ARC Review: Before I Let Go

Before I Let Go

 

I was excited to read the new story by Marieke Nijkamp as I liked her first book, This Is Where It Ends. I liked that story but was not in love with that story. It still made me curious to read her next novel, regardless of my feelings on her first.

Short recap: Corey’s best friend, Kyra, died under mysterious circumstances and the town of Lost Creek, Alaska wrote it off to suicide. Corey knew her best friend was ill with bipolarism and knew her well enough to know she would never commit suicide. Corey travels back to Lost Creek for two reasons: to pay respects to her best friend and to find out what really happened.

This was a wild ride of a story. I had my own ups and downs while reading this. It was a quick read but there were some things that just felt… obscure. I’ll explain but first I’m going to talk about the characters. There is only one real character in this story with several supporting characters. The entire story is told from Corey’s POV. Corey is absolutely torn at the loss of her best friend. Corey moved out of her home town to go to college and experience life, while Kyra was “stuck” in Lost Creek. To help deal with her manic episodes, Kyra would paint for hours, sometimes days at a time. I loved the relationship that these two best friends had. No matter what, Corey had Kyra’s back. But as the story developed and moved along, it seemed Corey grew farther away from Kyra who desperately needed her best friend. I don’t fault Corey for wanting a chance at a normal life outside of that weird town but it seemed she took her Kyra’s always being there for her for granted. There was a slew of supporting characters but none of them really stood out for me. It seemed everyone in that town was drinking spiked Kook-Aid. I half expected them to start chanting “One of us. One of us” while sparks were shooting out of their necks.

The one thing about the story that started to grate on my nerves was the constant repetition. I’m all for reminding the reader about certain aspects of the story, but the way Corey was going over the same points over and over started to annoy me. I knew Kyra was bipolar and was being refused treatment by her parents. I knew the girl isolated herself to help deal with her manic episodes. I knew the girl wanted to “collect stories” and paint as a way to deal with her bipolarism. I knew Kyra was alone and wanted more out of life but felt trapped. What I did not need was to have these points and more told back to me every other page. What I wanted more of was a thickening of the plot. I think I may have missed the part of the story where everything clicked for Corey. It might have been so subtle that I honestly missed it. One moment Corey was trying to find out what happened and in the next she understood. I may have to go back to find out what I missed.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I really did enjoy this book. The way Marieke portrayed a town that was so close knit that they didn’t approved of “outsiders” was very well done. I come from a super small town so I understood that aspect of the story. What I didn’t truly get was how or why this town went from not accepting Kyra to saying that her art brought the town together. Maybe I won’t ever understand that part, who knows? As I always say: not ever book is for ever reader.

Overall, I did like this book. I enjoyed Marieke’s words and the way she weaves a tale. I will always be a reader of her books and I will always encourage everyone to read her books. I feel this book was better than her first book so please, give it a try if you have not already.

 

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ARC Review: Unearthed

Unearthed (Unearthed, #1)

 

If you ever tell me that Spooner and Kaufman are writing a book, you can bet your last dollar I will buy/read it. These two wrote the Starbound trilogy after all and I adored that series. I was super excited to get an ARC of this immediately started reading. It took me far longer to finish than it should have and I’ll explain why. This was an entertaining story but that was as far as it went for me.

This was pitched as Indiana Jones meets Lara Croft IN SPACE. Everyone lived in a time when aliens had made contact 50 years previous and invited people of Earth to visit their planet for treasures and knowledge. Nobody could resist that but it would not come without a cost. Mia was a smuggler on a mission to save her younger sister from a horrible life. Jules is the brilliant prodigy that was a linguist and the son of a famous scientist that swore that traveling to that planet would be a trap. Nobody listened so Jules was hellbent on restoring his father’s reputation. Together these two unlikely friends trudge forward to uncover untold secrets and mystery.

The first thing that stood out to me while reading this story was the overall plot. It is an entertaining concept but it was not delivered well. The “traps and tasks” sprinkled throughout this story are super weaksauce. They were supposed to be a bit part of the story but we were only given really small glances at what they were. Then, shortly after they were “discovered”, BOOM they were solved. magic… As the story progressed, the characters continued to solve these riddles but we were not ever told what they were. We read about it as the character said something like, “The day wore on and we solved several more puzzles, most were like the previous ones and easy to figure out.” UH, how about you let the reader know what they were like? Bring us along for the adventure, don’t just tell us that they were there. It made me feel disconnected from the story.

Let’s not overlook the characters and their involvement in this story. Mia and Jules were just okay characters. Neither one completely blew me away but they played their parts. One thing that really wore on me was the constant inner monologue these two characters had. They were constantly rehashing everything over and over and over throughout the entire book, as if reminding the reader of what took place just pages before. I get that Mia was worried about her sister but how can she progress as a character if all she does is repeat the same thoughts about her sister? The same goes with Jules. He tried to keep his identity a secret but you can’t expect me to believe a 17 year old boy is the master of nearly every language in the Universe and people won’t figure out who he really is? Talk about being convenient. Things for these two character just felt too convenient. They are stuck in a chamber and have no way out? BOOM. Mia can suddenly pick up on Latin and read tiles to figure a way out. They need to fill pipes with water so they can cross a dangerous bridge? BOOM. Mia just happened to have done this when she was younger and knows exactly what to do. I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes when that happened because it did not feel believable in this story.

Let us not overlook the romance we knew was going to bud in this story. It’s a trope that could not be ignored. Did I buy the developing romance? Not really. I didn’t feel the chemistry or connection between these two. The banter was just alright but would would have liked more. At the best of times it felt forced and awkward, like two teens meeting for the first time trying to be cool. It didn’t work for me.

This is a very short book yet it took me nearly a week to finish. Why? I never connected to what was happening. I wanted so much more from this story given Spooner and Kaufman’s track record with character development and engaging stories. Also, do not be fooled into thinking LaRoux doesn’t make an appearance in this story. Tie in, perhaps? Maybe we will see the ever lovely Lilac and my book boyfriend Tarver? Gosh, I hope so. That would be a story I would devour in a day. As it stands, I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series even though the ending was somewhat of a surprise.

 

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ARC Review: Pretty Dead Girls

Pretty Dead Girls

 

**I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review. This in no way influenced my thoughts or reactions to this story.**

 

I am the type of reader that loves a good mystery whodunit. This pitched to me as a thriller that was along the lines of With Malice, which I absolutely adored. While this was a super fast read, it just didn’t have the absolute hold on me that With Malice did. I’ll get into the details of why.

Short recap: Penelope is having the best Senior year she could possibly have. She is the President of the Larks, a very exclusive and prestigious all girls group within her school, she is very popular and has an incredibly bright future ahead of her. Everything changes when her close friends and fellow Larks members (fellow Seniors!) are mysteriously murdered. Is there a serial killer on the loose targeting members of this group? It certainly seems that way….

This story had a lot of promise. Murphy is a heck of a writer but I felt this story could have used a little more work. The characters were hard to connect with as they modeled Mean Girls in every way possible: selfish, vapid, shallow, and only had boys on their minds. Penelope (or Pen or Penny) was the protagonist of this story and everything told from her POV, except for the few chapters that are from the killer’s POV. Those chapters I found interesting. Penelope was very hard to connect with as she felt wishy-washy with her thoughts and feelings. That girl had the worst inner monologue that went on forever. She had full on debates with herself. (I later found myself skimming or just skipping those parts.) In short periods of time, she would be deeply concerned with her safety as it is clear the Senior members of the Larks were being murdered, but in the very next breath she would wonder if Cass, the boy she liked, had feelings for her. Sorry, what? The girl was instalovesick like I haven’t seen in a while. She spent a majority of her waking time thinking more about Cass, the new mysterious boy at school. Girls liked him because he was quiet and mysterious, while the other guys hated him because he was quiet and nerdy. Cass did have his secrets, but when they were revealed they were nothing to write home about. I guessed them long before he said them outloud. How they linked back to the murdered girls was just too convenient and unbelievable. Penelope and Cass together was just… odd. I didn’t feel that the reason they got together was truly organic. I don’t feel they were good together at all, I felt no chemistry between them.

The one thing that absolutely took away the suspense (in my mind) was just how obsessed and boy crazy Penelope was. All that girl did was think about Cass and his “dreamy full lips” and his “perfectly imperfect hair”. Uh… Penelope… I’m going to need you to focus as there are girls being murdered all around you, m’kay? Make sure you are safe from harm, figure out who the killer is, and then go after the boy. Deal?

If you remove the budding romance (which really did not need to be in this story, in my opinion), the murder/mystery was really well done. I figured out pretty quickly who the killer was but that might have just been me. There were times when the plot slowed down, which were almost always due to the teenage hormones and inner monologue chats Penelope had with herself, but it the story was still a very quick read. There was just something that held my attention when it came to this story. I just had to finish no matter what. Hence the reason I skimmed or skipped parts. I do think many people will also find this story gripping, thrilling, and memorizing. It really was a well written story… if it had just been about whodunit and not so much about romance. Again, my lovely readers, that was just how it read for me.

Do I recommend this book? You bet! I do think I may be the lone wolf with my thoughts to this book and if so, great. I want everyone to give this a shot and let me know if you read it differently than me. This book deserves to be loved and given a chance. Please borrow it from your library or purchase a copy for yourself. Read it and then let me know what you think.

 

 

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