REVIEW: A Line in the Dark, Malinda Lo (Oct. 17, 2017)

I’m torn. A Line in the Dark on the surface is my bread and butter: a psychological thriller with diverse characters, an unreliable narrator, and a love triangle. Plus, look at that cover! It opens with a bang (literally) but I was left feeling…unsatisfied at the end? I have some somewhat incoherent thoughts:

Jess Wong has had a long-standing crush on her best friend, Angie. And everything was peachy while it was just the two of them, but then Angie meets Margot, a student at the ritzy private school, and Jess’ world begins to unravel. Jess finds it difficult to share Angie with Margot, as well as keep a cap on her feelings—which she has long denied. At a party one night, Jess has an altercation with Margot’s best friend, Ryan, and after Ryan subsequently goes missing, Jess shoots to the top of the suspect list.

Ok, so. This is definitely personal preference, but I like my thrillers to be a tad more sinister and um…twisted…than A Line in the Dark. In the end, it just felt kind of watered down compared to some of the other thrillers I’ve read this year and really enjoyed. (i.e. This Darkness Mine and Final Girls).  If you enjoy a good mystery but not a graphic one, A Line in the Dark might be a good choice for you. There’s also a really cool art-imitating-life aspect with Jess’ comic book that reminded me of Eliza and her Monsters.

I am notoriously bad at guessing the twist endings, so my interest was definitely piqued the entire way through…but the ending was rushed. Within the context of the plot, the ending makes sense, I just needed another 5 pages or so of resolution.

I’m stuck between 3 – 3.5 / 5. The ending just kind of brought it down for me.

Thank you Dutton Books for Young Readers for my ARC. A Line in the Dark is available now.

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Kate Reads 2017: July-Sep Favorites

This year is flying by so incredibly fast. I’m still reading like mad, watching way too many tv shows, and inhaling as much pop culture as I can.

Between July and September, I read 107 books, and additional 7 were left unfinished. I feel terrible not finishing a book, partly because I’m a perfectionist and I NEED TO FINISH WHAT I STARTED, but also because in many of the cases, the writing isn’t bad. It’s no fault of the author. The story just doesn’t interest me enough to continue reading. If I get to the halfway point and continually have to ask myself, “Who cares?” that’s a sign I will typically DNF.

If you’ve missed it, here is my author page for Book Riot and I’m still on Litsy @katekrug. Let’s be friends!

My top books are in the 4-5 star range and deserve to be added to your TBR 🙂 Happy reading!

July-September Faves [in no particular order]

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

When your friends tell you that this is the most depressing book you’ll ever read, believe them. They’re being completely honest. A Little Life chronicles the lives of four friends, Willem, JB, Malcolm, and Jude, from college to old age. At the center is Jude, whose horrific past you uncover throughout the 800+ pages of misery and tears. There’s a point when I actually was doubting the believability of the book. Is it really possible that every single terrible thing you can think of happened to Jude before his 60th birthday? Regardless, Yanagihara takes exceedingly difficult subject matter and makes it readable and heart-wrenching. The 816 pages fly by. Oh, and don’t be fooled by the section, “The Happy Years.” Spoiler: They’re NOT happy.

Content warnings: Relationship abuse, childhood abuse, suicidal thoughts, graphic self-harm, and rape.

Starfish, Akemi Dawn Bowman

This book took my cold, little heart and squashed it into a pulp. I was a puddle of saltwater by the end with so many highlighted quotes on my iPad. I’m so happy that I have a published, hard copy now. And the cover is beautiful.

Kiko has always felt between two worlds—she’s half Japanese and has never learned much about her father’s heritage and culture. She experiences discrimination from classmates who don’t want to date her because she’s biracial. Her intense social anxiety also makes it difficult for her to make friends and be a “typical” high school senior. Her home life includes two brothers, a narcissistic mother, and a remarried father who seems more devoted to his new family. And there’s a friends-to-lovers romance involved. All of my favorite things. I love this book with all my heart.

An Ember in the Ashes series, Sabaa Tahir

In an alternate universe under the Martial Empire, society is split into two classes: The Scholars and The Martials. The Scholars are the lower-class, oppressed individuals, while The Martials rule the Empire and employ the soldiers, an elite group called Masks. Laia is a Scholar who goes on the hunt for her brother who is suspected of treason after their home is attacked by a group of Martials. Our other narrator, Elias, is a Mask and carries the legacy of an important Martial family, but also is reluctant to fully accept his place as a Mask.

The second book, A Torch Against the Night, introduced more characters and adds the equally kick ass Helene as a narrator. I am so pumped for the third book that is going to be released in April. Also, the paperbacks (and future hardcovers) went through a major redesign and the reason is amazing. Tahir tweeted,For the beautiful brown kids who deserve to see themselves on books:You’re heroes too. And these covers are for you.” Love love LOVE.

The Blinds, Adam Sternbergh

The residents of the small, secluded Texas town, Caesura, are an interesting bunch. All come with their memory wiped and are asked to choose new names upon entering (first name of a celebrity and last name of a vice president). Everyone in Caesura or “The Blinds,” has either witnessed a horrific crime or committed one, and this is the government’s way of creating a unique sanctuary where they live in peace. But then a suicide and murder happen in quick succession, and Sheriff Cooper starts to suspect something else is at play.

Sometimes my Book of the Month picks leave me kind of meh, but I REALLY enjoyed this one. This is definitely one of the those books where a character map is helpful, you meet a lot of people, but it’s super interesting and kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning.

This Darkness Mine, Mindy McGinnis

I really can’t say much about the plot of this book without giving away major twists, but it includes parasitic twins, a phenomenon that has exceptionally interested me after watching The Unborn a while ago.

Sasha is your stereotypical good girl: first chair clarinet, excellent student, perfect boyfriend, etc. Then things start happening that she can’t explain: a classmate, Isaac, claims to know her intimately, she has thoughts that definitely aren’t hers… and whatever you think the ending is, you’re wrong. I devoured “This Darkness Mine” in a few hours. This book is so wonderfully weird, creepy, and effed up, I loved it.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, Ruth Emmie Lang

After his parents die in a freak storm, Weylyn Grey is brought up by a pack of wolves in Michigan (just go with it…) There in the woods, he befriends Mary, the daughter of the local butcher. Those around Weylyn notice his unique presence and his seemingly magical gifts. Throughout his life, Weylyn comes to grips with his “powers” and the need to stop running from his past.

This is one of my first forays into magical realism and “Beasts” hit all the targets. Yes, you definitely need to suspend your disbelief, but Weylyn (and his friends’) emotions are so real and human, it doesn’t feel like fantasy. I’m so happy that this book got chosen for a BOTM pick because it’s amazing. Don’t let the premise deter you, “Beasts” is so well written and Lang weaves a truly touching story.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

Reading really hyped up books makes me nervous, sometimes it’s a huge let down. “The Hate U Give” does not fall into this category. It’s poignant, real, and exactly the book we need right now. I can’t wait for the movie to be released and for more people to be exposed to this book.

Starr’s life turns upside down when she witnesses her best friend, Khalil, being killed by a white cop. She’s the only witness, but not wanting to upset her life too much, Starr doesn’t release her name to the public and keeps quiet. As time goes on, Khalil’s name gets dragged through the mud. He’s called a thug and a predator and deserving of his death. Starr, who lives in a poor neighborhood, but attends a ritzy, private school, must choose between speaking her truth and remaining silent.

Pick up this book now. It’s so important.

Autoboyography, Christina Lauren

This is one of those books where I finished the ARC the day before its release and I ran to Barnes and Noble the next day for a hard copy because it’s THAT good. “Autoboyography” repeatedly broke my heart, made me laugh, healed my soul, and then broke my heart again.

While living in California, Tanner came out as bisexual and was completely supported by his family. When the family relocates back to his mother’s hometown of Provo, he is forced back into the closet due to the disapproving Mormons who populate the city (and state). That’s when he meets Sebastian, a mentor for his writing class and LDS dead set on following his church.

You’re going to cry. You’re going to get mad. You’re going to feel extremely sad about the prejudice still in today’s society. But ultimately, you’re going to feel uplifted by the eventual self-acceptance.

The Nevernight Chronicle, Jay Kristoff

Within the first few pages, you’re treated to a brutal murder interspersed with a relatively graphic sex scene, so do not be fooled, these books are decidedly NOT young adult.

Mia Corvere’s father was executed for betraying the Republic and she goes on a mission to avenge him. Part of her plan includes infiltrating the training school, The Red Church, for the assassin squad, the Blades. “Godsgrave” introduces gladiator-esque competition and then continuation of Mia’s plan to kill Scaeva and Duomo. (PS and the ending of “Godsgrave” is so completely awesome, I actually squealed in my excitement.)

The book also comes with footnotes explaining the greater history of the Republic and other information we wouldn’t know as a reader. Kristoff also has a super sarcastic and snarky voice aka I think we’d be great friends. My favorite part of the series though, has to be Mr. Kindly, a not-cat made out of shadow that follows Mia and eats her fear.

Book Recommendations for National Coming Out Day

Happy October 11th aka National Day of the Girl (SLAY), Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day (I’m so sad I just found this out), and National Coming Out Day. I’ve read a bunch of quality books in the past year with LGBTQIA+ representation  and I wanted to share the wealth.

All of these are at least 4 / 5 stars in my book.

Just a disclaimer, I am not part of the LGBTQIA+ community and cannot speak to validity of the struggles depicted in these books. I appreciated them as a reader.