Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: two star review

Review: The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

Review: The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

When Saffron discovers a briefcase in the attic of her family home, she discovers that her father has lied to her. Ten years ago, he told her that her mother was dead, but she’s alive and out there somewhere and Saffron is determined to find […]

Review: Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas by Andrea Pyros

Review: Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas by Andrea Pyros

When Josephine’s mum announces that she has breast cancer, it turns Josephine’s life upside down. Instead of worrying about getting invited to the hottest party in school, she’s now counting down the days until her mum has to have life-saving surgery. Josephine doesn’t want anyone […]

Blogtober Day 14: Review: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Blogtober Day 14: Review: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

I don’t know why I keep picking up Megan Abbott’s novels, because they never impress me as much as I hope they will. I’ve already read The End of Everything and The Fever, and although I enjoyed Abbott’s writing style throughout both novels, I’ve constantly struggled with her pacing, as the stories seem to drag to a halt and limp along until they reach a rather inevitable conclusion.

The exact same issue crops up during You Will Know Me. The beginning of the story is gripping: we’re introduced to Devon Knox, a gymnast with Olympic potential who only starts performing as a form of rehabilitation after losing two of her toes in a freak accident during her childhood.

As soon as the characters are established, a spanner is thrown in the works: Ryan, the boyfriend of the head coach’s niece, is killed in a hit and run accident. Katie, Devon’s mother and our protagonist, she fluctuates between sympathy for Ryan and concern for her daughter, who should be focusing on the Senior Elite qualifiers that are rapidly approaching.

But when it seems increasingly likely that one of her family members was directly involved in Ryan’s death, Katie learns just how far she’ll go to protect her family, and Devon’s dreams.

There’s a problem with describing this book as a thriller, and it’s that the majority of the story moves at a snail’s pace. It’s the same issue that I’ve had with Abbott’s previous releases, so it didn’t surprise me too much. However, the others are focused on the coming-of-age development of girls, whereas this one looked like it was going to be very action-based, which is why I felt so disappointed.

Sadly, compared to the other novels of Abbott’s which I’ve read, the characterisation was lacking throughout You Will Know Me. The Knoxes are hyper focused on gymnastics, but that’s basically all you need to know about them. There’s the implication that Eric might be about to embark on an affair with the mother of one of the other gymnasts, but nothing ever comes of it. Katie is naive and ineffectual, and being inside her head is painful. The constant repetition is draining, and the flashbacks to the Tiki Party – at which nothing of substance really seemed to occur – had me groaning and skim reading huge swathes of text, something I always resist doing.

I borrowed You Will Know Me from the library at the same time as Abbott’s newest release, Give Me Your Hand, which I’m still planning on reading but am now feeling far less enthused for. On paper Megan Abbott should be one of my favourite authors, because the stories that she writes should be right up my alley, but unfortunately something always gets lost in translation.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about You Will Know Me, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

Alyce

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Blogtober Day 5: Review: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say by Leila Sales

Blogtober Day 5: Review: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say by Leila Sales

When Spelling Bee champion Winter Halperin tweets an ill-advised joke about the skin colour of the latest winner, she finds herself the most hated person on the Internet… For a little while. But while the rest of the world are infuriated for a couple of […]

Review: Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? by Emily Clarkson

Review: Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? by Emily Clarkson

I wasn’t planning on reviewing Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? when I borrowed it from the library, but I have some thoughts about it that I’ve decided I’d like to get down on paper. It’s left me with a bit of a sour taste in […]

Review: The Bird Room by Chris Killen

Review: The Bird Room by Chris Killen

I wasn’t sure whether to review The Bird Room or not, because it’s an… Interesting story. My copy is in pretty bad condition so I was only reading it before donating it to a charity shop, which means I’m not too disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it, but it’s also been playing heavily on my mind for the past couple of days because I have literally no idea what it meant.

William is dating Alice. When William introduces Alice to his artist friend Will, he’s certain that they’re going to end up sleeping together. Alice references the fact that she made porn with one of her ex-boyfriends. William decides to find it.

Interspersed throughout, a girl called Helen (who used to be called Clair) shares her experiences as a sex worker. Helen doesn’t have sex for money, but she does just about everything else. When William contacts her, their worlds collide… But instead of clearing everything up, the combination of the two characters makes everything feel far more convoluted.

I read through some of the other reviews on Goodreads just to see if there was some ~deeper meaning~ that I was missing (literary fiction and a sludgy, book slumping brain are not a great combo) but alas, that didn’t clear anything up, either. It seems as though it’s supposed to be some kind of social commentary on loneliness, but I’ve never felt less connected (or interested) in a set of characters in my life.

Why would you give such an emotionally unappealing book two stars, Alyce? Well, that’s because the writing style flows beautifully, incorporating short, sharp, snappy sentences in an effective manner that gives this book the pace of a thriller… Even if the events included are completely uninteresting. I read this story with my boyfriend, and it lends itself to being read aloud, even if some of the scenes are a little cringe-inducing.

It looks like it took Chris Killen six years to release his second novel, but I’m not sure whether I’m going to give In Real Life a try. He’s certainly got an interesting style, but I’m still not completely sure whether I actually enjoyed it, so I think I’m going to give all of his future novels a skip.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about The Bird Room, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

Alyce

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Review: Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein

Review: Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein

‘The truth was that it was about Whit and Kyle, and about lying to friends and wishing I could travel back in time to the start of the summer, when everything felt normal. It was about Bryan going to college five hours away. It was […]

Review: Intricate Deceptions by Jennifer Rayes

Review: Intricate Deceptions by Jennifer Rayes

When Jennifer Rayes contacted me asking if I’d like to read and review a copy of Intricate Deceptions, I jumped at the chance. Focused on the victim of a human trafficking operation, it sounded unlike any book I’d ever read before. With the amount of five […]

Review: The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart

Review: The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart

There are a few words I could use to summarise The Sacrifice Box. 

Gratuitous. Excessive. Unnecessary.

I’m struggling to comprehend how a book like this managed to get published, let alone published as a young adult novel.

Honestly, it’s my own fault. I should have known what to expect from The Sacrifice Box because I hated Martin Stewart’s first novel, Riverkeep. In fact, I only gave The Sacrifice Box two stars because it’s not as terrible as Riverkeep, but it doesn’t have any redeeming features of its own.

There are so many things that make me angry about The Sacrifice Box that I’ve decided to write a list. Here are the five things I absolutely hated about this novel:

  1. When the events happen
    The Sacrifice Box begins in the year 1982, but is primarily set in 1986 (and occasionally jumps back to 1941). There’s no real reason for it. Sep and Hadley listening to cassettes on their Walkmans is the only thing that makes The Sacrifice Box feel as though it’s set in the past. The language doesn’t feel authentic, particularly with characters using, “Shit happens”, a phrase which has a decidedly modern feel to it.
    There are links to Chernobyl and Halley’s comet, but these could be replaced with modern concerns such as global warming, nuclear weapon testing, etc.
    Honestly? I think it’s an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Stranger Things.
  2. The protagonist’s name
    Who the heck calls a child September? The other weird names – Lamb, Arkle and Mack – make sense, because they’re nicknames. But September? Seriously?!
  3. The constant jumping from location to location
    One moment we’re following Sep at school, the next minute we’re watching a woman getting pulled to her death by a subway train in New York. By the end of the novel, most of the loose threads are wrapped up, but as the events are unfolding it’s disorienting and makes it hard to keep track of what’s happening when and where.
  4. Gratuitously gory goings-on
    If you don’t like really in-depth descriptions of dead animals, this is not the book for you. I’m not opposed to a bit of gore, if it’s vital and fits with the rest of the novel. Neither of those were the case with The Sacrifice Box. There are scenes with animals in horrendous pain, a really weird section when one of Sep’s friends keeps cuddling a squirrel which has been turned inside out, and more violence towards wildlife than I’ve ever encountered before. Yes, the creatures are reanimated zombies, but it still made me uncomfortable, and it takes a lot to unsettle me.
    This is why I’m surprised that this book has been published as YA. Yes, the characters are teenagers, but the characters in IT are children and that’s an adult horror novel for a reason. If I’d gone into this expecting a horror novel, I wouldn’t have been as disturbed.
  5. That ending
    I’m not going to spoil what happens, but I’m just going to warn you that there’s an epilogue at the end of the book which is completely unnecessary and doesn’t actually resolve anything. You’re left with a lot of unanswered questions, and my most pressing one was: How were these events explained to the general public?

There were a couple of inclusions that I appreciated. Sep is deaf in one ear, but he still loves listening to music. Meanwhile, Hadley’s mother is Korean. Although the latter is a throwaway reference and we never meet her mother, it’s nice to see diversity being included, especially when it’s done so casually.

I also thought it was great that Sep and his friends weren’t afraid to ask adults for help. It made The Sacrifice Box far more realistic than the books where the teenagers save the day without any guidance whatsoever.

If I’d noticed Stewart’s name on the cover, I would never have requested The Sacrifice Box. Unfortunately, the beautiful cover and the compelling blurb grabbed my attention before I spotted the connection to Riverkeep. It’s annoying, because the concept is unique and intriguing and this should have been a book that I absolutely loved! At least now I know that I’m never going to get on with Martin Stewart’s writing.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Sacrifice Box, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!  

Alyce

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Review: A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis

Review: A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis

I was so close to giving A Map of the Dark one star, because it was the most predictable crime novel I’ve ever read. I expected a lot more. Karen Ellis is the pseudonym of established crime/thriller author Katia Lief, and I’ve heard a lot of good […]