Mini ARC Reviews: Letters to the Lost, Pretty Fierce, Zenn Diagram, and Done Dirt Cheap

Posted April 3, 2017 / Book Reviews / 9 Comments

Am I the only one with a million ARCs of books releasing this month?! (Even this week in particular!) I wanted to bring together a few reviews here because there are just too many to include. I read some of these a long time ago and a couple of them more recently, but I’m going to pat myself on the back for getting a good portion of them done before their release date. All of these ones were mostly enjoyable – a few more than others – so be sure to read on! 😉

S H O R T  &  S W E E T   A R C   R E V I E W S

I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.

Mini ARC Reviews: Letters to the Lost, Pretty Fierce, Zenn Diagram, and Done Dirt CheapLetters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published by Bloomsbury on April 4th 2017
Format: eARC (400 pages) • Source: Publisher
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four-stars

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Declan and Juliet were definitely interesting characters who were going through a LOT of shit. The premise of writing letters to each other was really sweet; I love the whole “hidden identity” letter-writing/online-chatting trope. There’s always the torturous waiting game to see when one or both of them realize who the other person is. In this case, it was fairly complicated as they grew to know each other IRL too.

Like I said, both had a lot going on. Juliet was dealing with the unexpected death of her mother from earlier that year. Declan was dealing with community service requirements and big family-related issues. He was always angry and closed off from literally everyone, and Juliet was fairly similar except she was sad instead of mad. It was hard to connect with both of them because they were so closed off… even if you are reading their thoughts. Juliet was very judgmental and constantly assumed the worst of people, which I didn’t get as much? She didn’t have a reason to be hardened to other people. I think it may have been more of a message about how people assume things about those with criminal records, and she was really just like countless other people. I was happy to see her learn from those initial reactions, but I don’t think other characters (like her best friend Rowan) really got developed enough or learned that same lesson. Rowan basically disappeared once a side character swept her away. I didn’t really get it, especially because Declan’s best friend, Rev, was a constant throughout the story and very important to them.

I became more and more invested in the story as it developed and more twists were revealed. I saw a lot of things coming, but there were a few I didn’t expect at all. I like when contemporary books aren’t predictable.This one was definitely heavier than I was expecting for some reason. I haven’t read sad, heartfelt contemporaries in a while! It was definitely a nice change of pace for me.

I think my biggest issue is that I couldn’t connect with them – both as individual characters and as a potential ship/couple – and the story itself didn’t hit me as hard as I wanted. Maybe I was reading with a chip on my shoulder for some reason, but I just didn’t feel as wowed or emotional as I expected once the story picked up speed.

I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.

Mini ARC Reviews: Letters to the Lost, Pretty Fierce, Zenn Diagram, and Done Dirt CheapPretty Fierce by Kieran Scott
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Published by Sourcebooks on April 4th 2017
Also by this author: Only Everything, Complete Nothing, Something True
Format: eARC (320 pages) • Source: Publisher
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four-stars

Kaia has been on the run her whole life. The daughter of professional assassins, she knows true danger—and she’ll do anything to survive. After her parents vanished during a job gone bad, Kaia’s spent the last year in hiding, trying to blend in as an ordinary teenager, and there’s no one who makes her feel more normal or more special than her boyfriend, Oliver.

But when she’s jumped by a hit man, and Oliver catches her fighting back, Kaia’s secret is exposed. In a split-second decision, she flees the small town, taking Oliver with her. With professional killers stalking their every move, can Oliver and Kaia protect each other long enough to uncover the mysteries of her past?

As you probably know, Kate Brian / Kieran Scott is one of my favorite authors. She’s an auto-buy for me and really has been since I was in high school. There is just something about her writing that draws me in, makes me feel nostaglic, and keeps me engaged after all these years. I still have some of her backlist books to read, but I moved very quickly to request PRETTY FIERCE. I don’t really read books about assassins but do enjoy the occasional spy-related series.

The first step in this story? Suspend your disbelief. You really have to just let yourself enjoy it and not think about how ridiculously crazy the idea of this story is. There are so many wild twists that happen later on that you can’t believe you’re reading in a YA novel instead of watching a soap opera.

I liked that Kaia and her boyfriend were kicking ass together instead of this being a romance that starts in the book. The couple is already together before the book and the events of the book make them stronger. I liked learning about their histories but think some of it was a little glossed over. (Oliver was kind of a cliche, but I still really loved him!) I would have been interested to see a chapter or two of her “regular life” before the action gets going. Things speed up pretty damn quickly.

Overall, this story kept me turning pages. I was fully engaged and intrigued from start to finish. I would think about giving this 4.5 stars but the sheer insanity of what happens (and how unlikely it all really is) kind of takes away some of it now in hindsight. I didn’t think it was a big deal as I was reading because I was engrossed, but stepping off of the roller coaster makes me think a little differently. I highly recommend this!

I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.

Mini ARC Reviews: Letters to the Lost, Pretty Fierce, Zenn Diagram, and Done Dirt CheapZenn Diagram by Wendy Brant
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Published by Corus on April 4th 2017
Format: ARC (328 pages) • Source: Author
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three-half-stars

Eva Walker is a seventeen-year-old math genius. And if that doesn’t do wonders for her popularity, there’s another thing that makes it even worse: when she touches another person or anything that belongs to them — from clothes to textbooks to cell phones — she sees a vision of their emotions. She can read a person’s fears and anxieties, their secrets and loves … and what they have yet to learn about calculus. This is helpful for her work as a math tutor, but it means she can never get close to people. Eva avoids touching anyone and everyone. People think it’s because she’s a clean freak — with the emphasis on freak — but it’s all she can do to protect herself from other people’s issues.

Then one day a new student walks into Eva’s life. His jacket gives off so much emotional trauma that she falls to the floor. Eva is instantly drawn to Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist who also has a troubled home life, and her feelings only grow when she realizes that she can touch Zenn’s skin without having visions. But when she discovers the history that links them, the truth threatens to tear the two apart.

I talked about this book A LOT before its publication. I loved the idea of being able to touch anyone and understand their deepest feelings, fears, and thoughts. Wendy Brant made sure I had an ARC to check out, so I hopped to it this March. It was a really interesting story that I ended up enjoying, but not 100% loving as much as I had hoped.

Zenn and Eva were intriguing, complex, and real. I liked Eva’s sense of humor most of the time and her banter with Zenn was totalllllyy top-notch. Also, sex-positive! Weeee! Otherwise, their backstories were not “normal” and they didn’t let certain things get in their way (to an extent… of course there was still teen miscommunication and the like). The whole touching thing was a fun aspect to the story but didn’t have as much importance as I expected for some reason? It was THERE and discussed and dealt with, but the story was even more about their romance than that.

I think if I were to complain about anything, I’d say some of Eva’s thoughts about other girls got a little annoying? I can’t find the right words to explain it really because I’m okay with imperfect teens that aren’t little angels all the time, constantly thinking positively about everyone around them. One of my biggest turnoffs for a book is anything relating to Asian stereotypes and at one point Zenn makes a joke about being a quarter Asian and thus good at math. It was really annoying and I almost DNFed on the spot because I just hate that kind of thing. There were other “she’s not like other girls” statements about people (like her best friend Charlotte) that also grated on my nerves.

I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.

Mini ARC Reviews: Letters to the Lost, Pretty Fierce, Zenn Diagram, and Done Dirt CheapDone Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published by Abrams on March 7th 2017
Format: eARC (336 pages) • Source: Publisher
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three-half-stars

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens. Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of Hazard, a powerful attorney: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline. But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.

I almost don’t want to rate this because I appreciate the story, but this book wasn’t for me. I thought I could get past a few things (primarily the motorcycle gang stuff I don’t care to read about) but I wasn’t ever able to settle into this book. The first 30% or so was confusing; I couldn’t figure out the motorcycle gang stuff, needed more background, and it just never clicked into place. This continued in various scenes throughout the book too.

I liked the characters a lot. The passage below that I stole from Cristina’s reviewwhich I highly recommend you read, by the way – really sums their friendship up nicely:

Tourmaline and Virginia never have a conventional friendship, and are often at odds with each other’s desires and methods. Yet they keep gravitating toward each other for the solitude and safety that can only be found by standing with another woman in a life dominated by men. They draw their strengths and personalities from very different backgrounds (Virginia from the terror of an abusive family, Tourmaline from the comfort of being a loved daughter), but at the core of the novel is the overarching theme that it is still very difficult to be a woman and be taken seriously, and be given the autonomy to run your own life, even in 21st century, modern day society.

There were some pretty crazy reveals during the story that I really didn’t see coming. I liked watching everything play out and wondering what was going to come up next. It was a slow read for me, but there was a decent amount of action and revelations. I forced myself to keep reading because I was vaguely curious about how it’d all end. I liked the girl gang vibes and the strong friendship that developed. If the premise intrigues you, I’m SURE you’ll love it. Even if the premise doesn’t intrigue you that much and you love strong friendships and solid romance, you’ll probably also like it. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t connect with the story and the writing, while also appreciating it so much.

9 responses to “Mini ARC Reviews: Letters to the Lost, Pretty Fierce, Zenn Diagram, and Done Dirt Cheap

  1. Gah I have a million ARCs this month and next. Totally overloaded!! I have Zenn Diagram to get to soon. Not into the whole stereotyping thing but I will have to see. Letters to the Lost has been getting so much attention I need to check it out. Great reviews!!

  2. I am really looking forward to reading Letters to the Lost. I have an ARC of Zenn Diagram, but I haven’t read it yet since two jobs and grad school has been kind of keeping me busy. Pretty Fierce sounds good. I feel like assassins and spies are really coming out strong lately. I love it!

  3. I’ve been seeing Pretty Fierce around and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of Kieran Scott before! Her books sound right up my alley (especially the whole assassin/hidden identity/preexisting romance thing). Hopefully I’ll be able to read some of her books this year! It sounds like you really enjoyed Pretty Fierce so I have high hopes 🙂 Lovely reviews, Lauren!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

  4. I really liked Letters to the Lost! I think I actually downloaded it after seeing it here! 🙂 I didn’t feel wowed or emotional about the story either. It was still a captivating read!

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