Saturday, December 31, 2016

BEST BOOKS OF 2016 - TOP 16

Hello everyone!

I am back with another yearly wrap up of my favourite reads of the year. As with last year's list, I am sticking with books that I read and were published in/before 2016, not any ARCs I got and loved that come out in 2017. Also, this list is in the order that I read the books, not by any sort of ranking other than favourites. Alright, so lets do this!

1. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
This book is a crazy YA thriller that I managed to devour in 3 hours, staying up until 2am because I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. #noregrets


Basically, the story follows Tessa and Callie, and the murder they witnessed ten years ago. The alleged murderer is proven guilty with the help of a testimony by the two 8 year old girls, after Callie's cousin was strangled to death and laid out by the river, like the other 3 victims of the towns local serial killer, dubbed the Ohio River Monster. After Tessa comes back to town to visit her father in prison, another girl turns up dead, just the way the ORM used to do it. But he's locked in prison for life, isn't he? Ahh there are just so many twists and turns in this book, you will be guessing and shocked until the very last page.

2. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Ok, so following the thriller crave I've been trying to sate this year, I loved this one! Another one that kept me up way past my bedtime because I couldn't put it down.


The story is about Jenna who is trying to get over the recent car accident and death of her child by moving into the English countryside. For the majority of this book, we get two POV's, one of the detectives, Ray, and Jenna, a mother who lost her son, trying to escape her devastating past and move on. This book also has a third POV that comes into play a little bit later, but I won't really get into that, because it will reveal too much.

3. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
After Bracken's trilogy, I was excited to read the first in her next trilogy. This book touched on a lot of issues that are still prevalent today, gender expectations, racial tensions, etc. Told with the magical elements of time travel, Bracken does a fantastic job of weaving an engaging story.



The book follows two main characters, one of which is Henrietta, or Etta for short. She lives with her mom in NYC and is a violin prodigy. One night, at a rehearsal performance, Etta gets thrust into a strange world, landing in the middle of the ocean, on a boat, in 1776. Yup. Enter Nicholas, a sailor on the boat, and the guy tasked with getting Etta and another girl Sophia safely to land to meet Sophia's grandfather. Etta, after being forced to strike a deal with the old man is sent through time, with the help of Nicholas, trying to find a piece of her family's hidden past, in order to save her mother.

4. Every Exquisite Things by Matthew Quick
This book is one that has a lot of mixed reviews, but luckily I loved. Do you ever have a book just get you? I feel like this book got me.



Basically, this is the story of Nanette, an eighteen year old who is stuck. Every day, she and her favourite teacher, her English teacher, eat lunch together in his classroom because she hates the cafeteria and he hates the teacher's lounge. One day, he shares with her his copy of The Bubblegum Reaper, a cult classic that has long been out of print. Immediately she connects with the main character Wrigley, and her teacher introduces her to the author, a personal friend and local almost-recluse, Nigel Booker. The two become friends and Nan explores what it means to be yourself.

5. Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King
Personally, I think the best way to go into a King novel is to know nothing about the story in which you are about to read. You really need to go in knowing nothing too specific about the story.



This is the story of Sarah. She is sixteen years old and has stopped going to school. No one knows why. Her older brother left when he was nineteen, about 6 years ago, when the family got home from their trip to Mexico. Apparently, he was baptized in a river and never looked back. Don't be fooled by this book. You will go into a King novel thinking it will be about one thing, and then she makes it about something else completely. A major aspect shown throughout the novel is domestic abuse and I think King did a brilliant job depicting the abuser's behaviour throughout the novel, and she really showed this abuse in a realistic way.

6. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
Apparently this was the year of reading (and loving) books that were super dark and looking at topics that are often shied away from. This newest book by CoHO is no different.


After reading this book, I get it. I get the Instagram posts of the open heart tattoo; I get the comments from people say this book ripped them apart. Hoover usually does this in her novels anyway, but this one was different because it was so real. This book will be hard for many people. It will hit too close to home; it will go against everything they believed in; it will hurt. But hopefully it will cause change. Understanding that things don't have to be the way they are, that there is hope, that they are not alone.

7. Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras
On the surface, this book seems generic. Smart student makes a mistake and ends up punished for the summer. You've read at least one other book like this before. But this book is better. It is well written, you actually see the characters doing what Kottaras says they are. There is an embodiment of mental illness and the crippling effects it can have.


This book follows Viviana, a 16 year old stressing about everything. Doing well on her AP exams, going to an engineering academy for the summer to hone her skills to be accepted into Stanford for engineering, like her father, just being perfect in general. But when she collapses from exhaustion, coupled with her less than perfect behaviour, including sending a scandalous photo to her then-now-ex boyfriend, who decided he wasn't the only one fit to see it, her parents decide to cancel the engineering academy she was supposed to go to this summer.

8. Faithful by Alice Hoffman
Before I get into recommending this book, please keep in mind that it contains serious trigger warnings for self-harm, sexual assault and suicide. Proceed with caution. This book deals with so much, it is a heavy book. It literally gutted me.



Initially, this story starts out with Shelby, who is still reeling after the car accident that nearly killed her best friend, Helene. Or at least, it might as well have. She is in a coma, no brain activity. She'll never wake up. She'll never speak again. Shelby is ridden with so much guilt for what happened. She was driving, it should have been her who is in the coma. She's a nobody, she wouldn't have been missed much. For years, she just stops living.

9. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Do you ever get that feeling, when you're reading a book that you have to get other people to read it. Not necessarily because it is your favourite, or has a great romance, but because it's just something you want other people to have in their minds, to help them understand, to give them some common sense? I never really had that feeling until this book.



Alex's sister Anna was kidnapped, abused and murdered three years ago. They arrested a suspect, but never had enough evidence to convict him, so he walked free. Alex, however, has a bit of a temper, which she got from her dad before he left, decides to take matters into her own hands. Sure, it's murder, but in that small town, everyone knew he was guilty, and knew he deserved it, so it was never investigated. This story deals with her grieve and so much more. There are feminist elements pointed out that we should all recognize but don't. This book is so IMPORTANT. Even if it doesn't sound like your, pick it up.

10. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
In a refreshing change of pace, we get a male POV, our main character Henry Page. He was funny without trying too hard, and I loved his inner thoughts. When he first met Grace, she ripped a page out of a book and he was "horrified that she'd injured a book." I found a kindred spirit in Henry and loved the story even more because of it.



This story is the definition of bittersweet. You will be laughing one minute and bawling the next. The story looks at the idea of a "Manic Pixie Dream Girl," falling in love with an idea of a person, rather than the actual person. Henry finds Grace's old Facebook page, before whatever happened to her happened, and he falls in love with the her a little more each day, getting glimpses of the person she used to be. Grace is a deeply broken girl, and I'm not sure she will ever be the same as she once was. It was genuine and heartbreaking and I loved it.

11. This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
I love how this book dealt with a lot of different, I don't want to say issues, but sub-genres. There, of course, was the death of Vera and Gabe's mother - and how they were greiving, some LGBT elements; Vera and her girlfriend, and just the general hardships of being a teen.



This is the story of Sloane after her family moves to a small, vacation town in Florida from New York in her senior year of high school. Her father is a best-selling romance author, but after hitting a bit of writers block decided to move the family out the hustle and bustle of the big city. Upon arrival, Sloane meets a set of twins, Vera and Gabe and is fairly quickly absorbed into their group of friends, including Aubrey and Remy, who are trying to work out their post-relationship struggles as it is.

12. The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
I think what I love most about this book is that it is so unique. Maybe it's just because I don't really read a ton of books that deal with time travel, but this book was so different from what I usually read.



Time travel is a major part of this book, like I mentioned, but I really loved how it was done. For people like me who know next to nothing about it, the author made it really easy to follow. Still, at the same time, if that sort of thing interests you, you will get the scientific descriptions, and there's even some diagrams to help explain!

13. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Plot wise, it is kind of an Alice in Wonderland retelling, except the story is all about the Queen of Hearts and how she became this heartless (get it), beheading tyrant. Before she was the Queen, she was Lady Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of a Marquis and Marquess. From very early on in the story, it becomes quite clear that the King of Hearts has chosen Catherine to be his queen. Except she is a baker and dreams of opening the best bakery in all of Hearts.



Meyer, as in the case of Levana from the Lunar Chronicles and her story Fairest, has the brilliant ability to make the reader sympathize with even the cruelest of villains. She humanizes them, showing us how they've become the person they are, the wicked bad guy that everyone remembers from the story. No one bothers to look at their past, they must have just been born evil. I won't get into specifics as to what happens to make Cath's transformation complete, but I will say that when she commands that most famous line at the end of the book, I was right along with her: "Off with his head!"

14. Rebel of the Sands by Alywn Hamilton
This book was wonderfully written and so very interesting! I've never read anything set in the Middle East or any of the Arabian, exotic novels that the YA genre has recently cranked out, this was my first. I can guarantee you, however, it will not be my last!


This story was full of adventure. There weren't many moments where something wasn't happening and when that did happen, we got beautiful stories and tales of the history. I highly recommend this book if you are wanting to get into some more exotic locales. Hamilton does a great job creating a world of excitement and I can't wait for the sequel.

15. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
This book was spectacular, so creepily atmospheric, I only put it down once to eat dinner, and still managed to read all 304 glorious pages in less than three and a half hours.



So basically, this story revolves around a couple, Jack and Grace Angel, and their seemingly perfect lives. Jack is a major lawyer, specializing in domestic abuse cases, helping bring justice to those who have been able to escape horrific circumstances, and Grace quit her job as a grocery buyer, after marrying Jack eighteen months ago, in order to maintain their dream home and work in their perfect garden. They seem great, right? Wrong! With all this suspense, there is also Grace's sister, Millie, who has Down's syndrome. I'm not very familiar with Down's, but I thought that Millie was portrayed well, and Grace's love for her was unending, even if it was her biggest weak spot. I'll just leave it at that.

16. Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
This book follows the story of a group of teens on Spring Break in Aruba. No parents, just a bunch of teens with access to copious amounts of alcohol, few restrictions and nights of wild parties. Fun times, right? Well, it is, until one of the girls, Elise is found dead, stabbed with the home's kitchen knife thirteen times. While the authorities question the entire group, their main focus is on two of the teens, Elise's best friend Anna, the stories narrator, and Tate, Anna's boyfriend. 


When the final verdict is given, I was shocked. Part of me knew it was going to happen, but part of me was still unsure. And at the end, when we find out what actually happened, I was not prepared for that. I had some speculations throughout the story, but never once I thought it was who it was.

Whew! And there you have it, my top reads of this year! Hopefully you found some that interest you and you can add them to your TBR for 2017!


Friday, December 30, 2016

PREMEDITATED BY JOSIN L. McQUEIN - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Premeditated by Josin L. McQuein.





I was all set to give this book a high rating, and then I got halfway through and figured out the ending. And from that point on, things just got too almost painfully annoying. Like if I could figure it out, why couldn't the characters?

Basically, this is a story of revenge. It was vaguely reminiscent of The Female of the Species, but McGinnis does a better job dealing with the revenge aspects, as well as many other related elements that I won't talk too much about so I don't spoil either book. Anyways, in this story, Dinah finds her cousins diary after she is rushed to the hospital after a suicide attempt. And in that diary, she names the boy who broke her heart and drove her over the edge. Dinah decides she will take her cousin's place at a prestigious school and find him and ruin his life. Or maybe kill him. I'm still not sure what the ultimate end goal was. There is also some family drama, of course, with her cousin in the hospital in a coma, Dinah is staying with her aunt and uncle which makes her drama queen mom upset. Her dad is pretty cool, though.

I won't say much more on synopsis because I don't want to spoil anything.

One of my main issues with this book and the reason I rated it lower than maybe what it deserved was because of its predictability. I literally got to the halfway point of this book and figured out what was actually going on. And sometimes, you get a book that is supposed to be predictable, you're supposed to know things the characters don't. But it got to the point where things were so blatantly obvious that I was angry that the three co-conspirators didn't figure it out. They seem smart enough, they, at least Dinah should have seen it. But they didn't. And it made the second half of the story painful. I was seeing clue after clue of what really happened, which aggravated me, but the characters were completely oblivious. It should not have taken Dinah as long as it did to figure things out. I get that it was easy to be swept up into things, but I felt something was off when things first started and my suspicions grew. I'm a little bit saddened by this portrayal, frankly, because it paints Dinah as someone who is blinded by mundane things to the point where she is unable to think critically. Now, I can't be too harsh, he had me going too, but I would like to think that Dinah has a bit more smarts than this.

This book also deals with the concept of revenge and portrayals of justice. Dinah takes it upon herself to be the bringer of justice and get revenge for her cousin. And I wholeheartedly applaud her for her loyalty. Some of the things that happened to her cousin are horrific and deserve justice. My problem comes in with Dinah's execution of justice. I'm not even mad that she wanted him dead. In her eyes, he killed Claire, so he should die too. I'm not going to get into punishments, we're setting that aside because my problem wasn't with her wanting him to be punished, it was how he was going to be punished. Not once did she go to the police. Or even her dad or an adult. Now, she had her reasons, no one would believe her, there was not proof, etc. which I get, but she, a seventeen year old was going to kill or at least socially kill a guy and she thought there would be zero consequences for her actions. This is where this book goes downhill for me and reminds me of The Female of the Species. A similar thing happens in that book, but McGinnis is able to execute it flawlessly. Dinah, I don't think, had it in her to kill. Alex, from TFoTS, did. And this difference means a lot. Dinah messed with his future, rearranging college interviews, releasing compromising info, none of these things were the death that was said to be the only justice. I feel like McQuein chickened out. Dinah realizes that he's a person and he made a mistake, but I was promised that he would pay the ultimate price for his actions and I feel ripped off.

There was some romance in this book, but I don't even want to talk about it because it was so convoluted and just such a randomly thrown in thing to add. There was a sort of love triangle, but at the same time, I felt like this story had enough going on without a romance.

I will warn that this book deals with mental illness and there may be triggers for rape and self-harm/cutting. These issues, especially self-harm are major elements of this book, and I think this was the one thing McQuein did very well. There is one point where Dinah gives a monologue on cutting, speaking as her cousin and it was chilling. It was very descriptive, so just be warned if that is something that affects you.

Overall, I think this book had good bones, but with the predictability, it just didn't work. If you want a book like this but is actually really well done, check out TFoTS by Mindy McGinnis instead.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

ALIGHT BY SCOTT SIGLER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Alight by Scott Sigler.




After reading the first book in this series, I knew I would be continuing on with the next book. And in many ways, the sequel did not disappoint.

This story picks up pretty quickly after the first book leaves off. Obviously, any info I give will be a spoiler for the first book, as this is the sequel, so if you haven't finished book one, do so before going any further with this review.

Like I was saying, the story starts where Alive left off. Em and the gang have landed on the new planet after a battle with the Grownups. Some people's memories are beginning to fill in. They start to remember how to do things, and what things are called. I won't go into too many details but I will say that I really liked how Sigler handles this aspect of the book.

He goes into detail as to why the memories are returning, but it never becomes too tedious or boring. I was really happy with how things were explained, even small things like what something was called. The characters went through a process to find the names, it wasn't just "oh, I shouldn't know what this is because I have no memory of it, but I do." Sigler never gave the impression that the characters just knew what something was, and because it is a whole new world for them, I really appreciated that.

I will say it took me a bit to remember for myself what had happened in the first book, especially towards the end of it, but Sigler was quick to remind us of deaths or important things that happened. My main issue was just some of the relationships between characters, specifically with Em, I couldn't remember who was supposed to like her, if it was supposed to be a love triangle, and what her feelings were. Truth be told, these aren't integral elements to the story, it's not really a romance but that was a part of the story and I felt I didn't really remember it enough for those things not to be brought up again.

One thing Sigler does extremely well, without a doubt, is create a tense and suspenseful story. As with the first book, this is a quick read because you cannot put it down. It's one thing after another, and the underlying tension between a make-shift 'church' and 'state' made me feel a lot of emotions at once. There is a bit of a radical religious figure in the story, and some of the things he said really threw me. I guess some people believe things like what he was saying, but it seemed a little extremist for me. I pretty much sat through all his dialogue tense and angry.

I also appreciated the fact that Sigler isn't afraid of talking about sexuality and sexual orientation. And he does it in such a way where it's brought up, but such a non-issue. Just things in passing about how two of the guys have gotten closer, like a heterosexual couple that's also in the book, but it doesn't matter to the main character because they are just being who they are. I just really appreciated the fact that he included it in the story when it is, and has, so easily been left out of novels, especially sci-fi.

In this story, there is a group of beings that are not human but considered to be natives of the land, at least they were there before Em's group gets there. There were definitely a lot of parallels of how First Nations people were (and to a large extent still are) treated. They are perceived by some of Em's group as a people that need to be eradicated because they are less important. They don't speak the same language, they have different customs, etc. But there are also many in the group, including Em herself, who want to interact peacefully with these beings. They are running out of food but the Springers have survived. It becomes excruciatingly clear that the two groups need to work together. Seeing this portrayal makes me wonder what people were thinking so many years ago when they settled in the "New World."

Along these lines, I was also intrigued by Sigler's portrayal of the symbols. Some were knights, others admin, and some slaves. I won't say too much about this element, but I appreciated the special care Sigler took in explaining specifically the slave category. Like with the native creatures, he describes the situation delicately. I think it would be easy to just have those characters with that and other symbols stick with their supposed tasks, but Sigler does a good job of showing that they are more than just the caste that has been chosen for them, and likewise with those of others as well.

And of course, in typical Sigler fashion, we end the story in a bit of a cliffhanger.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and am very excited for the finale.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

DANGEROUS GIRLS BY ABIGAIL HAAS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, the highly under-rated book, Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas.


Oh my goodness. What was that? WHAT WAS THAT?

This book follows the story of a group of teens on Spring Break in Aruba. No parents, just a bunch of teens with access to copious amounts of alcohol, few restrictions and nights of wild parties. Fun times, right? Well, it is, until one of the girls, Elise is found dead, stabbed with the home's kitchen knife thirteen times. While the authorities question the entire group, their main focus is on two of the teens, Elise's best friend Anna, the stories narrator, and Tate, Anna's boyfriend. Soon, Tate's rich family steps in and cuts a deal, leaving Anna the main suspect. Except Anna didn't do it. But if she didn't, no one has any idea who did.

There was a lot going on in this story. Firstly, Anna and Elise's relationship. The two were seemingly joined at the hip, fast friends after Anna switched schools. Elise is a little crazy, she dabbles in illicit substances and enjoys flirting with guys for drinks and then ditching them. She wins herself a lot of enemies this way. Under the scrutiny of a judge, their relationship comes across as an obsession, a co-dependence Anna has on Elise. Personally, I didn't see a ton of that, but I could definitely see the stretches made.

Another really interesting element of this novel is the portrayal of foreign crime and justice systems in other countries. In America, Anna would be innocent until proven guilty. But as an outsider, she is treated as a killer from the beginning. I thought this was an interesting commentary on the way crime is treated around the world, but also perhaps an unintended commentary on the justice system in America and it's tendencies to lean to one verdict based on the person. Anna comes from a fairly wealthy home, she's white and well educated. In America, she would be favoured by a jury. However, in Aruba, she is not quite rich enough to buy her freedom. I thought this was an interesting look at a situation that would have gone very differently if she was someone else, or was somewhere else.

Throughout the novel, you can feel Anna unraveling and frankly, her innocence. There was never a doubt in my mind that she was innocent. I couldn't find a motive, and even as new things came to light, I felt like she was telling the truth. Anna tells a story of I guess three timelines; when she first meets Elise a few years back, when they first arrive in Aruba, and the events after she is forced to stay on the island in a correctional facility until her trial. She spends a long period of time there, almost 200 days I think it was, and her descriptions were so raw and real. You could feel her helplessness, being trapped, being unable to win against a biased prosecutor. I felt so many emotions alongside Anna. Haas does a brilliant job of putting you so squarely in Anna's shoes, you become almost frantic yourself.

This book also touches on the media portrayal of crime, especially that of such serious ones such as a murder charge. Anna comments herself on the lack of balance in the media, they constantly portray her as a killer before they have all the facts and before an official verdict has been reached.

The story also takes an interesting look at guilt and that from circumstantial evidence. Photos and conversations are taken out of context, anger misconstrued. It made me concerned about how easy it was for someone to look guilty when they are completely innocent. This book takes a major fear I think many people have, of not being believed, and twisting it into literally the worst case scenario.

When the final verdict is given, I was shocked. Part of me knew it was going to happen, but part of me was still unsure. And at the end, when we find out what actually happened, I was not prepared for that. I had some speculations throughout the story, but never once I thought it was who it was.

Overall, I loved this book and highly recommend it to anyone and everyone!


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

IVORY AND BONE BY JULIE ESHBAUGH - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back again today with another review, Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh. Thanks so much to LitJoy Crate for including this book in one of their boxes; I'm not sure I would have picked it up on my own.


This book tells the story of Kol and his tribe as well as the rocky past they share with another tribe. The story is set in prehistoric times, so we get wooly mammoth hunts and saber-toothed tiger kills. The story also partly follows Kol's interactions with two other tribes, and two girls named Mya and Lo. Both are distant with secrets of their shared pasts. This book is kind of hard to explain, so I will just dive into the more technical aspects.

First, and I think most importantly, the majority of this book is told in the second person. There is a little prologue/intro bit at the beginning of the novel that sets things up and explains why it is told this way, Kol is telling Mya a story. In this sense, the concept of a second person perspective isn't as far-fetched, but it is a bit jarring at first, especially because most books these days are told in either first or third person. Once you get into the story, you don't really notice it, and towards the end, we 'catch up' to the point where Kol is telling the story and things shift into first person.

One aspect of this story I really loved was the prehistoric setting. I've never read a story set this far back in history and it was really interesting. I'm not sure how much of the story is 'real' because I'm not really sure how much of that type of thing is researchable. Obviously, the mammoths and tigers are real, anyone would know that. But the history of the tribes, I'm not sure how much of that was taken as a historical element and how much creative freedom was used. Not that I'm complaining, there were some great stories about the tribes, but I'm intrigued to know, more from a personal interest standpoint, to see if there is any evidence of these specific groups.

I don't know if I really enjoyed the characters all that much, they were decent but not amazing or super well fleshed out. Kol was a slightly about average narrator, he told his story with great detail, but I don't think I really connected with any character on a super deep level.

The love triangle, if you can call it that, was tepid at best. I didn't really like Lo from the start, she was a little suspicious, and Mya was cold and distant. It was interesting seeing a romantic setup such as this one from a male POV, it's something you don't see a lot of in YA, especially when a love triangle is concerned. For me, this was the story of healing and recognizing past mistakes, not so much a romance between tribes. I didn't really feel a connection between Kol and either of the girls, even towards the end, and I almost feel like the story would have been just as good, if not better if they had just been friends.

I really enjoyed the concept of the reversal of traditional gender stereotypes, Kol was falling for the girls, but they were both hesitant to see him that way. He spins a magical tale, but they see a story of survival. Eshbaugh does a great job of flipping this element and I thought it added some interest to the story.

I don't know if I would call this similar to Pride and Prejudice, frankly, I've never read the book so I can't really compare, but I know that that is a romance, and I just don't think this romance was good enough to compare to perhaps the most iconic romance of all time.

I think that this book has some great bones, and I'm looking forward to the sequel, but I did have a few problems with it. There was kind of a lack of plot, there was a general goal of romance and resolving the issues within the tribe, but there were times when that was a little lost in the collection of honey and mammoth hunts. Fortunately for me, I found these aspects really interesting, so I didn't find as much fault in this con as many others probably will. I could see how others don't love this element, there are times when I wasn't sure where things were going or meant to go.

Overall, I loved the concept of this novel and am excited about the sequel.


Monday, December 26, 2016

THE TWILIGHT WIFE BY A.J. BANNER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner. Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Wow. This book was fantastic.

The book follows Kyra, a thirty-four-year-old who was in a diving accident a year ago and doesn't remember anything that has happened for the last 4 years. She lives with her dedicated husband on a secluded island, away from the stresses of city life. Everything is going fine until Kyra begins to remember bits and pieces of her past. Snippets of interactions with another man. Dreams of places she has apparently never been to, but sees so vividly. She starts to wonder if she can really trust her memories, or if everything she remembers is a lie?

I will leave the synopsis at that because with thrillers it is easy to give away too many details.

Throughout the story, I just had a bad feeling. I wasn't sure why, but things weren't adding up. Kyra doesn't remember a very specific chunk of time. And I was immediately suspicious of her husband, Jacob. You always hear these stories of someone waking up and a guy pretending to be their husband. So I was sure that was what was happening with Jacob. But there were people who remembered them on the island in previous years. Her best friend confirmed that she was at the wedding. And why would he lie? She wasn't rich and it was easy to see he really loved her. I found myself questioning everything, much like Kyra.

The suspense in this story was unreal. There was a building sense of foreboding, you know everyone is hiding something, but you don't know what. This adds to the story in ways that kept me glued to the page. I hung on every word, waiting for Kyra to remember some important detail from her past.

The setting of this story is perfect; an isolated island, eccentric locals, and a lack of technology make for a claustrophobic thriller. Whatever Kyra finds out, she can't do anything because she is stuck.

When you finally find out what happens, it is insane. I eventually figured out what might have happened, but I was still shocked by the magnitude of the event.

I also really love that in a world of Gone Girl's and The Girl on the Train's this was a surprisingly refreshing take on the thriller. This book is more suspenseful and tells a different story; a woman who doesn't know what is going on in her own life. This book just felt unique. It's hard to describe, but I wouldn' compare this book with those others.

I really loved the fact that Banner was able to keep the twist a secret for so long. There is some speculation, but there are so many red herrings, I didn't know what to believe.

I think I'll be keeping this review on the shorter side because there really is so much that can be so easily spoiled.

Overall, refreshingly suspenseful thriller that will have you hooked from the very beginning.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER BY RAE CARSON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson.


I had no idea what to expect going into this book. I knew it had something to do with a girl who can witch gold from the ground, but nothing else.

The story is set in 1849 America. Slavery is still very much a thing, as is prejudice against First Nations peoples. Following a teen named Leah, we set out on the journey from Georgia to California, following the Gold Rush. Leah has always had a gift of being able to find gold, and when her father becomes ill, she takes on the role of unofficial man of the house. Her best friend Jefferson decides he is leaving his abusive household and leaves for California. He tells Leah to come with him, but if not, he'll wait for her in another state. Leah is focused on staying and helping her family until she arrives home and finds her mother and father both murdered. Her mother's last words were telling her to run. Soon her father's brother comes to claim the property, including her. Leah decides its now or never and makes a run for it.

Leah disguises herself as a boy, a lady traveling alone would raise too many questions and would leave her even more vulnerable and sets out west. Along the way she meets some kind souls, and some not-so-kind souls. I really loved that this journey wasn't a piece of cake. A lot of times when you get stories like this, a small chunk is a journey, usually written in an unrealistically easy way. But Carson makes sure to focus on the journey, not the destination.

One of the main things I loved about this novel overall is the ferocity of Leah. She meets many obstacles along the way but she perseveres and never gives up, even when she wants to. I also loved the pro-girl message of the story, how she was worth more than just someone to marry off and bear children. It wasn't super in your face, but it was definitely a prevalent background image throughout the story. There is also a point in the novel where she gets her period (something I would definitely NOT look forward to in 1849 traveling the country). I was a little surprised that something like this was included, not because it's not an issue, but just something that isn't really brought up in fiction, especially YA fiction, even though it is a perfectly normal and accepted part of being female. Off the top of my head I can think of 2, maybe 3 novels that mention menstruation, out of the almost 600 books I've read in the last 3.5 years. That's kinda pathetic.

I also really loved that this story was more about finding yourself than it was about finding a partner. Leah and Jefferson have a bit of awkward history, but it doesn't really take up a lot of the story once Leah figures out what is really important - her survival. They are still really good friends, but there wasn't a lot of romantic tension. I think having her fall head over heels for Jeff would have been a little too much for this story of which the main message is about self-preservation.

This story also touches on some important elements of American past, the treatment of minority groups. I think Carson handled the topic very well. She was quick to point out the faults of the 'white man' in situations where they were rightly at fault. Leah frequently stood up for those who were being blamed for things they didn't do. Slavery was a major issue touched on, it isn't abolished for another decade or so and there are a lot of nasty comments made. Likewise, with the Native Americans, the group comes across in their travels. They are blamed for everything from 'looking suspicious' to trying to steal one of the children (for what reason I have no idea). Carson rightly shows the falsehoods of these claims and that the things being said are offensively out of line and not at all correct. I'm saddened that people once thought this way about any group of fellow humans.

The ONE MAJOR issue I had with this book was that it was so. stinking. slow. Like by 200 pages in, I wasn't sure I could make it. Leah's attitude and energy could only carry the story so far before things just dragged on. I think this is a common problem people generally had with this book, but I still feel bad. I think the story could have been even better if it was just a hundred pages shorter. Because of the content, I was able to keep going, but there were times when I couldn't see where the plot was going and if anything was really going to happen. Because this is a story about a journey lasting almost a year, and every detail is documented. But there wasn't really an end game to hope for. Almost everything was resolved by the end, I think this would have been a great standalone.

I'm not sure what the sequel will be about, and I'm not sure it's super necessary.

Overall, great message and main character, but so SLOW.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

THE START OF ME AND YOU BY EMERY LORD - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord.


This was my first book by Lord, and I am so happy that I put more of her books on my Christmas list because I loved this book!

Basically, the story follows Paige, The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned. While she loved her boyfriend, Aaron, they'd only been dating for two months and she is tired of That Look and being treated like a grieving widow. She still has nightmares about his death, but she feels she cannot grieve the same way his family or best friend can. Paige decides it's time to get back into the world and live her life. And she has a plan, going to a party, meeting a new group of friends, and getting back into dating again, preferably with her long-time and newly single crush Ryan. However, when Ryan's cousin Max comes back into the fold of school, her aspirations shift slightly.

I think one of the things I loved about this book was that even though it was a romance, a lot of care and attention was put into Paige's friend group. She has three extremely close-knit friends, all of whom support and help each other. It is sad to say but a lot of times in YA, especially contemporary YA, you get a girl with one or two decent friends but is for the most part shunned by the 'popular' girls or every other girl for that matter. I loved how Lord took this opportunity to develop their friendships even this story is supposed to be a romance. Over and over again, I was struck by how good they were to each other. I don't know if I've just never had that or if a group of friends like that is a unicorn myth, but I loved it.

I also really loved that I felt like I knew about each and every character in the story. Even the secondary ones, they were fleshed out so well. Lord did a great job of developing the person first, and then giving them a romantic interest or having some event change them. I knew who they were and how they would react in a situation because their personalities were so distinct.

In terms of romance, this is not insta-love and it is not a love triangle. I don't want to say who she ends up with in the end, but I think it becomes pretty clear fairly early on. But regardless of who she ends up with, there was never any awkward tension or drama. I think part of this is because of Lord's people skills. She writes the characters as friends first and then moves the relationship to romance. It's a bit of a slow burn, but it's definitely worth it.

Another thing that struck me was the fact that Paige's parents were very much a part of her life and this novel. You get a lot of absent parents in the genre, but her parents were right in there, causing their own problems. But I really liked how Max helped her see the positives of the tense situations. Cameron, Paige's sister was really great too, I think she just wanted a role model in Paige even if they did butt heads.

This book was just so refreshing! It was so different from other contemporaries I've read. Parents were included, friendship before romance, I also loved Morgan and her awesome feminist speeches. From following Lord on Twitter, I could see a little of her in Morgan and I loved it! There was just so many elements in this book that I loved that I didn't know I needed to make me really love a book.

Overall, I highly recommend and I cannot wait to read more books by Lord!


Friday, December 23, 2016

THE LIFEBOAT CLIQUE BY KATHY PARKS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks.


This book was pretty much exactly what I thought it was going to be - a group of teenagers from different 'cliques' stuck on a boat trying to get home. While there was a deeper level message, that was pretty much the story. And I was okay with that.

Basically, that is the synopsis. After being asked by a guy she thought didn't even know her name to her ex-best friend's party, Denver and a group of fellow party-goers end up stranded in the Pacific Ocean, floating on the house's roof after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit. The group includes Denver, said ex-best friend Abigail, popular girls Hayley and Sierra and a random semi-popular guy, Trevor. The group is reeling after seeing their classmates get taken out by palm trees flying through the water and a grand piano sliding through the collapsing house. It's late, they broke into a house to have the party and no one knows if or when they will be rescued.

I will say one thing about Parks, she is ruthless. I guess part of it was the fact that a natural disaster has occurred, but she was killing people off all over the place. This isn't a spoiler because you find out in the very first sentence of the book, but Trevor drowns. I think this fact really sets the tone for the novel that no one is really safe. We lose more main characters along the way, and I think it wasn't as shocking to read because you were aware of the direness of the situation.

The story is told in two 'timelines' I guess you could call them, one is the present, what's happening on the boat, etc. and the other is the past, looking at Denver and Abigail's friendship and how they broke apart. The former was more interesting for me personally, while enjoyed the back story, I was more focused on whether or not they would survive to be found. The latter gave insight into why they stopped being friends, which was helpful in seeing their current dynamic, but I think life on the boat was a more engaging story.

I mentioned earlier that this book was exactly what I expected of it. And it was a group of teens stuck on a boat. But there was the issue of the clique that was the driving message of this book. Denver isn't a 'cool' kid, she was shunned by Abigail and subsequently, the rest of the popular kids avoid her as well. Trevor is kind of a popular kid, but he's also in a band which makes him a music kid maybe? The other girls were pretty much all popular kids. I thought there was going to be a bit more diversity with the cliques, a drama kid, a jock, etc. I guess the message was still the same in the end, but I think the whole idea of disbanding the cliques would have been better if it was more widely portrayed. At the end, though, the message of working together and surviving was still the same and it would have been with other depictions of cliques.

I didn't really love the end when they tried to spread the message of breaking the cliques, it didn't really work. I don't know if that's a comment on the fact that these cliques never really get broken, and we just have to live with that, but I felt like it kind of undermined the whole book, saying that it takes a life or death situation for people to join together as equals.

I enjoyed this book's humour and dark comedic aspects, I felt like they were helpful for lightening the mood, but still keeping the seriousness of the situation. Denver was whip smart, but I felt like she should have SAID some of the comebacks she thought up to fully add to the story.

Overall, a decent story with a good message but not a new favourite.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

PASSENGER BY ALEXANDRA BRACKEN - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken today!



Now that is what I am talking about! Bracken has proved once more that she can do no wrong!

How do I even give a synopsis of this book?! Oh boy! Ok, so I guess I'll start with saying it follows two main characters, one of which is Henrietta, or Etta for short. She lives with her mom in NYC and is a violin prodigy. One night, at a rehearsal performance, Etta gets thrust into a strange world, landing in the middle of the ocean, on a boat, in 1776. Yup.

Enter Nicholas, a sailor on the boat, and the guy tasked with getting Etta and another girl Sophia safely to land to meet Sophia's grandfather. Etta, after being forced to strike a deal with the old man is sent through time, with the help of Nicholas, trying to find a piece of her family's hidden past, in order to save her mother.

While I won't say much more about the plot, there was a lot of other things happening in this book. Originally, I was going to give this book 4 stars, but after writing this, I'm bumping it up to a full 5 stars.

One of the main elements of this story is time travel. I haven't read a lot of books about time travel, mostly because I usually find the concept confusing and just not worth my trouble. This book, however, brings time travel to a whole new level. Each spot the pair jumps to is really well described and most times, they are of significant importance. One of the stops is London 1940, where they experience an air raid during the Second World War. As a modern day teen, this is something Etta has only learned about in school. There were other places they went to, and each one had a meaning.

What really won me over in this book was that even though it was a book about traveling into the past, today's social issues were still addressed. Nicholas is from the year 1776 and is the son of an African slave. Even though he has bought his freedom, he still faces prejudice for his skin colour in almost every place they visit. Etta, who is white and from 2015, recognizes these problems that he faces. I thought that Bracken's integration of a PoC in this story was really well done. It was brought up as an issue, and always present, but it was never portrayed as something that held Nicholas back from what he wanted to do.

Bracken also tackles issues dealing with gender. Etta is a fierce MC who takes Nicholas on as a partner, not a protector, something that really struck me. She wasn't being flippant about her safety, she just knew she could take care of herself. Etta tells Sophia of a woman running for president in her time period (although that reference didn't pan out as it could have), and that she needs to stand up to her grandfather as an heir to the family empire. While some of these pep talks come back to bite Etta, she shows that she is a strong character who doesn't need a hero to save her.

Even smaller references to issues today, there was a man who today would be considered Muslim and he shares his views with Etta, citing that he is open to things other, more traditional individuals see as "against the rules." There is just a lot of acceptance for people who are quote-unquote different. Bracken does a wonderful job of writing a story of acceptance and tolerance.

I did have a couple problems with the story, Etta's mom was a major one. I found it hard to believe some of the things that she did, especially where her daughter's safety was concerned, but I suppose it had to be that way. I'm still trying to process the ending, luckily I am reading this close to the release of book two so I don't have to sit in suspense too long.

Overall, I highly recommend this story of time travel and tensions of today.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

HOTEL RUBY BY SUZANNE YOUNG - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young.


Going into this book, I didn't really know what to expect.

From the synopsis, the storyline is vague. A family stops at this hotel and gets drawn in. It seems like a bit of a roach motel situation where once you're in, you never leave. There's also allusions to family issues that may or may not be touched on. Overall, I didn't know what the story I was about to read was going to be about.

Without too many spoilers, I'll try and give a general synopsis. Audrey and her family; consisting for the last three months of her older brother, Daniel, and her father. They are driving to her grandmother's house, where the kids will spend the summer. Audrey's mother died three months ago from a stroke, and her father hasn't been able to cope. Along the way, their father decides to stop at a hotel to rest before setting out again in the morning. They stop at Hotel Ruby, a grandiose hotel with seemingly every amenity they would need. Audrey meets a boy named Elias who lives in the hotel and soon the family gets swept up in the experience. Their father is coming back to life after three long months, and Daniel is off Audrey's back. But some things are exactly what they seem, and Audrey can't wait to get away from the creepy concierge and leave.

I think I will just leave it at that, really anything else could become a spoiler.

I did go into this book knowing that there was a big twist. I don't think that took away from the story itself, but I found myself wondering if this twist was the big one. I think because I was expecting something out of the ordinary, I saw the clues leading up to the twist easier, but even though I kind of figured it out, I only figured out half of it. Young, I think, accepted the fact that most people would figure out the main element of the story fairly early on, but she kept the big reveal until the very end.

In terms of characters, I enjoyed Audrey's character. I think there was a lot going on in the story that there weren't many opportunities to flesh out the characters fully, but I still think she was a decent character, and I appreciated her decision in the end, even though it wasn't really what I expected of her. I think the characters were decent, but there were little things I didn't love about them. I felt like Daniel could have been a little more worked out, he was still a major character in the book, and I understand why Elias's character wasn't as well described, I felt like he was just kind of a cookie-cutter love interest.

I think this book is definitely trying to be more family-centred than romance-centred, but even still, I'm not sure the family dynamic was written well. I found the father to be very one-dimensional and I thought his relationships with his kids were so poor, it was like he wasn't around for the entirety of their lives.

I do think this book did the suspense and the mystery/thriller elements well. There were a lot of twists, some small and some larger, and I found them well done. I think Young focused more of her energy on these elements than the relationships and it shows. The plot of the mystery was very well done, I think there were a lot of intricate details that were paid attention to. This is what redeemed the book for me. I didn't go in looking for a romance, or a story about family and loss, I went in knowing that this book wasn't what it seemed and I was happy with the results I got.

There were a lot of creepy, not really scary but "look over your shoulder" moments. I think this would be a great October or Halloween read for that reason.

I do want to briefly address some of the more negative reviews this book is getting. I do think that it's not going to be for everyone. There are some parts I didn't love, and I'm sure other's didn't love them either. I will admit that I have read Young's previous books and loved them, so I might be a little biased. Just don't be discouraged by the other reviews. If you try it and hate it, fine. But give it a shot, you might find you enjoy it.

Overall good, but probably not for everyone.

**SIDE NOTE** Check out the song "Hotel California" by Eagles after you read this book, the similarities are eerie.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

THE OUTSIDERS BY S.E. HINTON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with a review of a cult-classic, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.


I feel like this is such a widely loved novel that I can't really give it a star rating. Like no matter what I pick, people will have their own thoughts and perceptions of what the book should get. And I suppose that could be said for all novels, but there is just something about giving a classic a number rating that doesn't sit well with me.

In case you don't know the premise of this story, it follows the perspective of a fourteen year old boy named Ponyboy (yes, that's his real name, says so on his birth certificate). In the town he lives in with his two older brothers, the society of teens (the adults don't really recognize this divide) is broken up into two main groups, the greasers and the Socs. Pony is part of the greaser side, known for being tuff and their long, greased hair. The Socs are from the better part of town, distinguishable by their 'clean' looks and general cold-heartedness. The main conflict in the story revolves around Pony and another boy named Johnny. Late one night, the two are confronted by a group of Socs, and Johnny ends up killing one of the boys. Before the cops get called, Johnny and Pony take off. There is some other stuff that happens, and some people die, but I'll just leave it at that.

While the story itself is fairly short and straightforward, it brought up a lot of key points that are still prevalent today. While the greasers and Socs were a kind of teenaged gang, they can be seen as representatives of societal divides. This book was written in the 60s, during the height of the civil rights movement in America, but you could replace either of these groups with minority groups or even groups of people discriminated against today.

Ponyboy talks a lot about wanting this division to be over; he sees the similarities between the groups that others don't see. At one point he talks about how they aren't so different from one another, they both see the same sunset every night. To readers today, these thoughts might be mundane, but I would imagine that back then merging such divides might have been controversial.

The story itself is told in a very quickly paced way, a lot is crammed into 180 pages of text.

I think there will be some people, especially those in my generation and younger who will really react to the messages of acceptance. But there will also be some who come up with new thoughts on the story. Some of the behaviour we see in this novel, specifically in the names the boys call each other, could be seen as something very different in today's society then I think it was meant to be in the 60s.

I know there was recently a lot of controversy over some tweets about Johnny and Dally's sexuality, if maybe they were gay. And Hinton shut those comments down like an English teacher demanding textual evidence. (you can see those tweets and read more of the story HERE ). I think while being gay in the 60s wouldn't be "cute" as the original tweeter mentions, I do think it is important that such options be open to readers interpretation. We don't see evidence of Johnny being straight, he mentions girls, but there is no moment where he professes his sexuality, and there are times when I thought of something between him and Ponyboy.

Regardless of this reading, I think the main message is that this story has stuck around for so long because people relate to it; it transcends time. Sure, we don't have greasers and Socs these days, but we have other groups divided amongst each other. People can and do relate to this story and that is why it has remained popular for 50 years.

Overall, it's a classic must read, if nothing other than for the experience.


Monday, December 19, 2016

CROOKED KINGDOM BY LEIGH BARDUGO - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo! I finally got around to reading this one!


If there is one thing Leigh Bardugo can do, it's write an action packed story full of darkness that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

I won't really get too much into plot here because I don't want to spoil this or the first book, but I will say a few general things. The characters were great, like in the first book. They are witty, broken, diverse and ruthless. The story picks up right where things left off from the first book and you are thrust into the world of Ketterdam. I will say that I wish there was just a bit more of a recap on how things ended in Six of Crows, I read it about a year ago and didn't remember all the little details. You get the general gist from this book though I think part of my lack of enthusiasm and the reason it is only getting 4 stars is that I lost the connection I had in book one. I was trying hard to remember things and I think that took away some of my enjoyment, at least at the beginning.

One thing that I have loved about all of Bardugo's books is her ability to keep you on the edge of your seat at all times. You get comfortable, bad things happen. You relax for a minute and someone is dead. That reflects what I would imagine the characters in the book feel as well, and it makes you feel bested. Kaz prides himself in always being one step ahead of his enemy, and you really have to start thinking like him to understand what the story is telling you. Bardugo will give you a little bit of information, you will make assumptions about that info and boom, things go in a completely different way from what you were thinking. You become the person Kaz is besting. And I loved that aspect.

Even though this is a fantasy book, it deals with a lot of issues that are real in today's modern society. Human trafficking, corrupt leaders, racial tensions, religious tensions, poverty. These are all things that come up within the book as problems, and these are all things that are issues in real life. A character was sold into what was essentially a brothel at the age of 14, some of the characters are from one country, some are from another. There is a religious divide between the majority and minority group. While they aren't the same countries or religions we see today, the problems faced in the novel are easy enough to transfer over.

I think compared to the first book, this one wasn't as good. I can't quite put my finger on what was lacking, but there was something, off. I think there were some inter-character relations that could have been explored a bit more, a little more explanation for the newer characters (specifically the mercenary sent after Inej, she was a smaller character but I felt like her reasonings were lacking). Just a few little things that could have been better.

I did really love the allusions to Shadow and Bone and it's characters. We see a bit of Stormhund, Zoya and Genya and hear talk of Alina, and I really loved that. I guess this would be the part where it's better to read the Grisha trilogy first, in order to not be spoiled with what happens to these characters.

The ending, I think, was great. I know a lot of people are upset this was only a duology, but I think the way Bardugo ends the story, it fits as two books. There is no cliffhanger ending, and while I was emotionally drained, I was okay with this battle being over for the characters.

Overall, while not my favourite of the two books, this duology is definitely worth the read, especially after the Grisha trilogy.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

BELZHAR BY MEG WOLITZER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer.


I went into this book, for the most part, completely blind. I knew that it had something to do with The Bell Jar, but not having read that book and just having basic knowledge about Sylvia Plath, I wasn't sure what to expect.

I'll give a basic summary, but this book is almost too bizarre to recap. Our main character is Jamaica or Jam for short. After falling apart after the loss of her boyfriend Reeve, Jam is sent to The Wooden Barn, a place described as a 'halfway house' between the realities of everyday school and a psychiatric facility. There she ends up in a special English class taught exclusively to a small number of selected individuals. In this class, Jam meets others who are also struggling with loss; Sierra, who blames herself for her brother's kidnapping three years ago and is falling apart trying to find him, Griffin, who is blamed by his parents for the fire that happened in their barn and killed all of their goats, something he can't forgive himself for, Marc, who after finding out about his parents affair told his mother and broke up his family, and Casey, who is bound to a wheelchair ever since her mother's drunk driving caused her injuries. The teacher assigns Plath's novel and weekly journal assignments for the students to complete.

I fear I've already said too much about the plot so I'd better stop there.

As a character and narrator, I enjoyed Jam's perspectives. Her roommate DJ had issues as well (eating disorder) and it was interesting to see her interacting with people outside her English class. We get the background information on what happened with Reeve through the journal entries, and it was interesting to see their dynamic.

I will also just say I definitely did not see that whole thing with Reeve happening. But looking back, I suppose it makes sense. And I think that in itself is an interesting comment on the issue the book touches on. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. Looking back, some things don't add up. But like others at The Wooden Barn and those with mental illnesses, you don't really see that there is something wrong unless you are looking for it. I think that is an important detail that is woven in nicely with Plath's novel. Her depression was hidden, but there were signs if one only knew to look for them.

I think Wolitzer did a good job of creating the magical realism elements throughout the story, and creating a world where these things exist.

I just didn't love the characters as much as I think I could have. There is a great variety of people in this story, specifically those in the English class, but I felt like we don't really know them. I think there was enough time in this book to flesh out some of the characters more deeply, even Jam feels a little too surface-level. Towards the end, there is some clarity to her character, but I think there was so much potential to create a great group of friends here that was missed.

This book had a great opportunity to talk about mental illness, and the 'emotional fragility' of today's teens, but it just kind of trivialized it by having a school full of them. It was Hogwarts for the 'Fragile.'

I think there was just a lot of issues going on that I don't really have the time or energy to go over. The story felt very one-dimensional, while the Belzhar world was kind of fun, I just think that some of that effort could have gone into other aspects of the book.

Overall, not really a fave.


Friday, December 16, 2016

UNTIL FRIDAY NIGHT BY ABBI GLINES - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines.


It's been a while since I've read a young adult book by Glines; most of the ones I've been reading lately are her NA series, so it was weird having her write characters in school.

I think the one good thing about Glines's books, regardless of the age range, is that you always know what you are going to get. Usually dual perspectives; macho player man and a shy, meek girl with a troubled past. She falls for him first, he realizes how great she is, gets too committed too fast, freaks girl out, setting her on edge and almost ready to leave. Then there's a misunderstanding, a jealous ex-girlfriend gets up in shy girls face/shy girl sees a torrid moment between jealous ex-girlfriend and player man and she freaks, leaving newly heartbroken macho man to feel emotions for the first time, probably make some bad choices but ultimately win the girl back.

It's formulaic, and not necessarily in a bad way. Part of me sees these books as a guilty pleasure, a book you can read in a couple of hours and be done with it. The other part of me keeps reading these books because I am waiting for the one that breaks the mold. I haven't found it yet, but I've only read two dozen Glines books.

This book pretty much follows the formula, Maggie witnessed her father kill her mother and now she doesn't talk. She moves to live with her uncle and aunt and their son Brady. She meets Brady's friends, one of which being West, who's father has been diagnosed with colon cancer and they haven't told anyone. You can pretty much assume how it goes from there. They help each other through their struggles and fall in love along the way.

This book wasn't bad, but I was hoping for something to spice it up a little. I feel like there was a lot unsaid about Maggie's past (pun intended) that could have been developed in the story. The issue with her father is so nicely taken care of and we don't really hear much else about what happened. She says she has nightmares every night, so I know it is a big part of her life, and I just felt like things could have been fleshed out a bit more.

West was exactly what I expected him to be. A player who loves his momma and daddy (sidenote: what is with the South calling their father 'Daddy?' I'm sorry but we don't do that here and it still unnerves me to read it coming out of someone over 6 years old's mouth.)

The story was fine enough, and I'll probably end up picking up the next book, hopefully, there will be one about Nash because he was one of my favourite characters!

There was a lot of things I wasn't a fan of, West's acting like he owned Maggie, the playboy behaviour that apparently every single teenaged boy seemed to exude, the way the girls reacted to each other, we're not ALL that mean.

Overall, if you're looking for a fluffy, quick romance, go for it.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

HOLIDAY BOOK LOVER'S GIFT GUIDE - 2016

Hello everyone!

Today I am doing something a little bit different, I will be sharing my gift guide for getting the perfect gift for the bookworm in your life, or to just treat yourself!

Each recommendation is set up for a different 'type' of person, but feel free to go with what you think is best! I also tried to keep the choices limited to recent-ish releases to minimize the chances of duplicates, Let's get into the books!

For the socially conscious/budding feminist: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.


This book was one of my very favourites of the year, so I had to include it. The story has a bit of everything for every reader from the thrill seeker to the romantic, to the feminist, or the feminist-who-doesn't-know-they-are-a-feminist, to every decent human being. TFoTS deals with a mystery, a romance, societal views on rape and sexual assault, and societal norms. This book is so important and would be perfect for even the pickiest of readers on your list.

For the more mature reader who isn't afraid of a good cry: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover.


This story, like all of Hoover's novels, will hit you right in the feels. While her books are best gone into blind, I feel it necessary to say that this book deals with domestic violence. Hoover used inspiration from her own mother's story to create a novel that will have you laughing one minute and bawling like a baby the next. Make sure to gift some caffeine and tissues with this one, because the moment your bookworm starts this one, they won't be able to stop until the small hours of the morning, clutching it to their chest sobbing silently.

For a reader who loves reading about other readers: Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick.


This is a recent read for me but it has stuck with me. The characters in the book are exposed to the world of a cult-classic novel long out of print and are shown the ways in which written words affect readers. This book is also great to give to the young reader who is struggling to decide what to do with their future, the main character's struggles are sure to echo some of their own thoughts. You could throw some sticky notes or a journal in with this gift; the recipient will want a place to mark and write down all the great quotes from the wise words of Booker, the author of the classic novel.

For the reader who likes to take a chance on a debut author: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton.


Hamilton crafts an intricate and action-packed story of magic, the original Wild West, and just a hint of romance. The first in a trilogy, this story will sweep your bookworm off their feet and into the magical world of djinni. With the sequel coming out in March, it will be a quick read and a short wait for the continuation. Gunslinging and Arabic folklore meld together beautifully to create a story sure to entice any reader to give Hamilton a well-deserved shot.

For the reader trying to diversify their collection: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.


Not only is Yoon herself a POC and WOC, but the characters in this story are also both POC and immigrants. One is a Korean-American boy and the other a Jamaican girl who is being deported after living in the States undocumented. Yoon also flips the nerdy/romantic trope on its head, writing Daniel as the hopeless romantic who falls head over heels, and Natasha as the one who believes in the scientific facts. This book deals with issues that often get brushed under the rug but desperately need to be talked about. Any reader would love to have this book in their collection, plus the cover is stunning!

For the fairy-tale lover: Heartless by Marissa Meyer.


If the bookworm in your life hasn't picked up this book already, they are missing out. Meyer weaves an engaging story of the Queen of Hearts' life before Wonderland. She has a way of humanizing villains in a way that encourages sympathy and understanding for what they have become. Meyer perfectly portrays the journey from a love-struck teen, dreaming of her bakery to the evil head-chopper that is the Queen of Hearts. I would recommend gifting this book with a gorgeous copy of the classic Caroll story and some baked goods; Meyer's descriptions of the creations in the story are mouth watering.

And there you go! Hopefully one of these books will be of interest to you, I mean the bookworm in your life. And if not, bookstore gift cards are always a welcome addition to any reader's holiday season!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR BY JOHN COREY WHALEY - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley.



I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love reading books about mental illness. I find them really interesting and can usually relate well to them. And thankfully, this book was no exception.

To give you a brief summary, this story follows Solomon, a seventeen year old who has agoraphobia. Three years ago he jumped into the school water fountain and has been homeschooled and hasn't left his house since. Through the story we see him finding friends, or I suppose friends finding him, and his attempts at making it to his backyard. The story is told in two perspectives, of course, Solomon's but also one of his new friends, Lisa's perspective as well. Lisa is applying to the second best psychology program in the country and needs a fantastic essay on her experiences with mental health to get her a scholarship. Lisa decides that if she can work with Solomon and help 'cure' him, she will win.

But things get messy. She doesn't tell Sol about the essay and when she invites her boyfriend Clark into the circle, he becomes fast friends with Sol and threatens to tell him about the essay if she writes it.

I don't want to say anymore and spoil things, so I'll leave it at that.

I think what I appreciated the most about this book was Whaley's portrayal of Sol's agoraphobia. He has the characters explain what it is for the readers who don't know and writes it in a sympathetic light. There is no romanticizing Sol's illness, like in some novels. We see the panic attacks, the debilitating fear of going outside. All of this is very real for Sol and we see it firsthand.

I really liked Sol's character, he was funny and I guess just so normal. And I suppose that is Whaley's whole point. Most people with mental illness are the same as everyone else, they're not scary or socially awkward. Mental illnesses are so common these days and Whaley is showing that you don't have to BE any type of person to have one, you just have one.

I didn't love Lisa as much. Even though her heart was in the right place, and she really did make some progress with Sol, I think instead of observing him and trying to 'fix' him (I say 'fix' in scare quotes because mental illness isn't really something you fix like a cold or chicken pox. There is no magic medicine that cures all symptoms), she should have worked harder at being a friend. Then, when she wasn't around, she gets jealous of Sol and her boyfriend, Clark hanging out without her. I felt like she should have just been in the moment and it would have saved a lot of people from themselves.

At the beginning of the novel, I didn't really love Clark. He seemed a little cookie cutter but then he started interacting with Sol and they became fast friends. They both love Star Trek and comics; the like all the 'nerdy' things Clark is too afraid to tell his other friends about. Clark did really grow on my and I think I liked him better than Lisa.

I also really loved Sol's parents and grandma in this book. A lot of times in YA we get absent parents; either working all the time or just never really mentioned and in this book we see the teenagers interacting with Sol's parents in a way that is really refreshing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!