Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell

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

This novel sounded super interesting to me and I wanted to see if it would be different from other novels dealing with marriage in the thriller category. Here are my thoughts:

Goodreads (Summary): Before she disappeared, Alexandra Southwood lived an average, happy life: devoted to her wonderful husband, Marc, and caring for her two beautiful daughters. But now, held in a room against her will, Alexandra is forced to think about all she’s lost, and imagine how Marc and her daughters are coping in the wake of her disappearance. She’s shown news clips of Marc, desperately appealing to the public for information on her whereabouts. She tortures herself with visions of her family’s devastated new reality. And as she envisions Marc’s distress, she can’t help but remember their courtship, their marriage–all that he saved her from and all that they’ve built together.

Marc’s pain is visceral. He thinks of nothing but her. Even when the police discover Alexandra’s bloody belongings by the river, turning their missing-persons case into a murder investigation, he cannot accept that she is lost to him. He shifts from total despair to frantic action, embarking on his own journey through the dark maze of secrets she kept and passions he never understood. Following a trail that leads him to find answers to questions he never meant to ask, he’s forced to confront how frighteningly little he’s grasped about the woman he loves.


My Rating: 3 star

Review: It’s been a few days now since I’ve read this book and I still have no idea how I feel about it. Was this a terrible book or a genius work of literature? I will hopefully be able to answer that question by the time I’m done this review.

This story is told entirely from Alexandra’s perspective, and it’s done in a very different way. One chapter, told from Alexandra’s voice, is recalling the past and how Alexandra and Marc got to this point in their life. The other chapter is about how Marc is dealing with the current situation…. but it is told through Alexandra as she imagines what he must be going through. This chapter also ends with Alexandra talking about herself in the present moment with her unknown captor, and occasionally, there are letters written from Alexandra’s friend from her college days. It’s a very weird way to tell this story but it somehow… works…. ish. Even though Alexandra is telling the reader what Marc must be going through, I still felt as if I really was able to understand Marc’s character. He was someone who I could really get behind as a main character and I liked that this novel had a male protagonist instead of the usual female one.

This book does have a focus on the art world but the author doesn’t make it overbearing. The art information in the story is detailed enough to make its point but it wasn’t overly detailed or boring. The story itself was able to come through, which was really nice.

Now, I can’t really talk much about the plot itself. But what I will say is that this novel focuses on a few things, one being the role of a woman in marriage and in family life, and the lengths one will go to create art. In terms of both of these aspects, I thought the author brought up some food for thought and I really found myself pondering some of the questions this book raises. I will admit that the story took a long time to make itself clear and the ending was one that definitely left me stunned and confused … but it was a situation where I really couldn’t pinpoint whether I loved it or hated it. It was rushed, it had some ludicrous elements to it … and yet, it brought an interesting perspective that I had never really considered before.

This book is definitely not like any other thriller I have ever read. It is a bit slower in pacing, but there are so many unique elements to this story from the writing style to the actual themes in the book itself. It is one of those books that you will either love or hate … and I think I am leaning towards the former!

Happy reading ~

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Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson [eARC Review]

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

I was first drawn to the cover and title of this book, both of which seemed a bit quirky. The premise sounded a lot more serious but it really appealed to me because of its focus on a child who is torn between two parents. Here are my thoughts:

34564829Summary (Goodreads): Willow Thorpe knows friction… The friction between her parents, Rosie and Rex. The friction inside herself as she tries to navigate two worlds since their divorce.

But life has not always been like this.

When Rosie and Rex first met, theirs was an attraction of opposites. Rosie lived life for those heightened moments when love reveals its true secrets. Rex lived life safely, by the rules. Common sense would say theirs was a union not meant to last, but it was genuine love.

Now Willow just wants to be with Rosie, to bask in her mother’s outsize glow and, she thinks, protection. Because Rosie is the only person who can make Willow feel totally alive and completely loved.

But as Willow and Rosie and Rex try harder and harder to stay connected as a family, Rosie’s manic tornado of love continues to sweep up everyone in sight, ultimately to heartbreaking results.


My Rating:   2 star

Review: Trigger warning for suicide and drug abuse.

I wanted to love this book so much. But it just didn’t work for me.

The story is told from 2 different perspectives. We hear from Willow, the daughter of Rosie and Rex, as she struggles with having to go between her parents now that they are divorced. We also hear from Rosie and Rex when they first met and how they fell in love with each other. I really liked that we had these two perspectives because they made for a very interesting and well-rounded story.

I think that the issues this novel explores are very interesting and deep, and deserve to be mentioned. It is definitely a sad and moving story.

But the novel left me wanting more.

I wanted to understand Rosie more and I wish the author had used this novel to give more of a platform for mental health issues. I wish that there had been more opportunities for the reader to connect with Rosie and Rex because they felt very awkward and stilted; the only time they came alive was when Willow was describing them and I felt like there was a missed opportunity here for readers to understand Rosie and Rex.

The ending was sad but it felt unresolved for me. I finished this book wanting more from it and feeling like it missed the mark. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims

Thank you to the publishers and Edeleweiss for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

The title was too intriguing to ignore. I saw this and thought it was the funniest thing ever. I’m not a mother, but I know I’ve driven my mom crazy over the years. This would be the perfect way for me to get a glimpse into her world, albeit with a ton of humor! Here is my review:

Summary (Edelweiss): Boy Child Peter, Girl Child Jane and Daddy have exciting adventures with Mommy. Daddy likes gadgets. Peter and Jane like starting fires, trying to kill each other and driving Mommy to drink.

It is Mommy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel at a future of people asking if she wants to come to their yoga class, and book clubs, where everyone is wearing statement scarves and they are all ‘tiddly’ after a glass of Pinot Grigio. But Mommy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’, boasting about Boy Child and Girl Child’s achievements. Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering FML over and over, and then remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…

Review: Just like the summary suggests, this is a lighthearted read. If you like Bridget Jones’s Diary or anything by Sophie Kinsella, you will probably enjoy this book. I thought it was funny and cute, and I enjoyed the break from my usual reads.

But this wasn’t my favourite book out there.

I was entertained as I read about Ellen, our MC, struggling to be the “ideal” mother. The author was very witty in her descriptions of everyday life. The story definitely got sweary at times, but that didn’t bother me too much. However, there was nothing that pulled me to the book. I found I got bored at times, especially in the middle. Maybe it’s because I can’t relate to the MC since I don’t have children and haven’t experienced everything that is mentioned in the book. But that hasn’t really been a problem before. I also found some of Ellen’s actions questionable and irritating. But then again, this novel is told as a diary and we’ve all done imperfect things in life, right?

Overall, I think this was a funny story, but it wasn’t remarkable. It didn’t keep me wanting more. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars and would recommend it for anyone looking for a lighthearted read.

Happy reading ~

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

So far, my experiences with Clare Mackintosh’s books have been positive. I absolutely loved I Let You Go, her debut novel. I See You, while not as intense of a thriller as her debut, was still a very good read. I went into this book with high expectations, wondering how twisted the story would get. Here is my review:

35839475Summary (Goodreads): The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…


Review: This is a book that is leaving me more than a little conflicted. It had its positive and negative moments, and I think a lot of it can be attributed to the way the author went about telling the story.

When I first began to read this book, I was a little disappointed. It started off like many other thrillers. Anna was a character that came off as very one-dimensional; while I could empathize with her grief, that seemed to be all that constituted her personality. From the start, she was obsessed with proving that there was more to her parent’s deaths than just suicide …. but I had read this type of story so many times that I just didn’t feel any interest. With the addition of an unknown person’s perspective in the mix, I thought I had pretty much figured out the story.

For about 200 pages, everything I guessed was on the nose.

AND THEN IT WASN’T.

Almost 100 pages before the end of the book, the major twist happened. And I really liked the twist. It shifts the paradigms and it makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about a person. I don’t want to say any more because I want this to be spoiler-free, but it was definitely surprising and I really liked it.

But here’s the real question: was the twist good enough to redeem the earlier part of the book? For this, I don’t really have a good answer. On the one hand, the twist saved this story from being a disappointment for me. It made me sit up and gripped me and made me invested in the story. But to get to this point, I had to slog through the novel. Now, after finishing the novel, I can understand why the author went about telling the story this way: by making the reader believe that this would be just like every other thriller, she managed to deliver the most epic shock factor. But even though I got the thrills, I still didn’t really care about Anna’s characters. Other side characters were also not as well-developed as I would like, and the introduction of the retired police officer was really not too necessary as he didn’t add too much to the story.

To sum it up, this was probably my least favourite book by Clare Mackintosh. That being said, it’s still quite good and better than most of the generic thrillers out there. I’m going to give this a 3/5 stars because I was definitely caught off-guard … but the twists weren’t enough to redeem the entire book for me. I will 100% read more by this author, though; she is definitely talented and knows how to spin a good tale!

Thank you to the publishers and Edelweiss for the eARC in exchange for my honest review.

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

I have a penchant for finding disturbing stories. Most of the time, I love the stories despite their gruesome nature. I like the different perspectives that these novels give me about what it means to survive, and how a person can be affected by trauma. It’s also interesting to see how cruel or twisted someone can be. I picked up this book hoping to get a glimpse of all of these things. Unfortunately, I did not. Here is my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. The reader tracks Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, and watches, heart in throat, as she struggles to become her own hero–and in the process, becomes ours as well.


Review: Stephen King said this novel was a masterpiece. After reading it, I find myself struggling to see why. I feel like I am one of the few people who did not like this novel but I simply can’t understand what was so great about it.

First of all, the writing was just terrible. There are so many minute details given about every little thing. The conversations, however, are the first. I have yet to meet a single human being talk like that. I am in the world of academia, and not a single professor has ever talked to me the way that Martin, Turtle’s father, talks. I just couldn’t handle the philosophical rants that seemed to never end and were about the same issue. I hated almost all of Turtle’s conversations were just repetitions of curse words; I get it, she hears it all around her, but what is with the obsession of saying c_nt all the time?! It made her seem so much more simplistic than she really was. I was even more bothered when Turtle met the two teenage boys because their conversations and interactions were so unrealistic. It made me wonder if the author had ever actually met teenagers before. First of all, they don’t just talk about aliens all the time or act as if the girl in front of them doesn’t exist. Second of all, they don’t say “dude” and “sick” every minute.

This novel was presented to be a story about how Turtle deals with the abuse she receives from her father and how she survives and finds herself. But as I read, it just felt like the author was trying to exploit the abuse factor. There was no careful handling of the subject matter. It was very crass, and while I can handle difficult topics like sexual abuse and incest, that doesn’t mean it should be handled so indelicately. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

Maybe there was some magnificence to this novel. But the bad dialogue, bad characterization, and careless handling of a serious and sensitive topic made it hard for me to see the good in it. I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Night Child by Anna Quinn

Don’t judge me but I selected this book because the cover was so intriguing and pretty. The premise was interesting, too, but I am definitely one of those people that go after books with pretty covers. I had an inkling of what I thought the story would be about … but I was completely taken aback when I started reading it! Here is my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): Nora Brown teaches high school English and lives a quiet life in Seattle with her husband and six-year-old daughter. But one November day, moments after dismissing her class, a girl’s face appears above the students’ desks — ”a wild numinous face with startling blue eyes, a face floating on top of shapeless drapes of purples and blues where arms and legs should have been. Terror rushes through Nora’s body — the kind of raw terror you feel when there’s no way out, when every cell in your body, your entire body, is on fire — when you think you might die.”

Twenty-four hours later, while on Thanksgiving vacation, the face appears again. Shaken and unsteady, Nora meets with neurologists and eventually, a psychiatrist. As the story progresses, a terrible secret is discovered — a secret that pushes Nora toward an even deeper psychological breakdown.


Review: I don’t know what I was expecting but it certainly wasn’t this! I want to start this review by giving a trigger warning: this novel deals with child abuse and may be disturbing for some readers.

I thought that this novel would be a terrifying read based on the synopsis, but I did not expect it to be as emotionally evocative as it was. This is a book that deals with the way the human mind deals with trauma, and how it protects you from your own memories. This was a dark and gripping story, and you would be hard-pressed to not be affected by the things you read. The author did an absolutely fantastic job of weaving the past and the present together, and illustrating how memories can be distorted. This novel delivers on so many levels, and it took me by surprise from the start. If anything, I would want the story to be a little longer to explore the issues mentioned in the book further. This is a solid 4/5 star book and I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a dark and emotional psychological story (but keep in mind the trigger warning)!

Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

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

Thrillers are one of my most-read genres, apart from fantasy. However, with my avid love for thrillers comes my high expectations; I’m always looking for books that will blow me out of the water and are distinct from the rest of the novels in that genre. I’m a harsh critic when it comes to thrillers, especially when they are compared to other well-known thrillers like Gone Girl. I was drawn to this book because of the cover and the premise …. and now, here is my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but she hasn’t had the same opportunities as Daniel. And she wants Laura’s life.

Cherry comes to the family wide-eyed and wants to be welcomed with open arms, but Laura suspects she’s not all that she seems.

When tragedy strikes, an unforgiveable lie is told. It is an act of desperation, but the fall-out will change their lives forever.


Review: I don’t know if this novel should be considered a psychological thriller. If anything, this book falls more in line with a domestic thriller. Maybe I’m being a little too picky about classification but I think it’s important; if I go into a novel thinking it is a psychological thriller, then I’m expecting certain things from it that I might not expect were it a different type of thriller. Anywho, I just wanted to make this clear for everyone else considering reading this book.

In terms of the structure, this novel is told from 3 perspectives: Laura, Cherry, and Daniel. While I liked that the author showed us these 3 sides as it allowed us to contrast the reactions of the different characters, I don’t think it was necessarily done in the best way, especially when it came to Daniel’s POV. His perspective didn’t get its own chapter; instead, as you are reading from Laura’s or Cherry’s side of the story, there would be an abrupt and random shift into Daniel’s viewpoints. This took me aback a lot and created a jarring effect when I was reading, which I didn’t enjoy.

The story itself was also interesting. I don’t think there was any one character that was completely good or bad (except, maybe Daniel) and I really liked that because it gave them more dimension. The pacing was fast, which I enjoyed, and I was happy that the author tried to put some depth into the characters and their backstories even when pushing this fast-paced thriller. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was on the edge of my seat, but I didn’t get bored with the story, either. I have to admit that it was predictable, but it was still a nice read.

Overall, this was a predictable read, but in no way bad for a debut novel. The characters were developed well but the story needed some more unique features. I would give this a 3/5 rating, and I look forward to seeing this author progress further.

Happy reading ~

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

One of the things that drew me to this book was the number of comparisons it had to Room by Emma Donoghue. I absolutely adored that book. I was wondering if this novel would live up to that comparison…

It most definitely did.

Synopsis (Goodreads): Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.


I’m still trying to come up with the right words to describe how amazing this novel is. It is absolutely fantastic, and the fact that this came from a debut author is hard to believe.

The novel deals with a difficult topic: gun violence and the loss of an innocent child. The story is masterfully written, told entirely from the perspective of young Zach Taylor. It is his innocent thoughts that we hear, his eyes through which we observe – and yet, we are given the opportunity to see the bigger picture and make the connections that his young mind cannot. There was never a point where I felt that the author was faking the POV of a child; it was just that realistically portrayed! And I really do not think there could have been a better voice from which to tell the story. Zach’s innocence and honesty was the perfect vehicle for the reader to witness a tragedy that no parent ever wants to face.

Zach is such a sweet and wonderful protagonist, that it is easy to connect with him and care for his character. Every emotion that Zach felt was one I felt – the anger, the fear, the anxiety, the sadness. Zach tugged at my heart with every turn of the page. I will gladly admit that this book had me ugly-crying at various points because it was just so emotionally touching.

This book deserves every star I can give. Do yourself a favour and read this book. It is 100% worth it.

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

Happy reading ~

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I remember reading Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng with more than a little trepidation. I shy away from tragic stories because I absolutely hate turning into a sobbing mess. While that novel was definitely sad, it was well worth the effort because of the beautiful story it told. With that in mind, I decided to try this new novel by Celeste Ng to see what she would present next.

Shaker Heights is a progressive suburb in Cleveland, Ohio that is proud of its perfect community. From the layout of the houses to the successful lives of its residents, Shaker Heights is the epitome of perfection. And no one believes this more than Elena Richardson, whose entire way of life is all about playing by the rules. When Mia Warren, an artist and single mother, arrives in town with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons, things quickly change. Pearl quickly becomes close to the 4 Richardson children, and the Richardson kids find themselves drawn to this mother-daughter pair. But Mia is not at all like the citizens of Shaker Heights; she has a penchant for disregarding the rules of the community, and has a mysterious past to boot. But things really come to a head when the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, putting Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing side. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at a devastating cost to her own family – and Mia’s.

The novel starts off unusually, with a fire that breaks out in the Richardsons’ home. It sets the stage for the real story to follow through. This was a slow-moving story that showcases different family dynamics and relationships. The characters are beautifully drawn up, and they are so present that it is hard to distance yourself from them. I love that the author spoke from every single character’s perspective, giving them their moment in the spotlight and allowing the reader to understand that specific character’s thought process and internal turmoil. The story chronicles the events that led to this fire by using each character’s back story to reveal their subsequent actions. And then there is the additional story line of the Chinese baby being adopted by an American family. Every single thing that occurred in this novel was designed to make the reader face some difficult questions about family and identity. And there is no straight answer, nothing that can ever truly be considered right. I think that was the beauty of this entire novel: it is thought-provoking and emotionally draining in the best way possible. My heart went out for so many of the characters. And even though I disliked Mrs. Richardson – who was rarely referred to by her first name (this actually worked so well with her personality and characterization) – I grew to feel for her by the end of the book, as well. If you haven’t picked up that I loved this novel, well, I loved it. I thought it was such a deep and intense story, and it is well worth the effort to read it. However, you really need to be in the mindset for this type of story in order to enjoy it. I’m giving it a 5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

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

Mental illness is a very important topic that I don’t think gets discussed enough. And even when it does, it is overly simplified. This novel spoke to me because of its emphasis on mental health and the toll it can take not only on the person with the condition but also the caregivers. I was really excited for this ARC and I’m really glad I got the chance to read this novel. Here is my review:

Miranda, as the eldest, has always been the responsible one, her younger sister’s protector. Lucia is the vibrant one, the unconventional one, whose impulsive behaviour can be both charming and devastating. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it is Miranda who must take charge of Lucia – even as Lucia refuses to accept the doctor’s diagnosis. Determined to be more than just  label, Lucia forges on with life, marrying a kind-hearted Israeli – only to leave him, suddenly, in order to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. With her new family, Lucia moves to Ecuador to start a fresh life – but she cannot escape her own mental illness. Miranda must decide if she will step in and help Lucia once more – but this time Lucia might not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them?

This book was a very powerful story. Lucia is a creative and whimsical character – but she is also diagnosed with schizophrenia. Miranda, the cautious one of the pair, has always felt it was her responsibility to take care of her sister and ensure that she is getting the right medication and dosage. But this responsibility becomes an even harder burden to bear when faced with Lucia’s refusal to comply. I thought that the author did an amazing job of portraying how mental illness can affect an individual and the relationships that person has with others. This story is told from multiple perspectives, from Miranda to Lucia’s Israeli husband to the Latino immigrant to Lucia herself. Each offers their own story as they discover their love for Lucia – and discover her diagnosis and the struggles that come with schizophrenia. The author really took the time to show all of the facets of the disorder and the ways in which people can try to handle it. I found the story to be realistic and heartbreaking and beautiful and poignant. More importantly, I thought this novel did justice to the topic through a sensitive and masterful approach. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone interested in mental health and literary fiction. I’m giving this a 5/5 rating!

Happy reading ~