Charlie, Presumed Dead

by Anne Heltzel

Reviewed by SA

This book was really nothing like I expected. I went into it expecting a bit of a friendship romp, a world tour with maybe some adventurous aspects, maybe a bit of a mystery: I came out of it shivering, terrified, my heart pounding and my hands trembling. Fair warning: this is much more than just a novel. It will psychologically leave you paranoid and feel like a dagger to your gut, letting you die slowly. And craving more, of course!

Synopsis

When his Cessna breaks apart and explodes over the north sea, the only thing left is a bloody jacket. The pilot, Charlie Price, is presumed dead. His funeral in paris is a small affair, attended only by close family, friends, and his two girlfriends. Neither know of the other’s existence until now: Lena Whitney, a rich, smart blonde who had been dating him three years, and Aubrey Boroughs, an artist who just graduated high school, who has known him, and dated him long distance, for a year, both realize that Charlie had been lying to them… and probably about a lot more than just the other’s existence. There is a whole lot they don’t know about Charlie Price, and it’s time they get some closure and answers. Together they must take a mind-bending trip across the planet: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? And what secrets are they both concealing from each other?

While written very similarly, Aubrey and Lena have very distinct personalities. I liked their interactions, and the bond that began to form through the novel. Understanding what kind of person they are, and if they can trust the other, is a huge struggle for them, but it leads to immense personal growth (at least for one of them) which is surely needed after being dragged along by a man like Charlie. Though I didn’t personally like either of them, I didn’t mind much in this novel, because I was more interested in their path to understanding.

Who even is this Charlie, anyways? The man is slowly revealed through the women’s stories, but also through short tidbits from his mind, short flashbacks the other lets us glimpse. As this is what really impressed me the most in this novel: how much this Charlie can surprise you. He’s one man with one woman, another with the other, and he has some serious, serious problems. Now this blog is spoiler free, that is a promise, so I won’t let you know what we discover about Charlie: but the slow buildup is intriguing, and incredibly disturbing.

It was exciting to see the world through the lens of these two traveling women! Paris is brought to life in front of your eyes – and I could quickly determine that the author was reliable in her descriptions, seeing as how I’m partially french – and then we move down to India, to Thailand… you’re not doing to tourist destinations! It was gorgeous and exciting. You see a side of the world not many get to see, led by Lena, a world traveler, and accompanied by Aubrey, who experiences things for the first time, like us.

The secrets part I was annoyed about. The characters kept saying to themselves “I can’t the other know… my secret” and it felt a little weird, a little uncomfortable. When Aubrey’s secret was revealed, however, I was a little disappointed: It was a bit of a let down. Many things that were pumped up in the book let me down a little when revealed.

In the same way, some of the things seemed a little too easy, too coincidental (though I realize now this has something to do with the ending).  When the girls moved easily from one place to the next, it made some parts of the novel feel a little dull, honestly. But hang in there! The ending itself is a roller coaster, and it really destroyed me on the inside. We neeeeeeeeed a sequel! The way the book slowly warped from girl trip, to girls bonding, to HOLY HECK PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER, was actually pretty masterful. And so incredibly disturbing.

This book was nothing as expected… it will blow your mind.

Check out Charlie, Presumed Dead on Goodreads and Amazon.

A School For Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin

Reviewed by SA

Hands down, this novel may have one of the strongest female characters I have ever seen in YA. It’s also a very fun read, which is sure to entertain, and seems to be just the beginning of a long and enjoyable series. The Stranje House series might be the most girl power you’ll see in a while, and it’s set in Regency England. Sounds awesome, right?

Summary

After (accidentally ) setting stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House, a school intended to turn her into a proper young lady… by any means possible. But things are not always what they seem in her strange new school: there are hidden passageways all throughout the walls, the girls she studies with are smart and secretive, and the headmistress seems to be encouraging them to be more themselves than actually trying to reform them.

With England at war, and Europe in shambles, it seems as though the only hope for the nation lies with Georgiana’s invisible ink formula – which she hasn’t yet actually gotten to work yet. With the young and handsome Sebastian Wyatt as her lab assistant, she must perfect her ink, in order to change the course of the war. But can she get it done in time, and not loose herself to her heart?

The characters in this novel are fantastic. Georgiana is a smart, independent young woman. She’s a scientist, a chemist, with a nose for challenges. While she never found support at home, she seems to thrive at the Stranje house. The headmistress pushes her with real, tangible deadlines (and consequences) and Georgiana rises to the challenge. And when Sebastian turns up in her life, she works to find balance between her feelings and her work. While I found the relationship a little bit forced, Georgiana never loses her head.

The other women in the house are equally interesting. Some even have certain uncanny abilities which you would not expect to find in this kind of novel. One can seemingly speak to animals, another see possible futures in her dreams. They are all incredibly smart and dedicated to their cause.

The one thing that annoyed was the weak plot. It felt a lot like the pilot for a TV show: lots of promise and exciting ideas for the series as a whole, but a shaky story right here and now. A lot of questions are not answered just to keep the story going. If they hadn’t said “not now,” a lot would have been resolved quicker.

However, I feel like the rest of the series will be a whole lot of fun: a spy story, with cool female protagonists? It’s going to be great.