The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

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

I’ve never read Christian fiction. It’s not like I go out of my way to avoid it but I generally try to stay away from any books that focus on any religion. However, I thought this novel had an intriguing premise and I wanted to give this genre a chance. So here is my review:

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she wants to do is run away. But her best friend Patrick urges her to reconsider her decision. Reluctantly, she agrees to continue with the trip they had planned before the tragedy. During a stop at a county flea market, Jessica discovers an antique sewing kit that contains a faded document. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French in the papers, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who had been condemned for practicing her faith centuries ago. Adeline and her community had been decimated by the Huguenot persecution. But the documents showed that there were those who had managed to escape the brutality, including Adeline’s siblings. Determined to learn the fate of the Baillard’s, Jessica retraces their journey from France to England, spurred by a need she doesn’t understand. Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

I was quite surprised to find that I really enjoyed this novel. It definitely went beyond my expectations and I loved that the author had a historical aspect for this story. I really knew nothing about the Huguenots until this novel, so that was a huge revelation for me. It is always a sad thing to hear about people being persecuted for their beliefs, and the fact that this still happens to this day is just terrible. I liked how Jessica goes on this journey to understand the Baillard’s continual belief in their faith, while also figuring out what happened to them. Jessica became invested in finding out their truth, and so I as the reader became invested in it, too. I always love reading about documents that start a journey, and this one was no exception! In fact, I think the author did a great job of making the journey progress the way that it did. As expected from a novel in this genre, there is a focus on faith and religion, but it is really quite mild and it is presented in a way where people of all different religions can enjoy and appreciate the message. I will admit that I was more intrigued by the historical aspect than what Jessica was going through, but the author did a good job of showing how PTSD can traumatize a person and shake their identity. Overall, this was a really solid novel, with good writing and a good journey!

Happy reading ~

Advertisements

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

From its description, this novel sounded really interesting and quirky. And I’m all about quirky! I decided just to give it a go, so here is my review:

When grad student Kate Pearson’s handsome French boyfriend dumps her, she goes down in flames. All her confidence and ambition goes away, and all she wants to do is sit and mope and do nothing. Her sister and her friends do everything they can to get her out of bed but it seems like nothing will get Kate back into the real world. Miraculously, a disastrous interview leads to a position in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. Kate is thrust into her job, where she has to interview all types of children for a position at the school. And then she has to deal with the parents who simply refuse to take no for an answer. She soon realizes that there is no room – or time – for self-pity during admissions season. As Kate tries her best to figure out how to make sense of her new job, her sister and friends find themselves going over and beyond in their efforts to keep Kate on her feet. Never mind that Kate seems to be doing perfectly well on her own without any of their interference…

While I’m all about quirkiness, this story was not doing it for me. I don’t think it had to do with the story itself. It was more that I really did not like the main character. Here’s the thing, I don’t mind characters that are a little bit bumbling or caught up in their own world. But Kate is a whole different story. Maybe it’s because I am an older sister and identified more with the character of Angela (Kate’s sister), but I found Kate exasperating. She literally did nothing to help herself, and made everyone else do things for her. I understand that an undergraduate degree does not always lead to the job in the area you want, and doesn’t always give you the skills you need to transition into something else … but you have to have some basic common sense! How do you not know how to dress for an interview or even how TO interview?! I get it, she was despondent and depressed … but it just irked me how she was so confused about everything in life, and literally knows NOTHING about how the world works. Where have you been living for so long, under a rock?! Sorry, I usually don’t get so ramped up but it just got too much, so much so that I couldn’t really enjoy the story, which was actually kind of funny. There are quite a few people who did enjoy this novel so I might be just an anomaly, but this book really did not work for me. I’m going to have to give this one a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Hanna Who Fell From the Sky by Christopher Meades

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

The description of this book hinted at some kind of magical element, and that automatically had me intrigued. I wanted to see how the author would tie in a fantasy element with a story that revolves around polygamy. Here is my review:

Hanna has lived her entire life within the secluded community of Clearhaven. Her father has 4 wives and Hanna has 14 siblings. And in one week, on her 18th birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and leave her home to become the 5th wife of a man who is double her age. But days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, a stranger with links to the community who challenges her beliefs and urges her to follow her own will. And when Hanna’s mother tells her a secret about her existence, Hanna realizes that this could be the ticket to the freedom she has always sought. But leaving Clearhaven means abandoning her beloved younger sisters and the only home she’s ever known? Can she turn her back on them and seek out her own destiny? Or is there another option – one too fantastical to believe?

The author does not wait to jump into the story, as the first scene is about how Hanna is only a few days away from her birthday – and her impending marriage. Right away, it is made known to the reader that Hanna does not want to go through with this marriage, but is doing so in order to uphold tradition and also protect her mother and siblings. The introduction of Daniel’s character happened pretty much the way I thought it would happen, and he became the catalyst for her dreams of escaping and wanting more for herself. I really enjoyed reading about her dilemma, as the author did a great job explaining all of the angles and options Hanna was considering. I also really liked Hanna’s character: she had opinions, intelligence, and was brave to a fault. I had been intrigued by the “fantastical” element in the premise, and when the author brought it up, it took me aback. It was very much something out of a fantasy/sci-fi story, and I thought it interesting that the author added this into the story. I wanted to see how the author would develop this detail. However, he really didn’t do so and that was quite disappointing to me. I really don’t like it when an author introduces something as a twist but it ultimately serves no purpose (which is what happened here). Either the author should have just eliminated that whole fantasy aspect, or developed it more so that it had an actual purpose in the plot. Overall, the story was a good one, but not anything different than other books on this topic. It was well-written and the main character was someone a reader could easily empathize with, but the addition of the fantasy element was really unnecessary and a bit of a let-down. For those reasons, I’m giving this novel a 3/5 stars.

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 ~

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 Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton

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

What attracted me to this novel was its unique idea: it’s rare to see a female embezzler, especially one who is a homemaker. I wanted to know how the author would go about telling this story, so here is my review:

Marion Palm prefers not to think of herself as a thief but rather “a woman who embezzles.” She has managed to embezzle $180,000 from her daughters’ private school, which she has used to pay for expensive vacations and renovations to her home. But when Marion discovers that the school is facing an audit, she pulls piles of cash from her basement hiding place and runs away, leaving her family to deal with the mess. As baffled detectives, and confused school board members start asking questions, Marion’s husband and children must navigate their new life without Marion.

When I began this novel, I thought it would for sure be one of those cases where I’m rooting for the criminal aka Marion. This novel was being sold as “wildly entertaining” which I interpreted as humorous. However, it was not. The novel started off interestingly enough, with Marion deserting her kids in a store. The novel is told from various perspectives: that of Marion, that of her husband, that of each of her kids, the detective assigned her case, and also that of some board members. While I admit that the story and the characters are quirky, this novel was a lot darker than I had expected. I had no sympathy for Marion or for her husband, as they were both quite despicable characters with no consideration for their children. I liked the children and they were the ones I sympathized with the most; they were innocents caught up in something that they didn’t deserve. I think my issue with this novel was that I couldn’t connect with the main character. She just seemed so distant and while I could understand her behaviour and motivations, I couldn’t feel the things she did and that made the story fall a little flat for me. This is a novel that cynical people who like dark humor would enjoy. While I enjoy dark humor, it wasn’t what I was expecting and that may be the reason I didn’t love this novel. Nevertheless, I’m giving this book a 3/5 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 ~

The River At Night by Erika Ferencik

I’ve been looking for an interesting thriller to read and this one has been on my TBR list for a while. Now that I’m on vacation, I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up and reduce that list as much as I possibly can. So here is my review:

Wini likes to play things safe, but when her friends decide to celebrate their middle-aged life by doing something drastic, she decides to take the plunge. Wini and her friends decide to go to Maine to do some white water rafting, something that none of them have any experience with. A fun trip quickly turns into a horrific nightmare as the women find themselves trapped in the wilderness with no way out.

I recently read another novel that deals with survival, a YA fiction called Feel Me Fall. Compared to that, this one was a softie. This novel had a lot of positive aspects to it: it had a great premise, and an interesting friendship group. But with all of that potential, I felt that the action was lacking. The beginning started off great, and I found myself intrigued with where the story was going. However, as the story continued, I found that there needed to be more action happening. That kind of made the story fall for me a bit. Overall, this was an interesting story but it needed way more action to carry it through until the end.

Happy reading ~

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

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

From the moment I read the description of this novel, I knew it was my kind of book. It sounded intense and thrilling and absolutely realistic. I’m really glad that I got approved for this book and now … here is my review:

Joan and her 4-year-old son, Lincoln, love going to the zoo near closing time to just relax and play. It’s the perfect way to end the day. But then Joan sees something as she and her son are moving toward the exit gate, something that makes her sprint back into the zoo with her son in her arms. And for the next 3 hours, she keeps running. Joan’s intimate knowledge of her son and the zoo itself comes in handy in her time of need … but will it be enough to keep her safe from danger?

Just as I had expected, this novel was gripping from the start. Joan and her son are very believable characters and the situation they find themselves in is also, unfortunately, something I can realistically imagine happening. I had my heart in my throat the entire time I was reading because I could feel how dangerous the situation was and how desperate Joan was to keep her son safe. The danger is present for the entire span of the novel, which means that Joan was running for safety for that entire time…. and yet, there really wasn’t a boring moment in the story. It was one of the more enjoyable features of this story. The novel is also told from the perspectives of other people in the zoo: fellow victims and even a perpetrator. I found that interesting but I wished the author had done it more often instead of just randomly including snippets from other perspectives; it would have helped me visualize and connect to the other characters in the same way that I did with Joan. I will admit that there were certain discrepancies in the plot that bothered me. Some I was willing to ignore because I understood that it was necessary for plot development, but there were others that seemed a tad bit ridiculous. The explanations for certain behaviors exhibited in the story also weren’t the best at times. These were really the only flaws for me, and overall, I was quite satisfied with my experience with the novel. The author promised a book that would make your heart pound and she definitely delivered on that account! I would give this novel a 3.5/5 and would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique thriller.

Happy reading ~

The Student by Iain Fowler

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

I’ve never read a novel that falls into the noir genre. So I was really excited to give it a chance through this book. Here is my review:

It’s 1994 in Gatton, Queensland. Nate is a student who is trying to make ends meet by selling weed on the side. He hears that a girl he knew, Maya Kibby, is dead but nobody knows the identity of her killer. But Nate has bigger problems: he needs to refresh his supply, but Jesse, his friend and dealer, has gone missing. High on drugs and alone, Nate finds himself in a whole heap of trouble when major drug players hunt him down for money and drugs. And as things turn from bad to worse, Nate uncovers far more than he bargained for.

Unfortunately, this novel wasn’t for me. Maybe it was the ARC I received, but the story didn’t seem to flow very well. There were parts where the timeline of the novel changed and the transition was not marked clearly, so I had to go back and reread it to make sense of what was happening. While it was interesting to get an indepth look into the drug world, it was just so miserable-sounding that I didn’t really want to continue reading. I had no connection or feelings for any of the characters, and that was perhaps my biggest disappointment because it influenced my ability to care about the story itself. Maybe it’s just me, because there are quite a few positive reviews on Goodreads but this novel just didn’t do it for me. I would recommend this to anyone who likes books that can be classified as noir.

Happy reading ~