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 ~

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Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

I recently participated in a blog tour for this book and it was such a great experience! I loved the experience of live-tweeting and hosting a giveaway, and it’s something I want to continue to do!

But now, it is time for my own review of this book!

36572385Synopsis (Goodreads): You may live as a soldier or face death. Choose wisely.

Solanine Lucille wants her little sister back. Eight years ago, the government kidnapped her sister Ember, stole her memories, and transformed her into a soldier. But Solanine refuses to give up. Now that she and her fiancé have located the leader of a rebel group, she believes she can finally bring Ember home. But then the soldiers raid the rebels, killing her fiancé and leaving Solanine alone with her demons and all the weapons needed for revenge.

After raiding a rebel camp, sixteen-year-old Ember doesn’t understand why killing some boy bothers her. She’s a soldier—she has killed hundreds of people without remorse. But after she fails a mission, the rebels hold her hostage and restore her memories. Ember recognizes her sister among the rebels and realizes the boy she killed was Solanine’s fiancé.

Ember knows she can’t hide the truth forever, but Solanine has secrets too.

As their worlds clash, the two sisters must decide if their relationship is worth fighting for. And one wrong move could destroy everything—and everyone—in their path.


Review: I think the premise for this book was great. However, I think it failed in execution.

As soon as I started reading this book, I felt out of sorts. This novel throws you right into the action … but with very little background. It almost felt like I was reading the second book in a series, and not the first. I kept waiting for there to be an explanation or some kind of recounting of events to explain how things got to be to the present time in the book, but it didn’t really happen. The few things that were explained were glossed over, which was disappointing. I love reading about the world authors create, but this novel really didn’t do that. No context = tons of confusion!

The novel looks like it is going to be full of action … and while there is some of that, it is mostly about the bond between Ember and Solanine. I actually liked the way the author told this. As an older sister, I could really connect with the sisters in this story and how they struggled to trust each other. The emotional interactions between the siblings was done quite well. However, apart from their bond, I didn’t really feel like the sisters had any well-developed interactions with any of the other characters in the book. Told in alternating perspectives, we read about how each sister learns to forgive themselves and move on from their guilt through the help of various other characters. But it was all so one-dimensional; I never got a feel for the other characters and the interactions were just too rushed for them to have any significance or value.

One of the characters that completely baffled me was Nightshade, who is part of the resistance (and no, this resistance is also not really explained). For someone who is supposed to be a leader, she didn’t do much of it. Nor did she have any plans. She did nothing and was swayed by her own emotions. I think this issue could have been resolved if the author had built the character better and had a more concrete backstory that was explained.

There are a lot of instances of self-harm and abuse in this novel, which may bother some readers. At first, I appreciated the author mentioning these things in the story, as it highlights how easy it is to get into destructive behaviour patterns. However, it became too frequent of an occurrence, and began to feel like the author was including these instances just for the sake of having something to write about.

Before the halfway point of the book, not much was happening. It was very focused on the sisters trying to communicate. After the halfway point, the plot started to move fairly quickly. But the lack of explanation about the way this dystopian world was set up meant I had a lot of questions and very few answers. There was a lot of redundancy in the action events themselves, with characters getting caught, then escaping, then getting caught again. It just got boring very quickly.

Overall, I think that the concept behind this novel was good but the execution was lacking. There needed to be a lot more world-building and explanations for how things work. Characters also needed to be more developed. There needs to be the right balance between theme/plot and setting/world-building, and this novel did not have that. However, since I liked the sisterly bond aspect, I’m bumping my rating up to a 2/5 stars.

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

Happy reading ~

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp  

When I read the premise of this novel, it sounded like a mystery/thriller to me. After reading it, I have to say that it definitely doesn’t fit that category – at least, not in the conventional way.

Synopsis (Goodreads): Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter..


My thoughts on this novel are mixed. I don’t think I loved this novel as there were a lot of features that really bothered me or weren’t done well, but the story itself – well, it had me hooked.

One of the things that was severely lacking in this story was character development. There was none. Corey started off feeling guilty and angry, and she left that way. She maintained her pigheadedness and her insistence that the town was to blame for Kyra’s death right to the end. It didn’t help that the only way we got to know Kyra was through Corey’s interactions with others in the town, as well as Corey’s own memories; it made Kyra a very one-dimensional character, although the author did try to fix that by including letters that Kyra wrote to Corey. But even those letters didn’t have much substance to them so I couldn’t get a good feel for Kyra.

What I found weird about the novel was the writing style. There are moments taking place in the present, followed by memories from the past, and then random excerpts that read like a script from a play or a phone call, and then diary entries/unsent letters from Kyra to Corey. It affected the flow of the novel a lot. While the author may have been trying to use these different mediums to give the reader a more rounded picture of the scene, it failed in that attempt.

While the plot was intriguing, I wish there had been more of a build-up there. What were the crowning instances that caused the town to change their attitude to Kyra? How did they get to that frenzy point that tipped Kyra off the edge? These were things that were never really addressed. If it had been, I feel like the story would have been better developed and more intriguing and the suspense would have been better. As it were, there was no real mystery to it; everything becomes clear in a short while and there is nothing to really change it up. There were also a lot of details in the story that were mentioned but never reconciled, and this really bothered me. Why mention Corey hearing voices or seeing things if you aren’t going to do anything about it?

My general feelings for this novel are still mixed. There were a lot of things that could have been improved and that would have made this story so much better, because the concept behind this novel was actually really intriguing. It was just the execution that suffered. I’m giving this a 2.5 stars rounded to 3.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading ~

In Case I Go by Angie Abdou

I always love it when I decide to read a book on a whim and find myself loving the story. That’s what happened here. I saw this sitting on the shelf of my local library and the synopsis, while sparse, was interesting enough that I decided to give it a shot.

Synopsis: 10-year-old Eli and his parents have returned to their family home in Coalton, a small mountain town. The parents, Nicholas and Lucy, hope that by escaping their hectic city lives, they will restore calm and stability to their marriage, but they find that once charming Coalton is no longer the remote idyll they remembered. Development of a high-end subdivision has disturbed a historic graveyard, drawing negative press from national media. While Nicholas works long hours at the local coal mine and Lucy battles loneliness and depression, Eli must make his own way in this town.

Eli is not like other young boys. His birth was complicated, making him more fragile than other children his age. His parents have raised him more like an adult than a kid, making him more perceptive – but also more reclusive. When Eli moves to Coalton, he meets Mary. And while everyone tells him Mary is mute, she speaks to Eli. She calls Eli by his full name, Elijah, the name he inherited from an ancestor who was famous in Coalton.

Eli’s encounters with Mary are not like that between children, between friends. There is a hidden anger in Mary’s eyes, and her words are not always kind. And with each encounter, Eli starts to have visions of a time before this one. Eli stops being himself – and starts having memories of Elijah, his ancestor. And Elijah has sinned.


This book is really hard to categorize; it’s like a cross between a ghost story and historical fiction, mixed in with some magical realism. And it works beautifully.

The story is haunting in its prose and in the way it takes the present and blends it with the past. It speaks about regrets and how one’s sins can carry forward. There are so many layers to peel back with this story, and I love how it was steeped in facts about the Aboriginal community. In fact, the author did a fantastic job of representing this community and the hardships they have faced, which I really appreciated. There is an emphasis on the idea that the past cannot just stay buried and hidden; the truth will out, and we must pay for our consequences. This concept was stressed throughout the story and it is one we should all keep in mind. The story itself was extremely engaging, and I wanted to know more about Eli’s transformation – and whether he would ever be himself again. This is a book that I know I will recommend to many people because it is beautiful, emotional, and deserves to be read. 5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White

This novel was definitely not something I would normally pick. But the cover and title were just too alluring and I decided to get out of my comfort zone. Here is my review:

Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to Sweet Apple, Georgia. All she wants is to start her life over, but an anonymous local blog that dishes out all the gossip isn’t helping her one bit. Merilee finds some peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Despite her name, Sugar is far from a sweet old lady – but she sees a kindred spirit in Merilee. There’s something about this new tenant that makes Sugar want to open up about her own colourful past. Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms, and even on her new friendship with the glamorous and perfect Heather Blackford. In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women.

This was a beautiful book, with wonderful writing that just sucks you in. I don’t know anything about Georgia or how things are done “in the South”… but this novel easily transported me there. I loved the richness of the details that the author put into her story, and the writing style was captivating. When I read books, I sometimes skip paragraphs here and there but with this novel, I savoured every word. I cannot describe to you the wonderful allure of the prose … it’s something you have to experience yourself. The story itself was tantalizing because it wasn’t just one story. The novel is told from both Merilee and Sugar’s perspectives and interspersed are the stories from Sugar’s past. As we watch their relationship blossom, we learn about grief, guilt, and the power of friendship. We learn about sacrifice, and the need to belong, and the pursuit for happiness. We learn about the difficulties of letting go. It doesn’t hurt that with all of this powerful growth, there is also a thriller thrown into the mix! The thriller was easy enough to figure out because the clues are laid out quite obviously. However, I didn’t mind this because the thriller wasn’t really the focus of the story, and it just served to illustrate the bond of friendship even more. I really didn’t expect myself to get caught up with this story. But the prose, themes, and characters grabbed my attention from the start and kept it there until the last page. This is another 5/5 star rating from me, and I would recommend this to anyone who likes women’s fiction and stories with strong female characters!

Happy reading ~

Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

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

I waited a long time before getting into this novel. Something about this story just made me hesitant. And then I got bogged down by work and other novels and never got a chance to go back to it (which is terrible since I’m always trying to get to Netgalley books on time). But I finally got to it… so here is my review:

10 years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget Reba. When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to go back to Mississippi with him to find Reba’s diary, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

I really did not enjoy this novel. There were a lot of things that just didn’t work for me. I thought this novel would be primarily told from Julie’s point of view. And while most of it was, there were also other perspectives thrown in that took me aback. With no introduction, a chapter would suddenly be told in the perspective of some other character. This really affected the flow of the novel, making it choppy. There were diary entries scattered throughout the book, and while I usually enjoy that, I didn’t like it here. That was mostly because the voice of the diary entry was very awkward. The story took a long while to get going and I kept waiting for that moment where the story would pull me in … but it never happened. There was nothing really appealing about the story. None of the characters were likable, and I didn’t really care about what they were going through because they were just so selfish and immature. I thought there would be more twists and turns in the plot but it was really just about Julie and August getting the diary (which happened pretty easily, in all honesty) and then reading the entries that the reader has had access to already. Nothing really made this novel shine or took it over the edge. All in all, I was pretty disappointed with this book and for those reasons, I’m giving it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

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

This novel intrigued me because it was completely out of the norm. I don’t really read books that discuss religion, philosophy, and politics, but this story was just too interesting for me to pass on. Here is my review:

While on her way to a dinner party in Istanbul, Peri, a wealthy married Turkish woman, is robbed. As she wrestles to get it back, a photograph falls to the ground. It’s an old polaroid of 3 young women and their university professor, a relic from a past that Peri has held onto while also trying to forget. Over the course of dinner, terrorist attacks occur across the city. Competing in Peri’s mind, however, are the memories invoked by her almost-lost polaroid, of the time years earlier when she was sent abroad for the first time to attend Oxford University. There, she had become friends with the charming, adventurous Shirin, a fully assimilated Iranian girl, and Mona, a devout Egyptian-American. Their arguments about Islam and feminism find focus in the charismatic but controversial Professor Azur, who teaches divinity, but in unorthodox ways. As the terrorist attacks come ever closer, Peri is moved to recall the scandal that tore them all apart.

I thought that this novel was quite interesting. Peri’s character takes us on a journey into the past and the present through alternating chapters. In this way, the reader gets to understand Istanbul, the country of her birth, and what it means to be Muslim. I really liked the time the author spent explaining Peri’s experiences to the reader; it gave me a new perspective to consider. This novel also talks about tensions in the family, and how secrets and frustrations can upset family dynamics. I will admit, I was more interested in the past than in the present events, but I found Peri’s grown-up character (during the present) to be wonderfully mature in her views on politics, religion, and the role of females. I also loved watching Peri grow up and become confused about her views and identity, especially once she attends Oxford. I wish there had been more tension in the events that occurred in the past, and wish certain things had been explained in more detail because they seemed to happen out of nowhere and caught me off-guard. After all the lovely explanations about Islam and the cultural mosaic in Istanbul, I wanted the author to help me understand more of Peri’s actions. I also wish there had been some tie-in to explain how Peri got to where she was in the present time, as that would have been a good transition. Overall, I found this novel to be thought-provoking and insightful, but not a thriller in any sense. This is a slower novel but it is beautifully written and I would recommend it to anyone interested in philosophy and religion, and the way these 2 aspects can shape a person’s identity. 3/5 stars from me!

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 ~

 

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

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

I keep having issues with my laptop that has caused me to be severely delayed in writing up my reviews. This time, my screen completely shattered. Luckily, I was able to get myself a replacement laptop until my old one gets fixed. Hopefully, I will be able to get in some more reviews! Anyways, this novel was released on August 22nd, but it has been on my mind for a whole lot longer. Described as a cross between Everything I Never Told You (which I adored) and Luckiest Girl Alive (which I had mixed feelings about), it is a thriller that is “unputdownable”. I decided to test that by reading it and so … here is my review:

One morning in a sleepy Colorado suburb, a horrible tragedy occurs: high school freshman Lucinda Hayes’s dead body is found in a playground. But who caused her demise? As accusations spread, 3 strangers are brought into contact. One is oddball Cameron Whitley who has always loved – and continues to love – Lucinda. While they have never talked and Cameron is considered Lucinda’s stalker, Cameron is convinced that he knows Lucinda better than anyone else. But when he finds out that she has died, he becomes completely unhinged …. and his behaviour makes him a prime suspect. Meanwhile, Jade Dixon-Burns is one of the few people who hates Lucinda. Lucinda took everything from Jade and the worst part was Lucinda’s blissful ignorance. And finally, there is officer Russ Fletcher who doesn’t know Lucinda but knows Cameron, the boy everyone suspects may have killed her. Russ must make a painful journey in order to solve this murder, while trying to keep a promise he made long ago.

Let me start by saying that this is not a thriller, even though that is how it is being marketed. This is best described as a character-driven story. It is slower paced and revolves completely around the perspectives and experiences of Russ, Cameron, and Jade. While I thought the novel was thought-provoking and interesting, I felt that there was a lack of connection with the characters, especially Lucinda. The murder faded away into the background and while this isn’t really something that bothers me at all times, I didn’t feel as if the novel or story had enough to keep me interested. I quite liked Jade and Cameron’s characters as they at least had some tangible connection to Lucinda. However, Russ was a misnomer in that he really wasn’t a necessary component of the story. In fact, he was an officer who really didn’t do much in terms of solving the murder, and that really bothered me. Overall, this was an interesting take on a murder mystery, where the story focused more on the characters. However, there was a lack of connection between me and the characters and the plot really didn’t have any movement. For those reasons, this novel gets 2.5/5 stars from me.

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 ~