New Release: The Ridge

The thrilling narrative styles of Gillian Flynn and Stephen King meet in this new thriller!

Megan and her husband Tyler move to Willow Ridge. Tyler has just gotten a job at the institute at the edge of the Ridge as a technician. The families of employees at the institute all live in the neighbourhood of the Ridge. Megan is furious that her neighbour, Rachel, has been flirting with her husband. One evening, she goes over to talk to Rachel in her garage. Rachel is standing on a ladder and stacking clay pots on a shelf. Megan tells Rachel to leave her husband alone. When Rachel just laughs at her, Megan starts throwing Rachel’s gnomes at the wall. Then she throws some of the clay pots at Rachel. Rachel loses her balance and falls off the ladder, her neck twisting at an unnatural angle. Megan looks at her and decides that she is dead. Megan runs back home but she’s too scared to call the police. She calls her husband to come home from work, and she tells him what happens. Tyler decides to go over to Rachel’s house and knock on her door, so that when she doesn’t answer he can go around to the back of her house and “discover” her body in the garage. However, he comes back into his house a few minutes later, saying that Rachel opened her door. Megan is sure that she saw Rachel’s neck break when she fell off the ladder, but Tyler saw her open her front door. Has Megan lost her mind or did Rachel somehow come back to life?

I was sitting on the edge of my seat through this whole novel! The chapters were short, yet almost all of them ended with a major cliffhanger. Though Megan doesn’t narrate the story, the narrative follows her, making her perspective seem unreliable. It is a great thrilling mystery and a really fast read too!

New Release: 180 Seconds

Allison is entering her junior year at college. Her adoptive father, Simon, drops her off. He adopted her out of foster care when she was 17 years old. Allison is quiet, and she is happy when she finds out her roommate isn’t attending school anymore, so she will have the room all to herself. Then one day, after wandering around town by herself, a girl grabs her to participate in a social experiment. Allison has to spend 180 seconds looking at a boy, without breaking eye contact. At the end of the 3 minutes, he pushes his chair back and kisses Allison passionately. She runs away immediately after, not saying anything. Her best friend, Steffi, who lives in California, calls her and asks her about a viral video by the online sensation, Esben Baylor. Esben makes videos of his social experiments, and the one that he posted of him and Allison holding eye contact for 180 seconds has gone viral. All of his fans want to know what happened to the girl in the video, after she ran away. At first, Allison is embarrassed and furious at this invasion of her privacy. She doesn’t want any kind of attention, especially not from fans on the internet. Eventually she speaks to Esben, and he isn’t the jerk that she thought he was. She thought he posted the video for his own gain, but he really cares about Allison. Esben teaches Allison to break down the walls that she has built up after years of living in foster care. However, soon her newfound strength is tested, and threatens her relationship with Esben.

In general, this was a good story. It had a unique plot, though some aspects were cliches of contemporary YA books (such as Allison living in foster care for most of her life). It was entertaining and the characters were realistic most of the time.

Good stories give the reader an emotional attachment. When Allison was falling in love with Esben, I felt happy with her. Similarly, when Allison was facing tough times, I felt bad with her.

Though the plot was intriguing, this story was quite a rollercoaster of emotions. The high parts were super high, with everything going extremely well for Allison and the other characters. But the low parts had everything spiralling out of control. There wasn’t really a happy medium of emotions. This is the only criticism I have of an otherwise good story.

Emma (Manga Classics)

Emma Woodhouse thinks she’s a great matchmaker. The story opens on the wedding of her former governess, Miss Taylor, marrying Mr. Weston. Emma’s father is devastated that Miss Taylor will no longer live with them but Emma assures him this is a good match for Miss Taylor. Emma meets Harriet, a young girl who lives in the school in town. Harriet never knew who her parents were, but Emma is sure that her father had a high standing in society. When Harriet gets a proposal from a farmer, Emma insists that she turn it down because she can marry someone better. Emma sets Harriet’s sights on Mr. Elton, who ends up falling for Emma. Meanwhile, Mr. Weston’s son comes to visit. Mr. and Mrs. Weston want Mr. Weston’s son, Mr. Churchill, to marry Emma so their families will be joined. However, when Harriet confesses to being in love with Mr. Knightly, Emma’s brother-in-law, Emma realizes she has loved him all along.

I really like this adaptation of Emma. Some scenes are interpreted differently to accommodate the graphic novel format. For example, the novel starts with Emma and her father sitting in their house, discussing Miss Taylor’s new marriage. However, the graphic novel opens with Miss Taylor’s wedding, with Emma and her father speaking in the pews of the church. This makes the opening of the graphic novel more active, since pictures of people just sitting and talking in their home would be a boring way to start it off.

At the end of this book, the author describes some of the changes she made to the original story. The story still unfolds in the same way as the book. There are some twists at the end of the story, which could have been demonstrated earlier in the book for people who have read the original. But she kept these surprises a secret for new readers, who haven’t read Jane Austen’s original, so they will experience the twists for themselves.

This was a great adaptation of Emma. I will be posting more reviews of Manga Classics from UDON Entertainment in the coming weeks.

New Release: Gone Without A Trace

After attending a conference in Oxford, Hannah is so excited to get home and tell her boyfriend about the promotion coming her way. Her boss told her that she is in the running to become a director at their company soon. She wants to see the look on her boyfriend, Matt’s, face when she tells him the good news. But when she arrives home, she notices his paintings are no longer on the wall. His TV is gone too, with her old one in its place. Everything in her house looks just as it did before he moved in with her, years ago. She goes to the fridge and even his bottle of ketchup is gone. Not only are his belongings gone, but his texts, emails, and phone calls to Hannah have disappeared from her phone. She can’t figure out why he suddenly left her like this. Things only get worse when she starts receiving texts from random numbers, sent from someone who claims to be watching her. If it’s Matt texting her, why doesn’t he just talk to her? Or is it more complicated than just an ex-boyfriend wanting revenge?

Hannah tells the story from her perspective. This makes her an unreliable narrator. She starts drinking, so she doesn’t remember everything she does. She quickly begins questioning herself and her relationship with Matt. She’s confused about the whole situation, and she doesn’t notice that the people around her are acting suspicious, such as her best friend, Katie and her boyfriend James, and her coworkers Sam and Lucy.

To me, what makes a good thriller is the ending. This ending didn’t disappoint. The last 50 pages were so exciting, I think I held my breath the whole time. I’m excited to see what the reception is like for this great, thrilling book.

The Animators

Sharon Kisses and Meg Vaught meet in their college art course. They are both extremely talented cartoonists. After they finish college, they go on to create a cartoon about Meg’s life, called “Nashville Combat.” It largely focuses on Meg’s wild, alcoholic mother, who is now in prison. Their film is very successful and Meg spins out of control, drinking and doing drugs. She gets news that her mother was stabbed in prison and died of her injury. Meg and Sharon drive down to Florida to identify Meg’s mother’s body and to promote their film. Then everything spirals out of control, with Sharon ending up in the hospital and Meg sobering up. The two girls overcome some major challenges, but as soon as they reach the top again, they free fall back to the bottom. Meg and Sharon work well together, but are they also their own worst enemies?

This book was quite an emotional rollercoaster ride. I had to stop reading about a third of the way through and put it aside for a while. It was quite intense.

In the films that Meg and Sharon make, they address the hardships they have faced in their lives. Likewise, this book makes the reader look at her/his life in the same way. The story forces you to think about difficult subjects, such as rape, death, drug abuse, and heartbreak. The story pulls you in, so that you can’t avoid these problems, just like Meg and Sharon couldn’t escape these aspects of their lives.

I appreciated how this book addressed these important, inescapable topics. However, I felt overwhelmed by the wave of emotions that this book made me feel. This book was a little too intense for me.

Being A Witch And Other Things I Didn’t Ask For

Rachel, AKA Raya, is a teenage girl in foster care in London. She lives with Angie and Jake, another child in foster care. She’s almost 17. She wants to run away and live on her own. She goes to a hostel that someone recommended but it isn’t what she expected. She meets Pavel, who brings her to his friends, Ian and Emma, who own a cafe and have a spare room for her to stay in. She works for them for about a week but eventually her social worker finds her. Her foster brother has also run away, and he took Oscar, their social worker’s magical, talking cat, with him. Raya feels terribly guilty for influencing Jake to run away. They find him in a coma in the hospital. He ran in front of a truck to save the cat. Oscar was still in the hospital, so Raya and the social worker, Bryony, go to get him back. But when they reunite with Oscar the cat, Raya suddenly transports them back in time. Raya and Oscar arrive in England in 1645, just in time for the Essex Witch Trials. This isn’t the best time to be a teenage witch who travelled from the future, with a talking cat. Raya has just discovered she has powers, so she isn’t strong enough to bring them back to the future. Bryony comes back and finds them, but that isn’t the end of their adventure. When Raya attempts to send them back to the future, they only travel to Turkey, during the same period. Now Raya is faced with the challenge of learning how to use her powers to return them to modern England and how to survive in 17th century Turkey.

I enjoyed this book. At the beginning I was a little confused about how witches are perceived in the London of the book. Of course, since it’s called Being a Witch, I knew that the main character was going to be a witch. But she called her social worker a witch like it was an ordinary thing to say to someone. And her social worker agreed with her. Plus, she could hear a cat speak. No one addressed if this was a normal part of their life. There was also a part of the police department dedicated to “integrators,” which is the term used by Pavel for people with magic powers.

I enjoyed the story once she got to Turkey. The last half of the story was quite exciting, with her travelling around Istanbul, Turkey and learning how to use her new powers. I liked the historical aspects of the novel too. They were accurate depictions and added some truth to this fictional story.

YOLO Juliet

YOLO Juliet is one of the books in a series from Brett Wright. These books retell classic stories, told in text messages. This one is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are star-crossed lovers in Shakespeare’s classic play. They come from feuding families, but fall in love. They are forbidden to see each other, since their families hate each other. They secretly get married. Romeo gets into a fight with Juliet’s cousin and kills him, which leads to Romeo being banished from the town. Juliet fakes her death with a special potion. The plan is that after she is buried in her family’s tomb, she will wake up and run away to be with Romeo. Friar Lawrence, who gave Juliet the potion that will make her appear dead, sends a letter to Romeo telling him of the plan to reunite him with Juliet. However, the letter doesn’t reach Romeo in time. Romeo hears about Juliet’s death, and rushes back to see her in her tomb. He drinks poison and dies, just as she wakes up. When she wakes up and sees her love has poisoned himself, she takes her dagger and stabs herself. After the deaths of these two young people, the Capulets and Montagues end their feud, though it is too late to help Romeo and Juliet.

This adaptation of Romeo and Juliet was very funny. At times, it was absurd to think about a story like this happening today through text messages. But it was funny to imagine how Romeo and Juliet would text each other. I especially liked that Lady Capulet would sign her name at the end of every text messages, because I have seen people who are not used to texting sign their texts with their names.

Many texting abbreviations were used in the story, but there is a glossary at the back that explains what they mean. I like how “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) is in the title. Juliet literally learns that in the story, since she and Romeo end their lives over their love.

This book was really good, so I’m going to watch for the other adaptations in the series.