‘We Can’t Be Friends’ – Cyndy Etler

Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review, and I’m happy to post my thoughts but don’t really want to rate such a personal book.
Cyndy is a hard narrator to get under the skin of. She is quite abrasive, and jumps around topics almost as a coping mechanism when things get too uncomfortable.

We begin with Cyndy returning to high school after months in rehab. We learn she was sent there at fourteen, by her mother, who seemed convinced she was an addict after what could be seen as experimenting. I understand there’s another book chronicling this experience, but the flashbacks we get here are enough to demonstrate how abusive it was.

Any memoir is subject to criticism. We only get that person’s perspective. Their thoughts and emotions are valid, but we never know how someone else would view the situation. Unfortunately, we’re told that Cyndy suffered abuse at the hands of her stepfather which was ignored. We are told her young stepsister is experiencing the same things. But their mother does nothing…I know it’s not her story, but I just cannot comprehend how a parent can hear these things and not take action to benefit their child.

It becomes quite apparent that Cyndy seems to have low self-esteem and is depressed. Her reactions to her peers really illustrate her desperate need to be validated in some way. How she tries to get this validation is understandable, though upsetting to read.

An unflinchingly honest read. Definitely not pleasant, but certainly important.

‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ – Kerri Maniscalco

After the events of Stalking Jack the Ripper Audrey and Thomas are in need of respite and she flees the country, determined to win a place to study at the renowned forensics academy in Romania.  Unfortunately the academy is in the home of the man known as Count Dracula, and things do not go smoothly.

The journey is fraught with tension, and the discovery of  a body drained of blood sparks their curiosity. Rather than turn a blind eye, Audrey is determined to prove her worth and work out what is going on.

As the body count is hiked up, Audrey and Thomas are thrown into increasingly dangerous situations. Their developing relationship is a wonderful blend of humour and tension, and while we might not be wholly convinced by the reality of the predicaments in which they find themselves it makes for great reading.

Personally, I cannot wait for book three and can’t wait to find out what situation they will find themselves in when they journey to America.

‘Satellite’ – Nick Lake

Satellite is one of those reads that had some wonderful moments but which also left me feeling rather flat. A tough one to review, and this will be one that I think splits views.

In this novel Lake focuses us on Leo, a young boy born in space who is desperate to ‘go home’, to earth. It’s a journey he and his two companions, Libra and Orion, have been looking forward to for as long as they can remember.

Our story is split into distinct parts. We watch the teens in space, planning their lives on earth. We see them journey to earth and look at their experiences. Then, perhaps most oddly, we return from whence we came.

Leo’s voice is distinctive. Overcoming the writing style will be a big factor in your response to the story. It’s written in what seems to mirror the language of the transmissions that Leo and the others are used to communicating in, and clearly marks Leo out as ‘other’ – an alien in his environment. However, if you can look beneath this you’ll probably find yourself quite taken with these kids.

As we learn more about Leo’s family, and get a sense of just where he’s come from, it’s hard not to fall a little under his spell. Seeing the experience of life on earth from the view of someone who’s not physically prepared for it is intriguing. Watching the relationships Leo has develop is pretty compelling.

Unfortunately, much as I liked Leo and grew to care for him I felt the latter stages of the novel took us so far into the realms of incredibility that I really didn’t enjoy it as I’d hoped to.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for my thoughts.

‘The Empty Grave’ – Jonathan Stroud

I was so impatient for this, and found myself desperate to finish it while being reluctant to get to the end. No more? There’s options, and I’m certain we could dip further into Lockwood & co and what happens to them following this book…yet there’s something bittersweet about knowing that there could still be a story to tell and not getting it.

We open fully aware that this is going to be a humdinger of a case. Lucy admits that this case is their biggest yet, and it has far-reaching consequences.
The dynamics between Lockwood, Holly, George and Lucy remain fresh and funny. They are quickly caught up in an investigation into possibly the biggest upset of the series…the exact situation regarding Penelope Fittes. I didn’t see this coming, and it was ripe for exciting scenes on the other side, battles and ghostly goings-on.

For me, there were two strands that were focused on in this book that just caught me by the heart-strings and tugged over and over again. It may be a story about ghosts, but I wanted Lucy and Lockwood together. Their attraction was even more obvious here, and I was excited to see how he opened up to her. His backstory and the details surrounding his family were just what was required, and though it’s been all too obvious how they feel about each other I like that Stroud has kept this under the surface.

Oddly the love story that has most impact for me in this series is that surrounding Lucy and the skull. From the moment she could hear its vile mutterings we’ve known Lucy and the skull share a special bond. He is a character crucial to events but the kind of character who entertains and infuriates in equal measure. His comments towards Lockwood certainly show his feelings for Lucy, and this book was all about whether she’d trust him. How can a spirit character who spends his time chained to a jar be the character I’m most engaged by? Simple…his actions later in the book were just beautiful. That glimpse on the windowsill at the end is just enough for me to hope that his actions weren’t in vain.