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Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Buy from: Harlequin AUS website
A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from national bestselling author Mary Kubica
She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head…
Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.
Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated

An Advance Reading Copy was provided by Harlequin MIRA Australia in exchange for an honest review.

If I were to rate Pretty Baby based on the efforts alone, this would be a solid 5-stars read. No one can say Mary Kubica did not try hard enough. She did. And it showed. Hence I'm genuinely gutted that I didn't love this book more. The book is lacking on the execution and the enjoyment factor.

I'm so...unenthusiastic about this book. Which makes it so hard to write a review on. I felt like Pretty Baby tried too hard to be different and genre-bending. Unfortunately, we get a final product that is not quite. Not quite thriller. Not quite mystery. Not quite drama.

In comparison to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl and Dark Places (comparison is inevitable because well, just look at the cover), Kubica's writing is relatively easier to stomach (haha!) but the issues dealt in this book are disturbing all the same.

I thought the beginning was very well done. Although it initially reads from two totally opposite point of views (Heidi's and Chris'), I could relate to them both which in turns questioned my own morality and choices if I were in their position. So that was really interesting. Enters Willow's point of view and it was like reading a different book altogether. No date/time stamp follows the start of each chapter so it took me awhile to orientate myself - that Willow's POV is told sometimes in the future (with of course, flashbacks thrown in as well because why not?). Contrary to most psychological thrillers which reveal early on that someone's missing/killed/dead/became amnesiac, Pretty Baby definitely takes its sweet time to tell the readers what actually had happened. So for me, the intrigue is lost and I was left hanging for so long that I contemplated DNF-ing this book so many times.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not a good sign for a thriller book.

Did the ending redeem the whole book? Well, I definitely did not expect the ending, so that's something. I don't know...I was just content with it. I wasn't wowed by it but it satisfied me nonetheless.
3 poker faces

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Talon by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Long ago, dragons were hunted to near extinction by the Order of St. George, a legendary society of dragon slayers. Hiding in human form and growing their numbers in secret, the dragons of Talon have become strong and cunning, and they're positioned to take over the world with humans none the wiser.
Ember and Dante Hill are the only sister and brother known to dragonkind. Trained to infiltrate society, Ember wants to live the teen experience and enjoy a summer of freedom before taking her destined place in Talon. But destiny is a matter of perspective, and a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught. As Ember struggles to accept her future, she and her brother are hunted by the Order of St. George.
Soldier Garret Xavier Sebastian has a mission to seek and destroy all dragons, and Talon's newest recruits in particular. But he cannot kill unless he is certain he has found his prey: and nothing is certain about Ember Hill. Faced with Ember's bravery, confidence and all-too-human desires, Garret begins to question everything that the Order has ingrained in him: and what he might be willing to give up to find the truth about dragons.

Actual rating 1.5 stars.

THE WORST JULIE KAGAWA'S BOOK I'VE EVER READ. And I've read eight of her other books.

I wanted to believe that maybe someone kidnapped her and wrote this book using her name, but when you've read enough Julie Kagawa's, you know it's her when you read the writing...

I still can't believe a book about dragons can be bad. *sigh*

One thing I noticed about Kagawa's writing is she doesn't do contemporary setting well. I didn't enjoy reading about Meghan's and Ethan's life before they enters the fey realm. It was so boring and bland.

Unfortunately this book is pretty much a contemporary with dragons. And I didn't even get enough dragons. There were more about;

1. Siblings fights - am I supposed to care about Dante? He could be replaced with a talking wall and I still couldn't care less.

2. Teenage angst - I honestly thought Ember gets rebellious for the first half of the book for no good reasons.

3. Insta-love - I honestly thought Julie knew better.

4. Love triangle - I HONESTLY THOUGHT JULIE KNEW BETTER. Meghan, Ash and Puck love triangle is a rarity and is dynamic - how could she possibly thought of throwing another love triangle with much, much weaker characters?


I know I should've DNF-ed it but I couldn't. Because it's a Kagawa book. I read and I read. Hoping that by the end of Part 1 the story would have gone somewhere. Nope. By that point, I was way past halfway mark so I decided to just finish it anyway. And I did. Yes, the story did go somewhere but it was so predictable and formulaic, I even laughed a few times and screamed 'THIS, THIS IS FROM JULIE KAGAWA???'.

Yeah, it wasn't nice.

Two unimpressed faces

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?

An advance reader copy was provided by Hachette Australia Books for review.

Actual rating 3.5 stars.

Imagine the X-Men as the lords and ladies in the pseudo-medieval period set in a dystopian future.
Sounds like something you never knew you wanted to read about but now that you know, you want it more than Nutella? Yup, that was me before I received a copy of this book. Sadly, it just didn't deliver.

In this dystopian world, the society is divided into two castes, the silvers (people with superpowers) and the oppressed reds (regular people). The book centres around Mare, a red who suddenly discovers that she has a unique superpower and how she is made into a pawn in a dangerous ploy for the throne.

I think my biggest issue with the book is the characters. In a moral sense, I think none of the characters deserves any respects which makes it's hard to pick a side. Understandably, living in a dystopia society like depicted in the story means it's difficult to cling to your moral values because you got to do what you have to do to survive, right? But most of the time, the characters, especially Mare has the option that offers less damage but she chose the less wise, morally-corrupted choice nonetheless. Morally-vague characters are something that I usually enjoy in literature - time and time again I found myself rooting for the antagonists because they are so entertaining. However in Red Queen, the characters make wrong decisions due to their cowardliness and lack of purpose, hence the book felt flat and lost its appeal on me midway through. For a book with just 320 pages, it felt like it has more than 500 pages in my head.

Luckily I pulled through because that ending worth every second I sat there with my tablet, trying to pry my eyes open and keep reading for the first 80% of the book. I suspected the big twist from miles away but as a plot hole so by the time the true villain was revealed to me, I was pretty shocked nonetheless. And have I mentioned how much I loved the ending? The final showdown has the right amount of action, tension and complexity. Will sell kidneys for the sequel!

Another aspect that was done quite well was the action and the battle scene. Some of the superpowers seem weak in comparison to the others but the author managed to show that when these superpowers are handled well, they can be deadlier than the obvious strong ones. But I need MOAR! There is simply not enough action to keep this book from being a snoozefest.

Overall, a pretty solid debut by Victoria Aveyard although I couldn't see myself wanting to pre-order the physical copy of this book anytime soon. :/

Me gusta! 4-stars

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