Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: book review

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

‘When my sister was eight years old, she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back.’ It’s hard to share my thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne without getting […]

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Addie is heartbroken, so spending the summer in Ireland watching her Aunt Mel get married (again) is not the one. It’s made even worse by the fact that her and Ian – her brother and her closest friend – are at each other’s throats constantly. […]

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said. “You’ve known from the day we met. Even on text, where there are no inflections or nuance or tone for non sequiturs. You’ve always spoken fluent me.”

When Sam’s ex-girlfriend Lorraine – the great love of his life, the one who got away – tells him she’s pregnant, he has a panic attack. It’s the first time he’s ever experienced anything like it and he thinks he’s dying, so he’s lucky when his step-niece’s new college roommate appears out of nowhere and saves the day.

Penny is that roommate. The perpetual outsider, she struggled to fit in at high school and is already having the same issues at college. At least there are some pros: she’s managed to escape from her mother and is studying how to be a writer, her dream career. She exchanges numbers with Sam, vowing to be his emergency contact, but their blossoming text friendship makes her far too anxious to confront the possibility of seeing him IRL again.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know anything about Emergency Contact when I saw it on the list of Free Reads that Riveted Lit were offering near Valentine’s day, but I fell in love with the cover instantly. Not only does it introduce you to Penny and Sam, it’s also not ashamed to reveal that their friendship primarily plays out through their phones – an aspect of teenage life that a lot of YA authors avoid exploring.

I’ve made plenty of friends online who I’m unlikely to ever meet face-to-face (one of the perils of being a blogger!), so I very much related to the story. Some of the deepest friendships I’ve had have developed and grown through texts – sharing secrets in the dead of the night, able to voice thoughts that you’ve hardly even looked at head-on before – and I think that’s likely to become even more common in future generations. Technology and social media are here to stay, and they’ve altered the way that friendship works for good.

It’s difficult to review Emergency Contact without giving too much away – something I’ve been trying to avoid, which is why it’s taken me a week to write this post – but I will say that it’s a story about falling in love, not about being in love. Penny and Sam are the definition of a slow burn romance, and you will find yourself screeching in desperate need of a sequel when you turn the final page.

Emergency Contact is the most enjoyable YA contemporary I’ve read in a very long time, and it’s uplifting despite the fact that it deals with serious issues such as alcoholism and anxiety. Aimed at the upper YA age group, this book is perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl or anyone who is going through a big life change and feels alone.

Alyce

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Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

‘It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.’  When Starr’s friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop, her world is turned upside down. Already struggling to juggle two personalities – the person she is in her ‘hood, Garden Heights Starr, vs. the person she […]

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Mossbelly MacFearsome is a dwarf warrior on a mission. His nemesis, Leatherhead Barnstorm, has stolen the Doomstone Sword and is planning to use it to bring about the end of the human race. It’s up to Moss and his recently elected Destroyer, Roger – an […]

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

‘I couldn’t look anywhere without seeing his silhouette; his ghost crawled from the sewer drains. But in a town covered in residue, how could there have been such a lack? Outrage. Sound. Where were the sirens? The panic? Benjamin Whitaker was dead! Dad was dead!

‘There should have been chaos in the streets. The town should have been engulfed in flames.’

When Sydney’s dad dies in a car accident, she knows someone must be to blame. There’s no way her dad could have just died for no reason, especially not in a car crash. He was a therapist: one of his patients must have cut his brakes or done something equally extreme.

Sydney is tempted to go through her dad’s patient files looking for answers, but she resists for two reasons.

  1. Because she can hear her dad in her head screeching “Patient confidentiality, Sydney!”
  2. Because of her burgeoning friendship with homecoming queen June Copeland, who appears at her dad’s funeral. Turns out the most popular girl in school was one of her dad’s patients, and Sydney would have had no idea if her dad hadn’t kicked the bucket.

June is captivating, and Sydney quickly becomes obsessed with her. Her favourite part of the day is the ten minute ride to and from school; a chunk of time when she’s alone with June, no longer vying for her attention. She even ditches her best and oldest friend, Olivia, for the chance to hang out with June at New Year’s.

It isn’t long before Sydney feels herself developing feelings towards her that feel a lot more than friendship. But June and her boyfriend, homecoming king Heath, have been a couple forever, so there’s no way she’ll ever return Sydney’s feelings… Right?

But relationship troubles aren’t the only thing plaguing Sydney. Someone is stalking her, sending her horrible text messages that seem to confirm her suspicion that her dad’s death was less than clear cut. Sydney has no idea who could have been involved or why they’re now out to get her, but she’s determined to find out.

My only issue with The Truth About Keeping Secrets is that it’s slow. I wouldn’t necessarily market it as a YA thriller, because one of the key aspects of a successful thriller is the ability to maintain a fast, gripping pace which makes it difficult to put the book down.

It might be more accurate to describe it as a mystery, because there are lots of questions sprinkled throughout, combined with elements of gothic literature that make this novel very psychological.

However, The Truth About Keeping Secrets features one of the most accurate portrayals of grief that I’ve ever encountered. Sydney becomes obsessed with a website called Time of Death, filled with videos of people dying in various horrific ways. Grief often causes people to act inexplicably out of character, and it was nice to see that represented. It’s also not a habit she finds easy to break, either: she doesn’t automatically stop as soon as someone calls her out on it, instead choosing to get riskier, watching the videos on her phone at school.

The foreshadowing is a little bit forced, so I wasn’t as surprised by the outcome of The Truth About Keeping Secrets as I’d hoped to be, but the actual reveal is gloriously melodramatic and feels ripped straight from the script of a cheesy horror film. That might sound like a bad thing, but that’s one of my favourite kind of reveals, so I was hooked from the moment Sydney heard that car pull up outside…

If you’re a fan of adult thrillers but want something you can savour, this is the perfect combination of slow-burn drama and intriguing mystery. I was looking for a more traditional thriller for the YA crowd, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

Alyce

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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 […]

Blog tour: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Blog tour: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Hello, and welcome to my stop on The Lost Man blog tour. I’ve taken part in the blog tours for both The Dry and Force of Nature, so I jumped at the chance to read and review another of Jane Harper’s novels. My excitement grew when I learnt that this […]

Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

‘Even when there’d been a whole universe to explore, Cloud Lake and Tommy had been my everything.

“So that’s it?” I said. “I’m just supposed to go on living my life no matter how much the universe takes from me or how small it gets?”

Dr. Sayegh nodded. “It’s what the rest of us do, Ozzie.”

Ozzie’s boyfriend, Tommy, has vanished. Poof. Gone. But not just from their hometown, Cloud Lake. Tommy has vanished from the memories of everyone who knew him, and Ozzie is the only one who knows something has changed.

Oh, also the universe is shrinking. No one else has any idea that that’s happening, either.

I wasn’t sure what to make of At the Edge of the Universe to start with. A few bloggers I follow are huge fans of Shaun David Hutchinson, so when I saw the book pop up on Riveted Lit’s Free Reads I couldn’t resist giving it a go, but I almost abandoned it within the first few chapters because it’s just weird.

For the majority of the book, it’s impossible to tell whether Tommy is a figment of Ozzie’s imagination. I wondered whether he may have been suffering from a mental disorder causing him to personify his anxieties about the future, but the next thing the sun disappeared and no one would listen to Ozzie, let alone humour him by explaining how they thought daylight worked.

From that point on, I was hooked. I read the rest of the novel in one sitting, a direct contrast from the slow and steady pace at which I read the first half.

It helps that the cast of characters are all so intriguing. There’s Lua, a rock star whose gender identity is in flux; Dustin, the class valedictorian who has no choice but to apply for local colleges over Ivy League schools; and Calvin, Ozzie’s new physics partner who has had an unexplained and utterly drastic personality change over the summer.

Ozzie himself deserves an award for being one of the most sarcastic characters I’ve ever read: despite going through some seriously tough stuff, he retains a wry sense of humour that had me snorting through my nose at multiple moments.

I’ll be honest, although I grasped the overarching moral of the story – that losing yourself in a relationship at a young age isn’t worth it, because there’s a whole world out there to explore – I’m pretty sure there’s loads of important allegories that have completely gone over my head. This is a book filled with philosophical aspects, but I was so focused on the mystery of Tommy’s disappearance that I missed a lot of the nuance in this story.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this book finds itself on required reading lists within the next ten years, as it makes you ask yourself a lot of tough questions.

I’m still wondering whether I would be as strong-minded as Ozzie, refusing to accept that Tommy wasn’t real despite hearing it repeatedly asserted by everyone around him. How do you think you’d respond?

Alyce

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Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

‘I’m so unwhole. I don’t know where all the pieces of me are, how to fit them together, how to make them stick. Or if I even can.’ Self-harm is a sensitive subject, no matter what form it takes. Some people find reading about cutting triggering, while others find it makes them feel seen and understood for the first time in months or years. It’s difficult to write about, […]