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Friday, January 18, 2019

Prep School Confidential | Book Review

Prep School Confidential

Written by: Kara Taylor
Number of Pages: 310

Average Rating: 3.97 / 5 stars
My Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars

Published in July 2013
Read in January 2019


Summary According to Goodreads

Anne Dowling practically runs her exclusive academy on New York’s Upper East Side - that is, until she accidentally burns part of it down and gets sent to a prestigious boarding school outside of Boston. Determined to make it back to New York, Anne couldn’t care less about making friends at the preppy Wheatley School. That is, until her roommate Isabella’s body is found in the woods behind the school.

When everyone else is oddly silent, Anne becomes determined to uncover the truth no matter how many rules she has to break to do it. With the help of Isabella’s twin brother Anthony, and a cute classmate named Brent, Anne discovers that Isabella wasn’t quite the innocent nerdy girl she pretended to be. But someone will do anything to stop Anne’s snooping in this fast-paced, unputdownable read - even if it means framing her for Isabella’s murder. 


My Thoughts

I have been holding onto this novel for far too long, and actually own all three books of the trilogy. In 2018 I put this novel on my “Read or Unhaul” list but I never got around to it. This is the first book that I have read in 2019, and I am disappointed that it took me over two weeks to read. 

I am a huge fan of thrillers and murder mysteries, and had heard good things about this story from my friend Geraldine. The plot started out engaging, but slowly got slower, and slower paced. At no point while reading this was I sitting on the edge of my seat, and instead found it easy to put down and move on to other things. 

What hurt this novel the most for me were the weak characters thrown into such an atmospheric setting. Our main character Anne was complex, but displayed too much entitlement and recklessness for my taste. Her friends were flat minions that seemed to have no storyline outside of Anne, even though she’d only been at that school for a couple of weeks. The tip of the iceberg where I knew I couldn’t rate this novel high was the unnecessary love triangle. In this kind of mystery/thriller, it was a waste to throw in two guys for Anne who already had enough going on. This triangle just added too much angst in my opinion and took away from the true point of the novel. 


Overall, I was quite disappointed with the pacing of this novel, and how many cliches it ended up hitting. As I said, I own the other two books in the series but I will likely end up unhauling them and giving them to someone that will enjoy them. 



Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Witchborn | Book Review | Guest Reviewer

Witchborn

Written by: Nicholas Bowling
Number of Pages: 368

Average Rating: 3.40 / 5 stars
Rhonda’s Rating: 1 / 5 stars

Published September 25, 2018
Read in December 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

Alyce’s mother has just been burnt at the stake for practicing witchcraft. With only a thin set of instructions and a witch’s mommet for guidance, Alyce must face the world that she’s been sealed off from - a world of fear and superstition. With a witch hunter fast on her trail, she’ll need the help of an innkeeper and a boy looking to discover the truth behind his own mother’s past. 

But as her journey continues, another war rages: a hidden war of the supernatural, of the living and the dead. Good and evil are blurred, and nobody’s motives can be trusted. And Alyce finds herself thrown unwillingly into the conflict. Struggling to understand her own powers, she is quickly drawn into a web of secrets, lies, and dark magic that could change the fate of the world she is just coming to know. 


Rhonda’s Thoughts

Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling intrigued me immediately upon reading the synopsis. The year was 1577 and it started with a woman being accused of practising witchcraft while she tried to keep her daughter Alyce safe. By page eight I found myself to be totally intrigued, but by page 90 I felt that there was still no plot developed. Leading up to this point there had been plot points and hints suggesting something big, but the actual climax of the story was not coming to life for me. 

The author used very descriptive vocabulary throughout the entire story, which brought the scenery to life and made it worth reading for me. Many new characters where being introduced but only one, Solomon, seemed of any relevance, and the rest were just to take up space. When the author finally revealed the plot I did not like that he used real characters including Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary of Scots, and wrote them as witches.  I am usually a fan of historical fiction novels, but using these non-fictional characters actually made me stop reading the book. I needed to take some time to decide if I wanted to continue with the story because knowing these characters true stores, it pulled me out to the world that he had so beautifully created. 

I hate giving novels such negative reviews, and I can only hope that the more he writes the stronger he will get since this was only his first published work. The story idea was good, the descriptive writing was fantastic but the characters and their purpose in the story never really came together for a good novel. 



Check out Rhonda’s GoodReads page:

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/15982093-rhonda

Monday, December 31, 2018

Bookish Regrets of 2018

Bookish Regrets of 2018

2018 has come to an end, and as I look back and reflect on the year I have many regrets and things I wish I had done differently. This was not a good year for either my reading or my blog, as I let personal dilemmas get in the way of things I truly wanted to accomplish. 

I am determined to make 2019 better, but want to first address where I lacked and didn’t succeed last year. 

The biggest goal I had set for myself was the Goodreads Reading Challenge, where I attempted to read 100 books in 2018. This is something I have accomplished before, but after many reading slumps I only managed to read 66 books this year. 

My second goal for 2018 was to have less than 150 books unread books in my collection that I own. I managed to achieve that goal, as my current owned TBR is 114 books. I didn’t complete the 2018 PopSugar Challenge, or finish ten series (I actually only finished one), but I did fairly well on my Read or Unhaul challenge. At the beginning of the year I chose ten books that I would get rid of if I didn’t read them and although I didn’t read a single one on that list, I got rid of most of them easily. During the summer I decided to start living a minimalist lifestyle, and I lot of those books found their way into the donation pile since I forgot they were on this list. 

There are some books I really wish I had got around to reading this year; including Vicious by VE Schwab, What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli, Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. There were also a lot of ARCs that I received this year that I wish I had been able to read and review prior to their publication, but am determined to catch up on all of my outstanding reviews in the new year.

Overall I am disappointed in my reading and blogging this last year, and hope to make the next year much better. Even of the 66 books I read didn’t love all (or even most) of them, so I may have to be more selective of what I choose to read in 2019.


Here’s hoping next year sees no bookish regrets!

Friday, December 28, 2018

People Kill People | Book Review

People Kill People

Written by: Ellen Hopkins
Number of Pages: 431

Average Rating: 3.88 / 5 stars
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Published in September 2018
Read in December 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

Someone will shoot. And someone will die.

A gun is sold in the classifieds after killing a spouse, bought be a teenager for needed protection. But who was it? Each has the incentive to pick up a gun, to fire it. Was it Rand or Cami, married teenagers with a young son? Was it Silas or Ashlyn, members of a white supremacist youth organization? Daniel, who fears retaliation because of his race, who possessively clings to Grace, the love of his life? Or Noelle, who lost everything after a devastating accident, and has sunk quietly into depression?

One tense week brings all six people into close contact in a town wrought with political and personal tensions. Someone will fire. And someone will die. But who?


My Thoughts

I received an ARC of this novel while attending BEA this year, but that does not influence my opinion. 

As many of you already know, I am Canadian and so was likely not the target audience for this novel. Canada has fairly strict gun laws, and we are not openly armed as many states seem to be. There is much discussion and political uproar regarding gun safety, and I think this novel is an important contributor to the issue as it tries to show both sides of the argument, while still getting all the important statistics out. 

My biggest critique would have to be the lack of pacing. Considering this entire novel takes place within seven days, it felt much longer and dragged out at times. There were some moments I think could have been edited down, because near the end it started to all blend together and seem unnecessary. I would have preferred less detail in the middle of the novel, and instead had more in the end/epilogue where we see the characters in adulthood after the trauma. An incident such as the one these characters experience would have huge psychological effects, and I would have liked to see how it affected their personality. 

If I were to break down my rating for this novel I would say that the overall plot and execution were a 3, the characters were a 3, the ending was a 4, and the free verse narration between perspectives was a 5. There were some poems from this narrator that gave me chills, and it was so impactful for a story that had such a heavy plot line. It is never clear who the narration is, but I interpreted it as greed and chaos.

Overall, this wasn’t my favourite novel of hers, but it was still an engaging and powerful read - although it was a slower read than usual. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives, the connection between all of the characters, and the surprise ending. I would recommend this novel if you are a fan of contemporary novels that tackle real issues, enjoy Ellen Hopkins’ other works, or are looking to get into free verse novels. 


Monday, December 17, 2018

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale | Book Review

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale

Written by: Jane Yolen
Number of Pages: 320

Average Rating: 3.55 / 5
My Overall Rating: 3 / 5 stars


Summary According to Goodreads

Fantasy legend Jane Yolen presents a wide-ranging offering of fractured fairy tales. Yolen fractures the classics to reveal their crystalline secrets, holding them to the light and presenting them entirely transformed; where a spinner of straw into gold becomes a money-changer and the big bad wolf retires to a nursing home. 

Rediscover the tales you once knew, rewritten and refined for the world we now live in - or a much better version of it. 

“Then you have to figure out what kind of fracture you’re attempting. A small sprain or the calving of glaciers? Do you want to subvert the story’s paradigm entirely, or just make a joke?” - from the authors introduction


My Thoughts

I received an e-arc copy of this novel to review from NetGalley, but that does not influence my opinion.

I should start off by saying that I was very excited to get approved for this novel, as I am both a fan of Yolen, fairy tales, and anthologies. Some of these stories were very well done, while others did not seem to make any sense and went right over my head. It took me long over a month to get through this collection, and put me in a massive reading slump because I had no motivation to read anything. I was not captivated or blown away, and think future readers should read each story a while apart, otherwise they may blend together. 

Unfortunately this anthology was more of a collection of good ideas rather than good stories, and I was disappointed with it overall.


Rating of Each Story

Snow in Summer: 4 stars

     A Snow White retelling where she gets her own revenge and doesn’t need someone to save her? Yes please!

The Bridge’s Complaint: 2 stars

The Moon Ribbon: 3 stars

     I liked the idea of this story, but I think it was dragged out too long and the message become lost on me in the end.

Godmother Death: 5 stars

     I loved the tone and the atmosphere of this story, coupled with an interesting plot made it perfect.

Happy Dens: 4 stars

Granny Rumple: 2 stars

One Ox, Two Ox, Three Ox, and the Dragon King: 4 stars

Brother Hart: 5 stars

Sun / Flight: 2 stars

Slipping Sideways Through Eternity: 4 stars

     I really liked this story and the message, but would have liked to see it developed more. I’m not completely familiar with Judaism, but was taught enough to understand the lessons being learned. I just think this story would have been better if Rebecca had a stronger personality.

The Foxwife: 2 stars

The Faery Flag: 3 stars

One Old Man, with Seals: 4 stars

Sleeping Ugly: 1 star

     Thankfully this story was quite short because it was rather pointless.

The Undine: 2 stars

     I always appreciate a mermaid story, especially one reminiscent of The Little Mermaid, but this one wasn’t great.

Great-Grandfather’s Dragon Tale: 3 stars

Green Plague: 4 stars

The Unicorn and the Pool: 3 stars

     I sat with this story a while and reread it a few times, and although I really liked the fable I would have liked to see it be longer.

The Golden Balls: 3 stars

     This was an interesting take on a story I have heard before, and I appreciated the turn of victimizing the princess more than the frog was.

Sister Death: 5 stars

Sule Skerry: 2 stars

Once A Good Man: 5 stars

Allerleirauh: 4 stars

     I’ve heard this story before but this time around it seemed to have a much darker tone - more fitting for the plot.

The Gwynhfar: 2 stars

Cinder Elephant: 5 stars

     A funny Cinderella retelling where the chubby girl gets the cute prince!

Mama Gone: 4 stars

The Woman Who Loved a Bear: 3 stars

Wrestling With Angels: 5 stars

     I am so glad that so finished this collection with this story as I would have to say it was my favourite. 




Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thousand Words | Book Review

Thousand Words

Written by: Jennifer Brown
Number of Pages: 274

Average Rating: 3.78 / 5 stars
My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Published: May 21, 2013
Read in November 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

Ashleigh’s boyfriend, Kaleb, is about to leave for college, and Ashleigh is worried that he’ll forget about her while she’s away. So at a legendary end-of-summer pool party, Ashleigh’s friends suggest she text him a picture of herself - sans swimsuit - to take with him. Before she can talk herself out of it, Ashleigh strides off to the bathroom, snaps a photo in the full-length mirror, and hits “send”.

But when Kaleb and Ashleigh go through a bad breakup, Kaleb takes revenge by forwarding the text to his baseball team. Soon the photo has gone viral, attracting the attention of the school board, the local police, and the media. As her friends and family try to distance themselves from the scandal, Ashleigh feels completely alone - until she meets Mack while serving her court-ordered community service. Not only does Mack offer a fresh chance at friendship, but he’s the one person in town who received the text of Ashleigh’s photo - and didn’t look. 


My Thoughts

This novel opens on Ashleigh in community service, and we continue to delve right into the aftermath of her trauma. I was a little disappointed in the lack of resolution, as I don’t think Ashleigh completely understands her share in what happened. Although she was indeed a victim and was bullied harshly because of it, she was ignorant of how her decision affected so many other people around her - including her family. She refused to admit that she was as much to blame as Kaleb was, and the entire novel was filled with immaturity and lack of empathy. 

In a contemporary novel it is so important to have strong and independent characters, but I felt that they were not completely developed in this story. As I mentioned Ashleigh was very immature, but unfortunately she was not the only one amongst her crowd. It was almost painful to read the interactions between Ashleigh and her ex-boyfriend Kaleb as it was the cliché breakup experience we could all expect when one goes to college and the other stays behind. At the beginning of the novel Ashleigh started off with a big group of friends and although none specifically up and ditched her, she cut everyone off from her life and isolated herself in her misery.

Jennifer Brown has a very smooth writing style that makes this a very quick and engaging read, but was also aided by splitting the story into both past and present. I think this is a very important novel for young girls to read, especially those with the means to get themselves into this kind of trouble. When I was growing up there wasn’t a huge discussion about the dangers of sending these kinds of pictures, but it’s also not something I ever considered doing. Another aspect of this novel that is so underrated is that there is a female-male friendship that involves absolutely no romance. The only romance in this novel is the brief run of Ashleigh and Kaleb, but with Mack they are just supportive of one another through their community service. I think it is refreshing to read a story where friendship is a focus and to show that even in dark times there are some people that can look through the bad to see the good. 

Overall, I think that was worth the read as it covers an important issue, and teaches lessons such as friendship, family, and bullying. I think I would have enjoyed this more had I read it a few years ago, but I still recommend it to readers, but teen girls specifically.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Wicked Deep | Book Review

The Wicked Deep

Written by: Shea Ernshaw
Number of Pages: 310

Average Rating: 3.83 / 5 stars
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Published: March 6, 2018
Read in November 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. 

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbour and pulling them under. 

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into. 

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swift to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. 

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself. 


My Thoughts

I received an e-arc copy of this novel to review from NetGalley, but that does not influence my opinion. 

I am so frustrated that it took me almost a year to finally pick up my e-copy of this novel, and I have no excuse as to why I didn’t read it earlier. I think I thought that this was a story set around mermaids (which I don’t enjoy) and only felt compelled to read it to clear off my review shelf. It took me a while to get into the plot at first, as I found her writing style to be very over-descriptive but eventually was able to become hooked. I actually read the last 35% in one sitting overnight. Shea Ernshaw’s writing somehow because less overly-descriptive and more atmospheric and mysterious. I wish I was able to pinpoint at which point my perspective to her writing changed, but it was such an effortless transition that left me captivated in her storytelling. 

There were a few characters to keep track of in this novel as we get perspective from both past, with the sentencing of the sisters, and future, of the drownings they set upon the town each summer. I did not have a character that I loved more than any other, and found instead that they worked best as a group - with the exception of the insta-love I really could’ve done without that. 

A final comment that I would like to make is in regards to the plot twist(s). I have seen a lot of negative reviews towards this novel with the explanation that it is too predictable, but I didn’t see it as it’s biggest flaw. No it is not overly original, but I did think it was well written and spooky. Overall, I think this was a really solid read and I’m glad I finally got around to picking it up. Although it is set during the summer, I think it is best read during this gloomy fall weather as it brings you into the perfect atmosphere!