Tag Archive | 2 Stars

Book Review: The Body in the Woods by April Henry

The Body in the Woods
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(Please note this book was given in exchange for an honest review)

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.”

I struggled. I wanted to like this book, but what it comes down to is the writing style. The subject matter, the tone, the mystery, the thrill, it all had potential. It gets lost with the fact that the writing is for middle grade readers. As the story deals with murder, and explains a lot about a dead body and has a killer snatching another girl, I feel the writing doesn’t fit the subject?  With some work, I feel the writing can get there. 

Good things: I loved Alexis. Her profile, her strength and her determination is fantastic. Out of all the characters, Alexis was the only one that I felt nearly reached passed the middle school reading age writing. Her story arc is troubling, but she tries to push forward no matter what happens. She’s admirable and she gives a lot to the story. All of her chapters were my favorite. 

I loved the mystery aspect. The who-dunnit that kept you guessing until the end. Although the reader finds out before the characters, I didn’t see the killer coming (I guess I need to read more mysteries) and I loved how the author used the reveal of the killer to add more thrill with her main characters.

Also a fan of the premise – Search and Rescue in Oregon. Awesome idea. It’s new and interesting. The series has the ability to go places. 

In the end I wish there had been a better pairing. The writing is great for eight-year olds (think Goosebumps), but I wouldn’t want eight-year-olds reading about people killing teenage homeless girls. A bit much. I give much praise for Alexis, and I hope the author can improve Ruby and Nick up to her level. All three teens had excellent backgrounds, it’s just that for their ages Ruby and Nick need to be more mature, they act and sound like they’re ten. 

Don’t agree with me? Want to decide about this book for yourself? The Body in the Woods is out on Tuesday! June 17th! Pre-order now and tell me how you found it! I love a good book discussion. Even better – April Henry is running a special promotion with the amazing Powell’s bookstore in Portland, OR next week:

During the first week The Body in the Woods is on sale, for every copy purchased in person at Powells or online at Powells.com, I will donate $1.69  to MSCO SAR”

Many thanks to NetGalley and Henry’s publisher, Henry Holt and Co for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Finding Favor by Lana Long

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“What’s more important: friendship or freedom?

In the eight years since seventeen-year-old Favor Miller’s father died, she’s had to endure her reluctant, self-righteous guardians the Browns. Every day for eight years, they’ve reminded her that she doesn’t fit in, that she’s not one of them. Every day for eight years, she’s eagerly awaited the day when she’ll finally be free to live her life her way.

On the eve of high school graduation, Mr. Brown ambushes Favor with the offer of college funding and a to-die-for summer internship–with the one stipulation that she must discontinue her friendship with his son, Ethan.

Accustomed as she is to sharing everything with her best friend, this is one secret Favor must keep in order to protect Ethan. The distraction of his new girlfriend, her growing friendship with his older brother, and her need to understand her family history, add in further complications.

As Favor debates signing the contract, she must decide if she’s willing to give up her best friend in order to pursue her dreams. Will she have to stay in the place she’s so desperately wanted to escape in order to make the right decision and get what she really needs?”

What I see: From the summary I thought this book was going to be a period piece, but it’s anything but. (I know it says High School in it, but everything else gave me the impression that it wasn’t going to be as contemporary as it is.) I was disappointed, but as a self-published book it’s nearly there and has great potential. My issues with it are that it’s too obvious. Too much time is spent on the clichéd romance when there were other more strong elements in the book that if explored further and executed well could have made a 180 turnaround for the story. 

Book Review: A Midsummer’s Night Scream by R. L. Stine

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Oh, what fools these actors be!

It was a horror movie that turned into real horror: Three young actors lost their lives while the cameras rolled. Production stopped, and people proclaimed the movie was cursed.

Now, sixty years later, new actors are venturing onto the haunted set. In a desperate attempt to revive their failing studio, Claire’s dad has green-lit a remake of Mayhem Manor, and Claire and her friends are dying to be involved.

At first, Claire laughs at Jake’s talk of ghosts and curses. He’s been too busy crushing on her best friend, Delia, or making out with that slut, Annalee, to notice that she’s practically been throwing herself at him. What does he know anyway? This is her big chance to be a star!

But then, Claire runs into a creepy little man named Benny Puckerman, and gets her hands on a real love potion! Unfortunately, the course of true love never did run smooth…

Get ready for laughter to turn into screams as the Grandmaster of Horror, R.L. Stine, takes on the Master of Theater in this modern reimagining of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

What I see: Le sigggggggghhhhhhh. I know that people have been super negative on Goodreads about this book, and that’s one of the reasons why I got it as soon as it was published. There are a lot of haters on the Internet and I wanted to see what was fact and what was fiction.

I had also just finished some of Stine’s Goosebumps, so his juvenile writing was fresh in my mind. I was really disappointed by this story. I felt it was a good idea, but it lacked the execution. It just didn’t work. I felt that the snuff film references were too adult for the piece, and yet, all the dialogue and characters acted like they were ten.

There was a huge disconnect with everything. Some scenes were too obvious when others were not obvious enough. The sentences were a lot like Goosebumps, to short, with a two page cliff hanger chapter. It just didn’t come together and flow. I wish it did. The blurb and idea are fun, interesting, but the end delivery isn’t there. It makes me sad, because I am a huge fan of Stine’s work. I hope he keeps at it for YA! I want to read what else he can do. 

Book Review: Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

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I chose to use the Goodread’s book summary – due to the popularity of the Netflix show, I don’t want to give any other information away by mistake:

“The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.

 Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia.

At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.”**

**I don’t really agree with this statement.

My thoughts: I am a HUGE fan of the show. I have really enjoyed seeing the creative differences McGreevy did in transition from book to screen. I do agree with many of the reviews on Goodreads, I felt the show was a lot better than the book.

That aside, the preface was poorly written and McGreevy is a huge one for overwriting. My mind would get frustrated with the lack of punctuation and sentences that didn’t make sense. It seems ideas were all over the place and it was rare for a connection to be made.

However, there were a few gems scattered throughout the chapters. My breath would be caught by descriptions of the moon, or of the gothic beauty of Hemlock Grove. There are many bits in the story that are full of wonder and you can’t help but be sucked into the mystery in this town.

The book left me wanting more answers. It really has the potential to be a great book, but there are many bumps and sidetracks that keep the reader turning pages but we aren’t given any real answers, which is a letdown. The book is just as jumbled as the show. I highly suggest watching it because it’s just such a mess with your head – and addicting to watch! I feel that the book has the better ending, explanation wise, but it is so worth watching too.

Has anyone else jumped on the bandwagon and blown through the Netflix Original Series in three days like me? What do you think about it? Would you consider/have you read the book as well? Please let me know your thoughts, I’m kind of a fangirl about the hot mess!

Book Review: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

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Vanessa Alder has been haunted since her older sister Margaret’s disappearance. Three years later she finds herself in Margaret’s place as a standout freshman at the New York Ballet Academy. As the handsome Zeppelin Grey catches her eye and head choreographer Josef hints Vanessa could be up for the lead in the winter ballet, she’s easily caught up in the movements.

However, Vanessa isn’t there to dance. Her main goal is to find her sister. Reported as a runaway, Vanessa is positive that Margaret is lurking somewhere in New York. Yet as the pressures of dance begin to overwhelm her, Vanessa wonders if she is starting to hear and see things. There are secrets hidden within the NYBA and Vanessa will do whatever it takes to discover what happened to her sister.

This book was a real letdown. The cover? Fantastic! The blurb on the back? I need to read this now! The verdict? BOOOOOOO.

Let’s go over the reasons why. 1. The romance not only doesn’t make sense, but it makes the plot clunky and derails from a possible interesting plot. Zeppelin Grey? The name annoyed me so much I hated every scene he was in. 2. It wasn’t executed well. 3. The ending is blurry, and there are bits and characters that are completely forgotten about. This is a first in the series, but there was no alluding to ‘there’s more that lies ahead’ until the last page. 4. Vanessa as a whole is one-dimensional and her heart and soul for finding her sister isn’t followed throughout the book. It’s a mistake that could have changed the outcome of the book.  

I really wanted to like this book; it had such promise. I was excited from the prologue and cover, but this was not carried through with each chapter. I loved the idea of a dark mystery surrounding an elite dance school in New York. The beauty and grace of ballet flitting through the pages. Perhaps someone else can give it a go. I won’t be continuing the series. There isn’t enough intrigue for me to want to know what happens, but kudos to the Bloomsbury marketing team! They did a standout job! I just wish someone had held the author to the same standard as the cover design. It really could have been a perfect match. 

Book Review: Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

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Please note: This is the third book in the Hush, Hush series and does contain spoilers.

Check out my review for Hush, Hush (1) and Crescendo (2).

All summer Nora Grey has been missing. When she appears out of nowhere in the middle of the cemetery, she discovers she can’t remember the past five months of her life. It also turns out her mother has been dating the father of her biggest enemy Marcie Millar. Talk about living an nightmare.

Traumatized and feeling alone Nora tries to piece her life back together.  Her friends say one thing and other people from her past say another. Nora knows her mother is keeping something from her, but as she muddles through her memories each road comes up empty.

Try as she can to figure things out there are other forces drawing Nora into danger. Each time she lands in perils way, a handsome unknown stranger swoops in to save her. Like a guardian angel. If only Nora could just remember what really happened…

Sigh. It’s been a slow deterioration for this series. Granted, again, Fitzpatrick has made me eager to know what happened to Nora. However the plot is beginning to thin. I found this book to be ‘too easy’. There were many sections where I thought ‘That seriously wouldn’t happen’ to ‘The world doesn’t operate that way’.

Now I understand this is a YA book and sometimes you come across ones that don’t make sense and it’s supposed to be ok. However, the best YA can weave a tale where even if things don’t make sense it’s still believable. This is not one of those series.

My disappointment is growing, but there is only one book left so I feel I’ve invested this much and need to finish. My hopes are not high though. 

Book Review: The Island by Jen Minkman

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Leia and her twin brother Luc have been living on the compound for six years after leaving home at the age of the ten. They must fend for themselves under the harsh ruling of Sol. Yet there are secrets that Sol is hiding from the group and unrest continues to build.

A wall to keep out the Fools, people that know nothing and are dangerous, surrounds the island. As Leia tries to escape the compound with the scared book of her people she accidently runs into a Fool! Suddenly everything Leia believes in comes into questions as she sorts through her world’s true history.

I have to say that I completely disliked the whole novella until I got to the ending.

Honestly, I feel that this piece should have been included in a short story collection. There isn’t enough for it to be a stand-alone book.

The author does have the disclaimer that there are Star Wars influences in the book, and I know what you’re thinking; I felt the same way after the first couple of chapters. It didn’t work for me; I felt it was lazy and that without the references the novella would have been stronger.

That is until I got to the ending. In a matter of pages everything made sense and it all came to together in a cute way. Overall it works, just not on it’s own. I mean there was so much potential that was lost by using material that’s already been crafted.

I think Star Wars fans will find the tale entertaining. (I’m a huge fan of the movies myself.) It is labelled as ‘dystopian’, but it’s not your typical type within the genre. Remember, it’s only 80 pages.

Overall I was annoyed whilst reading the book, but truly the ending saved it.

Netgalley provided this novella in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher Patchwork Press and to the author Jen Minkman.

The Island is available now! Give it a shot and tell me what you think, but only if you’re up for it!