Debuts

Book Review: Every Reasonable Doubt – 3/5

Every Reasonable Doubt by Pamela Samuels Young

doubt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are a lot of things about this book I really liked. Good writing, interesting plot, good pace, strong characters; there is a lot to love. I really enjoyed the dynamic of the law that you need in this kind of thriller paired with the social dimensions of race and relationships. Overall, really well done.

So – why only three stars? There are two things about this story that drove me nuts and I just couldn’t get over. In many ways, they ruined it for me. It’s not stopping me from starting book two, but if book two rubs me the same, I won’t be continuing from there.

Now that I’ve created suspense, here are the two catastrophic issues I had with this novel.

1) Shoddy Investigation: Obviously, a big draw of a legal thriller is an interesting crime and a good investigation, especially when the capabilities of the attorney are so hyped. Seriously though, the details of this crime were SO poorly done. I have no background in any form of investigation and I can poke holes in a ton of this. For example (no spoilers here, no worries). This murder was supposedly committed by a tiny, weak woman and NO ONE asked how it was possible that the man didn’t/couldn’t defend himself. Excuse me? Then there’s the question of blood on the main suspect’s clothes – it finally came up at the very end of the book but it was the lamest after-thought ever. She changed clothes and NO ONE noticed? I don’t care how similar the dresses were- people at a social charity event know if you went and changed your dress. It’s ridiculous, and those were just two obvious things. Maybe I’m off the mark since, like I said, I don’t have that background, but it was bothersome.

2) A Whiny Little Prick of a Husband: This is 100% purely personal opinion here so take it with a grain of salt. I loathe Jefferson. Seriously. What an ass! Look, I get it. I love my husband to death and I hate it when he or I get busy at work and cannot see each other. But do I guilt trip him every five seconds that I see him? NO. Does he make me feel terrible when I work late? Absolutely NOT. When one of us has to ramp up and do more we support each other. I recognize when my husband is stressed and working his butt off and I help him through it. Jefferson did the opposite and look, I get to a certain extent the frustration, but the lack of support he provided to his wife was unreal. And the book made it seem like the main character, the wife, was the one at fault. I saw absolutely nothing in the Jefferson character that showed me how he supported her at all. He knew darn well when he married her that she was a lawyer and to sing a new tune just when she’s hitting it big is just a dick move. It was infuriating and a very main part of the plot.

So! Unfortunately, despite a lot of really positive things with this novel and author, those glaring pieces of the plot really sucked the enjoyment out of the novel for me. I’m hoping for an improvement moving forward!

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Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora – 3/5

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

locke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book and I have a love/hate relationship. I find it really hard to give it a rating. I had a hard time getting into it from the start. It wasn’t that it was bad. In fact, I found it pretty funny (I personally love excessive swearing). But nothing really caught me. Still, I pressed on.

There’s this big block in the middle that is legitimately interesting. You have intrigue, good plot, twists and turns, it’s truly marvelous. I was seriously caught up.

Then there’s some crazy shizz that happens. Everything hits the fan. And normally that would hook me more… but it didn’t. Because when everything hits the fan is not the climax of the book. It’s like… 4/5 of the way through. So there’s this part after the climax that’s just plain boring. Seriously. I was way too sunk into reading it to stop but I considered it.

By the end, it picks up again. There’s new twists and things end on a note I am satisfied with. But even with all the good, the bad is just too great. This is a roller coaster where the highs are exciting but the lows make you want to die. I fear the rest of the series will be just the same. I wish I could tell you if that was true, but I have no intention of picking up the rest… at least not anytime soon.

By recommendation? Read at your own risk.

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YA Book Review: Mila 2.0 – 1/5

MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza

Mila

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

No. This book is just a giant no.

There are so many obnoxious things about this story. I really, really wish I hadn’t even finished it. I slogged through it because I had a theory and, of course, it wasn’t until I got to the end that it occurred to me I might not be able to test my theory until the next book in the series, and there’s no way I’m picking up that brick.

For a book about an android/cyborg/whatever you want to call Mila, it was freaking boring. Mila is the lamest machine-like-thing ever. She can do crazy ninja-like moves, which is cool if predictable, but what else? She can insert a microchip into her wrist (but can barely process it) and she has GPS. That’s it. So. Lame.

Nothing about what she is makes sense. “Mila” is supposedly some kind of weapon the U.S. has made? Why in the world would they EVER design an android weapon to take the shape of a teenage girl? Dumb. And this entire project is run by two scientists? Equally dumb.

There is just so much about this that is absurd. I can’t resist naming a few:

1) Kaylee, her so-called best friend of a month, tries to kill her over a boy who moved into town two days before. The crazy of that situation was so glossed over.

2) Mila’s “love” for a boy who, again, had been around for two days. Why? There is zero connection. I’m so suspicious of him but we don’t get any more information before the end of the book, so I have no way of knowing if my guess is right (seriously, though, Mila is on the run from a “secret organization” who “knows no bounds” and a strange guy shows up, all handsome, decides he loves Mila, and his name? HUNTER. *slow blink*)

3) Mila has all this attachment to her school, and friends, and horse, and mother, etc, but she’s truly only been “alive” for a month. For a machine with human feelings she has about 500% the amount of feelings anyone has for anything in that length of time.

And then – there’s the biggest, most ridiculous thing of all. It’s after Mila and her mother’s capture (sorry for the spoilers, seriously though, you don’t want to read this book) and the scientist is putting her through “tests. ” Apparently if she can show that she doesn’t have emotions (when they already know she does) then she can live. So they decide to put her through these tests using emotion as the main incentive for her to succeed. In the final test she literally has to go through a Tough Mudder-like course all the while watching TV screens of her mother slowly being burned to death.

I’m sorry but if Mila works so hard to win at these games isn’t that showing exactly how her emotions are controlling her actions and not her logic? A true machine would look at this obstacle course and be all like “that seems like a risk to a lot of people and myself just to save one woman.”

I always feel a little guilty when I go into these rants, but I just can’t get over how little sense this book made. If you were thinking about picking this up, just stop. If you want to read a good book about a young adult cyborg lady, pick up Cinder instead.

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Book Review: His Haven by Harper A. Brooks – 3 of 5

His Haven by Harper A. Brooks

hishaven

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Debut author alert! This is such a great start – I fully intend to continue with the series when the next one is released.

In this book, the world revolves around Haven and Avrum, and their worlds revolve around each other. Sure, there are some other things going on along the way but that is the true meat-and-potatoes of it. Their eyes catch at the beginning of the novel and that’s the end of it. Though there are some wrenches thrown into the plot as a whole, we more-or-less know what’s going to happen at the end. This isn’t a bad thing in the least, after all, that’s why we have genre labels.

I love how human the vampires are in this book. It’s not easy to write a book that contains vampires after the Twilight rise (and then horrific crash and burn). Brooks’ vampires are different, though. Sure, they have an aversion to sunlight and a pretty intense lust for human blood but, other than that, they are just a like (and as variable) as you and me. I like that. I like that the vampires still breathe and sweat in addition to rapid healing and speed. It makes them “more-than-human” instead of different creatures overall and this makes the attraction between Haven and Avrum feel very natural.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. Brooks is showing herself as a great blooming author. Her story is fresh and, though some of the wording and scenes are a bit clunky, others are overall brilliant. I liked the addition of little subplots, though sometimes they were a bit of a distraction or not entirely resolved (I thought the whole Henri seeing Haven as Linna part would have more oomph to it). Also, some of the book moved dizzying fast from one part to the next.

Overall, though, this is a quick and enjoyable read. Great start, Harper!

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Book Review: A House in the Sky – 5 out of 5

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

Print

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s a reason why this book is so popular – Lindhout’s courage to tell her story is something people should pay attention to. Few who go through her distress live, and even fewer are willing to open their experience to the world. It can’t have been easy but I’m really glad Lindhout did. This is an excellent book which, for it’s length, depth, and emotions ties I read it very quickly.

Lindhout’s personality really came though and I identified with her so clearly. She loves to travel and see the world. She has the pull to go anywhere and everywhere. I can 100% understand. I can understand the thrill of traveling somewhere “off the grid,” where your presence as a tourist is a curiosity instead of an expectancy. Where you can accidentally see what real life is like instead of a show. I haven’t traveled the way Lindhout has, and I doubt I ever will. I think it’s testament to Lindhout’s writing style that, even though I know she gets into a horrible kidnapping situation, when she’s telling me about her initial trips and all she sees and the “risks” she takes, I all I feel is jealous and envy, not fear of the unknown. She’s lived and seen amazing things. It’s incredible.

So, there’s that piece to the book. It’s the unexpected wonderful part of this story – understanding her before the kidnapping, seeing through the lens of a backpacker. There’s also the terrible part when she is kidnapped. Lindhout holds little back. She manages to take this long kidnapping step by step and not a moment of it is boring. She’s able to pull us into her mind, to see her hopes, scares, wonders, and realities. To see her struggle between hatred for her captors and understanding, to see her strategies. What I like best is that Lindhout has showed what worked – but also what didn’t. This isn’t a Hollywood movie. She makes some awful, horrible errors. Errors that I myself could have easily done in her place. It’s a gripping, terrible reality.

It’s no spoiler that Lindhout survives. What I’ve often found reading memoirs is that sometimes this does ruin things. Because the author is the main character we know they are going to make it. That doesn’t hinder the suspense in this story. I found myself wondering how it was going to work, feeling her true despair. That’s all testament to just how well this story was put together by Lindhout and her co-author.

Excellent memoir and well worth all its praise!

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Debut Book Review: Time Off For Good Behavior – 4/5 stars

Time Off for Good Behavior by Lani Diane Rich

timeoff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wanda. What a protagonist. She’s spicy, saucy, and damn if she doesn’t keep hold of your interest. I feel so pleasantly rewarded with this book. This is Lani Diane Rich’s first novel and it sizzles. I picked it up for two reasons: one, I’m trying to get some more traditional “chick lit” under my belt, and two, it’s a NaNoWriMo novel, and I have a special place in my heart for those. I didn’t even need to keep that special place open, though, the character Wanda stole it all on her own.

Wanda’s luck goes from bad to worse and, I have to say, a lot of it is her own damn fault. She’s the kind of character who draws you in right away. The plot keeps you going. I was definitely drawn in by one after another event and with Wanda staying strong, wisecracks flying, it wasn’t hard to keep the pages turning.

This book, for me, was an up and over winner. I love Wanda and her sassiness. Towards the end of the book, though, as much as I loved Wanda, I felt my appreciation for the book start to wane. Wanda is a great character for the reader because she is a pain in the butt. She perpetuates problems, she’s eccentric and erratic. The problem is that I loved her –and so did the rest of the characters in the book. For such a catty attitude, there were far too many people who enjoyed her company, who fell over themselves to help her out. It just didn’t quite fit. For as screwed up as her life was, she had so many people who were willing to take her in. To me, the answers were just a little too easy and, at times, super cliché.

Still, there was enough about this books and the characters that I loved to keep the rating up. It’s a story that made me laugh, snort-laugh (which is more on the evil side), and feel downright tender. And feels are good.

Pick it up!

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Book Review: First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria by Eve Brown-Waite

First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and A Third World Adventure Changed My Life by Eve Brown-Waite

malaria
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man. What a good title. It’s catchy, it’s nimble, and it’s accurate. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Brown-Waite knew what she was doing when she wrote this book. Her writing style just flows; her pacing is done exceptionally well. I’ve found that somewhere in a memoir things can start to drag and, while Brown-Waite is no exception, she knew how to keep the process moving. I found that pretty impressive considering how many years this spanned with really no large breaks in between.

It’s also nice to read a book where a young woman really goes somewhere with some adventure. Brown-Waite spends part of this book in Ecuador and another part in Uganda. She integrates the beauty and extreme poverty of the locations she experienced along with her own life. Sometimes I felt like she did a great job with this – sometimes she would tell a story that showed her own emotions right alongside with what life is like there.

However there were other times when Brown-Waite got in her own way of the storytelling. She relied heavily on self-deprecation for her humor which, while often funny, sometimes became redundant. She talked about her whining and inability to figure out how to cook, or really exist, in Uganda a lot. Believe me, I would have been terrible about it, too, but it wasn’t until the very end that I realized maybe she was more self-reliant than she led us to believe. I think I missed some of the parts where she is a woman who has the ability to live and make decision on her own… something I would have liked emphasized.

Still, overall it’s a quick read for its size and interesting to boot. Another good travel memoir to add to the list!

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