ARC Book Review: The Drifter by Christine Lennon

the-drifter

ashley | I’m starting to see a trend with mystery-thrillers these days. There is the straight up thriller that keeps me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out whodunnit, and then there is this new wave of books that claim the same domain, but really just use the foundation of a serial killer or a missing person to build an otherwise typical story that is nice enough, but doesn’t exactly depict a mystery. The Drifter by Christine Lennon falls into the later category, which would be fine if I knew that going in, but I didn’t and that was ultimately a frustration of mine that dragged through the entire book.

Like I mentioned, this book wasn’t really a mystery-thriller, at least not in the sense I was expecting. It’s far more about college friendships that start to strain and drift as people grow and mature. We’re told something big happens, an act of violence, but it took such a long time to get to that point and what we were left with while waiting was a lot of sorority girl bickering and reminiscing about drunken nights and even drunker hook ups. I understand a lot of this is building their characters and providing a back story, but I couldn’t stand this in college, I definitely can’t stand it now. Even once this violent act happens, the way Betsy reacts just removes herself from this interesting part which could have been so rich with emotion, and instead we watch her drift aimlessly through her life for a while. 

I’m going to be straight up honest, I didn’t like this book at all. I was really intrigued in the beginning and could have shifted my expectations and settled into a coming of age story, but I found it overly wordy and unnecessarily detailed with long sentences and a lot of extra information that wasn’t needed. It was repetitive in the way that any time a character was mentioned, there was a description about them or a story that flashed back to show the relationship between them and Betsy, but these were things that were already covered the last time that the character was mentioned. There were far too many flashbacks that dragged on and not enough depth of the emotional trauma that Betsy or the other girls were feeling until the very end.

What I will say, though, is that Lennon did a great job in showing the tension and the cattiness between girls, especially girls who have drifted apart and cross paths again years down the road. The relationship between Betsy and Caroline was really complicated and awful most of the time, but I did really like how things came together for them in the end and they both kind of got a little closure and a glimpse into the other girl’s head. That part kind of hit close to home.

In fairness, this was an advance copy and maybe things will be tightened up a bit before publication, but I just found this story jumped in so many different directions and the timeline of certain events and revelations seemed kind of out of whack. I didn’t believe in some of Betsy’s actions, I didn’t find her friendships strong enough to provoke certain reactions, and I really can’t pinpoint any progression she made as a character, even though there was ample time form her college years to when she leaves Gainesville for her to get herself together and show some progress. Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me.

2CityGirlScapesRating

more information
amazongoodreads website Harper Collins

published
february 14, 2017

copy provided for honest review by
edelweiss

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Book Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

hagseed

ashley | I’m ashamed that I hadn’t heard about the Hogarth Shakespeare series – a retelling of Shakespeare’s popular works by popular authors – until I stumbled on Margaret Atwood’s contribution, Hag-Seed. Initially I just thought it was a new Atwood book, which is an automatic read for me. But I was even more thrilled to discover that this is part of a series that has been happening for over a year now. I’m going to have to go back and find these other pieces of work. But first, Hag-Seed, the retelling of The Tempest.

I am not all that familiar with The Tempest. I never had to read it in school and didn’t pick it up on my own, so this is really one of my first introductions to it. But this was an interesting way to familiarize myself with the story, I think Atwood has done an incredible job of weaving this vengeful story into a modern theatrical setting. Not to mention it surrounds a production of The Tempest, so I’m learning about the original work while learning about it through an interpretation. Layers upon layers of literature.

I liked that this gave an indepth focus to the play and the inmates rehearsing, but a lot of time was spent, in detail, reciting all of this and I grew a little bored with it after a while. I thought maybe it didn’t have to take up such a large portion of the body, but my lacking Tempest knowledge wonders if maybe that’s all part of it and it represents something bigger. Either way, I interest faded slightly, though it grew back with a vengeance the closer we got to Felix’s vengeance.

I’ve always found Atwood to be an incredibly clever writer. Her ideas and viewpoints and how she approaches certain subjects never seem too out in left field, but they always stop and make the think and reconsider certain things. I really enjoyed reading her reimaging of Shakespeare and allowing her to introduce me to The Tempest. I’d happily go back and read the rest of the Hogarth series, but something tells me I’ve started at the top.

4CityGirlScapesRating

more information
amazongoodreads website Penguin Logo

published
october 11, 2016

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Book Review: Chasing Shadows by Karen Harper

chasing-shadows

angela | Karen Harper’s Chasing Shadows takes us into the haunted depths of Florida, as forensic psychologist Claire and attorney Nick engage in a murder investigation with a spooky twist.  Along the way, Claire has to balance treating her lifelong narcolepsy in new surroundings among new people – not all of whom she can trust to help her.  They are joined also by Claire’s ex-husband, Jace, a rather selfish pilot with whom she shares custody of their daughter.

If you are a fan of suspense, this is a fairly decent, quick read. Harper does a good job of keeping the suspense up, and the murderer isn’t given away too easily. Strong points of the story include the scene descriptions of the Shadowlawn plantation house and its surroundings, as well as interesting side notes on indigo production, puppetry, and more.

Romantic suspense is a difficult genre to balance, as it necessarily requires that the characters involved have at least a minor degree of chemistry.  Unfortunately the chemistry between Nick and Claire really fell flat for me.  I get that their relationship is meant to develop slowly over time, so it wasn’t necessary for them to get hot and heavy or anything. However, it was tiresome to repeatedly see their feelings be revealed through their internal narratives, rather than through their interactions in the wider environment.

I would give this book 2.5 glasses out of five.  The concept could be good, but I felt the writing was a bit too much “tell” rather than “show”.  The romantic element completely falls flat for me, and because it does I wonder why it was even necessary. I think Claire’s character development could carry the story without the need for any kind of romance between her and a male character, so having it there is more of an annoying interjection at this time.    

2.5CityGirlScapesRating

more information
amazongoodreads website Harlequin

published
november 29, 2016

copy provided for honest review by
Net Galley

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Book Review: First & Then by Emma Mills

first-then

ashley | Surprise! I’m reading another re-telling! I was in the mood for something light and different and adorable, and I hoped I would find all those words in First & Then by Emma Mills, a contemporary retelling of Pride & Prejudice. 

I picked this up expecting it to be charming, but honestly I found it a little annoying at first. I just didn’t really warm to Devon. I know that she is supposed to be comparable to Elizabeth Bennet, with a fiesty attitude and a disengagement from certain standards, but it just really bothered me how bothered she was by the appearance of Foster in her life and how she was so uninspired by everything except her crush on Cas.

My interpretation of Lizzie was that she was quite independent and while she wanted to find someone she loved, she certainly wasn’t running around pining for boys. In this role, I feel like she would have been driven to find passion with school or something, anything, and the guy thing would come second. Maybe I’m interpreting it wrong or maybe I missed the point, that’s just what I always got from that character and this just didn’t get a very Austen-ish vibe from this at all in the beginning.

That said, I did love how Austen comes up many times in the book, that Devon is a fan. I liked that it drew attention to that. And I really liked the dynamic between Devon and Ezra. This is what I’m supposed to like, right? And Mills did a good job of making Ezra the jerk with a soft inside he’s keeping hidden from everyone. I liked how he and Devon were forced to keep crossing paths and as a result, get to know each other better. This whole situation was the adorable that I was looking for.

Once I got into the book, the beloved Pride & Prejudice feeling started to get stronger and I really enjoyed how things wrapped up. The details that annoyed me seemed to level themselves out, the connections people were making were heart warming and who doesn’t like a happy ending? 

I read this in almost one sitting and it did give me the cute and adorably warm feel I was looking for in this read. I think anyone, a fan of Austen or not, would enjoy this as well.

3.5CityGirlScapesRating

more information
amazongoodreads

published
october 15, 2015

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ARC Book Review: The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

impossible-fortress

ashley | Simon and Schuster hooked me with their description of The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak, saying it was a feel good love story with a dash of 80s nostalgia and even it’s own playable video game!

Parts of this were really charming. I enjoyed reliving the 80’s, before the internet, when it took ages for things to load on the computer and graphics were made out of symbols and numbers. There were illustrated parts of the book, too, which added a nice break. I enjoyed the friendship between the three friends Billy, Alf and Carl and loved that they were so nerdy and into coding and creating games well before it was mainstream. I liked the relationship that blooms out of Billy’s friendship with Mary, and how the two made a pretty good team. 

So I got the nostalgia, I got the coming of age of fourteen year old boys and their interest in seeing a naked Vanna White. Boys will be boys, right? But what I didn’t get, or more so, what I couldn’t take was the way they spoke about Mary, the slightly overweight daughter of the store owner where the coveted Vanna White Playboy is. It was horrible. Kids aren’t nice, boys especially when it comes to teen girls, and perhaps this adds a sense of realism to this story, but frankly, by making our heroes treat her so poorly without any consequences or anyone to counteract it is almost condoning the behaviour and that’s a huge problem for me. To me, coming of age stories are also supposed to encourage the reader to relate to and learn from the experience. This was not the messaging I’d want anyone to learn.

I’ll admit I didn’t see the little twist in the ending and perhaps that kind of explains away the reason there was such an emphasis on certain things earlier on. That really came out of the blue for me, but it doesn’t really make up for the comments and the behaviour earlier on. 

I wanted this to have a little Stand By Me feel, and it did for the most part, but there was a harshness to it that kind of kept me from fully enjoying it. Sadly, that harshness is likely the most realistic thing about this book, but I see enough of that in real life, I was hoping for something a bit more here.

3.5CityGirlScapesRating

more information
amazongoodreads website simonschuster

available
february 7, 2017

copy provided for honest review by
Net Galley

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