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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. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Love, Hate & Other Filters | Book Review

Love, Hate & Other Filters

Written by: Samira Ahmed
Number of Pages: 276

Average Rating: 4.01 / 5 stars
My Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars

Published: January 16, 2018
Read in February 2018

Summary According to Goodreads

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City - and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school. 

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbours and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

My Thoughts

Another novel that I preordered, and featured on my “most anticipated” list! Yet another novel that did not disappoint with the expectations I had set for it. I went into this novel knowing the general plot, but that didn’t take away from enjoyment. This novel essentially has two stories woven together; the first being a coming-of-age about a high school senior, and the other being how racism affects Muslim families living in Chicago. Both of these stories are told from Maya's perspective, who prefers to view the world behind the safety of her camera lens. 

I know I say this often, but in a contemporary novel strong characters play a crucial role in my enjoyment of the story. Our main character, Maya, was interesting to read because she was both diverse and unique, but also relatable as a typical teenager. She struggles between being the perfect daughter to her traditional parents, and crushing on boys while wanting to be independent in a different city. In an effort to avoid spoilers I am going to withhold names, but just know that I enjoyed the romance(s) that we got in this novel, as I felt they helped shaped Maya and push her into independence. I would have liked to see more of her best friend, Violet, and get a more developed perspective of her as she felt very random. She was one of the only characters that I couldn’t connect with, but not a huge issue for me.

This novel felt so real on so many levels, and developed so well in so few pages. The characters were your normal teenagers, saying stupid or cliche things, but they each had their own voice and personality. I was slightly disappointed that one of the love interests was the typical “had a crush since kindergarten” type, but it was done so well that I got over it quickly.

Talking about how real this novel felt, I do want to put it out there that I am not Muslim, and don’t know enough about the religion to know if those aspects were delivered fairly or not. Without more than a basic knowledge of this religion and culture, I was still able to enjoy this novel and think it is a very important one for more people to read. I am Canadian and do not experience as much terrorism or racism in society as other countries might, but it is crucial for everyone to acknowledge and appreciate how Islamophobia and other biases are affecting our world.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel as it was powerful, real, and difficult to put down. I also appreciated the different perspectives between chapters that gave a bigger and clearer idea of what was going on. We are able to see before the attack, during, and after, adding a more connected view to the emotional one. If you are interested in young adult contemporaries, or diversity reads, I would highly recommend checking out this debut novel!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

All We Can Do is Wait | Book Review

All We Can Do is Wait

Written by: Richard Lawson
Number of Pages: 275

Average Rating: 3.95 / 5 stars
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Summary According to Goodreads

In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital:

Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart… right when they need each other most.

Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theatre group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be alright.

And then there’s Skyler, whose sister Kate - the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler’s everything - was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possible move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she’s at her weakest. 

My Thoughts

This is a novel that was very high on my “most anticipated” list of 2018, and I was not disappointed!

When trying to explain and describe a character-driven novel, this is the best example to use. We are following the traumatic lives of four teenagers over a period of 12-hours, while also getting glimpses into their past to see what brought them to that place. It was told in multiple-perspectives from these four teens, and bounced between past and present sporadically, which was something to adjust to but did fit the tone of the book. These teens are panicked, and upset, and manic in their thoughts, it made so much sense for the story to be presented in the way that it was. 

I was originally going to rate this novel four stars, but I could not get over how amazing the writing was considering this was his debut novel. It is obvious that he spent a lot of time working on this novel, flushing out the details and the characters, and building an atmosphere. There wasn’t instalove, or cliches, just a diverse cast all brought together through unfortunate circumstances. I really hope that he continues to write as I will pick up any of his future releases! He has a true talent!

It is quite rare for a novel to make me cry, but this one did just that. I was so engaged in the story and the characters, it was heartbreaking to watch them suffer. I truly wanted the best for all of the characters involved, but was able to feel that the characters felt that way for each other as well. I am struggling to choose a favourite character because they were all so real and intriguing. I liked Alexa’s determination, Skyler’s level-headedness, Jason’s independence, and Scott’s passion. I would have liked to see more closure, but I also respect the decision to leave reader’s hoping. Hope was the clear theme throughout the entire novel, and I thought it was handled well. 

Overall, this was amazing and will no doubt be on my favourites for the year. It was so realistic, and the characters were so raw, paired with an amazing writing style, made this story one that I could not put down. It has only be out for less than two weeks, but I recommend picking it up! 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Keep Her Safe | Book Review

Keep Her Safe

Written by: K.A. Tucker
Number of Pages: 436

Average Rating: 4.27/5 stars
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Published: January 23, 2018
Read in February 2018

Summary According to Goodreads

Noah Marshall has known a privileged and comfortable life thanks to his mother, the highly decorated chief of the Austin Police Department. But all that changes the night she reveals a skeleton that’s been rattling in her closet for years, and succumbs to the guilt of destroying an innocent family’s life. Reeling with grief, Noah is forced to carry the burden of this shocking secret.

Gracie Richards wasn’t born in a trailer park, but after fourteen years of learning how to survive in The Hollow, it’s all she knows anymore. At least here people don’t care that her dad was a corrupt Austin cop, murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. Here, she and her mother are just another family struggling to survive… until a man who clearly doesn’t belong shows up on her doorstep.

Despite their differences, Noah and Gracie are searching for answers to the same questions, and together, they set out to uncover the truth about the Austin Police Department’s dark and messy past. But the scandal that emerges is bigger than they bargained for, and goes far higher up than they ever imagined.

My Thoughts

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

This was my first experience reading K.A. Tucker, although I do own a couple of her novels and have been interested in others. I went into this with no expectations except to be in for a steamy thrill ride. Unfortunately, that is not what I got. Although this novel is first categorized as a romance, I would say it is actually quite far from it. It isn’t until about mid-way through the plot that our characters become level-headed enough to see each other in that way, but it is implied as a lead-in from the beginning. I was put off a bit by the five year age gap, as Gracie is only 20-years old, they do have differing levels of maturity without a doubt, but they almost seem to balance each other out because of it. 

In a contemporary novel, I find characters to be a crucial element to my level of enjoyment. There isn’t a magic system or dystopian setting to build something unique, so memorable characters are so important. I didn’t fall head-over-heels for either of our main characters, but I did find Noah to be enjoyable enough to read. He was passionate, dedicated, educated, loveable, and of course very attractive. Grace on the other hand I found to be immature, rash in her decision making, and ignorant of the bigger picture. The novel bounces between their perspectives, but we also get small excerpts from Grace’s father, and Noah’s mother. I found this to be a great addition to the delivery of the novel, because it provided a clearer understanding, but it also took away the mystery of what happened. 

My biggest issue with this novel was its predictable and repetitive plot. There were moments where I felt like they just kept going in circles and giving us (readers) the same information over and over again. I do understand that an investigation such as the one they were experiencing could have a “chasing tail” outcome, but it was way too exaggerated for my taste. I am not one to surprise easy with plot twists, as I read so much, and this novel was no different. From the beginning I had an idea who was involved and how it would unfold, but there was a shock at the end that got me. That twist that tied it all together was clever, but I did begin to piece it together before it was officially revealed. 

Overall, it was a good read. I would class it as a suspenseful contemporary, not too heavy on thrill or steamy romantic scenes. As I mentioned earlier, this was my first experience into K.A. Tuckers writing, but I am optimistic that it will not be my last. If you are into mysteries that are realistic in their delivery, and not so heavy on the romance, I would recommend you give this a go!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

That Summer | Book Review

That Summer

Written by: Sarah Dessen
Number of Pages: 208

Average Rating: 3.49/5 stars
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Published: October 1, 1996
Read in February 2018

Summary According to Goodreads

For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She’s nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister - the always perfect Ashley - is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley’s reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.

My Thoughts

My main issue in this novel and biggest reasoning for the low rating, is the lack of plot. I don’t feel as though this story really went anywhere, and it was just 200 pages of repetitive metaphors and eye-rolling drama. After the synopsis I was expecting a big life-altering event but everything was laid out clearly and there were no shocking reveals. The most that I took away from this novel was that our main character’s sister has had a lot of boyfriends, and is a tyrant when it comes to wedding planning. It was very basic and anti-climatic, and very repetitive.

One of the redeeming qualities that I found in this story, was the characters. I felt as though each of our main characters had a distinct voice and their own personality, and brought something to the table. Since there was no plot to this novel, we spend a lot of time focusing on the characters and how they handle crisis. Our narrator Haven was less so our main character, with most of the novel’s focus being on her sister Ashley. It likely would have made more sense if the novel had been focused solely on her, or at least written in her perspective so we had justification on some of her actions.

I listened to this story as an audiobook, and it was very easy to listen to as it is a little over four hours. I had it on as background when I cleaned and was driving to work, but I was never hooked enough to listen to it straight through. In fact, I kind of relished taking the breaks from the dramatics.

Overall, this is not a strong novel. I do give credit to the fact that this was her first published novel and I’m sure she has come a long way as a writer, but this was essentially pointless. When I originally finished this novel I had rated it three stars because it wasn’t great and it wasn’t the worst, but after writing this review I feel it is more of a two star for me. I would like to continue reading Sarah Dessen’s novels, and I think I am going to pick them up in publication order, while also re-reading any I’ve read in the past for a fresh perspective on her development as a writer.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Strangelets | Book Review


Written by: Michelle Gagnon
Number of Pages: 288

Average Rating: 3.4/5 stars
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Published: April 9, 2013
Read in February 2018

Summary According to Goodreads

17-year-old Sophie lies on her deathbed in California, awaiting the inevitable loss of her battle with cancer. 17-year-old Declan stares down two armed thugs in a back alley in Galway, Ireland. 18-year-old Anat attempts to traverse a booby-trapped tunnel between Israel and Egypt.

All three strangers should have died at the exact same moment, thousands of miles apart. Instead, they awake together in an abandoned hospital - only to discover they’re not alone. Three other teens from different places on the globe are trapped with them. Somebody or something seems to be pulling the strings. With their individual clocks ticking, they must band together if they’re to have any hope of surviving. 

Soon they discover that they’ve been trapped in a future that isn’t of their making: a deadly, desolate world at once entirely familiar and utterly strange. Each teen harbours a secret, but only one holds the key that could get them home. As the truth comes to light Sophie, Declan, Anat, and the rest must decide what to do with a second chance at life - if they can survive to claim it. 

My Thoughts

Full disclosure, I only picked this up because I’d received an e-book copy from NetGalley years ago, and figured it was only fair that I finally read it. 

My first issue with this novel was the lack of character development, and overall blandness of the characters themselves. They are described as being seventeen and eighteen years old, but their actions made them seem much younger. They made rash decisions, and all had similar voices making the story blur together in ways. And don’t even get me started on the insta-love. 

This novel started out very well - I was engaged in the writing, and the mystery kept my attention. The story was so unusual, I just wanted to know what was going to happen, but then it became so cliche that I lost all interest quite quickly. As the story passed the halfway point, the plot just kept becoming more and more repetitive, and I still struggle to pinpoint where exactly the climax was. 

I think the mistake that I made was that I went into this novel not knowing anything about it. From the cover and sort of vague synopsis on the back, I was expecting a thriller with some spook to it - but that’s not what I got. This novel could have been so much better than it was, and I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get more out of it.  

If this novel was written in first person, but alternating perspectives, I think it would have had a stronger impact on me. I felt so detached from the characters, and so disinterested. Overall, this novel fell flat for me, and I am not in a rush to read another from this author. It was boring, sort of annoying, and nothing unique.