Book Review: Amandine by Adele Griffin (4/5)

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Ordinary, overweight and lonely Delia meets Amandine on the last day of her first week at her new high school. Amandine is an artist, actress and ballerina — She’s exciting, extraordinary and bold. She’s nothing like anyone in their small town. But this innocent-seeming girl is also dark, controlling and dangerous. And she tells lies. Terrified of loneliness, 14-year-old Delia clings to Amandine. Before she knows it, Amandine has sucked her into a toxic friendship. 

Adele Griffin is most definitely a great storyteller. She’s captured the inner workings of the adolescent mind, as well as the ineffectual communication between Delia and her parents. I sympathized with Delia from the start. There’s many layers to her insecurities, her character and her good heart.

More than anything, I understand her loneliness. Better a less-than-friendly friend than no friends. I was like Delia, terrified of loneliness. And unfortunately, toxic friendships are very common among adolescent girls. In middle school, I myself might have befriended an Amandine or two of my own — though not quite this extreme. 

Amandine was a nice read. The ending is a bit rushed — I feel like there could have been more exploration of Delia’s inner demons. Nonetheless, the novel ends on a positive note (though it’s too much “telling” rather than “showing” for my tastes) and I feel sure that Delia will be just fine. She will grow into her own person. She’ll brave the wobbly years of adolescence… After all, fourteen doesn’t last forever. 

***ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Read more of my book reviews here on my blog: https://rememberingwonderland.wordpress.com

 

 

Book Review: The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (4/5)

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The Wicked Girls is the story of two 11-year-old English girls who made a mistake one summer day. Annabel Oldacre and Jade Walker met that one day and killed a four-year-old girl. For the next 25 years, they lose contact and face the consequences of that mistake.

This thriller builds on a very gripping premise — it’s bold, fresh and shattering. Rehabilitated, hated and tortured, Annabel and Jade grow up into different lives. One becomes Amber, a cleaning manager who is something of a pushover with her employees and her boyfriend, Vic. The other becomes Kristy, a successful journalist with a caring husband and two kids. When Kristy the journalist comes to Amber’s town to investigate a string of murders, the two women’s lives collide.

And they know then how fragile these new identities they’ve created are. How the media could shatter and break everything they’ve tried to rebuild. How they can never run from their past.

To say the least, The Wicked Girls is gripping and emotional. Readers feel a great deal of sympathy for these two women. At the same time, I wish there had been more exploration of their emotions — it would have made the book even more deeper and heart-wrenching. I feel like a couple serious issues may have slipped away in the pacing of the thriller/mystery. The mystery, for me, was not really a mystery. I guessed/hunched right away at the twist.

This novel is something new and ventures thoughts onto a road not taken… It raises questions about children who commit crimes. Obviously Amber and Kristy are searching for redemption; in the end, I think they receive it, albeit in a different and bittersweet form. Life is never as sweet as fairy tales.

***ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for my review

Visit my blog for more reviews of up and coming books: https://rememberingwonderland.wordpress.com

Book Review: Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga by Teddy Steinkellner (3.5/5)

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I have been putting off reviewing this book for two months now…for no particular reason. It’s time I post this review!

Trash Can Days features a multiple-first-person-POV writing style. The entries include diary excerpts, online chats and emails. I imagine they may have different fonts in the actual novel that will illustrate this scattered storytelling style quite well!

There are four main characters in Trash Can Days: eighth grader Hannah, her seventh grader brother Jake, their friend Danny and seventh grader Dorothy Wu. Each of them struggle with unique problems — thus, the beauty of the multiple POV’s. You can only understand these problems if you see them from each middle schooler’s eyes. Popular Hannah struggles with friendships and boyfriends. Jake finds Danny drifting apart from him. Danny feels torn between his Mexican identity and being Jake’s friend.

And then there’s Dorothy Wu. Oh, Dorothy. If there’s one character in every book that you must love, it’s Dorothy. She’s weird, lonely, brilliant and admirable. She’s not afraid to be herself. And that’s something you can’t say about every 12-year-old Asian-American girl, pressured by society, parents and peers. I greatly admire Teddy Steinkellner’s ability to infuse such personality into the character of Dorothy. In fact, I think the reason I enjoyed the book was for Dorothy’s moments!

That being said, Trash Can Days was not phenomenal. It has moments of emotion and catharsis for each of the four main characters, but the story feels disjointed at times and the ending doesn’t seem quite as fulfilling as one might expect. There’s also violence and language in this book. It wouldn’t be suitable for elementary school children. But the social situations, peer pressure, bullying and social outcasting (of Dorothy Wu) is, sadly, a somewhat realistic portrayal of what my middle school was like.

Trash Can Days’ target audience is a bit vague. It’s definitely not YA…Yes, it’s still middle grade. Personally, I will probably not be re-reading Trash Can Days, though I did screenshot some of Dorothy Wu’s funniest words. (I’m reading this on Kindle on my phone.) And I wouldn’t recommend this to the children in my life (who are all elementary-school-aged). In conclusion, I think middle schoolers and high schoolers would find Trash Can Days enjoyable.

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Read more of my book reviews here on my blog: Remembering Wonderland! 

Rating System

I use a 5-pt scale, with .5′s. The minimum a book can get is a 1 and the max is a 5. All the books on my Favorites page are 5′s.

1 — Terrible. Or just not the book for me. I’m thinking “well, this is annoying” the whole time I’m reading it

1.5 — I obviously did not like it.

2 — It might have had a couple of redeeming features.

2.5 — It had potential, but just did not meet expectations.

3 — All right, but I won’t read it again.

3.5 — Some parts may have been good, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

4 — Pretty good.

4.5 — Almost perfect.

5 — This is a book that absolutely became a part of my soul and I will add it to my favorite’s shelf

Book Review: The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke (3/5)

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When child psychologist Anya begins to treat Alex, a schizophrenic 10-year-old with hundreds of imaginary demons, she feels like something is wrong. This is not a straightforward case. Alex knows too much for a 10-year-old and claims his best friend is a centuries-old demon named “Ruen.” This friend may be real…. Ruen takes an interest in Anya and seems to know everything about Anya’s personal life and inner demons…

I enjoyed reading this psychological thriller. But I don’t think I’ll be reading it again or adding it to my favorites shelf because the plot twist just felt off. I felt like this book could have stabbed me in the heart; it could have been something deeply touching and impactful…Instead, the plot twist kind of ruined the mood of the book.

I still have to say I really enjoyed the book. It was a fun read and I thank it for introducing me to the genre of adult psychological thrillers!

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Book Review: Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey (4.5/5)

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Unexplained Fevers consists of a scattering of twisted, beautiful and melancholy poems — also modern-day retellings of fairy tales. Gailey’s poems have a melodic feel to them. There is this haunting echo to her words that tells you, “There’s something deeper in these lines. There’s something you can find here about yourself.” Her fairy tales are nothing like the Grimm fairy tales, nor anything like Disney. They taste surreal. They’re this heartbreaking mix of reality and dreams.

Gailey reshapes fairy tale characters as modern-day beings. Snow White falls into a coma after cheer practice. Sleeping Beauty has a MRI. Alice “[whispers] from the covers of cereal boxes.” Hansel and Gretel suffer from a hereditary disease. Jack and Jill are 30-year-olds whose lives and dreams slip away like pieces of paper. These are broken people with broken lives and broken souls — but they are so much realer, so much more beautiful than their polished fairy-tale counterparts.

In her collection, Gailey plunges into an important theme and raises questions about gender roles and womanhood. Fairy tales have this concept of damsels in distress who find happily-ever-endings. But these damsels are never the heroines of their own stories, never the deciders of their own fates. In the poem “She Had Unexplained Fevers,” Gailey describes the girl Snow White: “her hair ribbon was laced with poison absorbed through her scalp…girls like that they bruise easy like fruit.” And she wonders: “Why do they wish beauty? Why not safety?” This line of poetry is so powerful and it somehow etched its way into permanence in my memory.

Rebirth and choices…that’s a thing we all want. Strength. Chances in life. The power to shape our own identities. Princesses are weak. They’re gorgeous and fragile and weak — and perhaps there’s a kind of beauty in that fragility, something in that vulnerability? But there’s no choice with weakness. On her deathbed, Snow White makes a wish: “In [her] next life, she swears to herself, [she] will be a force of nature.”

We grew up with fairy tales. We grew up with princesses. We admired princesses. Admired their perfect lives and fairy tale endings. But what if the “princess” didn’t want that ending? What if she wants “a little time to [herself]”? She “might dream up a new ending, a new soul.” My favorite poem is about the tired princess. She “cuts off her long hair and moves to a far corner of the world, with salmon and heron for company.” She’s lonely in a strange and lovely way. In her new ending, she “[swims] with the seals, skin turning blue from cold…She [tells] herself stories of mermaids turning into sea foam, women who walked on legs like scissors, and swore not to kill any more of herself for her prince.”

Gailey finishes her collection with a kind of message for us. She says princesses never have the idea “to flee [their] fates.” They wait for princes or friends, “asleep in glass coffins and briar-thorned prisons.” They wait for the narrator to say something…to point them in the right direction. But we…we’re not fairy tale characters, and it’s a good thing. We can decide our fates, we can run away into different endings, and we can chose safety over beauty. Our lives are real and full of choices. In a way, our stories are so much better.

I recommend you read these poems, whoever you are, whatever age you are. They’re fun, quick to read, and maybe you’ll find a message for yourself.

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Book Review: Parallel Heart by J.L. Robinson (1/5)

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From page 1, I did not get along well with Parallel Heart. The prose contained glaring grammatical errors and the voice  just seemed off. It felt stilted and dense — as though it was trying too hard to be witty, descriptive and aloof. I would know. I wrote similarly (although in a more child-like tone) several years ago, toying around with big words and awkward sentence structure. Writing needs to flow, and when it flows well enough, it will make the reader comfortable enough to stay for about 50,000 words in the novel’s world.

Parallel Heart could not make me stay. It had a potentially very interesting premise — an unhappily married man longs to escape into a parallel world with a lover who may or may not be real. I thought, “This is interesting,” in my head when I read that the novel is based on the author’s love of quantum mechanics and explores the concept of parallel dimensions and blurred realities. All of this sounded new, fresh and different.

But I just couldn’t get into it. I tried very hard…the voice (as well as plot, characters and developed) just came off as stale. I’m sure Parallel Heart, given a liberal editor, time and a different direction, could’ve been something real special. But it just wasn’t for me… Again, all this is my own opinion. Perhaps you will think differently!

Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think of this review/book.