Review: Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Have A Nemesis

Posted on June 26th, 2017 @ 21:45
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Please Don't Tell My Parents I Have A NemesisPlease Don’t Tell My Parents I Have A Nemesis by Richard Roberts

My rating:

Blurb:

It’s summertime for supervillains!

Or maybe not, because for Penelope Akk, there is still one foe she has yet to defeat: her own reputation as Bad Penny. It’s been a fun ride: fighting adult heroes, going to space, and inspiring the rest of her school to open up about their own powers.

Sooner or later, that ride has to end, and with school out of the way Penny is hatching a mad scheme to end it on her own terms. Will that go smoothly? Of course not. Penny’s left too many unsolved problems behind her already, like ghosts, seriously crazy friends, and angry little girls from Jupiter.

One by one, they’ll have to be dealt with before she can do battle with herself. She’d better hurry, because her parents are closing in. Whether she confesses or not, this time they will find out her secret.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher.]

I remember being disappointed with the previous instalment. This one, although not as strong as the first volume in the series, I felt was better—probably because it deals less with slice-of-life/school moments, and tackles more seriously the matter of Penny wanting to come clean to her parents about the Inscrutable Machine. Well, ‘seriously’ being a tentative word, because her plan is, as Ray and Clair put it, just crazy enough to actually work. (On the other hand, well, it’s a plan crafted by a 14-year-old mad scientist, soooooo… why not!)

… And you can sense this plan smells like Eau de Backfiring from the moment it is formulated, and can’t help but wait for the train wreck to happen, and… I admit, I liked that part of the plot. Even though it didn’t cover the whole book (too bad). In a twisted way, the mistakes Penny keeps committing seem to me like they’re actually her subconscious, or perhaps her power, acting her to act: she wants to be a hero, she regularly tries to help people and do good deeds, but somehow she seems more cut out to be an ambiguous hero at best. More suited to be filed with the likes of Lucyfar than Marvelous.

(I’m also thinking that IF this is what the author is indeed going for, then it might also explain the Audit’s lack of insight about her daughter: maybe the Audit does know, has known for a while, and isn’t saying anything because she wants Penny to realise by herself what her true decision will have to be.)

What I regret:

- Like in the previous two books, we don’t see much of Ray and Claire, both in terms of development and sidekicking (summer camp kind of gets in the latter’s way). Hopefully the last volume will take care of the whole ‘Ray’s family’ issue. Or maybe it’s not worth it? I don’t know, I’ve always felt there was something off to them, and not merely as in ‘they don’t like superheroes/villains so I can’t tell them I’m one now.’

- The coming back of a friendtagonist: I was expecting it, I wanted to see it happen, yet at the same time, the way it was dealt with felt like a plot device. Kind of ‘this character is needed to help Penny build one specific machine, and then will be unneeded for the rest of the book.’ Meh.

What I’m in between about:
- The ending. It is fairly depressing, and a cliffhanger… yet at the same time, I’m glad the whole thing wasn’t solved just like that, since it would’ve been too simple, and… ‘too clean?’

Conclusion: Not on par with volume 1, howeve it did leave me with a better impression than volume 3.

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Review: Bad Girl Gone

Posted on June 18th, 2017 @ 18:18
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Bad Girl GoneBad Girl Gone by Temple Mathews

My rating:

Blurb:

Sixteen year-old Echo Stone awakens in a cold sweat in a dark room, having no idea where she is or how she got there. But she soon finds out she s in Middle House, an orphanage filled with mysteriously troubled kids.

There s just one problem: she s not an orphan. Her parents are very much alive.

She explains this to everyone, but no one will listen. After befriending a sympathetic (and handsome) boy, Echo is able to escape Middle House and rush home, only to discover it sealed off by crime scene tape and covered in the evidence of a terrible and violent crime. As Echo grapples with this world-shattering information, she spots her parents driving by and rushes to flag them down. Standing in the middle of street, waving her arms to get their attention, her parents car drives right through her.

She was right. Her parents are alive but she s not.

She s a ghost, just like all the other denizens of Middle House. Desperate to somehow get her life back and reconnect with her still-alive boyfriend, Echo embarks on a quest to solve her own murder. As the list of suspects grows, the quest evolves into a journey of self-discovery in which she learns she wasn t quite the girl she thought she was. In a twist of fate, she s presented with one last chance to reclaim her life and must make a decision which will either haunt her or bless her forever.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

This ended up being a very uneventful read for me. The premise felt really cool: a girl finds herself in a creepy orphanage, realises it’s actually a kind of purgatory for murdered kids, and tries to find out who killed her so that she can move on. The beginning was intriguing, especially since, like other ghosts in the orphanage, Echo first has to piece together memories of her death—reliving the trauma at once would be too shocking—, and investigating why you’re in an orphanage when last you knew your parents were definitely alive, well, that’s tricky.

The problem lied mainly in how all this was executed. Not particularly thrilling, for starters. Echo has a couple of culprits in mind, so she and the other kids go to ‘haunt’ them and see if they’re going to wield under pressure, or are actually innocent, but… it wasn’t anything scary or memorable, more like pranks, not like the really creepy kind of haunting you could get when adding children/teenagers to the mix (in general, I find kid ghosts scarier than adult ones). The mystery itself—finding the murdered—wasn’t exciting either, nor were the murderer’s reactions. Perhaps this was partly due to Echo’s power as a ghost: entering living people’s bodies in order to perceive their thoughts. The investigation part, in turn, was more about vaguely picking a maybe-potential culprit, scaring them, popping in their mind, then be gone. Then the story. And then Echo’s past as a ‘bad girl’ was revealed, and it turned out it wasn’t so much bad as introduced without much taste.

Definitely cringeworthy was the drama-addled romance. Echo’s living boyfriend, Andy, is all about moping and wanting to kill himself over her death, and… well, call me hard-hearted and callous, but you’re 16 and that kind of relationship is by far NOT the first one you’re going to experience in life, so pegging everything on it always feels contrived to me. Then there’s cute ghost boy Cole, who’s not about murdering the hypotenuse (thanks goodness), yet was strange, considering Andy is not aware of his presence, and so the triangle is… incomplete? (Its attempts at becoming a square later didn’t help either.) Also contains examples of stupid Twue Wuv/The One/soulmate 4evah/Doormat Extraordinaire. Such as Echo being so happy that her corpse was dressed in her favourite dress at her funeral… Favourite because her boyfriend Andy liked it. I still have no idea if Echo herself liked the pattern or colour or whatever. In any case, these are the kind of tropes I dislike in novels in general, and in YA even more. Why always make it look like couple love is the ultimate end, as if nobody (whether girl or boy) couldn’t have a good life in different ways?

In fact, I was more interested in the orphanage’s headmistress (whose back story plays a part for a chapter or so) and other inmates, all with their own murders to solve. These I would’ve liked to see interact more than just as Echo’s sidekicks. But we don’t get to learn much about them, apart from how they died. Too bad.

Conclusion: Nope.

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Review: The Girl from Rawblood

Posted on June 14th, 2017 @ 19:55
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The Girl from Rawblood: A NovelThe Girl from Rawblood: A Novel by Catriona Ward

My rating:

Blurb:

For generations the Villarcas have died mysteriously, and young. Now Iris and her father will finally understand why. . .

At the turn of England’s century, as the wind whistles in the lonely halls of Rawblood, young Iris Villarca is the last of her family’s line. They are haunted, through the generations, by “her,” a curse passed down through ancient blood that marks each Villarca for certain heartbreak, and death.

Iris forsakes her promise to her father, to remain alone, safe from the world. She dares to fall in love, and the consequences of her choice are immediate and terrifying. As the world falls apart around her, she must take a final journey back to Rawblood where it all began and where it must all end…

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I did like the narrative weaving back and forth between past and present, shedding more light on characters that came before Iris and Tom, as well as the atmosphere of Rawblood, both stifling and inviting to nostalgia. I had more trouble keeping interested in the story itself, though: the characters weren’t particularly engaging, so I never cared much about them. I never really felt the connection between Iris and Tom, and therefore its role in the ‘immediate and terrifying’ consequences mentioned in the blurb didn’t have much of an impact

The present tense narration tended to throw me out of the story from time to time, which didn’t help; I’m not sure why, I’m not too keen on that tense when it comes to historical fiction (and/or when several narrators are involved, as it’s often difficult to tell who’s telling the story, and it was the case here at times).

The reveal towards the end made sense in a way, yet seemed to me like it fell a little abruptly, and wasn’t completely… justified. Revenge? But why, considering ‘her’ identity, why would she inflict that on the Villarcas? Accident, couldn’t help it? Hm, not really convinced here. Quite a few things were unclear, and not in a way that contributed to a mysterious / gothic atmosphere.

Conclusion: I may have liked it more, if not for the style and the characters.

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Review: One of Us Is Lying

Posted on June 7th, 2017 @ 21:20
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One of Us Is LyingOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

My rating:

Blurb:

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I’m not sure how I feel exactly about this book. I did expect a lot clichés when I started this book (which the blurb makes clear anyway), and clichés there were, but I’m still not sure I liked or not? Sometimes I do want to see how they pan out; sometimes I want something different from the start. Here, I’d say that mostly they don’t really deviate from the usual outcomes (girl falls for the bad boy, girl/boy cheats on partner, etc.), and the plot is a little heavy on high school stereotype drama at times. I suppose I also expected that the four teenagers’ secrets would be ‘darker’ than ‘oh noes I cheated on my partner’, since this seems to be so very common in plots (and here’s a reminder about how everything feels like the fate of the world depends on it, at that age).

On the other hand, even though these things were predictable, and even though I had my suspicions about the murderer halfway throughout the story, I found myself reading fairly fast because I wanted to see if other secrets would pile up on the existing one, if other characters would help shed light on what really happened, or what other clues would appear. Not that many, it turned out, but… it still kept me entertained.

The mystery was… okay-ish? The story focused more on the characters and their lives unravelling than on providing lots of clues or red herrings—entertaining, but not thrilling.

I had trouble with the 1st person narrative: our four suspected murderers take turns to tell the story, but their respective voices sounded too much like each other, so at times I found myself not too sure of who was telling a specific part, and I had to re-read, or use the ‘chapter’s title’ to see who it was about. The style is somewhat juvenile, however it wasn’t jarring (and definitely -less- jarring than that trend of having teenagers speak like 40-year-old chaps!).

Conclusion: Probably a novel that will hold more appeal for younger readers, but not so much if one is already used to such themes/plots and want to go further than stereotypes.

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Review: Clock Zero

Posted on June 4th, 2017 @ 18:06
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Clock Zero: I'm not my social feedClock Zero: I’m not my social feed by Nawar Alsaadi

My rating:

Blurb:

Tom is your average Joe working at a call center, with his real life going nowhere, Tom’s existence has been reduced to chasing Likes on Facebook and hearts on Instagram and Twitter. For Tom, owning the latest iPhone is what gives his life meaning, until the day he meets the enigmatic Daniel Drake, a man with a daring plan to rid the world of its social media smartphone addiction. Tom is captivated by the premise of a new unplugged world, but is Daniel Drake the good Samaritan he claims to be?

Technology trap. Terrorism. Corporate greed. Meaningless life. Narcissism. Clock Zero beautifully captures the existentialist struggles of this generation through an extraordinary voyage of suspense and satirical discovery.

Review:

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

Quite an interesting story, with likeable characters—possibly a like goofy, too, but I was in the mood for that, and also, taking jabs at helpdesks/customer service? Count me in, I’ve been in that kind of jobs that for some time now, and we all need to find our fun somewhere, otherwise we’d just get bonkers.

Anyway. That was for the fun parts, enhanced with the way the narrator swipes at social media, the amount of time we spend checking Facebook and Twitter, and how it’s so easy to get lost in it. Not that I don’t like my little FB time, but I know what it feels like to turn your computer on at the end of the day and realise you’ve spent the past two hours going through clickbait crap when you could’ve been doing something else. (Like reading, and reviewing, and therefore catching up on your backlog of NetGalley books, so that you can then post your reviews on your blog and FB page and… Wait a second.)

There are less fun parts, too, closer to actual terrorism, with a plot meant to destroy cell towers, satellites, etc., through a virus uploaded on everybody’s smartphones. A revolution of sorts, to force people to look up from their phones and enjoy life again. Kind of extreme (I’m trying not to spend too much time on social media, but let’s be honest, if internet and networks in general are gone, I’m out of a job). One will like this idea or not. It’s probably a case of ‘doing the wrong things for the right reasons’. In the light of recent years and the growing amount of terrorist attacks, this commentary is not, well, enjoyable, yet one can also (unfortunately) relate to it while reading about it (my main Tube hub is closed today because of that, now let me tell you that’s one instance I was glad to hang on FB instead of being out socialising!).

Style: the writing is OK, some typos now and then (it was an ARC so hopefullyl those were corrected in the final version), and at first the narrator alluding to hashtags and emojis was a little confusing. Nothing too bad, though.

I’m torn about the twist in the end—can’t decide whether I like it, or would have preferred the story to end one chapter earlier. Still unsure as well if the book was meant to be totally satirical, and if I should get angry at it (I preferred to treat is as satire and fun, because I’m too lazy and it’s too hot outside to waste energy into such feelings).

Conclusion: Maybe not the best read you can find when it comes to taking jabs at social, yet enjoyable nonetheless.

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