Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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

I rarely read contemporaries. It’s not that I have anything against them, it’s just that I love reading fantasy, thrillers, and science fiction books so much that I don’t have time for other genres. However, the cover and description for this book intrigued me enough that I wanted to try it. Here is my review:

35297272Summary (Goodreads): For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.


Review: I wasn’t expecting to love this novel as much as I did. But yeah, I loved it! I actually could not pull myself away from this book!

I think that the characters in this book were absolutely brilliant. I loved that our protagonists were so different from others, and yet, were easy for the reader to relate to. Their way of thinking isn’t something that is so out of the ordinary, it’s just the way they express themselves that is so unique. I loved how these two got closer to each other and I liked that the author used text messages as the main platform for their communication; any time an author uses a different medium and structures passages from their books in that format, I love it.

This novel didn’t have a super speedy plot. It was definitely a slow burner but that meant there was plenty of time for the relationship to develop between Penny and Sam. I think that in order for the romance, which is the main focus of the story, to develop properly, it needed to take as much time as it did to be successful. So I really didn’t mind the slower plot. And it honestly didn’t feel that slow to me! I chalk it up to the really great writing and the way that the author allows the readers to connect with the different characters; I was too invested to care about how slow the story was moving!

However, there were certain things about this book that weren’t handled as well. The author creates two characters that have a whole bunch of other issues and traumas in their life. Slowly, we find out what these traumatic incidents/issues are … but they don’t get properly addressed or resolved. They are put in there to explain certain aspects of behaviour, but are easily dismissed or “fixed”. This annoyed me a bit because it’s a very unrealistic portrayal of how people cope and change over time. If this had been properly executed, I would probably have given a higher rating. Better yet, why even include those aspects if they don’t play a central role to the story or won’t be addressed properly? The story wouldn’t have suffered without their inclusion, and I really don’t get why so many authors feel the need to introduce traumatic pasts into their characters’ lives.

Despite this last issue, I still really enjoyed this novel. It exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways and it was an engrossing story. I fell for the characters and their romance, so for those reasons, I’m giving this a 4/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Since you all know me and my tendencies to read hyped books, you know why I read this book. No need to give any further commentary than that. So let’s just move on to the review:

19547856Summary (Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.


Review: I’m a little scared to write my review. I liked this novel and found it a very fast and good read. But I didn’t love it.

I don’t read many contemporary books, especially not cute ones. This is definitely a cute novel, and it had me smiling quite a lot. Simon is a very sassy character and I love all of the craziness he gets involved in. I absolutely adored the email correspondences because they were so genuine.

But I didn’t like Simon himself. I’m not saying that Simon has to be a perfect character; I love when the authors make their characters flawed. But Simon was a little too obnoxious and mean for me to like at times. I don’t think he was ever a good friend. And that bothered me a lot. The author gives Simon such an amazing support system with his family members and friends. But he is kind of an asshole and he’s also fickle. And every time he did something or said/thought something that wasn’t so nice, it made me distance myself from him. Even once he recognized he was wrong, there wasn’t really any remorse from him, and I think this bothered me more. I mean, if we’re gonna go cutesy, you might as well go all the way and make him a more caring person at the end of it all.

However, I think this novel raises some very important issues regarding sexual orientation. And I think the story handles it very well and presents these ideas to the public in a way that will make everyone understand what it feels like to be something other than heterosexual. Ultimately, this story is upbeat and full of hope and positivity, and I came out of this novel feeling happy. For once, the romance is amazingly realistic and sweet and it made me feel the emotions. To me, these are the things that make this book so great.

I finished this novel with a smile on my face, and with a better understanding about the struggles of the lgbtqia+ community (and everyone can always do with understanding more about this). For those reasons, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars, rounded to 4.

Happy reading ~

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

This is a thriller that I’ve been seeing in all the libraries and bookstores. And yes, as per the usual, I decided to try it out and see whether it lives up to the hype.

And this time, it does.

25365530Summary (Goodreads): How far does the apple really fall from the tree?

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.


Review: I’m going to start with a trigger warning – there are instances of abuse, murder, and some horrific bullying in this novel. This novel is really not for the faint of heart because it deals with very sensitive topics.

The story starts off slow, with Milly telling us that she has turned in her mother and is being fostered by a psychologist who will be helping her prep for the trial. Right off the bat, I loved Milly’s voice. It’s choppy sentencing, but done right. The short sentences convey so much emotion and I can feel Milly’s troubling thoughts, her inability to live with her guilt, and her struggle to separate her identity from her mother’s. Even though it was slow-going, I really enjoyed how the author drew out the story and made the readers really understand Milly.

Not only is Milly facing the trial, she is also being severely bullied by her foster sister. This aspect actually made the story more of a teen read rather than an adult read, but the extent and cruelty of the bullying still makes this a hard read. I could never imagine bullying to be this terrible … but that’s wishful thinking. Bullying happens, in schools and in workplaces, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the bullying scenarios in the book are similar to what actually happens in real life. Every time I read what Milly was going through at the school, I felt chills. A part of me knew that Milly wasn’t just a meek girl. She was silent, but she was watching. I loved that the author made me feel sympathy for her but also tempered it by making me fear her a little.

For most of the book, we are shown these bullying aspects. At times, I wished to know more about the trial and the circumstances that led to Milly confessing to the cops about her mother. But the story eventually gets around to that. It was definitely worth the wait, and while it was predictable, it was done very well and I could feel the emotions that Milly was feeling.

I had only one problem with this novel, and this is the reason my rating went down. An incident happens in the story and Milly and the foster family must band together for it. This instance, while something predictable, was put together in a very awkward and abrupt way, and made for a very weird transition in the story. After all the time the author put in to develop the other details of the story, this lack of a proper segue was a bit disappointing. It also made the story lose some of its believability, which is a characteristic I think is very important in a book. The ending was also very abrupt because of this.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It gave me chills and it had me feeling all the feels for Milly. I just wish it had ended in a cleaner way. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

I don’t always like reading novels that are sad or deal with grief, but the beautiful cover and the softness of the writing style really had me interested so I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about what happened, why she abandoned everyone and everything.  Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from California, at college in New York, Marin struggles to pull away from her tragic past. Now, months later, Marin is alone in her empty dorm. She is waiting for Mabel to come and visit. With this visit, Marin will have to face everything left unsaid and confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

This novel was beautifully written but it was excruciatingly slow. Now, I understand that this a story about loss and grief and running away from things you don’t want to face. That’s all great. But literally nothing happens in the novel. Nothing. There are millions of inconsequential details mentioned that just bog down an already slow story. There is a softness to everything that, while beautiful, stops the story from actually having any impact. Marin’s character was also not my favorite. I don’t always need a super hyper female character to be the lead but she vacillated between having no real voice to showing teen angst. When the reason behind her avoidance was revealed, I was surprised… but not in a good way. I felt like I was missing something major. She had all of this loneliness, all of these feelings of betrayal… over this? I thought it would be something a lot more upsetting considering the extent of Marin’s behaviour. Maybe that was just me. Overall, I think this was a very beautifully written but boring novel, with nothing really that poignant about it. I’m giving this a 1.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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 ~

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 ~

 

Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

I love weird stories. The wackier, the better. It’s one of the reasons I love Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles series. While I’ve never heard of this author before this book, I read that she had a reputation for coming up with wild stories. So I decided to get started with this one. Here is my review:

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention that Miles every made came from the mind of Thomas Edison: a machine that lets you talk to the dead. The bluepritns for this machine has been passed down to Miles and he’s been using it to protect his family. But one night, when a fierce storm is raging and there is the threat of a flood, the machine comes to life and delivers a single message: you’re in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows, she is waking up by the river and only her mother is there. Her father and brother are dead, the house is gone, and there is an evil man out to get them. Eva changes her name to Necco and tries to forget about her past as she and her mother live life off the grid. But when her mother dies and her boyfriend is murdered, Necco is convinced that her past is catching up to her. What really happened that night? As Necco tries to discover the truth, she connects with 2 other women who are on their own desperate quests. And as the trio follow the clues, they discover that sometimes it’s the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.

Before this novel, I would never have thought that so many mismatched parts could come together to create a cohesive and interesting story. But they did. And I loved every minute of it. There is a paranormal aspect, with visions and psychic abilities and machines that let you communicate with the dead. There is a mystery element where people keep dying but you don’t know why. There’s a thriller aspect where the main character is being hunted by a man wearing a chicken skin mask. In all, it’s a crazy mess. But it worked on so many levels. There was not a single boring moment in this story. And the author managed to run so many different storylines at the same time! There are 3 main female characters and they each got their moment in the spotlight, which I really loved. The way it all got tied in was unexpected but it worked with the weirdness of the premise. I’m still shocked by how everything was put together … but I definitely enjoyed this read! This is not a traditional book in any way so I would recommend this to people who enjoy crazy stories with super interesting and zany plots! I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Hapyp reading ~

The Book of Bera by Suzie Wilde

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

I have always been intrigued by the Vikings and I was super excited when I heard that this book would be a Viking fantasy novel. I had no idea what that meant but I was eager to try it and see what it would be like!

When Bera journeys to protect her village from disease, an ensuing battle kills her childhood friend, Bjorn. The shame of her defeat causes her fatehr to wed her to the chieftain of a rival clan. But Bera soon realizes that her new husband’s second-in-command is responsible for her friend’s death. Though she must now take on the role of wife and stepmother, Bera vows to take revenge and begins her journey to power by honing her skills in the rough clan into which she has been sold. As her gifts continue to grow, she receives visions of looming disaster that will finally lead to the ultimate choice: revenge or safety for all?

This novel was a mess from beginning to end. And the entire blame falls on the main character, Bera. She is by far the most hated protagonist I have ever read about. Bera is an impulsive character that is very inconsistent in her behaviour and thought processes. For instance, before Bjorn died, she acted like she couldn’t stand him. But as soon as he died, he was suddenly the most kind person and she adored him. It made no sense, and this trend continues throughout the book. She vacillates between childishness and acting like a grown woman and it makes it hard to get a sense of who she is. Bera is also an extremely immature and annoying character. Perhaps her vicious behavior was supposed to emphasize her “Viking-ness” but all it did was make me not want to read this book. She literally has no redeeming qualities and it was a mission to get through this book. Suffice to say, I hated her every second.

The other problem with this book was that there wasn’t a proper buildup for certain events. Bjorn’s death, for example, was a bit out of the blue and it wasn’t presented in a way that felt complete. This was how I felt for most of the novel. There were also loads of things that just defied logic and made no sense whatsoever… but I won’t say what since I don’t like spoiling things.

In all, this was a very disappointing Viking-based story and I would probably not recommend this to anyone.

Happy reading ~

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I have been very excited to read this poetry collection. I rarely, if ever, read poetry; I think the last poetry collection I ever read was by Shel Silverstein – and it was when I was in grade 3! Needless to say, my forays into the poetic scene have been long overdue and I decided to get into it with this book by Rupi Kaur, as it has been receiving so much praise… so here is my review:

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose that speaks about surviving. It is about surviving violence, abuse, love, and loss. It is about femininity and the ways one can be ashamed of it – and be proud of it. The collection is split into 4 chatpers, with each serving a different purpose, exploring a different pain. As we journey through the most bitter moments in life, the author shows us how we can still find sweetness hidden … if you are just willing to look.

My first thought was: this is a very short collection. Seriously, I read through it all in half an hour, and that is not a testament to my reading speed. I don’t know how long poetry collections usually are but this seemed unusually small in length. But as we all know, length doesn’t matter; it’s the content that counts! What I liked was that the author was unafraid to tackle difficult material like rape and abuse. There is a strong feminist voice in these poems, one that makes you proud to be a woman. I liked that the author talked about being comfortable in one’s own skin, because it is rare to find people who are. I also liked the hand-drawn pictures in the book. However, I don’t think that there was anything really special about this collection. Of course, the more voices that preach about loving-yourself-the-way-you-are, the better. But with all the raving reviews, I expected there to be something unique about Rupi Kaur’s interpretation and message. And there really wasn’t. There was nothing that made me connect with the poems, and while I could appreciate the sentiment, it just became too repetitive. I understand: love yourself. But how many times are you going to tell me that?! Out of all of the poems, only a handful really hit hard; the others were just underwhelming. In general, I just felt disappointed, which is really a shame because I hate being mean about someone’s art. Maybe I’m just too simple for poetry? Oh well, better luck next time!

Happy reading ~

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 ~