Grief Cottage by Gail Goodwin

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

The premise of this novel was just too much to resist. I love a good ghost story and I was fully expecting to get loads of shivers and chills and supernatural goings-on. After reading this novel, I can honestly say that my predictions were way off. Here is my review:

When his mother dies unexpectedly, 11-year-old Marcus is sent to live with his great aunt, a reclusive painter who lives on a small South Carolina island. As he gets accustomed to his new surroundings, he is shown a ruined cottage that the islanders call Grief cottage, after a tragic incident where a boy and his parents disappeared during a hurricane 50 years ago. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has remained empty ever since. While Aunt Charlotte stays locked up in her studio painting, Marcus visits the cottage, building up the courage to face the ghost of the dead boy who used to live there. Full of curiosity and lonely, Marcus befriends the ghost boy, never knowing whether the ghost is friendly or has a more insidious nature.

There are a lot of things that caused me to not like this novel. The main thing is that it led me astray. Everything about the blurb screamed thriller ghost story. However, it would be more apt to describe this book as a literary fiction. Now, I have no problem with the literary fiction genre; I have read quite a few books that fit into this category and have quite enjoyed them. However, I do not like to be misled so blatantly. I felt like I was cheated out of the ghost story experience that was promised. Yes, the novel fixated on death and loss and grief, but there really was no need to brand the story as anything supernatural/involving ghosts. As you can tell, I’m quite upset by this. To make it worse, I didn’t really feel like this novel was a very good literary fiction. Even though literary fiction focuses on a certain theme and character growth/development, there is still a plot line; this novel missed the mark on that. I really liked Marcus’s character – he is a genuine sweetheart who tries so hard to please others. However, I didn’t really think he developed or grew in any real way; nothing that happened to him on his beach adventures really seemed to have the kind of impact I associate with literary fiction novels. In fact, the last portion of the novel completely threw me off because suddenly, the author takes us into the future and compresses together a decade of activity in Marcus’s life that just … made the story even more choppy than it already was. It was just weird and unnecessary. Another thing that I found a bit weird about this story was the writing style used for Marcus’s voice. The whole novel is like a monologue of the internal thoughts and feelings of Marcus but his voice sounds like that of a well-educated adult rather than an 11-year-old child. I’m not saying that children cannot have great vocabulary and think beyond their years, but the author never really showed Marcus as being so extraordinarily gifted and it just seemed so at odds with the personality and character of Marcus. It made it hard for me to believe in the story and feel connected to Marcus (even though, as mentioned previously, I liked him). The last little thing that bothered me was the way the author kept harping on the pronunciation of a specific character in the book, Lash. Every time Lash talked, the author just had to take a specific word and in brackets, write it out phonetically. It was cool at first because it helped me hear the voice in my head as I was reading but it got tedious really quick.

So overall, I really didn’t have a good experience with this book. I didn’t like how misleading the premise was, I didn’t like that the writing style was choppy, I didn’t think there was really any plot, and Marcus’s voice just really didn’t fit with his character. For those reasons, this novel gets a 1.5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

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

I haven’t read a nonfiction novel in a long time and I don’t think I have ever blogged about it. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to broaden my reading range. I’m so glad that I chose to read this book because it was such a fantastic experience. Here is my review:

As World War I took its tool, hundreds of young women were employed at radium-dial factories to paint clock faces with a new miracle substance: radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was completely safe, the women used the “lip-painting” technique to do their job, happily surprised to find themselves glowing from head to toe by the dust that collected after a day’s work. With such a coveted job, these girls were considered to be the luckiest of all – until they all began to fall ill. As the radium poisoned their bodies, they found themselves battling not just their physical ailments but the working industry themselves in one of America’s biggest scandals.

I never expected a nonfiction novel to be so moving and gripping. I could not read this novel in one sitting; I had to take multiple pauses because it was just so emotional. I didn’t know much about this topic before I began reading. I had just thought that this was an interesting event that involved radium, a substance I’m familiar with through my course work. I got so much more than that through this book. The author creates a vivid story that looks at the lives of all of these women, full of their hopes and dreams and despairs. It shows all of the different people involved that either hindered or aided in justice being meted out. There was so much courage and strength portrayed here and the author made the reader care about every single woman mentioned in the story; they weren’t just names but real people that I could connect with. While the novel was definitely more in favor of the women than the radium companies (which totally makes sense!), I was happy to see that the author did take into account the reasons why the companies did what they did; it didn’t make me sympathetic to them on any account but it did make an attempt to give a more well-rounded picture of the scandal. This was a gripping story where I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how the women would get past each obstacle thrown in their way. The best thing about this story was the message of perseverance and hope and bravery that these women showed in every facet of their lives; they may have been dying but they wouldn’t give up on living and fighting. It made me feel so proud to see all that they accomplished even after facing such adversity. I can honestly say that I have never felt this emotionally invested in a novel before. What an amazing story and the author did such a brilliant job of making it relevant and appealing to the masses. This is definitely a nonfiction book you don’t want to miss out on!

Happy reading ~

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

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

When I received the ARC for this novel, the title was The Original Ginny Moon. I think it has since changed (slightly) but the story has, of course, stayed the same. I wanted to read this novel because of its unique protagonist. After reading this novel, I’m just so glad to have had the chance to read such an amazing story!

Ginny is an autistic 14-year-old who has spent the last 5 years in foster care, after being taken out of her unsafe home. Now, Ginny is in her 4th home that will hopefully be her Forever home. Maybe this time, her forever parents will love her. Everyone wants Ginny to feel safe and forget her past … but Ginny can’t do that. She will never stop making her Big Secret Plan of Escape. Because Ginny has a secret about something that happened a long time ago… and the only person who can make it right is her.

What an absolutely wonderful book! From the very first page, this novel had my heart. I adored Ginny. The author did such an amazing job portraying her and making her come to life. While I’m no expert in working with people with autism, from my experience interacting with them, I can say that the author’s depiction was pretty spot on! And on top of being so accurate, the author also created a very unique and interesting voice for Ginny. Her story is heartbreaking and I was tense throughout the entire book, as I saw Ginny struggle to find her place. This novel isn’t just about Ginny. This novel is about the concept of family and the different ways it can present itself: as an abusive mother, as an absent father who believes in forgiveness, as a foster family that is trying to maintain normalcy in a situation that defies normal. And it’s beautiful and tragic and amazing to see how it all works out. I can’t stop talking about how much I loved this novel and I don’t want to keep repeating myself so all I will say is that this novel will touch your heart and give you an interesting perspective on the term “family”. I hope everyone will give this novel a shot because it is absolutely worth the time and effort!

Happy reading ~

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

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

I was attracted to this novel first by its cover and then by the premise. I usually try not to be a book snob but sometimes I go by face value. And let me just say that whoever designed this book cover did a REALLY good job. Anyways, here is my review:

Lady Daniels lives in Hollywood Hills with her two sons. She is going through a trial separation with her husband, who is the true owner of the home she is living in. Trying to pursue a writing career, she decides to hire a nanny to take care of her younger son. I comes S, a young artist, who is thrilled to have the chance to live in a secluded guest house while taking care of Lady’s toddler son. While S performs her duty beautifully, it is her off-hour behaviour that is startling, especially once she becomes involved with Lady’s older teenage son. As the summer wears on, Lady and S will move closer to one another, all while threatening to harm the things they hold most dear.

I had a very weird experience with this novel, and I still don’t know what to make of it. The story is told in alternating perspectives between Lady and S. Both characters were unique and yet they were inherently the same, which was just such an interesting concept to see. I can’t say I ever liked Lady or S but they had this essence that pulled at me, that kept me interested in the story, that made me want to see exactly how far they would go to get what they wanted. The other characters were equally complex and the author did a fantastic job in creating stellar complex interactions between everyone. In fact, the author’s writing style was something I really enjoyed; it pulled me in at the very beginning and it kept me interested until the last page.

My problem was with the plot. Or lack of it. As I kept reading, I found myself confused by the sudden flashbacks that didn’t really have any purpose, the references to things that I didn’t really care about. I felt like everything was leading me up to something … but that something never showed up. Yes, Lady and S both made bad decisions that made me want to slap them. Yes, the author definitely made them complex. But there didn’t seem to be any point to anything. I mean … I guess they grew through this situation? But it wasn’t like anything really happened to make them grow or change or develop. If what I’m saying makes no sense, then you understand my experience with the plot: it made no sense. Maybe it’s because I have no background (or interest) in art; perhaps someone with a knowledge of the art world would enjoy this novel more. However, it just didn’t do anything to bolster the plot for this novel.

So while the author definitely has a talent for writing and developing strong complex characters, the plot was ultimately a disappointment. Because of the positives, I am willing to give this novel 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Based on A True Story by Delpine de Vigan

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

What would you do if your closest friend tried to steal your life?

Today I know that L. is the sole reason for my powerlessness. And that the two years that we were friends almost made me stop writing for ever.

When Delphine’s latest novel ends up a huge success, she finds herself overwhelmed and unable to write her next book. And then she meets L. L is the kind of woman who has always fascinated Delphine, a woman with perfect nails and hair, and who knows just what to say at all times. Delphine can’t help but be drawn to her, and their friendship evolves slowly yet surely. But soon L begins to dress like Delphine, and, when Delphine admits that she is unable to write, L even offers to answer her emails. As L becomes more involved in Delphine’s life, Delphine begins to discover that L has had complete control this entire time …. and refuses to let go.

This is one of those cases where the novel and reader just weren’t compatible. I thought that the story had definite promise and the premise was very intriguing. However, it was a very slow buildup and I quickly lost attention. By the time the story got good, I realized that I wasn’t very invested in it and didn’t really care too much about the outcome. I will say that I quite enjoyed the writing style of the author; it flowed very nicely and you can tell the author took the time to carefully choose her words. I think that this novel would be best suited for someone looking for a slow, deep character-based book rather than something thrilling.

Happy reading ~

Visions by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #2

It’s been a while since I read Omens by this author but I really enjoyed that foray into urban fantasy. I hadn’t planned on waiting so long to read the sequel but … life … happens. Anyways, I finally got around to it so here is my review:

In Omens, Olivia Taylor-Jones discovers that she is the daughter of notorious serial killers. She finds an ally in Gabriel Walsh, a selfish, morally ambiguous lawyer. Together, they were able to find a devious killer and partially cleared Olivia’s parents from their crimes. Their success, however, doesn’t last long. While Olivia continues to take refuge in Cainsville, Gabriel’s past comes back to haunt both of them.

When Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed just like her, she is shocked. What makes it worse is that the body disappears before anyone else sees it. Olivia is convinced it’s another omen. But when she learns that a real young woman went missing just a few days ago, it makes Olivia question whether the body she saw was just a simple omen – or a message. Who would have left this kind of warning and why? As Olivia tries to uncover the truth, she finds herself in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces that have their own agenda and secrets.

It took me a while to get into this novel because I couldn’t really remember what had happened. But after just a chapter or two, everything started to fall into place. It helped that the author provided recaps of important events from the first book to help set the tone for this novel. Again, we are thrown into a murder mystery that has some supernatural elements to it. I liked that the novel actually managed to answer some of the underlying questions that I had had from before. She also added a whole host of new elements that led to more questions. I will say that there is a whole new level of romance seen in this book that I was not expecting so …. readers be prepared! The dynamic between Olivia and Gabriel gets better in this novel and you really start to admire their witty friendship. One of the things that made me really happy about this novel is that the supernatural elements of the story were a lot more visible, even though it still maintained its main murder mystery plot; what drew me to the series in the first place was a promise of fantasy, and the author definitely delivered on that account. Overall, this is a novel filled with intrigue, supernatural forces, and an interesting murder mystery. If you liked Omens, you will definitely enjoy Visions!

Happy reading ~

Skitter by Ezekiel Boone – The Hatching #2

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

When I read The Hatching, which is the prequel to this novel, it made me terrified of spiders. It was an amazingly freaky novel that had so many elements that worked so wonderfully and I just loved every minute of the adventure, while also being horrified with every page I turned. I was super excited to read this sequel and I have been holding back for a long time on writing this review, so here you go:

Since the discovery of the spiders, millions of people around the world are dead. No country is safe, and the mysterious flesh-eating spiders are running rampant all through America. Scientist Melanie Gruyer is hoping that the spider situation will change and finally become easier to deal with. However, Japan has just noticed the presence of a giant glowing egg sack that threatens to break that illusion, at the same time as survivors in Los Angeles begin to panic and break the quarantine zone. Out in the desert, survivalists Gordo and Shotgun are bored out of their mind and decide to invent a weapon to defeat the spiders … but it may all be in vain because President Pilgrim has just enacted the Spanish Protocol. America, it’s every man for themselves.

I didn’t think the sequel could be as good as the first book. It was. Once again, the author seamlessly tied in multiple events and characters in a way that worked. Every single person was important in depicting the mass destruction and chaos wrought by these spiders. It was spectacular to see this large-scale disaster being orchestrated so beautifully by the author …. while also creeping me out! The author kept the tension high and raised the stakes with new revelations about these spiders and the way they attack people. What I loved about this book was that the author managed to tease out various emotions while also writing such a fast-paced novel. I could literally see various different characters going through so many complex emotions and I was really able to connect and live this experience through them. The novel ends in a cliffhanger and I seriously need the author to write the next novel ASAP because I HAVE to know what’s going on! If you are looking for a fantastic thriller with loads of adventure and spiders, then please please please do yourself a favour and give this series a try! It’s definitely worth the effort!

Happy reading ~

The Book of Mirrors by E. O. Chirovici

I was looking forward to this novel because of all of the advance praise it has received. I was excited to hear that this novel has been sold in 38 territories in the world, and decided that I had to give it a shot and see what all the hype was about. Here is my review:

When literary agent Peter Katz receives an unfinished manuscript called The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued. The author of this manuscript, Richard Flynn, has chosen to write about his time in Princeton in the late 80s. He writes about his relationship with the famous Professor Wieder, who was brutally murdered in his home in 1987. The case was never solved. Peter Katz becomes obsessed with getting to the bottom of this mystery and believes that the complete manuscript will provide him with the answers. But the recollections of others is a dangerous thing… and this might be one memory worth keeping secret.

I’m going to be blunt here: I did not like this novel. I was bored the entire time I read it. After I finished, I kept wondering what it was that put me off of this novel. Was it the story? Was it the plot? Eventually, I realized that the feature that I disliked the most were the characters. There was not a single character that I liked or even cared for. The story is told from 3 different perspectives: Peter Katz, the literary agent; John Keller, a journalist hired to do research on the manuscript; and Roy Freeman, an ex-cop who was responsible for the case and still wants to solve it. None of them were interesting, and their voices were so similar that it was hard for me to distinguish them as unique entities. Apart from the characters, I felt that there was nothing special about the novel. The author didn’t really build up any tension, and the story just read flat. I mainly felt apathy throughout the entire novel and completed it for the sake of finishing it. Overall, this novel was nothing special and it left me quite disappointed. 2/5 stars for me!

Happy reading ~

Limbo Lodge by Joan Aiken – Wolves Chronicle #5

It may have seemed as if I had forgotten about this book series… but I did not! As I mentioned previously, I have just had zero time for myself and that has led to a decline in my reading time, but I am working fast to make up for it. So without further ado, here I go:

In her latest adventure, Dido Twite is searching for Lord Herodsfoot, who is scouring the globe for new and interesting games. It’s up to Dido to bring him back to London, where an ill King James is in need of a distraction. Dido’s search takes her to a spice island called Aratu, where foreigners seldom venture due to the presence of the deadly pearl snakes and sting monkeys. When Dido lands on this island, she learns of something far more sinister than the poisonous snakes: there is a plot to overthrow the island’s king at his place on the Cliffs of Death. With the help of the Forest People, Dido rushes to the Cliff … but will she make it in time?

I have to admit, this has got to be one of my least favorite books in the series so far. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some positives and I still enjoyed the ride. Let me begin with what I liked:

  • the magic elements were super weird and cool. I liked the mysticism and the way in which those who could use magic were able to even convince the skeptics in the story.
  • Talisman and the Forest People were by far my favorite characters in the story. They were so different and I think Aiken did a fantastic job in creating them and giving them the ropes.
  • the plot against the King was typical Aiken and I loved it because it’s everything I expected and love about this series!

So clearly, there were some positives. However, there were some flaws that made this book drop below my expectations.

  • Dido lacked that charm I’ve become so accustomed to seeing. In this novel, she was quite flat and had no real purpose; this novel would have still moved fine without her presence.
  • Lord Herodsfoot and King were really blah characters. I just didn’t like their complete helplessness in every situation. I understand that Aiken created them specifically to be this way, but I just don’t like useless characters.
  • there were a lot of holes in the plot that didn’t make sense (and that’s saying something since most of the books in this series are wacky!) and the introduction into this adventure was very awkward and stilted. The transitions could definitely have been better!

Overall, the novel still maintained its wackiness and had an awesome fantasy element to it. However, it didn’t tie things as well as it could have and Dido really didn’t shine. I’m hoping that the next book in the series will be better; for now, this novel gets a 3.5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

All the Best People by Sonja Yoerg

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

I will admit, my reading list has been on the backburner this month. Every time I would think I had some free time, some new project or deadline would come up that took all of my time away. I FINALLY have some free time now so I will be doing my best to catch up on all of the great books I have yet to read, starting with this one!

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying life. She takes care of her children and husband, and is the bookkeeper for her family’s auto shop business. Her tragic childhood has been long pushed away, a thing in the past not worth remembering. But suddenly her mind begins to play tricks on her. The accounts don’t make sense and there is a constant murmuring that she can’t get rid of. She knows that she should try to get some help, but she’s terrified of being put in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole tries to hide her symptoms, all the while isolating herself from her family, and unwittingly sending her 11-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning behind this change in behaviour.

If you are looking for a realistic fiction novel that will tug at your heartstrings, then look no further! This novel is a heartwrenching portrayal on mental illness and family ties. Told from the perspective of the females in the family, we see how the actions of one person can lead to dramatic consequences in the lives of others. This novel also switches in timeline and gives a very strong backstory for Carole and Solange. The writing is great and the story is emotional, albeit ordinary. It took me quite a while to get into the story – it might have just been that I wasn’t in the mood for a realistic fiction, but I found the beginning to be quite slow. However, the novel quickly picked up its pace and explored the facets of characters who I soon became invested in. Overall, this is a strong realistic fiction novel that deals with mental illness and family tragedy in a superb way to deliver an emotionally-packed story.

Happy reading ~