The Party By Robyn Harding

This novel has been on all the trending reading lists. I really wanted to know what the hype was about. There’s been a trend in stories that talk about parties going wrong, but this one seemed unique in that it was not just told from the perspectives of adults but also from teens. Here is my review:

Sweet sixteen: it’s an exciting coming of age. To celebrate this milestone, Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah, a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Instead of an extravagant affair, they invite 4 girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. But things go horrifically wrong. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.

This novel was confusing in that it wasn’t sure what it was meant to be. In the beginning, I thought this story would pan out into a thriller, with increasing tension and a grand reveal. It started off giving every indication that that was exactly what would happen. And then it suddenly became a drama. Now, we are reading from the perspectives of adults and how this situation has changed their views on their children, and how they now question their parenting. It becomes a story about culpability, and guilt, and revenge. When the teen perspectives are shown, it’s all about bullying, guilt, and self-esteem and identity. And this is fine. There is nothing wrong with any of these themes. But it just came off a bit cheesy and overdone. It didn’t help that the adults were all extremely selfish and annoying. Just when I got used to all of this melodrama, the story begins to show hints of this big reveal. Once again, I’m feeling confused as to what I’m reading. In the end, the reveal really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; it’s something that was easy to suspect, and may not even have been necessary. There were also a specific detail that the author mentioned (I will refer to it as the introduction of a psychopath) that really bothered me; it didn’t have to happen and was just there to add more drama to an already cringe-worthy situation. Overall, this novel was just confusing: it didn’t know if it wanted to be a thriller or a soap opera. It might have been better as the latter, since I felt that the grief and emotional aspects of the story were not too shabby. I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars, but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for a good read; for me, this was just okay.

Happy reading ~

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The Unseen World by Liz Moore

Literary fiction is a genre I don’t usually go for, mostly because I don’t have the time to get immersed in it. These aren’t novels you can quickly rush through. These novels must be read slowly, carefully; that’s the only way to fully immerse yourself into the world the author is creating. It is slow-paced and requires the reader’s attention at all times. It’s a commitment that I’m not always able to make. However, I made it this time. Here is my review:

Ada Sibelius’s father, David, is a brilliant and eccentric scientist who is single-handedly raising her. He directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy who knows everything about computers and coding but nothing about being a teenager. When David’s mind begins to falter, Ada is left in the care of one of David’s colleagues.  Soon she embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood. What Ada discovers on her journey into a virtual universe will change her life forever.

This book is beautiful. This is one of those times when I really don’t know how to come up with the right words to describe all of the wonderful things about this novel. But I’m going to try. The story is told almost exclusively from Ada’s point of view. She is a very interesting protagonist; she has an intelligent and analytical way of looking at interactions but she manages to retain her innocence. It is extremely difficult to achieve this type of voice and yet the author does so effortlessly. I felt like I was growing up right alongside Ada, feeling awe when around her father, wanting his approval, and feeling despair when he begins to forget. I feel her pain and her determination as she tries to make things alright, as she tries to find her place in the social hierarchy of high school. I find myself just as curious as she is, when she discovers that her father has secrets he has been hiding from everyone. This novel is slow in its pace but it needs to be in order for the reader to really connect with Ada and understand the magnanimity of her situation. I took my time with this novel, and it was definitely worth it. I would recommend this to anyone who likes literary fiction and coming-of-age stories. 4/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

If You Knew My Sister by Michelle Adams

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

I really really liked the premise of this novel. It just seemed so twisted that I thought it would be something I would really enjoy. I was really happy to get an ARC for this novel… and now, here is my review:

When she was 3 years old, Irini Harringford was given away to her relatives by her parents. While she has spent her entire life trying to convince herself she is fine with this, deep down Irini desperately wants to understand why she was the one sent away – and why her older sister, Elle, remained at home. So when Elle reaches out to Irini to inform her of their mother’s passing, Irini returns to the family home. But she is ill at ease. Irini and Elle are not close… and for good reason. She knows only too well what Elle is capable of. Drawn to her sister and afraid of her manipulative tendencies, Irini tries to protect herself even as she is sucked back into her family’s toxic secrets. She is soon about to find out that the past she yearns to understand is more complicated than she could ever imagine – and unearthing all the secrets could put her future in jeopardy.

This novel had a lot of potential as it began. I really felt Irini’s emotions and was drawn to her story. As soon as Elle was introduced, she gave me those perfect creepy vibes I was looking for. I loved the way they interacted with each other, and I loved that the story flitted between the past and present. However, I thought that the reason the siblings were split up was really obvious from the get-go; in fact, that was what I thought the twist would be about and I was quite disappointed that it wasn’t. By the halfway point, this novel had lost a lot of its intrigue. Even the characters stopped being interesting. I really only kept reading to see if what I had guessed would come true, and it did. Honestly, I feel like this novel could have been way better if there was more depth to the characters, and a less obvious plot. I also felt like the ending wasn’t fully developed, making it lackluster. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I resisted for a long time before reading this novel. Why? Because it was getting super popular and it was getting televised, and I thought it was just all hype. It’s happened so many times where people get really excited about a book and then I read it with high expectations and get let down. Also, the story seemed to be a little on the fluff side, if you know what I mean, and I generally stay away from that. But I decided to get out of that mindset and give this novel a shot. I’m so glad I did.

When Madeline gets involved in something, she is a force to be reckoned with. She’s passionate and funny, and holds onto grudges. However, Madeline’s ex-husband and his hippie new wife have moved into Madeline’s beloved community – and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest. And to make matters worse, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. How will she cope with all of this?!

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. She’s always flustered and in a dreamlike state … but who wouldn’t be with such active twin boys? Now that the boys are in school, Celeste and her husband seem to be the perfect fit as king and queen of the school parent body. However, royalty comes with a price, and Celeste doesn’t know if she can pay up.

Jane is a single mom who has just moved to this town. Sad beyond her years, she is harboring secret doubts about her son… but why? As Madeline and Celeste take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

After reading this novel, I cursed myself for waiting so long. It is such an amazing novel and I honestly don’t know where to start with this review.

First of all, I love the moms. They are so unique and amazing. They are funny, and have deep emotions and I was able to connect and understand each of them as they go through their individual struggles. I never felt like I liked one main character over the other; all 3 were equally important to me. I also loved the way they interacted with the other mothers and with their own children; it was such a realistic portrayal of how misunderstandings can bloom into full-out hatred. And both the creation and breakdown of relationships was described beautifully.

This novel was also beautifully written. I loved how there were moments in each chapter that read like a transcript from an interview. It kept me guessing as to what they were hinting at, and it also served to spice up the traditional writing style. I loved that the author spoke from multiple perspectives and managed to keep each one separate. There were perfect bursts of comedic relief thrown in during intense moments; this has got to be one of the only books that can intersperse humor in between serious scenes. And yet, the author still managed to highlight the importance of these issues; in no way did the humor take away from the seriousness of the situation at hand. I loved it.

Overall, this was just a fantastic novel. The characters were great, the plot was great, the relationships and interactions between characters was beautifully written, the pacing was on point, and the writing style itself was golden. I cannot recommend this book enough because I guarantee it will take your preconceived notions and make you chuck them out the window! If you have been a fool like me and not read this novel, go read it now! If you haven’t already guessed, I’m giving this a 5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

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

Even before I began reading this novel, I saw it everywhere. It was on the hot and trending list at the local library, on display at all the major bookstores, and so many people I knew had a copy of it and were reading it! Well, that just made me want to get onto reading this book sooner! So here is my review:

It is Brooklyn, during the Great Depression. 12 year old Anna Kerrigan goes with her father to the house of a man who is crucial to the survival of her family. Anna observes the beautiful home with its servants, the lavish toys the children own, and the secret pact her father makes with Dexter Styles. Years later, Anna’s father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where she becomes the first female diver. Her job is a dangerous one: repairing the ships that will help America win the war. But this is the only way for her to provide for her mother and her lovely, severely disabled sister. And when she meets Styles unexpectedly at a nightclub, the man she visited with her father all those years ago, she finally begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life.

I didn’t like this novel. Yes, I went straight to the point: this novel just wasn’t for me. It started off interestingly enough, introducing us to young Anna whom I really liked. However, that went away pretty quickly and then I had to make myself get through this overly long and boring story. Even though this novel is pretty much all about plot, it was still extremely slow. I literally had to force myself to get through it because it just felt like nothing was really happening. I was also quite confused with the direction the author was taking. Is it about being the first female working as a diver? Is it about gangsters? I still don’t know. I also felt like the author treated the characters as expendable; they were there one minute, gone the next, and would just reappear again to “conveniently” serve some mundane purpose before dying or going away. That bothered me to no end. In the end, this novel just had too many flaws for me to enjoy it. The highest I’m giving this novel is a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Shoe on the Roof by Will Ferguson

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

Having done a major in psychology, I’m always interested in social psych and child development. The premise of this novel involves both; the main character underwent experimentation as a child and now, as an adult, he plans on conducting a social experiment. This was enough to make me curious and so, I happily accepted this ARC. Here is my review:

When his girlfriend ended their relationship, Thomas Rosanoff’s life went downhill. A gifted med school student, he has spent his entire life trying to escape his father’s legacy. His father, an esteemed psychiatrist used Tommy as a test subject; Thomas lived his entire young life in a box, watched by researchers behind 2-way glass. But now, Thomas is the researcher, and his subjects are 3 homeless men who all claim to be Jesus. But no 3 people can be the messiah. Thomas is determined to “cure” the 3 men of their delusions and thus, save his career – and potentially his love life. But when Thomas’s father steps in, events spin out of control, and Thomas is forced to confront the craziness of his own mind.

I really wanted to like this book, and there were times when I did enjoy the story. But overall, this one just didn’t do it for me. The premise was definitely intriguing and I really liked the way the author introduced Thomas as this cocky, confident, and slightly eccentric student. It was fun to read about his escapades and his conquests. Did I think the plan to get his girlfriend back was crazy? Absolutely! But I was willing to go through with reading about it. I liked the 3 homeless men and the way they made Thomas reevaluate his notions about the world. In fact, they made ME reevaluate my own beliefs. When Thomas’s father stepped into the picture, the story went towards the dark side. I didn’t actually mind this transition as it created this really awesome downward spiral. All of the above aspects I mentioned are positive. However, there were quite a few things I didn’t like. There were quite a few parts in the story that dragged the pace and I found it really hard to push myself past these points; I wanted to get to the good stuff and these parts just seemed like fillers. There was a random murder aspect thrown into the story that really didn’t add anything; instead of heightening my reading experience, it served to dampen it. I also thought that Thomas’s childhood could have had more focus than it did in the novel; I would be really eager for a glimpse into it and then I would only get a tidbit and feel disappointed. While the plot and character development was intriguing, the pacing was slow, there were too many fillers, and some plot aspects really should have been omitted. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 2.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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 ~

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 ~