What The Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong

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

This novel has taken me a long time to read. But not because it was bad. I’ve had so many interruptions in my life that I haven’t even been able to think about the word book. But I’ve slowly been chunking my time and getting in a chapter or two …. and it’s finally done! So here is my review:

Dave, John, and Amy have taken it upon themselves to get the story straight and tell a fairly simple tale of a shape-shifting creature from another dimension that has been stealing kids and brainwashing their parents. However, it soon becomes clear that everything being revealed is not the truth. Someone is lying, and that someone is the narrators. The novel itself is a cover-up, and the “true” story reveals itself through the cracks of this funny but depraved story with contradicting and convoluted narratives.

I didn’t know that this novel was part of a series. And it really didn’t matter because I was able to follow along fine without having had read anything before this one. This was one of the most entertaining reads I have ever had the opportunity to read. It was an absolutely perfect mix of horror and comedy, that is both a mess and a genius work at the same time. I loved all of the characters and their unique narratives and perspectives. The story is honestly so wild and bizarre, which at first took me by surprise, but I began to really love that style. Random characters are introduced, random events happen, and since these events are told from multiple perspectives, you never really know if what you are reading is true or false. It makes your head spin but it also keeps you hooked! I am so glad I took my time with this book because it just allowed me to savor it so much longer! I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for something unique, something dark and funny, and something that will drive you insane while also make you crave more! I am definitely going to go back and start the series from the beginning! 5/5 stars from me!

Happy reading ~

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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 ~

Crosstalk by Connie Willis

I like science fiction, but it has been a while since I’ve read anything in this genre. I’ve also never heard of Connie Willis, who is apparently quite well known in the science fiction world. This novel has been getting a lot of hype so I decided to check it out!

In the not-so-distant future, everyone is eager to increase and enhance communication with those around them. There are multiple apps and phones promising to improve your ability to connect with those around you. But the biggest breakthrough is the development of a simple outpatient surgery that will increase romantic partners’ ability to emotionally connect. And Briddey is delighted when her boyfriend, Trent, suggests undergoing this procedure before getting engaged. He wants to be able to truly show her how much he loves her, and what better way to do that than through a procedure that makes you open to your partner? But the operation doesn’t go quite as planned, and Briddey finds herself connected to a completely different person in a way far beyond anything she could ever imagine. With her life already so complicated, what with the stress of her job and her overly-eager-to-communicate-always family, Briddey is on the brink of mental collapse. But this is just the beginning. As things go from bad to worse, Briddey is soon going to find out the dark side of having too much communication.

When I first heard the premise of this story, I had expected it to be a lot more sinister. Maybe it’s because of all the mysteries and thrillers I’ve been reading. What I found instead was a comical novel that explores the dangers of communication, with a fast pace and a romance that is both cute and creepy all at the same time.

The author begins by showing the reader a glimpse of Briddey’s daily life. And it is hectic. To be honest, I never really figured out what exactly Briddey’s job was but after reading about a “normal day at the office”, I myself was mentally drained. In that sense, the author did a good job of portraying the obsession society has with communication and technology. Briddey was barraged by phone calls, texts, emails, and messages from all sorts of other apps. Reading about the craziness of her life made me really glad that I stick to the bare minimum when it comes to apps.

Briddey herself was the most annoying and ignorant character I have ever read about. I’m serious, she actually pissed me off. She can’t do anything on her own, she constantly jumps to conclusions, she acts irrationally and does stupid things that cause her more problems, and she is a pushover. These characteristics remained throughout the novel and so I never really had much sympathy for her. She sort-of wizened up towards the end but I still never liked her.

Most of the other characters also felt underdeveloped. There were only a couple of characters that I actually liked and they were mostly the reason that I continued to read the story. The characters could definitely have had a stronger personality and more nuances; if you have read any of my other posts, you will know that one of the things I truly don’t like are one-dimensional characters. If this had been different, I think I would have liked the novel more.

The story itself was quite funny. It didn’t have as much depth as I would have liked; most of the plot was a bit on the shallow side in the way that it dealt (or didn’t deal) with issues. I also feel like the story didn’t really show me anything that I wasn’t already aware. Yes, too much of something can be a bad thing. Yes, there are positives and negatives to everything. And the pros and cons that the author talks about were ones that I already knew. However, despite that, I had a fun time reading this story and enjoying the comical scenes involving Briddey. There were some science aspects of the story that were interesting, like the mention of genes and feedback loops. However, I got lost in the explanations that the author gave near the end of the book. It felt like a whole bunch of information was just thrown at me and I wish the delivery of it had been smoother.

My verdict is on the fence for this novel. The characters were not as well-developed as I would have liked and the concept itself was a bit simplistic when it came down to it. However, I liked the lightheartedness of the story as well as the fast pace. I finished this book in just a few hours and found myself laughing and enjoying the overall flow of the story, but there definitely things that disappointed me. If you are looking for something funny with romance and a bit of science fiction, then give this novel a shot. But this is definitely not going to win any praise from die-hard science fiction fans!

Happy reading ~

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

I love Sophie Kinsella. Whenever I need a book to pick me up out of a bad mood, she is one of the authors I turn to. I loved her Shopaholic series, and would read them cover-to-cover as soon as they came out. I haven’t touched one of her novels in a while but I was so glad to see this one in my local library so I just grabbed it right away!

Katie Brenner’s life is far from perfect. She rents a tiny room in an apartment that requires her to take a terrible commute to her lowly admin job. But you would never guess from her Instagram feed, where she posts pictures of a life that looks perfect. Katie is determined to move away from her humble background and make a super-cool life for herself in London. But then, Katie gets sacked by her uber-successful boss Demeter. Katie is heart-broken. With nowhere else to go, she moves back home to Somerset and helps her dad with his new glamping business project. Then Demeter and her family check in for the holiday. At first, Katie is horrified but then she sees her chance to take revenge. But as it turns out, successful Demeter might have problems of her own…¬†¬†Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

As usual, Kinsella delivers on a funny and cute story. I actually think I liked this novel more than the Shopaholic ones! While there were still cheesy moments and funny situations, there was a more serious tone to this story that Shopaholic lacks. Katie is a conscientious character who is realistic about life, making her easy to relate with. The desire to leave home and make something of yourself is something we have all dreamed of – but few have achieved it (at least I haven’t!) and this really makes the reader warm up to the story. I liked all of the characters and the crazy shenanigans that took place. I also learned a lot about the marketing industry and all of the effort that goes into making a brand successful! All in all, a fun story that will definitely lift your mood!

Happy reading ~

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

When I read the premise of this novel, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if it was going to be humorous or dark, if it was going to be steeped in mythology or more of an urban fantasy. Either way, it was too intriguing to not pick up. So here I am, having read the book in one sitting, completely ignoring all of my other work because I was just that engrossed in the story. And here is my review:

Ferryman Charlie Dawson is the best among them in his role of convincing the newly dead to move on to the afterlife. In 250 years, he hasn’t failed a single assignment. But Charlie is tired of this existence, and all he wants to do is let go – something the Ferryman Institute would never allow. But then he receives a secret assignment from the elusive President, who gives him the choice to either act like a ferryman or save the life of Alice Spiegel, who is just about to commit suicide. And in a split instant, he makes the choice to save her – and it feels like the best decision he has made in more than 200 years. When word of this incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, Charlie finds himself in a world of trouble. But Charlie isn’t going to give up without a fight; he’s ready to save Alice – and himself – no matter the cost.

This novel can be best described as an action-comedy. I love Charlie’s personality, with his dry sarcasm and his genuine concern for others. His interactions with friends, and especially Alice, are so much fun to read! The story itself takes you through car chases and hidden tunnels, betrayals and elaborate secrets…. I was entertained throughout the entire story. I thought Alice was also really spunky but her behaviour seemed strange for someone who is 26; she acted more like a teenager than anything else. The author touched on sensitive topics like depression and anorexia, but still kept the novel light. I kind of wish the author had spent a little bit more time developing that, rather than just making Charlie the “savior” of Alice’s depression but it wasn’t too much of an issue for me. It has been a long time since I’ve read a lighthearted novel but it was long overdue. I’m really glad I got the chance to read this novel, because it is definitely one of my favorite quirky books of this year!

Happy reading ~

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

I loved the premise of this novel as soon as I read it. I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to exorcism stories but they’ve always been so intriguing and I’ve always wanted to read a novel on this topic. I found my chance with this book, so here is my review:

Abby and Gretchen met in fifth grade and have been best friends ever since. They share everything together, from which boys are worth liking to where they will live when they grow up. Either way, they can’t imagine a life without each other. When they get to high school, they expect things to be more or less the same. It’s the ’80s and life is just getting cool! So when they decide to try some LSD, it just seems like one more cool thing to do. But after that night, everything changes. Gretchen stops being…. Gretchen. As her strange behaviour begins to pile up, Abby realizes that the only explanation is that there is a demon living inside Gretchen. And Abby will stop at nothing to get it out of her.

Where do I start with this novel? This book was ridiculously fantastic and I just can’t praise it enough!

I love the ’80s vibe that the author went with. I was a ’90s child but hearing my mom talk about how life was in the ’80s always made me wish I had grown up during that time – even though the ’90s were pretty cool, too! Having it take place in this time frame made the story a little preppy and funny, it gave it a teen novel feel. And I loved that. It made it funnier, more ironic, more weird, and just overall amazing. I don’t think I have ever said this about any other novel but the author chose the perfect setting for this story.

The author did a fantastic job in merging the absolute terror that accompanies any story about possession with school clique drama. At times comic, at times terrifying, this story was perfectly woven together to incorporate all aspects and make for just a great read. I could not put this book down and loved every minute of it! If you are looking for a creepy, weird, and utterly amazing read, then look no further than this book right here! Now excuse me, while I go out and get myself a copy of this novel ASAP!

Happy reading ~

Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich – Stephanie Plum series #2

The past week has been an extremely turbulent period of time for me. My family got a dog (yay!) but then I got rejected from a graduate school program I really wanted to get into (boo). So I needed a pick-me-up and decided to read the next installment in this series. The first book had me giggling and in a good mood for days – that was EXACTLY what I was hoping this novel would do for me!

Stephanie Plum is continuing her job as a bounty hunter, and she’s fully loaded with stun guns, defense sprays, and her trusty .38. This time, Stephanie is after Kenny Mancuso, a guy who just came out of the army and is suspiciously wealthy. And he just shot his best friend. In order to find Kenny, Stephanie is going to have to get her hands dirty and dig into some corpses, both in back streets and in funeral parlors. And nobody knows funeral parlors better than Stephanie’s spunky Grandma Mazur. But will Stephanie be able to keep Grandma Mazur under control? Or will Grandma end up right in the middle of the path of a lunatic?

This novel was the perfect thing to make me feel happy again. Granted, I liked the first novel better but it still had a lot of spunk and character! I loved that Grandma Mazur had a role to play and there was still a bit of action going on between Stephanie and Morelli (which I find absurdly cute)! As I was reading, I realized that this novel is actually a lot more complex than it first appears. In the beginning, I was just enjoying the humor in all of the situations. But as I kept reading, I was able to pick up on smaller nuances that pointed out just how disturbing some of the crimes could be and how twisted a mind can get after some time. That little perception mixed into the comedy of the situation really stuck out for me and made this novel that much more interesting. Anyways, if you liked the first novel OR if you are just in the mood for something funny and irresistible, then check out Two for the Dough! It will have you laughing and on the edge of your seat the whole time!

Happy reading ~

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

I have a problem. I may have gotten a little too book crazy. Now usually I don’t believe there is any such thing as having too many books to read. But now, I may have to reconsider. I have about 6 physical books that I have borrowed from the library, 7 books that I have borrowed from the online library catalogue, and 4 books that I bought and have still to read. And my reading week (a week off from school that I’m supposed to be using for studying) is going to be ending soon. So, I need to get through these books – FAST. Thankfully, this novel was a quick read that was also enjoyable; I’m really looking forward to writing this review!

Willowdean Dickson is fat – and she owns it! She has never given much thought to what other people say, even though her mother is a former beauty queen who nags her to constantly lose weight. But everything changes when Willowdean meets Bo, a hot former jock who goes to a private school. Of course, she has a crush on him – which girl wouldn’t? What she’s surprised to find is that he likes her back. Now, Willowdean begins to doubt herself and lose the confidence she previously had. She has to get it back – and so, she decides to enter the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. It’s time to show the world that she belongs up there just as much as any other girl. But will others think the same way?

I loved this novel. It was cute and funny and heart-warming. Willowdean is so spunky and charismatic and flawed…these things make her the perfect heroine. I have never been considered fat but I have friends that have struggled with their weight for a long time and have never felt good enough. I wish they could have read this book in their teens because it would really have cheered them up and made them feel a lot more confident about their body and identity. This novel focuses on body image but it also explores issues like inclusivity (in schools and by society at large) and stereotypes about different kinds of people. I like that deep topics are expressed in a light and humorous tone that still conveys the seriousness of the issues. All in all, this was a great novel and I would recommend this to teenagers everywhere!

Happy reading ~

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

After reading one book by this author, I simply had to try another. I wanted to see if the same style would be carried throughout in another story.

Ellen is a hypnotherapist who is quite happy with her job. But now, she is looking for someone to share her life with. When she meets Patrick, she is instantly charmed. There’s only one small problem: Patrick has a stalker. Ellen actually thinks this is quite an interesting dilemma and wants to meet the stalker. What she doesn’t know is that she already has.

This was a cute novel and I liked it very much. I liked the different female voices and I loved how every character had their flaws (even Patrick!). It was a  nice, light read. The only thing I would say is that at times it became a bit too depressing (ish) for my taste. But I am definitely going to read more by this author! If you are looking for a light romantic comedy that is akin to Sophie Kinsella, then you must check this out!

Happy reading ~

The Room by Jonas Karlsson

I still don’t know what exactly to write about this book. I had been waiting to read it for so long that when I actually read it, I found it to be nothing like what I expected. Anyways, here is my review.

Bjorn is a meticulous worker, almost to the point of having OCD. He follows a strict schedule and has specific codes of conduct that he strives to uphold and expects his coworkers to maintain. One day, he discovers a room in his government office. It seems like any neat ordinary room but for some reason, Bjorn can’t stop thinking about it. He soon finds out that he is the only one who can see it. Whenever he is in the room, all anyone else sees is him standing still being unresponsive. Bjorn, convinced that this is a conspiracy, now has to get to the bottom of this all while his colleagues plot to get him fired.

This is a thinking book. It makes you stop and reread your sentences in order to make sure that you read it correctly. Maybe I was not in the mood for this kind of novel but for some reason, I just couldn’t see the point of this novel. Was it to bring insight about a mental disorder? Was it to talk about the subjectivity of the world? Whatever it was, it went right over my head. It was a short read but a bit of a pointless one. However, I hope you will still give this a chance and prove me wrong. I’ve seen raving reviews about it and I would hate for you to be discouraged just because I didn’t think it was good! And if you DO read it, I would love to hear what you thought about it! Who knows, you may be able to change my mind!

Happy reading ~