Ultimatum by K.M. Walton

imageIt’s not Oscar’s fault he’s misunderstood. Ever since his mother died, he’s been disrespected by his father and bullied by his self-absorbed older brother, so he withdraws from his fractured family, seeking refuge in his art.

Vance wishes his younger brother would just loosen up and be cool. It was hard enough to deal with their mother’s death without Oscar getting all emotional. At least when Vance pushes himself in lacrosse and parties, he feels alive.

But when their father’s alcoholism sends him into liver failure, the two brothers must come face-to-face with their demons–and each other–if they are going to survive a very uncertain future.

Oscar has his fathers looks but that’s about all they have in common. He is artistic, loves classical music and plays the violin.  He takes after his mother in personality.  He has nothing in common with his brother, who torments him, and feels that both his father and brother don’t know or like him.

Vance has his mothers looks and is jealous of his brother for looking like his father, who he idolises.  Both he and his father love Reggae music, parties and having a good time. Both are selfish when it comes to thinking of others and Vance things his brother Oscar doesn’t like him much. He is always putting Oscar down for being a “sissy’ and acting like a girl.  Vance is always angry but that anger hides something deeper.

As they both stand vigil at their father’s deathbed they both think about how the other brother has treated them wrong and how they are misunderstood.  Both are scared and both are hurting. But when they are pushed into a future they never contemplated can they stand together or will it tear them apart.

The story goes back and forth between events from three years ago and the present. Each brother tells a bit of their own views on what was going on after the death of their mother and how they feel standing at their fathers deathbed. It’s  a tale of two brothers who misunderstand each other and it seems impossible for them to find their way back to being what they were when they were younger. Both have issues, Vance hides his fear with anger, Oscar hides away and draws or listens to music. It’s a tough book in the way that it forces Vance and Oscar to not only look at themselves but also at the demons that drove their father to where he is now, to face the things that they fear the most.

Holding a vigil at a deathbed is incredibly hard and watching your loved one take their last breath is heartbreaking, but more so for two teenagers who have already lost their mother now wait to lose their father.  It was an incredible book, well written in dealing with the emotions that are more heightened and the anger and fear of being completely helpless in this situation. It wasn’t a sappy book but one that dealt with the harshness of a family that wasn’t that strong after the death of their mother, a family that was struggling by for years with no emotional connection between the three remaining members.  It was heartbreaking as it should be, a hard emotional read that brought me back to when I was with my family as a grandmother was in her final days.  Some anger, some stories were told, memories relived and pain and sorrow as she took her final breath.  This story deals with that reality.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 stars.

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Freaks by Amanda Hocking

imageWelcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

 

I have to admit, I have discovered a love of circus books recently. That coupled with this amazing cover drew me to this book.  I want to say that I loved it as much as I love the cover, but I can’t.

I found the characters a bit flat and lackluster.  The plot was reasonable but you figured out who was behind it not far along into the storyline but really don’t get confirmation until almost at  the very end.  I didn’t find it all that engrossing and to be honest it was too long as well.  I found it dragged on and on and on.  Boredom set in and I was glad to see the end of it. I was also sad to see that the majority of the interesting action that did get me hooked was in the last few pages.  It wasn’t enough to save the whole book for me though.

I find it a hit or miss when it comes to Amanda’s books and I have to say that for me, this one was a miss.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

2/5 stars

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Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

imageCharlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

When we first meet Charlie she is being wrapped up in a sheet and brought to a hospital where she floats in and out of consciousness for a while before fully coming around in a mental health facility. She is surrounded by other girls who self harm in various ways.  She is a  selective mute, unable or unwilling to talk to anyone.  She is happy to be where she is, she is safe, fed, has shelter and most of all, away from one of the people who has abused her.

When after being in the facility for a month she is told that she has to leave because there is no more money coming in to care for her.  She is put on a bus out to Arizona where things seem to look up for her, but not for long.

This is a hard, brutal, raw and depressing read.  It’s a struggle to battle through it, it’s like you are living the struggle with Charlie as she trades one form of addiction for another.  The person she puts her trust and love into isn’t an easy person to deal with either and is battling his own demons.  Life seems to keep kicking her down no matter how much she struggles to get back to the the little bit she does have in her life.  How much tragedy and bad luck can one person have and continue to go on.  She has more strength that she knows and her tenacity to keep going without giving up was inspiring.  She deals with abuse, rape, alcoholism, self harm and so many things that most people would have just rolled over and given up.This isn’t about a girl who becomes cured of her self harm but learns to live with what she has done and how to cope with things better.

While this is an extremely hard read, it is beautifully written by someone who knows what it’s like to self harm. It’s a testament to the human spirit that just doesn’t give up and for that you end up admiring Charlie for never giving up. We all have scars, but most aren’t visible. A remarkable read!

 

5/5 stars

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman

imageIn a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

 

There are no more countries, wars, politics, disease, hunger, poverty, everything that humans could learn has been learned.and everyone is immortal.  People have the ability to heal and to ‘turn the corner’ and to revert genetically to a younger age.  because of this people are still having babies and the only way to die is to be gleaned by a scythe.

Citra and Rowan are taken as apprentices by Scythe Faraday. It’s the first time that a scythe has chosen two apprentices and it doesn’t sit well with the conclave.  He chose them for their unwillingness to become scythes, and teaches them the art of gleaning but done with sympathy and humanity  as a first priority.  Scythes are above the law, well there is no real law anymore and they are the only part of society with a governing body with rules and regulations, 10 to be precise. Because they are above the law they must do things the way it is set out in their laws and that means to not kill indiscriminately.  There  is a quota system set up so that a balance is maintained.  But as Citra and Rowan attend their first conclave they start to see that all isn’t straight forward in the society and that, like in any other governing body, there are things behind the scenes  that don’t bode well for not only them for for the world as well.

This deals heavily with morality, how not to become the monster when you are in the middle of them.  It’s a great theme to have with the things going on in society as it is today and I thing that Mr. Shusterman did it in a wonderful way of the topic of the book. there is plenty of brutality in the story, just as there is in real life and it makes you question just how you feel about what is happening around you and what you will do to try and end it.  It’s a different take on your average YA Dystopian book in which youngsters are given the powers over life and death, mercy or pure evil in how they accomplish their duties.  It’s part of a series but it’s doesn’t  leave you on a cliff edge like some other series do but leaves you on a gentle slope. An incredible beginning to what will be a thrilling series.  If you loved his Unwind series you will love this one.

 

4/5 stars

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Faithful by Alice Hoffman

imageFrom the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

At the start of the book Shelby is a shell of a girl.  She doesn’t talk, she doesn’t eat, she self harms, shaves her head and just wants to hide from the world.  She can’t seem to live because of what happened to her best friend Helene.While Helene becomes a thing of worship, a living ghost that draws people towards her, Shelby is shunned and talked about. She was uninjured physically, mentally she is destroyed.  Guilt is sinking her into a black hole that she can’t or won’t get out of.

Shelby lashes out and hurts those around her because she feels that she is a nothing and doesn’t deserve anything.  She hooks up with Ben.  Ben likes Shelby and eventually they get together.  As he falls in love with her she hurts him at every turn feeling unworthy of love and things don’t go well for them.

Since the accident she has been receiving postcards in the mail with things like ‘ See something’, Save something’ written on them.  they come at odd intervals and they are the only thing that seems to keep her going.  As the story progresses life changes for Shelby but can she forgiver herself for what happened to Helene?  She rescues a rag tag group of dogs and is roped into a single mothers family of twin boys and a daughter who is hell bent on making her mothers life hell.  Shelby bucks what is going on around her but how long will it be before she gives in and learns to be loved?

At the start of this Shelby is a bitch, a heartless individual you don’t  feel much for but a mixture of pity and spite.  As time goes on she blossoms like a flower after a long hard winter, and what a joy it is to watch unfold!

I have never read anything by Ms. Hoffman and I feel that I found a real gem of a book!  The way she writes the characters and how they slowly unfold and grow and sink into your skin. It was a fast read for me, once I started I just wanted to keep going.   A coming of age book with characters who are broken, beaten down by life but never give up. A must read!

ARC received by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

4.5 stars

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A world Without You by Beth Revis

imageSeventeen-year-old Bo has always had delusions that he can travel through time. When he was ten, Bo claimed to have witnessed the Titanic hit an iceberg, and at fifteen, he found himself on a Civil War battlefield, horrified by the bodies surrounding him. So when his worried parents send him to a school for troubled youth, Bo assumes he knows the truth: that he’s actually attending Berkshire Academy, a school for kids who, like Bo, have “superpowers.”

At Berkshire, Bo falls in love with Sofía, a quiet girl with a tragic past and the superpower of invisibility. Soíia helps Bo open up in a way he never has before. In turn, Bo provides comfort to Sofía, who lost her mother and two sisters at a very young age.

But even the strength of their love isn’t enough to help Sofia escape her deep depression. After she commits suicide, Bo is convinced that she’s not actually dead. He believes that she’s stuck somewhere in time—that he somehow left her in the past, and that now it’s his job to save her. And as Bo becomes more and more determined to save Sofía, he must decide whether to face his demons head-on or succumb to a psychosis that will let him be with the girl he loves.

 

When I started this I thought, ‘ Here we go, a quasi X-Men wannabe’.  But I was so wrong.  Bo thinks he is in a school for kids who have powers.  He thinks he can travel through time, Sofia can turn invisible, Harold can see and hear ghosts, Gwen can control fire and Ryan can control objects and other peoples minds. Even the therapist in charge of their unit can heal himself.  Bo truly believes this.  When Sofia comes to him asking him to take her away from Berkshire, from the present and take her to the past, Bo agrees and takes her back to the time of the Salem Witch Trials.  As the school morns her death, Bo knows it’s all a show to hide the real truth, that she is back in time and only he can save her.  When some people from a government body comes to investigate Sofia’s death, things start to fall apart for Bo, and for Ryan who doesn’t want to leave Berkshire, and what he thinks is real isn’t.

This story deals with mental health issues.  The slow shattering of what Bo believes to be real makes for strange reading.  You can see that he catches glimpse of the true reality, Sofia committed suicide, there are no powers and that all the kids that are there are suffering from various mental illnesses.  But it gets mixed up in his version of reality and gets to the point that he doesn’t honestly know what is real and what isn’t.

I did find it interesting but in places it got very repetitive, especially Bo talking about how the various threads of the time tapestry feel to him. It was interesting to see him fighting what was going on around him.  I know nothing of suffering from a mental illness but it seems to be a somewhat glimpse of what might just go on in the head of a person who can’t tell for sure what is going on around them.

I did like the alternating chapters that focus on Phoebe, Bo’s sister. It didn’t contribute much to his story but it did tell of how she felt with him in a private school, the pressures on her to be ‘the good one’ and how Bo’s health affected the family as a whole.

I will admit that when I bought this book, I just glanced at the blurb and liked the bits that did catch my eye, it wasn’t what I expected it to be.  I have to say that because of my not really paying attention to what it was about it turned out to be a surprise for me.  While some parts were a bit repetitive as I had said above but the last few chapters are truly scary, your heart is in your throat and that made up for the parts that were so-so.  Is this a book that is a true portrayal of someone that suffers with the delusions that Bo suffers from, I can’t tell you, but it was a worthy read none the less.

3.5 stars

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Alive by Chandler Baker

23268484Stella Cross’s heart is poisoned.

 After years on the transplant waiting list, she’s running out of hope that she’ll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred by strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone’s radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi are inseparable.

 Stella is convinced that Levi is her soul mate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?

 After all, the heart never lies…does it?

 

Stella is the good girl, the one who studies hard even though she is out of school more than in it. She has two supportive friends who have stuck by her thick and thin. When she meets Levi she has found the person who has stopped the constant pain in her chest after her transplant. When she is around him she is a different person and slowly starts to push those closest to her away. But will they be there when she needs them the most?

I have to say that I did like Stella at the start but when she hooked up with Levi she turned into an instant cling bitch that couldn’t be away from Levi for even a moment. She really annoyed me to the point that I was ready to give up on this book. I kept putting it down cause I was fed up with her attitude. I could understand why the writer made Stella so frustrating the more I read but it was hard going for a while. When things started to get creepy and odd I got interested again. I started to theorise  just who her donor heart belonged to. I kept thinking one thing or another but was just blown away by where the book took me.

It has a lot going for it and the creepy gory parts were confusing at first but added so much to the storyline and once things started to ramp up I was hooked and kept reading to the end and was left speechless!

This is a great debut book and I will definitely read what this writer produces next!

5/5 stars

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