Book Review: Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Girls in the GardenThe Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wanted to love this book, but I only liked it. And that’s okay.

I was expecting something different from the description and the dreamy cover. It just wasn’t what I expected. The story turned out to be populated by real but extremely unlikable characters, the mystery kind of petered out, and there was no real resolution. All in all, it was a very realistic book, and it was nicely written, but when I read, I like to escape. This book made me feel, well…more hopeless than anything else. It was like eating dinner at a fancy party and still being hungry afterwards, so you go through the McDonald’s drive through on the way home. (So I read Kate Atkinson’s Human Croquet for the millionth time afterwards.) I did think it was well-written, but it was a little too bleak, and I don’t think I’ll want to pick it up again.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Dead to Me

Dead to MeDead to Me by Mary McCoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the book I was looking for but I didn’t know what I wanted. It’s a classic noir thriller setting, but with a heroine with the perfect balance of pluck and sensibility. It’s a vintage era with a modern feminist outlook. The mystery is well-layered. No one is a true hero, no one is a real villain (for the most part). The story kept me guessing and the writing style kept me hooked. This is a book that I need to buy to keep on my shelves. (Gushing review is just because I really did like it. Really. No one paid me to write this.)

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book read very much like a novelization of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, and the further you get into it the more Village-like it got.

Honestly that’s the best summary for the book- The Village, but with zombies. Lots of zombies. There’s a heavy religious aspect to the story that works really well; it’s just Protestant enough to seem realistic but unique enough to not be overly unsettling (a la The Handmaid’s Tale). The protagonist, Mary, is also much more likable than most first-person female protagonists I’ve come across in young adult novels as of late. I genuinely wanted to see where she was going to end up in this saga.

That being said, once I reached the end of the book, I knew it was the set up for sequels…but I’m not really that interested in reading them. I liked where Mary’s story was, and I didn’t really want to jump into the new characters and new environment in the next books. The new setting for the follow up books is very different, and I wanted to see more from where Mary came from. But I still very much enjoyed the book itself, and I’ll read it again.

View all my reviews

The Uninvited by Tim Wynne-Jones

The UninvitedThe Uninvited by Tim Wynne-Jones
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I THOUGHT THIS BOOK WOULD NEVER END.

I’m not a quitter. I’ve never not finished a book. So I finished this one. But I’m pretty sure it took 84 years.

The pacing was slow. So slow. Not “building the intensity” slow but ACTUALLY PAINFULLY SLOW. I don’t care if the main characters went out for margaritas. I don’t care if Mimi changed her clothes for the sixth time. I don’t care if Cramer skulked mysteriously for the millionth time in a row. Nothing was happening.

Mimi was literally the most insufferable heroine. She’s forcibly quirky, to the point that you feel like there’s a neon sign flashing in front of your eyes saying PLEASE SEE WHAT A MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL I AM. I literally felt the strain of reading any parts from Mimi’s point of view, as if someone was stretching out a long string of silly putty. And right from the beginning she’s an unrealistic character, because what girl goes on an all day road trip wearing just a sports bra (imagine the seams of your car upholstery digging into your bare skin for hours on end) and then, upon arrival, changes pants outside in the yard. (I also didn’t need the elaborate description of Mimi’s butt and thong either.) Overall, Mimi was shoved down my throat so much that when I was supposed to care about her and her plight, I didn’t care. (And it didn’t matter, because her plight was solved with a phone call.)

Jay was a useless character and Iris even more so. I honestly can’t give any information about Jay other than “plays guitar.” He was completely forgettable. His big dramatic reveal is dropped with little fanfare in like the second chapter, and not only does it not add anything interesting to the character, it cheapens the later reveal for a later character. Iris was marginally interesting to read about, but did absolutely nothing to further the plot. Just another detour in a long, painfully rambling narrative.

Cramer was the worst. He’s supposed to be mysterious and ambiguous and tortured, but I just wanted to throttle him out of annoyance. His character veered far too far into “nice guy” territory. I half expected a description of him wearing a fedora and posting online about how he’s such a nice guy and girls don’t understand him. He proved to be a weak antagonist/antihero and I hated him so much.

The rest of the cast and the plot are rounded out with forgettable, unlikable caricatures. Cramer’s mother is a plotline that I’ve seen a million times before and this didn’t offer anything new or exciting. Stooley Peters was supposed to be a red herring, but you can see right through him. I still don’t know who on earth Waylin is or why he matters- Cramer talks about it as if it’s super obvious who he is and what his relationship to the other characters is, but it’s never explained. And Mimi’s parents are literally the worst. Jay’s parents are a lot more interesting, but are relegated to one scene and a couple of half hearted mentions.

In short, this book nearly killed me. I read quickly, I read voraciously, and this book literally exhausted me to the point that I had to keep putting it down and taking breaks because I was so bored that I couldn’t keep going. I finished it, because I’m stubborn, but seriously, I would never touch it again.

View all my reviews

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

MarinaMarina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a ride. The writing is beautifully atmospheric and absorbing, and the draw of the plot is incredibly alluring- the idea of the gothic underworld in the sewers of Spain. However, most of the story is given through exposition rather than action, or even in a flashback, and it fell flat to hear about these great plot twists in a kind of stagnant past tense. The ending also seemed to peter out. The book built to a fantastic climax, and then, instead of ending on a high note, unraveled into an unsatisfying and prosaic conclusion. Overall, the book is beautifully written, but the plot kind of felt like eating a bad angel food cake- delicious, but leaves a weird taste in your mouth, and you realize that it wasn’t even filling in the first place.

View all my reviews

Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer

Stranger Than FanfictionStranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From an objective view, I adore Chris Colfer, and I do think this was an enjoyable book. On a non-objective view, there were a lot of blips on the radar that made me raise a skeptical eyebrow.

The characters feel very much like the cast of a 90s after school cartoon- one of each stereotype, so to speak. Over time, they did get some more development and some more depth, but they started out rather flat. Their introductions were also kind of flat; each character got a chapter that introduced them and it felt a little repetitive and honestly a little boring, like the climb up the first hill of a roller coaster when you’re waiting for the momentum to get you going.

The most…I guess uncomfortable is the word for it- was the transparency of Chris Colfer writing himself both into Cash Carter and Topher. You could see elements of him in both, and it made me kind of feel embarrassed. I was a fan of Glee back in the day and I’ve followed Chris’s work and been so impressed, but I felt extremely self-conscious reading the book. I kind of felt patronized, embraced, and disliked simultaneously. At the end I was asking myself “is it bad to be a fan? Is it bad to be a part of a fandom? If I ever have a conversation with Chris Colfer, will he think I’m just a roaring idiot?”

I’m still struggling with how I feel about Stranger Than Fanfiction. If I didn’t know who Chris Colfer was, I would probably enjoy it wholeheartedly. It’s a quirky, interesting plot with some well meant emotional moments and a bittersweet ending. As a fan of Chris Colfer, I now feel…well, kind of sad. I still admire him a lot and think he’s incredibly talented and I’ll still follow his work, but if I ever met him I’d probably feel super self conscious and embarrassed because of the way fans are written in this book.

View all my reviews

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

How to Hang a Witch (How to Hang a Witch, #1)How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I hate to admit it, but I was unimpressed by this book for the first third of it. It was so…I don’t quite know how to describe it. I felt like I was reading something I read before. The so quirky and clumsy and “nobody likes me and I dislike everyone” heroine. The golden boy next door (I’ve literally forgotten his name already). The squad of mean girls. The incompetent adults. I felt like I was slogging through a literary groundhog day. What really saved the weak characterization was the plot. It was incredibly clever- the idea that the curse of the Salem Witch Trials was still affecting their descendants. I kept reading because I wanted to know how it would end, but not because I cared about the characters. The introduction of the ghost character did leave me rolling my eyes a bit- it felt way too much like Hocus Pocus: Dani Grew Up and the Ghost Isn’t a Cat But Close Enough- but I was at least intrigued by the final reveal of the villain, even though the execution raised a lot more questions than answers. All in all, it ended up as a pleasant read, albeit with incredibly forgettable characters (seriously, y’all, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the love interest).

View all my reviews