December 17, 2018

Adrienne Maria Vrettos: "Burnout"

Title: Burnout [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Adrienne Maria Vrettos [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Thriller, Contemporary
Year: 2011
Age: 12+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: Honest depiction of an imbalanced friendship. Realistic main character.
Cons: Lacks a strong emotional punch. Some events are a bit far-fetched.
WARNING! Alcohol abuse, rape intent, self-image problems.
Will appeal to: Those who have had at least a toxic friend in their life, or one who didn't love them as much as they did.

Blurb: On the day after Halloween, Nan wakes up in a subway car. She’s missing a whole day from her life. And she’s wearing skeleton makeup and a too-small Halloween costume that she doesn’t remember putting on. Nan is not supposed to wake up in places like this anymore. She’s different now, so far from that dangerously drunk girl who hit bottom in the Nanapocalypse. She needs to find out what happened to her, and fast. As she tries to put together the pieces of the last twenty-four hours, she flashes back to memories of her previous life. But she would never go back to her old friends and her old ways. Would she? The deeper Nan digs, the more disturbing things get. This time, she may have gone one step too far. This time, she may be a walking ghost. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Before I bought this one, going by the last line of the blurb above and the two-line prologue on Amazon, I inferred it told the story of a dead character recalling/investigating her demise, so I was excited. It turned out that it wasn't the case, so I don't really get what the whole "ghost" reference was about (OK, I sort of understand the metaphor, but it sounded much more like a literal description to me). Then again, I don't regret reading this book, even if under false pretenses. I just meant to tell you - don't get fooled like I did...read this for the right reasons.

THE WRONG SIDE OF UNREQUITED

I shelved this book as Mystery/Thriller, and a mystery it is - with the main lead Nan desperate to uncover what she did the previous night, and more than anything, what happened to her best friend Seemy. But at its core, Burnout is a contemporary of the dark variety (albeit not at all as dark as it might have been) - a story of bad choices and the places they take you, and even more than that, a story about the length we go for a friend even when they don't love us as much as we do (or precisely because they don't). This was the aspect that resonated with me the most: while I've never been in a toxic friendship of the "bad influence" variety (and I wouldn't, because I'm one of the less influenceable people I know), I have been in a sort of unrequited friendship for a long while - until the friend in question set to size me down once and for all, and since I couldn't cope with that, we ultimately split. If you've ever loved a friend more than they did, and you've ever been aware of it (and hurt because of it), Vrettos captures this feeling perfectly. Then again, in a short book like this (less than 200 pages), emotions gets somehow constricted and lose some of the impact they could make...more of this in the next paragraphs. [...]

December 10, 2018

B.C. Johnson: "Daphne" (ARC Review)

Title: Daphne [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Deadgirl (Book 2.5 of 4)
Author: B.C. Johnson [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary
Year: 2018
Age: 14+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: Strong, unique twist on classic mythology. Compelling writing.
Cons: Fast romance. It's not always easy to get one's bearings at the beginning of a chapter.
WARNING! Blood, gore and monsters.
Will appeal to: Those who wanted more of Daphne. Those who like unusual creatures. Those who like their human (but resilient) side even more.

Blurb: Daphne is one of the Keres, an ancient line of women from Greek myth. Part Fate, part battlefield Valkyrie, she can sense violence and death wherever she goes. After Daphne transforms into a monster and is taken away by her family at the end of "Deadgirl: Ghostlight," she finds herself on a journey of fear, flight, and self-discovery. Hounded by monster hunters and her own inner demons, Daphne must find a way to cope with who and what she is, or lose her mind and soul forever to the Beast within. Who's more dangerous: the hunters, or the monster? (Amazon excerpt)

Review:  First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review. And the author being B.C. Johnson, you all know I've been campaigning for his first Deadgirl book with all my might since 2012, when the original version came out. Also, B.C. Johnson and me have stayed in touch, if sporadically, for the whole time. I'm not what you would call a friend of his though, only a fan of his work. And an unbiased one. As usual, this review is the love child of my penchant for quirky, uniquely worded books and B.C. Johnson's ability to deliver them.

DOUBLE FACE

For a character whom we didn't see much of in the Deadgirl series (except in Book 2), Daphne sure is a pivotal one - and, Lucy aside, the most unique of the bunch. The blurb mentions her being "part Fate, part battlefield Valkyrie", but she also calls herself a Harpy at some point. Either way, she's a welcome detour from your usual supernatural creatures. But more than anything, it's her monster/human duality that fascinates the reader. A literal duality in this case, with the two entities (for lack of a better word) fighting for control. Like Lucy in Deadgirl: Ghostlight, Daphne will have an epiphany about herself that is, hands down, the best part of the story - heartbreaking and epic at the same time. Johnson is never afraid to have his characters suffer, yet fight (and sometimes win, if at a high cost) even in the face of despair, and each and every time, what comes out of it is a work of art, and of - sometimes funny, often tragic, always epic - beauty. [...]

December 06, 2018

Todd Mitchell: "Backwards"

Title: Backwards [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Todd Mitchell [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Thriller, Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2013
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Fresh, well-executed premise. Great guessing game.
Cons: Lacks a strong emotional punch - though the very structure of the story accounts for that.
WARNING! Graphic depiction of suicide. Rape in the background.
Will appeal to: Those who like unusual premises, bookish puzzles, and stories about second chances - of the time-travel (but not sci-fi) variety.

Blurb: At the moment Dan's life ends, the Rider's begins. Unwillingly tied to Dan, the Rider finds himself moving backwards in time, each day revealing more of the series of events that led to Dan's suicide. As the Rider struggles to figure out what he's meant to do, he revels in the life Dan ignores. Beyond the simple pleasures of a hot shower and the sun on his face, the Rider also notices the people around Dan: his little sister, always disappointed by her big brother's rejection, his overwhelmed mom, who can never rely on Dan for help, and Cat - with her purple hair, artistic talent, and misfit beauty. But Cat doesn't want anything to do with Dan. While the days move in reverse and Halloween looms, it's up to the Rider to find out why Cat is so angry, and what he must do to make things right. (Amazon)

Review: As I already stated in the introductory section, this is NOT a sci-fi book, despite time travel being at its core. So you may probably enjoy it even if sci-fi is not your jam.

YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET

I'm fairly sure that you've never read anything like Backwards. Going back in time may be a pretty common book device, except I can't name another novel where not only the thing happens on a day-by-day basis - that is, every new day the narrator (the Rider) lives is, in fact, the day before, from start to finish - but the real protagonist (again, the Rider) is also unsubstantial and just a spectator at first; and later, when he tries to retroactively change what's to come, the flesh-and-blood character he's tied to (Dan) is oblivious of it - or even gets in the way. I know, this sounds like a mind-fuck...except it's easier to actually follow the story than to explain its logistics. Also, while the narrator tries to prevent a tragedy (that may not be the one we think it is in the first place) by slowly peeling layers of truth away and figuring how to influence things, we have our own mystery to solve - just WHO is the Rider, and how did he come to be? and are there any other entities like him? This makes for a fascinating read, even if Dan's everyday life is pretty average on the whole, and the Rider's interactions with...well, anyone are fairly limited at first. [...]