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Sea Witch – Sarah Henning

Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead.

Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch.

A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning held a strong potential that it unfortunately doesn’t live up to. With the promise of the origin story of the Sea Witch, Henning offered to tell an alternate side to the classic The Little Mermaid story that we are familiar with. I was excited to strip back the layers of ‘the villain’ and to see how she was formed, and to question her identity as a ‘villain‘ at all.

Sadly, while Henning did form an origin story, it fell flat due to a variety of reasons. For one, the structure and writing. The story takes place in the present day, but is often interrupted with flashbacks to show the backstory (to the backstory). The writing in these flashbacks was often poorly done; I had to re-read certain chapters because I had no idea whose point of view this was meant to be from. There was no sense of clear perspective from the third person narrator. One minute it felt like you were in the head of Iker, and then Nik, with no clear distinction between them. This impacted my enjoyment of the story because it wasn’t coherent, and it interrupted the fairly decent flow of the present tense.

Furthermore, several moments in this book I was hooked! I was like oh my god, yes, the book is getting good now! Some reveals, some twists, had me on the edge of my seat, desperately turning the page…

Only to be let down in the end. The plot reveals led no where but disappointment. It faded to melodrama. The characters personalities and established views went out the window. Dramatic love reveals. I mean, it was entertaining, but more of a oh my god that’s hilariously bad, rather than a WOW, what a brilliantly executed ending.

So sadly this one was a miss for me.

2 out of 5 stars.

*Thank you Netgalley for an e-arc, in exchange for an honest review!*

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Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy


Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant–along with several other unlikely candidates–to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.

Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City–and maybe herself most of all.

I am so incredibly underwhelmed by this. I remember the hype surrounding this book when it first came out: all I heard was incredible 5 stars reviews, THIS was the book to read. And I wanted too. BUT IT WAS SO EXPENSIVE! And eventually, as the hype died down and the price lowered, I was so apprehensive to read it and my hype for it faded…

And then the film came out and THAT LOOKS SO GOOD AND I STILL WANT TO WATCH IT, so I decided to FINALLY read this.

And yeah…Underwhelmed af. It’s not that this book isn’t good. It is. It’s just not GREAT!!!! capital letters, exclamation marks. Where was the plot, really? I’m a person that quite likes a good plot but this just meandered through her everyday small-town life and that’s not something I’m really interested in, especially when I’m not that in love with any of the characters.

And the pageant was so hyped up???? And then it happened in like 50 pages and just ended? DID IT EVEN SAY WHO WON? I remember it saying who came in second place, but not who won (I read this book today. . . I can’t remember things. . . does that say something about me or the book?)

And then the BOOK ENDED. I literally turned the page, ready to start the next chapter, excited because oooo the pageant is over and what’s going to happen now with Bo, etc, but no. . . I came face to face with ‘Acknowledgments’ and I was like. . . wait, what? That’s it???? You built the book up to this AND THIS IS ALL THAT YOU GIVE ME? WHAT?

Also. I feel like this book was a love story between Willowdean and Ellen. Their relationship was the greatest. Seeing them grow up and grow apart and then try and find ways back to each other I LIKED IT. I WISH I HAD MORE OF THIS. The friendships between the girls was good.

Then we have the romance element…and let me tell you, I am a SHIPPER. But WHERE WAS THE CHEMISTRY? I swear Mitch and Bo could’ve been interchangeable. I’m not MAAAAAAD about it but it was such a let down…pretty much the whole book was a let down…

So 3 stars. Wasn’t terrible and had a lot of bits I did like but I don’t like it enough to give it any higher.

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The Nowhere Girls – Amy Reed

Three misfits come together to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate and in the process trigger a change in the misogynist culture at their high school transforming the lives of everyone around them in this searing and timely story.

Who are the Nowhere Girls?

They’re everygirl. But they start with just three:

Grace Salter is the new girl in town, whose family was run out of their former community after her southern Baptist preacher mom turned into a radical liberal after falling off a horse and bumping her head.

Rosina Suarez is the queer punk girl in a conservative Mexican immigrant family, who dreams of a life playing music instead of babysitting her gaggle of cousins and waitressing at her uncle’s restaurant.

Erin Delillo is obsessed with two things: marine biology and Star Trek: The Next Generation, but they aren’t enough to distract her from her suspicion that she may in fact be an android.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality

NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW.

I REPEAT, NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW.

Impromptu buddy read with my good friend Emer.

I’m going to write this review in a list like fashion because a) I like lists and b) it’s a lot easier that way cos I have a shit ton to say:

To start off with, I was really enjoying this book. I was loving the diverse rep of the different girls – it wasn’t your typical straight, white American, main characters. We had a mix of ethnicity’s, sexuality’s, body types, mental health/disabilities and social standings. It was wonderful seeing a mixture of diverse characters, with none of them feeling like the “token” diverse character. (However, there were some issues with this . . . will talk about this later).

I liked that the parents in this were also a mixture. We had the single parents, the absent parents, the loving parents. I liked that. But I had issues (I will talk about this later).

This contained fabulous conversations on self-worth and acceptance, on consent, etc. There was one part where they had a conversation with each other where the girls are having a group discussion and are sharing their different views on sex. For example, some feel like they just have to, even if they don’t enjoy it, that it’s required of them (they question if sex should be pleasurable for them). Others share that they like sex and aren’t ashamed of saying what they want. It was an interesting conversation, and I loved seeing them talk about it. These conversations are so important, and should be have. I think it’s a sad thing that so many schools shy away on these conversations when they’re needed.

I liked the friendship between the girls. They had their ups and downs but they were supportive and accepting of each other even if they don’t fully understand. I loved seeing that. They weren’t petty or hateful or spiteful of each other – and although this can happen in real life friendships, it was great to see positive and supporting friendships in a YA.

So to sum up: I liked the conversations this had on consent/sex, female friendships, diverse rep and female empowerment.

Things I disliked/had an issue with:

I mentioned in the beginning that I liked the diverse rep of characters. Part of this was that we had different characters with different social standings. We had the popular cheerleaders that defied usual YA stereotypes of them being the popular, bitchy, snobby mean girls. We had them humanised. They were friendly, supportive. Others took on some of the mean side and perpetuated some of the YA trope – where they fed in to misogynist ideas and slut shaming, but this added depth to their characters: we allowed to see them transform.

HOWEVER.

This isn’t the case with all the characters, this development only happens to a few. The rest. . . ugh. Most of the men in this book were horrible pieces of crap. Most of them couldn’t be trusted, they’d start off decent and then reveal their *true colours* which would be a freaking dirtbag. (And the ones who were good were just underdeveloped and bland. They were basically the stock good guys).

One character I keep thinking about, and each time getting increasingly mad about, is Amber. Amber lives in a trailer park, and everyone at school thinks of her as a ‘slut’ because shes ‘easy’. Amber has had sex with multiple men. They text her, and she hooks up with them. But this is the sad part. Amber feels like because she’s earned this reputation as a slut that she is, that she has to act like that. She expects it of herself, that she can’t be anything other than what everyone says she is. I really thought that throughout this novel Amber would go from having low self-worth and believing that she deserves the names she called and not truly understanding consent, to gaining more self-acceptance and self love and realising that she doesn’t have to have sex with boys because it’s expected of her. Sex should be something that she wants, that she can enjoy – she isn’t just an object for men to use.

That’s what I wanted her to realise. Except, her character just seemed to regress. As soon as she’s rejected she turns spiteful, mean, and lashes out at everyone, basically falling into the stereotype that everyone was saying she was. What I wanted from this rejection was for her to realise that not everyone sees her as a sexual object but as a human being who has other qualities, and for her to then realise that herself. But nope. She was just written as a spiteful bitch and then nothing else was said about her. She served her plot purpose and it felt disgusting. Why give her such a backstory like this if your only intention is to use her as a cheap plot device but not actually develop her character?? ugh. ugh. ugh. Why couldn’t she evolve to believing that she has more value than being used for sex?? but that sex can be positive and pleasurable and that having multiple partners doesn’t decrease her value. ughhhhh. hope that makes sense. Basically I didn’t like that some characters just fed in to harmful stereotypes. Why introduce them with such backstory’s that have such potential, but to then not?? Makes me rage.

So the parents. While I initially liked that they were a mixture, I eventually got fed up with them. They were so stereotypical. The harsh, overworked single mother. The mother who stays with her husband and fakes happiness but really just stays at home all day miserable with no outside life, and then the out-there hippie like parents (they were my favourites out of them, but still. UGH UGH UGH).

This also got very theatrical and over the top. The school was basically policed?? with like assault guns?? it was ridiculous?? The girls couldn’t even talk in groups, they were constantly getting detention and expelled for NO REASON. They were basically being framed by the adult/authority figures and treated like a bunch of criminals. It was just too over done for me. Especially at the end with them all crowding in the police station and screaming and crying and cheering…

Ugh. I don’t know. The ending was just rushed and therefore everyone felt underdeveloped, and everything too over dramatic in order to create *the feels* and have a big impactful ending. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work.

I just don’t know…for most of the book this was looking to be 4 stars and now I’m

 

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They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera

When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.

Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.

Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…

Another beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming book from the brilliant Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me.

I recently read History Is All You Left Me, in which I expected a heartbreaking book about first love, heartbreak, grief. What I got was . . . meh. Didn’t really like it . . .

So what do I do? Yeah, I decide to read this. (Emer, I blame you – your masochist ways are infecting me).

And well . . .

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Once again, I was DUPED! I was hoping this would be everything that I wanted from History Is All You Left Me. I expected to fall in love with these characters, with their relationships. To want to root so hard for them that I didn’t want to finish the book because I didn’t want them to die. . .

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Yeah. That didn’t happen. I couldn’t wait for them to die so this would be over with. IT WAS SO PAINFULLY SLOW. It draaaaggeeeeddddd out. Nothing hardly happened. It was boring. And don’t get me wrong, while I did like the main charachters (forgot their names oops) and was slightly sad when they died, I didn’t cry over it. I didn’t feel like I got punched in the gut and had my heart ripped out. It was an, oh, that’s sad. . .

Do I just have no emotions??

I think that, although I liked these characters, it was hard to root for them. Sure, I wanted them to be able to have the experiences that they never got to have. To live a long and happy life. Ultimately it comes down to me feeling unfulfilled. There last day wasn’t this whole great big “carpe diem”. There were some brief, flickering moments – and this had a hell of a lot of potential to be exciting but it wasn’t. They just spent most of their time doing . . . well nothing really.

I don’t know how I’d spend my last day (very morbid to think about) but this just seemed ?? like ok. I was expecting so much more than you just walking around the city.

That’s the problem. This book set out to be profound. To comment on life/death, to live every moment like it’s your last, seize the moment etc….it just made me extremely freaking paranoid of everything. Like you could literally die at any point and noPE. I’M ALREADY PARANOID ENOUGH THANKS.

Also . . . this book had no logic??? The world-building??? So this is a different version of our world, or the future? How do they know peoples deaths?? To me it seemed like they told people they were going to die -> people tried to avoid death -> the actions they took to avoid said death is what caused it. So if they were never told, would it have happened?? Fate or coincidence??

So yeah. Maybe you’d think this book shouldn’t need to have this sort of logic as it’s a commentary on seizing your last day and living life with no regrets, but I found it hard to get on board with this idea without some sort of explanation. JUST GIVE ME MORE DETAILS.

Oh and the random POV changes . . . I DON’T CARE. GOOOOO AWAAAAAY.

So yeah. . .

Didn’t really like this…

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2 stars.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee (Guide, #1)

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

– MILD SPOILERS OK –

THIS WAS CUTE AS HECK!

It was such a fun read. I love Monty. He had such glorious sass. His character development was AWESOME. He went from being a TOTAL scoundrel to only *slightly* a scoundrel and learnt to defend and accept himself and YES YES YES.

Percy also. I loved his stance towards his illness. I thought this was really well done. And it makes me want to scream at all these idiots in this time because IT ISN’T CAUSED BY DEMONS!!! AHHH.

But oh my god, I think Felicity was the STAR. She was a BADASS. She was so smart and witty and caring and fun and I LOVED HER. I’m so happy this series will be continuing on with her.

But overall, I really freaking enjoyed this. It was an adventure, it had romance, it was sassy and witty, and just all around a great freaking read.