ARC Review - A Map for Wrecked Girls

Title: A Map for Wrecked Girls
Author: Jessica Taylor
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Series: n/a
Published: August 15, 2017
Source: Borrowed for review from a local indie
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We sat at the edge of the ocean—my sister Henri and I—inches apart but not touching at all. We'd been so sure someone would find us by now.
Emma had always orbited Henri, her fierce, magnetic queen bee of an older sister, and the two had always been best friends. Until something happened that wrecked them.
I'd trusted Henri more than I'd trusted myself. Wherever she told me to go, I'd follow.
Then the unthinkable occurs—a watery nightmare off the dazzling coast. The girls wash up on shore, stranded. Their only companion is Alex, a troubled boy agonizing over his own secrets. Trapped in this gorgeous hell, Emma and Alex fall together as Emma and Henri fall catastrophically apart. 
For the first time, I was afraid we'd die on this shore.
To find their way home, the sisters must find their way back to each other. But there’s no map for this—or anything. Can they survive the unearthing of the past and the upheaval of the present?


The back of the ARC hailed this book as something for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Gone Girls, so I decided to give it a try because I love a good story filled with horrible female characters and unseen twists.  What I got was a story with a single horrible female character and...not much else.  I've never read Pretty LIttle Liars, and have seen a total of perhaps 2 random episodes, but I didn't see a lot of similarities besides the catty females and a situation or two, and as for Gone Girl, I don't think I saw anything that would cause me to pitch this book as like it in any way.

This book does have one good thing going for it, and that's the fact that it's a pretty quick read.  I sped through almost 80% of the book in a single day, a school day no less, because I was curious enough to want to see what happened on the island, as well as what caused the huge rift between the two sisters.  The other thing I appreciated was how Emma grew during her time on the island, it honestly seemed realistic because in a situation like that people either change for the better or they die, and Emma changed for the better.

Unfortunately, there were more things I didn't like about this book that things I did. I feel like I got lost at times, there would be no line gap between paragraphs that had jumps in time or words were missing.  This might just be due to the fact that I read an ARC, I'm not 100% sure on that.  The clingy relationship between Emma and her sister Henri in the "before" chapters really bugged me, I get the relationship was supposed to be toxic, but it was like...toxic without Emma getting anything out of it.  The "rift" between Emma and Henri struck me as bad, yeah, but I certainly don't think it was as horrible as it was portrayed, considering part of it was done for Henri's own safety.

All of those things bugged me, but the biggest thing was Henri.  Maybe that's where they got the Gone Girl comparison because Henri was so horrible?  Not only was she a toxic person who managed to do a 180 in less than 50 pages, but everything she did on that island was a million times worse than what Emma did.  She did at least 5 horrible things (no specifics because spoilers) that could have (and probably should have) caused them all to die several times over.  I'm not sure how either Alex or Emma, especially Emma, could forgive Henri for what she did, regardless of why.

Overall I just really wasn't a huge fan of this book.  Actually, at times I don't even think I could put my finger on why I didn't like it, just that it wasn't working for me.  I was expecting something full of twists and turns and maybe a mind f*ck or two, and what I got was an odd Survivor-esque story that had a few too many miracle saves for my taste.  I'm not going to say don't pick this book up, but I would suggest you read the first few chapters to see if it's something that works for you before you do.

ARC Review - The Hearts We Sold

Title: The Hearts We Sold
Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones
Publisher: Little, Brown
Series: n/a
Published: August 8, 2017
Source: Borrowed for review from a local indie
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When Dee Moreno makes a deal with a demon—her heart in exchange for an escape from a disastrous home life—she finds the trade may have been more than she bargained for. And becoming “heartless” is only the beginning. What lies ahead is a nightmare far bigger, far more monstrous than anything she could have ever imagined.
With reality turned on its head, Dee has only a group of other deal-making teens to keep her grounded, including the charming but secretive James Lancer. And as something grows between them amid an otherworldy ordeal, Dee begins to wonder: Can she give someone her heart when it’s no longer hers to give?


To be honest I wasn't 100% sure what I was going to get out of this novel because it claimed to be a "blend of sci-fi, paranormal horror, and romance" which is...a rather odd combination.  Though for better or for worse it's actually a pretty accurate description, and it works surprisingly well.  The plot, which is somewhat vague in the description, is also well done, but what really brings it all together is the writing itself and the characters.

First I feel like I do have to mention the plot because while the idea of demons isn't a new one by any means, the way they're portrayed in this book is refreshingly new; they came out as being demons on television and will trade wishes for body parts to anyone over a certain age.  I don't think I've ever read a book (especially one set in modern days) where demons are like, out and about to the general public.  (I mean, it may happen in urban fantasy novels, but not so much in YA).  What a cool idea.  And then there's the fact that this one demon trades hearts for wishes.  Like, he rips your heart right out of your chest and keeps it for two years while you keep living, get your wish, and then do things for him as he needs them.  I'd call that pretty original. And bonus points it's a standalone so everything is wrapped up in a nice neat bow.

Aside from the plot, which I loved, I think the best part of this book was the writing.  The plot along with the writing itself made the book compulsively readable.  I felt like I was just flying through the pages, not only because I wanted to see what would happen next, but because I couldn't help myself from seeking out the next paragraph.  While the book itself is some odd blend of genres I feel like it also feels like a new fairy tale of sorts.  I don't write in my books, I don't understand how people can, but I got the urge numerous times to underline or circle or highlight several passages that not only spoke to me but just seemed so effortlessly lyrical it's a shame I didn't have little sticky notes to mark them.

I mentioned the characters above as well and wanted to include a quick note about them.  They were really well rounded, real and broken in a way that made them relatable (except for Gremma, who was really just plain awesome).  I really appreciate the fact that while the story is Dee's we also get to see through the eyes of the other "heartless", at least when it came to their own deals with the demon.

There weren't really any major problems with this book.  Personally, I think it might have worked a little better if the sci-fi element of the story was left out and it remained entirely in the paranormal realm, but it's not really a huge part of the story anyway, so it's not that big a deal.  I have maybe one or two specifics questions I would like to ask the author about this or that, but that's also not anything big.  It also would have been cool to see more from other "heartless", and maybe even the demon himself, but seeing as the story is certainly whole without it wasn't necessary.  Like I said, I can't really find any major faults with the book, seeing as most of these things are really just about my own personal preference.

Overall I was really impressed.  This is the first book I've read by Lloyd-Jones and I know it certainly won't be the last.  With elements reminiscent of Supernatural, Once Upon A Time, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and even The X-Files, I feel like there's really something here for so many people.  I certainly think this will appeal to fans of Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo (which is how it's advertised) but I would also go so far as to include Victoria Schwab and Laini Taylor.  The fresh plot, relatable characters, and lyrical writing really pull the whole book together though, and I don't think it's too crazy to say that this will easily be a favorite read of mine for this year.  I'm eagerly awaiting what Lloyd-Jones comes up with next, and I'll also be digging out her debut novel from wherever it might be hiding in my book stack because after this book I think it deserves a read as well.

ARC Review - These Things I've Done

Title: These Things I've Done
Author: Rebecca Phillips
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: n/a
Published: August 1, 2017
Source: Sent for review
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Before:Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.
After:It's been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn't racked with guilt over her role in her best friend's death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn't half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey's brother, every day. Not just because he's a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she's betraying her best friend one final time.


Most contemporary novels that I read are of the fluffy variety.  I tend to shy away from novels that have a tendency to make people cry because let's be honest, the real world is depressing enough so I don't need my fiction to be a downer too.  But seeing as this book was specifically recommended to me by someone who works for the publisher I decided to give it a go because I trust said person's judgment, and why not shake it up every now and then?  It turned out to be a pretty good choice, because not only was it a surprisingly quick read, several of the ideas it played with were quite interesting.

Obviously, the main idea the book plays with is guilt; how it changes you and how you deal with it.  Dara is wracked with it because of how her best friend died, because of her role in it.  But it's not only that, she starts to forget about what she did for small moments because she moved away, and then when she goes back to her hometown so she doesn't forget she starts to fall for her best friend's younger brother.  Watching her struggle with coming to terms with everything is honestly really frustrating at times, but that's what makes it feel so real.  It's not just guilt that's dealt with in the book though, there's also grief, friendship, courage, and healing, all of which are also done well.

The other thing that I think was done exceptionally well was the format of the book.  It was told in a now/then format, or in this case a sophomore/senior year format, which ended up working perfectly.  I also loved how elements from the "senior" chapters usually tied into elements from the following "sophomore" chapters.  That, combined with the fact that we got to see exactly how Aubrey (the best friend) died and everything that led up to it, really strengthened the story.  The last "sophomore" chapter was not just a punch in the gut, it was a necessary piece of the story that really brought everything together.

I did have a few qualms, although the biggest of them was just the name of the best friend's older brother, aka the love interest.  He has the same name as one of my younger brothers, which made reading the kissing scenes and such kinda awkward, which of course isn't really a problem.  I really only have one "problem" with the book, and it came at the very end and had to do with how Dara was pushed to overcome her anxiety over being on the road where her friend died.  It seemed pushy.  That was really it.  It would have been interesting to see how Aubrey and Ethan's parents reacted to Dara not only coming back to town, but coming back into Ethan's life in a rather significant way, but I can also see how it wasn't necessary to the story, especially considering we don't really see the parents at all in the flashbacks, so why would we see them in the present?

As a whole, I was pleased with this book (which is not a debut by the way- for the longest time I thought it was) and would recommend it to fans of heavier books along the lines of Thirteen Reasons Why. I can't say that the main plot will resonate with a large group of readers, seeing as I don't think there are that many teens out there that have accidentally killed their best friend, but the feelings it deals with (mainly guilt and grief) are sure to find a larger audience.  I should also note that while I didn't cry while reading this book, although there was some super-fast blinking, it definitely fits into the tear-jerker category so be careful about reading it in public.  That being said it was a pretty quick read because I wanted to see not only what happened next in the "senior" chapters, but how everything culminated in the "sophomore" chapters.  That momentum, something I'm not super used to in contemporary novels (and especially not in more intense contemporary novels) means I'm definitely going to check out her next book as well as investigate her backstock.