Welcome to another edition of Better Late Than Never: Reviews of eARCs for the Lazy!
Do you have review copies piling up? Do you have eARCs that you requested but never got to because you got overwhelmed by life? Or did you just bite off more than you can chew? (That’s me.) At some point I was still hoping I could review these books (even though my review wouldn’t really be of use to the publisher anymore) because it would be still useful to readers, and also to me, because the pile-up was giving me anxiety every time I thought about it. So since it Is the new year, I tried my best to suck it up with the promise that if I didn’t like what I was reading, I could DNF at any time. (I am not great about forced reading. 2016 was almost exclusively mood reading.) And write short reviews. That was important too. I am trying my hardest to read through these quickly, so I am most definitely going to miss subtle details. So that’s how this post was born. And any future posts of late eARCs.
After a few of these posts, I’ve decided to include ARCs as well. I try to read all the ARCs publishers send me, and I usually do, but sometimes I get them unsolicited and don’t have time to fit them into my schedule. I’ve also been to several book conferences, and unfortunately I’ve picked up quite a few ARCs there that I haven’t been able to get to. I’ve started attacking them though. Slowly, but I am trying. That said, I can’t and won’t write full reviews for all of these books. So I’m adding them here.
To see my last post of Better Late Than Never, go here!
Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.
Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.
The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.
I really wanted to read this before it came out, but I never got around to it because I just had so much going on at the time. I read another book of Julie Murphy’s, Side Effects May Vary, and I really enjoyed that book and I’m really into her writing. It connects with me and just reads really smooth and fluid. As a result, I can finish her books pretty quickly and I’m thankful since I can’t do that with a lot of books.
I liked Ramona Blue, but it’s not going to stand out to me as a memorable book in the future. It’s got great representation and a relatable protagonist, but this book ended up being a lot more fluffy than I thought it would be. I don’t know why exactly, but I expected a book that was a bit more serious. This is basically like a Morgan Matson or a Kasie West book about a girl who believes she is a lesbian because she falls for a girl over summer break, but then they break it off and her childhood friend Freddy moves back to town and things become a bit more complicated than that. Ramona finds out that sexuality is on a spectrum, and the whole book is about coming to terms with that and what it will mean for her life. It was an interesting take on sexual orientation that I’ve not encountered before.
I really liked it, but I wouldn’t say that it was a Kara book. I’m not reading very much contemporary these days, but I wanted to give this book a fair and honest shot, because I thought the controversy that happened to this book pre-publication was absolutely unfair and unfounded.
I’d definitely recommend it and I’m glad I read it, even though I won’t rave about it in the future, but that’s just because I’m not a huge contemporary fan right now. It’s not that it’s a bad book, because it isn’t. It’s fantastic.
To earn a secret so profound, I would need to tell momentous lies, and make as many people as possible believe them…
Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered—a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing—like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident.
In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies—like fires, wild and crackling—quickly take on a life of their own.
Francis Hardinge is an excellent writer. The Lie Tree is the second book of hers that I have read, and it won’t be the last. I can’t say I liked it as much as A Face Like Glass, but I really, really enjoyed it. Her writing is poetic, vivid, and it flows gorgeously. Her characters are well developed, her antagonists have depth and motivation, and her protagonists make you want to root for them.
If you like:
~magic, but slightly evil, trees
~Victorian funerary customs
~big old houses on claustrophobic islands
~plucky heroines that fight for the truth
~debates about religion vs. science, complete with Charles Darwin references
~sea caves, danger at sea, and sneaking around in the dark
~historical studying of the natural sciences AND
~pretty much ZERO romance
You will most likely love this book.
Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 11th 2016
Genres: young adult, contemporary
Buy on Amazon
A bittersweet homecoming holds dark secrets in this heart-wrenching story of loss, love, and survival for readers of Room
When sixteen-year-old Amy returns home, she can't tell her family what’s happened to her. She can’t tell them where she’s been since she and her best friend, her cousin Dee, were kidnapped six years ago—who stole them from their families or what’s become of Dee. She has to stay silent because she's afraid of what might happen next, and she’s desperate to protect her secrets at any cost. Amy tries to readjust to life at “home,” but nothing she does feels right. She’s a stranger in her own family, and the guilt that she’s the one who returned is insurmountable. Amy soon realizes that keeping secrets won’t change what's happened, and they may end up hurting those she loves the most. She has to go back in order to move forward, risking everything along the way. Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee is a riveting, affecting story of loss and hope.
I wanted to love this but…something was off. It’s not that I didn’t like it a little, because it’s readable, it’s just not very good. I think part of the problem is that the writing really keeps you at a distance which is incredibly odd since it’s in first person. All I know is that this is the type of book that should have broken my heart and made me emotional for these characters–angry, sad, something–but it didn’t. I pretty much felt nothing.
Why is this a problem? Because this book focuses on two girls (cousins) that are kidnapped at the ages of ten and twelve. They are kept as prisoners by this awful, awful man, and the oldest is raped repeatedly and has two children while they are trapped in this cabin far from where other people live. The man is obsessed with dolls and talks to the girls and the children as if they are actual living dolls. So this book should have been devastating to read. It should have been creepy, at the very least. I just wanted to get through it so I could read something else.
The other thing I have to mention is something I know for a fact other readers hate: the protagonist withholds information from the reader just to progress the story. Of course she uses the excuse of keeping the girls safe for not telling what happened to Dee, but I wasn’t buying it. They could have and would have sent in a squad of cops to rescue those girls. Do you think police not know how to sneak up to a house quietly so the person inside doesn’t know they are there? It just wasn’t a believable reason to withhold that information. So the execution was kind of iffy as well.
Obviously there is a trigger warning for rape and kidnapping. There are plenty of other books that cover these dark topics what were executed with more skill. Try All the Rage by Courtney Summers or If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. I loved both of those books deeply.