S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett

So I was just going through my list of ‘read’ books for this year on Goodreads and I have read 25 books not including short stories and what-not. That’s pretty much on-track with my reading goals, so YAY for me! Blog-wise I have also made exactly 25 posts, but they aren’t all bookish, some of them are Tag Tuesdays or Readathons or Monthly Wrap-ups or whatever so I have a little catching up to do on my reviews! That’s what my blog is supposed to be doing, afterall! So without further ado, here is one I missed!:

Title: S.T.A.G.S.
Author: 
M.A. Bennett
Pages: 296 pages, Hardcover
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press

35926234STAGS is a boarding school for the wealthy elite. Greer (“Grey-uh” for us Americans who are un-used to seeing this name) is admitted on a scholarship, whereas most other students at the school have had generations of attendees in their families. When Greer and two other new/outcast students are invited for a weekend of “Huntin’. Shootin’. Fishin'” with the Medievals (the elite clique of students at the school), she is warned against going by a former friend, but ultimately decides to go, seeing it as a chance to finally make friends and be accepted. What occurs instead is a weekend of veiled bullying and the thrill of the chase.

I honestly feel that this is one of the better YA thrillers I have read lately. That being said, though, the book certainly has its flaws. However, regarding the genre, I thought M.A. Bennett did a terrific job of setting up a bit of background for the Medievals by showing them flaunting their personal family lineage back to the crusades in class and even around the dinner table. Their shady words alluding to hatred of outsiders was a first clue as to their true motives. However, their talk is so flowery and conversation so natural that who would really think that there was a threat present? Nel just wants to make friends, Greer wants conversation, and Shafeen wants to stand up for himself.

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Borrowed from Alba in Bookland.

The setting in a boarding school and then a large family estate on the moors of Northumberland was also perfect. Beautiful, yet ominous and eerie…much like the Medievals themselves. I could just imagine mists and fog and these elite teenagers showing off their knowledge of “huntin’, shootin’, and fishin'” to the outcasts who had never or who had hardly been exposed to that before. It truly was another world for the three outsiders, or “Savages” as they came to be called. The author’s descriptions were just wonderful and added an extra dimension of creep factor.

Despite the good in the book, I will admit that I never felt fully invested or connected in the main characters. I cared for them, yes, but I was preoccupied with the bigger picture in the book. Greer is a teenage narrator who really reads like a teenager. She is constantly referencing movies–which I didn’t mind much, and it sort of made sense since her father makes films–and jumping around in her telling of the story (“But that was not nearly as bad as what was to happen next,” etc.). I could do without that. I felt that some of the descriptions were too drawn out and the action too underplayed. I wanted a bit more out of those.

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And of course, the ending. I like the concept and how the book wrapped up. Certain aspects I saw coming, while others were a nice touch. If ever there was a book that should be a movie, its this one. I can absolutely see this as a screenplay and I would definitely go see it.

Book Soundtrack: Danse macabre, Op. 40 by Camille Saint-Saens

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Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

22663629All righty, I’m a little bit torn about this book. First off, I listened to the audiobook and I feel like that always throws my rating off a little bit. Was it the book I did/didn’t like or was did the reader throw my bias a bit? I actually thought the reader was pretty good on this book. She has a dramatic voice without being over the top or whiney or overdone or anything like that. I thought she was right where she needed to be. So great job to the narrator, in my opinion.

It is important to go into this book with an open mind. Just read the synopsis and go with it–don’t assume this or that, just let the story unfold. I’ve read several of the other reviews on this book and trust me, readers who expect one thing or the other only set themselves up for disappointment and this book truly is unique.

What Kali Wallace has done with Shallow Graves–in my opinion, at least–is create a unique kind of story. I don’t think I have read a book quite like this, where the main character wakes up dead and not remembering why. The mystery is who killed her, what type of creature she is, what other creatures actually live in the world, who is friend and who is foe, and how is she supposed to move on from here. There are several creep factor moments and then the book has its lulls…but overall, I was pretty entranced with the book so I recommend as a good fall/Autumn book!

Book soundtrack: “Graveyard” by The Devil Makes Three

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First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

20795198_995366038329_2075362817_oThis book has me left with mixed emotions! No, scratch that. This book has left me an emotional wreck! Let me first say that I am a big fan of thrillers and there aren’t too many in the YA genre so when one releases, I am ON IT! I dove into First We Were IV with a fiery fury. Pranks, secrets, a murder mystery…all the yes!!

Here comes the actual synopsis: Izzy (often called “Icky” by the popular kids in school), Viv, Graham, and Harry are best friends. They only have each other and are often pushed around by their peers, some rivalries even stemming back as far as elementary school. NO MORE, they decide. So this, coupled with the fact that the four best friends will soon be parting ways for college, leads them to form the Order of IV, a “secret society” of the four friends created for pranks, fun, and forever memories. All they wanted was to be included in parties and to keep in touch. Of course that’s not how it ends. Of course it escalates….and I’ll let you read all of that for yourself.

So in my opinion, the beginning is interesting, and the ending rocked me to my core. The middle 300 pages were filled with 95% eye-rolling drama and 5% interesting plot. For me, the murder mystery with Jane Doe was so disconnected from the central characters….I just didn’t understand why Izzy cared so much to begin with. Maybe if the incident occurred a week ago, or if it was her cousin she was seeking justice for, or if she really had PTSD. I’m not trying to be cold or like I don’t care about missing persons cases but really, there was no real reason why Izzy cared. I don’t get it! Harry had a reason to want to pursue crimes against his father, yet they didn’t pursue those. I get that. But Izzy was selfish. This was hugely unsettling (and mildly boring and even confusing) to me.

While I didn’t like this, it was also an ironic point in the book. Live in the moment. Just be with your friends and loved ones. When friends are so loved and so close like this group is, there shouldn’t be competition of who loves who more; of who was friends first, or of which memories are better or stronger. Just make the most of everything. Bullies and adults will do what they will but you have each other and that is the strongest thing and that is better than anything than they will ever know (haven’t you seen Harry Potter? lol – just kidding). So that’s what I felt was a theme, who knows if that was an actual intent of the author.

MAJOR SPOILER IN WHITE – WARNING – DON’T HIGHLIGHT UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK – FINAL NOTE: HOW DID THEY GET AWAY WITH ALL OF THAT? NO WAY! WHAT?! 

Soundtrack: “Your Song” by Elton John

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