The French Girl by Lexie Elliot

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Every time I see a book with “Girl” in the title, it makes me cringe. There have been so many of them and I know there will be more still. And it’s not like they’re all amazing. But I always decide to give them a chance. Because it’s all about that “what if” scenario. What if this book is unlike the rest? What if this book is actually super awesome and I’m missing out by not reading it? It is this hypothetical train of thought that made me decide to take the plunge and try this book. So here is my review:

6 friends studying at Oxford were spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer – until they met Severine. For Kate Channing, Severine was an intruder, someone whose beauty undermined the close-knit group’s loyalties to each other. And after a huge fight on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. It was also the night that Severine disappeared.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. As Kate is questioned alongside her friends, she stands to lose everything she has worked so hard to achieve. Desperate to clear her name, she tries to remember exactly what happened all those years ago. But as she digs into the past, she finds her present days to be filled with paranoia and madness. No one can be trusted.

When this novel began, I found it a bit boring because nothing really happened. However, I was very excited about the premise and was waiting for when things would speed up a bit. It didn’t take too long for the author to bring about the murder aspect of the story, which was good. I also liked all of the characters that the author introduced; while they were all flawed, they were well developed and easy to understand (for the most part). One thing I was really intrigued by was how Kate was constantly seeing Severine’s ghost. I definitely thought the author could have done more with it than she did, and when I got to the ending and nothing happened with those hallucinations, it made me quite disappointed. The author kept building up the tension, which I really enjoyed, delving into the different connections between all of the characters. It was very interesting how the author decided to portray the story and it captured my attention. But I felt like nothing was ever resolved. Nothing was ever revealed about what exactly happened that night. On top of that, the actual solving of the crime was very abrupt and rushed and didn’t give me any satisfaction at all. Everything ended up being so anti-climactic and that is really such a shame because it had all the works to be a good novel. Based on all of this, I would give it a 2/5 stars – and the 2 stars is because I liked the characters.

Happy reading ~

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The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

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

I’ve never read anything by Salman Rushdie but I’ve definitely heard of him. I’ve been really eager to read something of his but there are so many books to choose from! I was so happy to have been given this ARC and I couldn’t wait to read from this popular author! So here I go with my review:

When powerful real-estate tycoon Nero Golden and his 3 children arrive in America, the neighbours are abuzz. The family is quick to assume new identities, taking on “Roman” names, and moving into a grand mansion in Manhattan. Nero and his grown sons quickly establish themselves at the apex of New York society. We hear about their story from the perspective of René, an aspiring filmmaker who finds in the Goldens the perfect subject. René chronicles the undoing of the house of Golden: the obsession with money, the quarrel between siblings, the arrival of a beautiful woman, betrayal, and murder.

I really wanted to like this novel but I have to be honest: I did not enjoy it at all. It was very difficult to get through and I almost gave up multiple times. It starts off in a very boring way with nothing going on. That doesn’t stop the narrator from narrating everything in a very melodramatic way, which serves no purpose whatsoever. I really did not like the narrator at all; his voice tried to hard to mark its importance and there were just too many pop culture references for my liking. It’s clear that the author is a master in the art of making connections; his comparisons between the politics in the States and the happenings in the Golden family were apt and brilliant. However, getting to these moments was a challenge and it stopped impressing me after a time because of the way the author presented it. Maybe I’m not intelligent enough to appreciate the nuances and the arguments the author is trying to make … but at the end of the day, I didn’t enjoy reading this story. Overall, this was not the greatest novel I’ve read…. but I think I will give the author another chance to wow me!

Happy reading ~

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

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

This is one of thsoe cases where I chose a book simply because its title and cover looked interesting. I wanted to see if the story would match its outward appeal, and was very excited to have received this ARC. Here is my review:

Aviva Grossman is a bright and ambitious congressional intern… until she makes the mistake of having an affair with her married boss, the congressman. What’s worse is she wrote about her experience in an anonymous blog. When the affair comes to light in an unfortunate turn of events, it’s not the congressman who takes the fall, but rather Aiva. Suddenly, she can’t find herself a job anywhere, and she is slut shamed by everyone everywhere. Determined to get out of this unpleasant situation, Aviva leaves her home, changes her name, starts her own event planning business … and continues her surprise pregnancy. But when “Jane Young” decides to run for public office, that long-ago mistake comes back to haunt her.

This was a really interesting novel in terms of its premise. However, I’m still on the fence about whether it achieved its goals or not. This story is narrated from quite a few perspectives (all female), which I wasn’t expecting. Since this was Aviva’s story and the premise only mentions Aviva, I thought that this story would be from her perspective alone. While this made it interesting, it also made it a bit confusing. The novel begins with Aviva’s mother’s perspective, and while I loved her character, it took me a while to figure out where exactly the story was going. Then there was another switch in perspective, and again, I felt as if I had been uprooted from one story and put into another. This feeling was persistent for a large portion of the novel. However, I will say that I enjoyed reading from each perspective. All of the characters were wonderful and just so funny to read about. I also think that the author really makes a fine point of how unfair it is that a publicly drawn-out affair only affects the woman involved and not the man. However, I wish the author had elaborated on this aspect; while it is the main reason why Aviva takes such drastic decisions, it also never felt like it was fully addressed and resolved. This novel was a really enjoyable and funny read with great characters. However, it didn’t really address the elephant in the room and left me a bit disappointed. For that reason, I’m giving this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

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

When I saw this novel on NetGalley, I knew I had to have it as an ARC. The story of Lizzie Borden is such an intriguing mystery, and I’ve always been fascinated by it. I really wanted to know how the author would go about presenting it and so, I was really happy to have received the ARC! Here is my review:

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. No one knows what to make of this: who would ever want to harm the respected Bordens? But there is a much darker story lurking beneath the surface and it becomes increasingly clear that the Bordens were not your typical family. Andrew Borden had an explosive temper, the stepmother was spiteful and moody in nature, and the two spinster sisters were stuck in the middle of it all. As the police continue to investigate, Emma tries to comfort Lizzie, whose memories of that morning are fragmented. Lizzie is an unreliable witness at best, as her story keeps changing every time she tells it. As the perspectives switch from Lizzie, to Emma, to the housemaid Bridget, and to the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are revealed.

I had really high hopes for this novel but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to all of my expectations. While I don’t think this was a bad book, it had quite a few flaws that made it an unremarkable read for me. For one thing, I found it very difficult to characterize Lizzie. She is clearly an adult but the way she speaks and acts is very childlike. If the author’s attempt was to make Lizzie creepy, well, it worked. But it also made it very confusing because I just couldn’t understand what went on in her mind. Perhaps the author was hinting that Lizzie might not be a fully-developed adult in terms of her mental acuity, in which case this characterization works. But it just didn’t work for me. Now, the author did a really great job of portraying how different the family dynamics were in the Borden residence compared to most other Victorian families. I mean, the fact that there are 2 spinster daughters was in itself unusual as families back then were very eager to wed eligible daughters. The controlling demeanour of the father and the stepmother’s attitude were also interesting details that the author put into the story. I think my favorite character in the entire story was Bridget – because she was the only sane person! At many points in the story, I found it an uphill battle to continue pushing through. There were certain details that I really found boring or unnecessary and some perspectives just weren’t that interesting to me. However, as the second half of the book progressed, I will admit that the author dialed up the tension and my intrigue came back. I quite liked the way the author ended the story, as it went along with my own thoughts about this case. Overall, this novel was an interesting retelling of the Borden murders but the characters felt off and some parts of the novel dragged on. I would give this a 2.5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

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

I don’t often read emotional stories. But when I do, you can believe that I become a hot mess. This novel made my heart ache so many times that I didn’t know if I would be able to finish it. But I’m glad I did because it was a very thought-provoking story. Here is my review:

When Simran’s mother dies, Simran finds her world crash down around her. As she tries to make sense of the grief she feels, she sees her marriage disintegrate in front of her eyes and faces estrangement from her own daughter. As the days go by, Simran is haunted by memories and her mother’s ghost. As her life starts to fall apart, Simran must confront one of her most painful memories – when her parents sent her younger brother away. As the past starts flooding in, she wonders what could have caused her parents to send away their only son. Now, facedAs the past comes flooding back, she wonders what could compel her parents to turn their backs on their only son. Now with her mother gone, Simran must find the answers to these painful questions in order to finally put her ghosts to rest.

This book looks at grief in a multitude of ways. Not only does it focus on the actual moment of loss, it also depicts the stages and transitions one makes in the days that follow. It is a long and painful journey, and the reader feels every emotion that the main character does. As someone who has been fortunate enough to not have experienced the loss of a loved one, this was an eye-opening journey. There are so many nuances, so many elements to this state of being that I would never have thought possible. And the author allows each one to manifest itself and be understood by the reader. I really liked that the author flitted back in time and even delved into Simran’s mother’s past. This novel showed me the different ways people deal with grief, and how some accept and move on while others struggle to do so. This story is powerful even though it has a quiet voice, as it makes the reader aware of the strength it takes to carry grief in your heart and yet, continue to live life. I’m so glad that I had the chance to review this ARC and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thought-provoking story.

Happy reading ~

 

The Devil’s Bible by Dana Chamblee Carpenter – Bohemian Gospel #2

I loved Bohemian Gospel so much that I really wanted to read the sequel. I needed to know what would happen to Mouse, who was a character that I had really grown to love. Anyways, here is my review:

The Devil’s Bible. Once considered an eighth wonder of the world, the ancient book is shrouded in mystery. No one knows who wrote it or where it was written. Even dry-boned scholars whisper about the secrets hidden in the book: How it calls to the power-hungry. How it drives people mad. How it was written in the shadows by the hand of the devil himself. But the only person who knows the truth is Mouse. And she is desperate to keep it hidden. Now, she goes by Emma Nicholas and has refashioned herself into a college professor. But when forces threaten to expose her real identity, she is forced to go on the run. She unexpectedly finds hope in a stranger’s kindness, hope that she can win this game of souls. But will hope be enough to win this battle between good and evil?

I really enjoyed reading this sequel, especially knowing that The Devil’s Bible actually exists in real life. The story that began with Mouse in Bohemian Gospel was taken to new heights here, as the tale flits from past to present to explain how things ended up the way they are now. The past revolves around the actual creation of the Bible, and how she became influenced by her father – who had his own ideas on what should be in this book. The present takes us to Mouse’s current life as Emma Nicholas and how her new identity falls apart when her father and his “people” find her. While I enjoyed the story, I will say that I preferred the prequel. Perhaps it was because the prequel dealt more with Mouse’s discovery of her abilities and origins whereas this novel was more of an internal conflict on how Mouse can save those she cares about. However, the story was still gripping and exciting and the conclusion left room for (hopefully) another book to be added to the series. If you are looking for an interesting spin on something historic with supernatural and fantasy elements, then this is a novel you definitely want to check out. Just make sure you read the prequel first!

Happy reading ~

The House At the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

I was very eager to read this book, not only because of its hype, but also because I thought it was an interesting way to go about telling a historical story. So let me just get right to the chase:

Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. On the island is a café called the House at the Edge of Night, where everyone in the community comes to gossip. Amedeo Esposito owns this place and it has helped him make a home for himself and his family. As the story follows the lives of the Esposito family and the islanders who live on Castellamare, we see how the people – and Castellamare – itself are transformed by both world wars and a great recession.

Let me start by saying that this novel is very eloquently written. It has beautiful descriptions and very complex characters that it is easy to become caught up in their world. I loved the way that the author described the island; it made you feel like you were a part of the island community as you were reading. However, I found the novel to be a tad bit boring. There were too many characters, and the story meandered away from the central family to describe details that I really didn’t care about. While there were interesting points, it took a lot of effort to focus and get to those areas. Because of that, I didn’t have the best experience reading the novel. However, I would definitely not discourage others from reading this book; it has a ton of raving reviews on Goodreads so this may just be a one-off situation where the book and I didn’t match. If you like descriptive historical fiction, then definitely add this to your TBR list.

Happy reading ~

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler

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

I love books where the main detective is female. Most of the books I read have male detectives, and while I have nothing against that, it is refreshing to have a change every now and then. I was super amped to get this ARC, especially from such a well known author so here I go with my review:

Officer Miranda Rader of the Hammond PD has worked hard to get to where she is now and she has done a lot to move away from her past. Miranda comes from Jasper, a town just south of Hammond, but she was notorious for her antics. Now that Miranda has earned respect in her position as an officer, she doesn’t want to have anything to do with the girl she used to be. However, when Miranda is called to investigate the murder of a beloved college professor, she finds a chilling piece of evidence: a faded newspaper article about a terrible night from her long-buried past. When another man turns up dead, one who is also linked to her past, Miranda finds herself a suspect in her own investigation. The most damning evidence against her is when her fingerprints turn up at the scene of the first murder. Now Miranda must try to win back the trust of her colleagues, all while trying to figure out who could be behind these brutal killings – before it’s too late.

When I was reading this novel, I kept getting the feeling that I was missing out on something. It felt like there might have been a prequel to this story, as the author kept hinting at close connections between the different characters in a way that made me feel as if there was more than what was being said in this book. However, it turns out that this is actually a standalone novel. This threw me off a tad bit because I kept feeling as if some of the relationships between Miranda and other characters was not explained as well as it could have been. The story itself was quite obvious; I had figured out the plot and the suspect very early on in the game. In spite of that, I kept reading because the author writes in a very engaging way and I found it appealing. Was this my favorite thriller in the world? No. But it was definitely not a terrible one. It had a good pace, a very good main character, and a few twists and turns to keep readers happy. There is a high chance that I will check out more books by this author in the future!

Happy reading ~

 

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

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

I keep having issues with my laptop that has caused me to be severely delayed in writing up my reviews. This time, my screen completely shattered. Luckily, I was able to get myself a replacement laptop until my old one gets fixed. Hopefully, I will be able to get in some more reviews! Anyways, this novel was released on August 22nd, but it has been on my mind for a whole lot longer. Described as a cross between Everything I Never Told You (which I adored) and Luckiest Girl Alive (which I had mixed feelings about), it is a thriller that is “unputdownable”. I decided to test that by reading it and so … here is my review:

One morning in a sleepy Colorado suburb, a horrible tragedy occurs: high school freshman Lucinda Hayes’s dead body is found in a playground. But who caused her demise? As accusations spread, 3 strangers are brought into contact. One is oddball Cameron Whitley who has always loved – and continues to love – Lucinda. While they have never talked and Cameron is considered Lucinda’s stalker, Cameron is convinced that he knows Lucinda better than anyone else. But when he finds out that she has died, he becomes completely unhinged …. and his behaviour makes him a prime suspect. Meanwhile, Jade Dixon-Burns is one of the few people who hates Lucinda. Lucinda took everything from Jade and the worst part was Lucinda’s blissful ignorance. And finally, there is officer Russ Fletcher who doesn’t know Lucinda but knows Cameron, the boy everyone suspects may have killed her. Russ must make a painful journey in order to solve this murder, while trying to keep a promise he made long ago.

Let me start by saying that this is not a thriller, even though that is how it is being marketed. This is best described as a character-driven story. It is slower paced and revolves completely around the perspectives and experiences of Russ, Cameron, and Jade. While I thought the novel was thought-provoking and interesting, I felt that there was a lack of connection with the characters, especially Lucinda. The murder faded away into the background and while this isn’t really something that bothers me at all times, I didn’t feel as if the novel or story had enough to keep me interested. I quite liked Jade and Cameron’s characters as they at least had some tangible connection to Lucinda. However, Russ was a misnomer in that he really wasn’t a necessary component of the story. In fact, he was an officer who really didn’t do much in terms of solving the murder, and that really bothered me. Overall, this was an interesting take on a murder mystery, where the story focused more on the characters. However, there was a lack of connection between me and the characters and the plot really didn’t have any movement. For those reasons, this novel gets 2.5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

 

Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love

What drew me to this novel was its interesting premise and the idea of a female gang leader. I love seeing powerful female protagonists in a novel so I was looking forward to this novel. Here is my review:

The Crenshaw Six may be small but they are making it up in the gang world in South Central LA. To outsiders, the Crenshaw Six may appear to be led by a man named Garcia … but what no one has realized is that the gang’s real leader is Garcia’s girlfriend, Lola. Lola has mastered the part of submissive girlfriend, which allows her to be constantly underestimated. But in truth she is much, much smarter–and in many ways tougher and more ruthless–than any of the men around her. As the gang gets drawn into the high-stakes drug world, the gang will have to depend on Lola to survive.

After all the excitement surrounding this novel, it ended up being a bit of a let-down. I was expecting some crazy mind games, with Lola showing off her brilliance and ruthlessness. But Lola really didn’t seem that smart or tough. To be honest, she didn’t have much of a personality and so, I really didn’t root for her or care about anything she had to say. There was this young girl introduced to the story and that intrigued me but I didn’t like how Lola didn’t take the child’s abilities into account. The story itself dragged a lot and it was hard for me to focus. Overall, this novel just didn’t make me go wow. The story was alright with brief intriguing moments, and the awesome female protagonist really didn’t show up. I would give this a 1.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~