Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she's alone - and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

PSA: This is not going to be everyone's cup of tea.

I am a big fan of survival stories. I am also a big fan of Mindy McGinnis. Therefore I knew that I would probably like this book.

That being said, this book took a risky route in that it is one character on her own. Her internal dialogue was what drove this story forward, but if you need lots of dialogue then this is not for you. If you want seclusion and fear and inner turmoil then it may just be the book you need.

Okay, so I wasn't sold on Ashley from the start. She's a typical teen - meaning she is prone to judgement and jealousy and isn't perhaps the nicest character. She judges her friends, her enemies and anywhere in between. Also, this is a girl who apparently knows the woods. She knows how to survive, so even in an irrational moment of devestation I don't believe that Ashley would run barefoot into the woods in the middle of the night.

That being said, she did. This is where we are. She has a mangled foot and has no idea where she is. She's run a while and then fallen down a ridge and she was drunk so all she has to do now is get back on the trail. I really liked reading her confidence - she'll get back, she'll be fine - turn to despair as she realises she has no idea where she is... where the trail is, and as she realised she needs medical help and fast.

There's not much more I can say about this book, because I don't want to spoil plot points beyond that, I want every reader to experience the fear and isoplation I did as I read this book, so I'm going to stop by saying that I really enjoyed this book - another banger by Mindy McGinnis.



Book released 3rd March 2020 by Katherine Tegen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea
It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

I read 'Shatter Me' by Mafi like... nine years ago or something, and whilst I never finished the series because I didn't really like the direction it was going, I remember thinking that Mafi really had a way with words. I am very glad that she toned down her style for this book though, it didn't need beautiful prose. That being said, I think she toned down the style a little too much because this book just read as 'I did and I said' - telling not showing.

I hate to say this, because I get the feeling that this book is semi-autobiagraphical for Mafi and I don't want to insult the author in any way, but I simply didn't like Shirin as a character. I get it, she has every right to be angry at the world after how she was treated and people can be awful, but she doesn't allow herself to see other people as people. She is so prepared to be offended at every corner that she doesn't stop to think about how she might be percieved for that. She is described as 'mean' and 'scary' by many characters and doesn't see how that might be an issue.  I feel like if this is semi-autobiographical maybe the 30+ year old Mafi could have fine-tuned some of the characters a little bit.

 I liked Ocean, and I liked his persistance in bringing Shirin out of her angry defensive shell. I wish he had been more fleshed out though. They fall in this deep, all-encompassing love without knowing the first thing about each other which made it hard for me to really get on board with.

I love what Mafi was trying to do here, and she did a lot in raising awareness in me with regards to what Muslims suffered after 9/11. That was such an important thing for me... so why did this so suddenly turn into a romance plot. Why did Ocean's suffering take over Shirin's?
  
Look, I really appreciate what Mafi was trying to do here. I know how priveledged I am in my life and maybe this book didn't hit me where it was meant to for that reason, but it felt derailed and unfocused, like someone's memoirs that need a finetune and for that reason this book seriously disappointed me.


 

Book released 16th October 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke Cohen

Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance
Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home.

But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility.

Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.

I haven't read a decent Historical Fiction book in quite a while - I swear it's one of those genres I never ask for but I'm always happy when I find one.

Dangerous Alliance was what I might describe as an 'endearing' book in that it won't sit alongside the best historical YA books I've ever read, but it offered up enough entertainment to keep me reading. Don't get me wrong, there was issues with characters and pacing, but at no point did I want to give up.

I am always a sucker for a childhood friend who comes back into the picture to sweep the heroine off her feet. Tom was that for me, and I was rooting for him from the start. Sure, Carmichael was rakish enough to be attractive and he did have bits of chemistry with Vicky, but he didn't have the connection that I found with Tom... plus I have read enough Jane Austen to know that he simply wasn't going to be a nice guy. he had his redemption arc but it was just too little too late.

Vicky was a decent enough character. Her voice did seem a bit young and immature, and she was reckless and didn't seem to be able to make her mind up about the smallest thing, but she didn't annoy me so much that I simply couldn't read her. 

I had issues a little with the plots and pacing. At some points I found it a little difficult to follow all of the plot threads and I did think that some of them were redundant to the final plot and could have been ironed out. The writing seemed too much like Cohen was trying to write authentic Georgian and it seemed forced. Don't get me wrong, I get that it may have been necessary but some of it rang out 'fanfiction' for me so I did struggle to get past that at points.


Overall, Dangerous Alliance was an entertaining enough read. It's not one I would read again and I certainly won't remember it too far down the line.

 

Book released 3rd December 2019 by Harper Teen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer

The Speed of Falling Objects
Danger "Danny" Danielle Warren is no stranger to falling. After losing an eye in a childhood accident, she had to relearn her perception of movement and space. Now Danny keeps her head down, studies hard, and works to fulfill everyone else's needs. She's certain that her mom's bitterness and her TV star father's absence are her fault. If only she were more―more athletic, charismatic, attractive―life would be perfect.

When her dad calls with an offer to join him to film the next episode of his popular survivalist show, Danny jumps at the chance to prove she's not the disappointment he left behind. Being on set with the hottest teen movie idol of the moment, Gus Price, should be the cherry on top. But when their small plane crashes in the Amazon, and a terrible secret is revealed, Danny must face the truth about the parent she worships and falling for Gus, and find her own inner strength and worth to light the way home.

If I landed in a deserted island or rainforest or anywhere away from civilisation, I wouldn't survive a day. I am simply not the survivey type. Still, I really enjoy reading survival books and stories of survival against the odds and watching survival documentaries. So this book was right up my alley.

I actually for the most part thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was fast paced and the stakes were really high so I was gripped throughout all of the action. I could totally imagine all of the action in my mind's eye and this book was pretty un-put-down-able.

That being said, whilst the plot and the action was high stakes and gripping, I have some issues with the characterisation. Danny is a real to life character in so many ways - just constantly battling with a need to be seen - by her Dad, by Gus, by the people in her life - but it did step into areas of overly needy. The other thing is that Danny has a slight disability - she is half-blind - but I felt that the overlying aim of the story was for her to 'beat' the disability, not to come to terms with it. it's a fine line, but I think the author just crossed it. It's written as something that she needs to beat - like something that can only hold her back - not something that she just needs to make her own.

I hated Cougar - Danny's dad - he was selfish and didn't take time to think about his daughter and the only moments of love he had for her come just to late for me to care. I think Danny was used by everyone in the story and whilst I get that the author was trying to make it look like Danny had to learn to be her own support, it just seamed like the poor girl got abused and used left, right and center.

Still, as I said, I really did enjoy this book and it really was a page turner. I think the issues that I stated are preference more than poor writing and planning, so I can't really judge it too much for that. If I hadn't just finished 'Be Not Far From Me' by Mindy McGinnis - another survival YA book which blew me away - I might rate this half a score higher, but in comparison this one just pales a teeny bit, so that is why the rating reflects that.







Book released 1st October 2018 by Inkyard Press
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

We Set the Dark on Fire (We Set the Dark on Fire, #1)
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

Oh. My. Gosh. Lush worldbuilding and LatinX influence and LGBT and characters that I love love loved... where has this book been all of my life.

This was - admittedly - a slow build for me... the first few chapters where Dani is preparing to 'graduate' and before she gets into Mateo's house were slow going and I didn't get into it until afterwards, when the rebellion storyline came into swing and Dani's incedicision and the romance with Carmen.

But when all of that hit me... trust, I was sold.

Okay, lets take this bit by bit. There were parts which could have been a little more fleshed out for me. Mateo, for example, is a cookie cutter two-dimensional mean guy. This made it had for us to feel any loyalty to us and whilst this is probably what Mejia intended, it would have been a good arc to follow. It made Dani and Carmen's romance less challenged - I mean don't get me wrong, there were enough challenges along the way, but there could have been more! Still though, the fleshed out political storylines and the growth between Dani and Carmen to the point where they became the OTP of the year for me. Yes, it was great.

The ending left me gagging for more... so I can only say that it is a wonderful, wonderful spark of luck that I have an eArc for 'We Unleash the Merciless Storm' just waiting for me to get into.

I am so ready for it.



Book released 26th February 2019 by Katherine Tegen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Can't Wait Wednesday - The Princess Will Save You by Sarah Henning

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they're books that have yet to be released. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine. If you're continuing with WOW, feel free to link those up as well! Find out more here.

The Princess Will Save You (The Princess Will Save You, #1)
The Princess Will Save You by Sarah Henning
July 7th 2020 by Tor Teen
When her father dies, Princess Amarande is given an ultimatum: Marry the leader of one of the four neighboring kingdoms, or lose her crown—and possibly her life. And to force her hand, her beloved, the stable boy Luca, is kidnapped.

But Amarande was raised to be a warrior, not a sacrifice.

And nothing will stop her from saving her true love and rescuing her kingdom.

The acclaimed author of Sea Witch turns the classic damsel-in-distress tale on its head with this story of adventure, identity, and love.
 My thoughts:
Ok so I didn't love Sea Witch by Sarah Henning... still this sounds very Princess Bride-y and so I am totally calling this as one I would love!!

Review: Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge

Dreaming Darkly
 
Ivy Bloodgood’s mother is dead, and she should probably be sad about it. But she isn’t. Myra Bloodgood was confusing mix of protective and abusive, a manipulative personality who never told the truth—about where she came from, who Ivy’s father was, or why they were living their lives on the run. Now that Ivy has been sent to Darkhaven, an island off the New England coast, to live with a rich uncle she didn’t know existed, she is forced to reckon with her mother’s past. Ivy can tell right away there are long-held family secrets buried within these walls, but when she wakes up from one of her nightmares covered in someone else’s blood, Ivy fears that whatever demons her mother battled while she was alive have come to roost in her own mind. Scared that she can no longer trust what she sees, Ivy seeks the help of a boy who thinks her episodes are connected to the sordid history of Darkhaven—but what they don’t know might kill them both.


Dreaming Darkly is one of those books which scratched an itch for me in a moment, but didn't really do much to be memorable. I liked the vibe and the atmosphere for this book, and I loved the gothic mystery and the curses and the family feuds, but at the same time I didn't really care for the characters, so in many ways this was a very divisive book for me.

Firstly, I have to commend Kittredge on her wonderful world-building. Darkhaven as a setting was brooding and... well... dark, and it was wonderfully crafted and for that reason I was actually pulled right into the book. There's no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Kittredge is a talented author.

That being said, the characters fell flat for me in this book. I don't feel like I developed enough of a bond with Ivy to care about her, and that also goes for the rest of the characters. This meant that the fast pacing and the high stakes didn't really grip me, so as soon as the novelty of the setting wore off I was far less invested in this story.

Overall, Dreaming Darkly was reasonably entertaining and wasn't in any way a bad book. The writing was great and I loved the setting, but for some reason I just didn't feel the connection with the characters or the plot and so I can't say that I loved it.


 
Book released 9th April 2019 by Katherine Tegen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

News & Update

Hello all and any who are still around,

I had every intention of getting back into the blogging game last year, and I did so well up until November...

At the end of November, I got some amazing but also terrifying and shocking news...

I'm going to be a Mother!!! 

In this amazing time, reading has simply not been something I can focus on... my attention span is short at the best of times and when every single tweak and ache sparks a combination of awe and fear in me, it hasn't been easy.

That being said, I really miss blogging and I fully intend to pick things up again in the coming weeks. I expect I might be a bit sporadic in the next few months but I will be taking leave from work from the end of June and at that point I hope I will have an opportunity to do lots of reading and reviewing (my TBR needs it...)