Don’t Tell a Soul by Kirsten Miller (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 384
Release Date: January 26, 2021

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: parental death, sexual assault/rape, drug/substance abuse, mentions of suicide, mentions of non-descript mental illnesses, gaslighting, parental neglect

I’ve been slowly but surely drifting into a territory of picking up one book after another revolving around what sounded like haunted houses, but with a much more complex stories underneath. I am not quite sure what draws me to these kind of books, but Kirsten Miller managed to create a wonderfully creepy ambiance reminiscent of gothic classics. There’s an unease in the house and especially in the beginning, you have no idea what to expect from it. As often as the people of Louth keep saying that they don’t believe in ghosts, it still seems like something is off about the manor.

People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.

When you first meet Bram, it becomes instantly apparent that something bad has happened to her. Even without knowing the details, you just know. That girl has built up a wall of defense a mile high and while that was completely understandable considering her history and upbringing, it still felt irritating during some earlier points in the story. The way she went from starting to like and warm up to people to completely distrusting them and looking for weapons to defend herself in case of an emergency could give you whiplash, although I again want to stress that it makes sense because of her past. But still, as long as you don’t know her, it makes it hard to warm up to her entirely sometimes. Her reasons for wanting to be in the manor so badly kind of eluded me at first, because I did not completely understand her obsession with what happened, but then this also gets explained and uncovered. I think one of the main objectives with the book is to just stick with it and things will eventually get resolved.

Aside from Bram, there was an assortment of interesting characters, all keeping you on your toes the entire time. I feel like we could have gotten to know a couple of them better, but with Lark’s wall up, you get most of your information through second-hand gossip and later confrontations. Trust is a scare commodity in Louth, especially with so many girls having vanished and/or died in the small community over the years. However, my initial feeling for most people was correct, which either made the novel predictable or my gut instinct is just rocking.

Overall, I enjoyed many of the twists and was far from guessing everything. I felt a certain distance to the characters and the story for a long time, but it did all come together in the end. Some might say it came together a bit too conveniently, but I didn’t mind that too much. Just be prepared for a story full of gaslighting and people blaming mental illness for all sorts of things, without anyone being diagnosed or actually having a mental illness in some cases. It can easily rub you the wrong way, but is a huge part of exposing who the good and bad guys are in this story.

Fazit: 3/5 stars! A whirlwind of a resolution!


Have you heard of Don’t Tell a Soul? Do you plan on picking it up? Let’s chat!

Admission by Julie Buxbaum (eARC Review)

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books/Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 352
Release Date: December 1, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

I have not read any book by Julie Buxbaum before, but know a couple of friends who quite enjoy her style and I was excited to check out Admission. As far as I gathered, this story was inspired by the very much real admission scandal but is an entirely fictitious version of similar events. Neither research nor any association with real people exists and since the author makes a point of mentioning that very clearly, I thought I should too.

Julie Buxbaum did not choose an easy topic, that much was obvious from the get go to me. You have this family steeped in privilege and while you do want to allow the reader to connect to the characters, you don’t want to redeem them or excuse their actions. I am not quite sure how, but Buxbaum managed this balancing act phenomenally.

With an alternating Now and Then POV, you get to explore the events that led up to Chloe’s life and that of her family imploding, while at the same time seeing the very concrete fallout from it. I didn’t really wonder whether Chloe knew what was going on or not, but I enjoyed the debate on what it means to be complicit. Buxbaum managed to humanize her without sugarcoating that she is the villain in a lot of people’s stories. I feel like a lot of authors have that need to not just give their characters a redemption arc, but also one that absolves them of their wrong-doing, which thankfully wasn’t done here. I don’t want to say you empathize with what happened, because I was downright disgusted by some of the conversations that family had, because screw them for their entitlement, but it made you understand how their thought process was and that weirdly made sense in turn.

I don’t think this is one of those books where you fall in love with very many characters, however, I have found great pleasure in the way friendships and family are portrayed. I liked how inconsequential the romantic love interest was, because in the end, it’s very doubtful that it would be a priority in such an extreme situation. Instead it focused on so many different kind of relationships and I especially appreciated the one between Chloe and her best friend Shola as well as the one to her sister Isla (both of which were my favourite characters if I am being completely honest).

While definitely not the easiest of topics and quite frustrating to read about sometimes, it was still a page turner I quite enjoyed. I’m glad that no excuses were made and consequences were implemented. It once again made me really, really, really glad that I did not have to deal with the stress of going to university/college in the US though.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! An intense look at how far some people go for their children and how it all blows up!

Do you want to read Admission? Do you have university admission horror stories of your own? Feel free to ask questions about the system in my country if you want to!

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (eARC Review)

Publisher: Del Rey Books
Page Count
: 336
Publication Date: September 29, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

CW: a bunch of really murderous monsters of various kinds

This was my first Naomi Novik book and I had an absolute blast with it. From the premise alone, I already had a strong feeling I would enjoy A Deadly Education, the first book in the Scholomance series, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much fun I had with it.

From the beginning, Galadriel, who is usually just going by the name of El, was a hilariously snarky narrator. She finds very little to like about the people around her or the situations she finds herself in. Where other people try to see the good to get by, she is utterly prepared for the worst and expects nothing from no one. The amount of times she described herself as not being able to stop seething almost felt like a running joke at some point, because she really did have the hardest of times feeling anything but angry, which makes the moments she feels vulnerable all the more special.
However, what could have easily been an annoying trait after a while, worked well for her. Death seems to be a constant companion at the school and everyone is way too okay with more than half the class dying until graduation. They had to prepare to be eaten by monsters pretty much their entire lives (unless they were from a well-off enclave … which weirdly are only New York and London?). It felt so callous and cold, but I tried to jot it down as a coping mechanism. All I wanted from El was for her to actually care for someone, to break that carefully crafted facade, and during the course of A Deadly Education, that’s exactly what you get, which is what makes it such a joy to read.

The strong suit of the story is definitely El’s interaction with her fellow classmates, be it with enclave kids she hates, the few kids that tolerated her or, most fun of all, shinning knight and do-gooder Orion. If I had to describe him, I’d say he was a classic example of a himbo – not the brightest bulb out there, but a boy with a heart of gold … and not bad to look at either. His banter with El was really EVERYTHING! If you can give me a good “Why are you being nice to me? Are you mad at me?”-kind of dynamic, I am hooked! I don’t really want to speak more to the nature of their relationship, because I don’t even know if I can call it fake dating or not, but it’s hilarious.

Where the novel struggles a bit is the world building. I never really found myself confused by the concept of the school, the international aspects with students from literally all over the globe being in this one void place or the onslaught of murderous monsters. What I did struggle a bit with was the enormous info dumps though. El is telling everything from her point of view (with a really interesting 4th wall break at some point), with long paragraphs of inner monologue and little else, which establishes her voice nicely, but also just means info on info on info in some sequences of the book. I wish there had been a sleeker way to introduce all that to us, but it kept happening throughout the novel, even after the initially very info-dump-heavy first chapter.

What really throws you for a loop is the final line of the book though! Honestly, this could have easily been an interesting standalone book (with only a couple unanswered questions left), but with that one last line, it turns your whole world and the experience you just had upside down. Now I am really full of questions and anxious to find out what the frick is going on!

Fazit: 4/5 stars! Absolutely loved this and am already so looking forward to the sequel!

Do you intend to read A Deadly Education? Have you read other books by Naomi Novik? Let’s chat!

Again Again by E. Lockhart (eARC Review)

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Page Count
: 304
Publication Date: June 2, 2020

*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*

This is not a love story, or, at least, not a romantic love story.

I feel like that’s what the cover might suggest and what you could interpret the blurb to be, but it’s not. Maybe it is part of why I went into this book with a sort of wrong idea, but then, I learned a long time ago to never truly expect E. Lockhart’s books to be any specific way to begin with. I quite enjoyed her earlier chick-lit-esque work (for those of you who followed her career and are fans of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, you’ll get a fun little easter egg) but was truly the most enamored with We Were Liars, which was what I would consider more in the mystery genre. Now, Again Again, doesn’t really fit into either category and proves once again that E. Lockhart won’t be confined to any genre.

Again Again is partially written in verse and takes place in a multitude of universes, although mainly two. I think this approach could go over either way with the reader. Sometimes it felt repetitive in a tiresome way, other times it showed you how one moment can unfold in such vastly different ways that you yearn for a different outcome. It definitely takes time to get used to this unconventional style of storytelling, although I think the visual formatting helped get the point across. Still, I’m really torn on this matter myself, because I would be lying if I told you that the final universe wasn’t my favourite and I was so very relieved that it existed – imperfections and everything – whereas I really struggled with the others.

As far as the characters go, I found it a bit difficult to really fall for Adelaide. She was putting on this bubbly front of happiness, which didn’t reflect her inner sadness and turmoil at all, bordering on obsession in so many departments of her life. Her erratic behaviour made me dislike her sometimes, especially when she was impulsive and neurotic about boys that were only an escape, but not a solution. I understood why she acted the way she did.
Grieving for someone, even if it wasn’t the kind of grief related to death, and being burdened by constant worry will change you. It makes you act strange and impassive and everyone deals differently, but even though I got that on some level, it didn’t prevent me from getting frustrated with her sometimes. I appreciated the realness of her brokenness, while also resenting it. I am contradictory that way.
I did really like her creative side though! I would love to see some of the stuff she made in this book in real life!

However, as I said at the very beginning of this review, this is not a romantic love story, because all these boys (which were really only three) couldn’t have been more inconsequential, if I’m being completely honest. The most important relationship in this book, at least in my eyes, is the one between Adelaide and her brother Toby. Theirs is a love story of a different kind, because loving a family member can be just as hard and disappointing and necessary. Them finding their way back to each other was the only thing that really mattered to me.

Lastly, I just want to mention that I always love it when dogs are in the mix! I want to warn all of you that a dog gets punched in the face in this book (out of defense), but that they also seem to be able to talk to the main character in a way and that was surprising and quirky and I still don’t know what to make of it.

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! Hit and miss in a lot of ways.

Do you want to read Again Again? Have you read previous books by E. Lockhart? Let’s talk!

The Movie Version by Emma Wunsch (Arc Review)

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Publisher: Amulet Books
Page Count
: 368
Publishing Date: October 11, 2016

**I was provided with an eArc by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!**

I read this with fellow Blogateers Cátia and Cristina, which is a good thing, because there was a lot of ranting to be done. And when I say “a lot”, I really mean it this time! Their reviews aren’t up yet, but you should check back on their blogs (by clicking on their names) to read about their experience with the book.

I am just going to say it straight away, this book is about mental illness, schizophrenia to be exact. I feel like that’s something you can’t really gather from the synopsis, which is a shame, because then you go into The Movie Version with completely wrong expectations. There’s nothing wrong with the topic itself, I usually quite appreciate books that take on such an important and quite frankly complex theme, but it simply didn’t work for me here.

Right from the beginning something felt off. Most of it is probably due to me not connecting with the main character, Amelia, at all. She lived in this oblivious bubble of her movie-life. More than once I wondered, if she chose to ignore her brother’s alarming behaviour, if she really didn’t think it was all that odd or if she thought she was actually “protecting” him. I do understand that siblings are supposed to cover for each other, but what she did was in no way helpful. Then, when her brother Toby finally got diagnosed and the help he needed, I could stand her even less. Again, I tried to understand her actions, telling myself that there would probably be a period of denial and then she would get on the case and educate herself about schizophrenia. But nope, that was not the case and it was maddening.

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Everything was about her and how this ruined her life, not once did I read her thinking how this must be a terribly difficult time for her brother as well. All her friends, even the most flaky ones, knew more about schizophrenia than she did, simply because she refused to talk about it. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed for, yet that is exactly how she acted. She lashed out at anyone who wanted to talk and maybe comfort her, telling them and herself that they wouldn’t understand, even though they were far from overbearing and really just concerned. She showed a little growth towards the end, which justifies my 2-star-rating, but ultimately her behaviour just made me sad. I even cried while reading, because I was so disappointed in Amelia. Yes, this is difficult for the family members as well as for the person concerned, but she didn’t even try to talk to Toby or try to understand what was happening. She just wanted her old brother back.

Amelia’s side-story about her love-life wasn’t helpful either. At most times it felt random or awkward at best. I did not feel any chemistry and she kept complaining about a certain feature of his, that I could not imagine being such a big deal. One thing is for sure, this book did not show the movie-version of life. However, I don’t think it portrayed reality either, at least I really don’t hope so.

Fazit: 2/5 stars! Not what I would have wanted to get from a story like this.

2stars

Would you read this book? Have you read any books that dealt with schizophrenia better than this one did?