Review: Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

Well. I am glad I decided to wait for a library copy of this book instead of buying it. Despite being very excited for the continuation of this series (my love for Warner knows no bounds), I was a little cautious about it. I loved this series the first (several) times I read it, but the last time I tried re-reading it I felt like I had maybe outgrown it a little bit. I realized some of the things that happened – like basically destroying Adam’s character just to make sure that everyone would pick Warner in the love triangle debate – was kind of lazy. I was still looking forward to revisiting these characters, though, hoping that Mafi would make up for some of the things I had issues with. Unfortunately, it fell short of even my lowered expectations.

Let’s start with Juliette. I kind of hated her in this book. I felt like she had grown so much throughout the series into this really strong character, but here she was back to the whiny, self-centered Juliette of book 2. She had no idea what taking over as Supreme Commander means and we do not see her do anything but complain about how much mail she has to go through, go for leisurely walks with Kenji, and hook up with Warner. She is completely overcome with doubts, but gets angry any time someone tries to help her. NOTHING she did made any sense. She was so childish I couldn’t even feel sorry for her.

Then there’s her relationship with Warner. Warner, who has never been good about talking about his past. Warner, who has repeatedly shown her his insecurity in their relationship. Warner, whose father she just killed. When he discovers important information about her past and tells her about it, she blows up about the one piece of information he did know and hadn’t told her about beforehand. I thought in Ignite Me they started a very solid partnership and I was looking forward to seeing that grow, but they took several gigantic steps backwards. It just really annoyed me that lack of communication and childish behavior were the main sources of tension Mafi used to reboot this series. Instead of giving the characters new challenges and letting them continue to grow, she reverted them back to how they used to be and are going to make them re-learn all the same lessons we’ve already seen them go through. 

And can we talk about Castle for a minute? Juliette is the supreme commander and Castle still beckons her like a student to the principal’s office and she just goes and gets all nervous about whatever he has to say. Like, girl, you are in charge now! You don’t have to do what he tells you. And you can make him tell you the things he’s being evasive about. Also, all of sudden Castle knows everything about everything? I don’t buy it. Nothing in the past books made him come across so knowledgeable or connected. It just felt way too convenient.

There were a few things I liked, though. Adam got a personality change again and went back to being a nice guy. And he reaches out to Warner and I liked their scene together. For the most part, though, I feel like he’s outlived his usefulness to the story and he only had a couple of appearances. (The same goes for most of the Omega Point characters from the previous books, except for Castle and Kenji.) I also still love Warner. Even though his nonsense with Juliette annoyed me, I did feel like he grew in some ways in this book and was the only character to do so. The story is told in alternating first person POV between him and Juliette and I found myself kind of unable to care about Juliette’s chapters because I liked Warner’s so much more.

Overall, Restore Me left me extremely underwhelmed. It basically saved all plot development that didn’t have to do with relationship drama to the last couple chapters and then it rushed through them. I thought it was pretty lazy writing to just have all the characters revert to previous versions of themselves and repeating past drama. I’m really hoping that Mafi will come up with some fresher ideas in the next books, which I will still read – because Warner.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

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Review: The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

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

The New Neighbors will be available April 10, 2018. 

I found The New Neighbors to be a pretty standard psychological thriller (and I’m using the word “thriller” loosely). The writing wasn’t bad, but I just found myself pretty underwhelmed with the plot and the characters.

I thought the synopsis sounded pretty intriguing. I thought the house and the neighborhood was going to provide a really creepy atmosphere. However, I don’t feel like the house played that big of a role. In the beginning there was a good deal of description of it, but I felt like after being told it was creepy a couple of times, that was kind of it. And the “grisly discovery in the attic” was a pretty big letdown, as well.

I’ve seen lots of reviews talking about the journal formatting, but it didn’t really work for me. In the first part of the book we get alternating 1st person POVs from Jack and Syd and we’re told they’re writing everything down so they can hand it over to the police. I was never sure if there were parts of those chapters that were supposed to be regular narrative or if everything we were reading was supposed to be a journal. With few exceptions, it just didn’t read like journal entries. It read as very straightforward regular narration. In the second half of the book they are done with the journaling and the style was not any different than the first half. I thought that Jack and Syd’s voices were very distinct in the very beginning, but as the book went on, they sounded exactly the same.

I didn’t think the “surprises” were done very well. A lot of things are alluded to throughout the book that are supposed to help build suspense, but when things were finally revealed I just didn’t find them to be very impactful or surprising. To be honest, I just felt let down by the direction the “mystery” went. I found the ending very underwhelming.

Overall, The New Neighbors was a little disappointing to me. The main idea and the writing itself weren’t bad, but the formatting, the characters, and the progression of the plot were lacking. I think people who don’t read a lot of this genre and like character-driven stories would probably enjoy this a little more.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

An English professor struggling for tenure discovers that her ex-fiancé has just become the president of her college—and her new boss—in this whip-smart modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion.

Anne Corey is about to get schooled.

An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancé—shows up as the college’s new president.

Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.

Funny, smart, and full of heart, this modern ode to Jane Austen’s classic explores what happens when we run into the demons of our past…and when they turn out not to be so bad, after all.

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

By the Book will be available February 6, 2018.

Persuasion is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels and I am always ready to jump on board a re-telling. Unfortunately, By the Book did not really live up to my expectations.

One thing that I thought was really odd for a re-telling is that the main character, Anne, is a college lit professor and teaches on authors such as Jane Austen. Also, Anne’s favorite book is Persuasion. I have never seen the actual source material referenced in a re-telling. At first I thought maybe it was just going to be really meta or something, but Anne never references how her life is paralleling her favorite novel. To be fair, though, there were very few instances that really resembled it.

The Anne of this book was not nearly as likable as Anne from Persuasion. She was short tempered and kind of whiney. I did not like her best friend, Larry, at all. He was very over-dramatic and he was also having an affair with a closeted married man. Anne was friends with that man’s wife and she didn’t seem to find anything wrong with what Larry was doing and the whole storyline very greatly frustrated me. Anne dates an author and fellow visiting professor, Rick, for most of the book and he was another awful person. The only character I really liked was Adam (our Captain Wentworth). He never really did anything wrong the whole book and in my opinion was way too good for Anne.

Overall, I found By the Book really disappointing. I didn’t think there were enough recognizable parts from Persuasion that I like to see in re-tellings and just couldn’t get over how odd it was that Jane Austen and the actual book were referenced so often. I’m adding an extra half-star to my rating, though, because the writing itself wasn’t that bad and it did include a version of my favorite part of Persuasion– the letter.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Isaac Project by Sarah Monzon

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Becky Sawyer’s life unravels in a single day. Not only does she catch her boyfriend, the man she hoped to marry, lip-locked with another woman, she also receives the gut-wrenching news that her grandfather, the man who raised her, is dying. His last wish? To see her happily married. Heartbroken, Becky seeks inspiration in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. And finds it in the story of Isaac and Rebekah.

If love couldn’t keep his parents together, Luke Masterson wonders what will make a marriage last. He decides to steer clear of all women—especially crazy ones like Becky Sawyer, who employs a friend to find her a husband. But when he feels the dogged promptings of the Holy Spirit to move across the country and marry a complete stranger, it seems love has little to do with it anyway.

With commitment their only foundation, and love constantly thwarted, can an arranged marriage find happiness in the twenty-first century?

I saw a really glowing review on The Isaac Project a few years back and have been wanting to read it ever since. It recently was offered for free on a Kindle deal and I snatched it up. Unfortunately, it fell far short of my expectations.

I loved the concept of the book. Based on the story of Isaac and Rebekah in the Bible (Genesis 24, for those interested), Becky asks her best friend to arrange a marriage for her so her dying grandfather can see her settled before he passes away. If you’re a reader that says “religion ruins a book” for you, then this is definitely not for you. The characters’ Christian faith is prevalent throughout the book. While I did like that aspect, it was a little heavy handed at times. I also found Becky to be really unlikable for the most part. She’s the one who asked for the arranged marriage and then she treated Luke terribly the majority of the time. Her refusal to communicate with him despite his multiple attempts to engage her drove me crazy

I wasn’t super impressed with the writing style. Monzon is apparently a big fan of similes and used them to describe pretty much everything. I should have made better notes of them, but one that stands out was as a whole paragraphs of a voice being compared to a “river in autumn” that was kind of ridiculous.

Overall, The Isaac Project had a great concept, but did not live up to it’s potential. The side plot dealing with Becky’s business felt thrown in and not very well developed, the imagery of the writing was way too forced, and the main character was pretty unlikable. I did enjoy Luke and his faith and the passage of cheesy Christian pick up lines (“You know why Solomon had so many wives? Because he never met you. Is your name Faith? Because you are the substance of things I’ve hoped for. Last night I was reading in the book of Numbers and I realized I didn’t have yours.”). You might enjoy this if you’re a fan of arranged marriages and Christian Fiction, but I would suggest waiting for it to go on sale again.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

A woman without a memory struggles to discover the truth about her past and her identity in this cerebral and dark thriller reminiscent of works by bestselling authors S.J. Watson and Ruth Ware.

I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don’t you? My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address, and a chance to rebuild my tattered life. This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he’s dead? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

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

How I Lost You will be available October 10, 2017. 

I really wanted to like this book. It definitely looks like it would be just my type. Unfortunately, it just didn’t really work for me.

The pacing felt off. It seemed to drag on and on until about the last quarter of the book. It took me five days to read this, which is kind of unheard of for me for a book of this size. By the end things started to happen at a faster, more suspenseful pace, but it couldn’t really save it.

The alternating POV and timeline, which I usually am a big fan of, didn’t work for me. The story was told mostly through Susan’s 1st person POV, which I liked, but mixed in were flashback chapters from a group of boys from their high school and college days. Though we know they are obviously involved with Susan’s predicament in some way or another, it takes awhile until a connection is revealed. Besides that, though, I found those portions kind of confusing. Part of the problem could have been that the formatting of the ARC was kind of messed up, which I imagine will be cleaned up in the final published version. But I also think it could’ve used a little more editing.

I did find Susan to be a mostly likable and sympathetic main character, though. I found her frustrating at times, but she had obviously been through a lot. I liked her loyalty to her friend, Cassie, even though I was suspicious of her at times. I also liked Nick, even though I didn’t really trust him, either. While there was obviously many suspicious characters, I’m glad I was wrong about a few of them.

Overall, there was just something missing for me in How I Lost You. While I did ultimately want to find out what really happened, I just didn’t care for most of it and found myself skimming a lot. I think that it could have benefited from a steadier pace in the beginning. I’m sure that there will definitely be people who will enjoy this, though, even if it wasn’t really for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

 

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

 

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