Review: Sociable by Rebecca Harrington

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I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Sociable will be available March 27, 2018.

Synopsis from Good Reads:

The Assistants meets The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. in this exuberant comedy of manners set in the world of Internet media, a brilliantly irreverent novel about what it means to be young, broke, dumped, and scarily good at creating viral content.

When Elinor Tomlinson moved to New York with a degree in journalism she had visions of writing witty opinion pieces, marrying her journalist boyfriend, and attending glamorous parties with famously perverted writers. Instead, Elinor finds herself nannying for two small children who speak in short, high screams, sleeping on a foam pad in a weird apartment, and attending terrible parties with Harper’s interns wearing shapeless smocks. So when Elinor is offered a job at Journalism.ly, the digital media brainchild of a Silicon Valley celebrity, she jumps at the chance. Sure, her boyfriend is writing long think pieces about the electoral college for a real website while Elinor writes lists about sneakers and people at parties give her pitying glances when she reveals her employer, but at Journalism.ly Elinor discovers her true gift: She has a preternatural ability for writing sharable content. She is an overnight viral sensation! But Elinor’s success is not without cost. Elinor’s boyfriend dumps her, two male colleagues insist on “mentoring” her, and a piece she writes about her personal life lands her on local television. Broke, single, and consigned to move to a fifth-floor walkup, Elinor must ask herself: Is this the creative life she dreamed of? Can new love be found on Coffee Meets Bagel? And should she start wearing a smock? With wry humor and sharp intelligence, Sociable is a hilarious tale of one young woman’s search for happiness–and an inside look at life in the wild world of Internet media.

I am usually a sucker for books that deal with journalists or authors. It’s just one of those topics that will make me automatically want to read something. Unfortunately, it was not enough to save this book for me.

The synopsis describes the tone as “irreverent”, but it fell short on that front for me. There were a few humorous moments, but I felt like things should have been a little more exaggerated. I get what the author was trying to do in poking fun at Millennial culture and could appreciate the effort, but it didn’t take it nearly far enough to make any sort of impact. Elinor just ended up coming across as insufferable and not in a funny way. All of the other characters were just as unlikable, especially her boyfriend Mike. No one really grew and there wasn’t really anyone I wanted to root for. JW, the one “real” journalist at Journalism.ly, was the only character I really enjoyed reading about, but we saw less and less of him as the story went on.

There was one thing in the writing style that really bothered me. The story starts out with kind of a 1st Person Plural POV. “It was midway through the party…when we saw Elinor.” and We were in a small backyard…” (quotes taken from ARC). Then it completely abandons that style and seemingly goes to straight 3rd Person POV, with one exception. “Perhaps, the reader might be questioning…Reader, I don’t even know what to tell you.” (quotes taken from ARC). That is the only short part the reader is addressed and then the narrator uses “I” instead of “We” like in the beginning. If there is a purpose for those style choices, I did not understand it.

Overall, Sociable was just not for me. I think it had a relevant and interesting concept, but it wasn’t executed well. I’m giving it two stars instead of one because it was a quick, easy read and there were a few humorous moments I enjoyed.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

 

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Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

“The Final Girls need you. . . .  The Final Girls are tough, everything survivors should be.  But the new threat is clever, ominous, even closer than you suspect. You are about to gasp. You might drop the book. You may have to look over your shoulder. But you must keep reading.  This is the best book of 2017.”—Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Find Her

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Final Girls will be available July 11, 2017.

Well, then. This just might be my biggest disappointment of the year so far.

Let’s start with the things that I kind of liked. I thought the flashback chapters to what happened at the cottage were more entertaining than anything else. It reads very much like any number of horror movies and while it was basically just one big cliché, it was entertaining. There was also several chapters towards the end of the book where the writing was a little more suspenseful and even though I could guess pretty much everything that was happening, I didn’t want to put it down during that short time.

This book could’ve been a little better for me if the characters weren’t so dang annoying. I HATED them. Quincy was ok in the very beginning, but then Sam showed up and it just all went down hill from there. Sam was the clichéd bad girl psycho who was there to lead Quincy off the straight and narrow. But you can’t really feel that bad for Quincy because she was so easily manipulated and made so many bad decisions and she’s kind of a psycho herself. I spent the vast majority of this book being so unbearably annoyed by both Sam and Quincy that it just ruined the whole experience for me.

I know there are a lot of people that have really loved this book, so I’m sure I’m in the minority opinion here. But, as someone who has seen a good deal of horror movies and reads a lot of this genre, this was not very mysterious or thrilling. I also recently read another book that had a similar storyline with a girl who escapes a murderer and has no memory about what happened and the conclusion was pretty similar. Overall, this was a big disappointment for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Names They Gave Us will be available May 16, 2017.

When I think of Emery Lord books, I think of trying too hard.  Even though I’ve liked some of her other books (especially The Start of Me and You), I always feel like she just tries way too hard to be deep and meaningful. It comes across a little self-indulgent and melodramatic to me. While this book did have cute, funny, and even poignant moments, it still felt like it was trying too hard.

I felt like I should’ve found Lucy really relatable (pastor kids unite!), but I never fully connected with her. She was a mostly likable character, though. I mostly liked her group of friends at camp, though I wish they would’ve been developed just a bit more. I did really love Jones, Lucy’s new love interest. He was so sweet and I enjoyed pretty much every scene he was in. I also liked the camp setting and the kids there.

I have heard from people who are hesitant about this book because there is some religious content. If you are one of those people, I would say you might be slightly annoyed at times, but I don’t think it’s written in a way that will “ruin” the book for you. I have also heard from people who were very happy to see a “realistic” Christian character not be a complete psycho. To those people I would caution to not get too excited. Yes, the main character comes from a religious background and is not awful. However, this is NOT a Christian book and the overall message is not of Christian faith. There are definitely a few themes throughout that is congruent with the Christian faith, but at the end of the day the message is more one of universalism and the goodness of people. I mean, it’s still a hopeful message and is more than is in most YA, but I just want to caution my Christian friends.

Overall, The Names They Gave Us, was just ok for me. I felt like it was too long for what little was going on and a little repetitive and then it had a pretty abrupt ending. I did really enjoy Lucy and Jones’ slow burn romance, though. I think that Emery Lord fans will probably still enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

I went into Last Seen Leaving without knowing anything really about it, other than the synopsis, and I was anticipating great suspense and mystery. I thought maybe Flynn’s big secret involved him being some type of psychopath or somehow directly responsible for whatever happened to January. Unfortunately, I think those expectations made me pretty disappointed in the story I actually got.

We figure out Flynn’s secret pretty quickly (by the second chapter), so I don’t feel it’s a spoiler to tell you what it is, but if you really don’t want to know, stop reading now…His big secret is that he’s gay. Which has nothing whatsoever to do with January’s disappearance. So I figured this was a Coming Out book. Which is a fine book to be, but just not the one I was expecting to be reading. However, as the story went on it still focused on the mystery of January’s disappearance with Flynn coming to terms with his sexuality being the secondary plotline and it ended up working for me. It wasn’t as angsty as I was fearing – in fact it almost seemed a little too easy? But, I thought it was handled pretty well and it made for a “diverse” character who was much more than just the one thing that makes him diverse.

While it did handle the Coming Out plotline well, it lacked on the mystery and suspense front for me. Flynn just kind of kept stumbling upon information and the only time we ever see the police is when they’re pointing fingers at him, which just made them seem kind of inept. Then Flynn would find all these things out and not tell anyone about it. I tried to cut him slack since he is only 15, but he was just so immature and often dumb with how he handled things that I found it really frustrating.

Though he often frustrated me, I did like Flynn and I liked his new friend/love interest Kaz (though the age difference did make me just slightly uncomfortable), but the rest of the characters were pretty underdeveloped or unlikable. Maybe my biggest complaint with the story is January. She was just an awful person and I didn’t really understand how sweet Flynn was such great friends with her. She was very childish and bratty and very dramatic. We also find out as the story goes on about how she misrepresents pretty much everyone in her life to everyone else. She tells Flynn awful things about the people at her new school that aren’t completely true and then she tells her new friend awful lies about Flynn. Other than a desire for drama, there was no explanation for that and it really bugged me.

For a debut, the writing was pretty good, though I did have a few issues with it as well. For the most part Flynn sounded like your average 15 year old boy, but occasionally he would randomly use much more sophisticated vocabulary and it just came across a little odd. Also, instead of saying January’s name whenever she was referred to, the phrase “my ex-girlfriend” was used about 1,000 times. Like, it could be a drinking game.

Overall, Last Seen Leaving was an ok read for me. The pacing was a little slow and the mystery and suspense aspects were not as well done as I would have liked. However, the subplot of Flynn coming to terms with being gay were pretty well done and did not overwhelm the overall plot, which is what I was afraid of when I first figured out what the big “secret” alluded to in the synopsis. I know the official synopsis is not the author’s fault, but I think it does the book a disservice by kind of misrepresenting how Flynn’s “secret” impacts the mystery (because it doesn’t).

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Regulars by Georgia Clark

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A fierce, feisty, and “wonderfully entertaining” (Scott Westerfeld, author of Uglies) debut with a magical twist about three ordinary, regular girls who suddenly have their fantasies come true…or do they?

Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls, with average looks and typical quarter-life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.

Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well…gorgeous. Like, supermodel gorgeous. And it’s certainly not their fault if the sudden gift of beauty causes unexpected doors to open for them.

But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left:

What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?

Wildly irreverent, blatantly sexy, and observed with pitch-perfect wit, The Regulars is fresh “compulsive reading from a bright new voice” (Brenda Bowen, author of Enchanted August) in fiction, perfect for fans of Jennifer Close and Kevin Kwan.

I received a copy of The Regulars via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Regulars will be available August 2, 2016

Addicting writing and short chapters helped make this a quick read, even though it was a little longer than it needed to be. I liked the style and I think the writing is what mostly compelled me to keep reading about these awful girls.

I appreciate a good character-driven story, but to really love one I either need to Love the characters or Love to Hate them. Unfortunately I felt slightly annoyed, but mostly ambivalent towards the characters in this book. While diverse (not all just straight, white girls), they were pretty clichéd – Evie: The Angry, Feminist, Bi-Sexual; Krista: The Good Time Girl that flakes out on all responsibility; Willow: The Artist with a Tortured Soul. I also felt the character growth was pretty much contained to the final chapters and was kind of too little too, late for me.

I was surprised at how Pretty ended up working. I thought it would just enhance their features to a traditionally beautiful level, but it straight up changes their appearance into a new person. Because of this they come up with fake names and ignore their normal lives. It bothered me that there was virtually no consequences whatsoever to this. I also wished that we would have learned a little more about the origin of Pretty and how it works, but it pretty much remains a huge mystery that none of the characters are all that concerned about.

While I like the overall theme of feminism and self-acceptance, it just wasn’t quite executed as well as I wanted it to be. The main characters were pretty selfish and kind of awful people and they didn’t really face any lasting consequences to any of the bad things they did while on Pretty. The ending felt way too easy and they’re only marginally better people than they were before.

Overall, The Regulars was a quick read with some addictive writing, but it’s unlikable characters made the book kind of hard to enjoy at times. I wish that the character growth would have been more pronounced and that they would have had to face some consequences of their poor decisions. This book wasn’t my cup of tea, but I think there are a lot of people who would really enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes the spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong: two men lie dead in a suburban living room; two women are on the run from police; and a marriage is ripping apart at the seams.

When Richard Chapman offers to host his younger brother’s bachelor party, he expects a certain amount of debauchery. He sends his wife, Kristin, and young daughter off to his mother-in-law’s for the weekend, and he opens his Westchester home to his brother’s friends and their hired entertainment. What he does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, a dangerously intimate moment in his guest bedroom, and two naked women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Richard’s life rapidly spirals into a nightmare. The police throw him out of his home, now a crime scene; his investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave; and his wife finds herself unable to forgive him for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.

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I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Guest Room will be available January 5, 2016.

This book made me really angry, but probably not in the way it was supposed to.

Richard Chapman is a happily married man and father who throws a bachelor party for his younger brother in his home. One of his brother’s friends hired strippers, but they turn out to be more than that. They’re not just prostitutes, either. They are victims of sex trafficking and they use the party as an opportunity to kill and flee their captors.

The story is broken down through the third person POVS of Richard, his wife Kristin, his 9-year-old daughter Melissa, and the first person POV of Alexandra, one of the girls from Richard’s party. I thought that Richard and Kristin’s perspectives were both very well done. I did not appreciate the perspective from Melissa, though. She really sounded nothing like a 9-year-old girl, but a grown man trying to portray a 9-year-old girl. I also didn’t really care for the passages from Alexandra’s POV. Each chapter ended with her and while it was informative and, quite honestly, horrifying, it really messed up the pace of the story. Most of it was backstory and it just didn’t seem to fit with the story of Richard dealing with the aftermath of the party. It really felt like two different books to me at times. I also didn’t like how she was written. The majority of the time she was perfectly well spoken, and then occasionally there would be sentences of broken English, to remind us that it’s not her native language, and it was just jarring. It should have all been written like that, or none at all.

I also found Richard to be infuriating much of the time. Yes, he did not actually have sex with Alexandra, but he was close to doing so – and got a lap dance, kissed her, etc. It was almost a case of insta-love in how enamored he was with her and it kind of disgusted me. He’s a forty-year-old married man and father and became kind of obsessed with this nineteen-year-old. Then later in the book, he suddenly starts to describe her with more of a fatherly affection, which kind of made the whole situation more uncomfortable. I just could not feel sorry for him or how his world started to crumble around him. I felt really bad for his wife and for his daughter. And for Sonja and Alexandra as they tried to figure out how to leave the city safely.

Overall, I just really did not care for this book. While the horrors of the sex trafficking industry is given a bit of a voice, it’s not a book that’s going to bring a lot of awareness to the problem. The inclusion of Alexandra’s backstory felt more of an interruption from the actual story instead of adding to it. I found the main character despicable which made it hard to find anything redeeming about the story. While I’m sure there will be plenty of people that would like this book, it just wasn’t for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars.

2 stars

Review: The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2) by Marie Lu

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all.

Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she and her sister flee Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.

But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?

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THIS REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS. BECAUSE IT’S MY BLOG AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT TO.

I completely love how the first chapter ends, which is also in the synopsis, Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all.” I felt like it was really going to set the tone for this dark story, but unfortunately the rest of the book does not live up to that one line.

I don’t really feel like a structured review on this, so behold my Spoilery Thoughts:

-While there were several action-packed sequences in the beginning of the book, I was kind of bored. I’m not really sure why, but I just didn’t really care what was happening. I just wanted to get to the meat of the story and I felt it took too long to get there. It took about 200 pages for me to really get into the story.

-I thought we were supposed to get lots of new Elites that were going to join Adelina, but we only got two. I was ok with that, though. I liked Sergio, but he’s not very well developed. He’s just always there to save Adelina when he needs to be. Then there is Magiano who I LOVED. Again, I felt like he could have been a little more developed, but I LOVED him. He’s strong and sarcastic and smart, and a little vulnerable. I ship him and Adelina way more than I did Adelina and Enzo in the first book.

-Since I loved Magiano so much and he brought out the light in Adelina, I became absolutely convinced that he was going to die. However, HE LIVES!!! And I am so, so glad. I don’t think there’s any hope for them as endgame since Adelina is supposed to become a super villain and she has no time for love, but for now, I will just be happy that he’ll still be around.

-I was really looking forward to Enzo coming back from the dead, but the whole storyline just left me disappointed. We find out that it’s not truly Enzo, but some Underworld demon type thing that looks like Enzo and I guess has his memories and stuff? I felt like large portions of it acted like it was the real Enzo, but we are also supposed to believe that it’s Not-Enzo. It was a little confusing. And I just didn’t like the way it played it out. He’s supposed to be linked to Adelina, but he very easily goes against her and goes off with the Daggers. I don’t think we’ll ever see him reach the full potential this character had.

-Speaking of the Daggers, I just didn’t care about them in this book. We get a few chapters from Raffaele’s POV which kept them still in the story, but I don’t know…I just looked forward to getting back to Adelina’s POV when we were with him. None of the Daggers are really developed any further and I didn’t even care when Gemma, who I liked in the first book, died.

-The addition of Maeve wasn’t as interesting as I thought she’d be. She wasn’t as smart or cunning as I thought she was supposed to be. I also thought the Maeve & Lucent relationship just ticked a box on the “Diversity” checklist. We don’t get much more than a chapter to explore their past and their relationship and their possible future. I think it should’ve been much more developed or just left out. As it is, it does not add really anything to the story other than a limited effort to make the characters more diverse.

-Everything I’ve read said this book was going to be DARK and I was looking forward to that. While there were a few moments that I felt fit the bill, for the most part I just still don’t see Adelina as a villain. She comes across more Schizophrenic than Evil. Whenever I feel we were supposed to be getting Dark Alina, I just felt like she was Crazy Alina – and in a really sad way, not the Crazy-and-I-Love-It kind of way. This book is not sunshine and rainbows by any means, but neither did I feel it was the dark book I was promised.

-As I said earlier, it took about 200 pages for me to get into it, but once it got there, I had trouble putting it down. There was lots of plot development and action and I was enjoying it. However, I felt the final chapter was just pretty “meh”. While I know the overall story is not yet finished, I think the storylines of this book wrapped up well and the ending of the book just didn’t make me excited to read the next book. I’ll have no problem waiting for the conclusion of the series to come out.

Overall, I think the idea and intent of The Rose Society and the series in general is interesting and unique. However, I just don’t feel like the actual books deliver. While I did enjoy parts of this book – and absolutely loved the addition of Magiano – it was overall just an ok read for me. I do think people who loved the first book, will also enjoy this one, though.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars