Review: Stalk Me – Jillian Dodd

Dodd_Jillian-StalkMeTitle: Stalk Me
Author: Jillian Dodd
Series: Keatyn Chronicles #1
Bandit Publishing
Rating: 1 / 5

Keatyn has everything she ever dreamed. Her life is following the script she wrote for the perfect high school experience. She’s popular, goes to the best parties, dates the hottest guy, and sits at the most-coveted lunch table.

She’s just not sure she wants it anymore.

Because, really, things aren’t all that perfect.
Her best friend is threatening to tell everyone her perfect relationship is a scam.
Her perfect boyfriend gets drunk at every party they go to.
It’s exhausting always trying to look and act perfect.
And, deep down, she isn’t sure if she has any true friends.

To add to the drama, her movie star mom has a creepy stalker.
A hot, older man flirts with her and tells her they should make a movie together.
And she’s crushing on an adorable surfer. Dating him would mean committing social suicide.

So she writes a new script. One where all the pieces of her life will come together in perfect harmony.
But little does she know, there’s someone who will do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen. (goodreads.com)

So… What the hell did I just read?

It took almost two days to finish this book. It was filled with a lot of nothing-happenings. Mixed in with the actually important plot was a lot of slice-of-life stories. Conversations with Keatyn and her mom, with Keatyn and pretty much anyone. Unimportant things she does. Lots of descriptions of her clothing, which I actually started skipping over, because beyond a simple “jeans a t-shirt” or “dress and heels”, I really just don’t care. Throwing around a lot of designer names and spending what feels like half a page on a description of one outfit really crosses the line for me into “overkill” zone.

Not to mention that the book is written in first person, and not done so well. Keatyn gives a day and time for each section of narration, as well as a quick little title that shows up within that narration somewhere. If she needs to describe something that happened in the past (and usually, it’s unnecessary description because if it was important, it wouldn’t have been ignored in the first place). By “in the past” I’m not talking about something that happened years ago, but only an hour or so before her narration began.

The jumping back and forth gave me a headache after a while. I had to keep putting it down because a lot of what she talks about in past tense just wasn’t that important.

There’s also a lot of “valley girl” speak (using the word “like” as something other than describing or verbage). It’s. Annoying. It’s one of those peeves I have that I didn’t really know I had until it came up while reading one day. And it stuck with me, apparently, because it’s still really annoying.

Keatyn’s “friends” are back-stabbing, money-grubbing, no-good people. I know people like this exist, but if you go by this book, the entire existance of them are all holed up at some rich-person high school in Malibu. Keatyn fits in with them pretty well, despite her insistance that she’s different and wants to be different. She caves every. single. time. And it is beyond ridiculous.

Despite Keatyn only being 16, she obviously is much more mature and is also so awesome at doing practically everything. She plays soccer (and is apparently so good that her coach is okay with her skipping practices and games, because she never plays in one single game during the entire novel, even during the parts that actually take place during the school year), she dances, takes martial arts lessons, kickboxing lessons, and surfs. She’s fluent in a few languages and is passable in others. On top of all that, she still has time to party, party, party.  (This entire paragraph brought to you by sarcasm.)

And that’s pretty much my entire take-away from this, because not only did Keatyn seem like an annoying brat with too much time on her hands, she’s also entitled and more than a little indecisive. Let’s not talk about her boy-hopping and who she decides is the love of her life this week. We don’t really get to know much about any of the boys, except possibly Brooklyn. Even Cush gets very little screen time. Keatyn doesn’t give us a feel for any of them, except that they’re all, apparently, really hot.

The “stalk me” drama that happens over the course of the novel actually feels a little thrown in there because someone realized there wasn’t much of a plot otherwise. It feels paper-thin and watered down. Keatyn doesn’t concern herself with any of it unless it’s happening in the now–ten minutes later, it’s pretty much forgotten again. Keatyn also is more than a little stupid during the whole thing, which doesn’t help her case any.

Overall, I was very unhappy with the book. I won’t be continuing the series, especially if any of the sequels are as vapid and boring as this one.

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BFTA Review: Jeff Lindsay – Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Lindsay_Jeff-DarklyDreamingDexter
Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Series: Dexter #1
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Doubleday


Rating: 4/5


Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened — of himself or some other fiend. (goodreads.com)

Please forgive me — this review got away from me a bit.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in a series of books about a sociopath who occasionally helps his cop sister and kills bad people. Oh, and we, as readers, are in his head.

Dexter is short–at only 288 pages, it’s one of the shortest novels I’ve read this year, and it’s a quick read. Dexter is pretty fun, for someone who doesn’t understand or experience emotion. He’s practiced at “being human”, his way of saying he fools people into thinking there’s nothing wrong with him. Even his sister doesn’t really suspect. He is clever and witty, and has no trouble at all telling people how it really is, and even calling people out on their stupidity.

Although the book is really a who-dun-it mystery, Dexter really makes the book. He is entertained by odd things, like a Barbie head hanging from his freezer:

Whee. I had a new hobby. (p. 128)

I will say, however, that the introduction to this character is incredibly unpleasant, and as the book progresses, Dexter’s mind becomes more and more weird. He is fascinated by the moon, and it seems like his “hunting” cycle is dictated by it. He seems to only kill when the moon is full.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes and this question: refrigerated trucks have rear-view mirrors?

If you can’t get me my newspaper on time, how can you expect me to refrain from killing people? (p. 170)

Because, the paper carefully pointed out, how could we believe that two such killers could possibly be on the loose at the same time? (p. 171)

Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers. (p. 173)

Originally posted 08 April 2011.

BFTA Review: Sarah Dessen – Lock & Key

Dessen_Sarah-LockAndKey
Title: Lock & Key

Author: Sarah Dessen

Viking


Rating: 4/5

Ruby, where is your mother?

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give? (goodreads.com)

I’ve never read a Sarah Dessen book before. I see them everywhere I look at books, but I’ve never picked one up, not even to read the back cover. Fortunately, I read the summary for this one and thought it sounded interesting without even seeing the cover. I’m glad I picked this book up. It was touching, and it didn’t come across as cheesy, although it definitely had the potential to do just that.

There was something about Ruby that rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m not sure if I can put my finger on it. Ruby wants to stay in her little yellow house with mildew on her clothes, where half the appliances are broken and where she has to work to pay rent on top of going to school, all because her mother abandons her. Sometimes, I could understand Ruby and her need to stay in her own world–change, especially such a dramatic change, is difficult, and it is compounded by Ruby’s opinion of her sister, Cora. But sometimes, I really didn’t understand why she would rather get black-out drunk above everything else. While she talks a lot about her life with her mom, her life outside her mom, if she had much of one, is a bit more blurry.

Ruby, of course, likes Cora’s husband almost immediately, and I did, too. He’s open and friendly, and I was really glad to see that he had a serious side that went beyond being happy, or serious about business. I was really glad to see that he wasn’t completely one-dimentional.

I had a harder time relating with Nate, probably because I’ve never known anyone in Nate’s situation. It’s a crappy situation, and I love that Ruby wants to help him. I really liked their interactions and that he really seems to like her, despite her need to return to what she knows. I was glad to see that he really wanted to stick by her, and that he was there when she needed him. It really drove home the point that, later in the novel, she wanted him to need her and it hurt her that he didn’t (or, at least, he didn’t want to admit it).

I really liked this book, and I’ll probably be picking up some more books by Sarah Dessen in the future.

Originally posted 02 April 2011.

Review: Magan Vernon – The Only Exception

Vernon_Magan-TheOnlyException

Title: The Only Exception
Author: Magan Vernon
Beautiful Broken Books
Rating: 1.5 / 5

Fiercely liberal Monica Remy prefers to blend in. Despite her tattoos, piercings, and outspoken personality, she transferred to Central to escape—before she finds out that her next door neighbor is the uber conservative governor’s son, Trey Chapman.

No matter how hard she tries to avoid Trey, he still finds a way to get under her skin. Monica can’t stand his crisp white shirts or his staunch views on women. But she can’t help counting every freckle on his face and wondering what it would feel like to have him stop talking politics and kiss her.

A class debate project forces the unlikely pair to work together, and the political lines are blurred in late-night make out sessions. But despite their fiery chemistry, Trey’s politics threatens to smother their relationship for good.

I had serious problems with this book.

First, let me say that I was hopeful. Monica is labeled as a “fiercely liberal” college student with a hidden past. She’s got tattoos and piercings and the whole lot. I was hopeful that it would be a nice little story that wraps up neatly and didn’t leave me with a lot of questions. And, at least in that respect, it was solid. But that was the only thing I didn’t have problems with.

Trey is an egotistical asshole who doesn’t understand the word ‘no’.

So let’s start: Monica moves into her apartment building, and immediately has a run-in with not only Trey, but with his bodyguards, who are apparently screening everyone coming onto the floor. Monica’s first meeting with Trey seems promising, he offering to help her with a box of her belongings and introducing himself all polite-like, then he does this when Monica dares to criticize his father’s politics:

“If you want, I can always give you some literature to read up on regarding his policies and plans for the state.” (p 3)

Great. Not even 3 pages into the book, and not only are we talking politics (which I expected), but the conservative agenda is being shoved down our main character’s throat. Joy. Monica, to her credit, quickly ends the conversation politely and disappears into her apartment.

Of course, Monica’s relief is short-lived as, when she steps back out to go get dinner, Trey is apparently waiting for her to make another appearance, probably by looking out the peephole in his door every 5 seconds:

“Hanging out at the place I left you and waiting for my return?” (p 5)

Monica gets off a few zingers in regards to conservatives and their views on women before turning Trey down when he asks her to dinner. Trey, being a gentleman, leaves it at that and Monica dines at the local pizza parlor in peace, right?

Oh, sorry. What bizarro world do I live in where that’s acceptable?

Trey follows her to the pizza parlor, sits with her uninvited, and suggests that he was trying to be “neighborly” when she blatantly tells him he isn’t welcome to sit with her.

He orders a diet soda for himself, and Monica isn’t even allowed to tell the waitress what she wants before she (the waitress) rushes off, saying she’ll bring back a diet and a water.

Did I miss where Monica ordered a water? There goes your tip.

Trey’s idea of good dinner talk is politics. Trey apparently has no other interests outside politics. We never see him reading, watching sports, or anything. It’s on level with Bella Swan, in terms of boring protagonist.

Trey feels it’s okay to snoop in someone’s personal belongings (including e-mails, text messages, and voicemails) despite this being an invasion of privacy.

“Trey must have gotten to my emails when I left my computer open, and probably the voicemail that I thought I deleted.” (p 146)

Monica is weirdly not angry over this invasion of privacy, but it had me screaming inside that Trey had no boundaries, and would do whatever necessary if it got him whatever he wanted, which sent up red flags so fast in my head it was like a colorguard performance at halftime.

Monica makes some assumptions and does a few things that are questionable.

While at dinner her first night there, Monica and Trey debate about emergency contraception, and she compares birth control to Viagra. Trey suggests that argument bites the conservatives in the butt, and suggests that infringing on birth control is infringing on men’s rights due to medical conditions. Monica replies with:

“A guy not getting up is not a medical condition.” (p 10)

Um, actually, it is (or, can be). The very fact that you don’t know that makes you incapable of committing to a full debate, and would, in fact, cause you to lose that debate horribly. Erectile disfunction is, in fact, a medical condition (once diagnosed by a professional).

Monica has a weird view of pot and potheads that I found a little more than ridiculous and beyond stereotypical.

So Monica escapes the hallway with her box of items on move-in day…

Only to be confronted with a pot smoking roommate and her friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people smoking pot… Outside, where I don’t have to smell it (the smell makes me ill). But Monica’s reaction to their choice recreation is over-the-top and more than a little ridiculous. The author’s description of potheads is also more than a little stereotypical, and again, ridiculous:

“I stepped out into the living room to see Sam sitting on the couch where I left her, but next to a guy with long, greasy hair.” (p 4)

When Monica returns from dinner, she’s greeted by a cloud of smoke, and promptly does something no half-way smart person does with pothead roommates: puts her leftovers in the fridge.

They won’t be there when you go for them tomorrow, genius.

Her entire attitude towards potheads is weird and angry, and for apparently no reason. She blatantly judges her roommate based on the clothes she wears, and is surprisingly close-minded about everything related to Sam. The whole thing just left me feeling like I was reading something out of Bizarro-land.

Apparently, being feminist means being anti-man.

“Women’s studies and Political Science? You really are a bleeding-heart liberal. I hope you aren’t going to tell me that you’re a part of the feminist group and don’t want to date me because you prefer the company of females.” (p 31)

Okay, let’s talk about this because I saw red. I. Saw. Red.

Being feminist does not mean being anti-man (that would be mysandry, and is another ballgame all together). Nor does it mean being a lesbian, which Trey suggests a little later.

It means we recognize the inequalities between men and women in society, and we want to do something about it. Not drag men down, but raise women up so that we are on equal footing. It’s disgusting and insulting to see feminism being talked about in such a way, and also it suggests to me that the author did not do her homework.

“Isn’t that against some sort of rules of feminism? To cook your boyfriend dinner?” (p 119)

*headdesk*

And a few other random, weird things that just didn’t fit anywhere else.

-Trey drives a Mustang because they’re in a recession and he needs to drive something fuel efficient. Um, no. Bro, I’ve driven a Mustang (owned one for 7 years). They’re nowhere close to being fuel efficient. If Trey really wants to be fuel efficient, may I suggest a small car, like the Ford Focus, or Chevy Cavalier? Both small cars, decent gas mileage, and are American (and we know conservatives love to buy American, don’t we?).

-Trey brings Monica a pumpkin latte, and Monica says it isn’t coffee. Oh, no, honey. A latte is coffee with milk, and in your case, a flavor shot or two. If you’re going to drink it, you should know what’s in it.

The complications were wrapped up neatly with a bow, and the epilogue was… bizarre.

So two things: Monica’s past is revealed partly because she admits everything to Trey, but also because Trey does the snoopy thing (see above). Charges are pressed, everyone apologizes, everything is all happy hunky-dory. Except… It’s a neat little wrap-up to a problem that was never developed and just didn’t add anything to the story except angst that I felt was unnecessary.

Second, the ending. Monica is happily shown on-screen with Trey and the rest of his family when his father does some kind of debate or interview or press conference or something. Except, Monica is a liberal. What–? None of this made sense. The only thing Monica and Trey have in common is their love of debate, and they debate on two different sides.

That being said, they seem to both be politically minded on opposite sides, so why in hell would Monica stay with him? Especially if his political views are such a problem for her? Obviously she either A) doesn’t mean what she says when she says she wants to stop Mr. Chapman’s political agenda, or B) she has switched sides.

Both options don’t agree with me and left me with a bitter taste.

Overall, I didn’t like it. I went into it hopeful, but I was greatly disappointed. I’d have loved to see Monica’s background and issues expressed more, and had her healing more than what is shown. I’d have loved to see more character development. The book was too short with too many stereotypes and bad assumptions that just didn’t work for me at all.

Copy obtained from publisher via netgalley. All opinions herein are mine and were not influenced by the author or publisher in any way.

Review: Sawyer Bennett – Off Limits

Sensual couple

Title: Off Limits
Author: Sawyer Bennett
Series: Off #2
Big Dog Books
Rating: 3.5 / 5

“There is a vulnerability there, hovering just below the surface. And I want to pick at it until I expose it. Then I want to kiss it.”

Two years ago, Emily Burnham had an epiphany about the shallowness of her life. And she made it her mission to become a different person…a better woman. Out from under the controlling thumb of her mother, Emily is tasting the real world for the first time. And she likes it.

Nixon Caldwell has served his time in the Marine Corps, surviving two brutal tours in Afghanistan. He is back home, surrounded by what he likes best…isolation. It’s certainly the best way to avoid confrontation of the consuming guilt that is weighing him down.

When an accident brings Emily and Nix together, he soon learns he is not the master of his own fate. Struggling with his own pain, Nix tries to guard himself against Emily’s charms. He wants her in his bed, but he doesn’t want her in his heart.

Having grabbed life by the horns, Emily wants it all. But is she willing to accept just the small part of himself that Nix is offering? Can she reach the part of his soul that he has deemed to be Off Limits? (goodreads.com)

A cute, fluffy read.

I didn’t realize what number this book is in the series until after I’d started reading. Fortunately, it reads like a stand-alone novel, so I’m assuming that each book deals with the same characters but each one can be read by itself, with or without reading the others, and it will make perfect sense. At least, that’s how this one worked out for me.

The chapters in this book alternate between Emily and Nix. It’s a slightly different pace than what I’m used to reading, and at first it takes a little getting used to. Fortunately, each chapter is labeled with the narrator’s name, so it takes the guess-work out, and makes reading a little easier.

Going into the book, I wasn’t expecting much. I haven’t actually had much luck in the new adult category of books, so it was with some trepidation that I picked up Off Limits and started to read. Truth be told, I picked the book up when it was free on Amazon for Kindle, and it sat on my cloud reader, because I was a little hesitant to read a book that may or may not give me what I really want out of contemporary, which is a fun, light read with only some heavy topics.

Speaking of heavy topics, Off Limits deals with PTSD, as well as other traumas, both physical and mental, that soldiers of war are coming home with. The book deals with both issues in a somewhat tightly-bound package, but it definitely isn’t handled with levity, which I appreciated.

While Nix’s story is interesting and fulfilling, Emily’s story sometimes comes off as a bit contrite, especially in comparison with Nix. She deals with a stalker-that-isn’t, her parents, and normal teen-to-adult issues that most kids face, although probably not on the same level as Emily (considering her father is a politician, her mother is overbearing, and her ex-boyfriend just wants to talk to her, damnit).

Emily’s story seemed like more drama than anything, and there were times when I just really wished she’d put her foot down and get over herself and deal with her problems instead of whining about them all the time. Because at times, that’s what it felt like–whining.

But overall, I really enjoyed the book. It’s a quick, fluffy read with just a little bit of heaviness to weigh it down and give it some substance. It was just what I needed to read.

BFTA Review: Emma Donoghue – Room

Donoghue_Emma-Room

Title: Room
Author: Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 3.5/5
Read for: Amazon Best of 2010 Challenge

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another. (goodreads.com)

I both liked and disliked this book. I disliked it because I had a hard time relating to a five-year-old’s mentality. Sometimes it was difficult for me to figure out what Jack was talking about when he described something.
But I liked it because, at least for me, it was something new. Despite my difficulty figuring some things out, this was a fast read because it was, simply, interesting. There are probably a bunch of stories out there about survival from kidnappings, hostage situations, and the like, but how many of them are from the perspective of a kid who’s never seen the outside world?

Originally posted 05 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Laurel Dewey – Redemption

Dewey_Laurel-Redemption

Title: Redemption
Author: Laurel Dewey
The Story Plant
Rating: 4/5
Read for: Pump Up Your Book tour

After the events in Protector (Story Plant mass market, May 2009), Jane Perry has resigned from the Denver Police Department. Trying to make a living as a private investigator, she finds her past haunting her at every turn and her old demons rising up to torment her.
Seeking some level of comfort at an AA meeting, Jane encounters a woman who knows what Jane does for a living. The woman wants Jane to drive with her from Colorado to Northern California in search of a man who matches the description of the killer who murdered her granddaughter many years before. She’s convinced that the man has started to kill again and she wants to stop him.
Jane thinks the woman is crazy-especially when she discovers that she’s a New Age devotee-but Jane is desperate for work. They head on the road, gathering critical information about the killer, and themselves, along the way. Jane has recently experienced several events in her life that seem to border on the paranormal, though she is a complete skeptic in that regard. Now, those experiences come with greater frequency. And when the trail of the killer leads to a fundamentalist church, the consequences of belief and faith propel her toward a deadly confrontation.

When I first received the book, I didn’t realize it was part of a series, but fortunately it can be read as a stand-alone novel. And, since I haven’t read the first in the Jane Perry series, Protector, I have to do my review like Redemption is a one-shot novel.

I was a little startled when Jane appears, and she’s so angry all the time. She throws things constantly. I was so relieved to see Kit show up, because she gave me a bit of relief from Jane’s ever-constant cynicism. Jane comes across as very close-minded, especially towards things spiritual, and even if she doesn’t believe, she seems to dislike the quality in others, as well. She is quick to dismiss Kit as a nut job, although she does go to her eventually. Knowing now that the book was the second in a series, I wonder if Jane’s attitude is a result of what happened in Protector, or if she’s always like this.
After a while, Jane started to grow on me. Her initial attitude was startling, but after a while (okay, something like five pages) I got used to it.

Overall, I liked the book. I really liked Kit, and her absolute insistance that Jane is the one to help her, even though Jane is resistant. The descriptions are vivid, so much so that I could see the characters, the places, and Jane’s Mustang.

A copy of this book was generously provided to me by the publisher as a part of the Pump Up Your Book tour.

Originally posted 01 March 2011.