We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I don’t always like reading novels that are sad or deal with grief, but the beautiful cover and the softness of the writing style really had me interested so I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about what happened, why she abandoned everyone and everything.  Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from California, at college in New York, Marin struggles to pull away from her tragic past. Now, months later, Marin is alone in her empty dorm. She is waiting for Mabel to come and visit. With this visit, Marin will have to face everything left unsaid and confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

This novel was beautifully written but it was excruciatingly slow. Now, I understand that this a story about loss and grief and running away from things you don’t want to face. That’s all great. But literally nothing happens in the novel. Nothing. There are millions of inconsequential details mentioned that just bog down an already slow story. There is a softness to everything that, while beautiful, stops the story from actually having any impact. Marin’s character was also not my favorite. I don’t always need a super hyper female character to be the lead but she vacillated between having no real voice to showing teen angst. When the reason behind her avoidance was revealed, I was surprised… but not in a good way. I felt like I was missing something major. She had all of this loneliness, all of these feelings of betrayal… over this? I thought it would be something a lot more upsetting considering the extent of Marin’s behaviour. Maybe that was just me. Overall, I think this was a very beautifully written but boring novel, with nothing really that poignant about it. I’m giving this a 1.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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The Power by Naomi Alderman

As soon as I read the premise for this novel, I knew I had to give it a go. This story was literally marketed as “perfect for a fan of Margaret Atwood” … and I am definitely a fan of Atwood’s work. Another thing I found out about this author and this book that made me interested in reading it is that Margaret Atwood was this author’s mentor and had really loved this novel. What better endorsement could I ask for? So I got myself a copy… and now, here is my review:

The world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But on a day like any other, something has happened, something that will cause the lives of these individuals to converge. Teenage girls have developed an immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

The concept for this novel is absolutely brilliant. I love the idea of girls and women having an incredible ability, lying dormant in their bodies until something causes it to just come alive. And this novel is really a testament for how it only takes one to cause a revolution. The story is told from alternating perspectives where each of the characters mentioned here (and maybe some others) get a chance to tell the story from their point of view. There is only one male voice that is a main character: the rich Nigerian boy, Tunde. All of the other characters are female and they all have their own unique personalities that really comes through when they get their moment in the spotlight. I’m going to tell you right now: the strange power that females in this novel have is the ability to produce and channel electricity inside of their bodies. With this power, they can kill or hurt or shock anyone. Now, women are more powerful than men and they are using it to their advantage. The whole story is about reimagining the world: what would it be like if women were now in control instead of men? How would that takeover happen and how successful would it be? And the author really takes the time to answer this question through a multitude of issues from terrorism to politics to religion. I really appreciated the time and effort that went into cementing this concept. But this wasn’t really a story. It was more of a documentary or a research paper if anything else. In fact, this novel was shaped as a book proposal being submitted by someone named Nell to Naomi Alderman for review, which I thought was interesting … but also just made it less of a story and more research-like. The novel doesn’t allow for a great deal of emotional connection with the characters, and the story dragged on after the initial high-intensity chapters. There were a lot of cliché moments in the novel that took away from the novelty of it all. I guess I just wanted more story at times, and less of an explanation of the political situation. Overall, this was a fascinating concept and I liked a lot of the things the author had to say; I just wish the delivery of it all had been more story-like and less like a documentary. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars but really, the points are mostly just for the concept and the first half of the novel.

Happy reading ~

Soulless by Gail Carriger – Parasol Protectorate #1

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that the premise contained all of my favorite things: supernatural beings, the Victorian era, and a feisty heroine. That was enough to intrigue me and give this book a shot. After reading it, I am so glad I did. Here is my review:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Unfortunately, Alexia accidentally kills the vampire while protecting herself – and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. News on this vampire’s death leads to an investigation that reveals that unexpected vampires are appearing and expected vampires are disappearing. And everyone seems to believe that Alexia is somehow involved. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy?

To define this book by one genre would be doing it an injustice because it is such a mashup! You’ve got steampunk, Victorian social etiquette, comedy, romance, and of course, supernatural/paranormal fantasy. I loved this eclectic mix of themes because it added so much variety to the story! I absolutely adored Alexia. She is funny, and inquisitive, and everything I wanted her to be! She adheres to Victorian etiquette standards only when it suits her and her independent thinking gets her into a great deal of trouble. I love that the author always keeps her in the center of the action and never makes her rely on men to fix things for her. I also loved her romance with Lord Maccon, which I had guessed would happen right from the start; it is VERY believable and not exactly pg-13 (so I would advise younger teenagers to not read this book). The story itself was intriguing, with witty humor thrown in every now and then. I liked the mystery and the action, and the different supernatural beings who were involved. If anything, I wish the organization of the different societies had been given more details, as that would have given me a better understanding of this world that Alexia lives in. I had a great reading experience with this novel because I just found it to be so funny and interesting that I couldn’t put it down. I’m giving it a 5/5 stars for being weird and funny and everything else in between!

Happy reading ~

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I thought this would be an interesting take on the way social media allows people to connect with each other, and the way that social media can become a dangerous place. I have to admit that my own social media accounts are quite sparse; I rarely use Instagram or Facebook and I don’t even have a Twitter account. I wanted to get a feel for the Twitter-verse … so what better way than through an interesting teen thriller? Here is my review:

Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. But through Twitter and the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn, the world has opened up. She looks forward to his rare tweets to his fans: it makes her feel like his message is just for her.

For Eric Thorn, social media is a nightmare – and so are his obsessive fans. Their devotion can get frightening and he doesn’t feel comfortable engaging with these teenage girls. It doesn’t help that his PR team doesn’t understand his reluctance and wants him to encourage his fans’ fantasies. When a fellow pop star is murdered by an obsessive fan, Eric knows he needs to do something to ruin his online image fast. His plan? Take down one of his top Twitter followers.  But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Wow. I wasn’t expecting this novel to be … so … bad. In the beginning, I was intrigued because the first chapter opens up with a police transcript. Immediately, the reader knows that things get serious. However, as the story continues, it becomes apparent that this is nothing more than just some fanfiction romance. This novel reads like fanfiction. And it’s not even GOOD fanfiction! We have a whiny, condescending pop star with an irrational fear of his fans. We have a PR team with no empathy, or conscience whatsoever. And we have an insipid fandom that apparently consists only of shallow girls. Oh, except for our one unique fan, Tessa, our snowflake. This bothered me so much because fandoms are really not like that at all. I’m not very involved with any fandom but I know that there are a lot of fans who take the time to get to know the celebrities they love, who analyze their work, and who really appreciate the celebrity for their art and for their personality. It’s not just “about the abs” as Eric depicts it in the book. This novel suggests that it is going to be a thriller but is really just a romance. At the 80% mark, we finally see the thriller that we are promised but it is really badly executed. We have the introduction of a random character with their random plan that was not properly incorporated at any point in the story. It was just such a mess, and it was so confusing to read. And then there is another cringe-worthy romance scene, followed by another twist. And the story ends as a cliffhanger, with the promise of a sequel. It was just too much for me to handle. My concluding thoughts? This is just some really bad fanfiction that is full of cringe-worthy and hard-to-believe romance (seriously, these characters DO NOT understand what love is) and a last minute thriller thrown in as an attempt to satisfy readers. I will not be reading the sequel and I will not be recommending this novel to anyone. 1/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

 

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really like stories about writers, regardless of genre. While I am an avid reader, I have very little skill when it comes to writing anything. And believe me, I’ve tried. So I have a lot of respect for authors and people who make writing their profession. When a story has an author as a main character, it really opens the reader’s eyes to the writing process and how different it can be from one person to another. To me, that understanding is just as enjoyable as the story itself. It was one of the things that drew me to this novel, but the thriller’s premise was also intriguing enough that I couldn’t let it pass me by. So here is my long-overdue review:

Liza Cole, a novelist, has only 1 month to write the thriller that will put her back on the bestseller list. If that wasn’t enough pressure, she’s struggling to start a family with her husband, who is too distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. As stresses weigh her down in her professional and personal lives, Liza escapes into writing the chilling exploits of her latest heroine, Beth.

Beth, a new mother, suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she aims to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes what she’s doing, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.

Liza is happy with the way Beth’s story is turning out … until the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the East River, and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.

This story is told in alternating chapters, one being Liza’s story, the other being Beth’s story. While I really liked the author’s use of parallel storylines, it got confusing very quickly. There were a bit too many things similar and it became hard to keep things straight. While it was obviously the author’s intent for the reader to be able to pick up the similarities between the fiction and the reality, it would have been helpful if certain details (like names) hadn’t been so similar; I had to reread certain chapters and sections to make sure I didn’t confuse the different story lines and I really hate having to go back and forth in a novel to address confusion issues. Whenever there are 2 story lines, I inadvertently find myself drawn to one more than the other. In this case, I was more intrigued by Beth (who was part of the fictional aspect of the novel) who was a stronger protagonist. Both story lines were written well and it was easy to connect with both protagonists emotionally. As the story continued, I could really feel the fiction and reality aspects blurring together, and the tension was insanely high! I couldn’t wait to see how things would end … and then it did. And I wasn’t so pleased. I think that I liked the ending for Liza’s story line but the one that was fashioned for Beth took me completely off-guard and not in a good way. After so much suspense and tension, the ending fell quite flat for me. However, I did enjoy everything else about this novel. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 3/5 stars and would recommend this to anyone who likes thrillers and dual storylines.

Happy reading ~

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What I love about dystopian novels is that each is unique in the way they describe the destruction of the old world. Each one has its own take on the degradation that took place to create the world where the story exists. It means that the reader has no idea what to expect – and those are the best kind of novels. I had no idea what I was getting into with this book … but now I do. Here is my review:

Vanja, a government worker, leaves her home city of Essre for the austere, winter colony of Amatka on a research assignment. Her job is to look into hygiene standards to determine how well-received new hygiene products would be in this commune. However, Vanja finds it hard to get answers: the people here are more guarded than in Essre, and citizens are constantly monitored for signs of subversion. Vanja planned on staying for only 3 weeks. However, she didn’t expect to fall in love with her housemate, Nina. Things seemed pleasant at first. But when Vanja stumbles upon evidence of a growing threat to the colony, she begins an investigation that puts her – and the residents of Amatka – at risk. In Amatka, language has the power to shape reality. Unless objects, buildings, and the surrounding landscape are repeatedly named, and named properly, everything will fall apart. Trapped in the repressive colony, Vanja dreams of using language to break free, but her individualism may well threaten the very fabric of reality.

This novel had an interesting premise and concept. The idea that language shapes the world is one that is prevalent among sociologists but it is a concept that is not really considered by many people. The idea to base a story on this is remarkable and I think the author created a very provocative novel here. The writing style is unique in that it doesn’t actually tell you things straight to your face. The information needs to be gleaned through careful reading and connecting of the different clues laid out by the author. The magnanimity of the situation at hand only becomes clear as you continue to read the story. The ability to make the reader think deeper is not easy to do, but the author does it here effortlessly. For those reasons, I loved the prose and writing style employed here. This is not a fast-paced story and you will be sorely disappointed if you are looking for a high-intensity action novel. This didn’t bother me in the slightest because the pacing worked to convey the intent of this novel. However, I wasn’t as happy with the characters. It was very difficult to connect with Vanja (or any of the characters). All of the characters were aloof and it was hard for me as a reader to understand them. While I understand that the dystopian world in this novel discourages emotional connection, I thought the author could still have found a way to make the characters feel things in a way that would make sense to the reader. This lack of emotional connection is especially problematic when considering the relationship between Vanja and Nina: there didn’t seem to be any. I didn’t expect there to be a full blown romance but the interactions between these 2 characters was not strong enough for me to feel they were in love. However, this was the only real negative I could find with this novel. Overall, this is a compelling and interesting story that will really force the reader to think deeply on the various themes that come into focus in the novel. I’m giving this a 4/5 stars because it deeply resonated with me; this is a story I am not likely to forget any time soon!

Happy reading ~

Scythe by Neal Shusterman – Arc of a Scythe #1

As soon as I read the premise for this novel, I knew I had to give this book a shot. It was a short blurb but it contained everything it needed to pique my interest. It’s about 400 pages…. and I devoured it in one sitting. Here is my review:

Thou shalt kill.

In a world where hunger, disease, and war had been eradicated, life was relatively comfortable. Humanity has conquered everything – including death. Only scythes are the ones who can take life, and they only do so in order to keep the population size under control. Scythes are feared and respected by all, and they are above all laws except for the Scythe commandments. It is a grim job, but a necessary one for society to thrive. Citra and Rowan are two teenagers who are chosen to become apprentices to a scythe – a role that both have the aptitude for but neither of them want. However, they must master the “art” of taking life – unless they want to lose their own.

While I devoured this novel, my impression of it was mixed. I really liked the concept behind this novel: there is a society of Scythes (who are basically Grim Reapers) and we are following the adventures of 2 characters who will, presumably, end up in this profession. I really liked the little details that the author included and the world-building; I just wish there had been more of it. A lot of it was vague and more details would have cemented the story better. I liked Citra and Rowan a lot, as they were both unique and neither one overshadowed the other. I just wish the author hadn’t tried to put in a romance angle there, because it didn’t really work. Even though the story is mostly about their apprenticeships, I really enjoyed their different journeys. I will admit: I liked Rowan’s journey more because he seemed to have grown and developed more as a character than Citra, who pretty much remained the same from beginning to end. This may also have been because of the lack of details/the focus on certain story lines over world-building. I didn’t actually like the whole idea of there being a duel between Citra and Rowan; it seemed like it was just thrown in there when it really didn’t have any merit. I know it seems like I have a huge list of complaints about this novel but I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed reading it. I was caught in by the story and I really wanted to get through it and see what would happen to everyone involved. I was excited and intrigued and couldn’t pull away from this novel. I don’t think this is a book that everyone will like because it does lack a bit in maturity (plus all of the other issues I mentioned above); this is definitely more suited for teenagers. However, I liked it and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series! I’m giving it a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Vanishing Season by Joanna Schaffhausen

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training: she was once victim #17 of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. She was the only who survived. Back then, she was Abigail. Now, she has shed both her name and all connections to her past, in order to focus on the future and try to stop other innocent people from getting in harm’s way. But when 3 people disappear from her town in the span of 3 years – all around her birthday – Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer all those years ago. Agent Reed Markham may have become famous for solving the Coben case, but his luck has changed since then. When Ellery calls him, he reluctantly agrees to help her. Now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them…with a killer who can’t let go.

While the beginning of this novel started off as a thriller, I think this would be better described as a crime story. The author maintained a good pace and I quite enjoyed the writing style, which switched between the perspectives of Ellery and Reed. This was a short book compared to most other crime fiction/thrillers that I read, which meant that things moved along quite quickly. This may have been why I hesitate to call this novel a thriller; there really wasn’t the time to allow the tension and questions to build up. I thought that the story was interesting and it definitely had my attention from the start. It was a little too detailed at times, with side information that was not really important or necessary for character development or the story. I would have preferred if there had been more of an emphasis on profiling criminals and more red herrings in place. The ending was also easy to predict but enjoyable nevertheless. Overall, this was a nice mystery and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of crime fiction and is looking for a short read. Solid 3/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

Tarry This Night by Kristyn Dunnion

I’m always fascinated by cults and I always grab any book that deals with this subject matter so that it might help me understand the mentality behind cults better. What could possess people to give everything up and believe in one person who claims they know the future? What could cause people to wholeheartedly give in to a completely different way of life? These are just a few of the questions that I try to answer through fiction and non-fiction on this fascinating topic. Anyways, I stumbled upon this book and thought it would be a great read for me. Here is my review:

As a civil war brews in America, there lies a cult ensconced in an underground bunker, waiting for the conflict to end. Father Ernst is the leader of this cult, and his “Family” depends on him to guide them through this troubling time and into the period of Ascension promised to them. But when “The Family” runs out of food, one among them must go out and forage for supplies, leaving behind the rest to the madness of Father Ernst. Ruth is a young girl but she is soon to come of age. Terrified of serving as Ernst’s next wife, she must choose between obeying her faith and fighting for survival.

I thought this was a very interesting cult fiction with dystopian elements thrown into it. The summary is quite apt: there is a cult with its leader living in an underground bunker waiting out the civil unrest happening above ground, but tensions are high and they are on the brink of starvation. It’s the perfect setting for desperation to settle in and for something climactic to happen. I really liked that the story was told from multiple perspectives; it allowed us to understand the main characters better, while also showing us the situation they were in and how being a part of this cult had changed them. There are characters across all ages, each with their own unique experience and viewpoints. This is a gritty story that explores many different themes: the divide between blind faith and the ability to make one’s own choice, the loss of innocence, the desperation to survive, and the meaning of happiness and freedom. I really enjoyed the story but I just wish it had been longer! A longer story would have given more tension, and would have made me feel more satisfied about the ending. Overall, a really good story that I wish had been longer so that I could have enjoyed it more! 3/5 star rating from me!

Happy reading ~

The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

I heard about this book when it first came out in March and added it to by TBR list. I really liked the idea of reading from the perspective of a female medical student from the 1890s, a very unheard of phenomenon back in the day. I also just love a good historical murder mystery. Here is my review:

Leaving behind London society after a scandal, Sarah Gilchrist has joined the University of Edinburgh’s medical school. This is the first year that the university has admitted women and Sarah is determined to become a doctor, despite the misgivings of her family and society. However, there are many barriers at the school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman. Desperate to get some training, Sarah begins to volunteer at the St. Giles’ Infirmary for Women, a charitable hospital for those who have nowhere else to go. Sarah enjoys her time volunteering there, even when the environment is grim. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers. Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

I quite enjoyed this novel, with its fierce heroine! This is a well paced novel with a great deal of suspense and mystery that kept me enthralled from start to finish. I thought the author had done a great job in researching details of life in the 1890s, especially in terms of the rights (or lack thereof) for women, the cultural norms of the times, and the medical procedures that were popular at the time. There were times, I will admit, where I grew weary of Sarah’s constant complaints about the injustices women faced. It’s not that this wasn’t relevant or important; however, there came a time when the point had been made and I just wanted the story to move along. That being said, the mystery itself was interesting. There were many different clues and avenues that the story took to get to its conclusion, and I quite liked all of these twists and turns. I thought the mystery was well planned out and executed and the conclusion was enjoyable. However, character development was another weak point in this novel: while some of the other characters showed growth throughout the story, Sarah did not. This feeling of lack of growth might have been because of her constant complaints but it just felt like Sarah remained the same throughout the novel, and I would have liked to see her change through her experiences. Overall, this was a compelling and engaging read that I really enjoyed, with a good amount of historical detail and a strong heroine. I’ve heard that there will be a sequel to this novel, and I look forward to reading it when it comes out (February 2019)! I’m giving this a solid 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~