Wednesday, May 31, 2017

CUT ME FREE BY J.R. JOHANSSON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson.



I don't really know what I expected with this book, but what I got was so much more horrific and terrifying.

The story follows 17-year-old Charlotte who has recently escaped her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, however, wasn't as lucky. His death was one of the reasons that pushed Charlotte to try to escape. Now she is living in a bigger city with a new identity thanks to Cam, a teen who has connections in the Mafia, and a new home. One day while she is out, she spots a little girl with bruises and burn marks, being practically dragged by a man. Unable to ignore the obvious signs of abuse, Charlotte decides she needs to save the girl. However, soon Charlotte begins to find threatening packages left in her apartment addressed to her old name, Piper and has no idea who is leaving them.

Firstly, this was an extremely difficult book to read. Charlotte has nightmares and flashbacks to her life with her parents and they are pretty intense. Child abuse is horrific in any instance, but reading it firsthand through Charlotte was nauseating. Then, when Charlotte finds the little girl, your already broken heart absolutely shatters.

I'm not sure that Charlotte's abuse is discussed as much as it could have been. It definitely has a major impact on her life, but sometimes I forgot about it and had to remind myself that this wasn't just a thriller, that there was more to the story.

Johansson does a spectacular job of writing this story. She is able to evoke real emotions in the reader, not just sadness and anger but also terror. I don't think I can recall any book where I was genuinely afraid but there were a couple of scenes in this book that made me terrified. This book deals with something that a lot of books don't, it's not a widely discussed topic and Johansson is able to portray all the emotions the characters are going through and makes the reader feel them as well.

This book also has a bit of a thriller component, with the packages in the apartment. I had no idea what was going on with that, I mean I had a few guesses as to who was behind it but I would never have guessed it. I think Johansson does the thriller aspects well and I think that she wove it well with the story of abuse.

I didn't love the romance elements between Cam and Charlotte. I felt like the story didn't need it - and I didn't really want it. I went for this book for the horror/thriller not the romance. That being said, I am glad there was a little light in this story, especially for Charlotte who has been through so much already. Cam is sweet and wants to help Charlotte but there were a couple times where he just wouldn't mind his own business!

I don't know if I connected with Charlotte as well as I could have or would have if this was a different book. I think that's okay though because this isn't the kind of book where you need to like the character or connect with the character to understand what they are going through. I don't think I could tell you who Charlotte really is, but I feel like that's not really a problem in this book because there is so much else to worry about.

Overall, I read it in 2 hours and highly recommend if you are looking for a scary read!


Monday, May 29, 2017

THIS IS WHERE THE WORLD ENDS BY AMY ZHANG - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, This Is Where The World Ends by Amy Zhang.


This book won't be for everyone. I wasn't sure it was going to be for me for a bit, but then I started to love it.

The story follows the perspectives of Micah and Janie. They're best friends who don't associate with each other in public but behind the scenes they are partners in crime, bringing good things to good people and forcing karma on those who've done wrong. Life is going pretty good until Micah wakes up in the hospital with no memory of what happened before. He soon finds out there was a bonfire at Janie's house, he was there and no one will tell him where Janie is.

This book is told in a non-linear way. The After chapters are in Micah's perspective where he tries to piece together what happened and is sprinkled with glimpses of the past. The Before chapters are in Janie's perspective and tell the story of what happened leading up to the night of the bonfire, filling in the gaps of Micah's memory. Like with Zhang's debut novel, Falling into Place, I really enjoyed the writing style. I know for some it is all over the place but I liked the way she worked to slowly put the pieces together.

It doesn't take a genius to see the toxicity in Micah and Janie's relationship but the way Zhang writes the nuances of it create a setting where you can't always see the lines of this toxicity. I mean, they don't interact in public, but they are always there for each other, no matter what. This depiction of a toxic relationship shows that the poison isn't always so easy to see but can still be just as effective.

Character-wise, I liked both characters. Micah was a good character, I don't know if I would really say he was a super dynamic character, I'm not sure I know him, but I did like how Zhang portrayed him most of the time. I did, however, really like Janie. She was just on the cusp of a manic-pixie-dream-girl but without pushing it over the line. She was very pessimistic, but I think that was why I related to her so well. She loves fairy tales and make-believe but at the end of the day, she is a straight shooter. I really appreciated how Zhang would bring her character to the edge but didn't push her over the extreme.

I absolutely loved the way Zhang played with fairy tales in this book. At first, Janie wrote her life as a fairy tale, broken down to what happened in perhaps a not so happily ever after way. But then as the book progressed, Janie begins to write the fairy tales as they would have happened in modern day. If the prince didn't make it to the princess in time, if the mermaid drowned, if the fairy tale ended differently. These little snippets throughout the story were great additions and I thought Zhang worked them in wonderfully.

My only complaint about this book is that it's not really about the apocalypse. I mean it's kind of about the end of the world in some aspects but it's about the end of the character's worlds.

Overall, despite the other negative reviews on this one, I loved it and highly recommend.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

ASYLUM BY MADELEINE ROUX - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Asylum by Madeleine Roux.



I've been putting this book off for two reasons: 1) the horror genre is a bit outside my comfort zone, and 2) I was a little bit nervous about the pictures, especially because of the horror genre.

But, I finally decided to pick it up and I'm not sure how I feel.

The story follows 16 year-old-year Dan who is away at a college prep class. He arrives to find a strange roommate in his asylum turned dorm. Then things start happening. Creepy notes get left in his room even though he's sure he locked the door. Pictures left with eyes scratched out. He begins to explore the locked, off-limits portion of the building with his new friends Jordan and Abby.

First off, when I started the book, I immediately thought of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The layout was very similar, the chapter header on a separate page, the cursive first letter, etc. And that's not a bad thing, it's just a formatting thing and truthfully, I'm not sure which book was formatted first.

Story-wise, it was fairly interesting. I liked the mystery aspect of the story, finding out who was behind everything. But I didn't really understand the big reveal at the end. How was that even possible? I feel like I missed a part of the story where things were explained.

The pacing was good, I flew through this book. I'm not sure if it was a combination of the writing style, the large font size and the pictures on every other page.

I didn't love the narration though and I think that messed things up for me. It's told in third-person so there is already some disconnect with the story. And then, I wasn't really a fan of Dan's internal voice. He felt really young to me and his voice kind of irritated me. The narration felt like it was coming from a middle-grade character, not a higher aged YA.

I felt like the relationship between Dan and Abby was kind of pointless. I mean it didn't really add to the story at all and they didn't even acknowledge the situation. There were just some awkward comments that were random. I also felt that their characters were lacking. I don't know if I could tell you one dynamic detail that is specific to each of the characters. They felt so flat that there were times when I could only tell them apart by their cliches, awkward super-student = Dan, quirky, artsy girl = Abby, moody jerk = Jordan.

I'm not too sure what else to say about this book. I definitely didn't love it, but at the same time, it was interesting enough to finish it. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, I only got genuinely scared two or three times, all those times it was just a quick thing that got resolved on the next page. The book had a lingering creepiness, but it didn't constantly scare me.

I was expecting a lot more from this book and unfortunately, it didn't deliver as well as I had hoped.

Overall, I don't think it is worth the read.


Friday, May 26, 2017

THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES BY REBECCA PODOS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos.


I think I've found a new favourite book, this one very pleasantly surprised me!

The story follows Imogene, a high school senior whose mother, Sidonie, left when she was a baby. She doesn't know anything about her, except for what her father has told her. Now her father is missing and she and her stepmom are trying desperately to find him. Imogene believes that the only place he would have gone was to find Sidonie. Now she just has to find her dad and maybe meet her mom for the first time since she was a baby.

I think what I loved most about this story was its originality. I was expecting some run-of-the-mill mystery but I got something much more than that. Sure the story is about Imogene finding her parents, but it's also about her finding herself and recognizing the family she does have.

I think Podos did a great job of making the story realistic. There were times when Imogene was off doing something she probably shouldn't have been and she was punished. Her parents or at least her stepmom was around and actually part of her life. There were times when Imogene drew attention to the fact that she was just a teenager playing the role of Sherlock. There was never a moment where things turned unrealistic because Imogene was quick to point out the differences between real life and the mystery novels she loves.

I also really loved Imogene's voice. The story is told in her perspective and I think she is one of the best narrators in my recent memory. She was very aware of what was going on and was quick to call out herself when she was wrong. Her relationship with her friend Jessa was sweet and once again realistic. There were moments where things didn't go as planned and they had fights but they made it through.

Podos also does a good job of keeping the story on track. There are hints of possible romantic connections with Imogene and Jessa's older brother Chad but nothing really comes of it and it certainly doesn't take over the whole book.

The pacing and writing of this book were fantastic, it drew me in from the very beginning and couldn't put it down. I was so enthralled in the story and I had to see where it was going. It wasn't even so much the mystery of finding Imogene's dad or mom that kept me reading but Imogene's narration and journey. I didn't want to miss a second.

This book is for those of us who loved mysteries growing up, whether it was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or the Nancy Drew series. It's a modern-day detective story about life and family. It's not a fast-paced page-turner, but so much deeper and better than that. In some ways, I feel like this book was written just for me, I'm not sure why, but I think that's why I loved it so much. It was the book I've been waiting for.

I adored this book and hope you do too.

Overall, highly recommend this one and am hotly anticipating anything else by this author.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING BY MARCY BELLER PAUL - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back today with another book review, Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul.


This is one of those books where I can't remember why I decided I wanted to read it, I just knew I did at some point because I bought a copy.

The story follows Mattie, a girl who is in high school. Mattie and her friend Kris haven't associated with the other half of their friend group in a year and a half because of some event that happened. I can't really tell you too much more about the plot because there isn't really a lot more plot. That's pretty much it.

I had a few problems with this book, so I guess, based on the reviews, I am on the side of the fence that wasn't a huge fan.

My first issue was that I couldn't really get into this book. It took a good 100 pages (a little too much in a <300-page book) for me to actually want to continue reading. I almost DNF'd this book multiple times in the first little bit because I wasn't enjoying it. Now, there are a few reasons for this: I'm fighting off a slump, so that doesn't help matters and because this book is fairly split when it comes to people loving it or not being a fan, I tend to stay on the pessimistic side of things. I'm not sure if it was the book itself, the writing, story, etc. or if it was me, but I had a difficult time getting into this book.

Once I did get into it, I felt like there wasn't a lot going on. Like I said before, there isn't really much going on in terms of plot. It's just kind of Mattie's life these days and a couple flashbacks to the event that ruined it all. I almost preferred reading the flashback memories and I wish that was more of the book. There were a couple of times where I felt like I just walked into the middle of a story - references made to the event but no one was telling me what had happened. I understand the effect it was supposed to have, but I just didn't enjoy it.

I did really enjoy the interactions with Jolene and Mattie - they were creepy and showed an interesting toxic friendship dynamic. I just wish there was more of that. When we see their present-day interactions, most of those interactions are gone, both girls have become different people.

I feel like I would have preferred the original story, not the recap, 2 years later situation. It almost felt unnecessary to have this secondary telling of that story and I think I am missing the purpose as to why that was done.

Overall, I can see why people like this book and I can see why people aren't huge fans. I do think, however, if you can power through the first bit, the story picks up and you'll have a better chance at enjoying it.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

THE HATE U GIVE BY ANGIE THOMAS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with a fairly short review today for The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.


This book was phenomenal.

I'm going to keep this review super short because I think you should read the book, not my review, to get the full message.

The story follows 16-year-old Starr who has just witnessed a police officer murder of one of her friends after they were leaving a party. This book is inspired by the Black Lives Matter Movement, but it is so much more than that. There is love, hate, family, friendship, racism, police brutality, the list goes on.

This book provided such an eye-opening experience for me. Sometimes it is hard to put yourself in other people's shoes, especially when their world and life seems so different from your own. But Thomas does a fantastic job of laying it all out. She presents both sides of every story: the police officer's interpretation of the situation vs. Starr's first-hand account; Starr's uncle and aunt who are considered rich vs. Starr's family, more on the poor side; Starr's uncle Carlos, a black cop who is enraged that a fellow officer pulled a gun on two unarmed teens vs. Officer Cruise, a white cop who some say was just doing his job.

Throughout this book, Thomas doesn't get preachy, she doesn't tell you how to live your life or how to treat others, she just gives a much-needed voice that shows how the situation COULD be handled. She presents the details of this story so that even those who don't see the divisions of society are left with a new perspective and an open mind.

I think that is all I want to say about this book, and I highly recommend you pick it up as well.


Monday, May 22, 2017

JOYRIDE BY ANNA BANKS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Joyride by Anna Banks.


I'll give the book this, it sounded interesting.

The story follows 16-year-old Carly, an American-born Mexican who, with the help of her older brother, is trying to smuggle her recently deported parents back into the US. One night while working the graveyard shift at a convenience store, Carly meets Arden, the sheriff's son and last person she wants to associate with. Arden eventually convinces Carly to become his accomplice in his pranks but the two soon realize that being the sheriff's son has benefits that don't extend to Carly. In fact, Arden's dad's re-election campaign is centered around tightening restrictions on undocumented immigrants.

I'm so torn because I really enjoyed the storyline of this book - I haven't had the chance to read a lot of books on undocumented immigrants and deportation, the only other one I can think of being The Sun Is Also a Star - so I was really invested in Carly's story. But I just found some parts were slow and not really as enthralling as the title seems to suggest.

Firstly, I want to preface this review by saying that I am not an immigrant. I am not the child of immigrants. I will never know, on a first-hand basis, what the situation like what Carly's family goes through will feel like. Any analysis on that topic that I give should be taken with a grain of salt, as I am not the best person to verify the situation.

I will say, however, that the story Banks writes seems very plausible and remains heartbreaking. I cannot even imagine what she is going through. It's books like these that really put my own life into perspective and show that no matter how bad things get, they could always be worse.

In terms of characters, I really liked both Carly and Arden. I'm kind of sick and tired of the womanizing jock trope and while Banks shows that Arden is not that fairly quickly, I just felt like that cliche wasn't necessary to enhance the story. Carly is strong and smart. She knew her situation and the cards stacked against her but she didn't let that get in her way. I will say there were a few times where she just kind of went along with Arden's pranks even though she knew they might get caught. Part of me thinks she was reckless, but then the other part of me thinks that she shouldn't have to worry about what happens if they get caught.

I think aside from the obviously horrible situation I didn't really feel anything in this book. The romance was lukewarm for me, it seemed a little too insta-lovey and convenient for my tastes and I never really felt the spark between the two. I think this might be the biggest fault of this book, at the end, I just feel meh because of that ending.

Overall, the storyline of this book was really great but I just felt like the execution was a little lacking.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

DEAD GIRLS SOCIETY BY MICHELLE KRYS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys.


This book was so much more intense than I thought it was going to be and I flew through it!

The story follows Hope, a teen who is living with cystic fibrosis. She's been in and out of school with treatments and one day, she wakes up to an email from an unknown sender inviting her to a meeting at an abandoned warehouse at midnight. Obviously, Hope is skeptical but she convinces herself to go. There she meets four other girls who were all invited and they are told they must complete a series of dares in order to be the lone winner and receive a prize of $100,000. The girls are skeptical, but they've all been blackmailed and are forced to participate.

Krys sets the story up in such a way that looks at the absurdity of the situation and pokes fun at it. There are references to how it is like a cheap horror movie but the book is still good in spite itself.

The writing style of this book was really interesting, the chapters were written in such a way that let me stay interested in the story without wrapping up sections too soon. The pacing was really well done - we got right into the mystery and dares from the first chapter, there was no waiting around. That being said, there was still a lot of build up to the reveal of who was behind everything. There were a lot of red herrings and it got to the point where there was no one you seemed to be able to trust.

There was a bit of romance in this book but it wasn't really made a major focus, and rightfully so. Things moved a little fast, making it unrealistic and clear that it wouldn't last long. Looking back, there are a lot of little things Krys set up to lead to the conclusion without really knowing.

I'm not personally familiar with CF myself but I think Krys did a lot of research on the topic and portrayed Hope's disease well. There were points where Krys's writing style was able to create a story that engrossed me so much I felt as though I was in Hope's shoes, that I was having trouble breathing, the things that happened to her were happening to me. There was one part in particular that I felt like was happening to me and I was taken aback by Krys's writing.

This book had a The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer vibe (the first two books, not that horrendous third) as well as a little bit of The Accident Season. I wouldn't say that Hope was an unreliable narrator, but I just got similar vibes with these books.

I also think that Krys used the book's setting very well. A lot of the time, a book is set somewhere but there is no real interaction with the setting - it could be set anywhere. But Krys used the New Orleans backdrop throughout the book in interesting ways, starting from the street music on the very first page. I honestly can't remember the last time I was so aware of where a book was taking place while reading it.

I want to talk briefly about the ending; some people are saying it's a cliffhanger. Personally, I like how things ended. Pretty much everything is wrapped up or assumed to be wrapped up and there's one little detail that is added to make it seem like the story isn't over quite yet. I am fine with how things ended, that detail doesn't bother me that much. It does leave this book open to a sequel which, for the record, I would totally be down for.

I think I liked this book so much because I went in with zero expectations. I see a lot of mixed reviews and I think if you go in not knowing much and not expecting much, you will be happy with the story.

Overall, a new favourite for me - highly recommend!


Friday, May 19, 2017

THE DUFF: DESIGNATED UGLY FAT FRIEND BY KODY KEPLINGER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger.


When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued. I knew the basic premise but it didn't catch me enough to read it right away. And then the movie came out and I still hadn't read it. I'm still not sure what made me pick it up today, but I'm glad I did.

This story follows 17-year-old Bianca who is navigating life in high school. She's having some family troubles and one night, while she's out with her friends, she decides she's had enough. When the school's biggest playboy, Wesley, comes over to talk to her claiming she is the DUFF, designated, ugly, fat friend and that in order to get in good with her friends, Wesley has to be nice to her, Bianca is hurt and mad. In a fury, she kisses him and their relationship develops into an enemy with benefits situation.

I am really torn with this book. On the one hand, I loved that sassy comments, the relationship between Bianca and Wesley and just the general setup of the story. But on the other, I struggled with the slut-shaming and just meanness of some of the characters comments. Part of me wants to hate this book for including these negative elements but I am quick to recognize that they are, unfortunately, a part of today's society. The judgement and name calling continue whether or not Keplinger addresses them in this book.

I'm not sure that Keplinger handled Bianca's home life issues well, there were times when I wasn't sure what was happening. One second Bianca hated her mother and then the next she was back to liking her. I understand her confusion of emotions with all that was happening, but I just got the sense that those issues weren't really as big of a part of her life as we are led to believe.

I enjoyed Keplinger's portrayal of Wesley. He was a womanizing playboy but he was honest. He never led anyone on, and even though some might not agree with his lifestyle, as he calls it, Keplinger is able to show who he really is underneath it all.

I just really appreciated the dynamic between Bianca and Wesley. So often we get books with a Wesley-type character who finds the shy, innocent, sweet girl and shows her there's more to life while she reforms him. In this book, while Bianca has an effect on Wesley, she initiates. She is the one who, against everything she stands for, goes after him. I found that really refreshing. And Bianca as a character is sarcastic and sassy, she doesn't like to let anyone push her around - Wesley was no exception.

I definitely don't think this book is perfect but for a quick little romance read, it is exactly what I was looking for.

Overall, recommend if you are in the mood for something a little different.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

PAPERWEIGHT BY MEG HASTON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Paperweight by Meg Haston. Before I get into my thoughts on this book, please be aware of trigger warnings for self-harm, eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia), and suicide both in the book and possibly in this review as well.


So, this was a really difficult read. Regardless of your personal life, this book deals with an extremely difficult issue in a very intense way. If any of the above triggers affect you, please, for your sake, proceed in this book with caution.

The story follows 17-year-old Stevie who has just been admitted to an eating disorder treatment clinic and is still reeling from her brother's death almost one year ago. I won't get into specifics with the plot because it is mostly about Stevie's recovery and treatment, as well as her moving on from her brother's death which she blames herself for.

I can't remember the last time I read such a hard hitting book. Haston really got to the nitty-gritty of this disease and you could tell it was very well researched. This is one of those books that doesn't romanticize the illness, it shows it for what it truly is. And this book shows Stevie's struggle with recovery in what I would imagine is a realistic way. She doesn't just wake up one morning magically cured. She works hard, fails sometimes, but she does her best and over time is able to get better.

I will admit that I almost put this book down a couple of times. I'm not sure if it was the pacing or the subject matter. I found the story a little slow at times, specifically in some of the flashback/memory moments. I felt like some of that information was unnecessary to the story as a whole but I'm not sure it took anything away, other than making the story drag a bit. The other possible reason I can think of for almost DNFing this one was the subject matter. I knew it would be a difficult read going in, but I didn't think it would be that heavy. Haston's descriptions are extremely realistic and there were times when I wasn't sure I would be able to get through it.

I'm not sure I connected with Stevie as well as I could have but I don't think that's a major issue because this book isn't about having a likable character, it is about having a character who overcomes her disease. There was nothing about Stevie that turned me off her, I think I just didn't connect with her because I didn't need to in order to feel her pain. Haston's writing transcends the need for a connection with the character - I still got the message.

I also really appreciated that this book was about Stevie and not some romance she finds at the treatment facility. So many other books throw a romance in there for no other reason than to lighten things up. Not that this book didn't need some lightening, but I'm glad Haston didn't fall into that trap where we need a romance to take over the story.

Overall, this was a hard book to read but it was extremely eye-opening for me.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

THE ODDS OF LOVING GROVER CLEVELAND BY REBEKAH CRANE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane.


Going into this book, I wasn't really too sure what to expect since I was going in pretty much blind.

The story follows 16-year-old Zander who is spending the summer at a camp for at-risk teens. There she meets Cassie, a self-diagnosed manic-depressive-bipolar-anorexic, Grover who has a chance of developing schizophrenia like his father, and Bek, a pathological liar.

I think this book was a decent summer camp book, but I didn't really get the depth of emotion I usually find in books dealing so heavily with mental illnesses. This book was reminiscent of It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini but lacked the depth that I found in that one.

Of course, the characters and their illnesses are important to the story, but I didn't really feel like they were a person outside of their label. Each character was fairly flat and I didn't find myself particularly drawn to any one of them. Obviously, I empathized with their situations but I felt like I couldn't connect with them on a deeper level.

Even though the title revolves around the romance within the book, I didn't find myself particularly drawn to it. I thought it seemed a little unnecessary - we can have a book where two teens don't fall in love - scandalous, I know. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh but the romance felt too forced in this book. Not only that but when the relationship between Zander and Grover develops more, Zander completely abandons Cassie, a friend who really needs her. I understand getting swept up but I thought it unlikely that she would leave her friend behind like that. I also felt like for a camp where no relations such as that were appropriate, the counselors seemed pretty lax.

I did find the ending a little predictable, both with what happened with Cassie at the camp and later after everything. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I just felt like I saw it coming.

Overall, a decent book but a little flat where it mattered.


Monday, May 15, 2017

KETCHUP CLOUDS BY ANNABEL PITCHER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone,

I am back with another book review, Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher.


This was one of those books that I heard about years ago and had sitting on my TBR ever since. I thought the premise was interesting, but I always found another book to read. In the end, I was just sort of meh about it, so I don't really regret putting it off.

The story follows Zoe, a girl who like the Death Row inmate she is writing letters to, has killed someone. Except, she didn't get caught and she won't turn herself in - even with the guilt. After falling for two boys, Zoe has to choose, and that choice has deadly consequences for one of them.

I thought the premise of this book was really interesting. I was expecting a thriller or at least a bit of a mystery, but I pretty much figured out roughly what happened and who died fairly early on.

The narration was a bit off for me, it's told in Zoe's letters - she retells events that happened leading up to the killing. I think it got a bit tedious after a while and I felt like we didn't really need it in the form of letters or at least individual ones. The book would have worked just as well as one long letter because there was no return from the inmate she was writing to.

I also felt like I didn't really get a good grasp on Zoe's age in this writing style. For a long time, I thought she was 13-14 years old, but I'm assuming she would be closer to 16-17. Her letter writing felt too childish to fit her supposed age. I think this was part of the reason why I didn't really love her as a character. She was kind of annoying and while she had her problems, I didn't find myself caring about them.

I think that some of the personal problems she and her family were going through were not really needed for the story. In the end, they didn't really serve a purpose. Some of the time they were so monotonous that they became less interesting and charming and more filler. Let's be real here, this story, the murder at least, could have been told in 10-15 pages. Almost everything else was random information to fill the pages.

Also, just to be warned, there is a bit of sexual coercion and discussion on consent in this book. There's a party, some pictures taken without consent, etc., etc. I would say it's a fairly important plot point but if you are sensitive to those types of things, please be careful.

Overall, I had higher hopes for this book.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU BY JONATHAN TROPPER - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.


Well, I broke one my rules with this book: I watched the movie first.

I know, I know, I can't believe I did it too. But in all honesty, I hadn't heard about the book until the movie came out and I wasn't really even planning on watching the movie at all. Fast forward about a year later, I watched the movie and really enjoyed it. I knew I liked the storyline of the book so I was down for the movie. And well, here we are, book and movie both read and watched. I have no regrets but I am still sticking to the bookworm's rule that the book was better.

In case you haven't heard of this book or seen the movie, it follows thirty-something Judd after the death of his father and demise of his marriage. His father's dying wish was to have his family sit shiva for a week, staying together at the family home and working through their issues. And they have a lot of issues. The eldest brother Paul and his wife live in the town they all grew up in and he manages their father's sporting goods store. They've been trying to have a baby without much luck. Wendy, the only sister is married to a workaholic and has three kids. Judd walked in on his wife with another man and finds out that she's pregnant. The youngest sibling is Philip, he's somewhat of a disaster and no one ever knows what he's been up to.

I'm going to try and not compare this book too much to the movie but I want to mention one thing quickly first that relates to it. I found this book was much darker than the movie. The inner monologue Judd has with himself doesn't come through as strongly in the movie and I felt like his issues are really quite deep-seated. I didn't really get that vibe from the movie. There were also a few things cut out of the movie that made this book much darker than the movie, especially with Penny. In the movie, she is the kind, girl-next-door-who-got-away and in the book, the connection between her and Judd is much more emotionally and physically rooted.

I loved the dry, dark humour of this book. I found myself laughing many times throughout the book and I think that says a lot about Tropper's writing style. I really enjoyed the sibling banter as well. I don't know if it was because I also have siblings and was able to relate to some of the things they said or did.

I really felt like I was able to know the Foxman family on an intimate level. Tropper does a great job of developing his characters into unique individuals with really feelings and problems. The book goes through a lot of emotions: anger, sadness, hilarity, and heartbreak. The movie felt much lighter, like I said earlier, not so dark. I appreciated how Tropper was able to balance these emotions and encompass them all in the book, it wasn't just a romance with a little bit of sadness and grief.

I liked Judd's narration - I know from some other reviews that they thought him brash, angry and mean, but I think having seen the movie helped to show that he's not the jerk he comes across as. It's hard to separate the book from the movie after they've both been experienced but I thought his commentary was well done in the book. He had his moments but I guess that's just the sort of humour I find funny.

Overall, I recommend both the book and the movie - in whichever order you see fit.


Friday, May 12, 2017

SUDDEN DEATH BY ÁLVARO ENRIGUE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue.


Before I get too far into this review, please note that unfortunately, I could not finish this book.

You know, going into this book I knew it would go one of two ways: I would either be blown away and absolutely adore this book or I would be so confused I would have no idea what was going on. And unfortunately, I think a lot of it is the latter.

The story very, very loosely follows a tennis match between the artist and the poet. I'm not sure if we find out who they are later on because I only made it to the halfway point of this book before DNFing it. There are other elements of the story because you can't really write a 250+ page tennis match (or can you?), mainly things like random definitions in tennis, where the first tennis ball was made, etc. Basically, any fact in history that remotely had to do with tennis was included.

I was prepared for a strange book, so I pushed myself to the halfway mark. But so many times along the way I just kept asking myself, "why am I reading this? And where is the storyline?" Perhaps if I had finished the book I would have a better understanding, but I was just so lost.

I did really like the historical elements of tennis, I thought that was really interesting. I just didn't love how you couldn't tell what was real facts and what was stretched to be about tennis. I think there was great potential with these aspects but they just weren't executed well.

I also thought the narration was a bit weird. Most of the book was told in third person, but there were a couple random moments where it switched to first person and I think it was that author's narration/commentary within the story? I'm still not sure what was going on with that. There were also a couple random emails between the author and the editor of the book just kind of thrown it there, I'm not sure what the point of that was or if it was just a joke.

The book is all over the place, and I guess I can't really fault it for being so because according to some other reviews, I think it is supposed to be a mess, but I just can't figure out why it had to be a mess. Maybe I'm not intelligent enough to see the genius behind this story. I'm okay with that, but I just wish there was a little more clarity.

Another thing I think went right over my head is the supposed humour in this book. I don't know if I'm too dumb to get this 'intellectual humour' but I didn't find anything I read in the first half funny enough to categorize this book as such. Quite possibly I just missed it, but for the amount of people seeing the humour, I find that hard to believe.

Overall, some people might like this book but I am able to admit that I didn't understand it enough to like it.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

FIRST & THEN BY EMMA MILLS - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, First & Then by Emma Mills.


Last summer, I read Mills' second book This Adventure Ends and loved it so much I knew I needed to pick up her debut. And I am so glad I did.

The story follows high school senior, Devon. The premise of the story is pretty typical, she's in love with her best friend, Cas, but he doesn't know it. Enter new student, football star Ezra and you've got a story. The plot also deals with Devon's cousin, Forster, who is staying with her family after the death of his father and shakes up the dynamic Devon has come to know. Despite the basic storyline, this book was very interesting and didn't feel like just another high school drama.

First and foremost, when the synopsis is comparing this book to Friday Night Lights, it isn't kidding. Ezra, Cas, and Foster all play football and much of the story takes place on the sidelines of a game or in the aftermath of a game at school. I don't think this is a bad thing; as someone who has no idea how football works, I was able to enjoy it immensely. There wasn't really any technical stuff, just a lot of the plot revolved around what was happening on the field.

This book really brought me back to my high school days. I'm not that old, not old enough to be getting nostalgic about high school, but I really loved the school dynamic of this book. I find the older I get, the less interested I become in the high school drama. But I was surprisingly happy with this setting. Mills doesn't create the typical cliquey situation that you often find in high school settings, instead opting for a realistic, small town high school.

I really liked the characters in the book, Devon was a great character who reflects a lot of peoples' fears of what to do after high school. She was also a great friend and sister to Foster. The protectiveness between the two was really nice to see. I also liked Ezra's character. He was not what I was expecting from a star football player, at least going off the cliche. But he wasn't too dark and moody either. Foster was another great character. I wasn't too sure about him at the beginning but I warmed quickly to him.

I was pleased to find this book was not just about the romance. It's definitely a central element, but it wasn't the only important thing in Devon's life, and Mills made sure to let other aspects get the attention they deserved.

Overall, a refreshing take on the typical high school football drama.


Monday, May 8, 2017

THE THIRST BY JO NESBØ - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is book 11 in the Harry Hole series, The Thirst by Jo Nesbø.


Thanks so much to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Before I get too far into this review, I just want to clarify that I have not read the other books in this series. I think this book was good enough on its own, but without knowing how it would be with the rest of the books, I can't say for certain that it is a series that can be read out of order or individually.

This book follows the investigation of is a serial killer who targets women on Tinder dates. While there are some intense moments where we get the story in the killer's POV, most of the story focuses on the investigation side of things and the office politics. There are multiple POVs, all third person and ranging from detectives, doctors, a bartender and the women on the dates.

I will tell you right now that if you are looking for a fast-paced psychological thriller, you will not find it with this book. It is a well-crafted story, don't get me wrong, but it is an intentionally slow burn that makes full use of its 500+ pages. And the story isn't really about the murders, it's more about the people trying to solve them.

The characters to me were decent, I think in reading the series as a whole and in order I would have developed a greater connection with them. In this book, though, the focus isn't really one character development, by book 11 I think it's assumed to have taken care of by now. I didn't think that took much away from the story; previous relationships were described well enough to see character connections and I'm not sure knowing the full background of every character is necessary for making this a good book because the main plot wasn't really about the police characters.

This book definitely had the creepy, terrifying elements down. The murders are very "it could have been me" situations which gave that little bit extra creep factor.

I will say that the culprit behind everything was extremely unlikely but at the same time I can totally see it. Throughout the book, we get the POV of the murderer but as things develop, the story shows that it is much more dynamic and twisted than it seemed at first glance.

This was my first Nesbø and I can definitely see what all the hype is about. He was able to weave a brilliant story that kept me on the edge of my seat.

My only complaint would be the length/pacing of this book. It is a slow-burn, which I was fine with, but by the end of Part Two, I realized that this book wasn't so much about finding the murderer as it was about the investigators. In the end, I see why that was, but while reading it, I found that that was the point where I thought it would be over.

Overall, a well-crafted story with an unexpected plot.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

WAYFARER BY ALEXANDRA BRACKEN - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with my review of the conclusion to the Passenger duology, Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken.


It's been a while since I read/finished a duology. I feel like things got wrapped up in this book, but if there was a series to be made into a trilogy, I wouldn't mind it being this one.

This story picks up right where book one left off. I won't get into the plot because I don't want to spoil this or the last book but I will say that there are a lot of adventures in different places, the Vatican 1499, Petrograd 1919, Prague 1430, and Rio de Janeiro 1830, just to name a few. Like the first book, there is time travel to a bunch of these amazing locations and points in time.

Typically, I don't love historical fiction, but Bracken creates a sort of hybrid alternate reality/historical fiction that makes history interesting. There is one point where the characters have dinner with Tsar Nicholas II, and he's just a normal, down-to-earth guy. I found these little additions to history really interesting despite the fact that it was about history.

Like in the first book, Bracken does a great job of the time travel elements. Now that things are explained in depth from the first book, there was less explanation on how it was possible and more information on the story itself, which I think lent itself nicely to the flow of the story.

Also within this book were social issues and tensions of modern day. I don't remember if Bracken had any LGBT+ characters in the first book, but this one saw a lesbian couple. There was also still moments of racial tensions with Nicholas and Bracken addressed these in a positive manner. Gender and 'typical' gender roles are also addressed and like in the first book, Etta is depicted as a strong female character but one who still is able to show emotion when expected; a well-done balance of character.

I think this book was a good conclusion to the duology as a whole. Sometimes I find duologies suffer from second book syndrome, despite the fact that the second book is the final one, but I am happy to report that Bracken was able to avoid this issue. I think the pacing was well done, I found myself constantly engrossed, despite the length of this book. As a second book, I think Bracken did a good job of quickly recapping the important details of book one to help the reader get back into the story.

I would argue that this book had a little less adventure and mystery in it, mainly because there came a point where the goal of the characters was established and there was less time spent exploring like in the first book. Also, due to some circumstances that would spoil things, Etta and Nicholas are separated for most of the book and as such the romance element dwindles. It didn't drive this book as much as it had in the first book, I think, but I'm also not sure that's a bad thing.

I'm not sure I would say it is as good as the first book, but I still think it's a good book. The series as a whole is great, but there is just something this book was lacking that the other one had.

Overall, a great series but not my favourite of the two books.


Friday, May 5, 2017

TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is the collection of short stories called Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald.


I've been wanting to read more F. Scott Fitzgerald lately so I decided to pick up this collection of short stories to get back in the mood.

There were eight stories in this collection and for the most part, I enjoyed them. I will briefly go through each one individually:

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was an interesting story. It was about a baby born an old man and over time he ages backward to a baby. It was a little strange but still good, I've never heard the original story so I was excited by this one.

"Head and Shoulders" was the next story. I didn't love this one as much as the first one - it was good, but I don't know if I fully understood the meaning behind it. I also didn't love the ending, it felt like it just sort of ended.

"The Cut-Glass Bowl" was the third story. It was another peculiar story that I'm not sure how I feel about. I think as the book went on, the stories got more and more strange.

"The Four Fists" was another interesting story that seemed a little odd. I'm used to trying to find a moral or lesson in the text, especially short stories, but I struggled with that in some of these stories.

"May Day" was the fifth story and it was different from the others because this one had some interesting historical references. This story set the tone for more political writing, but it was a lot longer than the others and I lost interest.

"O Russet Witch" was the next one, it was an interesting story about a bookstore and love. The stories are becoming less fantastical and more realistic after and including this one.

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" was a story about the younger generations of the time period. It was one of the more understandable stories in the collection and was really getting into the realism of the collection.

"The Lees of Happiness" was one of the most 'normal' of the stories and made the most amount of sense.

I found that this collection was organized quite well, the stories were organized to go from fantastical, magical stories to realistic, pragmatic stories about the social and political atmosphere of the Twenties.

Overall, and interesting collection but I found some of the stories a little boring for my taste.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS BY EMILY BARR - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. Thanks so much to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me an ARC fo this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


This story was a weird one for me - and I can't decide if it's a good weird or a bad weird.

The book follows 17-year-old Flora. When Flora was ten, she had a tumor in her brain that had to be removed, leaving her with anterograde amnesia, basically, she remembers things that happened before the surgery, but is unable to make new memories afterward. Until one night, when she kisses her best friend's boyfriend Drake on the beach after his going away party and, when her other memories fade a few hours later, she remembers the kiss. And when her parents have to take an emergency trip to see her older brother, Jacob, in France, they leave Flora with Paige, the friend they don't know isn't speaking to Flora. After emailing back and forth with Drake, Flora decides to meet him in Norway, where he is studying.

There's more to the plot but I'll leave it at that for now.

It took me a little bit to get used to the writing style of this book. Every once in a while, Flora would lose her memory and had to reorient herself. That kind of jarred the narrative at times, having to hear the basics over and over. It did, however, give an impression as to what life is like for Flora.

Maybe it's just the cynic in me, or perhaps because I haven't lived with amnesia like Flora does, but I thought chasing down Drake because she was in love and remembered their kiss was a bit far-fetched to me. I was a little skeptical of the relationship from the get go. Not only was he Paige's boyfriend, but he'd only been in the country a little while in the first place. It was like a strange sort of insta-love that happened before the book started. Also, I'm willing to bet that falling in love isn't going to cure your LACK OF BRAIN TISSUE. Just saying.

I don't think I liked Flora's character as much as I should have. She felt very young, younger than 17, but I suppose that is because she sometimes gets stuck in the time for the surgery when she was ten. But I just found her extremely naive and annoying at times.

I pretty much figured out the plot twist with the parents fairly early on, at least part of it. They just seemed off - at least in the few chapters we saw before they left. It's the typical absentee parents of YA, but with a 'good' reason. In the end, I understand why they didn't bring Flora with them, but I thought it was extremely far-fetched that they would leave her with her friend, and not even check in with the friend in person before leaving. But I suppose if they did, there wouldn't be a story.

I guess the big problem I had with this book was that I was expecting so much, and it was just meh. There were some intense moments throughout the book, but they all seemed to resolve themselves fairly quickly and easily. The concept was really amazing, and I've read other amnesia books that are done well, I just don't think this was one of them.

Overall, I wanted to love this book, but I think it missed the mark for me.


Monday, May 1, 2017

THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS BY MARY E. PEARSON - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson, the final book in the Remnant Chronicles.


In keeping with my book resolution this year, I am happy to say that I have now completed reading this series and I really enjoyed it.

This book was filled with the same action as the first two but felt more refined and calculated - you could really see the growth in Pearson's writing.

Before I get too far into this review, just be warned that there will likely be spoilers for book one and two, but I will try to avoid anything from book three.

The story picks up immediately where book two left off, Lia has just escaped and is trying to make her way back to Morrighan to save her kingdom. I won't go into specifics but there are battles, coups, and court advancements. There is really too much to sum up in a couple sentences but those are the general themes.

Despite the fact that this book is almost 700 pages long, I think the pacing was very well done. There was a lot happening but I think that every page was important and necessary to the story overall. The pacing was not too slow, a concern I had with a book of this size, but it wasn't too fast, where details were cut out. I think it could have stood to be a little faster but it didn't cause problems for me.

This book also addresses the love triangle situation that was kind of going on with Kaden, Rafe, and Lia. At the end of book two, she has pretty much chosen. This book kind of put the romance on the back burner, not necessarily because it wasn't important but because it was resolved for the most part. I liked where things ended up with both Kaden and Rafe. I actually liked the ending with the romance, I thought it said enough to tell of what happened after but it didn't worry about explaining every small detail.

I really liked Lia's character in this book, I thought she was really strong and kick-butt. She had her moments of emotion but she didn't let that or anyone stand in her way. There were definitely some moments where she stood up for herself when her authority was questioned, which I loved.

I know this book has a lot of mixed reviews but I personally enjoyed it and definitely think it is worth the read.

Overall, I really enjoyed this series and highly recommend.