A very simple story about a young girl dealing with the revelation that she is gay, at least when it comes to a particular girl she meets one summer.
I say simple because the story follows the exact path you suspect it will. There are no surprises, you'll know how it ends from page one and yet it fails to build the tension or even dread a 'tragic' (no spoilers - I use the term loosely) story usually would.
Unfortunately, it also never really tackles the big issues of teenage homosexuality or coming out.
That can be a good thing - a straight up gay romance not mired in self-doubt or loathing is a great thing for a young GLBT teen to be able to read but Empress is ABOUT the big issues, the doubt and confusion the revelation causes so it's light approach made it feel lacking in reality and depth.
All I can say, writing this review a year after reading it is...average.
It’s not bad (which is sadly a pretty high compliment in todays YA landscape) but it also left very little impression.
(As an aside, the focus on the character “Battle Davis” – not the protagonist but clearly the one the author cared the most about makes the story very uneven. The fact the second in the now ‘Battle Hall Series’ focuses entirely on her, in an unrelated setting and situation just makes the choice weirder!)
I cannot believe how taken I am with Belles!
This is not a genre I enjoy at all - there is nothing more painful or vapid to me then pretty rich girls going to pretty rich girl parties and wallowing in pretty rich girl drama.
So why did I buy this book? I honestly have no idea! I think it was an expiring-credits impulse-purchase and it sat in my library for well over a year before I gave it a chance.
Then why the hell did I love it so much?!?! I think that all comes down to the characters.
Calontia has crafted related characters despite the over-the-top uber-wealthy prep-school world they inhabit.
They are all character you've seen before like the rags-to-riches girl out of her depth on a red carpet, the popular girl who feels out of place in the mean girl clique and begins to fancy the artsy scholarship student over her QB BF or the rich boy who doesn't want his parents lavish lifestyle and hides his love of surfing.
But Calonita has written them with all with real heart so I actually CARED about their otherwise 'champagne problems'.
She made them sympathetic and believable so I was completely invested in the story despite knowing exactly where it was going (including the 'twist' ending) from chapter one.
I loved it so much I have immediately purchased the next two books in the series and can't wait to spend more time in the characters lives!
I highly recommend this to YA readers who like luxe worlds and character dramas as it easily the best and most relatable I've ever read.
Breathe avoided many of the pitfalls I dislike in YA dystopian fiction but also never managed to hit any of the powerful high-notes I expect either.
The effect therefore was fairly middling novel.
Breathe establishes the clichéd uber-government that allows the rich to crush the poor version of the future. But the idea that it is the very air we breathe being controlled and unfairly distributed was fascinating.
The characters were interesting, each having a unique point of view on either side of the rich/poor divide and the rebel/government conflict. But I didn't get a satisfying sense of development or growth from their stories, possibly due to what felt like a rather brief amount of time with each of them.
The book doesn't draw out the conflict to establish a trilogy which was very refreshing. But the climax felt rushed and was ultimately unaffecting because it their wasn't enough set-up to pay-off.
See what I mean about middling?
It all just kind of averaged out to be a good, basically well-down book but not a particularly satisfying read.
There is a sequel available now but I am still undecided on whether I'll bother continuing - not because Breathe was 'bad' but because I'm not sufficiently driven or invested enough.
As far as the played-out genre of YA dystopian lit goes, I think even fans might be a little disappointed by the romance that doesn't spark, the action that is flat and the story that isn't particularly engaging.
Still something must be said for the premise of a oxygen starved future which was undoubtedly unique and possibly worth checking out in spite of everything.
Finally, since I am reviewing an audiobook I have to address the horrendous British narration. The Cockney accents were almost unbearable particularly when 'street urchin-esque' characters were introduced.
Besides being grating on the ears, the performance was so over-the top it was unbelievable. Anytime a particularly offensive character was 'speaking', I was completely taken out of the book. And I mean that literally because I actually stopped to hand over my ear buds to a friend a few times so we could laugh about it!
Breathe is one instance where the poor audio unfortunately overshadows the narrative and even if I do choose to read the follow-up I'll probably grab a hard-copy!
Crazy Dangerous was easily the most surprisingly enjoyable read I've had it a long time.
It was a fresh, clever and exciting adventure that dealt with the risky topics of religion and mental illness in a compassionate and relatable way.
The story is so brisk it felt far shorter then it full-length run time. It never wallowed in melodrama, subplots or backstory and I went though the whole book in one go.
I was hooked immediately and stayed engaged right through the action-packed climax that I couldn't have put down if I wanted to.
What I loved most about Crazy Dangerous was it's approach to the Christian faith.
I am a non-Christian and I almost always hate books with a religious leanings. They are usually either too preachy to be enjoyed or too flippant to be taken seriously.
Kalvan's down-to-Earth approach to religious belief was refreshing and framed the story perfectly. Sam is a good kid driven to do the right thing. His honest and decent nature was clearly informed by the moral teachings of his preacher father but the bible doesn't rigidly dictate his actions.
Sam seems to have many chances to take the 'easy' way out of the tangled web he finds himself in. The more we understand Sam though, the more we realise that when it comes to him doing the right thing, whatever the consequences, there is no choice about it at all.
Being so completely invested in Sam as a character and just cheering for him to overcome the violent malevolent forces seeking to hurt others made Crazy Dangerous utterly compelling reading.
I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone wants a powerful YA read.
I grew up in the 90s so I'm a sucker for teen party movies. You know the ones that always take place on the last night of school where the geek gets the cheerleader, the jock gets humiliated and the quirky girl finds her perfect quirky guy?
Well I picked up The Party expecting something along those lines but The Party wasn't a raucous teen comedy throw-back though.
Instead we meet a diverse group of teenagers dealing with issues like death, religious conflict and racism. The conflicts are modern, fresh and well handled. There are no easy fixes for the wide social, financial and political barriers isolating our characters and the author doesn’t undercut the fact.
The characters were deftly drawn, the stories interwoven smoothly and the brought to life by the full cast recording.
The Party wasn’t a wild rager, it was an intimate gathering and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different in YA.
The Mayan Prophecy is the second last book in the TimeRiders series and this entry sets the team on their final collision course with the truth about what role they’re expected to play in the end of the world.
There is no time contamination or external plot in the Mayan Prophecy – a first for the series. Instead, the TimeRiders set out to make sense of the mysterious messages they’ve been sent through historical documents and the key lies with a forgotten South American Civilisation.
Along the way the TimeRiders meet old friends and enemies that I’ve been dying to see revisited. As a fan it is so rewarding to see plot threads left hanging as far back as book one finally plucked out of chaos space.
In the lost city deep in the lush Nicaraguan jungle, the Time Riders make a shocking discovery about the future of humanity and, heartbreakingly, lose some of their own.
The TimeRiders series has been engaging and rewarding, every book unique, exciting and adventurous. But book 8 is all about the end game and I think all fans will also love this entry.
Highly recommended and I can only hope, hope, hope Audible publishes book nine as soon as it is released!
After the shocking revelations and big changes to the TimeRiders in book 6, the team has been left reeling.
As a result, the plot of The Pirate Kings is more subdued than usual to allow the expanded and relocated team time to adjust.
The age of pirates and the Caribbean setting is a rich backdrop, beautifully painted as always by Scarrow.
No two books in the TimeRiders series have been the same and book seven remains fresh with new challenges to overcome, new time contaminations to correct, new team members to work with and new technology to master.
The Pirate Kings is a refreshing tropical breather from the series through-plot of understanding the agency’s role in the impending end of mankind. It delivers what will certainly be one of the most memorable moments from the nine-book series and I think series-long readers will enjoy this interlude before the series counts down in the concluding two books.
Highly recommended, as always!
I decided to give ‘What We Lost’ a chance despite only being lukewarm on its predecessor. Since book one lacked any resolution, I hoped that by actually getting to pay-off all of the set-up, book two could be an improvement.
Unfortunately, ‘What We Lost’ still suffers the same fatal flaw - a dumb heroine who’s plans are as scattered and ill-thought out as the authors vision for the story.
Allie Kim wants to go toe-to-toe with the serial killer that took her best friend but she is hopelessly, laughably out-matched. As in the first book, the second Ally gets any new clues her poorly thought-out plans lead to her being caught red-handed and losing the evidence.
It becomes clear early on that neither Ally nor the author know how to beat the omnisciently powerful killer. Since that leaves the reader just waiting for the convenient coincidence that’ll trip the guy up, I spent most of the first half wondering “Why am I bothering?
Sure enough, the killer plot is wrapped up with a neat little bow in act two leaving a meandering and unrelated act three that belonged in a different book. While I’m not saying the ending wasn’t affecting on its own merits, the story I followed for one and a half books was ended anti-climatically and with no thanks to the protagonist.
I simply can’t recommend the disappointing “What We Lost in The Dark”.
Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters is an interesting character piece but really let down by a rushed and confused ending.
I generally don’t like short fiction because I prefer full, well-paced emersion in a world but obviously I can’t fault DGDWLfor needing to be direct and succinct.
While it wasn’t the elegantly drawn story, though, it deftly painted Sunny’s heartbreak – not at the loss of her sister but at being the one her family and community would have, frankly, preferred to lose.
Sunny’s homelife is heartbreaking and I didn’t expect to be so affected by such a quick glimpse.
The concept of a mourning family receiving a visit from their dead daughter was intriguing but ultimately the plot is why let the story down for me. Clearly written with the intention to try and put in multiple twists at the end, Dead Girls is doesn’t provide the cathartic family drama that would have been so very rewarding given the surprisingly deft character work. It also doesn’t exactly work as a mystery/psychological thriller for me because of the lack of time to develop tension.
Despite the ending though, I would recommend Dead Girls to anyone after a short, intense and heartbreaking character piece with a female protagonist that is instantly sympathetic.
Favourite was quick read more akin to short-fiction than a full novel. It wasted no time on set-up, extraneous sub-plot or relationship drama.
We jump straight into Angel Favourite’s near abduction which terrifyingly mirrors her mothers’ unexplained disappearance five years earlier. Angel reluctantly attends dinner with her attacker’s elderly mother and is sequestered for two nights at the family’s estate. Soon it becomes clear the similarities between her and her mother’s case are no coincidence.
The book progresses swiftly through the straightforward plot but manages to build a claustrophobic and foreboding atmosphere. The characters are utilitarian because the focus is story, not any personal arcs but they are serviceable if not totally compelling.
I personally had trouble connecting to the action thanks to the usual ‘clueless female heroine’ clichés – dropping their weapon halfway through the final chase, going to check out a noise by alone, injuries being acquired to prevent escape only to disappear when convenient etc.
Overall, Favourite wasn’t a bad read but it failed to fully engage me. I’m more of a character-driven reader which is why I don’t usually connect with short fiction. Favourite had an interesting enough premise to capture my attention but ran a little long without the characters and subplots to fill it out. Had Favourite been trimmed to a tight, short thriller I imagine I’d have quite enjoyed it.
I still recommend Favourite as a rare YA thriller/crime entry because that is an underappreciated genre that I wish there was more of.
Alphas is definitely aimed at a pre-teen audience but as with anyone that tries too hard to be cool, Lissi Harrison’s cheesy jokes and dated pop-culture references are simply cringe worthy. Though she has clearly made a career targeting tweens, Harrison woefully misses the mark on ‘relatable modern teens’.
Really, how much credibility can a book name-checking Kevin Federline as ‘huggable’ in the first chapter have? Alphas was publish three years AFTER Brit dumped him and he faded (well, swelled) into obscurity so talk about out of touch!
Saying Harrison was attempting satire would be giving her too much credit. You can’t bite the hand that feeds so if she really went after the vapid, insecure, boy-dependent girls she writes about, there’d be no one to buy the books.
So we’re left with a story idolising vapid, insecure, boy-dependent girls…and that’s about it as far as plot goes. The author tries, I think, to make some statements about girl power, what well-educated women can accomplish and the value of friendship. But when the characters only discernible goals are to hook up with the few boys on Alphas Island, they’re all moot points.
The premise, characters and settings are all completely over the top. The bizarrely technologically advanced Alphas Island is a fun vision but would be more suited to a sci-fi city then an all-girl boarding school. Still the lush, imaginative scenery is the books only high-point.
Alphas finally ends with a cliff-hanger. Sure, there was no discernible plot but the dropping of a last-page bombshell and leaving a story ‘to be continued’ is a cheap trick.
I have no desire to continue with the series but anyone who thinks they may should be aware Audible doesn’t have the next three books.
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