August mini review round-up

With You Always by Rena Olsen
Julia is left feeling lost after a painful break-up when, seemingly out of nowhere, Bryce walks into her life. Gorgeous and effortlessly charming, Bryce is everything Julia could ever want – and her newfound luck has been spreading to other areas of her life: she’s practically handed a promotion and her boss is eager to have Julia as her right-hand woman. A quick courtship with Bryce soon leads to a new house and a ring. Her friends voice concerns, but Julia doesn’t listen…until it’s too late.

Oh dear. Olsen’s debut, The Girl Before, was enjoyable enough to where I was curious about her follow-up. On the surface, With You Always sounded like a Leah read: domestic thriller, fairy tale romance gone wrong, and for the first few chapters it reminded me of Behind Closed Doors, one of my top reads of 2016. All good, right? Unfortunately, the more I read, the angrier I became.

Bryce’s cult-like church ruled his life, deciding who he could or couldn’t date, the house he bought, his career. As he becomes more and more abusive, the Reverend and his wife (Bryce’s adoptive parents) quickly swept it all under the rug and definitely had a hand in one doctor being fired after she reached out to Julia. Being lovesick is one thing, but Julia goes FAR beyond naive: she tosses away her job for a man she’s only know a few weeks, readily accepts his proposal after three months, and steadfastly defends him from every. single. person in her life who sees through his facade. The cop-out ending was a few paragraphs of climactic showdown and…the end. No resolution, no comeuppance, nothing.

Rules of the Ruff by Heidi Lang
Jessie should be looking forward to a summer spent at her aunt and uncle’s house. Unfortunately, her cousin has an awful new best friend, which leaves Jessie out in the cold. She takes it upon herself to make the most of her summer, however, and convinces the grouchy neighborhood dog walker to take her on as an apprentice. When a rival dog walker begins stealing their clients, Jessie isn’t going to go down without a fight.

August was a month of books that sounded great but turned out to be massive duds. A Middle Grade novel about rival dog walkers! Um yes please! As it turns out, Rules of the Ruff was a book that tried to do too much and, as a result, suffered. Jessie’s mother died, she ends up falling for a new boy – who likes the awful new best friend (there’s a scene featuring a make-out session in the backseat of a car – uh, Jessie is 12 and the other characters were a year older), the local dog walker went through a divorce and might want to reconcile with his ex but there’s also one of his clients he’s been getting close to. Does a Middle Grader want to read about divorcees pining after their exes? The adult characters were far closer to my age and I didn’t want to read about their problems.

Vox by Christina Dalcher
On average, people speak around 16,000 words a day. In Vox, women have been almost totally silenced: now only permitted a vocabulary of a mere 100 words. With the language goes their ability to hold jobs, soon girls are no longer taught to read and write. Dr. Jean McClellan refuses to accept this new America and makes the ultimate decision for herself, her daughter, for every woman silenced: she will reclaim her voice.

Biggest disappointment of the summer? Of the year? This book started out great and immediately lured me in with its terrifying premise and just how quickly everything snowballed out of control: in the beginning women and girls had restricted passports, then cameras were installed on front porches. Soon girls were no longer being taught to read and write or do math above basic sums that would be necessary for running a house. Jean’s husband holds keys to their mailbox. She was once a highly renowned doctor..now her laptop is locked away in a cabinet she cannot access. Vox is clearly a dig at the current White House administration, from the First Lady “I remember her from before she married, when she decorated the pages of Vogue and Elle” to the predecessor, the President of Hope – and I was totally on board – then it all descended into madness when Jean gets into a physical fight with a chimpanzee. I’m not joking.

The Raging Ones by Krista and Becca Ritchie
The lack of interest lies on me here. I’m not a big fan of YA fantasy and I know this, but still I found myself intrigued by a publicist’s email about a band of rebel teens in space. How could I say no to that?

I hate to say it, but this one just didn’t work for me. It took me a good portion of the month to work my way through it; whenever I set it down I never found myself in any rush to pick it up again. My biggest issue was that nothing was explained. There’s a planetary system that’s not ours, but includes things like cars and telephones. There was a Great Freeze (or whatever they called it) centuries ago and now all the last names are variations of ‘castle.’ Icecastle, Lowcastle, Soarcastle, Elcastle. ..there’s no reason behind this. Also, the three main characters are somehow all linked to one another, they can feel what the others are feeling, taste what the others are tasting. Again, never explained, which makes things even more confusing by a reveal at the end of the book. I will admit that the notion of everyone knowing their deathday was really intriguing, sadly the rest of the book fell flat.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness
I…don’t even know. This is a retelling of Moby Dick told from the viewpoint of a whale pod (okay, yes, tell me more). Bathsheba is Third Assistant to Captain Alexandra as they hunt for the legendary Toby Wick.

The whales swim upside down? They refer to the Abyss (the world of men) as physically below them. They tow their own ship behind them and have harpoons strapped to themselves. They take a human captive and are able to communicate with him in English and then one day he understands their whale language. I just.. I don’t think I’m the right reader for this, though I will say it was an extremely quick read at 160-ish pages including full-page illustrations.

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