This Is Not Over by Holly Brown

When I first read the premise of this novel, it reminded me of an experience I’d had with airbnb. It was my first time renting and I really wanted to make sure I adhered to all of the rules that the homeowner had set. However, I was shocked to find out that I had been given a negative review. When I contacted the home owner, she explained that it was because I hadn’t posted my own review. Once I did that (and gave her a 4/5 star rating), she changed her own review about me. The premise of this novel is quite similar in that regard so I thought it would be interesting to see how the author would take a case of miscommunication and turn it into a thriller. Here is my review:

You’ll have your deposit within seven business days, just like it says on Getaway.com. I’ve put through a refund to your credit card for the full amount, minus $200 to replace the sheets. I couldn’t get the stain out despite professional laundering and bleaching. . .
Miranda

All Dawn wanted was to stay in a beautiful beach house with her husband for a long weekend. But after receiving this email from Miranda, the home owner, Dawn was furious. No one should be able to email her like this, making up lies for no reason. Dawn was determined to teach Miranda a lesson.

Beware of your “host”
I wouldn’t leave a review on Getaway.com at all, if I didn’t feel it was my civic duty to warn others . . .
Dawn

Miranda cannot believe her eyes when she sees the negative review she received from Dawn. She may a doctor’s wife, but she relies on the rental money from the beach house. She was going to teach Dawn a lesson.

These 2 very different women each believes that they are right. But how far are they willing to go to win this battle?

I’m going to be honest here, I really didn’t like this novel. I will admit, I wasn’t expecting any kind of crazy thriller. But this was just a little more preposterous than I could handle. The story is told from alternating points of view and each woman gets her chance to tell her side. I didn’t like either woman. They’ve got so many issues and they really just never think things through. Their self-centered attitudes and belief in their own righteousness drove me crazy. By the first 70 pages, I could see myself getting bored as the story started to pull away from this dispute and start to focus on other areas of their separate lives. And again, I didn’t really care about what else they were going through, or what their past was like. Both of these women were married but I couldn’t take either of their marriages seriously. Dawn’s marriage seemed very juvenile and lacked any substance. Miranda’s marriage was like something out of the 1950’s, where the husband is always right and it is the wife’s job to look pretty and cook nice dinners. This really bothered me because I like females to have a stronger role than that in the novels I read. I had figured out the ending by the halfway point; it was not as thrilling as one might expect. At the end, I was just wondering why this novel was even a good idea. It really didn’t have that much to do with the renting idea that it started with and it just got more and more ridiculous the further you read it. Also, the ending, while technically making sense, didn’t actually work. Overall, this novel failed for me because it’s story lacked the thrills I was seeking and the characters were very unlikable. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’ll be the first to admit that this book is completely out of my comfort zone. I have never read a book about virtual reality. In fact, I’ve never even played a video game. It’s not like I have avoided these things on purpose. Growing up, my parents bought me a lot of books and dolls. But video games were thought to be for boys only. Plus, they were too expensive for an immigrant family to afford at that time. It didn’t help that I didn’t have many friends so I was always out of the loop on what was “in”. When I heard about this book, I thought it was interesting but also very weird. I mean, who would want to write a book about a video game? Clearly, this author. And clearly, this book has done so well that it is being made into a movie. So, in order to finally catch up with the times, I decided to give this novel a shot. Here is my review:

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. There’s not a lot of money and not a lot of food. Most of the population is homeless. The only time teenager Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself propelled into popularity. But with his fame comes a great danger: there are some players out there who will stop at nothing to win the ultimate prize – even if it means killing Wade. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

When I say this book was un-put-down-able, I mean it. I sat in my bed, thinking that I would read a few chapters and see how I felt about it. Before I knew it, I had finished the whole book and not taken a single break for anything. It was that entertaining! Even though I wasn’t born in the ’80s and have no experience with video games, I found it really easy to follow along. The author does a great job of explaining everything so you can really enjoy the story and understand all of the little references being made. Of course, if you are familiar with all of the cultural references from the ’80s that are made in this book, then you are probably going to enjoy this more! This is a pretty light-hearted story for all intents and purposes: Wade is a loner who finds an escape through the Oasis and this challenge that was presented by the eccentric creator of the Oasis. The adventures and obstacles were really fun to read about and you really see Wade growing up and developing as a character. I loved all of the other characters, as they each had their own unique part. While some people may have wanted a bit more realism and substance to this novel, I liked it because it didn’t have that. It was just such a good fun read! It had me excited, it had me laughing, it had me amped …. it made me feel like I was a part of this world that the author had created. I definitely had a great experience with this novel, and I’m giving it a 5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

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

Whenever I read a premise where the main character has no recollection of an incident and is just “told” that something happened in a certain way, it makes me roll my eyes. This scenario has been overused so many times that I struggle to see how it can be made unique. However, I thought that this one might just work. Here is my review:

3 years ago, Susan Webster was convicted of murdering her 12-week-old son Dylan. She was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute to serve her sentence, as she was deemed to have suffered from postpartum depression, which caused her to commit this heinous crime. Now, she has been released on parole and given a new identity and name: Emma Cartwright. Just as she is beginning to rebuild her life, she receives an anonymous letter with her former name on it. Inside is a photograph of a toddler named Dylan. Suddenly, Emma starts to question everything she has ever been told. If she has no memory of the murder of her son, then did it really happen? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

I wouldn’t say I had high hopes for this novel which is the way I am with all thrillers, but this one was a whole new low. There were so many things about this story that I didn’t like. I really did not like Susan/Emma. While I understand she was stuck in her grief over her child and was confused with the turn of events, she was extremely naive and didn’t show an ounce of intelligence at any point. She behaved in a way that just didn’t make any sense to me – and this includes her ability to fall for every guy that she meets. It made me so annoyed to see her develop an attraction/feelings for someone who she literally met only twice and knows nothing about. Also, considering the circumstance, it really didn’t make sense that she was indulging in romantic fantasies. The story is told from 2 different perspectives: Susan/Emma, and an unknown character named Jack. I have to say that I actually liked Jack’s story more than Susan/Emma’s … even though the former ended up having the smallest part in this novel. The story started to segue into another plot about halfway through, which is a common trend. However, this other direction really made no sense to me. Suddenly, Susan/Emma is pursuing this instead, hoping that it will somehow lead to clues about her son (but how this would even happen when they are two unrelated things, I have no idea). Then at the end of the novel, there is that big reveal…. and it was so disappointing. It was such a failed attempt at trying to tie in 2 plot lines that really didn’t go together. And suddenly, all of these random names were dropping and identities were changing and it just really got too much. I just found myself very disappointed with the entire novel in terms of its story line. I’m giving this a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

How to Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather

I’ve always been fascinated by the Salem Witch trials. It was a time when paranoia and hallucinations ran rampant, leading to the death of many innocent women. I remember reading quite a few nonfiction novels to try to understand how this mass hysteria came to be. I haven’t had a chance to read a fictional book about this topic, and thought this would be a good novel to start with. Here is my review:

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials. It is also Samantha Mather’s new home. When Sam and her stepmother move to Salem from New York City, they don’t exactly get a warm welcome. Sam is a descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch trials. This automatically makes San the enemy of a group of girls who are descended from the witches that were hung by Cotton. If struggling to deal with these bullies wasn’t enough, Sam also finds herself face to face with a real ghost, one who wants Sam to leave the house she lives in. But soon, Sam discovers that she is at the center of a centuries old curse. Sam must now get help from the ghost and find a way to work with her enemies in order to stop the deadly cycle of the curse. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

I went in knowing that this was a YA fiction novel. I think having this understanding is what allowed me to enjoy this story. I knew not to expect too much depth or intricate plot lines; I assumed it would have similar themes to most teen fiction stories (albeit with witches). This turned out to be true. However, I quite liked this story. Sam is a sarcastic yet shy/vulnerable character who has a hard time trusting people and opening up. This makes sense when you consider the things she has gone through in her childhood. In fact, I wish this was expounded upon more in the story. I liked the way the author brought in the history behind the Salem witch trials; in fact, I wish there had been more of it. I felt as if the author would bring up important facts or mysteries about this time period in history but then either let it drop or resolve it too quickly. I feel like this was an aspect that the author could have spent more time on. I will say that there was a definitive plot for this story and I really liked the way it moved; there was a lot more witchy elements than I had expected, which is always a nice surprise. The Descendants, the name for the group of students who are descended from the accused witches, were pretty much your stereotypical bully/popular girl clique but I expected that from the start. I will admit the writing wasn’t anything to admire and the love triangle was a bit awkward and cringe-y for my taste… but the overall story was interesting. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars, and I would recommend this to teens around the age of 13-15 who like stories about witches.

Happy reading ~

The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan

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

Corrine and her boyfriend, Dominic, have been trying very hard to conceive. But after 3 failed IVF attempts, it is looking like becoming parents is not in their cards. After Corrine’s sister, Ashley, loans the couple money for one last IVF treatment, there is finally a stirring of hope. Maybe, just maybe, this time it will work. When Corrine finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels like a positive sign. But as more pieces turn up, Corinne realizes that they are far too familiar; they look just like the ones she used to play with as a child. Someone knows about her childhood doll house. And they want Corinne to know.

Meanwhile, Ashley is struggling to keep her family in control. Her youngest baby, Holly, isn’t sleeping at night, her oldest daughter, Lucy, is running wild, and her husband never seems to be home. Just when things couldn’t get worse, she starts receiving mysterious phone calls. At first, she dismisses them as crank calls but eventually, they take on a more sinister role.

As these two sisters battle through their crises, they start to wonder who is targeting them? And what do they want?

The original synopsis of this story did not mention Ashley at all, so I went into this story thinking it would only be about Corinne. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this would be about both sisters. The story is told in their alternating voices, with brief interjections from Dominic, as well as moments from the past told in the voice of an unknown character. Of course, the unknown person was the most intriguing part of the story, and I was wondering the entire time who it could be. I found Ashley’s perspective to be a lot more interesting than Corinne; I also liked her better as a character, even though not much was really happening on her end as compared to Corinne. But to be honest, I didn’t really care much about what was happening with either one of them. There just wasn’t enough emotional connection or depth to them to get me interested; every time I felt I was connecting, the story would hurry on and it would be lost. I had pretty much guessed the ending of the story so there wasn’t too much of a thrill there. However, I WAS surprised by the identity of the unknown character; it wasn’t the person I was expecting it to be. For the most part, this story was lackluster, and I was just trying to get to the end to see if I was right or not. The ending was the only interesting part of the novel, but it ended in such a cliffhanger way that I wonder if there will be a sequel. Overall, this was an okay thriller with characters I didn’t really care about, and not enough thrill to keep me enthralled. I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Man in the Crooked Hat by Harry Dolan

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

When I read the premise of this novel, I was hooked. It was just so intriguing and I could already feel myself wanting to know more about the author’s vision for this story. I’m really glad I received this ARC because it was such a worthwhile read! Here is my review:

There’s a killer, and he wears a crooked hat.

Jack Pellum left his job as a detective and became a private investigator two years ago, when his wife was murdered. Jack has been looking for the murderer – an man he last saw wearing a peacoat and a fedora. He has spent months posting fliers asking if anyone has seen a man of this description but to no avail. But when a local writer commits suicide and leaves a cryptic message, it ends up being the first breadcrumb of many to lead Jack onto a path…

Michael Underhill is a philosophical man who has had a rough past. But things are finally coming together. He has a wonderful girlfriend, and they are ready to get going with their future. Underhill is desperate to make everything perfect. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing will go wrong, if Underhill has anything to say about it. The problem is Underhill has a dark past … and it’s coming back to haunt him.

These two men are inexorably drawn together in a mystery where there is far more than meets the eye, and nothing can be taken for granted.

I don’t say this often but this novel deserves this praise: this was a seriously well-written and well-executed mystery. It is rare to have an author introduce such a complicated premise with a high body count, and yet make everything make sense. I loved the author’ delivery style because he made Jack’s story very personal; I felt very sympathetic towards Jack and I wanted him to get what he wanted. In the beginning, it really did feel like a wild goose chase because the initial clues seemed so insubstantial. And I think that was the point; every character in this novel points out how fixated Jack is on these clues and the author wants the reader to also see that crazy side. But as the story starts to come together, and the narrative and clues begin to make sense, the author starts to make you rethink. As I mentioned before, there is a high body count and that worried me in the beginning because I really didn’t want the author to just throw out some weird tie-in or conclusion. But the author didn’t do that. Instead, he broke apart the murders and made it all make sense. There was logic in this story, and it was something I was really happy to see because it honestly doesn’t happen very often. I also liked all of the characters the author created; even the minor characters had enough development that the reader could form a connection or opinion  about them, which was really nice. Overall, this was a very good mystery and I cannot wait to read more by this author! I’m giving this a 5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

The French Girl by Lexie Elliot

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Every time I see a book with “Girl” in the title, it makes me cringe. There have been so many of them and I know there will be more still. And it’s not like they’re all amazing. But I always decide to give them a chance. Because it’s all about that “what if” scenario. What if this book is unlike the rest? What if this book is actually super awesome and I’m missing out by not reading it? It is this hypothetical train of thought that made me decide to take the plunge and try this book. So here is my review:

6 friends studying at Oxford were spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer – until they met Severine. For Kate Channing, Severine was an intruder, someone whose beauty undermined the close-knit group’s loyalties to each other. And after a huge fight on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. It was also the night that Severine disappeared.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. As Kate is questioned alongside her friends, she stands to lose everything she has worked so hard to achieve. Desperate to clear her name, she tries to remember exactly what happened all those years ago. But as she digs into the past, she finds her present days to be filled with paranoia and madness. No one can be trusted.

When this novel began, I found it a bit boring because nothing really happened. However, I was very excited about the premise and was waiting for when things would speed up a bit. It didn’t take too long for the author to bring about the murder aspect of the story, which was good. I also liked all of the characters that the author introduced; while they were all flawed, they were well developed and easy to understand (for the most part). One thing I was really intrigued by was how Kate was constantly seeing Severine’s ghost. I definitely thought the author could have done more with it than she did, and when I got to the ending and nothing happened with those hallucinations, it made me quite disappointed. The author kept building up the tension, which I really enjoyed, delving into the different connections between all of the characters. It was very interesting how the author decided to portray the story and it captured my attention. But I felt like nothing was ever resolved. Nothing was ever revealed about what exactly happened that night. On top of that, the actual solving of the crime was very abrupt and rushed and didn’t give me any satisfaction at all. Everything ended up being so anti-climactic and that is really such a shame because it had all the works to be a good novel. Based on all of this, I would give it a 2/5 stars – and the 2 stars is because I liked the characters.

Happy reading ~

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan Mcguire

When I read Every Heart A Doorway, I have to tell you it was the most amazing experience ever. I loved the dark fantasy tale and I needed more. While this novel is part of the series, it can easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone. I finally got around to reading it today, and I finished it in one sitting. So here is my review:

Jacqueline and Jillian were never given any choices on who they wanted to be. For their mother, Jacqueline was molded into the perfect daughter: polite, quiet, and always dressed like a princess. Jillian was her father’s perfect girl: adventurous, tomboy-ish, and always looking for the next thrill; it was the closest he could get to a son. By the time they were 12 years old, these identities had been fixed upon them and no matter how much they hated it, they had no choice but to act the way their parents expected. But one rainy day, the twins find an impossible staircase that took them to a different world altogether, one filled with dangerous beings and death and the ability to make decisions for themselves…

I absolutely loved this story. It’s just as dark and weird as Every Heart A Doorway. It was so easy to get caught up in the journey of Jacqueline and Jillian. I loved the Moors, the vampire, the mad scientist … it was so much craziness that shouldn’t have made sense but did. The author manages to take the most random and insane ideas and tie it together to create this fantastic story. I also loved how the girls changed and developed over time, and how their past influenced their future choices. It says a lot about the expectations others can have about you and how that can affect you. Seeing these twins pursue completely opposite destinies was just so interesting, and yet the author still manages to make them connect with each other. I remembered Jack and Jill from Every Heart a Doorway, but this story made them all the more real to me. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes weird and interesting fantasy and/or is a fan of Seanan Mcguire!

Happy reading ~

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake – Three Dark Crowns #2

When I had read the first book in the series, I had not liked it. It had been too slow and I did not feel a connection with the characters. I wasn’t planning on reading the sequel … but I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

The Quickening was an unforgettable time that revealed many hidden secrets and plots revolving the three queens. Now that the Ascension Year is underway, all bets are off. Katherine, once the weakest sister and the least likely champion for the throne, is proving herself to be stronger than ever. Arsinoe, who has finally discovered the truth about her powers, must figure out how she can use this to her advantage while keeping it a secret. And Mirabella, once thought to be the certain Queen Crowned, is facing attacks that she cannot seem to fight against. Only one thing is guaranteed: this year will be the bloodiest yet.

When compared to Three Dark Crowns, I thought this novel was a LOT better. The story starts up right where it ended, and the scheming begins almost immediately. The author was kind enough to include a list of characters and their connections to each other at the beginning of the novel, which came in handy for me when I forgot someone’s name. If it’s been a while since you read Three Dark Crowns, I strongly urge you to read it before beginning this one or else you will find yourself confused for a good bit of the story. I felt like this time around the author made it easier to understand and identify with the sisters. At least, that’s how I felt! I liked reading about Arsinoe and Katharine the most. Arsinoe has a really great personality and I like how she is connected to Jules. However, I still feel that the naturalist aspects of the story were more about Jules than Arsinoe, and I would have preferred if that had been more balanced. Katharine’s character went through the greatest change (as was hinted through the description) and I really liked that because she got a whole lot more interesting! However, I wish the author had dug deeper into these changes, instead of just having it explained at the end of the novel; there was definitely room for some horror aspects in Katharine’s story but they were muted because they weren’t explored as much as I would have liked. Mirabella didn’t really spark my interest in this story but at least the terrible love triangle from before wasn’t taking front-and-center stage like last time! The romance elements that were included in the story were not too bad this time. Overall, I had a much more enjoyable experience with this novel than its predecessor. Does it still have room for improvement? Yes. Is it the best YA fantasy series I have read? No. But it has potential and it has me intrigued so I will probably keep myself aware of the release of the next book in the series and give it a shot.

Happy reading ~

Hide and Seek by M. J. Arlidge – Helen Grace #6

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

At first, I wasn’t aware that this book was part of a series. And when I saw that it was the 6th novel, I gave up on the idea of trying to read the previous novels before this one. I just hoped I could follow along! Here is my review:

Helen Grace was one of the best police investigators. Now, she finds herself behind bars with the very killers she caught. Framed for murder, she knows that her only chance to make things right is to survive until her trial and prove her innocence. But when a mutilated body is found in the cell next door, Helen realizes that someone is targeting prisoners … and she might be next.

At first, it was a little hard to catch up with the story. This is a book best enjoyed after reading all of the previous novels, as it will just make things easier to understand. However, I was still able to get the gist of things and it was still a really enjoyable read. I liked Helen’s character a lot; even though she was a prison, she showed intelligence and grit at all times. I make note of this because a lot of times I find that authors don’t maintain the personality of the protagonist as the story progresses, which is a pet peeve for me. But that didn’t happen here so YAY! There were a lot of other characters that were integral to the story; at first that worried me because I am terrible at remembering people, but the author made each one unique and made sure to make many connections and reminders so I didn’t have that problem. This novel basically has 2 stories going on: Helen trying to figure out who the killer is in the prison, and Charlie, Helen’s friend, trying to prove that Helen is innocent by arresting the right person. I found myself more drawn to Helen’s story than Charlie’s; it was more organized while Charlie just seemed to run around a lot, grasping at straws. The fact that Charlie managed to sort things out was a little hard for me to believe, but perhaps the detective work for that was set up in a previous novel so I don’t want to pass judgement on that. I also liked that the story was told from different perspectives as it gave the story more depth. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and I think I may actually read the rest of the series!

Happy reading ~