Review: The Female of the Species

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.

Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

I think to start there needs to be a sort of notice. While this is technically labeled as a YA, it certainly isn’t. There is murder, metal illness, rape, and molestation. As well as terrible language, drug use, and a lot of questionable behavior by minors.

I really don’t understand how the age of the character is what determines the genre for YA and NA books.

All that being said. This book was so compelling and well written and I couldn’t put it down.

McGinnis has written about some really dark things, but always focuses on survival. And while I wasn’t too big of a fan of her historic novel, she jumps her game up exponentially with this book. She uses some of the darkest aspects of human nature as a setting, but somehow brings humor and life to it.
I really enjoyed the variety of characters, their personal struggles with their own identities and how they are expected to be perceived by society. Beyond the more troubling aspects that I mentioned in the disclaimer, this novel takes on daily struggles like social status, slut shaming, and the social reactions to behavior by males and females.
As I said before, I could not put this down. These three messed up, genuine, and various degrees of truly good people are so captivating and well developed. It’s about a girl whose irreparably damaged by the murder of her sister; a boy having trouble separating who he is based on what society expects and what he expects of himself; and a girl who’s let people walk over her most of her life and is now finding her voice.
McGinnis does so well at pointing out social inequalities in the way behavior is perceived between boys and girls in such a real and unarguable way. It would be so easy for people to write this off as a feminist rant, but it is so much more and is done is such a relateable way that I don’t see how people can’t see the truth in her examples.
All of the characters go through so much growth. Finding ways to be the people they want to be, while understanding that certain aspects can never truly change. The fact that Alex feels guilt and regret shows so much of how she’s changed. And how Jack and Peekay react to her actions show so much of how they have grown outside of their small town bubbles. They seek change in personal growth, becoming better versions of themselves with the help of their friends, who see the best in them. I loved this book, I loved it’s truth, and I loved the dark humor that made it all a little bit easier to swallow.

Review: A Madness so Discreet

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Goodreads Summary:

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

First, look at that cover, I mean how beautiful is that? But to the book,it was. . . interesting. The first 10% of it or so was dark, edgy, and horrific – all amazing. It was so different and vivid! Then things got weird. Grace becomes a sleuth in training, and she spent so much time isolated in her own mind, that I kind of lost sight of what all was happening.

The story, I think, had some holes in it. But as I reached the end I started to see the point of the characters and of madness in general. McGinnis truly painted a portrait of insanity, in all its forms. It was really neat to watch the characters who you came to think of as normal show their true colors and illuminate the madness that lived in them. And on the flip-side, you started to question what “normal” was at all. “Normal” people do terrible things, and “mad” people show such caring – so what is really the negative label? This whole point of McGinnis’ story I think is the strongest element.

I started out the story really liking Grace, but as we got farther in I found her selfish and pushing her problems onto others to have them solved. Along with that, her relationships weren’t developed well enough for me. I never really understood what connected she and Thornhollow beyond their criminal profiling, yet Thronhollow was so devoted to protecting her, and without any romance at all. I’m not saying you have to be romantically interested in someone to want to help them, but I didn’t see any reason at all. I liked her relationships with Lizzie and Nell as it showed her ability to touch into her feelings. The crime-fighting I think was the weakest part of this story, and really just served as a background plot to entertain while we studied the depths of Grace’s madness. I think it would have worked better if it had solely been focused on bringing retribution to her father.

I also thought two of the secondary characters were two of the best. Nell was so refreshing, and Falsteed was my favorite, I really wish he had more of a presence in it all. Overall, McGinnis showed her strength in the vivid imagery she establishes, as well as her ability to create visceral scenes of emotion and feeling. Her writing is amazing, and that alone makes this worth the read. I also really appreciated the historical element and reading about her research.

In a Handful of Dust

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Goodreads Summary:

The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.

After reading Not a Drop to Drink, I wasn’t sure how I felt about transitioning from Lynn to Lucy as the main POV. I did like that it was set about 10 years later though. Overall, Lucy didn’t thrill me, honestly I didn’t like her that much. She’s really different from Lynn, which isn’t a bad thing, but she’s selfish, takes Lynn for granted, and is quick to get her way. I did like how adventurous she was and how she handled the journey they take across the country, but still. And she makes Lynn sounds old, I mean she’s only 27, but the way she talks about her she sounds like she’s in her 40s! 

The twist with the people in Vegas – crazy! I like that after Lucy freaks out on Lynn (which I get is a bit understandable – she killed her bf – but still, he was dying and they both thought it was the only way) that Lynn is proved right about her distrust of the people. How Lucy ever thought they were good people baffles me – I mean they started manipulating them as soon as they got to town.

I was really glad to see Lynn go back home to Ohio. She deserved it, especially since she gave up so much for Lucy, who didn’t really seem to appreciate it.

Overall, I didn’t like it as much as the first book, but it was still a good read.

Not a Drop to Drink

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Goodreads Summary:

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

I was surprised by this book. Honestly, I wasn’t even planning on reading it, but it was $1.99 on B&N for my Nook, and a lot of the people I follow on Goodreads had read it and enjoyed it, so I went for it. And I am really glad I did! It was a fresh take on the teenage girl survival story. It’s not really a dystopian, but I also wouldn’t call it a post-apocalyptic either – it’s really, truly, a survival story. I loved how naive Lynn was about everything – a state her mom seemed to keep her in on purpose – and how she bravely admitted her cluelessness on things like sex, technology, and the general state of the world.

I also really appreciated, that though there was a romance element between Lynn and Eli, the central relationship is that of Lynn and Lucy. Lucy, the girl Lynn finds herself somewhat reluctantly taking care of, brings the sensitive side of Lynn to the surface. Lucy is the Jimminy Cricket to Lynn’s Pinocchio, teaching her the little things that make a person good or bad. With her mom, Lynn was simply surviving, but with Lucy, and the people Lucy brings into Lynn’s life, she learns to truly live.

I thought the book did well as a stand alone story, so I am kind of hesitant to move forward to the sequel, especially since a lot of time has gone by since the first one, and I have a feeling there is a change of voice. But, there was also some foreshadowing in the first book, and I am confident enough in McGinnis’ writing to think that it will be good – and maybe have the same stand-alone feel of the first one.

Speaking of McGinnis, I really enjoyed her writing, it was easy to follow and though there wasn’t much action, there was so much going on in the protagonist’s mind that I was never board. The central action of the story was Lynn’s emotional transformation, and it was done beautifully. Though the language was written in jargon – which I usually don’t really like, it worked. You picked up on the characters go-to phrases, the multiple contractions in a word rolled off the tongue and didn’t bog you down in unusual wording. Overall, I really enjoyed this story, and McGinnis’ style.

Don’t forget, the 4th is the last day to enter the giveaway for a 1TB external hard drive!