This book was so Jake | The Diviners by Libba Bray

The DivinersAfter a careless night of drinking and partying, Evie is being sent to live with her uncle in New York. New York of the 1920s doesn’t seem like such a punishment to Evie especially when she gets there and finds out that her uncle runs a museum based on the occult and all things supernatural. Her uncle seems pretty cool but his assistant, Jericho, is a total wet blanket. Evie plans to just have a good time in the big city with her friend Mabel and her new friend Theta but that’s brought to a screeching halt when a serial killer is discovered. That alone is scary enough, but this killer seems to have ties with the occult and Evie, her uncle, and Jericho soon find themselves in the middle of the investigation.

If you liked this, you should also read: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

TL;DR – A great setting and murder mystery were hampered by a slow pace and multiple subplots that don’t add to the main plot (but will probably come into play later in the series).

I LOVE the 1920s as a time period. Not that I would have wanted to be alive back then, but looking back at that decade is always fun. There’s just so much glitz and glamour. Every day is a party. I know that this is incredibly romanticized, but I can’t help it. This book does a great job of evoking all of those feelings but also showing some of the rougher sides of the 1920s. I especially appreciate the frank depiction of Theta and Memphis’ relationship as an interracial couple. I also feel like Bray did a good job of showing a little bit of what every day life was like in the 1920s–not just the speakeasies. The language seemed super authentic to me and that was something I really enjoyed.

The plot of this book was pretty fantastic but it started off SO SLOW. Honestly, the only reason I kept with it past the first 200 pages is because I know how many people really love this book and series. There was nothing inherently wrong with the beginning of the book, but there wasn’t much that made me want to get back into it after I set it down. Not much was happening and I didn’t find Evie to be a very likable character.

Speaking of Evie…she just wasn’t my favorite. She was immature, selfish, and impulsive. While she did show some growth throughout the book, it wasn’t much (especially not 600 pages worth). She’s pretty much the same character at the end as she is in the beginning. She just doesn’t think things through or think about other people! The rest of the characters were fine and I felt like there was a lot to be explored with them, which will probably happen in future books.

Another issue I had was just with how LONG this book is. I don’t necessarily mind a 600 page book, but not all of the characters and subplots were essential to the story. Obviously the author is setting up the rest of the series, but I just don’t feel like that was necessary to do in the first book. If she had cutout all the extra things about Theta, Memphis, and Henry, then the book probably would have been a much more manageable 300 pages. The whole time, I was expecting a bunch of characters to come together in the end with their special skills to take down the bad guy but…that never happened. So then here I am at the end of the book feeling unfulfilled and not really caring about Theta or Sam Lloyd or Henry DuBois (or the girl from the Chinese restaurant–what does she have to do with anything???).

Overall, I actually did like this book (despite my critiques). I thought the murders were creative and the way the characters solved the mystery seemed logical and was fairly easy to follow. However, while I think I would probably enjoy the rest of the series, I have no drive to actually pick up the next book. I would recommend this book for those who don’t mind a slower pace and are willing to invest for the long haul.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy (slightly graphic but not too descriptive)
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

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Hang on while I plan my trip to Tokyo real quick | Seven Days of You by Cecelia Vinesse [ARC]

Seven Days of YouSophia has always known that her days in Tokyo were numbered. Her mom is a professor at Rutgers University who has been on an extended sabbatical for the last four years. Sophia’s about to leave the only friends she’s ever known, the only place that has ever really felt like home, and the boy that she’s been crushing on basically since she got to Tokyo. Then she hears that Jamie’s coming back to town and she can’t wait to leave just so she doesn’t have to face him. Unfortunately, he’s set to fly in a whole week before she leaves.¬†Now there are T-Minus seven days until New Jersey but only seven minutes until she has to see Jamie again and Sophia is panicking.

This book totally surprised me in a mostly good way. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. First of all, I need to fly to Tokyo as soon as possible and eat all the food. ALL THE FOOD. Different foods were mentioned so frequently in this book and I was repeatedly looking up what they were and everything looked delicious. That being said, we don’t really get that big of a glimpse of Tokyo beyond the food and the weather. I would have liked a little more in that department to really set the right tone and atmosphere. Every once in a while Sophia would say, “I’ll really miss this [insert architecture feature/landmark]” and then that was about it. It almost felt like the author had never actually been to Tokyo though I’m sure that’s not the case. Another thing that didn’t really help in this area is that basically all of our characters are white (except for Mika and her family I think). Even random people on the street I kept picturing as being white–we might as well have been in the United States (but maybe that’s more my imagination’s fault than the author’s).

The characters were messy and had depth but even so, they were less than realistic. I mean, maybe that’s how ex-pat teens in Tokyo live? That’s the only explanation I can think of. We see a fair amount of Sophia’s mom, but most of their exchanges are through text and we mostly just get descriptions of Mika, David, and Jamie’s parents. The lack of parental supervision really bothered me. They’re all staying out until four in the morning, traipsing all around Tokyo, and doing a lot of underage drinking and while we’re told that some parents care, nothing is done about it. Seriously. Nobody gets grounded once?

I thought this book was interesting from the perspective that we’re coming into the lives of these characters at a time when everything is changing. There’s a lot of backstory and emotions that we’re just kind of thrown into when the story starts. Somehow it works though. I felt like I got a handle on who the characters were pretty quickly. A secondary character that especially intrigued me was Sophia’s sister, Alison. I thought their relationship was very interesting. As someone who has a not-super-close relationship and completely different personalities from her sister, I felt that I could relate to their dynamic in some ways. I liked that we could see Alison’s protective side coming out and in the end it was definitely apparent that they both care for each other.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. While the romance did happen quickly, I could buy it because of the history between the characters. I felt that Sophia was a very real and likable character and I loved that she’s super into Physics (hooray for a portrayal of a smart girl being normal!). On the other hand, there was too much swearing and underage drinking throughout the book for my taste and I wish that the adults hadn’t been villainized.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. A lot of underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Moderate, nothing explicit.

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

Stand Back Ladies…Mimic’s About to Take Over | Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra [ARC]

Mad Miss MimicLeo has a stutter and a sharp mind that makes her undesirable to most suitors. But those who are willing to look past the speech impediment and the intelligence are, without fail, chased away by Mimic. Mimic is what Leo’s sister (not-so) affectionately nicknamed her ability to mimic other people’s voices to perfection. Leo has no control over when Mimic makes an appearance and can only pray that she doesn’t embarrass her too bad.

This book has been on my radar for about a year now when it was first released outside of the United States (I mean just look at that COVER). Unfortunately, I was disappointed in it. The book was described as “Jane Austen meets Arthur Conan Doyle” which is a bit misleading in my opinion. I absolutely love both authors and would not place this book in a category with either of them. I thought the premise was very promising and I had really high hopes. I don’t know if it would have been better if Leo had been able to control her mimicry or not, but I just felt that portion of the book was not as interesting as I thought it could have been. While it played a role in the plot, I feel that it didn’t play a large enough role or have as much of an impact as I might have imagined.

Leo herself was a fairly likable character if a little too concerned about finding herself a suitor. I think the author needed to make a stronger case for which kind of character Leo was. In some ways she was a strong female protagonist who was curious and impulsive. But then in other ways she was timid and almost self-effacing. Maybe that was the point? I just didn’t really get it and it made her a little confusing as a character. I also thought her relationship with Tom developed too quickly. Secondary characters had some depth, but were mostly pretty flat. I especially had a hard time with Leo’s sister. I didn’t feel like she was someone who I could sympathize with–mostly I just thought she was annoying.

The plot itself was fine. There was an adequate amount of suspense though I did find myself confused as to what was actually happening at times. It was kind of a mystery, but not in a way that the reader could have figured the case out on their own. And again, I feel like the plot really could have been elevated if Mimic had had a more key role.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. I was expecting a lot from it but was ultimately disappointed. There are several other regency era mysteries that I would recommend before this one.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy (a large part of this book focuses on drugs and drug testing though not in an explicit way)
Sexual Content: Mild

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

Teenage Girl Obsesses Over Siblings Who May or May Not Be Witches | The Graces by Laura Eve [ARC]

The GracesRiver is new to town and is trying to find her place at her new high school. She watches the Grace siblings from afar and plots how she might be able to become a part of their crowd. They never keep the same friends for long, but River is determined to show them that she is the one they’ve been waiting for. When Summer Grace finally notices her, River knows that she will do whatever it takes to keep the Graces from dropping her like they’ve dropped so many of their peers. She wants the Graces to teach her about magic and how to be a witch. In particular, she wants Fenrin Grace to notice her and (ideally) to fall in love with her. As River gets deeper in with the Graces, she starts to learn some of the family secrets. As it turns out, the Graces lives aren’t as charmed as everyone seems to think they are.

This book was strange for so many reasons. First of all, let me just say that I quite liked the writing. I thought it was beautiful and gripping and I was drawn into the story from the very first chapter. The setting¬†descriptions were also incredible. Even though we didn’t get that much of a description of the town, I still feel like I can picture it. Then, when we get to the Graces’ house and the rooms are described…seriously. AMAZING. The writing also did a good job of creating this kind of creepy/unsettling atmosphere. There’s obviously something wrong. Something weird happened to River and her mom before they came to town, but we only get bits and pieces of what it was as the book progresses. The writing was kind of the book’s one redeeming quality that kept it from being a 2/5 for me.

First of all, some of these characters¬†definitely sound familiar (*cough* Twilight *cough*). But seriously! River’s so obsessed with this unnaturally beautiful, confident, and alluring group of siblings and the parents are just as beautiful and the kids never really interact with any of their peers and they’re so mysterious and BLAH BLAH BLAH. PLEASE. Spare me. I honestly would LOVE to read a book where the main character just completely sees through all of that¬†BS. And don’t even get me started on River drooling over Fenrin. But okay, I’ll get into it. There comes a point where River is worried that Summer will think River only wanted to become friends with her to get close to Fenrin which¬†she¬†protests is not the case. But actually…that’s exactly what happened! I mean, it’s true that River wanted to be noticed by any of the Graces–she just wanted to be part of their group. But the whole time her main focus is completely on Fenrin. And he doesn’t even sound that great! Aside from being a Grace and being extremely good-looking (allegedly) what does this guy have going for him? I’m sure he has other qualities, but the reader is not told about any of them. Every time River sees him she’s just drooling over his good looks. That, my friends, is not what I want to read about.

River as a main character is not very likable, though I’m not sure that she’s supposed to be. The Graces were fine if not very three-dimensional. I couldn’t help but try to imagine the Graces as real teenagers in a real high school and, I’m sorry, I’m just not buying it. Maybe in Europe, but in the United States, NOBODY IS LIKE THAT. Then there’s River’s mom who is another unbelievable character. Talk about taking the absent parent bit to the max.

Plotwise…there wasn’t really a plot. Like there kind of was…but not REALLY. Mainly we’re just watching River try to make herself indispensable to the Graces the whole book. Then there are a couple of twists near the end, but I honestly saw them both coming. I wanted so badly for the book to take an UNEXPECTED turn, but I was to be disappointed. Then the book just kind of ends? But then there’s going to be a sequel…I’ll be honest, I was not expecting a sequel. I have no idea what could possibly happen in the next book and I’m not entirely sure that I care.

Overall, I think this author has a lot of potential. I would definitely read another book by her as long as there were different characters and a better plot, etc. Some people may end up really liking this book, but I just don’t fall into that camp.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

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

26 Kisses by Anna Michels [ARC]

26 KissesVee’s boyfriend, Mark, broke up with her five minutes after he graduated from high school. He didn’t want to go to college still dating his “high school girlfriend”. As a way to get over him, Vee’s best friend, Mel, proposes that Vee embark on a¬†26 kisses challenge. Over the course of the summer Vee is supposed to kiss one boy for every letter of the alphabet. Vee is hesitant at first, but then begins to embrace the challenge as she slowly starts to forget about Mark. When she meets Killian, however, Vee will have to reevaluate whether or not she wants to keep going with the challenge or if she’s okay stopping on “K”.

On its surface this seems like a very shallow book and it kind of is, but there’s a little more to it than that as well. Vee is a pretty sympathetic character and I didn’t find her to be annoying or too angsty necessarily (though she did have a couple moments…). To be honest, the premise of this book is a little ridiculous. I mean, is it really a good idea to try to kiss 26 different guys in your hometown? Do you really think nobody’s going to notice or start talking about it? Regardless, I understand why she decided to undertake this challenge even if I don’t agree with it. For the most part, I enjoyed Vee’s friendships with Mel, Seth, and Killian. I thought everyone seemed pretty balanced as characters and they each had distinctive personalities. I liked that both Vee and Killian were pretty quirky characters with unique interests. The romance itself was nice. Killian seemed like a nice guy and I’m always happy when our protagonist ends up with a genuinely good guy as opposed to the cliche “bad boy”.

Vee also has a lot of family stuff going on which created a nice break and some contrast to everything else that was going on with her social life. I can’t say I completely understand how Vee feels about her father and his new family, but nothing seemed too unbelievable. I also liked how Michels chose to resolve that subplot.

Overall, I think this book would make a great beach read. It’s not a book¬†that will stick with you for a long time, but it’s fun in the moment.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate. Pretty consistent throughout, but nothing too strong.
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy. Quite a few scenes with underage drinking.
Sexual Content: Mild

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

Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach [ARC]

9781402291449_9b451First off, the author admits on Goodreads that the way the book is presented (cover and marketing-wise) is a little misleading to the reader. For anyone looking for a nice contemporary romance kind of book, this is not that book. This is a book about a boy named Taco who has a positive attitude about literally everything. His mom has died, his dad is nowhere to be found, and his older brother is a drunk. Yet, Taco is still determined that every day is going to be the best day and tomorrow will be even better. He also calls the reader dingus. A lot.

I could not relate to Taco at all. He was too optimistic. Too sunny of a person. I just could not understand him or how he thought about things. I also just felt like he was an unrealistic character because I don’t think that ANYONE can be as unfailingly optimistic as he is. I also don’t understand how he can be dumb enough to not understand how he got his girlfriend pregnant, but he’s on the honor roll every year… I just don’t get how that works.

Things I did admire about Taco: the fact that he was so positive, he’s a hard worker, he loves his family even with their flaws, he’s willing to do the right thing even if it’s not what he would prefer. So yes, there are some things that make Taco an admirable character. I really did appreciate his work ethic and that he’s 100% committed to his family and to being a dad.

The other characters in this book are kind of strange. I did not like Maggie at all. She was so erratic and treated Taco like crap. Even if Taco was dumb enough to not understand how people really get pregnant, I feel like Maggie should have known. In the end I just feel like she was this really immature and selfish character who had zero growth and development.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy, one character is an alcoholic.
Sexual Content: Heavy, mentioned a lot but no explicit descriptions.

Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Outspoken by Lora Richardson

Penny always says “yes” even when she wants to say “no” but this summer she’s putting an end to that. She’s moving across the country to take care of her grandfather and she’s finally going to become the person she’s always wanted to be. She’ll have the opportunity to try the new-Penny out on some “practice friends” before revealing herself to her family back in Montana. She doesn’t know exactly what new-Penny will look like, but she does know that it will be a surprise for some people. As the summer progresses, Penny starts to fall in love with her new town and she also starts to realize that maybe she doesn’t want her “practice friends” to be so temporary after all.

51iikoydlll-_sx331_bo1204203200_I thought this book definitely had a lot of things going for it. The pacing was great and I felt like Penny was a pretty relatable character–she just seemed so normal. I liked that she was trying to reinvent herself a bit because I think that’s something that a lot of girls try to do whether it be when they leave for college or some other time. The idea that¬†you’ll finally be able to be who you want to be¬†once you get away from the people who have known you forever is one that I think a lot of people can relate to. In the end, Penny really just wants to find herself–to figure out exactly who she is without her family’s expectations. There is something liberating about being surrounded by people who don’t have any history with you.

The secondary characters were an interesting cast. I liked meeting and learning about the different people that Penny delivers groceries to as well as the new friends that she makes. Overall, the characters come together and really add to the small town feel of the book. I love reading about coastal beach towns, so I was in love with the entire atmosphere.

I also really liked how Penny’s relationship with her grandfather was portrayed. It seems like a tough situation to deal with someone who has Alzheimer’s but doesn’t realize how bad it is yet. There were a couple of scenes especially where my heart just broke for Penny’s poor grandfather. That has to be such a hard thing.

As far as critiques go, I think there was a little too much telling and not enough showing from the author. There were times when the book felt very matter-of-fact and like there wasn’t much for the reader to interpret. Everything was just kind of laid out there. I also felt like the author was trying to do a lot at once. What I mean by that is that she addressed several different issues including, but not limited to: an¬†ailing grandparent, a deceased parent, new motherhood,¬†and rape. I just felt like there were too many balls to juggle and because of that, we didn’t get into some of the issues as much as I would have liked to. I also felt like the author tried to do a little too much with the ending as well. It seemed like almost every character’s story ended with a little bow wrapped around it and I didn’t think that was necessary. Not every character needs to have a resolved ending.

Overall, I thought the book was pretty good. The atmosphere was spot on and I felt like I could relate to the main character. I really did want her to succeed and I think this would be a good book for other people to read when they feel like their life is at a crossroads.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy

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