Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Since You've Been GonePublished: February 17, 2015 by Dundurn
Pages: 224
Format: e-ARC

Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother, Sydney, have been trying to do just that for five years. Now, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only had Edie had to move to another new school, she’s in a different country.

Sydney promises that this is their chance at a fresh start, and Edie does her best to adjust to life in London, England, despite being targeted by the school bully. But when Sydney goes out to work the night shift and doesn’t come home, Edie is terrified that the past has finally caught up with them.

Alone in a strange country, Edie is afraid to call the police for fear that she’ll be sent back to her abusive father. Determined to find her mother, but with no idea where to start, she must now face the most difficult decision of her life.

This book and I got off to a really bad start. Within the first few opening pages, I was furious at the main character and her mother, wanted nothing more to do with either of them, and was sitting in tears at a table in the food court at work. But I forced myself to go on, and while I’m glad I finished the book, it fell short for me. I’m afraid my initial reaction to the book soured it a bit for me, which isn’t really the book’s fault, but I’ll try to go into what I liked and didn’t like, aside from the book’s opening.

My main issue was with the main character, Edie. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the main character in a book doesn’t necessarily need to be likable for me to enjoy the book, and Edie definitely fits the bill of an unlikable character. She’s angry, lashes out often, and judges others pretty harshly. There have been plenty of other characters like her, characters that I have grown to like in spite of their cruelty to others, but I didn’t feel that way with Edie for a long time. The Edie we see in some scenes seems completely separate from the Edie in other scenes, and I had a hard time reconciling the two. I wish we as readers got to know Edie better over the course of the book, that we got to know more of what her life in Canada was like, just… more.

The story itself, Edie aside, is enjoyable, but I wish it had been a bit longer. There’s a lot of stuff crammed into this book, especially into the last few pages, and it felt a bit overwhelming. The book brings up some really good points, and it would have been nice for a lot of those issues to be given more page time or otherwise explained in a bit more detail. I think they would have had a much bigger impression that way. At times, it felt like the reader was getting too much at once, and other times, it was very frustrating to get little hints of what was going on when we were fairly late in the story and wanted to know much more.

I enjoyed Payne’s writing quite a bit. I finished the book fairly quickly, despite my initial reaction, and would definitely read another one of her books in the future.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (Finishing School #1)

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)Published: February 5, 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 307
Format: e-ARC

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners – and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes that the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish… everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage – in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

This was my first book by Gail Carriger, and it definitely won’t be my last. This one was fun, humorous, and overall, really enjoyable. I really liked Sophronia, the atmosphere of the school was fantastic, and even at the times when I wasn’t particularly enthralled by what was going on in the book, the pages seemed to fly by. It took me a while to get used to the voice of the book, but once that happened, it was hard to put down.

My only complaint is that the central plot of this particular book didn’t really draw me in, but the concept of the school Sophronia had been recruited to intrigued me enough to keep reading, and I’m glad it did. I LOVED the idea of a school training girls in both etiquette and, well, espionage. :)

It took me a while to get around to reading this one, but I’m so glad I did, and the timing turned out pretty spectacular, because the other books in the series happened to go on sale while I was reading it. Looking forward to reading them when I can, and maybe catching up in time to read the fourth book later this year!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars