Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

Dangerous GirlsDangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

“Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?”

Why, hello there, awesome book. You managed to take me straight out of this whole Goodreads censorship/deleting reviews fiasco and plant me right inside another time and place; many brave books have tried and failed this past week to do what you have done. So, thank you.

Dangerous Girls is in danger. It’s in danger of being underread. It’s in danger of being given a quick once over and then dismissed as something vapid, senseless and probably crap. It isn’t, my friends. It’s damn good. Dangerous Girls is one of those multi-layered books that does several different things at once and still manages to do each one equally well. Haas does what, in my opinion, all good mystery writers should do: she doesn’t hang everything precariously-balanced on her reveals. The ending is fantastic but it doesn’t matter because the book is also about so many other things. It is a satisfying story from start to finish that took me through so many different emotions.

So, what is this book? It’s a mature YA mystery. I use “YA” with some hesitation here because it’s full of all the kinda stuff that will make some parents clutch their rosary beads – sex, alcohol abuse, drug use… oh yeah, and there’s that whole murder thing too. It’s about a teen summer vacation gone wrong. Anna, her best friend – Elise, her boyfriend – Tate, as well as others, all go to party hard, get laid and have fun. Then, one day, Elise is discovered stabbed to death in her bed and Anna and Tate are the prime suspects. From there, we are taken on a journey through a murder trial that seems to paint Anna in a worse light with every piece of “evidence” provided. The story of the present is also broken up with flashbacks into how Anna and Elise became friends.

This is a dark story that takes you through the many nasty corners of teen girl friendships but it also shows the other side, the importance of friends to one another and the complicated psychology behind it all. Elise is such a wonderfully complex character. I think most people know an Elise. That reckless, volatile person who is always the life of the party, so confident, often overtly sexual and looking for a new adventure at every turn. But underneath there’s something a bit different, a sadness or an anger or loneliness, that hides beneath the mask they’ve created.

My knowledge of the law and judicial system is limited to one year at AS that I hated, so I’m far from an expert on what is realistic or not. But I’ve always been fascinated by the portrayal of court trials as a kind of show or circus where everyone plays their parts. Where it isn’t about guilty/not guilty, but about the performance you put on and how convincingly you deliver the script. Like in the musical, Chicago. Anna’s trial resembles a circus and it horrifies me at the way each little piece of a person’s life can be taken out of context and manipulated to mean whatever the prosecutor chooses. Scary.

I honestly loved everything about this wild little gem and I’m now going to recommend it to everyone I know. That means YOU too.

The In-Between by Barbara Stewart

The In-BetweenThe In-Between by Barbara Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

I’m going to discuss the plot in depth, but the nothing more than what the synopsis already tells us, though it might be slightly spoilery, it won’t be enough to hide the review. Quotations subject to change as this is an uncorrected copy from Netgalley. I finished this a few of days ago, and I’m still struggling to figure out how to explain this book. Here goes nothing.

The story is about Ellie, and basically, her descent into madness. We never know if it’s mental illness she suffers from, something paranormal, or just exacerbated hormones. I realize how that sounds, but I still have no idea, even though I feel as though her issue was mental health related. Is she schizophrenic, bipolar, multiple personalities, anxiety disorder, head trauma, or perhaps a combination of several of these? It’s hard to say because Ellie is an extremely unreliable narrator; she’s supposed to be, the entire story is told by means of her journal entries, so limited information is the way it goes.

We know right away that she is suffering from some sort of mental illness because she tells us about her attempted suicide, and how her parents are moving so they can all have a fresh start. Before they can make it to their new home they are involved in a fatal car crash, though who dies isn’t clear for some time, if ever really. At first it was her mother that died, and her father is completely unable to move forward. Was it severe depression that was affecting her, because we find out that her father was depressive as well.

Worse even than when I tried to die. It’s like all those other bouts of depression were just tremors, little quakes. Losing Mom is too big. The world is crashing down and all he can do is stand and watch, alone and terrified, powerless to go on living.

I’m here, but I’m not Mom. I can’t talk to him the way she talked to him.

As we watch father and daughter struggle to come to terms with their loss, Ellie meets Madeline Torus, and instantly has a connection with her. Madeline just waltzed in to Ellie’s room wanting to listen to music and hang out, but Ellie didn’t find this odd, no, in fact she basked in the attention from this girl. She admired the way Madeline dressed, the way she could dance, the way she held herself, and most importantly Ellie loved the way she felt when she was with Madeline. The line between friendship, lover(?), and obsession is blurred between these two for the entire book even when (view spoiler). Let me share a sampling of quotes to give you an idea of what I mean here:

My purpose is clear. There’s a reason why I survived the accident. Her name is Madeline Torus.

But she’s safe now. I would never hurt her, not in a million years. Not my Madeline. My stone angel. I will always be hers. She will always be mine. Forever and ever.

[…] I’ll do my homework and watch TV and then take a pill so Madeline and I will become one.

Madeline kisses me on the lips. Not like a boy. Closer. We are meant to be forever.

After she met Madeline and tried to deal with the fact that her father is unable to care for her, or himself, suddenly things change, and it’s not her mother who had died in the crash, but rather her father. She was suffering from head trauma. I had a hard time believing that this was “real” life because I couldn’t tell what was real and wasn’t anymore, or ever really.

Regarding her mental illness, if that is even what’s wrong with her, there was no healthy resolution. She was forced into therapy when her mom found her after she had been cutting, apparently severely, but the help didn’t seem to really help her. I didn’t feel that Ellie went through any kind of change, or ever recognized that she had a problem. I think the story worked the way she left it, other than the very end, but it would have been nice to see Ellie become healthy, well, healthier, in the end. I was left wondering if that’s what it felt like to suffer from extreme psychotic disorders, and it was frightening and depressing.

The strangeness in this book was both an asset and a hindrance for me. I generally like my answers, but I also really like creepy and dark, and that’s part of what has held me back from trying to review this. On one hand it’s everything I look for in a book: grey, creepiness, dark, twisted, and uncomfortable. On the other hand it’s ambiguity was almost too much for me.

I think this is a really strong debut; the writing captured the voice of a disturbed girl with perfection, and the subject was fascinating, if a bit hard to suffer through. If you like a story that makes you uncomfortable, and has a serious dose of creepy, then you will probably like this.

The In-BetweenThe In-Between by Barbara Stewart
My rating: 2 of 5 teacups

Sometimes a great idea is not enough.

Let me ask you: do you rate logically after weighing up all the literary pros and cons of a book and assessing its creativity and originality? Or do you rate emotionally based on your own personal reaction to a book? You see, I find it difficult to do anything but the latter. And I do appreciate that this book has a lot to offer. It’s crept rather quietly onto the goodreads scene out of nowhere and is already making waves on Kirkus and in the early GR reviews. I can see why. The idea is genius and, as I became more aware of what the author was doing, I found myself pleading with the book at every turn to become a new favourite. Sadly, though, I think this is a fantastic idea that fails on the execution. Only time will tell if I’m in the minority.

The real question is: how many points do you earn for originality? Especially when enjoyment was scarce? I found this story to be incredibly dry in its telling, lacking any depth of emotion to keep me invested in the journey of the characters. I like my characters. They are possibly the most important thing for me in a novel and my interest quickly dies if I don’t care about them. And this book more than most relies on the reader’s desire to find out what is going on. The ambiguity of the novel should be a driving force, pushing you onwards on your quest for answers, and yet it was a barrier for me that prevented me forming a connection to any of the characters. Or perhaps it was a lack of character connection that made me uninterested in finding out the answers… who knows? Chicken or the egg.

But the idea. WOAH, the idea. This book does something I love. It questions the nature of reality, mental illness and the supernatural. It makes you unsure of what is real and unsure of who is alive and who is dead. Is Madeline a ghost? Or a product of Elanor’s imagination? And, in the end, what’s the difference? It suggests the possibility that mental illness could actually be a blurring of worlds – is “crazy” merely what happens when people straddle the line between this world and the next? Ellie’s story is nothing if not creative. It all starts when Ellie, her parents and her cat are in a car accident. They were moving to a smaller town for a fresh start after Ellie suffered from depression and eventually attempted suicide. The car accident is just the start of this bizarre story that leads us to question pretty much everything that happens afterwards, including the arrival of Madeline and whether or not she even exists.

The In-Between will appeal to readers who appreciate it when authors do something different. This book explores several interesting concepts and raises numerous questions. But I think it lacks a spark. A spark that interests me in the characters and the story. I feel it is not so much a novel as it is a genius concept and I’m not sure that “different” can always be called “good”. Though I finished feeling it was necessary to compliment the author’s originality, I never once experienced excitement at what the next page might hold.

Hurt by Tabitha Suzuma

HurtHurt by Tabitha Suzuma
My rating: 2 of 5 teacups

There are now three years and over five hundred books between me and my completion of Suzuma’s Forbidden. The last three years have seen my reading tastes change a lot; books I used to love often start to pale in comparison to newer treasures who do similar things but do them far better. So I don’t know how I would feel if I read Forbidden now but, going on memory alone, I recall liking it a lot. I thought the author was brave to tackle such a controversial and edgy subject. And I thought it was sad, emotional, moving, powerful… you get me, I’m sure. Basically, all the usual adjectives applied to teen “problem books” that are done well. Well, whether it’s me who has changed or the author, I can’t say without doing a re-read but I can say that I found Hurt to be painfully melodramatic. So much so that the very important subject it focuses on felt like nothing more than fuel for cheap shock tactics.

The book started reasonably well, even if the third person present tense took some getting used to. My memory is fuzzy but there seemed to be a lot more attention paid to detailed descriptions of people and surroundings in this than there was in Forbidden. It’s not a complaint; I actually found myself admiring Suzuma’s pretty writing in the first couple of chapters. The story opens with a confused Matheo Walsh waking up in his destroyed bedroom. He knows that something isn’t right, that there’s a memory he can’t quite recall of something… something really bad. We then get a flashback to bring us to up to speed with who Matheo is. He’s a popular, good-looking, diving champion who seems headed for Olympic gold. He has good friends and a girlfriend who loves him. So the question is: what could have possibly happened to this boy who has everything to turn his life upside down?

I’m not going to come out and say what this book is about – even though I don’t think it’s particularly hard to guess – but I do think it’s something that more needs to be written about. Only recently I was thinking how very few books seem to address this subject after I read another book that touched upon it. I will spoiler tag the name of this other book because, if you’ve read it, it will obviously give a big part of the story away. It’s up to you if you want to know what I’m referring to – (view spoiler). Anyway, in my opinion, the approach of this other book worked much better for me. It was more subtle and the build-up to the reveal didn’t feel quite so melodramatic and cringy. I couldn’t shake the feeling that every emotion portrayed in Hurt was over the top and disingenuous.

There’s a lot of drama in this novel that feels like a plot tool to stretch out the length of the book. A lot of Matheo’s feelings are repeated constantly. Every other paragraph seems to include a metaphor for his emotional state, like him jumping from a plane without a parachute or something equally trite. It also focuses a lot on the romance between Matheo and his girlfriend (Lola) and how this is affected by what happens. I understand why it was important, in part, but I got tired of Matheo and Lola’s conversations going around in the same circles of “Are you okay, sweetheart?” “No, but I can’t tell you why” “Yes you can, I love you” “No I can’t” *storms off dramatically* A lot of Hurt seems to be about the characters wandering around in the same cycles of conversation and thought until Matheo eventually admits what’s wrong.

Lola also annoyed me the more the book went on. She is an astonishingly under-developed character despite having such a central role to play in the story. She exists in this book solely as Matheo’s girlfriend; she seems to live for him and not have a thought for anything beyond him and their relationship. Who is she? What does she want other than Matheo? What does she care about? She stands by waiting to tell Matheo she loves him when the occasion calls for it. Other than that, though, she is nothing more than a throwaway character.

In the other book I mentioned before, the big reveal doesn’t matter so much. It matters only in that we care about the main character and want him to be okay (well, I did). The problem with Hurt is how everything is built up around the mystery of what happened to Matheo and who was responsible for it. So if, like me, you manage to figure out (from a bunch of clues that were totally obvious, if you ask me) exactly what is going on, then there’s little else here for you. Everything about this book felt contrived and full of melodrama that left me cold and unmoved. There’s also a nice big tragedy at the end that only made me angry and annoyed at the stupid characters and the book itself. Very disappointed.

Two stars for writing about an important issue and not completely boring me. But no more because of everything I’ve said above.

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

TampaTampa by Alissa Nutting
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups

Believe me, I can easily understand all the negative reactions to this book but I can’t help but find it absolutely fascinating.

In fact, since putting the book down, I’ve given myself a while to think about it and, the more I do, the more I find myself acknowledging how clever and brilliant it is. And even feminist in a way, but I’ll get to that later. You should be aware, if you haven’t already gathered from other reviews, this book is full of vile descriptions and crude language. Being inside Celeste’s head makes you feel like you need a good long shower afterwards and if you’re not ready for graphic descriptions of the female anatomy and masturbation methods, then you’re not ready for this book. No details are spared here: you have been warned.

The story is about eighth-grade teacher, Celeste Price, who on the outside appears to be everything anyone would want to be: attractive, intelligent, happily married… but underneath the surface lurks a secret she has kept hidden since she was fourteen years old. A secret desire for fourteen year old boys. It plagues her every thought, every step, every move. In private, all she can think about are ways to act upon her longing. She wants to set herself up in a position to engage in an affair with one of the objects of her desire. And eventually, an opportunity arises. Celeste begins a sexual relationship with the fourteen year old Jack. She pursues him, seduces him and uses him to fulfill her sexual needs. There is no love or romance in this story. The only one fooled is Jack. Celeste is not another Humbert in that she never attempts to convince the reader or herself that what she does is for love. It’s all about sex.

What this book does, above everything else, is make us question the gendered view we have of sexual relationships. We are inside Celeste’s mind, getting a good look at how perverted, depraved and even sociopathic she is, so we experience outrage at the way society and the law allow her to escape justice because she is an attractive young woman. There’s an assumption still often being made that women are the passive gender in a sexual relationship and that men are natural predators/aggressors. It’s hard for us to imagine a woman sexually abusing a man. This question is even asked in the book: “If you were a teenage male, would you call a sexual experience with her abuse?” A teen girl with a male teacher is considered a victim of his evil manipulation – a passive victim without a sexuality of her own coming into play. But a teen boy with a female teacher is victim of nothing more than the perfect teen male fantasy. Can attractive women really be rapists? Isn’t Celeste just giving the boys what they want? Doesn’t that make it okay? These are the questions one might ask if they weren’t living inside her mind.

While the disgusting and graphic language left me feeling uncomfortable at times, I also felt it was completely necessary to make the point effectively. The point being that a woman can be as much of a sexual predator as a man and that teen boys can be as much of a victim as teen girls. If we’d been treated to something akin to Humbert’s narrative in Lolita, if it was our sympathy that Celeste looked for, I think the important message would be completely missed. We needed Celeste to be a monster and a sexual predator to show that women can be. And to show how female monsters often go unpunished because of their gender. It reminded me of Gillian Flynn’s characters and the way she creates such fantastically evil women. It’s strange, I suppose, to consider that creating female murderers and rapists is a form of feminism but I think it serves to break down ideas we hold about gender. I also think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge male abuse by females because it does happen and nowhere near enough is written about it. It’s such a taboo subject that male victims often feel ashamed of it and unable to get help.

I have to confess: I quite liked the language. Well, okay, perhaps “like” is the wrong word but I really appreciate crude honesty in books, particularly when the author utilises language the way this author does. I’m not sure we needed such a graphic description of Celeste’s vagina and her masturbation methods but, what the hell, it certainly achieved it’s purpose with me. And, strange as it may sound, there was an odd beauty to the author’s writing that gave a certain artistry to such descriptions. They were gross, naturally, but weirdly poetic.

One thing that is true most of all about Tampa: it makes you think. I put it down and literally spent about an hour sat there, just going over everything in my head. I thought about the way we view relationships, what this means for both men and women, victims and rapists; I thought about the judicial system and the way the law isn’t about guilty/not guilty but the show you put on (which admittedly made me sing Razzle Dazzle from Chicago); I’m still thinking about it all now. One thing I can say for certain – I’m really glad I picked this up.

The Scourge by A.G. Henley

The Scourge (Brilliant Darkness, #1)The Scourge by A.G. Henley
My rating: 1 of 5 teacups

This book was given up at 20% into it, and I’m surprised I made it that far. Instead of writing about an overall take on the book, I’d like to break it down piece by piece as I had highlighted parts that made no sense. Wow, for not making it very far in the book, I’ve got 19 pages of notes on the kindle. Shall we begin?

“I grew up in the forest. I know every path, and the position of every tree and bush.” (7%)
“I wrap my hand around Eland’s sapling-thin arm–roots and creeping weeds on the forest floor have sent me sprawling more often than I want to remember.” (1%)
“I might be terrified and disoriented, but I don’t need a Lofty to give me directions in the forest.” (8%)

I didn’t really care for Fenn by the time I stopped, and it all started with those examples. She was born Sightless, and at first I was in complete understanding of her having fallen in the woods (even though it wasn’t clear about when in her life falling was an issue), but then she goes on to be a jerk about knowing everything, and I’m like, oh-you’re spechul, that’s right. She flipped from being nervous about not having a guide in the woods, to being some kind of pace counting baddass. My first thought when she mentioned the falling, was how in the hell are you supposed to be the only person capable of getting water if you can’t keep from falling?

She talks about how there are a million thoughts in her head (when she first goes to get the water) about sounds, smells, scary stories, memories of the creatures screams, all while apparently keeping the pace count in her head, and then adds singing to all that. And keeps count. Because it’s the counting that she uses to navigate; which I’m not saying isn’t logical, just that the cacophony in her head makes it harder to believe she wouldn’t lose count.

Moving on!

“When a boy asks a girl my age, seventeen years, to dance at the Summer Solstice celebration, it usually means he’s singled her out as his partner–for life, not just for the dance.”(2%)
(Talks about her lifelong friend and then) “But…maybe I’m just not ready to partner.”(2%)
(talks about her hair) “–and a thrill runs through me. I wonder if I’ll be asked to dance tonight.” (2%)
“It can’t hurt to look my best”(2%)
“”I don’t want to be the only one not asked, you know?”” (Callie)(2%)
“I do know, although I think I’m more willing to suffer the humiliation of not being asked than to agree to partner for life with whoever might feel like asking me today.”(2%)
“”Maybe it’s time for a new tradition.””(4%)(Fenn says–as she goes to greet the Lofties that come every year to the Solstice Celebration)
“There’s no rule against dancing with them, but that’s only because no one has ever tried. Aloe–not to mention the rest of my people–might be furious with me. I decide I don’t care. At least I’ll have made my own choice.”(5%)
“”Peree? Would you like to dance?” He doesn’t say anything. I bite my bottom lip. “You know, dance? I’m not bad, really. I won’t even step on your feet much.”(5%)

Sigh. So many things about this annoy me that I almost don’t even want to talk about them. If she didn’t want to partner with her friend, who was hinted at being the guy to ask her to dance, then why would she ask her new Keeper and make it sound like it was only a dance?! How did anyone learn to dance at all since the dance equaled marriage, lol. The whole thing was just too much of a contradiction to satisfy me, and Fenn wasn’t a baddass in asking Peree with the information we’re given. I wasn’t impressed.

Now for information on those horrifying Lofties.

“All the Lofty men are named for birds, while the women have ridiculous names like Sunbeam, Dewdrop, and Mist.”(5%)(view spoiler)
“The Lofties usually give us more warning when the Scourge is near. It’s their part of our uneasy bargain.”(6%)
“And what about Peree? He’s kind. Concerned. Funny, even. Things Lofties aren’t supposed to be. I’m not supposed to like him.”(10%)
“We don’t talk much about the Exchange, either. It only reminds us why we hate the Lofties.”(11%) –“Generations ago”–is when it all happened I guess.
“People with dark coloring were arbitrarily forced to the forest floor to become Groundlings.”(11%)
“The fair-haired, light eyed children are taken by the Lofties to live high above the ground, in the sunlit warmth and security of their tree-top aeries. The dark babies are taken by us, to live in fear of the Scourge.” (view spoiler)


I don’t like anything about this caste system, and there isn’t any other explanations up to the point that I gave up. It doesn’t make any kind of sense! We have no idea what the year is, we don’t know how MANY generations ago shit went to hell, and the way they have divided the people lacks all logic!! On top of that, to make it sound as though those the people wouldn’t have fucking revolted pissed me off! Who in their right mind is going to think that if you’re left on the ground with zombies, while your neighbor is safely away from their reach, that you wouldn’t fucking change things!! We’re told that the Scourge leaves, and when they’re there, they only stay for a few days at a time (a week once), so what the fuck prevents the Lofties from getting their own damn water, or for that matter, why haven’t either people created a damn storage system?! This chick is using bags, and a fucking sled, to gather water. Making multiple trips with the Scourge surrounding her in order to get water, and meanwhile, her Keeper is killing them but she never once trips over a dead body (he does warn her two different times about stepping to the side, but it was after she’d been standing still. There are times when she’s walking and he’s shooting, but magically nothing unexpected ever comes in contact with her).

I mean really. I just can’t even.

The Scourge, or Fleshies, or flesh-eaters:

“They roam the forests, reeking of festering flesh, consuming anything living. People who survive the attacks become flesh-eaters themselves. Death is better.”(3%)
“They only move on when they’ve exhausted their food source, the animals–and humans–who rely on the fresh water to survive. Groundlings have tried over the years, but we’ve never been able to find another source of water. It’s risky to explore very far from the caves, because we never know when the flesh-eaters will come. So we’re stuck, with the Lofties, with the Scourge.”(6%)
“The caves are safe. The flesh-eaters don’t come in…”(6%)
“The Scourge typically stays for two or three days, but they could stay longer. Sometimes even a week or more. The elders didn’t speak of those times.”(10%)

Tell me why the Groundlings wouldn’t have just started living in the caves if that’s one sure-fire way to stay safe?! Seriously?! They say they can’t leave the caves until the Scourge has left, but yet the arrows that Peree shot them with kills them, so why the fuck don’t the groundlings make some fucking weapons!!! Or, better yet, why haven’t they made some fucking boats and taken to living on the lake since the Scourge can’t swim?!

Furthermore, this bit about Fennel’s protection from them made no sense to me.
m supposed to be safe from the Scourge, like Aloe, but I haven’t been tested. I will be soon.”(3%)
“For a moment I wonder if my protection will hold, but I push the thought away.(7%)
“My protection from the creatures was confirmed, and it gave them a new respect for me.”(10%)


“I’m not sure I’ll live to see the morning after the Three discover my duplicity.”(16%)
“…serious lapse in judgment that may have contributed to the deaths of several Groundlings.”(18%)
“And you will spend the night in the forest, among the Scourge, as a reminder that you can either stand together with your community…or you will stand alone.”(18%)

Let me get this straight–testing Fennel to see if she wouldn’t be EATEN was simply finding out if…they wouldn’t eat her on her way to get water the first time?! I had assumed they’d captured one and would see if it shrunk away from her or something, but no, it was ‘hey girl, it’s your duty now to provide water to the whole tribe, so get going, and I hope you don’t die.’ Dumb! Then I start wondering, well I wonder all over again, why she would be the only one to get water as a Sightless (other than Aloe, who is her foster mother, and just stepped down from water duties to become a member of the council I guess), and they clearly have no qualms about her safety. In fact, they decide to punish her having given the Lofties their water rations against their wishes, by possibly condemning her to die outside the caves while the Scourge is there?! NO FUCKING SENSE! In fact, the whole issue of them not wanting to give the Lofties their water that day was stupid. Why in the name of gawd would they want to antagonize the people they admit gives them protection from the zombies?! Fennel does ask this, which was good, but still. It didn’t make sense.

To sum up my feelings in pictures…




Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard PeacockForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

I don’t know how helpful this review will be because I read most of the book through a film of tears. Which is an embarrassingly melodramatic statement to make after this book managed to be so dark and sad without feeling forced or manipulative like my words. But it’s true. Some of the tears were laughter, most of them were sadness. I just… I don’t know how to review books like this. I want to string together a list of beautiful, funny or sad quotes from the book when what I’m really saying is: “Just read it. Don’t take my word for it. Look, it’s there. Go love it.” Most of the book’s strengths can’t be talked about without spoilers and one of the main issues targeted in the story is very much needed; there’s not nearly enough books out there about it. But I can’t tell you what it is.

I’m tempted to say “I wish all books were like this” but that would totally defeat the point of what I’m saying. Because Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock felt so different to everything else out there and that’s partly why I loved it so much. Some of Leonard’s problems have been explored in other young adult novels, but none of them do it in quite the same way. I especially liked the creative use of letters Leonard wrote to himself from the future (this makes a lot more sense when you read the book, I swear). But, as with Sorta Like a Rock Star, the real strength lies with the vibrant, full-of-life protagonist himself. He takes center stage and captures your attention for the whole book, dragging you into his life until you find it hard to put down the novel and convince yourself he isn’t real.

Sorta Like a Rock Star is a darker book than the cover would have you think but it looks a bit like sunshine and rainbows when compared to this. And yet, somehow, Quick manages to make the dark story of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock work by mixing in some scenes of humour and, ultimately, hope. I can handle dark and depressing stories just fine, but a light at the end of the tunnel to balance out a story where I care so much about the main character is essential. And in this book, I cared so much I couldn’t look away from the sad story of Leonard and how he decided his eighteenth birthday would be his last. Taking his grandfather’s P-38 pistol in his backpack, he sets out to kill his former best friend and himself. Over the course of the day, we slowly learn the reasons behind Leonard’s decision and are forced to sit on the edge of our seats, hoping one of the people in his life breaks the pattern and stops letting him down.

Leonard Peacock has to be one of the loneliest characters I’ve ever encountered. He’s weird. He’s confused. Part of him wants to die but most of him just wants to be saved. There’s a sad honesty to his voice that makes the story so convincing and that much more effective. I also love books that weave in questions about morality that actually make the reader stop and think for a while. There’s plenty of questions being asked here about life, death, parental responsibility, the way we view others and religion. The last of which, in my opinion, gives us some of the funniest moments of the whole novel (though perhaps not if you’re particularly devout). There is some mockery of the whole “believe or be damned to hell” aspect of religion but, let’s be honest, that is hilarious.

All I can say now is: read this. But be prepared for sadness. There’s a sad tone to the novel that goes beyond the “issues” targeted. And I think the reason is Leonard Peacock. Because the author makes you love him from afar and you just want to hug him and solve his problems, knowing that you can’t. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why this book was so sad even in the happier bits. And why I was tearing up even when Leonard said “the world would be a better place if they gave medals to great teachers rather than just soldiers.” Jesus, I’m going to cry again if I don’t stop talking about this book. So, get out of here. Go READ IT.

Shooting Scars by Karina Halle

Shooting Scars (The Artists Trilogy, #2)Shooting Scars by Karina Halle
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

Do the words “sexy”, “dark” and “twisted” pique your interest?
Do you secretly love romance but find yourself steering clear of it because of the cheese, the cliches and the recycled characters?
Have you been immersing yourself in the current New Adult trend only to keep meeting with disappointment after disappointment?
Do you wish you could read a book about a hot, sweet and complicated relationship (or two) without the usual misogyny or annoyances?

Well, have no fear, for Karina Halle is here.
I normally avoid contemporary romance like the plague because of the reasons stated above. Especially ones with a love triangle. But this series just proves that any reader’s rule can be broken in the hands of a talented author. That any number of utterly depraved characters can capture your heart with the right amount of skilled character development, touches of humour, and a dark, multi-layered complexity that makes Ellie, Camden and Javier more than simply good or bad. Let’s meet our morally questionable cast.

Her name is Ellie Watt.

Badass. Conwoman. Damaged. Resourceful. Sad. Angry. Confused. Likeable. Unlikeable. Totally screwed up. Today she may be Ellie Watt, but yesterday she was Eden White, and tomorrow she could be Eleanor Willis. Who is she really? The young woman who fell in love with a bad man? The teenager who turned her back on her only friend? A damaged girl torn apart by a lust for vengeance? Only time will tell.

Now meet the two men who love her.

Camden McQueen – “She took a piece of me I was unable to get back until I was inside her, feeling her heart and her sins in my hands.” Camden is the tattoo artist who has been in love with Ellie Watt for as long as he can remember. But as soon as things looked like they might be going right for once, circumstances have swept Ellie away from him yet again. This time, however, he isn’t going to let her go so easily. This time, he’ll start World War III if he has to.

Javier Bernal – “What Javier and I shared was a deadly cocktail of intense hormones and lies. People who burn that brightly still get burned in the end.” Dangerous. Exciting. Volatile. So wrong but so… right? Javier is now the drug lord of a huge empire and he has big plans for Ellie Watt. She’s been on the run from him for six years and now he’s finally caught up with the only woman he ever loved. What does he want from her? Will Ellie Watt be as willing to give in as Eden White was? And how much danger will she be in if she does?

Oh no, the decisions we must make!

The reason, I think, this love triangle works so damn well and very few others do, is because the two contenders for Ellie’s heart are both on equal footing. As soon as you think you’ve worked out who you want Ellie to be with, the other one does something to make you question your decision. The characters and relationships are so complicated (in a good way) that reading these books is a journey through so many different thoughts and emotions. Make no mistake, the characters in this book are all pretty despicable on some level or other, burning up in the flames of their own anger, hatred and insecurity, but it sure makes this book all the more fun to read. Only a few authors can take some truly bad individuals and make you mesmerised by their stories – Gillian Flynn is the example that first comes to mind.

What can I say? I love baaaad people.

There’s one thing I love that Karina Halle manages to do so well and very few authors can manage: she shows the gradual progression of characters and relationships over time. Camden and Gus, for an unexpected example, start out as reluctant partners trading jibes, but their experiences together turn them into friends. It’s natural for people to grow and change and develop as they go through more experiences and Halle never neglects to show it. Her characters always feel a little older, a little more experienced at the end of each book than they did at the beginning.

In short: this sequel was absolutely delicious. More sexiness, more nastiness, more depravity. Halle really knows how to take you on a journey and have you change your mind a million times before it’s over. It’s a wickedly fun, exciting read, but tinged with bittersweet sadness. I now know who Ellie should probably be with for the sake of her own sanity. But, then again, Ms Halle is the queen of making me change my mind. One mild criticism I have is the non-ending of this book, it left me incredibly frustrated, but I feel Moning’s Fever series has prepared me somewhat for endings of this kind. I only hope the third book makes the pulse-pounding feeling of tension I have right now completely worth it. I’m sure it will.

Are you excited about this series yet? You should be.

Acid by Emma Pass

AcidAcid by Emma Pass
My rating: 2 of 5 teacups

Oh my word, this ended up being one big disappointment. At first I thought for sure I had another winner, and was planning on giving it five stars, but then I got to the second half of the book and almost rage quit. I’ll be discussing the plot in depth (though I wouldn’t consider it too spoilerish), and any spoiler tags will true spoilers, so don’t open the tags if you don’t want to know what they say.

The first part

The book opens with our protagonist as an inmate in prison, and one thing that I can’t get enough of, is some hard-as-nails women. I just love those kinds of characters. I want to be them, and if I can’t be them, I want them to be my best friend. Jenna impressed me from the first page and it just kept getting better. One of the first lines: “I curl my lip into a snarl, half tempted to go over there and introduce him to my fists.” And this one: “Hopefully he’s got a good view of the tattoo on the back of my neck, the one I did myself last year using ink from a pen I found in the laundry and a shard of metal, telling him and anyone else who cares to read it to FUCK OFF.”

Give me moar!!! I caught my face moving into that impressed grin that I have when I come across a chick like that, and I’m telling you, I was excited to see what happened next.

The story is about our girl’s journey from hard inmate, to…pudding soft girl in love? Yeah. But I’ll get to that in the second half of this review. Back to the girl that I couldn’t get enough of! She ends up being broken out of prison by the prison’s doctor, and though she has no idea why, she ends up–actually, she doesn’t end up finding out why until nearly the end. But her annoyance with that was perfectly matched to my own, so I applaud the author for putting that in there.

Jenna goes through so much that I really felt bad for her for most of the book, but she doesn’t wallow and complain, nope! She’s gets pissed off!! (view spoiler)[When she finds out that her memories have been tampered with I was expecting her to have a bit of a breakdown, but no, she was livid. Not only that, but she was all about vengeance, and that’s something I like in my main characters. (hide spoiler)] The dark tones of this book were just superb! Everything was fabulously done.

Until she met a boy.

The second part

Now it all goes very wrong for me. After seeing Jenna be such a badass for so long, seeing her become so…obsessed…with Max really pissed me off. I can understand her having some feelings for a boy since she is still a teenager, but it just didn’t mesh with the character I’d been reading about. She meets him after he tries to mug her, and then he goes through withdrawals in her flat. He’s wanted by ACID too, and is the son of the prison doctor who broke her out of prison, and somehow she thinks that she owes him. Mind you, she’s basically in witness protection, and the charade she’s trying really hard to maintain is getting all kinds of jacked up, but no matter, he’s got pretty eyes and a nice smile. There’s this horrible woman in her apartment building that she knows will alert ACID if anything seems suspicious, and guess what happens? Yep. She does just that and then Jenna and Max make a run for it.

As they’re running from the agents, they somehow find this underground hiding spot for other people who are bucking the laws set down by the evil ACID regime. ACID really was a good evil, just to be clear, and I can’t even imagine what living in a world like that would be like. If some nosy person wanted to fucking spy on me daily I’d likely lose my mind. Mind your own business! Anyway, they’re suddenly surrounded by these other people, and Jenna decided that they’d pretend to be a couple. Since the other people seemed to be all couples. Yeah. I can get past that though I suppose. Max is really sick though, and they end up staying there for several days while he recovers from his fever, and during this time I guess they fall in love. There’s not much to go on here, other than that they’re both on the run, and they’re both in close confines together, but Max doesn’t even know who she is really, and Jenna makes no move to enlighten him and try to make him understand what all happened to her. (view spoiler)[ACID put it out that she was the one responsible for his dad dying, but it wasn’t her, it was the agents on the roof. (hide spoiler)]

The haven turns out to be not such a safe place after all when they learn the leader is actually a crazy man who amounts to a domestic terrorist. The, six?, other people there apparently frighten Jenna so much that she makes no attempt to break free. Our badass girl who is more than capable of holding her own as the only female in a high security prison, is intimidated by a few teenagers. Max in turn seems to be incapable of really defending himself, aside from being ill of course, because not one time does he attempt to break free either. I get that the leader was a better fighter than Jenna, but there’s two of them, and all they had to do was disable the fragile looking girl, and get the gun back, and then they could have left. But whatever.

As they get roped into this terrorist plot, they manage to run for it, and try to let ACID know that there’s a bunch of bad about to happen. What actually happens though is that Jenna gets herself sent back to prison!!! And Max finds out who she is and declares his hatred for her. That doesn’t matter to Jenna though because, no shit, (this is a memory of him that tries to surface later) “I can’t make out his face but I feel an inexplicable pull towards him, a rush of intense love mixed with sadness and guilt.” The only thing she thinks about after her return to prison is Max, and how he must be feeling/holding up/thinking/being treated.

No. Joke.

Then, our brilliant girl is given a ‘get out of jail free’ pass, and after she’s once again rescued, she decides to fuck up years worth of planning so she can go save poor Max from prison. I swear this whole fucking line of bullshit made me so pissed that I was thisclose to quitting. Gone is the girl that I was totally loving, and in her place was this obsessive little BRAT who didn’t care about anything but her love and her revenge. Never mind the FACT that if the general saw her he would recognize her on the spot, NO, she must save Max!! SHE MUST! She’s also told how she is to be a legit ACID officer, but fuck that, there’s suffering people in this prison! She had no idea!! Not like she fucking spent two years in a prison herself, NO! She ignores all the orders and helps herself into cells to give food, water, and just fucking companionship to a prisoner, and some-fucking-how she’s never caught. Even though the place is supposed to be under video surveillance like no other, NO, IT DOESN’T MATTER! SHE MUST HELP THIS GIRL!

The ending (view spoiler)[Then the goddamn general shows up, and the first night he’s there she punches the guard outside his door, and stuffs him in the bathroom, just fucking HOPING he wouldn’t come to before she was done with her plan. Then she goes into the general’s room and wakes him up, cuffs him to a chair, and makes him confess that she didn’t kill her parents, but rather it was ACID. He does so, but tells her that the whole jail is about to be blown up…because he’s always known about the resistance, and HAHA the jokes on you Jenna. So she fucking leave
s him, and goes to tell the others, because nobody else in the world but Jenna would have been able to find this out, and when they start evacuation they discover that the big bad general has, GASP, escaped! Oh, that’s right, because she didn’t fucking restrain that fucking guard! No shit Sherlock!!! And then we’re led on a merry chase where the general takes on a cartoonish persona with his life’s mission being to END JENNA STRONG, and blah blah, he’s caught. Crisis averted. All very fucking neat, and unbelievable. I was so angry.

But what I thought was a real kicker was in the end there’s a news clipping of how ACID was found guilty of a plethora of human rights violations, but and I fucking quote, “Perhaps the biggest shock of all was the evidence that proved Jenna Strong was indeed innocent, and that her parents were in fact killed by ACID on the orders of General Harvey.” Tell me how in the FUCK that’s going to be the biggest shock when this massive corrupt organization, that is truly evil, is finally toppled for massive human rights atrocities! Who fucking cares that Jenna went through that in the big picture!!!!!!!!!!! She was not the only one who suffered under ACID’s regime! (hide spoiler)] @#$#$^^^&*%^#@$@!#$#$^%^*^&* RAAAAAGE!!!!!!

JUST FUCKING UGH. I’m done. This review is out of control long, and I’m just fucking done. Oh, but real quick. This bugs me so much. When telling military time, use numbers, NEVER letters. It’s NEVER OH-whatever time, it’s ALWAYS zero-whatever time. It’s not oh-eight hundred, it’s zero eight hundred, or just zero-eight. I fucking hate that. Unless it’s different for the British, and then disregard.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

All Our YesterdaysAll Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

I’m still reeling from this book. I finished it with that sad, hollow feeling that makes it impossible to read anything else for a while because you’re still living in the book’s world and still caught up in the adventures of those characters. And I didn’t expect to like this book anywhere near as much as I did. It’s a science-fiction book with a romance that is central to the story and we all know how well those go. But it’s well-written and compelling with a very interesting and seemingly original (to me) take on the concept and science behind time travel. It took me longer than usual to read this book; but sometimes it does take me more time to read books I really loved because I tend to savour them a bit more. I find myself pausing to read sentences again because I liked them so much, or because the emotions I feel are too much to process in one reading.

Some people might be tempted to call this book a dystopia, which is fair enough because it is about a future world gone horribly wrong, but I view books about time travel (especially ones as scientifically detailed as this) to be the more traditional brand of sci-fi. Though, for me, it still carries that key ingredient that I look for in a dystopia, that key ingredient that has had me spending many disappointed hours searching through the dystopian craze for a book that holds it. It’s an element I’ve been addicted to for a very long time. When I was eleven I read Nineteen Eighty-Four and then when I was fourteen I read The Handmaid’s Tale – these two readings sparked a thus-far lifelong interest in a future world that, no matter how realistic or unrealistic, is so well-crafted and well-explained that it’s impossible to not believe in it. A world that you can see happening because the author shows how we got from here to there. They base it in science and facts and politics to make it seem like a very real possibility and to make you absolutely terrified from start to finish.

This book scared me. Ms Terrill managed to convince me completely that time travel was not only real, but a very real threat to the life we know. Think about it. What could a government do with time travel? What alliances could they break apart before they ever happened? What foreign powers could they destroy before they ever rose up against them? And I know what people will think – there’s a time paradox, right? You change the past and then you change the future. But Terrill also offers a very interesting and convincing explanation for that. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, but not so much a science nerd until I read the scientific foundations of this story with wide-eyed awe. Maybe it couldn’t really work like that. No, probably it couldn’t really work like that. But isn’t that the definition of good science fiction? To take the impossible or the improbable and convince the reader that it’s real?

Let’s move onto the characters. They are so multi-layered and complex that they jump off the page. One of the things I loved the most was seeing Em as she is now, Marina as she was then and seeing how one could grow into the other. The growth of her character felt realistic, you could easily see how her experiences had changed her and the book touches upon the question of how much people can really change. How much of our adult selves lurks beneath the surface when we are children? If we do bad things, when did we become a person capable of doing bad things? Was it always there? This is such a fascinating book on so many levels – the science-y world-building aspect, the political aspect and the characters’ struggles. But, above all, I adored Finn. And maybe that’s why I don’t care that the romance played quite a big part in this book, because Finn is fantastic. And funny. And wonderful. And I want a Finn too!

The main questions this book asks are: if you could go back and kill a man who would do terrible things before he had the power to do so, would you? What if that person was one you loved? How easy would it be to look into the eyes of an innocent who couldn’t believe they’d ever hurt anyone… and pull the trigger? Is that person even the same as the one they’ll become? This book not only scared me, it broke my heart too.

And that ending, oh god, that ending. Perfect bittersweetness.

All Our YesterdaysAll Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

“”You have to kill him.” Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America�s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James�s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina�s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.”

I think that the synopsis is perfect and have nothing to add to it, which is why I’ve decided to use it in my review. I loved this book! The writing is wonderful; full of tension, some mystery, angst, humor, and pain. I wasn’t even five chapters into the story before I could tell it would be a book that I’d love; it didn’t have to grow on me or require me to be forgiving to enjoy it. I plan on reading whatever Cristin Terrill puts out next, because she knows how to write a spectacular character driven story!!

It didn’t take long to realize who the Doctor was that Em is so afraid of, but it did take me a minute to realize who Em was, lol. It isn’t a secret that Em is going back in time to stop the creation of that time machine (it’s the only one in the world as far as we know), and what I thought were two characters are actually just one. This was so horrible to experience with Em because really, what would you do to protect a younger version of yourself from such horrible events?! I teared up a few times while reading this late into the night, and though the ending was slightly too perfect for my tastes, I still wish it had been longer just so that I didn’t have to let go.

Finn is on my list as one of my favorite males, and he kind of reminded me of Roar, though less platonic, lol. Marina was wonderfully realistic, and it was interesting to see how she and Em compared to each other. James…James is harder for me. On one hand I really liked his shy nerdiness, and on the other I found his evolution to be slightly hard to believe. Not that I didn’t believe almost all of what he became, but the part where he keeps insisting that Em ‘betrayed’ him, referred to the paper she had as ‘documents’ that I didn’t understand why he would need considering he completed his research, and what he was doing during the climax of the story…was a little much I guess. Not bad, just a little much.

If you’re like me and a well written character driven story is what makes you happiest, then I can’t recommend this book highly enough for you! If you like a wonderfully tense and layered plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat, then I can’t recommend this book highly enough for you! If you just like good stories, then–well you get the idea.

Read this.