Posted in Rachel Sanderson

Mirror Me by Rachel Sanderson

Synopsis:

Abbie Fray has moved with her family from Sydney to Derrington, a country town where everybody knows everybody and the mobile reception sucks. She’s left behind her best friend, her school, and her favourite bakery. She thinks her life can’t get any worse.

Then she makes a terrifying discovery.

Abbie looks just like Rebecca O’Reilley, a girl who was brutally murdered in Derrington a year earlier. And it doesn’t take long before Abbie learns there’s more connecting them than just appearance.

Not even a budding romance with the kind, quirky and gorgeous Zeke is enough to stop Abbie’s curiosity about the murder developing into a dangerous obsession.

Who is sending Abbie anonymous threats?

And why does she keep dreaming about the scene of Becky’s death?

As questions mount, Abbie only knows one thing for sure: she must find out what really happened the night Rebecca O’Reilley was killed.

But what if the truth is closer – and deadlier – than she could possibly imagine?

Review:

The book’s description makes it pretty difficult to understand from the beginning the type of story you’re dealing with. Is it a thriller? A fantasy? A paranormal mystery? What I definitely knew is that Mirror Me will float somewhere in the large category of Young Adult books and since I had a few years long obsession with this genre, I was curious to go back to it after so long and see if it’s still my cup of tea.

I guess Mirror Me was a lucky choice, because I honestly didn’t roll my eyes as many times as I was imagining I would be. Yes, it has a few details that seem a bit too much, but if I’m being honest, I think those have to do more with the typical teenage mentality in general rather than with the author’s writing.

Despite starting from a clearly improbable plot, the storyline develops into a very realistic way compared to the general tendency of YA novels. No absent parents, no wild adventures, no sudden crazy love hits (a mild crush is definitely acceptable and expected), no huge dramas. The storyline is calm and down-to-earth, with all the ups and downs that you’re expecting when it comes to a life changing move across the country during the most challenging years of a teen. A teen who now has to deal with an additional issue that turns her even more into an outsider.

I did like the pragmatic relationships between the characters, both when it comes to family and friends, I liked the no-nonsense portrait of the heroine and how balanced her behavior remains, although she’s confronted with more and more challenges and she often feels that she’s losing her mind.

The twist in the last chapters doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The author inserts enough clues during the pages to give you a strong suspicion about who might be the culprit. But the background story that represents the real motive is astonishing and impossible to guess beforehand.

Entertaining without becoming addictive, Mirror Me will be a light read that you will probably enjoy. It doesn’t have any imperfections that would make it an unpleasant story, but in the same time, it also doesn’t come with anything spectacular to make you fall in love with it.

Posted in J.K. Rowling

The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling

Synopsis:

The Ickabog is a fairy tale, set in an imaginary land, which J.K. Rowling says is ‘about truth and the abuse of power’. It was written as a read-aloud story, but it’s suitable for seven to nine-year-olds to read to themselves. The story will be translated into a number of other languages and made available on the website shortly after the English language version appears.

Review:

The Ickabog is a fairytale described as suitable for kids 7 to 9 years old, but if we already learned something from J.K. Rowling’s famous children’s books is that once you’ve started the first pages, you will be compelled, no matter how old you are.

The storyline starts in Cornucopia, one of the greatest and luckiest kingdoms that ever existed, ruled by a well intentioned, but naive and absent king. Following the story of two normal children, their parents and some not so innocent royal advisers, we witness the decay of a once magnificent kingdom and the ever growing mold that roots from corruption, incompetence and fear of speaking out. It’s somehow a story that would still be a valid metaphor if used in any situation, whether we’re thinking about countries, companies, schools or any society in general. Because wherever there’s a group of people, there will always be a fight between right and wrong, between morality and corruption, between the common good and individualism.

Although much more simplistic and obviously, much shorter than any Harry Potter novel (don’t get too excited and give yourself unrealistic hopes, no, it’s nothing similar!), one thing that I found the two stories have in common is how easily they make you care for their characters. In The Ickabog, in a much smaller number of pages, Rowling still plays with your feelings like a puppeteer manoeuvres his marionettes. You will experience every single emotion, from joy, to hope, to fear and frustration and you will despise some characters with an intensity that it will surprise you. Perhaps there is no magic in Cornucopia, but there is definitely something magical about this ability.

The only issue I had with the book is the age of targeted readers. The book’s official description mentions “7 to 9 years old” and honestly, I have no idea what kids these days are reading at that age. So I might be wrong when I’m saying this. But I just felt there’s so much pain and betrayal, so much unfairness and bitterness radiating from the pages of the book that somehow, the joyful moments or even the happy ending (no spoiler here, it’s a fairytale, what would you expect?) might not manage to erase the shadows left by the ugly parts. The main characters may get a somewhat cheery finale, but the sorrow and losses they suffered during the years are still shading their lives. Yes, there’s nothing more real than this lesson, but is indeed “7 to 9” the right age to dwell into this truth?

Posted in Livia Harper

Party Dress (Greta Bell #2) by Livia Harper

Synopsis:

Greta has her man, but paradise isn’t all she hoped for.

His frat brothers aren’t exactly welcoming her with open arms. Everyone still thinks she killed Amber. Especially the police. But her lips have been sealed by Blake’s kisses.

She adores spending all her time with him. She adores having such an amazing man to call her own. But her once-wild stallion is having a much harder time adjusting to life as a couple. He balks every time they’re seen in public together, and can’t resist the lure of wicked temptresses like Jessica James.

If Greta wants to keep him, she’ll have to find a way to fit in with his crowd. Luckily, Blake has plenty to teach her about being popular. His lessons are vile, hateful things that make her stomach turn. But she’s willing to do anything to have the life she wants—even if it means teaching Blake a lesson or two of her own.

He’ll learn. Eventually.

Review:

The story of the complete madwoman Greta Bell continues in this sequel with the same insane style that we got used to in the first novel of the series, but everything escalates to a whole new level. Perhaps some readers might find this progress as a good thing, but unfortunately, I couldn’t stop thinking that it’s such a disappointment…

Yes, the whole story grows from crazy to demented, to unbelievable. But that’s exactly the problem: that with every new, mad turn, the storyline loses its realism. The first novel of the series, Boyfriend Glasses instantly caught my interest mostly because of its strong grip in reality. Yes, it was very far from normal, yes, the protagonist was totally insane. But even so, her story looked like something that might happen in real life, something that you might read in the newspapers, something that might be the headline of the news that you’re watching on TV. There are sick, undiagnosed people that are walking freely, unsupervised between us, that are not treating their mental issues, that are pretending to be normal and it takes a while until everyone around them realizes that something is a bit off. So Boyfriend Glasses was exactly the story about someone like that. Shocking, but still so, so realistic and so, very gripping because of that.

Now, Party Dress, keeps up or actually increases the adrenaline of Greta’s story. Every new chapter is truly unexpected and mind blowing. But by doing so, you get more and more often the feeling that you are reading an invented scenario. You no longer think “Ohmygod, this could happen to anyone, people like this might live all around us!”. On the contrary, so many times I found everything exaggerated and just rolled my eyes on the improbability of all the events.

Depending on your preferences, you might enjoy this book more or less than the first one. It is a good story, it has every needed element to make you addicted, it leaves you breathless over and over again. But your own taste will actually be the one to determine how you will feel about it in comparison to Boyfriend Glasses. For me, the first novel was undoubtedly better. But for you, it might be the opposite. There’s just one more book left in the series and still, despite my current disappointment, I’m dying of curiosity to see how the story will evolve.

Posted in Kim Liggett

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Synopsis:

A speculative thriller in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power. Optioned by Universal and Elizabeth Banks to be a major motion picture!

SURVIVE THE YEAR.

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Review:

I started this book. Found it too slow after some pages and abandoned it for a few weeks. Afterwards, I started seeing it mentioned all over the Internet as one of the best new stories you could put your hands on. Got back to it and… couldn’t stop until the ending. At 6AM… Daaaamn, what I was about to miss if I didn’t give it a second chance!

I honestly thought that I’ve read so many Young Adult dystopian novels for the last few years that there’s no chance of any new book of this type to still surprise me or get me hooked up. That’s pretty much what I had in mind when I started The Grace Year and the slow paced beginning didn’t really encourage me to change my opinion. I’m so grateful that I trusted those articles saying that you shouldn’t miss this book!

Slowly, the classical story of the rebellious girl who opposes the traditional and over controlling society starts to grow new and surprising threads and lets you uncover hidden meanings. Perhaps the storyline doesn’t differ so much from other books of this kind. But there’s so much more depth between the pages, so much freedom to choose whatever you wish to understand from it, so much pain and hope and happiness and destruction, all of them entwined together, all of them starting to gradually flow through your blood stream. Moreover, the most important and impressive fights are not the ones with other people or with the horrific system, but the internal ones, with your own beliefs, with everything that you grew up to have faith in and that is slowly shattering behind your eyes.

Your eyes are wide open, but you see nothing.” This is what the story is about. About getting out of your comfort zone, opening your mind and seeing the verity against all odds, letting go of all the pride and certainty that what you know is what the truth really is. Because that’s the hardest fight you could ever win and some of us never do.

The book is violent and bitter, with small moments of hope that sparkle like lost fireflies in the darkest night. Even the ending, although you might call it a somewhat happy ending, is not bringing any miraculous changes. But it does leave traces of hope: of a better life, of a better society, of hidden kindness that lies within the people you wouldn’t expect and in the most unforeseen places. And sometimes, this is the best we can do and the most realistic aspiration that humanity could have.

Posted in Cyndy Aleo, Uncategorized

Undying (Undying #1) by Cyndy Aleo

Synopsis:

What if the world isn’t ready for your miracle?

Cameron Tattersall’s wife, Adrienne, should not be cooking breakfast when he wakes up. After all, he buried her yesterday. Yet the woman in his kitchen not only claims she is his wife, but also refuses to accept that she’s supposed to be dead.

Cameron doesn’t know what this woman is: hallucination, con-woman, or bona fide miracle. For all he knows, he’s crazy, but her reappearance may return the only thing he ever wanted: a life with Adrienne.When their families discover Cameron isn’t alone in his house, the couple learns coming back from the dead has its own set of trials: angry surviving family members, confused insurance companies, and a media storm that simultaneously wants to build the couple up and tear them down. There’s also the matter of just who, or what, was buried in that coffin. Or not buried.

Thrust into the spotlight, Cameron and Adrienne have to decide whether living under a microscope is a fair trade for a miracle, and to reconcile their need for privacy with the desire for answers.

Review:

I probably cried when I was reading some sad books when I was a child. I definitely remember crying a damn cascade while reading half of the Harry Potter books. But it’s been decades ago and since then, my masochistic brain keeps looking for books that would tear me apart completely and make me feel everything that the characters feel at such a deep level that I’d forget that I’m crying for the pain of an imaginary person.

When I started this book I chose it because of how interesting the idea looked. Maybe it’s a thriller with an impostor trying to impersonate the dead wife of a poor husband. Maybe it’s a zombie book. Maybe it’s a fantasy one. A dead wife showing up in her husband’s bed next day after her funeral? I literally had no idea how things could have evolved. But what I definitely didn’t expect was to cry uncontrollably after the first chapter. I have no words to explain how amazing this book is. Without notice, the story starts flowing through your veins, touching every part of your soul, forcing your brain to feel absolutely every single damn thing that Cameron feels. You’re thrown into a path of pain and anguish so deeply that you feel the story at the most personal level. Because what is the biggest fear of all of us? Not spiders, not monsters, not poverty, not loneliness, not our own death. But the death of our loved ones. And the feeling that no matter how much you’d wish, there’s absolutely nothing that you can do to stop that, to help them, to keep them longer next to you.

Cameron goes through all of this in the year when he finds out that his wife, Adrienne has a devastating form of cancer. She’s young, beautiful and healthy and all of a sudden the terrible news descend over them. And one year is not enough to get used to the idea that the whole future that you imagined is shattering to pieces. But one year of suffering is also clearly not going to make things easy when he wakes up after her funeral to find her in their kitchen. Young. Beautiful. Healthy. Undead. And cooking breakfast.

So what follows is exactly what you would imagine. Because Cameron lives in our universe, not a parallel one, not in a fantasy world. He lives in this one, where miracles don’t exist, when you cannot continue your life like nothing happened after the wife that you just buried literally just came back from the dead. The world will not allow it. You will become a “case” that needs to be studied and explored from all the practical angles: legally, medically, by lawyers and doctors and churches and media. Over and over again, since there seem not to be any answers that could solve such a mistery.

I loved how realistic the author treated her idea. She took an unthinkable fact and throw it in our society that is very far from accepting the impossible as possible. There’s nothing forced, nothing romantic and magical about it. Her characters don’t treat the whole thing just like a miracle because the human brain simply doesn’t work like that. No matter how enormous the happiness and amazement can be once they accept that what happened is true, they are still very well anchored in reality and take the whole right and mundane road to understand how was it possible.

Every reaction, every gesture, every word and action, even the ones that piss you off are all perfectly drawn and completely understandable and realistic. I loved the fact that nothing comes easily, that the characters actually go willingly into the chaotic carousel that their lifes became, even if sometimes they cannot feel in any other way than totally overwhelmed by what’s happening to them.

If you have any doubts about reading this book, just take them all and throw them into the garbage right now. You need this book! The storyline is flawless, the writing, the characters, the action, everything has a bright, shinny “perfect” label on it! You will be carried through the whole spectrum of emotions, you will cry, laugh, be surprised, melt into a puddle, die of curiosity and live the whole story at the same intensity as the characters are.