To Read or Not to Read?

The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe

A month or two ago I was scrolling through a list of recently released Young Adult books (an action that is not uncommon for me, given that I order the Young Adult books for the library where I am employed) and I stumbled upon a book that sounded pretty interesting. The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe, a YA novel all about Claire Dearing from Jurassic World and her college internship at the park a few years before the movie takes place.

Now I’m going to preface the rest of this review by saying that I am a huge Jurassic Park movie fan though I haven’t read any of the books the movies were based on. And actually the first Jurassic Park movie was also the first movie I ever saw in a theater. Though looking back on the date it came out I have to question my mother’s judgement given that the movie came out when I was five years old. And yes I do remember being mildly terrified by the opening scene but then I enjoyed it to the point where the movies may be the series I’ve rewatched the most.

So, needless to say, I was very interested in a book about a character we really didn’t know much about, especially one who was portrayed in the first Jurassic World movie, as originally being very out of her element.

Unfortunately the book didn’t even come close to the entertainment factor of the movies. The pacing was very slow. Claire’s inner monologues were grating. It’s not really that pleasant to be in the head of someone who is so cold, calculating, and logical. And I would have liked to see what exactly made her that way. It would make sense if she turned all non-emotional after the events in the book but she started out that way so I didn’t really see an “evolution” of her character per say. Plus, she was supposed to be nineteen in this book and all of her fellow interns at the park were supposed to also be college students and yet they usually behaved like lower high school students and weren’t all that mature.

I did like that the book talked about the importance of women in STEM fields and that there were characters that represent people of color and the LGBT community. And there were some adorable interactions with some playful dinosaurs and a bit of the mayhem that I’ve come to expect from the franchise. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to actually make this a book that I would recommend.

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To Read or Not to Read?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I remember back when I was rereading the Harry Potter series for the tenth time I did a little posting about my thoughts along the way. Since I’m covering the whole series for my Teen Book Club I figure maybe I should do the same for Cursed Child, which I absolutely hated the first time around and just feel as though I should reread in case the teens want to talk about it. And I hope they do. And I hope that they hated it too.

  • I remember that I was so excited to have a new Harry Potter book in my hands the first time around so it kind of made me sad to pick it up to reread it knowing that it would in no way match those expectations.
  • At first the family relationship of Harry and Ginny and their kinds seems kind of sweet. But I know this will dissolve so quickly. Also, this makes it seem like the younger kids have never been to Platform 9 3/4 even though I’m sure they all showed up for James’s first year?
  • Ron is a freaking idiot and that’s just so not cool of the author’s to do. Sure he was a bit ridiculous in school sometimes but not nearly this bad. It’s taking “dad jokes” to an extreme.
  • Rose Granger-Weasley is an awful character. I mean, I know Draco Malfoy teased her parents and what not but I can’t imagine Hermione would have raised her daughter to be so awful to another child just because of his parents. Especially when Scorpius Malfoy seems to be the nicest kid.
  • The son of Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter says he’s not allowed to eat sweets! Ginny and Harry would not make that call!
  • Just the rumor in general that Scorpius is Voldemort’s son is ridiculous. And if Draco was so worried about it, weren’t there wizarding DNA tests?
  • The fact that Amos Diggory immediately hears about a Time Turner and wants to save his son and gets mad. We all know the time travel restrictions and what can go wrong just going back a couple hours. Sigh.
  • The trolley witch being a security guard with spikes for hands…enough said.
  • Hermione, Minister of Magic, knows that when she was younger the security for the Ministry wasn’t that great so why hasn’t it approved so that people can’t sneak in with Polyjuice Potion anymore?! And why wouldn’t she hide something so important as a fancy Time-Turner in a better place?! So. Ridiculous.
  • Once the alternate time lines start…
    • In the first one Harry is awful. Assuming Scorpius is evil though he’s never talked to the boy and threatening to keep constant surveillance on his son. Harry wouldn’t do that. He knew how bad being watched and isolated was. And threatening McGonagall? And Hermione becoming a complete and total bitch just because she didn’t end up with Ron? I don’t think so.
    • And the next alternate time line where Cedric gets humiliated, becomes a Death Eater, and Voldemort wins. I just can’t picture Cedric becoming a Death Eater just because he failed at the Triwizard Tournament. It doesn’t fit in with his character at all.
    • In each of these timelines they have Ludo commentating on the Triwizard Tournament and he’s just saying the weirdest shit. Why?
  • None of the scenes with Hermione/Ron inspire any confidence in their relationship. They’re always nagging at one another and then Hermione melts when he says something even remotely normal. Honestly though, I’m not surprised. Given what we read in the original series I didn’t really think their marriage would last but they could have at least tried to make it sound like something that wasn’t awful for the both of them.
  • Why did the script writers create new, awful named spells to do things that we already have a named spell for?
  • The whole ending made little to no sense. If magic could be used to physically transform someone like the group does then there is little need for Polyjuice Potion. Also, why would Ginny worry that physically changing Harry would also mentally change him? That doesn’t make any sense at all.

Now I’m sure there are a dozen more points I could make but honestly I just want to forget that the Cursed Child even existed in the first place. It hurts my soul.

To Read or Not to Read?

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

Famous Last Words had a decent enough premise. Teenager Willa’s mother marries a Hollywood director/producer and so the family is swept away to LA even though a killer is stalking young women in the town, coercing them into recreating famous movie murder scenes. And then Willa starts seeing things in her new house. Dead bodies and mysterious messages on the walls and she starts to wonder who exactly is haunting her.

Now this book lost points for me because a big part of it was about the murder mystery I knew who the murderer was pretty much the minute we met them, partially because the author just didn’t give the reader a whole bunch of options. (Though having it be an obvious character is far better than having the solution to the mystery be someone entirely out of left field. It’s so much worse when it’s someone that you literally have to go back and reread pages just to figure out who said person is/was.)

I also had issues with how the supernatural meshed with the real world. I’ve read books where the author made it make as much sense as she could while Alender just kind of had it happen with no explanation and no set rules. (For example: early on in the book the ghost kept doing things that Willa could see but nobody else could but then at the end one of the other characters could see the ghost. And sometimes what Willa saw ended up not actually being there like when she saw rose petals appear on the floor and then they were gone while other times she saw the ghost break something and it would stay broken after the haunting.)

Also, I just didn’t like Willa. I understand that she’d had some rough times in the past what with her father’s death but she just wasn’t a sympathetic character. She really only befriends two people at her school, Marnie and Wyatt and she’s all super judgmental of Wyatt just because of some gossip and yet she starts out giving Marnie the benefit of the doubt about everything even when Marnie acts weird.

So overall I just didn’t really enjoy Famous Last Words though it kept my attention enough that I had to finish it in order to figure out how it all played out.

To Read or Not to Read?

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

Note: I received a free Kindle version of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, I’m not even sure why/how I found The Room on Rue Amelie on NetGalley since I typically choose science fiction or fantasy Young Adult novels over on that site and The Room is an adult historical fiction. But every so often I really do enjoy reading a historical fiction novel and so I recently finally got around to reading it. And it was great!

The Room on Rue Amelie is mainly set in Paris during the years of World War II and is centered around three main characters who are very different but end up very close by the end of the story.

Ruby is an American girl who ends up marrying a French man and moving to Paris with him only to find the city occupied by the Nazis just a few short years later. This puts an even bigger strain on her already strained marriage. Even though her life hasn’t turned out how she’d hoped, she is a fighter and wants to do everything she can to help the Allied cause.

Charlotte is Ruby’s next door neighbor, a young Jewish girl who finds that her life just keeps getting more and more complicated. Charlotte is an old soul who truly cares about her friends and family and grows up far too soon.

And then there’s Thomas, a member of the British Royal Air Force. When he’s shot out of the sky he discovers a secret organization of people helping pilots like him and finds more than he ever thought he would after being shot down.

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to tell you right now that the three main characters end up running into each other but I want to add some more details because it does get all coincidental by the end. So…

*********************SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT******************************

Part of the reason why Ruby’s marriage dissolves is that her husband starts harboring downed pilots as they make their way through France to safety and even though Ruby swears she understands the risks, he refuses to let her help. But then her husband gets caught and shot and Ruby takes it upon herself to harbor the pilots he’d been helping. Eventually her husband’s “handler” as you might call him agrees and Ruby helps a whole slew of pilots, including Thomas, who she almost immediately falls in love with.

A few of the coincidences that made the story a bit too well wrapped up for me…

  • Ruby happens to hear the police come around to collect Jewish families and warns Charlotte’s family who asks her to take Charlotte in. The fact that she noticed the commotion and quickly realized the families they were targeting only Jewish families AND had time to warn the family was a bit too convenient.
  • Even amidst the war Thomas and Ruby end up falling for each other after their first meeting and continue to think of one another even as they’re fighting for their life. I know I’ve heard that war can make you a bit crazy but it seemed like they’d barely gotten to know one another? She had other pilots that stayed with her for quite a bit longer…
  • Charlotte’s parents ask Ruby to keep Charlotte and, since Ruby is part of the escape line she is able to get someone to force documents saying Charlotte is related to her. It all kind of falls into place.
  • Thomas manages to survive getting shot down not once but twice and finds Ruby again even though she’s moved because Ruby just so happens to walk next to her old building almost in hopes that just such a thing happens.
  • Not only does Ruby fall pregnant and manage to keep the baby growing in her belly during crazy rationing but she even gets sent to a work camp and manages to last there. (Though the fact that she landed a factory job certainly helped.) It’s said that she more or less wastes away but upon escaping and giving birth the baby turns out healthy. And then she dies, more or less on the day that France is liberated. As does Thomas because of course he survives multiple crashes just to die in a non-combat accident.
  • Ruby’s parents are notified of what happened and manage to get to France, get the baby and Charlotte and get back to the United States.

I did end up really liking the characters and it was an emotional read but everything got a little convoluted at the end. But if you like historical fiction and romance it’s definitely a great choice.

To Read or Not to Read?

The New Dark by Lorraine Thomson

Note: I received a free copy of The New Dark from NetGalley a long, long time ago and have just gotten around to reading it and reviewing it.

“There is no “Before”, there is only “Now”. Because now there’s no internet, no TV, no power grid. Food is scarce, and the world’s a hostile place. But Sorrel lives a quiet life in the tiny settlement of Amat. It’s all she’s ever known …”

So begins the synopsis for The New Dark, the first in a Young Adult trilogy that started in November of 2017. I thought said synopsis was interesting enough, especially since it goes on to mention that her village gets destroyed by mutants and she has to journey off to somewhere else to find her stolen baby brother and boyfriend. Dystopian style world with mutants and what-not sounded like it might be a fun read. And the cover was pretty. (Not that that mattered much because I got a free digital copy to review but that’s beside the point.)

When I first started reading it I kept mentally comparing it to The 100 (the TV show…I’ve been watching it on NetFlix) because there were so many similarities even though The 100 is more of a science fiction while The New Dark didn’t have the “people having fallen from space” plot line. So that threw me off quite a bit.

And then by the end there were just so many convenient plot points and unanswered questions. One of the big things with Sorrel is that she has this birthmark that her grandmother thought was super special but none of her fellow villagers seemed to really care for. But then Sorrel goes on this journey and finds out that everyone else in the world seems to recognize her birthmark and that it means something far more than she’d originally thought. But we never figure out why. There should have been some sort of indication to keep me interested given that this is the start of a series and the characters are trying to turn Sorrel into some figurehead style person for their rebellion.

More convenient plot points:

  • Even though people travel for days and weeks and Sorrel gets waylaid for weeks it just so happens that all of her fellow lost villagers end up at the same city that she eventually goes to? Wouldn’t at least one person have been shipped off somewhere farther?
  • Sorrel always finds someone she can trust even in the most dire circumstances.
  • Apparently they use the word “mutant” for any kind of genetic difference? Some were described as being pretty grotesque but then there are others that Sorrel just kind of says he has a broader forehead than most people?

Overall, I liked the book enough that I kept reading it and finished it in just a few days but I’d probably consider this to be more of a 2.5 star read out of 5 but since I can’t do half stars I’d settle with 2. There were just too many unanswered questions and convenient plot points and I will not be choosing to continue this series.

To Read or Not to Read?

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi

Chasing Shadow wasn’t actually a book I chose for myself, it was a book that I received in one of my OwlCrate (a young adult book subscription box) some time in the last couple of years. Honestly, I can’t remember which month’s box it came in. I just know that at the time I had so many library books out/other books on my radar that I shelved Chasing Shadows and just know got around to actually reading it.

Chasing Shadows was an odd mix of contemporary fiction and graphic novel, starring two Point of View leads, Holly and Savitri. Holly’s passages are the ones told in an unusual format. Her thoughts have Weird Capitalization to show what she finds to be important and the graphic novel portions of the story are from her PoV as well. Savitri is more of your usual narrator, nothing odd in formatting at all. Then there’s also the Leopardess, a graphic novel superhero that both girls read though Holly loves her the best, and there’s the Hindu mythology story that Savitri was named after.

And finally there’s Corey, Holly’s twin brother and Savitri’s boyfriend who, in the first couple of pages of the novel, gets shot. This sets off the whole story with both girls trying to deal with what happened. Savitri’s is the more typical reaction with guilt and anger and upset while she’s trying to move on while Holly has more of a breakdown and slowly descends into madness.

Overall, the story just didn’t do it for me. All of the depictions of freerunning didn’t help me to understand what the pass time even is and it’s mentioned a lot, being a hobby of all the main characters. Savitri was the more sympathetic of the two PoV characters and yet I still didn’t really care enough about her to really get into the story. She seemed more tangled up and worried about who she was named after and what her relationship was to other people than to herself. And yes Holly had a reason to be so full of grief and yet she wasn’t presented in a sympathetic way at all.

Yes, the artwork was interesting but it pulled away so much from what was going on and didn’t really make sense.

Basically it was an interesting idea but the characters just fell completely flat and didn’t work for me at all.

To Read or Not to Read?

The Girlfriend by Sarah Naughton

Note: I received a free copy of The Girlfriend from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review some time in late 2017 and I finally got around to reading it and reviewing it. (I really need to start keeping more up to date on these NetGalley books which is why I haven’t really requested any this year. Maybe some time I’ll be more timely.)

Most of the time the books I read or request for review are Young Adult novels, usually more fantasy or science fiction than anything else. But sometimes I just want a nice, good mystery and lately YA mysteries haven’t turned out to well for me. So that’s why I requested The Girlfriend because it sounded like an interesting mystery/thriller.

The Girlfriend opens up with a person discovering that someone she loves has fallen down the stairs of a building and that his blood is spreading out over the floor. The opening has a sinister feel to it and we don’t actually find out any of the names of the people involved. Not yet.

And then we go forward a little bit to one of the POV characters, Mags. Mags is a tough, no nonsense lawyer who is traveling back to Britain from America because she received a call that her brother Abe, who she hasn’t talked to in years, has suffered a nasty fall and is in a coma. And even though they haven’t spoken in years he has named her his next of kin.

When Mags arrives at Abe’s hotel room she finds his fiance Jody crying at his bedside and has half a mind just to leave her brother in Jody’s care. But then Mags starts to get curious about Jody’s story of the night of the accident and she starts to do a little digging.

This leads her into a series of revelations about Mags, Jody, and Abe’s pasts and what led up to Abe’s fall. And it was a pretty interesting twisty ride though a couple of the revelations weren’t actually all that surprising, at least not to me. But enough of them were an actual surprised that I didn’t feel cheated.

The ending though…it bothered me a bit. Not to be too spoilery but during the book a couple of crimes are committed and it seems as though the perpetrator is going to get away with it (he actually did in a past crime) and so other characters frame him for something he actually didn’t do. I understand that sometimes it’s hard to get justice for certain crimes but that just didn’t set well with me.

But overall I enjoyed the mystery and thought this was a fast read because I actually wanted to know what was going on. Plus it didn’t fall into the trap of a lot of gritty mysteries where I end up not caring because all of the characters were despicable. These characters were rough around the edges and kind of horrible but not complete trash so that part at least seemed very realistic.