Sunday, January 31, 2016

review: girls in white dresses by jennifer close

As a general rule, I love books that are written as a collection of connected short stories (such as The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank) and Girls in White Dresses did not disappoint. The characters were incredibly relatable as were the situations they find themselves in. The dialogue was absolutely spot-on for women in that transitional phase of post-college when some of your friends are becoming adults and some are still hanging on to hedonistic college days. The stories here are slice-of-life, so there is no specific plot other than the lives these young women are living which is just part of what makes Girls in White Dresses so relatable.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

review: the 5th wave by rick yancey

One day Cassie was sitting in her high school calculus class when all the electronics malfunctioned and then a plane fell out of the sky. It was The 1st Wave of the alien invasion. Cassie and her family survived longer than most, but Cassie is on her own now that The 5th Wave has started. She knows her parents are both dead, but a belief that her young brother is still alive propels her on as she proves to be a fierce fighter.

The alien invasion plot is compelling, but doesn’t end up being fully fleshed out. There are also some inconsistencies, such as with the division of the children marked with either red or green and the age groups sent to the camp. The 5th Wave rotates narrators a few times with Cassie serving as the primary narrator. While the rotation allows Rick Yancey to share more information than he could if only Cassie narrated, it also means the story is a bit hard to follow sometimes. By the conclusion, there are just as many unanswered questions as answered ones despite Yancey tying together many of the different sections; this was obviously done to set up the next book in the trilogy, but that’s a pet peeve of mine.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Speak.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

review: spin by catherine mckenzie

What if you went to rehab to write a celebrity gossip article, but your friends and family expressed how glad they were you were finally getting help? That’s what happens to Katie Sandford in Catherine McKenzie’s excellent debut novel, Spin. The setup is amazing (Katie shows up to a job interview drunk which inspires the magazine to offer her a job if she agrees to spy on a troubled celebrity who’s gone to rehab) and the witty characters are people you can imagine being friends with. McKenzie skillfully portrays a serious issue, but keeps the novel light-hearted by inserting plenty of comedic moments.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

review: is love by maria bello

Maria Bello caused a bit of a stir when she wrote an essay for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. While the essay sparked a conversation for many, it also led to Bello writing Whatever…Love is Love which is a nonlinear memoir centering on questions Bello asks herself, like Am I forgiving? and Am I a feminist? While her thought-provoking memoir is about her life, she is also asking the reader to examine his or her own life and the labels society applies. It is a powerful work.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Dey Street Books.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

review: the newsmakers by lis wiehl

In The Newsmakers, Lis Wiehl (with Sebastian Stuart) creates a scarily real cable news channel that’s rising in the ratings with Erica Sparks as its latest star. Erica is trying to get her career and life back on track after her drinking got out of control, so the opportunity at Global News Network means a lot. Her very first story for GNN launches her into the limelight when a ferry crashes while she’s nearby to work on a fluff piece. From that point on, the stakes are high for Erica. Wiehl keeps up the intensity too as Erica investigates the ferry crash and discovers there’s far more going on at GNN than she ever would’ve expected. Although the conspiracy at the center of The Newsmakers may (hopefully) be far-fetched, the rest of Wiehl’s depiction of TV news is pretty on spot. Erica makes for great protagonist too, being both flawed and tenacious.
Review copy provided by the publicist, FSB Associates.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

review: my sweet audrina by v.c. andrews

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When Lifetime announced Flowers in the Attic was being (re)made into a movie, I hoped My Sweet Audrina would eventually become a movie as well. This weekend marked the debut of My Sweet Audrina on Lifetime (which sadly eliminated some elements including Audrina’s younger sister, Arden’s mother, and “tea time”) which meant it was time to revisit the novel. It was everything I remembered! One of the few novels actually written by V.C. Andrews herself, My Sweet Audrina is filled with the lurid details of the strange Whitefern/Adare family. A warning: spoilers abound from here out.

One of the reasons My Sweet Audrina is right there with Flowers in the Attic as my favorites of V.C. Andrews is that both begin with someone being well-intentioned but getting it horribly wrong. Audrina’s parents wanted to protect her from the terrible crime that had been perpetrated on her, but they also destroyed her sanity and made her further the victim of her half-sister/cousin. And Vera! Where to even begin? Andrews had quite the imagination to dream up someone as wretched as Vera, who organized the gang rape of a nine year old when still only a child herself.

My Sweet Audrina also shows how Andrews developed as a writer after publishing her first novel. This time around there’s much more action even though almost every scene is again set inside an aging mansion. In addition to developing some plausible character motives, Andrews also drops hints about the truth of Audrina’s identity and why her sense of time is so off (Vera attending “summer school” and August seeming more like October with the geese flying south). This disturbing tale is definitely Andrews’s best.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

review: the heartless city by andrea berthot

Andrea Berthot’s The Heartless City reimagines the classic tale of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This time many in London have taken the Hyde drug or been infected or murdered by a Hyde and the city is under quarantine as a result. The Heartless City mixes regular teen antics with the danger of Hydes (think supernatural creatures on par with vampires and werewolves) ravaging the city. Though entertaining, the teen stories are standard fare and predictable with Iris and Elliot instantly falling in love and teaming up against those who are conspiring to keep the Hyde population thriving. The premise is the story’s biggest appeal as it creates a good vs. evil scenario where evil is twice outdone by intelligent women, but too many minor threads detract from the more powerful elements.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Curiosity Quills.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

review: charming by krystal wade

After the death of her mother, high school student Haley has done her best to shelter her younger sister from the knowledge that their father is an abusive alcoholic (their father only beats and berates Haley). As a result, the sisters don’t really get along since Joce believes Haley is unfair to their father. That’s why Haley is so touched when she comes home to a note purportedly from her sister encouraging her to go on a date with the son of their mother’s wealthy former colleague. Unfortunately for Haley, this is when Krystal Wade’s Cinderella story starts to take an even darker twist. Soon the lives of everyone Haley loves are in danger.

For the first half, Charming is a moving story of a teenager doing her best to make it through life despite some pretty awful circumstances; the murderous turn for the second half makes the pacing feel uneven. The writing and character development is strong throughout the first half, but the villain’s motive is never fully developed in the rushed second half. Despite the hasty ending, Wade’s development of Haley as strong, but fallible heroine makes Charming a worthwhile read.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Curiosity Quills.