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Never Never
Never Never
by Colleen Hoover
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.99
27 used & new from $6.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Questionable, May 4, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Never Never (Paperback)
Be warned: this is not a novel, or even a novella. It's more like a serial, and this is the first of reportedly three parts. And being only a third of a novel (the paperback is only 150 pages), it's rather unsatisfying on its own. It has a premise, we meet the characters, and it ends on a cliff-hanger - and that's it for now.

Colleen Hoover is known for her New Adult romance novels, but I'm unfamiliar with Tarryn Fisher's work. Maybe she writes speculative fiction, because there's some as-yet-unexplained weird stuff going on in NEVER NEVER. (I so want to put a comma between those words in the title. But I'm not a professional writer.)

Charlie and Silas are both in class when they realise they've lost their memories of familiar people. They still know reality TV personalities, but not themselves, each other, their families, friends, or acquaintances.

Their fathers used have a financial group together, but now one family is wealthy and the other is...not. Something shonky went down, and only one man was punished for it. Ah, the cut-throat world of business...

Silas Nash seems nice, such as when he checks that a drunken woman is okay. But reading from Charlie Wynwood's point of view is not pleasant.

From page 82: '"Amy," I say. I wonder if she's one of the girls I sat with at lunch yesterday. I hardly noticed names and faces. The car pulls to the curb and we walk forward. Janette climbs into the backseat without a word, and after a few seconds of deliberation I open the front door. Amy is black. I stare at her in surprise for a minute before I climb in the car.'

Having read the entire book, I still don't get why Charlie stares at Amy "in surprise". Has Charlie never seen a woman of colour before? If Charlie's familiar with celebrities, surely black people aren't new to her, so I don't understand the "surprise".

Just a few pages later, Charlie has questionable thoughts about another character:

From page 85: 'My first thought is "ugly". But it's more of a fact than a judgment.'

It's a judgment. The girl Charlie's judging is known only (so far) as "The Shrimp". Because non-beautiful girls don't deserve the respect of being referred to by their actual name?

Eff you, Charlie. EFF YOU.

To her credit, Charlie seems concerned about her younger sister's dinner choices, so she does have a heart. Maybe only towards people who are both white AND beautiful. (Charlie notices that Amy is pretty, but that still doesn't explain the "surprise" that Amy is black.)

I'll be tuning into parts two and three to solve the mystery, but hopefully Charlie is more tolerable there than she is here.

The Bone Tree (Penn Cage)
The Bone Tree (Penn Cage)
by Greg Iles
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.57
105 used & new from $10.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flashes of brilliance, May 4, 2015
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Hate crimes, racism, rape, racial slurs, child abuse.

If your book is over 400 pages, every bloody page should deserve to be there.

Greg Iles's THE BONE TREE is just over 800 pages (Australian trade paperback edition). And I'm sorry to report that an entire plotline didn't work for me at all. This is awkward because the interesting bits are awesome, but an entire plotline bored me so much that my attention was near nil.

The bothersome (for me) subplot involves political figures from the 1960s. One of the fictional characters even interviews, and is flirted with by, one of these people in the contemporary. And I just didn't care. I don't want real people in fiction.

Lincoln Turner makes an excellent point when he remarks that white people have become the focus. Penn Cage and everyone else are no longer concerned with the death of Viola Turner - Penn's single-mindedly driven towards keeping his father safe and out of prison. Caitlin Masters is focused on continuing the investigative journalism into the Double Eagles that Henry started.

Viola Turner's death launched this trilogy. Jimmy Revels, Pooky Wilson, Albert Norris, and countless other black people were abused, tortured, and murdered. And yet CIA agent John Kaiser cares more about the white political figures from the 1960s. *head-desk*

But the story really gets fascinating when Caitlin starts searching the swamp. And the DIY-surgery scenes are riveting.

THE BONE TREE really packs a punch when it sticks to fictional characters. But when it involves real people, I lost interest. This novel could've been an absolute stunner. It still has flashes of brilliance, but interspersed are too many scenes that fail to engage.

Flame: A Sky Chasers Novel
Flame: A Sky Chasers Novel
by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.58
72 used & new from $0.55

4.0 out of 5 stars Best of the trilogy, April 25, 2015
My history with trilogies is that usually the first book is the best. In the case of Amy Kathleen Ryan's Sky Chasers, the third book is the best. Which fills me with such delight, because it means the author's skills have IMPROVED over the course of the series - just the way writing should be.

With the two earlier novels, the three lead characters were very annoying. That's gone here in FLAME - Waverly, Kieran, and Seth are more concerned with staying alive and the wellbeing of their parents than they are about relationship dramas.

In the earlier installments Anne Mather seemed like a cult leader, but here she's just a political figure - and there's more political intrigue in store. Will Waverly and Kieran commit perjury? It's Mather and her crew versus the church elders, and neither team is ideal to lead.

What I've most loved throughout this whole series is the marvellous setting, complete with nebula. This is science fiction the way it should be: more about actual SCIENCE, rather than military/war/invasion. And there are medical issues all the way to the end.

I was all set to rate this five stars, until I got to the final chapter. It's not labelled as an "epilogue", but we all know what it is. The more this last chapter continued, the more disappointed I became.

Less is more, authors. You don't have to tie every knot - you can leave something up to the reader to decide for themselves. Better to leave something unknown, rather than erase possibility. I still heartily recommend this series to anyone willing to try it. Just go without that final chapter.

House Immortal
House Immortal
by Devon Monk
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
64 used & new from $0.02

4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing blend, April 19, 2015
With a section on her website dedicated to her knitting, it was inevitable that Devon Monk would write a series where craftwork is integral.

In 1910, an experiment killed most people in the region. Thirteen people survived - they are "galvanized", seemingly immortal. They fell into comas, awakening later.

Matilda Case has been stitched together with "life thread", and her grandmother is mostly seen knitting a lengthy scarf from "pocket sheep's" wool with nano-whatever in it. Yes, this is confusing, but the scarf turns out to be very useful later on.

I came into this novel expecting a futuristic FRANKENSTEIN kind of tale, so the urban fantasy-esque creatures in the first chapter are surprising. With "immortal" in the title, it shouldn't be a surprise that the novel discusses how to stop time, but I'm more interested in the surgical/medical aspects of the story.

The novel's large cast gets confusing, with all the different House heads and their galvanized, and lengthy descriptions of what everyone looks like and what they're wearing, but I still couldn't keep track of everyone. Also, it's never explained how stitches get coloured, because the life thread itself seems to be silvery.

I don't fully understand what's going on, but I'm firmly entrenched and along for the ride. Mix Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN with Amy Ewing's THE JEWEL, and you get Devon Monk's HOUSE IMMORTAL: an intriguing blend of science, technology, politics, and who knows what else is in store.

What You Left Behind: A Novel
What You Left Behind: A Novel
by Samantha Hayes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.08
68 used & new from $1.68

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Family-based paranoia, April 14, 2015
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Suicide, hate-crime.

Samantha Hayes's previous novel, UNTIL YOU'RE MINE, is fabulous. Family-based paranoia, its creepiness is very affective. But what makes it so good is that it mostly focuses on ordinary people, who AREN'T in law enforcement and investigation. Mostly.

Thus what makes UNTIL YOU'RE MINE stand out from the crowd is unfortunately missing here. I enjoyed meeting Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher and her family back then, and I still like Lorraine here in BEFORE YOU DIE. Often faced with other police members' incompetence or carelessness, she strides in and takes over - because someone has to, and since no one else seems to have bothered, it's up to Lorraine. (Really, how is Burnley still employed?)

Yes, BEFORE YOU DIE is family-based paranoia like its predecessor, and it still has a twist for the very last chapter. But because it mainly focuses on Lorraine's family, it just doesn't have the same appeal as the first book. It's still well-written and engaging, but the series seems now in police-procedural territory...and thus difficult to stand out from all the other police procedurals on the crime shelves.

The third novel in the series is being released shortly, and I look forward to reading it. And though I really like Lorraine, I hope this new novel will regain what made the first book so fabulous.

The Girl in 6E
The Girl in 6E
by Alessandra Torre
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.34
75 used & new from $4.10

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Winning premise, lacks execution, April 11, 2015
This review is from: The Girl in 6E (Paperback)
TRIGGER WARNING: The novel features child abduction, child abuse, child murder, and cat murder.

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the novel. They're behind a link in Goodreads, but not elsewhere.

NOTE: The copyright page states, "A different version of this book was published as ON ME, IN ME, DEAD BENEATH ME."

The cover summary's a bit vague, so it's hard to know what to say in case something is considered a spoiler. Hmm.

Deanna Madden's full-time job is as a nineteen-year-old camgirl named Jessica Reilly. The business of it seems well-researched, though there are camming scenes that add nothing to the overall plot - so why are they included?

Deanna hasn't left her apartment since she moved in three years ago. She never has people over, and even makes the package deliverer (who seems to drop by every day) forge her signature so she doesn't have to face him. She pays her neighbour in pills of his choice, so he collects her garbage...and locks her inside at night.

Deanna frequently has the urge to kill. She figures if she locks herself in and keeps everyone out, there's a lower chance of her murdering anyone.

When her door is unlocked during the day and Deanna's good ear is covered, she doesn't hear when the package deliverer, Jeremy, bursts into the apartment. At first, Deanna tries to attack Jeremy, but he easily overpowers her, and her thoughts of murder turn to thoughts of sex almost instantly.

The narrative makes a big deal about how Deanna supposedly wants to kill everyone, but her actions just don't ring true. Apparently lust/love cures her, because she's able to leave her apartment fairly simply. She makes the decision, and then she goes, with barely any hesitation. This would've been more believable if Deanna had progressed in stages: first, outside her apartment; second, into the elevator; and third, outside the building. Instead, Deanna overcomes these psychological obstacles in one clean hit.

Deanna easily locates the child, deals with the perp, and the child's family promises her anonymity. While the novel is supposedly an "erotic thriller", it doesn't fully succeed in either aspect: Some cam sessions have nothing to do with the overall plot, and aren't erotic; and the straightforwardness of the crime issue elicits no thrill.

As to why Deanna has urges to kill: as a teenager, she walked into the family home to find that her mother has killed her siblings and father. So Deanna kills her mother. That's it. I believe with the appropriate medication and therapy, Deanna would've been able to process and cope with life afterward much more effectively. I believe she never really was a murderer-to-be - killing her mother was simply a response to what her mother had done to the family. Since Deanna doesn't kill anyone after that, the whole "I'm a killer" facade seems just for show. She has plenty of opportunity to kill Jeremy, yet falls in lust/love with him instead.

As for Jeremy, he has no problem with Deanna supposedly wanting to kill him. Sure, she came at his throat with a knife, but she's hot, so...not a big deal, supposedly? WTF?! What is this book: HUSH, HUSH? I know that criminal/killer-as-love-interest is a trope rather common in romance nowadays, and we're all supposed to brush it off because "it's fiction - it's not real". But attempted murder doesn't say "hot" to me, but your opinion may vary.

The novel's premise is a winner, but its execution lags far behind.

P.S. The "girl" in the title is actually a WOMAN: Deanna Madden. I don't understand this titling trend of "girl", when "woman" or "lady" would be more accurate.

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.47
197 used & new from $10.81

4.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating, April 5, 2015
This review is from: The Girl on the Train (Hardcover)
I decided that 2015 would be the year that I read what I want when I want, and not just read particular books because I feel like I "should". It's early in the year, and I've already strayed from my intention with various results. (Sorry, but I wasn't interested enough to finish Emily St. John Mandel's STATION ELEVEN.) But I'm so glad I decided to try Paula Hawkins's THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

The comparisons to Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL are inevitable: "Girl" in the title, unreliable narrator, crime from the POV of someone who's NOT a professional investigator, "unlikeable" female lead character... But I warmed to THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN much more. Often times I struggled with Rachel Watson due to her alcoholism, but she really does try to do the right thing, though often for the wrong reasons.

Paula Hawkins has crafted an intoxicating story with flawed-yet-familiar characters and page-turning twists. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is an international best-seller for a reason: it's bloody good, and should appeal to fans of Brit crime. An intriguing read that's left me impatient for news about the author's next novel.

The Beautiful Ashes (Broken Destiny)
The Beautiful Ashes (Broken Destiny)
by Jeaniene Frost
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.07
79 used & new from $0.76

2.0 out of 5 stars Hot mess, March 31, 2015
The cover summary is rather vague, so it's hard to share anything about the plot in case it's considered a spoiler. But I will tell you this:


(It's true - look it up.)

If you weren't interested in the novel before, you may be now thanks to those three words. And THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES's world-building is intriguing enough, which is why I read the entire book properly instead of "skimming" (only reading the dialogue).

However (and it's a big "however"), the characterisation is seriously dodgy. Minus Zach, because he's cool, but the two main characters are rather problematic. Adrian is the kind of "Alphahole" for which New Adult has been unfortunately stereotyped, so he'll be familiar to readers. In one scene he grabs Ivy Jenkins by the throat, and threatens to choke her until she falls unconscious. Adrian is Ivy's love interest, by the way. And no, that scene wasn't air-play, or consensual.

As for her credit, many times throughout the story she acknowledges her own stupidity. But that doesn't stop her from making stupid decisions repeatedly. And she's shallow, freely admitting that her interactions with Adrian would be a lot less friendly/sexual if Adrian wasn't so good looking. Ivy is really freaking annoying, so I'm not sure what Adrian sees in her, but Adrian is only subjected to Ivy's speech - not her thoughts, which all seem to centre on Adrian, despite the fact that she only meets him because she's looking for her missing sister, who is often far from her mind.

While the novel does get good VERY late on, THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES is more of a hot mess than anything else.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World
Vivian Apple at the End of the World
by Katie Coyle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.68
78 used & new from $0.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Witty, March 28, 2015

So your parents have been Raptured, and you're Left Behind. Do you stay in town with your best friend, or go to live with your new legal guardians? To Vivian Apple's credit, she at least gives living with her grandparents a try and lasts a few weeks with them. This is a YA book wherein adults are not automatically disregarded, or conveniently absent. Indeed, Vivian's mother has an interesting story, too.

Ultimately, though, the most nuanced character is Vivian's best friend. It's bad enough that Harpreet Janda's parents are gone, but an even more traumatising event leaves her with no reason to stay in Pittsburgh. And when Viv's love interest joins the road trip to California, Harp is the third wheel, which is awkward, but she still has more wit than Viv and Peter combined.

Edie doesn't add to the plot, but maybe she's there to represent someone who's okay with being Left Behind - for now, anyway. Rumours of a second Rapture (before the Apocalypse) are said to be limited in the number of people who'll be saved, so some treat their Left Behind life as a competition.

Wambaugh doesn't add to the plot, either, but it's great to have such a positive adult role model in a YA book, and Wambaugh's an awesome teacher. I suppose she's also included for the scene that proves that having faith, being a Believer, doesn't automatically mean the person does the awful things that their religion may unfortunately be stereotyped for. Indeed, the novel's ending really goes to show that there's something more powerfully deadly than the Church.

Katie Coyle's witty Left Behind characters struggle to find something worth believing in, as hope fuels their drove across the USA. Vivian Apple develops from a meek girl into a headstrong young woman, in a story that shows different aspects of faith, and the sometimes devastating effect the possibility of salvation can have.

Dark Alchemy
Dark Alchemy
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, March 24, 2015
This review is from: Dark Alchemy (Kindle Edition)
Temperance, Wyoming, is a town of illicit drug use, rapidly-healing ranch hands, and the last known location of Dr. Petra Dee's father. Whilst asking questions, the geologist comes across calcified corpses and a mystery that leads underground, where the most beautiful and grotesque things live.

Laura Bickle brings a fresh approach to alchemy, explaining the stages to achieve transformation in an understandable and interesting way that makes learning chemistry fun. Petra Dee is a clever and relatable heroine who keeps her eye on the prize, accompanied by her trusty coyote friend. But it's the gobsmacking, vivid imagery of the caves and the Lunaria that will really grab readers.

This fascinating novel provides a great look at a proto-science about which I'd love to learn more. DARK ALCHEMY is brilliant as a stand-alone, yet a return trip to Temperance wouldn't be unwelcome. Come for the western, but stay for the weird science!

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