Book Review: The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Book: The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Published May 2019 by Alfred A Knopf Books For Young Readers|224 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery

Nothing’s been the same for Beth Teller since the day she died.

Her dad is drowning in grief. He’s also the only one who has been able to see and hear her since the accident. But now she’s got a mystery to solve, a mystery that will hopefully remind her detective father that he is still alive, that there is a life after Beth that is still worth living.

Who is Isobel Catching, and why is she able to see Beth, too? What is her connection to the crime Beth’s father has been sent to investigate–a gruesome fire at a home for troubled youth that left an unidentifiable body behind? What happened to the people who haven’t been seen since the fire?

As Beth and her father unravel the mystery, they find a shocking and heartbreaking story lurking beneath the surface of a small town, and a friendship that lasts beyond one life and into another…

I’m not sure how I feel about The Things She’s Seen.  It’s interesting but I was as interested in it as I thought I would be.

The Things She’s Seen are narrated by Catching and Beth, and their stories are pretty distinct.  Catching’s story is told through poetry, while Beth’s is not.  Catching’s story felt more like she was telling a story, and it felt very rooted in folklore or oral storytelling, while Beth’s story is more rooted in the present day solving a mystery.  It made the narrators very distinct, and it was easy to tell who was narrating.  They alternate sections, and even without looking at who was supposed to be narrating, I knew who had taken over the story.

I will say that Catching’s part of the story slowed things down for me.  I wanted to get back to the mystery Beth was trying to solve with her dad from beyond the grave, and Catching’s story felt like it veered away from that.  Even though we know what happens in the end, and that it’s clearly spelled out in Beth’s sections, I just wasn’t into this story.  It’s not for me, but I can see why so many people love it.  I really wish I was one of them.

This book is definitely for people who like very creepy mysteries, and I most certainly am not the type of reader that will love this book.  I like creepy stories, I like mysteries, but this one just didn’t work for me.  The setting is really creepy, but the characters and writing didn’t grab me the way I thought it would.

2 stars.  The Things She’s Seen just wasn’t for me.  I liked that the two narrators were very distinct and there is a creepy feel to the book but overall, it was just okay.

Book Review: Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky

Book: Dive Smack by Demetra Brodsky

Published June 2018 by Tor Teen|336 pages

Where I Got It: I own the hardcover

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery/Contemporary

Theo Mackey only remembers one thing for certain about the fire that destroyed his home: he lit the match.

Sure, it was an accident. But the blaze killed his mom and set his dad on a path to self-destruction. Everything else about that fateful night is full of gaping holes in Theo’s mind, for good reason. Maybe it’s better that way. As captain of the Ellis Hollow Diving Team, with straight A’s and solid friends, he’s only one semester away from securing a scholarship, and leaving his past behind.

But when a family history project gets assigned at school, new memories come rushing to the surface, memories that make him question what he really knows about his family, the night of the fire, and if he can trust anyone—including himself.

I’ve heard a lot about this book, so I decided to pick it to see what the fuss was about.  Dive Smack ended up being an okay read for me, but I get why people like it so much.

Let’s start off with what I liked about Dive Smack!  I really liked the diving terms at the start of each chapter, and how they related to what was going on in Theo’s life and with that particular chapter.  I loved that he was a diver, and I feel like diving (or swimming) isn’t something a lot of YA characters do.  That really stood out to me, and seeing how each term related to what was going on was really cool.

I also liked seeing the mystery of the night of the fire unravel.  We’re learning things as they happen, the same way Theo does.  His memories start coming back, and it was interesting to see how everything worked out.

As much as I liked seeing the mystery unravel, I thought most of the book moved too slow.  It wasn’t until we were close to the end that things started to pick up, and even though I liked the mystery, there wasn’t any excitement in the build-up.  I never really felt a sense of urgency when I was reading it.

And then there’s the fact that Theo’s grandpa didn’t share his concerns about Theo’s uncle Phil.  Especially given everything that happened with Phil.  I get he’s trying to protect Theo, but I wonder if things could have been avoided if grandpa had just been honest about what happened.  I get they were both struggling with what happened, and Theo’s school project brought that up, but I really do wonder if things would have unfolded the way they did if his grandpa had just been honest with him.

I didn’t really care for Theo.  I thought he was horrible to some of the people on his team, and he was definitely a jerk at times.  I thought it was unwarranted, and jealously is not a good look for anyone, but in particular, it’s not a good look on Theo.

I liked Chip and Iris, though.  I really liked learning about Iris, and she had a pretty interesting story.  Theo’s lucky to have Chip around, and Chip seems like a cool guy.  They’re really the only other characters worth talking about, but I don’t have much to say about them.

2 stars.  I wanted to like Dive Smack more, but the pacing was really slow and I never felt any sense of urgency.

Book Review: Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Book: Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Published May 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books|439 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

I really liked Allegedly when I read it earlier this year, so I knew I wanted to read this one.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, though.

I think my biggest issue was the timeline.  It jumps around a lot, so you’re getting before, after and 1-2 years before the before.  I had a hard time distinguishing between the time lines, and the twist didn’t really help.  It is sad that Monday’s disappearance is brushed off, and that Claudia is the only one who seems to care.  I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Monday had been white- a very different story than what happened to Monday.  It’s heartbreaking that no one really follows up with what happened to her, because things appear to be okay, and that she seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

It just really got lost in the three different timelines, and while Claudia had her own memories of Monday, it clearly was a different picture from what was actually going on with Monday.  It seemed like there were some people who seemed to care, and tried to follow up, but things didn’t go anywhere.  I felt for Monday and Claudia, and I wish I was more into the story, because I think Monday’s story is an important one.  I think the confusing timelines took away from what actually happened.  I know it did for me.

There’s another reason why Monday’s Not Coming was just okay: I’m tired of the “I only have one friend and I’ve somehow lost them” story line.  Look, I know some people have a hard time making friends, and Monday made things a lot better for Claudia, especially at school.  But I’m just not a big fan of something happening to the only friend they’ve ever had plot point.  It was hard to get into it knowing something bad happened.

Also, mystery isn’t my thing (especially this type of mystery), so that didn’t really help either.

I’d definitely read Allegedly, though.  It’s a great book, though I know Monday’s Not Coming is going to be a book some people are probably going to like.  It’s obviously not my cup of tea, but I know it’s someone’s cup of tea.

2 stars.  This one turned out to be okay, but I’m still interested to see what Jackson writes about next.

Book Review: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Book: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Published May 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic fifteen-year-old, ready to take on crime in her hometown. When Scarlett agrees to investigate a local boy’s suicide, she figures she’s in for an easy case and a quick buck. But it doesn’t take long for suicide to start looking a lot like murder.

As Scarlett finds herself deep in a world of cults, curses, and the seemingly supernatural, she discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks…and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.

I liked Scarlett Undercover!  It’s this cool mystery with elements of the paranormal, and part of me wishes it were part of a series…just to see the more supernatural elements.  It’s not often I want more books, but I would definitely read more books if we got to read more about Scarlett solving mysteries.

I wasn’t expecting a world of cults and curses that are centuries old, and I ended up really liking that part of it.  I finished the book wishing that we got more books with Scarlett solving paranormal mysteries.  It really made me wish that the book focused more on that, but at the same time, I know things needed to be set up, and that we weren’t instantly going to be thrown into the more supernatural elements of the book.

Those elements were pretty rooted in reality, so while those elements are there, it’s not the whole book.  It really is more of a mystery/thriller than a paranormal, and I thought the supernatural would be more present.  Still, I liked the connection between that and Scarlett’s family and some of the people in her life.

I do wish it were explained a little more, though, because Latham didn’t go into a lot of depth in some areas, and other things were inconsistent.  Scarlett, for example, goes from blowing off prayer to praying 5 times a day.  Obviously, what happened changed her, but it wasn’t really explained.  Her religion/faith wasn’t a big part of the book, which is fine, but with some of what happened in the book, I thought we’d see something a little more.

Overall, the book isn’t really about her religion or spiritual journey, so don’t expect that.  It was more about her trying to solve a mystery.  Still, I think it could have been interesting, but I’m also fine with the fact that it’s not really part of the book.

Scarlett is a pretty developed character- though, as the main character, one would hope she’s a pretty developed character- but I couldn’t really say that for the other characters.  It’s part of why I thought things could have been explained a little more, because the other characters were either bland or their role in things were confusing.  Scarlett herself is pretty spunky and sure of herself, and she really does want to help people.  She’s brave and she wants justice, and she’s pretty determined.  I just wish that the other characters were as interesting as Scarlett was.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I did want something a little different.  If you like mysteries, this is a pretty good one to check out.

Book Review: All In And Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Book: All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Published November 2015 by Disney-Hyperion|378 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Naturals #3

Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller

Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days.

After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team’s unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes.

Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there’s been a break in her mother’s case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.

This has been a pretty cool series so far.  In this book, we see Cassie and the rest of the Naturals head over to Vegas to help out with a case.  This case was really different, and I loved seeing them figure it out.

This group…they really grew together.  They’re teens, and yet, they’ve all experienced something that no one their age should go through.  We learn so much about the characters, and they make so much more sense now then they did at the beginning of the series.  We learn a lot about everyone, and not just a lot about one particular character, which I liked.  In particular, though, I loved learning about Sloane.  They’re a team, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.  But they are a team, and they’re better together than they are on their own.

Barnes doesn’t shy away from anything, and I really appreciated that, especially with everything the characters experience in this book.  It makes me want to pick up the next book- which I’ve had from the library for weeks, because I didn’t want to read it until I reviewed this one, and I’ve just never gotten to until now, because I should probably read it so I can actually return it.  I’m not in the mood to return it without reading it.

There’s definitely a lot going on, and the further in we get, the more questions I have.  This case…there’s a definite system, but it makes me wonder if there are connections that are going to be revealed in the last one that I never saw in the previous books.  Some very new things are revealed, and it makes me wonder if there’s more to what’s been going on.  Does anyone else want to know more about Cassie’s mom?  Because I feel like that’s been a question that’s been hanging over our heads since the beginning.

If that question isn’t answered, I am not going to be happy.  I don’t see how it’s not going to be answered, considering that it seems to be a really important plot point.  I know this series is primarily about Cassie, and her mom’s death was a really big event in her life, but things aren’t what they seem, as we’ve learned in previous books.  That is the case with this book as well, and hopefully, we finally learn what really happened.  Because just when you think you know, you realize you don’t know.

I’ve really liked this series so far, but I think this one is my favorite.  Now that the team is actually working on actual cases, and not just cold cases, things are really moving forward.  It’s changed things, and it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I didn’t quite love it, but I still really liked it, and this series is definitely one to read!

Book: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Published November 2016 by Disney-Hyperion|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Naturals #4

Genre: YA Mystery/Thriller

New victims. New betrayals. New secrets.

When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI’s Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother’s murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.

The bodies begin piling up, the deaths hit closer and closer to home, and it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.

They’re being hunted themselves.

As glad as I am that I finally know how it all ends, I think this is my least favorite book in this series.  I still liked it, and we definitely learn a lot about Cassie, but a lot of the book seemed convoluted and confusing.

There are just so many people and connections between them and I really felt like I needed pen and paper to figure all of it out.  It was more about the Fibonacci murders than resolving the mystery behind the death of Cassie’s mom.  It does come around in the end, I suppose, but I wasn’t really happy with how it was all resolved.  I feel like we learned a lot about Michael, Sloane, and Dean in the previous books, and I thought we’d learn more about Lia, but we never got that.  I found that disappointing, and I wanted more resolution with Cassie as well.  I don’t know that we saw a lot of growth or change for her, and I feel like there should have been more of that, particularly in this book.

I did like the relationships between everyone, and I liked how they were there for each other, particularly towards the end of the book.  That’s been one of my favorite things about this series, particularly over the last couple of books.

Overall, though, I thought it could have been better.  Some things about this series have been implausible, but I was willing to go with it, because the idea of the Naturals is pretty intriguing.  But this book…I didn’t realize there was a limit until this book.  I had a hard time actually believing some of the revelations, and the terrible parents thing went a bit too far in this book.  It seemed a bit much, and I kind of wish that Barnes had toned it down just a little bit.

It was still entertaining to read, and I did finish (and like) the book, so it wasn’t as bad as could have been.  It just wasn’t as good as it could have been either.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, particularly the relationship between all of the Naturals.  But parts of it were confusing, and it went in a different direction than I thought it would be.

Book Review: Map Of Fates And The Ends Of The Earth by Maggie Hall

Book: Map Of Fates by Maggie Hall

Published March 2016 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons|311 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: The Conspiracy Of Us #2

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Two weeks. 

That’s how long it took for Avery West’s ordinary life to change forever: In two weeks, she discovered she was heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle, learned her mother was taken hostage by the Circle’s enemies, and fell for a boy she’s not allowed to love, just as she found out another was her unwelcome destiny. 

Now, Avery crosses oceans in private jets to hunt for clues that will uncover the truth about the Circle, setting her mom and herself free before it’s too late. By her side are both the boys: Jack—steady, loyal, and determined to help her even at the expense of his own duty—and Stellan, whose connection to Avery grows stronger by the day despite her best intentions, making her question what she believes at every turn.

But at the end of a desperate hunt from the islands of Greece to the red carpet at Cannes comes a discovery that not only changes everything, but could bring the whole world to its knees. And now Avery is forced to face the truth: in the world of the Circle, no one is what they seem.

This series is fun!  I really liked Map Of Fates, and I thought it was a pretty good follow-up to the first book.  We really get more into this world, and what the prophecy could be.  We also get more into the Circle and the Order, and we’re definitely sent on a wild goose chase.

There’s a lot of travel and a lot of clues, and Avery is scrambling to get this thing figured out.  I don’t know that I necessarily liked it more than The Conspiracy Of Us, but I didn’t like it exactly the same either.  I think I liked it slightly more, but not enough to give it a higher rating.  Which we’ll get to eventually.

I wish I connected more with Avery.  I don’t know how I’d act if I were in her situation, and I’d probably be a hot mess if any of what happens in this series actually happened to me.  I just want more with her, and I especially want more of her mom.  The whole using her mom to get her to do things didn’t completely work for me, and I think it’s because we barely see her mom.  And that was in the first book.  She does make an appearance in this book as well, but I feel like we didn’t get enough with her mom for me to completely be on board with it.

Especially since it seemed like maybe her mom knew something but kept it from Avery.  Which I get, given what happens in this book.  But still.  I think there’s more to her childhood and her relationship with her mom, and I really think her mom knew what was going on.  Maybe her mom was trying to protect her, but who knows?  We never get a clear answer in this book, and while it’s possible we’ll get one in the next book, it’s doubtful.  Very doubtful.

It is fun, though, and it still reminds me of a YA version of The Da Vinci Code.  There’s something else I’m reminded of, but I can’t place it.  It will probably come to me after I’ve finished this review, which would be par for the course. It didn’t get good until the second half of the book, and maybe that’s why I liked it only slightly more than the previous book.  It makes me want to read the next just to see how it all ends.

Things did seem rushed and a little underdeveloped, which…I don’t know.  It didn’t really work, because I thought it could have bridged the gap between the previous book and the next book a little bit.  Maybe my opinion will change after reading the next one, but I expected a little more with this one.  As entertaining as the book is, I wanted something a little more.  Still, I’m not complaining too much because it is what I had expected.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked Map Of Fates, and thought it was a good sequel.  There were some things I didn’t particularly like, but it was expected, and I still want to read the next book to see what happens.

Book: The Ends of The World by Maggie Hall

Published July 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Conspiracy Of Us #2

Genre: YA Thriller

The Circle is hers. But Avery West has lost everything else: her mother, the family she’d just found, and the one boy she trusted. In their place are unfathomable power, a staged relationship that makes her question every real feeling she’s ever had, and a mission to find the cure to the virus that’s made her own blood a weapon.

Then disaster strikes, turning Avery, Stellan, Jack, and Elodie into the most wanted people in the world. To clear their names and the growing rift between the families of the Circle before the world dissolves into World War Three, they’ll have to make a desperate, dangerous final race for Alexander the Great’s tomb. What they will find inside will mean the world’s salvation—or destruction.

Avery will have to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice—for the world, for family, and for love—in this conclusion to the Conspiracy of Us series.

This is one of those series where I liked each book less and less.  The concept is really cool and all, but I just wasn’t a big fan of this book.

I’m having a lot of trouble even remembering this book a couple months after finishing it.  I know I had all kinds of thoughts about when it finished, but clearly, they haven’t stuck.  While I usually have some sort of impression about a book weeks later, I have no impression of this book at all.

Which isn’t good, because even though I obviously read this book, I don’t remember much of anything.  It’s also not a good thing, because you’d think the last book in a trilogy would be more memorable, but not in this case.  Maybe it says something about this book, if it’s not memorable enough to actually properly review it.

Pretty much all I do remember is the search for clues, and that it seemed to be a race against time to figure everything out.  That’s about it, and I feel like I was just bored with it.  And I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seemed like a lot was going in this book.  Of course there it, since it’s the last book and all, but…I don’t know, it just seemed strange in this case.

I did like it, even though I can’t remember why, and it is a quick read, so that’s good too.  I don’t think it was painfully slow, unlike some other books I’ve read.  Although it did have this conspiracy vibe going on, it also seemed different somehow, though I could be wrong about that.

My Rating: 3 stars, though I’m not sure why.  Other than remembering I liked it, which isn’t really detailed.  But since I can’t remember much about the book, it doesn’t warrant a higher rating, and for reasons I can’t remember, I did like enough that I don’t want to give it a lower rating.

Book Review: A Line In The Dark by Malinda Lo

Book: A Line In The Dark by Malinda Lo

Published October 2017 by Dutton Books For Young Readers|288 Pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary/YA Mystery

The line between best friend and something more is a line always crossed in the dark.

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

“It doesn’t even matter that she probably doesn’t understand how much she means to me. It’s purer this way. She can take whatever she wants from me, whenever she wants it, because I’m her best friend.”

A Line in the Dark is a story of love, loyalty, and murder.

This book was a strange one, and it ended up being okay, at least for me.  I felt like what happened in the book was very different than what I thought would happen.  It seemed like it would be this creepy, sinister book in the vein of Pretty Little Liars, but it ended up being more of this YA contemporary about friendships and unrequited love.  I feel like the blurb didn’t really describe what actually happened, and it was hard to like it when there was such a mismatch.

I did like Jess, and while she was very much flawed (and with a self-destructive streak), she was still a really complex and interesting character.  I liked how artistic she was, and that graphic novels were her thing.  I feel like artistic characters tended to be painters or photographers, and graphic novels were a nice change from that.  It was interesting how much it seemed to mirror her own life, and I wish we saw a little more of that.

There is a mystery aspect, but it didn’t happen until later on in the book, and it fell flat for me.  I wasn’t particularly interested in it, and I feel like it should have been introduced a lot earlier in the book.  It was definitely set up too late for my liking.  I will say that the ending of the book was a lot different than what I expected, and it’s an unusual way to do things.  I sort of liked it, but I think it would have had more impact if it didn’t take so long for it to actually happen.

It was such a confusing, strange read, because it felt like I was reading two very different stories.  It’s like Lo started telling one story, and then suddenly changed her mind about what kind of story she wanted to tell.  On their own, I think it would have been fine, but together?  Not so much.  They didn’t work together at all.

This book wasn’t for me, obviously, though there were a few things I liked.  Very few things, but one thing I liked that I haven’t talked about is the cover!  That cover definitely got my attention when I saw it at the library, and I did partially check it out because of the cover.  Also, I’ve read a few of her other books and liked them, but this one is my least favorite, and if you’re going to pick up a Melinda Lo book, I would not recommend this one, especially if you’ve never read one of her books before.  I mean, if it sounds cool for you, that’s great, and obviously everyone has different tastes, but I’d probably re-read one of her other books before I’d pick up this one.

2 stars.  A Line In The Dark was just okay, and while there were a few things I liked, it wasn’t enough to put it in the I liked this book category.

Book Review Round-Up: When Reason Breaks, Compulsion and Split Second

Book Review Round-Up is when I talk about several books in one post.  Today’s books are When Reason Breaks By Cindy Rodriguez, Compulsion by Martina Boone and Split Second by Kasie West.

when-reason-breaks-coverBook #1: When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez, narrated by Cassandra Morris

Published February 2015 by Audible for Bloomsbury|Length: 7 hours, 16 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: 13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

What I Thought: I’ve wanted to read When Reason Breaks ever since I heard about it. I thought the dual narration worked really well, even in the audio book. It was hard at first, telling the two girls apart, but as the book went on, it got easier because Elizabeth and Emily are very different girls. I’m also glad that Elizabeth went by Elizabeth, because two Emily’s in the audio book would have been a little bit hard to keep up with. Especially with the connection to Emily Dickinson we see throughout the book.

Emily and Elizabeth are very different girls, but both of them are struggling with depression. With Emily and Elizabeth, we see very different portrayals of it, and I liked seeing how two very different people deal with depression in very different ways. They very much represent different manifestations of depression- outwardly for Elizabeth, and inward for Emily.

I will say that I was frustrated with how Mrs. Diaz dealt with the anonymous letters she got from one of her students. I get why she would assume the letters were from Elizabeth- Elizabeth is not only Goth, but has a lot of other issues that she’s dealing with at home. I’m not at all saying that if you’re Goth, you’re depressed and suicidal, and this book clearly shows that you can be depressed and suicidal and still appear like everything is fine, even if it’s not. But it frustrated me, because she’s focusing all of her attention on the student she thinks needs helps- it’s like she doesn’t consider that it could be someone else, and that was frustrating to listen to, because depression isn’t always obvious. At least she realizes that a student needs help, and that she was able to save the student in time. We don’t really see any attempts at recovery, but this book isn’t about that. It’s about the struggle of dealing with something and not knowing what to do or how to handle it.

Cassandra Morris was an excellent narrator, and even though I’m actively seeking out other books she’s narrated, if I saw she narrated a book that I was considering listening to, I’d definitely consider it as an audio book. I do wish she had done something slightly different for the two girls, but overall, she did a pretty good job. I could have sworn I’ve listened to a book by her, because she sounded really familiar, but I haven’t. Maybe she sounds similar to another narrator Ive listened to.

My Rating: 4 stars. Mostly because the assumptions that Mrs. Diaz made in regard to who was sending her letters was really frustrating (as understandable as it was), and it was a little hard to get over. It is a very good look at depression and the different forms it can take.

compulsion-coverBook #2: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Published August 2015 by SimonPulse|433 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: The Heirs Of Watson Island #1

Genre: YA Paranormal/Mystery/Gothic

What It’s About: Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys in Compulsion, the first novel in a spellbinding new trilogy.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead—a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

What I Thought: I don’t remember how I came across this book, but it seemed intriguing enough, especially since it’s described as Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys. I know I read The Raven Boys (and I know a lot of people love that series) but I don’t remember much about it, other than they’re trying to find…something. I do love Beautiful Creatures, and I was hoping that I would like this book as much as that series.

As much as I wanted to like it, I ended up not liking it that much. As much as I like the premise, it fell short for me. I can see the comparisons to Beautiful Creatures, and there is this southern Gothic feel to the book, but it didn’t work as well as I thought it would. I did listen to Beautiful Creatures on audio, while I read Compulsion, and I wonder if that would have made a difference. I have the feeling it wouldn’t. I really wish we had more information about the curse that affected all three families and why it bound them to the island. I feel like we got something, but it’s honestly not something I can remember. There are gifts and curses and there is not enough detail for me. All of the world-building was there (and to be honest, it felt a little forced), but never really explained. I wish it were, because those details could have been interesting.

My Rating: 2 stars. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, I have a hard time giving it one star, and I’m not sure why.

split-second-coverBook #3: Split Second by Kasie West

Published February 2014 by HarperTeen|360 Pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Pivot Point #2

Genre: YA Paranormal

What It’s About: Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.

What I Thought: I didn’t like Split Second as much as I thought I would. I liked the first one, but I thought Split Second was really confusing. It was narrated by Addie and Laila, and even though there were major differences in their chapters, in terms of how their stories unfolded, it was hard to tell them apart. Just when I got used to one of them, the chapter was over, and I was thrown into someone else’s story.

I did have trouble focusing on the book, so maybe my massive confusion was partly because I wasn’t paying as much attention as I could have. I do remember having this problem with Pivot Point, and being confused by the two different time lines, but I don’t remember having this much trouble keeping up with what was going on. It’s also been a while since I’ve read Pivot Point, so part of might be because I remember nothing. I have really liked the contemporary books I’ve read by West, so maybe her more paranormal stuff isn’t my thing.

My Rating: 2 stars. I found that I was really confused, and unable to keep up. It’s an interesting idea, but not my cup of tea.

Book Review: The Appearance Of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe

The Appearance Of Annie Van Sinderen CoverBook: The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe

Published September 2015 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons|379 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery/Ghost StoriesBlog Graphic-What It's About

It’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose-petal lips and her entrancing glow. There’s just something about her that he can’t put his finger on, something faraway and otherworldly that compels him to fall even deeper. Annie’s from the city, and yet she seems just as out of place as Wes feels. Lost in the chaos of the busy city streets, she’s been searching for something—a missing ring. And now Annie is running out of time and needs Wes’s help. As they search together, Annie and Wes uncover secrets lurking around every corner, secrets that will reveal the truth of Annie’s dark past.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

After reading Conversion a couple of years ago, I was really interested to see what else Howe would come up with. When I saw a copy of Annie Van Sinderen at the library, I knew I had to read it.

What I find most interesting about Annie is that it’s a ghost story that never mentions the word ghost.  It’s interesting that she can be seen by only a few people, and it makes you wonder why they can see her, and no one else can.  I did like that Wes and his friends were able to help her and figure out what was going on.  And why she’s still around.

I thought Annie was the most interesting character, and how she went in between present and past to be really interesting, especially once we got past the set-up/introducing of everyone.  Her story and everything that happened up to her death was very realistic, and even though I probably won’t read anything history-related soon, I still really want to read something historical.  Going in and out of past and present worked better than I thought it would, and it was a really nice surprise.  I’m also glad we got to see both past and present, because it made Annie’s story and how it connected to the present have a lot more depth.  I’m really glad we see how she ended up staying behind as a ghost.

It is interesting that it took so long for someone to see Annie.  I mean, there must have been people who could her before, right?  So what it is about 2015 that’s so special?  Because of Maddie?  I think I would have liked more of something about why now and not before.

It did start off pretty slow, but I think it’s because of everything that had to be introduced in order for the story to make sense, and I can’t think of a better way to tell the story.  It does pick up the pace after a while, though, once you get through the first part, it’s a really interesting read.

I didn’t find the other characters particularly interesting, but Maddie had a lot of potential, and I wish we saw more of her.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  Even though I liked it, it didn’t grab me the way Conversion did, and I wish things were tied up a little more than it was.