Mad Miss Mimic | DNF’d (67%)

tumblr_or6ubvefmq1tfx1a7o1_540Title: Mad Miss Mimic
Author: Sarah Henstra
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Mystery
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ | 1.5 out of 5.0

not spoiler free –

I’m not really looking forward to writing this review. You know those books that are just kind of a chore to get through and you don’t care enough about them to write a long, thoughtful, in-depth review and really want to fall back on platitudes? This is it.

But I’m writing it anyway, because I don’t often see fiction that deals in a serious way with speech disorders, doesn’t treat the subject as a joke. In that respect, I was very gratified by the book. In many others, not so much.

Leonora Somerville is in many ways the perfect girl––she’s wealthy, she’s beautiful, and she’s well-connected. But she’s been through one too many Seasons and she can’t seem to find someone to wed––because she also has a stutter. Not merely that, but she possesses the ability to recall someone else’s voice with near-perfect accuracy––something her sister calls Mimic, which comes out when she is most anxious to repress it. The servants all call her “Mad Miss Mimic.”

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Camp So-and-So

27242422Title: Camp So-and-So
Author: Mary McCoy
Genre: Contemporary, YA, Thriller, Mystery
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5

The letters went out in mid-February. Each letter invited its recipient to spend a week at Camp So-and-So, a lakeside retreat for girls nestled high in the Starveling Mountains. Each letter came with a glossy brochure with photographs of young women climbing rocks, performing Shakespearean theatre under the stars, and spiking volleyballs. Each letter was signed in ink by the famed and reclusive businessman and philanthropist, Inge F. Yancey IV.

By the end of the month, twenty-five applications had been completed, signed, and mailed to a post office box in an obscure Appalachian town.

Had any of these girls tried to follow the directions in the brochure and visit the camp for themselves on that day in February, they would have discovered that there was no such town and no such mountain and that no one within a fifty-mile radius had ever heard of Camp So-and-So.

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Moonshine

6977329Title: Moonshine
Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson
Genre: Historical Fiction (Alt/Spec Fic), Mystery, Supernatural, Action, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5 out of 5.0

Zephyr Hollis has a reputation as a do-gooder. As a singing vampire suffragette, actually. From Brooklyn to Midtown to Battery Park to the LES, she and her bicycle are near-ubiquitous as she runs from protest to meeting to night school, where she teaches. One night, before class, she comes across a young boy, victim of an Other attack, and tries to save him. She’s helped by Amir, a mysterious Other who attends her classes, who in turn offers her a deal: if she will help him track down Rinaldo, the vampire mob boss whom she suspects is behind the attack of the child, he will pay her a much needed $200. The more Zephyr investigates, though, the more she finds herself compromised by her growing attraction to Amir, and by the feeling that something is very, very wrong.

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The Steep and Thorny Way

22838927Title: The Steep & Thorny Way
Author: Cat Winters
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Magical Realism
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.5 out of 5

I’ve been listening to a lot of songs that give me southern gothic vibes lately. That, coupled with the fact that I’m currently in Georgia and the fact that I’ve been marathoning Preacher means that The Steep and Thorny Way has been exactly the kind of novel I’m looking for. Moody, stormy, a revenge narrative smack dab in the middle of Nowhere, Oregon, where the glamour of the ’20s seems to have packed its bags and skipped out of town.

Hannalee Denney is the only biracial girl in the rural town of Elston, and her father the only Black man, until his death at the hands of a reckless driver. But Hannalee and her mother are trying to move forward. Her mother’s married the local physician, and Hannalee is adapting to this new life. But then her father’s murderer gets released, and he’s telling a story different from the one she heard. According to him, Hannalee’s new stepfather is the one who killed Hank Denney.

If the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the novel is a loose reconfiguration of Hamlet set in rural Oregon, complete with chilling ghosts and possible poison and the presence of the Klu Klux Klan. And friends, I really wasn’t sold. I really admire books with a commitment to concept and that would have been necessary to the success of this novel.There are ways of grounding the supernatural into more realistic portrayals of racism and homophobia and I think this was really well done in Libba Bray’s Diviners series, but this necessitates the author to be willing to take the idea of the supernatural to its logical extremes. But Steep & Thorny Way kept pulling back, much to the detriment not only of the atmosphere, but also of the overall narrative.

This wouldn’t have actually made me quit the novel, though, because I’ve read a lot of novels that failed to live up to their concepts but still turned out pretty enjoyable. What made this novel join the 33% club was its clunky writing and complete lack of subtlety. This is likely a result of Winters wanting to address a lot of the racism and homophobia in the time period she’s writing in, so I can’t really fault her for it, but the writing was so heavy-handed the process of reading became the hardest part of the narrative. Sometimes a light touch is all that’s needed.

Character interactions make no sense. Conversations go from Point A to Planet X in the space of a few sentences, and rather than feeling organic, they feel as if they have agendas: the point of Paragraph Z was to convey Y information. Characterisation is also all over the place. It’s as if the novel got so caught up in its messaging that it forgot that it had a story to tell. Which is really such a shame, because it would have been an interesting one.

The Agency Series (Y.S. Lee)

Title: The Agency
Author: YS Lee
Genre: Action, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ || 2.0 stars

In some ways, it’s deeply unfair to rate these books as a series. In others, it’s the only way to rate it at all. As individual books, they were mostly competent, interesting reads. I’m generally a huge fan of revisionist Victorian novels (particularly if there is a mystery element) that feature intrepid girls (particularly if they are intrepid girls of colour), but I found that the more I read the books, the more frustrated and impatient I became with them.

The Agency follows Mary Quinn, formerly Mary Lang, an Irish-Chinese girl who was saved from the noose to be given a second chance at life. She takes this second chance to turn herself into a member of the Agency, a covert all-female private detective agency that utilises stereotypes about women to go undercover as maids, companions, and governesses––all in the name of the case. In each of the four books, Mary is sent on a different case––uncovering the truth behind the smuggling of Hindu artifacts into England while posing as the paid companion of a spoiled young lady, solving the death of a bricklayer at the building site of the Houses of Parliament and the clock tower in the guise of a twelve year old boy, even enjoying a stint in Buckingham Palace as a maid chasing down a string of petty thefts in the palace. This setup allows for an almost infinite amount of permutations––Lee could certainly have extended the series indefinitely if she so chose, so it’s something of a minor miracle that she chose to complete it at four. This is also part of why I found myself enjoying the novels less and less.

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Skinwalker

skinwalker

Title: Skinwalker
Author: Faith Hunter
Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ || 1.0 star

Jane Yellowrock doesn’t remember anything about her life. She was twelve when she walked naked out of the forest with no recollection of her past beyond the fact that she’s a Skinwalker. Years later, she’s become an accomplished vampire hunter contracted to come to New Orleans––to work for vampires. New Orleans has been plagued by a rogue vampire, who aside from attacking humans, has also been turning on his own. And though Jane heads to Louisiana determined to claim a kill that will put her on the map, what she ends up finding may be more than she bargained for.

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Twisted

twsitednasd
The positioning of the three main characters tells you all you need to know about what the writers’ priorities are.

Title: Twisted
Starring: Maddie Hasson, Avan Jogia, Kylie Bunbury
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Drama
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ || 1.0

Have you guys seen the recent ads for Amazon TV? Because speaking of show holes, I have a whole category of shows that I have more or less condemned to my personal show hole––that is to say a bunch of shows that have treated its leads of colour so irredeemably poorly that I never want to hear from them again, except to hear about their upcoming cancellations and varying levels of sarcastic biting commentary on them. Sleepy Hollow is one. Teen Wolf is another. And also the thankfully cancelled subject of this review, Twisted.

Twisted began with a neat premise and shaky foundations, even from the start. Years after his conviction for his aunt’s murder, Danny Desai comes back to a town whose attitude towards him has totally changed. Though he maintains he didn’t kill his aunt, no one believes him. No one wants to be near him. No one except his two former best friends, Lacey and Jo (the former more reluctantly than the latter).

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