Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

September 5, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

Hanging by a Thread by Sophie LittlefieldHanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield Published by Delacorte BFYR on September 11, 2012
Genres: Mystery, YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
three-stars
Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and the Fourth of July is the highlight of the season. But the perfect town Clare remembers has changed, and everyone is praying that this summer will be different from the last two—that this year's Fourth of July festival won't see one of their own vanish without a trace, leaving no leads and no suspects. The media are in a frenzy predicting a third disappearance, but the town depends on tourist dollars, so the residents of Winston are trying desperately to pretend nothing's wrong.

And they're not the only ones hiding something.

Clare, a seamstress who redesigns vintage clothing, has been blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a gift: she can see people's pasts when she touches their clothes. When she stumbles across a denim jacket that once belonged to Amanda Stavros, last year's Fourth of July victim, Clare sees her perfect town begin to come apart at the seams.

In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?

There are a lot of things parents will do for their children. Some will stay in unpleasant situations for the sake of keeping their children safe and happy. Some will break the law (as I learned when my own mother covered what is normally an estimated forty-five minute drive in about twenty minutes trying to get home when something happened to my brother). As well as being a satisfying mystery, Hanging by a Thread is a wonderful illustration of just how far a parent can go for their child.

Clare’s descriptions of what she did with clothing made little sense to me (I am not a fashion person in any sense), but they were charged with such authentic passion for what she was doing that I loved them anyway. The only element of the novel stronger than her voice and descriptions were the interpersonal relationships of Clare and her mother. No, that’s not right. The relationships of multiple characters with their mothers–Clare’s mom with her own mother, Rachel and her mother, and Mrs. Stavros’s struggle after her daughter’s death, along with Clare and her mom–together really make Hanging by a Thread shine.

Her presence could have been stronger, but I liked to see Clare’s mother be given a strong personality and depth when so many books forget about the parents. Her bitterness toward her mother Nana for the trouble Nana’s psychometry (a gift that Clare inherited and used relatively well) caused her, the fights she had with Clare over her life–they felt real. I honestly felt sorry for her after some of the things her daughter said to her. I thought a few times that Clare, as good as her intentions were, needed to butt out of her mother’s life.

My main problem with this book? Jack. More specifically, the romantic relationship between Clare and Jack. It was insta-love from their first conversation over clothes and it never got any better. Why did they like each other? What interests do they share? I have absolutely no idea why these two people are infatuated with one another. Honestly and truly, this book would have earned itself one more star had it not been for this poorly written romance.

Once Clare gets to using everything she has learned to unravel the mystery, everything she didn’t know but needed to know is dumped upon her by another character for two straight chapters. The information itself is shocking because it wasn’t an obvious answer to me, but its delivery was so dry and lacking in finesse that all the shock I should have felt was drained away.

One of my friends gave a glowing review to one of Littlefield’s other books, but I’m not sure I’ll try to read any of her other works after what I’ve found in Hanging by a Thread. I’m scared the romantic angle will end up messing up an otherwise great book like it did here and I can only take so much of that kind of frustration per year. Meeting my quota so early in the year would not be a good idea, I think. Still, the potential shown in Hanging by a Thread to create strong relationships between family members makes it a possibility.

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Living Violet by Jaime Reed

September 1, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★½

Living Violet by Jaime ReedLiving Violet by Jaime Reed Published by Dafina/K-Teen on December 27, 2011
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
three-half-stars
He's persuasive, charming, and way too mysterious. And for Samara Marshall, her co-worker is everything she wants most--and everything she most fears. . .

Samara Marshall is determined to make the summer before her senior year the best ever. Her plan: enjoy downtime with friends and work to save up cash for her dream car. Summer romance is not on her to-do list, but uncovering the truth about her flirtatious co-worker, Caleb Baker, is. From the peculiar glow to his eyes to the unfortunate events that befall the girls who pine after him, Samara is the only one to sense danger behind his smile.

But Caleb's secrets are drawing Samara into a world where the laws of attraction are a means of survival. And as a sinister power closes in on those she loves, Samara must take a risk that will change her life forever. . .or consume it.

Living Violet didn’t really have any expectations to live up to, but if it had had any, it surpassed them easily. So much fluff that I could choke on it! A heroine with a brain! The cover might make it seem SUPER SRS, but this book is not that serious and overdramatic. It’s pretty funny, actually.

Samara’s narrative voice flows well and her story is compulsively readable. Rather than reading a few chapters at a time, I read the entire book in three or four quick bursts where I couldn’t get enough. She’s got a good brain in her head too; multiple times, she’s not afraid to enforce some boundaries on Caleb and get some distance when things become too much for her to handle. She also recognizes that Google is not very helpful when it comes to finding out more about one’s supernatural boyfriend. More than one silly trope in YA PNR gets picked on and most of the time, it’s done pretty well.

Though the novel lost direction for a while roughly halfway through, finding the motivation to read on was rarely a problem. Samara’s wisecracking as she poked the tropes, her developing relationship with Caleb, and the development of Reed’s fascinating mythology behind the Cambions were what usually kept me going. Even though low blows at popular books normally irritate me, this one’s attempt at it (complete with a teenage girl who says others are just jealous and don’t get it the way a troll on someone’s review might) made me start giggling. Those sections are highlighted so I can get back to them more easily.

So what kept me from giving what was one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in recent memory a higher rating? For one, the writing was a little… over-the-top sometimes. One line where Caleb’s gaze was able to disrobe and deflower her while still looking innocent had me rolling my eyes and there were similar moments throughout the novel. Samara also had three strikes against her for calling a guy a man-whore (that’s not okay no matter what gender they are), calling some preteen girls prostitots (I have NO respect for anyone real or fictional who has no problem using this word), and use of “retarded” to call something stupid. I don’t quite care if it’s “realistic”; it still makes me angry.

The implications of one of the reasons Samara is able to resist Caleb’s pull is rather iffy too. She can resist because she’s a virgin and is satisfied with her love life as it is, but girls who have had sex or are somewhat unhappy with their love life will throw themselves at Caleb–sometimes literally. Basically, if they’ve had a taste of guys, these girls can’t stop themselves sometimes. (That leaves me asking: what about the gay people? Are lesbians attracted to Caleb just because they’re female? Are gay guys attracted to him on his own merits or does the pull affect them too?)

I was entertained enough by Living Violet to want its sequel Burning Emerald ASAP (though it helps that the sequel’s blurb says something about the antagonist wanting Samara; I’m a crackshipper by nature and that blurb dangled catnip in front of my face). If you’re in a bad mood and need something sweet and fluffy, check this book out. Who knows? All the sweets consumed in-book might even keep you from going for comfort food instead!

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