July 2018 Reads Part Two

This post contains reviews of books that were provided to me, either in e-book or physical format, for my consideration. Specific books I received are indicated using [PR copy]. This post also contains affiliate links.

As I mentioned in Part One, July was the month of audiobooks, and I managed to get through a total of 11 of them, so here are my thoughts on seven more! (P.S. if you are interested in audiobooks, make sure to check out what your library has, that’s how I listen to 99% of these).

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl [Amazon USAmazon Canada

I adored Night Film so I was pretty excited to pick up Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, the author’s young adult debut. Neverworld Wake is a dark and suspenseful novel with a hint of magical realism about a group of friends, one of whom died mysteriously the year previous, who become “stuck” in time, reliving the same day again and again. Like Night Film, Pessl’s writing is beautiful and even if the dialogue doesn’t feel entirely realistic, it fits into the creepy mystical and wealthy realm she has created.

The story in Neverworld Wake moves slowly but carefully, this is one of the few I likely would have appreciated more if I’d read a hard copy as an audiobook, where it tended to drag at times, as lovely as Pessl’s prose was. Still, there’s definitely suspense and I enjoyed reading the book, I just didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters, who lacked depth. Pessl’s world is intriguing, I just wish her characters felt that way too. The ending of Neverworld Wake was mostly predictable but still well-crafted, and even though this novel didn’t blow me away, I would certainly pick up another book by Pessl in the future.

Watch The Girls by Jennifer Wolfe [Amazon USAmazon Canada]  [PR Copy]

Watch The Girls by Jennifer Wolfe is a generic dark suspense thriller about a former childhood television star, Liv, who uses crowdfunding to investigate the disappearance of several girls and returns to the small town where it all happened. Liv’s own sister went missing as well, and the novel switches between what happened to her and the current mystery unfolding.

Overall there wasn’t anything horribly wrong with Watch The Girls, although Liv did behave pretty stupidly at times and made some frustrating comments, but it was pretty meh. I hadn’t realized that this was the same author (an alias for Jennifer Bosworth) who wrote a YA book, Struck, that I’d also found pretty meh a few years ago, or I may not have picked it up. To me, the book almost felt like a caricature of a mystery novel, any generic element you might think of (beautiful young girls going missing, creepy boy injured in a fire, mysterious messages from an anonymous source) probably is included. I was also really disappointed by the very ending, which felt outlandish and rushed. There were some good creepy moments and some fun twists and turns that kept me reading, but it wasn’t enough to make Watch The Girls anything particularly memorable.

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows [Amazon USAmazon Canada] [PR Copy]

One of my most anticipated releases of this year was My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, and although I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from the publisher, I ended up waiting to read it simply because I couldn’t resist picking up the audiobook again, since I loved the audiobook narration for the first book by these authors, My Lady Jane, so much. Well, the good news is that the audiobook for this twist on this Jane Eyre retelling with supernatural elements is really excellent. Unfortunately, the story itself just didn’t have the same magical charm and humour as the original.

I really loved My Lady Jane for how much it made me laugh, but there were very few funny moments in My Plain Jane, instead it just felt like the authors were trying to be funny. I haven’t read Jane Eyre so maybe that would have helped, but I wasn’t really encouraged to by reading this book, where the storyline was a bit dull and dragged. I also just didn’t have the same connection with the characters. That’s not to say My Plain Jane is a bad book, but I just had such high expectations after reading My Lady Jane and it felt like the authors took the formula from the first book and didn’t quite manage it in book two. That said, I’m still eager to read the next offering from “the Lady Janies” and I’ll definitely be picking up My Calamity Jane when it releases in 2020.

Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson [Amazon USAmazon Canada] [PR Copy]

Sometimes you just can’t get interested in a book and you think you should probably DNF it but you decide to push through anyway and things turn around. Or sometimes, they stay the same and you end up writing a review of a book that disappointed and you should have known better. Sadly, the latter is the case when it comes to Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson. I just couldn’t get into this dual-perspective story about Elyse, a shy quiet girl who has to care for her mother (an addict) but gets cast as the lead in her highschool’s play, and Gabe, who breaks up with his controlling girlfriend so she decides to make his life very difficult as a result.

In theory, it’s not immediately clear what the connection is between Elyse and Gabe, who are both in abusive relationships, but to me it felt obvious from the very beginning of the book so there was basically no “thrilling” element to a book I thought was going to be a dark, twisted thriller. Elyse’s narration was much stronger than Gabe’s, who felt a lot like a generic teenage boy. I also wished there was a better explanation for the actions of Gabe’s girlfriend, who similarly felt a lot like a generic crazy girlfriend without much depth or complexity to her. Lies You Never Told Me isn’t a terrible book, but it’s not one I’d personally recommend, so hopefully I can get a bit better at DNFing books like this in the future. But probably not, I really do hate leaving books unfinished!

How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation edited by Maureen Johnson [Amazon USAmazon Canada]

This is horrible but one of my main incentives for picking up How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation edited by Maureen Johnson, was the fact that it had a really short audiobook (only around 4 hours!). The lineup of authors, including a bunch whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past such as Jason Reynolds, Libba Bray and Malinda Lo, didn’t hurt either. Unfortunately, I misunderstood what How I Resist really is, and went in really expecting a collection of stories.

In fact, How I Resist is a mix of essays, interviews, how-to guides and other advice for teenagers who want to make a difference in the world. This book would make an excellent addition to a high school classroom and I think there’s a lot of great and useful  advice in there, but, with a few exceptions, it was mostly nothing for me to get excited over writing-wise. Although I still love reading young adult fiction, I’m definitely not the target demographic for a book like this, but I am very glad that material like this is being made available to teens growing up in today’s world.

Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff [Amazon USAmazon Canada]

After sadly finishing but absolutely adoring The Illuminae Files Trilogy, I was craving more from its authors and that was the perfect time to reach for Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff. This young adult science fiction novel tells the story of Eve, who discovers an android boy named Ezekiel and goes on the run with the android, her best friend Lemon Fresh, a robotic sidekick, and her dog. Lifel1k3 is such a weird and wonderful book it’s hard to describe, but really fun to experience. Kristoff’s world is creative and jam-packed with details that make it feel real.

While I loved the world-building, there was a bit too much use of new slang for me. That said, while I don’t generally read true science fiction, I’ll definitely be making an exception for Kristoff going forward, and I think other readers who are a fan of Marissa Meyer would also enjoy this. I was actually really getting Cinder vibes for the first half of the book, but luckily that changed as it progressed. The only element that fell a bit flat for me was the romance, although that did improve throughout the book. Overall, I’m definitely a Kristoff convert now and plan to pick up some of his earlier works. I really enjoyed reading/listening to Lifel1k3 but one of the very best parts? THAT ENDING; SO GOOD, SO INTENSE. There’s a book 2, with no title and no release date, yet, but I already cannot wait to pick it up.

Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West [Amazon USAmazon Canada]

I don’t generally reach for contemporary romances, but in my quest to make a dent in 2018 releases and based on a lot of positive reviews from BooksandLala (a youtuber whose taste I trust) I finally reached for Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West. I’ve had a pre-ordered copy of West’s paranormal Pivot Point sitting on my bookcase for years, but this is the first of her much more common romances I’ve managed to pick up. Listen To Your Heart is the story of Kate, who gets forced into being the co-host of her high school’s podcast, which provides advice to other teens, and meanwhile finds herself developing a crush on the same boy as her best friend.

Listen To Your Heart is just such a cute book filled with great, realistic characters and dialogue that that made it a heart-warming read/listen. I especially loved Kate’s massive family and the relationships West showed between all of them. While there wasn’t anything that really made the book standout, all the elements it did contain were just well-written and authentic. I also generally hate love triangles but West handled it very thoughtfully so I will make an exception for this book. While West hasn’t become an auto-read author for me, I’m certainly more inclined to pick up her other books after enjoying this one so much. If you are looking for a light, feel-good read I definitely recommend picking up Listen To Your Heart (and the audiobook is great, if you enjoy that format!)

* * *

And I’m all done with July just in time for August to be almost over. I actually got a week of vacation in August so I’ll have plenty more books to share soon!