Vanishing Girls pulls out an ambitious reveal towards the end that would have caused uproar of the very besA slow build to a disappointing conclusion.
Vanishing Girls pulls out an ambitious reveal towards the end that would have caused uproar of the very best kind about five to ten years ago. However, I agree with Wendy's summation of the "twist"... in 2015, this just isn't that original or different anymore. A person who's read a bunch of psychological thrillers will see the ending coming from a mile off.
But that's not all. I've steadily developed more and more of a dislike for the way Lauren Oliver writes. Other reviewers and professional critics have commented on how much she has improved as a writer since her early days of Before I Fall and such. I know why they're all saying that, but I adamantly disagree. In fact, I find today's Lauren Oliver to be an author who writes some incredibly awkward sentences, especially when using similes. She compares her characters' actions and feelings to things that a) make me cringe, and/or b) make no sense.
“It bothers me that she calls it the Drink. That’s our name for it, a nonsense nickname that stuck, and it feels wrong that she knows—like a doctor probing your mouth with his fingers.”
I appreciate that this is something personal to me and many people probably understand the relationship between someone knowing a nickname and the sensation of a doctor probing your mouth, but it just reads so clumsy and awkward to me. Okay, I'm not an idiot. I'm guessing that she means the knowledge of the nickname feels intrusive, like a doctor's fingers also would, but it still doesn't seem to fit. Take this sentence I made up:
The weather was breezy and cold, so Sam wore layer after layer of clothing - like an onion.
Get it? She has layers... like an onion. True, but it still sounds stupid. I only wrote down one example, but I've noticed this multiple times in Vanishing Girls, and also in Rooms. One more example from the latter so you can get an idea what I mean:
"His motions are erratic, like a scarecrow that has just come to life and has to compensate for a spine full of stuffing."
I know picking apart the language makes it seem like I'm fussing over nothing, but these comparisons/similes happen often and are so odd that I find myself being pulled out of the story and thinking "huh?"
Still, Oliver draws you into the relationship between the two sisters - Nick and Dara - and their lives. I like how she portrays the intricate layers of love and jealousy they have for each other. The majority of the novel reads like a slow-moving contemporary, but I still managed to be pulled along to the end by the promise of something interesting and twisty happening.
Unfortunately, too much hangs on the ending. I was dragged through the book by my need to know what was going on and what would happen, only to discover that my early suspicions had been correct. If you're new to thrillers, then I can see you enjoying this book but, if not, I don't think you'll find anything mind-blowing.
Becoming Rain is a book about the worst FBI agent ever. No exaggeration.
I've been in the mood for some romance lately so I've been checking out recenBecoming Rain is a book about the worst FBI agent ever. No exaggeration.
I've been in the mood for some romance lately so I've been checking out recent releases that sound interesting. Unfortunately, every book seems to be one more reminder why I keep taking long breaks from the romance genre - there is so much bad. In my experience, though, I have more luck with romances that are combined with other genres - fantasy, historical or mystery - so when I saw that this highly-rated book was romantic suspense, I thought maybe it was time to fall in love.
“I take easy, slow steps, keeping my face calm as I scramble to come up with a story. This is one of my strengths—lying—and yet right now I’m drawing a blank.”
But I did not bargain for the female MC, Clara (aka "Rain") being such a moron. I honestly don't know how she got her job or came out of this undercover mission alive. In the book, she’s undercover with potentially murderous criminals and every few pages she’s like “Oops! Just gave up some info about my personal life! Better fix it with really bad lies." I mean, that's before we even get to the bit where she falls for her target - Luke - because he's PRETTEH. I could be a better FBI agent than her.
We're constantly told how Luke is different from her previous targets because he's gorgeous and charming. According to Clara, that's the difference between the criminals who deserve it and the criminals who are just misunderstood - a pretty face. Oh, give me a break. She's supposed to be a smart, career-focused woman, and yet all of that turns to mush when she's faced with a hot guy.
And that not-so-subtle blow to feminism is nowhere near the end of it. But let me break down the basic plot first before I continue. Clara is an FBI agent going undercover to try and bust a notorious car theft ring in Portland. Luke is the nephew of one of the ring's main guys and his uncle wants him to take over the "business". Clara must worm her way into Luke's life as "Rain" and find out as much information as she can. However, Clara's training could not prepare her for a six-pack and a large penis so, alas, she starts to fall for Luke.
But Clara isn't just stupid, vapid and senseless, oh no, she also hates almost every single woman in the book. She looks down on "that type" of woman:
“These ones stalk through life with their stunning faces and perfect figures—either naturally granted or acquired with the help of a plastic surgeon—with the single goal of climbing the boyfriend ladder until they reach the top and become the wife of a rich husband who will cater to their every high-maintenance need. They’re vapid. Insecure. Unkind. I can’t stand their type. And I can’t stand the kind of guys who are attracted to them.”
You know what I can't stand? Women who shame other women for NO GOOD FUCKING REASON. Like you're so much better, Clara! You can't even stay on the job for two minutes without getting all caught up in those pretty eyes. Moron.
And this one:
“Maybe she made him breakfast. Maybe they did it again before she made him breakfast. Does that kind of girl even know how to fry an egg?”
What is "that kind of girl", anyway? You mean, the kind that has casual sex with a guy? What the fuck does that have to do with her intelligence or capability of frying an egg? Let me tell you, I'd much rather be the kind of girl who has casual sex than the kind of girl who jeopardizes an entire FBI operation because she couldn't get her shit together and do her job. And, by the way, if she's "that kind of girl", then that would make the guy you're falling for "that kind of guy", right? Or is it supposed to be different with guys? Fuck, you might as well just embroider a flag with "Feminism" and set fire to it.
But I saved the worst quote for last. There's a scene in the book where Clara is with a male colleague who is basically implying - correctly - that she is incapable of doing her job because - incorrectly - women have a tendency to get all caught up in their emotions and fall for their targets. How does Clara react?
“I could get offended, chew him out for treating me like a weak woman, but I know his concern comes from a good place, so I simply smile and nod.”
That's right, ladies. When you're talked down to by your male colleagues, remember that it comes from a good place, so just smile, nod and don't make a fuss.
It's amazing how your opinion of a book can do a complete U-turn by the time it's over. For the first third of Hearts of Fire, I honestly thought I woIt's amazing how your opinion of a book can do a complete U-turn by the time it's over. For the first third of Hearts of Fire, I honestly thought I would be writing a positive review. The writing was a little shaky in parts and I think there were a bunch of missed opportunities with regard to the description/atmosphere of the circus, but it was fun, the characters were interesting and it seemed very different.
Back when I was enjoying this book, I thought I would start my review with this quote:
“And then he was walking out onto the stage, two long metal torches in his hands, the tips blazing with fire. My skin prickled with awareness, and somehow I just knew I was in for something truly amazing.”
Ooh la la, right? If someone had told me at this point just how bad this book was going to get, I may not have believed them. In this NA romance craze, so many books look alike that I find myself doing a double take whenever I discover a book doing something different, in a different setting, with different kinds of characters. This book had that.
Instead of being set in the United States, this book starts in Ireland. When Lille runs away with the circus - looking for adventure, independence and an escape from her overbearing mother - she sets off on a trip to France, making new friends and enemies along the way. Like I said before, I think more could have been done with the atmosphere in the book. I can't help myself imagining how much better and more evocative the circus setting would have been if this book was written by someone like Leah Raeder.
Oh well, I still liked the idea behind it. And what I also really liked was the way the relationship between Lille and Jack was developed. The author builds up their trust for one another through banter and then friendship. It was so rare to see a relationship handled this way and I found myself caring for both characters even more because of it.
And then it all went wrong.
Oh dear, where to start. Okay, so first Lille loses all sense of self and finds herself needing Jack to validate her. I actually can't believe this scene takes place:
“You’re a great artist, Lille,” he said. What he said had been so simple, and yet it felt like just a few words from him, telling me that I didn’t actually suck, had legitimised me. For the first time in my life, I felt real.
Then we get yet another of those scenes where a guy attempts to rape the MC and the love interest turns up to save her. Why is this used in every single NA romance? I swear, it's in almost every single one. Why is rape being used to prove what a big, strong, sexy guy Jack is?
Then there's the crazy, slutty ex who literally threatens to hurt Lille if she doesn't stay away from Jack. Okay, firstly, why does every single NA male have an ex who is an evil nutjob? Are we supposed to compare them to the goodness that is our female MC? And secondly, I find it so strange how all these guys basically cheat on or dump their ex immediately when this new girl comes along, but this is legitimised in the book by said ex being a violent hellbitch.
And then there's the fact that Jack turns into a violent, mentally abusive ass after they start sleeping together. He seemed a little angsty before, but afterwards his behaviour was terrible. He is angry and violent (towards objects and other people, not Lille), he treats her like a disobedient child and orders her not to go out walking by herself. When she does, he's all like:
He grinds against another woman while she is watching because he wants to upset her. He says things like this:
“Flower,” he said quietly. The term of endearment didn’t sound the way it usually did. In fact, it sounded a little threatening. “If you lie to me one more time, you won’t like what happens next.”
This is classic, controlling mental abuse! Before, I wanted them to get together. After, I just wanted her to get as far away as possible.
Oh, and he gets off on hurting women sexually because he was abused by his foster mother. Sounds familiar. *cough*Fifty Shades of Grey*cough*
Though Mr Grey was all about the tie-up and spank stuff. Jack's kink?
“The problem is that it makes me want to pour wax over your skin, press hot matches to your thighs. It makes want to leave marks all over your body until no man can refute that you’re mine.”
School's out now. It's time to go. Scarlet blood on ivory snow.
When I was about thirteen and in school, this girl said to me in a voice dripping withSchool's out now. It's time to go. Scarlet blood on ivory snow.
When I was about thirteen and in school, this girl said to me in a voice dripping with sarcasm "Nice shoes. Did you get them from Aldi*?" Evidently implying that my shoes were cheap and tacky. Me being the socially clueless specimen I was back then, was totally confused. My shoes weren't even cheap; they were similar to the kind of shoes every other girl was wearing. I honestly thought this girl was mistaken so I tried to explain "Er, do you mean you think they're cheap? Um, no, they're from River Island." The girl looked at me like she'd just scraped me off her shoe and walked off with her friends, all of them rolling their eyes. They probably muttered something like "weirdo" as they walked away. I forget.
Later I understood my error - this conversation had never been about my shoes, it was a power struggle and I had lost. I felt humiliated that I hadn't got it. That I hadn't ignored her, or laughed in her face, or cleverly insulted her back.
This book is about a girl called Rachel who faces the humiliation of losing one power struggle after another. She desperately wants to prove herself but just ends up giving those against her the material they need to look down on her even more. She gradually lets her humiliation and pain turn into hate, rage and eventually revenge.
It's a deeply unsettling novel because it stems from places and emotions many of us will recognise. It takes those familiar situations that inspired embarrassment, frustration and anger... and it gets darker and darker. Rachel is so many things. I felt sympathy for her, I hated her behaviour, I was disgusted by her, I wanted her to get where she needed to be, I wanted her to fail. Despite the title, the one thing Rachel isn't is boring.
This book is a unique blend of Metal music, obsessive female friendships and mass murder. It stands on its own as a compelling story but it also fits in with a new breed of novels that do a twisted, sometimes feminist take on conventional thrillers. Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and Black Iris are some more that come to mind, and I find myself liking this little sub-genre very much. These are psychological thrillers that are almost more suited to the Contemporary genre - telling the tale of these women's lives, thoughts, desires, insecurities and the madness lurking under the surface. Far more unsettling than the traditional thrillers, in my opinion.
From Rachel's humiliating experience in school, to a guy she liked harshly rejecting her, to the sexist male musicians in the Metal world, we go on this journey with her. She's twisted as fuck, totally unlikable, and yet... the psychological insight we get evokes sympathy for her. Love her or hate her, she's a fascinating character. Being inside her mind makes it hard to put this book down.
They're making this book into a movie. So, naturally, I had to read it.
The word that first comes to mind when thinking back over this book is messy. TThey're making this book into a movie. So, naturally, I had to read it.
The word that first comes to mind when thinking back over this book is messy. That's how I would describe it. It's entertaining in parts, annoying in others, and sends out a confusing mix of messages.
“I actually need your help. You see, your friends are hot. And you, darling, are the Duff.” “Is that even a word?” “Designated. Ugly. Fat. Friend,” he clarified. “No offense, but that would be you.”
This above exchange takes place between our narrator - Bianca - and Hamilton's resident notorious manwhore, Wesley Rush. Bianca responds to the insult by doing what any self-respecting woman should do and throwing the nearest beverage into the douchebag's face. However, being a teenage girl with all the insecurities that go along with that, Bianca can't quite forget what Wesley called her.
Then she has issues at home. Her mother is away most of the time and her dad is a recovering alcoholic on the brink of a relapse. With all this happening, Bianca longs for a way to "escape". She needs something to take her out of this world, numb her mind and make her forget who she is for a little while... so she sleeps with none other than - you guessed it - Wesley Rush. I get it: the girl has serious issues. No judgement, we've all been there.
So here's where things get a bit messy. I know this will be especially enjoyable for girls in their teens - just as the author was when she wrote it. I remember the days when I would read this:
“On one side, I had Toby. Smart, cute, funny, polite, sensitive, and practical. Toby was perfect in every conceivable way. I mean, he was a little dorky, but that was what made him so adorable. I liked being with him, and he always put me first.”
“On the other side, there was Wesley. A jerk. An asshole. An arrogant, womanizing rich boy who put sex before everything else. Sure, he was incredibly hot, but he could annoy the hell out of me. He was irritatingly charming, and his cute little grin could really get under my skin. But he had a way of making my heart race and my head spin.”
...and my heart would race for jerkface too. Then, of course, Bianca had to compare Toby and Wesley to Linton and Heathcliff, which is really just very unfair.
I think this is one of those books that was evidently written by a teenager; an extremely talented teenager, I'll give her that (I couldn't have done it at 18/19) but a teenager nonetheless. Some annoying dialogue aside, the writing itself is decent, but there is something about this story, the relationships in it and the way it portrays feminism which is incredibly immature.
When I was in my mid-to-late teens, I had discovered feminism but wasn't quite sure what it meant in practice. After writing essays on Margaret Atwood novels, I'd decided I was a feminist but it took years and my time at college to fully understand it. While I was in high school, I hated double standards and yet was probably guilty of believing in some of them. Stereotypes had been drilled into my brain and I often forgot how stupid they were. I wanted to be a feminist; I wanted to write a great piece of feminist literature; and yet, I still succumbed to my own internalized misogyny. This book feels like it was written by someone with the same issues.
First example: Every girl drools over the hot guys except our narrator. I'm glad that later in the book she learns not to have disdain for them, but it doesn't change the fact that these girls are characterized by their constant thrusting of their breasts into the boys' faces.
Second example: Wesley tells Bianca she is a not a slut because she's just confused and we all make mistakes. I initially appreciated the way the author portrayed teen sexuality without turning it into a lesson... and then it became a lesson. Why can't she just enjoy sex and not be a slut?
Third example:“Brontë?” I asked, seeing the cover of his book. “Wuthering Heights? Isn’t that a little girly, Toby?” “Have you read it?” “Well, no,” I admitted. “I’ve read Jane Eyre, which was definitely full of early feminism. I’m not saying that’s a problem. Personally, I’m a total feminist, but it’s a little sketchy for a teenage boy.” Feminism is a girls-only club?
Fourth example: Bianca ditches her friends as soon as she starts shagging Wesley.
I'm still giving this three stars, though, because it is damn entertaining. The narrator is charming and just enough of a bitch to be likable in that way that makes you smirk knowingly to yourself while reading (we've all had those naughty/vindictive/jealous thoughts too). And when the author is on top girl power form, she comes out with wicked gems like this:
“I’m probably going to be a bitch most of the time. I guarantee I’ll find a reason to yell at you almost every day, and don’t be surprised if a few drinks get dumped on you from time to time. That’s just me, and you’re going to have to deal with it. Because I’m not changing for you or anyone else.”
And the truth is, despite myself, I couldn't help being pleased with how this turned out.
This is a middle grade novel about a book-lover called EMILY and "a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are reveal This is a middle grade novel about a book-lover called EMILY and "a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles."
This book came very highly recommended. I picked it, along with a few others, from Goodreads' top 100 romance novels. It has been recommended to me many times over the years, from people on Goodreads and from those I know in "real life". And it has an average rating of 4.40.
While I didn't loathe the book - and enjoyed some parts - the truth is that more than half of these 600+ pages were excruciatingly boring.
Simons takes some steps towards goodness, but then it is ruined by the prolonged, tedious nature of everything that happens. For example, Tatiana and Alexander's initial flirtations are exciting; it's easy to get caught up in the angst of young love and all the issues that lie between them being together. But the story moves at a snail pace, describing their frequent walks and bus rides in intricate detail. Everything I enjoyed soon soured and became dull.
Similarly, the tale of how people lived in Soviet Russia and the fear that came with Hitler's invasion was a great setting for this wartime love story. What a difficult time and place to try and deal with boyfriend problems. And yet, the story is once again bogged down by pages and pages describing the same things over and over: how many times do I need to hear about the food rationing? I get it: everybody's hungry. Let's move on. The bigger picture is fascinating, but the extent of the details and repetition is mind-numbing.
Also, as much as I'm a sucker for a touch of love angst now and then, I was never completely sold on the whole "forbidden love" aspect of this novel. I don't really know how I feel about the way Tatiana's sister - Dasha - was portrayed. If you've yet to read this book, Tatiana meets a handsome young soldier and they have an instant connection. Only it turns out that this soldier has been seeing and sleeping with her older sister. So, of course, Tatiana does the only right thing and refuses to be with him.
I could practically hear the author's thought process running through my mind as I was reading.
Step 1: Think up a situation that would create a "forbidden love" scenario. It has to be bad so readers will get all caught up in the angsting. The solution: hot soldier boy is already dating her sister!
Step 2: We all know that women who get it on with their sister's boyfriends have a very special level of hell reserved for them, so Dasha must be portrayed in a way that will make us forgive Tatiana for her relationship with Alexander. The solution: make Dasha a selfish, abusive, whiny little bitch!
I didn't like the way it was handled. I felt like Dasha was only a bitch to justify poor, innocent Tatiana's actions. And I also felt like it didn't make sense for Tatiana to sacrifice her relationship with Alexander when Dasha was evidently such an awful piece of work. Tatiana exhibits behaviour of a classic Mary Sue: self-sacrificing, innocent, supposedly plain and yet desired by every male in the book.
Everything about this novel seems overwrought. From the exaggerated innocence vs villainous qualities of the characters, to the constant rehashing of old details. You know when you finish a book and think "half of those pages would have sufficed"? This is one of those times.