s latest young adult novel provides a peek at the desperation that is sometimes felt by teens lacking control of their lives. Panic takes place in a poverty-stricken small town—the sort of town the kids all want to escape. But it usually takes money to escape, which is why the graduating seniors are so willing to take place in the high stakes game of Panic. No one’s quite sure how the game got started, but Panic has life and death consequences. One of those consequences is why Dodge is participating this year even though he’s an outsider. As for Heather, she’s seeking a better life as her mom and stepdad spiral in addiction. Heather and Dodge were well drawn as were the supporting characters so that their small town angst was completely understandable. And Panic seemed exactly like the sort of game these kids would play even as the cops tried to stop it. The town and its atmosphere really becomes a character too in Panic with Oliver’s descriptions of the diner, trailer park, and Meth Row. The challenges set by the Panic judges are nicely intertwined with the everyday lives of the characters.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Friday, July 11, 2014

review: after i do by taylor jenkins reid

Lauren and Ryan have been together since meeting in college, but now things aren't going well after a decade as a couple (six married years). They fight all the time and feel they no longer love each other. So just before Lauren's 30th birthday, they agree to separate for a year.

I initially didn't think I was going to like After I Do (I did have high expectations after loving Forever, Interrupted) because Lauren and Ryan seemed so awful as to only deserve each other. But it turns out they did deserve each other--not because they were awful, but for far better reasons. I loved that through the character evolution and the use of unsent emails Taylor Jenkins Reid made Lauren and Ryan rootable.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.