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 ~

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 ~

Goblin by Ever Dundas

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

When I read a premise that is just straight-up weird, I can’t resist the urge to read the book. The premise itself becomes the mystery and my curiosity won’t let me rest until I discover what it is all about. That was how I felt when I came across this novel and so, I was very glad to have received this book through NetGalley and the publishers!

Goblin is an outcast girl growing up in London during World War 2. She is rejected by her mother, ignored by her father, and only finds solace in the company of her older brother and her animals. After witnessing a shocking event, Goblin retreats into a self-constructed imaginary world where she can be safe. And so begins her feral life amidst the wreckage of London, with only her family of abandoned animals to keep her company.
It is now 2011, and an elderly Goblin receives an unwanted phone call to return to London amidst the riots. But returning means facing the ghosts of her past, something which she may not have the strength for. Will she finally discover the truth she has been hiding from?

I think calling this novel a blend between fantasy and reality might be a bit of a stretch. And the reason that I say this is because it misled me a great deal. From the premise, I thought that I would be reading about a girl who flits back and forth between different realms and it is up to the reader to discover which is the truth. The novel is better depicted as flitting between past and present, and there is always this feeling that something is being hidden from the reader and from the protagonist herself. Yes, she makes up things and creates her own reality, but I wouldn’t go so far as to portray it as a fantasy because technically, not much of what she says is fake. Most of it is real. Aside from this contradiction, I really did enjoy this story. It is deep and complex, and you get lost in Goblin’s world. She is a unique character, one that I have never really encountered and seeing things from her perspective is just such a bizarre and amazing experience. Her life is absolutely ridiculous in its trajectory but that’s what keeps the story moving, and keeps the interest of the reader. As the story continued to build, and the digging for the truth begins, the author ramps up the tension – and this is done beautifully, by the way. I was holding my breath, turning the pages as fast as I could until I finally reached the end. And the ending was abrupt, I won’t lie, but it worked because this is just one of those books that doesn’t really follow the rules. In short, I think this was a very interesting novel that takes place during World War 2 and features a very unique female protagonist; however, if you are expecting some major fantasy elements, then you may find yourself disappointed.

Happy reading ~

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

You may expect that an idyllic community of wealthy California families would be the perfect paradise. Instead, when a middle school tragedy occurs, it becomes a nightmare. The reverberations from that tragedy still shake the community … and the privileged students involved in it. Now, new teacher Molly Nicoll enters the scene, hoping to inspire her pupils and understand them, not knowing the effects that the disaster has already had on them. At every turn, there is a child hiding under high school stereotypes: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents’ expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own; and Abigail, the girl who has her life charted out but makes a rash decision that will change her world.

The first story that this novel opens up with is emotionally-charged, and it is what got me into this book. It reminded me a lot of my own middle school and high school days, and every miserably memory that I had from that time. It was powerful and showed the very dark side of adolescence. However, the rest of the novel didn’t really work for me. Each chapter is like a vignette into a character’s life, and reading this novel, it began to feel as if I was reading short stories instead of a cohesive novel. The characters were also a bit too flat for me because they didn’t always get enough time in their chapter to be explored and developed; I ended up not really caring about any of them. At one point, I began to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters, which took my attention away from the main message. It’s clear from this novel that the author is very passionate about the drama and bullying and difficulties that arise in adolescents who are in high school. And she did a great job of exploring the various issues. That passion is evident throughout the novel and was the force that propelled the plot forward. However, this passion wasn’t enough for me to like this novel. If you like novels that deal with these issues, then you should definitely give this one a read. However, I will be giving this novel a 2.5/5 (the 2.5 is for the passion).

Happy reading ~

The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett

I have been super excited to read this novel because it had such a unique dystopian presence. I like the idea of space travel and thought it would be an interesting element to this dystopian novel. Thank you to the First to Read program by Penguin Randomhouse for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space, so much so that she willingly left Earth and moved to a more isolated planet. It is the perfect way for her to escape the sadness of her dissolving relationship. And then the virus hit. Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone. But a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that there may be survivors. When she finds some of them, their ragtag group will travel through vast stretches of space to try to start a new life on Earth. But their dream becomes harder and harder to reach as they face off against those trying to maintain the old ways of life.

If you are looking for a sci-fi heavy novel, then this one is not for you. This novel turned out to be a lot more philosophical as the physical journey the survivors take gives way to their inner journey. It was a novel that had enough suspense to keep you going, and didn’t drag you down with too many words. It never tried to impose any ideas on you, and allowed the reader to come to their own conclusions about each of the characters. I quite enjoyed the writing style and the revelations of the different characters. However, the main character was hard for me to empathize with. She was constantly whining, and rarely helpful. She became an irritating character who didn’t really do much to redeem herself. Overall, this novel is a very nicely written philosophical novel that takes place in a dystopian universe. However, the main character is hard to connect with at times, and the novel doesn’t have a heavy sci-fi connection (even though that is what it was portrayed to be). For all these reasons, I would give this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

* ARC received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review *

I’ve been really behind on my reading list with all of the time I’ve been spending with my family during the holidays. Now that my break is over and I need to go back to my lab, I’m hoping I will still be able to squeeze in time for more books. I sat down last night and read this book until the wee hours, which is honestly when I am at my best in terms of focusing. This novel is quite unique, and you’re soon going to find out why!

When Lizzie Lovett goes missing, everyone is shocked. Perfect, beautiful, charming Lizzie Lovett gone without a trace?! A tragedy by all means. Teenage misfit Hawthorn Creely doesn’t think so. But with the whole town caught up in this mystery, Hawthorn decides to do some investigating on her own. Hawthorn doesn’t mean to be nosy but now that she has an interesting theory about what led to Lizzie’s disappearance, she will do anything to prove that she’s right, even if it means immersing herself in Lizzie’s life completely. This means taking her job …. and maybe even her boyfriend. What Hawthorn never expected is that while she’s been looking for Lizzie, she might have found her true self instead.

In the beginning, I didn’t really like Hawthorn. I thought she was really annoying, self-centered, and behaved really immaturely for someone who is a senior in high school. As the story progressed, my opinion changed. Hawthorn continued to make silly comments and acted in an immature way but it was tempered with growing self-awareness of the way others perceive her. She stopped victimizing herself and became so much stronger. This whole story isn’t really about Lizzie so if you are looking for some kind of thriller, you will be grossly disappointed. This novel is a coming-of-age story about a misfit who finally learns to love herself and appreciate her uniqueness. And for that reason, I loved the story. I could empathize with Hawthorn; I know what it’s like to never fit in and deal with bullying on an everyday basis. I know what it’s like to want to be loved and to have someone “get” you when no one else does. The author did a fantastic job showing how her desperation for these things leads to questionable decisions, and how she bounces back when things go south. The writing style also made this story an enjoyable read. With every word, I felt compelled to keep going, keep reading about Hawthorn and her family, and all the ways in which people are affected by tragedy. Overall, this is a great teen fiction story, and I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Dreams and Shadows by Jeffrey Collyer

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

Most of the fantasy novels I read have a female protagonist. It seems to be a common trend these days. Even when I write fantasy pieces, the main character I use is always female. That’s why I’m always interested in reading fantasy novels with a male protagonist. It’s a unique experience for me, and if it is well done, it can be truly enjoyable. That was one of the things that drew me to this novel. So let me just go ahead with my review:

Michael has never felt like he belonged. An orphan who had been abandoned with a young couple as a baby, he has lived his life ignored, especially after the death of his “adoptive mother”. Michael works in a library and is just getting through life when a powerful dream sets off a series of events that take him to the land of Aylosia. Here, the world is different, and Michael finally thinks he may have a chance to find a true home. However, it soon becomes clear that there are some who would much rather see him gone. Caught in this new life, Michael must now fight to survive in Aylosia and learn of his destiny.

This novel was extremely hard to get through. It began very slowly, and in an awkward fashion. What does that mean? Well, the language use was not the best. The style would begin formally; everyone would be talking formally, and Michael’s inner thoughts were formal, as well. However, every time he spoke, it would suddenly shift to an informal tone. This made it very awkward in terms of flow; I would find myself reading this novel as if it was meant for a more mature audience and then suddenly, I would be reverted to something more akin to a teen novel. This made it very hard to stay focused on the story.

Another aspect that I found quite … weird…. is the obsession Michael has with his mother. To say he has mommy issues would be an UNDERSTATEMENT. Every scene or chapter seemed to have some reference to his mother. For someone who was abandoned as a baby and has no recollection of his biological parents, he certainly feels a lot about his mother! And there is only a sentence or two that talks about his “adoptive” mother, as if she is not important at all. Wouldn’t her loss have also hit him hard, considering how badly he wants to feel a mother’s love? Emotionally, Michael seems to be stuck at the age of 5-10, but physically he is much older. It really didn’t work in his favor.

The world-building itself was interesting, but there tended to be a LOT of detail that perhaps wasn’t that necessary. It just served to make it even more of a drag to get through the story.

Overall, I can see the potential in this novel, but it needs a great deal more editing to make it work. For now, I’m going to have to give it a 2/5 stars, and pass on it.

Happy reading ~

Born Mobster by Paige Dearth

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

I usually don’t read novels like this one. I don’t like sad novels or ones that have graphic depictions, especially if it’s regarding constant physical or sexual abuse. But I was given this novel to read and I felt like I needed to do my best to give it a fair shot. So here is my review:

Tony Bruno is 7 years old but he has already endured a great deal of suffering. Bullied by his peers and physically and emotionally abused by his father, Tony doesn’t know how much longer he can live like this. When he strikes back at his tormentors one day, it changes something – it shifts the balance of power and gives Tony a future to look forward to. Eventually, Tony befriends the new kid in town, a boy named Salvatore Morano. But what he doesn’t know is that Salvatore’s father, Johnny Morano, is the godfather of the Philadelphia Mafia. And he now has his eyes on Tony. Where Tony’s life will go from here will all be based on his pursuit for happiness and power.

I really did not enjoy this novel. For some reason, the prose and overall setup of the novel just did not work for me. I don’t like it when the author ends chapters with things like “He had no idea how much worse it would get” and the like. It seems unnecessary as it makes it seem as if the reader won’t be able to figure that out on their own. It also felt as if the author was just trying to put as much negative events into the life of the main character as she possibly could, making it seem extremely unbelievable. The way the characters talked and acted seemed very exaggerated and fake, and I really could not find myself connecting with any of the characters or even liking them. At the end of the book, I really couldn’t see the point of it all. Overall, this was an okay novel with nothing special to make it stand out and nothing terrible to make me absolutely hate it. This would probably get a 2/5 from me.

Happy reading ~

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

I really don’t want to give this book an introduction, like I do for all of my other blog posts. This novel stuck with me in such a strong way that I just want to jump right in and give you my review. So here it is:

There have been countless stories – both written and not written – about children who have fallen down into holes or gone into wardrobes and escaped into a completely different world from their own. Each of these worlds is unique in its magical properties and each child who travels to these different dimensions has a personal and unique experience there. But what happens once that world doesn’t need you anymore? At Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, those who have returned from their journeys can find a safe place, a place where they can be their new changed selves and where their stories of their experience are not dismissed as “crazy dreams”. The school’s goal is to help these children either find their way back to the magical world they had journeyed to (which rarely happens) or to help them adjust to the world they are stuck in. But when tragedy strikes, the students and Eleanor have another goal in mind: trying to stay alive.

This book is whimsical and fantastic. It’s funny yet sad; it speaks to those who have never felt like they fit in. I remember my childhood and feeling like a misfit all the time. If I could have escaped to a fantasy world where I belonged, I would never have looked back. And in a way, I accomplished that through literature. The Chronicles of Narnia series and Alice in Wonderland were just a few novels that I would pore over endlessly. This story explores what happens AFTER the adventure. Not everyone comes back and can adjust to “normal” society. It’s funny because of all of the weird tendencies these children exhibit but it is sad because they understand that they never truly belonged in this world. Add to that a murder mystery, and you’ve got a novel that will keep you hooked! Just like All the Birds in the Sky, this novel can be quite weird and for some, it may not suit them. But I really do urge you to give it a shot. Because I think you will find it just as fantastic and magical as I did.

Happy reading ~

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

I usually have a reason behind why I pick a novel. It’s usually because it is being read by many people or because it has an interesting description or is in my favorite genre. This novel, however, I chose quite randomly. It was almost as if it was telling me to read it. Anyways, I decided to place a Hold on it on a whim and then I conveniently forgot about it. Until just recently when I received my copy of the book. I had to refresh my memory on what this book was about and I decided to be a good sport and give it a try. So here is my review:

Eleanor and her twin sister, Esmeralda, have always been a pair and are known for their ability to drive their mother, Agnes, crazy. When Agnes takes them with her to the airport to pick up her husband, a terrible accident occurs – resulting in Esmeralda’s death. This one moment changes the future forever. Now, Eleanor is sixteen years old and lives with her mother, acting as her caregiver while Agnes tries to block out her memories with alcohol. Her father only shows up for visitations and leaves her to look after Agnes all on her own. The only friend Eleanor has is Jack, a boy who knows what it is like to have a fractured family. Just when things don’t seem like they can get any worse, Eleanor finds herself being continually ripped from her reality by an unseen force, a force that transports her to different times and places. Why she has been chosen by this force, Eleanor doesn’t know. But there has to be a purpose and a mission involved – and Eleanor is about to find out.

At first, I found this novel to be a tad bit slow. It kept flitting between different times and places and I didn’t really understand what was going on. But pushing through was worth it. A good deal of the story was full of sadness, as the author establishes the effects of the tragedy of Esmeralda’s death. However, the story truly picks up when Eleanor keeps getting removed from her world and put somewhere else. I loved the journey that the story took me on and when everything was revealed, the pieces fit together beautifully. This novel is deep and definitely makes you think about what could happen if just one thing in life was changed. I really really hope you will give this novel a chance to win your heart, because I am CONFIDENT that it will!

Happy reading ~