Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Book Reviews: Famous Last Words by Katie Alender, Say Her Name by James Dawson & Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian.

You’d think that living in the Hollywood Hills in the sumptuous former home of a famous (dead) Hollywood actress would be a dream come true for most seventeen year old girls. Not so the protagonist of Katie Alender’s Famous Last Words.  Haunted by her father’s death two years previously, Willa is not impressed by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and she’s also not looking forward to playing happy families with her mom’s new movie-director husband, Jonathan. Willa is still wracked with grief over the circumstances of her father’s death, and even though her mom has clearly moved on – Willa just can’t - so much so that she repeatedly tries to contact her dad’s spirit. Uh, bad idea. Willa, then, is not your typical teen. Not until she meets Jonathan’s hot assistant, a guy called Reed. These two connect from the off and it’s safe to say that Willa has an almighty crush on this older guy. Reed just seems to get Willa, and he totally gets that going to a school full of Hollywood brats when you’re the new kid in town is not so much fun. 

One of those brats is Wyatt, the school weirdo – according to Marnie, a sometime mean girl who has taken Willa under her wing – who seems unhealthily obsessed with a spate of murders that have recently occurred in which wannabe actresses are lured to their deaths and forced to re-enact ‘kill’ scenes from a bunch of famous movies (e.g. The Birds) What does all of this have to do with Willa? Well, she’s got Wyatt’s attention, for one, and oh yeah, there’s a ghost haunting her house; a ghost that wants her to find out the truth about the Hollywood Killer before it’s too late.

I have to say that the premise of this book is AMAZING!  A Hollywood setting and a serial killer whose calling card is to re-enact famous scenes from old movies. I’m all about movies and I especially love old Hollywood, so I have been itching to read this book for a while. And it’s good. Famous Last Words gets off to a little bit of a slow start, but once it picks up, it’s is an action-packed and multi-layered mystery that makes for a fun reading experience. The reasons that I liked but didn’t love this book. Well, those are two-fold: first up – the identity of the Hollywood Killer is far too obvious. And I mean glaringly obvious right from the start, so the book loses points for that. Also, the character of Willa. Now, I don’t have to like everything about a character, but Willa is a really hard sell. The only time I came close to liking her at all was near the end of the book. Otherwise, I didn’t much like her at all. Also, the romance/s were a miss for me.

I was also hoping for a better explanation as to the Hollywood Killer’s motivations. Such a backstory might have bumped this one up to a four – especially after a certain very interesting remark the killer made, which was never explored any further. Instead, the killer’s motivation was all wrapped up in a throwaway one-line explanation, which just didn’t cut it with me. 

Famous Last Words gets top marks for setting and premise, but the execution was just a little lacking at times.


Famous Last Words by Katie Alender.  Publisher: Scholastic.  Release date: Sept. 30th 2014.  Ages: 12+.  My Rating: 3½ out of 5. Source: Purchased.

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It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of horror and I especially love a good urban legend. I love the nineties movie Urban Legend too. Have you seen it? It’s all good, scary fun. Check it out.  Say Her Name by James Dawson, which updates the ‘Bloody Mary’ myth for a contemporary audience – and is set at a spooky old boarding school to boot –introduces us to no-nonsense-but-keen-to-keep-her-head-down-and-never-cause-a-fuss Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Rowe. One night, Bobbie, along with her exuberant best friend Naya and a cute guy call Caine decide to summon the ghost of ‘Bloody Mary’ by saying her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror – the story goes that Mary haunts the halls of Bobbie’s school, and if you call her, then she’ll appear.

Really bad idea guys!

Soon enough, strange things start happening, and when a girl at her school – who also summoned Mary – disappears, Bobbie soon learns that she has only FIVE DAYS in which to stop the same thing happening to her. Bobbie feels that Mary is trying to tell her something. But what? She’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding Mary, because Bobbie is pretty sure she doesn’t want to disappear from this earth: especially not now that she’s crushing madly on Caine. And surely she can’t die having never been kissed. That really would be a tragedy.

Say Her Name is all about the scares, but it’s also infused with Dawson’s trademark wit, which makes for a fun –often laugh-out-loud -reading experience. I’d love to see this on the big screen: Say Her Name would make a great teen horror movie, with its dash of romance, general creepiness and some deliciously wicked twists. That said, I liked rather than loved this book, mainly because I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, but also because I felt that it borrowed quite heavily from certain horror movies at times – namely The Ring. Here we have five days instead of seven – and Mary very much resembles that little bundle of fun, Samara.

Say Her Name is Urban Legend meets The Ring: a fun reading experience and a good addition to the ever-growing YA horror scene. There is so much more to Mary’s story than first meets the eye; and I’d love to read an origin story somewhere down the line.


Say Her Name by James Dawson.  Publisher: Hot Key Books.  Release date: June 5th 2014.  Ages: YA.  My Rating: 3½ out of 5. Source: Received from publisher for review.

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BEWARE: BIG SPOILERS FOR PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES IN THIS REVIEW!

From one scary Mary to another in Ashes to Ashes the final book in Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian’s hit-and-miss Burn for Burn trilogy.

First up, before I even start this review I have to admit that when I started reading this book I drew a complete blank as to what had happened in the previous book Fire with Fire. OK, so not a complete blank: I remembered the MAJOR TWIST right at the end of Fire with Fire when it’s revealed that Mary, is in fact, not just a really weird girl, but an actual ghost. If you think about it, the signs were there all along. I liked that twist. It was well played and basically saved Fire with Fire for me, because other than that twist and Lilia’s trip to Boston with Lindy, I didn’t really enjoy the second instalment in this series. Maybe that’s why my recall was so sketchy.

So, we’re back with the girls, and Rennie is dead (I did not remember that happening at all! Ooops!), Lilia is crazy in love with Reeve, but obviously feeling the guilt, and Kat is super stressed and smoking a lot of cigarettes. As for Mary, well, she’s nowhere to be found.  We know that she’s still around –her spirit stranded on Jar Island- but Lilia and Kat are oblivious to the fact and Mary thinks they should try harder to find out what’s going on with her. She disappeared from their lives and here they are carrying on as normal. Were they ever really her friends at all? Mary’s ghostly worldview is warped; if she’d just learn how to let it go, then she could possibly rest in peace. But she won’t do it. And what really irks her is that Lilia is hooking up with Reeve. In Mary’s eyes, that’s a betrayal. She wants revenge on Reeve –the boy who ruined her life – and this time she won’t stop till he’s dead. Eeek!

What started as a game of revenge has suddenly taken the deadliest of turns. Can Lilia and Kat stop Mary before it’s too late? And how many times can Lil reject Lindy before he’ll finally give up on her?!  FYI: I’m a big Lindy fan. That guy, so sweet. Le sigh.

Ashes to Ashes provides all the answers and more in what is an action-packed ending to the series. There’s also an epilogue which jumps into the future lives of all the players here. I liked the ending to this book; it was maybe not the sugar-coated happily ever after for everyone here –and not the ending that everyone expected or hoped for- but it definitely rang true to these characters for me.


Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian.  Publisher: Simon & Schuster.  Release date: Sept. 16th 2014.  Ages: 14+.  My Rating: 3½ out of 5.  Other Books in Series: Burn for Burn, Fire with Fire. Overall Series Rating:  3 out of 5. Source: Purchased.

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1 comment :

  1. ChristinaBookAddict17 December 2014 at 12:55

    I agree that Famous Last Words has an awesome premise…too bad it was a bit disappointing. Even though I love Jenny Han, I wasn't in love with Burn for Burn, so I didn't pick up book two. Looks like I may have made the right decision based on your review of Ashes to Ashes. Thanks for the honest reviews!

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