Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: Stealing Parker

Title: Stealing Parker
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Source: Purchased

Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan's Hundred Oaks High.

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?
I'm the first to admit that contemporary romance books are not my thing. I'm much more of a fantasy/action/adventure kind of girl. But I heard so many great things about Miranda Kenneally's Hundred Oaks series that I have been giving it a try. I read Catching Jordan quite a while ago and honestly didn't enjoy it all that much, so I was pretty skeptical going into Stealing Parker.

But I ended up really enjoying it! I connected way more with Parker than I did with Jordan. I really felt Parker's struggles and I was rooting for her the whole time (even as I screamed at her when she made decisions I disagreed with). I think they reason why this book worked better for me than Catching Jordan is because Stealing Parker is less of a romance-driven plot and more of a character-driver plot. Sure there are romantic aspects, but they all contribute to Parker's journey within the book.

This book touched on a lot of issues: eating disorders, sexual identity, slut-shaming and inappropriate relationship. Despite the long list, I felt like each issue was handled well by the author.

This book has brightened up my expectations of the Hundred Oaks series and I am looking forward to reading the next book.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: Sweet Madness

Title: Sweet Madness
Author: Trisha Leaver & Lindsay Currie
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Seventeen-year-old Bridget Sullivan is alone in Fall River, a city that sees Irish immigrants as nothing more than a drunken drain on society. To make matters worse, she's taken employment with the city’s most peculiar and gossip-laden family—the Bordens. But Bridget can’t afford to be picky—the pay surpasses any other job Bridget could ever secure and she desperately needs the money to buy her little sister, Cara, passage to the states. It doesn’t hurt that the job location is also close to her beau, Liam. As she enters the disturbing inner workings of the Borden household, Bridget clings to these advantages.

However, what seemed like a straightforward situation soon turns into one that is untenable. Of course Bridget has heard the gossip around town about the Bordens, but what she encounters is far more unsettling. The erratic, paranoid behavior of Mr. Borden, the fearful silence of his wife, and worse still…the nightly whisperings Bridget hears that seem to come from the walls themselves.

The unexpected bright spot of the position is that Lizzie Borden is so friendly. At first, Bridget is surprised at how Lizzie seems to look out for her, how she takes a strong interest in Bridget’s life. Over time, a friendship grows between them. But when Mr. Borden’s behavior goes from paranoid to cruel, and the eerie occurrences in the house seem to be building momentum, Bridget makes the tough decision that she must leave the house—even if it means leaving behind Lizzie, her closest friend, alone with the madness. Something she swore she would not do.

But when Bridget makes a horrifying discovery in the home, all that she thought she knew about the Bordens is called into question…including if Lizzie is dangerous. And the choice she must make about Lizzie’s character could mean Bridget’s life or death.

SWEET MADNESS is a retelling of the infamous Borden murders from the point of view of Lizzie’s Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.
This was a book with a lot of potential. I like the premise and the story overall, but there were major pacing issues for me that dropped this one down to 3 stars.

I think the star of this book was the atmosphere that Leaver and Currie created. Everything felt creepy and there was a certain wrong-ness that came through all of Bridget's experiences in the Borden house. However, there was a case of too much of a good thing. The pacing in this book felt way too slow for me and that combined with the growing sense of dread, made the book a bit laborious in the middle. With that much stress on the reader for such an extended number of pages made the book a bit exhausting.

Bridget was a likable enough character, although I didn't always agree with her decisions. However, they weren't easy decisions to make, so I can't hold that against her. And I think Leaver and Currie did a good job of making Lizzy a sympathetic character at the same time as being a ticking time bomb.

This story and characters had a lot of potential, but the mix of a thick atmosphere with slow pacing kind of got the better of the book.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: The Awakening

Title: The Awakening
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Series: Darkest Powers #2
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: April 8, 2009
Source: Gift

You don't have to be alive to be awakened.

Chloe Saunders is a living science experiment—not only can she see ghosts, but she was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. She's a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control, which means she can raise the dead without even trying. Now Chloe's running for her life with three of her supernatural friends—a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch—and they have to find someone who can help them before the Edison Group catches them.

Or die trying.
I'm not too sure why, but this series just isn't doing it for me. It's not bad, but there's just nothing striking me and special about it.

Chloe is likable enough, but I don't love her. It almost feels like she's so likable that something is missing and she's a little boring. The more I think about it, the more I realize I'd probably prefer a book set in Victoria's POV. It would be more interesting.

I think a love triangle is starting to brew, although it's very one-sided for me at this point. Simon and Chloe would be great together, since he's likable to the point of boring as well.

This review may come across a bit negative, but there's really nothing particularly wrong with this book/series and I know a lot of people have enjoyed it, so I think this is just a 'It's not you, it's me' kind of situation.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: Jockey Girl

Title: Jockey Girl
Author: Shelley Peterson
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Publication Date: February 6, 2016
Source: Netgalley

A teen girl’s quest to find her mother leads her to the big city, and gives her the courage to fulfill her dream of becoming a jockey.

Estranged from her classmates and an outcast at home, Evangeline Gibb feels alone in the world except for the affection of a talented but misunderstood racehorse named No Justice.

All her life, Evie’s been told that her mother, Angela Parson, is dead. Then, on her sixteenth birthday, a card arrives from her great aunt Mary with the suggestion that Angela might still be alive — and Evie’s life is turned upside down.

In hopes of winning enough money to leave her hateful father and find her mother, Evie enters the Caledon Horse Race. But something she overhears her father saying changes everything, and Evie steals the racehorse in the night and runs away.

With a stray dog named Magpie at her side and help from Aunt Mary, Evie unearths long-hidden family secrets, observes the underground world of drug addiction, goes toe-to-toe with her father, finds unexpected love, and takes the racing world by storm with single-minded determination.
I'm the kind of reader who loves horses, but often dislikes horse books. I find they tend to be sentimental and unrealistic. Jockey Girl came off unrealistic to me and also aimed toward a younger audience than I was expecting. With that said, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot when I was in elementary school. However, with that said, there is one aspect of the book that would require a bit more maturity as it deals with addiction.

The first thing that annoyed me was how terrible Evie's family was (expect for her little brother). Her father was basically pure evil and her step-mother was fairly useless and generally unkind. But it's a pet peeve of mine for the parents in a book to be that cruel and evil. I understand and appreciate that parents aren't perfect, but in the vast majority of cases, they do genuinely care about their children and have their best interests at heart.

The second thing that bothered me was that things all seemed to fall into place so nicely for Evie. Sure, she had a few obstacles, but I never true felt the stakes because I felt like the author wouldn't let anything truly bad happen.

I mentioned that the book felt like something from my childhood and part of that was that it really had a timeless feel to it and almost felt like it was set in the past because the characters hardly used computers or cell phones or even watched tv. Every once in a while something modern would pop up and it almost felt out of place in the story.

Overall, Jockey Girl was a bit to unrealistic, immature and predictable for me, but I think there are definitely readers out there who would really enjoy this one.

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