Book Review: A Hold On Me – Pat Esden

My synopsis:a-hold-on-me-cover

She never wanted to return.
He wants nothing more than for her to leave.
But the fire between them is as strong as the past that haunts them.

Annie Freemont grew up on the road, immersed in the romance of rare things, cultivating an eye for artifacts and a spirit for bargaining. It’s a freewheeling life she loves and plans to continue–until her dad is diagnosed with dementia. His illness forces them to return to Moonhill, their ancestral home on the coast of Maine–and to the family they left behind fifteen years ago, after Annie’s mother died in a suspicious accident.

Once at Moonhill, Annie is shocked when her aunt separates her from her father. The next time Annie sees him, he’s a bizarre, violent shadow of his former self. Confused, she turns to an unlikely ally for support–Chase, the dangerously seductive young groundskeeper. With his dark good looks and powerful presence, Chase has an air of mystery that Annie is irresistibly drawn to. But she also senses that behind his penetrating eyes are secrets she can’t even begin to imagine. Secrets that hold the key to the past, to Annie’s own longings–and to all of their futures. Now, to unlock them, she’ll have to face her greatest fears and embrace her legacy…


I received an e-copy of this book courtesy of Kensington Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was definitely a surprise, I mean I suspected that there must have been an element of the supernatural in this book, given its paranormal genre. But I honestly didn’t expect Esden to implement it in the way that she did.

I loved the eerie atmosphere, from the gothic setting to bits of pathetic fallacy (thanks, GCSE English) to the uncertainty of everything that was going on. The element of slow-reveal was potent throughout, but it really worked.

The MC was largely realistic, and I liked the fact that she knew exactly what she wanted and that she wasn’t scared to do everything in her power to do it. Her loyalty to her father was impressive, she went to great lengths in order to help him, despite people telling her that it was practically impossible and that she should stop trying.

However, the romance part of the novel basically didn’t exist for me. Which did pose a few problems, seeing as the book was supposed to be a paranormal ROMANCE… I just wasn’t feeling the chemistry between Annie and Chase in the slightest and found myself skipping a lot of the “romantic” parts or barely skim reading them enough to follow what was happening in the rest of the novel, which of course just gradually increased over the course of the novel. So I lost interest very quickly and skim read for a large part, which was probably why I didn’t appreciate the novel as much as I possibly could have.

Of course, this book was the first in the series, and it definitely felt like one – whilst the secondary character were developed (and man, did I dislike some of them – not necessarily because they were badly written, just that they were horrible people who didn’t deserve to be liked), the plot revolved largely around Annie’s father and didn’t go further than that until the very end of the book.

So I am inclined to read the second book, just to find out where it all goes  and to see whether I enjoy it much more than its predecessor, especially in the aspects I have mentioned above.

My Rating: pushing 3/5 Stars, probably closer to 2.5

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Proof Review: Replica – Lauren Oliver

Synopsis:replica cover.jpg

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals since she was born. ‘A sickly child’, her lonely life to date has revolved around her home, school and one best friend, Alice. But when she discovers her father’s connection to the top secret Haven research facility, currently hitting the headlines and under siege by religious fanatics, Gemma decides to leave the sanctuary she’s always known to find the institute and determine what is going on there and why her father’s name seems inextricably linked to it.

Amidst the frenzy outside the institute’s walls, Lyra – or number 24 as she is known as at Haven – and a fellow experimental subject known only as 72, manage to escape. Encountering a world they never knew existed outside the walls of their secluded upbringing , they meet Gemma and, as they try to understand Haven’s purpose together, they uncover some earth-shattering secrets that will change the lives of both girls forever…


I receieved a proof copy of the novel courtesy of Chapter 5 Books in exchange for an honest review.

I feel as though the concept behind the two part book was incredible, but one of the narrators sadly let it down.

While I was gripped reading Lyra’s side of the book because her story was captivating – I do love to read books with slightly sci-fi/futuristic twists on the society in which we live , I found the concept of Replicas interesting, and yet odd at the same time. I can’t imagine an island full of copies of people just walking about, it just doesn’t seem plausible. Well, it does; given the modern day advancements in technology, but I’m not completely happy with the thought of it actually being a possibility.

However, once I flipped to Gemma’s POV (I read the book alternating chapters because I felt that it provided much more continuity) my interest was lost because she just didn’t seem to be as three dimensional and developed as Lyra. Not that Lyra was completely padded out either, but at least we were given information about her, which was developed past the simple statements about Gemma’s diseases which seemed to have nothing to do with the actual plot of the book, nor did they require an explanation as to what diseases they actually were, and how she coped with them (past the gist of “not very well”)… all things would have made the book more interesting.

But I have to say that both of the characters were realistically flawed which I really appreciated. Both Gemma and Lyra were incredibly reckless throughout the novel, and acted like typical (in my humble opinion) teenagers, which was nice because Oliver didn’t make them handle their respective situations in ways that only the most mature of us could handle. It was just nice to see an aspect of realism within the story.

Although in saying that, the love triangle/square/pentagon (depending on which part of the book you read) got on my nerves a few times as it always does but I’m glad that it didn’t take more than a novel for those to resolve as it does in many other books.

There were also countless “coincidences” which eventually rendered the book so predictable it honestly hurt.

I  wish that the book was either two longer, separate companion novels or a much longer novel of its own because I largely felt that because of the tropes I have grown to despise which were ever-present throughout the book, the story/ies felt rushed which resulted in me having rather “meh” feelings about the characters, and that’s at best – because I honestly can’t say I felt much for most of them.do-i-get-bonus-points

Because I really found it hard to…

On the whole, this book wasn’t entirely what I hoped it would be, but the concept behind the story, as well as the deconstructed dual POV saved it in my eyes, therefore deserving a higher rating than it would have received otherwise.

My Rating: 2.5/3 out of 5 Stars

“Normal is a word invented by boring people to make them feel better about being boring.”

-Gemma

ARC Review: Seven Ways We Lie – Riley Redgate

Synopsis: seven ways we lie cover

Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.


I received a free eARC copy of this book courtesy of ABRAMS Kids/Amulet Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review 

This book wasn’t an easy read, due to its 7 POVs  saying it was slightly difficult to concentrate would be an understatement and at times the story itself felt disjointed. Albeit I loved how the individual stories eventually intertwined in my head, it’s just that it took a while for that to happen which ruined the majority of the first part of the novel; resulting in an atrociously long reading time…

disappointed stare

I also found  Juniper’s chapters slightly annoying and disjointed because of the verse in which they were written, although it did make her voice stand out among the others which, for me, didn’t have their own individual tones for some odd reason – which again just made it harder for me to differentiate as to whose POV I was actually reading.

But that isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it – it dealt with some incredibly difficult issues; I mean, all 7 people were messed up in one way or another – and for the most part, they were likeable because they were incredibly real.

Sooooo many problems were dealt with in a blunt, yet somehow still a very conscientious way, and I appreciated the fact that there were so many of them, from ODing to slut-shaming, to of course, student-teacher relationships. Redgate truly explored a wide spectrum within her story leading me onto my next point…

May we just  talk about the representation, both of sexual orientations, and social “standings” it was a realistic representation of life as many teenagers experience it, and I think the author deserves a lot of praise for that. I think she got high school pretty much spot on when it came to how she wrote it, whilst many authors try to present it as “the best time of your life” sort of fiasco, I think Redgate did a brilliant job at showing that whilst it may be for some, for others high school can pretty much mean hell. And of course, that for some indifferent people it’s just a tedious part of their lives that they have to get through.

I am most probably going to come back to this book in the future, to see whether I can connect with it better. So it has been successful in persuading me to give it another chance, but I hope that for those of you who read it in the future a second chance won’t be needed.

My Rating:  3/5 Stars

“You know what they say. Three things last forever: faith, hope and spite. And the greatest of these is spite.”

Olivia Scott

Book Review: The Dead House – Dawn Kurtagich

Synopsis:the dead house cover

Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?


I receieved a free e-copy of this book courtesy of Hachette Children’s Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The structure of the book was not for me, which was quite disappointing as I absolutely loved the premise of it and literally could not wait to explore what the book held within its pages. The writing style – full of reports and interview transcripts just didn’t stick well with my brain and the length of the book, whilst not excessively long at 440 pages made reading it somewhat tedious for me.

I guess part of my disappointment came from my expectation to be completely blown away by the story. Stories about psychological (if you could call it that – I never really pieced together what was going on fully, so let’s just say psychological) phenomena with such a supernatural vibe never cease to leave me speechless, but somehow this one did just that. I finished the book and put it down with a sigh, and I do not think that it was a content one.

However I did read all of it, and I’m glad I did, because Kurtagich had a few aces up her sleeves, namely a few plot twists I really did not see coming which really added to my reading experience. I don’t think the book would have fared as well as it did in my eyes without them.

However, I expected for the book to be much more scary, and whilst I was definitely perturbed by what was happening at a few points along the way (the details of said said scenes will not only be left out for the good of future readers, but also for my own sanity)  – it’d be difficult not to given the story was largely set in an asylum where normal happenings are, well – not normal. But I wasn’t scared, except maybe for the inevitable fate of the characters when they decided to mess with what was basically a more powerful Ouija board… which is NEVER a good idea. It was then that I was almost terrified at what the characters could have unleashed… and perhaps the idea of Dee also scared me quite a bit too, because we never really find out what the heck she/he/it was.

One thing I really loved about the book was its unreliable narrator(s), they just worked and made the book sufficiently confusing and ambiguous for me to not be able to be sure of anything that happened, and whilst normal people would deem this as a bad thing,  I don’t and really like books that do that and I’m on a never-ending quest to find more.

Overall, I know that this book wasn’t a bad one… Why it left me so disgruntled?

I don't have a good answer

But I do know that it was not through the fault of the author herself, because the actual writing within the structure that really did not sit well with me was great and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Kurtagich’s work.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

You can make yourself believe anything if you lie to yourself enough.”

Kaitlyn

ARC Review: Love Sick – Cory Martin

Synopsis:love sick cover

At 28, Cory Martin thought she had it all, a budding career as a writer in Hollywood, an apartment of her own, and a healthy obsession with yoga. But when she found herself on the floor of her apartment wailing into the phone, ‘but I don’t want to be sick,’ her entire world came crashing down.

A doctor had just revealed that she had Multiple Sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease, her good friend was getting married that weekend and the only people she wanted to call were her parents. In a time when she was supposed to be coming into her own as an adult, all she could think was who’s going to want to marry me now?

As she embarked on a medical quest, subjecting herself to countless MRIs and a painful spinal tap that landed her in the ER, Cory simultaneously threw herself head first into dating. She was determined to find love before the disease took over her body. But no matter how many doctors she saw or men she met there would never be a cure for MS. And if you think it’s hard to get the guy you’re dating to give you a ride to the airport, try getting him to drive you to the hospital. Add to that an unfortunate incident with a blue thong and a cute young doctor, and Cory quickly realized that learning to deal with MS would take a whole lot more strength than a ring on her finger could ever provide.


I received an eARC of this book from Write Out Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review. 

With the way in which this book started, I guess I had higher hopes. The introduction made me extremely intrigued about what the rest of the story was going to bring, but I was largely disappointed.

 Reading it was almost like opening a tin of Quality Street sweets and getting a sewing kit instead (does anyone else’s mum do this or is it just mine?) whilst the contents are still very useful and good and all that… it is simply not what I set out to find.

My main reason for requesting the book was to find out more about MS (Multiple Sclerosis) seeing as I’m fascinated by anything related to Neurology (to the point where I’m considering a career in the field) however this wasn’t exactly the case seeing as the book consisted largely of “OH dear me with this incurable disease which I’m not even sure I have”…. and “WHO ON THIS EARTH WILL LOVE ME NOW?” and while of course her fears were understandable – hell I would probably be thinking along the same lines – they were repeated so many times it was getting a bit tedious.

sarcastic cat

Whilst perhaps I wasn’t reading it with the apathy of Salem here (I still have feelings, man… they were just slightly frustrated)  I definitely wasn’t pleased entirely with the story.

What’s that? “You have been warned by the blurb,” you say… Maybe I was, but I just assumed that the whole love part of the story wasn’t going to be the centrepiece (hoping that the disease wasn’t going to be cast into the outskirts).

Albeit saying all of that, the story somehow managed to be quite amusing, especially the  incident with the blue thong (mentioned in the synopsis) – that made me giggle a bit. Okay… A lot. Her humour was very admirable – I do not think I would have been able to even try to go on with life as she attempted to.

Another thing I enjoyed was Martin’s writing style, which was not only easy to read but also engaging, she made a book about an incredibly difficult topic a light and pleasant read which is commendable to say the very least.

All in all, whilst my inner medical geek is slightly disappointed, I can’t say that it was a bad book, because after all it is the author’s personal story – and she had the right to focus on whatever she wanted to… And it did leave me somewhat inspired – which is always a bonus.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

“We are all on a journey, and whether that journey is epic or small, it matters” 

Cory Martin

 

Book Review: Zola Flash- T. Marie Alexander

Synopsis:zola flash cover
Zola is a Victian. And for as long as she’s been alive, her planet has been at war with the ruthless, demeaning Payohlini.

After witnessing the gruesome murder of her family, Zola Flash decides it is time to escape with the one person she was taught to hate before she meets the same fate. Earth seems to be the perfect place to hide out – to pretend her whole life didn’t come crashing down.

While on Earth, fitting in and making new friends are Zola’s main goal. It’s what she wants. A family to call her owns. But then, Zola uncovers family lies and the true reason behind this never ending war.

Now it’s up to Zola and the enemy, who is swiftly stealing her heart, to save her people and gain retribution for her family. But when revenge and protecting her people mean relinquishing her freedom, she’s left with a difficult choice.


I received an ebook copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

*NO MAJOR SPOILERS*

Okay… Let’s start with the good things about the book.

aliens guy

I like  an alien-filled story and this was definitely one of them, with our protagonist, as well as a good 95% of all the other named characters being full-blown (some shape-shifting) aliens!

The protagonist, Zola was also quite likable, there was very little you could not like about her, perhaps because she wasn’t developed past a certain stage… and for the first time ever – I have to say that it was probably a good thing that her character was under-developed as it meant less room for character flaws that I despise to emerge, which can’t really be a bad thing, right?

However this book did pose a few problems as well – which was a darn shame really seeing as I really liked the concept of the story… The main problem being one of my worst enemies when it comes to reading YA books (so Marie Alexander really isn’t the only one on this particular train) INSTA-LOVE… I just don’t see how you can meet someone and five minutes later be in love with them, even as a naive alien with a horrible past… Especially seeing as – well I’m going to let you figure out that one yourself. I guess the development of said love took more than about ten seconds like it usually does… but it was still a short enough period of time for me to think that it shouldn’t have happened…Especially with the differences between them. However, it may just be me, and some may view the way the relationships in this book developed as perfectly normal – it’s all based on one’s own opinion on such matters.

However, there was a problem that I know many bookworms have, namely – finding grammar and spelling inconsistencies… Which are prominent in many self-published novels, and this was yet another case of the somewhat disaster of the English language. However, I am not to judge, for I have not released a book, and probably won’t unless a miracle happens and the words I have stashed on my laptop will come to life on a dead tree (what a great description of a book, right?) but I did have a problem with the way that “here” and “hear” were used interchangeably in the sentence, “Who are you “hear/here” to see?”…  I am pedantic when it comes to grammar, and spelling, and anything to do with the make-up of the English language and it pains me when novels are hard to read purely because of their misuse…

Although, I have to say that overall, the story itself was very an enjoyable read, I finished the book in a day and it made me read more after the remains of a reading slump still had a grasp on me – and that itself is commendable, therefore I would recommend this debut novel to fans of science-fiction, aliens, and cute fuzzy side-kicks (I will leave you to find out what those are for yourself).

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

“Even the innocent can be marred by war”

-Goodreads synopsis

 

ARC Review: Ryan Revisited – Sam Davis

Synopsis:ryan revisited cover

When you don’t have any idea who you are, how do you decide who you want to be?

Who is Ryan Ester? The Southern-belle-in-training her estranged father wants her to be? The laid-back Montana girl she became after her parents’ divorce? Or someone she has to discover on her own?

When Ryan’s only shot at going to college is on her father’s dime, Ryan leaves Bluffs, Montana to return to the antebellum South she once called home. As if the move wasn’t hard enough, Ryan’s first love, who recently left her a broken-hearted mess, has a scholarship to none other than Ryan’s destination, the University of the South.

Ryan Ester may not know who she is, but she sure as heck knows who she doesn’t want to become. As she tries to navigate scandal, heartache, and the unbearable pressure to look and act perfect every waking second, she resents being pushed by everyone who wants to decide for her. For the sake of her own sanity and the hearts of those she cares most about, she will have to find a way to forge her own path.

RYAN REVISITED is the story of a young woman’s search for identity. For serenity. For the perfect landing spot for her aching heart.


I received an advance reader edition of this book from Red Coat PR via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

***SPOILER FREE***

Torn between her Southern roots and Montana dwelling, Ryan was a character I really hoped I could relate to – at least partially due to my own upbringing far away from the place in which I was born. However it unfortunately wasn’t the case as our dear protagonist was really hard to like… I mean REALLY  hard to like – right from the beginning of the book she struck me as very indecisive, to the point where it was almost painful to read the prologue which rarely happens whenever I read books – especially with the books which I was as hyped to read as this one due to their outstanding reviews on sites such as Goodreads… I just really didn’t like the fact that she seemed to break hearts left and right without really giving it much thought… and I have also had the same problem as some other readers in believing that there were that many hearts that she was given to break – I mean the girl wasn’t exactly the epitome of kindness and I was just surprised to find so many guys (nice guys I may mention) were willing to fall in love with her, some in a very short period of time…

 So whilst the heroine herself wasn’t exactly pleasing, a lot of other things about this book luckily were, and I guess it was those things that helped to stop the impending disaster which I thought this book was going to turn out as.

One of the aforementioned things was the writing style… Davis’ writing is one of the most beautiful I have had the chance to read – the choice of words was exquisite and the story would have flowed beautifully had some scenes not been dragged out a little too long… whilst only 403 pages long, this book seemingly could have easily been two full-length books albeit I am not sure if it would have solved the issue of the book’s pace.

Another thing that really, really helped me get through the story were the supporting characters. I absolutely loved Goody and her Southern charm – some of the phrases she used made me chuckle and wonder if there are actual real, live people who exclaim phrases such as

“I could scare a buzzard off a gut pile”

or

“Well, tie me to a pig and roll me in the mud!”

as though they are normal vocabulary, but her ever-present, positive state of mind  was refreshing to say the least, especially when Ryan herself was having a whiny moment… which was most of the time.

Another character whom I thought was a good addition to the story was Geoffrey, he was as Ryan herself stated perfect… yet somehow our protagonist kept pining for the guy she broke up with (I never understood her motives really when it came to Manny)… I felt incredibly sorry for him after Ryan all but stomped over his beautiful heart, and could only hope that he found exactly what he was looking for at Harvard.

Overall, this book was neither a disappointment or a blessing. It was definitely one of those books which I think I would have enjoyed much more had I something in common with the main character, so I would recommend it to college (or university as we call it here in England) aged readers, who are perhaps a little lost in life and need to feel less alone – I think this book might just help you do that.

MY RATING: 3/5 Stars

“Truth is black and white. It is, or it isn’t”

-Ryan