2 Mini Book Reviews: DARE YOU TO LIE and DAMSEL

DARE YOU TO LIE - Amber Lynn Natusch
Published: September 2018 - Tor Teen.
Genres: Young adult / contemporary / thriller / romance
Pages: 320.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence / sexual innuendo / infrequent strong language.
Format: eARC.
Source: Netgalley.
When her FBI agent father is framed for murder, Kylene is forced to move in with her grandfather, back to the small town that turned its back on her, and the boy who betrayed her. All Ky cares about is clearing her father’s name, but someone won’t let her forget the photo scandal that drove her away two years ago. As the threats gain momentum, Ky finds an unlikely ally in the rookie FBI agent sent to keep an eye on her. Determined to expose the town's hidden skeletons, Ky unwittingly thrusts herself into a much bigger plot.

They thought she’d forgive and forget. They’re about to learn they messed with the wrong girl.

I was hooked by that premise and the fantastic cover. I had high expectations for the story inside.

The dialogue is good, but unfortunately the rest of the writing isn't. There's too much telling and heroine's point of view is distant. I also found the so-called humour extremely cringy and cheesy.

The characters do their job, I guess, but they aren't great. Everyone is vivid (yay!) but they're really annoying people ;) Kylene, especially. I hate how everyone loves her and thinks she's so hilarious and witty and smart and tough - even one of the bad guys admits she's smart, tough, and pretty. It grinds on my nerves. It's like the author's trying to make us love her character by having every character in her book like her. Ugh.

Kylene is also a real brat. She's so disrespectful to her peers, and she's a bully. She's also flipping arrogant ("Come on! You wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for me and my genius!")

The story is very cheesy. But I must admit it's entertaining. It might not be well written and the characters may not be good, but the story is fast, fun, and easy to read. The ending is also exciting and the action's frequent. I enjoyed it - when I could look past its issues (one of those being the gratuitous violence that's often just there for thrills, not plot necessity).

DAMSEL - Elana K. Arnold.
Published: October 2018 - Balzer + Bay.
Genres: Young adult / high fantasy
Pages: 320.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong violence / strong themes of abuse / graphic attempted rape / strong sexual innuendos
Format: eARC.
Source: Borrowed.

The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been. When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court. However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.

I buddy-read this novel with the lovely Di from Book Reviews By Di. We had a great time chatting, and you should check out her review HERE.

This was one powerful, original book. If you love character-driven dark stories that delve into relevant, hectic themes, go read this one!

Arnold's writing is exceptional. There's a real classic Grimm-fairytale sense to her style, and the dialogue is just as strong. The atmosphere is dark but rich, and the story (although very mature and brutal) is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and utterly gripping. However, it is largely character driven and introspective, so don't expect tons of action. It isn't boring (at least I don't think so) but it's not action-packed.
I love how Arnold takes the "rescuing the damsel from the dragon" troupe and twists it into a horrifying but impactful tale of abuse and misogyny. She does it brilliantly, although disturbingly.

I adored the heroine, Ama, and I liked her relationship with her little lynx pet, too. The other characters in the story are equally vivid. But they're basically all villains, so I can't say I loved them ;)

My only problem with the story is the ending. It's satisfying to an extent, except it's also too abrupt. I wanted more of the story and character relationships to come to a head and be resolved. Unfortunately, they weren't.  It's all too sudden and limited.

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