ARC Review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Release Date: October 10, 2017

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Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Simon Pulse 

+++ Trigger warnings for sexual assault, violence, general skin-crawling misogynist ideologies and vulgarity

This book has no rating because it is without a doubt the most difficult book I’ve ever had to rate in my history of being a reviewer. Interpret and make your own judgments about what you think my rating of the book is based solely on this review and nothing as limited as a star rating. 

The Nowhere Girls is a battle cry, an ode, a bittersweet mourning, and a rage-inducing awakening. This book is more than necessary, it should be required reading for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or political leanings. Here’s the thing, The Nowhere Girls reads a little Perks of Being a Wallflower meets The Breakfast Club mixed with profound, contemporary questions about society and feminism. At times it feels like your run-of-the-mill coming of age story split in various POVs and as someone who generally loathes coming of age, it lagged for me, despite the eye-opening questions and they way it made me think (which is what marks great, life-changing books for me). I couldn’t really connect with any of the characters, which with so many POVs and an US POV that had the voices of several girls, it’s puzzling that none of them resonated with me. Not that the characters weren’t defined. They were more than multi-dimensional, they practically screamed from the pages with their unique and interesting personalities and their determination to succeed. 

I absolutely dislike the synopsis for this book. It makes the story seem like something it’s not-a revenge plot or some weird, let’s get back ALL THE MALES story. This is far from that. It’s an exploration of what it means to be female in our society and then breaks that down further into all the ways that sexuality, race, and choice intersect with that. 

Here is a list of the many important and critical pieces of what it means to be female that this book discusses in its short number of pages:

  • No means no. 
  • Why we think that if you’re dating someone and they force you that it’s not rape. 
  • How saying yes is a choice and it can be an empowering one. 
  • That girls should not be afraid of their sexuality or that they enjoy sex. 
  • The double standard of “boys will be boys” but a girl who actively explores her sexuality and enjoys being sexual is a slut. 
  • Trans girls and whether they feel they have or can find a place in feminist culture. Transitioning girls and the same sort of questions. 
  • How girls who are known “sluts” are ignored when they “cry rape,” how women are treated differently and their allegations taken less seriously if they’re a certain “type” of girl or from the wrong “side of the tracks.”
  • Differing perspectives on virginity. 
  • Why a sex strike is problematic. 
  • Why we think that if we’re drunk and we say no and are ignored, that it’s our “fault.” 
  • The many many reasons that women fail to report their assault.
  • The many levels of fear women face every single day that men do not ever consider. 
  • Why we feel the need to pass judgment on other girls. 
  • Small town mentality. 
  • Privilege and “getting away with it.” 
  • And many, many more. 

I can’t even count the number of times I found myself nodding at the scenarios discussed, all the many feelings and experiences females go through in every encounter they have with males and even other girls. So much of this book made me remember and reflect and that is the reason WHY I put a trigger warning on this apart from the constant references to rapes and assaults and the feelings associated with these events well after they occurred (because how can anyone forget? This is another thing that’s discussed). 

I was also so angry after I read this. Angry that women have to deal with any of this stuff. Angry that men think they have the right. Angry at all the misogynistic, horrible, and derogatory ways that women are looked at as possessions or to be used and discarded. It’s sickening. 

I feel like I should say that you need to be in the right frame of mind to read this without completely losing it. That if you don’t want to be ragey and heartsick and possibly triggered to put this aside until you’re ready but at the same time, this book is cathartic. It lets you voice everything you didn’t know you needed to say through the proxy of these characters. In a way that is both enlightening and lifts the weight off your shoulders. 

One of the worst and most heartbreaking moments in this book for me is when one of the girls says that she didn’t know she could or was allowed to say no. Holy crap that pretty much knocked the air out of  my lungs. It is so hard to be female. You very well might cry several times and at the end, you might not feel satisfied, but you will feel invigorated and fellowship with every female you see afterwards and that itself is a gift. 

Read, read some more, and for the love of Pumpkin Spice use that reading to inspire change in yourself and in the world. 

Jordan

ARC Review: Secrets of Skin and Stone by Wendy Laine

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Something is wrong in Hidden Creek. The sleepy Alabama town is more haunted than any place fiend hunter Grisham Caso has ever seen. Unearthed graves, curse bags, and spilled blood all point to an evil that could destroy his gargoyle birthright. The town isn’t safe for anyone, and everyone says fiery Piper Devon knows why.

Piper wants to leave Hidden Creek behind. She’s had enough of secrets—they hide in the shadows of her room and tell her terrible things are coming. Too-charming city boy Grisham might be her only chance to save herself.

To survive, Piper and Grisham have to shed their secrets and depend only on each other. But what lurks in Hidden Creek still might take everything away from them, including each other.

review3/5 Stars

***I received an eARC in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled Teen

+++Triggers for self harm, violence, animal cruelty/death

PROS:

  • The gritty and graphic material. The descriptions are grotesque and disturbing. The occult stuff is awesomely weird and full on terrifying at times. 
  • This version of a gargoyle is way different from what I’ve come to expect. It’s a little Anna Dressed in Blood meets Supernatural with a fierce guy who hunts down monsters as his birthright. He rides a motorcycle. He’s got razor-sharp claws. His sole purpose is to kill these gross and horrifying fiends that are far more powerful than your average ghost. 
  • Depictions of a lesser known form of OCD were informative, researched, and necessary. Understanding the spectrum of disorders and not sticking everyone in a box is what Piper’s condition is all about. I loved that about this story. That it showed more than one form of OCD and how it can manifest in ways that are not obvious or expected. 
  • I liked that this was old school sleuthing mixed with paranormal. There are still murders, vandalism, and missing people to contend with and Piper and Gris work together to tackle those mysteries. 

CONS:

  • The pacing was abysmally slow. For subject matter that is so intriguing and mystery so bizarre, the book lacked the speed needed to keep my attention for long. Even with the driving need to uncover the mystery, the occult stuff, and the budding romance…it seemed like nothing really happened for several pages.
  • That Gris is trusted so easily is a little weird. He’s welcomed in Piper’s home after hardly any time. Their romance evolves quickly, though I did appreciate the fact that the author remarks on the timeframe and discusses how much of what they’re feeling could be lust and that they need to be levelheaded about their feelings. 
  • Piper accepting the existence of fiends and gargoyles almost immediately is not at all realistic. I expected much more of a freak out at least. 
  • The book does deal with self harm in the form of cutting, which the author addresses in the beginning for those who could potentially be triggered. The self harm, the fact that Piper can sort of turn it off by sheer willpower is strange to me. Every portrayal I’ve seen has been to the effect that it’s more than just a decision, that there’s a need or compulsion that cannot just be switched off because someone asks you to quit. 

Read on, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Revenge by Hannah Jayne

9781492647362-300Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo |Chapters | Indiebound

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From the author of Truly, Madly, Deadly, The Escape, and Twisted, comes another edge of your seat thriller sure to keep you guessing until the last page.

After a bad breakup, Tony’s ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the whole school and spreads vicious rumors. Tony is devastated and in a moment of revenge, he makes the location on her phone public. But a week later, when Hope calls Tony and begs him to stop the prank, he hears a shriek and a car door slamming. Then the call is dropped.

Too late, Tony realizes that he may have put Hope’s life in danger. Can he trace Hope’s movements and save her before times runs out?

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the publisher & NetGalley

+++Triggers for stalking, abduction, violence

I hate doing this but let me pull up the podium for a moment. There has been a Twitter drama storm over this book, which honestly, I had no idea about until I saw the Goodreads backlash. All the anger. All the comments about fetishizing doxing (researching and putting personal information about people without their consent on the internet as a form of bullying, revenge, etc.) and stalking, and further, being misogynistic. Some readers have even one starred or completely blacklisted the book because of this commentary. 

Going into this book, I had no knowledge of this and read the story for what it was without specifically looking for these characteristics. Here’s what I thought:

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My thoughts as I read were (see above) all over the place. At first, I was impressed. I loved the direction the story was taking. You have two characters. Both are flawed, they’re pretty terrible people. Hope, because she completely humiliated a guy-who broke up with her amiably-in front of the entire school, and Tony, because he retaliated by putting all of her info on the internet, signing her up for embarrassing products like diapers and rash cream, etc., and went even further by putting her on adult dating sites and sharing her location. They both are the worst, but what Tony did is not only horrible, it’s extremely dangerous. Initially it seems like the author is going to take that route. That she’s going to show how deadly doxing can be, how people regard it as a joke or a prank and it can have real, horrific consequences (abduction, murder, stalking, etc.). I was internally cheering because we NEED that book. In a time where everything is so easily accessible through social media, privacy is crucial. Doxing is NOT in any way, shape or form, especially as it is portrayed in the book, acceptable. I was pounding through the pages because I had to know what happened to her. She may be a terrible person but no one deserves being abducted or whatever happened to her because her ex was a jerk. The adrenaline was high, I was flipping along and then at around 40% (see above) the author made a choice. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for author’s choice. You want to kill off your main character, go ahead, it’s your story, whatever. But in this case, it absolutely destroyed what was building and how important doxing is as a crime/issue. Totally undermined and pretty much negated. Even by the end of the story, no remorse, no lesson learned, just oh, maybe I shouldn’t have done that ha ha. Not even lemme tell the police about this. NOTHING. Completely infuriating. And I kind of see why people got mad about it. A tool that was only examined at surface value AND dismissed. I don’t get it. But author’s choice. Meh.

So at this point, there’s a POV change that turns the story on its head and IT WILL MAKE YOU RAGE. What a shameful, rude, ruthless person. The level of destruction to get revenge. I mean, too far. But you do see this kind of whacked out stuff in the news so not entirely off base. At first, I hated this POV swapping. I was already irate about the destruction of the doxing didacticism but then it changed. A plot twist. A hard, heavy, terrifying one. But still not deserved. 100% NOT. These sections were terrifying and nauseating and all sorts of wrong. I truly felt scared for Hope. The argument is that it gets a little Gone Girl, but I don’t think so. It definitely diverts from that path. It was not predictable. While some parts were, especially after all the hateful slander about Hope, you kind of expected the initial twist, but by the end, nope, nope, nope. I was absolutely floored by the despicable actions of these people, I mean, seriously. 

I didn’t really like or sympathize with Tony. Nor with Hope until the end. They weren’t likable people. They weren’t even that interesting, but the plot itself was and that’s what kept me reading. 

Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the read. As for the misogyny comments, there were derogatory and degrading comments from both men and women in the story. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Read on,

Jordan

Blog Tour, Guest Post, & Giveaway: The Revenge by Hannah Jayne

9781492647362-300.jpgAmazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Chapters | Indiebound

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From the author of Truly, Madly, Deadly, The Escape, and Twisted, comes another edge of your seat thriller sure to keep you guessing until the last page.

After a bad breakup, Tony’s ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the whole school and spreads vicious rumors. Tony is devastated and in a moment of revenge, he makes the location on her phone public. But a week later, when Hope calls Tony and begs him to stop the prank, he hears a shriek and a car door slamming. Then the call is dropped.

Too late, Tony realizes that he may have put Hope’s life in danger. Can he trace Hope’s movements and save her before times runs out?

author

Hannah Schwartz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, chick lit, and grocery lists that she never seems to remember to bring to the grocery store. Hannah shares a house with two neurotic, feet-attacking cats and has Kryptonite-like weakness for donuts. Visit www.hannahjschwartz.com.

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Top Five Favorite Thrillers

My top five favorite thrillers are never the same, although there are a few that make the list and never go away! Here are my current faves (and a few oldie but goodies!).

THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by April Henry

Disclaimer: April Henry and I are great friends. Once you’ve been duct taped, hooded, and thrown in the back of a van with someone, you really bond (note: this was a research project). That aside, this is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s quick paced but heart pounding and April does an amazing job of delivering a great, creepily detailed story without bogging down the mystery and thrill. You really get a sense of the characters and root for them the whole time.

GAME by Barry Lyga

This was the first book I’d ever read by Barry and after I finished it, I wrote him an inappropriate tweet about wanting to have his book babies and went back and read everything he’d ever written. The idea of a teen being brought up by a serial killer—and theoretically molded to become one—was one of the creepiest things I’d ever considered.

CHAIN LETTER by Christopher Pike

This was my first foray into teen thrillers in about the 5th grade. I immediately fell in love with the genre and wrote my own version later that year. It was a terrible mash-up of two things I was obsessed with that summer: teen thrillers and teen dance movies so yes, there was a gruesome kill that ended with a romantic dance scene on the beach. So. Bad.

TEN LITTLE INDIANS by Agatha Christie

I found a copy of this wedged into a cubbyhole of a boat we rented one summer. I had already read everything I had brought so I devoured this and loved the deliciousness of picking off characters and the subtle—but scary—way that Christie turned the screws.

NEVER KNOWING by Chevy Stevens

I love almost everything about this book. I guess I’m a little obsessed with criminals in one’s family tree (a la my own last book, TWISTED) but this is such a brilliantly and beautifully written story that you forget how truly twisted it is until the reaches out and grabs you. Read with the lights on!

giveaway

If you’d like to win a paperback copy of THE REVENGE, just comment on this post to be entered.

US or CANADA ONLY. Entries open until July 11, 2017.

Keep reading and check back on July 8th for my ARC review!!!

Jordan

 

ARC Review & Giveaway: Breaking by Danielle Rollins

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Companion novel to Burning.

Prep school gets a twist of supernatural suspense in this commercial YA thriller.

Charlotte has always been content in the shadow of her two best friends at the prestigious Underhill Preparatory Institute. Ariel is daring and mysterious. Devon is beautiful and brilliant. Although Charlotte never lived up to the standards of the school—or her demanding mother—her two best friends became the family she never had. When Ariel and Devon suddenly commit suicide within a month of each other, Charlotte refuses to accept it as a coincidence. But as the clues point to a dangerous secret about Underhill Prep, Charlotte is suddenly in over her head. There’s a reason the students of Underhill are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth…

Suspenseful and scintillating, with hints of the supernatural, this fast-paced thriller will keep readers hooked.

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Bloomsbury USA Children’s

***Triggers violence and suicide. Animal cruelty.

HERE’S WHAT I LOVED:

  • The dark and gritty, almost fairy tale-like quality of Ariel, Devon, and Charlotte. It almost read like magical realism with a sci-fi twist. I adored the dreamy, twisted idea of them being archetypes of fairy tale princesses whose mothers either abandoned or neglected them and all they had was a sisterhood. Yes, that. Yes. 
  • The characters are imperfect. In fact, they aren’t even really likable for the most part. The more Charlotte reminisces about Devon and Ariel, the more cruel and sadistic they seem. Some scenes are truly horrific and disturbing. Like if you love animals…one scene will give you some serious anxiety. I held my breath through that one. The anticipation and fear are too real. Charlotte is one of those characters that you sort of sympathize with, though she does have quite a bit of self-pity. She thinks she’s less attractive, less intelligent, etc., than everyone at her school. There is a total of one scene that shows where that insecurity comes from-the pretty much abusive mind games her mother forced her to play as a child. I wasn’t entirely sold on her character. She was okay. As the story progressed, she did get better. She became rebellious, angry, and a little vicious. Not everything was so black and white. 
  • Mystery definitely propels the plot forward. What at first seems like a string of suicides becomes suspect. What made two girls who were relatively happy and popular kill themselves? There are all sorts of clues and weird incidents that make you question everything. 
  • The ending. Violent, vengeance-fueled, incendiary 😉 it’s sort of evil, but also justified. It was deeply satisfied with the ending. 

HERE’S WHAT I DISLIKED: 

  • The romance. There is so much build up that makes you think it’s something it’s totally not. Something more. Maybe Charlotte is blinded. Whatever. But the reader can see. There’s chemistry sure. And lust, definitely. But anything else, I wasn’t getting any strong emotions, even before the numbness started to set in. 
  • I read Burning. There were several references to things that happened in this book that it kept throwing me off and I flipping through my memory trying to remember anything that might be relevant to the story. There is SO little about what happened in Burning and as a companion where the events that happened in the first book directly influence major plot points, I felt like there should have been more than a few measly clues. 
  • The pacing was a little slow for me. It did pick up but way, way towards the end. Then it’s just crazy action and violence and all sorts of chaos. 

authorDanielle (1)

Amazon/B&N/TBD/iBooks/Goodreads

Author of the best-selling MERCILESS series, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, BURNING, and BREAKING. I’m currently working on the last installment of the Merciless books, & starting a new series to be announced later this year.

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Enter for your chance to win a finished copy of Breaking. US ONLY.

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Read more, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Aftercare Instructions by Bonnie Pipkin

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Release Date: June 27, 2017

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“Troubled.” That’s seventeen-year-old Genesis according to her small New Jersey town. She finds refuge and stability in her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter—until he abandons her at a Planned Parenthood clinic during their appointment to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The betrayal causes Gen to question everything.

As Gen pushes herself forward to find her new identity without Peter, she must also confront her most painful memories. Through the lens of an ongoing four act play within the novel, the fantasy of their undying love unravels line by line, scene by scene. Digging deeper into her past while exploring the underground theater world of New York City, she rediscovers a long-forgotten dream. But it’s when Gen lets go of her history, the one she thinks she knows, that she’s finally able to embrace the complicated, chaotic true story of her life, and take center stage.

This powerfully immersive and format-crushing debut follows Gen from dorm rooms to diners to house parties to auditions—and ultimately, right into readers’ hearts.

review

3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Flatiron Books 

+++Triggers for abortion, suicide, death

This is the first YA book I’ve read that has dealt with the sensitive and extremely relevant topics of teenage pregnancy and choosing abortion. We definitely need more of these heavy-hitting subjects because despite the tendency for society to pretend sex doesn’t happen in high school, it does and a lot. Kids make mistakes, especially when it comes to mixing alcohol and unprotected sex (which is not even the case in this story, the condom actually breaks). This is 100% a story that needed to be written, explored, and experienced. Okay, let me get off of my soapbox about this and talk about the book.

The story centers around a girl who is very much in love with her boyfriend, they have sex, and unfortunately the condom breaks and she ends up pregnant. He comes from a very traditional, upper class, church-going family, and has been raised to believe abortion is the highest form of sin, much worse than the pre-martial sex he indulged in. Gen comes from a broken family. Her father OD’d, her mother is dangerously depressed, and she is left to pick up the pieces after their tragic loss. Their home situations are vastly different and yet, he adores her quirkiness and her big heart. He is compassionate and understands her home life is less than ideal and he’s there for her when some truly devastating and horrific stuff happens. So what’s the problem?

This dynamic is not explored. I loved that they came from families that are basically opposites. That despite everything working against them socially, they inherently understood each other. And yet, the story structure…doesn’t work well with the plot. It’s a series of flashbacks to how they fell in love and the current heartbroken times post-abortion. It’s nostalgic and dreamy and rose-tinted, despite the hospital visits and everything else. The very problematic issue of Peter’s personal, religious beliefs are pretty much glossed over and the catty former friend who wants to sink her claws into Peter is front and center. Why? I don’t understand. Maybe the author wanted to take another route or didn’t want to get too political or preachy or something? I’m not sure. But these extremely important details were not talked about except in minor passing and at the end. I feel like the drama was displaced. I would have liked a little more exploration of these conflicts and it’s just lots of reflection.

The abortion scene itself. There are no words. The emotions, the confusion, the heartbreak, there’s also a weird need to “punish” herself and so that she feels the loss. It’s powerful and hits hard. And what’s worse, what really, truly broke my heart was the betrayal. You need someone to hold your hand. To be there. And for someone to desert you during such a critical time. How can you ever forgive that? 

The plot is all over the place. It’s sporadic and random and then add in the flashback scenes and it felt like the story didn’t know what it wanted to be. I totally understand being confusion, reckless, and the emotional chaos that can cause someone to make bizarre choices but I guess the pieces didn’t fit well together. This book deals with so many heavy themes and it felt…lighter than expected? I mean abortion, drug overdosing, suicide…it’s as hard as it gets. 

However, the story was enjoyable. I liked the weird romance that sprung up out of Gen’s heartbreak. It was uplifting and adorable, and he definitely brightens her life. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

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DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

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3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled.

+++Some scenes might be triggers for assault and/or violence

Violet Grenade is unexpected. It’s dark and twisted, sinister and honest and raw. There’s so much going on in here, so much pain and torment, so much that is unfair. 

THINGS I LIKED:

  • Domino believes she’s a monster. She has a past that will make your skin crawl and you’ll feel more than a little sick to your stomach when the truth comes out. There’s just enough to keep you on edge. Throughout the book, there are hints, little flashes of information that are gripping, blunt, and brutal. The need to know becomes a compulsion. I HAD TO KNOW. The scars on her arms, why Wilson manifested, the foreboding and constant allusions to an ugly and unforgivable past. Victoria Scott is an expert at building anticipation. It gets under your skin. 
  • A different portrayal of trafficking and extortion. Many times we think of trafficking as young girls or boys being abducted and forced into servitude/usually sexual in nature. What doesn’t get talked about enough is how people of specific walks of life are targeted and manipulated, they’re sold on an idea of a better life and before they know it, they can’t escape. Domino, like many of the other flowers, was homeless. She was vulnerable and a target. It’s not hard to persuade someone who rarely has a roof over their head or food to eat to go with someone at the prospect of safety, making money, a home, or even love. Madam Karina is the worst kind of villain because she’s real. She’s walking the streets right now. Her, and others like her, are predators. While Madam Karina has her own demons that make her the psychologically messed up person she is, she’s smart, she’s vindictive, and calculated. She makes these decisions, she knows what she’s doing, and that is inexcusable. 
  • The romance. Domino and Cain are beautifully broken but complete each other. They both had monstrous demons like guilt and fear that eat away at their souls, but inside, they’re good people who want nothing more than to be loved. Their romance is a slow-building realization. It’s imperfect and complicated. It’s right for them. 

THINGS I DISLIKED:

  • The pacing. This book felt a good hundred pages longer than it actually was because of how slow it read. It took time to really get into. The introduction to Domino and her life on the streets was intriguing, but kind of dull. The only things that save this section are the potential love interest with Dizzy and the hints at her past, that this horrible life is so much better than the one she escaped from. Then the shift happens. After Domino enters Madam Karina’s household, despite all of Domino’s plans, ambitions, and woes, it drags. Not much is going on. Each shift to the next flower level felt pretty much the same despite different dynamics and different girls. 
  • The lack of back story. Here’s the thing: the back story is there, sure. You get bare bones glimpses of what Domino’s life was like as a child and sure, it’s understandable because Wilson has blocked those memories from her so that she can live her life without constantly being haunted by the guilt and gore. That’s fine. When things are revealed about the seriously twisted and disgusting actions that Domino was coerced into doing, I mean, wow. MESSED UP. However, why her mother went off the handle, what her relationship was like with her mother that made the manipulation work so well, any moments with her father…it’s missing. There’s like this gaping black hole of stuff that the reader can fill in or guess about but it’s not enough to 100% embrace the emotions Domino felt towards her mother or even the anger. She blames herself, but what about her mother? What happened? There are so many unanswered questions. 

THINGS I’M TORN OVER:

  • How dissociative identity disorder was presented. Domino’s other identity-Wilson-is the result of PTSD and a coping mechanism for all of the horrific (truly, messed up scary stuff) she was forced to participate in as a child. Wilson is a protector, he’s loving and defensive, and flips out, goes off the handle and is way prone to violence. Domino is scared of him. She tries to keep him under lock and key because when he comes out, bad things happen and sometimes he takes total control. At the same time, Wilson is a friend. He’s been there for her, he never leaves like everyone else has in her life, and at the end, there’s a bittersweet moment that really makes you feel torn about Wilson. Ultimately for me, despite the insane and sadistic choices he makes, he’s a sort of savior for Domino that helps her realize that she is enough, that she can get through anything on her own. I wasn’t necessarily happy with this relationship between the two, but I didn’t hate it either. Wilson grows on you. And when he takes over, well, it’s definitely memorable and a little sickening. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Bang by Barry Lyga

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One shot ruined his life. Another one could end it.

Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one—not even Sebastian himself—can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father’s gun.

Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend—Aneesa—to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past.

It took a gun to get him into this.

Now he needs a gun to get out.

review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

+++Triggers for suicidal thoughts, gun violence, infant death

THINGS I LOVED:

  • The vocabulary. The English major in me was internally happy dancing for joy. Honestly, if I could get away with it, I would totally use this to teach SAT vocabulary. It’s awesome. And oddly enough, it works for the main character. He’s quirky and collects antiquated tech like no one’s business, so embracing elevated vocabulary suits his complex personality. 
  • The conflicted, debilitating slew of guilt, depression, and uncertainty weighs on Sebastian heavy enough to rival Atlas. The emotions are poignant, gut-wrenching, and you kind of just want to hug him and tell him it’s not his fault. It’s impossible to escape your past in a small town and to be blamed and ostracized for something you did as a toddler? It’s completely unfair, dangerous, and totally happens. Even if you break this story down to bare bones foundation, living with the catastrophe results of a mistake can be too much, too haunting, and crush you from the inside  out. Bang explores these heavy ideas in a way that’s relatable and so incredibly honest.
  • The mystery. Throughout the book, there is so much leading that you’re basically being tugged along on this train of thought. You know that Sebastian plans on doing something terrible, ending it all with a gun in a perfect circle of how his life metaphorically ended as a toddler. But there’s a twist. I did not see it coming. There’s just enough to keep you hanging on, desperate to know how it ends. 

THINGS I’M TORN OVER:

  • Aneesa. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Aneesa and the fact that she calls people out on their stereotypes, is honest about her fears, and is 100% a proud Muslim young lady. I adored how vocal she was about misconceptions about Islam, how she called out the haters, and truly loved who she is as a person. That sort of confidence and openness is inspiring. In some ways, I did like that Aneesa, having her as a friend, was helping Sebastian deal with his suicidal thoughts; I didn’t like that she was the ONLY thing. Sebastian’s so-called male best friend was a fleeting character that had little to no presence and everything was on Aneesa-not that she knew Sebastian was suicidal. Aneesa isn’t really that interesting. Despite the fact that she’s nice and opinionated, she’s pretty bland, at least for me. There weren’t any particularly memorable lines or scenes that made me say, Aneesa is a character that will stick with me for a while.
  • The focus. This book is all over the place. While it does do a fairly good job of getting back to Sebastian’s thoughts when he’s going to bed at night and thinking about his life, the book turns into pizza after pizza for ages as he builds his YouTube channel and it felt like so much of that could be cut because it slowed the pacing and made me want to close the book.
  • Nowhere near enough confrontation with his parents. They don’t talk about it. They ignore everything and have for years. No wonder Sebastian is flooded with emotions that he doesn’t know how to express or positive ways to deal with his overwhelming sense of guilt and failure. The two big scenes that do happen were…explosive. I felt rage. So much rage.

Sorry for the hiatus everyone! I’ll be back and bringing you many more reviews in the future. My Goodreads challenge is abysmal right now 😦

Jordan

 

ARC Review: Missing by Kelley Armstrong

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The only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them there but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

The only thing Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Crown Books for Young Readers

+++Potential triggers for animal abuse/mutilation, abduction, violence, suicide, and physical abuse

Creepy, chilling, and all sorts of sinister, Missing is the kind of mystery that hits hard because of just how possible the situation is. 

This mystery is a challenge. There are so many clues that lead you in several directions. The reader, just like Winter, doesn’t know who to trust and what’s more, there are hints that suggest Winter is not psychologically sound or an entirely reliable narrator. I loved that the possibilities were endless and kept me guessing throughout, up until the very end. 

There are some seriously nightmare-inducing scenes. Some material may be triggering for readers, especially when it comes to animal abuse/mutilation. The adrenaline is high. Every snap of a twig, every laugh in the dark, every moment that makes you doubt, it’s a rush that will leave you breathless with anticipation. I could not put it down. 

In Reeve’s End the poverty is so profound that people can’t afford food and hunting is a necessary means of survival for some. The story begins with the main character setting traps, hunting for her dinner, resting in her personal shack in the woods. As the world building picked up, it was a huge revelation. Reeve’s End is one sketchy and messed up place. The cops are a joke. They arrest people on whim, they dismiss actual tips, and are full of prejudice that prevents them from doing real police work. And the sexism. Wow. There are several pointed comments about a woman’s position in society, victim blaming, and intelligence as something snobby and indecent. Sometimes the rage was pretty strong and the frustration that no one would listen to Winter and Jude, it’s enough to put anyone on edge. 

Winter and Jude. Steamy. Profound. Beautiful. The way they confide in each other. They see beneath the surface and fronts they put on for outsiders and they’re so cautious. Winter recognizes Jude has deep resentment, issues, and has put up a wall because she has the same feelings within herself. Their relationship isn’t angsty or particularly sexual like a lot of YA lately, it builds and grows and is rooted in understanding and compassion. 

While there were tidbits and clues throughout, I don’t think there were enough of them. The ending is so twisted that there’s really no way to see it coming and there wasn’t enough given to the reader to make a guess until a chapter or two before the reveal. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

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When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

review4/5 Stars 

Unpopular opinion time. It turns out that there’s a ton of controversy surrounding this book because of some dismissive and rude comments made by the author about the YA genre. Here’s the thing, I did not read anything about this book or any of the Goodreads comments before my rating. This is a 100% unbiased, non-influenced rating on the story alone. While I do not agree with the author’s perception of dystopia YA or some off the offhand comments made by Gwen within the story, authors and characters do not always share beliefs. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the author’s opinions from the character’s and vice versa. I thought I would preface this review by saying that whether or not I like the author has absolutely nothing to do with this review because so many of the Goodreads reviews are attacks on the author not the book. 

Now that that’s out of the way, I loved this book. This is exactly what I’ve been searching for in YA. A thriller. Spies, lies, cover ups, danger, it’s like Bourne Identity for teens. And there are so many important and eye-opening topics discussed within the story about crime, human trafficking, and other terrifying and unsavory aspects of society. While the story wasn’t perfect, it definitely kept me engaged and enthralled with Gwen and her quest to save her father. I kept asking myself how far I’d go to save my loved ones.

Gwen is made of reckoning and a hunger for vengeance. I adore her. She’s of Jewish heritage, thick-waisted, opinionated, speaks multiple languages, and likes jazz. I mean, come on, that alone is enough to keep you interested. When Gwen embraces her new identity at Sofia, we see her transformation and wow, what a switch. The girl she started as is still there, but her alias is a fighter. Sofia is a vixen. She’s manipulative, calculating, more like an agent. She has a huge heart. She will go to the ends of the earth for her father and then some, sacrificing herself in the process. She knows she might die, she might get assaulted or scarred, but she is willing as long as she gets her father back. That’s insane and incredibly brave. Gwen has to shut off her emotions or she’ll break and sometimes it’s truly hard and devastating for her. In several scenes, I almost had to look away because I was so scared for her. But she puts on cruelty like armor and is surprisingly successful for such a small amount of training. 

There are so made shades of women within this story and they’re all powerful in their own ways. From prostitutes to the women who serve the crime bosses, from the trafficked girls to the bully at the introduction of the story, all of these women are fighters and wise to the ways of the world. They accept that sometimes life is dirty and hard and terrible, that horrific things happen but they can’t collapse, they rise and rebuild and take everything for what it is. Every character was memorable, even the fleeting ones and others that I abhorred. They were developed, multidimensional, and made me ask questions. 

Yael. OMG this woman. She’s fierce, hardened, cruel when she needs to be and lives by a do whatever it takes attitude. Suck it up and do what needs to be done. Yael is at times heartless and cold, others she’s mildly concerned. You can tell she feels a little motherly towards Gwen. Yael is the kind of woman, Mossad, who would take her child who can’t swim, throw him in a lake and tell him to find his way out; he’d learn pretty quick. I loveddddd her. She’s an epic badass of a character. 

The story itself is layered and developed. It’s cross multiple countries and gets right into the seedy underbelly of the cities. I have not been to most of the countries mentioned, so I can’t say how accurate the portrayal was, but there wasn’t much in way of description anyway. Scott Bergstrom appears to be more about the character than the setting. I loved the cyphers and the danger. Every edge of your seat moment was a new rush and there are so many. 

What I did not like was the random romance between Gwen and Terrance. He’s barely there, there’s no building, hardly any foundation, and while he is functional, the emotions are severely lacking and then suddenly it’s supposed to be like fireworks for the reader-yeah, no. I was not the biggest fan of the way Gwen was introduced at Danton Academy. While it did function to present her place in the social hierarchy, establish her race and figure, it felt clichéd and predictable. In fact, I don’t really know why it was there at all. School is nothing in this story. It’s gone in like 2 days of book time. 

Sometimes the pacing was slow. When you think of a thriller/suspense, you expect fast, but spy work and investigating is sometimes just pushing paper and waiting for leads, so in that respect, it was accurate. 

That ending. YES.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Suspenseful reading, 

Jordan