contemporary · mg · mystery · sci-fi/fantasy · thriller

two mini reviews: a DNF and a dud

Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye
Pub. Date: March 3, 2015
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Macmillan/Henry Holt!!)
Summary: After a slight misunderstanding involving a horrible governess, oatmeal, and a jar of tadpoles, siblings Tobias and Charlotte Eggars find themselves abandoned by their father at the gates of a creepy reform school. Evil mysteries are afoot at Witherwood, where the grounds are patrolled by vicious creatures after dark and kids are locked in their rooms. Charlotte and Tobias soon realize that they are in terrible danger—especially because the head of Witherwood has perfected the art of mind control.

If only their amnesiac father would recover and remember that he has two missing children. If only Tobias and Charlotte could solve the dark mystery and free the kids at Witherwood—and ultimately save themselves.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Recommended for: Actual Middle Grade readers – this is definitely one that’ll be appreciated more by a younger audience

Oh how I wanted to love Witherwood! A creepy boarding school, mysterious locked gates, creatures patrolling the school grounds (which, by the way, was built on top of a plateau that arose from a meteor crash). It was like a checklist of Things Leah Loves. Unfortunately, when it all came together, it did absolutely nothing for me and for a novel this short (even shorter when you take into account the FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS), I barely made it to the 100-page mark before finally admitting defeat.

I think it was the humor that sealed the deal. It tried to be overly clever and speak directly to the reader, but where powerhouses like Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket got it right, Obert Skye got it wrong. So very wrong. There was nothing clever here, no one-liners that made me giggle in delight. The tadpole incident described in the blurb totally missed the mark and ended up reading as downright disgusting: two siblings play a prank of their awful nanny by putting live tadpoles into a gravy boat during a meal. I’ll spare you what happens next, but you get the gist I’m sure.

Who knows – maybe I’m just being a big ol’ grump, but Witherwood Reform School feels like a book that actual Middle Grade readers would enjoy far more. I don’t really see much middle ground here – this is a novel that’s definitely written to be enjoyed by a younger crowd.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Pub. Date: January 13, 2015
Source: Bought
Summary: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Recommended for: Fans of Psychological Thrillers, casual readers curious about the Next Big Thing in books

IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME. I think. This is the book to read in 2015 and y’all know I can’t get enough of my Psychological Thrillers! Add in glowing praise from two friends (who have pretty much the exact reading taste as I do) and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this one. Sadly, I don’t know if my expectations were overly high, but The Girl on the Train never grabbed me like I had hoped it would.

I’ve actually been putting off writing this review (at one point I hadn’t even planned on writing one at all!) because I honestly don’t have anything to say. While reading, I was completely okay with setting the book down and not picking it up again for the rest of the day. Whereas my friends read this book in a single sitting, I stretched it out over multiple days. I didn’t care enough to keep going, I didn’t care enough to pick it back up after I had set it down.

I will say though that toward the end I was curious – and it took a while for me to correctly guess Who Did It, so the novel gets a point for that. That said, I’m seriously bummed out I didn’t love this one and I’m not sure who to blame: myself or the book.


8 thoughts on “two mini reviews: a DNF and a dud

  1. I was wondering what you thought of Girl on the Train! It’s interesting because I’m seeing a trend in readers’ responses–and it seems people either really like it and were hooked or they just weren’t very enthusiastic and guessed Who Did It too soon, etc.! I wonder if my experience might have been different had I not listened to the audiobook. Sorry you didn’t like this one as much!

    Thanks for these mini reviews!

  2. ah, that’s the danger of reading MG books. Sometimes they’re so incredible, and other times they’re definitely for the target audience only. I’m always so disappointed when the latter happens, especially since the plot idea often seems so promising.

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