ARC Review: Beast

BeastBeast by Megan Crewe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Max Weston knows that life is a game: Turn on the charm, say what people want to hear, and whatever you want is yours for the taking. What do a few lies matter if everyone ends up happy? His best friend, Davey, can’t look a cute girl in the eye and barely scrapes by in school, so yeah, Max hassles him sometimes. But he always has the guy’s back—even when a strange beast attacks Davey in the woods.

As Davey heals, something awakens inside him. Something with razor-sharp teeth, vicious reflexes, and no patience for Max’s ploys. Suddenly Davey is challenging Max, getting smarter, stronger, faster—and harder to control. Max plunges into a series of schemes to save his friend, but with each move he makes, Davey lashes back twice as hard. The monster inside him is calling the shots now, and the game it wants to play has deadly consequences for everyone Max loves.

If Max forfeits, he’s giving up on his best friend. But winning might mean losing even more.

If you are a Teen Wolf fan, this book feels a lot like it. The story is basically of two friends, (think Stiles and Scott) but the two had sort of an unequal relationship. Max pretty much takes charge of Davey’s life, and though the latter appreciates it at times, at most he resents it. Davey also has a terrible life at home due to an abusive father, and when he gets bit on a full moon and starts to change, he revels in this newfound power that he has. Max, on the other hand, is understandably afraid and hunts down cures for him. Davey, however, is letting the dark side of his transformation take over, and with that they are placed at odds.

As an action thriller, the book offers a lot of horror and the uncertainty that Teen Wolf fans will come to appreciate. Davey is unpredictable and vicious, and Max is running around trying to be one step ahead of him. Their relationship itself plays against them, because as Max is used to being the guy in charge, he doesn’t offer Davey the knowledge or choice in the initial days. Nope, he jumps right to fear (even if it was warranted, as proved by the second half of the novel) and ruins any hope of reconciling their friendship and taking a less brutal way out.

As a character, Max is not much likeable. He directs the lives of the people around him, including Davey and his own younger sister, Amy. He plays with the hearts of the girls in the school, just because he can. His and Jena’s arc did not fit well in the whole story overall, so I pretty much ignored that part going down. What I felt was amiss with the novel was the connection to characters. They are given ample backstories, but not fleshed out enough. Davey is not given a voice as to why he goes homicidal in such a short span of time. It feels, in a word, formulaic.

As a whole, it is enjoyable as a horror story. It certainly has its good moments but I wish more effort had gone into characterization.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from the author.

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ARC Review: My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag QueenMy Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen by David Clawson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chris Bellows is just trying to get through high school and survive being the only stepchild in the social-climbing Fontaine family, whose recently diminished fortune hasn’t dimmed their desire to mingle with Upper East Side society. Chris sometimes feels more like a maid than part of the family. But when Chris’s stepsister Kimberly begins dating golden boy J. J. Kennerly, heir to a political dynasty, everything changes. Because Chris and J. J. fall in love . . . with each other.

With the help of a new friend, Coco Chanel Jones, Chris learns to be comfortable in his own skin, let himself fall in love and be loved, and discovers that maybe he was wrong about his step-family all along. All it takes is one fairy godmother dressed as Diana Ross to change the course of his life.

My Fairy Godmother is a Drag Queen has a ridiculously cute and optimistic protagonist, Chris as our Cinderella. Unlike the original, our Chris is not exactly forced into a life of servitude, but he is relegated to it. Now, living with his stepmother and step-siblings, who care only about staying in the limelight, he lives like a glorified butler to them. They aren’t cruel to him, but they have a twisted sense of nice, and are more likely to treat him as a favored servant than a member of the family. Which is why, with the help of a friendly drag queen named Coco Chanel, he crashes a big party where he gets to meet the love of his life, J J Kennerly. There is a whole shoe bit, too, for those invested in the fairytale retelling part of this story, but that is where the similarities end.

The major theme of the story is about coming out and acceptance. Chris is not exactly out, but his sexuality is basically an open secret. He still feels fear over people knowing he is gay, thinking they won’t approve of him. For that part, at least, his family is supportive of him, albeit in their weird way. But his secret boyfriend JJ isn’t out, and since he is a public personality, he isn’t itching to be out either. He is using Chris’ stepsister as an unknowing beard, and sneaking around with Chris. Between keeping it secret from the family and from the paparazzi, they have their hands full, but Chris does want more out of their relationship.

I liked Chris as a character – he is hopelessly naive, but also comes across as a doormat most times. His one saving grace is that he still stands up for what he wants out of the relationship – ultimately. J J, meanwhile, just kept rubbing me the wrong way. Dude was so self-centered, it was all about his public image and his political future – as if him being gay is going to affect his running for office some 20-3o years down the line (I am optimistic about a more tolerating future, okay?) and for that, he subjects Chris to what is akin to be like a mistress. Duane, aka Coco Chanel, is funny and entertaining, and I loved that he got his own arc about his gender fluidity and fashion designer dreams than being just a small character in the story. He was over the top at times, especially when it came to Chris’s step-brother, which felt like a stereotype? I don’t really know, but it felt very cliche – like, of course the drag queen is going to hit on the hot straight guy? Yeah, I wasn’t that convinced.

Overall, though, I would say read it if you like to read a queer Cinderella retelling. The romance wasn’t that great, for me, though.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Sky Pony Press, via Edelweiss and Netgalley.

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Book Blogger Hop: May 12-18

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question is:

If you read a book you ended up hating, would you stay away from future books by that author, or would you give them a second chance?

Answer:

Short answer is yes to the former.

As much as I like to believe that future books can be improved upon, reading a book by an author (especially if it is the first that I have read by them) and hating it leaves sort of a bitter taste in my mouth. Future books are always tainted by that experience.

For example, I got bored of Alyson Noel’s The Immortals series (even though I completed it) and though I was one book away from finishing her Soul Seeker series (that I was reading around the same time) I never got around to finishing that series of hers.

Another author I did not like very much was Michelle Madow. I felt her Transcend Time series was kind of meh, but thought I will give her another chance in the Elementals series. Sadly, the first of that series was a mountain of cliches, and I am probably not continuing that one.

Then comes the House of Night series by P C and Kristin Cast – it stretched on too long and now I have no interest in finishing that series or reading any future books from either of them, which is a shame because I had actually like P C Cast’s Parthenon series.

Basically what I am trying to say is, I try not to let bias come in the way of choosing new books but hey, reading is personal and if I don’t like an author, I don’t need to continue.

 

ARC Review: All the Missing Girls

All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

When I started All the Missing Girls, I had done so thinking it was YA. I had only read the synopsis and I had read Miranda’s YA books before so I went into it thinking it was similar. Upon reading the introduction, I was intrigued by the idea of a reverse narrative – a majority of the plot is spooled out backwards, like Day 15 to Day 1. Since this is a mystery about the disappearances of two girls (well, adults really) in a small town and Nic, who is back to settle some matters and leave for good.

Now, normally I hate stories that involve the protagonist moving back to her hometown, losing herself in nostalgia and reminiscing about the times she spent there as a teen. It is my one pet peeve about adult fiction plots, and the only thing that kept me reading despite this was the fact that it was a mystery, and a psychological (on part of the reader, not the characters) thriller. Also, maybe a little about the reverse narrative, I admit. Because I was interested in how a mystery can be told backwards, when you usually have characters discovering things along the way that guide their actions, and you (the reader) following the trail of clues. At first, I admit, I was having a headache (no, literally, a headache) keeping track of what happened the day after and how the day before’s events tied into their actions. Mid-way, though I left that because I realized she really was unraveling the plot in reverse – to get to the present, you had to know what happened on the days previous and that was where the whole mystery lies. Because the first half is mostly the aftermath of the events and even Nic shields us from pretty much everything that happened days and a decade before, right until the last quarter of the book.

If I go part by part, I would say that the last quarter of the book definitely had most of the action. Before that it was Nic giving us characterization in scraps, using anecdotes from a decade ago to set up the motives for the characters. It made the first half drag on, and you need a lot of patience to get through it. Even later on, the pace is quite slow, lost in the past and memories and Nic’s musings about life in a town, or her paranoia over someone lurking in the woods. To be fair, the last part of the book did try to make up for most of this, with some unpredictable reveals and wrapping up the plot very nicely. But that first part, as well as my whole skepticism over the ineffectiveness of investigations in the modern era (just do a freaking DNA test, guys!) held me back from granting that final star.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Simon & Schuster, via Edelweiss.

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ARC Review: Psycho Pass: Inspector Shinya Kogami Volume 2

Psycho Pass: Inspector Shinya Kogami Volume 2Psycho Pass: Inspector Shinya Kogami Volume 2 by Midori Gotu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release date: June 6, 2017

The Psycho-Pass made a better future society possible: a universal fitness app that tracks people’s emotional health. But when crime becomes rare, it also becomes stranger and more dangerous than ever…and in the 22nd century the only “safe” job for a person on the borderline is as a cop–kept on a virtual leash as they hunt down the criminals they may soon become themselves!
Kogami’s team has learned that the hospital where patients have died due to a genetic timer set in them decades ago was a “privileged” residence for the emotionally unfit. In searching for clues, they discover just how their society perfected itself by pushing things into the shadows…and the underground network dedicated to keeping those things alive!

Kogami and Section 3 are still investigating the case of the mysterious stamped artificial organs, more specifically their source and how they were introduced into the patients. In the course of their investigations, they encounter another death – this one from a special sector where privileged older citizens are kept, away from the general populace. Bureaucratic courtesy aside, they don’t have much information on that place to go on. Meanwhile, Waku and his team of enforces are investigating the abolition sectors for clues regarding the organ trade. Slowly, they are peeling off the veneer of the society that was built upon Sybil and psychological evaluation.

One of my favorite things about this series is how the construction of a futuristic utopia is being unraveled thread by thread. But also how the author has imagined this place existing – with GM food, Holo projected vistas, shady clinical trials, and of course the Psycho Pass. While the latter is a small part of this story, and does not affect it much, at least in this volume, the ending does suggest that the current problems tie back to the origin of the Sybil system. On a character level, we see the camaraderie Kogami has with his colleagues and his mentor. Furthermore, how the other sections interact with each other, and their methods to approach a case.

The artwork is amazing, to say the least. There are some beautifully detailed scenes, of course, but even in simple lineart, you are see the elegant way the story is told. It is very dynamic but also somehow resonates more with the Western style of graphic novel. (But since I am not an expert on this, I would rather you not take my word on this 😀 ) Overall, this second volume is thrilling, and has me really invested in this series.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Dark Horse Manga, via Edelweiss.

Previous books in series

Psycho Pass: Inspector Shinya Kogami Volume 1

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