Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

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

This novel was recommended for fans of The Missing Girls and In A Dark, Dark Wood, so I thought this might be the right fit for me. Here is my review:

Angela is brought into the police station and held in an interrogation room. Her ex’s wife has gone missing and Detective Novak suspects Angela of knowing something relevant, even though Angela insists that she isn’t involved. Angela decides to tell the detective the entire story from the very beginning, going back 10 years to when Angela first fell in love with her highschool friend, H.P. But as the story continues, it is clear that something is being concealed. Is Angela the perpetrator of a crime or is she merely caught in a web of lies?

There are a lot of positive reviews on GoodReads; almost everyone has given this book a 4 or 5 star rating. After reading this novel, I’m confused: did I read a completely different book from everyone else? After seeing the positive reviews, I even read this book again and I still didn’t get it. Anyways, here are my thoughts on this book:

Angela’s character and personality really did not work for me. I understand that not all characters are likeable; I’ve read many Gillian Flynn novels and hated the characters but loved the books so I don’t really consider likeability to be an issue. The problem was that I really didn’t understand or connect with Angela. The novel was told completely from her perspective but I had a hard time making sense of her voice and personality; for some reason, it just didn’t seem believable and I couldn’t accept it. Angela is a very entitled character and it bugged me so much. Just like the Detective, I had no patience or sympathy for her because she literally has everything but still is dissatisfied. I’m sure that was the author’s intent but it just made me hate Angela so much.

The story itself was quite interesting and I quickly became engrossed in watching how the relationships unfolded. However, I found there were loads of things that made me roll my eyes. I’m not going to say any of them because I don’t want to ruin the story but there were things that were so far-fetched; they made no sense but were there for the sole purpose of making the facts all work out.

The ending was supposed to be a twist. There was no twist. I’m pretty sure that I had predicted things before the halfway point of the novel. When I am being told that I am reading a psychological thriller, I expect it to really change my perspective and be completely unexpected. That didn’t happen here so I was quite disappointed.

Overall, this thriller did not work for me. The main character was not likeable or easy to connect with, the plot had elements to it that didn’t really make sense, and the ending was a disappointment. Obviously, many people thought otherwise so maybe I’m just that one person for whom this novel didn’t work so if you like thrillers, consider giving it a shot!

Happy reading ~

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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

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

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

Happy reading ~

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

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

I’ve read a ton of books by May Kubica. Ever since I read The Good Girl, I have always taken the time to seek out her newest book and give it a go. While I have yet to find one I like as much as her debut, I think that she has really created a name for herself in the thriller genre. With that being said, Every Last Lie is her latest foray in the genre and it is being released in just a couple of weeks. So here is my review of the ARC:

When Clara Solberg finds out that her husband and their 4-year-old daughter were in a car crash, time stops. She is devastated to discover that while her daughter is unharmed, her husband has died in the accident. Clara is shrouded in mystery and everyone agrees that this is just a terrible tragic accident … until Maisie starts having nightmares that make Clara question what really happened in that car. Struggling with her grief and life as a single mother, and obsessed with discovering the truth behind Nick’s death, Clara is plunged into a world of lies. Who would have wanted Nick dead and why? Clare won’t stop until she finds out – but the truth may be more than she can handle.

From the very first page, the author had me in the palm of her hands. With vivid descriptions of Clare’s first moments dealing with the news of her husband’s passing, I was reeling from the emotions that were portrayed. The effect just grew stronger as Clare’s grief became more pronounced. Even though Clare was not as strong as I would have liked, I really liked her character; she was one of the most realistic characters I have ever met (in terms of her response to tragedy). The story is told from dual perspectives, with chapters alternating from Nick’s voice to Clare’s voice. It made for a very interesting story, and I kept trying to piece all of it together. This book really does make you think about all of the lies that can crop up between two people who love each other and the way in which they can alter the relationship! Every minute of the story was fantastic … until I reached the end. The ending just took me aback. After all of the buildup, after all of the paranoia and suspicions… it ended on such a bland note. I had been eagerly waiting for that satisfaction of the final reveal but it just … flopped on me. I had become so engrossed in the story and I had had such high expectations reaching the end, but the finale was just so lackluster that it made the whole story not worth reading. If you are a big fan of Mary Kubica, I would still recommend you read this novel because maybe you might enjoy it more than I did. I will be giving this book a 3.5/5 stars; in spite of its shabby conclusion, this novel was well-written and had skillfully portrayed characters that made it an enjoyable read (for the most part).

Happy reading ~

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – Hogarth Shakespeare

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

When I first requested this novel, it was because I really enjoyed reading Tracy Chevalier’s earlier work. Imagine my delight when I discovered that this novel is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series! So far, I’ve loved every book that has been part of the Hogarth concept, so I was very excited to give this novel a shot!

Osei Kokote has not had it easy. The son of a diplomat, it is his first day at his fifth new school in as many years. He knows that in order to survive his first day, he needs to find an ally, and he is lucky enough to find a friend in Dee, the most popular girl in school. For her part, Dee genuinely seems to like Osei and soon their budding relationship takes flight. But there is one person who is not happy to see this and is determined to wreak havoc on this friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. BBy the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

The Shakespeare play that served as inspiration for this novel is Othello, which is one of the few works by Shakespeare that I actually don’t like too much. I’ve never been a fan of tragedies, especially ones that deal with the whole concept of misunderstandings. I was quite impressed by the originality of this novel, in taking a serious adult tragedy like Othello and transplanting it into a Washington school playground. It reminded me of my cringe-worthy days in elementary school, struggling to fit in with my peers, facing the social hierarchy that was constantly shifting, and dealing with betrayals and crushes. The author did a great job of giving each character a unique voice and exploring the playground politics in a serious tone that went beyond the surface. This novel speaks at length on the issue of race in an unusual setting that is really just a microcosm of our own society; it both surprised and delighted me to see this concept work out as well as it did! Was this novel a complete success? No. It had its flaws and the ending, while tragic, was a bit too dramatic for the setting the author was trying to maintain. However, this is still a powerful rendition of Othello, and I appreciate its uniqueness. Overall, an interesting novel!

Happy reading ~

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I love books with unusual characters. Actually, I love almost anything that has to do with unusual people. Sometimes it is the thing that can take a decent story and make it absolutely fabulous. From the blurb about this book, I gleaned that Eleanor would be a very different protagonist than what I’m used to so I decided to give it a go. Thank you to the First To Read program and Penguin Random House for this ARC!

Eleanor Oliphant lives a solitary life and she is perfectly happy with that. She finds it difficult to maintain or even initiate social interactions, as she has a tendency to say exactly what she thinks. Her personality, combined with her unusual appearance, means that Eleanor has always been a loner. Her weekends are spent alone in her apartment, with just pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy for company. But this little bubble of isolation is broken when Eleanor meets Raymond, the IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond save an elderly gentleman named Sammy, the three become friends who help each other get past the loneliness that dominates their lives. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor repair her own damaged one.

This novel is not your average chick-lit. While it is funny and uplifting, it also deals with some deep emotional elements that I wasn’t really expecting but was glad to read about. I quite enjoyed this novel because it had more depth to it than a usual chick lit but it didn’t bog me down with a sob story. I was also pleased to see that the author stuck true to her words and created a quirky personality that remained quirky throughout the novel; sometimes, you find that the interesting bit is only true in the beginning and the author forgets to maintain it as the focus shifts more to plot, but that definitely didn’t happen here! I loved Eleanor and she is definitely a character I have never read about! The best part about this novel is how it maintains the initial concepts and characteristics, even as they change and evolve throughout the story. I never had a moment where I felt that the story wasn’t quirky. I never had a moment where I felt that the plot was moving in a completely different direction with a markedly different tone and mood. Everything made sense and the story was just so enjoyable! Overall, I really liked this novel and would recommend this to anyone looking for a chick lit with a little more depth and quirkiness than the norm!

Happy reading ~

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

The Tempest is one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare. Something about the story and the magic always captured my interest, and I relish any chance to get back into that world. It’s one of the reasons that I love reading retellings of it, and so I was glad to hear of this one. Here is my review:

Miranda is a lonely child, with only her father, some animals, and a few spirits to keep her company in the abandoned Moorish palace where she lives. Her father’s fascination with a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree has him constantly practicing his magic, an art that he refuses to explain or teach to Miranda. And then there is the presence of a wild boy, who leaves little gifts for Miranda on their doorstep but never tries to make contact. Miranda knows her father has great plans but his refusal to provide her with explanations means she is left with a great deal of questions about who she is and where she comes from. The wild boy Caliban is a lonely child, too: orphaned at a young age, he has had to fend for himself and has no language that he speaks. When Caliban is summonded and bound into slavery by Miranda’s father, he rages against his shackles…. and yet, he yearns for the the kindness and love he sees in Miranda’s eyes.

This is by far one of my favorite retellings of The Tempest. It is dark, rich in detail, and takes the time to pull apart the characters and show their depth. When Shakespeare first wrote this, it was branded as a comedy. However, after this rendition, it is really better seen as a tragic romance. I love how the author reimagined Caliban, a character that I had always pitied in the original work. I also loved the dark undertones to the story, and how Miranda’s father is shown to have some madness inside of him. I could not put this book down and I felt so drawn to the different characters and their interaction; the author really made the relationships come alive in this story. While the story’s general plot line doesn’t change, the additions in nuance and character building really give the story a different element, and renders this retelling unique. Overall, a wonderfully written novel that tugged at my heartstrings!

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 ~

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein

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

This is a collection of short stories that all revolve around the idea of technology and the ways in which we use it to communicate and make our lives simpler. The stories in this book take place in the near future and show the good – and the bad – side of technology. I found the premise interesting enough to follow it up with a request, so thank you to the author, publishers and NetGalley for this ARC!

Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, immersive virtual reality games, and intuitive robots.
In “The Cartographers,” the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, but he soon begins to struggle differentiating what is real from his own creations. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and it is only when he is gone that the family realizes how real of a son he was.  Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and our ever-growing dependence on new technologies.

The idea behind every story is brilliant. There are memories that you can order and implant, virtual worlds that you can live in, instant messages that you can send through technology implanted in your eye…. the possibilities are endless. But each story is disquieting in the way it peels back the layers and shows the flip side to the zealous use of technology. The author shows irony at its finest in this short story collection. However, while the concept and the ideas themselves are brilliant, the characters are not. In every story, it felt like there was just a lack of emotion. Every character fell flat and seemed lifeless. There was no connection between the reader and the characters, which resulted in apathy towards the fate of said characters. Most of my time was spent musing on the interesting scenarios that the author presented rather than focusing on the lives of these characters and the difficulties they faced as a result of technology. Overall, while the concept was interesting, the characters were not, and this is why I would give this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Moon In The Palace by Weina Dai Randel

When I read the premise of this novel, it reminded me of one of the asian dramas that I love watching. I’m a sucker for historical dramas and this seemed right up my alley. I was excited because this novel is based on an actual historical figure, whom I know nothing about and I felt that this would be a really interesting way to learn about her. So here is my review:

As a concubine, it is imperative that one is able to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces and style their hair attractively. Others present the Emperor with fantastic gifts. Still ore rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts… and yet, she will give the Emperor a gift he will never forget. Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, while marking her as an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive.

This novel was captivating in its richness and writing style. The author did a fantastic job of making the story come to life. Every little detail was accounted for, from the types of food that was eaten, to the customs and intricacies of court life. It really set the stage for the events that transpired in the book. I love reading about politics and hierarchies that exist within kingdoms, and this novel definitely did not disappoint in that aspect. There was always something intriguing going on, and this book kept me on my toes; I literally could not pull my eyes away. However, this novel did have its flaws. From the description of this novel, I expected Mei to be a great deal more cunning and intelligent. However, she is portrayed as extremely trusting and her ability to move up in the ranks is mostly attributed to luck and help from others. This was a disappointment to me, as I was really looking forward to seeing a battle of wits between the different concubines. There was a romance aspect in this novel that was interesting but fell a bit flat; I couldn’t really believe in the love between the two characters so I didn’t really care for the romance at all. While this novel gives off the impression that this book will be about Mei and her exploits, it’s really more about her observing things going on in the court and also mentioning some of the near-miss situations she is involved in. I cannot say that she ever actively did anything that made me applaud her bravery or intelligence. While I cannot speak for the historical accuracy of this novel due to my lack of knowledge, I will say that this novel was extremely interesting and had me hooked from page 1 despite the negative factors. I’m probably going to read the next book in this duology; I just hope that Mei becomes a stronger and smarter character in it!

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 ~