Review: 180 Seconds by Jessica Park

When I picked up ‘180 Seconds’ it had been a while since I’d read a contemporary, so I’d completely forgotten what t expect plot wise. It was obvious reading this book that Jessica Park had collected a few viral news stories and decided they would make unique backstories for her characters, which was quirky but didn’t build to one cohesive story.

We follow Allison during her second year of college where she takes part in a social experiment to keep eye contact with a boy, Esben, for 180 seconds and something magical happens and they end up having this deep connection.

This wouldn’t been the perfect opportunity for some Hilary Duff Cinderella Story realness, but no. The pair find each other and start a relationship quickly after this event. Conveniently, Allison doesn’t have any social media accounts so she has no idea that Esben is a famous personality online who does a lot of these social experiments, so she’s in the limelight unexpectedly. This is a novel idea in itself, and I would’ve been trash for this story if it had been just this, but instead it tried to cram in too much.

Allison was in the care system for 16 years of her life, and her anxiety and distress about this is eclipsed by the love story. There are a few lucid passages where Allison works through her feelings, but it really wasn’t the central focus I was hoping it could be. On the other hand, I think the line where Esben stresses she could get through tough situations with him (the love interest), she just ‘doesn’t have to’ was a powerful way of explaining that having a significant other to lean on in times of need isn’t a crime.

Then there was Esben’s sister Kerry was was gang raped at a house party, and I’m sure we’ve all ready horrifying news stories about the sickening reality of this kind of event, but again, it became something that was just there rather than something that was explored. There’s some dialogue about how ‘Kerry didn’t make them rape her, they were always rapists’ that did something to get rid of victim’s guilt, but it was a throw away conversation that felt more perfunctory than having any impact in the way the character’s thought. ‘180 Seconds’ had some really important conversations they just could have been the basis of an entire book not five pages of another.

The only time I had any emotional reaction was with the Steffi storyline, which I won’t go into because of spoilers, but the scene at the end really did have me tearing up even though I’d previously not cared about the characters, so that’s a real testament to how well that scene was written. It was emotional, gritty and really packed a punch. Could the whole book have been like this?

So, I had a couple of problems with ‘180 Seconds’ – maybe more than a couple. Don’t even get me started on the contrived text message fiasco at the end of the book. Sometimes a scene really doesn’t need more conflict. It had some really excellent idea gems, but they hadn’t been left to grow into their true beauteous form. (Weird metaphor, but we’re going with it.) Unfortunately, this was a contemporary that could’ve benefit from dropping one of the balls, so I can only give it 2 stars.

Review: The Girl’s Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski

If you love travel, or have been on a similar European tour, then this will feel like a Travel Diary and send you right back to your own adventures.

As someone who likes the idea of travelling but knows it’s definitely not for me, I have to admit I was bored at times. This is also from someone who loves DCOMs where travel is a huge part. (I’m talking Cheetah Girls 2, the Lizzie McGuire Movie, etc.) And let’s not forget my obsession with the old Mary-Kate and Ashley films. ‘When in Rome’ and ‘Winning London’ are pure classics. My favourite place the girls went to was probably Monte Carlo, only because I love the film ‘Monte Carlo’ and it reminded me how much I needed to rematch it. So, it’s not like I can’t enjoy travel stories, but this wasn’t the right one.

I don’t think the girls went through any character development. The ones that were in relationships ended up single and the girls not in relationships, found one. That was the only change. Personality wise, and friendship wise, they still seemed to be the same as page one. The friendship in general, though probably realistic, felt very imbalances. Leela had double standards and I wish the disconnect they were having could have been more of the centre rather than this Jackson guy who Leela kept calling a ‘Man Whore’….um no. You don’t get to judge someone based on how much sex they have! And they’d never even met! So, that was annoying.

I really liked what was going on with Sydney’s mother back home – her being agoraphobic and Sydney becoming the primary carer – and I would have much preferred to know more about that than their summer holidays. It felt like the most unique part of the story was happening outside of what we were being told.

I feel like their travels become a little dull, and kept hitting the same note. They’d struggle with money but somehow get through it, meet up with really kind people and sort of pick them up as they went along. (Even though there was this weird kissing contest that seemed to present itself at random times…) But there were no real stakes. We didn’t see the consequences of anything bad happening, so any sort of tension was completely lacking. Sydney and Leela had a few hiccups but nothing to stress over. I guess that’s because they were building this whole ‘perfect summer’ vibe, but maybe one instance of them having nowhere to sleep because they couldn’t afford it rather than some rich guy who fancies one of them coming in to save the day.

However thee final page did seem to suggest some kind of companion novel sequel about what was happening to one of Sydney and Leela’s other friends at the summer camp she was a counsellor at, which sounds 100% more up my street, so in the end, I’m glad I read this, so I could get the Easter eggs for the second book!

Review: City of Saints & Thieves

Apparently this book has already been optioned for a movie?? That’s so exciting! And, I think it’s probably best to put a caveat on this review, and say I’ll probably enjoy a movie of this more! So, City of Saints & Thieves is marketed as this sort of thriller/mystery story, but the one question I was left with after finishing was: where was the thriller?

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Worse Than The First

portrait_incredibleI feel the need to start this off by saying how much I love Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1. It was the very first Marvel movie I saw that I genuinely enjoyed, and I think that’s mostly because I’d never heard of the team before. I had no idea about the Infinity Stones fitting in with the Marvel Universe, and was watching it like a superhero Breakfast Club… but with five criminals, really.

The sequel, then, was one of my most anticipated films of the year. And you know what they say about high expectations. So, let’s run through the movie and talk the good, the bad and the just plain stupid.

What I Came To See

The actual cinematography of the thing – I heard that GotG Vol.2 was being shot on a different camera to all the other Marvel films and you can definitely tell. The colours are so vibrant and rich, (the amount of rainbow motifs was adorable) and some of the stills looked like shots from an intergalactic music video. For quality alone, it was one I was pleased to see on the big screen.

Nebula and Gamora – Karen Gillan was who I was most looking forward to seeing and I never root for the villains. Her character had a strong motive at the end of the first film, and the sister dynamic between the pair, with a lot of backstory to be revealed about their childhood, was fascinating to watch play a bigger part in the story line. And yes, it took them both a while to realise that the fact they were never able to actually kill one another meant something, but their moments together where the only parts I found truly touching. In a I-completely-saw-this-coming-but-damn-I’m-still-tearing-up way. Also, Karen and Zoe were killing it in the fight scenes and demanded attention every time they were on screen. The only reason I put up with the extremely long winded Ravager sequence was to see Nebula in the background, picking her nails and rolling her eyes.

BABY FLIPPING GROOT – If he’s not the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is. There’s never normally anything to squeal at in Marvel films and it was a reaction I was happy to add to the list. Groot’s baby status was the root of a lot of the jokes (see what I did there?) and never failed to bring a smile to my face. Scene stealing, for sure.

Lack of romance – Honestly, hallelujah to any film over two hours long without even a hint of kissing. Sure, the same level of sexual tension, or whatever, was between Peter and Gamora, and I’m sure we won’t be able to get through three movies without a kiss or two, but romance should never be the biggest deal in films like this. Once you’ve saved the world, then you can get the girl.

So, that’s about it for the good. Oh wow.

What I Did Not Sign Up For

Locker Room Humour  All the Humour. – GotG is known for not taking itself seriously. You can call the overlord of the universe a dickhead, that’s cool. But, this took it to another level – one I definitely wasn’t comfortable with. First, I don’t have enough fingers for the number of dick jokes dropped, or the number of times they made fun of Rocket’s species. The finale of the first film was all about the team realising that Rocket had feelings, and just because he’s different to the rest didn’t make him any less valuable. There’s a line between friendly teasing and bullying and that line was crossed, which didn’t feel authentic to the team atmosphere of Volume 1. What made it worse was that the characters were all laughing like everything out of each other’s mouths was the funniest thing ever that it killed any tiny part of the joke that was funny to begin with.

DRAX – Oh man. He could not have been more of a jerk. In the first film, his ignorance of social interactions was endearing, and now it’s just…harmful. Any scene he had with Mantis, I hated. Yep, hated. There was nothing wrong with her character, and he was coming for her like she was the one that killed his family. Insult after insult, completely insensitive and I know people are going to be like ‘can’t you take a joke?’ but when a man calls a woman ugly, I’m not laughing. Mantis was insecure to begin with and now she’s being tricked into thinking that men literally gagging in her presence is acceptable. No, ma’am.

The Golden People – The only way these guys were ‘superior’ to everyone else was in their highlighter application. Shiny from top to bottom. As much as they were beautiful, they were ridiculous. Seriously, they send all of their military resources after Quill and the gang for stealing three batteries, tops? Talk about overreaction. It wasn’t a big enough deal to warrant all the effort they put in, and I was mostly laughing over how easily they were defeated.

Thanos Who? – Maybe the most disappointing part of the whole film was the direction of the villain. Thanos was The Evil Guy in the last film, the one behind the curtain. The one that could crush Ronan under his big toe. But, since Age of Ultron happened, I guess he’s Avengers territory now. Instead, we get given Kurt Russell, who although was a great casting choice as Peter’s dad, was like Commander Rourke from Atlantis: The Last Empire. First you think he’s a force for good, and the next minute, he’s stealing the life force of a whole civilisation. Why did he have all those dioramas of himself, in what looked like porcelain of all things? Surely that was a red flag for ‘oh-this-man’s-crazy’.

DeJa Vu – When talking to Bee about the film before we saw it, we both said with certainty that it couldn’t rely on the same kick-ass elements as the last film. Volume 2 needed to assert itself as a step forward, not a repeat and certainly not a step back. But what happened? Every single thing that made Volume 1 great made Volume 2 boring. The biggest of all cinema sins. Jondu (and let’s appreciate that his name wanted to auto-correct to Fondue for a second) and his little arrow killing machine, we’ve seen before. Rocket going mental with explosives, ditto. Dancing metaphors, think of something new already. Kevin Bacon > David Hasselhoff.


Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was a bit of a disappointment, and that’s hedging. It was a disappointment, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable. I loved the stronger female presence, the trajectory for Nebula and Gamora’s future, the love-conquers-all message. We are Groot, guys. The best moment of the film by far was when Sean Gunn accidentally lapsed back into being Kirk from Gilmore Girls when talking to Nebula. The one job he didn’t have on the show was bandit, so good for Kirk. I still have a lot of hope for when the Guardians return once again, but I hope even more that it doesn’t fall deeper into the traps it got caught in here. 2.5 stars, fingers crossed for the next one.


Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

28226839Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Romance
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 300
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★

I really love Victoria Scott’s ‘Fire & Flood’ series, so when I saw her most recent release pop up on Netgalley, I absolutely had to request it! There were also a ton of 5 and 4 star reviews on Goodreads, so I thought there was a high probability that I would love it, however, I’m definitely in the minority when I say I really didn’t enjoy this book. There are multiple reasons, but I think the most important one is this book lost focus.The new season RuPaul’s Drag Race has started and that always means getting out your editing eye and seeing how the Queens could cut back, and I think this really transferred to my reading of Violet Grenade. 

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Review: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

30525432Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley
Contemporary, LGBT
Publisher: HQ
Pages: 384
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★

I don’t even know how to put into words how disappointed I am with this one. It just…fell flat. The setting did nothing to enhance the story (and was void of any kind of adult supervision, which was unrealistic for the type of trip they’re on), the social activist thread came way too late in the story for me to be convinced it was Aki’s passion, her hidden backstory with the music school was over emphasised and came to nothing, there was so much unnecessary drama based on lying about stupid things.

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Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

18295852The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Published by: Headline
Pages: 337
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★
More: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight | Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between

I almost always only give Jennifer E. Smith’s books 2 stars, and yet they’re fun and quick to read that never stops me from picking up her next book. The Geography of You and Me was no different! It’s about a girl and boy who get trapped in an elevator together and fall in love pretty much instantly. Nothing about this story was particularly surprising but that’s what I’ve come to expect from these sugary sweet contemporaries.

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Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater

17675462The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
Genre: Supernatural
Published by: Scholastic
Pages: 419
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★
Series: The Dream Thieves (#2) | Blue Lily, Lily Blue (#3)

The Raven Boys is one of those seriously popular books that I still haven’t read. Maddie has read the first three books and now with the recent(ish) release of the season finale, I feel a lot of people are talking about it again. So, I decided to pick it up, mainly because the idea of psychics really drew me in as I’m writing a sort of magical-realism witch story at the moment. As I was reading I kept thinking ‘Oh gosh I’ve got another three of these to go.’ Then, I realised I could just abandon the series even if I couldn’t DNF the book. I mean, everyone told me that nothing really happens but I wasn’t entirely sure to what extent nothing happens. And let me to you: Nothing Happens. (apart from right at the very end when it’s like whaaaat? I’ve skim read too much by now, how did we get here? I’ll have to fill in the blanks myself.)

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Spoiler Review: Half Lost by Sally Green

26404831Half Lost by Sally Green
Genre: Paranormal, UKYA
Published by: Penguin
Pages: 335
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★
Series: Half Bad (#1) | Half Wild (#2)

OPINIONS. I have them. This is the last book in the Half Bad trilogy, and since I’ve reviewed all of the others it seemed only right that I reviewed the finale. (Also, I was in too deep to stop) I supposed this book lived by to my expectations considering I’d already been spoiled on a major character death thanks to a Twitter rampage that after the initial release. A list of questions seemed like the only way to approach this review, so here we go.

  • Why did nothing happen in the first half?
    • Basically, Nathan and the crew spend the first half of the book roaming around different campsites trying to find Hunters and, more importantly, Annalise. Other than that, I have nothing to report. It was slow paced and super boring.
    • In fact, the beginning was very reminiscent of Mockingjay. I mean, a group of people trying not to trigger booby traps with some death thrown into the mix.
  • Was The BIG Death necessary?
    • Simple answer? No. It was emotionally manipulating to the audience, I felt, and severely damaged the character development steps made in previous books.
    • Gabriel is a sweet child and did not deserve this fate.
    • He’s a boy in the first. In the second he discovers he can turn himself into a wild animal to feel more in control. AT THE END OF HALF LOST HE TURNS HIMSELF INTO A TREE. The tree is Nathan. Nathan and the tree are one.
    • It’s genius, but I’m still a little mad at it.
  • What other gifts does Nathan have?
    • He’s in possession of so many, but he managed to control so few? He still had so much potential but the ending was so rushed we didn’t get any of it.
  • Nathan is just so hellbent on his stupid revenge plot he gets himself stuck in a bundle. He was literally invincible at the time, as well.

I honestly wasn’t the biggest fan of this story but three main factors pulled me in from the beginning: 1) Male witch. 2) UKYA 3) morally grey (erring on bad) MC. If those things pique your interest too then I would recommend reading the first book. Then you can battle with writing style and characterisation when you decide if it’s worth continuing. Half Wild although more vulgar than any of the other books was my favourite of the series (against popular opinion), so maybe my dislike of this end was inevitable. I’m just glad I have something else to tick off my series list.

Review: The Last Star by Rick Yancey

24955557The Last Star by Rick Yancey
Genre: Dystopian
Published by: Penguin
Pages: 338
Format: e-book
Rating: ★★
Series: The 5th Wave (#1) | The Infinite Sea (#2)

I feel like the world has been waiting a long time for this finale to drop. The 5th Wave was such an action-packed story but the second left a little something to be desired, and I’m really sorry to admit that the third book took it down another notch. Not gonna lie, but this was kind of a mess. After the wait I was expecting something spectacular! With an awesome ending and satisfying closure on the whole things, but once again, I was left feeling disappointed. Here’s why:

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