Based off of Clue, but somehow not as fun | In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund [ARC]

A few students are left behind at Blackbrook Academy tying up a few loose ends. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but when a harsh winter storm hits, they’re left stranded in one of the school’s dorm houses and have no choice but to bunk down for the night. When they wake up the next morning, they find that Headmaster Boddy has been stabbed! Was it suicide? A looter? Or someone in the house?

TL;DR – The mystery itself wasn’t super compelling and in the end it came out feeling half-baked.

I requested this book for two reasons: 1) I like Clue and 2) I’ve really enjoyed some of Diana Peterfreund’s other books (the Jane Austen retellings). Unfortunately, this book fell extremely flat for me. First of all, I couldn’t figure out what this collection of students was doing on campus? Why wasn’t anyone else there? This may have been explained and I just missed it, but that question was hanging over the entire book for me.

Another problem was that I didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters. They all had these backstories, but none of them got enough screen time to get fleshed out. Instead, tragedies were hinted at (repeatedly) but never explained. This just ended up making me annoyed with all of the characters for not explaining themselves. There were also two random characters that were completely unnecessary? I guess this is supposed to be the first book in a series, so maybe they’ll come into play in later books. But honestly, this book does not make me want to pick up the rest of the series. If I had to pick a favorite character I guess I would say Orchid? She was the least annoying.

And then we come to the “mystery”. It felt extremely light. A murder occurred IN THE HOUSE that all of these students were sleeping in and I felt like there should’ve been a more…horrific tone to the book perhaps? But that just wasn’t there. I didn’t find the mystery compelling at all and wasn’t super invested in figuring out who the killer was. Too many of the characters were like, “Well, I know it’s not ME”. With the actual game of Clue it very well COULD be you, so that may have been something interesting to play with (sleepwalking? bad reaction to sleeping pills?). Unfortunately, what we actually get is an unsatisfying, half-baked solution tacked on at the end.

Overall, I felt like this just wasn’t a great book. I didn’t feel like it was written very clearly. I thought it did fairly well as a Clue tribute, but it even had some room to lean into that a little more too. In the end, I think they should have more firmly chosen what direction to take this book in (Clue tribute or murder mystery) without trying to do both. That may seem contradictory…but that’s how I feel.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

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

Advertisements

Well…at least I can say I’ve read it | Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane EyreJane Eyre is an orphan raised by her uncle’s wife. Despite her uncle’s dying wish to have Jane raised as one of his own children, his wife treats Jane as nothing more than a nuisance. Jane is glad to be sent away to school where she makes new friends and eventually grows into a learned young lady. After some time, she feels that it is her duty to move on and advertises her skills as a governess. Her employer, Mr. Rochester, is unlike any man she’s ever known. As she finally starts to find happiness in her life, Jane will have to find the strength to stick to her principles and learn what it means to be an independent woman.

TL;DR – A deliciously Gothic setting surrounds two characters who I really don’t care about.

I became interested in reading this book because it’s one of those stories that I think a lot of people generally know (he kept his crazy wife in the attic!) but I knew nothing else about it. Then I read My Plain Jane and really enjoyed it, but there were a few plot points that I was just like, “Wait…does this REALLY happen in Jane Eyre?” So I had to read the source material to find out.

Unfortunately, I did not like this book. I feel bad about it because both my mom and sister told me this was one of their favorite books but I just…didn’t feel the same (why is this book a favorite? WHYYYYY????). Firstly, I didn’t care for Mr. Rochester. He didn’t really seem like that great of a guy to me. I found almost all of his conversations with Jane to be abrasive and confusing–it was like a very aggressive ping pong match that he was playing with himself. Despite that, he also had these moments of ultimate patheticness and I just wanted to grab him by the collar and say, “BE AN ADULT”. He was both overly aggressive and overly whiny and it just wasn’t a good combo.

Reading Goodreads reviews when I had finished, I realized that a lot of people really like Jane’s progression, I guess? While I do see some growth, I never particularly cared for her character either. There’s just something about her–even as a little girl–that rubs me the wrong way. I think similar to Rochester, there were some times that I just wanted to say, “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER”. I don’t really see the strength in her that a lot of other readers see. I don’t understand how she managed to fall in love with Mr. Rochester while he was basically baiting her with the whole Miss Ingram situation. It almost felt to me like her feelings for Mr. Rochester were at least partially born from a sort of self-loathing? And because of that, I never liked them together. The parts where I most liked Jane is when she had moved on and had become a teacher. But then she goes on back to Mr. Rochester for no reason and with no notice (rude). I just don’t see their relationship as being romantic in any way. I’m sorry, I don’t.

Secondary characters were fine. I liked Adele though I wish we’d gotten some kind of translation for her (alas, I do not speak French). I liked Jane’s cousins too, but I feel like St. John kind of gets the shaft. He helps Jane immensely but then he doesn’t get a happy ending? I mean, I think he ended up doing what he wanted, but I’m not convinced he was happy. He was a good guy and I think he deserved more than that.

In the end, I’m glad that I can say I’ve read Jane Eyre now, but I’m not in any hurry to give it another go. I read it over the course of two months so perhaps if I read it quicker it would read better? With that being said, I don’t feel it would make me like the characters any more.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Monday Minis [Mini-Reviews]

This month has been great for me so far reading-wise. I’ve gotten super into the Lumberjanes comics lately (I’m planning on writing a full review on the series when I’m finished). I’ve also been reading some non-fiction and book club picks. Here are some mini-reviews for you on some books that I’ve finished the last couple of months.

mini-reviews

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Dividing EdenRight off the bat, I’m super aggravated by the way that Andreus’ curse is dangled in front of our faces. They literally never explain what his “curse” is and it sounds like he just as asthma maybe? Which doesn’t actually seem like a big deal…but maybe I’m wrong because, again, THEY NEVER EXPLAIN. Overall, Andreus was such an annoying character. He was just so stupid and I literally don’t think he made a single good choice. Carys was better, but both she and Andreus mentioned how Carys is really good at making deductions and seeing things that others wouldn’t, but we never really see that happen either. Lastly, I would think that the bond between twins is stronger than it’s made out to be in this book. Carys obviously still cares about her twin, but Andreus drops her as soon as humanly possible once the competition starts. Again, he is so stupid. 2/5

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

On a SunbeamThis is a book that I picked up on a whim at the end of my shift one day. I don’t have a ton to say about it, but I thought it was really interesting and the artwork was beautiful. It’s really amazing how graphic novels can convey so much in one panel when it would take pages in a novel. I liked how the beginning of the book really stuck to the different color schemes to help the reader tell the two timelines apart. As the stories came together, the color schemes did as well and I thought that was really cool. I also really liked the fish ships and the world building in general was just really interesting. From what I could tell, it seems like this world (galaxy? universe?) is only populated by women, so if you’re looking for queer romance, this book is saturated with it. Lastly, I really enjoyed how much depth the secondary and minor characters had. It was surprising, to be honest, I mean even the school bully had this depth that didn’t get totally explored, but was touched on. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Paperback

Bonnie & Clyde: The Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal

Bonnie and ClydeI didn’t know very much about Bonnie and Clyde before reading this book. The author does a really good job throughout helping the reader to see what parts of their story is known as fact, what is believed to be true, and what is complete myth. Newspapers at the time weren’t super concerned with reporting that absolute truth and were more interested in the drama that was inherent with Bonnie and Clyde. A lot of times if something went down and the cops couldn’t figure out who it was, the newspapers would blame Bonnie and Clyde. Another thing I found interesting was that the cops at the time seemed to be SUPER incompetent. There wasn’t really any training. A lot of people just joined the force because they needed a little extra money and their regular work wasn’t cutting it. That’s part of the reason why Bonnie and Clyde were able to evade capture for so long. The last thing I really liked about this book was that the author had panels on each person that Bonnie and Clyde killed. Over time, Bonnie and Clyde have become wildly glamorized, but it’s important to remember that they killed A LOT of people. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

CoralineI saw a few clips from the movie a while back when it came out, and that kind of turned me off to reading the book. It was just kind of…weird. And I think I remember the other Miss Spink and Miss Forcible were wearing some pretty scandalous outfits? Anyway, I wasn’t really planning on reading this book, but then I did and I’m glad I decided to! This book was creepy and weird in all the best ways. I loved the cat–he was probably my favorite character–and Coraline was not far behind. She was super spunky and also a believable child. I think she had some intelligence and seriousness that made her feel more mature, but it wasn’t unbelievable that a child would act like that. I would have liked a little bit more of a hunt with Coraline looking for the marbles, but the story also felt really tight as it was. I just think it would have made it a little more fun, but I guess it wasn’t really a fun situation to be in. I liked how the story ended too, with part of the other mother making it into Coraline’s world. I think there’s some symbolism there (and throughout the book) that I’m probably missing, but I enjoyed it. I just need to figure out how to get my husband to like the name Coraline now… 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Paperback

A book in which our MC makes many questionable decisions | You Owe Me a Murder by Eileen Cook [ARC]

You Owe Me a MurderConnor broke Kim’s heart and for that, he deserves to die. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but he really, really sucks and now Kim is facing two weeks in London with him and his new girlfriend. And their flight is delayed. Luckily, Kim makes a new friend at the airport and they’re able to commiserate over their shared misfortunes. Nicki jokingly suggests that the perfect crime would be for her to kill Connor and for Kim to kill Nicki’s mom–nothing to connect either of them to the crimes. While under the influence of (stolen) alcohol, Kim agrees that it’s a genius plan and then promptly forgets about it. At least, until Connor ends up under a train and it’s looking like it might not have been an accident.

TL;DR – The plot is so…far-fetched and our protag is just kind of annoying and questionable the entire time.

There are so many things I want to say about this book, but I really don’t want to give any spoilers! Let’s just say that Kim is kind of annoying pretty much the whole time. She’s pining after this guy and is so worried about how other people think of her. It’s crazy to me that her parents pretty much made her go on this trip after she and Connor broke up. Like…how insensitive! Honestly, I think the only character in this book who is remotely palatable is Alex and he’s one of those “too good to be true” love interests. His relationship with Kim comes pretty much out of nowhere. He gives a small explanation as to why he’s interested in her, but really, it’s completely crazy and I’m not buying it.

Other characters are completely flat and underdeveloped. Connor has cochlear implants, which I guess shows that people with disabilities can be jerks too? It was a super random detail that felt like forced diversity. Emily (Kim’s “best friend”) is essentially a non-character. Basically, Kim just thinks about her from time-to-time and then at the end Emily sends her this clutch letter with a message that Kim literally could have gotten from a fortune cookie or billboard. The other students on the trip are also non-characters and are nearly indistinguishable from each other. And then Kim’s parents are just…???

The plot is so weird. What is the point of this London trip? I don’t actually understand it. And after like…four days Kim is doing laundry which does NOT make sense to me. She’s walking around the city like she’s been there for months instead of days and Tasha lets these teenagers (!!!) go and do pretty much whatever they want in the city. And that’s not even talking about the main premise of this book. Kim makes so many questionable decisions just starting in the airport when she decides it’s a good idea to help Nicki steal some vodka. She seems like a smart girl, so like…what? Her actions and how the author clearly wants to portray her to the reader as an intelligent, mature teenage girl never match up throughout the entire book. Kim just keeps lying about everything for pretty much no reason and I was basically tearing my hair out the entire book. And then there’s Nicki. What does she even do for money? She has all these connections and can somehow stalk Kim without any additional information. I don’t even think she gets her last name? Unrealistic.

Lastly, the ending is complete bogus. There are a million ways this book could have ended and I feel like it ends in the one way that makes zero sense. It’s too clean and nobody really faces any consequences. Kim ends up going home and is thinking about this huge lesson that she’s learned and I just want to shake her and yell, “That’s not the right lesson you moron!”

Anyway, I was extremely disappointed by this book. I wanted it to be a little more cat and mouse and a lot less annoying main character. It’s almost to the point where I’m wondering if Kim is this obtuse on purpose. Like, is there a deeper level here that I’m missing? At the end of the day, this book (mostly Kim) was not for me.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: An ARC was provided to the library that I work at.

Why is it so hard to just pick a genre? | Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand

Sawkill GirlsGirls have been disappearing from Sawkill for decades, but no one seems to find this suspicious. Except for Zoey. Her best friend Thora disappeared last year and everyone seems to have forgotten. Zoey is positive that Val’s family has something to do with it, but nobody believes her. Marion is new to the island after her father had a tragically fatal accident. She and her sister have no idea that girls have been going missing–and that they might be next.

TL;DR – Ultimately disappointing. I felt like the book was trying to fit into too many genres at once. Overall, it felt like it was trying too hard and lost what it was trying to be.

This book started off delightfully mysterious and creepy with a hint of magical realism and I was so into it. Magical realism is a genre that I tend to really enjoy. I like the subtlety and wonder of it. Several things happen that are completely unsettling and I was ready to figure out what the heck was going on. But then the plot took this turn and there were secret organizations and it turned into this weird amalgamation of sci fi and fantasy and horror. It lost all subtlety and I felt like it cheapened the whole plot.

The characters were fine. I didn’t feel particularly connected to any of them. We have three narrators in Marion, Zoey, and Val, but I honestly wouldn’t have been super heartbroken if any of them hadn’t made it. Secondary characters were okay. Nobody was super developed. I thought Grayson was an exceptionally poor character, though. He literally served no purpose except to conveniently move the plot forward. We need someone to decipher a dead language? Conveniently, Grayson can do it! We need a boat? Grayson’s family has one!

I think a lot of readers will appreciate that all three of our main characters are queer. I appreciate the diversity too, but I’m not sure how it really plays into who the characters are and how they act. It felt like it was just kind of thrown in there so the author could claim diversity? I don’t know, maybe other people feel differently about that.

Overall, I was extremely disappointed by this book. I wanted it to be subtly creepy, but instead I feel like it tried to go too far and do too much and it lost me. I think the author should have stuck to a more subtle magical realism (like Bone Gap).

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Heavy
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Heavy

Pin this!

Sawkill Girls review

The quickest of takes and the mini-est of reviews

I read a bunch of books while I was out on my hiatus and since I was on hiatus, I wasn’t taking notes as usual. Let’s just say that I remember some of these books better than others. But it’s the lasting impressions that really count, right?

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab – I LOVED the first book in this series! And this one honestly did live up to my expectations. If you liked the first book, you’ll like this one too. Everything that I liked about the characters from the first book were in this one as well plus more. The book was just…deeper. I cried. 5/5

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – My first experience with E. Lockhart and I absolutely loved it. I loved the writing, I loved the characters, I loved the setting. The plot was masterful and I think I started to suspect what the twist was exactly when the author wanted me to. I will definitely be reading more by her. 5/5

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee – I don’t really know what I expected this book to be… It was just a little too artificial for me. The characters were all fake with each other (as they were supposed to be, but still) and the setting of the tower also seemed a bit contrived. I don’t think there were any characters that I really just liked. I won’t be reading the second one. 3/5

Imprudence by Gail Carriger – I keep reading this series because I keep hoping it’ll get better. I adore the Finishing School series and I just want this series to be a little more like that. Something about Prudence repeatedly rubs me the wrong way. She’s just so…arrogant? Bossy? Entitled? I’m not exactly sure what it is. Nevertheless, I will probably read the next one. 3/5

Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer – This book was just so…weird. The girls were in the past, but they could remember everything about the future. There was no real reason why they should need to recreate a photo in order to get back to the future. And then the ending with one of the characters seemed a little dramatic and unnecessary. I also didn’t really like any of the characters. 2/5

The Siren by Kiera Cass – The story was okay, but had some elements that left me scratching my head. The main character’s decisions didn’t always make sense to me. I didn’t feel like she always acted rationally or like…thought through her decisions. Secondary characters were all just okay. 3/5

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh – This was a great follow-up to the first book. I enjoyed the strategy involved at various points throughout the story–it just kind of mixed things up a little bit. I also enjoyed getting to know the little sister better as a character. 4/5

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne – I liked this book more than I thought I would! The main character was relatable and likable. I loved her interactions with her half-siblings and her dad’s wife (especially that last relationship). Her struggles seemed genuine and the conflict that she has to face was really well done. I would definitely recommend this book! 4/5

Fireworks by Katie Cotugno – This book…I liked that it was set in the 90s. The girl band/boy band thing seemed genuine because of the time period. But then there’s just a lot of girl/girl fighting and backstabbing and not being good friends-ing. I did like where the main character ended up though. 3/5

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – To be completely honest, I haven’t been on the Peter train since the second book (John Ambrose all the way–don’t @ me). So this book was a little bit ugh for me. But also, I know that we all want happy endings, etc, but why do YA authors want us to believe that all high school relationships will work out in the long run? I know that some do, but the vast majority of high school relationships are just that–high school relationships. NOT “always and forever” love. I would not have wanted to end up with any of the boys I went to high school with. Just saying. 3/5

The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian – The main character was a pill and I didn’t like her 85% of the time. She was a butt to the love interest for the first 95% of the book but then he still likes her in the end? I just don’t even know. Also, is this plot something that could really happen? If so, local government can be scary. 3/5

Lucky in Love by Kasie West – I was excited that this book portrayed an interracial relationship (I’m all about that rep) but then the love interest might as well have been white. I don’t remember any defining characteristic that made him Asian except for his last name. Kasie West has been super hit or miss for me. Some books I love, but others are just flat. I did like the zoo setting though. 3/5

Let me know which of these books you’ve read in the comments! Do you agree or disagree with my quick takes?

Weekend trip turned nightmare | S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett [ARC]

S.T.A.G.S. STAGSGreer just started at her new boarding school, a posh place called St. Aidan the Great School. As a scholarship student, she doesn’t fit in among the elite upper class–the ones who look born to be wearing the black Tudor coats that is their school uniform. So when she gets invited to spend the long weekend with the “it” group on campus, the Medievals, she leaps at the chance. The invitation says they’re in for a fun weekend of “Huntin’, Shootin’, and Fishin'” and Greer can’t wait to prove to these popular upper classmen that she deserves to be friends with them (and maybe even more in the case of Henry de Warlencourt). What she doesn’t expect is to have the picturesque weekend marred by creepy servants and terrible “accidents”.

TL;DR – There was way too much clumsy foreshadowing. The plot wasn’t as exciting as it initially sounded. Characters were just…meh. Pass.

I had pretty high hopes for this book. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have a strangely specific passion for books about unique boarding schools. This book also sounded like it had some Hunger Games elements to it so I was all in. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the writing was up to par the entire time and the plot was a little weak.

The way the book is written, Greer is essentially narrating the events to the reader. She drops a lot of “hints” throughout the book as to what is actually happening. But instead of creating suspense, as maybe the author hoped, it destroys it and becomes more than a little annoying. There is a time and a place to use foreshadowing effectively, but it was just too heavy-handed in this book–not at all subtle and definitely overkill. Greer keeps referencing how the weekend ends and she makes it seem like a really big deal. By the time we actually get to that point, I was a little let down. It almost didn’t seem like as big a deal as Greer had made it out to be throughout the book.

Like I said earlier, the plot was intriguing to me going in, but once I was actually in the book, it started to make less sense. I understand how the entire plot comes together in the end, but it still seems a little bit of a stretch–just not very believable. I’m not saying that every plot has to be super believable, but in this case, a believable plot would have made the book seem a lot more interesting. I don’t want to get too much into it because of spoilers, but I feel like this same plot could have been done in a much more intriguing and clever way.

The characters themselves were just okay. I don’t really feel like any of them were fully fleshed-out, not even Greer. That made it hard to really care for any of them. It didn’t really matter to me if they made it out alive or not. I think it would have been a lot more interesting if Greer hadn’t been the object of a certain character’s affections. The author made it seem like he might like someone else at the beginning and I think following through with that would have been a lot more unexpected and interesting. And wouldn’t have had a huge impact on the story line.

Overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book. There were so many parts of it that just dragged. I was really hoping this book would be so much better than it was.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: None

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