S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

S.T.A.G.SIt is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school… 

(via Goodreads)

STAGS was an obvious story, derivative of Skulls and Hard Target. I don’t know whether the author felt enough time had passed (or only old people like me would remember these stories), but I kept waiting for a twist to the story. It never came.

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The main character, Greer, is naive. I didn’t understand why she was so quick to believe Henry was not like the others when everything that was occurring was happening in his home. I also didn’t really believe the obsession with pre-internet days the STAGS people had. They obviously had mod cons and used them.

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I won’t spoil the story but I finished the book feeling ‘come on!!!’ Having said that, some lovely people in my book club really liked this story, so it may just be me 🙂

2.5/5

 

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History is all You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Image result for history is all you left meWhen Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

(via Goodreads)

I felt so-so about this novel. It is a beautiful story of love and loss, coupled with tolerable teen angst. HIAYLM tells the story of the loss of Theo, and the impact his sudden death has on his ex-boyfriend Griffin, boyfriend Jackson, and best friend Wade. The grief and guilt is perfectly captured, it’s very real and very believable. With it, the complex feelings people may experience when faced with this type of tragedy.

What bothered me is the main character Griffin (or is Theo the main character, and all the others revolve around him? Food for thought!) is so reliant on others for every aspect of his self-worth and self-love. When he doesn’t seem to move past that through the book, it became frustrating to read. I know [SEMI-SPOILER AHEAD – JUMP DOWN TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH] at the end we have the intimation that he will seek counselling and he will get better, I would have preferred the story to have a little more growth from Griffin as a character.

The story is told in dual timelines – ‘today’ and ‘history’. We see how Griffin and Theo got together and how they ended their relationship of firsts. The book teased a big reveal but by the time I got to it, I felt it a little predictable and anti-climactic.

With that said, this was a very accessible book with very a very important message beyond the surface of the death of a friend/lover. The more books produced by authors that represent LGBTQIA life, the better.

3.5/5

 

The Dry by Jane Harper

Image result for the dryLuke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

(via Goodreads)

Set in a small country town, The Dry is the story of Aaron Falk, Australian Federal Police Officer who is drawn to investigating the mystery of his childhood friend’s death. What seems a cut and dried murder suicide, becomes a mystery Falk cannot walk away from.

This is a powerful debut from Jane Harper. The story telling is tight and the imagery of this dry and hot town is palpable. Characters are compelling and well thought out. I found the mystery to be engaging and not an easy guess. Coupled with our main story is a mystery from Falk’s childhood, a death that has tainted his life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It keeps the reader’s interest and the page turning. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery novel.

4.5/5

The Girl From The Well by Rin Chupeco

18509623You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

(via Goodreads)

Rin Chupeco’s Girl From The Well is a much better read than I expected. Based on the original myth that inspired The Ring, GFTW meshes well with the contemporary story line, without becoming another sequel.

Having said that, it wasn’t as scary as I wanted it to be. I wanted to be completely creeped out at the very least, but it didn’t happen. I ended up being more interested in the old Japanese legend the Bancho Sarayashiki.

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One thing that really bugged me about this book was the lack of proofreading – the author said Narrabeen was in Sydney, and Sydney was in Queensland. We’re talking 850km from Queensland to Narrabeen and another 50km-ish from Narrabeen to Sydney. How is that not picked up by the editor? Really frustrating for us down under!

I really enjoyed the way the narrative dropped in and out of lines on the page when Okiku was speaking. And the recollection of falling down the well found the words dropping. That was very cool.

3.5/5

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (Dash & Lily #1) by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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“I’ve left some clues for you.

If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

(via Goodreads)

This book was our ‘Book of the Month’ for book club.

Cohn and Levithan have taken a chapter each of this novel – Cohn as Lily and Levithan as Dash, and given us a story of Dash and Lily, two polar opposites brought together by a red moleskin notebook during the silly season. Usual hi-jinks ensue thanks to miscommunication and non-communication.

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I was a little disappointed in this story. I found Lily to be annoying and Dash extremely pretentious. In fact, I thought Lily was 14 or 15 through most of the book until she said she was applying to colleges the following year. Dash was a cardboard cut out of a know it all, ‘worldly’, “parents don’t care about me” teen. I felt like he was doing Lily a favour more than genuinely liking her sometimes. And he had to have the hot Spanish ex-girlfriend but decided to go for the geeky, awkward, never been kissed girl? It just felt contrived.

Can I also say that the stereotypical supporting characters were offensive at times. For example, not all hispanic people use phrases such as a ‘mamacita’. It irritated me, apologies.

I wanted real characters, not ones that were contrived to be ‘cool’ or ‘edgy’. I note it’s not a standalone – I won’t be reading any further.

2.5/5

The Regulars by Georgia Clark

Dorian Gray for th29537267e Girls generation.”

Fierce and hilarious women’s fiction debut, as three average girls become extraordinarily beautiful and have all their fantasies come true … or do they?

Best friends Evie, Krista and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls with typical quarter life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.

Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well …gorgeous. Like, supermodelgorgeous. With a single drop, each young woman gets the gift of jaw-dropping beauty for one week, presenting them with unimaginable opportunities to make their biggest fantasies come true…

(via Goodreads)

I have been in a reading slump of late, so I decided to depart from my normal fare and read something radically out of my comfort zone. The Regulars is hard core chick-lit but with a magical twist. Three ‘regular’ girls get their hands on a magical serum that alters the way they look, making them mainstream / film star beautiful. Doors open, opportunities abound, but at what cost?

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I was surprised to discover that I really liked this book. It’s well written, quick, witty, and you don’t have to really work to interpret the text. Our three heroines Evie, Krista and Willow are very different. Evie is a Sarah Lawrence feminist/journalist who is coming to grips with the realisation that ideals don’t always translate to the real world. Krista is an ex-law student turned actress who is unable to hold down a job, pay her bills, and hasn’t quite grown up from being a teenager. Willow is the struggling artist, tortured, pained, and unsure of herself.

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Without spoilers, the girls were engaging, relateable, but somewhat two dimensional in certain scenes. Some of their decisions I don’t agree with, however, I can remember being young enough to make them! Evie was my favourite character, which is good for me, as she is the lion’s share of the story.

I wish there had been more story about the origin of the magical serum. It seemed to come out of nowhere and we weren’t given too much of it’s story. With that said, there are some allusions as to where it came from, but I wanted a more definite story about it.

Overall,  enjoyed the story. This is a strong story from Clark and I really look forward to reading her next offering. And she’s Australian, so woot!

4/5

The Girl in 6E by A R Torre (Deanna Madden #1)

20640318I haven’t touched a human in three years. That seems like it would be a difficult task, but it’s not. Not anymore, thanks to the internet.

I am, quite possibly, the most popular recluse ever. Not many shut-ins have a 200-member fan club, a bank account in the seven-figure range, and hundreds of men lining up to pay for undivided attention.

They get satisfaction, I get a distraction. Their secret desires are nothing compared to why I hide… my lust for blood, my love of death.

Taking their money is easy. Keeping all these secrets… one is bound to escape.

What if you hid yourself away because all you could think of was killing? And what if one girl’s life depending on you venturing into society?

Enter a world of lies, thrills, fears, and all desires, in this original thriller from A. R. Torre.

(via Goodreads)

This book is an onslaught to read. It starts with the shock factor and continues throughout the remainder of the book. Tough subject matter, TGI6E is the story of cam-worker Deanna who realises one of her customers may in fact be a child predator. When a report of a missing girl has eerie similarities to her online exchanges with the unnamed man, she feels compelled to investigate. Throw in that she harbours fantasies of violent murder and she’s been an agoraphobic for the last three years, and you have a thriller of a story.

I wanted to love this book. It sounded so different to what I normally like, I was really excited. And it was well written. The story was touted as Dexter meets Fifty Shades of Grey. And it had the FSOG. But there was little of Dexter.

ure, she had the thoughts, but they were lame. The fantasies and the attempted acting out was lame. It was lacklustre and disappointing. She wasn’t nasty, a dirty killer etc. She had the same thoughts most people did. And the more you delve into this part of her psyche, the more you feel like she’s just a poser. She wants to be a bad a—killer, but she’s not. She’s not even a tiny bit evil.

And it let the book down immensely. TGI6E is the first in a series, and I won’t be reading the rest. Really disappointing (yeah, I know I’ve said it already).

2.5/5