Review: Riot by Sarah Mussi

RiotPublished: May 1, 2014 by Hodder Children’s
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 352

Years of cuts have devastated Britain: banks are going under, businesses closing, prices soaring, unemployment rising, prisons overflowing.  The authorities cannot cope.  And the population has maxed out.

The solution: forced sterilisation of all school leavers without secure further education plans or guaranteed employment.  The country is aghast, but the politicians are unshakeable.  No more free housing for single parents, no more child benefit, no more free school meals, no more children in need.

It’s time for the young to take to the streets.  It’s time for them to RIOT.

At the beginning of Riot, I was in love. I loved everything. I loved the premise. I loved the writing. I loved Tia’s voice and I wasn’t expecting it to go where it did in the early pages. But somewhere along the way, the book seemed to step back from its original idea and went somewhere else. Riot is kind of a political thriller, but it takes a big step beyond its original premise. I eventually decided I was okay with that, but it wasn’t what I thought I was getting into, so on that front, I couldn’t help but be at least a little disappointed.

I liked Tia a lot. I liked that she was naive in some ways and not in others, though at times it got a bit frustrating because she wasn’t cluing in on things when she should have been, but overall I thought she was an interesting choice of heroine for this type of book. I didn’t think the dynamic it created between her and Cobain was very original, but it did help form a kind of dichotomy between them. I liked the way Mussi demonstrated their different methods of dealing with what was thrown at them.

I liked the book’s spin on social media – I thought it was an interesting idea, and while I wasn’t entirely convinced, it definitely intrigued me. I would have liked it if the book could have gone into the origins of Darknet7 and the ADAM and EVE stuff in more detail, but I guess that isn’t really what the book was about, so I’m sort of okay with what we got.

There were some religious undertones throughout the book that felt okay at first (with the ADAM and EVE stuff, and a few other things), but by the end of the book, they were more frequent and I will admit I was left feeling a little lost and confused by all of it. There were a few times that the book got a bit carried away with technical stuff and I lost track of what was going on as well. Tia talks like she knows what she’s talking about, but the hows and whys aren’t really explained at all, and while I was okay with that to an extent, it also made for some very confusing passages.

I will also say that I disliked the romance. I liked Tia and Cobain as characters, and liked their interactions and the way they treated each other in general, but to put a romance between them in this book felt very tacked on and I couldn’t really get past that. I did roll my eyes a bit at the constant “cat-green eyes” mentions early on in the book, though. I don’t think that’s something I would have focused on if I had been so afraid of or intimidated by someone with his reputation, haha, so I had a hard time finding that aspect very believable. I was also a bit disappointed with the ending for reasons I won’t get into in this review; it does bring things together, but not in the most satisfactory fashion.

In the end, though, Mussi’s writing made me really happy, and that made me really like this book. I loved Tia’s almost-stream of consciousness voice, and I… just loved it. I can’t really describe it any other way. It felt genuine to me in a lot of ways. I am definitely interested in picking up more of her books in the future.

Overall, while Riot pulls you in with one idea and then goes running with another, I thought it was a really interesting ride, though brutal at times. I had a hard time putting it down and definitely found my mind wandering during shifts at work, wondering what was going to happen next.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Review: Disconnected by Lisa M. Cronkhite

DisconnectedPublishing Date: June 3, 2014 by the Poisoned Pencil
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 200

Milly has tried hard to keep herself together since the death of her parents, but being bullied by Amelia Norris is pushing her over the edge.  Amelia even dares Milly to hurt herself.  Though she tries to separate herself from her tormentor and find out the truth about her parents’ death, it’s impossible.  Because Milly is Amelia Norris.

I picked this up on NetGalley because I thought the blurb was interesting and I was looking forward to seeing how the author handled the story; however, the story was focused a lot more on the mystery of the main character’s past than it was on her mental illness. I also wasn’t entirely sure how accurate some of the information regarding her illness was, which made me a bit uncomfortable. I was overall looking for a book that would explore Milly’s life with mental illness more than her past, so I was disappointed in that regard.

The mystery in the story was interesting initially, but over and over, the author piles up questions and potential leads without Milly actually attempting to follow those leads, and I found that really frustrating as a reader. Several times she comes across a clue, then seemingly forgets about it altogether while focusing on something unrelated, and then doesn’t remember it until quite a lengthy period of time later. Things like that didn’t really seem to serve much purpose to the story, especially when the clue just adds more questions to the pile. While those questions are eventually answered, it was pretty much done all at once instead of with a trickle of information and answers, so some readers might get frustrated with the book before reaching the payoff. I felt things could have been improved by stretching it out over a longer period of time so it was a bit less overwhelming. There was one major thing toward the end of the book that really bothered me because it wasn’t really justified or explained in a way that satisfied me, but I won’t get into it in this review since it’s a pretty major spoiler.

The characters are a little bit lacking. I felt distanced from Milly throughout the novel, even though the story is told in first person. Her voice didn’t seem 100% authentic to me and I struggled with that a lot throughout the book. I wasn’t super invested in the romance angle of the story. When Blake was first introduced, I thought he was interesting, but he isn’t in the book much, and therefore isn’t developed much, either. I also found Milly’s friendship with her best friend, Beth, to be kind of strange. We’re told over and over that Beth is Milly’s best (and only) friend, and that Milly is afraid of losing her, but from the start, Beth seems like a pretty bad friend, and the reader is never shown the “better days” of their friendship, so we’re left wondering why they were friends in the first place. There was also some slut-shaming that was entirely unnecessary.

I liked a lot of the imagery in the book, and a lot of the descriptions of nature are beautiful. I appreciated that the book looked at mental illness through a teen’s eyes, but I wished the book had been a bit less harsh when it came to some topics (such as the slut-shaming) and a bit better researched in others, considering the content. Ultimately, there was the potential for an interesting story here, but it fell short for me.

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

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Review: Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

Darkness Becomes Her (Gods & Monsters, #1)Published: February 22, 2011 by Simon Pulse
Pages: 320

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone.  With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out.  And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.

Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run.  Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should.  But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.

She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans.  Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very… different.  Here, Ari is seemingly normal.  But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.

Ari won’t stop until she knows why.  But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

I discovered this book on Pulse It, but didn’t have time to read it when it came out because my fiance was visiting. I finally sat down to read it recently, and I was not disappointed. It originally interested me because of the cover; I hardly even looked at the blurb, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I was expecting just a regular, run-of-the-mill paranormal YA romance, but the book took a turn I was NOT expecting, and I loved every second.

When I first started reading Darkness Becomes Her and came across the main character considering herself to be a “freak” because of the color of her hair and eyes, I’ll admit I rolled my eyes. In terms of a paranormal book, a weird eye or hair color really doesn’t mean much, and I don’t think something like that would make someone as much of an outcast as the book seemed to imply, considering people do all kinds of things to their hair and eyes with dye and contacts. But I kept reading, and I’m really glad that I did. A weird hair and eye color isn’t all that sets Ari apart, though it’s not immediately apparent, and she can stand on her own aside from what supposedly makes her stand out. As we see early on in the book, she is completely capable of protecting herself, and I loved that.

Keaton’s reimagined New Orleans was great.  I found her descriptions to be vivid and engaging, and thought New 2 and its denizens livened the book up quite a bit.   New 2 and its inhabitants had a personality all their own, and I thought they were a really interesting and lovely touch.

I was afraid the romance was going to be a super-rushed, insta-love-type thing, but thankfully, I didn’t see it that way. Looking at other reviews, I see a lot of other readers don’t feel the same way, but I thought that while the romance was really random and baseless at first, it seemed to pull back quite a bit for most of the rest of the book, so I didn’t think an insta-love label really applied.

I did find a few things to be a bit, well, extremely unbelievable/unrealistic about the ending, but that aside, I didn’t have many complaints. I thought Darkness Becomes Her was a super fun, more-or-less unique ride, and I was more than happy to be brought along. This book combines a lot of paranormal and mythology stuff, and that might be too much for some readers, but I loved the combination. I thought it was really different from a lot of the other books of its type that I’ve read, and I want to read the next two SO BADLY, but sadly am going to need to wait until I have the money to pick them up.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Review: The Soul Healer by Melissa Giorgio (The Silver Moon Saga, #2)

The Soul Healer (Silver Moon Saga, #2)Published: April 11, 2014 by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Format: Kindle Edition
Pages: 283

This review is for the second book in the Silver Moon Saga.

It’s been two months since Gabi Harkins first learned of demons and the mysterious hunters who battle them.  After discovering a few unbelievable surprises about herself, she simply wants to settle into a normal routine involving dating her boyfriend Rafe Fitzgerald, hanging out with her friends, and eating lots of dessert.  But when her peaceful life is destroyed by the ultimate of betrayals, Gabi must rely on her wits – and a few crazy new friends – to survive her hardest challenge yet.

As a disclaimer, I know the author! That said, I loved this book.

I read the first book in this series, The Sight Seer, last year when it came out in June, and loved it. I was equally excited to devour the novella, An Autumn Dream, in November, so I was super excited to read The Soul Healer ASAP. I had to read a portion of it on my phone, so it was a bit more slow-going reading-wise than the other two books, but I still really enjoyed it.

The Soul Healer opens up just before Christmas. There’s a lot of new characters introduced, and while I was initially a bit overwhelmed, I grew to like a lot of the new characters quite a bit. Gabi’s sass is back in force – she definitely didn’t lose her edge. She also mouths off… a lot. It maybe wasn’t always the greatest course of action, but she made me smile nonetheless. Very little seems to rattle her, and when something does, she pushes it aside with attitude.

While this book has quite a bit less demon-fighting than the first installment in the series, there is a lot of demon lore and other information about demon hunting that I thought was really interesting – I loved learning how this stuff worked in Giorgio’s world. There were plenty of twists I didn’t see coming, and I loved that. I would expect the story to go in one direction, and it would do something else entirely.

Another thing I really liked about this book was that it really displayed, to me, how Gabi is just a normal girl thrown into all of this supernatural stuff. She uses sass and snark to deal with whatever gets thrown at her, but I thought it was really evident in this book that despite some of the stuff going on in her life, she’s pretty much just a normal girl, and I loved that we got to see her handle various situations with that in mind.

While I was a bit overwhelmed with the new cast members at first, I slowly grew to love the new additions, and in the end my only complaint was that the pace slows down toward the middle of the book, but it picks back up in time, and I found it difficult to put down. Once I was able to read the book on my Kindle again, I finished it quickly. Overall, I thought this was a strong addition to the Silver Moon Saga, and I’m looking forward to continuing on!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Review: We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

We Are the GoldensPublishing Date: May 27, 2014 by Wendy Lamb Books
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 208

Nell worships her older sister, Layla.  They’re one unit, intertwined: Nellayla.  As Nell and her best friend, Felix, start their freshman year in high school, on Layla’s turf, there’s so much Nell looks forward to: Joining Layla on the varsity soccer team.  Parties.  Boys.  Adventures.

But the year takes a very different turn.

Layla is changing, withdrawing.  She’s hiding something, and when Nell discovers what it is, and the consequences it might have, she struggles.  She wants to support Layla, to be her confidante, to be the good sister she’s always been.  But with so much at stake, what secrets should she keep?  What lies should she tell?

I saw the e-mail from NetGalley about this book, checked out the mini-summary in the e-mail, read the first line of the blurb -Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart. - and I was basically like, “YES, read now, send to Kindle.” So other than that very vague line and little else, I had no idea what I was getting into, and I liked that.

I loved Nell’s voice. She was pretty unique and I liked her connection to her sister, though time and time again, I got the sense that it wasn’t completely mutual, or that maybe it had been in the past, but wasn’t anymore. Because of that, I kept wanting to see more of the bond that Nell felt she had with her sister, since I felt like we as readers didn’t see it very often. I’m sure some of that was the usual “little sister being annoying” thing, but since the story was being told from Nell’s point of view, it was hard for me to tell which was which. Regardless, I did like their relationship, or at least, Nell’s view of it. I’m a twin and I kept reading Nell and Layla as twins, even though they weren’t, but they had a relationship that made me feel like they were. I loved that the book read as her talking to her sister, referring to Layla as “you” and little touches like asking if she remembered certain details or events.

I loved the way Nell’s relationship with Felix was introduced, and I loved his role as her best friend. I liked that Nell and Layla’s parents were much more present in the novel than parents are in a lot of other YA, despite being so wrapped up in their own lives that they didn’t seem to be aware of what was going on with their children.

There is also an implied comparison between the Golden sisters and the Creed brothers, two teenage brothers who die before the time the story begins, which I liked the idea of in theory, but I’m not sure I liked the execution. Nell imagines the ghosts of these two brothers and sees them around her and talks to them, but I didn’t get the impression that she was close to them when they were alive, so it didn’t really make sense to me that Nell interacted with them so much in her head after they’d died. I didn’t feel like it was necessary to the story and didn’t understand why Nell couldn’t come to the conclusions she reached in interacting with them on her own. I guess she was doing that on her own, in a way, since she’s not actually speaking to their ghosts, but I didn’t like the way it was portrayed. It felt, to me, like it took away that those choices and thoughts were Nell’s and not someone else’s.

I found the open ending to be fairly frustrating. I was sitting there, reading away, loving this book, then I saw the Kindle was at 96% and I was like, oh no, and then I saw it was at 99%, and I was like, OH NO, but overall, I was satisfied with this read and I really enjoyed it, seeing that I read it in one sitting, which is pretty rare for me. Yes, it’s a short, fast read, but that’s not a bad thing. I liked that despite the other things going on in the novel, the relationship between the two sisters was the main focus, and the book never lost sight of that. A definite thumbs-up from me!

I was pre-approved for this title by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark PlacesPublished: May 5, 2009 by Broadway Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 350

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas.  She survived – and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer.  Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club – a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes – locates Libby and pumps her for details.  They hope to discover proof that may free Ben.  Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club – for a fee.  As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started – on the run from a killer.

This is my favorite book I’ve read so far this year, and I’ve been trying to write this review over the past several days, and I’m finding that it’s hard to review books that you love.

So… Dark Places. I don’t know if I can say it’s my favorite of Gillian Flynn’s books, having not read Sharp Objects yet, but I definitely loved it and preferred it over Gone Girl. I read both for my book club, but I will probably be picking up Sharp Objects on my own soon because I’m antsy to check it out now.

Flynn had me with the book’s opening line – “I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.” The opening paragraph pulled me in and I had an extremely hard time putting it down. I read a lot of the book before shifts at work, and starting my work day was awful. I couldn’t wait to get back to this book and uncover more of the mystery.

The story of the Days is told in alternating perspectives – Libby tells us about her life in present day, while her mother and brother shed light on what happened in the past, starting with the morning before the murders. The way it was presented definitely helped glue me to the pages. It drove me crazy at times, but not in a bad way. The three different perspectives were unique and interesting, and I wanted to get back to each one ASAP.

I love Flynn’s writing. She describes things in such a blunt, unflinching way, and I’ve come to love it. Her characters are both realistic and completely unlikable in a lot of ways, but I found myself really liking Libby in the end, though I spend a lot of the book having this weird love-hate relationship with her.

Dark Places was full of twists that kept me reading.  I loved seeing how the little bits of the story came together.  If you need to love the characters you’re reading about, Gillian Flynn might not be the author for you, but I thought this was definitely still worth reading despite usually needing to love the characters in a story.  I’m very excited to read Sharp Objects now and I’m happy that I rejoined my book club with this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars