Release Date: August 1, 2017
Olympus is rising…
Release Date: Feb 21, 2017
Mira and Francesca Cillo—beautiful, overprotected, odd—seemed untouchable. But Ben touched seven parts of Mira: her palm, hair, chest, cheek, lips, throat, and heart. After the sisters drown themselves in the quarry lake, a post-mortem letter from Mira sends Ben on a quest to find notes in the seven places where they touched. Note by note, Ben discovers the mystical secret at the heart of Mira and Francesca’s world, and that some things are better left untouched.
***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
+++Potential triggers for: sexual abuse, death/loss, suicide
Beautiful Broken Girls is the kind of book you tilt your head and look at sideways, puzzled and perplexed, trying to figure out what happened and how it evolved into what it did. Unfortunately for me, even when the mystery unraveled, there were so many questions left unanswered that I was at a loss for what to make of this bizarre story.
When I initially saw this cover, I knew I had to have it. It’s creepy and unsettling. It looks like something out of a horror film, so that’s kind of what I expected when I opened the book. This is not that kind of story. At its core, Beautiful Broken Girls is a mystery and an ode to learning to cope after a horrible tragedy, and for Ben, after a lost first love.
The story is told from multiple characters (Mira, Francesca, and Ben) and takes place in two different years. The pieces are not in order and are further separated by body parts that Ben touched on Mira when they were seeing each other. If it sounds strange, that’s because it is. The idea itself is an interesting one. Getting to each note that Mira left for Ben was like a nostalgic scavenger hunt as he relived the sensual moments he had with Mira as they feel for each other. What the notes meant and getting to the truth propelled the story forward, even when the pacing was excessively slow.
I made guesses throughout the story about what really happened to the dead girls; I suggest trying this and seeing if you guessed right. I did, to an extent. As the story evolves and the clues are found-in the form of Mira’s cryptic little poem snippets-Ben makes a whirlwind of assumptions. It’s hard to talk about this book without giving anything away and I HATE spoilers. One of the first things you learn about Ben, is that he was molested as a child in little league. So he’s known as touched or damaged. There is so much wrong with this, but I digress. Apart from the fact that this is used as a device by others in the story so that Ben is doubted and seen as projecting his past on the situation, it didn’t really function in the story and threw me off as a story arc. It felt like so many elements of this book were jumbled and thrown in and never really came together to form a coherent narrative.
One of my major issues was with voice. Ben, the other boys, Mira, basically everyone in the story, despite being set in 2015-2016, felt like they were using language from the 80s or 90s. Maybe even before that. It could be the setting and maybe those phrases are abundant and natural there, but to me, it felt off. Some phrases are crude and made me feel slimy, and other times, it felt like things were thrown in to emphasize that they were teenage boys, whether they were realistic or not. You’re introduced to a lot of characters at once. It took a bit for them to develop into their own people, it was hard to distinguish them at first because of how they were introduced.
I labeled this with a mental illness tag because of some of the descriptions of Mira and the actions of Francesca (which I can’t really go into without spoilers). But Mira has some disturbing imagery attached to her and her thoughts that make you question her…though somehow nowhere near the way you do Francesca and Mira almost functioned as a secondary character-her voice, her personality, the romance, none of it was emphasized or clear. Mira flitted in and out of the story and there are brief interludes of memory, but other than that, she fades away-ghostly. Back to the point, these thoughts, like wanting to drink toxic chemicals or throw herself off a cliff are dangerous, reckless, borderline suicidal and very disturbing, and yet, they’re just there. Not really deliberated over or anything and it makes you wonder why even put them there other than to show that Mira was messed up too.
I wasn’t invested in the characters, I was invested in the mystery. The need to know what happened was enough. However, that ending, the truth, the reveal, what about all of the other stuff? Was it real? Was it a psychological issue? So many questions. If you’re looking for something weird, something that when you finish reading you’ll question what you just read, then check this out.
If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:
Release Date: Feb 28, 2017
In New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s gripping new novel, a young woman comes home to reclaim her life—even as a murderer plots to end it. . .
It’s been ten years since Sasha Keaton left her West Virginia hometown . . . since she escaped the twisted serial killer known as the Groom. Returning to help run her family inn means being whole again, except for one missing piece. The piece that falls into place when Sasha’s threatened—and FBI agent Cole Landis vows to protect her the way he couldn’t a decade ago.
First one woman disappears; then another, and all the while, disturbing calling cards are left for the sole survivor of the Groom’s reign of terror. Cole’s never forgiven himself for not being there when Sasha was taken, but he intends to make up for it now . . . because under the quirky sexiness Cole first fell for is a steely strength that only makes him love Sasha more.
But someone is watching. Waiting. And Sasha’s first mistake could be her last.
In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.
At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.
***Potential triggers for human trafficking, abuse, animal cruelty, violence, death
It pains me to write this review because I was so looking forward to this book-it was at the top of my highly anticipated list for 2017. I mean, The Phantom of the Opera??? As a theater kid, this is my personal form of euphoria. Unfortunately, my feelings on this rendering are mixed.
If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:
***UPDATED FROM THE ORIGINAL POST TO INCLUDE INTERVIEW
Fear haunts the streets of Preston’s city: a girl has disappeared. Preston is drawn to investigate, exploring the city in the hunt for his missing friend. And deep in the bowels of a secret scientific institute, he discovers a sinister machine used to banish teenage criminals for their offenses.
Captured and condemned to a cavernous dimension, Preston is determined to escape. But this is no ordinary jail. Friendships will be forged and lives will be lost in a reckless battle for freedom, revenge–and revolution.
Set in a world all too similar to our own, Lifers is thrilling, pulse-pounding storytelling of the highest degree.
Hi Jordan! It’s a pleasure to be part of your blog. Many thanks for inviting me along!
A single sentence? That’s tough! OK, here goes: an insomniac kid on a mission to find his missing friend stumbles upon a sinister machine that seems to be the doorway to a disturbing and dark prison for young offenders.
Phew. (Takes deep breath.)
I teach A level students over here in the UK; that’s 16-19 year olds (senior high in your language!) One hot summer’s afternoon, following the collapse of spectacularly badly-planned lesson (totally my fault), we ditched the poem we were meant to be studying and got to talking instead. I remember one student telling us where she’d camp out if she ever ran away from home with her tent. She’d scoped out a place in the school grounds that was walled on three sides, sheltered, grassy. I remember saying, “Just imagine you discovered that the school opened again at midnight. And different students arrived in a different uniform and different teachers too!” We had a blast discussing this notion. What stayed with me afterwards was the idea that places can transform themselves at night; the familiar becomes weird and disconcerting. I wanted a story where that happened to a city. Preston, my protagonist, grew from this idea. I gave him a missing friend and a bunch of worries that made it impossible to sleep. Then I sent him out into the centre of Manchester to find something horrible that would change his life.
It took me ages! So many mis-fires and failed attempts. I wanted a prison system that favoured punishment over rehabilitation or reform, so I always knew I’d need somewhere designed purely to incarcerate. From there, I knew inmates would respond differently – like Golding’s Lord of the Flies or an episode of Lost – some would team up and try and stay sane, decent and human. Others would become feral and desperate. There’d be power-struggles, subcultures and clashing ideologies. So far so good, right? But it kept getting out of control and the characters wouldn’t behave themselves. I ended up writing the prison section of the novel three or four times trying to get the balance between hope and despair right. I hope I’ve got somewhere close!
What a good question! I think in many ways you can measure the quality of a society by the way it treats its prisoners – the challenge, support, guidance and ultimately hope it gives them. In my opinion, we’re some way off a good system in the UK, so I wanted to explore ideas about choices, mistakes and punishment. There’s this English historian called Henry Buckle – writing in the mid-nineteenth century – who famously said “Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it.” (I’d like to pretend I picked up that quote reading highbrow history and philosophy but I first came across it on a Fun Lovin’ Criminals album sleeve. You take it where you find it, right?) In Lifers, I’ve created a nasty political party intent on a brutal prison regime. It’s a pretty significant exaggeration of where we are now. That said, 2016 has been a very worrying year…
I used to be fairly consistent on this. But readers will often point out theirs and I’ll change my mind. (For example, recently I was speaking to a student following a presentation at a school and she said, “I wanted more Chowdhury! I love him!” He’s one of the guys in prison, a kind of mystic. We ended up trading Chowdhury lines for a bit.) Anyway, this time I’m going to turn to Preston’s pal Mace for inspiration. Mace is part conspiracy theorist, part coward and part bad poet. He’s always dictating his thoughts and impressions of a situation into his phone. “Manchester,” he says soulfully at one point. “City of cranes and rain.” It is, too. I live in a city that is constantly demolishing and rebuilding itself.
Well, he’s a hugely flawed kid and that’s part of the reason I love him. He’s a whole bundle of insecurities and he makes jaw-droppingly bad decisions. I remember that feeling very well – of being fourteen or fifteen, an age when every single decision seems massive, and making a mighty mess of a lot of mine. Preston’s the same. I wanted him to be driven by a sense of guilt, the only certain thing in a confusion of feelings, so he makes a terrible error early in the book that he somehow has to correct. That’s why I like the guy; despite everything, he’s got the courage and decency to try and fix this mistake even if the skills necessary to do so are frankly waaay beyond him. Poor lad!
7. Tell me a little about your writing process.
I tell students something it took me way too long to learn: good ideas arrive in pieces, never all at once. I can’t afford hang about waiting for a complete idea to blossom, or a logical and elegant plot to arrrive. I have to gather together all my seemingly-terrible bits of ideas and somehow force them together into a coherent, crazy, ugly whole. Once I’ve got something that looks like it might have an outside chance of working, I start building a set of characters who might operate realistically in the situation, location or crazy circumstances that I’ve dreamed up. If I can get an inciting incident I’ve got the seeds of something. After that, I try and figure out how to escalate the drama whilst making it impossible for the protag to pull out or turn back. Then I try and prettify the whole thing so it looks as if it arrived in one complete piece. It’s so hard to do! I’m working on something now, for example, and all the same troubles are presenting themselves… it doesn’t seem to get any easier, unfortunately!
I’m a writer of children’s fiction, represented by Ben Illis at the B.I.A., available for workshops and school visits when I’m not chained to a laptop cursing my lack of progress and/or poverty of imagination.
My debut novel, The Poison Boy, was written as Fletcher Moss. My second novel, Lifers, is my first for teen readers. It arrives April 2016.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of LIFERS, US Only.
1/23/2017- YA Book Madness- Interview
1/24/2017-Here’s to Happy Endings- Review
1/25/2017-Novel Novice- Excerpt
1/26/2017- A Dream Within A Dream- Review
1/27/2017- Fantasy Book Critic– Guest Post
1/30/2017- Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile- Review
1/31/2017- Tales of the Ravenous Reader- Interview
2/1/2017- Book-Keeping- Review
2/2/2017- Wishful Endings- Interview
2/3/2017- A Gingerly Review- Review
Let me preface these reviews by saying that there was no way, no way at all that I was skipping these books. No matter how apprehensive I was, no matter whether or not I was already a fan of the authors, or if I raised my eyebrow real high at Garcia writing Mulder and Maberry writing Scully, because THIS IS THE X-FILES. I’ll admit, these books were hard to review because the nostalgia and fandom is so strong…this is probably my strongest fandom connection because MULDER + SCULLY for LIFE. I mean, the characters…I digress. That being said, I tried to look at these more for the story and less from what I expected Scully and Mulder to be like as teens. There has been a ton of negative commentary-parts that fans say the authors are reaching and make zero sense. As an avid X-Files fan, I can see that, but these interpretations are not entirely off base…especially when it comes to Scully. It’s difficult when the character presence is so strong as adults, you come to expect very specific details about their lives as teens, what you assume they were like and why they became who they did. It’s hard to shake those preconceived ideas off, and those who are totally stuck in that place might be disappointed by what they find. If you’re a fan, you absolutely should read these and put them on your shelf next to your Mulder and Scully Funko Pops. I know I will.
How did Fox Mulder become a believer? How did Dana Scully become a skeptic? The X-Files Origins has the answers in this young adult origin story.
The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate will explore the teen years of Dana Scully, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. Her story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.
The book will follow Scully as she experiences life-changing events that set her on the path to becoming an FBI agent.
Scully, Scully, Scully. I was so disappointed in her character, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think. A lot of the criticism this book has faced from readers is because of Scully’s sixth sense. Which, if you’re looking at the Scully in the future, you’re probably thinking that Scully worships at the altar of science and this is ridiculous. But if you’ve experienced all of the lovely X-Files series, you’ll recall that Scully had more than one incident where she sees ghosts and has premonition-style visions, so it’s not that far off base and one of her biggest character conflicts has always been her faith and the paranormal. Mulder directly calls her out on the fact that she can so willingly believe in God, but something like aliens is too out there. It’s in her story arc.
Mini rant aside, Scully here is super young. She has no experience with boys, crushes, any responsiblity really. While she’s smart and reclusive, her forays into mysticism are more meditative than anything. Scully here looks up to her older sister. She’s a tag along that just goes wherever her sister takes her. THAT is what bothered me. That headstrong, take charge girl, the one who thinks, who studies, who calculates before coming to conclusions-that girl was absent (or barely visible). So many times Scully just hops right into danger and makes BOLD leaps, piecing things together without second guessing. That is NOT the Scully we know. It’s hard to talk about Scully in her youth without comparing her to who she is in the future. Here Scully isn’t really likable, she’s more wishy-washy and doesn’t have the strongest voice. This would have been okay, because she’s so young and naive, but she doesn’t really learn. Sure she feels remorse for her actions, but I didn’t see much growth.
The plot is definitely an X-File, not your typical murder-mystery. There’s a sinister, supernatural element that is perplexing, confusing, and all sorts of crazy. It will keep you on your toes and uncertain of what will happen. It’s a chaotic mess, but the kind that pushes you to seek answers and wonder what the endgame is. Plus the idea itself-the whole premise for the villain is insanely clever and wickedly evil. There’s so much more than meets the eye.
Pacing was so-so, but picks up a lot towards the end.
Scully’s love interest. I liked him. He seemed like a good fit. Smart, resourceful, protective, but also stubborn. Their interactions were awkward and bashful. So cute. There’s no intense attraction like is common in a lot of YA right now. It’s more uncertainty, confusion, and sudden feelings. Curiosity. I appreciated the change of pace.
The killer and the government agents.YES. They are done so well. You see the corruption, the fear, the manipulation. They were some of my favorite people in the book. They were complex and vicious and the darkness!!! ❤
The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos explores the teen years of Fox Mulder, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. His story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.
The book will follow Mulder as he experiences life-changing events that set him on the path to becoming an FBI agent.
I feel bizarre saying this but Mulder is pretty freaking hot. He’s awkward and nerdy and has no idea what he’s doing with his life. He’s kind of just going with it until he’s hit with this murder that he feels is connected to his sister’s disappearance and the obsession is born. There’s this blend of angst and intelligence. Of yearning after his pretty, Star Wars obsessed best friend, trying to connect with his father, the disappointment that comes with that neglect, and learning what he’s passionate about. This is truly the birth of his interest in catching killers and paranormal. It felt right. It made sense. I LOVE him.
Secondary characters. You guys, every character is so alive. They’re developed, intriguing, totally compelling. You want to know them. I adored Phoebe. She’s witty, intelligent, gorgeous, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her, calls people out on their fears, and is just an all around awesome character. And she’s totally nerdy. She reads textbooks, knows complex mathematics, physics, etc. She’s one fierce girl who somehow feels relatable. Gimble. Yes. Just yes. He’s interesting, a total dork, and a basic ode to the time period. I loved his lines and enthusiasm. He’s the perfect sidekick. Gimble’s father!!! It’s weird, but I became so invested in Gimble’s father’s conspiracy theories and the way his mind worked. Fascinating. You can see where Mulder got his methods from. I got a nostalgic, this feels so familiar vibe. The government agents. Some of their scenes were full of acerbic wit and heavy sarcasm.
The scenes of the crimes were intricate, graphic without going too dark, and left enough mystery to keep me guessing and trying to fill in the blanks. Towards the end, the suspense was high. I was on edge and sickened.
My biggest issue with the book was not Garcia’s portrayal of Mulder, but the way the mystery fit together. There were too many pieces that slid into place in a sort of what are the odds way. It was too simple. Too coincidental and we all know there are no coincidences.
While I wasn’t a fan of the romantic elements, they were more of a shrug to me, I was glad that Mulder had someone to nurture and encourage him. Phoebe being there for him is what mattered, the romance was secondary, despite Mulder’s frisky teenaged hormones.
Enjoy your trip down memory lane,