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Monday, March 26, 2018

Then She Was Gone | Book Review

Then She Was Gone

Written by: Lisa Jewell
Number of Pages: 368

Average Rating: 4.37 / 5 stars
My Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Originally Published: July 27, 2017
Re-released: April 17, 2018
Read in March 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her. 

And then she was gone. 

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a cafe, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters - and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away. 

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?


My Thoughts

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

I love thrillers, and I was immediately intrigued in this novel after reading the synopsis. The beginning of the novel started strong, but then slowly began to weaken. Her writing was not anything extraordinary or addicting, and was something I would have expected from a debut author. 

My biggest issue with this novel was its predictability. I was able to guess from early on where the plot was going to go, and where the twists would lead - and that took away from the suspense of my experience. I was never sitting on the edge of my seat, because it was an overall flat story. It is classified as a mystery and thriller, but I would consider it to be more of an adult fiction with dark themes. In my opinion, there was nothing mysterious or thrilling about it.

I found our main narrator, Laurel, to be flat and bland, although I do assume her emotional detachments come from losing her daughter all those years ago. Her character did not make a lot of sense to me, describing herself as introverted and wary of everyone, but then all of a sudden diving headfirst into a relationship with someone she only just met. She talked to this man more than she talked to her children, and considering she’d already lost one I was discouraged by how distant she was from her other two.

This novel did grip me in the beginning being told in the “before” and “after” of the kidnapping, and it was nice to get the perspective of Ellie in order to sympathize with what happens to her later. I felt sorry for Ellie and what she went through, but I could not have cared less about any of the other characters. They didn’t feel real, they felt like every generic family you would see on a talk show after one of the members goes missing.I think if the author had done more research on this topic, and rounded out her characters a bit more, she would have had a much stronger novel.

Overall, I was disappointed in this read. It is difficult to write in the thriller genre, so I appreciate the effort, but she didn’t bring anything original to the table with this novel. I am not in a rush to go out and pick up another one of her books, but I will keep an eye out in case any sound interesting enough. 


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Black Chuck | Book Review

Black Chuck

Written by: Regan McDonell
Number of Pages: 304

My Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Published: April 3, 2018
Read in March 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

Psycho. Sick. Dangerous. Real Dufresne’s reputation precedes him. When the mangled body of his best friend, Shaun, turns up in a field just east of town, tough-as-hell Real blames himself. But except for the nightmares, all Re remembers is beating the living crap out of Shaun the night of his death.

Shaun’s girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Evie Hawley, keeps her feelings locked up tight. But now she’s pregnant, and the father of her baby is dead. And when Real looks to her to atone for his sins, everything goes sideways. Fast. 

The tighter Evie and Real get, the faster things seem to fall apart. And falling in love might just be the card that knocks the whole house down.


My Thoughts

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

I went into this novel expecting a chilling darkness, which came from both the cover and the synopsis. Reading “psycho”, “sick”, and “dangerous” as the tag lines of a synopsis detailing a guy whose best friend dies, I thought this was going to be gruesome and heavy. Unfortunately it ended up being another contemporary following two teens who shouldn’t be together but fall anyway. 

There were more issues than positives in my reading experience of this novel, one of the biggest issues being the lack of plot development. It started out as engaging, but fell flat for about 70% of the story, before picking up as interesting again. The story slowly became less about the friendships and grieving, and more about the budding insta-love that was happening between Real and Evie. I felt as though there wasn’t enough consistency, too many cliches to count, and a few confusing plot elements that lost my attention.

However, I did appreciate that it is Canadian and focuses on some diverse characters - that being French and of Native heritage. Some of the religious and cultural beliefs recognized in this novel were ones that I was only partially familiar with, so I enjoyed being exposed on a deeper level. I did find this to be a quick read, probably aided by the fact that I read it on my iPad, since I tend to fly through ebooks. Her writing style was engaging and flowed well, but she was also descriptive in her atmospheres which I liked. But everyone cried all of the time, and that got old quite quickly. This is Regan McDonell’s first published work, and I hope she continues to write and develop her talent for storytelling. 

One of the most important elements in a novel is characters and their subsequent development, but I found both to be quite lacking in this novel. This story is told through alternating perspectives of the main characters, which was fine, but it also bounced between past and present randomly and confusingly. Real was built-up as this tough guy that people didn’t mess with, but all of a sudden he’s a crying mess that is torn between two girls? And Evie is written as a quiet girl that only joined the friend group because of Shaun, and is now suddenly centre of attention? Not believable enough for me. t found the characters to be unlikeable, but was able to find some compassion for them through the grieving of their best friend and boyfriend. Unfortunately once the two started pursuing a relationship together and falling too hard too fast, I lost respect for the both of them and just wanted to get to the conclusion of what happened to Shaun.

Overall, I went into this with the expectations of a murder-mystery, and was disappointed to find just another contemporary. If you enjoy reading dark contemporaries, I would recommend checking this one out upon its release, but it wasn’t anything that blew me out of the water. 


Monday, March 12, 2018

All Out | Book Review

All Out

Edited by: Saundra Mitchell
Number of Pages: 353

Average Rating: 4.15 / 5 stars
My Overall Rating: 3.35 / 5 stars

Published: February 27, 2018
Read in March 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love, and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens. 


My Thoughts

Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: 2 stars

    - This was different, but and I appreciated the story, I just could not get into the writing style. 

The Sweet Trade by Natalie C Parker: 3 stars

    - I liked this one but would have liked to see more personality in the characters. I understand the time period and that women weren’t exactly “free”, but I would’ve liked to see more 

And They Don’t Kiss at the End by Nilah Magruder: 4 stars 

Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee: 5 stars

    - I loved this story! It is so relatable across any decade, I fell for it. The characters were sweet and real, and it is a concept that would be great as a full-length novel. 

The Dresser & the Chambermaid by Robin Talley: 4 stars

New Year by Malinda Lo: 3 stars

Molly’s Lips by Dahlia Adler: 4 stars

    - Short and simple, which managed to work both in its favour and against it. 

The Coven by Kate Scelsa: 2 stars 

Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake: 2 stars

    - Robin Hood has never been one of my favourite stories, so I didn’t expect to love a retelling of it. 

Willows by Scott Tracey: 4 stars 

    - This story took a different turn than I’d originally expected, but I liked how dark the tone was. It was interesting and unique, and something I would read as a full-length novel. 

The Girl with the Blue Lantern by Tess Sharpe: 4 stars 

    - I really liked the writing style of this story, it flowed so well and felt natural. The plot was different but enjoyable!

The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy by Alex Sanchez: 5 stars

    - Oh my heart! This was such a sweet, romantic story but was also refreshingly real. It wasn’t some fairytale story but instead shared true struggles of a young boy coming to terms with himself. I loved the descriptive writing style, and want to read more from this author in the future!

Walking After Midnight by Kody Keplinger: 4 stars 

The End of the World As We Know It by Sara Farizan: 3 stars 

Three Witches by Tessa Gratton: 2 stars

The Inferno & the Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson: 4 stars 

Healing Rosa by Tehlor Kay Mejia: 2 stars





Friday, March 2, 2018

Dime | Book Review

Dime

Written by: E.R Frank
Number of Pages: 305

Average Rating: 4.08 / 5 stars
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Published: May 26, 2015
Read in March 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

As a teen girl in Newark, New Jersey, lost in the foster care system, Dime just wants someone to care about her, to love her. A family. A that is exactly what she gets - a daddy and two “wifeys.” So what if she has to go out and earn some coins to keep her place? It seems a fair enough exchange for love. 

Dime never meant to become a prostitute. It happened so gradually, she pretty much didn’t realize it was happening until it was too late. 

But when a new “wifey” joins the family and Dime finds out that Daddy doesn’t love her the way she thought she did, will Dime have the strength to leave? And will Daddy let her?


My Thoughts

Trigger warning for child abuse, sexual exploitation of minors, and prostitution. 

I have been holding onto this novel for almost three years, and only picked it up because I’d grabbed it out of my TBR jar. I am so disappointed that it took me so long to get around to, because I ended up really enjoying it. 

This is such an important novel, I wish it was getting more attention. Prostitution is something that we are all aware of, takes place everywhere, and we need to stop being so ignorant of it. Following these young girls on this journey was devastating, because all they wanted was to be loved. As a psychology student I appreciate how important childhood experiences affect maturity and development, and it was reflected in the actions of these girls. 

It took me a few chapters to adjust to the writing style and language, but once I got through it I was hooked. I could not put this novel down, and when I did it was all I could think about. This is a novel that will stick with me long after I’ve read it, especially the ending. In my opinion, this topic was handled well and concluded well, it just wasn’t perfect enough to warrant a five star rating. 

Overall, I recommend that everyone (young, old, readers or not) pick this novel up. It is real and honest, heartbreaking but motivating, and there is something for everyone to take away from. I am still thinking about this story, and look forward to reading more from this author!


Friday, February 23, 2018

Together at Midnight | Book Review

Together at Midnight

Written by: Jennifer Castle
Number of Pages: 334

Average Rating: 3.8 / 5 stars
My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Published: January 2, 2018
Read in February 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

What does it really mean to be kind…and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do? High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets. 

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?


My Thoughts

This is almost the perfect example of a three star book: it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I was able to close it and say “okay, I read that. Now what?”

I liked the characters together, but not individually and that doesn’t tend to happen in my reading experiences. Kendall was adventurous, but she also tended to meddle in other people’s business a little too much. Max was a sweetheart, but was not confident in himself at all. I appreciated that they were able to come together after witnessing such a traumatic accident, because they were very similar in that neither of them had a plan and were just taking life day by day. They brought out the best in each other, and helped each other grow and get a better sense of self.

After each random act of kindness they perform, we get a few pages from that persons perspective and some insight into what is going on with their life. Unfortunately, I didn’t like these excepts! I found them to be kind of disappointing, and would have preferred to keep it mysterious so that the reader could gather their own ideas. 

My only hesitation going into this novel was the “other romantic entanglements” line in the synopsis. I was weary that this would lead to a cheating plot line, but thankfully that was avoided and instead became a mild love triangle. It was handled more tamely and discretely than I’ve seen in other novels, but I got frustrated at points because it seemed as though everyone forgot about this other guy. I didn’t love the way that this trio was handled in the end, it seemed a bit out of character, but I was already over that relationship anyway and didn’t care too much.

Overall, I am glad that I picked this up as it was light and quirky, but nothing to blow me out of the water. As much as the ending frustrated me being so open-ended, I appreciate the direction that she took it. I’m hoping there is at least a novella that captures what happens after, but I am content with how well it fit the characters development. The characters were relatable, and the plot was unique, so I would recommend picking this up if you are into contemporaries! 


Pretty Dead Girls | Book Review

Pretty Dead Girls

Written by: Monica Murphy
Number of Pages: 322

Average Rating: 3.82 / 5 stars
My Rating: 1 / 5 stars

Published: January 2, 2018
Read in February 2018


Summary According to Goodreads

Beautiful. Perfect. Dead. 

In the peaceful seaside town of Cape Bonita, wicked secrets and lies are hidden just beneath the surface. But all it takes is one tragedy for them to be exposed. 

The most popular girls in school are turning up dead, and Penelope Malone is terrified she’s next. All the victims so far have been linked to Penelope - and to a boy from her physics class. The one she’s never really noticed before, with the rumoured dark past and a brooding stare that cuts right through her. 

There’s something he isn’t telling her. But there’s something she’s not telling him, either. Everyone has secrets, and theirs might get them killed. 


My Thoughts

And my successful “most anticipated” streak has come to an end.

I hardly ever give novels one star ratings, but there was nothing redeeming in this one for me. It followed every cliche in YA, and didn’t bring anything unique to the table. I don’t have a lot that I want to say about this novel, so I am going to keep this review brief and to the point.

The worst part of this novel without a doubt was the characters. They were so pretentious and I really didn’t care which one of them died. They all could have been murdered for how much I cared about them. The main character was supposed to be redeeming, but she was the biggest bitch of them all! She was talking about how much she loved her friends and how long they’ve known each other, but then would slut-shame or talk badly of them behind their back. Typical high school queen-bee drama, that got old really fast. 

Oh, and then there was the love interest thrown in. Cue typical mysterious but hot guy that she’s never spoken a word to, and is now hopelessly in love with. Seriously, that’s the love interest. And even though she keeps thinking he’s involved in the murders of her “best friends” she follows him around like a puppy and let’s him control the situations - even driving her car! No thank you.

I don’t have any negative things to say about her writing style itself, as I still found it to be a quick read - just not engaging or enjoyable. I could only read a chapter or two at a time before I needed to take a break, because it was just so overly dramatic and not realistic. 

Overall, this was an extremely bland and predictable read. This is an unfortunate case of the cover being more intriguing than the plot itself, and I wouldn’t recommend reading this if you want a thriller.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Books I Couldn't Finish in 2017

Books I DNF'd: 2017

I know this post is fairly late, but I had this note building on my phone and wanted to have it posted in case I ever want to look back on why I didn’t continue reading these novels!

 Of course I mean no offence if any of these are your favourites, I respect your opinion and hope you can respect mine.


1. The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

     • Read: 120 pages
     • The plot didn't grab me, and I struggled to connect to the characters - I still don't know how old our main guy was
     • The synopsis tells you that there's a murder on a train, but it takes nearly a hundred pages to get to that
     • It was too fluffed for my taste, but I'm sure if I had read it younger I would have enjoyed it


2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

     • Read: 102 pages
     • I found these characters to be extremely flat, and there was no real plot line. I expected this novel to be a mystery-thriller about the death of a young girl, but instead it followed all of the members of her family. They led basic, typical lives involving various secrets that were not interesting at all.
     • It is a very short novel that read extremely slowly




 3. Binge by Tyler Oakley

     • Read: 117 pages
     • I picked this novel up when it first came out a couple years ago, because I was a big Tyler fan. Today? Not so much. I slowly grew out of his humour, and I think that reflected on my reading experience.
     • I didn't find any of his stories interesting or funny, and I couldn't convince myself to read any further. This is the first YouTuber memoir I've given up on, and one of the few I haven't enjoyed.
     • I'm sure if I'd picked this up when I was still a fan, I would have enjoyed it more. I still support Tyler in all his endeavours, but this wasn't a book for me.


4. Night Film by Marisha Pessl

     • Read: 130
     • This was so painfully slow for me. I tried reading it physical form as well as audiobook, and could not get into the story. It all felt so flat and boring
     • I didn't care much for the writing, and don't think I'm missing out on anything. I'm disappointed because I was so excited to read it, but it wasn't my cup of tea I suppose.


5. Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

     • Read: 125 pages 
     • This was supposed to be a thriller young adult read, but I found it boring and typical.
     • I could feel a love triangle brewing in the plot, and I didn’t care for where the story was going. It followed every generic line that it could, and the characters were too flat to be interesting. 


6. Struck by Lightning by Chris Colfer

     • Read: 45 pages
     • I am so disappointed that I didn’t like this one. I am a huge fan of Chris, but this was just not enjoyable.
     • My biggest issue was definitely the main character Carson Phillips, as I found him rude and holier-than-thou. Because this novel is told through his journal entries, I knew I wouldn’t be able to push my way through it.