Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

 

I’m going to be honest: I’m not sure how to review this book properly. This book snuck up and sucker punched all of my emotions in the best way possible. How do you do a book like that justice in a review?

Sort synopsis: Starr witnesses her childhood best friend, Khalil,  die in front of her after a police officer shoots and kills him during a traffic stop. Soon after, Khalil’s murder becomes national news as he was black and the police officer was white. Also, Khalil was unarmed. Throughout the entire story, Starr tries to balance her life at a rich and preppy school with the life she lives while in the poor neighborhood her school friends make fun of. Will Starr have the courage to stand up and do what is right, even if it means putting her life and her family’s life in danger?

This was not a story I went into blind. I knew this was inspired by Black Lives Matter but I was not prepared for just how much it would get to me. There were several moments within this story that flat out pissed me off. I was outraged by how certain situations were handled (or not) and/or by how people reacted to events. Let it be known now that Angie Thomas can write. Holy crap can this girl write. She brought me to tears and stirred up emotions that made me want to get out of my chair and do something. Authors like that do not come along often. Sure, I have been moved to tears over how a character died suddenly or by how another character was treated, but the overall premise of this story spoke to me. Books like this need to exist in YA. I believe Angie fills a much needed void. She has done what others may have been scared to do because let’s be honest, this can be a touchy topic. It could either be handled really well or horribly bad. This story? Eye opening and deeply moving, beautiful and breathtaking, full of raw emotion. I’m not sure I’ll ever stop saying good things about this story.

Starr’s character was outstanding. I want to be friends with her in real life. Her sass and attitude made me instantly fall for her. I was immediately on her side. Heck, I wanted to jump into the story and fight right alongside her. The way she constantly fought with herself about how she was two different people: the Starr her school friends saw, and the Starr that the people from her poor neighborhood saw. Those two people can be so very different at times but in the end, can they become one? Can the real Starr shine through?

The one theme I picked up on throughout this entire story is just how important family is. No matter what Starr was going through, her family was right beside her. They never left her, not for one moment. They always took the time to talk to her, ask her how she was doing, to check in on her mental and emotional state to ask if she needed help. Talk about refreshing! It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.

I don’t know if it is too early to call it, but this may be the best book of 2017. I want everyone to read this book. Also, if you get a chance, listen to the audio version. Hearing the voices for the characters brings so much more to this story. There are moments that had me in tears I was laughing so hard, while others had me in tears for other reasons. No matter what, read this book. Please, please read this book and share with others. This book needs to be in the world.

 

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Review: City of Saints and Thieves

City of Saints & Thieves

 

Hype… so much hype around this book. I purchased my signed copy at NTTBF recently and  someone walked by while standing in line, stopping to tell me me how good the story was. That’s a heck of a recommendation, wouldn’t you say?

This is the story of Tina, a Congolese refugee, who is simply trying to survive and make sure her sister, Kiki, is safe. Tina is a member of the Coondas, a gang of street thieves in Kenya, Africa. Tina has never forgotten how her mother was murdered and she believes the wealthy Mr. Greyhill was behind it. With the help of the Coondas, Tina sets out to find out exactly what happened to her mother.

I  went into this story blind. Sometimes I feel this is the best way to experience a story and be able to come to my own conclusions. One thing that stood out to me was how much research had to be done to compile this novel. Both the light and dark sides of Kenya were represented, and many other parts of Africa for that matter. It did not paint everything in sunshine and rainbows. It gave the dirty and unpleasant truth about just how bad life can be. Real tales of crime, corruption, and just how harsh women are treated during war. With that being said, this is not for the faint of heart. There are some truly disturbing scenes so be warned.

Everything about this story felt vivid and intense. I was often on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen. Would Tina be able to figure out what happened to her mother? Would she be able to stay alive in a ruthless gang of mostly men? Would she be seen the same or treated like another spoil of war? So much tension! This novel felt like a breath of fresh air when it comes to fiction writing. The narrative of Tina herself felt real and believable while being realistically flawed. Her conversations and actions made this story move at a rapid pace, keeping me engrossed for the entire ride.

I’m still not trying to give too much away. This is a heck of a story and highly recommend for those that are looking for a good thriller/mystery with something new thrown into the mix. Please, give this a chance if you have not already. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Review: Done Dirt Cheap

Done Dirt Cheap

 

I tried so hard to like this book. I mean, I carried it with me to Orlando in the hopes of finishing it wanted to like this book. The fact I struggled so much to finish this one meant it just was not for me.

Short blurb: Tourmaline and Virginia have an unusual friendship and met in an even more unusual way. Together, they team up to beat the odds and get back at the people that are out to hurt them.

That sounds like a pretty rocking story, right? Wrong. This entire story was boring. BORING. I started skimming chapters about 25% of the way through for several reasons:

  • The writing style was choppy and very difficult to follow
  • The dialogue was cheesy
  • The overall plot had such potential but the author just did not deliver
  • Nothing. Happened.
  • The characters were not interesting

The absolute main thing that bothered me was the name of the main character: Tourmaline. Seriously. Who names their child that? I stumbled over that the entire book. For some reason I figured that by now authors knew that unrealistic names for the characters might throw some readers off. If I struggle to pronounce and know nobody would name their child that, I will not be invested in that character. Petty? Probably but I just know what kind of a reader I am. I did not care about the rest of the characters either. I didn’t like Virginia and did not believe they would form such a fast and tight friendship. It did not feel believable to me. They felt like they were trying too hard to be tough and edgy, like they were trying to convince themselves just how badass they were.

The plot was sketchy at best. I, like many others readers, spent most of my time reading and rereading what I just read hoping I had missed something because the holes in the plot were massive. Sadly that was not the case. The author just did not do a good enough job getting the reader from point A to point B. I quickly discovered that I flat out did not care what was going on. Zero cares. None. Goose egg. It probably didn’t help that I just just finished the Thunder Road series so my mind kept circling back to that as a reference for motorcycle gangs and how they should behave in all aspects. I know that is not comparing apples to apples, but it is just what my mind did. And it told me that this particular story was not good. Again, it felt like a teenage girl that was trying too hard to prove how tough and badass she is.

I tried. I really, really tried to like this book but it just was not for me. I am sad that I did not love this and rated it so low (2 stars and that felt generous) but it just was not my cup of tea.

 

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Review: Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)

Frostblood (Frostblood Saga, #1)

 

I have become quite picky with fantasy books lately. I usually shy away from high fantasy as I find they are not my favorite genre to read. I either don’t understand what is going on or the story does not grab my attention. I was hesitant to start this because the blurb reminded me too much of Red Queen. After the fiasco that was Glass Sword, I did not want a repeat.

Short recap: Ruby is one of the last Firebloods in the land. She is hidden with monks and trained to use her fireblood power. She is tasked with killing the ruling Frostblood king and taking his throne.

There is nothing overly complicated about this plot. I found the story interesting and very easy to follow. My one complaint though is at times it felt a little more juvenile than I was hoping for. If I was much younger and just discovering YA fantasy or moving my way up from middle grade to YA, this would be the book for me. However, that is not me. I felt like there were various parts of other plots sprinkled throughout this story. Part of it felt like Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, other parts read like Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. I could keep going but you name the YA fantasy book, there’s a good chance part of this story will feel like a section of it. It is a quick and easy read but nothing that really sank its teeth into me. The world building is decent and it does the job but it wasn’t anything that absolutely blew me away.

The same goes for the characters. The story starts with Ruby, hiding her gift of fire, trying to survive by her mother’s side. Everything changes when Ruby’s mother is killed by the king’s army and thus causes Ruby to swear revenge. Nothing new with that storyline. Ruby trains hard to develop her powers because she is constantly told that she is The One that can save everyone. Sound familiar as well? Again, nothing new. The male character, already forgot his name, helps train Ruby all while hiding a dark and powerful secret. Pretty sure you can already guess what that is. These two start a sort of romance but I never felt the chemistry between them. It sort of felt like they were attracted to each other because they were the only ones close to the same age. Plus, they are supposed to be forbidden from being together. Woooooooooooooo. Heard that one before, have you? Stuff like that is throughout this entire story.

Overall, I liked this story enough to be curious about the second book. This just did not feel like anything original or earth shattering that I need to scream from the rooftops how amazing it is. I have a feeling a lot of YA readers will really enjoy this, but don’t go into it expecting something new.

 

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Review: To Catch a Killer

To Catch a Killer

 

I have been hooked on thrillers lately. I want to read all of them. I found this story while scrolling through my OverDrive app and thought it looked interesting. I’m sad to say this story left me wanting more.

Erin Blake gets a certain type of response when people hear her name. Her mother was murdered when she was just a toddler. In fact, she lived with her mother’s dead body for three days before she was found. Growing up with that type of… history… means people know who she is. Now a teenager, all Erin wants to do is find her mother’s killer and discover who her dad is. Both are mysteries that haunt Erin everyday. All of that takes a backseat when Erin is thrust into the police spotlight as one of Erin’s teachers is discovered murdered in her own home. Some of the clues point to Erin as the killer. Erin has the forensic knowledge and tools to set out to find the real killer and maybe even solve some cold cases along the way.

I fancy myself a hardcore crime show junkie. It is a guilty pleasure I indulge in every chance I get. I think that is why this book appealed to me. Sadly, it did not live up to the hype I had built in my head. I felt there was very little mystery and/or suspense so I was sort of bored as the story progressed. Call me crazy but those are two key factors a writer needs to make a good thriller, right? Thought so. They were sorely lacking and as a result it felt like a ho-hum whodunit. The way the teens stumbled upon the clues felt like I was reading a Scooby-Doo mystery – far too easy and right in front of their faces. A lot of the facts and discoveries that were key elements to the murder felt as if they were only mentioned when it was convenient to keep the story moving. They were never talked about before that specific point in time. There were so many red herrings that it almost gave me whiplash. In the end, it felt predictable and not surprising at all. I did like the forensics in this story but I don’t think it was enough to keep it afloat.

While the plot itself felt a little underdeveloped, I liked the cast of characters. At times I felt there were too many characters. I did get confused as to who was who but they all filled a role within the story. While Erin did have her girl squad, there was the dreaded romance sprinkled throughout. This was not instalove but pretty darn close. While Erin is being looked at for murder and trying to solve crimes, she feels it is the perfect time to go all ga-ga over the cute and popular boy from school. Seriously? Romance had zero place in this story. There was no way I was going to board that ship.

While I stayed with this story until the end, it left me wanting so much more. It fell flat because of the items I pointed out above. I felt no thrill or suspense during this entire book. If there is a sequel, I may pass on it. It had so much potential and it sort of breaks my heart that it flopped the way it did. Do not go into this expecting a thrilling page turning mystery because that will never happen. If you want to learn about procedural forensics, then you will enjoy this book.

 

 

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ARC Review: Goodbye Days

Goodbye Days

 

I have been struggling with this review for months. Why? This book was so earth shattering, soul crushing, heart smashing good that I am afraid my words will not do this story justice.

Carver Briggs never thought his life was anything more than normal. Amazing friends and great family, what more could he want? Everything changed after he sent a text to one of his best friends and that might have caused a horrific car crash that ended their lives. A criminal investigation is launched to see what exactly caused the accident that ended the lives of Mars, Eli, and Blake. No matter what the outcome is, Carver has to carry the guilt that he, in fact, may be the reason for their deaths. The families are all dealing with the loss in very different ways. Then, one day, Blake’s grandmother reaches out to Carver and asks him to help her with a ‘goodbye day’ so she can say her final goodbyes to the grandson she lost. Carver is apprehensive but feels obligated to help her out. It turns out to be therapeutic for both. This gives Carver the idea to reach out to the other families to have a ‘goodbye day’ for the sons they lost. Is this really the best thing? Are all of the families willing to forgive Carver for what he might have done?

This book made me ugly cry and it caused mascara stains on my pillow case. I may send Random House and Jeff the dry cleaning bill for that, but I’m not sure yet. I do know that this book broke me in ways I didn’t know I could break. From page one my heart went out to Carver and what he was going through. I quickly became invested in all of the characters. I soon found myself wishing I was a member of the Sauce Crew. These guys just clicked on another level that let me know they truly would have been friends for life, long after high school and they scattered to the winds. This group was meant to be a unit. I always thought it would be difficult for a writer to make readers care so much about characters that are no longer living but Jeff did it effortlessly. I cared so much for the members of the Sauce Crew that the more I found out about them, the more my heart shattered. I found myself breaking apart at how much life they did not get to live or experience. Just thinking about it now is threatening to test my waterproof mascara.

This story was so beautifully written that I tore through it in no time. I was so engrossed in what was happening that I was sad when the story ended. I just wanted to keep reading Jeff’s words. By the end of this story, my heart was shattered and barely functioning, yet I was thanking Jeff for doing this to me because Carver’s journey was just so beautiful.

I really do not know how much more I can say about this story without giving it away. It is no secret that I am the biggest fan of this story and will be recommending it to everyone for a very, very long time.  This is a story that will probably (hopefully?) stay with a lot of people. It is so thought provoking that I am still playing this story over and over in my head. Now I’m just rambling. That’s what great books due to me… they make me a blubbering idiot. Promise me you will pick up this book. Promise me you will buy it, borrow from the library, borrow from a friend. Whatever you need to do (except steal!) to get a copy of this story, do it.

 

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Review: The Rules (avoid this book)

The Rules

 

What in the actual did I read in this book. This was a level of bad I did not know existed and the level of bad that I actively try to avoid. I borrowed from my library as it was recommended to me. Please, do not let the blurb or the cover fool you – this book is really horrible. I listened to the audio and I liked the narrator, but that was not going to be enough to save this bomb.

Short blurb: Brother plans wicked game to get revenge against the people that helped to push his sister to killing herself. Things get worse and a new killer joins the game.

Wait… me typing it that way still makes it sound like a somewhat decent book. I’m here to tell you that is not the truth. This book was the like reading a slasher movie. A really badly written and produced slasher movie. Let’s start with the storyline: Awful. It was full of holes and just had too much going on. The plot had potential but it fell flat. It felt like the authors over complicated the plot by leaps and bounds. They added so many red herrings in order to throw people off that I truly became lost with what was going on. When I became lost, I lost my ability to care what was going on. Was the brother, August, really the mastermind and the killer? *shrug* Who cared. This story was told in alternating chapters so you had nearly every character with their own chapter. Which means you had their flimsy backstory and take on the fight to save their lives. (I use that sentence tone with heavy sarcasm. There was no suspense in this entire story.) The thing that really started to bother me was how every chapter started with “{Character Name} Rule Number {whatever}” and then that person’s rule would be given. Since these character did not have back to back chapters, the reason behind giving each rule was lost. They were always foreshadowing what was going to happen in the chapter so there really was no tension or suspense. It felt predictable the entire way through the book.

The characters were the other thing that made me strongly dislike this story. There were far too many. There must have been close to 10 characters and every one of them had some convoluted backstory that tied them to August’s sister in some way. *yawn* Do I care? No. It seemed to have an odd place in the story because it is another story and illegal act all on its own. I also did not care about the girl who was head over heels for the lead singer of a band, but they only dated in private. The girl didn’t like that and wanted more. Snoozefest. Then there is the band with the most unmemorable group of people. Apparently the song writer stole the songs and was determined to make it big no matter what. Who cares? That sounds like every other band from a small town. Let’s try to forget the very successful jock that took steroids or the cheerleader that thought she was too fat. This entire group of misfits could be from any high school in America. They were so stereotypical, nothing about them stood out. Oh, I forgot to mention there is a mountain lion. Throughout the story the mountain lion is talked about. I was cheering for the lion.

Please, do not go into this expecting some amazing thriller or raving suspense because you won’t find it here. This is a cheesy B-movie type story that you would find on a lesser cable channel that you settle on watching because there is nothing else on TV. I am really surprised that it took two people to write this story. I do wish I had DNFd but I somehow I was able to finish. I kick myself for doing that. I want these hours of my life back.

 

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