The River At Night by Erika Ferencik

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

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

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

Happy reading ~

Feel Me Fall by James Morris

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

I promise that even though I’ve been super inactive on my blog, I’m still reading books! I’m on vacation right now and I really don’t get good wifi so having the connection necessary to write and post has been quite a challenge. I finally found a stable wifi connection so get ready for a deluge of posts!

After a plane crash that stranded her and her teenage friends in the jungles of the Amazon, these high schoolers must band together to struggle against the elements. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new hierarchy arises, filled with power struggles, betrayals, and revenge. When Emily emerges as the lone survivor, she must explain why she is the only one alive. But can she carry the burden of the past?

There were quite a few things that I enjoyed about this novel. I liked that the author skipped back and forth in time for certain portions of this story. It may have been a bit confusing at first, but it really added to the intrigue and mystery of the story. This novel was really action-packed and it was very easy to get caught up in the story. The one thing I didn’t really like was Emily’s character. She wasn’t a character I felt very interested in and her personality was a little blah for me. The ending was a cliffhanger, which I both liked and didn’t like; it was a unique twist but I generally just like to have a completely finished story. Overall, this was a strong YA novel that was action-packed and gripping, and I think many teens would enjoy reading this book!

Happy reading ~

The Breakdown by B.A Paris

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

B.A Paris has quite a reputation for writing great thrillers. I read Behind Closed Doors and it was a thriller I really enjoyed so I was hoping that the author would continue to wow me with this next novel. Here is my review:

When Cass is leaving a party late night, she decides to go down a winding rural road to get home quicker. As she is driving, in the middle of a downpour, she sees a woman sitting inside a car on the side of the road. Cass stops to see if she needs help, but when the woman is unresponsive, Cass hurries along home. Later, Cass learns that that very woman was killed – and she can’t help but blame herself. But since then, Cass has started having lapses in her memory. At first, it’s little things like where she left the car, and what the code is for the alarm. But as her memory gets worse and worse, Cass starts getting more and more anxious. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the one she could have saved. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Compared to Behind Closed Doors, this novel wasn’t nearly as engrossing or intriguing. It was definitely more of your traditional thriller and it was quite easy to predict. In fact, I had pretty much pieced it all together before the halfway point of the novel, just based on the few clues that the author gave. There were still a few surprises that I wasn’t expecting but there really wasn’t much of a twist anywhere in the story.

I didn’t really like Cass’s character all that much. She was a bit annoying to say the least and while I felt bad for her and her memory issues, it seemed like she never thought things through properly before saying or doing something. And that got quite tiresome. At one point, Cass took charge of her life and was in control: this was the highlight of the book for me. I loved that Cass didn’t just take things lying down, but actually went about getting justice. It was a shame that her strength was short-lived; the scene literally came up near the end of the book and the author didn’t really make it a big part of the story.

The ending itself was unexpected as I never expected so many things (and people) to become connected. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like it worked. I understand why the author wanted to make everything connect, but I just wasn’t convinced and it really didn’t fit in very well. If the novel had been extended a bit more and had had more details dropped at various points that would have made the ending more believable, I think that would have helped make sense of it all.

Overall, this novel was just okay. There wasn’t anything very special to it: the main character is your typical paranoid wife, the story is easy to figure out, and the ending is just really abrupt and forced to be believable.

Happy reading ~

 

The Student by Iain Fowler

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

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

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

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

Happy reading ~

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

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

I’m not going to preface this review with much. I have too many opinions and thoughts going on and I know if I start writing something now, I will literally ramble and never stop. So with that being said, let’s begin:

When Merrick Tremayne becomes crippled after an injury, he thinks his life of adventure as an East India Company smuggler is gone. Well, he’s wrong. When the India Office contacts Merrick to go on an expedition in Peru for quinine, which is essential for treating malaria, Merrick is hesitant. Even able-bodied expeditionaries have struggled to survive, and he can barely walk. But so desperate is he to escape his trapped life at home, that he sets off against his better judgement. He arrives at a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon, where a salt line separates the town from a forest that is forbidden. Anyone who tries to breach the forest is killed by something – but beyond the salt are the quinine woods and there is no other way to get to them. Surrounded by local lore on cursed woods and lost time, Merrick must separate truth from fantasy in order to find out the history behind this place – and the mystery behind its people.

Let me tell you right now: I was really excited to read this novel. There is this historical aspect mixed with magical realism and so much adventure … I was looking forward to going on an amazing journey.

When I first started to read, I was a little bored. I wondered where exactly the story was going and what the personality of the narrator, Merrick, would be like. Within the first couple chapters, the magical elements started surfacing and I began to pay interest. I started putting the pieces together and making sense of all of the different characters being introduced.

However, there were quite a few things that made me feel … off. For one thing, Merrick is described as a young-ish man, around 30 years old. However, he talks like someone much older than his age. It was very hard at times to put these two things together and imagine a realistic character. He was very good at describing the things that were happening, and I really must say that the author did a fabulous job with her depictions of Peru… but I didn’t feel like Merrick really had a voice or personality. Merrick reminds me of the narrator from The Great Gatsby; an observer who is along for the ride but who really doesn’t have much input. I was much more intrigued by Raphael’s character and that of Merrick’s friend. However, I would have liked to have been invested in the main character, as he is the one who is supposed to pull the reader into the story.

The magical realism in this novel is really done quite well. There were loads of interesting facts, mixed with incidents of magical/supernatural happenings that kept me interested in the story. In fact, had those elements not been there, I would probably have given up on this novel a while ago. To be fair, at times it felt like there really wasn’t a plot. Many things were brought up and the timeline was constantly shifting as the author went backwards and forwards into the lives of the different characters. There were many occasions during which I wondered where exactly the author was going, and it made me feel a little disappointed with the story.

Truth is, I really wanted to like this novel but I didn’t feel like it led to anything significant in terms of plot or theme. It was really well-written, with beautiful descriptions and tons of supernatural/magical elements. However, the plot wasn’t focused and the characters lacked that spark to make me care about them. For those reasons, I’m giving this book a 2.5/5 stars rounded to 3.

Happy reading ~

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

This book has been recommended to me multiple times by many people and I have just been pushing it off. I finally decided to read it and see what the hype was all about. Here is my review:

Adam Blake is one of those people who is always positive. Sure, he has his difficulties what with his ADHD, but he’s always able to look at the bright side of things. When his senior year elective is to serve as an aide to the school psychologist, Adam is sure that it will be an easy one. The psychologist asks him to track down a troubled freshman who keeps evading his sessions, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian, the foster brother he hasn’t seen in 5 years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited with Julian. But Julian isn’t the same anymore. He is quieter, more insecure, and he keeps a lot of secrets – like about what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help Julian, but his involvement could endanger both their lives.

Holy, did this book make me an emotional wreck! I did not expect it to tug at my heart the way it did but I was bawling from the halfway point until the end. I don’t even know where to start with this book.

The story is told from 2 perspectives: Julian and Adam. Each boy has his own voice and personality and the author does a great job of making them complement each other. Adam is this super positive guy, and you may think that this is overkill, but I love how the author really tried to explain why he does things and thinks things in the way that he does. He has ADHD, but he doesn’t fall into the stereotypical portrayal of it and that made me really happy. Julian’s simplicity and kindness is perfectly captured; the author definitely did not overdo it! I found it very easy to imagine the different personalities and relationships between the different characters and that made this an enjoyable read.

This novel deals with a lot of difficult issues. Not only does it address the stigma associated with mental health and illness, it talks about loss, guilt, and abuse. Each one has its role to play in the novel and the author addressed each one with the care and tact it deserved. I love how the story tied in all of these elements to make something beautiful and raw. This novel makes you think about life and the power of friendship, and it is sure to move you. I genuinely cannot express how strongly I feel for this novel but I really want every single individual to read this book because it is just that fantastic.

Happy reading ~

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

What drew me to this novel was its allusions to fantasy and to a cultural system that I am completely ignorant about. A chance to learn about something new combined with the fantasy tropes that I love? This was an opportunity I could not pass up on. Thank you to First to Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

12-year-old Sunny is having trouble adjusting. Having been born in New York, but moving to Nigeria has been quite a big change for her. It doesn’t help that she is albino and very sensitive to the sun. All sunny wants to do is play football and not get bullied. And for a while, it seems that her new friends, Orlu and Chichi, will help with that. But when they introduce her to the world of the Leopard People, Sunny discovers that there is more to life than she ever knew. With new friend Sasha, these 4 form the youngest Oha coven to ever exist. Their mission? To track down Black Hat Otokoto, a man who has been kidnapping and hurting children.

When I first began to read this book, I was unaware that this was for middle school children. It took me a little while to adjust at first, but once I realized who the target audience was, I had a better grasp of the story. I really liked the cultural elements that are infused into this story. The author does a great job of integrating them and explaining them in a graceful and sophisticated manner; nothing feels too simplified or “dumbed down”. It was really cool to read about all of these rituals and customs that are practiced and upheld, and it was just a great introduction to the culture. The story itself is pretty much like Harry Potter. You’ve got your group of friends and they are against an evil foe and they practice magic and learn about their abilities and have to pass tests to move up in levels. I felt that the story and writing could have used some polishing. Too many things were conveniently placed and there were many abrupt and awkward transitions in the book. The characters could also have been a bit stronger. Overall, I can see how this novel would appeal to middle schoolers and I would recommend it to any child between the ages of 8-13 who likes Harry Potter-like fantasy novels.

Happy reading ~

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio

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

Sometimes, I like to take a break from reading heavy books and switch it up with something lighter. I find that books aimed for little kids are just adorable in the way they portray the classic good-vs-evil story with a whole host of cute characters; they can definitely be appealing if you want something light-hearted. With that, let me start my review:

Warren the 13th comes from a long line of hotel owners. He is the sole bellhop, waiter, valet, and groundskeeper for his family’s ancient hotel. Once, it was a glorious place that was always booming but now it’s more of a shadowy mansion full of crooked corridors and musty rooms. However, the hotel has a secret: it just might be the home for a magical object called the All-Seeing Eye. Can Warren make sense of all of the clues to find the treasure before his evil Aunt Annaconda does?

What a cute book! Warren is such an adorable character, and he is the sweetest kid you will ever read about! The story reminded me a little of The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken (which I’m still in the process of reading) because of its wackiness and weird plot twists. The ebook ARC version that I read had some illustrations in it but they were not always in the best format; I think the final completed version of this book has made the illustrations a lot clearer so that will be another element that kids will enjoy. This is definitely a story I can see middle schoolers enjoying because it’s got great elements, great pictures, and a great theme!

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 ~

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 ~