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Mariah Fredericks

What Jia Read in March and April

What Jia Read in March and April

Wow, has it been a long time since I last put one of these lists together! And I think I promised to be better about it in my previous post too. Obviously I need to learn not to jinx myself.

The Scholomance by R. Lee Smith.
Since lots of people were talking about Smith, I decided to give one of her books a try. While I definitely agree her work isn’t for everyone, I really enjoyed my first foray into her works. It had an intensity to it that I feel has been lacking in other books, and I liked that the demons read and acted like aliens. They were pretty inhuman for the most part. After I finished this one, I remember not reading anything else for a week because everything seemed so bland by comparison. I’ll probably give Heat a try at some point later this year.

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A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink.
Such a frustrating read! It was vague on every front that mattered and there were quite a few logic fails. Full review here.

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The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens.
I have no idea what happened. I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy and I did like the first part of this installment. But then things started getting weird and nonsensical and I wanted off the ride. I had the final book in the trilogy in my TBR pile but after reading the first chapter, I decided it was time for me to get off the bus permanently. Sad when that happens. Full review here.

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The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman.
What an odd book. There were parts of it I really enjoyed, and parts of it that I wished had been done differently. Maybe I was expecting more of a breakneck thriller pace than what I got. Full review here.

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Doubletake by Rob Thurman.
The Leandros boys never fail to cheer me up. This book covers all sorts of (awkward) family reunions. We learn why there are only male pucks (and what that means when it comes to procreation), and we finally meet Niko’s dad. There’s a development regarding the auphe that tells me we’re launching into the next thematic arc for the series. If the previous book was sort of a breather, this one is a preview of what’s to come. I’m really intrigued by what we glimpsed. (And for those readers like me who’ve missed her, Georgie makes a brief cameo.)

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The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks.
A YA mystery thriller about a girl looking into the death of her former best friend. Nice interweaving of social media and outward appearances versus secret lives. Full review here.

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Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin.
So disappointing! I was so thrilled to read a book that references Edgar Allan Poe. Unfortunately the reality doesn’t live up to the promise. The heroine makes some ridiculous choices. The love triangle makes it painfully obvious who the ultimate choice will be, and of course that choice is the asshole. Honestly, it read like someone trying to be edgy but had no actual experience with the topics at hand. Review to come.

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Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris.
I enjoyed this one a lot. I’m hoping books like this one means we’re moving away from the YA dystopian trend and more towards YA thrillers. The heroine reminded me of Veronica Mars in many respects. Actually, the book itself is something like a cross between Veronica Mars, 24, and X-Files. It is a big book, I suppose, but it reads extremely fast. Loved that the insta-love romance plot here made sense to me. Review here.

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Shadows of the Moon by Zoe Marriott.
Kind of like a Cinderella story set in a fantasy world loosely based on (what I think is) Heian era Japan. The heroine, Suzume, survived the slaughter of her family, and I thought it was a pretty realistic depiction of that sort of trauma. Her mother also survived (she was away when the attack came) and eventually remarries, taking Suzume with her. But then Suzume discovers that her new stepfather is the one responsible for the murder of her family and soon embarks on a quest for revenge. I liked how the book interwove all the different guises and lives Suzume adopts for herself, and blended the original Cinderella story with the culture and Suzume’s revenge tale. Review to come.

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What about you guys? Read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading now? I’m currently reading Spirit’s Princess by Esther Friesner, which portrays the story of the Japanese shaman-queen, Himiko.

REVIEW:  The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks

REVIEW: The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks

Dear Ms. Fredericks,

I was in the mood for something different when I ran across your novel. A reader can take only so many paranormal and dystopian YAs before she loses it. A YA mystery/thriller sounded right up my alley. Your novel delivered what I needed, along with something more.

fredericks
Rain was once best friends with Wendy Geller. Both outsiders at their exclusive high school — Rain, because of a cleft palate that left her speech imperfect and Wendy, because she came a less privileged background — the two bonded immediately. Rain was shy and quiet; Wendy was outgoing and took no crap. But they drifted apart over the years as Rain remained shy and quiet while Wendy became a bonafide party girl with a penchant for messing with other people’s boyfriends.

Then the worst happens. Wendy doesn’t return home one night after a party. When her body is found in Central Park the next day, people shake their head and hold her up as a cautionary tale. Look what happens to party girls. Never go home drunk or high. Don’t walk through a park alone at night.

But Rain thinks differently. She was at that party. She talked to Wendy. She didn’t seem drunk and she didn’t seem high. Something doesn’t add up. Everyone assumes it was a random attack, but Rain fears the murderer might be closer than everyone thinks.

I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read, not just because of the short length but also because of the way it was structured. Rain made a wonderful narrator. She’s never been able to speak up for herself. But now that Wendy’s dead and no one can speak for her, she takes it upon herself to do just that in order to find her friend’s killer.

I also liked the look into Wendy. Her character is one that’s often vilified in fiction and in real life. The book pulls no punches and makes it clear that Wendy liked to mess with other girls’ boyfriends, usually in retaliation for the way those specific girls treated her. But there are two details everyone forgets. First, the cheating boyfriend also holds some responsibility; just because a girl goes after you doesn’t mean you have to take her up on it. And secondly, for all that Wendy is treated like crap and gossiped about, she’s still accepted into their social circle because she entertains them. Everyone was always looking forward to seeing what she would do next. In fact, many of them egged her on in her antics and boyfriend-stealing ways. That’s hypocritical.

The incorporation of Facebook was also well done. You always hear the warnings about social media and not putting too much online. You never know the impression you’ll leave. Often this is in the context of seeking employment. If employers are checking up on you, you probably don’t want to make those photos of you doing body shots in Aruba public for anyone to see. But the aftermath of Wendy’s murder shows how else putting up photos, status updates, and videos can leave an impression. With those things used as evidence, Wendy would obviously look like a party girl of the worst kind. And if no one speaks up for her, that’s the image everyone will be left with.

I also liked the commentary about the media and how it’s a feeding frenzy when it comes to cases like this. They swarm the school after Wendy’s death. They comb over the relevant Facebook accounts and exploit everything there to put together the story they want to tell. After all, with the victim dead, who’s going to gainsay them? I liked how all those things came together.

The true identity of Wendy’s murderer really took me off-guard. Looking back, I should have predicted it. I knew the person who eventually does get accused of it was too obvious a choice, but I never even considered the possibility of the real killer. Perhaps because the thought is just too horrible in many ways.

Rain’s emotional struggle throughout the novel — her guilt, her anger — really pulled the story together for me. I liked the exploration of how the faces we present to other people don’t necessarily capture the entirety of us. In fact, one person may see a different face than another. Yes, Wendy was a party girl and it’s easy to paint her in a completely negative light. But people are more complicated than that, and I thought this novel did an excellent job showing that. B-

My regards,
Jia

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