Tag Archives: 2.5 stars

Book Review: Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Ramona Blue

Ramona Blue

Release date: May 9th 2017

2.5 stars

Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

So far Julie Murphy has been pretty hit or miss with me. I wasn’t a fan of Side Effects May Vary but I loved Dumplin’. Ramona Blue had the potential to be on either side and, unfortunately, the more I read, the more I found myself thinking it belonged with Side Effects May Vary in terms of enjoyment. The pacing was slow, it felt like it was really dragging in the middle, and so many characters had very little development.

I think this will be one of those books that ends up dividing readers. Ramona was a girl who had always identified as a lesbian who started to have confusing feelings for a childhood friend who’d come back to town – and that friend was male. Her journey of exploring what those feelings meant and what it meant for it is not something I feel like I have a right to comment on, even with it being a fictional character. I did enjoy her relationship with her sister and her two friends Ruth and Saul, and the dynamic between Ramona and Freddie’s grandmother was something I wish we’d gotten a lot more of.

The supporting characters were where this book lost me the most. None of them were very developed. There were a lot of them but they could have been condensed into two more well-rounded characters. They were fun and I liked them but they were mostly just there and had very little to do with the plot except for when Ramona needed a sounding board. I do wish we’d gotten more of Adam in some fashion, whom I got very attached to even with his limited page time.

I did expect swimming to play more of a role in the book, based on the synopsis. It was present and it was something Ramona loved but for the most part it was in the background compared to her arc and her family. The swimming and the training was another thing I wish we’d gotten to see more of during the book. Overall, I think the book tried to focus a little on too much instead of choosing a few things to focus a lot on.

*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

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Book Review: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

stealing-snow

Stealing Snow

2.5 stars

First kisses sometimes wake slumbering princesses, undo spells, and spark happily ever afters.
Mine broke Bale.

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent her life locked in Whittaker Psychiatric—but she isn’t crazy. And that’s not the worst of it. Her very first kiss proves anything but innocent…when Bale, her only love, turns violent.
Despite Snow knowing that Bale would never truly hurt her, he is taken away—dashing her last hope for any sort of future in the mental ward she calls home. With nowhere else to turn, Snow finds herself drawn to a strange new orderly who whispers secrets in the night about a mysterious past and a kingdom that’s hers for the taking—if only she can find her way past the iron gates to the Tree that has been haunting her dreams.
Beyond the Tree lies Algid, a land far away from the real world, frozen by a ruthless king. And there too await the River Witch, a village boy named Kai, the charming thief Jagger, and a prophecy that Snow will save them all.

This was a book I was really excited about since I have been enjoying reading the Dorothy Must Die series by this author. This seemed like something different and I really love retellings so how could I not be excited for it. I was expecting a Snow White retelling but it was more of a Snow Queen one, though I do like the Snow Queen tale.

I wasn’t a huge fan of how to book portrayed mental illness. It seemed like such a huge issue was glossed over and there wasn’t much depth to any of the characters and, while I know it was a fantasy book, the parts set at the asylum didn’t seem realistic. The fantasy aspect didn’t really have much world-building to it and both these points made it really hard to get into the book.

Another thing that made it hard for me to get into the book was the main character, Snow. She was pretty ‘meh’ the whole time. Nothing really stood out about her. Except maybe that she was very easily distracted every time a new, cute boy arrived on the scene.

There were a lot of plot twists that I found predictable, and it felt like the book was trying too hard to be a lot of things and ended up not being able to focus on the things that mattered, like character growth, character dynamics, world-building. A bit jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none where the jack wasn’t particularly good at any of his trades. If it had chosen to focus on just a few of the elements it included, I think it would have been a very different and more enjoyable read.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Bad Decisions Playlist by Michael Rubens

bad decisions playlist

The Bad Decisions Playlist

Release date: August 2nd 2016

2.5 stars

Austin, 16, a self-described screwup, finds out that his father isn’t dead. He’s alive, and moreover he’s Shane Tyler, a famous singer/guitarist/song writer—Austin’s dream for himself. But Shane is battling his own demons, and Austin must figure out how to grow up on his own terms.

I had a hard time getting into this book and I think most of that was because of Austin, the main character. There were a few times when I felt there might be a connection but it would slip away the second he reverted to acting like a brat. It would an interesting concept, teenage boy who loves music finds out his dead father isn’t dead and he’s actually a rock star, and ends up helping his son find his voice. Considering Austin’s home life of a mother who could be abusive without actually ever being called abusive and her new boyfriend who looked down his nose at Austin, I could see the appeal of wanting to hang out with this rock star who happens to be your father.

I think I would have found it easier to empathize with Austin and get drawn into his character if I had liked him more. When there was growth, it felt more like he was doing it for a girl he met instead of recognizing that he could kind of be a douche bag. He could be a pretty horrible friend and was really only a good person when it was in his best interests until he met a girl that challenged him.

None of the supporting characters felt like fully developed characters. It was Austin’s story but there was a lot about the other characters that I wanted to know. There wasn’t a whole lot there to connect with, unfortunately.

There were some bright spots. I really enjoyed the use of music throughout the book. It was woven into the plot without making it feel forced in. The messiness of the plot echoed Austin’s feelings well. It had a lot of potential and I think I could have really enjoyed it if I’d connected more with Austin as a character.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

suicide notes

Suicide Notes for Beautiful Girls

2.5 stars

Everyone says June’s former best friend Deliah meant to kill herself when she set fire to her stepfather’s shed. June can’t accept that. She used to know Deliah better than anyone and she’s certain Deliah was murdered. June sets out to investigate the truth behind what really happened that night but it’s more complicated than she could ever have imagined.

I was really excited to read this book. I love books that mess with you mind and have plot twists that seem to come out of nowhere but the clues were there if you look closely enough. I was all set for this book to blow me away. Maybe my expectations were too high but I didn’t find that it messed with my mind or had jaw-dropping twists.

The book was told mostly through June’s POV. It went back and forth between the present year and flashbacks of June’s childhood friendship with Deliah. All the present chapters were told in first person POV while the flashbacks were in third person, which I found kept me from getting absorbed into the plot. The switching wasn’t really seamless.

It was definitely a trust no one and trust nothing type of book, which I had expected and I liked. It always makes for an interesting reading experience when you can’t trust anything you’re reading. It did feel like there was more emphasis placed on creating shocking moments than developing a lot of the characters. Besides June and Deliah, who didn’t really get much growth either, all the characters were pretty one-dimensional.

The plot had a lot of potential but it tried to do too many things at once and there were times when it felt like it was coming apart. There were a lot of interesting aspects that where never explored. There was, understandably, a lot of focus on the friendship between the girls in the flashbacks to establish why June would be so involved in investigating Deliah’s death, and the reasons why they fell apart.

There were definitely a lot of messed up moments. The Gone Girl comparisons aren’t far off. It was just, with both books, it wasn’t so shocking or messed up when you saw the twists coming.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Twisted Fate by Norah Olson

twisted fate

Twisted Fate

Release date: January 20th 2015

2.5 stars

When Graham’s family moves next door to Alyson’s, she feels an instant connection to the shy, awkward boy. To her, he’s a sweet boy and she’s falling in love with him. To Alyson’s sister Sydney, Graham’s weird, creepy, and something about him scream ‘danger’. Sydney is determined to save her sister from him. But part of Sydney is drawn to Graham too. And the more Sydney gets to know him, the more she finds out how right, and how wrong, she is about everything.

Twisted Fate was told from multiple POVs, most of them being the three main characters of Sydney, Alyson, and Graham. The other POVs were random, Sydney’s best friend or Graham’s step-mother, a police officer, all character the reader never spent much time with so it felt like they were more of an insert POV to show or tell us something seemingly important. With the book being on the shorter side, all the extra POVs took time away from fleshing out the main characters of Syd, Ally, and Graham so they felt a little shallow.

There seemed to be a lot of telling in the book instead of letting the reader feel or discover things for themselves. Sydney was supposedly a genius but we never got to see that. Instead we were told all the time that she got great grades and that she was so smart because she read books and knew big words. She was supposedly a trouble-maker which we saw by her skipping school and smoking pot but that was it. There was very little details mentioned about the character’s passions: skateboarding, computer hacking, making and editing film, baking. There would occasionally be a mention thrown in like ‘coding’ or ‘Tony Hawk’ but it ended up coming across more like something the characters did in their spare time than something they loved to do.

What did work for me was Graham and his whole creepy film guy plot. He definitely did creep me out. Maybe I watch too many Criminal Minds-type shows, maybe I scare too easily, but the idea of Graham and his films was more than unsettling. His mysterious past and his whole storyline kept me reading. I wanted to know how things would turn out for him, even if I did suspect.

There was a lot of foreshadowing in the book(or I just read way too much into meaningless things because of above-mentioned Criminal Minds addiction) so I was able to determined the twists fairly early into the book. They still kept me reading because I wanted to know if I was right but it was a little disappointing things did turn out pretty much as I expected. The concept was what drew me to the book and I still think it was a great idea.

Overall, I feel I would have enjoyed the book if there had been less foreshadowing(so I would have been surprised by the twists) and more character depth.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

dolls

The Dolls

2.5 stars

After spending most of her childhood in New York, Eveny Cheval and her aunt Bea are moving back to Carrefour, Louisiana. Neither has been back since the suicide of Eveny’s mother fourteen years ago. Eveny soon finds out that despite Carrefour’s beauty, there’s a darkness lurking and she’s right in the middle of it. The Dolls, a group of popular kids at school, are kids Eveny instantly doesn’t like or trust, but she will need their help if she wants to know the truth about who she really is, her past, her family, and find out who murdered a girl and who they might be after next.

This book ended up being a fairly quick read even though it was almost 400 pages long. It had an interesting concept and a Gothic setting that I enjoyed. It didn’t feel as Southern as I expected but with the town being basically cut off from everything else, it wasn’t something that was completely unbelievable.

The characters, especially The Dolls, were pretty shallow and self-centered but in a way that was oddly understandable after we met the mothers of the two main Dolls, Peregrine and Chloe. Eveny was an interesting character, though sometimes it felt like her voice was being overwhelmed by the mystery of the town and the strong opinions of those around her, which may have been intentional.

There was a pretty bad case of insta-love. That was disappointing since I do think there could have been a really nice build up between Eveny and the boy but it just went way too fast to have time to enjoy it.

I did like the magic mythology involved in the book, especially that there were consequences for the magic that was cast. The big mystery of the murder was unfortunately predictable and that took some enjoyment away from the last part of the book. It meant no big jaw-dropping finale that I look forward to when reading anything with a mystery.

Even with the predictability and insta-love, the concept was enough to have me interested in seeing where the series goes next.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Royally Lost by Angie Stanton

royally lost

Royally Lost

2.5 stars

Becca’s in the middle of a family vacation and miserable. Dragged on tour after tour by her father and step-mother, she and her brother try to sneak away at every opportunity. Nikolai is the crowned prince of Mondovia with very different beliefs and future plans than his parents. His solution is to just take off for a while and clear his head. Becca and Nikolai end up running into each other during their escapes and then, they can’t stay away.

I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had liked Becca more as a person. I get that not everyone’s dream vacation is a riverboat tour of Europe with their father and new step-mom but the constant complaining and lack of appreciation was annoying. A lot of the times she came across as a caricature of an American tourist. One thing I did like about Becca was her relationship with her brother Dylan. It was cute and realistic. Nikolai, I liked him more than I did Becca but there wasn’t a whole lot more to him than princes in other books/movies with a similar plot.

I did enjoy all the historical details that went into this book. Through the tour and through Nikolai, we got so much of it and it was interesting.

The plot was pretty simple, very chick-flick, summer read. It made for a quick read. It did contain a lot of the tropes one would expect to find in those types of movies/books like insta-love, focus on romance over deeper issues, not a whole lot of growth. I kept hoping something would happen to shock me, some kind of twist, but it never happened. Still, as someone who does enjoy the prince meets everyday girl trope every now and then, it was enjoyable.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Elusion by Claudia Gabel/Cheryl Klam

elusion big

Elusion

2.5 stars

Elusion has always been a part of Regan’s life. Her father invented it and her best friend Patrick, heir to the tech company Orexis, is about to release the program nationwide. In Elusion, with just a visor, a wirstband, and an app, a person can go anywhere, do anything, experience anything, without risking their life. Quick sun-soaked beach trip on the train, done. Climbing a mountain on your lunch break, easy.
Regan can’t bring herself to go back to Elusion since her father’s passing but she still defends it against the people who say it’s addictive and dangerous. The more she investigates these rumors, the more she discovers secrets being kept from her. The only way to truly figure out what’s going on is to go back into Elusion.

I really liked the concept of this book and the set-up for a really great story was there, but it always felt like something was missing. There was a lot of things(technology, the future world) that simply were without providing detail to how they got to be. There was so much technology talk that it was hard to keep up with, especially for someone like me who has a limited knowledge of programming, and I found all these terms and tech-moments being thrown at me took me out of the story because they didn’t feel seamlessly woven in.

I had a hard time with some of the characters. Josh and his motivations were the easiest to understand most of the time, he wanted to find his sister. Regan a lot of the time got on my nerves. She started off wanting to prove that Elusion was safe and keep her father’s memory untainted but once Josh showed up, it seemed like she was more focused on him, his stories, and his looks. It didn’t take much convincing from him for her to start distrusting her best friend since birth and even though Patrick didn’t help matters by being vague with her, it never felt like she genuinely wanted to hear his side. Patrick was the one I felt was the most interesting, and he by far got the least amount of page-time and development of the three. So much pressure at such a young age, so many people whispering in his ear, best friend suddenly against him. I’m hoping to see more of him in the next book.

The plot felt really fast. There was never really a time to stop and take in all the information being thrown around, process it, understand it, instead there was just more information. A lot of the time things just seemed to happen too easily for the main characters.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous and really works well with the plot, which isn’t always the case, so that’s nice to see.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15728577-side-effects-may-vary

2.5 stars

Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, and the prognosis isn’t good. She decides to use the time she has left to complete a bucket list, things she wants to do, revenge against people who hurt her, and she gets her friend Harvey to help her. Harvey’s always had feelings for her, and Alice knows this, so it’s easy to get him to help. Just as Alice completes her list, she goes into remission.

I found it hard to get drawn into this book. Setting aside the characters and the plot, it was told in two POVs(Alice and Harvey) and each of them had a Now and a Then part that went back and forth so instead of getting right into the next chapter to keep a steady flow, I would have to check the heading to see where it was going.

Alice is a very angry girl, and she definitely has reasons to be angry. But there’s a difference between angry and being kind of a horrible person. Her revenge against two of her classmates made me extremely uncomfortable to read. I do think she got lucky that the harsh public humiliation and threat of secret exposure didn’t leave one of them hurting themselves or more. And the way she treated Harvey was maddening, and it only got worse for most of the book which left barely time for any kind of redemption for her.

I did like Harvey for the most part but it was hard to see or understand what he saw in Alice when she was so horrible to him. He at least had a conscience and I loved the rare bits we got to see between him and his mom.

Things moved along pretty quickly. As mentioned, there was a lot of back and forth between the past and the present, which could get confusing. I never had the urge to root for Alice and Harvey to work out, moreso I wanted Harvey to find someone who wasn’t going to keep jerking him around. I don’t mind seeing the worst or darker sides of characters but there seemed to be so little good in Alice that it was really hard to enjoy her.

Other than the confusing back and forth chapters, I did enjoy the writing style. It was full of some really good one-liners and quirky at times. This is an author I would pick up again based on that.

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Book Review: All That Glows by Ryan Graudin

all that glows big

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12711662-all-that-glows

2.5 stars

Emrys is sent to re-join The Guard and assigned to protect Prince Richard, a wild, partying bad boy. It’s her job to make sure he doesn’t fall prey to the dark spirits who would try to feed on his royal blood. A job that’s not so easy when she finds herself falling for him, something that’s forbidden by her Queen. It seems like the deeper Emrys’ feelings grow, so does the danger surrounding Richard, and soon Emrys will have to make a choice.

I was on the fence about this book most of the way through it. The plot moved pretty quickly at times so it was hard to grasp on to details that seemed necessary, like the time period or if this Richard was based on one of the past kings or his own person. I really liked the twist on the mythology.

The characters, I wish we’d gotten a little more to them. They both came off as a little stereotypical even though there was plenty of opportunity to build on them with interesting backstories. And everything between them happens so fast. Emrys, with all her years of experience, is almost immediately breaking sacred rules and Richard accepts things a little too easily. It was really close to being insta-love.

The book is long at over 450 pages and at times it seemed unnecessary, the story was getting to drawn out and they were going over the same things they’d covered numerous times. The action starts to really pick up around 2/3s of the way in and I got more drawn into the story. I liked the Arthurian mentions and the friendship between Emrys and Breena. And Richard’s sister Annabelle, I really enjoyed her.

Overall, it did feel drawn out in places but it was cute.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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