15

[ARC REVIEW] The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

the-love-interest

Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, LGBTQ+

Series: None

Rating: 3.5 STARS

Description:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

My Thoughts: 

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I was SUPER EXCITED to read this book. I’ve probably mentioned it only 28498282 times on my blog. So, like, a small amount. I requested it on Netgalley expecting to be turned down because I requested from them twice before and was declined both times, but imagine my surprise when on a really crappy Friday afternoon, I got an e-mail saying I was approved for one of my most anticipated releases. I screamed (in my head, of course, because I was in class, but it was a loud scream in my head). And then I read it in two days. Duh.

So, I guess that’s why I was a little disappointed. Just a little. This book wasn’t terrible by any means, but there were some things that I wanted to happen or I just wanted more of, and it sucks, because I wanted to give it five shiny stars, but then I wouldn’t really be honest with myself! But let’s actually get on to the review!

First up, the stuff I loved! The characters were absolutely brilliant and all three-dimensional and wonderful. We have our main character, Caden, who was so funny and I just loved being in his head and hearing all his thoughts. He’s basically assigned to be a Nice, but he doesn’t really consider himself that way (which I definitely feel because I don’t think I’m a nice person, but maybe other people feel differently). We also have Dylan, the boy that Caden’s competing against, who’s supposed to be a Bad, BUT IS SUCH A SWEETHEART OH MY GOD. I wanted to hug him so hard. Then there’s Juliet, the girl they’re fighting over, who is super smart and wants to be a scientist when she grows up and literally has MADE HER OWN INVENTIONS AND WEAPONS because why not? I didn’t expect to care about her so much, but it was so wonderful to see such a smart girl at the helm of a book! We also have Natalie and Trevor, who dressed up as Hazel Grace and Gus from TFIOS, so they immediately win everything in my books.

The world was also so, so creative! I just loved the way this book continually addressed cliches and the whole background of how everything worked and why it was done was just so well done. Also, in my opinion, this book definitely didn’t suffer from any horrible info-dumps; the world was continually built on as the book went on, and it was just so nice to learn more about the inner workings of the world and the mini details.

Also, this book was hilarious. I’m not one to laugh too much while reading books – funnily enough, the most times I laugh are while watching Youtube videos; go figure – but this one was just so funny and natural while doing it; there was no sort of forced humor. Caden is just a naturally hilarious character, and the fact that it’s so clever at making fun of YA tropes I’m sure we’re all tired of is what makes it so great.

Now on to the things I didn’t love so much. I know this might be hard to believe for some of you guys who’ve been around here for a while, but…I actually wanted more romance. Yep, I said it; I wanted more of a romance in a YA non-contemporary book. I mean, was this a kissing book? Duh, of course it was (and the kissing was amazing, by the way). BUT, I just wanted WAY more of it. This is more of a slow-burn romance – and I’m a huge fan of that sweet, sweet slow-burn – so I thought a lot of it was more focused on the bonding and the friendship and not the ~actual romance~. But, then again, romance is completely subjective for every reader, so it might be different for you!

Also, I felt like the ending moved way too fast. I had the same sort of complaint with Gone Without a Trace, which was also a thriller – a domestic thriller instead of a spy thriller, though – but Part 1 and 2 of The Love Interest were a bit slower-paced and had more of a contemporary feel, I’d say, and then Part 3 comes along, and it turns into more of a dystopian/spy thriller, and without a smooth transition between the two, the change of pacing and such was quite jarring for me. A lot of stuff happens and a lot of things are revealed and it just has such a different feel than a large majority of the book that, to me, it felt a bit all over the place.

But, the book did make up for itself a little bit just for the simple fact that the epilogue was TO DIE FOR. Excuse me while I casually drown in all the feels it gave me and flail all over the damn place.

Overall, though this one didn’t live up to my expectations, this is totally a subjective viewpoint, and you might think differently. I would actually still recommend this book to anyone who wants to read it because it was definitely entertaining!

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A huge thanks to Macmillan Children’s and Fierce Reads for giving me an e-ARC of this book for free in exchange for a review! No matter what I say in this review, it definitely made my day to get accepted for this one, so thanks a lot!

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I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has signed up for Project Big Blogger, Little Blogger so far! It means so much to me that you’re as excited as I am! For all my posts this week, I’ll be linking to my announcement explaining everything – which can be found right here – and the Google form for sign-up – which is right here – because I know there are some people who don’t read all my posts (which is perfectly fine!) or new followers who I don’t want to miss out on this! Feel free to join in, or promote my project in any way you can!

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14

[REVIEW] Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (Ft. Excessive Orange Is The New Black Gifs)

allegedly

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, YA

Series: None

Rating: 3 STARS

Description:

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

My Thoughts:

“Some people are just born bad, plain and simple.”

Honestly, this book wasn’t even on my radar. I’d heard some things about this book because I follow up with the Epic Reads website, but it didn’t really interest me, so I stayed away. But then I was pulled over by the Influence of Bookstagram, and I totally and completely caved because I heard SO MANY GOOD THINGS. Would I say that I totally and completely fell in love with this book? No, not really. But I definitely found this one entertaining, and I’m sure, in the right hands, someone would love this book more than I did.

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So, regarding the characters, I found this one really interesting. We are introduced to Mary, a sixteen-year-old girl stuck in the crappy system and also just happens to be pregnant by her older boyfriend, Ted, who works in the nursing home close to the group home. Mary is someone you will most likely sympathize with. Her relationship with her mother is frayed, she wants to keep her baby but she doesn’t have that choice, she’s trying to get an education but is continually blocked from it, and everyone thinks she killed a baby. Allegedly. I felt so bad for her, and I thought this was a really great book to talk about how the system treats younger prisoners, especially POC. I know we’ve all watched Orange Is the New Black (and if you haven’t, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?), but this seemed like a darker, more grittier version (I mean, the show is dark as well, but this was less comedy and girl power, more depression and girl fights). And with Ted…whatever. I didn’t really care too much about him, to be honest, and I just didn’t like him? I’m weird.

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The plot of this book was done so well. I will say this is a mix between a contemporary and a mystery, so for mystery/thriller fans like me, this is no psychological thriller, but I still found it really addicting, especially since we’re hinted at something more constantly. I personally found this book that way, and I just needed more of it, needed to know what was going to happen, and I can owe that all to Mary and her plight. I just needed to know what was going to happen next, needed to see if she was going to get the proper justice she deserved, needed to know what in the hell actually happened to Alyssa.

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I also loved the little snippets inserted from books and reports and transcripts of interviews. I’m a huge fan of books like that, especially thrillers (it reminds me a lot of Dangerous Girls, and, wow, can I go a post without talking about that book?), and I thought it really added to the story, especially seeing how the public responded to the it. I honestly wonder how the public would respond if a nine-year-old black girl killed a white baby. Would the world go into chaos? Would more people believe she did it or if she didn’t? Would people think she deserved an even worse sentence? It’s one of those really interesting cases that would definitely bring up controversy in the real world right now (and I sort of wonder if it’s based off of something that happened in real life?).

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I don’t know how I feel about the ending. Of course, I’m trying not to spoil, but I feel like I’ve seen it so many times before that I’m not really shocked or surprised, and it’s sort of become something where I basically say, “Oh, okay.” Yeah, the first few times I’ve seen that sort of plot twist, I was like, “Woah; what???” but it’s so overdone at this point that I’m starting to hate it a little. It’s not like it’s the author’s fault or anyone else’s, it just feels as if publishers see a plot twist and go, “YES MUST PUBLISH NOW,” to constantly keep up with the trends, and after seeing a thousand different ways to express the fact that the main character is lost royalty, it gets old.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty interesting mix between a contemporary and a mystery, and I think you should definitely check it out if it interests you.

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5

[ARC BOOK REVIEW] Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

Gone Without a Trace

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Adult

Series: None

Rating: 3 STARS

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Description:

A jaw-dropping novel of psychological suspense that asks, “If the love of your life disappeared without a trace, how far would you go to find out why? ”

Hannah Monroe’s boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It’s as though their last four years together never happened.

As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth…

My Thoughts:

This was quite the interesting psychological thriller. I went into this one really excited because the premise sounded awesome: a woman comes home to find her boyfriend missing? What? Unfortunately, though the pacing for this one was really well done, and this book kept me reading until the very last pages, the ending definitely fell flat on its face for me.

As I said before, the pacing was definitely well done. As soon as I started this book, I was hooked, and it really kept my interest. I feel like I’ve been doing absolutely terrible at reading this past year, so it was really nice to have an addicting read to keep up with. The mystery definitely keeps you going, especially with such an interesting premise at the basis of the novel.

I thought the characters for this one were also quite interesting. We have Hannah, our main character, and Katie, her best friend, that really drive this novel with their toxic friendship. I’m always a fan of that trope in thrillers, and this was no exception. This one proved to be a bit more subtle than as an outright thriller surrounding toxic friendships, but I still really enjoyed it. We also have James, Hannah’s husband, that was a previous boyfriend of hers when the two of them were growing up, and he played an interesting part in the book as well.

What I really thought set this thriller apart than many of the other ones coming before and after it is the fact that this one had a focus on family and its influence, much like The Roanoke Girls, except way less creepier. We get a peek into Hannah’s home life growing up and how that it’s shaped a huge part of her character, which is expanded upon as the book develops. I thought it was a really nice touch to see how her mom and her dad influenced her and played a part in what happens in the overall bigger picture of the book.

Now, the ending was what got stars docked off for me. Near the end, we get what I’d consider an interesting part, because something happens that I didn’t really expect to happen. I was really excited because I wanted to know where the book would propel from there on out. But after that point, the book got so…busy. Things were revealed, we got a flashback, even MORE things were revealed, a big thing happens, more things are revealed, more stuff happens, and then the epilogue. And it was just all too much. I wouldn’t have minded if everything were interspersed near the falling resolution, but it just happened all at once, and that’s what really bothered me the most. 

Overall, an okay psychological thriller that could’ve done with a better ending.

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A huge thanks to Berkley Publishing for the free e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

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31

[TV SHOW DISCUSSION] 13 Reasons Why // In Which I Flail, Cry, and Over-Analyze

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I had no plans to watch 13 Reasons Why. As I do with most things that I get involved with and end up taking over my life. I’d never read the book, I didn’t want to, I wasn’t interested, I’ve never been a huge fan of teen dramas, I suck at binging shows, basically a whole slew of excuses. BUT, because some of my friends in real life said how good it was, I decided to cave. And, boy, am I glad I did.

This show is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m not a crier. I’ve never full on sobbed before reading a book. I’ve teared up, yes, but never full on snot-dripping, tears running down my face crying. This show made me cry. And it wasn’t even when I was watching the actual show. It was when I was watching the mini-documentary, Beyond the Reasons. It just resonated with me so hard that I cried, like, so many times. It was such an emotional experience, and I highly recommend it. Highly.

A couple things before I spoil the heck out of this show:

#1: I absolutely loved the intro to the show. I mean, it doesn’t really matter overall, but I’m glad that it was short because as someone who’s a fan of Sense8, Daredevil, and Orange is the New Black, which are all Netflix shows with minute long intros, it can mess with the binging quality. Also, I loved the animation. So cute.

#2: The characterization was spot on. Like, seriously. Even the characters I hated, still gave me feelings, whether it was anger, sadness, love, I want to cuddle you in a blanket and hug you forever. None of these characters were perfect – all of them made mistakes and all of them were in a gray area, which I absolutely loved (though some of them were bigger assholes than others).

#3: The acting was brilliant. Seriously. I feel like I recognized some of the actors’ faces, but at the same time, I couldn’t place their name, so I wouldn’t say they’re “famous” but they all were so good at bringing their characters to life. Especially Katherine as Hannah. She was absolutely wonderful.

#4: It had one of the best depictions of high school. Like, yes??? This is all I asked for! Probably one of the rawest depictions of high school, because it can either be a Glee where it’s just straight up cheesy or a Degrassi where it’s too many issues at once or a Riverdale, where it’s just…crazy and unrealistic, but this one was probably the best. Not saying my school is like that (though my school is a mess and I don’t like 90% of the people – and I go to a private school), but the things that happen are stories I’ve heard via the news. So it was nice to see something like this, FINALLY.

#5: Though I do love this show and recommend it, if you’re a sensitive person or anything regarding depression, suicide, or sexual assault triggers you, just know that the show and my review shows/talks about these things in-depth. So, again, warning to those who are sensitive to depression, suicide, or sexual assault, just be careful reading my review or watching the show. I’ll make sure to properly warn what will be discussed in my review at each episode if you want to skip.

And now I’m going to say good-bye to those who haven’t watched it yet and are planning to, or those who don’t want spoilers. Leave now and watch it.

13 Reasons Why

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So, first off, probably my favorite thing about this is that the characters are supposed to be sophomores in the flashbacks and juniors in the present, AND THEY LOOK LIKE THAT. It really bothered me when I watched the little of Riverdale that I did that they kept trying to tell me they were sophomores…mainly because I’m a sophomore, and no guy in our grade has six-pack abs, and the girls don’t look like they belong in college. Of course, there are attractive people, but it looked so fake in Riverdale. Which is why I appreciate 13 Reasons Why for having authentic actors.

We find out the first reason is that Hannah goes out on a date with Justin, gets an unflattering picture taken of her on a slide, kisses him, and that’s it. Bryce, who I want to murder (but that’s another story), spreads the unflattering photo around, and everyone immediately starts slut-shaming her. This starts a ripple effect with Hannah’s rep, and I’d probably say this is the first instance of people labeling her a “slut.” It actually breaks my heart that this happened to her, especially because she’s so confident and funny and such a go-getter, someone I’d love to be friends with if she were real. So it sucked to see her spirit broken, and this happens more and more as the series goes on.

We also find out that Tony is apparently involved with this. I was actually shocked, because I totally didn’t think Tony was going to be the whole ringleader in the tapes thing. And, also, because my school put on the musical West Side Story, and now I can’t stop thinking of him as Tony from the Sharks. So, there’s that.

And, also, why does Clay look so recognizable??? Even after learning the actor’s name, I still don’t know if I’ve seen him before or not. He really does remind me of Logan Lerman. But, already, I want to hug him and hold him tight. This feeling will overcome me often.

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First off, we see tidbits of Hannah making out with someone at the beginning. I honestly couldn’t tell who it was because the flashes were so quick, but, obviously, we learn it’s Clay. This piqued my interest because there are so many white boys in this series and what she said over the quick flashes threw me off.

We learn the subject of the second tape: Jessica. She was Hannah’s best friend at the beginning of sophomore year, and we also get to meet Alex, another key character. They were all close friends, but then they all stopped coming to meet each other, and, eventually, Hannah was left alone. And then, shocker, Jessica and Alex start dating. I was actually shocked because I truly thought Alex was going to be gay…but the actor is rumored to be dating the actor who played Justin, so there’s that? Then, this list gets passed around, which ultimately breaks up the Jessica-Hannah friendship. More thoughts on this list coming up in Episode 3.

It’s revealed that Clay used to talk to a therapist and take meds, which doesn’t get talked about often in this show, though it does seem like listening to Hannah’s tapes triggers hallucinations in the early episodes. It isn’t really talked about as to why this happened or what was going on in Clay’s life, but I’m interested.

We also get to meet Bryce a little bit. I’m well aware that he raped Hannah because I knew it happened in the book (or at least, I heard it did), so I already hated him from the beginning. Of course he’s a popular jock; is anyone surprised? I wanted to hurt him. We also see that Tony is involved with Hannah’s parents, and is talking to them. About what, exactly? Who knows.

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So, this is the tape where we learn more about Alex and this whole list. Basically, the list talks about the girls in their grade who have the “Best/Worst” in terms of body parts – and Hannah is voted Best Ass and Jessica is voted Worst Ass. Jessica thought that Hannah and Alex were tag-teaming to try to embarrass her, even though Hannah was truly unaware,  and that was the whole conflict in the previous episode. We find out Alex did it because he tried to have sex with Jessica and she said no, so he just went along and wrote her name on the list for revenge (why am I so surprised?).

We’re also getting introduced to the whole group of assholes who have listened to the tapes previously before Clay, and decide the best course of action is to keep it secret to save their own skin. I’m annoyed at this for several reasons, but mainly because they KNOW that some of the tape-receivers have done illegal things – like rape, for instance, not once, but TWICE – and try to protect themselves. And the more I learn about this group in future episodes, the more I hate them (especially Courtney). But moving on.

In one of the flashbacks, we get to see more of Bryce’s douche-y side because at a liquor store, he GRABS HANNAH’S ASS and says lewd things to her because of this list. Obviously, this spirals a whole thing in which Bryce continually gets away with this, and it unfolds into something really bad.

We also learn more about Justin’s crappy home life, which plays a part in this. He’s hiding out in Bryce’s house because his mom continually hooks up with abusive boyfriends, and doesn’t do anything about it. Even though I still sort of hate him, and have mixed feelings about his character overall, I really don’t believe he should suffer like this, and it’s really sad to see the situation he’s stuck in.

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So, we get to see a look at the school and Hannah’s parents because of this whole lawsuit thing. Clay’s mom attends this meeting with the counselor and other parents where they talk about suicide and warning signs and all that, and Hannah’s mom invades by talking about how everyone should monitor their kids because of some graffiti she’s found on the bathroom stalls. Of course, the school acts like a total snake about it and tries to hide it by painting over it, because OUR POOR PRECIOUS SCHOOL WHAT WILL WE DO UNDER A LAWSUIT. I’m basically angry at two-thirds of the people on this show.

We get to learn more about two characters: Courtney and Tyler (though the fourth tape is mainly about Tyler). Hannah feels uneasy because she thinks that she hears someone taking photos outside her window, and her and Courtney hatch a plan to catch who’s stalking her. Hannah and Courtney get drunk, and we learn that Courtney’s a closet lesbian, and that Tyler is the creepy stalker taking the pictures. I really didn’t expect that to happen, but so many other terrible things happen that this one pales in comparison.

Hannah goes to Tyler and tells him to give her all those pictures from yesterday because Courtney doesn’t want anyone to find out that she’s the one in those photos, but, for some asshole reason, Tyler keeps one and spreads it around the school, and, again, because of miscommunication, Courtney gets angry at Hannah instead of Tyler and everything gets messed up again. We learn more about these repercussions in the next episode.

I definitely have mixed feelings about Clay’s revenge. He basically takes a photo of Tyler naked from behind and sends it to the entire school, causing Tyler to be bullied. I DO understand why he did it because Tyler did some jerky things himself that were definitely illegal and creepy, but at the same time, I don’t really think the best way to handle it was to do the same thing, especially knowing how hurt Hannah was by it, and how Tyler was already bullied anyway. I’m curious to know anyone else’s thoughts on it.

Also, nothing to do with the actual show or anything, but I totally fangirled at seeing the actor who played Ben on my favorite TV show of ever, Queer as Folk, play Courtney’s dad. Literally looks like he hasn’t aged in 13 years.

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So, in this episode, we get to learn a lot more about Courtney, and how much of a snake she is. I mean, I have such mixed feelings about her. That scene at the cemetery where she says the reason she doesn’t come out is because of the way her gay dads are treated both makes sense and doesn’t? Mainly because I feel like there’s a difference between her being a lesbian and gay couples raising kids – I feel like there’s still more discrepancies about the latter than the former – and then there’s the fact that there are other out gay kids at the school, and none of them are really treated differently? I mean, sure, those guys were awful at the dance, but that was two people out of the entire student body. But, still, I hate her.

Lots of things happen at this dance. One, apparently there are no chaperones at this dance to prevent teenagers from bringing flasks and grind against each other. Pretty sure that doesn’t happen in real life, but okay. Two, we see how Hannah and Tony developed a sort of semi-relationship when he starts up her brand new car when it stops working. Three, HANNAH AND CLAY WERE ADORABLE AT THAT DANCE. THEY DESERVE SO MUCH BETTER. Four, that song is now stuck in my head, and I need to know what it is.

I loved that moment between Tony and Clay at Hannah’s grave. Especially when he marked where she was buried for her. IT HURT SO BAD. And then we learn that Clay’s mom is trying to defend the school against Hannah’s lawsuit, and Clay does that thing where he’s super vague to his mom about knowing Hannah and whether there was bullying. Like he does 3849284 other times throughout these episodes.

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I think an alternate title to this episode could be, “CLAY IS OBLIVIOUS.” I mean, all the episodes could be titled that, but this one especially.

Let’s have a little chat about Alex. We see him get into a fight with Montgomery, which definitely isn’t something that he would typically do. And he totally loses. This sort of plays a part into an event that happens in the finale, but we’ll talk about this later. I also loved the whole Honor Counsel thing where it was a metaphor for Hannah’s suicide. It was just entertaining to see everyone confused, and I loved seeing more into the character’s insights.

The topic of the sixth tape is Marcus. Who was surprised that he was yet another douche-y jock? Nobody! I’m actually shocked that Hannah was actually his number one choice for Dollar Valentine, and he was so eager to ask her out even though they’d never talked before. Also, the fact that they’re giving out real cell phone numbers??? Am I the only one low-key concerned about people’s safety and what people will do with these phone numbers???

But, yeah, Marcus practically stands her up, then when he finally arrives, brings all his awful jock friends, then proceeds to try to sexually assault her, and then act like she’s crazy for telling him to go away. WHY?

Also, we get a painful scene where Hannah is basically begging Clay to ask her out, and Clay’s like, “LOL whut.” IT’S SO PAINFUL. And then Clay’s all devastated, but you had your chance, Clay. And you lost it. Then we get to see Clay do this in the present with Sheri, even though, come on, she was ten times more obvious than Hannah was. Sheri is revealed to have been on the tapes, and I feel like I should have seen it. She was too nice.

Also, this is probably the start of Justin and Jessica’s relationship slowly falling apart, but more of that in later episodes.

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So, this is a huge Clay episode regarding his character development. Clay hallucinates heavily in this episode (which was unfortunate, because I really wanted him to have punched Zach in the face), and it leads him to key Zach’s car. He also briefly gives up the idea of listening to the tapes – and that scene where he’s nice to the whole group conspiring against him and they’re so confused made me laugh out loud – but then his tone totally shifts during his Communications class, and we get to see him act out towards the foreign exchange students during his tour (which, again, highly entertaining). Clay was probably at his best in this episode.

We get more insight into Zach’s character. He’s a classic “nice guy” – you know, the type who thinks that just because he’s nice, he therefore deserves to date all the girls. Yeah, that guy. I actually have mixed feelings about him because he was a total jerk who was so petty that he stole her compliments without any remorse, but he’s well aware that what he did was a jerk-y thing to do, and he even kept the letter she wrote to him. This sort of brings up a point about whether Hannah is lying or not because she said he threw the note away, but he’s actually kept her note in his wallet. This begs the question if she lied about any other details, but no one else says she lied about what happened, so I’m going with no. But food for thought.

We also get to see a little bit more about Clay and his relationship with Skye. Supposedly, the two of them used to be best friends, but sort of fell apart in freshman year. Skye also sticks up for Hannah when the Communications teacher reads out her anonymous note because she knows she wrote it from working at Monet’s.

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So, the eighth tape surrounds an unexpected character: Ryan. I honestly didn’t think he was going to be in the tapes since he was barely in the earlier episodes, so I was surprised to see him in it. Apparently, Hannah attended a sort of poetry group, and Ryan was the only person around her age to be there. Hannah writes a gorgeous poem and presents it to the group, but Ryan decides that he should publish the poem in the school magazine, because it’s art, and art’s supposed to be shared. BUT IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE SHARED WITH THE CONSENT OF THE ARTIST, RYAN. Hannah is completely and totally embarrassed because everyone is laughing at her, and then her English teacher decides to dissect her poetry. As someone who used to write and hates it when people I know read what I write, I feel her pain.

Also, we have another edition of CLAY IS OBLIVIOUS because he reads Hannah’s poem, and we get to watch him say, “Oh, yeah, it’s a nice poem, but I’d never be friends with the writer of the poem because they sound depressing.” CLAY WHY.

I have to say, it hurt so bad seeing Hannah have all these goals and dreams of being a writer and going to college in New York, but we know what happens to her, and her soul is just crushed by everyone laughing at her poetry. My heart hurts. Also, her rant about the education system was on point.

We also get to see Tony make Clay skip class and rock-climb with him. I find it so hilariously Tony that he basically risks Clay’s life even though they could have just taken a path up to the rock cliff just to inspire Clay to keep listening to the tapes. I loved seeing Tony have these emotions about the day Hannah committed suicide; how she left the box on his doorstep, but he ignored it, and when he finally listened to the first tape, he ran over to her house, but it was too late. It makes so much sense why Tony wants her wishes to be carried out; probably because he thinks that he played a part in killing Hannah as well. Though I am sort of confused about Clay saying he’s never seen a dead body/been on a crime scene when he saw Jeff’s dead body and was on the scene of the crime for the car accident. BUT WHATEVER.

Also, I totally knew Tony was gay and that guy was his boyfriend. Okay, I didn’t know until, like, the sixth or seventh episode, but I figured it out! Once again, CLAY IS OBLIVIOUS (and adorably confused).

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Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

Okay, so this was a HUGE EPISODE. We start this whole “Jessica’s party” narrative, and a lot of things happen in these next three episodes. There are three stories, and the one we start with is Bryce raping Jessica when she was drunk and unconscious. Honestly, I thought it was Justin that did it because the flashes were cut so quick in the intro that I couldn’t tell which white boy was which, but it is Bryce (because we all need more reasons to hate Bryce).

Let’s talk about the present first. So, the group totally escalates out of control (or maybe just Marcus, really), because he decides to buy weed from Bryce’s dealer and put it in Clay’s backpack and get him suspended so no one will listen to him once he starts talking. Obviously, this is frustrating because no one believes him, but these are the struggles of being in the third person as a TV show watcher.

Clay’s told to go to the police to enroll in some sort of drug prevention program (if this is how schools handle a student having weed in their backpack, we’re really having some problems), and it seems like he’s on his way to tell his mom everything and maybe confess to the police about what happened, but of course Clay doesn’t because WHAT IS LOGIC. He does tell his mom that Hannah actually meant a lot to him than he said he did, so that was a nice moment between the two of them.

I also loved the entire way the episode ended with Clay being angry at Tony’s garage, and him having this moment with Tony where he calms Clay down and encourages him to keep going on with the tapes to get the full story. It’s not an episode of 13 Reasons Why if Clay isn’t asking, “BUT WHY AM I ON THE TAPES, DAMN IT?”

And now into the past. We see Hannah wants to have a fresh start for junior year since sophomore year was so awful. She decides to cut her hair (AND LOOKS SO BEAUTIFUL; HANNAH DESERVED BETTER) and wants to focus more on her studies so she can get into college. Clay mentions going to Jessica’s party and tries to ask her to it, but Hannah turns him down, and poor Clay is heartbroken even though she secretly loves him. In the end, Hannah caves and goes, which I both hate and love, because, hey, cute moments with Clay, BUT IT’S ALSO THE SECOND WORST NIGHT OF HER LIFE.

It was heart-breaking to watch Jessica get raped, especially since she wakes up in the middle of it and is completely disoriented and terrified. It hurt so bad, and then you realize that her behavior makes total sense because it’s clear she’s been quietly suffering. Not to mention how much I sort of hate Justin. It’s not even because of the rape – clearly, he couldn’t stop it, since Bryce throws him out of the room when Justin is drunk as all hell, and then locks the door – but just the fact that he knows, and he’s still FRIENDS WITH HIM. AND LIVES WITH HIM. I wouldn’t be so furious if he disassociated himself from Bryce, but he continues to hang out with him as if nothing happened – AND DOESN’T TELL JESSICA. WHY?

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So, we get to learn about the second story pertaining to Jessica’s party: the one dealing with Sheri. This takes place after the events of the last episode, and Hannah is totally disoriented, so she decides to leave with Sheri to get home. On the way to Sheri’s house, she ends up hitting a stop sign and knocking it over, and though Hannah wants to report it, Sheri refuses AND THEN DRIVES OFF. Thanks, Sheri!

We also deal with a second sort of storyline dealing with Clay. On his way home, he runs into an accident at the point where Sheri had knocked over the stop sign earlier in the night, only to find Jeff dead in his car and an old man crying out for help. It is one of those things that shocked me, since you’re so caught up with everything else that you don’t realize that Jeff is only alive in the flashbacks, not the present. It truly is heart-breaking to see yet another precious soul die senselessly.

In the present, SO MUCH HAPPENS. The Jessica/Justin situation totally launches out of control, where Justin just wants to help her feel better, but Jessica’s just going through this whole range of emotions, and is quickly becoming an alcoholic. Also, there’s this whole thing where Jessica goes off with Bryce, which is all kinds of a terrible idea, and I seriously thought she was going to shoot him in that one scene (and was highly disappointed when she didn’t), and then she agrees to go into his hot tub (and knowing what I know now, it’s even creepier), and WHAT ARE YOU DOING JESSICA?

We also deal with Clay learning that his tape is coming up! I didn’t like that Tony said that Clay killed Hannah Baker since we literally learn in the next episode that he didn’t, but WHATEVER. Finally, we approach Clay’s tape.

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THERE ARE LOTS OF FEELINGS REGARDING THIS EPISODE. I ship Clay and Hannah so hard, and even though it never happens, this episode was just so wonderful to see. First off, I loved how Jeff continually pushed them towards each other and how Hannah took notice of it. And that whole superpower conversation was ALL KINDS OF CUTE. We have that wonderful moment where the two of them finally kiss, and Clay adorably asks if what he’s doing is okay (which, unfortunately, is the only instance where a guy actually asks about what Hannah wants or even asks for consent) AND JUST ALJFLAJFLAJFJ.

I thought the mini-docu Beyond the Reasons explained this better than I could, but the way Hannah was continually treated by other guys and slut-shamed really did break her spirit. She feels like having sex with Clay would actually make her a “slut” – make her live up to her awful reputation. Add that with all the guys who completely and totally ruined her life, and she’s terrified that Clay will be the same way. It’s so sad seeing her push Clay away when she most needs him, and Clay just not understanding and thinking he did something wrong.

I also love the moment in the present when we see Clay react to this. That little moment when he’s on the edge of the cliff and thinking of an alternate ending where he talked to Hannah and let her open up to him. WHY DO YOU TORTURE ME LIKE THIS? But it’s so nice to see Hannah say that he isn’t really one of the reasons why; he just plays an important part in the story.

Lots of things are revealed in this episode: Hannah’s mom finds the bubble map she used to plan her suicide (we first see Mr. Porter’s name circled – at least I did – which made wonder what part he played), Skye is cutting herself, Clay is going to have to testify for the school, and Justin announces to the group that Bryce raped Jessica, which is a big no-no, but definitely commendable on his part.

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Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

So, this is the first of two episodes that just pack an emotional punch overall. I was already spoiled on the fact that Bryce raped Hannah, and already those little flashes at the beginning pierce my soul, but more of that later.

In the present, the group gathers together at Monet’s because the subsidies have been handed out, so they’re all figuring out what to say when testifying. Tyler has a plan to blame everything on Bryce so when their awful stuff comes out, it’s seen as not-so-bad, which I agreed and disagreed with, mainly because Tyler is STILL a law-breaking creep. Also, continual frustration at Marcus and Courtney – but ESPECIALLY Courtney – for not calling out Bryce for rape. Courtney calling him an “alleged rapist.” GET OUT, COURTNEY. We also see Sheri finally own up to hitting the stop sign that night, which was good to see.

So, let’s talk about the rape scene before we talk about Clay and Bryce. Hannah decides to just take a walk because it had been a really crappy day for her with her parents not getting a lot of money from the store and such, and they’re constantly arguing. She happens upon Bryce’s party, runs into Jessica, and climbs into the hot tub with her and her friends. Everyone leaves the hot tub, and Hannah is left alone, until Bryce decides to jump in with her, proceeds to flirt with her while Hannah CLEARLY WANTS TO LEAVE, and then when that doesn’t work, YANKS HER BACK INTO THE HOT TUB. I’m emphasizing this because Bryce has this weird perception where Hannah was “making eyes” at him and flirting with him. I hate him so much.

And it’s awful. Like, I knew it was going to happen, but it was so awful to watch. It’s supposed to make you uncomfortable, and that’s the point. Nothing can express how truly awful it is watching Hannah try to fight him off, and then she just gives up. And the light just completely leaves her eyes, and you see her walk home shivering and crying. It’s so, so awful, and I think the fact that it just completely breaks her soul is what makes it hurt so much. Hannah immediately goes into work on making the bubble map for the tapes, and we see her plan start to work.

Now, back to the present, with Clay’s plan. He decides to drop in and pretend that he’s trying to get weed from Bryce, but then spontaneously tries to get him to admit that he raped Hannah. I just love Clay in this scene; how clever he is to bring the tape, how it doesn’t even matter that Bryce beats the crap out of him, he will do anything to get him to confess.

We also see this sort of out-of-place scene where it’s talking about a seventeen-year-old boy who’s been shot in the head. This is juxtaposed with Clay’s parents wondering where he is, which, of course, spirals everyone into panic, AND I NEED EPISODE 13 RIGHT NOW.

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Trigger Warning: Suicide

And now we reach the finale. Boy, there’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get to it!

First, let’s tackle Hannah’s last day. I thought Christine from PolandbananasBOOKS expressed this perfectly: even though you KNOW she doesn’t make it, you hold out hope that maybe she’ll choose life. Maybe she’ll make it. And after following her journey for so long, you can’t help but just want her to live.

We see Hannah has finally finished all of the tapes, but then decides to grab a thirteenth tape (we find out this is for Mr. Porter), but also makes a last-minute decision to grab some razor blades. THAT’S FINE; MY HEART ISN’T HURTING. Hannah attempts one last school day, and it was so frustrating and painful to see Hannah try to tell Clay what happened; I just wanted to scream, “TELL HIM; HE’LL UNDERSTAND; HE LOVES YOU,” but she just says, “Never mind,” and my heart continues to break into a million pieces.

We find out that Mr. Porter is a total snake. The entire time during the show he’s insisted that he only talked to Hannah once when they were talking about their college aspirations…but then we learn this is a total lie and that he literally talked to her probably only a couple hours from committing suicide. Of course, Hannah spills everything to him, tells him that a guy at the school sexually assaulted her, and Mr. Porter’s wonderful response is victim-blaming and asking her if she said no or stop. DO YOU WANT ME TO HURT YOU, MR. PORTER??? And then he tells her to basically move on with her life. SHE WAS RAPED. WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM.

I thought it was awful watching her just walk out of that office, waiting for him to run after her, but he didn’t. And that moment when she’s walking in the hallways, and saying, “People cared. They just didn’t care enough.” I CARE, HANNAH. I CARE SO MUCH.

We actually get to see Hannah commit suicide, and oh my God, it was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever watched. And I watch violent TV shows. The entire scene is just so raw and real, and that moment when Hannah makes the first cut and just screams out in pain just tugs at the heartstrings. And then she just continues to cut her arms, and then she just lies in the bathtub, panting and crying while the tub overflows with water. It’s so heart-breaking. Not only because she gives up, but just because she dies alone and in so much pain; I honestly just want to be there to hold her hand and tell her that she’s not alone at all, that someone cares for her.

And it’s just such a powerful scene. The consensus is that it was disturbing to watch, which was the exact point. Suicide and depression can sometimes be so romanticized, and I’m so glad that the show finally showed how awful it is. It’s not pretty, it’s not beautiful; it’s painful, and horrible, and it’s permanent, and it effects people. Seeing Hannah’s parents rush in, and her mom thinking she has a chance of living, and her dad just freaking out seeing her, knowing she’s gone. It’s simply heart-breaking. Everything hurt.

So, back to the present. We get to see a snippet of some of the people testifying, and it’s nice to see them finally owning up to all their crap. Tyler actually admits that there are tapes detailing everything that happens to Hannah, and that Clay is the last one out there with them. Then, Jessica decides to lie and say there aren’t any tapes. WHY?

Clay goes to confront Mr. Porter about the whole thirteenth tape. I loved seeing the juxtaposition between their meeting and the meeting between Hannah and the counselor. I was so glad to see Clay stand up for Hannah and give him the tapes, which ultimately disobeyed Hannah’s wishes since he skipped giving Bryce the tapes, but we all know that’s a terrible idea. Clay has recorded the other side of the thirteenth tape with Bryce’s confession, and leaves everything up to Mr. Porter.

We see Mr. Porter put in the tape, but then the principal comes in and says that Alex shot himself in the head last night! Obviously, this is a shocker to everyone, and with all the weird stuff surrounding Tyler, there’s been a couple of theories surrounding this whole thing since it’s left open-ended.

Theory #1: Tyler is planning a school shooting. He bought a gun, and then it’s revealed he has even more gun paraphernalia in his room, which he hides from his parents. He’s last seen in the dark room taking down Alex’s picture and remembering when Alex told Montgomery to back off bullying Tyler. Taking down Alex’s picture might imply that he shot Alex.

Theory #2: Tyler is planning a school shooting. BUT, him taking down Alex’s picture doesn’t mean he shot him, it just means that since Alex is already in critical condition OR because he was the only person to show him an act of kindness, so he’s off the hit list, so to say.

Theory #3: Alex really did shoot himself, and it has nothing to do with Tyler. Hannah talked about how other people fail to see the signs of depression until someone kills themselves, and with Alex’s spiraling behavior throughout the entire series, it does point to the fact that he had suicidal tendencies. The only reason I don’t agree with this theory is because he wanted to testify for Hannah, but one of my friends pointed out that Alex’s dad said he was going to get Alex out of testifying, so there might not have been anything left for him to live for.

That’s all the theories, but yeah, there’s a lot of stuff going on there that feels like it needs clearing up, but I really do like open-ended endings, so I don’t mind too much.

I loved seeing Tony finally give the tapes to Hannah’s parents. It was so nice, and I’m so glad to see that they finally get closure and learn more about what happened to their daughter since that seemed to be killing them the most. That moment at the end when they’re holding each others’ hands and listening to Hannah was so beautiful to watch. And then Jessica breaking down to her dad as she gets close to confessing that Bryce raped her was also a moment that brought me close to tears. And then seeing Clay ask Skye if she wants to hang out, and his entire speech to the counselor about how we all need to treat each other better. THE PAIN.

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And that’s basically all my jumbled thoughts on the show. I hope you enjoyed reading about my long ramblings!

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3

[ARC REVIEW] Another Thriller Bites the Dust // The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett

the last to die

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, YA

 Series: None

 Rating: 3.5 STARS

Release Date: April 4, 2017

 Description:

 Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words-something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

 So everything is okay-until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her-and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed.

 My Thoughts:

 Okay, so bear with me here. I was lazy enough to wait until, like, weeks and weeks later to write up this review, so if this sounds vague as all hell, now you know. But, when I was approved for this request on Netgalley, I was so pumped. I absolutely love thrillers, and I’m always interested in YA thrillers since YA is the genre I’m a huge fan of, and there aren’t enough thrillers found in the genre. Again, I ran into a YA thriller that I’d consider better than most, but, in the end, was still just okay. I think most people will enjoy this, but it’s no Dangerous Girls, and if you’re looking for a more complex thriller, this definitely isn’t it.

 So, we’re introduced to a gang of rich, teenage robbers, and I know you’re probably immediately writing them off as unlikable, but they actually weren’t too bad. I thought it was interesting that they robbed each other’s houses for the thrill of it, not only because it sounded stupid, but because it seemed sort of risky and useless, since they didn’t steal anything big, but whatever. Harper is the main character, and, of course she has a younger sister who’s deaf, and this reminded me a lot like Alex from the horror/thriller movie Don’t Breathe from last summer, which I loved and would recommend over reading this book, but that’s getting off-topic. I thought Harper was an all-right character; I didn’t really cheer for her, but I wasn’t praying death upon her, so that was good! I thought the rest of the gang was sort of forgettable, and weren’t developed enough, except maybe Alex and Benji.

 I thought the premise was interesting, and was pretty much what I expected from the synopsis. I was surprised to see that people actually died, and there were some moments that were really touching, especially during one of the member’s deaths. I will say, the book was addicting. I told myself I’d stop at one chapter, and, of course, I completely failed to do so. I just needed to know what was going to happen next, and I appreciate the fact that Garrett just wrote a straight-forward thriller without feeling the need to insert unnecessary filler. And hooray for the fact that the romance didn’t overtake the plot! It was barely there, which is how thrillers SHOULD be.

 I honestly don’t know how I feel about the ending. At the same time, I thought it was entertaining, but on the other hand, I feel like, again, I’ve suffered through a conclusion that seemed to have an unbelievable villain, which way too many damn YA thrillers suffer from sometimes. Instead of trying to make a believable thriller, some authors fall victim to wanting to have this big, crazy twist that shocks people, and it just doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to spoil, but I just felt like the way things were handled, the “villain” had to not only be the best actor in the history of acting, but also be a mastermind, with a hell of a lot of coincidences.

It’s funny, because it honestly seems like I’ve read way too many thrillers this year, both adult and YA alike, that I thought were good, except for the highly unrealistic endings. It feels like thrillers have stopped attempting to make logical sense and be entertaining, and now seem to try to out-rank each other for craziest plot twist of the year, which isn’t what I want thrillers to de-evolve to, but that’s a discussion for another day. But, I’m sure some people will love the plot twist and be like, “OH MY GOOOOD. DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.” I just rolled my eyes.

 Overall, if you’re interested, I’d say you should just go for it, but, personally, I wouldn’t set other people’s expectations to be TOO high.

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9

[DNF ARC REVIEW] Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

blood rose rebellion

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Series: Blood Rose Rebellion #1

Rating: None

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Description:

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

My Thoughts: 

“I did not set out to ruin my sister’s debut.”

DNF AT 16%

 Oh, boy. This totally sucks. I saw this up on Netgalley and immediately requested it when I first signed up for the site. The cover is stunning, and the summary was just so intriguing that I couldn’t help it. I was so surprised to be approved for this one since it seemed like literally everyone was clamoring for an ARC of this, and I didn’t consider myself too popular in the book blogging world at the time.

 Unfortunately, this one just really let me down, and after trying to read this for so long, I ended up just giving up on this one for numerous reasons.

 1. This is a historical fantasy. I love fantasy, okay? Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, even though I haven’t really read it too much this year (and I must solve that problem). But, this is historical fantasy. I really don’t like historical fiction, personally, so seeing this was basically just court politics that took place in Hungary around the 1800s except with magic made me extremely disappointed. And I’m not a fan of court politics either, so that didn’t really help things.

 2. I didn’t care about any of the characters. So we have the main character, who was easily forgettable and boring that I didn’t even remember her name until I read the summary of this book again (her name’s Anna, apparently). We also have Catherine, who is stereotypically the mean older sister who’s catty towards our main character. And that’s as far as I got to. I mean, there are some other adults who only seem to exist to dump exposition and leave, and we also get to meet Freddy, who’s her temporary suitor in the beginning of the book, and, again, bland and lifeless and boring and sort of an asshole, and I just didn’t care.

 3. It was incredibly slow-moving. I just couldn’t handle how bored and uninterested I was throughout the entire thing, even from the beginning. It’s never a good sign when a book can’t capture you from the first pages. I know I’ve said this already, but it’s just so disappointing, because I was so hyped for this book, but I just couldn’t get into it. I tried so hard to get into this one, multiple times, but there was nothing in the chapters that kept me going, and I didn’t feel like suffering.

(Also, this book is nothing like Red Queen. So, there’s that.)

 All in all, after seeing so many other people not finishing this book as well at a later point than I could ever attempt to reach and seeing several others who actually finished the book and still didn’t like it, I decided to just go ahead and join them. I really don’t recommend this one, but, again, I’m never one to dissuade someone from reading a book they’re excited in, so feel free to check it out if it really interests you!

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A huge thanks to Random House Children’s for giving me an ARC of this book via Netgalley! I’m so sorry I couldn’t finish it, but it means a lot to me that I received it for free.

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15

[REVIEW + AUTHOR INTERVIEW] Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

Follow Me Down

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Adult

Series: None

Rating: 4 STARS

Description:

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.

Follow Me Down is a rare find—a gutsy, visceral, and beautifully crafted psychological thriller.

My Thoughts:

“My first thought was my mother had started another fire.”

Nothing is better than reading a book that lives up to its gorgeous cover (LOOK AT IT. IT’S SO PRETTY). I am jealous of anyone who manages to get a hold of a physical copy of this book, since I only got an e-ARC. But I’m so glad that I received this one through Netgalley, because it was oh so good.

 (Also, stay tuned! I got the opportunity to interview the author, and it will be below the review!)

 I was definitely pulled into requesting this one because of the synopsis, and I’m so glad to say that it definitely delivered. I’m a huge fan of thrillers in which the main character used to live in a small town, and has no choice but to go back to the bad memories to solve a conflict, and this one definitely reminded me of why I’m such a huge fan of them. If you were a big fan of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, you’ll probably fall in love with this one like I did.

 The pacing of this book was A+. Once I started this book, I could barely put it down, especially near the halfway point where we kept discovering new things and clues kept popping up and I just absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next. Personally, I thought this book was pretty much perfectly-paced, and a fantastic balance between being extremely tense, but slowing it down when it was necessary. I thought the way that the entire case unfolded was quite realistic, especially regarding the police work (even though that 100% frustrated me to death that the police wouldn’t listen to Mia, I swear to God). Not to mention that I was completely mislead about where this book was going, and it’s always a mark in my book when a thriller can truly surprise me.

 The main character of this novel is Mia Haas, who was quite interesting. Usually, I’m not one to care too much about characters in thrillers, but who can resist a pharmacist who’s addicted to pills herself? I also really loved the relationships between her and her family, which was a great way to build character. Even though Lucas isn’t in the book too much, I definitely got that sort of twin bond between the two of them, and you could definitely feel the love that she had for her brother, which was what made her complex feelings towards the case so real. And we also get to see the complicated relationship between Mia and her mother growing up, and even in the present, which I really loved. A lot of relationships get explored often in thrillers – married couples, parents and their children, best friends, even siblings – but I’ve rarely seen such a huge focus on characters and their parents, and I really enjoyed it and thought it included a pretty interesting perspective.

 Overall, if the premise interests you and you love small towns with big secrets, you should 100% read this book!

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 I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley. A huge thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Sherri Smith for granting me a copy!

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 And now, for what you guys were waiting for! I got the opportunity to interview Sherri Smith for my blog, and it was so much fun (and my first ever author interview eep!)! She’s such a sweetheart, and I really enjoyed reading her answers, so I hope you enjoy the interview!

1. What made you want to write your first psychological thriller since your other published books are in different genres?

It was really a combination of things. I love reading about history, but when writing historical fiction I was getting snagged on the details too much. The research was grueling and I was way too preoccupied with getting the historical time period just right and writing quickly became too stifling and clinical for me. I’d get too panicky about all the wrong things and realized I was avoiding the story I’d been working on at the time and I knew it was time to move on. I wasn’t happy doing it.

As well, both of my historical fiction novels are a tad on the dark side, especially the second one, and they weren’t exactly fitting in with the expectations of the genre. So I’d been heading in this direction long before I realized it.

2. Following up with the first question: were there any particular books that inspired you to write this one?

Well, I was reading Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing when I had this ground-shifting revelation about my writing. I just fell in love with it. I knew this was what I wanted to be doing.

From there I read as much as possible in the genre. Gillian Flynn is also a major influence. I’m in awe of her novels, they just get everything right. Same as Tana French, Mo Hayder, Karin Slaughter and Chevy Stevens.

3. Small towns with a lot of secrets are becoming a sort of trend in thrillers that I’m really enjoying! How did you make your small town different than other thrillers’ small towns, and were there any books that inspired yours?

Good question! First, the city I live in is unique in the way that we don’t have a thriving downtown area. This is probably because we have long, killer winters with ice-slick roads, blistering windchills and snow-drifts so high that turning into traffic is a blind-gamble with your life. And so, this makes going too far out of the zone one lives in, well, unappealing. Don’t get me wrong, we’re a hardy people, we do go for leisure walks in blizzards, but just in our own areas, so we can make it back home via sheer muscle memory if necessary.  Anyway, this all plays into the feel of living in a very small town. So it’s certainly a setting I am familiar with.

As well, like you, I just love small town settings. The town in Sharp Objects was a huge inspiration; it was so recognizable to me. As well the small-town settings in Stephen King’s novels where you think you know everyone, because you see them every day. You get a little too comfortable with the people around you, that they won’t spill out of the box you expect them to stay in and when they do, it makes it all the more terrifying.

4. I though this book was quite dark, and I’ve always been a fan of dark thrillers. Was there anything special you had to do to write from such a dark place?

Not really. I think I just naturally lean that way. Maybe it’s an urge to make the incomprehensible, comprehensible.

5. Mia is quite the interesting character, and I loved following her story. What was it like getting into the headspace of Mia, especially with what she’s dealing with?

Thank-you! Going into Mia’s head wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I wished she’d share a few of her pills with me, to smooth out the ride, but I think with writing any character you just have to find the threads that connect with you. I have two brothers. Again the small town thing was familiar. I certainly share Mia’s sense of humor, especially how it buoys up when she’s feeling particularly low. I’m a laugh while you cry sort of person too. So I sort of took those commonalities and went from there. And while I wouldn’t necessarily do much of what she did in the book, her actions made sense to me.

6. I’ve always been fascinated by how authors come up with their ideas for their books. How did you get the idea for this novel?

Follow Me Down started with an image of a semi-rundown apartment block with a rusty look pool in the back. There’s a teen girl in the pool, floating on an air mattress. She has that look girls this age can have, a kind of mournful sadness. I kept wondering, who is this girl? Why is she so sad? Who did she lose? Does she belong there or not? From there, a plot and characters eventually swirled together in the right way.

7. I’ve always wanted to ask this question to an author of a thriller novel: Did the mystery and the conclusion of said mystery unfold in the final version of the novel like it did in the first draft, if there was one? Did anything change?

The ending kind of revealed itself through multiple drafts. While this might sound artsy, it’s not. I had a slew of competing ideas (because I am a really indecisive writer) of where I wanted it to go and one just simply won out. So things definitely kept changing as I wrote.

8. I found it really interesting how this book focused so heavily on mothers. What influenced the broken relationships between some of the characters and their mothers?

Such a good question! Having a bad parent can set you up for a certain level of adult misery. Or so I say, because I am an armchair psychologist and it seems like a given truth. Anyway, I am overly preoccupied with being a good mother in real life that it borders on neurotic, and so maybe it was a covert away to air out my anxieties of being a bad one.

As well, just like in real life, you only really feel like you know someone if you know a bit about their history. Why they act the way they do, how they acquired their worldview and so on. I wanted that level intimacy to be there with Mia. I wanted you to feel like you knew her, the way Lucas might have, and that way you would better sympathize with her journey.

9. Expanding more on the previous question (and because it was just so interesting), what was writing the relationship between Joanna and Kathy like?

It was a bit like taking an outsider’s view of Mia and Mimi’s relationship. It was that kind of mother-daughter relationship people would heavily suspect was off in some way, but wouldn’t challenge it because they didn’t know for sure. Is this mother just really, enthusiastically supportive of her daughter or is she controlling? I think we’ve all encountered these kinds of relationships that make us suspicious of something we can’t exactly put a finger on.

10. I see you’ve written two historical fiction novels. How different was it writing a thriller rather than a historical fiction novel, or were there no differences at all?

There was certainly far less research! I actually went out of my way to not research anything for Follow Me Down because I was so totally research-fatigued from my historical fiction novels.

There wasn’t much difference in trying to create good, strong characters because I think that’s every author’s approach, but coming up with a twisty plot was very different and one of my favorite parts. I love the puzzle aspect of trying to pull it all tighter and when it clicked, it was the best feeling!

11. What are some of your favorite authors that inspire you?

There are so many authors who inspire me. Honestly I could go on for days. Books are my life’s playlist, which author, what book I was obsessed with at any given time reflects a lot of what I was feeling in that period. But now, today, those obsessions are Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Meg Abbott, Mo Hayder, Alex Marwood, Chevy Stevens, Hilary Davidson, Stephen King (always,) Gilly MacMillan. There’s more, but I’ll stop here.

12. Any books that you’d highly recommend everyone must read?

Well I’d have to split it into categories to a do a good job of it.  Such as, top recommended book to give you night terrors? The Silence of the Lambs.

Recommended magical realist book? One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Recommended unlikable characters with a cool plot twist? Nick and Amy in Gone Girl.

Recommended unreliable narrator? Briony in Ian McEwan’s Atonement.

Recommended book with a clown? It by Stephen King

Recommended long-suffering artist biography? The Tragic Honest: The Life and Works of Richard Yates.

Recommended graphic novel? I don’t know, but I am loving iZombie on Netflix right now!

See? This could go late into the night, so I should probably stop now.

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