Book Review: Jealous Revenge by Octavia Singleton

Jealous Revenge by Octavia Singleton
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
Literary Merit: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Goodreads
Publication Date: October 24, 2019
Source: Gift 
Mariah Calhoun is a soft, outspoken college student trying to get through her last semester. But when sister is kidnapped in the name of revenge, Mariah will stop at nothing to get her back. Betrayal, jealousy and deceit are only half the things Mariah must endure as she searches for her sister.

Buddy read with my boyfriend!

It all happened so fast: one minute my boyfriend was showing me an Instagram post about this great book called Jealous Revenge, and the next, it was sitting in my email inbox. Needless to say, we couldn’t wait. We jumped right in.

This book is an experience. I have never read anything quite like it and I doubt that I ever will again.

This is the story of Mariah Calhoun, who attends Brown University in Los Angeles, which is somehow right next to Atlanta. Yes, this is 100% relevant to a major plot point in this book. (Here’s a map for those of you unfamiliar with US geography.)

For reference, this is where Brown University actually is. (Only the other side of the country, no big deal.)

But anyway. Mariah Calhoun is a dedicated college student who is also raising her younger sister, Jayla, after their parents’ tragic death. Seemingly minutes away from graduation, Mariah’s professor attempts to coerce her into sex by withholding her rightful final exam grade. Mariah is understandably not having any of that, so she reports her professor for sexual harassment. Next thing she knows, her sister is missing.

Two rather incompetent detectives take the case, sort of flailing around as they tell Mariah that she can’t report an actual minor missing until she’s been gone for 48 hours, even with evidence that she’s been kidnapped! They decide to go out to eat before following a lead. They nicely ask to be let into the suspect’s house because they wasted their time going out for a nice meal instead of getting a warrant. It’s a mess, really. It’s a wonder any detectiving gets done on this case.

The writing is… interesting. The author will, without fail, change tense at least ten times per page, sometimes even within the same sentence. The punctuation is completely off, with commas being added in the most random places and everything just being crazy as soon as any quotation marks enter the picture. It also felt like the author read an article one time that said you should minimize how many times you say “he said” or “she said,” so she often goes out of her way to use other words, like “stated” or “mentioned” or “wondered” or “questioned.”

I would like to bless you with some quotes from this book:

Suddenly, a voice that didn’t belong to Monique or Jayla said, “I can help you”. “Who said that”, Monique wondered. “Me. I’m in here. In the vent.”, the voice said.

And on Monday morning, she was going to take over as the CEO of her parents’ business, with her newly earned bachelor’s degree.

Mrs. Wilson opens the door and says, “My husband isn’t here.”, she said to the detectives.

Have you heard of the podcast called My Dad Wrote a Porno? It’s this guy sitting around with his friends, reading and commenting on this really terrible erotica written by his dad. While reading this book, I seriously entertained the idea of starting my own podcast because I had so many thoughts.

Now, I’ve talked a lot about what I didn’t like. I think I’m ready to get to the part that I did like, and that was the entertainment value. This book was so entertaining. I was on the edge of my seat! I had to know what would happen next! Would Mariah fire a perfectly capable, perfectly qualified employee who’d worked at her parents’ business for at least a decade because she and her new bachelor’s degree were ready to take his job? (The tenacity!) Would someone from Atlanta end up in Los Angeles with no recollection of how they got there? (The intrigue!) Could Mariah’s little sister become captain of the cheerleading squad after never having cheered a day in her life? (The talent!) Would people get shot just to walk around like nothing happened two pages later? (The strength!)

I never knew what was going to happen next. I was formulating all these wild theories with my boyfriend (“what if Jayla got kidnapped because she got the cheerleading captain position when she wasn’t qualified?!”) and let me tell you, they were all wrong. This might not be a piece of classic literature, but it was sure a fun read.

I don’t know what this author is going to write next, but I need to read it.

Have you read Jealous Revenge? Are you as sad as I am that the author took it off Amazon?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie by Courtney Summers
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Source: Borrowed

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

I remember opening up my computer one day last year to find what seemed to be the entire book blogging world reviewing ARCs of Sadie. The love for this book seemed to come out of nowhere, and there was no one who didn’t love it. I, of course, was apprehensive about reading it. Not only does hype usually scare me away, but the themes in this book are very, very dark. I usually avoid books that deal with topics like pedophilia, child abuse, and sexual abuse, but something made me check out this audiobook from the library.

I’m glad I did.

To start, I would say that if you have the choice between reading a physical copy of this book and listening to the audiobook, go for the audiobook. It is so well-done and since a large part of the book is a podcast, I think it lends itself to audio more than print. (That said, I’m sure the physical book is also amazing.)

Now, I’m not going to say a ton about the plot because I think it’s better to learn that for yourself as you read. But, overall, this book is about the murder of a little girl, Mattie, and how her older sister, Sadie, resolves to find and kill the killer. Sadie ends up disappearing and is featured on a podcast called The Girls, which recounts West McCray’s investigation into her disappearance. The book is split between Sadie’s and West’s perspective and I was sucked in from the beginning. This was one of those audiobooks that I would only reluctantly put down and then pick back up as soon as I got the chance.

I can see how the ending might be a little controversial. I was briefly upset by it, but then I told myself that, honestly, it was the only ending that made sense. I think any other ending would have detracted from the whole point of the book, so, in the end, I’m okay with it.

I don’t think I can say enough good things about this book. I would highly, highly recommend Sadie as long as you think you’ll be okay with a dark book like this. It was heartbreaking, but so, so good.

Have you read Sadie? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 20, 2018
Source: Borrowed

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

About a year ago, it seemed like the entire internet was reading My Sister, the Serial Killer. I couldn’t get away from it. Everyone was going on about how good it was, and I wanted nothing to do with it. And really, I had no intention of ever reading this one. But then I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out which audiobook to listen to next when I decided to filter by “most popular (global)” and “available now.” This book was at the top of the list.

This was a one-sitting kind of audiobook because I was absorbed from the beginning.

I guess, from the title, I should have suspected that family dynamics would play a big role in this book. Ayoola and Korede have a very strong relationship. They might not like each other all the time (after all, it must get tiring to clean up after your little sister every time she decides to murder someone) but they’re always there for each other, and despite everything, Korede is always trying to give Ayoola the benefit of the doubt. Their relationship ended up being my favorite part of the book.

For a book about such a heavy topic, it ends up being surprisingly light. There’s just enough humor mixed in with the serious (and, you know, murdery) topics to keep the book from feeling too weighed down. Yes, you’re reading about this cute young woman murdering all of her boyfriends, but while I was reading, I never had that moment where I thought, “Wow, I need to put this away for a second.”

It’s not often that the setting of a book plays this big of a role, either. The setting was so vivid that I almost felt like I was in Nigeria with Ayoola and Korede! The Nigerian police and their actions, in particular, really set this book apart.

All of that said, there were a few things that didn’t sit quite right with me. The biggest one that I can think of is that we’ll get a flashback to a much younger Ayoola and Korede that ends up having little relevance to the plot. The book is already very short (only 226 pages), so these scenes felt kind of like filler. I also felt like it wrapped up a little quickly, but I actually really appreciated how everything turned out in the end.

All in all, I enjoyed this one much more than I’d expected and would definitely recommend it!

Have you read My Sister, the Serial Killer? What’s the last hyped book that you enjoyed?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonTBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Source: ARC from BookCon

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out… 

In case you weren’t already aware, Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact is one of my favorite books. From the characters to the message to the excellent texting, I loved everything about it. Permanent Record was at the top of my most anticipated list for 2019, and I was lucky enough to get an ARC while at BookCon.

This book was not Emergency Contact, Part Two. Part of the blame is on me for thinking it would be. But instead of loving this book, I was really, really disappointed in it. So disappointed that I’m really just sad thinking about it. I won’t get into any spoilers in this review, but here are some bullet point reasons why I didn’t like this book:

  • The slang. In Emergency Contact, Penny and Sam talked like actual teenagers. In Permanent Record, the amount of slang Pab and Lee use is almost embarrassing. Nobody talks like that. Nobody.
  • The lack of responsibility. I get that it’s one of the main conflicts of the book, but I could not get over how literally every single one of Pablo’s problems could be solved if he’d just take some responsibility for his actions. You can’t ignore your problems until they go away, Pablo!! Life doesn’t work like that!!
  • I didn’t really see a point to it? I slogged through all 417 pages of this book only to get a non-ending. That’s not even mentioning how bored I was the entire time I was reading this book.

Am I mad that I took the time to read this book? I guess not. Did I enjoy it even a little bit? No. I’m just disappointed, but since I loved Emergency Contact so much, I’m still planning to read whatever Mary H.K. Choi publishes next.

Have you read Permanent Record? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim – their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend – changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft – the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world – hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death.

But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions.

Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers… and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake. 

Let me tell you something: I’m really sick of reading books that I’ve already read. And Neverworld Wake? I’ve read it several times. This book is a haphazard conglomeration of a lot of trends, but it especially reminded me of a few very popular YA books:

It would be fine if this book offered something new or interesting, but it doesn’t. We have the days repeating over and over again like in Before I Fall. We have the murder mystery with nobody wanting to share what they know like in One of Us Is Lying. We have the mysterious super rich children like in We Were Liars. Neverworld Wake borrows so many tropes and yet it somehow manages to do absolutely nothing.

The concept of the book is fine — Beatrice is hanging out with her old friends when a man knocks on the door and tells them that they have to decide who will live and who will die. Crazy, right? They brush it off and go on with their lives, but then they find that they’re living the same day over and over again. As the day repeats itself again and again, they try to find their way out of the Neverworld and solve the murder of Beatrice’s high school boyfriend.

The problem is that the book tries to do a lot of things and doesn’t end up doing any of them well. The writing itself is awkward, filled with ridiculous similes like “swirls of blond hair like sugar garnishes on thirty-four-dollar desserts” and metaphors like “we are all anthologies.” Like, I get what the author is trying to say, but writing like that just comes across as pretentious and unnecessary. Half the pages of this book could have probably been cut if they’d just gotten rid of all the unnecessary comparisons.

There are also continuity issues. You see, there’s a different between an unreliable narrator and forgetting what the heck you’re supposed to be writing. Neverworld Wake finds that line, crosses it, and keeps running. You can’t brush off a huge inconsistency in the plot as an unreliable narrator and just expect me to accept it. It doesn’t work like that.

I was so, so disappointed at the end of this book for multiple reasons, but one of those reasons IS A HUGE SPOILER, so click here if you want to find out what it was!So, basically, we follow these five characters for about three hundred pages as they try to piece together what happened to Beatrice’s beloved (or was he?? we may never know) boyfriend on the night that he died. They break into a police station to try to examine case files. They interrogate his family at gunpoint. They uncover a conspiracy to hide a totally unrelated murder from years before. Despite all of this detective work, at the end of the book, we find out that EVERYBODY ALREADY KNEW HOW JIM DIED BECAUSE EVERYBODY WAS SOMEHOW INVOLVED IN HIS DEATH. What a waste of my time. It’s been days since I finished this and I’m still mad.

This book was clearly not for me. I’ve heard good things about Pessl’s other books, so I might give her another try at some point. For now, though, I’m just going to move on to something that’s the polar opposite of this book.

Have you read Neverworld Wake? What’s a book that did an unreliable narrator well?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones by Holly Black
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Source: Borrowed

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice.

But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

I’ve read a few of Holly Black’s books now and I think that I can safely say that I really enjoy her writing style. Her books are always really readable (or, in this case, listenable? is that a word? I’m a linguist and I just made it one) and Doll Bones is no exception. I found this book while scrolling through my library’s Overdrive and figured it would be the perfect book to listen to during Spooky Season.

I was pleasantly surprised that Doll Bones is about more than just, you know, the doll bones. More than anything else, it’s a coming-of-age story about Zach, who, along with his friends, loves crafting stories featuring his action figures, until his father decides he’s too old to play like that and throws out all of Zach’s toys. While Zach’s flat-out refusal to communicate with his friends about why exactly he wouldn’t be playing anymore was frustrating, I had to keep reminding myself that he’s literally twelve years old. I couldn’t expect him to act like an adult, and I don’t know many twelve year old boys who are tuned into their feelings enough to openly discuss them with their friends. (That said, I admittedly don’t know many twelve-year-olds in general.) There’s some really good commentary on what it means to grow up and how scary it can be.

Then there’s the actual spooky story about a bone doll made out of the bones of a little girl who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. A number of things happen that could be real or imagined, and it’s never really clarified, which just makes things spookier.

One small critique is that I don’t think the romance was even remotely necessary and I was a little bit disappointed to see it even factor in to the plot. I guess a few people had paired off when I was twelve years old, but it definitely wasn’t a big part of my middle school life. More than anything, I think that particular plot felt a little forced.

Overall, I think this was a really well-written middle grade book! As an adult, there were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way, but I really can’t hold that against the book since I’m far from its intended audience.

Previously: The Cruel PrinceThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Have you read Doll Bones? Can you recommend any spooky MG books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life—she has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

I’ve been intrigued by Magic for Liars since I saw it on display in Barnes & Noble over the summer. The cover alone really drew me in, so I checked out the audiobook from my library without knowing much about it other than, of course, the magic.

I’m not going to lie — it took me a little while to get into this one. I had to listen to the first ten or so minutes three times because I kept zoning out. But then I got really into it. This book was a wild ride, and it was so much fun.

I think that the first thing I loved about this book was the setting. The Osthorne Academy for Young Mages is really your typical private school, filled with obnoxious teenagers, petty drama, and classes that just happen to teach magic. Ivy is aware that schools like this exist — after all, her twin sister attended one, and now teaches at one — but she herself has never been able to wield magic.

The second thing I loved was the mystery. I had a little inkling of who the murderer might be at the beginning of the book, but then as more and more clues were revealed, I changed my mind at least five times. The murderer makes sense and I was definitely satisfied with how the book played out, but I did not see the circumstances of that murder coming.

The third thing I loved, surprisingly, was Ivy. I say “surprisingly” because she’s a pretty unlikable character. She’s negative, she’s self-destructive, and she almost always does the last thing that she should be doing, but I could get behind it. I could understand her motives. Ivy has been through a lot in her life, and it’s understandable that she struggles with her personal relationships. In fact, one of my favorite things about this book was the way Ivy and her sister, Tabitha, interact with each other.

There were a few things keeping me from giving it five stars, though. First of all, as I already mentioned, it took me some time to actually care about what was happening in the book. Second, although the way the magic system works is kind of irrelevant to the story, it would have been nice to have at least a little more information about it. All in all, though, this was a great book and I really enjoyed it a lot.

A word of warning: cancer and abortion are fairly big themes in this book, although I think both are handled very well.

#mm19: tricks and trades
#romanceopoly: cozy corner

Have you read Magic for Liars? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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